Come to me, human child.

Posted: October 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

SUMMER

            At first there is the light, a white empty light that covers her, hurting her eyes so much that she must keep blinking to dull its glow.  Then when she has walked some way, the muscles in her legs pulling tight together and a deep pain labouring in her back, she notices the crying.  It comes from all around her and buries itself inside her that she has to stop, squinting hard in the light.  Ellen sees the brown form in the distance, lying heavy like a clump of rock on a sandy shore but as she keeps looking she sees that some part of it is moving.  Hands, she realises, and legs.  A baby, she thinks, drawing her breath in, forgetting to blink.  Mine, she realizes, and then she is running, cutting through the white till she reaches it, her legs sore, but her heart beating in a delicious rhythm.  Ellen bends down to the baby and puts her hand on the small chest, feeling it rise and fall in time with her own. A girl.  Laura, she thinks, after her grandmother. The baby keeps crying as Ellen picks it up and she wraps her small delicate fingers round a lock of Ellen’s hair.  Ellen moves a slow graceful sway as she holds her daughter close to her. 

Then as sudden as a summer storm, a pain begins to clutch at Ellen drawing her again to her knees.  She calls out, yells for someone to help her and then she realises that it is only her and Laura, sheltered and abandoned in this world of white.  She feels the pain all around her, inside her, burning her as it spreads out, bursting through her body.  She holds Laura tighter to her but she can feel the sweat on her palms, her grasp already loosening. She rocks and the baby cries.  She looks down at her child, at the shock of black hair on the wrinkled skin, and then she sees the deep, dark red flowing out of her own body.  It is like a river of pain and she feels her heart beating wildly, chaotically.  She cannot hold the baby and she already feels Laura slipping from her.  Ellen bends over, places the child down and she wraps her own hands round her body, keeping everything in.  Her own head is now level with her tiny baby’s and she tries to keep her eyes open but the light burns them up and she has to close them.

The first thing Ellen sees is the flowers, bright sparkling colours against the dirty window.  She can smell them too, even amongst the harsh smell of bleach that pours out of the hospital walls.  The flowers have a sweet smell which glides through the air with a soft beauty.  But she cannot stand it and it slides up her nose and sits there stinging her.  She pulls herself further down the bed and pushes the covers over her head.  Her world then becomes smaller.  There is a grey darkness around her and she is so close to the soft walls of her world that she can stick her tongue out and touch the coarse cloth.  She feels her breath lingering around as she expels it from her mouth.  It makes her warm and she can feel a hot flush in her cheeks and down her neck.  She twitches her toes, feels them grazing across the mattress, her nails making a low rasping sound as they hit the bed sheet.  She knows that soon she must pull herself up, that Steve will come any minute to take her home but she lies buried in her cocoon, her single useless heart the only sound she hears.

AUTUMN

            The sea laps against the shore line, its frothy trail sinking into the muddy sand.  Lumps of sand stand in the sun, once proud castles now half washed out to sea.  Ellen can feel her feet sinking into the ground as she walks, her footsteps dissolving as soon as she lifts her feet off the ground.  Wet grains of sand stick between her toes and the breeze lifts her skirt a little as she walks.  She feels the lonely desolation of an abandoned coastline as she keeps going, until she sees Laura and then something lifts; her heart maybe or just the tight band of grief that has wrapped itself around her.  As she nears the girl, she collapses next to her, sinking into ground that feels warm despite the breeze.  Laura looks up at her and gives her a beautiful joyous smile that children keep only for their mothers.  Ellen feels her own joy in her smile and she brings her head toward her daughter’s, nudging her nose with her own smelling the scent of the sea in her daughter’s hair.  Laura giggles and Ellen sees in her small face the imprint of all her ancestors, the long trace of the living and the dead, marking the new face with old lines and memories. 

Ellen lifts her baby onto her lap, feels her shifting weight as she reaches out digging her tiny fingers into the soft sand.  Ellen starts to fill a bucket with sand by taking her daughter’s hand and helping her to scoop up the sand.

“In, in,” Ellen says and it is like a chant

“ee…ee,” Laura follows in her high voice.

Ellen nods and laughs feeling like the breeze has climbed into her and made her lighter.  Any minute now and she will float away, taking her daughter with her to a land beyond the clouds.  Laura’s round face looks up at her and Ellen can see the sand sprinkled in her daughter’s hair like fairy dust.

The house is ballooning with children.  They lie hidden in darkened rooms the glare of the TV screen reflecting off their faces, sprawled on the lounge room floor half buried under mountains of brightly coloured blocks and loitering outside in the courtyard, their skate boards tripping expertly over concrete bumps.  Ellen keeps herself in the kitchen, trying to pull herself into the walls of her sister’s house.  But since she can’t quite manage to be invisible despite the noise and the chaos, she tries to make herself useful.  Her hands feel dry and cracked from all the dishes that she has washed and she slaps some hand lotion on, rubbing it in, hoping that the lavender smell will seep into her making her seem softer and kinder than she really is.  A child runs by her, briefly grazing her side as he skirts by.  She holds her breath, letting it out slowly as he disappears into a room.  She feels the hot imprint where he bumped her and she sits down wanting a cigarette, but she gave up smoking a few months ago and she can’t quite bring herself to start again, remembering why she stopped in the first place.

Almost all the adults have moved to the lounge room, she sees.  She pulls herself up and out of the kitchen, her eyes focused on the only wall that has not yet succumbed to her brother-in-law’s frenetic renovations.  She sees a couch half hidden in the corner and she walks towards it, carefully stepping through the minefield on the lounge room floor.  When she gets to it, she sinks herself down, her heart beating hard against her chest.  She sees Steve and he is holding her nephew who lies cocooned in a lacy white christening gown.  There is a soft contentment about him as he cradles the baby, his shoulders slumped, his face relaxed.  Ellen can feel an anger in her, a sharp slap across her heart.  She grasps it, digs it in, lets it find root.

Steve sees her, comes towards her, his body suddenly graceful.  When he sits down next to her, she moves away, pressing her knees together, a crack of space opening up between his knees and hers.  He says something to her that she doesn’t quite hear and so she leans into him, looking away as she does. “They change so quickly, don’t they?” he says to her.  She looks at him then, sees how his black hair has grown so much lately that it curls around his ears, small ringlets on its ends.  She remembers when they first started seeing each other, how after making love, she would wrap herself in his favourite red jumper, loving how it brushed the bottom of her naked knees, how her arms disappeared in it but most of all how his scent would settle from the jumper to her skin.  Her angry roots run down her and she thinks then of how he doesn’t wear red anymore.

