Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Painting Flames on Runaway Trains

Painting Flames on Runaway Trains

I woke up again, to the sound of the train again. I woke up again, to the sound of the train again. I woke up again, to the sound of the train again. I hated that apartment. Like the bag with the busted zipper and the hole in the bottom. The bag that I couldn't ditch because I couldn't afford a new bag, let alone a new apartment. I woke up again, to the sound of the train again. And I knew that I couldn't take it another night.

In the cold light of morning, the grey nothing sunlight that spilled through the torn curtains told me that the train was coming. I knew the pillow over my head wouldn't work. I knew the earmuffs wouldn't work. I knew there weren't enough sleeping pills in the world to keep me from the blistering racket of the train tearing across the tracks. That's a lie, but there weren't enough sleeping pills short of suicide that would help me. The temptation to down a whole bottle came and went, but I might have just put a bullet through my head for what it was worth.

The dark rings around my eyes had garnered me the nickname 'Panda', even though that was where the similarities ended. Right on time, the train ran past my apartment and magnified my ever present migraine. I had the glass of water sitting on the bedside table and the pills in the drawer. Two tablets of paracetamol, two of aspirin. These were my breakfast pills, and I chugged them down. Each day I found myself receding into my own lethargy. The dark rings grew deeper and darker and more resolute. And I found my mind balanced on a knife's edge, between raging madness and bitter resentment. I sat on the edge of the bed waiting for the blade to tip one way or the other. I tongued around my mouth for the bitter residue that lingered from the pills. I woke up again, to the sound of the train again. And I took my pills, and I began to wonder if I slept at all. The dark rings appeared to grow exponentially and take on a wider spectrum of colours. From the grey droopy sacks beneath my eyes grew deeper, more distinct hues. Blue, violet, black. And my eyes flushed red with tiny angry blood vessels shaped like tiny angry lightning bolts. I saw this in the mirror in the bathroom every morning.

“Good morning Panda.” I said to the mirror as I drowned myself in deodorant that smelled more like fly spray. I drowned myself in the basin filled with cold water, I let it fill my nostrils and mouth until I coughed and spluttered and pulled my head from the basin with a violent jerk. I almost broke something. A towel rail, a set of scales, an arm, or a leg, I didn't know. But I just stumbled back against the bathroom wall, taking whooping breaths that sounded not unlike a broken vacuum cleaner. This was the only way I knew how to truly wake myself from this dull stupor, this constant sub-consciousness, this madness in limbo between the living and dead.

That morning I knew I had to make changes. I woke up again, to the sound of the train again. And I didn't care what went wrong any more. I was sick of this shit, this dead end life in my apartment too close to the tracks. I pulled the two gas cans from under my bed and splashed the liquid over the bed, the table, the floor, the walls. The bathroom, the kitchen. The dining room, the lounge room. The hallway. It wasn't long before the petrol was all I could smell. It coated the place, it left its pungent stench wherever I went, it left its greasy shine on the walls and on my hands. After this, I thought to myself, no going back.

The red head match in my hand trembled. Everything I owned and despised so much was in this apartment. Everything that felt to me like a whole lot of nothing. I was not nervous or afraid, no. I was excited. I rubbed the beautiful red head against the outside of the matchbox gingerly, gently. This was peace. The calmest I'd been in years. In years. I lit the match and flicked it to the floor. I didn't even look back.

The fire crackled and licked the flaking wallpaper into delicate coils of charcoal black, and the flames ate away at my furniture, and the smoke smouldered beneath the closed front door. Within minutes it would all be black, ready to be torn up and thrown out and sanded down, ready to accept a new life with open arms, ready to crush the unsuspecting new occupant like a butterfly. Life in the apartment would repeat itself. Repeat itself. Repeat itself. Like the others before me, I was glad to be rid of the place. No strings attached, no questions, no awkward snags to tug me back the moment I tasted the freedom.

At that time I thought I had burned everything away. I came to realise that it never ends. There was always the slow madness. There were always the rings around my eyes. There were always strings. In truth the thrill and excitement filled me with a satisfaction that lasted only as long as water in a leaking bucket. It was a hollow victory. There was still the bitter taste of the pills in my mouth and there was still the rank smell of petrol and fly-spray deodorant on my skin and clothes. I was a wanderer. I could go where I wanted and do what I pleased, although I felt void of purpose. But the first thing that I did was walk as far from the train tracks as my legs would take me. That night I slept on a trampoline. That night I actually slept.

I woke up again, to the sound of the train again. The train. I reached for my glass of water, on the drawer with my pills, but I only grabbed springs. I hadn't been dreaming the fire and I certainly hadn't been dreaming the trampoline. I had, however, been dreaming the train. I could have downed a bottle of sleeping pills there and then if I had them. I thought it was just an afterthought of the years of torture, that it would fade away with time. I gave it another week. I woke up again, to the sound of the train again. Again and again and again. I was getting some sleep, that was certainly an improvement. But nothing could rescue the dark rings or the red veins that haunted my eyes. And through the ringing in my ears from the constant clacking of the faraway morning train, I began to wonder whether the train was ever real?

I knew there had probably been many people sifting through my apartment, trying to find the source of the fire, the reason. I thought a week was a good enough buffer to chance returning to the area. I had spent so long deprived of sleep, I needed to see the tracks for myself as validation before I could start figuring out how to remove them from my mind. It was dread that I felt on the walk back to my apartment. I felt like I was running along a narrow path and there was a fork up ahead, but but I was blinded by doubt and delusion. I tried to remember those fatigued years that slipped through my fingers, the fence behind my house, and the razor wire forming large hoops all across the top. I clutched to the fence with my fingers and pushed my face up against it. And there was the railway gravel, the steel railing on timber sleepers, those wretched train tracks.

