Seven Days: First Half of Part Five
Posted By: SeverianofUrth
Date: 18 November 2005, 2:31 pm
Seven Days: First Half of Part Five
Many stories were told. Ruben had his say, which didn't matter since no one in his town was willing to believe him and we already knew that he wasn't the killer. We had the proof, of course, with the vid of the slaughter on the beach. But that was classified still, so he was 'taken under custody.' I decided that he'd be better off sitting in a cell for a week or two, then to stay here and be lynched one night. Besides, doing so gave the so-called trial a semblance of justice, which was nice.
We talked to the bartender, afterwards. Or should I say that he came up to us, first. And we talked about Ruben and the murders, and somehow that led to our pasts, and more importantly, Apotrops and Utica. New Hawaii really was a remarkable place. There was something that linked all of us together, a shared remembrance of pain. We were almost like the Jews, living with the memory of purges and Inquisition and the Holocaust, and finally, most recently, the nuking of Hebron.
His name was Horn, and he had been born on Prospero II, the second asteroid mining colony in a series of colonies named Prospero. Nothing remarkable: went to school, did work, and by the time his father died of skin dioxi, a unmentioned side effect of manning one of the mining guns where your skin bubbled up and retained too much oxygen so that you eventually seeped and exploded in a burst of gas and blood, he had already killed three people, two kids and one woman. He was fifteen at the time and had chosen to run with gangs— that was really the only choice afforded to him. It was either join something or be preyed upon.
No one had minded the kids; they were trash, scum, redneck miner brats scurrying around stealing and breaking. They had died in knife-fights. But when he mugged the lady— he hadn't meant to kill her, just a nice knock to the head so he could relieve her of her possessions— all hell had broken loose. He was turned in by his mother. Being only fifteen, he was given just ten years.
In prison he grew tough and accustomed to the usual violation. He did well and after seven years he got out on parole.
By the time Horn had gotten out of prison, the revolt had already started and the police was purging the streets of Utica. It had been his luck that he had been rounded up again three days after his release, beaten, tortured, and then sent to Apotrops for criminal conspiracy.
Then, at Apotrops, he had had the luck to become chamber boy for the Superintendent. Basically, he cleaned the blood off the bed when the super was done with his pastime. Sometimes there'd be acid stains on the sheets, too, along with something that looked like pus, but Horn was smart and so he kept his mouth shut, ignored the screams that often crept out from beneath the doors.
When the second revolt at Apotrops began, and blood started spilling, Horn went into the Superintendent's room. He had a hellwhip in hand. He told me that when he saw this tall, quivering piece of shit, blond hair soaked with sweat, he couldn't do it. He couldn't bring himself to whip the man before him. So Horn dumped the whip onto the ground, and turned round to leave, when the Superintendent crawled over to the weapon, switched it on, and flayed him on the back with it.
When he became conscious once again, the revolt was over and the asteroid prison was launched into a new path. And two years later, here he was, standing before me with a bottle of beer in hand.
I took the beer with a smile. It was good, actually, nice and clean, and I found myself drinking more then I had planned to. I was starting to become bleary-- my vision was slowly becoming ragged, and there was the spinning, shithead feeling of euphoria.
"Heh," I said.
"Heh," Jimmy said.
We were enjoying the booze. Cigarretto smoke formed a thin misty cloud over our heads. I had ordered a plate of meatloaf, and now there was a half-eaten plate of pizza before me. I knew I had ordered meatloaf; I remembered quite clearly me telling Jojola that I wanted meatloaf and I wanted it now, that goddamn midget...
I was drunk. I realized that as soon as I realized that I was mistaking this place with Jojola's restaurant. This is Wapei, I told myself. Wapei. Wapei. Wapei...
I didn't vomit. I really didn't. For I wasn't feeling the effects of alcohol, not at all, I was perfectly in control
Jimmy leaned back on his chair with this big, drunken grin on his face. "Jesus," he said. "I love this place."
"Yeah." I replied.
"Oh, God, when I die I wanna come here and drink and have fun... What do you say? When we die..."
"...I'll tell God I'm coming here, you sonofabitch," I said. I laughed again. There was something hilarious about our conversation, but I couldn't put a finger to it. And when I laughed Jimmy laughed too, and we both started laughing then, two drunken lunatics braying in the corner of the room, and they Securidad at that.
"Wonder if Ruben's enjoying his tomato juice," I said, musing.
"He is," Jimmy said. "He'd better be. That bastard. If he isn't I'll kick his ass." He burped.
Then Horn, the young bartender, came over. His glasses glinted beneath the light. "Uh, guys..."
"Whatta you want?"
"You guys aiming to drive back to Honolulu?"
"That's the plan," I said. I didn't giggle. I laughed. There's a difference between the two, Ben. As a man you should never giggle. "That's... the... plan!"
"Yeah!" Jimmy screamed.
"Yeah!" I screamed. Then I slapped my hand hard onto the tabletop. The bottles all jumped up, slightly, and Horn, with a strained expression on his face, had to catch them to stop them from falling.
"Guys, I know you two are in Securidad and all, but I can't let you two drive drunk."
"You kidding me?" I asked. "You fucking kidding me?"
"He's kidding you," Jimmy said.
"No I'm not," Horn replied.
"Now he's kidding me. Let's kick his ass!"
I held Jimmy back. I wasn't drunk, so I knew when to stop. "Wait... he has a point here."
"I don't see a point."
"But I do," I said.
"No you don't," Jimmy replied, sobering up slightly. "You're as drunk as me."
