a short story
Gary Baker, July 2013
I know this is mute, and I hate that I have said as much before.
Delicious ecstatic throes of awe drown out all but the remainder of what exists inside, a drilling, pounding surreal glob of what cannot be understood. It sits there, wondering what might be out and about if it could cease and be deceased, always out of reach of those in the vicinity.
See I was running when it came to me, when this bitch of an idea hit me square in the chest like rocket fire from a blaring trumpet of vinyl hell. I staggered like a drunk, suddenly void of air within my lungs, hands reaching for throats that eclipsed my grasping, groping fingers; my nails burned for blood, my eyes yearning for endless red, and my teeth longing for an ever-more violent form of red.
Wind touched my torso like a lover stung by harsh words whilst seeking an answer to my rage.
Lashes bat at the rise of my cheeks. Such a tender notion when I wished for nothing more than to dig my teeth into something, to drive my gated maw into the heat of a bodily organ to sear cartilage from bone, to sever tissue from vein, to savagely rip away the muscle from tendons stretched like rubber bands. The tendons would snap, the meat sluicing off like un-ground and so dearly fresh mechanisms of life, to greasily slap back down against the flat of fatty skin and still-living insulation.
I cannot say what brought this to me, what had caused such a shutter within my core, but the fire reigned like the plague inside where no harm could bring about some quest to undertake the bestial rising. I fell to my knees, clawed hands raking my eyes to draw about the warm sacrifice of blood that was my own. Like hot spokes left to glow in a blower's kiln, my fingers left dark tracks in their wake.
Yet the insanity wouldn’t simply end there; it couldn’t.
It was a wonder my living corpse hadn't yet turned sour, that my very existence hadn't fallen to pieces at the well of a crumbling lie. Everything reverberated, nothing immune to the insanity at play. Everything shone brilliant hues, light refracting from where none should ever be, shadows becoming spotlights in a whole of even greater white and endless heat.
Steam rose from my trembling hands as I stared gapingly at slow-curling fists, white knuckles rinsing into five-pronged crab claws of stone and mercury with all the same energy required to alchemically make this so. But again it didn't end there. My knees bore holes in the sidewalk path, insurmountable flaring kinetic energy roaring through stone and crumbled brick to create magmatic flows rippling outward as I began descending into the very pool my body was generating.
Plumes of burning minerals darkened the skies around me, but the light still shone like nothing a soul should ever come to bear. It felt as though my eyes were rotting from the corneas outward, my irises instantly shuttered to turn me blind whilst the intense white pried with finger-like intent to breach their hold and continue streaking my compromised vision with colors indistinguishable from passing out under breathless seas.
The air thickened, then, forming a solidified muck inhaled with each pressing, panicked intake. My chest heaved as I fought to slow my end if not prevent it altogether. I needed to give paramedics time, time to see me, time to get to me, time to find a way to help and do just that. Yet oxygen itself turned to Bunsen burner-like sights as I tried to force out used air, taking in more with the ease of shoving sail rigging through a common buttonhole.
Then something changed.
I felt it through every piece of my being, every last molecule screaming for an end when suddenly an opening lit itself in the deepest corner of my abdominal cavity. A serene mist surrounded something there, lightening the load of my horror, taking all but the endless light from my numbing body. The pain flowed into this cold ball until nothing was left and the molten sidewalk began to cool.
I still had no idea how I had survived this, though the thought never once passed through my mind in such an empty, terrorized void.
And just like that I felt the pace of the universe lull, an orb reaching out from deep within my core to envelop me and everything still clinging to my bodily form. I watched as the smoke was pressed outward in an opening bubble by an unseen and impenetrable ball of sizzling static energy.
Just as quickly my life ended as I was crushed within the ball as it shrank into sizes impossible to imagine, the pains of my existence nullified as every part of me was sucked into a space the size of an atom from the rough similar of the sun in comparison. Nothing of mine escaped, not a cell avoided this demise, not a soundless thought reached out to grace another as I screamed like a newborn in that instant of an instant as it happened.
Suddenly the light was gone, replaced by unending oblivion. Echoes of movement skittered and shook from here to there, bounding from all sides as though I were listening to the very vibrations of the taught ropes at the core of the string theory hypothesis. And then I heard it: the gritty exhalation of air not hand spans under my chin. My eyes wanted to open, and somehow felt as though they had, but something seemed intent on remaining within pure darkness after so much solidified light having vaporized in my presence.
I could never explain how I was alive, but this was certainly no afterlife, meaning I could not be dead by any relation of the words. Mentally, I couldn’t allow it without breaking down in tears.
Windswept exhalations began to pick up their pace. It almost sounded like... words. Voices. Talking....
I tried to open my mouth, tried to voice my inability to comprehend, but only found rough stitching keeping my lips as sealed as the hull of a steel boat. Nothing, not even saliva could escape my lips, which meant only one thing: I would be forever unable to question out loud, forever unable to grasp at my surroundings with echoes of wonder set in vocal intonation.
As my ears relaxed and grew accustomed to the new reality that I seemed to come into, I began to pick out whole words, mere mumblings, but definitely nothing of any language I had ever heard of.
