Gift From A God Ch. 09byAbbeFaria©
The heat hit me with almost physical force as I crested the ridge. I pulled myself over the top, the dirt and gravel digging into my palms, and crouched for a moment getting my breath. Standing up with a stretch I turned around to be dazzled. Spread out for miles all around me was the vast wasteland of the American Southwest; Nothing but scorched earth from horizon to horizon. The crags and peaks stabbed vengefully up at the heavens in an explosion of reds and browns. The sky was a harsh blue, not a speck of cloud anywhere, and there, creeping up over the horizon was the hellish sun; It's fiery wrath pouring down on the dead ground. I closed my eyes against the glare and made no attempt to seek shade.
More then once out here I'd wished that the sun could burn away my memories as easily as it burned away the life of this place. I'd been crossing the desert for...I don't even know how many days. I'd lost track. I stumbled along in a stupor, half-insane from hunger and thirst, but not dying. Every so often I'd come across a nearly dead stream, or some small pond fed by an unknown source, and I would drink up, not caring about the taste or what might be creeping in it, and I would walk on.
After I'd left the hospital, I returned to my apartment. I'd needed to calm down and take stock of everything and try to sort it out. I got dressed, it was early morning but I had no idea the day. I can't say that I cared, either. I sat down and put my shoes on and leaned back in my chair. It reclined back to its limit with a click and tiny bounce, and I sat in silence. Out in the hallway I heard the air conditioner come on with a whir and a few seconds later I felt cool air drift from the vents.
There was so many things to think about I found I couldn't think at all. The weight of my guilt pressed down on me like a slab of concrete resting on my chest. It squeezed the breathe out of me inch by inch. My heart began to race and my face broke out in a cold sweat. Amber's voice echoed in my head, bouncing around the caverns of my mind like an endless echo. I had to get away. Away from Kristel, away from the apartment, away from everyone. So I jumped. No destination in mind, no thought to where I might end up, just away. Hermes had told me that I couldn't jump somewhere if I didn't know where but, as I'd found out rather painfully, that wasn't entirely true. I could throw myself out there, it could have just been anywhere. In retrospect I suppose I should be thankful that I didn't pop up out in the blackness of space somewhere.
I reappeared about one hundred feet in the air over some very hard, very unforgiving (and rapidly approaching) desert ground. I read once in a book that the trick to flying is to throw yourself at the ground and miss. As much as I tried in those passing seconds, I couldn't figure out exactly how to do that. The ground is pretty big after all. It's funny what goes through your mind at times like that. I hit and I hit hard.
Who knows how long I laid there but it was night when I finally felt able to sit back up. It was dark, the sky was bright with stars, and off in the distance in front of me, was the tell-tale glow of a city. It was Phoenix. At least it felt like Phoenix. The air around me still smacked of Arizona. I got slowly to my feet and took a look at myself; pants ripped and bloody, my shirt no better off and only wearing one shoe. I felt the blood crusted all down my face and neck and my hair was stiff with it. Yeah, I'm a sexy bitch, alright. I found my shoe laying a few feet away and slipped it back on my foot and stared at the horizon, pondering.
Maybe it wasn't worth it. Maybe these gifts were really a curse. Maybe it was better for everyone if I simply disappeared. Maybe it would be safer for all. Maybe...maybe I should simply turn and walk away.
And that's what I did.
I turned on my heels and started walking. It think it was south, but it was hard to tell without the sun for some kind of bearing, and I never took an astronomy class. More than that though, it felt like north, so I figured it had to be south. One thing I'd discovered upon arrival to Arizona was that my sense of direction was completely screwed up. In Missouri, I could close my eyes and spin around and when I came to a stop I could tell which direction I was facing, simply by the feel. When I got to Phoenix that was completely backward. The best explanation I can come up with is that there is some sort of metal in the ground that throws off my internal compass. So since my body told me I was going north, I assumed I was heading south.
So that's how I found myself being scorched by the morning sun miles from anyone, and possibly even in Mexico by now. My body ached, the cuts and scratches were taking longer to heal then I thought was normal and I seemed to be dizzy more often then not. My head was simply a ball of pain with a throbbing heartbeat. Still I marched on. I didn't even consider going back. Fuck it, I thought. I couldn't die. So I'm thirsty and I couldn't remember the last time I'd eaten, it didn't matter to me. The only person I could hurt out here was me. I could live with that.
