Her Night (Digging Up Perspective 2)

She’d given up on screaming after she’d felt her throat begin to bleed. It was pointless. She was alone. Alone and cold. She flinched as her hands brushed against the broken satin coverings at either side of her again, the edges of the previously soft material rough and crusty with what she could only assume was her own blood. It wasn’t like she could see to confirm though.

Her fingers curled and hit the side regardless, limb pulling immediately to her chest as the burning sting of infected, broken skin sent agony pulsing straight to her brain.

“-Hck-!” It was a strange, stupid sounding noise. “…N-hnck…” She hated herself for it, even though she knew no one could hear it. Something warm and wet traveled down her cheek as she grit her jaw, the very motion sore and painful to her now. She could only imagine she looked like hell. She certainly felt like it.

There was no time here. No clocks. No motion. She knocked her head if she tried to sit up and ran her feet into cloth if she tried to turn or curl. She’d already choked on the plush interior of wherever she was… Already discovered the hard wood encapsulment beyond the satin when she’d tried to claw her way out. So it was simply soundless, inescapable darkness…and memories.

…She wasn’t sure which part was worse.

Ray…

She bit her lip to stifle another noise, deliberating sleep before deciding to recall his face again. She almost hoped it was the last time. …She’d had the same thought before though.

The ceremony had been beautiful. Her mother had been so happy… Ray had looked so very, very handsome. With their families as different as they were, nothing about the day had been easy, but her understanding was that no wedding ever was. She almost laughed, but instead smirked drolly as her lips stuck together with their collective dryness. She tried to lick them but didn’t gain much moisture from her efforts.

God, but that cake had been amazing. The dance was great. Ray had even gotten the band to play that one song she liked… Not that she could remember the name of it now. Hell. She was struggling to remember her own name as it stood.

They’d gone…somewhere she’d wanted for their honeymoon though. She remembered that much. Remembered that this was…somehow her fault. She’d…wanted to… Her brows pinched and her body convulsed with the pain muscle contraction brought.  What had she wanted to do?

All she could remember was the blood. The pain. How worried Raymond had looked and how awful the hospital had smelled.

Thump. Thump. Scriiiitch. Thump. Scriiiiitch. Scriiiiitch. 

Her eyes opened wide. Noise. That wasn’t in her head. That was…that was noise!!! “H-H-HCK!” She tried to yell, body convulsing and head smacking resonantly against the pink fluff above her as her voice caught in a barrage of coughs.

Scriiitch. Scriiiiitch. Thump. Scriiitch. Scriiiitch.

H-He-hchk-“ Too soft. They’d never hear her. She’d be here forever. Poor Ray. Poor Ray would be left alone and sick without her! R-Ray…Please…Just…Whoever you are…don’t stop. Don’t! I’m…I’m Here! I’m HERE!! “Hchk-!”

Scriitch. Thump. …………………………

Please…. “Help…Help me…” Too late. Too late!!! There was no more sound. She was…alone again. Her eyes watered, heart rising to her throat as she willed her heart beat slow and silence in order for her to listen better.

THUMP.THUMP. TCHSSSSSS.

“……!” Her eyes flicnhed shut as light streamed in, the lid of her prison lifting to allow cold, fresh air in. “….” She blinked her eyes slowly, form shifting with a series of painful creaks and pops as she willed her eyes to open again.

Ray…

“I’m here…”

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His Night (Digging Up Perspective 1)

The moon struck high over the figure. Only a mile or so off the freeway on an undisturbed plot of land. Here the trees cast pleasant shade in the daylight and the meadow flowers lent constant color right up until the sharpest edge of winter. The rolling hills around it were almost always a pristine green, and it was far enough from the city to smell pastoral. It wasn’t a bad spot to be buried.

It wasn’t a great spot either.

It was far outside the city limits, uninvolved with any cemeteries or care-taking crews… Unattended. Unremarkable. Unmarked without even an urn for flowers to show she was there. It was…lonely looking. For good reason, most likely.

He’d gone to pieces when he’d first laid eyes on it. Of course by then, she had already been interred.

There was nothing to be done about how or where.

The high price of falling ill at an inconvenient time, it seemed.

That was at least a month ago. At least. Time became difficult to track without her there, after all, so he couldn’t really be sure.

