Monday, 13 July 2015

The Oracle (part 3)

 "Wait here." Kennedy commanded, chasing to the door before turning back. "On second thought, you better come with me. Quick, this way."
Delphine jumped up and hurried after him, chasing him into the hall and down the steps into the bar. The piano had stopped as had the hubbub of tavern life because the entire scene was abandoned. Drinks were left abandoned next to papers and still warm meals, smoking pipes and either jars of spit on the floor. Kennedy drew his gun and pulled his goggles over his eyes 
"Where is everyone?" Asked Delphine.
"I'm unaware." Kennedy replied, heading towards the tavern's twin doors. He thought better of it and turned back, grabbing a sword from where it hung on the wall. "Toss me the bar cloth." He said and Delphine obliged. He wrapped it around the blade of the sword and then emptied a tankard of liver acid over it. 
"What are you doing?" Delphine demanded, but watched in amazement as Kennedy pulled a pair of flints from his pocket and lit the bar cloth. Instantly in one hand, he held a flaming sword. "Right, now outside."
Kennedy kicked open the door and they raced out onto the streets of the small town. He kept his torch away from the buildings to his either side; the last thing he needed was to be blamed for the town burning down.
Far away, there was a deep howling. "Curses." Kennedy whispered. "The creatures must scent their stewing cousin."
"Is that a bad thing?" Delphine asked.
"Of course. Where is this church of which you spoke?"
"Back this way." She said, leading him back through the streets. The burning sword provided them adequate light against the darkening sky and soon they emerged in a clearing I which the church could be found. The last of the town's people was hurrying inside, and so Kennedy shouted in his deepest tone, "Shut that door and the church smoulders."
The doors waited open as they walked in. The bar maid was the first to see Kennedy and instantly barraged him with words. "You come to our town and bring such chaos with you. Perhaps if we threw you to the creatures they would leave us."
Angered calls of agreement bounced off the wooden walls. The townsfolk through their fist into the air and swore their compromise. 
"That is not the wisest option." Kennedy announced, stamping out the flames of his burning sword. "The best solution would be to give me all your guns and ten minutes alone with those creatures."
"How would that in anyway be the wisest option?" Every person in the church cried with varying levels of curses. 
"For I shall bring you their heads." Kennedy replied. "I slew two of their pack with my bare hands and a gun, ergo I shall be able to take all of them with the town's weapons."
The barmaid, who had elected herself the town's spoke person, turned to the townsfolk. "Who is willing to give the lone wanderer their weapon?"
One old man at the back of the hall raised his rifle into the air. With a voice old and crackly enough to remember grass, the old man spoke, "A gentleman should go to his death well armed."
"So it is, Ranger." The barmaid announced, passing Kennedy the rifle. "You shall now fall and our town will be returned to it's peace."
Kennedy slung the rifle over his back and lifted the sword. "I'll see you around, doll face." He turned to Delphine. "Stay in here, tell them nothing of your visions. I'll be back soon enough."
With that Kennedy walked towards the doors and left, out into the streets of the town. As he walked, he heard a sudden humming on his back. "Strange." He muttered, pulling the rifle from his back. Perhaps one of the bolts was loose. As he inspected it, he discovered that wasn't the case. "Damn." He whispered. The humming was the ignition of a small grenade hidden in the barrel. He dropped the gun and began to run away from it, but it detonated too quickly and he hit the ground with a thud. Seconds before he blacked out, he considered that he didn't feel very valiant at all.

