Part two of an old request to get one of my characters killed and bring him back without the help of his closest friend. Read the death here.
This character was inspired by someone I once knew and I truly wanted to show pieces of them in this because it is such an intimate scene with one’s deepest self.
I truly appreciated this challenge.
I can’t breathe. Strong fists squeeze my lungs, not allowing air in, yet this development is new because there is still a rush passing out my lips as I am squeezed like a balloon.
I can’t see. I open my eyes, but thick, inky nothingness crowds into them, squirming and living like a blackness created by worms.
I can’t move. I try to pull my hand up to my face to take away the shadow, try to move my head from side to side to get around the dark swarming insects, try to drop my mouth open so I can scream.
But none of these things happen because my brain and my body don’t seem to be on speaking terms.
I know I am dying. Pain crushes my collarbone, pressing down on my ribcage. My fingertips and toes are going numb and the blood in my veins fueled only by anxiety has cooled into ice. I’m shivering, teeth chattering.
How come my body can make these movements and not the others, I muse inside the haze of my mind. It is a humid, muggy day in there, in my mind. There is fog from the chilled morning now warming in the wet heat and I can’t form coherent thoughts outside of fear or basic commentary of the situation I have found myself in.
I walk through thick sludge to form words in my head, using up all of my energy quickly just to inform myself that I need to turn on my memories. What was I doing before I was choking, crumbling, helpless here? Do I have any clues back there of where I could be and why I am going to die?
It seems as if these questions alone take hours to ask of the haze, but it is patient and listening intently. A small, quiet voice behind the fog says I’m not as slow as I think I am or I’d already be out of time. I thank it, assured for the moment.
Flashes of sensation warm my face as my mind returns with its findings, excited to present them. Far away voices tease me with strange sounds that don’t quite form full words, frustrating me until I think I may go mad from the longing I face for understanding.
Then with a clarity synonymous to a sharp slap, there came a voice I could discern.
–can you hear me–
Deep, baritone rumbling behind my eyes. Yes, I hear you but who are you?
–all you have to do is look at me, old man–
But I can’t see! My eyes are wide open and stinging but the blackness is pulsing, swelling, suffocating me! Where are you?
–just curl your fingers around mine, can you do that–
I can’t even twitch one finger, you want me to move them all? At the same time? You’re insane. Why can’t I feel you if your hand is here?
I trudge farther inside my mind, yank one leg out of the mud and set it down while the other sinks deeper. Yank that one out and put it ahead of the other, sinking, sinking…
Please come back, my sweet friend. Your tumbling, thunderous voice is so comforting as it vibrates deep within my chest. Come back, please. Tell me your name, tell me you’re going to save me. Tell me I’m not going to die.
There is a chuckle so faint I almost think I imagine it. Joy swells in my chest and for a moment I wonder if it is strong enough to refill my lungs. It’s not.
–I’ve gotta bring you home. You’re fine–
Are you sure? I feel ever so slightly on the wrong side of ‘fine’, my friend. Do you promise?
–don’t trust the moon, it’ll let you down. Trust in me–
What’s the moon got to do with this? She is beautiful and compassionate, a guide within the deepest darkness. Don’t put her down when I have not a single clue to your character. You are no better.
No please, come back. I am sorry. I trust you, I trust you!
–you are my dearest friend. You’re fine. You can’t leave me–
I dare you to tell that to my lungs. Wait. We know each other?
–my dearest friend–
The voice is barely audible, just a deep whisper as it leaves me alone again in the mud and darkness. I beg for him to return, but there is nothing.
Something wet and chilled drips on my face, snapping me out of my mind, and dropping back into my blinded eyes and paralyzed body.
Yet my hand moves to brush the fluid from my cheek and it is as if that motion pulls down the darkness.
Above me I see storm clouds, swelled with rain and anger. A bright flash blinds me for a moment, then warmth washes over my chilled skin. Lightning struck to my left, the sky above roaring in response only moments later. I feel the smirk take my lips as understanding washes over me. This is no natural storm.
