Title: Shattered Reflection
Author: Pan Pingli
Category: Shadows of Dread, Lost Souls, Sick Puppy
Warnings: Gore, Dark, Death, Blaspheme
Disclaimer: This is an orignal work, and all characters and the particular order of words belong to me, Pan Pingli, as of the year 2000.
Summary: Thinking back to the day of the ultimate betrayal- when I realized the world was not what I had thought existed.
Notes: This was written for my senior creative writing class. After I got my 'A', my friends, family and teachers were all concerned about me. And, by the way, this is in first person, but it's *not me.*
Standing here, on the brink of death, I can almost imagine the time in my youth when life was something precious to me. Something more. Beneath all the dirt, all the tears; the fear and blood. The fear and blood were the worst. The fear so thick you could taste it. So much blood you could smell it. It ran in rivers, coating you, tainting your flesh. Tainting your soul. It didn't matter if it was life-blood. As long as it was hot. As long as it was red. As long as it came at a price.
The bells rang, their melodious clattering breaking through the frigid winter air, signaling the dawn of the day. Almost as if on cue, many doors swished open and muted footsteps bustled throughout the abbey, as they did every morning. Nicholas's shaggy black hair poked out from under his warn blanket. Ever so slowly he stuck his bare legs out and rested them on the icy, hard floor. Shivering, he dressed quickly in heavy wool and his white robe. His beloved white robe. As he crept into the hall he heard the monks singing, the sound of the nun's rosaries sliding against their palms,
and more morning bells in the distance.
After a small, tasteless breakfast, Nicholas went to his daily chores. He straightened the songbooks lining the shelves of the pews. He polished the candlesticks on the altar. He pretended to really polish the candlesticks as he eavesdropped on the hardy, shrewd nuns gossiping in conspiratorial whispers. News from outside the church, from the real world, was hard to come by for Nicholas, who wasn't allowed outside.
But that would change one day.
He listened intently to the news of the sickness sweeping the land. After two days an entire town was completely decimated. A few days later, three towns over, another town suddenly dropped out of communication; out of existence.
This worried Nicholas only slightly. He was safe in the confines of the church and when he was grown, he would venture out into the world, saving all those who needed saving. Even those who didn't.
Father Murphy always said all men needed saving, even if they didn't know it, especially if they didn't want it.
Nicholas swept the cloister floor and carefully dusted the lovely faces of the many Mary statuettes. One of his few opportunities to venture outside the confines of the grey walls of the church was when he shoveled the heavy
snow off the slippery front steps. He took his time, savoring the biting wind weaving between his clothes and as it rushed down his throat, causing his lungs to contract.
He smiled up at the cloudy grey sky and the sun as it struggled to break through the thick canopy of clouds. Sighing, contented, Nicholas turned and went inside.
His eyes struggled to adapt to the darkened interior of the church. He focused on the gilded archways and thin classical gothic windows spilling scant light that reflected off the highly polished marble floor. Once he was able to make out the cheerful faces of cherubs mingling with beautiful maidens and hardy men with tough beards on the ceiling, he removed his heavy coat and returned all his things to their proper places so he could find them again tomorrow. Always, for Nicholas, there was order.
After morning mass Nicholas trudged through the snow in the courtyard. He struggled with the heavy door and entered the dark, musty hallway. In his hand, the daily roster for Father Murphy. Father Murphy always read the daily roster, the same as the last, after morning mass. Always the same as the last, as Nicholas knew it must be.
He neared the ray of artificial light cast from the crack of Father Murphy's open door. Nicholas heard voices, angry voices getting louder and his shadow growing longer as his small hands pushed the door open. An exclamation, and blood spattered Nicholas's open face and white robe. His beloved white robe!
Father Murphy clutched his throat with one hand, deep dark blood gushing from between his fingers and staining his shirt and desk. How perversely he remembered the ruin of Father Murphy's worn mahogany desk. Then the Father held out his other hand beseechingly.
A whisper barely heard and Father Murphy collapsed to the floor, the only movement the steadily spreading puddle of blood around his head. An ocean of black before his white hair, white face, white eyes wide with death.
A dark shadow of a man shifted in the corner, studying Nicholas, frozen in place by fear and betrayal. Brown eyes large as the corpse's, face pale and
drawn with grief.
Father Murphy lay dead in his office.
That couldn't be. It shouldn't, it couldn't, it wasnt! Nicholas's mind screamed and raged at him, but his mind wasn't started into awareness until
the shadow man finished his scrutiny and began advancing.