Breakfasts were lonely. Then they became lunch. Then lunch became dinner. And then he wondered why even got up at all. So he stopped entirely. The bedroom became his world, his eyelids his very own greenscreen for dreams where life was still normal. Where they were still together. Where they’d gone to Hawaii for their honeymoon rather than Bonaire. Where she’d never gotten sick. Where he’d at least stayed healthy to watch her die. Better yet…where none of this had happened.

Unconsciousness was pleasant.

Waking became more and more like hell.

His body had begun to hurt. His lungs had lost capacity. His face aged and caved at the same rate most grew facial hair. His joints creaked and his body weakened. His mind fuzzed. He lost hours. Days. Maybe weeks.

Rather than counting in time, it was a matter of miseries that had preceeded his arrival back here. Her funeral…had been several thousand agonies ago by his count.

Now it was past midnight and he’d been there torments since he’d arrived. The silver spade plunged again and again into the earth as each grunt and groan betrayed his utter fatigue. Spirals of crimson dripped from the wooden handle onto the dark piles of earth he accumulated on either side of his endeavor, and his fingers snapped and popped with every unruly motion.

His eyes were glazed by the time the moon reflected off the laquer of the luxury coffin the company had bought her in his absence. An utter waste of money… The dead didn’t care about satin linings or gaskets or varnish or paintings under the hood. They were already gone. Moved on.

The bells and whistles were for the living, and without her? In his current state? He wasn’t certain he even qualified any more.

The night broke with a volley of rasping coughs as the figure lurched forward, boney body collapsing at the foot of his own toils.

His brows furrowed as he struggled to remember why it was again he had chosen to come here. The grave was unmarked and the fever dream of his own body’s degeneration was blurring the script of reasoning more and more. Gray fingers stretched outward, missing their mark by a foot as he pawed at the coffin’s surface.

A groan echoed in the grave as he pulled himself downward, ankles buckling beneath his own weight as the hollow surface below him resonated with the impact of his boots. With a wrinkled nose, his fingers left bloodied streaks against the mahogany and curled around the edge of the wood. He exhaled against the smell, one yellowing nail bending back toward his knuckle as he heaved upward against the ‘decay-proof’ gasket of the crate.

His dim eyes widened, lips twitching as he stared into the darkness of the grave… Any question as to why he had come answered in the gaze that awaited him.

“I’m here…”

Seeking Super: Chapter 1

Chapter 1: I Always Knew I Was Special

 

Another Friday afternoon bus ride home from work. Fifteen to twenty minutes spent in the olfactory stew of a cross section of the city’s population. It could be the end of any weekday– bumpy, cold and mostly silent. I could be anybody, except that I’m not– I’m the guy who’s screaming loudly in his mind.

I’m the guy covertly waiting for someone, anyone to wince.

I’m the guy who’s about to change everything.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


 

Everyone goes through that phase in their childhood where they feel that special connection to superheroes. We all cut up strips of fabric and poke holes in it for a mask. We all tie bedsheets to our back for capes.

Everybody does it.

Not me though.
I mean, I did do that, but then I realized something. It’s more than just the outfits. You don’t need an outfit if you’re just Clark Kent. I mean, if you’re content to be that. To be just a photo-journalist. Just Peter Parker. Just a bullied, curly haired, pasty skinned kid. Just Mike Wheatley.

I was still just Mike Wheatley though. Even in the best mask lined with the best glitter and a cape with little printed Millennium Falcons speeding up and down its billowing magnificence. Even if I could make the best ‘swoosh’ and ‘pow’ sound effects on the block. …I was still just me. ‘Little Mikey McWheatthin’ if you caught me before my growth spurt.

No one could fight crime and save the day with an alias like that lurking under their masks. Not without something cool like metalmancy to back it up. I wasn’t content with it. Not with my name or my hair or the fact that I got winded walking a mile. Not with the fact that grandmas still crossed the streets unassisted. Not with the knowledge that somewhere in the city, some other kid was counting my lunch money.

I would need more than the coolest cape, best mask, and above-average mouth noises to prevail over this level of evil.

So the rest of the kids could waste their time playing dress up. Me? I was going to spend my time finding my super power.

I meditated for days in my cave of silence. Thinking. Pondering. Planning. Tapping into the universe and asking for a message of purpose and power.