Kennedy awoke to a whimpering to his side. He turned to inspect the noise and found the girl, Delphine, hanging by her arms from a large wooden cross. She'd lost the rags she'd been wearing before and was now hanging like a crucified newborn from a large crucifix, just slightly smaller than the one Kennedy hung from. He was still clothed, probably because he wasn't as pleasing to look at, but he did notice that his jacket had been ripped in several places where they'd nailed him to it. "What's the matter with you?" He asked.
"We're going to die."
"Congratulations." Kennedy replied. "That's a brilliant observation, or did the Gods make it for you?"
"You are a bitter man."
"I am dying man, it is to be expected. What happened?"
"They placed a bomb on you, to knock you out so they could do this. I think I heard them say they're sacrificing you."
"So that's why your religion is missing! They're worshipping those creatures now. Not surprising, mind. People will worship anything they're frightened by.”
In the distance, a creature's howl sliced through the night. Delphine's freezing skin rippled with goosebumps. "You're afraid?" Kennedy asked.
"We are to die."
"You should not be afraid of death. Soon you'll join your gods up in their heaven. Isn't that good?"
"It would be, except the visions of the Gods I keep aren’t enchanting.”
The howl grew louder, closer. Far off in the distance, the foot steps were growing nearer. And with them, so drew death. Kennedy cast his eyes across the cleared scape before them 
and then saw something of use.
"Fantastic." He whispered. His sword, his revolver and his knife were placed on a table just out of the reach of his flailing legs. If he could get to them, he could defend himself. 
"This crucifixes, what are they made from?" He demanded. 
"Yew Wood, it is the strongest for miles. Petrified, they say." Delphine replied.
“Not encouraging.” Kennedy muttered, leaning as far as the nails stuck through his jacket would allow him. If he could keep going perhaps he could use his limited weight and gravity combined to break through? It was a long shot but surely worth a try. 
With every gram of weight his skinny body possessed, he tried to lean further forwards. The nails ripping through his coat were strong, holding him in place almost unbelievably well. The more he struggled, the tighter the bolts became until he felt as if he couldn’t move. In the distance, the creatures were racing closer and closer, their footsteps louder and louder. Kennedy knew it was now or never. Break free this second or content yourself to die. Heaving with all his might, Kennedy leant forwards and roared with all the anger he could muster. Delphine, already crying with fear, let out a pathetic whimper as Kennedy hit the floor and rolled away from the crucifix. The dust on the floor rose in a cloud of anguish as he rolled across it and towards the table with his weapons. He knocked it and the sword fell to his side. As he picked it up, the creatures launched themselves into the urban clearing.
They were quick to jump upon him, fighting with each other to draw first blood. Kennedy took that honour, thrusting his sword forwards and bursting the first creature’s neck. The creature flailed backwards, gargling crimson juices from it’s monstrous mouth, and Kennedy took back his sword, swinging it out. He took one of the creature’s limbs which, at the time, had been trying to swipe away Kennedy’s face. It fell to the ground in a puddle of blood. It would be doing no more swiping.
Above the swirling chaos of Kennedy and the Creatures, the wind was picking up. It dragged at the clouds, pulling their long billowing forms into strange typhoon shoes, leaving a off white scar in the reddening skies. With the wind was brought that dust which had so painfully dealt with the woman by the stream. Kennedy, between swings of his sword, pulled his neckerchief and swimming goggles over his face and continued the fight.
A few of the less resistant creatures, the newer borns, had succumbed to the dust. They breathed it in through their cylindrical noses and then, a few moments later, choked it and a helping of blood back up. It was as if the creatures were young ones in a tavern, unable to keep their liquor and their food down. Kennedy’s sword left the creature’s entrails strewn across the floor in the same manner. When merely one remained, he left his sword in one carcass and ran towards the table for the gun and the knife.
His hands wrapped around them and he stashed the knife into his pocket, turning the gun on the remaining creature. It was no where to be seen. He glimpsed around, terrified of where it might be. No where to be seen at all and then he heard the pattering of it’s claw wielding feet against the floor. He turned just in time as it bombarded towards him, ploughing into him and knocking him to the floor. His thumb hurriedly fought with the hammer of the gun as the creature snapped at him. He cocked the gun and then aimed it up, tearing at the trigger with his index finger. They’d emptied the cartridge. The gun was useless.
Kennedy smashed it into the creature’s head, knocking him away. As it rolled away and recoiled to it’s feet, he took his knife and met the creature head on as it barged into him. The knife slid through it’s skull with all the ease of the forgotten sciences. The creature kept coming nonetheless, ploughing Kennedy through the table and to the floor. He was covered in dust and blood, splashed with guts. A myriad of dead creatures surrounded him and he smiled, tired.
Kennedy heaved himself up and then went over to the sword in the carcass’ throat, pulling it out and testing it’s weight. He made his way towards the crucifix to free Delphine. Once done, they’d go find the townsfolk and punish them and then finish his journey as the Gods demanded. He stopped in his tracks. The dust which had fallen had affected the wolves but not him due to his neckerchief and goggles. It had not been as kind to Delphine.
She hung limp from the crucifix with a vomit of blood down her chin, her rib cage opened up to reveal jagged fragments of bone. On the floor in front of her, in the middle of a puddle of blood, was her liver, heart and lungs. They were shredded to thin strips of material.

Lone wanderer, the God had named Kennedy. It seemed to him he was to stay that way.