WINTER

            A frosty draft slides through the open door and Ellen digs her hands deeper into her pockets, trying to shake the chill from them.  The classroom is empty except for Laura who sits at a table in the middle, her head bent over a drawing, her legs tucked up under her.  Ellen stands by the door, letting the draft blow through her while she looks at Laura.  Her hair is the same dark black she has always had but it is so long now, coiled tight in two braids down her back with blue ribbons at their ends. Ellen moves up to her, puts her hand slowly on her daughter’s shoulder.  Laura looks up.

“Mum! I’ve been waiting for ages. I’m doing a drawing.  See?  Here’s me and here’s Eloise and Tyler and Jamie.  Do you like it?”

 Ellen kneels down next to her daughter and takes the picture.  It is filled with flowers, a field of pretty flowers resting amongst an expanse of green.  She sees the tiny figures, standing together, their hands clasped, their dresses blending into the field.

“Who are they again?” she asks Laura.

Laura rolls her eyes.  “I already told you, Mum.  Me and Eloise and Tyler and Jamie.”

“Who are they?” Ellen asks.

“They’re my friends.”

“There are other children here?” Ellen asks her daughter, feeling her voice becoming light and unsteady.

“Yes, heaps,” Laura responds.

Ellen glances up at the quiet classroom, seeing for the first time the opened pencil cases, the bags lying on the floor and the artwork on the windows.  She tilts her head and she can hear something faded in the distance.  She realises then that it is the sound of children, a messy wave of children’s voices.

“Are there grown ups here too?”

“U huh.  Some,”

Ellen draws her coat closer to her and she wipes a tear away with an icy finger.  The muscles in her legs have begun to seize up but she wants nothing more than to stay here, watching the grey clouds in the sky, the cold wind on her back and ice running through her veins, leaving a trail of tiny crystals in its wake till she is finally frozen, her hand halfway round her daughter’s shoulders.

“Mum?” Laura asks bringing Ellen out of her imaginings.

“Where’s Dad?”

Ellen does not move.  She feels heavy, weighed down into life.  When she answers Laura, her voice is old and steady.  “Gone,” she says and then the rain starts, falling to the ground in wet sheets. 

Ellen has never realised how much noise an empty house makes, there are hums and ticks, taps and creaking sighs.  She sits there, the lights dimmed, a bottle of wine at her feet.  She has put the fire on and it spits and crackles in front of her.  She can do that easily now, piling the rough bolts of wood up, sprinkling kindling over them, lighting the match and holding it close to a splinter of wood till it lights.  When Steve first left, she could never get the fire going, the wood never seemed to catch alight or when it did, the fire quickly faded into a smoky cloud that poured out and wafted up her nose, stinging her eyes.  But now she sits with the glow of the fire across her face.  When she hears the car, she uncurls herself from the chair, stepping over her wine glass, her blanket falling around her feet.  She opens the door before he knocks, letting the cold night air in.  Through the dark, she sees Steve’s frame uncoiling from the car.  When he gets closer, she notices how he hasn’t shaved and his eyes have a worn tired look about them.

They stand in the hallway for a little while, both looking at the towers of boxes that stand against the wall.  “This it, then?” Steve asks into the silence, and she nods back at him feeling lonelier than she has in weeks.  There should be more boxes, she thinks, rows and rows of them stretching from the door right out to the other end of the house.  But instead, there are only about ten or so, neatly lined up, a marriage full of clutter.

“Right, well, I’ve got a trailer so I’ll just load them up,” Steve says to her, slowly running his thumb over the edge of one of the boxes, picking up the dust.

He starts to carry some of the boxes out and Ellen helps him by carrying some of the smaller boxes.  They are heavy on her thin arms but she keeps them close to her body like she has been taught.  She does all the right things, back straight, knees bent, load close but when she is finished, her back still feels tight and her arms still ache.  She still feels the weight of the boxes on her body as she stands in her driveway watching him drive away.  But then maybe she has always felt this heavy in that dark, dark place.

SPRING

            It is a field of gold, blooming in the sunshine.  Ellen can feel the sun on her back and it is good.  She walks through the overgrown park, her legs itching as  they swipe past the blades of grass.  There are bees dancing close to the flowers.  She knows what has drawn them here, she can smell it too, the ripe smell of flowering life.  She bends down, plucks a flower and brings it up to her nose and like her buzzing companions, she drinks it in, inhales it, lets it seep into her.

“Mum! Over here!” Laura calls and Ellen follows her wave.  Ellen looks at how much she has grown, how the baby fat has fallen away so that her daughter sits with lean legs dragging across the ground as she sits on a swing.  Ellen sits on another swing and for awhile, they swing, back and forwards together, their joint laughter ringing across the wide open field.  Then Laura stops, bringing her swing to a holt with her legs.  Ellen stops too then and suddenly, she can feel a quiet that is deafening to her.  The bees have stopped buzzing, there is no quiet breeze, the leaves do not move.

“Mum.  You don’t have to come here anymore,” Laura says to her looking Ellen clear in the eye.

“You don’t want me to come?” Ellen answers, her voice has an injured quality to it, hard but soft.

 Laura shakes her head. “No, no, its not like that.  Its just that… I don’t really need you here anymore.”

Ellen swallows, feeling each muscle as it contracts in her throat.  “You don’t need me anymore? You don’t?”

Laura shakes her head and she is suddenly very solemn, very old.  “Not really.” She gets off her swing and moves to her mother, wraps her fingers round her mother’s hands, whispers into her ear. “And anyway, grandma’s coming.  She’ll look after me.”

Ellen starts to cry and feels her wet tears on her daughter’s cheek.  “This is too much,” she says and Laura starts to wipe her tears away, sliding them off with her sticky hands.

“It’ll be OK, Mum.  She wants to come.  And they need you more,”

“Who?” Ellen says, breathing into her daughter.

“Daddy.  And Daniel.”

“Who’s Daniel?” Ellen asks her but Laura has already got back on her swing.  “Who’s Daniel?” she asks again but Laura has pushed herself off the ground.  Ellen tries to grab hold of her but she can’t for her daughter is swinging high into the sky.

