Words: 1470; Read time: 5-7 min.
In the Flesh
He woke and saw for himself a different place than any he’d ever known. Knew it not to be of the world he’d known before but recognized it to be the world he now had. For the rest of time.
The horror mounted with each sweep of his gaze. First, just the abounding darkness, its cold yawn before him. The organic travel of fluids circulating in this place, near and far and though out of sight not to be ignored. And when his eyes began to acclimatize to this darkness the gruesome detail of it came out in whole. The rage and brutality of this place. The horrific beauty not seen as such. Each and every wall surrounding him carpeted in flesh, collapsing and rebounding beneath his feet as he stepped back away from it all. He soon stood with his back pressed against a flesh draped wall. Blood seeped out from all manner of pore and came down from the flesh lined ceiling and fell upon his bare skin and in return sunk into him. A row of vertical spats made from bone and muscle enclosed him in this little prison.
A figure stood just on the other side of the spats. A shadow with bone-white features. A wide smile. A watchful eye. The keeper of this place.
He stood there pressed against the wall and continued to wipe at the blood spattering down upon him. His face now nearly its color. Satisfied with its guest, the figure started down the darkened hall and hummed a somber little tune. A tune which may have comforted in a world of compassion and love but not so here. Into the black faraway did that jingle go until all rumor of it diminished. The pattering of cascading blood all there was left to hear.
After a time of standing against the wall with not much real thought he slouched to the ground. Drenched in so much blood that no matter how much he tried he could not blot it away. Condemned to sit there and wallow in it and let it become his own. He thought of the last memories he could recall but none came. His mind now a blank space, dark and ambiguous as the fleshed prison ensconcing him. All he knew was that he wanted out. That he was held within this place against his will.
He glanced around the darkness and when he was certain the figure was not near he began to crawl toward the spats. Blood squishing and welling up beneath each fall of palm and knee. Fear his commander. Nearly two thirds of the way across the room he discontinued his slow passage. Just beyond the spats, in the opposite room, there hung the vague form of something of mystery and beauty. Of horror. He could hear it now too. A gentle and consistent thrum. He stared at it and watched the force of its movements. The miracle of it. And in this he saw all the horrors of the world and knew them to pale in comparison to his own.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” came a voice from the hall.
He pulled his eyes from the room and looked down the hall. The figure stood amongst its darkness, shrouded and unseen. “That?” he said, pointing to the next room, voice quivering.
“No,” said the figure, “this.” The figure emerged from the shadows only just, arms outstretched. Face still covered if there was a face or man there at all.
“Here?” he asked.
The floating head nodded. “Yes.”
“Please,” he said, “just let me go. I just want out. I want to go back home.”
“Home? Where is home?”
He paused and thought and then bowed his head and shook it side to side.
“You don’t know?”
“I…I can’t remember.”
“Maybe you never wanted to remember. Maybe that is why you are here.”
“Please, let me go. I don’t want to be here anymore.”
“But this is where you have always been.”
“That’s not true,” he said. “Can’t be true.” He no longer sat looking at the ground but at the room across the hall, at the thing fused into its walls, still alive but dying with each moment gone. Someday to forever stop and go into the long quiet. And what life would this quiet have.
“This is your home. Always was. Always will be.” The shadow returned there and started down the path again, humming the same tune of comfort which inspired none.
“No!” he shouted. Again and again and again. He then scrambled to the spats and grabbed hold of the muscle and bone and yelled and yelled for help and mercy but none came and somehow he knew none would ever. But still he pleaded for a life that would be wasted otherwise.
As he continued to yell, hands circling the bone, pulling back and forth, the shadows in the hall began to twist and churn. Agitating. And in the next instance the darkness gathered into something solid and illusory. He watched this happen with evident horror and though he knew what would come next this knowledge provided no comfort. The shadows drew back and the figure loomed before him, veiled face but a few inches from his own. Skin white as death, heavy shadows resting atop its every shape. Face a proliferation of brutalities, undone beyond repair. Eyes deep and dark as chasms to hell and staring him the eye. The sound of nothing permeated the air in a sort of silent cacophony and like too his mind.
The figure’s presence was powerful beyond limit, and against his will was he being repelled from the spats, his broken body sliding across the floor under the influence of a thing which issued a threat that need not be uttered.
When he came to a stop, the sounds returned in a sudden onslaught, violent and all at once, as though the world had paused and shuddered back to life. Everything returning with the force of something which had seized. The thrum from across the hall came louder and louder. Blood fell in torrents.
And still the figure stood there, peering into him. It offered no words, only the mortal threat that accompanied its silence.
He took another step away from the spats and lowered onto the ground, eyes still locked on it out of fear of where it may go should he lose sight of it. The shadow turned and started down the hall once more, the same tune on its lips.
The blood never stopped pouring from the flesh. Nothing to do but sit there and let it dump on him, but still he tried to wipe it away and still he could not free himself of it. No way to get comfortable with it being on his skin, sinking into every pore and crevice. Day after day after day. And each day the shadow would come and talk, and each day the conversation went the same. The same pleas for release. The same answer that this was his new home. Better to accept it and move on than fight it. It was a fine home. There were people with worse.
The time came when his would no longer be. Body broken and emaciated and drenched in the blood he still sought to wipe clean.
“Please,” he said, hope of release long since departed, “please let me go.”
“This is your home,” the shadow said. “It’s been a good home, has it not?”
He sat there on the floor and stared ahead into the room across. The thrum less persistent, dwindling as himself. Flesh of the floors and walls aged and dying. Bone and muscle spats brittle and weak. Near crumbling away altogether. The prison had been this way for a long time. A place now easy to escape from.
The fearful and the weak all who could be held prisoner here.
“No.” The breath each word came upon carried just enough to be heard. These dying breaths. “This has been a hell.”
“Only because you wanted it to be. This is your home. Best to accept it. You could have saved yourself a lot of torment and grief if only you’d accepted it.”
“It’s my own hell. Always was.” He paused and stared at the floor. “Why…why did you put me in this place?”
These were his last words.
He then fell backwards into the flesh and blood, eyes fixed on the above. Sunk into the flesh lined floor and watched with his passing eyes the red torrent continue fall.
And then there was only darkness.
“This is the end, I’m afraid,” said the shadow. “You did this to yourself. You only had to accept that this was your home and you would have been free.”