More and More Content and A&D Part 4
June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment
Yes, I know.
I give you nothing to read for days on end. I’m not used to moving at the speed of internet yet. But I’ll work on it and try and get more things on the paper for you. With that in mind, let’s all have more stories.
Chapter 4: A little walk in the Forest
“Where are we?” I asked. We had been walking for three hours. I knew it was three because every thirty minutes I popped another cigarette in my mouth. I knew that each cigarette took me thirty minutes to smoke because, well, I didn’t know why I knew that. I just knew that smoking the way I did, slowly and with obvious practice, would take exactly thirty minutes. I was starting to get sick of smoking.
We had left the ruined city behind us a long time ago and now we walked on a cobbled road that cut through a forest. Fog licked at the side of the road but hung as a curtain, forming a white wall that brushed the bottom of the trees. Spes’ waggon squeaked as we went and the Hor-ghast followed us in the mist, its snuffling and crashing following us. Neither of us cared about it following us so long as it stayed away, and for now, it was.
“It’s where all the old memories go to wait.” Spes said.
“What did you say?”
He smirked and reached into his trench coat, pulling out a flashlight that looked older than the buildings we had left behind.
“Spes, I’m not really in the mood for this.” I flicked away the cigarette stub and lit up another. “It’s been…a long day. Just tell me what’s up. Please.”
“I’m getting there, friend. Look.” He flipped the switch. When the light didn’t appear, he shook it. Still nothing. He banged it against his waggon until a screw popped loose. It flooded into life, spilling a narrow, milky light into the mist. The fog rolled on unconcerned with the light, but just behind it I could make out shapes. They looked like people, a whole flock of them just walking through the forest.
I stopped. “Spes, are those people out there?”
“They’re not people, Ryan. Those are memories that you didn’t have cause to use in a very long time. They come here where they can wait until you need them again.”
“What do you mean, memories? Those are people out there, I can see them. Hey! Hello!” I shouted into the mist. Some of the shapes stopped and looked at me. A quiet murmur rose in the background and the shadows came together in front of me.
“Memories don’t die, well, not easily. But how often do you remember what you smelled a week ago, or what you touched years before? You create thousands of memories in a day, most of which you’ll never use again. But you might. So they wait here with all the other ones, just off the road and out of your hands.”
I touched the mist and it recoiled from me, tendrils drifting away from my fingers to rejoin the larger mass. I pushed against it with both hands and, like pushing sand, it dissolved from all sides to refill the holes I made.
“It won’t work.” Spes said.
“I can see. Why not?”
Spes flicked off the light. “Your memories aren’t your own anymore. They aren’t anyone’s right now. Whoever can claim them, gets them, and you’re not strong enough to hold on to them anymore. They’re like money, or territory.” There was a sick crunching in the distance. Spes shuddered. “Or food.”
The Hor-ghast was moving through the mists, grabbing hold of the shadows as they came over to me and stuffing them in its gaping mouth. It chewed greedily, making a loud slobbering squeal and letting out a pleased purring sound.
It sickened me, but the sight of it made me unreasonably mad. I didn’t know what was happening or what was going on, but dammit, those were my memories and I sure as hell didn’t want some three-armed freak eating them. I picked up a rock from the road and hurled it at the Hog-ghast, snarling. It flew through the air, right on target, and struck the Hor-ghast somewhere on the shoulder. It didn’t even flinch.
I stepped away from the road and the shadows immediately began moaning and fled. The Hor-ghast whimpered as the memories flew away, clawing at them as they drifted off through the trees.
“Like it, fucker?” I shouted at the Hor-ghast. “Filled your damn face off my memories? How about some rocks instead, you bastard!” I threw another rock, definitely hitting it in the hand. The rock was absorbed into the beast’s oily skin. I didn’t care, and I had plenty of rocks.
“We should keep going. Memnos isn’t getting any closer, Ryan.” Spes walked on, the waggon squeaking.
“Yeah, yeah. Just one second.” I pried up a larger stone, one that was a little too heavy to throw. I walked a little closer so I could smash it on the Hor-ghast’s big, ugly mouth. The thing was making it easy for me. Maybe it was burned out from gorging on memories, but for whatever reason, it collapsed on the ground, breathing heavily.
I stood over it, as close as the mist would let me, and hefted the rock. “Choke on this, bastard.” Filled with inordinate glee, I threw the rock straight down on the thing’s back. I’m not that strong, but it must have been a twenty-pound rock going at a decent clip. Come on, bastard, I thought, feel this one!