 

The tips of Ellen’s toes touch the edge of the open grave.  She digs her feet into the ground to stop herself from falling in.  A crowd of people have turned up and she can feel their suppressed rustling behind her.  Her sister throws a rose into the grave followed by some dry earth.  Ellen stands there a moment before she draws the picture out of her pocket. She keeps it folded up as she brings it to her lips and gives it a light kiss. She can see the mark of her lips on the white paper.  She lets it drop and it falls into the grave, resting next to the lonely rose.  She steps away, moves to the back of the crowd, feels a breath of fresh cool air as they surge forward and away from her.  She turns away from the grave and as she does, she catches a glimpse of dark black hair, neatly clipped on a tall body, a bright red rose tucked into a pocket, the sunlight on his face.

 

I wrote this as a bit of backstory to a longer piece that I am writing.  Also, DH thought I needed to write more short stories.  So this is meant to be a bit of practice and to help with some character development.  I’m not sure how well it works as a stand alone short story though.  But I enjoyed writing it (after I got over DH shooting it down) and I think it did help with my character development for the longer story that I am trying to write.
The End of Days

On that last day, the end of days, two fortuitous events (also known by some as miracles) happened to Connor McClennan.  The first was that his colleague and friend Tyler Harrison decided that he wanted to fly to Vegas to marry his girlfriend of seventeen years thus swapping shifts with Connor.  This caused Connor to be at home when the monsters appeared rather than at the hospital where the standoff which later became known as the Siege of Mercy Hospital took place.  The second event was that when his wife’s car careened down the street in front of their house and crashed into the bus stop outside, the pole smashed down only inches away from her.  And so later, as he limped through the leftover treacles of humanity, Connor remembered his wife not as a bloody pulp of flesh, her beauty smashed inside itself, but as she was much later, when her blond hair had grown out into long messy waves and her grey blue eyes still shone with something akin to hope.But on that fortuitous day, Connor didn’t even know anything had happened till long after the rains of armageddon had long departed leaving in their wake a world already lost to history.  On that morning, he was woken up just as the sun started to bleed out into the day, not by his four year old’s foot digging into his ribs, but by his phone’s shrill ring (“Don’t leave me now” by Supertramp).  After he hung up on Tyler, he lay back in bed,  feeling Carter’s little feet tucked into his side, listening to Karen’s light stirrings as the morning sickness nudged her from bed.  After Karen had risen and padded down the stairs, Connor must have dozed off again because the next thing he knew, he was being shaken by Carter, his little hands gripping into his shoulder pulling him out of a dream where he’d watched the little boy melt into the seat of the car after having accidently locked him in on a hot blustery day .  So as the lightning storm broke, sending an army of strange and terrifying creatures down across the earth, Connor was in the shower, feeling the sharp sting of hot water on his body.  When he had finished and stepped from the bathroom, slowly pulling on a pair of tracksuit pants, he felt a fleeting twinge of alarm at the dark grey room that greeted him.  He’d gone into the shower on a bright sunny morning,  wiped clean with promise and had come out to a grey gloomy day.  As Connor looked out the window, slashes of lightning cut across the sky lighting it up like a Christmas tree.  He shrugged off the sudden change in weather as easily as he pulled his t-shirt over his head, his wet hair dampening the edges of his collar.As he wandered into his living room, he glanced at the clock.  A quarter past ten.  Damn, he hadn’t realised he’d slept so long. A buried image from his dream surfaced and he blinked.  He needed to get Carter his breakfast.   But then he saw Carter sitting in front of the TV, a bowl of dry cereal sitting next to him, his head cocked up at the screen.  Connor could see the grainy images of people running and soldiers firing.  He walked up behind Carter and reached down for the remote.“Hey, bud, what channel are you on?  Want me to put it on something else?”But as he flicked the remote, the same images followed him through each channel.  He suddenly felt a clammy tight feeling in his chest as he peered closer.  The power started to flicker on and off and he realised that some of the screaming and sirens that he thought were coming from the TV were in fact coming from outside.  He dropped the remote and ran to the window, pulling back the heavy drapes with such force that he ripped the tabs from the rod and the material hung half on and half off, like a battered mast of an abandoned ship.  He stepped back in visceral shock.  What he saw seemed to leap from his vision straight through to his heart and he found himself trembling, like a dog caught amongst the wild claps of fireworks on New Year’s Eve.  There were human like creatures running down the street.  At first he thought they held swords but then he realised that they weren’t swords but claws embedded in their skin.  And the air was still dark and grey as if the light had been sucked out of it, catapulting them through an omnipresent black hole.  Somewhere there was a fire, the flames reaching up, the smoke rolling out into the atmosphere.“Dad, Dad.  What’s wrong?”He turned around and saw Carter sitting up on the couch, his arm slung over his dog, the two heads looking over at him, their small frames almost engulfed entirely in the shiny leather blackness.  He ran towards Carter and pulled both dog and boy into a clumsy hug.  His mind ticked over, trying to think about what to do.  Then Karen’s car smashed into the pole.  Only he didn’t know that it was her car or that it was a car at all.  All he heard was a loud bang  and he hesitated.  If he’d known what and who it was, he would have rushed out the door right then and there and pulled her in.   But at that moment, he only knew that it must be something else equally terrifying.  So he sat with Connor and Duster in his arms, while the lights kept flickering off and on and more screams pounded at them from outside.When he finally looked out the window again, and saw Karen’s car bent into the pole of the bus stop, one of the creatures crushed in the middle, he felt a tearing in him.  Because by then, he knew that he couldn’t just open the door and run out to save her.  He’d seen what the creatures were doing to people, their claws coming down on them and pulling apart human flesh like it was nothing.  But this was Karen.  He saw how artfully the pole lay on the car, as if some god had always meant it to be that way, buried in the metal folds of the car.  He remembered another crumpled car, the front end smashed into hard bark, his parents’ broken bodies. He had sat in the emergency room of that hospital, eyes drawn to the water stains that ran down the musty wall, fingers digging into the hole in the upholstery, till the whole seam of the chair split open.  The only other thing he remembered from that night was Karen’s hair resting on his shoulder, the light caress of it against his skin.  He had to get her out.  He knew he had to wait for a lull, for some kind of quiet.  He edged Carter upstairs and Duster bounded after them and the three of them sat in the middle of Carter’s room, under the halo of a planetary mobile.Eventually, the quiet came and all Connor heard was the low panting of Duster and the rattling of lego pieces as Carter played.  He left them there with a cup of juice and a plate of crackers sitting lopsidedly on the carpeted floor.  He crept down the stairs, his still trembling hands holding a baseball bat  and he pulled his front door open and then shut it gingerly behind him.  Clouds of smoke hung like wet laundry and an awful stench filled the air.  But apart from the dead creature smashed into the side of the bus stop, there didn’t seem to be any others about.  He ran up to the car and could see Karen bent over the steering wheel.  He tried the door and it swung open, a creaking sigh escaping from it.  God, he’d always hated this car, he thought and reached across to feel Karen.  Her eyes flickered open and she moaned into his ear.  Her jeans glistened red and Connor felt such a sudden unbearable sadness at that.  He blinked back tears, reached over to unbuckle her seat belt.  But then he felt something wet and cold licking him and he turned around and saw Duster poking his nose into his side, a red ball in his mouth, his tail wagging ferociously.  He raised his eyes and through the cracked frame of the window, he saw Carter standing on the front steps, his hand clutching the railings.  And all the fear he’d felt before seemed to roll away and something else, something dark and painful filled its place.

