by Chuck McKenzie

Consciousness hit him like a hammer. He convulsed, thrashing against silk-lined pine, dislodging the casket lid. Soft, cool soil gushed into his eyes and mouth, and with it came an overwhelming sense of belonging, of oneness; the soil, the rocks and himself, each crawling with life yet lifeless, unfettered by the wretched need to scratch, rub, defecate or breathe. No tics, aches or weariness; just the comforting throb of the earth, the whispering cycles of the soil. Joy overwhelmed him. He tried to cry out, but his desiccated lungs produced only a low moan.

He lay still for a while. Then, driven by an urge to immerse himself completely in the soil, he pushed aside the coffin lid and swam upwards, open-mouthed, allowing the deep, rich loam to penetrate and fill him.

Moments later he erupted from the earth and lay trembling upon the ground. So hot. So bright. He clawed at the sun-baked mud with rotting fingers, moaning desperately. Please! Let me back in where itís cool and safe...

But the ground refused to soften.

Eventually, he clambered to his feet and stood staring miserably at the world around him. Living things scuttled among the headstones and grasses, slithering between leaves and branches, whirring overhead and underfoot. The very air pulsed with life. He moaned again. Why am I here?

Voices drifted between the tombs. The world pressed in upon him, and something inside suddenly snapped. He began to run, long, staggering strides propelling him jerkily across the graveyard. He stumbled over a weed-covered drain and fell, bursting out between plots and diving onto a gravel-lined path. He lay still for a moment, savouring the sensation of cold stone against his ruined face.

Someone screamed.

He raised his head. Further up the path stood a woman, her face pale, a crumpled bouquet of flowers clutched between trembling hands. She stared at him, delicate veins pulsing in her throat, muscles twitching beneath her skin.

Self-pity dissolved away.

You poor, wretched creature. Your every moment must be agony. The endless anticipation of bodily failure, of aneurysm, blindness, senility, entombing you forever in a cell of living flesh. If I could do something, anything, to relieve your suffering -

And abruptly, he understood.

He staggered to his feet, and she turned and fled. He pursued her, a new sense of purpose lending him speed.

Wait! Come back! Let me help you!

She darted off the path, stumbling between ancient crypts. He quickened his pace. Then her foot twisted beneath her, and she fell.

He was upon her in a moment, shuddering in revulsion as he caressed her warm flesh, covering her mouth, stifling her cries.

This is my purpose: to take you to a better place. That which I devour will be purified. The rest will rise again to join me in my task...

He bit into her neck, tore, chewed and bit again, moaning rapturously between mouthfuls. And she moaned too, for a while.

Copyright © 2006 Chuck McKenzie.
First published in our Infinitas Newsletter, November 2006 .

This page last updated 16th September 2008.