Tuesday, October 26, 2004

In a black of the darkest pitch there was a sharp thud with resounding resonations that were almost sickening. With nothing piercing the emptiness, the dark was endless in its expanse, stretching as far as the imagination could see. But the mind within it was not fooled; it knew there were boundaries. It could emphatically sense them in every fiber of itself. A second thud reverberated through the dark, deliberate and harder, the thuds began repeating themselves rhythmically in the chamber. Like a slow steady heart beat the thuds pounded, one after another, each before the remnants of the last had dyed off as it echoed through the tiny hollow within the structure.

The seemingly final strike was followed instantly by the sound of strike a wall with a space behind it. The word freedom echoed in the trapped mind. The thuds began again, louder this time, the feeling of heavier weight behind them, faster, pounding with determination. The sound of flesh striking cement, packing itself against the wall, repeated itself again and again, as the mind began to feel adrenaline coursing through its body. It echoed the word inside itself again, freedom. The rapid pounding began to be joined by other sounds as the whole blackness seemed filled and alive, dust crashing down from the ceiling, and after an untold amount of time, the sounds of cracking. It’s possible this continued for an hour or more, time doesn’t move in the dark. It breaks minds; they lose patience, when there is no time, that’s when it feels more important than anything else in the world. Light began to stream in a bit at a time. The mind that had begun to grow inside of the dark womb of a room became stronger. The pounding strength in its legs kicked again and again, pain streaking through them as they began to strike edges and crumbles.

Like a holy vision a crack began to spread and grow longer and wider. The light from outside so bright that nothing was distinguishable beyond the brilliant yellowish glow of the crack that seemed to be the only thing in the world. And the kicking didn’t stop. It didn’t even slow down. No rest for the weary. Chunks crumbled away, the sounds overloading the senses in combination with the light. The kicking stopped long enough to reposition itself to kick harder.

Another hour and the hard layer of cement was broken through, the dry wall on the other side offered no resistance to the determined bloody feet as they went through it into the area beyond. The man crept to the edge, scooting along the floor without even looking at the now dimly lit room from which he was emerging as he crawled into the light. Dark is infinite and yet more confining that the smallest prison cell, light shows you all your restrictions, all your boundaries, but stepping out of a large dark chamber into a small well lit room is like breaking free from a prison and landing on a beach. The room had no ceiling. To say that isn’t totally accurate. The room did in fact have a ceiling, but it doesn’t really count as it was crumbled and scattered over most of the debris-cluttered floor. He stood up and felt the strong breeze blow over his tanned skin; his matted filthy hair struggled in influence of the weather.

“ Freedom, “ the creed that drove him voiced itself as he started to look down after his eyes had adjusted to the light and saw his own bloody footprints on the floor. He started brushing the muddy cement crumbles and dirt off of his chest and blue jeans. It wasn’t the dirt that bothered him; it was the dirt from the cell from which he’d just broken free of that he wanted off. When he was sufficiently clean of the ashy dust he began to look around. The sky was beginning to turn pink and fiery orange. The room he was in was smallish, but two of its walls were crumbled, which had perhaps led to the collapsed ceiling, or been, in part, caused by it. He worked his way over the rubble and walked to the edge of the room, toward the worse of the two walls and looked over the edge of the floor down the five-story drop to the ground below. It wasn’t going to be easy getting back down.

He walked back to the hole he had made in the wall and reached only his left arm in as he pressed his face flat against the remaining dry wall and felt along the floor inside until his fingers touched the edge of what he had left inside. He pulled the hard-drive out of the dark and then he stood up and examined the other solid wall that led presumably to another part of the building, maybe one with a way out. He was in luck, as this room had a door, even though it was locked, it was made out of wood that was wearing down with age and only took a single strong brutal strike from his shoulder to rip the obstacle out of the frame that held it in place falling right after and landing on top of the ripped wood himself, barely managing not to drop the drive that he clutched in his right hand. A cluster of pigeons were disturbed by the violent act and fluttered with great haste in a brilliant white flurry out of the few windows and holes in the ceiling before his head lifted off of the door.