Mother always wanted me to stop for pedantic things like taking out the trash. Cleaning my room. Eating.

She never quite ‘got it’.

She never understood that there was an off chance I might be ‘Plant Man’…and in such a case would have no need for human food any longer. Just an open window and water.

Maybe I needed my messy room to discover I was Cameleon-Man or Trash-Guy. Did she ever think of that? Think that putting my socks away could have cost the world an amazing master of all things grimy and smelly? (Lucky for her, she’d never have that on her conscience. An experiment years later in college proved that idea a flawed one.)

Then one day as I was roused yet again from my research in the tomes written by the sages of Marvel, DC, and Image…it hit me. I was special… I always had been. It’s what I had intuitively known from that early age. The piece of myself I was missing. A life of being average was my kryptonite. It weakened me. Sapped my strength… And the longer I stayed immersed in it, the longer I would stay frail and helpless. The longer the world would go without the hero it needed.

I was special. Destined for greatness. I just had to devote a little more time and a lot more focus to figure out what my power was and how to access it.

I began work faster than any other fifth grader had ever set down homework before.

My first thought was manipulating fire.

My sweater caught before I did, and for a fleeting minute I thought that maybe my power was instead being fire resistant. (Oh how handy the men in red and yellow would find me! So many delicate damsels with singed faces would look up at me with tears of gratitude!)

My doctor later assured me that I was not.

A month of creams and bandages had me thoroughly convinced.

Next I felt that special tingling for aeronautics. Natural aeronautics. I could fly. I knew it. All walls became my perch. No window ledge was safe!

…I broke nearly every bone in my body save for my skull, spine, and toes.

(Whoever it was that invented steepled roofs should be hanged from one, in my opinion.)

Now, I still have no conclusive evidence that the bones that remained unbroken through that experiment aren’t somehow invincible, but after thinking it over, I hopes that’s not the case.

Designing a super-heroic name for that particular power would be such a headache.
“The Virtuous Vertebrae”?
“The Spectacular Spine”?

Both titles better suited to a chiropractor’s clinic than a prospective member of the Justice League.

Moving forward, I tried to manipulate other elements of course.
Ice manipulation? I got mild hypothermia.
Hydromancy? Pruny skin and a turtle bite. (I marked off animal communication there as well.)
Air bending? Wind burn.
My romp as the Master of all Granular Matter just ended with sand in places you don’t want to hear about and my potential power over static electricity left me with the worst bout of rugburn Southern Detroit had ever seen.

I wasn’t dissuaded though. Each try, each attempt, at least warded off that impending creep of the mundane. It kept the poison that was normalcy staved off for another month or week. It kept my power, whatever it was, fresh and waiting just under the surface.

Over the years, I yelled at mirrors. I stared at spoons. Once, I ate over 6 pounds of spinach in one night… Nothing.

Nothing.

As years marched forward, I found the time I was able to devote to my inevitable discovery more and more limited. Middle school was hard enough as mild mannered Mike, and high school…well the less said about high school the better.

No one wore capes or masks anymore by the time I was moving out and off to college, I’d learned that even the search for superheroism was an endeavor best kept concealed, covered-up, and very, very secret. Late nights and closed labs became my best friends until graduation.

My master plan of diving head first into the ranks of those who knew heroism better than anyone failed on tries 1-55. Argue as much as you like for one company over the other, but it seemed the one thing Marvel, DC, and Independent comics had in common was an absolute lack of interest in hiring me. (Apparently, there is such a thing as too much enthusiasm).

It was probably for the best though. I mean, how obvious would it be to have a hero writing his own stories? Too much of an inside edge. My nemesis would catch onto me, and that, undoubtedly would put my beloved girlfriend in danger. …Eventually. Once I got a nemesis.
…And a girlfriend.

Still other than ‘protector of the planet’ (or at least the state), nothing else interested me. I didn’t much care what I did, I just needed money for food and rent and time to spend doing what I actually gave a damn about.

As luck would have it, it seemed that’s exactly the attitude needed to obtain a desk job in over-the-phone customer service. It was as unobtrusive and seemingly unimportant a title as a secret identity could have gotten.

Fate works in mysterious ways.

