The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

(Chapter I)

Posted by Matt on January 5, 2011

Prologue

Aia panicked. It felt like her chest could burst at any minute. She wanted to do something other than shake uncontrollably, but dared not, fearing she might be seen, or otherwise make things worse. Over and over again she went over the series of events that led to this moment, trying to desperately figure out where it all went wrong, as if that would allow her to come to the best solution to this problem.

She had stayed late that night at the print shop to finish a few leftover tasks and get everything organized for the next day. She had already maxed out her overtime that week, but she didn’t care; she just wanted to finish her work for the day. When she was finished and looked at the time, she was startled by how late it really was. She punched out and quickly scuttled back home, not wanting to keep Pearl all alone for much longer. She decided to take a shortcut through some of the darker midways, which she usually avoided but hastily decided to use in her mad rush back home. The street lamps down these corridors had burnt out who knows how long ago, and since these dank corridors were used mainly by the homeless and the insane, no one really demanded they be replaced. This, of course, made their reputation even worse, but Aia chose to overlook that this time.

As she passed the dusty abandoned stands, their signs and colours faded to a dull grey-brown and their windows shuttered, she saw only one vagrant, which was a relief to her. He sat with his back against one of the stands, hunkered down with his face sagging downward between his knees, apparently asleep. As she passed by, he looked up at her, which she caught out of the corner of her eye. He had a yellow complexion, hairless, with slit-like nostrils and small eyes. Although he appeared to look at her, she saw that his eyes darted the length of the midway. She started to move slightly faster.

“Spare change?” he asked.

Aia said nothing and kept moving. She had interacted with some of the homeless population of the park before, usually when some congregate on the catwalk near the shop and the manager asks her to shoo them away. She, like most of the people of the park, have learned to simply look the other way. She was always under the impression that their situation was never particularly dire, as unlike the abandoned stands where they usually stayed, they never looked particularly destitute; they had the same clean, healthy appearance as everyone else. But the way they looked at you, the way they never seemed focused, they way they exaggerate every facial movement, every breath…these things often made her uncomfortable. She tried not to think about it very often.

As she continued to scamper down the darkened strip, she heard a sudden, painful gasp. She quickly jerked her head and saw the vagrant, now sitting upright, clutching his chest. His face was contorted, his eyes as wide as they could possibly be, his teeth clenched. Worse yet, his face was still turned to her, as if he wanted to aim his death mask straight at her, punishment for her silent refusal to give him change. It was maybe the worst thing she had ever seen. Without any further sounds, he slumped forward, and then fell slightly on his side.

Aia had no idea what to do. Should she call medical services? Should she just run the other way and hope he’s found by the street cleaners the next morning? She decided, maybe against her better judgement, to see if he was really dead. She cautiously crept forward and looked over the man from all angles. No sign of breathing, no sign of movement of any kind. He was dead, there was no arguing that. She may not have been the best judge of death in the world (she tried to avoid it as much as she tried to avoid the homeless), but she knew that he was most certainly dead. With that established, she tried to think of what to do next. She conceded to herself that it would probably best just to get home as fast as possible and try to shake the experience off, but there was a little nagging voice at the back of her mind that said she should do something for him, call someone, anyone; that would be the right thing to do.

Then the pangs started again. Always at the most inopportune times.

Aia had lived her entire life with surging pains in her gut, having no idea what was causing it. It was like a dry, lingering hunger that started out as small bursts of pain, but would eventually feel like her insides were warping back and forth for what felt like ages. Eating some tablets or starchy cakes would alleviate this hunger for a while, but it would always return. Aia had learned to live with it over the years, and never told anyone about the extent of the pain she suffered; she didn’t want to be a bother, or worse, a whiner. She had to take the responsibility for the situation, and she certainly couldn’t risk losing time at work. So she sucked it up, and when it got to the level where it was quite visible to everyone else, she just said it was something minor, something that came and went, it was no big deal.

She stood erect, her arms wrapped around her torso, tears streaming from her eyes. “Why now?”, she thought. She was still able to maintain a surprising level of silence, however; as much as the pangs hurt, her fear of being found next to a dead homeless man was far worse. She lifted her head again, and through the blurriness, she saw the body again. She stood there for a moment, shaking, thinking of nothing other than the pain, and then reeled back. She had the most horrid thought. She could almost feel herself turn a ghastly pale. No no no no no why would you think that why would you think that. She wanted to run now more than ever, but she was anchored to the spot, shaking shaking shaking for so many reasons now she could barely remember them all. The pain, the panic, the horror intermingled. She couldn’t think straight anymore. She wanted it to end. At the very least, she wanted something, anything, to happen. Unfortunately, something did happen.