"Why did you kill me, Stephen?"
Amber appeared before me, looking just as she had on the bed in the hotel room. The same slack features shimmering in the waves of heat coming off the ground. I wiped the stinging sweat from my eyes and stumbled to a halt.
"I...how did you get here? You have to get away from me."
"Why did you kill me?" Her voice was as flat and dead as her eyes.
"But...I didn't. We put you back in the hospital, you were alive."
"You killed me." She started to walk towards me.
"No, I didn't. I saved you. I did." My heart began to race and all I wanted to do was run away. Try as I might however, I could do nothing but cower before my nightmare made flesh. I knew somewhere deep down that it was a hallucination. I hoped it was, anyway. In my delirium I couldn't sort out reality from fantasy. My tormented dreams were carrying over into the waking world and it was getting to the point where I could no longer tell the difference.
She was close to me now, just inches away. I saw the fires of hell burning in her eyes. I had to run away. She pursed her lips and leaned in to kiss me. The thought of those dead lips on mine sent me into a panic. I couldn't even close my eyes to block out the sight of her. I moaned deep in my throat as watched her face inch closer. At the last second I fell backward, smacking the ground with a thud, all the air rushing from my lungs. The spell broken, I jumped to my feet and looked around, but there was nothing but me and the scorpions. She was gone.
"I'm sorry!" I screamed out into the nothingness, my rasping voice moving past my parched lips and falling off like sand. I felt dizziness swirl up from inside me and my vision started to cloud over. Without further ado I collapsed and passed out.
*Beware the Jabberwock, my son. The jaws that bite, the claws that catch.*
I felt something cold on my nose. I opened my eyes and found myself looking into the large, beady eyes of a rabbit. A talking rabbit. Sure, why not.
"I didn't know rabbit's were fans of Lewis Carroll."
It said nothing for so long, it's glimmering eyes just watching, that I figured it was another hallucination, another dream that didn't know to stop when I awoke. Since he didn't want to talk and I had nothing to say, I closed my eyes. Some half-remembered English class brought the next verse to my lips. "Beware the Jubjub bird and shun, the frumious Bandersnatch." I mumbled to myself.
*Ah, so you do know it then?*
I cracked an eyelid and peered at him. "Ah, so you can speak, then?"
*I speak when there is something to say. That's the problem with humans. You talk entirely too much.*
I stared at him, his fuzzy face an off-white and beige mix, and tried to put my thoughts in order. If I was dreaming then should I just go with it or try and wake up? And if I was awake and there really was a rabbit in front of me reciting poetry then...what?
"Well rabbit, is there some reason you've decided to bother me? I was getting along just fine until you showed up sounding like my English teacher."
*Oh yes, you're doing fabulous, aren't you. You look like the vultures have gotten a hold of you and you didn't know enough to die once they had had their fill. Not that they'd want you at this point, you smell horrible.*
"Well you'll have to forgive me, I didn't pass any showers on my way to collapsing here."
*And you won't, either. That's my point. You don't belong here. You need to leave.* It nibbled at me in a decidedly annoyed way, its ears giving a twitch.
"Sorry, I can't do that. I have to keep going."
*Go where?* he asked.
I thought about it and discovered I hadn't the slightest idea. "That way."
"What ever way it was that I was heading." I said with a weary sigh.
*You bring death with you. You must go back. I insist!* It gave a little hop in my direction, inching him closer to my face, as if to drive his point home.
"Nope, sorry. I'm staying. Or going rather, as soon as I feel like I can get up. But I'm still going that way."
Despite how much it hurt in my chest, I couldn't help but laugh. "Yeah, okay, you go ahead and tell."
It gave a little rabbit huff and bounced off a few feet mumbling to itself as it went. After a moment it had dropped out of sight but I could still hear him. Cursing humans and humanity as it went. Blight on the world or some such nonsense.
*I'm telling!* He yelled out at me from the darkness.
"Hurry on little rabbit. You're late, you're late, for a very important date!" I laughed at my own joke until the exhaustion carried me away into unconsciousness again.
