All Monsters Are Men

Friday, May 24, 2013 K.Z. Freeman 0 Comments

I can still see the glistening crimson on the fields of white. The sight of it sends shivers down my spine like the cold never could. I've managed to quell the bleeding, but my pursuer had gotten the whiff of me and will eventually find me. I can hear footsteps crunching the snow, but I don’t look back, tighten the hood around my head and, against the gale, press on.
The cityscape ahead stands dotted with fires. Tall spires burn and collapse like slumping glaciers, their muffled and distant noises shaking reality with sense-impacts. 
I began hallucinating yesterday, after passing a few smaller towns where news of something coming out from below the cities reached me for the second time. What it is that had come out no one could tell me. 
They used to say all monsters are men, but what they supposedly found below the streets of Boston was quite different than a man. I kept running since I first saw it on TV --  ran to a different, new city. They are all the same, I am told, and the countryside between them no better.

Back in one of the towns, an old man, bent with age and grey-haired, had offered me to stay the night – told me a few things, right before the old bastard stabbed me while I slept.
Before that, he took me in with a smile. “Only the wind knows their name,” the old man had croaked and stirred the pot again, “but even it is a liar.”
I had no idea whose “name” the old gizzer had been talking about. The fireplace we had sat in front of burned dimly, the black pot simmering a liquid which didn’t smell edible. Needless to say, I began to doubt my decision to stay the night almost instantly after setting foot within the man’s house. “It would whisper it to me,” the old chap had added. “It jabbers and shouts names like curses around me, none of which feel right.”
“The wind speaks to you?” I had asked.
“It speaks to all who are willing to listen.”
“And those not willing?”
“It curses them,” the old man spat. “Like it has cursed this world.”
It made me wonder. Insanity seemed in short supply these days.
The cold began to bite then, even through the windows closed shut. I managed to ignore it while my imagination spilled. I tried to envisage a world where the wind speaks, but could not imagine such a world, until I realized we now apparently lived in it.
That night, the foul things came to me in my dreams. I didn’t know why, but I wanted to see them again. I wanted to see them simply because I had to make sure that such things truly existed in a rational, logical universe obeying physical laws and where the Earth revolved around the Sun. In my dream, the world kept braking around me as I walked, hooded and cloaked. Cracks boiled upon the surface. The population fought an unseen foe stalking the shadows. Fissures opened and closed. People fell into the cracks where the earth devoured them and their screams. Yet just as the thing I wished to see was about to turn its head to reveal a face, I felt something hot pressing against my kidney.
I had lurched up to find I had been shanked. The old man held the glittering blade still, now ready for a downward stab. It would appear the first cut had been for the feel of it, for sport. The bastard had seen blood then, and his eyes held a thirst in their glint, scared me enough to make me forget about the pain. I managed to push the man aside and ran like hell.

I kept running since, not daring to go to sleep for what felt like a week.

It is becoming harder and harder to believe it’s the old man who still chases me. But who else? It is definitely someone. I can feel it. I can hear it. Paranoia is a factor, no doubt about that. But also fear. I figure getting stabbed would do that to you. Having eaten nothing but snow for a week couldn't help either.
My legs feel stiff as they pound the snow and getting to the city before me slowly begins to feel like a task equal to grappling the sun. I rub frost from my eyelashes and think about lying down for a bit.
Just for a bit, I think as I stop. I look behind. Nothing. Sitting down I take a few breaths, before someone tries to kill me again. The cold most definitely has a way of bludgeoning a man down to his true self, and thanks to the muted shots I had just heard, my true self is a state of being scared shitless. I stumble at first, but manage to get back on my feet. After a few wobbled paces, however, I fall on my face. Snow crunches in my ears. The white feels like shards of glass and what little courage I had managed to keep while running, dissipates instantly. I crawl over the snow.
A pang in my leg, then another, then a cackle behind me. Twisting my body, I manage to face my pursuer. The old man is nowhere to be seen. I blink, convinced that what I am seeing couldn't possibly exist. The eyes of a spectre look down on me. Its gaze is ice, its silhouette as unsubstantial as the wind around it, throwing its shape about with its gusts.
“Where is the key?” the creature demands, its voice hissing, burning in my mind.
The wind picks up. “What!?” I scream back.
“Where. Is. The. Key,” the thing repeats.
I try to crawl further, knowing it wouldn't help even as I keep at it. I don’t look at my leg, fearing what the creature might have done to it.
Those couldn't have been gunshots, I realize, the thing doesn't even have hands! Tears freeze in my eyes, my breathing is quick and in tune to the pounding in my ears. Still I crawl, still the creature keeps repeating the same question. I curse under my breath, I had gotten so close. I couldn't be more than a few hours from the city’s outskirts. And then it hit me, a realization I dread more than anything I have ever known.
I will die here.
But I suppose fate isn’t done torturing me. It had sunk its talons into his flesh and spilled my blood – gotten the taste of me. And oh how it seemed to suit the bitch. My curses mix with sobs as I understand the pain I feel shooting up my leg and into my spine is something I’ll have to endure for a while still.
What key could it be refereeing to?
There’s something not right with the scene around me. The snow below me begins to feel harder than it should be, the air stills and smells stale and old. I feel the wound on my side and grab hold of my leg. My fingers feel sticky, but do not come back warm or smell of blood. I look back at my pursuer still asking the same question over and over. I look at the city, the towers I had seen collapse once again standing whole and distant.
“What key?” I finally ask.
The thing without legs stops and looks at me as though my question isn't even logical or something it can comprehend. It doesn't blink, it doesn't answer and when I look at it again, I notice it change. Its yellow eyes blink for the first time.
I am missing something vital. I feel the effect of a thing deep in my marrow subsiding and my sight drawing real. It paints reality into a new form like a theatre curtain dividing. Gone is the wind and its razor-sharp touch on my wind-chafed face. Gone is the cold snow beneath me, although what replaces is it just as cold and ten times as hard and unforgiving. A sepulchral gloom surrounds me and I realize there isn’t a spectre staring down on me, but two men. Men in white, broad-shouldered and thick-fingered with shadow-cast faces. They stand backlit and terrible, silhouetted by the glare from behind – a sickly light streaming from an open door.
Their faces become no clearer as their footfall passes nearer. The regiments of the dead howl their terrible litany in my mind in a remnant of my delirium. The two men know I see them for what they truly are as I realize that, truly, all monsters are men, or they have once been men. Gristle-faced and lipless, they crouch down and my eyes adjust to the darkness. I see a faint glimmer in their eyes. Invisible smoke fills the cell with its sterile stench.
“Where did you hide the key, huh? Where, you insane bastard,” one says. I feel his hot stinking breath on my cheek.
 My ears, lagging behind my other senses, pick up on the insane ramblings of lunatics and the crazed within neighbouring cells. Within the asylum where all monsters are set in their cages and pacified by unseen agents in their bloodstream. A painful moment of recollection shatters my mind and once again fills me with the knowledge that I am the monster, not the two men standing before me. I swallow a thick glob of my own madness, but crack a smile when I remember what they want.
“If you want it, you’ll have to cut me up, pig.”
“We’ll just wait instead,” says the other as they walk out of my cell and slam the door shut, leaving me with something I dread to be left with the most – my own demented mind.

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