Yes, the tracks were real. Yes, the train was real. But I couldn't get on with my life until something was done. Even standing against the fence, even looking at the tracks, with no train in sight, I could hear the rat-a-tat-tat of the wheels on the tracks and the high-pitch squeal of the friction between metal and metal. I reached for my water and my tablets again as a pain shot through my head, and I remembered where I was. The water was gone, the tablets were gone. I looked up to my apartment window where the walls were still charred black. I could smell the burning from the week before, and I could smell the burned petrol and the acrid black smoke that came with it. And I could also smell freshly mown grass. The lawnmower. I figured that was where the burned petrol smell was coming from, that I wasn't completely losing touch with reality. I followed the stench to the little garden shed, and the ideas ticked over in my head. Once, twice, three times, I struck on the shed door before it splintered inwards. I felt the ideas in my head begin to smoulder.

There, in the corner of the small shed, was the offending lawn mower, the motor still warm and the floor scattered with a loose trail of cut grass. The combination of petrol and grass smells in the cramped shed was dominating. It was a mess, shovels on the floor, trowels and secateurs scattered on the bench, even a little digging fork sticking out of the wall. There was a coil of hose in the corner that looked like something was nesting inside it. Then I heard some noises outside so I propped the shed door back against its frame. It must have been people talking in the front yard, because I couldn't see anything through the window, and no one came looking to see why the shed's door was resting askew.

I flicked the light switch on and I began looking around the shed for something I knew must be hidden in there. There were drawers and cupboards in that shed that looked like they hadn't been opened in years. Half-used tins of paint, dusty jars containing mystery items, power tools that had burned out aeons ago that had eventually made their way into the power tool graveyard in the toolbox in the shed. There were spider webs in almost every crevice. And there were plenty of spiders that were crawling around making still more webs while I searched, while I destroyed their delicate lace work. It was tucked away, deep in a cupboard which flaked paint from its surface like it was shedding skin. It was a fuel container for the mower. I slid it out from its spot on the bottom shelf, but as soon as I grabbed the handle, I knew it was empty.

I took the container with me anyway, and I left the shed door off its hinges and I walked out onto the street. I followed the path parallel to the tracks and I passed by house after house of what I assumed were filled with the same morning train torture that I was. The people living in those houses were unfortunate people. They were sick people. And I had to help them. When I saw the weather-worn red cottage across the street with the overgrown jungle for a garden, I knew it would be an easy house to steal from.
“Nothing personal”, I told myself. “What's one little act of breaking and entering to a lifetime of peace?”

I sat on a bench a little way down the road from the house, and I waited for the little rust-bucket car to pull out of the driveway. I stashed the fuel container beneath my feet and I waited patiently. I didn't have a watch, but judging the angle of the sun I guessed it was early afternoon when the car left. I felt the rush of adrenaline kick when the car drove out of sight. It was as if I were back at the fire again. Not nervous... excited. I didn't have any tools to assist me, but I didn't need them. I was superman, always there to serve and protect. I'd be in and out before anyone noticed, faster than a speeding train.

I walked up the dirt driveway past all the weeds that had taken over the front garden. The back garden was much the same. I started looking for rocks on the ground before I noticed the back door had been left open. It could have been that there was someone else in the house, or it could have been that there was nothing worth stealing in there. I had come this far, I just chose to believe the house was empty and I followed the stone steps up to the battered old fly wire door.
“I am superman” I whispered as I pulled the door outwards and stepped onto the tacky linoleum floor of the kitchen. In and out before anyone knows.

The house was empty, I could tell from the moment I walked in. There was the sound of the cat clock in the corner, and the almost silent hum of the fridge and freezer, but no television, no knitting needles, no voices or footsteps, nothing. From the moment I walked in, I felt like I knew everything about the woman that lived here. She lived alone, and she loved cats, but she could never own another after her last cat died. There were photographs of her with her cat, her fluffy white everything with the squashy toad-face that she loved regardless. There were cat plates and bowls and calendars and tea cups and a woollen, whiskered tea cosy, and I could be sure her doorbell would meow. It was the knife. I went there for the kitchen knife. It was in the second drawer below the regular cutlery. The long stainless steel blade, it was perfect. I slid it into my jacket pocket and left knowing that she wouldn't notice a thing. She'd notice a cat plate or a cat clock, but not a knife.

No looking back. I saw looking back as a sign of weakness, and I knew I was not going to crumble. The train station was only a few more kilometres away, and I could smell the end drawing nearer and nearer. I kept telling myself that I would be done with everything tonight. Not tomorrow, not maybe later... tonight. I just needed to fill my fuel container up and the plan would come into full swing. That proved to be little trouble at all. I stopped at the next gas station I came across and pumped the container full from bowser number one. The fuel was regular unleaded, although that didn't matter at all. I paid in shrapnel and left, no looking back.

My feet were sore and after a few more kilometres of carrying the full container my arm was aching too. But I wasn't going to stop, I wasn't going to let this madness get the better of me. I knew no one else on this damned street would do a thing, so I had no choice but to act for them. It was closing in on sunset when I came up to the train station. There was no-one. A guard or two, but the commuters were gone. I looked at the timetable and I looked at the giant clock on the wall. The train was due in five minutes.

I waited patiently, all the while noticing the glances the guards were giving me. There were no more trains leaving this station. There were no more trains scheduled to leave, to be more accurate. I waited my five minutes and the train came in empty. Perfect. I walked up to the driver's door at the front with my fuel container in one hand and I drew my knife out of my jacket with the other. The driver stepped out of the train, appearing to be relieved that his work day was over. The guards stepped forward and called something to me, or to the driver, I didn't really hear which, but I shoved the little uniformed man back on the train and locked the door. He sat slumped in the corner, whimpering like a baby, with wide eyes that refused to part with my knife but for a moment.
“How do you start this thing?” I asked.
He pointed a quivering finger at a lever. I slammed it forward as far as it would go, ignoring the guards hammering on the door and objecting my actions with violent threats.

The excitement was rising in me, and although the sound of the train roaring across the tracks almost split my head in two, I felt a thrill, an aliveness that neither the robbery nor the fire could match. I smacked the driver's head with my knife handle, hard enough to knock him out for a minute or two. I slid open the door to the rest of the carriage and I emptied my fuel container all across the floor and seats and graffiti covered windows. And then I lit the fire that engulfed the train. I threw the match and closed myself in the driver's cabin with the driver still resting on the floor. The track was probably a good sixty kilometres long, but I knew that wasn't going to last long at the speed we were going. It felt like only a few minutes before the train raced past my own apartment, and it wasn't long before the smoke began seeping in through the cracks in the door.