Blink of an eye. In her stupor, she dashed toward the body. “I didn’t know what I was doing I had no control,” she would think to herself. When she regained full awareness, she was staring at the concrete. The pain was dulled; but there was no relief in that. That only made things worse. She was scared to look up, but eventually overcame it for a brief moment. She saw herself laying next to the body. She scanned it again and again. Then she saw it: a bite mark in the middle of his arm. Her mind was racing. No no no no no no no.

She moved back as quickly as she could, tripping along the way. She had the wind knocked out of her, but quickly regained whatever composure she had left. She started spitting, trying to get the taste, the evidence, out of her. How, why? What should I do? She was desperate to get out of there, to get home, to get far far away from this. But she was frozen with horror. She was overcome with the unanswerable question of the moment: why? Why why why why would you do this you monster you freak they will find out what you did you’ll get it. What if someone comes around here, she thought. What if they saw you? What would the people who came by the next day think? How could you hide this? She lay in a crumpled heap, feeling nothing but fear and shame and self-loathing. She had to think of something, but she couldn’t, no matter how hard she tried.

Then came the sound, the sound of feet marching from around the corner of the midway. It was her worst fear: they saw you they’re coming to get you for what you did you monster. Her animal instinct seemed to take over again, and did what her rational brain seemingly couldn’t: take action. She got on her feet, quickly swerved in a full circle, saw a crevice between two stands, and bolted towards it. She shimmied toward the end, and flattened out as much as possible. She heard the marching continue. From the noise, she could tell that there was more than one of them there. Were they security officers? Cleaners? Some people who lived in the area and heard the commotion? It didn’t matter, she concluded. She couldn’t let them see her at all. They would certainly make the connection, and then that would be the end of it.
She heard talking. Many voices cackling, speaking of things she couldn’t make out, not that she really had any reason to want to. They were certainly making a lot of noise; they couldn’t be any professionals, then. It didn’t matter. She couldn’t be seen by anyone. They would know what she did.

The voices suddenly stopped. They started to speak one at a time. Now she could hear what they were saying. They sounded young; boisterous, probably a group for friends, taking a walk. Why here, though? There was no time to ask such questions, however. She must remain hidden. She excised all other thoughts.

“Looks like someone got here before we did” one of them said. This was already going wrong, she thought. Please don’t find me please don’t find me please don’t find me.

“Hey, come out, come out, come out!” the voice shouted, “Who took a bite out of this leech? You still here?”

She was breathing heavily, but tried to silence it. She couldn’t give herself away. She had to wait until they left. She closed her eyes, hoping they would give up, leave, and let her get away.

“Shut up!” another voice yelled “Who cares? Just get this thing out of her before someone hears us and gets suspicious. I’m not do the work to get you idiots out of another jam because of stupid moves like that! Grab ’em and get moving!”
She heard them shuffling, doing a number of different things that she didn’t have the mind to decipher, and then heard them quickly tramp off. She waited for many an excruciating minute, procrastinating the moment when she would peek out and see if they were still there. She had to be careful. There was silence. Eventually, she sighed and slowly crawled toward the entrance of the crevice. When she got there, she looked out as far as she could see. Nothing. She moved out further slowly, slowly, every new step followed by another scan of the area. Each one brought more and more nothing. She was eventually able to move her head out of the hole and looked out onto the entire midway. No one was there. The body was gone. She closed her eyes and leaped out. She looked around one more time, only to see the same nothing from before, and then ran towards her destination, not looking back.

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5 Responses to “(Chapter I)”

  1. […] All-Star Superman > We3 > Seaguy > Doom Patrol = New Adventures of Hitler = Animal Man > Arkham Asylum = Batman: Gothic > JLA 23 hours ago « (Chapter I) […]

  2. […] Chapter I Chapter […]

  3. […] Chapter I Chapter II Chapter […]

  4. […] Chapter I Chapter II Chapter III Chapter […]

  5. […] Chapter I Chapter II Chapter III Chapter IV Chapter […]

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