Seven Days: Second Half of Part Five
Posted By: SeverianofUrth
Date: 8 December 2005, 5:51 pm
The beast lurched forward. Blood sloughed off of it as it moved, and soon it was once again out of sight, hidden in darkness. In the back— to where everyone had fled— I could hear moans, screams, prayers; then that sickening sound of a butcher at work.
I scrambled up, and started running. I passed through the shattered doorway and came into the night. The town was burning. Flames ate hungrily at the ruined buildings even as rain fell. The houses had the look of tombs. Thunder and lightning still roared through the skies.
A sound: a footstep: I looked back, and saw an old man stagger out of the bar. He looked like one of the dead, soaked with gore, mouth open in a silent scream, eyes wide and goggling; for a brief moment I considered walking up to him, to help him, then I realized that the thing was still in there. I backed away; the old man walked forward. He started clawing his way towards me, mumbling something incoherent, and I turned, started running—
Something smashed into me, and I fell down. It felt heavy and limp. I shouldered it aside, and it was on the ground— the old man. Blood spurted from his chest, and his head lay at a very odd angle. I realized that he had been tossed.
Then I was the mouse and it the cat; prey and predator, and it toyed with me, chased me, played a grim sort of dodge ball with me Another body flew towards me, and I dodged it, and another, then another, and the corpses would land in awkward, unnatural angles, would smash and splinter and burst against the buildings.
I turned a corner— I heard a thud behind me, like a very thick, goopy water balloon— then came across a 'hog, split cleanly in two. In it were two people, also split, much like a banana for an ice cream sundae. Red coated them like chocolate syrup. I then became aware of two things: first, that it was a grossly inappropriate metaphor, and second, that I had stopped...
A growl. Something rumbled behind me. Three fingers— three very long, thick fingers— gripped me round the neck. I was raised to the air, a tad overdramatically. It wasplaying with me; there is no doubt about that, about the way it had chased me through the tangled maze of the village, of the way it held me now, by the neck, dangling, struggling. It laughed— a hard, alien bark— then:
Someone kissed me. I woke in time to see a woman— clad in something bright— fade away before me. I closed my eyes and slept, once again.
I'm sorry if I cannot tell you much of the afterlife, Ben. I'm sure you'd love to know— anyone would— but the problem isn't my reluctance, it's my ignorance. I don't know enough about it. I don't understand much of what I saw. And most of all, in that sleep— or was it truly sleep?— much was lost, and I do not remember all that happened. I remember black, and I remember white, but that is all.
The Lady of Shalott. That was her name, I remember that at least. Look for her
she's by those stairs, those silver ones leading downwards.
The storm had passed during the night and my murder. I got up, shakily, and tentatively reached for my neck— it was straight, unbroken. I was confused for a second: was I dead? Then I saw my hands, beneath the sunlight, and they were spectral, bleached bone-white. I needed no more proof. That, and my returning memories—
It broke my neck and tossed my corpse aside like a dirty rag. For a split-second I was still alive, the heart pumping despite the severed connections and the broken bones, and I saw-. This is one of those things that I do not understand, Ben: this is too strange, even now when I have wings and have seen the full folly— and treachery— of men. I suppose that anyone might see this before they die, in that moment when your heart stops and your sluggish brain struggles to catch up in that race for oblivion. Which is a pity; I'd hoped to see mother's face again.
Let me tell you; I'll explain what I saw. Make of it what you will.
Four statues stand in a courtyard: dry dead leaves pile around them. The first statue is of obsidian; it is a bear, rearing up, snarling.
The second is of green, something bright like emerald. It is a sleek jungle cat, sitting.
The third is a wolf. It is of rough-hewn granite.
The fourth is of a giant, coiled worm, a earthworm, but its face was that of mine. It seemed to be carved out of something like wood. Its color was of pallid pink.
That is all. I did not understand them then and I do not understand now. Does it even have any significance? Any relevance?
I wandered through the ruined streets and the charnel buildings, looking— or so I told myself— for survivors. I wondered where Jimmy might be, then decided that I'd rather not know, or see. I passed the ruined wreck of the church, the dark remnants of those shops, the dank tomb that was the bar: I toured the houses, surveying the corpses as a distant voyeur.
In one of the houses, I walked in, and saw a little girl curled up in a corner. I wondered if she was alive, then saw the dirty-black pool of blood beneath her body.
I approached her. Something about the corpse touched me.
And it said, "daddy?"
The corpse didn't stand up and talk. It didn't move its jaws, or flutter its tongue. I didn't understand it— what was going on?— then I suddenly saw myself, standing high and tall before me, and only after a moment of panicked confusion did I realize that I was now looking through her eyes, from her point of view, and when I saw myself standing there bleached-white and faintly see-through, I wondered— do the dead still see? What would it be like, to be buried thus, and to see only the dark interiors of one's coffin for the rest of eternity?
That train of thought lastee only for a minute.
It was night. I could hear the blasts, and felt the earth-wyrm rumble below, slithering its way through loam and rock.
I was her, then. Or should I say that I was a rider, a spectator, hitching a ride on her body. I saw through her eyes, heard all that she heard, and what I said was in truth what she uttered.
And she said, Where are you?
It was night. I watched as she peered out the window. Another tremor shook the ground. She started crying. She was crying out for her father. I wondered where he might be. In the distance lightning flashed, threw all into stark contrast, and moments later thunder rumbled.
Her father must have gone out at the time of the attack, I thought. Hearing the commotion he must have left his daughter alone. I watched as she tried to open the door. I guessed that it had been locked from the outside, to prevent her from leaving. And all of her efforts yielded nothing. She was turning the knob the wrong way.
The girl gave up; as she turned I caught a brief glimpse of myself—herself—on a mirror, and saw her in the half-light as she had been alive, a cute little girl of five or six, hair brown and tied into two ponytails, the sort that always gets yanked on. She pattered over to the window. The blasts had ceased, and when she looked out the window I saw that right across from the house was the bar—my tomb—and kneeling before the doors was a man. He pounded on it with his fists.
Then she started screaming, pounded on the window herself, tried to open it, screamed for her daddy to come: and I realized that that man was the girl's father. Some things are unfit for children's eyes; death is one thing, yes, yet death personal and brutal in its significance is another, and the dread I felt gloomed over my thoughts.
He was pounding on the door when it came. A moment's worth of bloody work and he was sprawled before the door, arms flailed out, legs numb. I watched as blood gutted up from a sudden slash across his chest. He trembled a little on the ground. Then— still within the girl, who had stopped screaming— his face was weighed with something heavy, then, slowly, it was crushed.
Then I was back. I gasped, shell-shocked; and the girl's head stared into my eyes unnervingly.
I was dead, and this was my hell. And afterwards, I started tripping over dead memories of dead people like they were landmines, a stumble and boom... there'd be me, trapped in another's soon-to-be corpse. How many, I don't remember. I might have went a bit insane, Ben.
At noon the curious and the official flocked in, gawked, gaped at the horror before them. Many things were said and noted. Soldiers marched in and assisted in the search for survivors, of which there was none. When the sun started to paint the sky red, they left, and I hitched a ride on one of the trucks, an unseen passenger paying neither fare nor homage.
To Honolulu, and the end to all this madness. To Kassad.