It wasn't the smoke that got to me first though, it was the heat. Most of the smoke was carried the other way, but the heat from the flames radiated through the walls and turned the cabin into a micro-sauna. Then came the wailing sirens of the police, and I'm sure the fire brigade and ambulance services weren't far behind. It was going to be death or prison for me. I'd come too far, I'd dreamed what others were too afraid to dream, I came so far that I couldn't turn back. I was on these tracks for good. No turning back.

They'd set up a blockade. I couldn't see what it was before I was on top of it. All I could see was the flashing lights and then something was caught in the wheels. Worse than the thrumming of the train on the tracks, the jammed wheels screamed a pitch that threatened to obliterate my eardrums. I didn't need to adjust a thing on the controls before the train jerked and lurched and started slowing down. Eventually, the train came to rest under the guidance of the jam. In the absence of the orchestra of nightmare sounds of the train, there was only the amplification of the police sirens. I heard the crunching of police footsteps on rail road gravel and the tinny sound of an authorised knock on the side of the train.

“Sir, you're going to have to come out of there with your hands raised” He said.
My excitement was gone. I wasn't sure what had happened, whether it was failure, or something else. I grabbed the train driver and unlocked the door.
I held the knife to his neck, now with my hands shivering from the nerves. “I've got a hostage.”
“Stay calm, sir. We're here to help you.”
Help. The word ran through my head like lightning. I let the knife slide from my grip. “Ok” I said. It was about fucking time.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Don't mind the trimmings/You should have read faster

So, November 2009 was a long time ago. My 50,000 words of National Novel Writing Month have been up here since then. I've taken it down now (all except the first chapter), and I'm working on turning "In the Valley of the Tempest" into a saga. At the moment it's shaping up to be a quadrilogy.

I started writing the first novel of the series in an even more casual fashion than I did for the original in NaNoWriMo. With little planning. Bad mistake. Bad mistake. Since then I've been working on filling out the plot synopses for the books. I've done very brief chapter summaries for the first three books, and I should have the fourth done soon. To be honest, when I start talking about it, I get itching to get writing on it. But I also know that I'm a long way off being ready for take deux. I want something respectable, something publishable. And I know that won't happen overnight. So once the brief chapter synopses are done I'm going to work on character profiles, the world's geography, as well as notes on technology/economics/etc and other such things that'll enable me to keep everything consistent, which in turn will allow me to focus on other such items as a punchy plot and enriching character developments.

In my notes so far, it's all action plot. One/two lines of notes per chapter (probably about 10-20 pages). That's so I leave a lot of room for other important novel-driving issues. Basically, my novels follow the crew of one airship as they fly headfirst into a war between the civilised cities and the Tempest (aided by the many rebel camps/armies gathering). I'm yet to find the real motivating factor that'll stir up these high tensioned battlefields, but I know there'll be plenty of confrontation and conflict. Until I work everything out, I won't have a novel to work with, but it should all come together in my notes very soon, and I'll get the keyboard rolling words out by the thousands once again.

Look out for book one; "Stormbringer" in bookstores over the coming years. I know it's tough to 'make it' in the writing industry nowdays, but I've got two things I think I can hold to my advantage; confidence and persistence. I figure that if I can't even back myself, how am I to expect agents or publishers to bite at my literature?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Note For Elizabeth

A Note for Elizabeth

The streets of London were slicked with hardened ice, the sky was encased in a dome of storm clouds all day and all night. It had been like this for a few days now, and the families mostly kept to themselves. But the weather could hardly dampen their spirits, considering what time of year it was. Each house was decorated in crimson and emerald ornaments, each living room was home to small but fashionable Christmas trees. Even though the weather was the worst it had been in years, the spirit of Saint Nicholas was still shining strong. This was the norm of every house in London. Well, all except one. Mrs Welkes, and her eleven year old daughter, Elizabeth stood at their front window, gazing out into the darkened street, waiting for their beloved father to step over the threshold and greet them with warm smiles and open arms. They waited, but he did not arrive. They waited until the burning street lamp gave in to the cold outside, they could wait no more. They were disappointed, but not surprised by his absence.

Johnathon Welkes was a successful man, a scientist respected amongst scientists. He was also a busy man, and he regretted the times that his work interfered with his family time. But they understood. It was hard for Elizabeth, but she was a good girl, and she was very understanding, and mature for her age. She had a lot of her father's determination in her, and it tore John up inside to miss seeing her grow up. Elizabeth, like so many other children in the area, went to a boarding school to study. She only came home for holidays, which seemed to be the busiest time of the year for John. It was 10 days until Christmas, 15th December, 1933, and John was hard at work, trying his damnedest to finish his research so that he could be with his family on Christmas. He had promised Elizabeth that he would be there for her. And she was so overjoyed to have the opportunity, for she had not had a Christmas with her father since she was five years old. Although she knew deep down that her father might be too busy, she couldn't help but pour all her hopes into his promise, and think that this year would be “the one”.

Johnathon was working through the night, papers littered his desk, essays, documentations, diagrams, photographs, and there were even a couple of models of his subjects. I walked into his office at around midnight to see his pen scrawling madly across paper. I placed a coffee on the corner of his desk and peered over his shoulder at his papers. My eye caught one particular photograph that was so horrific, it still haunts me to this day. My reaction was of pure revulsion and fear, of such force, I knocked John's coffee cup to the floor. His pen stopped moving.
His head remained bent over the paper, “What?” he asked, with a tone of annoyance.
“Sorry, John, it's just that... that picture” I pointed at the foul, disfigured image in the photo, trying my best not to look at it again.
“Filthy beasts” He said. “they're human, but they've altered themselves. I don't know why, I don't know how, and if I don't figure that out soon, I'll miss Christmas again.”
A sharp knock came from the door. John looked at his watch before muttering to himself “of course”. He strode out of his office to answer the door. I followed him, still trying to get the photograph out of my mind. I was afraid of what these monsters might be capable of doing, but I felt that sticking close to a learned man such as Johnathon would be safest for me. I figured that the more I knew, the less I would fear, and I would be able to sleep without images of that photograph torturing me while I sleep. How very wrong I was.

