Monday, 29 June 2015

The Oracle

Kennedy couldn't see the scratches on his boots anymore. They were covered in red dust, the same red dust that coated the end of his ankle length jacket. He was trying to keep that dust from his facial orifices with a neckerchief over his mouth and nose and a pair of well worn swimming goggles over his eyes. The old woman by the old stream had told him it would rip apart the inside of his lungs and force them out as blood. She quickly proved it by coughing a splatter of the Crimson stuff over his trousers.
In the distance, he could see the server stacks. They were so useless, so helpless. Just old black towers, as tall as Kennedy but twice as immobile. Kennedy's stiffening legs didn't quite believe it.
Some forgotten power source leant life to the servers, powering their blinking lights. Those that still had lights to blink, that was. Holes in the wire fence surrounding them let thieves into the complex, and those thieves took anything they could prise off the antiquated technologies. Some said those same thieves would strip a human down the same as old technologies. Kennedy was glad of the 1000 grams on his side, packed with 45. Colt bullets. He'd traded all of his remaining rations for it. He was glad though. He'd rather a gun than a quick procession of kicks and punches in return for his food.
Bodies littered the path towards the server complex. Not human bodies though. The beasts left nothing behind when they attacked a human, or found one's rotting corpse. No, the bodies on the floor were the carcasses of birds, hounds and old 'motor vehicles', decayed and wrecked almost beyond recognition. 
Kennedy found himself walking up the collapsed rib cage of an ancient "air-oh-plain." A street historian in Tove Port had told him of how they were called as such because they were the same size as natural plains, where the final hounds lived. Apparently the ancients had built massive theatres onto either side, with outwards growing wings. When Kennedy had asked what the ribs were, then, the street historian had been unable to answer. Kennedy found a can of "Beanz" in a ruined looking cupboards and silently thanked each God before pocketing them. He continued towards the cock pit, the site of ritualistic castration, according to the street historian. 
An eroded plastic slope led down to the ground and Kennedy strolled on, passing the server complex. Six hours of walking since he'd set off, Kennedy found himself on the peak of a red dust hill. Twenty miles away was a town. The first he'd seen for a fair few weeks. Bracing the muscles of his increasingly aching legs, Kennedy set off towards the town.

The sand dune he was walking down broke away beneath his feet. He began to fall, sliding on his back. The black felt of his jacket began to turn cream with the colour of the sand. He could feel the sharp grains ripping through his battered trousers. A grain fell into his trouser leg and was soon followed by a steady stream of his own blood. He tried to move one booted foot out to steady his fall and quickly found himself rolling, tumbling down the sand face. 
Kennedy screwed his eyes and his mouth shut, praying silently to the various Gods that his neck chief and goggles would come away unscathed. The liquid inside his ears began to froth as he tumbled and then he hit the ground. He knew he had stopped and he knew he was still but his entire body convulsed as if it was still rolling. When a sense of solidity finally took back over him, Kennedy opened his mouth and his eyes, breathing in. He didn't breath out. No, instead be held his breath in trepidation at the sight in front of him. It wasn't like anything he'd seen before. It's fangs were dripping with slather, it's eyes empty sockets filled with the black of night. It was tracking Kennedy with it's nose, evidently, as it protruded towards him as he backed away. 
On all fours, Kennedy scrabbled backwards and then felt his long over grown hair full with slobber. There was another of the hunched up creatures behind him. Instinctively, his hand reached for the gun on his side but the creatures edged towards him quicker. Kennedy cursed under his breath and racked his brains for a solution. He needed to draw their attention away long enough to get up and start running. His hand was on his side, by his coat pocket. He had nothing in it but... No. He'd regret it in the long term. Hell, since when had he thought of the long term?
Kennedy grabbed the tin of "Beanz" from his pocket and threw it with all his might into the distance. The two creatures raced after it, dragging a single line through the dust floor with their tail. As soon as they were distracted, Kennedy sprang up and behsn to run. The muscles in his legs began to scream with agony, demanding sustenance, drink, blood, air. Anything. His dry lips sucked in a whistle of air but not nearly enough to even begin to help him. A disgusting carbon monoxide like taste flavoured his saliva and he found the need to spit filling his mind. No, he thought. He couldn't. Spit and he wouldn't make it easy for the red star to enter his throat. Instead, Kennedy swallowed the saliva and pushed on, ignoring the scream of his legs. 
He couldn't ignore the howl of the creatures behind him. Ploughing through the sand strewn plain, Kennedy risked looking over his shoulder and saw hundreds of the hounds approaching him. With his other hand beating through the air in a regular cycle in one hand, he used the other to grab the gun and fire a single shot into the crowd of creatures. A loud bang, none fell but they did retreat momentarily. Five bullets left loafed, now, with another eighteen in a pouch on his side. Reloading took time he didn't have. He'd have to conserve his fire. 
Kennedy continued to run and all the while his body screamed to stop. When he'd set out on this crusade, so long ago, his face would have poured sweat like petrol from an old pump. Now, he hadn't enough liquid in his body to water is eyes, never mind sweat. The only fluid oozing from him was the blood oozing from his leg. It supplied him with an unusual limp, slowing him down and making him lurch. Behind him, the thud of the creature's legs grew closer and louder, closer and louder. He risked a glance back over his shoulder and then felt his feet strike something. Once more he was tumbling, hitting the floor with an almighty bounce which shook his rib cage.  
His body shuddering with pain, Kennedy watched in horror as one of the creatures launched itself onto him. It's fangs, between two slabber coated jaws, snapped down at him, trying to tear away his eyes, nose, anything that would come loose. Kennedy used his hands to reach towards the creature's underside. His battered fingers found a leather expanse, warm with blood beating beneath. There seemed to be no breaks in the armour, no chips in the chain mail as it were, but then he found a single weak spot. With the joy of a newborn, Kennedy stabbed his finger into the weak spot.
It took repeated standings until Kennedy's finger slid through the leather and became coated in warm blood. The creature howled in pain but continued to snap at him. Kennedy pulled out his finger and slid two in, pulling to make the hole wider and wider. Quicker streams of blood began to pour out, a crimson river. Eventually, he managed to slide both hands in and, the fingers of each filled with the warm satisfaction with death. The creature jerked and roared as if Kennedy was it's mortal vequilotrist but his hands had a darker duty. The sharp caricatures of the creature's rib cage grazed Kennedy's hands, leaving his blood with it's, but he found what he was looking for. The increasingly slowly pumping heart. Screaming, Kennedy tore it out and felt the blood splatter as it came out. Then he kicked the creature off and stood up. The rest had backed off slightly but the leader was closest, roaring and bearing it's fangs. Kennedy drew his revolver and released a bullet through the creature's head. As it hit the floor, the others panted away. Kennedy slipped the gun back into the holster and then leant down, hauling the creature into a “fiah man’s” lift over his two top shoulders. It was heavy but he'd carried heavier. Wearily, he urged himself on.

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