[We're dying. Is this how you want it to end?]
*I knew you were in here somewhere. I felt you. And that just shows what you know, anyway. Hermes said I can't die.*
[He said you can't be killed, he never said you can't die.]
*What's the difference? Besides, if you don't want to die with me then get the fuck out.*
[You don't get it, do you. There is no you and me, there is only us. To think this is what I end up with. I'm to tired to care anymore. You want to lay here and let us die, fine, have it your way. But fuck you if you think I'm going to spend my last few hours on this planet talking with your dumb ass. ]
*Fine. This is your fault anyway.*
Voices came to me in the darkness.
*Here he is. I told him he had to leave, but he wouldn't. I insisted and still he lays there.*
"Calm yourself, Fiver. I doubt this human could leave if he wanted. You see how weak he is."
The first voice was the rabbit; I could make out that much. The second voice was deep and somber and unfamiliar. I wanted to open my eyes and see who it was but I couldn't. My body had long since passed the point where it could sustain itself. It seemed like my heart only beat occasionally, the stuttering of a dying engine. I'd stopped feeling any hunger days ago, there was now only an emptiness that seemed to go on forever. Every breath I took rustled in the dried out husks of my lungs like leaves blowing across concrete.
"Leave us now, I will look after him."
Something wet touched my lips. I sucked at the precious moisture so hard that I felt the skin start to pull away. I needed more. I turned my head all that it would go, my mouth sucking at the air trying to find one more drop, just one.
"Hold still. It must be slowly or you'll go into shock. Are you ready for a little more?"
I croaked my agreement. Drop by drop I felt it hit my lips and run down to my tongue. It kept up like that until I had as much as I could take and then stopped to let it go to work. I lay on the hard earth, shuddering and gasping as I felt the water move into my body, carrying life with it. I literally felt my cells drink up the water and start to work again. My blood, dehydrated to the point of over-cooked oatmeal, began to loosen, to flow, to circulate and carry the water to other parts of my body that so desperately needed it. Inch by inch, drop by drop, I came back from the brink.
After some amount of time I had enough water in my system to open my eyes. There was a fire burning low a few feet off to my left, it was dark and no one was around. I had a blanket that smelled of dust and animal pulled up to my chin and a roll of cloth under my head acting as a pillow. I heard a rustling noise and then the scratch of claws on stone. Presently the largest black bird I had ever seen walked into circle of light made by the fire. It's eyes glinted with more then firelight as it stared at me.
For a moment I thought it was going to jump on me and peck my eyes out and carry them away to feed it's young ones. Not I could have stopped him. Still, he sat patiently, looking at me across the flickering firelight. I couldn't talk well enough yet to form a sentence, so I thought at it.
*Have you got any poetry for me there, mister bird? Perhaps a little Poe, what do you think? 'Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary...' This is a dreary night isn't. And I'm weary, I don't know about you.*
It felt absurd that I was having conversation with a bird, but I was past caring. I hadn't spoken to anyone but the voices in my head in so long that this was a welcome respite.
*I think I'm dying. It's not as bad as I thought it would be. I didn't think I could but I guess I was wrong. It's okay though. I'm just so tired. You must get tired too, having to flap those big wings all the time.*
It cocked its head, studying me with its one diamond black eye.
*I wonder if I can remember any more of it. I never did pay to much attention in Mrs. Moores' class. She had this annoying habit of making us break down the poems and analyze each and every word to the point where took all the fun out of it. Let me see now...I've got it. This fits you, I think, Mr. Bird:
'Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly, Though it's answer little meaning- little relevancy bore; For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door- Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door, with such a name as–'
['Nevermore'. Well don't look so surprised, you think I haven't heard that before? If I had a dollar for every time I've had that spouted at me by some smart-ass human...well I'd be the richest damn raven you ever heard of. Fucking Poe and his bloody raven.]
[No matter.] The huge bird walked over to me and studied me more closely. [I think you might be able to handle some food now. I will return.]
He turned and trotted a few feet and disappeared seamlessly into the night. I heard the flap of his massive wings and felt the rush of air as he took flight.