John's colleagues had arrived with a gift that pleased him beyond doubt. They had brought him his specimen to study, dissect and analyze. He led them down to the basement laboratory, helping them navigate the 8 feet long crate through the building. The crate rattled and shook continuously, as if something alive was in there. I followed tentatively down the stairs, keeping my distance, a growing dread sat in my stomach, for I had made an educated guess that the thing in the crate was the same specimen as the monster in the picture. I shivered just thinking about it, but that reaction was nothing to the paralyzing fear I felt when I actually discovered that my assumptions were correct.

Once in the basement, the men used a crowbar to pry open the lid. They turned it over onto the floor, and I had a clear view of the creature within. Almost 8 feet tall, vampirous in appearance (according to descriptions in folklore, at least), battered and twisted wings were bonded to its side, limbs bound, mouth gagged. If it weren't for these things keeping it secure, I would have left then and there, out of the room, the office, the city, hell, I'd probably have been on a ship half way to America before the others realized I had gone. But even with the bondage, and the six burly men restraining the struggling monster, my feet were rooted to the floor with fear. I would have screamed, but my terror had robbed me of that, too. It was only after John stuck a needle into his specimen and dragged the limp body into a prison-like cell, that I found the strength to sit down, and get my brain functioning properly again.

I watched as John gathered samples from the creature, clippings off its wings, blood samples, saliva samples, teeth molds. He worked from behind the locked bars, which caused my stomach to turn, if the beast were to awaken, he'd be dead. But he worked quickly and efficiently, appearing calm and collected, while I sat in the corner, trying to stop my head spinning just thinking about the situation. He then lacerated the bonds holding the creature into place, and it slackened onto the floor. Although John didn't show it physically, he was relieved to get out of the cell and lock his specimen away. He put the samples under microscopes, he took notes, he mixed the fluids with chemicals, he took more notes. I had no idea what he was looking for, and by the way he held his head over his work, neither did he.

The “creature” in the cell started to come around as the drugs wore off. It got to its feet, head almost touching the ceiling, wings had barely enough room to unfold. John had his back turned, and had no notice, so did a few of his colleagues, who were also conducting several small scale experiments. But a couple of others noticed too, and they looked very afraid. The vampire yelled, a long, agonizing, almost wolf-like cry. It rattled the bars of the cell and batted its wings furiously.
“Mi ala fa'hra shi omar!” It yelled. “ Mi ala fa'hra shi omar!”
John was now staring at the creature as it repeated this phrase at the top of its lungs. His pen scrawled across parchment, but his eyes remained fixated on the beast. What were these words it was speaking? What language? What meaning? I looked over at Johnathon, he sat there with his papers, pen still flailing madly. When we came down to the basement, the desk and equipment were all neatly organized, now, after the short time while John and his men worked, his desk was as messy as the one in his office, paper strewn everywhere, he had books opened all over the place, and now he was intently observing the conscious daemon's actions. He was writing frantically, absorbing every movement, every action processed by this creature's mind. A full psycho-analysis was unfolding before my eyes, and he sat there writing, mimicking the phrase under his breath, “Mi ala fa'hra shi omar”.

We had been in the basement for hours, but I seemed to be the only one in the room at a loss as to what to do. There came a point where I could take it no longer, my still silence and observations were driving me mad. I got to my feet and shuffled back upstairs to make beverages for John and his team. From the small office kitchen, I could still head the monster's cries. I didn't want to go back down there, so I took as much time as needed to prepare the tea and coffee. Several minutes passed, as I waited for the water to boil, when I noticed a loud crash from below. The lights went out, I could hear some yelling and grunting from the basement, of which I couldn't distinguish man from beast. I stood fast, rooted to the spot, waiting for some indication to move. I waited a few more minutes, listening intently to the sounds beneath me. Were they... dead? I couldn't hear anything any more, such was the sudden, intense silence. No voice or movement could be heard, I was isolated in the darkness, fear starting to consume me, consciousness confusing real with dream. It was all real, no I wasn't imagining things. I was brought to my senses by the sound of slow, heavy footsteps climbing up the stairs.

The footsteps were moving closer and closer. I could hear them just outside the kitchen door. A faint candlestick glow came through the doorway, it was Johnathon.
“Oh, thank God” I said, and I followed him back out into the hallway. “What happened?”.
“They had given the specimen its tranquilizer, opened the cell to take it out, but it failed to react to the shot, and it lashed out and attacked them”, his voice was shaking slightly. “Three... maybe four of them were badly injured. When the vampire lashed out, he also knocked out the power generator.” John went into his office and got his pen and paper. He scrawled something down and folded up the paper. He handed it to me and said “Can you do a favour for me? Take this note to my daughter, Elizabeth, and then come straight back, we need to sort this mess out”.

John walked with me to the door, then I ran down the street. As soon as I turned the corner, I unfolded the message and read, “Dear Elizabeth, I won't be making it home for Christmas this year. I am truly, deeply sorry. With sincerest apologies, your father.”
I folded the note up, regretting the situation John was forced into. He was like a small, innocent creature, being boxed in by an 8 feet tall carnivorous bat. I started running again, his house wasn't very far from his office. The note was crumpled in my hand, my grip on it was unrelenting. I came to a halt outside the house, doubled over to catch my breath. I lifted a fist and knocked on the door. I saw little Elizabeth peer through the curtains of the front window to see who I was. She opened the door to let me in.
“Hello, Elizabeth” I said kindly. “I'm sorry I can't stay this time, I'm just here to give you this note from your father”. A tear rolled down my cheek. It tore me up inside to bring such devastating news to such a young, innocent child.
“Thank you, Mr. Dawson” she said, and she began unfolding the note. Her lip trembled as the news hit her. She looked up from the paper to say something to me, but I had already started running back to her father.

