In honor of Halloween week, I offer this short tale. Let me warn you that some may find it frightening or unnerving. Although there is nothing in it that has to do with Kindles, I’m justifying its inclusion in the blog because it is part of the “world of e-books”. Feel free to leave me a comment to let me know what you think, and if you would like to read more fiction like this in I Love My Kindle.
Wings, Water, and Woe
The wrong graves had been robbed.
It was a mistake made by men who were now long dead. True, the just consequences of their damnable error had shortened their mortal existence…but even their grand-children, if any, were dust by now.
No one now alive had known them. There was no one to recall the way they had liked their tea, or their bon mots, or the way they smelled…no one alive.
I may not have known all the particulars of their small lives, but I could tell you how each of them behaved when my brothers and I spilled their lifeblood in a scene of horrible bestial carnage. One screamed, one prayed, one begged, one seemed to fall to sleep…and one smiled. I often thought of the last, his rotten teeth bared to the ocean wind. I think if his throat had not already been crushed, he might have laughed.
I admired that. If he had been one of us, I think I might have grown to like him.
But he wasn’t…his very death proved that. As did the deaths of his…friends? family? coworkers?
My brothers and I, we can not die. Much as we might long for it…if that other longing didn’t override all other emotions so often.
It is upon me now. How many nights has it been since we fed? The ocean smells are the same, I think, as then…but decades of monotony has become a fetid blur for me. My senses are as sharp as ever. I hear the satisfaction of the shark, three fathoms deep, as it rips the entrails from its prey. I feel the confusion of the baby dolphin…the helplessness of its mother…the desperation of the rest of its pod as it races to the scene of the tragedy.
They’ll kill the shark. It made a stupid mistake…it deserves to die.
The warm-bloodedness of the dolphins…it sings to me. But it is not my song.
A thousand fish, a sea turtle, even the tiniest creatures add a note to the symphony.
Even living men can sometimes hear the song. It enriches their blood…adds flavor to it. To take a human who is in the very throes of contact with the life forces of the universe…that is glorious.
But those grave-robbers…they couldn’t even feel the emotions of their own kind! Their wretched blood…I couldn’t stomach it. It was cold, cold…not from temperature, but from…isolation. When we burst from the hold, not one looked to another. Their focus was either on us or turned inward…or reaching skyward to the unknown. It was as though they were candles without flames, arranged neatly together…but as if they didn’t exist to each other.
I had to force myself three nights later to gnaw the ship’s deck, to derive what little sustenance I could from the stains. I couldn’t have felt more debased…laying on the wood, feeling the rise and fall of it with the gentle swells, scratching and scraping…the most perfect weapons the world had ever known being used as a lowly rat might.
How I hated that! How I hated them! How I hated myself!
My brothers had, kindly, taken to the air. They had fed when the kills were fresh, and would be sustained for some nights yet. We had not even spoken of what we all knew I must do. They had simply left.
I knew they could not go far. That is the irony, the complication, the curse that resulted from that unforgiveable bungle!
We can not cross water.
None of us knows why. It is just a fact. The ancients spoke of Charon, ferrying the dead across the water…we have no coin with which to pay. We can not cross to the land of the dead…half-way is as far as we can go, then we must return.
I knew my brothers must return to the ship that was to become our world. We are not good fliers…perhaps the sky rejects us as well. They would do their best not to feel my shame…and I could do nothing to control its transit in all directions.
From time to time, that taste returns. It will never fully leave.
Would that I had the strength to stay on deck until the dawn came! I can not…I can not think clearly. The blood-hunger clouds my mind.
Where have we drifted since last night? I know not. I wish this night would end, so I can have the oblivion of my coffin until the next night comes!
“I hear humans, my sister!”
I…what? It is my oldest brother. His senses are the sharpest of us all. Unlike the living, we do not weaken over time…we grow stronger.
My thoughts swim, but my brother’s words come into the sharpest focus, like the touch of moonlight on the thinnest blade of razor-grass.
“Too soon to tell. It could be an island.”
“And little brother?”
“He has gone aloft to get closer. He wants to hear it, too.”
I don’t want to hear it! I want to taste them! I need it! It doesn’t matter to me what or who they are! If I could drag them here…if my will could bring our ships together! My hunger reaches out and out!
One human stirs uneasily. He looks at the clouds as they cross the moon. He feels a chill…I feel his warmth.
Maybe that contact pulls us together. Little brother returns to our prison ship. We drift towards the other and they towards us. Both swept by the same current.
As we get closer, they cry out to our ship. They have seen it. To them it is a lifeless wreck…and it is. There is no life here…only us.
Our sails rotted away decades ago. We did not know how to care for them…and during the day, there was nothing we could do. We had awoken one evening to find our main mast had snapped. Some storm, we assumed, since water covered the decks, but had not reached our coffins in the hold.
Curiousity…empathy…greed…a note of fear from the one I had touched across the waves. We lay in our coffins: how peculiar it is to feel the dirt of home and not sleep! We wait…it drives me nearly frantic! The grappling hooks thunk dully on our hull. They echo, and the fish beneath us jump, startled at the vibration.
I want to throw my cover aside, rush up and drink from the first of them! That one is reaching out…he thinks he may find someone who needs his help. Concern for strangers…one of the sweetest spices!
But I must restrain myself. We must let them all get on the ship! We must make sure none escape! There is no saying how long it may be before we find living men again! And though we can not starve, we can sufffer.
My mind (or is it something deeper) flashes back over other times we have fed! I remember when we tried to keep some prey alive, to have more nights where we did not hunger. Of course, they escaped during the day: we are so vulnerable after a night of satiation! They could have perhaps attacked us, but it was worse.
When we awoke the next night, I could still sense them in the water, out of reach of our fangs, but not of our awareness. Oh, the frustration! Eventually they surrendered to the dark blue embrace…what a waste that was!
So, no more. They will all die tonight…
…and we will envy them.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.