It did. The Hor-ghast, now sprawled flat on the ground, started screaming over and over in a high-pitched squeal. A huge bulge began making it’s way from the Hor-ghast’s stomach, visibly distending the thing’s skin like a bubble under the flesh. It gathered just behind the thing’s mouth. More and more bulges gathered beneath it’s skin, stretching it more and more. A tooth popped out like a bullet, pinging off into the forest. The Hor-ghast began howling and shaking.
I hurried back to the road and away from the convulsing monster. The bulges grew and grew until the thing’s chest was twice its size and the hole in the Hor-ghast’s teeth began whistling. I ran to catch up to Spes who was still walking down the road.
“What’s up?” Spes asked. “You’re breathing heavily. Everything alright?”
“Oh? Oh, it’s nothing. Let’s just get going.” I mumbled. Spes shrugged his shoulders and began whistling to himself. My cigarette had gone out and my hands shook as I tried to light it again.
With a wet snap and a scream, the Hor-ghast’s chest exploded. Black goo flew everywhere, slapping on the trees and coating the ground with a thick, wet slime. Spes and I spun around, the cigarette tumbling out of my hands.
Two small piles of slime oozed down the road towards us. Spes looked at me, frowning.
“Well,” I stammered, “I didn’t think it was anything.”
The piles resolved themselves into two children, a boy and a girl, made of the same black goop as the Hor-ghast. These, however, were more finely sculpted, or crafted, I guess. I could make out distinct features, facial characteristics, and even clothing. My heart began to beat very, very fast. No, they can’t be…wait, what, no…
They pointed at me and hissed, their voices simultaneously horrifyingly loud and dangerously soft.
“You killed us,” they whispered and screamed in unison, “you killed us and it’s all your fault.”
My head exploded in pain and down I went, hacking and coughing. A pipe started pushing its way out my throat, choking me as it forced itself out my mouth. Blood and iron filled my mouth and I couldn’t breathe.
They walked towards me, ignoring Spes. The smaller one held on to the larger one’s hand and she guided him right up to me. I rolled over to try and get my hands in between me and the things, but my brain was filled with white noise and my throat was full of exhaust pipe. I could feel the whole muffler assembly forcing itself out my throat, pushing and pulsing, trying to force itself out. It was shredding my on the inside, but the pain was too much to bear.
The girl-thing leaned in close and the smell would have made me gag if I already wasn’t choking. The smell was sweet and hot and acrid with the unhealthy smell of something burning that was not meant to burn. My throat started working harder but it couldn’t force the metal out any faster. My chest started burning and my world was going white.
“Fathers shouldn’t bury their children.” She reached to put her hands around my throat. “Children ought to bury their father!”
Her fingers closed around my throat and tightened, squeezing my neck into a pulp. I could feel the metal within deforming and bending from the force of her fingers. The exhaust pipe was stuck fast. Gagging, I tried to peel her fingers off me but they just slipped off her slimy skin. The boy-thing hung on an arm, trying to weigh it down.My brainstem began to panic for me. I was dying.
Spes reached down and put the cigarette in my hand. I looked to him and begged with my eyes, pleading with him to held me. He shook his head.
“I can only show you what to do.”
And it suddenly made sense.
With my last seconds of action, I jabbed the lit cigarette into the girl-thing’s eyes. It screamed, high and horrible like a stuck pig, and fell back as it exploded into flame. The boy-thing, squealing, ran over to try and put out the girl-thing’s fires with its hands.
I drew in a huge breath that swirled around the crushed pipe, barely filling my lungs. It was enough. Shaking, I grabbed the pipe and pulled. Hard.
My throat bulged far, far more than it ever should have been able to. Blood poured from the corner of my mouth and dripped down my throat, gagging me again and again but I kept pulling. Feet of steel came out but I pulled. The girl-thing squealed and burned in a heap, the smell even worse. The boy-thing’s hands sizzled and popped from the heat and it collapsed, crying, on the street.
With a final yank and a spout of blood and gas, I pulled out the last of the exhaust and threw it away. With a thud, I fell on my hands and knees, hacking and wheezing. The boy-thing cried with a high, keening wail that resonated with the pounding in my head. Exhausted, I rolled on my back and closed my eyes. It didn’t hurt any less, but even the little light from the overcast sky was too much.
A cigarette was put in my mouth and I smiled feebly.