Nicholas's thin little legs moved on their own, and he flew from the violent scene down the dark hall, into the snow, reentering the safety of the building through a side door. Past the murals, the dusty statues. Past the holy relics of the Virgin praying, looking heavenward with a look of intimate ecstasy. Past the many pews sitting in solid silence on worn red carpet.
He heard the screams now and he saw more shadow men. They were everywhere, covered in blood, shrouded in screams. Darkness, cold, and the taste of fear rose in the back of his throat as bile. All crashed upon him as he collapsed on the altar. Nicholas looked.
Nuns lie strewn about on the faded red carpet made darker by their own blood, their crosses and rosaries held dutifully in their cold grasps. The shadows grew longer, nearer. All sharp angles and dark shades and long ugly teeth.
Not in the church. Not in the house of God. They could not be here; it could not be so. It was simply not allowed. They were uninvited. They spilled pious blood. They stood on sacred ground and slaughtered the holy sheep.
They could not be here.
A gruesome mockery of a face drew within inches of his own. Eyes clouded over with a yellowish film of puss; nose dangling from blackened, rotting flesh; decayed breath curling around blackened, dripping canines. It grinned; leered at him. It struck forward viciously slicing poor little Nicholas's slim throat.
He felt his scream more than heard it; felt it tearing from him with his blood and flesh and hope. He felt his blood flowing from him into the dead shadow man and down his beloved white robe; ruined now like Father Murphy's
desk. A deafening roar rose in his ears and a wave of understanding flooded him; drowned him; and the bile returned.
They weren't supposed to be here. They weren't allowed. But, there they were.
Warm wind rushed past past my hair, brushing against my forehead furrowed in thought and painful memories. It hurts to think about then. It hurts to remember all the horrible sights, the sounds, the smells, the sensations. I tried to clear his mind, find that peaceful stillness I could achieve only when I was young and innocent. But the internal monologue raged on and on, tearing my sanity into shreds and releasing them to the unrelenting wind.
Years of pain and unimaginable grief layered themselves upon the others. The shadow men- things, destroyed life wherever they roamed. No sunlight, no water, no talismans or dearly held and faith supported words or land could stop them. All the comfortable truths were fables; simple stories for simple children.
They lied. They all lied.
The death, the screams, the decay and disease all mingled into something strange and beautiful. What once was horrible to behold became a treasure. The man became the monster. The monster became the dark. The dark grew within, consumed, and only the beast remained. So horribly beautiful, so tragically infinite, so eternally carnal. Nothing was safe from it, them; nothing sacred. As long as the blood flowed, nothing else mattered. The never-ending rivers of deep, dark blood. That costly and coveted thing; that was all that mattered.
The blood clouded the mind. It lie in wait behind your eyes, moving, pushing. Pushing against your logical soul. Making wants and needs for things no God fearing, intelligent creature would possibly seek. But they do not fear God. It is just a word to them that they don't understand. To them, he does not exist.
The time to reminisce is over, and reality returns as it inevitably must. I took one last look at the burnt remains of civilization. My world, my home, my faith, my prison. Living dead bodies dangled from trees, their dumb arms flailing almost comically in the way that a completely brainless thing would try to free itself. They were an unstoppable force, they, that came back after you thought they were gone. With each meaningless slaughter they grew more in number, more in their savagery and the brutal slaughter expanded.
They spread like a virus; an illness; a sexually transmitted disease. And there is no cure. There can never be a cure. I can not save them.
And here I stand. The peak of death. The gateway to oblivion; the crossroad. Likened to ‘Through the Looking Glass’; one step one way takes me back to the blood, back to the dying that never ceases. One step the other way leads to oblivion, the end of the road. The end of the suffering and the blood that I drown in. There is no white rabbit to chase, though, and the choice is final. Like the cruelly wrenched away beliefs, torn mind, and the soul long ago stolen from the loving and logical world by ruthless lies
and thoughtless betrayals intended for cosseting us. It is final.
The end of one is not the end of all. I may leave, but there are others. I abandoned them because there is no cure, no hope. I cannot save them. But there are others. Others to witness as they draw the blood, strike the fear. I cannot save any of them. The beliefs; the necessary tools to save them, me, are like shattered pieces of glass and I can no longer see the whole scene. Shattered glass, in the wake of a powerful and indisputable destruction, that are swept away and forgotten.
I am forgotten.
I can not save them.