“Get inside!” he yelled at the boy.

“I want Duster!” Carter yelled.  He was crying, the full body rolling cry of a 4 year old.

Connor thought it would be almost possible to pull Karen out and drag her up to the house, with Duster nipping at their feet until he saw the creature moving toward them down the street.  It didn’t run like the others had, it sauntered, with a lazy easy movement toward them.  He looked it in the eye and it looked back at him and there was a knowing and a cunning there.  And Connor knew in that moment that the instant he started to run up the stairs, the creature  would break out in a run pouncing on them all in some crazed thrill seeking game of primal hunger.  He heard his son crying and felt his wife’s heavy bleeding body in his arms.  He looked back up at Carter and it looked almost as if he was fading behind a blanket of smoke.  He coughed.  Duster nipped at his heels. The creature moved closer.  Connor then slowly slid Karen out of the car and lay her gently on the ground, his eyes on the creature.  Then he reached down, lay his hand on Duster’s fur, feeling it come away in his hand as he patted the dog.  The dog nudged his hand again and he stroked him again, the soft fur a balm against his callused hands.  He gently took the ball out of Duster’s mouth, remembering the first green tennis ball that he’d bought for him on the way home from the pound, how firm and round it had been and how later he’d found it behind the couch, frayed and squashed, teeth marks buried into its rubbery surface.  As he lifted the ball from Duster’s teeth, wet saliva dribbled onto his hand.  Connor gave a last look at Duster and then he raised his arm and threw the ball and it spun, bouncing on the ground and rolling to a halt in front of the creature.   Duster’s eyes followed the ball as it arched through the air and then he flew after it, stopping only when he reached the creature.   He growled at it and  then as if knowing what was expected of him, he leapt at it, his jaw clamping down hard on its arm.

Connor picked up Karen, his hands still half slick with Duster’s saliva and he carried her towards the front steps and by the time he got up to the top, he was pulling both wife and child in behind him, trying to block out Carter’s sobbing and the high pitched yelping of Duster.  He tumbled into the house with Carter wrapped around him and his arms trying to keep ahold of Karen.  As soon as the three of them were in the house, Connor slammed the door shut, and crumpled in front of it, his heart beating fast and hard.  And all the while, he could hear Duster outside, his yelps seeming to echo down the empty street.  TIll they stopped and then there was nothing.

It took Connor a long time to clean Karen up, to wash her body free of the grime and the blood.  He’d never been bothered before by blood, it had always been so much a part of his everyday life that sometimes as he washed his hands after a procedure, he felt almost mesmerised by the way the colour of water changed in an instant, its crimson tide washing down the sink.  But as he cleaned Karen up, ripping her wet jeans off her, he felt so sick and dizzy, that he had to stop several times to steady his hands.  And when he was done, he still had to calm Carter down, hold his son till his hacking cries subsided and he fell into a hard sleep, his body pressed tight into Connor, dried tears flaking off his face.

When the power finally, irrevocably, turned off, Connor was staring at the ceiling watching the blades of the fan spin round.  His arms were stretched out round both Karen and Carter and he had the blankets spread out over the three of them.  He watched the fan suddenly slow down till it stopped, the cord still swinging from side to side for a while longer caught in its own momentum till eventually it too stopped.  Only then did Connor close his eyes to a dreamless sleep.

Many years later, when Connor lay on his own in another darkened room, the smooth round edge of a bottle in his hand and an old family photograph in his pocket, he sometimes thought he could still hear Duster in the background, his sharp, brave, insistent yelps till there was silence once more and the days turned over in a flat line.

I love a good science fiction movie where the characters are complex, the beauty of the stars a mere backdrop to the real drama of humanity. I’ve tried many times to replicate this feeling in a science fiction novel and only a very few novels have met with these expectations (“The Sparrow” and to a lesser extent “Century Rain”). But “Leviatian Wakes” gets up there. Its noir, its horror, its romance, its political thriller, its drama, all rolled into one. And its set in space. And there are space battles and mysterious alien presences and human settlements in the vast expanse of space. Told from two alternating perspectives, the story follows Jim Holden, the captain of a space ship and Miller, a middle-aged, weary cynical cop as they both race to destroy an ancient alien virus that a group of human scientists have discovered and unleashed on a galaxy that now comprises of Earth, a terra firmed Mars and a collection of colonised asteroids called the Belt. Its nicely paced, smoothly written (despite being a collaboration of 2 people) and has an impressive amount of detailed and plausible world building. I liked the world that James SA Corey create, the hopefulness of space exploration combined with the tension between the three political groups (Earth, Mars and the stations and asteroids that make up the Belt or OPA-Outer Planetary alliance). Holden’s rememberances of his childhood in the free air of Montana contrast with Miller’s own recollections of growing up in the grittiness of the Belt. The characters’ journeys are interwoven nicely into the textured suspense of the narrative as Holden and Miller desperately try to save the virus from engulfing the entire galaxy while trying to maintain their own moral centre. If there was anything that let the novel down, it was the ending. Too quick and sudden, I felt that there needed to be more reflection at the end about where the characters were and where they might possibly be going next. Despite being the first of a trilogy, the ending of this book need not have been quite so abrupt. The epilogue felt more like reading a dot point summary of what the author(s?) intended to write rather than a real epilogue. Nonetheless, the next book is eagerly awaited.

CLEAVE

Posted: November 23, 2012 in Fanfiction
Tags:

CLEAVE

Summary: Two brothers. Jealousy. Hate. Loss.

Timeline: Set about 30-40 years after the events depicted in The Peacekeeper Wars (Farscape).

Rating: R for some violence.

Category: Drama.