I approached the office to find that the electricity had been restored. I walked through the open front door, and called out, “John!?”
“I'm in the basement!” He yelled back.
I crept down the stairs once again, afraid of what I would find there. The room was pretty messy, quite a bit of blood on the floor, and John stood over a table, strapped to which was the vampire. There were 3 of John's colleagues also standing over the creature, the others, I noticed to my horror, were locked in the cell, piled on the floor.
“Are they... dead?” I asked.
“No, they're unconscious. They should come round soon enough, but I'd prefer that they were dead. They were bitten by the specimen, and if my research is consistent, they have been infected with a virus which will latch on to their brain, release toxins into their blood. They'll have to leech off the blood of others to keep their blood oxygenated, to stay alive.”
“So, how's this one staying alive?” I was revolted by the thought of the werewolf-like disease John was speaking of.
“These wings here”, he said, indicating to the large black wings sprouting from the creature's back, “they're grown over time, due to a genetic alteration from the infection. The wings create a blood stimulation that produces a hormone which balances against the decay. A lot of people who get this disease will die shortly after, because they can't replenish their blood.”
It was disturbing, yet hauntingly tragic, how precise John had been with his research on the existence of such an aberration of nature.

His next actions truly disturbed me more than anything he had done in the past. He produced a hacksaw from his tool kit, lifted one of the vampire wings off the table, and began sawing it off from the unconscious vampire. He held a jar to the base of the wing, collecting its viscous blood. He proceeded to do the same with the other. Then, he slowly raised the jar to his lips, and consumed its entire contents. And at that point, I realized. I departed the room in an instance, up the flight of stairs, out onto the street, as far from his as possible, for I knew that he was void of all human emotions.
From several blocks away, I heard a menacing cry coming from his office, “ Mi ala fa'hra shi omar!”
And I knew that never again, would he see his daughter on Christmas...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Butcher of Krankhafte

1- The Krankhafte Plague

The history of humankind is fraught with mayhem and disaster, death and destruction, and it's all self-inflicted. We're so arrogant that we can't stop fighting amongst ourselves to see that we aren't our own worst enemies. There's so much more out there that we should be protecting ourselves against. There are many more enemies that we should dominate over, should we stand and fight together. There are so many more enemies of mankind that slip past us unnoticed, biding their time, waiting for the opportune moment to slither in for the kill.

I first noticed these unnamed enemies towards the end of World War II, during the winter of 1941. It was another bitter cold day, in my small, poorly insulated apartment in Berlin. The curtains were drawn shut, as I was sickened by the view portrayed through the window. The city was a mass of chaos and confusion, police brutality caused an uproar of hysteria, people were afraid to leave their homes during the day. People hurried to and from work, not staying in the streets longer than they needed to be. Planes flew overhead at all hours of the day and night. Some planes dropped bombs. I lay awake at night praying to God that these next planes were German planes, that the bombs they carried were German bombs. The sky was tainted with all the colors of war, the scene displayed outside my window was one of fear and anxiety. The scene outside my window was one of man-made hell.

I was like everyone else, I didn't dare leave the house except for work, and even then, I'd try to bring work home and get as much as I could done in the security of my apartment. I was a professor of the sciences at the Berlin University, so I was obliged to present myself to my class periodically throughout the week. I marked the papers and wrote the lectures and tests from my apartment, and I also had my research papers that I had been working on. I went by the name of Friderik Eisenbachs, but that changed after I discovered the truth behind a terrible plague.

One particular day, whilst I was at the university, giving a lecture to my class on the practicality of religion, the master professor of the institute knocked on the door, and informed me that he had waiting on the telephone, a man whom wished to speak to me, and only to me, concerning a matter of grave importance. At the time, I didn't know how important that phone call was (I doubt even he knew, himself, for that matter), so I rushed to the professor's office and held the receiver to my ear, and heard the voice of my family doctor. My mother and father were deathly ill, with a sickness like nothing he'd ever seen before.

He had called to arrange for me to bring some books to him from the university library, in a desperate attempt to find a cure for my parents. He had also organized a bus fare for me to travel into my home village of Krankhafte, leaving that afternoon, so I could aid him in his research for this seemingly incurable disease. I explained the situation to the master professor, whom gave me his consent to take leave. I wasted no time getting my act together, it felt like only moments had passed and then I was boarding the bus, to leave my bruised and broken city behind.

2- The Tortured Mind

To my embarrassment, I had fallen asleep on the bus. My face compressed against glass, I opened my eyes and looked around to find that the bus had come to a halt, and all the other passengers had departed. My mind took its time to return to full consciousness, and it was quite some time before I noticed that the bus driver had gone. So I gathered myself and stepped off the bus. My luggage was stacked unceremoniously on the path, and I began gathering the cases and bags of luggage, when I noticed that the bus driver was leaning casually against the wall, cigarette in hand. I didn't think he had noticed me, but then he spoke out.
“Strange things happenin' round here...” He said. “Don't know what possessed you to journey out this direction.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked. “I was raised here. This is my home.”
“Times have changed, boy. Times have changed. No person in their right mind comes into Krankhafte 'nemore.”
“But, what about the other people on the bus?”
“You were the only person on this bus, son...”
“What? I saw... The town... Does this have anything to do with the war?”
“It's got something to do with a war, yes.” and with that, he threw his cigarette butt on the ground and walked away.

I made my way through the cobbled streets towards the house in which my parents lived, the house in which I was raised, the words of the bus driver echoing in my mind. What did he mean? What's going on? I walked through the village, and I made my way towards the old dirt road, overgrown with cannibalistic weeds. I walked down the road that I knew so well, yet I felt that the warmth of my carefree childhood was gone. I anticipated the joyful nostalgia of my youth, but I could sense that something was definitely not right, and that my presence was undesired in this place. I came to the end of the road and I piled my luggage on the ground, to unlatch the front gate to my old home. The porch light came on, and a man emerged from the house.
“Friderik, it's been so long!” It was our family doctor, Isaac Waultz. “Come, come. The guest room is prepared for you. You need your rest after the journey. No, don't worry about your luggage, I'll bring it in. Go on, get inside!”
I walked over the threshold, and found my way into the guest room, where I fell into an interrupted sleep, perverted with nightmares of wars, and ghost towns, and people that don't exist...

