Friday, October 10, 2014

"Wake", a story of blood and grief

Iron and salt mingled and washed over his palette, tempting the gag reflex. Inky black swam across his eyes, denying revelation to the burden that pinned him against the earth.

The scent of burning timber and charred meat seemed to cling to his body, hair, and the weight pressing down. Silence surrounded him: no dogs barking, no children bickering - only the immobilizing mass seizing his form.

Oh, Lord, his mind started, I’m dead! This is hell! I’m burning and denied an escape – Oh, Lord, please, no! 

The revulsion jerked his body into action, and the unseen press seemed to shift with each movement. Rolling onto one side, he freed a throbbing hand, burning from an invisible wound, and prodded the dark shapes all around. Oh, God, his thoughts popped, that feels like hair… and that’s… Oh, God, it’s a hand! With suddenly explosive energy he raked a way out, emerging from the half-scorched pile of corpses.

Smoldering embers, like firefly seeds scattered across silent earth, winked at him from the remains. The village, all of it, lay in ash and twinkling bits of wooden frames.  The ominous stars offered no explanation, observing in mute mercilessness as his bloody and ragged form shambled out from a mound of bodies.

Small trinkets and decapitated dolls’ heads drew his attention, as eyes too dry to cry flitted around the nightmarish landscape. Through sights of painful death, sounds of permanence, and smells of feral consequence, he staggered and swooned, and the contents of his gut wrenched out.

Men, women, children, and animals all slain – butchered. He forced bleary eyes to focus on the broken bodies and forlorn faces, the people living beside him and working with him for so long – all gone, all slaughtered.

His mind refused to recall the events, his attention diverted from memory to moment. Oh, Lord, the sound echoed inside him, what happened! Why I am alive! Who did this! The last exclamation found his eyes and one bloodied hand reaching skyward, pleading for some answer or omen.

He struggled to rise, but his legs trembled and forced his body back down. The stench of fire, flesh, and nausea drove him to crawl away and collapse beside a halftumbled stone wall. He remembered, absently as in a dream, that the wall separated his property from Theo’s smithy – his property!

He forced an arm over the wall, hauling himself high enough to peer over. A mortar foundation remained, but anything flammable smoked and hissed its incense, the vapors of impermanence. From beneath the torch-marked rubble a strand of vibrant yellow hair snaked out, catching the starlight.

He fought back the vomit and the desire to die, choking on tears. An inhuman howl poured from his lips, and his mind removed the haunting image of a loving wife and devoted child. He felt only loss and death pressing down on him.

One hand rested on something firm and cold, something metal wrapped with leather strips. Absently, he let it slide into his palm. Weight comforted the hollowness,  and his sight pried from an inner world turned on the object. His eyes followed the nicked and blood-smeared sword to its point. Oh, God, echoed his mind, forgive me.

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