Friday, January 8, 2010

Soft Red

[to avoid confusion, this post is immediately following the last one chronologically]

Well, that went as well as could be expected, Raxip though to himself. He knew Coffee, though, knew he was a competent, dangerous man. If anyone could burrow through to the core of this problem, it was Coffee. Lying back on the bed, he stared up at the ceiling. There was nothing special about this particular ceiling; it was the same institution off-white of every space station he had ever visited. He wished, just for a minute that it would all stop, just come to an end. The calm flat glow of the fluorescent lighting, softly bathing the small living quarters in a miserable imitation of daylight, relaxed Raxip. He felt himself slipping into a meditative trance, his breathing and heartbeat seeming to align themselves with the gentle pulsations of the lights. Wait, he though to himself, My lights aren’t supposed to pulse. Except now, he realized it wasn’t the lights that were pulsing, but the whole world, his consciousness fading in and out of focus like waves on the beaches he dimly remembered from his childhood, an infinity of lifetimes ago. Then, the world dropped out from under him, and the darkness of absolute nothingness swaddled him.

The darkness was fading, as my eyes adjusted to the soft red haze of the transport shuttle’s emergency lighting filtering in through the open doorway. I felt a spasm through my forearm, as my right hand, still clutching the blood-slick knife tighter than I thought possible, began to cramp. I sank away, pressing my back against the wall beside the doorway, trying not to look at the spreading pool of life draining from the corpse that used to be the guard, encroaching on my bare feet. Images kept flashing through my mind, I desperately tried to block them out, pressing my eyes shut until it hurt, cramming my knuckles against my temples until they popped. It wouldn’t work though. I kept seeing it, the wickedly sharp knife flashing across the proud woman’s exposed neck, the hot blood, steaming in the cold black caverns, staining the lilly-white robes forever, over and over, and I struggled against the men holding me back, straining my still-young arms against their hold, but I couldn’t escape, couldn’t stop it, until I could feel it burning a hot line through my consciousness, feeling her death in my own heart again and again.

My torturous recollection was interrupted by a sound. At first, I couldn’t make it out, couldn’t understand it, but then my mind dropped back into the present, and over my gasping breath, thunderous in my own ears, I heard footsteps, coming towards my cell. I stopped breathing, stopped everything. Silently, I begged them to keep walking, to just assume everything was fine and go deal with whatever had gone so catastrophically wrong. But whatever gods that still exist deigned not to listen, and the two men stepped into the room.

“Hey! Hrollur?” One of the guards spoke to the stifling darkness. “You there, buddy?”

There was a pause, as he waited for a response that could never come. One beat, two. My blood was pounding so hard in my veins, I was sure they could here the violence of its passage clearly.

“Hey?” said the other one, venturing further into the room, “Everything okay in here? Where are you?”

Then his heavy boot landed in the growing puddle of life on the floor, and promptly flew out from under him. He twisted, hard, but didn’t manage to regain his balance, and slammed into the floor with a loud thud.

“What the fuck?” shouted the other guard, “What happened?”

“I fuckin’ slipped. Void, the floor, it’s covered with blood. Oh my god... Oh my god. Hrollur.”

The relaxed stance of the remaining upright guard dropped into a crouch, his body hardening into a spring, to launch himself at what ever threat lurked. I realized I was holding my breath, had been holding for too long, and in a moment I was going to have to release the iron bands crushing my chest and suck in air, and that when I did, the men would surely hear me. My mind spun. Then suddenly, it stopped. I had to do it. I shifted the grip of my hand on the knife, feeling the already-drying blood make my fingers peel stickily from the handle, until it was in a proper hold.

I leapt forward, slammed the blade into the standing man’s chest, deep, until I could feel the blood welling up from the wound. It washed the old blood from my hand, replacing it with new. He made a low grunt in his throat, looked down at the knife, then back up into my face, his eyes confused, asking me what was happening, screaming at my why would I do such a thing. I felt his hands close onto mine, and he pushed the long edge out of his ribs. The suction of his flesh resisted, and then pulled free. He shivered, coughed a mist of blood into my face, then seemed to regain sense, and his hand started to travel towards his sidearm. I swung my hand back, and rammed the knife as hard as I could into his temple, through his skull, twisted his head away from me. I needed to avert his eyes, stop him from looking at me. His whole body quivered, and he let out a long gurgling moan, then went limp. The weight of his body pulled down, wrenched the already slippery knife out of my grasp.

“Poreg? What are you...” The other man, the one on the floor. I had forgotten about him, but the man I had just killed had collapsed onto his leg. He narrowed his eyes, peered into the darkness, then I saw them snap wide.

“Oh my god! You were there! You... Oh god, Poreg! P-please, just let me go,” I realized I was already leaping upon him, before his words had even penetrated my mind. His arm snaked towards his gun, but I kicked him in the elbow, hard, and stomped down, feeling something pop. He started to open his mouth, and I dropped down on him with all my body weight, pushing the air from his lungs before he had a chance to scream. My questing fingers found his face, and I wrapped my hand around his head, gripped, and slammed it once, twice, three times, hard, into the solid tritanium bulkheads, until his desperate convulsions beneath me ceased.

I lay there, for a moment. I needed to be somewhere else, thought back to the golden fields, until my heart stopped pounding a thousand beats. I pushed myself to my knees, dug around on the two corpses I had just made, took their knives from him, and climbed up all the way to my feet. There was a plan beginning to tickle the edges of my mind. Perhaps there was salvation, in the end. Maybe I could get out of here, start again. If I could find the escape pod, get off the vessel, maybe I could make it to the lawless edges of the empire, where an outlaw could go unnoticed, or at least unmolested.

To start on my path to freedom, all I had to do was walk out of this pitch black blood slick slaughterhouse of a room, and reach the doorway, glowing red. I couldn’t, though. The more I tried to get close to it, the further it seemed to get, until it receded and vanished into the darkness, everything vanished into the darkness.

The floor fell away from me, and the darkness swaddled me, until my eyes started to adjust to the soft red haze of the emergency lighting filtering in from the doorway...

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