05 November 2009

"Dead Souls" #Fridayflash

(If you've been reading 500 in The Reading Room, you'll possibly recognize these characters. Here's an excerpt from my NaNoWriMo project/WIP, working title 500.)

A thunderstorm rumbled in the distance with the promise of rain. Woods loomed nearby and the dead grass crunched underfoot. Like glass, Stein thought.

“I thought there wasn't weather in Hell,” Stein said, glancing upwards.

Roger followed his gaze. “Everything is always changing in this Purgatory of yours.”

“Purgatory? All this is made by other people?”

“Memories, yes. Lives. Essences.” Roger said and walked on, with Stein following.

Smoke rolled over the tree line. Roger melded into the forest and Stein stumbled after, smacking away the sharp branches that snapped back in his face in Roger's wake.

“Where are we going?”

“Seems there's a new bunch coming in,” Roger said, without stopping, just pulling the branches hard to let them pop in Stein's eyes. He chuckled.

“Maybe you should go first,” he said and looked back at Stein. His eyes were filled with fire.

A building blazed—a cabin of sorts, set back in a clearing. Stein could hear the quiet roar of the flames as they licked the thick pine beams. A rocking chair swayed back and forth with tongues of fire taking residence in the seat. Above, the sky rolled red and virulent, with cracks of lightning and thunder, and every so often, a body or three would drop right in.

“War,” Roger said, stopping to admire the event, “always has a healthy bounty.”

Stein stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the strange spirit, because that's what he was. Demon, or something like that. Maybe.

“The dead in battle,” Stein said. It wasn't a question, but Roger nodded, his hair slicked back and that sharp grin emerging on his stone-white features. “So they just kinda fall in? Just like hamburger?”

“Just. Like. That.” Roger said, and approached the blazing cabin.

“Why is this thing on fire?”

“Because they aren't supposed to stay here. They aren't even supposed to be here.”

Stein frowned and looked at Roger. “What do you mean, not supposed to be here?”

“They go to the way-station.”

“Weigh-station? Like a trucker's?”

Roger gritted his teeth. “This was a place before for incoming shipments. But the place has...no, I won't tell you that. Now they go to the waiting room. Hell's Kitchen. Where you started all of this.”

“It's a weigh station?”

“No,” Roger growled and watched the drifting, shimmering shapes of the souls materialize into solid shapes.

"Their souls are weighed?"

Roger shook his head and rubbed a blister appearing over his right eye.

“Why do you do that?” Stein asked, cocking his head to the side to inspect Roger's wound.

“Why do I do what?”

“Blister like you can't stand it.”

“Because,” Roger hissed and started walking again. “This is human thought. Human dream, and I am not a part of it.”

“But you're Death.”

“Am I?” Roger asked and turned to face Stein while walking backwards, “What made you think such a thing?'

“Because,” Stein said and threw his hands up. “Fine. Fuck it. Whatever.”

“If you think I am simply Death, you are very, very wrong Cristein.”


“I am a stand-in.” Roger's black eyes locked with Stein's. “We await the coming of the Reaper.”

“There's a fucking Reaper?”

Roger smirked and waggled a finger. “All of this will come to you in time.”

“Why am I here?” Stein asked.

“Because I must know everything I can about you before offering a job.”

“I'm dead. As if it matters if I fuck up.”

“It's an important position,” Roger said and turned to face the incoming wave of piled-up souls. That's what they were, shimmering and vacant, without eyes or ears, just holes where the functional organs had once been.

“Why do they look like that?” Stein asked and walked up to a deflating soul, fizzling on the hot sand.

“It's a hard ride over,” Roger said. “They always look like that.”

“Why don't I look like that?”

“Because.” Roger bent to reach out for the soul who recoiled and squeaked in terror. It got up and scurried across the sand like a wild thing, all shadows and plasma. Roger grumbled and waved a hand at the retreating figure.

“It'll learn not to run away.”

“Because why?” Stein asked, ignoring the diversion.

“Why don't you look like that?” Roger smiled, and it was not pleasant at all. “In due time.”

“How about now?”