Another strike of lightning hits above my head, inches from lighting my dark hair aflame. I let out a heart felt, heavy laugh and rise, wounds be damned.
The agony that licks up my abdomen is welcome. I allow it to flow through these heavy bones and relish while they lighten as they turn to ash with the torment.
“Come on, strike me! I dare you!”
Those blackened clouds grow darker yet, shaking with rage, pouring out icy rain to drench me. I open my arms wide, feeling my wounds tug and crack open their dried crusted blood. The water washing away scabbing and black sludge as it drops from the wounds in heavy slops.
Beneath my feet, a jolt begins to travel up the right leg, but I have taken three strides left before the lightning reaches its destination. Black smoke rises from the desert sand where my foot prints are being washed away.
“You’re faster than this! Hit me!”
Again, the earth gives away the strike and I move to the side, mocking laughter singing from my aching lungs. The rain has become a grey wall, too thick to see through, biting at my skin with its easily sparked anger. Faster and faster, the strikes come, each time failing and earning more ridicule.
Finally, the fun is over, and I must act. My lips tip down as I become still within the strikes blasting at all sides and trapping me in a circle of electricity. This time, it was mocking me. Daring me instead to move, knowing I will die.
But there is someone waiting for me.
“My turn,” I whisper, shooting my hand to the side.
My fingers curl around one of the bolts. It slices my palm, burning and melting the skin that tightens harshly around its struggling, deadly force. Moss eyes narrow on the horizon I cannot see through this rain, feeling in my chest where to aim. Finally, with a rare grin taking my mouth, I throw the bolt up into the heavens.
Smoke rises from my hand.
The rain slowly dies down, begging forgiveness and seeking out shelter inside my wounds. There is no more lightning. Above, the clouds cower, limping away with a trail of blood in the sparkling sky.
I relish the sight of my faithful moon. She smiles down on me, allowing her light to wash away the remains of the gaping slashes across my chest. Warmth sings within my veins while my fingers tingle pleasantly with electric energy.
“I know we aren’t done,” I shout into the silent desert. “Who’s next? Let’s get a move on, shall we?”
On cue, someone flips a switch and I am now on a long, stone bridge with the sun’s blazing heat pooling on my back. Before me, there are clear fields a hundred yards ahead where the stone ends. Behind, there is nothing but an endless extension of stone as far as the eye can see. Below is a raging fire licking at the walls of its blackened pit.
The fire is rising.
“It’s been a long time since you’ve had the guts to come against me,” I muse aloud.
In response, the brilliant orange begins to flash with shards of blue and white, laughing at me.
“You were always my favorite, you know. You could laugh at just about anything.”
By now, the flames are a foot away from the bottom of the stones beneath my feet. I can feel the warmth spilling upwards and allow it to pull my lips up as well. This is the easiest puzzle; my friend from birth rising high to greet me like it will devour me. I had forgotten the joy I’d shared with this one, and wonder absently if this is why it has chosen to try its hand at dominance.
“But you can’t harm me, my dear old friend. You don’t have the resolve that I do.”
I lunge for the edge, take in a deep breath, and then I am diving into the flames. The light dims for a moment; confusion.
Crackling skin, a charcoal stench, white hot pain racing across my body. It flickers with harsh teeth and razors skittering over flesh. Iron washes my senses while the blood boils. Blackness greets me again when the tongues eat away my pale eyes. My hand is outstretched, even as the flesh cracks open to the greedy flames.
Here you are, dear friend.
Fingers touch cool water first only moments before the fluid gently catches my charred body in its revitalizing arms. It soothes down dark brown curls atop my head, and flakes rise from unmarred flesh to peak from the surface while I continue to sink. My eyes return to me moments later, smiling into the clear blue lake.
I rise to the surface slowly. The light above cascades across the miniscule waves, breaking into glittering rays that add warmth to cooled skin. The burnt shavings begin to vanish before my eyes. I breathe deep when I break the surface, floating in kind arms that caress my spine with apologies.
“I understand,” I assure the calm.
For that moment, I allow myself rest. My eyes drift shut. I know who will challenge me next.