Acknowledgements: All my favourite female crime writers; Laura Lippmann, Karin Slaughter, Penn Williamson who show me that writing about horribly violent things is all about the character.

Disclaimer: All things “Farscape” belong to the Jim Hensen Company, Hallmark Entertainment, Channel 9 Australia and the Sci-Fi Channel. I do not own these characters and do not receive any profit from this endeavour.

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He held his brother’s hand, clasped it, strong and firm. It was still warm. Each moment longer that he sat there, his brother’s body became heavier as it sank into the hard floor. The blood was everywhere and he could see its red gleam splattered on the walls in the grey light. There was a low hissing sound still coming from the body as death closed in on it. He felt his own hate snake out of him, uncurling and slithering away. He sat there, spent, in the shadows of his brother’s death, and the cold crept up through him and brought with it the unforgiving ache of emptiness.

*****

SOME TIME BEFORE

The command carrier hovered in silent space, on the edge of Peacekeeper territory. It sat, dark and brooding, waiting for the fleet to arrive. It held, in its bowels, a colony of prisoners on their last journey through deep space. They were kept chained in their cells, their every movement watched and tracked. All were accounted for, all except one who sat hunched in a cargo bay as the high pitched ring of the alarm rang through the ship. Heavy waves of soldiers pounded down the steel corridors. It was easy for Kael to slip away, leave his crew to their hunt and listen to the pull of his own heart. He threaded his way through his ship, honing in on the prisoner, closing in on his brother.

Kael could sense his brother before he saw him. He always could. It started with a quickening in his blood, a tingling that went through him and a low distant hum that resounded in his ear. He kept still, listening and waiting. He heard D’Argo shift and saw his shadow spill out from behind a crate. Sticky sweat trailed down Kael’s neck as he rested his arm on his gun holster. Slick fingers curled round the handle of the weapon. He was so close to him, one, two steps and he would be on him, bringing him down. He itched to have him. Instead he held back, his sharp gaze on the other man’s form. D’Argo was taller than him, lean, almost gangly. His dark hair was recently shorn and except for the eyes, they were nothing alike. Kael saw the calm cocky stance of his brother and he felt the grip of hate stir within him. It tasted bitter, a foul taste that lingered on his tongue.

D’Argo moved away from the crate, taking slow steps to the door. Kael followed behind him, silent steps tracing his brother’s path. Then before D’Argo reached the doorway, Kael lunged at him, pulling him back, slamming him hard against the wall. He twisted his arm around and held the butt of his gun to D’Argo’s neck.

“Going somewhere?” Kael sneered, his body pressing into D’Argo, a rising elation sweeping him. The other man, stood winded, his face impassive. Then he broke into a grin that he aimed at Kael.

“Well, y’all aren’t really known for your hospitality.”

Kael hit him again. A punch this time, to his chest and then another that dug into the side of D’Argo’s face. The humming was getting louder and Kael could barely control himself. He wanted to hurt him again, and again but he let his brother lie there trying to pull himself together. He felt blinded by the rage that leapt through him. It burnt him. He reached over then and pulled his brother up, holding him up against the wall, the gun digging deeper into his skin.

“DON’T get smart with me,” Kael whispered in his brother’s ear, his breath hot against his skin.

“Or what?”

“Or I will pull this trigger.”

D’Argo gave a short laugh and lifted his gaze to Kael. “Go ahead then. Pull the trigger. Frell my brains out. Make me a goddamn martyr.”

The gun stayed on D’Argo’s neck, cool metal against hot skin. Burning into him. Kael wanted to hold him like this for a long time, pressing the gun into him, slowly, teasingly pushing him over the edge, making him suffer.

“You won’t do it,” D’Argo whispered. “High command wants me alive.”

“Well, maybe I don’t want you alive,” Kael answered, his eyes cold.

“Why, I’m just another job, aren’t I? Catch the rebel, tie him up in a nice little bow and hand him over to high command. That’s what you peacekeepers do, isn’t it? Follow orders.”

Kael smiled a cold hard smile and he leaned into D’Argo’s ear. “But I’m not just here for high command. I’m here for me.”

“What the frell for?” Kael asked, his voice rising in pitch.

“Because I’ve wanted you for a very long time. Now that I have you, I am NOT letting you get away.”

“But I’m just small fry, Commander. One tiny little resistance leader in a whole universe of peacekeeper enemies.”

“Don’t underestimate yourself …. brother,” Kael whispered, his gaze hard on D’Argo, wanting to hurt him, his fingers tight on his pulse pistol. His brother stood unflinching and Kael pulled away slightly. The spray of spit caught him offguard, landing wet and hot on his cheek. Kael pulled D’Argo to him again and slapped him, rough and sharp across the taller man’s face. “You are frelling with your life, brother.”

“Don’t call me that. I am not your brother, you murdering peacekeeper sonabitch,” D’Argo said.

“On that you are wrong, D’Argo Crichton,” Kael answered. “I gather our father did not tell you about my existence.”

“You lying bastard,”

Kael felt the sting of the words dig into him. The familiar hurt squeezed into him, and the old memory clung to him like a scar. The man with his strange words and his mother’s body lying cold in her grave. The young boy lost and drifting, waiting for the father that never came, the other family that turned him away.

Kael lifted his pistol, trialled it slowly up the side of D’Argo’s face and rested its butt on the edge of his temple. “Do you not hear that? That low humming that sits inside your brain? Have you not noticed how it is louder now that it has ever been in your life? And what about Scorpius, who lives with you, inside your mind? Is he trying to talk to you now, can you hear him? I can, he’s calling you, he’s calling me.”

“It’s not Scorpius.”

“What?”

“The man, it’s not Scorpius, it’s Harvey.”

“You can call him whatever the frell you want, but he’s still in you and he’s still in me. We’re the same, D’Argo. Frelling half-breed freaks with voices in our heads.”

D’Argo leaned into Kael. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. My father hated your mother, that peacekeeper bitch.”

The force that hit D’Argo knocked him to the ground. Kael held him down, straddled him, one hand on D’Argo’s chest and the other on his gun. He felt the anger in him burning through his skin. He pressed deep into his brother’s body, crushing him with his weight, trying to focus on the hard feel of his hand on D’Argo’s chest, trying to shift away from the ringing in his ears. One more thrust, one more pull of the trigger and he could end it, kill this man. D’Argo fought back. A push and tussle, uneven kicks, frantic grabs in the grey light, and the two men pounded into each other, the pulse pistol lying forgotten on the hard ground.

