Crimson Confessions

Tainted blood just feels different.

It’s sluggish, cold, bordering on gelid, all but congealed, but it’s not. It’s a slow flowing river without a current. If it were a pool of water, it would be stagnant, ripe for algae and mosquitoes, but somehow, it’s neither.

I was newly made, and when I finally pulled the caul from my eyes, the stars had never been so vivid.

The old gods still cry out…the old demons have not died.

This was the earth before the One came to drive out the Legion.

So be it, then.

We are to dwell here, it seems, feeding off the carrion of sinful souls that crawl like ants in the cities, and we snatch the few butterflies wherever they may be, and break their wings of gossamer to replace them with wings of venous leather, if they choose.

They do not always choose. I myself was left no choice, and I never saw who did it.

I was on my way home, and then I wasn’t. Something seized me, and I felt my body hit the ground when it was done with me. I could hear it breathing, a relieved satisfaction.

Poor thing. It was thirsty.

My body was so cold, and growing harder to move as I crawled out of the shadowed, piss-pooled alley into the shallow light of a flickering streetlamp, before I breathed my shallow last, a vaporous prayer asking forgiveness for an unrepentant heart.

I hope to one day meet the one who did this to me, but what I’ll do then, I don’t know.

This is a vile existence in a vile place.

There are no angels here. Not even fallen ones.

We are a breed apart, with a special place, I think, in damnation.

Perhaps we are the harvesters for hell, putting the torch to the pyres of those we’ve captured, gathering their souls like sheaves into sacks to bring them here.

They go under the obsidian altar, these souls, and turn the blood into wine, and the wine into gall.

Then we feed and feast,  reveling in the red tide that blesses our doomed purgatorial homes until we are made to twist and writhe and scream tirelessly in the flames set aside for us.

I don’t look forward to that day, but for now, I revel in what I am.

Will you come to me, walk with me, and be my friend?

World Without End (3) What’s in the Light

There’s only the light now.
The snow stopped, even melted, but I don’t know when.
Green fuzz and pockmarks of color spoke of new growth, another random spring.
It was all there in the light.
I could feel my physical form moving when I willed it, but I could no longer see it.
It felt like pushing water; red ripples would move away from my limbs, and whatever I desired to see, it would show me. I did not ask to see her, though. Not yet, being unsure of what that vision might hold.
Human cravings of hunger and thirst were a thing of the past; human desires for companionship and sated lust were amusing memories. But there were days when the ongoing, perpetual silence of my new existence became crushing, and those memories provided some relief.
There was in me, if possible, a sense of relieved horror: I would not die, but what had I become?
The gem itself had dissolved from the inside, but never abated in power and brightness. Its new light provided a bright window in the mountainside, and curious birds and the animals that could reach these heights often came by to investigate.
I could entice none of them to enter, though with a tilting of their heads I knew they heard me.
Was I a watchman, a portal, a lock, or a key? What, or who, was I waiting here for? What was I supposed to do, or be?
If I was part of the light, why did I still have these thoughts? Light wasn’t sentient.
If the light was part of me, why couldn’t I subdue it, and leave this place? Light had no power.
A profound, lonely sadness gripped me, and ripples went out from where my mouth would be, but there was no sound.
Whether I wept or screamed, I couldn’t know.
Perhaps I’d gone insane, and was cackling maniacally.
Maybe I spoke my name, or hers.
Whatever the silent sound, I kept the ripples going just to see them, to know that some part of me was yet living.
But there was only more time.
Only more ‘why.’
In time, the ripples stopped, and there was only basking in the red glow that
slowly turned me on eternity’s spit.
When and if I returned to the world, for whatever reason, the meat of who I was would be rotten. The core of me was becoming a patient, powerful poison. If that core was placed inside the waiting world, there’d be no coming back.
There’d be no coming back.

