Monthly Archives: September 2013

Remember Me

Standard

There comes a time when every child must leave her father—when every student must leave her teacher. But what if that day comes too soon? What if they are torn apart and there is no method, no way, no chance for them to return to one another?

“You can be me when I’m gone.”

Dawn swept across the snowy fields, catching crystals in its wake as it turned white to pink and gold. It danced along the frigid air, shaking ice from glazed trees as falling flakes glittered in the light. The sky paled, purple clouds shifting colors as the winter sun shone dimly, revealing the cracked buildings and the beginnings of rising smoke that curled and snaked in the breeze. A lone crow called, its harsh cry echoing through the silent wood as the town murmured and nestled deeper beneath blankets and covers.

There was only one who was not asleep—who had never slept. A small figure stood beneath the icy branches of the trees. The girl’s coat swept the snow, her thin shoulders hunched over in a vain attempt to ward off the morning chill. Her flaking, cracked hands peeked out from beneath the long sleeves, carefully folded against one another as her masked face stared into the woods.

She didn’t move, didn’t speak. She could have been waiting there for hours, for minutes, for days. She could have just been another one of the trees in the forest. Wind whipped against her, sending shards of ice tinkling against her hat. Still she remained—a fixed feature in the winter landscape.

The crunch of footsteps suddenly made her turn her head, wide eyes staring into the forest. A dark figure emerged, his pale skin and bruised eyes hidden partially under a hat. His coat twisted in the wind, matching his stride as he walked through the snow.

She stepped forward—one foot, then the other. The man’s head jerked in her direction as she moved. He stopped in his tracks.

“Templeton.”

It was a simple word—a name. It broke the silence and echoed across the clearing. The man watched her for a moment longer, watched her like an owl watches a mouse. Then he turned away, something dark falling from his hands.

The girl remained still for a moment longer as his back receded into the distance, as he left her in the snow. Then she slowly followed, her footsteps coming quicker as she approached the dark object. Her frozen hands grasped it, fingers twining about the hard surface of an umbrella as she stooped and then rose again.

She watched as the man disappeared into the distance, leaving her clutching what was left of his humanity.

I have already died once—I’m living on borrowed time. I’ve realized that what is important isn’t what I’ve accomplished or even what I’ve gained—it’s those that I’ve taught and who have taught me, in kind.

Barnes and Smiles

Courtesy of Andrew J. Scott

Advertisements

Empty

Standard

What happens when death no longer holds any terror? What happens when suffering and anguish and misery no longer hold any significance? It means we have gone beyond it—past it. But it’s not because we cannot feel it—it’s because we have already felt too much.

I couldn’t keep you safe.

There was nothing. There was no thought, no feeling, no words. There was no pain, no suffering, no hatred. There was just the ever present emptiness, filling her like water, spilling over and drowning her. It made things dull, made the sounds around her cease to mean anything as she dragged herself from the earth, fingers scrabbling against stone and mud. Blood trickled down the side of her face, plastering hair to her head as she pulled herself upward—from the darkness and into the light. Not that it mattered.

Her dress stuck to her body as she finally rose. She barely noticed how dirt streaked the white cloth, how it fell from her in clumps. All she knew was that she needed to walk forward—away from what had happened beneath the ground, away from what had dragged the life from her. She found herself climbing stone stairs, her boots gently shuffling against them as she ascended. Then she was out of the dark room, out of the cold.

One man stood out within the darkness, his thin face hard, immovable. His brown eyes stared at her—solemn, knowing, unbending.

“Now you understand.”

She nodded. What else was there to say? She had known what would happen, known how death would take her, known how life would flee her body and leave her…empty.

He ushered her outside. Faces were in front of her, a sea of sorrow and tears. They moved forward, pressing against her as she stared at each in turn.

“I…need to clean up. Excuse me.” She pushed her way through the bodies, her hands brushing hard metal and rough cloth. A few people followed her, but she ignored them as trees and buildings flashed by on either side. Her legs propelled her forward into the darkness, her eyes focusing on nothing. If she had been more careful, if she hadn’t sacrificed herself, if she’d hired more guards.

Perhaps the Professor was right. Perhaps I was careless—foolhardy. I could have done something. I could have prevented this.

I could have protected her.

Her breath caught in her throat as she walked up wooden stairs, trailed by a crowd of people. Her chest tightened, the air feeling like it was suffocating her, choking her. And yet there was nothing to be upset about. There was only the empty feeling inside—the hole that could never again be filled. She needed to clean herself up—to wipe the blood off of her face.

She kneeled in front of the man, her palms sweating as she felt cool metal press against the side of her head. There was a slight pressure and a loud sound.