Monday, 6 July 2015

The Oracle (part 2)

When Kennedy got to the town, the sun had penetrated the solidity of the horizon twice. It’s spilt blood poisoned the sky twice. The creature’s carcass had begun to attract mosquitos that took pleasure in snipping their microscopic bills into Kennedy’s sweatless flesh. He tried to ignore them but eventually he had to take the temptation and crush the bug in the palm of  his hand. When he did, his shoulders rippled, the carcass fell from his shoulder. He sighed and reached out to pick it up but as he did it felt as if it’d just become a hundred tons heavier. When he eventually did lift it, he couldn’t get it comfortable on his shoulders and the weight ached them a hundred times more than anything else had. 
Kennedy dragged the carcass into the town with his entire body screaming with the effort. From behind veiled windows, tentative eyes watched in trepidation at the man who’d slain the creature. No doubt a crow’s eye had been watching him approach all these many days. The creature’s claws tore against the leather undersides of his palms. It hurt him as much as the words whispered of him behind closed doors; he was aware but he didn’t care.
There was a tavern in the centre of the town as all good towns must have. A dead horse lay on the floor next to the door. A young boy was using a saw to hack one of it’s legs off. 
“Those wolves taste good, lad?” Kennedy asked, stopping besides the boy.
“Yessir. Best meat I ever tasted, but only once.”
Kennedy hauled the creature towards the boy. “How many you feed with that?”
“The entire town, sir. For a week, sir!”
“Get feeding them. Make sure they know who brought it them.” Kennedy said and lurched into the tavern. There was a blind man at a piano, beating the keys in an arcane fashion. He stopped as Kennedy entered.  Hushed cries passed amongst the patrons. They were all sipping on froth coated alcohol. Kennedy smiled. At least at the ends of the world there was still beer. 
He stumbled towards the sticky topped bar. A woman stood behind it, all added height and sweat curled hair. Her face and her hands were red, a mixture of make up and panting. “We no want your type round these parts.” Said a man from Kennedy’s side.
Kennedy turned. The man was sat on a bar stool, holding a glass of frosted liquor. “And what would my type be?”
“Foreigners.” The old man replied.
Kennedy let out a sudden lurching laugh that felt as if it ripped his dry throat in half. “I am no foreigner for foreigner means I come from someplace else. I come from no where.” With that, he turned back to the lady behind the bar and ordered, “Two pints of whatever’s strongest and two bowls of creature stew.”
“Creature stew?” The lady asked.
“Or whatever you name the meal being made with my scavenges.”
“Of course, dear.” The lady replied, grabbing two frosted tankards and filling them to the brim with the same orange liquid as every other glass in the room. She slapped them onto the bar and made no show to wipe away the spillovers as the foam sloshed over. “Will you be wanting a room, love?”
Kennedy considered it and then nodded. “Yes. One cushion, a quilt and a lit fire.”
“Will you be wanting any... decoration to the room?”
“What sort of decoration?”
“The scantily clad sort.”
Kennedy nodded. “I will be requiring the room once I’ve finished my meal.” And with that, Kennedy wandered over to a table and sat down, taking a large gulp of one of his two pints, draining a third. He wiped the stubble of liquid off his actual stubble, before shouting, “You can continue playing now, blind man.”
Kennedy filled his pipe with forgotten leaves whilst the blind man hit the keys once more.

