July 28th, 1 AI (Anno Inmortuis)
I remember an interview I had with a career counsellor back in high school. He kept going on and on about me needing to decide what I wanted to do with my life. “Jobs give us fulfilment Katherine, jobs give us a purpose Katherine. You need to engage in your life more Katherine,” he said. I had like, no answer for him. Most of my friends had decided back in 9th grade, but not me. I wanted to do nothing. Looks like I got my wish.
The days are hard to keep track of. My phone died a while back, the calendars ran out and the newspapers stopped arriving. I can count the nights, but I can’t remember if this year was a leap year, or if March has 31 days or 30. Stupid things like that. Where’s Google when you need it!
It’s getting quieter here, back before the riot, our town had about 5,000 people. Now I think we’re down to 50. You’d think we’d all stay together, pooling our resources, keeping each other company, but we don’t. The only other person on my road still around is Leah Maclay. Her parents died back in October before last. Nothing restores your faith in humanity like a crisis. Everyone gets scared and their first thought is: “I must protect myself and my family.” Where do they go? To the gun store. How many people turn up at once with the same exact thought? Hundreds, maybe a thousand. So did they (a), agree to ration ammo like civilized people, or (b), shoot the hell out of each other. If you picked A, I like your optimism. If you picked B, I like your accuracy. I’m starting to see the importance of a purpose, a goal. Wake up, try to wash, find food, read, sleep. So boring. Even my 50 Shades fanfic can only entertain for so long.
Leah’s not much help. She’s always out in her yard, doing push-ups, sit-ups. Civilization crumbles and all she cares about is her abs. Okay, maybe I could do with some of those too. There’s no real call for: “Ethan locked his lips in hers as he swept the array of utensils off the counter. He winced from effort as he lifted her up, wrapping her legs around his waist as he went. All four buttons popped at once on her blouse as he grasped each side in his firm weathered hands and ripped them apart. His eyes devoured every inch of her exposed skin, admiring the glistening of the candlelight upon her generous love handles…” Leah’s got a bunch of guys she goes off with too, they sneak away at dawn every other day, hoping I won’t see. But I’ve been looking through my window, seen it all just fine.
July 31st, 1 AI
I saw a god the other day, down by the river. I’ve seen them before, but this one was different. Going down to the river’s edge usually relaxes me. To my left, the old railway bridge; to my right, the new road bridge. Then in-between is nothing but the sun, the water and the trees. You can take your shoes off, let the water swirl between your toes and just breathe. Sometimes birds circle overheard too. It’s my own little paradise. His skin was so perfectly pale, it was like someone held up a mirror to the moon. His hair shone like midnight, the darkest of blacks, it was like a supernova trapped in anthracite. His steps were slow and deliberate, every movement its own perfect calculation. As he walked across the road-bridge into town, my eyes trailed him. I couldn’t help it. When he got nearer, it was as if he was listening for something, he turned towards me and walked to the edge. I felt a pair of eternal eyes burn the air around me. They looked through me, seeing something indiscernible to man.
His body, beneath the clothing, was like a figure cut in alabaster. A black t-shirt clung tightly to his chest, revealing his amazingly-muscled torso. Rips across the heart of the shirt gave me a preview of the perfect lines of his pecs. I could make out the remains of some writing on the shirt, it looked foreign: “Takk Kunnandi…” was all I could make out before gleaming ivory skin took over. At the base of the shirt, the V-line of his hips stood like a map to untold pleasures above his pitch black pants. I suddenly found myself hoping fervently that eternally living applied to every single part of him. There wasn’t a boy alive I’d ever met who could compare to his silent beauty. The love they offered was nothing more than a transient flicker of a shadow. They feign all the same motions: what’s your name, has anyone told you how pretty you look, can I take you out somewhere tonight. Hours on end of repetitive small-talk with no real interest in who I am. No one wants to see behind the wall. The Eternal Takk-kunn is their antithesis, a being who cannot lie, acts only on his deepest innermost desires and whose passions will reign until the very last star flickers into the vacuum of an empty universe.
And so I watched him from afar. For the first time in a long time, I smiled.
August 6th, 1 AI
The last seven days have been the longest of my life. Every day I searched for Takkun, but without results. I think he saw me that day. Maybe I was just part of the scenery. I’m humanity’s version of a water feature, only serving as a mild distraction.