After my job at customer service had me psychiatrically tested (I still don’t see what the big deal was. Taking 20 seconds out of a phone call to try remote viewing the person on the other end’s house is not a significant cost timewise, is it? What’s the last thing you did with 20 seconds?), I had to become a little more…introverted with my endeavors.

No more outlandish holidays to remote locations looking for power-charged treasures. No more weekend trips to the space museum to lay hands on the moon rocks.

Even with these cut backs, I still have to check in with Dr. Vorgeois weekly. It’s very difficult to convince a licensed therapist that you were kidding about wanting to be a super hero when he has a file with your complete medical history in it.

I can already feel the ‘normal’ seeping into my skin. Draining my power. Even now as I jiggle in the bus seat over yet another speedbump. I have to lay low until all this blows over.

You see, I’ve figured it out– ‘normalcy’ is my kryptonite. I have to avoid that trap, that complacency, at all costs.

I also have to avoid diagnoses that might land me in a padded room though, which makes my situation a precarious one and brings us right back to where we began.

Last week I felt my mind touch something…someone. Only for a moment along my bus route, but it was there as warm and real and awkward as accidently making hand to hand contact on the subway.

I’m still not sure if I’m telepathic, or if I happened to mentally bump into one, but it’s the best lead I’ve had.

I’ve been riding the bus a lot lately, screaming at the top of my brain and looking around for a response. Covertly eying the other passengers with the most subtlety I can manage. Sometimes I get caught. Sometimes I get a dirty look or someone scootches farther from me.

I know it’s worth it though…or at least I thought I did right up until Friday.

Friday when I closed my eyes and yelled a mental “Hello?!” to the telepath I knew was somewhere in this city.

Friday when a dozen or more voices screamed back in terror and my body went airborne before my eyes even had a chance to open.

Cadavre Exquis Part 1

Beneath the shadow of an old, weather-tarnished bridge lurked a troll of the most unusual sort. Neither portly or bulkily muscled, the mud caked rags it used as its disguise hung large and loose over the lithe, thin lines of a definedly feminine form. Her dark hair hung damp over her collar in a matted tangle of braids and beads, her face an inky hue even without help from the shadow of her modest cowl. Her back pressed hard against the pillar of the overhang she lurked below, her breath catching as the slight crunch of leaves broke the silence of the night.

It was hard to slow her breathing after such a long run, but she had managed. Survival had taught her well; afterall, a passing grade was why she was still alive. Long cool threads of air flowed past her lips and into her weary lungs as silently as she could pull them and adrenaline alone provided enough control to still her fatigued muscles. Calloused fingers knotted her dripping cargo to her belt without a sound. The reverberations of the road above her shook the pillar she leaned against before her persuers were within ear shot. Her long ebony lashes closed against their mates, hiding the glossy, cloud like surfaces of her eyes from view. Swathing her in completely in the pitch of the shadows beneath the overhang.

The brigade above her was small, perhaps only fifteen men strong. White stallions and dapples whinied and brayed as their gilded hooves echoed bell-like against the ancient metal that comprised one of the two only routes out of the city. Routes closed to all who feared the law and its swift, merciless hand.

“Sir-” A canine muzzle protruded from under the soldier’s glistening helm as he addressed his superior, nose twitching against the acrid winds the infected planes beyond the city brought. “-if we’ve not seen them by now, isn’t it possible they’re still within the city limits?”

The answer was returned in a frustrated grunt, and the large, ornate gauntlets that betrayed the captain’s status wound tightly around the reigns of his steed. “That would make them bold indeed…as well as incredibly foolish.” Beneath the rim of his own helmet, a sapphiric stare hardened and trained on the wolfman beside him. “Are you implying my brother was cut down by a fool, Lieutenant Terax?”

Terax looked away with a swallow of concession. The thick pads of his fingertips brushed comfortingly against his steed’s neck, his own umber fur nearly blending with the mane of the great beast below him as the creature trotted its own uncertainties against the patterned stone beneath its hooves. The horses were spooked. For good reason. If only the less attuned men in their brigade could smell the death and decay like he could. If they had but seen what lay beyond their perfect, walled great-village. They hadn’t though. His commander had. It was why he respected him enough to even consider venturing so far outside their immediate domain. “Of course not, but there’s no scent trail…no reason to lead so many out of the city with the plague running rampant beyond our-“

“We’re going.” The captain was a human, certainly, but he had never sounded more bestial. “You may come and lend your nose and ears or you may stay and I’ll have you tried later.” It hung in the air with as harsh and final a tone as it was meant to.