"I'm not a fucking lightweight like you."
"Oh yeah? Horn!"
He looked nervous, pissed, and worried. "I'm right here. Probably three feet away from you. I can smell your breath, for God's sakes."
"Listen up..." Jimmy said, then trailed off, searching for words. "Listen up..."
"Bring us, dunno, three per pint, right?" I asked.
"Then I want ten pints, all lined up. Got it?" I was making perfect sense, at the time. But in retrospect I was probably getting a bit drunk by then.
Horn sighed, and shrugged. "Whatever, guys... as long as you don't drive."
And that's all I remember, of that night. It's a pity because it was also my last night breathing.
I woke up sometime at midnight with a giant headache. Rain still pattered outside, on the windows, and thunder occasionally cracked the air.
Where was I? I groped along the walls in the darkness, trying to find the light switch. Then lightning flashed, cutting through the pitch-black tar of night, and I saw in the momentary glance that this was not my room, but rather somewhere else. The room was small, more a cell or closet, and it had inside the bed, on which I slept, and a table and chair, on which were nothing but a fine sheen of dust. Then memories slashed their way through the fog of beer and nausea, and I realized that I was still in Wapei.
Horn had given me room to sleep in the back. Jimmy was bunking over at Ruben's.
I lay back down on the bed, but I couldn't sleep. Thunder still roared outside, and I wondered when the storm might pass.
Then unwelcome specters crept up, stole their way into my head—
I sat back up. In the darkness I tried to calm myself. Lightning flashed once again, threw everything in stark contrast for one bright second. Shadows flickered on then off. In that moment I saw myself distorted, hunched, slumped, my shade cast onto the wall, enlarged and grotesque.
Unnerved by that image, I stood up, and again searched for the light switch. My hands palmed their way across the gritty concrete wall. I found it, turned it on— but no relief came, just a feeling of postponement.
Beneath the light hanging from the ceiling I lay back down to sleep. I counted sheep. One, two, three
Something exploded in the distance, and I was roused from my sleep by the sound of the blast. I sat up in the bed, and waited, listening: and sure enough, a few seconds later another explosion sounded, a giant drumbeat echoing over the rain and thunder that still fell.
I left the light off. The explosions were giving out enough light for me to find my way through the room. I found my shoes and a jacket with a hood on it. I left the room. The ground shook slightly as I walked, a tremor, and it felt like a giant worm sliding underneath, throwing all above into chaos.
There were people in the bar. Perhaps twenty in number. They were all frightened and milling in unconscious circles, like sheep. I looked for familiar faces, but in the dim smoky light I could make out nothing. They were all faceless, their visage fleshy rubber.
"What's going on?" I asked. I still had a distant hangover, but I'd always had quick recovery. "I heard some blasts, and that woke me up."
"That's all you've heard?" I heard a woman say. "Count yourself lucky, then."
"You haven't heard the screams?" This time a man.
"No! I told you, I was asleep—"
We all fell silent as another blast shook the earth. Then that man said, "I was sleeping too, but I came here when I heard screams
"Just, I dunno, screams. It was coming from my neighbor's house. It sounded like those you hear in movies, you know? And I got up, heard this sound— like something wet slapping against the wall— then the bombs went off."
I was puzzled. "Bombs?"
"We had bombs," someone else said. "In the armory."
"But who's setting them off?" Someone asked.
"And why are they doing it?"
Another blast, in the distance. And this time it was followed but a trailing groan sounding from some distance away from the bar, cut short by a gasp and a sound like that— like that of something wet dropping sloppily onto the floor.
"What was that?"
We waited in the dim light for another explosion, but it never came. Murmurs slowly rose, questioning, probing, and seeking reassurances. I walked up to the door, and saw that someone had nailed it shut, had piled before it stacked tabled and chairs.
"Who barricaded it?" I asked. Jimmy was out there. You had to watch out for friends.
"Don't open it!" Someone shouted.
"But I have a friend out there. Besides, it sounds safe enough now
"But the things might be out there still."
I asked, "What things?"
No one would answer.
Shrugging, I took a hold of a table and hurled it aside. It fell to the ground loudly, and that roused this mob up— this frightened, desperate group of people— and I was grabbed, wrested to the ground, as they screamed:
"You'll kill us all!"
"You can't open it!"
I tried to resist, but there were too many of them. They were starting to punch now— one thing led to another, and now I was the witch, the scapegoat, and if I was killed, sacrificed, everything would be all right.
I tasted blood on my lips. Someone kicked me in the stomach. Fists and feet pounded me. I tried to roll away, to squirm out, but I was held fast to the ground.
It was all silent. The beating, the killing, was done in the quiet darkness of night. Then—
"God, someone help!" Bang-bang-bang. Someone was pounding on the door, from the outside. "Help! Open the door!"
Bang-bang-bang. The pounding outside went on, becoming faster, more desperate. "It's coming closer! Open it!" Bang-bang-bang. "Help!" Bangbangbang. "Open, plea—"
The sound of wet cloth slapping against a wall. I looked down. I was still on the ground. Blood was starting to seep in from under the door.
The door splintered in; the tables and the chairs were flung away, smashed into people and walls, dropping the people, knocking them out, denting the walls. I could hear screams, but I heard them distantly, like the roar of the sea.
I saw it, then. I was on the ground. A woman was cleanly sliced, and her eyes blinked, surveyed the slaughter, dead yet still seeing, still feeling the horror. Her blood spurted and soaked the invisible form, gave it substance and form. It was writhed in crimson.
A reptilian thing. It grinned.