August 9th, 1 AI
Sometimes you can tell people are special just by the briefest glance, I knew this about Takkun that afternoon when I first glimpsed him, and this morning he proved it to me. I’d never seen two of the eternals meet before. When they broadcast everything on the news during the awakening, you could see what happened, they just ignored each other. I was down by the hardware store, an hour before I’d caught sight of Takkun walking at the corner of North 3rd and St. John. For now I decided to stay hidden and follow after him. I could barely suppress my excitement, but I wanted to learn more about him. In the parking lot of Cole’s, he saw the other one. That thing was a monstrosity. It made me sick to think of it even touching him with its flayed strips of skin covered in hideous blotches of black and green. It began to charge at him, but Takkun stood his ground, biding his time. He didn’t flinch as it flung its grotesque self through the air for the last few feet between them. Takkun swung his arm, meeting his nemesis in midair. He connected with its face, pummelling it into pulp with one fell swoop. It fell abruptly, then Takkun took the spoils. He consumed him completely, his body looking more radiantly white with every bite. I used to turn away from things like this on TV, but I was captivated, it was like witnessing an almighty lion best its prey. To see the might of nature at work, it was something glorious.
He must have heard something beyond my capabilities, in the next moment, his head rose, listening, then he disappeared, leaving my view with devastating speed. I’m sure I saw something small move on the ground after him, but before I could register anything besides the movement, it was gone too.
August 15th, 1 AI
For the last few nights, I’ve been having the same dream. Usually I don’t remember them, but this one, I couldn’t forget if I tried. The wind is bitingly cold as I make my way across a hillside in the dead of night. I’m clutching my jacket to keep myself from the cold. My feet step forward in blindness, the thickness of the dark around me is impenetrable. Each movement could bring me to death, yet I don’t slow down, there’s no hesitation in me. One step brings me to an immovable object and the collision sends me falling backwards to the ground. The dew on grass starts to seep through my skirt to my skin, but it isn’t cold, it feels comforting. I look up to the cause of my descent and from the black extends a seraphic hand. The skin is divine, like a field of untouched white lilies. My mind doesn’t even pause, it just pushes my own hand up to meet his. His powerful grasp envelopes me, pulling me to my feet, that’s when the darkness reveals his face to me. I stroke the back of my hand down his face, circling his high cheekbones. Thick eyebrows hang low above his eyes, which are gray like a stormy ocean. His skin feels so smooth to my touch, there’s not a hint of stubble, just those thick locks of darkness flowing down over his ears. I shake slightly as I close my eyes, running my finger along his exquisitely full lips.
His body remains static, a statue of ice, a testament to the immortal gods stands only inches from me, yet it feels like light years away. I can’t help but look into his eyes. For the first time in my life, it’s as if somebody can see all that I am. He sees through the surface, laying bare my innermost secrets, my private fears and never once turning away from them. Through those rapturous eyes, his own thoughts enter into me and every single one of them is serenity. He pulls me in closer and the sky lights up with a dome of crystalline light, our own little moonlight sonata. From the corner of my eye I can see the silhouette of hands outside the dome. Some stroke it gently, some pound it fiercely, but here they cannot reach. His closeness makes my body start to burn, the heat surges through me, growing hotter with each pulse until I feel that my very breath may burn my lips. Still he stands there, motionless, just staring at the girl being tortured by unending bliss. His divine lips draw into mine and we connect. Instantly his touch surges through me like an ice age on the surface of the sun, quelling the heat yet replacing it with an even deeper longing, a longing which no force on earth could satiate except for him. With his touch he’s transformed me into something angelic and finally I feel worthy to stand beside him: in the realm of the gods.
We kiss deeper and deeper, the longing inside of me only intensifies. A million voices are in my head and they’re all saying nothing. His muscular arms encircle me, pulling me so close that I become aware of every movement I make: every tremble, every pulse, every rise of my chest, Takkun absorbs every one of them with his stoic frame. As his hands grasp mine tighter he locks each one of his fingers inside mine, I feel the desire inside of him intensifying too. He hungers for me, it aches him to his very core not to be able to taste my skin, to devour me for eternity, but he resists, fighting the very fabric of his being to retain control of himself. Our bodies know only the bliss of togetherness, if they part – even for a fraction of second – they feel nothing but pain. This pain suffocates my joy, making me fear that I may disappear. The complete devotion in his eyes is all I ever need in this world.