The Lieutenant’s furred brows knit hard beneath the silver overhang of his helmet’s visor, heart sinking slightly. It wasn’t unlike the captain to be headstrong, but his judgement was clouded. Understandably so. “Matthais…” Perhaps best not to be so familiar given the younger man’s mood. “Captain Bergus…there are other ways. I could fetch the hawks, or the wolves-“

“Enough! We’re losing time already! Come or be left behind, Terax-” The captain’s steed whinnied as he spurred it on, pulling ahead of the others and waving them to follow. “Onward! Forward! Seek out this wretch and end it! For the glory of ur king! For the honor of our fallen!!”

Beneath the bridge, the hooded woman held her breath again, head turning to let one ear face upward as she listened. Already her own nose wrinkled with the pungent odor of the lycan above her…and she knew well the tenor of those kind’s voices. Still, as much as she loathed them…he could be a threat if he followed his hunch. Go. Go, you fools! 

The wolven lieutenant’s chest heaved with indecision as he watched the others flow out around him into the dim unknown of the plaguelands, his amber gaze saddening slightly. They had all lost tonight already… Was this really the only way Matthais could settle his mind? This…is not wise… There was no scent, no smell of blood or sweat… And there hadn’t been. Not after they’d left the gates of the citadel. The culprit was no fool, certainly. On that much he and his captain agreed at least. …Still only fools ventured out into the plains unprepared…

“Lieutenant Terax.”

The wolven man glanced up with a nervous snap of his jaws in time to see the tall, armored form of the captain framed by the branching metalwork of the bridge and the gray sky beyond him.

The captain tilted his helm up just enough to remove its shadows from his eyes. The blue orbs were not the usual steeled slate of obstinance of determination, but instead a haggard, tempestuous canvas of pain. “Wyland.” His words faded out as the wind blew an errant strand of gold across his face. His gaze wavered and then turned away. “Please. We…I’ll need your nose if we’re going to find them. We mustfind them. Gregori-“

The lieutenant flinched at the way his commander’s voice broke on his twin’s name. Gregori would have never asked this of either of them… That much he knew. Still, if Matthais needed him… “Say no more. I’m coming.”

The woman finally let her breath release as the sound of stameding hooves grew distant and the final click and clack of the lieutenant’s steed galloped off behind the rest. Good riddance… She thought with a curve of her berry colored lips. Her eyes remained closed as her hand checked the bulging, wet satchel at her side; she’d need it to collect her dues, afterall. With an unguarded exhale her work hardened fingertips reached for the nearest protrusion on the wall and felt for a hand hold.

It wasn’t a hard climb, really. All muscle and no substance…that was what the ancient baba of her village had called her as a child.

It worked for her well now. She spirited up the side of the bridge, lingering for a moment at the edge as she smelt, and felt, and listened for any additional visitors. None to be found. Perfect. Her tattered boots landed agily on the cobblestones, muddied, foul smelling cloak and mantel swirling around her form as a meandering breeze passed by as though following the soldiers who had just left.

She pulled her hood back to reveal her tangle of ebony hair and the pointed ears that protruded through it. With a small chuckle at her own good fortune, she opened her eyes again…the glistening surfaces beneath her lashes nothing but a cloudy gray expanse. Her face spoke of youth despite the mud and soot and sweat that layed caked across the smooth dark surface. From an inner pocket of her garment she pulled a sturdy looking cylinder of wood that expanded with a practiced flick of her wrist and locked into its much longer form. The end tapped against the ground as though searching for her pathway as her short, sleight body gathered its cape behind her to better accentuate her minute size. With a clearing of her throat, she ambled down the street with an enfeebled gait.

When her lips parted again, a melody flowed from them with a sweet, pure timbre…like honeysuckle curling into the night air. “Change~? Kind ladies~ Good sirs~ If this tune reaches you, I implore you hear my words~ Just a coin, perhaps two. Just a pence or pound. To help poor Alimina, the blind, song-spinning drow~” Her lilting voice echoed against the abandoned buildings for now, but soon it would mix with the cacophany of the inner city.

From there, it was a quick drop into the sewers to the assortments of scoundrels that called the old catacombs their homes.