I think I slept for awhile, I don't know. I remember watching the low flames of the fire as my body moved towards recovery and sort of phasing in and out. Maybe it was sleep, maybe it wasn't, it doesn't matter, I suppose. Time passed and the stars circled overhead and the fire burned on.
I was startled out of my stupor when a sack dropped down in front of me with a Samurai Sam's logo on it.
"Eat it slowly," A figure said as it stepped over my form on the ground and walked around to the other side of the fire. He turned and sat down smoothly, cross-legged, and began to dig into his own bag. I looked at the stranger and found he looked very familiar. Or rather his aura did. It was almost the same red-orange glow I'd seen on...Coyote. He looked similar about the face too, but his was more angular, his nose a little sharper, his cheekbones more defined. His hair hung straight off his head in long, black sheets.
"Thanks." I pulled it open and grabbed the bowl out and cracked the top, the smell of grilled chicken and their awesome teriyaki sauce wafting up from inside. My instinct was to just throw my face into the bowl and suck it down, but I could feel his eyes on me, waiting for me to try something so stupid. Instead I picked up the black plastic fork and took a small amount and brought it delicately to my chapped lips. Christ, but it was good. I'd never had anything so good in all my life. Then again, he could have brought me a bag of steaming dog shit and I probably would have ate it just the same
"Good," He said. "I'm not in the mood to feed you myself." And then, exactly like Coyote, he seemed to completely forget my presence and focus on his meal. Knowing better than to try and have a conversation while he was eating, I ate my bird-like little bites in silence. I found that even though I hadn't eaten in days, I couldn't get that much down. After barely half the bowl, I felt like my stomach was bursting at the seams. I lay back with a groan and closed my eyes, feeling my body go to work repairing the damage; devouring the food for energy. It wasn't all that pleasant either. It's like that itch you get when you have a nasty cut that's scabbing over and healing. It itches like a bastard but you can't scratch it.
Sunrise came and with it, a newly healed me. I'd spent much of the night shivering and breaking out in cold sweats, and He was there the whole time. He'd bring water if I got thirsty or feed me a few more bites of the food, but never said a word.
"Thank you for last night. For the food and...staying with me."
He was sitting across from me, staring at me over the fire, completely passive and sucking on a toothpick leftover from dinner the night before.
"Well don't get all gooey on me, I had to get you well enough to leave, didn't I? You were killing all the wildlife. Are you feeling better?"
"I'm really hungry, but I think I'll be okay. What wildlife?"
"You didn't think you survived out here this long on your charm, did you?" He frowned at me, the lines etching deep crevices in his face.
"I...don't know. Hermes said I couldn't die, I figured I'd just... I don't know what. I had to get away from everyone. I'm dangerous..." My voice trailed off.
"More than you know," he mumbled to himself. "Still, you cannot stay out here. Did you ever stop to wonder why the buzzards didn't come to peck at your flesh while you lay unconscious for hours at a time on the desert floor? Or the scorpion to sting you, the snake to sink in his fangs? Take a look around you. Every plant within sight is dried up and dead. Every creature that crawls or walks within a hundred yards is dead. Every animal that didn't have sense to turn around and walk back when it felt the wrongness of the area is now dead."
I looked around and saw the few cacti in the vicinity, also a few bushes here and there, and saw that they were in fact all dead. "I did all that? I didn't mean to." Fuck...even when I try to get away so I don't hurt anyone I still end up hurting things.
"Let that be a lesson in running from your problems. As for this," he waved his hand around him, indicating all the dead plants, "your body has a built in need to survive. The abilities you now possess have amplified that need. Since you saw fit to let yourself starve to death here in the wilderness, it looked for other ways to keep you going. Wherever it found life it began to steal it. Plants, animals, insects, algae, fungus, all of it. Anything with even the lowest levels of life had it sucked away to keep you going. And for what? Are you any better off now?"
"Look, cut me a fucking break, alright!" I yelled. "What was I supposed to do. I have all this shit dropped in my lap and no one tells me anything. I get mind-fucked by a fairy and no one tells me anything. I go crazy and some voice in my head causes me to almost kill a girl and still! No one tells me anything. And you want to come here and lecture me about some goddamn scorpions? If this is what you've come here to say then fuck-off because I don't need it right now."