The dome around us turns crimson as the hands fade from outside our crystal paradise. As he brushes my neck with his lips, Takkun’s hand starts to trace a line roughly down the curve of my back, beginning where my hair falls just below the shoulders. Every atom of me screams for him as he reaches the waistline of my skirt, tracing his finger back and forth along it. I feel an answer to an earlier question present itself. My breath escapes and a shudder erupts within as he begins to unzip the back of my skirt. This moment is both the epitome of pleasure and the depths of despair for me, since every time I awaken, in that exact same instant. I pray for only a few seconds more, but they never come.
It’s all I can do to function the next few hours, my mind replays every detail of the dream, losing itself in fantasy and undiluted desire. When the fantasy fades, only an echo remains, and echo which rings perfectly in the air. A message of perfect clarity: I am inescapably and assuredly in love with Takkun.
August 18th, 1 AI
I just realized today that I hadn’t left the house for nearly a week, supplies were running low. I decided to cut across campus on the way to my shopping trip. Whoever invented college, I salute them. Nothing helps defer those pesky life decisions everybody expects you to make like college, make it a liberal arts college for even more procrastination points. I like to go sit in the theater sometimes. Lines of blue chairs wait for me, yet every time I pick the same one and focus on the tea-rose curtain with its large “Campus Theater” logo. There are two fire doors besides me (always handy these days) each one features an enormous – and might I add – somewhat grotesque bronze figure above it. On the left one, a face contorted smirkingly; above the right door, one twisted into a grimace.
Enter LEAH, stage right, carrying a pistol
Leah: Lady Katherine, it is a pleasure.
Doth the rear darkness advance in friendship?
I swallowed hard, like I understood. Perhaps my face betrayed my turmoil, I thought. The door to the left opened again and six other people walked through, most of them heavily armed. One with an Asian appearance raised his gun in my direction.
“What I think she means, little Belle,” he said to me. “Is would perchance the beast five seconds from disembowelling you happen to be a friend of yours?”
“And how is that any different to what I said Akio?” Leah asked.
“Well, for starters, it comes with zero added pretension,” Akio said.
“And what part of ’perchance’ isn’t pretentious?” she replied.
It was then that I felt the draft blowing in from the back of the theater, the door was open. My head whipped around, immediately seeing the repulsive monster only feet away from me. I fell from my chair, gripped by panic. Its right-arm twisted into a mass of sinew near where the elbow would be, dripping in god-awful fluids I don’t even want to know the name of. It advanced on me, slowed down somewhat by what looked like a shattered kneecap on its right side. Etched across its face was a the look of a man driven by a twisted notion of his right to claim me, with not a shred of conscience to balance it. Its teeth were few and yellow. I backed up on the floor, pushing myself with both hands and feet, never breaking my gaze from the monster. Short, sharp, rapid breaths cut into the air from my mouth.
“Well ladies and gentlemen,” Leah said. “I’m guessing that’s a no. Let’s get to work!”
She fired shots into its leg, splintering the bone into pieces. The weight of it soon forced it to buckle, the shins breaking with a disgusting cracking sound. It fell to the floor, its newfound disability didn’t stop its advancement though.
“Chris, as your punishment for winning poker last night, do the honors,” Leah said.
A black man wearing a green shirt walked over to me, he helped me to my feet, motioning me over to the others. Up close he wasn’t as tall as I was expecting, his light brown eyes seemed determined, but kind. I thanked him as I joined the group.
Akio’s warning came too late, the monster had found a surge of strength, jumping a space of six feet with just the power of its arms. As Chris turned around, it had already grabbed his right leg. Chris fell down hard on his back. Gunshots rang out, a few bullets hit the monster, but none stopped it. With its superhuman might, it ripped the lower leg off Chris. If the last snapping sound was bad, this one, which came complete with spurts of blood and agonizing screams was far worse. Sounds all designed to shred every single nerve in my body. Leah had gotten to Chris by now and was dragging him away from further harm. I thought the monster was going to eat the leg, that’s what they do, but instead it torn a part off its own missing limb, and stabbed Chris’ leg onto the exposed bone. Somehow, within a few seconds, it held firm to the monster’s frame. It climbed back to its (and Chris’) feet. Injured, but still advancing on us faster than before. We all retreated as far to the front of the theater as we could.