Kael felt the sting of each punch as it sliced through him. Blood seeped from the wounds on his knuckles. He felt a raw grasping breath in his throat, squeezing into him. He saw the shadow of his mother over him, her deep dark eyes shifting away, beyond him. A quick slide of his hand and he lifted the blade to his side. He saw his father’s eyes, their clear unrecognising glint catching in the light. He thrust. Pulled back. Another thrust. He felt his brother fall, his weight pulling him down with him. Kael pulled the blade out, a rough slice that tore open the bleeding hole in his brother’s chest. Deep red blood bubbled out of D’Argo and Kael slid back, dropping the knife, its handle suddenly too hot and slimy in his hand.

The humming died down, fading into an echo in his ear and a silent scream rose in his mind. His brother lay slumped on the ground, eyes still open, slow breaths whispering out of him. Kael saw the knife on the ground, its sharp edges dirty and stained. He lifted it, turned it slowly around and pressed its tip into himself. He held it there an empty moment, watching the thin cut fill with his own blood. He grasped the handle harder, steadying himself for one final onslaught. Kael felt a light weak pressure moving his hand down. He looked across at D’Argo, seeing his brother’s face again, pale and drawn but with eyes that looked at him. A soft voice filled the space around Kael, he leaned in, listening. “I always wanted a brother.”

He watched as D’Argo closed his eyes, slow murmurs coming from him. He saw the slow rise of D’Argo’s chest still and the quiet filled his head. Kael touched D’Argo’s hand, lifted it, resting it in his own. He sat, cradling his brother and he held his brother’s hand, clasped it, strong and firm.

**** THE END ****

THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW. JUST A FEW ABOUT THE WORLD THIS STORY IS SET IN.

For all the fantasy novels that are published each year, few actually reach the heights of fantasy greats such as George R.R Martin and Robin Hobb. But Mark Lawrence does just that, he has reminded us how good fantasy can be when its done really, really well. His protagonist is Prince Jorg, who at 10 years of age witnessed his mother and brother slaughtered on the orders of his father’s enemy, Count Revan. Jorg himself was severely wounded in the attack but as his physical injuries fade, his emotional trauma intensifies and he becomes filled with a white hot rage and develops an obsession to seek out the Count and avenge his loss. He turns away from childhood and becomes instead brutal, violent and cold. He shuns all goodness in the form of love, affection or forgiveness lest it make him weak and unable to cling onto the rage within him. He runs away from his father, King Olidon and spends the next 4 years roaming the land with a band of rogue criminals, looting, plundering and whoring. When he finally stumbles upon his father’s old priest, held captive, he frees him and decides to return home, hoping for recognition from the King. This is not what eventuates and along the way he finds himself attacking an impenetrable fortress, dallying with ghosts and monsters and seeking revenge once more from his mother’s murderer.

Many reviewers have described Jorg as evil, horrific, an anti-hero who despite his actions endears a certain amount of charm. I think this completely misses the point of the story. Jorg is neither evil nor an anti-hero. He is a complex character layered with all the emotions that make us human – grief, despair, pain, anger, pride and ultimately, love (for without it, how can there be grief?). The action in the story is no more terrible or violent than in any other fantasy novel – people do get murdered, blood is spilled, people are betrayed. But what we do get that very few other fantasy novels have is absolutely splendid writing, taut and beautiful and we get Jorg, with all his darkness and cunning. He is endearing because like his old tutor, we see him as the man he could be – smart, noble and great.

What we also get is imaginative world building, for the world that Jorg inhabits is a medieval world set 1000 years in our post apocalyptic future. It is a broken empire ruled by ambitious kings and inhabited by spirits and monsters with powers and the dead who come to life (zombies??). And underneath it all are the remnants from our own doomed era, secret hidden arsenals of nuclear weapons and treasure troves of our own forgotten world. It makes for an intriguing narrative linked together by the Shakespeare quoting Jorg with his Macbeth like tortured ambition and the raw naked grief of Hamlet.

What a gift this story is. I only hope that the rest of the story lives up to the brilliance of this first book.

The intriguing thing about the WOOL stories is that they focus on what comes after the apocalypse happens, after the dust settles and the new world unfurls. Its not the apocalypse that we are concerned about, its how the world adapts, falters, grows. And yet, despite this, there is still an echo threading through of what came before and as a reader, the mystery of what caused the world to collapse and who made the silos is like an itch that niggles. Second Shift is the second part in a middle trilogy within the Silo series that focuses on this Before. First Shift takes place largely in the time before the silos while Second Shift sits after the catastrophe but before the events in Wool (I am assuming, its not completely clear how the events in Second Shift relate, time wise with the events in Wool). The story continues to mesmerise and we now know what catastrophic event forced people into the silos. Hugh Howey does a good job of both unravelling one mystery while creating more questions. Is only certain memory erased? What is the ultimate aim of those in charge? Who else remembers? What about Jules? How do the events in Second Shift relate to her and the other characters in the earlier Wool stories? If there is one flaw to Second Shift, its that these new mysteries and questions, made me impatient to get this story over with. I wanted to get ahead of myself and perhaps failed to just relax and sink into the story of Second Shift. Perhaps this is a characteristic of all linkage stories and this is certainly a story that links the Before with the After. And when the story ends, its both tragic and hopeful, twin emotions that one of the main characters, Donald, faces each moment he is awake in the silos. We are then left wanting and waiting both in hope and trepidation of what Howey has in store for the Silos.

The Dark

Posted: November 15, 2012 in Speculative fiction
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This is a story I wrote a while back. Its the impetus of another longer story that I’ve also been working on that unfortunately is currently sitting in the “later/too hard/abandoned” basket.

The Dark

Hana trailed her hand down his chest, feeling her way over skin and muscle.  She like the feel of him under her, his strength nesting her, her own body sinking into him.  She followed the lines of the scars on his chest with her fingers, her heart as always catching at the sight of them.  She knew their pattern by now, how the ropes had burned him as they strung him up, how the wounds had bled open and raw and how the scars that remained were rough, more obvious as the weight fell off the body they coursed.  She thought of her own scars across her body and the unrelenting presence of the war that had marked them there.  She felt his hand on her breast and she closed her eyes, needing the warmth of him on her, his breath at her throat.  She kissed him on the mouth, deep and long, a surge of happiness piercing her.  He rolled her over, his weight not pressing into her, her body open with wanting.  She pulled him to her, felt him inside her and pulled him deeper, and all the time she is calling his name in despair, in hope, Karl, Karl.  She hears the thud of the bed, his low moans and her own voice ringing in her wars and for a moment, she forgets.

