The Silence & The Howl (§.30)

continued from chapter 29


CHAPTER 30

Harmon pocketed a tangerine and ambled out of Harold’s cramped apartment. The early morning chill prompted the man to sheath his hands in his jacket pockets whereupon he felt paper and paused beside a group of vagrants along the road to the old breaker. With furrowed brow and pursed lips, he withdrew a small, immaculate piece of paper – expensive and exceptionally durable – a business card he’d forgotten. Methodically, the man turned the rectangle, reading the name there inscribed in the ascending, amber light.

Lynder B. Partridge.

He slid the card back into his pocket and moved towards the vagrants, who all starred intently at the wayfarer. He greeted them warmly.

“Hows it going?”

The eldest amongst them, a man some fifty years of age, bearded, gaunt and filthy, screwed up his face into a scowl of disgust.

“Going just like it looks.”

Harmon remembered the tangerine he had brought along and removed it from his pocket, extending it towards the man.

“You folk look hungry.”

The anger and disgust in the old man’s face melted into a visage of confusion.

“What is it?”

“Its a tangerine.”

Hesitantly, the bearded itinerant took the fruit and nodded graciously.

“That’s very kind of ya.”

One of the younger nomads smiled and gestured towards the small ocherous sphere held in Harmon’s left hand.

“Wouldn’t happen to have more than one a those wouldya?”

“Fraid not.”

Harmon continued along the road to the coal breaker, as a flock of crows spun off the branches of a nearby tree like a living cloak of itinerant night.

A woman stood upon the edge of the precipice which let down into the gulf—from town to processing plant—adorned in a thin-worn longsleeved sweater, hair-tie and mud-stained fishing boots. A large ant’s nest lay beside her, some five feet off, covered in the onyx-sheen of busy carapaces.

“Isn’t it beautiful,” she inquired, gesturing towards the decrepit facility beyond the ridge, which hung between the effulgent sun and the colorless shade of earth, as if suspended within the bleeding outer horizon of some other-world.

A ruined castle from a fantastical realm.

“I don’t find anything beautiful in decay.”

“Plants ain’t decaying.”

“Plants replace themselves. Breaker can’t.”

“I’m more concerned about the plants than that old ugly hunk of iron. You know there used to be a forest here? Say its only right that they had some payback.”

Harmon gestured to the ant hill beside them.

“Would you say the same for the colony?”

INTERVAL ONE | THE SEVERING

IN MY DREAM | I lay upon a bed, hard and uncomfortable, unable to sleep, swaddled in darkness. After a single heart’s beating the wall to my abode exploded in tandem with a furious howl that left a dreadful ringing to hover ghastly upon the air. A strange, dim, reddish light flooded the room. Stunned, I rose and slid off the bed, feeling something sticky, something wet.

Blood.

Aghast I fled out of the hole in the ruined tenement but emerged only into a yet larger pool of blood. So shocked was I at the heinous fluid that I neglected immediacy and surroundings both and when I took in what lay before me, horror subsumed all.

A hundred thousand bodies, in various states of undress, hung from great sheets of barbed wire that stretched for miles in either direction, so thick that the grisly conglomeration blotted out the horizon; their blood spooling out from pierced and maggot-ridden flesh like huge, undulating worms. Approaching the closest column of twisted steel I reached out my hand to touch one of the corpses thereupon. Before my hand could clasp its decaying and sanguine flesh it hissed and squirmed and reached out towards me.

Screaming. Screaming. Screaming.

Breath caught in throat, heart thundered in chest, eyes bulged and hairs stood on end. I left off out the scene and tore across the seemingly endless field of blood as the grey and wasted clouds parted from the sky, revealing a black sphere, like a tiny imploded sun, which oozed with a black and viscous substance that drizzled out over the ruptured skin of the world. Miles upon miles of seething black liquid scorching all.

Suddenly a howl erupted from behind me. Low, furious and vaguely human.

I turned to behold a man, wrapt all in bloody bandages, wadding through the life waters with single minded purpose, his movements ferine and jittering; the creature’s eyes nothing more than pools of void, lightless as the star-rent welkin and his mouth sewn shut with strands of its own hair. Behind him he dragged a thick and wooden club to which was affixed a sharp and heavy stone. Another howl and the crude ax sliced through the left side of my abdomen. I leapt aback and cried out for aid. Cried out in vain, splashing through the blood and rheum and suddenly then the chittering of teeth as eyes and hands and tongues and distended chest cavities filled over with multiplying strands of heaving hair rose up from out of the ruddy filth and slithered about my chassis as the ululatious axman brought his cudgel down into my skull.

Then, nothing.