The chill creeps in, and I let out a heavy breath. I lay on a hard surface, only softened by an inch of fresh snow. Far to the left, I feel those powerful hooves shake the ground under me, and I finally open my eyes. I do not stand, don’t even seek out the oncoming creature.
It doesn’t matter because my mistress is above me, soaking me in the inviting light of her bone dusted bosom. I cast her the barest hint of a smile, even as I curl my fists into the snow to let that biting chill ground me; else I find her dragging me to her surface away from my duty. My seductress. My moon.
The beat of the hooves becomes so strong, the snow dances around me, disturbed and frightened.
“Hush now,” I tell it, rising slowly.
There is no rage here to drown me with lightning and roaring thunder. No friendship rushing to greet me with open flames hungry to swallow me whole.
Only the horse built of stone racing to trample me with cruel indifference. I am meaningless. Neither an enemy nor an acquaintance. Only an obstacle.
The very stone crunching each time its muscles bring its legs one step closer begins to settle into my heart and pull it down. I realize I am tired. I don’t want to control this magnificent creature. It is a truly wild thing; chains only giving it strength to fight harder. It is beautiful in its freedom, I am tired of degrading that.
I only wish to join the moon. It is loyal not out of force, but through its very nature.
But her power is borrowed, where mine must be tamed, and that is what draws her loyalty down to me.
Jolts of pain rush into my knees as the ground beneath violently bucks to resist this creature in vain. I force their cooperation, racing to greet this wild cruelty that will crush me without so much as breaking its stride. Arms stretch out wide as if they can catch the attention of a rushing mountain with eyes level with the stars.
I breathe long and slow, the distance closing quickly, barely catching the rolling earth underfoot. I am propelled by air alone at times and it is so close that its frozen flesh begins to choke off my breath.
Its great head turns with the grumbling of grating boulders, attention falling on the roach that dares to approach. The momentum begins to slow as its body reacts to the strain in its neck.
The poor thing shouldn’t have graced me with its gaze at all. It could have done away with me easily.
Though powerful, horses are still skittish and curious creatures. They are also wise, and this one will not forget my face no matter the years that pass between each of these meetings.
Its mouth opens to let out its hollow cry, ugly and scratching at the surface of that rock tongue. I reach out to curl my fingers into its leg, crumbling granite beneath them like sand.
It rears high, kicking its front legs up into the heavens where I cannot breathe, but I am already clutching at its knee and throwing my weight into each handhold I force into its hardened flesh. I join its roaring whinny with a whooping shout, traversing over the curve of a muscular shoulder and then I am on its back, digging my fingers deep into the base of its whither. I’m still screaming with it, relishing the familiar cold slicing into my palms as a pale green light begins to rise through the stone. It circles the neck, racing across my palms like a silken bandage to the fresh wounds bleeding coal across grey.
Together, our voices shatter the night sky.
Its shards fall around us, slicing into my skin and skipping off the beast beneath me. Pale white scars mar the stone. It breathes out heavily, standing still, impatiently while it waits.
Black settles around us, my blood spilling into it and splashing my steed who stomps her foot to the earth far below, shooting a crack open to eat up all the sparkling, broken pieces. My mistress reaches out to me as she falls into the unforgiving cavern. In return, I watch her with smiling eyes while I lean into the neck of my mare, pressing my lips to her cold flesh.
“Fly,” I command, forgetting the weak, broken moon while my darling shakes in excitement.
And she obeys.
The blackness lifts with her footfalls and as it does, my living eyes open in a body that is vibrating with her power.
To my left is a room in broken shambles; pieces of furniture smashed and splintered, shards of glass across a marred tiled floor, and articles of clothing spilling from a dishevelled dresser.
To my right sits a man with red stained, wretchedly pained eyes; one dark with sorrow slicing the back of its brown depths, its mate glowing vibrant with stirring awe deep inside the ice.
“I thought you were gone,” he whispers horridly in that familiar baritone, tumbling deep into my chest where the mare still races and the fires excitedly rise and the storm rages on.
“You should know better than to think you can be rid of me that easily.”