The next morning, I had an insufferable migraine, burning into my skull, every pulse of blood to my brain was like the hardest of hammers. I walked into the room the doctor had adopted as his study. I pulled a seat up to his desk, and piled my books in front of him.
“Friderik”, he said, “ we need to talk. Your mother and father are very ill, they're sick with a plague. This plague... is like nothing I've ever seen before, It spreads like wildfire! It's taken hold of almost everyone in this village. So many people have already died, so many more are closing in on death, your parents are amongst those. I believe it to be an act of chemical warfare, on Britain's behalf, but that's irrelevant to the cure of this damn plague.”

I thought this was quite far fetched. For an attack such as this to go unnoticed would be nothing short of impossible. The more time I spent pondering over the facts, the more I began to feel that the plague had arisen from within the village. I sat in the doctor's study, contemplating how to react to his ludicrous theory, when I heard a loud crash come from overhead. Moments later, myself and Dr. Waultz, saw through the study window, a body falling onto the front driveway. My mother was dead.

I sat, stunned, as the doctor hurried outside to confirm that the unthinkable was indeed true. He came back inside, to check up on my father, and to call the funeral home to take my mother's body away. I just sat, mortified by the event that had unfolded before my very eyes. My father had gone into shock, and the doctor feared that he too would break down soon. How soon, he wouldn't say. A matter of days, weeks, hours? The doctor started reading through the books I had brought him, determined to find a faint sign of a cure, but he was clutching at straws. The books were so full of unimportant, neglected knowledge, they were worthless. Every now and then, the doctor would stop and jot down a few things on his notepad, before opening up more books, taking a few more notes. He'd usually end up ripping the notes out and discarding them. A few times, he took the notes, and pulled out his medicines, and tested his cures on my father. Out of the half dozen times he tried, he gained nothing. In fact, a couple of the medicines seemed to agonize my father even more than the “normal” tortured delusions, and make his condition all the worse. I just sat in my chair in the doctor's office, and watched him, as the hours ticked by, until he closed the last book.

He held in his hand one piece of note paper, littered with his scrawled handwriting. He was about to take something out of his medicine bag, when there came a knock at the front door. He pulled two small bottles from his bag, and hastily poured one into the other.
He handed it to me and said “give this to your father, I'll answer the door.”
I got to my feet, and walked into the downstairs bedroom, where my father sat on the end of his bed staring into nothingness. The doctor had moved him downstairs to prevent an incident like that of my mother's death from happening again. I knelt beside my father, and showed him the bottle. He winced, and turned away, quite childishly. I held the back of his neck for support, and pushed the bottle up to his lips. The amber liquid spilled into his mouth, and slid down his throat. I could faintly hear the doctor talking to a man at the front door. It must have been the people from the funeral home, here to collect my mother.
I could just make out their words. “She's just in the front yard” the doctor said, pointing in the general direction.
“No, that can't be right.” The other man spoke, “there's no-one there at all.”
I felt my throat swell up, I couldn't believe it. I later discovered that the man was speaking the truth. My mother's body had gone, without a trace.

I didn't know how to feel, how to react. I walked towards the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea, to settle myself down, but when I came out of the study into the hall, I saw my father rip open the back door, and dash outside and over the fence. I yelled out in frustration, and ran full slog out the back door in chase of my fevered father. He was running through the grass fields behind the houses leading into town. He looked over his shoulder at me, his eyes infused with insanity. He turned down an alley between two small cottages. I was almost caught up to him, but as I rounded the corner into the dark alley, he was nowhere to be seen...

I continued down the alley, unsure of where my father was, when I heard a blood curdling scream reverberate throughout the dark walls of the alley. I turned every which way, to pinpoint the origin of the horrific cry, when I glimpsed my father, dashing across the street, madness emblazoned in his eyes, and tattooed onto his soul. There was a woman, lay injured on the cobbled road, fear locked in her body, as she watched my father flee towards the town center. I ran after him, post haste, intent on suppressing the beast within him. I caught up to him outside the pub, and wrapped my arms around him, to keep him from fleeing again. He writhed viciously in my grip, and managed to get an arm free. His fist collided with my nose, and I felt a white hot pain blister on my skin. I let go, and held my hands to my bloody face. My father pushed away, and stumbled into an inebriated bystander. It only took the drunk one swift bullet-like punch to the jaw, to knock my father out cold.

The man said nothing, but instead vomited onto the wall of the pub, before staggering into the night to leave my father unconscious. I pulled my arm around him and dragged him to his feet, ignoring the blood running down my face out of my nose. My head was spinning, I felt myself drifting in and out of focus. I held onto my father, despite tremendous back strain. I held onto my father, and dragged him through the streets. A voice inside my head was guiding me along the deserted streets, telling me where to turn, where to cross, until I came to a rest outside a very run-down looking shop. The sign was heavily worn, and spattered with blood and grime, but I could make out the lettering: “The Krankhafte Butcher”. My stomach was filled with dread, many a tale of torture and murder have been told of the butcher of Krankhafte. Regardless, I was in no situation to go elsewhere, and there was some unnamed fate that had driven me here, so I took a deep breath, and knocked heavily upon the massive door.

3- The Impending Fate

The door opened, and I was faced with a giant of a man. Fists the size of boulders, and as tough as them too, this cleaver-wielding giant was the pinnacle of the evolution of man. He must have seen the body in my arms as an offering, as he greedily snatched my father out of my arms with little effort, and sunk back into the dank building that was his meat shop, indicating me to follow. Stunned into silence, I followed, anxious to discover the fate of my father.

As a child, I had heard stories of this meat shop, blood running down the walls, corpses lying on tables with their insides removed, and their hollow shells stitched back together with clumsy needlework. In reality, the only blood in the room was that which my father and I had brought in, and there were no corpses, no tables... nothing. Walls, ceiling, floor. Maybe his killing floor is hidden away, my mind was starting to feel regret for leading me here. Nothing made sense. We came to the end of the room, and followed some stairs down to the basement. It was almost pitch black, and I carefully navigated my way down step after step. There came a point where I expected to find the flat, cool surface of the basement floor, but the stairs kept going down and down. The stone steps were venting cool air into the narrow stairway, evaporating the sweat beads as they rolled down my cheek. My muscles tensed up and my concentration towards descending the stairs doubled. I had the feeling that if I lost my footing, I would plummet through the darkness to my eternal death...

