A short piece I wrote a while ago, when I was tinkering with different styles and even darker themes. Sometimes I write things like this just to break a block, or to work out an idea that makes its way into a more coherent piece. Enjoy.
You know the clichés. Revenge is a dish best served cold. If you go looking for revenge, dig two graves. An eye for an eye. None of them matter. In the middle of the night, when you can’t sleep for the rage that sits in your stomach, caution and reason seem like foreign countries. Even when the cold light of day dawns and spreads reason like a beacon, you still calculate and plot, the anger like a pit of ice in your gut.
They took something from me in the woods. I still remember rough hands and tight rope. Lives snuffed like candles. There are times I can still smell moss and loam and the dry dead scent of leaves rotting in drifts on the ground, and can feel the prick of their cold blades in my cheek. I still see the pale moon resting overhead in a cold autumn sky, and wonder how much suffering it can watch before it slips its moors and hurls itself into the Earth. Mercy or murder I wonder, and know my answer.
I watch them. It cost my house and the insurance, and the tatters of my life, but I watched, and I learned. I know where they live, where they play, and who they love. Normal channels break down. They tell me it’s an open case; they tell me they have no leads. They tell me they’re working on it. My therapist says it’s time to move on, to heal. Still, I pick at the scab. I open the scar and let the hate bleed through.
There are words, if you know where to look, that provide the gate and the key. They are whispered between madmen and scrawled in broken speech on bathroom stalls. You can find them in dead letters and the spilling of bone shards in pools of gore. I read them, and I know my path.
The pills were cheap – soporifics I picked up from an online pharmacy. The kind of place where they worry less about what kind of insurance you have and more about what kind of currency you carry. The walls are marked, the highway laid out in the red language of intent.
I wash the pills down with a glass of wine and lay myself to sleep one last time. In my mind’s eye, I keep the rage, all of the hate I feel for the world in an icy ball, and I think of the place I need to be. Other thoughts, memories of a life once lived, drift past and I push them down. I feel my heart slowing, like the unwinding of a clock spring, and feel no fear.
Awake. Aware. You come into this place in a blinding pain, agony like fire encircling your neck. Let the punishment fit the crime, they say. Let them hang by the neck until dead. But we’re already dead. We swing in the hot breeze, ash and cinder floating by in the wasteland, hung from blackened trees. The rope that circles my neck is hot and chafing, and I can feel it dig into my flesh. I choke back the urge to scream, and reach up, forcing my hands under the rope. Somewhere in the distance, drums beat the air.
It scrapes my skin as it travels upward, and I clench my jaw, force it past my chin. In a sudden jerking movement, the noose slips free, and I am spilled to the ground in a heap. I fall on my hands and knees and can feel the black glassy rock under the ash cut my palms, cut my legs. It is warm, and it takes a moment for me to stand. I am naked.
I turn and see that behind me lies a vast forest where the dead sway from stark limbs. I reach up and pull the noose from its limb, the branch giving way with a sharp crack. I wait, but no one comes to investigate. The hate still cold in me, I begin to walk, toward a red horizon where jagged reefs of bone stand white against the sky and stab at its heart.
I pass through a red desert of misery, trenches dug into the clay, where men and women chase back and forth, flayed by beasts with pale flesh and two faces. One or the other mouths always call to the condemned, the air full of threats and promises. They wield whips made from thin chains that jingle as they walk. They don’t notice me as I walk atop their walls.
I walk a bridge made from screaming human flesh that spans a river where the dead are knee-deep and ravaged by birds with knife-like beaks that refuse to give them rest. The bridge moans as you walk on it, and whispers thoughts best left unheard. I ignore them and move on. Through it all, the drums beat on.
Finally, I arrive at the black plain where the bones of beasts great and small lie buried and half-buried, jagged ends jutting out like the teeth of some vast predator. In the black mud between lie more men and women, buried to their chests. The heat is worse here, and their skin is parched and dry, their eyes sunken, their lips cracked and bloody. They cry out for relief, though none comes. They bite their lips and cheeks and drink the blood greedily.
It is here that I begin to work, finding first small jagged bits of bone, ignoring the cries of the damned. The first one I skin screams until I can hear nothing else, not even the drums. My hand shakes, and then steadies as the cold wash of my hatred, of my purpose, covers me and washes the doubt away. After a time, they begin to fear me. I leave a garden of stripped souls behind.
When I am satisfied I have enough, I begin to build. Bone and sinew, and blood, to hold it together. I wrap it in flesh and give it black stone for eyes. It stares back at me, cold and hard and unyielding. Still, it needs life. I cut the heart from my chest. It’s surprisingly easy, and when I hold it, it is cold, vapor coiling from it in a white mist. I place it in the chest of my machine.
Mist coils from its mouth and the cold heart beats in time to the drums. It speaks.
I use the noose and fashion a sling for his back. I’ve named him Peter. I climb up and dig my heels into ribs he doesn’t feel. I wrap my arms around his neck. We walk.
The dead have roads. We walk them to the dark places, the places where the membrane between the worlds is thin, stretched taut like skin over bone. We push against them, and slip through, gazing out of mirrors, peering from behind closet doors.
We find them, eventually. It has been a long time, longer than I imagined, but they still live. They still go on, after ending my life. They scream. They plead and weep. They try to escape to madness, but we pull them back and rip the muscle from their skeletons before they die in puddles of their own excrement.
We are avenged.
When it’s over, we walk on. We rest in the quiet of the world, and we wait. There is still so much punishment, and we are patient.