The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

(Chapter IX)

Posted by Matt on January 25, 2011

Previously

The first thing Aia did was look up. She wanted to make sure the clouds and the lights and the stars were really there. Might as well. Unfortunately, the sky that day was a dull-looking field of grayness, covered by waves of amorphous cover. Unfortunate. Hopefully the rest could make up for it.

It didn’t. Her first view of the terrestrial part of the outside looked astonishingly like an ugly neglected counterpart to inside. The ground was cracked, eroded asphalt that seemed to go on for miles. Weeds began to fill the cracks, and repulsive piles of rotten trash were scattered about. Little stone islands rose above the black mess, but all of the palm trees that grew out of them were split in two, toppled over, or otherwise destroyed. The only thing of real colour she could make out was a wide field of blue in the distance. She went to the edge of the asphalt to investigate, finding that the park and the surrounding area were elevated, maybe a tad taller than the highest point inside the park. Below, she could see short spurts of sand that were the only thing between the land and the water that reached into the horizon, and crashed into the side of the cliff constantly. The way it rhythmically pounded at the rock face, it was almost like the water was confident it would eventually break it. Some day.

There were three sounds coming from all sides of her new world: the crashing waves of the water, the gusts of wind that blew the garbage from one end of the asphalt to the other, and some strange shrieking cries coming from a group of flying things that circled above. Sometimes one would float down, waddle about in no discernible pattern, and either take to the air again shortly after, or begin to peck the ground. It was small, smaller than any living thing Aia had ever seen, beaked, covered in white and grey plumage. It almost reminded her of that sinister security officer from what seemed like eons ago, except for the eyes. They reminded her more of the homeless people; they never seemed to be looking at anything. It didn’t look like a thing of this world. Actually, scratch that, it only didn’t look like a thing of her world. This world was perfect for it.

She soon grew bored of her new surroundings, and began wandering north, the only part she had yet to examine. She hoped it wasn’t another cliff side. What a strange place it would be, she thought, if it were a single piece of solid land rising out of endless water. Certainly there had to be more. Shouldn’t there?

The three sounds, reliably constant, became her new routine. She took comfort in that. If nothing else, she knew the crashing waves and the flying things making their awful racket and the wind whistling and pushing would be there for her. At least she could have that part of her life back, the comfort of something normal and knowable and predictable.
As she journeyed north, more of the land began to slowly hover above the horizon. She could see the asphalt thin out and extend into a road that snaked downhill, splitting two lines of stands and little box houses, just like the ones she knew from the park. “Did the Poster People make this?”, she thought. Seemed like a reasonable conclusion. She followed along the black trail, peering at the sides to see the buildings; they were in a much worse condition than even the abandoned ones she knew of from home. Not content just to look dusty and underused, some were smashed open, their stone walls crumbled, their windows non-existent, and any exposed wood had become black, damp, and rotting. This must be what rain can do when you aren’t protected by a roof. Or is there something else that helped it along?

It was hard for her travel the road, as it was blanketed with little jagged chunks of rock, toppled lamp posts and debris from the shattered buildings. She slithered crisscross, trying to avoid any permanent damage to her feet. She had lost everything else, so losing her mobility would be a step too far. She deserved to have some things, monster or no.

The sound of the waves ebbed and flowed as she travelled. At first, she seemed to move far away from the water; the sound soon vanished completely, and she immediately began to miss it. The wind and the flying things were nice, but there was something eerie about this new world without the whoosh whoosh whoosh of the endless water in the mix. Something about the way it seemed faded…she assumed there was colour there at some point, but it had long ago been usurped by a grayness even more foreboding than that of the sky at that moment. A death of liveliness. A corpse of what once was, no one there to keep it maintained, to at least keep up a facsimile of being anything other than a broken, hollowed out thing. Eventually, she began to hear the white noise slowly return. She figured she might be getting closer to the water itself by going downhill. She figured it would best to go right to it. Who knows what she would do then. Listen to it up close, she supposed.

