The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

(Chapter XI)

Posted by Matt on January 29, 2011

Previously

The shore proved to be an adequate place for her to stay for the time being. Food proved to be less of a problem than she thought it would be: she started to find other strange creatures crawling out of the water, little rock-hard things that scuttled sideways across the sand. She was able to catch them and crush them with rocks. They made less of a mess than the flying things, or the little swimming scaled things that she caught occasionally, but could sometimes be an irritating thing to subdue. The water smelled different, not like either the clean fountain water or the rusted metal-scented pond water, but something altogether stronger, something that imprinted itself upon the senses after prolonged exposure. Initial tests proved to her that it was unsuitable for consumption, but it worked for washing purposes. There was a small wooden house, left miraculously intact, that she stayed in when it began to rain. And when it rained, it RAINED, like all the water she couldn’t quite see in the distance was secretly moving into the sky just to crash back down on her. Even with the flooding it caused in the park, she never thought the rain could be so plentiful.

The only odd thing she could never quite get a handle on were the odd night when she heard a series of booming crashes in the middle of the water. She would look out and see a rising cascade of foam. Annoyed by this noise, which always came at night when she was just about to fall asleep, she would move to the little wooden shack, slam the door shut, and try everything to keep the noise out. After a few minutes of the loud gurgling from the foaming fountain, it would eventually would become a series of growl-like shouts. Only once did she try to see what was making the noise, but all she saw was the foam rise and fall for fifteen minutes straight, move slightly, and then dive back down into the water, vanishing without any sign it was there at all. After that, she figured it was some sort of natural phenomenon, like the rain, or maybe another of the strange creatures that lived further out in the water. She stopped caring after a while; it became another part of life. When it showed up, she retreated to a quieter spot so she could rest. It didn’t frighten her at all, or at least not a lot. Not that she was really interested in sticking around to investigate it more in any case.

She kept to her new routine uninterrupted for quite a while, although she decided not to put much effort into keeping track of the days. There was one notable incident after her initial settling in, however. One morning, she went up and down the beach side, simply out of a desire to move around a bit, and because it was maybe the greatest source of amusement she had. Closer to the cliff that thrust the park to the heavens, she found something she’d never seen before: a long, oily, black thing that apparently washed up from the crystal blue. It was larger than her, longer and thicker than some of the larger pipes she remembered from the park, and seemed to be solid, but started to disintegrate when she touched it. It was covered with a substance that seemed to be of the same consistency as the red stuff inside the flying thing, but it smelled significantly worse. It seemed to be just another rotting thing that dabbed the outside, and when she decided to leave it, she could hear the packs of flying things shrieking above, circling it. “They can have it”, she thought.

At first, she was shocked, and a tad disgusted, that was she was able to adapt to her environs so quickly, becoming a scavenger and a remorseless killer. She spent her whole life in the shelter of the park, absorbing the way of life into her very being, one that promoted cooperation and civility (or at least that’s what the pamphlets called it) and, most important of all, not hurting others. But as soon as she stepped out of her home, she seemed to become a mindless ravaging force, easily learning to end life on a whim, without even the self-loathing she experienced when she went after the homeless man’s lifeless body. Before this, she would never even think of hurting someone or something else. Now she was ending the lives of all these strange creatures left and right, all in the name of survival. She wasn’t raised to think like this; she was raised to be self-sacrificing, to work for the betterment of everyone else, because that was the most satisfying feeling one could have.

But…she knew that, although this is a terrible tragedy for her, it had some benefits as well. She had noticed that her pangs disappeared completely. Once she started her new diet, they had simply vanished. Something she’s had all this time, and then it’s gone, just like that. When she had time to focus her thoughts on one thing (which, because she devoted most of her thinking time to simply looking around the area trying to learn all its secrets, was not often ), she wondered what that meant about this whole situation. Was she always meant to eat like this? How? Nothing in the park would suggest that it was even possible. Was it possible The Maker made her like this? Why? Maybe she was a freak. If so, this really was the best decision for everyone.

She eventually learned to live with it, just like everything else (ALMOST everything else). Freak or not, she was out here and living the way she felt she had to. She didn’t know how long she could last, the average lifespan of her kind was rarely tallied in the best of times, but she figured she could easily spend whatever amount of time she had left doing what she was doing. Living on the beach, feasting on whatever she could find, and maybe doing some exploring when she had the chance. Maybe she would see the whole land in the amount of time she had left. It wasn’t that important to her, though. She was happy on the beach, by the endless water, listening to her sounds. It was a routine after all, and she was always looking for the comfort of routine.

She did a little exploring of the world beyond her beach after she settled on the beach, but never too far in. The road that led to her current location kept going on, and seemed to be as endless as the water. There were more crumbling buildings, more street lights that were rusted and bent, more trees that had been snapped like twigs. The only new thing she found during her visits were large metal boxes on wheels, which were so rusted she felt like they would turn to dust if she as much as breathed in their direction. It all seemed like an infinite ruin. Was there nothing else here? Did she find the sole oasis in this hollowed-out wasteland? She wasn’t encouraged by what she saw, so she went back to the beach, and decided she would probably stay there for the rest of her life. Maybe she would go back another time and see more, but if it was as dead as what she had already seen, she had no reason to prioritize getting out and seeing it. She had all she needed where she was, so everywhere else was something frivolous.

She had accepted early on that she would be alone from them on. She knew that there were others who had been handed the same fate as her, but she concluded they had likely died quickly, which she also assumed would happen to her. But even as she defied her own expectations, she had not convinced herself that it was possible to meet anyone else out here. Who knows what they did or where they went. Most of them were crazy, and there’s no telling what their thought process would be when loosed upon the wilds. The flying things and the things from the water and the thing that foamed up the water notwithstanding, she would meet no other living souls out here, and this would be the case until the end. She wouldn’t have anyone to talk to or share her thoughts with, so both speaking at all and heavy thinking were slowly phased out of her life. She wondered if at some point she would even remember how to talk, or how to communicate in any manner.

Despite the negatives of her isolation, she could see the bright side of it as well. It was possible she adjusted so well primarily because of her knowledge that she would be alone forevermore, allowing her to be the monster she knew she really was without having to worry about what others would think of it. She was the only judge of herself now, and although before she had probably been her own harshest critic, she now had no reason to care. What she did from now on wouldn’t affect anyone; not her loved ones, not the other residents, not anyone. Maybe it would affect all the strange creatures, but she had yet to determine if what they felt really mattered. They were completely alien to her, after all. Maybe they didn’t think? Maybe they didn’t feel pain? She never really saw much evidence for either.

For all the time she had spent beating herself up over her flaws, now she embraced them, or at the very least accepted that they were a permanent part of her now that there was no harm they could do to anyone she considered important. All the self-hatred had been because of her relationships with others, and her desire to do them right. Now she didn’t have to care, as she had no one to care for but herself, and her flaws had no negative impact on herself directly. Before, she would think she was being selfish. But now, she knows she’s only doing what has to be done, and as long as she didn’t hurt anyone else, it was okay. She was free now from all the pain of her old life, in all its forms.

This really was for the best.

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