Sunday, March 18, 2012

Waking Time: Part Two

Here is part two of (what has now become) a three-part story. Read part one first if you haven't yet had the chance. Enjoy!

“Nathaniel, may I call you Nathaniel?” asks the doctor, dressed in a dark suit and tie, smelling of something heavy and fragrant.
“Yes, that’s my name.”

“Nathaniel, my name is Doctor William Song.”
Another neurologist, or some sleepy time medicine man, another one here to tell me what it is that’s wrong with me, with my brain. He’s talking in a toneless stream of words I can hear but don’t listen to. Hypocretin, REM, neurotransmitters, reflex inhibition, the same words over and over every time and I sit staring blindly at the wall just beyond the man’s head.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I was observing your sleep before you woke up. Your mother said it would be alright.” The doctor smiles at me with crinkled eyes behind glasses. “She’s very worried you know; she's a very nice lady. I told her not to worry though. We’re going to find a way to control this, you and me.”
Control; I wonder if he’ll make this place go away, or if that’s even possible. I don’t ask, I remember how well that went over when I asked the last one. My mother will bring in another to tell me I’m depressed, another to tell me that I have so much to live for, another to ask me if my father ever touched me at night while I lay in bed.  And then yet another will come that wants me to explain what happens when I close my eyes, to divulge and expose my island and to hear me name you, to hear me describe your face and your form and your hair and your voice, to have me strip you naked until you are left fleshless. So I only nod now, the sooner he stops talking the sooner I can return. I’m needed there, not only by you but by everyone.
Doctor Song will write down words on a paper, pills to take, stimulants, things that make me stay here for too long, for days and for nights and for days. I won’t take them, only pretend when my mother watches from the half-opened door, swallow and hack up into the toilet later with a finger down my throat.

* * *

“Mister Nathan!” shouts Tonogu from afar. He runs up to the younger man as another burst of lighting cuts across the day turning swiftly to night. “We must go now! I fear it has begun!”
So quickly had the beautiful day turned dark, the afternoon skies twisting wildly with heavy, rolling clouds, the sky cracking savagely with a burst of light and shattering sound. Then, from a distance, Nathan hears the sounds of men screaming and hears the pain in their voices along with the subtle noise of something terrible growling just beyond his sight. He turns and takes hold of the old man.

“Tonogu, dear friend, I cannot run.” With this he takes up his spear – a shard of expertly sharpened volcanic glass tied with leather to a strong wooden pole. The old man looks back at Nathan with mouth agape and sadness in his eyes. “I remember your words well, that the beasts cannot be slayed without suffering mortal loss. I do not take those words lightly, but I must try for the island, for my home, and for me you must find Alma and ensure that she reaches safely. Please, she is pregnant with my child!”
And now, all around them, a great shrieking is heard, causing both men bend their backs low. All around them the alarms of the island are resounding, the mighty and centuries-old conch call of great disaster bidding all of the people to flee to the water, to the massive long boats awaiting them for this singular purpose.
“Mister Nathan, please…” Tonogu is cut off by the sound of someone running from out of the nearby foliage, a young boy, the very same boy Nathan had always seen fishing so happily in the shallows off the sandy shores, his face now awash with dark gore, blackness pouring from his mouth as he screams and falls to the ground in convulsions.
“Go now!” Nathan yells above the din, thunder cracking as a bolt of jagged light strikes the craggy heights of his home. And Tonogu, terror still ablaze inside his look, turns and runs up the path to the castle swifter than the wind propelling him.
And no sooner does the old man disappear among the swaying vegetation clinging to the mountain side when something new and horrible comes rushing out of the underbrush. Nathan can only just raise the spear as the massive monster leaps from leafy cover, hissing as it plows its weight onto the sharp point. The tip of the weapon then disappears inside the scaly belly of the beast and emerges glistening from out the creature’s backside. 

For a moment, Nathan is face-to-face with this most unholy aberration of nature. Its dagger-like teeth drip freshly-spilt blood only inches from Nathan’s clenched jaw, mighty jaws snapping in fury and unleashing an odor most foul and death-like. The deadly wound in its midsection spills copious amounts of dark liquid down to the dirt and over the spear-bearers hands, yet the Anraknov clings to its wretched life, hissing and flicking its serpentine tongue to lash against the face of its attacker. At last though, the great body grows still, the black eyes lose their fire and become dull as its reptilian head droops downward, limp.
With a mighty wrenching, Nathan pulls the spearhead clean from the fallen creature. Its massive form stretches darkly against the earth; from snout to tail tip it easily surpasses the length of two grown men lying head against foot. More screams come from far and from close, a great down downpour now falls all around obscuring sight and sound. More are coming, running low to the ground on clawed feet. Again Nathan readies himself for combat, spear raised and feet planted into a sturdy stance, and again he has only an instant to react as the looming shadows spring out from the watery blackness to fall upon their soft-bodied prey.
* * *