It was only when I reached out for comprehension that my anger flared and light erupted within my skull. Suddenly raining stars formed phlegm streaks of white, greens, blues, reds, and yellows until all I could see was a cacophony of wondrous, searing pain. The sensation returned anew with more than enough gusto to bring me into an arched back and the instant intake of frozen air.
But it was beautiful.
My world was endless colors, as vivid as a pipe dream after mixing chemicals upon chemicals to create colors I could smell, sights I could taste, and a misty rain of acid across the whole of my tingling body. It was sharp and unreal in how badly I began to babble about getting it to stop, about turning the end after my end into the final rinsing of my soul to end this once again. Death would have me as surely as I would have death, should something out there understand and see what I meant.
But my lips never moved. I was Nemo even in the finality of after effects and physical collapse.
So I fought harder, trying to make sense of the light until by mere concentration alone the light began to coalesce into patterns and the patterns into shapes. Shapes became shadows, shadows regions of topographical sensation like salt lifting about into hexagons and pyramids on bass vibrations under the truth of a vacuum.
I felt energy rise in my body, what still existed of it so far as I could tell. I yanked my jaw down and out, my lips tore to be free from their bondage, while my toes curled and my fingernails dug into the grating of my bed. Solid, cold granite, by the way it textured against my palms and fingertips, by the ways it wore my skin like sandpaper without much effort.
Then a bell tolled through unheard passages of pure, raw sensation, and my eyes jolted open to find they really weren't. I glared through translucent glowing blue eyelids at a ceiling of carved stone and moss, runes etched into the walls to my sides and a crimson pyre not paces from my left arm.
I was on a platform, a nook in a wall, almost like a bed carved from the wall itself with barely enough space to sit up without hitting my head. As I moved to do so, to bring myself into a seated position, I found my arms sewn to the stone as well, black threads weaving straight through bone and flesh into the edged granite beneath.
Two shadows watched in fear between myself and the fire, eyes wide enough to reveal reflections of pale blue light emanating from my own. Seeing this, I dropped back to the platform and stared at the stone above me with impatient gasps. I needed a mirror. Nothing less would suffice, as I couldn't think of ever functioning without knowing what it was I had become. Not without knowing why these men feared me so.
And like that, with my endlessly translucent eyes clenched in concentration, the granite at eye level above me began to shimmer like blue and green glitter. A drop of moist liquid drew outward from the rock and hung there, reflecting my eye light, then began to crawl outward in all directions along the plane of my ceiling like molten mercury consuming disc-like until the granite had literally become a mirror as wide as my shoulders.
Somehow I knew I had done this, that by merely concentrating on it I had made myself a looking glass; having already fallen through one to peer into another post-fall.
The sight of my own form was sickening. My skin seemed to glow an eerie green in the light of crystals set at the base of my bedding, each with their own separate runes carved in as if by hand that very afternoon... if such a thing as time still existed in this new world. My lips had, indeed, been sewn shut, the black thread reaching almost as high as my eyes and as low as my jawbone, with similar seamstress work done along the entire length of my biceps and forearms, and again along my thighs and shins. My eyes were still shut and opaque from the mirror's perspective, and my head shaved completely bald as if by the erosion of time eating away my hair. The weirdest part was how my nostrils seemed drawn inward and suction-cupped to their openings, with the bridge broken and flat almost to the point of near-nonexistence.
And each time I pressed to move, my eyes shone brighter with equal intent.
It took some time to recognize, but I began to piece together that this was something of an accident on their part, that this was intentional, just not for me. Somehow, while attempting to summon forth another most-likely capable soul, they had nabbed mine instead. There wasn't any way to go back, that much was obvious, but the anger raging inside, behind the light glowing in my eyes, tore at me to let this all go. Nothing could stop me, but I could never be the minion of someone with magical abilities using me as a pawn... or worse.
I was a man of science, no longer able to claim magic existed not. It wove my brows into a deep furrow, the world going red in the altering of the light in my eyes. The change came as subtle at best, but in the end I knew what it was that I had to do.
One of the men, one of the summoners, recognized my intent and reached a hand out to stop me only to find a spear of glass suddenly appearing inside his arm in a burst of crimson. And that instinctive act set the stage for my own deviations: I turned my attention to the stone above me with grit teeth and my brow furrowing ever still. The red glow became as deep a crimson as the blood spraying from the screaming summoner's wrist and the granite above me coalesced again into something it was not.
Soon an anvil of solid pig iron and lead began to droop from the stone ceiling until at last it held still, barely kept attached to the granite by a small segment intentionally left unchanged.
I gave myself one last look at the ones who had torn me so clumsily from my normal life, now forever undone. It was their reasoning, a thing I could never be okay with even had I allowed them to explain it, that had shorn my peace like the husk on an ear of corn, so easily removed and forever kept apart. They stared with eyes still wide as fearful newborns in the sight of a deadly starving wolf, trembling in utter fear of lives they seemed sure I was about to reap.
I jolted against my bonds toward them, sending the lesser scrambling hands over heels out passed the fire and through passages I'd never see. The other merely stood frozen in horror, seeming as though he'd gone unconscious without collapsing long ago. Then I dropped back to the stone and flashed my eyes one last, blinding time.
The last of the granite finger suddenly turned to lead and the whole anvil loosed itself from stone.
I found out then that chemists never tell you how much lead tastes like fresh rain.