Roger shrugged and nodded at another soul laying on the sand like discarded pantyhose. “Try to pick it up.”

“You mean touch that thing?”

“Yes. Try it.”

Stein frowned but reached out for the shaded form. It came towards his fingers like a lonely stray dog.

“Well, this is interesting,” Roger said, obviously amused, “Go on. Touch it. Grab onto it.”

Stein crept towards the thing, meeting it halfway in the space between them. It was cold, but not bitterly. A cool breeze. An autumn breeze. Soft, like leaves. The form began to solidify, features becoming prominent in the gray shadow. Lips, nose and finally, a sensuous full mouth.

“I believe she likes you,” Roger said and leaned down towards her. Her attributes dissolved like a sand castle in the waves.

“They sure don't like you at all,” Stein said, and closed his fingers around hers. She materialized into a recognizable female again.

The longer he held onto her, the more solid she became, until her flesh gleamed in the dying sun on the horizon. Always on the horizon in the In-Between, as he was beginning to think it was.

Roger smiled weakly and bowed his head to the frightened soul. “Time's up.”

A scream resounded from inside Stein's head, so much that he held a hand to his eyes as if that would stop anything. The pain was internal, and she was pulling to get away from him.

“Welcome to your destiny,” Roger said, grinning his piranha grin as Stein felt the soul turn to ash in his hand, and a cold stroke pass through his center.

“Ramona,” Stein said with a sharp intake of breath. “Her name was Ramona.”


Laura Eno said...

Some of your sentences are hilarious, but at the same time the story is devastating. Great piece of a larger puzzle that I'd like to see. :)

Marisa Birns said...

Vivid writing. From the grass sounding like glass crunching to the branches smacking Roger in the face.

The last line was powerful.

So, your NaNo project is off to a very good start!

Anonymous said...

I've not read your writing before, but this pulled me right in. Wonderful, crisp description. Intriguing characters. I want to hear more. :)

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this very much.

The materialization was reminiscent of the appearance of Satan in Bulgakov's Master & Margarita.

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

Cool, love her attributes dissolving every time Roger comes close.
Is Stein a bit of a soul-whisperer, then?

Unknown said...

Thanks guys. @Mazzz, not exactly, but they are attracted to him, much as women would be attracted to a hot guy. It's not mandatory but there's a pull.

Samantha Stoner said...

I love the grim humor (no pun intended)! This little bit has me very intrigued.

Anonymous said...

I love realism in fantasy, and you do it so well Carrie. Your descriptions are fabulous!
I hope you'll bless us with more installments - would love to hear more.

shannon said...

Wow, such interesting ideas here. Love the fact that the demon blisters from human thought, and that the lanscape is shaped by us. Very intriguing! Please share more!

Paul D Brazill said...

Great images and very droll. I think this novel will be a cracker.

Eric J. Krause said...

This is a good read. So much going on. Great use of language, too. I enjoyed this a TON.

Susan at Stony River said...

I enjoyed this, and it kept me wondering and intrigued. Good luck with NaNoWriMo! I'm taking a break from it this year and already I'm missing it--not too late I guess LOL

Jodi MacArthur said...

You've got my attention. Your writing is sharp and crisp as ever.

"Now they go to the waiting room. Hell's Kitchen. Where you started all of this.” ~

Cracked me up. Good dialogue and I hope your m/c makes it out.

~Tim said...

I'm intrigued by your single reference to Stein as Cristein.

Chris Chartrand said...

Very cool. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I would absolutely enjoy reading more. Hope NaNo continues to go well for you.

Helen Ginger said...

Interesting. It made me want to know more about these two and where they are.

Straight From Hel

Unknown said...

~Tim, re: Cristein: His full name is Cristein, but he goes by Stein.

ganymeder said...

What a great story. I loved it. Is it part of a much larger work? If feels like there's a lot more than is being said.

Great, great job.

Unknown said...

@Ganymeder Correct. I dropped out of NaNo because I feel this story needs more time and more care to tell. I am working with a professional in the field already to try to make this dream a reality. Thank you for reading. Your enjoyment means much to me.