From outside, the sound of a distant siren enters through my window. It is sad-sounding. It grows close then fades away, bright red lights flashing into the dark room, filling it briefly with color. The night outside is cool and calm; the air lies still. I lie to be still with it.
I have not eaten in many days, though there is food awaiting me at the door, for I find that I am only hungry when I eat. I move only now to relieve myself, or to attempt to move this numbness from my limbs, I pace as does a caged wild cat at the zoo. I do not wish to die, for, though I cannot be certain, I feel that if this body were to pass, so too would I die in our world. I know somehow that I should eat but I have no desire for it seems nonsensical that I should have to eat in a dream.
There has not been movement from within the house beyond and below my room for what seems like many days. Perhaps they have all gone away, perhaps they have left me here, or perhaps they all never were. Another siren outside, more urgent and shrill, blue lights splashing against the walls, and I hold onto hope that at last this strange nightmare is collapsing.
I shift from my stiffness so that I may look up at the stars. Even here, in this place, they are beautiful to look at, bright in the black sky over the sleeping town, nearly as clear as they are when we look at them from our bed chamber. I miss you so terribly but as I try to think of you, of home, I can only see visions of terrifying things, of blood and death.
Something bothers me though. I look up at the stars and they are so reminiscent of our sky, no, they are exactly as our sky, the formations of little lights all the same. I laugh and the noise is almost silent, raspy in my throat. What proof aside from this do I need to prove that this world is a fake, a rip-off made to reflect distant memories of a past gone life.
I feel a warmth, something like excitement, and I feel my heart (not my real heart, no, but the feeling is so vivid) thump in my chest. I can see all the constellations I had learned so well from sitting out on the nighttime beach. I see you, laughing with me, tiny grains of grey in your hair and sticking to your shoulders. We name off each one together – the archer and the boar and the spear-hunter and the crawling lizard…
Too quickly, I bolt upright and cause my head, my eyes, swirl and tilt the room. Of course, I remember now, the monsters – Anraknovi – they were attacking, they had come up from their holes and then what had happened? Standing, again too quickly, my legs shake as they try and hold me upright. Meekly, I grasp for the nearby bookcase but it’s not enough; I and it go crashing down together. Alma – I say your name out loud with a fake voice and hear it with fake ears – dream senses – but still to say it makes my chest throb. I am so worried.
Where do I go during these times, where is my body? Am I sleeping? Have I been knocked out or have we won the battle? I cannot remember anything clearly. Have I died? Is this some version of Hell? Have I been dead and all these times of being awake and alive with you only dreams of fading memories? Something warm and wet is behind my head – there’s a dull pain where my skull hit the floor – and seeps, rushes, like the warm sea water from the rising tide.

* * *

Strong arms pull his limp form free from the shallows.  The man chokes up water as he is pulled onto dry land. A woman, her belly beginning to bulge with child, kneels to touch the face of the sputtering, half-dead man.

“Nathan…” she whispers first. He then opens his eyes into the sun and she cries loudly, pulling his still-coughing head to her breast, tears dripping from behind tight-closed eyelids.
“Alma…” Nathan can barely speak and blood coats his teeth. There is a great pain in his head, a throbbing, a bleeding wound on his scalp and even more grievous gash deep into his left flank. Yet he is alive and the sun is shining hot, and the waves crash and roll with perfect rhythm. Above, gulls, white with black-tipped wings, soar and swoop, calling out loudly across the cloudless sky. With much weakness, Nathan reaches out to touch his wife, to feel that she is real before him, and he weeps.
But now Nathan takes notice of the gulls making sharp descents onto the beach, and the awful stench of death enters his nose. He pulls away from Alma to look out upon the beach and is stricken stiff, halting a wail from leaving his throat. The beach had become a place of true horror.
Bodies of men and women, both young and old, litter the white sands, turning them darkly orange and brown in many places. But, as tears pollute his vision, Nathan then sees the forms of drab green reptiles, their long, muscular corpses splayed out among the bodies of the slain people of the island. Broken and fallen weaponry, snapped spears and half-buried blades and discarded arrows lay glittering within and throughout the scene of carnage.
“What…what happened?” asks Nathan, stammering. There are several young boys surrounding Alma, none older than seventeen years of age by his count, all holding arms of one sort or another, all sporting bruising and signs of stopped-up bleeding.
“We fought Mister Nathan!” answers the tallest among the boys, Ma’tut is his name. “When the people heard that you had stayed behind to fight the Anraknovi,” and he does not shudder to speak the name, “we took our weapons, our tools; men and women and anyone who had bravery and could swing something heavy or sharp rushed back to the island with a mighty yell, and brought a war onto the ugly monsters!” The boy is breathless with excitement as he beams proudly. He had become a man that day, christened by the blood of his enemies, forged in a tumult of shouts and fangs and flesh tearing and the breaking of bones.
Nathan is speechless, his hands shaking at his sides, and he turns to Alma with his mouth agape.
“The boy is telling the truth, Nathan.” She smiles, lips upturning yet with sadness in her eyes. “But as you can see, though the battle was won, and the Anraknovi driven back, we have lost many, though we have kept our home.”
“But, is this all that remains?” Nathan says, blurting this out.
“Hardly!” answers Ma’tut, “There are many of my friends still seeking out the last of the monsters, hunting them, while others are sealing away those that escaped cowardly back into their tunnels.”
“And many more, children and some of the women and the elders, escaped upon the longboats as planned, only waiting for the signal to return now.” Alma says as she strokes the hair on the side of Nathan's head to reassure him.
“What of Tonogu though? Why are you here and not with the others on the boats as you should be?”
“We were cut off, unable to make it to the beach, there were so many...”
 "Alma, please tell me what has become of my friend."  Nathan stares at his wife, waiting to hear what he dreads.
“My love, I’m so sorry, but I fear the worst. I fear Tonogu may be dead…”