All these things seemed to wipe her mind clean. She didn’t think about her old home, about her crimes, or about Pearl. What was the point? They were all gone now. She would never see them again. That life was over. For good. For the good of everyone. No reason to linger on what’s gone. Look at all this new stuff. It’s your life now. The dead world, the flying shriekers, the water, this is all yours now. Might as well make the most of it.

Then the pangs started again. They hurt now more than ever. She didn’t have a reason to ignore them, to will the pain into submission. She cramped up. She had trouble moving further. Maybe she’ll die her and be done with it all right away. Too bad, was really looking forward to seeing the water up close. She toppled over on her side, clutching her stomach and wincing in pain. What is there to eat anyway?

She opened her eyes to see one of the flying things nearby, its black, aimless eyes seemingly on her. It skittered toward her in jerky hops, investigating. She didn’t know what to think about this. So, she didn’t. A pounce. A snap. A burst of feathers. Done.

There was something about this sequence of actions that disturbed her, even more so than her earlier attack on the dead man. For one, this thing was alive, and so the attempt required actual effort on her part. Second, since she had seen her movements on the recording, so she knew exactly what it looked like, unlike before, which was entirely unconscious and unaware. It seemed a random, mindless thing, just a reaction to what was happening in the environment, like the street lights turning on as soon as it got dark. It was more disturbing than something with intent; you could see that happening ahead of time, like the attacker was at least courteous enough to give their victim a chance to get away. Not this. Thing made the mistake of being there, now thing is dead.

She held the thing in her mouth, its head at an impossible angle and its beak pried open, like it was trying to scream. It’s eyes seemed to be about the same to her; they always looked dead, but now she knew they were. She could see splashes of red painted on the white and grey of the thing, as well as on her face. It had a strange metallic scent. She thought it strange; she never saw something like that before. She didn’t know if she should feel bad about this; the thing was alive, wasn’t it? But it didn’t look like a person, at least not like one she had ever seen, not even counting the Poster People. Oh well. She decided to leave her final conclusion for the next time, when the pain would hopefully be gone and she could think straight. She took it apart in little strips, noticing all the things inside she had never seen before in things. There was no sweetness in the taste, not like the tablets or the chocolate, but it would do. She decided to leave the head intact, although its endless glare made her shudder. She left the inside parts of the thing lying on the road; they didn’t look particularly edible. She heard more of the flying things close by, and when she looked back, she saw several of them gathered by their fallen contemporary. She started moving faster. She didn’t want to know what the gathering was for.

She came to a turn in the road, surrounded by sand and fallen trees. She could see the blueness beyond, and could hear the whoosh whoosh whoosh louder than ever. She was there. She followed the path, which went down further until it reached where the land and water met. It was quite a sight, every side a narrow strip of sand bordering the endless waving blue field, pushing and pulling at a comforting rhythm. The water seemed to go on forever into the distance; for all she knew, it did. This water seemed to dwarf the ponds in the park a million times over not just in scope, but in beauty. Instead of a rust-coloured stew, it appeared as a crystal clear, shining surface, like glittering liquid glass. Outside can’t be so bad after all, she thought. She slowly fell down on her back, looking up at the greyness and listening to her three sounds as they repeated in unison. This was it. This was her new life. The life of a monster.

She lie there for who knows how long, not moving, just staring. She saw the sky get darker and darker, another new experience. The wind had died down slightly, leaving her with only two of the three noises. The pangs were gone; the flying thing was satisfying enough for it. She still had the red stuff staining her face. Did it matter? What would her next move be? She decided to stick by the water. She liked it there. If she got the pangs again, it was only a short distance to where the flying things were. She was curious to see more of the land, and maybe if she was still around a little while longer, she would get a chance. But the water was good enough for now.

She fell asleep on the sand. When she woke up, the sky had cleared, and she could the stars. There were a lot more than she thought. Many more. She was amazed. Then she fell back asleep.

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