World Without End (2) What’s in the Storm

Somewhere along the trail, I let go of his hand; he never turned around to see what happened.
That bristled, but the snow swiftly blinded me, and his indifference to my fate no longer concerned me. With a peculiar blend of curiosity and relief, memories faded, and images of him became indistinct, as if water smeared a fresh paintig, streaking it into useless, unreadable patterns. That was his face to me now.
I went to my knees on the ledge, and the snow, swirling all around me, never actually touched me.
The keening wind seemed to call my name as it blew through stony passages, and sifted through the bare branches of the trees below.
The flakes grew thicker, circling me with an increasing, rapid intensity. I closed my eyes, and with the absence of light and color there was no cold, no wind, and no ledge. I was inside a silver blue nimbus of snow, and although I couldn’t see anything, I knew with certainty I was flying.
Good-bye….I couldn’t remember his name.
My clothes were starting to unravel from the speed of the swirling snow. I decided to peek, and could only watch in wonder as a blue-white hoarfrost collected on my skin, in the fine hairs, its color leeching onto me. It too, wasn’t cold.
Was I too numb to feel myself dying? They say you feel warm as you freeze to death. Embrace it.
Again, the sense of someone speaking came like a child’s whisper: You’re not dying. You’ll never be more alive.
I closed my eyes again. I had questions, doubts, challenges to this, but I kept silent out of fear that if I spoke against it, I would be cast out. I took a deep breath, and held my peace.
Time meant nothing now; whatever changes were taking place in me were only beginning, and from this white, swirling cocoon I would emerge as something different, formidable, and beautiful.

World Without End (1): What’s in the Heart

Chapter 1: What’s in the Heart
We finally did it. The last war tipped the balance, and the chemicals that saturated and stuck in what was left of the atmosphere wreaked havoc on the weather. The pissing contests of the powerful had finally screwed us all, and the world as we knew it came to an abrupt and lethal end when the seasons, finally tipped out of balance, lasted for random intervals that were now impossible to forecast.
People had been swept away by cresting water, cooked by blistering sunlight, and hot winds took the leaves before their change. Curled and blackened, they crumbled before they hit the ground. There was shelter, but no safety. Cities were built underground, but there was no food. Towns had been built in the hills, but there were mudslides and floods. Now that it was snowing, if there was anything left of the world below, it was covered. The snow fell for weeks at a stretch, and people had long ago indulged their last panicked impulses to scavenge what remained of ‘normal’ life, even as they lost everything.
On the way up, we saw others who’d tried to brave the mountains: some bloated, some skeletal, some too weak to climb further. They were pickings for the eagles and carrion birds, if any of those were left. The temperature was beyond brutal, and even our rugged equipment was beginning to let in the cold. Movement at the level we needed became difficult.
The mountains were the last refuge, and on the way there, Kylie and I spoke to no one, helped no one.
We’d been in these ranges, hiked and explored them. There’d be shelter if we could beat the storms. But in this new world we found out the storms could no longer be anticipated; they formed quickly, anywhere, like lightning strikes.
I was separated from Kylie in one of those mountain storms that came suddenly; if she fell, she never screamed, or at least, from the wind howling, I never heard her. I dared not turn, since the whiteout all but blinded us anyway. I grieved, but kept moving, since there was no sense of time here, and darkness could be as sudden as the storms. The cowardliness of not trying to save her hit me hard, though it was short lived; for all I knew, she’d made a choice of her own.
Not knowing how long I’d been searching, my hands and legs were beginning to fatigue. The ledge I walked wasn’t too narrow, but the wind still made it unsafe, so I used up the day moving carefully. I needed to find a cave that could hold me. I was at the point of despair when my fingers gripped around a corner. I didn’t want to move in front of it unless it was a cave, so I risked reaching my left arm around, and it disappeared up to my elbow. Gripping what was there, and inching forward, I found it.
Taking a couple of breaths, I reined in my excited hope this was a possibility. Even if it was just a recess, it was still a wind shear, and I could shelter there for a while, if not for the night.
Focusing all my energy on controlling my body, I made my way around; it was indeed a cave, one I had to get on hands and knees to negotiate, which was fortunate, if it didn’t narrow to where I had to crawl.
I said a mental prayer of thanks to whoever could hear me above the wind, and went inside.
It didn’t narrow, and I would’ve wept tears of gratitude if they weren’t frozen behind my eyes.
It was dank, and there was some guano, but not an abundance; my guess was that the sudden weather fluctuations killed off the bats. I had room to stand, but I could explore later. Exhausted and thirsty, I went back to the entrance and quickly grabbed handfuls of snow, bringing it back into the relative warmth and eating it until it melted; it was still cold, but it wasn’t frozen.
My throat ached, but what little water my organs got made them expand like sponges. I needed more, but sleep had me by the ankles, and won the tug of war.

