In honor of this joyous holiday, I bring you a bonus flash fiction!
I call it:
The city of Inferno was created to keep the darkness out.
But that is the problem with walls, with domes; it has a tendency to keep things in.
Even during its inception, the question had been asked. Is a secluded society in the middle of the desert, a paradise, or a prison? Then later, the question fell to a much more important one, the question of what happens, in an inescapable city, when the darkness manages to enter?
A bulb explodes, and glass rains down. But she keeps running. She has too; the space behind her is gone. The wall is in front of her, but she runs towards it all the same. Escaping was impossible; she knew that all too well. The screams of her daughter were a testament to that. Her little girl was faster, healthier, and had started running first. She should be alive, not her. But survival is a dark thing; a tainted thing. She had done it to survive, that was the end of it. Yet, she still cried, the tears stinging against the cuts on her face. Guilt stained her cheeks, running her makeup, spilling on the street.
Her crimes were not numerous, it was a singular act. It defined her however, and if she lived it would haunt her ’til she no longer did. A single sentence hung over her head. She could almost see the letters hovering for anyone nearby to see.
She tripped her daughter
She was a dichotomy, her mind wanted to stop. To die for what she had done. But her legs had other plans. She ran now, only because she had no other choice.
Even that was taken from her. The wall loomed, and she slammed into it. Her nose gave a soft pop, and blood pooled out, diluted by tears. She spun to face her killer. To look it in the eye, but that was a wasted effort. It did not have eyes. It did not have a sneering face. It was not taunting her with words, or spatting out curses. It was simply inkiness on the ground. Rising up like a gas, and licking at the surfaces of what it touched.
It was acid; it was pain, suffering, and nightmares. It was an ocean without liquid, inches away from lapping at her heels. A meter wide, and capable of movement; it tested its limits. Like a dog taking a furtive sniff, it poked at the front of her shoe. Tasting the leather, and ripping it away. Exposing her toes to the cold, and the wetness of it; its churning pus skin.
She shivered involuntarily, and tried to make herself small. Pull back from it. It was the first dip of a pool, and if she was going to be swallowed, she preferred it to be whole.
The darkness seemed to comply, and rose up. The thickness of it increased, and it almost resembled a figure. A hooded figure, with hands reaching out, to pull her into an embrace, an endlessly short fiery embrace. She hugged herself, and looked away. Staring at the side of the wall, she looked at the vibrant propaganda that covered it.
“Inferno, The City of Salvation” it mocked her.
When death did not splash against her flesh, she looked back. The hooded husk was not moving; just standing, staring at her without eyes. It moved back and inch, and then another. The top, the part she imagined was a head, turned back to look at a further part of its mass. It gave a nod, and retreated slightly.
She looked over its shoulder, watching something rise inside of it. A few attempts to escape were made, but tendrils rose with the dart of her head, and she was reduced to simply standing and waiting.
A second construct had formed, and like a rat underneath a blanket, the lump flowed towards her. Moving slowly but deliberately it stopped in front of her. The old figure backing up, melting into the mass, and flowing away.
She held her breath
Like a curtain parting; like a baby breaching during birth, the head emerged. A pale white surface, full of micro cracks, and long lines, pushed itself out. It only stood at her waist level, and looked up at her. Empty sockets and chattering teeth met her gaze, and she shied away. A skull emerged, permanently grinning, followed by a skeleton. Its figure defying gravity, held up on nothing but the memory of what it had been.
Despite the lack of lips, it formed words. A chattering rasp, that became understandable as its hands rose up. It outstretched it, fingers splayed.
“We forgive you” it said. Shaking its hand for emphasize and beckoning towards it with its head, waiting for her to grab hold.
She simply cried. Dropping to her knees, and pouring guilt out from her soul.
“I forgive you Mommy” it continued, teeth clicking against each other.
“Just take our hand, my hand.”
The arm was not stable, was not calm. It shook back and forth, the fingers making a fist every time it was near contact. But it eventually held it, wrapped its fingers around it, strong finally, as the darkness crashed down on her.
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