He found his room above the tavern, with only the remnants of the undignified noise seeping through. There was a door at the end of a long wooden expanse lit by oil candles. The bar maid had given him the key with his plate of stew, telling him to tell her when he wanted his decoration delivered. He’d told her five minutes ago and so now the room was ready. The brass key clicked the door open easily and he found his way in alright. There was a young girl sat on his bed, probably no older than seventeen or eighteen. As he approached her he found her crying. He hoped he hadn’t paid extra for this.
“What brings these tears from your eyes?” Kennedy asked, sitting down on the bed besides her. The sooner he could cheer her up the better. 
“I’m sorry, sir. I shouldn’t be crying.”
*No, you shouldn’t.* Kennedy considered saying, but instead settled on, "No one weeps for no reason. What upsets you, girl?"
"It is this town, sir. It used to be religious like no other but now look at it."
"Who are you to speak of religion?"
"More appropriate than others." She replied. "I was once Oracle to the Gods, their voice through me. And now I am passed amongst the men like tankards of liver acid."
“Do the Gods still speak from you?”
“They tell me so. All I know is that the white mist obscures my vision and closes me to all attentions around me. And then when I awake, I am surrounded by other women, the scum of the Earth, that I spoke in ancient tones.”
“I need you to communicate with the Gods for me-- what’s your name?”
“What an appropriate name for an oracle.” Kennedy muttered. “Delphine, you must speak to the Gods for me. Ask them their whim for my future.”
“I can’t speak to the Gods on demand; I must be spoken to first!” She protested, backing away from the bed. “I despise this duty but I will do that and nothing else for the price you are paying.”
“Delphine, you must help me!”
“Do you not understand me?” She cried, throwing her hands out. Her eyes shone the deep white of the God’s and then suddenly a crackling explosion of red energy was whipping around her. Kennedy ducked away, falling to the floor. For the first time in many years, Kennedy was afraid. 
Delphine was stood over him, blazing with a great divinity, and then there was a sudden explosion. The room blazed over white with goodness threads of lightning forks breaking through the air. When it cleared, Delphine was on the floor, writhing with something that evidently wasn’t agony. From the screams of delight from her mouth, Kennedy could only assume it was euphoria. 
The shuddering stopped and she stared up at the roof lying completely still. Her eyes were open and glazed over with white, the pupils only merely visible beneath the opaque frosting of the Gods. They were possessing her in those moments, and Kennedy knew it was only going to get worse. In an attempt to calm himself down as much to calm her, Kennedy produced some crushed leaves from his pocket and pushed them into the candle. The room seemed to sway now, slightly, and was instantly much calmer.
Delphine’s lips opened but the voice which emerged certainly wasn’t her’s. “You summoned us, lone wanderer.”
“I thank you for your reply.” Kennedy said, but abruptly stopped speaking when he saw Delphine’s possessed body rising from the floor. Around her, all the candles began to burn brighter and the light bulbs began to glow fiercer. There was a fly somewhere out of sight but it’s trademark humming became evermore distracting. 
“You are curious of your future.” The God inhabiting Delphine announced. “You wish us to describe it’s course to you. You believe we know the route of time like that of a future.”
“I do.” Kennedy replied.
“You are mistaken, lone wanderer. I know no more than you do of your future. I do, however, know of your role.” Delphine’s body way rising higher and higher, almost gracing the bottom of the chandelier above. One of the bulbs to her side became painful to stare at. The fly’s humming began to drill into Kennedy’s mind.
“My role? What is it?” He felt a cold touch to the back of his neck, a slender stroke. He daren’t look behind. 
“You are impatient, long wanderer. You speak too much.” 
“You are falsely enigmatic and quite pedantic. Speak your fortune and then return to your paradise.”
The stroke once more returned to the back of Kennedy’s neck. He needed to turn, his entire skin itched and trembled with that desire but he knew he couldn’t.  *Talk back to a God all you like, young one.* His nanny used to lecture him. *Call their name with no justification but anger, but never look at a God. Not if you want to one day get to their heaven.*
His neck itching with temptation, Kennedy continued to stare at the floating body of Delphine as it continued to project the words of the God forwards. “Your role is simple. You are to complete your journey.”
“Where to?”
“Like time, your journey has no set course. But like time, your journey will end in the same place.”
“Where is that?” 
“The future.”
Delphine’s body hit the chandelier and knocked it. The terribly bright candles rocked in their cradle and a pool of oil dripped from one candle and onto Delphine’s exposed flesh. Kennedy heard it sizzling and then solidifying. Delphine didn’t even move. The fly’s buzzing was beginning to grow louder and louder, hurting his ears. It seemed to release a vibration through his blood that was making his bones shiver. Not that he would be able to see them shivering. The bulbs and candles in the room was growing so strong that it was becoming impossible to see. His eyes stung like his arms and his legs. It was becoming unbearable. The cramps from earlier were beginning to return, his entire body was screaming at him.
And there was that terrible itching at the back of his neck, the goose bumps of addiction, of dependency, burning him. He needed it, more than he’d needed the pipe leaves in his pocket. Kennedy knew he would regret it but he knew he would regret it all the more if he didn’t do it. Residing himself in his fate, Kennedy twisted his head over his shoulder. The horror he was expecting, the terror and fear being brunt by the envy and the need was... it was...
Entirely empty.
The God was gone. The moment was over. Delphine fell through the air and hit the rug covered floor. The bulbs shattered, spraying glass into the air, and the candles melted instantaneously, solidifying streams of oil running down the cabinets they sat on. That fly, buzzing so loudly and terribly, stopped existing instantly. Kennedy felt a speck of black material hit the space just above his top lip. His journey was to end in the future. Was that a threat or just a fact? Either way, it was a hell of a waste of burning leaf.
“Did the Gods speak through me?” Delphine asked from the floor. 
“What do you think?” Kennedy replied, but his words were drained away by the explosion of a gun outside.