“I get the feeling you’re not what you say you are, Spes.”
He sat down beside me. “You’re right, but also wrong. I’m exactly who I say I am, you just don’t know what that is yet.”
I rolled over and looked him over again. Same mousy hair, same grizzled stubble, hell, even the same vacant smile, but there was something different about him. He seemed a little more familiar, somehow.
“So what’s going on, Spes? I think I want to know just about now.”
“I can’t tell you Ryan. Like I said, I can only show you how. But rest assured, I’m taking you to where the Three will tell you.”
Standing up, just about every joint in my body cracked. “Alright, fair enough Spes. But can you tell me what’s happening, like, overall? Who sent that thing after me? You called it, what, a Hor-ghast? I really need to know if people are trying to kill me.”
The boy-thing kept crying, but we ignored it and sat by the side of the road. I needed a minute or two. Hell, I could take a week off and it probably wouldn’t be enough. I puffed on the cigarette like it was my mother’s tit and I was a baby again. I was pretty damn tired of smoking and by God I needed a drink, but it still helped calm me. A little.
“In this case, I can only tell you what I know.” He pointed to the Hor-ghast’s body. It wasn’t dead yet, and slowly pulled itself along in the mists, moaning and wheezing as it trailed black slime. “That thing eats memories and takes on whatever form they had. Happy memories, and Hor-ghasts can be pleasant creatures. Sad memories, fearful or particularly unpleasant ones and well, you get that.”
“How come it can’t come on the road?”
Spes motioned to the ring on my finger. “You’ve got a strong, powerful memory there. I don’t know what it is, but it must be strong enough to devour the Hor-ghast instead of the other way around. It’s staying away because while it might be a mindless beast most of the time, it still wants to live. Everything wants to live, Ryan. Remember that. Everything.
‘There’s a fight going on, Ryan. Everyone wants to sit on the Throne and right now, they’re gathering forces and testing each other. Figuring out who’s strong and who’s weak. We all thought Despair was going to take it because he had you. He must be desperate to get you back or at least stop the others from getting to you.”
“Heh, I count all of a sudden? Who are the others?” I asked. “And what throne?”
Spes shook his head, smiling again. “Not now Ryan. We have to get moving. Memories, remember?”
I gestured to the boy-thing that was still keening. “Sure, makes sense to me. But what about that thing? It is a thing, right?”
“I don’t know myself. I think when you did whatever you did to it, some of the memories broke free and took the form of the Hor-ghast. It…would be best not to leave it free. Despair might still be able to control it.”
I looked at it. Now that I wasn’t choking and dying, it looked pretty damn pathetic. If it wasn’t made of some weird black oil stuff and hadn’t tried to kill me five minutes ago, I probably would have felt bad for it. I looked at Spes.
“So…yeah. Best not to leave it.” I shuffled my feet and adjusted my coat. I had had enough, really. “You do it.”
Spes smiled weakly. “Can’t. Only show…”
“Me how, yeah yeah, dammit.” I stalled. “Just, you know, like that? Like a real, living thing?”
“It lives, in its own way, but not in one that your kind would recognize. But yes, as if it was a human.”
I walked up to it and from two steps away it scampered away, hissing. It circled the charred remains of the girl-thing like a cat around a dead bird, not letting me get closer. “Hey, little thing, I’m not going to hurt you. Just, come here.” I threw away the cigarette. “See? No more cigarette. Come here. Please?”
It stayed away, but couldn’t leave the girl-thing’s body. It hissed and squealed, the fear growing in its black eyes. I sighed and turned away. What was I thinking? I’d just go up and choke it out or something with my bare hands? Am I that kind of guy?
I stopped. I didn’t really know what kind of guy I was, but I really didn’t want to be the kind that would do what I was thinking.
“You said it’s alive, right?” I asked Spes.
He waited a long minute before answering. “Yes, yes I did.”
“Then we’ll leave it alone.”
We walked away, leaving the keening, screaming boy-thing behind us. “You did kill the other one, you know.” Spes said.
“Oh I know. It’s a little different killing something that’s choking you out and killing something in cold blood, or oil, or whatever. I don’t know who I am, at all really, but I’m not that kind of person. I…don’t want to be.”
Spes nodded. “Fair enough. Onward, then?”
“Yeah. Let’s go figure this out.”
We walked on around the corner, the Hor-ghast crawling on our heels, leaving the mist and the wailing monster behind us.