The next door was unlocked and led into a dank and humid hallway. He had to prop the exit open with cement rocks to keep it from shutting and cutting off most of the light in the room. Every few feet there was another door and a tiny muddy window letting in a hint of light, giving him all he needed to navigate by and avoid the worst of the objects on the floor with his feet. Walking from window to window he searched till he found what he was looking for, a locker room. The door was unlocked and there were some rotten smelling clothes laying about. He grabbed a suitably strong looking shirt that had not suffered from too much decay and wrapped his prize up in it and tied it around his waist. There was no knowing if he might need both hands free later and none of his pockets were free to carry it. He tried to pull open the other lockers, but the ones that were not locked were already empty except for junk. Curses slipped under his breath, he should have come here more prepared, prepared to break out of things and into other things. A simple crow bar would have meant that his feet would be healed and all of these lockers would be open for his taking. There wasn’t enough time to stress, he had to hurry, and when he had come from the exposed rooms the sun had already been starting to sink. A stairwell had to be nearby and needed to be found. Both feet hurt like hell, but it would not slow him down.

Sure enough the stairwell was in a little offshoot of the main corridor and was well lit because it was mostly open to the outdoors. Sunset was in full bloom and he ran down the stairs as cautiously as he could without wasting a single moment. He allowed himself only to flinch as tiny pebbles dug their way into his bleeding souls whenever he failed to see them before landing his feet on them. At the bottom of the stairwell there was no need to explore any more of the building as the wall had crumbled enough to get through. He gripped the aging bricks with held his weight firmly and hoisted himself up pulling out and falling onto the ground on the other side, twisting in the air to land on his hip into some overly tall grass, a nasty bruise would be there the next day; but his prize was safe from the impact and that was all that mattered. It probably wouldn’t have mattered if he had known that the toy wrapped up in his makeshift fanny sack could easily have survived his weight land. The old things hardly ever lived up to what they were supposed to have been able to do anymore and this was the sort of important claim that was not worth leaving to that chance.

He stood up, his head beginning to feel light, he had not had anything to eat all day and his blood was starting to feel thin as his vision spaced, before his heart could catch up and keep the flow of oxygen to his head. His senses returned and his bearings settled. He knew where he was, he hadn’t actually been right here, but he knew which side of the building he was on. He looked back behind him at the hole in the wall, before turning and running on the soothing grass, as brittle and thin as it was it was, it was clean and devoid of pebbles that were not easily avoided and he made it around the building and into the streets beyond, small broken buildings on either side of any street. He went to the building right across the street and picked up the things he’d left behind. Before throwing on his backpack he pulled out a couple of rags and his canteen and washed the wounds on his feet and wrapped the cloth rags around them protectively. If he didn’t get some disinfectant within the next few hours his feet would be very uncomfortable for a few days. It wouldn’t kill him; but the man definitely had a preference.

Night was falling all too quickly and if he didn’t hurry he would be forced to sleep in the city. He ran to his bicycle, kicking off skillfully and pedaling away down the street navigating between buildings and over abandoned boards. A few of them looked to be as if they might have had remnants living in them. It was still theoretically possible to get off-world, the technology certainly existed; however, in reality, no one who was earthbound would ever be able to earn what they needed to leave. On top of that, you had to want to leave, even if you had the money to do it. He brushed a strand of oily hair from his face. That thought always comforted him, and made him feel less alone. There were always others, here and there. For some of them, it was as much choice as providence. It was home to all of mankind. It was a shame to think, that now, most of mankind has never even seen this place.

He pedaled quickly as the night sky took over for the day and just as he rode past the last two or three houses on the edge of the city the last tinge of dark crimson was all that was left in the sky. After about another three minutes he realized that the darkness would actually help him now as he kept his eyes open for the campfire he knew would be in a nearby field. He pedaled straight, the road still visible in the purplish evening, with the last of the warm colors gone from the world. It was another ten minutes before he saw it off in the distance and he made straight for it, putting his whole back into the effort.