***************
The entrance to the cave was dark. No wind, no snow, just still, cold air for which I had no way to make fire.
Hoping nothing nocturnal still lived here, and recalling that there were no pools of water I might fall into, I stood up to stretch my body.
As my senses woke, a ravenous hunger gripped me, and the thirst returned worse than before.
There was nothing to be done for it. I needed to move.
I walked in ever widening circles, taking small steps with outstretched hands.
My right foot struck something. It moved, as if something lodged was now loosened.
Checking my eagerness that it might be food or water, or (gods grant me) both, I knelt, feeling around until I touched it, running my fingers slowly over it so I wouldn’t get cut. It had cold, metal handles.
Take it out. You’re just delaying the inevitable. Death would be a mercy now. I didn’t really believe the voice in my head, but that didn’t make it wrong. My hands were numb but moveable; I’d shoved them into my sleeves to keep from getting frostbite, and slept with my arms folded.
Hoping it wasn’t sealing something beneath it, I pulled. It came out easily enough, and it was small enough to fit in one hand. It felt like a small chest of some kind. There was a small lock on the front.
In a mix of dread excitement, I reached back into the hole to see if there was a key, and was rewarded with another tiny flash of cold on my fingertips. Rolling through a list of possibilities from ways to make fire to weapons, hunger and thirst were forgotten.
Through blind trial and error, I finally opened it. Lying on
white velvet tucked down the sides, a red gem began to glow with a dull light. It wasn’t enough to light the cave. It was barely enough to see, but definitely there.
Figures I’d become a rich man at the end of time. This could be priceless, but with no one to sell it to, it’s also worthless.
I set the chest down, and picked up the gem, admiring it for a few moments.
When I went to put it back, my hands were no longer cold, and the light seemed brighter.
I chalked it up to loneliness, fear, and exhaustion, though in truth I felt none of those things now.
Walking back to the entrance of the cave, I didn’t have to get back on my hands and knees to crawl out. The rock was high enough to just bend over a bit. Too grateful to question it, my mind told me the cave entrance was the same; I only imagined crawling inside.
Now at the mouth of the cave, I couldn’t get over the beauty the night sky; the stars were pristine, and though the air was still cool it felt clean and good. I wasn’t shivering. Glancing toward the box where I’d replaced the jewel on its velvet, I thought I could see the light glowing through the wood, though the wood wasn’t burning.
“Just tired. You’re hallucinating, or dreaming.”
Or dead.

Can’t Stay, Can’t Leave

 

Eddie
I captured an outdoor table at our favorite local coffee shop as my girlfriend went inside to get the coffee. It was a pleasant midmorning, and casual strollers who got up before noon were enjoying the coolness of the morning.
Jill was inside getting the coffee.
There was a distant booming noise, as if thunder were rolling across the ground.
The air went white, and the temperature searing; my table flipped over and into me as a massive gout of firs shot down the avenue. Tumbling out of control down the street, seemingly no more heavier than a piece of paper litter, a blast of wind picked me up and threw me further, and the white of the sky grew brighter until it suddenly went black.
Death is a mercy.
*******************
I don’t know why I’m still alive; that shouldn’t be.
There are places where the rubble still smolders.
The radiation is patiently nibbling at my flesh, pulling bits of scraps like a jackal sneaking up on the panther’s kill.
I want to die. I need to die.
I’ve seen myself, and Jill wouldn’t have me now, if she was still alive.
Jill…Still, I feel her arm around my waist, see her hair shining in the sun, and the smile in her eyes as she laughs at another one of my dumb jokes. It’s either sincere, or she’s a good actress, but I love that she makes the effort if she is acting.
I’m going to miss her laughter.  I start to cry.
I’m all alone here. 
Just for the hell of it, I reach out to touch her…

Jill
The shards went everywhere, hit everything.
People died from the places they went, and no matter how I try, I can’t look away from the carnage.
Eddie’s gone, but so is the chair where he was sitting.
The rest of the people are piles of bloody ashes in the street, up and down the block.
Arcs of hot light are streaking the air, so I stay low, looking for survivors, for first responders, for anything, but nothing is moving.
No one is coming.
I know I’m in shock, but I don’t scream, I just focus on trying to find Eddie, knowing it’s stupid to try, but there’s nothing else to do now.
There’s certainly nowhere to go.
I don’t even know what the hell went wrong, but it went wrong fast.

**************

I don’t know why I’m still alive; that shouldn’t be.
The air shimmered in front of me, in the shape of a hand.
Jill, you’re hallucinating; don’t be stupid.
But just for the hell of it, since no one’s watching, I reach my hand up, and invisible fingers grasp mine.
Eddie?
Hands touch without meeting, and I don’t know what he sees wherever he is, but we stay like that because I can’t go to him, and he can’t come to me.
I’m going to miss his stupid jokes. I start to cry.
In the distance, I hear the first of many sirens start to wail.