The morning hovered over the city like a reluctant lover.  A dull light filtered through dark clouds.  People stepped from their homes released from the night’s curfew.  They moved quickly without lingering, faces drawn, eyes watchful.  Hana looked down at the city, the strong taste of nicotine burning her throat, the cigarette smoke wafting in front of her.  She hated this city now, its battered ugliness a constant reminder of what it had survived.  The traces of four years of war with the Otherworlders clung to it in every crevice.  Buildings stood empty, long abandoned by their occupants.  Rubble cascaded across whole city blocks, burying furniture and people beneath them.  Hana looked up at the horizon and saw columns of grey smoke rising in the distance.  The city now stood in quiet desolation while the fighting continued in the outlying areas, the burning rage of the Otherworlders sweeping through once green and lush fields.

A creak sounded outside her apartment and Hana pushed herself away from the window sill when she saw the brown envelope slide under her door.  She barely looked at it as she slid it under the rug.  She felt the old twist of pain in her chest as she went back to the window, picking up discarded clothes along the way.  For a while she stood at the window, the clothes in her hand, watching the sky and remembering the first time the bombs had fallen, a torrent of sound and fire.  Then she turned back to the apartment, moved on with her tidying and organising, not looking at the threadbare rug.  She heard Karl in the shower, and breathed it in, this remnant of domesticity, and cradled it like a mother.

“You don’t have to clean my clothes up, you know.  I’m going to put them back again.” Karl’s voice surprised Hana and she looked up and smiled.

“Old habits, I guess.” She handed his clothes to him and watched as he dressed himself.  In the morning shadows, she could barely see his scars.  His damaged body looked almost new, fresh and clean.  He tugged his jeans on and she saw the flash of his ring in the light.  Carol’s ring, she thought and she felt a flush of envy on her cheeks.  She saw how the blue tones in it caught the light, of how they sat with ease and familiarity in their gold band and she thought again how nice it must be for Karl to be able to have something to remember Carol by that did not burn into his soul with pain and grief.  She had nothing of Bill’s, no photos, no old letters or well worn shirts.  Everything had gone, she had burnt them all.  Karl laced his belt through his jeans and she thought again with that sliver of envy how comforting it must be to have one’s loved ones die a natural death.  How easy it must be, to be prepared, to watch them sink slowly into the dreamless sleep of death.  There had been no scorched faceless body for Karl to claim, just Carol’s soulless body, given up finally to the cancer that swept through her.  How lucky, Hana thought, and felt herself blush with the shame of the thought.  Then she thought of Sam and how the only thing she had left of him was the thin scar across her belly and a cold hardness inside her.

“You know that beef dish of mine, the one with the lemongrass?” Karl asked and Hana drew her thoughts back to him.

“The one you made a few months ago?”

“Yeah, that one.  I’ve managed to get hold of some beef.  Do you want to come over later, after work?”

“I can’t see you later.  Mum’s been asking for me, I thought I should go and see her,” Hana said, the lie slipping easily from her.  Karl nodded his head as he worked his foot into his boot.  he looked up at her, a light frown on his face.  “Take care,” he said and she nodded, her eyes on the deep imprint his boot had made on the rug.  She reached for him then, wrapping herself round him, bringing her mouth close to his ear.  “You too,” she whispered, her voice unsteady, longing to be able to keep him with her and hold the day at bay.  She felt his clean shirt, pressed and neat on his body and she wanted to keep him always like this, near her and free from the mud and dirt of the battles.  When he left she ran to the window watching him walk away, leaving her alone in the empty apartment with its unmade bed and dirty dishes.

She finished another cigarette before she looked at the envelope.  She took it out from under the gun and held it in her hands for a while, feeling its weight, trying to guess what her next hit was.  When she finally slit it open, she stared at what she read, a slow sliding dread breaking through her.  Sizan.  The Leader.  Paradise Healing Centre 209 dead, Aureallis docklands 11 dead, Crispin Gardens 112 dead.  She read on and on and at the last line, her breath stopped while deep rumbles of gunfire strained the air.  Orchard School 412 dead. She slowly let the breath out of her mouth and she got her gun out then, laying its pieces on her bed and with firm hands that once brought fragile life into the world, Hana cleaned the pieces of her gun, dusting dirt off the edges till they shone bright in the grey morning.

The city at night was a different place.  The streets emptied abruptly when curfew fell.  The distant smoke that had drifted in during the day from the fighting hundreds of kilometres away still hung about, pressing in on the dark night, bringing with it a hint of burning wood.  Lights peaked out from drawn curtains.  Buildings sat closed and waiting.  A lonely wind rustled along the dark streets.  Hana moved through them now, her forged pass tucked deep in her pocket.  But still she hurried, not trusting that the pass would save her if she was stopped by the police.  She knew the streets and her near blindness in the black night did not make her falter.  She felt her way along familiar roads, side streets and tunnels.  She had lived in this city all of her life but she never knew it as well as she did now.  She knew every turning, every short cut, every hidden doorway.  She lost track of the number of times she had moved through the dark streets, wiping wet blood off her hands as she hurried, her gun strapped tightly to her body.

She felt energised tonight.  She would try to get him in one bullet.  It would be, she knew, a merciful killing for one that had murdered so many.  But she saw an end now and she did not want to waste more time.  She hurried on.  When she arrived at her destination, she paused a moment by the door, waiting for her breath to slow down.  Then she slipped her gun from its hiding place, fed the codes into the lock and quietly let herself in.

It did not take her long to move through the darkened house to the room that she knew he would be in.  Her sources were never wrong.  She had her gun clasped in her hand and the moment she turned into the doorway, she knew that she had her target in sight.  He stood, his face half concealed by the shadows that the dim night light cast on him.  She did not give herself time to think as she aimed and fired.  But he had sensed her a moment before and in the half light, he moved, only slightly but just enough so the bullet lodged in his side rather than in the deep cavity of his chest.  In that moment, as the bullet pushed itself free from the vice of her gun and her hand jerked back slightly at the force of it, Hana caught the glint of something, shiny and bright.  As he fell to the ground, catching the side of his body as he fell, there was only one thing that Hana saw, one thing that her eyes noticed, the gold and blue ring that lay tight around his finger.  She followed him to the ground and all the while there was a tearing inside of her and she sank, deeper and deeper, drowning in her own pain.