It was only a short while before he could see the tents around the fire, three domed tents glistening with the firelight dancing on their dusty exteriors. Anyone at the fire must be on the far side, or he would have seen their silhouette. If they stayed there he would be blinded from the area beyond the fire ring by the light until long after he was visible to them. The empty field was all unwelcoming earth and clay and sand and would host no living thing, which kept the ride from being too difficult, but there was no path and things were faster with him walking the bike beside him more often than not.

He was able to feel the warmth of the fire before he was able to see for certain that no one was nearby outside of the tents. Gabrielle must have wandered off, because she would never have gone to sleep with the fire still going. He checked the embers by poking them with a sturdy still living stick; and hoping that perhaps prepared food might be cooking in them.

No such luck, he thought as he looked up from the fire, disappointed. It wouldn’t kill him to fix some food for himself, after he bandaged his feet properly and disinfected while he waited. The darkness had finally completed itself as he finally sat and began readying his food.

Chapter 2

No one has ever found it pleasant to be woken up by a swift kick to the kidneys, and the man was no exception. When a woman, similar in appearance and height, her hair black and matted her eyes a dull gray, her clothes consisted of a pair of grimy loose fitting blue jeans and a mud browned sports bra, connected her heel with the side of his body, vulnerable and exposed in his sleep, he woke up with a hard yell.

“ Hey, John. Sleep well? “ She glared down at him while he rolled over without groaning. John rolled over and was up in a flash before she could go on. “ Must have been tired last night, you didn’t sleep in a tent and you let the fire go out on its own. Getting a death wish in your old age? “

“ Good morning Gabby, missed you last night. Had been expecting you to be here when I got back, “ he spoke almost but not quite hastily and in concise spurts as he walked around the campfire avoiding her. His eyes flitted around at the ground, clearly avoiding eye contact as he distanced himself from her.

“ Well for someone who missed me, you’re not acting very glad to see me, “ she spat as she got on her knees and opened up her tent and ducked inside.

“ Not that. Rough night. Rough morning. Enough cuts and bruises to keep me happy for a day or two. And, well, you know me, I’m just mister excitement, “ he said while she was rooting around the things in her tent. Before she came out, his eyes found the city on the horizon and lifted up off the ground almost lifting his chin up as he traced with his eyes, as his last sentence came out in an almost normal even tone.

“ Suck it up, John. There’s no excuse to leave the fire going, anyone could have seen it burning from at least a mile away, worse, from the city. Probably plenty of people did see it. Maybe we’re lucky and no one who cares saw it, “ without even pausing as she spoke a foil wrapped bar flew out of her tent and struck John in the back of his head and tumbled down to the ground over his dust covered back while she continued, “ or maybe we’re just lucky enough that no one who cares saw it and felt like doing anything about it last night and is on their way right now. Eat fast because we’re moving camp. “ When a full second passed, as John just turned and looked at the ration bar on the ground, she spoke sharply, “ Now! “

John moved quicker, but not quickly as he rotated on his heels and kneeled down to pick up the bar, he peeled the foil off of it and took a healthy bite from the end. Gabby emerged from her tent with her pack slung on her back and the tent collapsed behind her. In less than 5 minutes, and still before John had finished his ration bar, which he seemed to be eating at a deliberately slow pace, although with John you could never be tell if he was being slow, or thinking deep, her tent was wrapped up and packed in a sling that fit comfortably beneath the pack already on her back as she fitted it there.

John saw the shirt laying on the ground, Gabby hadn’t noticed it or thought it odd at all, just as John had let it slip his mind just now. He guessed the shirt had come undone in the night and for the first time all morning me moved fast and quietly after his companion popped her head inside of the second tent and had the shirt in his hand with the drive inside it. A moment later he was in his own tent, safely packing the drive away, with the same shirt as a protective padding inside his own pack, which he slung over his shoulder before backing out of the tent. He wasn’t one to brag about his adventures, he would tell her about it in his own time. She was so impulsive; she’d want to get someplace where they could look at it before it was time to leave. He wondered if she knew that he kept things from her on their expeditions. His ponderings were put to rest after his tent was quickly folded, rolled, tucked away, and hidden behind him slung beneath his pack. It was really a moot point whether she knew or not.

/* Amazon Associates Script