“Lacey, stop that fucking bleeding,” Leah screamed. It didn’t seem like she was used to things going wrong. The smirk of her earlier poise had vanished. “Red rover, red rover, send that asshole right over.” She and four others raised their weapons. I sat with Chris and Lacey well behind their line. Lacey had fashioned a tourniquet already from some cloth. Chris was dazed, but holding on. I should have covered my ears at this point.
Twenty or so shots rang out within a few seconds and the monster disintegrated from explosions all over its corpse. The smell of its burning rotten flesh polluted the room, I felt sick, seeing its face melt into a bloody pulp didn’t help any. They’d made it into a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle, but still the parts kept on moving like a swarm of roaches. I was so very glad that I came here before I ate.
“Akio,” Leah said. “Time to make that mess disappear.”
He nodded at her and unfastened a grenade from his belt. Akio was far more careful in his step as he made his way over to the pool of mobile gore only inches from where I was sat moments ago. It was then I realized the final part of this plan. I tried to protest. I loved this building, it was a reminder of the few good memories I had from my childhood.
Akio looked at me questioningly, I couldn’t work out whether it was sympathy or derision on his face. “Yeah well,” he said, flicking the pin out and dropping the grenade into the middle of the gore-pool. “I loved my little sister. Didn’t stop her getting set on fire did it.”
He started to calmly walk toward the exit, the others had already left through the right-hand door of the theater. I felt like I should be running, I raced towards the others, trying to catch a glimpse of the room behind as I ran. Still Akio hadn’t changed his pace. “Fire in the hole,” he muttered in an undertone. He reached the door just as it exploded behind us. I don’t know if it was just my hearing, but it seemed quiet compared to the gunshots before. I watched through the open door, having thrown myself against the other side of the wall pre-blast. The fire took hold inside. I wouldn’t be coming back here again. Why couldn’t Takkun have saved me? He wouldn’t have scorched the earth in the process. The thought of him made me feel warm. I stroked the side of my face discretely, and let myself go for a minute, pretending it was his hands which caressed me.
“How long till the Regen fixes him?” Leah said to Lacey. The other girl was a few inches taller than Leah, around five-ten. Both of them had the same dark blonde hair. I’d tried dying mine blonde a few times. I didn’t have more fun, and went back to my regular chocolate-brown soon after. Lacey seemed to be the medic of the group, I didn’t recognize her from anywhere around here. Maybe she was a nurse in another life, maybe she was a corporate accountant. It was tough to place people back in the old world. Everyone around me had changed so much; I felt just the same.
“Less than an hour and he’ll be back on his shiny new ebony feet,” Lacey said. Chris was alert now, sitting on the small section of grass which seemed to be cut across from all angles by gray footpaths. He seemed cheerful, considering.
“I still think that would’ve gone way more stylishly if-,” one of the other guys said. He had tanned white skin and wore a navy blue baseball cap. It had the letters M and P intertwined on it. Leah was standing obstinately with her hands resting on her thin hips. I guess she earned them.
“Like I care Brett,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how many superheroes you name, fighting in a leather catsuit or spandex would not make it easier. You know what would happen to Power Girl in a fight: she’d be crying from mammary contusions within a minute and probably spend most of her waking moments digging a wedgie out of her slit.”
“But it’d look so-,” he continued.
“Tell you what, my horny little friend,” Leah said. “You show the undead an all-you-can-eat buffet in the next one with a leather mankini, and I’ll give you enough fetish fuel to break your wrist at night. Until then, I’ll stick to my sports pants and super-cute half-length t-shirt thank you.”
The sound of static interrupted the conversation and Brett dug a radio transceiver out of his pocket. I couldn’t catch much of the conversation except for the words “exotic”, “flight 42” and “bridge.” Besides that, it all sounded garbled from where I stood, still wondering if I was likely to have this ringing in my ears for the rest of my life.
Leah strode up to Lacey and Chris. “Stay here with him, Logan just radioed in a position on the exotic. It’s across town.” She turned to me next. “You’ll be safe now, just get back to your house and lock the doors. You gotta look after the town now Fitzgerald, I’m shipping out tomorrow…” She paused for a second and seemed to briefly struggle with the next sentence. “…Of course, you’re more than welcome to join us if you fancy seeing the country.”
I faked a smile to her, and told her that I wasn’t a fighter. It made me think, I didn’t actually have any skills useful in this world. My life would be a series of other people saving me, then one day, nobody would be there. I needed my everlasting knight. He was all I had in this world, my purpose. She collected the other four and then walked away. I caught the start of their conversation.