We kept going down and down, we were deep under the village by this time, and I noticed that the sound of my footsteps suddenly became more dense and less echoed. My next step sent an unexpected shiver through my body, as my foot fell ankle deep in ice cold water. The figure ahead of me kept going down, so I clenched my teeth and kept right on behind him, even though a few more steps would have completely submerged me in water. However, we had at last come to the bottom of the stairs. I saw the silhouette of the giant in front of me grab a torch from its bracket on the wall and light it. The shocking reds and oranges of the flickering torchlight stunned my eyes and I was temporarily blinded.

As my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw a wide underground graveyard, flooded to waist height, the tombs and gravestones lay below the eerie green surface. The butcher walked around the perimeter, lighting the torches along the walls, bringing this aberration of mankind into reality. Creatures of the like I'd never seen before, hell-spawn from another planet. I waded towards the center of the room, where an ancient stone sculpture of an angel stood with all the grace of God, and all the tragedy of hell, its chipped and stained figure opened its arms in acceptance. It was the only tomb that was raised above the water. My father was lain peacefully on the lid of this marble deathbed, the butcher stood at my father's feet, his head bowed in silent prayer. In that instance I knew two things; that the butcher was not as barbaric and merciless as I had imagined, and my father was definitely dead.

I was about to give my life up to the butcher, for the sheer hopelessness of my situation, but at that point of realization, a score of human-shaped alien creatures rose from the water on the far side of the room. They were dark, bruised creatures, with scales and rotten flesh. They bore slits on their chests, in which they appeared to be breathing, but the black slime that seeped from their gills was too horrific to contemplate. I staggered backwards, to get away from them, and back up the stairs. I was afraid to turn my back on these creatures for fear of what terrors they could potentially unleash upon me, but I couldn't know where I was going, and the risk of tripping over a tomb would surely bring me to an end as well. So I turned my head, to find the doorway, the bottom of the steps. Corner to corner, I stared long and hard along the walls, but the opening in which I came through no longer existed. I was frantically wading through the water, eyes intent on believing that there was actually an opening in the wall. So focused on that wall so far away, I tripped on a small carved stone idol, and fell beneath the water.

Eel like creatures wrapped themselves around my limbs, chest and throat. I was choking. I tried to breathe in, but I only consumed the putrid water. It flooded my lungs, burning my body away from the inside. I was seizing up, my mind had gone into spasms, and the electrode synapses of my brain were being torn apart. The toxic water spread throughout my body, turning me into a hollow shell. My eyes were eaten out from behind, and the water streamed into me through my eye sockets at an alarming rate. I was dead, and the eels were swimming around my hollowed body, a mother actually swam down my throat and laid its eggs inside me. This was the end of Friderik Eisenbachs.

4- The Immortal Horror

I opened my eyes, surprised to find that I still had a consciousness. Was I in heaven? The pain was gone, My vision was restored, and as far as I could tell, there were no adolescent eel creatures swimming in my stomach, so I naturally assumed that I was embracing the afterlife, whatever it may be. How very wrong I was. Lying on my horizontal, I peered up at a stone ceiling, ancient and overgrown with moss and algae. I tried to make out the figure etched into the stone. It appeared to be a king of some sort, for it had a magnificent crown upon a fiercely determined face. Huge muscular arms, one holding a long, sharpened trident. His legs looked sleek and strong, but it was only when I saw his chest did I realize where I was, for it bore the same gill-like slits as the vile creatures that had caused my death. But this man-beast also sported a giant eye-like organ that sat just above where I'd expect his stomach to be. I was in the same room underneath the village that I died in. I was lain upon the very tomb where my father had died.

I made to sit upright, but the water-demon monsters held me down with their vice-like grips. I was about to scream, but one of them forced his putrid hands over my mouth, so the sound just reverberated through my skull. I tried to struggle, but I knew there was no escape. After a few moments I knew resistance was useless, and I stopped struggling, and they loosened their hold on me. The butcher appeared at my side, and indicated to the monsters to release their hold on me completely. I lay there, chest heaving, mind spinning, and the butcher spoke to me, in a fatherly way.
“Shh... it's OK, you can relax. We're not going to hurt you.”
“W-w-what's going on?” I said.
“Don't worry, don't think too much... Everything will be fine. Oh, and I think your father will be pleased to see you've come round.”

My... father?... I saw him die. The butcher started to explain things to me. He was hesitant at first, but when he got started, he talked of such aberrant blasphemies that gave me the worst of mind aches should his words even contain a minute trace of truth. He showed me the secret doorways concealed in the walls of the dungeon. There were more than a dozen passages leading from this massive chamber into all kinds of unfathomable rooms and dungeons, and the butcher even spoke of an underground city, unbeknown to the likes of the authorities above. My first passage down one of these demonic hallways, the butcher took me to see my father. He led me down a long, descending passage, where we walked in almost complete darkness for near on an hour before he came to a halt. Beckoning me forward, he opened a large marble door ushering me into a vast expanse of utmost terror.

Walls stood up, 20 times the height of man, with elaborate marble carvings surrounding the massive room, pews lined up facing an altar, which was positioned between the feet of a 100ft statue of the demonic man-beast that I saw when I first awoke. I felt sick. I was standing in a church of the most blasphemous of the demon cults. It took me a moment to take all this devastation in, before I realized that the butcher and I weren't the only living beings in the room. A man knelt before the altar, embracing this false God as his own. He sat in silence and prayer before rising to his feet and turning to face me.
“Oh, the Lord be praised, my son has returned!” this man looked at me as if he knew me, but he was not my father. His skin was bruised and scaled, he had slits on his chest, in which he seemed to be breathing. His teeth were black, and his green viscous saliva slid down his mouth and onto his chin. His eyes, however... I could recognize those eyes anywhere. They were indeed my fathers eyes. These monsters had turned him into one of them, and I knew, at that moment, that they had done the same crime of nature to me too...

