4.9.14: Home of the Damned
There is something wrong with today.
I can feel it, the stirring of the calm, the distress of the norm. I feel it the same way I feel the sun dip into darkness when I close my eyes. Tilly calls it insight. I call it survival.
My hands flex around the bitter cold of my blade, pressing into the warm familiarity of the rust.
I rise from my mat silently, soaking in the fragrant rhythms of the outside. The almost mystical twinkle of the snow dropping to the ground, the omnipresent wind rattling abandoned scraps of metal, the sweet quiet of solitude. And then the sharp thud of an irregularity.
I pad silently to the grimy window of the truck that I’ve made my dwelling. Fresh tracks wind in aimless circles through the maze of rusted cars, about twenty-three feet away. Too close.
The tracks are light, delicate even. Too small to be a wolf.
An instinctive smile reaches my lips. A Person.
There isn’t something wrong with today, there is something “over-right” as Tilly would say. Today is a gift and I must prepare myself before partaking. I unwrap the parcel tucked into my boot; the rich pink of last week’s meal warms my frozen hands. It tastes like blood. I say this to Tilly and she becomes eager for a taste.
Tilly is silly like that; she loves the taste of blood.
I wrap the rest of the meat and place it back into my boot. I can’t bear to stay any longer, not when a Person is outside. Tilly must come with me, of course. I just do hope she isn’t as loud as last time.
The snow is fresh, save for the visitor’s tracks, as I step outside. The air is crisp, thick with decay – and the clouds gloom an ever present blackness.
“Come out, come out,” I whisper, and the hoarseness of my voice is fed to the roaring of the wind. I need not search. No, they’ll come to me - they always do.
It comes from behind my truck. Not able to repress my excitement any longer, I leap towards the noise- and there he is. A Person.
Taller than most, with bones rippling his yellowing skin viciously, gray eyes long since dead, a voice less significant than the flap of a birds wing. Upon seeing me, his face changes.
Hope, Tilly says. He is hopeful now. She says it’s because he’s found another Person. All is right. All will be well. He is not alone. We are not alone.
He reaches out a shaking, tattered arm. A smile begins to play across his terrible face.
“Thank you, God,” he cries, and he falls to his bloody knees and extends his arms to the thick blackness above.
“I thought I was the last one,” he says, dead eyes staring at me hungrily. Tilly is getting antsy.
And he keeps staring, that hope turning into something stronger – disbelief, maybe.
But for him, all is not right. All will not be well. He is alone.
And as I guide Tilly to him, I tell her it’s time. She may do her job. It’s time.
And that disbelief turns into fear, raging fear, a fear so primitive, a fear so prevalent, again I scream at Tilly to stop – but oh, there is no stopping Tilly, not once she is ready. And he stammers and screams but his voice is fed to the wind, and Tilly releases an earth-shattering scream from somewhere deep, deep inside her and the man echoes it.
The scream and the echo are fed to the wind.
Red blossoms through his yellowing skin.
We will argue all through the day. I will tell her I wanted to hear the man’s last words and she’ll tell me I’m not like them. I’m not a Person. I wanted to see him bleed.
She tells me she’s wiser than me. She knows me better.
“How do you know me better than I know myself?” I ask. She doesn’t respond.
We return to the familiarity of the truck. The window is vaguely reflective, I realized it long ago but I didn’t tell Tilly, I didn’t tell her that my skin appeared just as yellow as the People.
My eyes were just as dead as the People. Feeling brave, I continue to inquire.
“For not being a Person, I sure do look like one,” I say.
Tilly doesn’t like that, I can tell.
I sit on my mat and await her response.
He thought he was the last one, Tilly says finally.
“He certainly is not. I am the last one, this is my home,” I say.
Is that so?, Tilly says, For many people mistake their homes for their graves.
And she’s staring at me with hollow black eyes. The way I’ve seen her stare at hundreds, thousands of People. And I begin to fear. Just like the People, I begin to fear.
She shrieks, the loudest I’ve ever heard her.
She clatters to the ground as I collapse.
For not being a Person, I sure do bleed like one.