“America’s next dead model showed up again. First sighting since the hardware store, let’s make it his last people. Drake, get…”
I stopped dead in my tracks, they were talking about Takkun. They had to be. I closed my eyes and saw only his impeccable visage, my fists clenched. They wouldn’t understand. I had to warn him. I started to run In the other direction. I knew a shortcut that would put me at least five minutes ahead of them if they kept up that pace. Barely was I out of their sight when I heard a sound which knocked the energy out of my heart: it was a motor starting. They had a vehicle.
I dashed down Coleman, watching the main University building come and go to my left. There was just one field between me and the river, then I just had to get up to the bridge. My legs were burning fiercely by the time I started to run alongside the edge. A pain stabbed at my side, but I just thought of him, and pushed it out of my mind. I pushed myself faster and faster as the bridges came into view. I cut through the blocks of houses and passed the road-bridge. I could make out figures on top of the twisted and rusted rail-bridge. More adrenaline pulsed through me and I climbed up and made my way to the figures, not caring particularly if my foot fell through the unstable surface as I went.
He was okay. I could see him from the back, he was holding something. I went closer.
There was blood everywhere, all over him. As I neared him I saw his hands, he was holding Akio aloft with one hand, his other hand was gripping the top of his head. I heard myself screaming. Takkun didn’t react. I could do nothing but watch as Akio’s neck exploded in a fountain of blood as his head was swiftly ripped off. The field of white lilies was covered in crimson. Then Takkun started to stumble backwards. Leah was lying on the floor, camouflaged in red. Her blonde hair was gone, replaced by thick strands of claret which streaked over her face. She was holding a rifle, firing off shot after shot, each one sending Takkun recoiling closer to the edge. She stood up. The bloodied and dismembered corpses of Akio, Brett, Drake, presumably Logan and the others littered the bridge around her. She picked up a grenade from somewhere, continuing to fire at Takkun. She glanced first at him, then at the pile of body parts, some of which were starting to move of their own volition. As she pulled out the pin, dropping the rest onto the body pile, she saw me.
“Kat, get back!” she screamed. I reluctantly retreated a few paces. My previous experience had given me a rough idea of how far away to be, but I didn’t want to take any chances. Helplessly I watched her run towards me, still firing as she pulled back. Takkun was too close to the grenade. It knocked him spiralling towards the edge of the bridge. He fell down besides the precipice, struggling to move. He’d taken more damage in the last minute than even a regular Eternal could cope with. Leah advanced on him, thumbing another grenade as she approached. I followed.
Leah stood over the fallen angel, just out of range of his broken and torn limbs. He didn’t move anyway. He just watched.
“You are going to fucking pay for that, you cock-sucking, pansy-assed momma’s boy!”
She fired rounds into him until her rifle started to click. I was stood behind her by this point. I embraced her from the back, wrapping my hands around her stomach, she leaned her head back to rest between my shoulder and face. Her cheeks was wet from tears. The bloody pulp on the floor made the barest of movement. One pair of immortal eyes which were almost faded. Looking down at him, I knew I had to let go. This had to end. Leah’s chest was becoming racked by convulsions of grief. I held her close and kissed her gently on the cheek. It’s okay, I told her. It’s over.
She calmed down somewhat. “Not quite Kat.” She held the grenade in front of her like a bowler preparing for a strike. “Just one more thing to do.”
I smiled grimly as she raised her other hand to remove the pin. The heat of her face still burned against mine, her tears became mine. I didn’t want to watch what happened next, but it was inevitable. I could only hope that the images to be so vividly written in my head would fade over time. I lifted up my hand and hit the grenade out of her tentative grasp. Swiftly my hands closed over her shoulders and I threw her with all my might towards the edge of the bridge. Her helpless screams tore from the depths of her throat all the way to my battered eardrums, finding themselves a permanent residence there. Their volume faded until the gentle echo of a thud cut them out altogether about five seconds later.
I returned to my love. He struggled, but he was getting stronger with every minute which passed. Anytime now, he would arise and take his heroine in his arms. He would stroke the dust from her hair and hold her tight as her fingers stroked the smooth and luscious skin of the lips she called home. Then they would explore each other until the very last star in the sky flickered out.
Part of the short story collection Necrocracy, further instalments coming soon.
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