5- The Rapture of the Masses

As I stood, staring into my father's eyes, I felt a mixture of emotions. He had defied science, and had been reincarnated from the dead. The more we talked the more I understood that deep under the bruised and scaled skin, there was still a large part of my father's mind that was distinctively his. To take in the ultimate phenomenon which stood before my eyes, and which I too stood as proof thereof, would be nothing short of extraordinary. I could feel that I too was mostly the same person that I used to be, yet my father explained to me this strange and new anatomy to me. The gills on our chests not only breathed in oxygen, but food, too. This underground labyrinth was old as the earth itself, and the dark, damp, stone walls were hosts to fungal growth. They released infinitesimally small spores into the air, and we, the living dead, breathed in these spores, which stimulated our cell growth, to some level. There was a whole alien Eco-system evolving underground, in which the people above us knew absolutely nothing at all.

As the days passed, I learned more about this new existence. The eel that had laid eggs inside me played an essential role in my existence. The baby eels were born to feed off of my body, so that they could give the nerves in my body the ability to move at my own will. It was a host/symbiote relationship, and this matter of living could be sustained eternally. As the days passed, I felt my initial fears ebb away, and I started to relax, and enjoy being with my perfectly healthy father again. It was a while before I actually noticed that this surreal and wonderful life was not nearly as beautiful and innocent as I believed, it was my perception that was so shockingly jaded. It was in the reincarnation of my mother that returned all the fear, dread and realisation. I was sledgehammered back into the real world with a blow I would never recover from.

I sat in the corner of a small room, along with the butcher and two others. A dim, flickering light bulb was suspended in the middle of the ceiling, directly over a stone table. The butcher had told me that I would witness the splendour and miracle of their life-giving science, but as I saw my own mother dragged into the room, limp and dirty, I felt utmost revulsion. I sat in the corner, and I couldn't help but watch as these three men hollowed out my mother's body all except the brain, before placing all sorts of devilish parasites into her body. I watched as these parasites wove strands of ligaments into muscles, as they rebuilt her skeletal system, as they stitched in the artificially grown lung organs, and carved the gills into my mother's chest, and finally, they lowered the eel into her stomach cavity to lay its eggs, to bring the interdependent relationship into motion.

I was shocked at the operation, but a part of me was desperate to see her alive, and to talk to her again. However, my mother took her reincarnation terribly. Her brain refused to believe the truth, and her body rejected the symbiote, and she died. The butcher told me that this sometimes happens, when the brain doesn't conform to the acceptance of the parasite. He told me that of those that manage to pull through the reincarnation process, none have reverted. Some question the authenticity, but that's another process everyone has had to go through. My mind was being manipulated by the very creatures that sustained my life. I was a corpse, with my thought patterns slowly being moulded like clay into a mind that lacks the ability to question the authenticity of its own actions.

I was depressed that my mother couldn't be revived, but I was also envious that she was blessed enough to die, untouched by the sin of these monsters. I lost my will to think and act, I sat without motion for days on end, but the truth kept coming, hard and fast, like an eternal hail storm with the ferocity of God, upon unleashing his almighty wrath. I started going to the reincarnation operations more frequently, until I began assisting in the procedures, helping to tear these God made creations, and embed into them the deepest sins of Satan, himself.

One day, after a particularly long operation, the butcher pulled me aside, and said; “Son, I think it's time you know. Haven't you wondered, haven't you asked yourself where all these bodies come from?”
I shook my head.
“There's a group of men going out to collect some more bodies soon. I want you to go with them.”
I nodded my head, and walked off to join this body collecting group. There was a small group, about five or six men, talking and laughing. They were all dressed meticulously, so that only the smallest amount of skin possible was shown. They handed me some clothes and asked me to do the same, as we were going above ground. The clothing was very restricting on my gills, but I knew that I wouldn't dare be seen above ground with my horrible uncensored anatomy for all to see.

The fresh open air was a marvellous thrill. I tried to consume as much of the night sky, to drink it all in, but the others pushed me along. They had urgent business to complete, and I was in no position to question that. I followed these men, as they marched into certain houses, unafraid. They could smell the dead and the living, and they could differentiate between, and I knew this, because I sensed it too. I helped them gather bodies and ready them for the journey back underground. Towards the end of the night, the collectors expressed disappointment in the amount of dead they had gathered. So we split up, to save time. I followed a well built, and aggressive man. We walked through the streets for a while, until he stopped outside a little cottage on the outskirts.
I tapped his shoulder and said “I don't think there are any dead bodies in there”.
To which he replied, “I know”.

I watched him sneak into that house, and kill the people within. I was a little disturbed, but for the most part, I was fascinated. I followed him, as he emptied out four more houses in this same brutal fashion. I was curious to know why he would go to such measures to kill these innocent beings, but he avoided a direct answer. So we left to take our collection back underground, to bring them back to life, to help them build up this demonic empire, and the others noticed these people disappearing, but had no contemplation of the massacres, of the secret underground army of undead, growing larger and larger. They had no idea that their world was far more dangerous than they think. Their worst enemies were not who they thought they were. The worst part is that they don't even know.

6- The Eternal Penance

My mind was shaped like those around me. I conformed to sin and demon worship like all the other monsters around me. I saw my town of Krankhafte for what it had become; a portal between innocence and immortal sin. I discovered that my parents didn't die of a plague, they were murdered. The plague was bred from a parasite cultivated within these stone walls. This mass genocide was a way of dealing a massive blow upon mankind, and upon God himself. I was a part of the very thing I despised. I was sickened by what I had become, and what lay ahead of me.

My father was less sceptical. Of course he was, his mind had been moulded exactly as it should have been. I wanted to kill these perfect blasphemies, and myself. Their acts were selfish and merciless. They claimed to be liberating the human race, but they were turning us into monsters. Our mentality was one of blood lust and sin. How could a God justify such crimes? I told myself every day that I still had control over my own mind, but every day, I knew it was one more lie, one more sin bruising the history book of mankind.

I came to a realisation that I, and every other damned reincarnate, were being punished, and dealing God's punishment on mankind. I came to realise that God is a giant kid with a magnifying glass, burning a hole right through my skin and into my soul. I knew there was no going back. I knew that I had the rest of eternity to contemplate the downfall of mankind. I continued to participate in the rituals of killing and reincarnating, and I continued to work the dirty deeds of the devil. I knew that I would be repenting my sins for all eternity, and I knew that I would never again be blessed with the forgiveness of God.