She did not know how long she sat facing him, watching him trying to stem the blood that poured out of his side.  His breathing was ragged and deep moans escaped him.  “Oh God, oh God,” he said, over and over and she listened to him, her eyes unflinching, her fingers still round the butt of the gun.  When he turned to look at her, she saw lines that she never knew he had.

He tried to talk some more but his words came out disjointed and she had to listen hard to hear him.  “You’re in the resistance.”

“The people’s army,” she corrected him and she did not recognise the calm detached voice she heard.

She heard him give a small laugh.  “God, and I was worried those damn cigarettes would kill you.” He started to give half cries and she knew that he was in pain by the way he sat hunched over his side and the panic that broke through his voice.  His blood pooled on the floor and the tang of copper in the air made her dizzy.  The room felt stuffy and she could feel the dark closing in on her.  She matched his ragged breathing with her own rasping breaths.  She could not bear to look at his face, the lips once kissed.

“Why are you on their side?” she asked after awhile, feeling a rush of tears on her face.

“I’m on my people’s side.”

“Your people?  You’re an Otherworlder?”

“Yes, though we call ourselves the Shin-An.”

“I don’t care!” Hana cried, feeling the anger bursting from her.  “Your people have killed thousand of innocent people.  Your people crossed the border with guns and bombs.  You killed hundreds of people.  You’re a monster.”

“I’m a monster?  Hana look at me.  Look at what you’ve done.” Karl said, his voice even, his blue eyes on her.  “How many hits have you done, Hana? How many of us  have you killed?”

Hana felt a hard pounding in her chest.  She sat looking at him, her silence lay like a cloak around her.  “My God, Hana.  You’re Dark Eyes, aren’t you?  Asha, Minte, Ray.  You did them all, didn’t you?”

Hana saw a streak of lightning through the window.  A summer storm.  She lifted the gun again.  “They deserved to die.  Asha blew up a university laboratory.  Nine scientists died, one was pregnant.”

“He was trying to save his wife.  Do you know what they were doing in that lab?  Making toxins that they fed into our streams, filling our water with poison.  You didn’t know that did you?  That wasn’t in your brief was it?” Karl’s anger jarred on her.

“It doesn’t matter.  That doesn’t matter.  He wasn’t innocent.” Hana heard the burst of rain as it broke through the sky.  She remembered Asha.  Her fourth hit, long ago, when she still kept track of the numbers.  She remembered the clean hole the bullet made in his skull, the thin thread of blood that ran smoothly down his face.  She remembered how she had moved through the dark towards home that night and how the numbness had sat deep in her belly, spreading itself through her that when she got home, she could barely open her door, the keys slipping through her fingers.

Hana stood up and moved slowly to Karl, the boards beneath her feet creaking with every step.  When she was up close to him, she bent down, almost touching him.  His face looked pale and she pressed her gun into his temple, feeling his fear pour off him.  She felt her throat constrict and heat fill her body.  Her head filled with the sound of Sam’s laughter and her finger tightened itself round the trigger of the gun.  She could almost see the hole that she would put in the side of his head, how the bullet would bury itself in his skull, piercing through tissue and vessels.  She tried to pull the trigger but her fingers lay useless round the gun.

Karl slumped against the wall behind his back.  HIs voice, when he spoke was quiet but authoritative, a trace of the old lecturer still lingered in his tone.  “A war doesn’t start with bombs.  It starts with subjugation, the plundering of resources, starvation, poverty.  Enemies are not born, they’re made.  God, Hana, think, think, its never as simple as good and evil, is it?”

She stood, threw the gun spinning across the floor.  It hit the wall behind him with a thud and they both winced, drawing deep breaths.  “Sam went to Orchard School.”  She looked at him when she said this and she watched him close his eyes, soft tears sliding down his face.  She kept going, unable to stop this rush of words.  “He had a sore throat that day but I still sent him to school.  They were short at work, I had to go.  I should have kept him home.  He should be here now.” The pain clawed at her and she held her arms round herself for fear that she would break.

He was crying as much as she was now.  She remembered a day, two years ago, when they had only known each other a short time.  It was summer, a hot lazy day.  The way had been going for a while but the city still had places that looked beautiful, where one could lie in the green grass and taste the scent of budding flowers.  They huddled together basking in the splendour of the day when overhead the creeping sound of a plane broke through the clouds.  The splattering of bullets cut through the air, sending people for cover.  Hana had stood there, an overwhelming urge to run into the fire of bullets overtaking her. She ran, towards the plane, strands of grass still in her hair.  He pulled her back, roughly against him.  “Let me go!” she yelled at him and he held her head with his hands, close against him and said, “Fight it, fight it, don’t let them get to you.”

She looked at him now.  He had lost a lot of blood; the floor around him was stained with it.  She moved to the bed and pulled the sheets off.  She started to tear them into strips and when she finished she went to him and pulled his hand away from the wound.  The blood still seeped from the hold and the wound was deep.  He leaned into her and she could smell him.  He smelt of coffee and beer and she almost stopped, wanting to kiss his neck and taste him again.  Instead, she started to wrap the cloth round his body.  Round and round she went, pulling it tight over the wound.  “Thank you,” he whispered to her.  “You need a doctor.  You need to go to hospital,” she said and looked away from him, unable to say more.

“My phone. On the desk.  Ring RC.  The number’s there.  Tell him I’ve been shot.”

After she did this. she moved over to Karl once more, felt his skin, checked his wound.  The blood sat in a congealed mass over the side of entry and Karl sat still, his skin clammy to her touch.  He kept his eyes closed and when she lifted a finger up to his neck, she felt a soft pulse beating against his skin.  He said something, so faint she could barely hear.  “Go.  Better go.  Now.” She pulled herself away from him, feeling a tired ache in her bones.  She remembered watching him that morning, from her window, walking away and how she had felt a sharp pain then at his leaving.  She stepped away from him but as she turned to go, he lifted his hand, reached for her own and she felt the expanse of his hand on hers.  But it soon slipped from hers and she kept moving to the door and away from him.

There was a sharp click and her body tensed, bracing itself for a bullet expecting a slice of pain to hit her any minute.  But a shot never came and she kept moving, not looking back.  As she stepped outside, a heavy rain slashed into her face and she ran into it, her heart beating unevenly and her body trembling.  She moved into the dark, feeling the tears on her face and his dried blood on her hands.  She felt herself breaking then and the smell of burning air lined her lungs, tearing into her.