She was suddenly inside the bar. Voices and people crowded in around her as her feet dragged across the sticky, wooden floor. Her dress tangled around her legs, blood making it cling to her calves and thighs. She had to clean herself up. She wasn’t in a fit state to be seen.

She walked down a hallway, ignoring the people who asked if she was all right. She waved one hand to keep them away as she entered the bathroom. Blood stained the dark tiles, ingrained with mud and dirt. Wide, blue eyes stared back at her from the dingy mirror, streaked with dust and grime.

She leaned forward, staring more closely at her reflection. Her fingers gripped the sides of the sink in front of her, hands tightening against the cracked surface. Her eyeshadow was running in green tracks down her face, her lipstick was smudged and dark clots of blood coated the side of her head.

Her eyes felt hot, itchy, dry. There was nothing left—nothing to feel, nothing to protect. Her hands shook as she turned the tap on, watching as pink water spiraled down the drain. She carefully wiped her face, returning herself to normalcy.

It was my fault. It was all my fault. I should have been more careful. I shouldn’t have been so stupid. She was my responsibility and I couldn’t protect her.

She felt tears prick her eyes as she took a deep breath, still staring into the mirror. She knew she’d never hear that child’s cry, never see her grow from a burbling baby to a stumbling toddler. She’d never hear her first words or run her fingers through her mussed curls. She’d never teach her how to read or draw or write. She’d never watch her fall in love or get married. She’d never see her have children of her own.

She was crying now, gulping down air as she clutched the sink, trying to remain standing as the water continued to run. She’d never see her smile or laugh or cry. She’d never argue with her, never hug her, never kiss her goodnight.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a blonde woman in the mirror. Her face stood out in the dim light—pale against her dark clothing. Then someone squeezed next to her down the hallway, blue hair streaking her dark curls. A hand was suddenly on her arm and Rosemary turned, burying her face into the woman’s shoulder.

I couldn’t keep her safe.

Rudie’s Song

Standard

It was a hooch-swilling, drug-shooting, blood-spilling type of town. It was a back room-swearing, whore-fucking, bar-brawling sort of town. It was a town where you could gamble for a drink or pay for a game. It was a town where you could forget the past and the present and the future as you fell into a stunned stupor. It was a town where you could find yourself as easily as lose yourself.

But most of all, it was a town of sound; a punk town with soul, a town that could rock and pop and roll. It was his town—and it was Hayven.

The bar was sticky at this time of night, the wood drenched by spilled drinks, candlelight flickering across its warped sheen. Someone snored softly in one corner of the room, hat pulled over his face, a broken bottle in one hand. A few others gathered near the door, conversation filtering across the room in low tones. Their murmurs bounced off the cracked walls, the crooked bar stools, the floor stained with alcohol and blood and dirt.

It was time to get the show on the road.

Rudie leaned against the side of the bar, his fingers plucking at the strings of his guitar as he twisted and turned the tuning pegs. Blue hair fell into his eyes as he coaxed it into submission, seducing it with his hands. Nails and fingers slid over its well-known curves and cracks and strings. Notes sang from the instrument, individual chords plucked as they wound through the room.

He glanced up at his audience, his eyes noting the smiling faces, the drunk stares, the rapt attention. They were murderers and drunks and hobos—but they were also his flock. Fuck me. How’d that happen?

He ran his fingers over the strings of his guitar, crooning out the beginnings of a song. His voice floated through the bar, capturing ears and hearts and souls. He watched as they gathered closer—moths drawn to a flame. All that mattered at that one moment were the melody and the words–the way they blended together and wove emotion and feeling and meaning into one being. All that mattered was the way the song felt—the way it could bring together teachers and doctors and mercenaries and politicians. It’s a far cry from home, ain’t it?

A table was filled with food and conversation and people. Fresh tears streamed down his cheeks as he sniffled and wailed.

A fingernail suddenly snagged on one of the strings, ripping free as rotted skin gave way. Rudie winced as blood smeared his hand, red droplets pattering to the ground. He grimaced, feeling his teeth stretch back the peeling skin on his face. Shit. On with the show. He continued to play.

His audience had grown. The people streamed in from the other room with their weapons and armor and drinks. He spotted a woman in a white dress, pearls strung around her neck. He saw a man in bright clothes and scarves, accompanied by a woman with even brighter hair. He saw another in the shadows, fedora struck low over his face as he nodded in time to the music. The sound swelled and moved. Fingers tapped and bodies swayed. Hands beat out a rhythm as his voice rose and fell and then rose again before the end.

These were his people, this was his song, this was his night. He was Rudie and he couldn’t fail—at least not this time.