As far as

The Man was about his size. A bit taller, a bit slighter. He wore a wool shirt, work pants and a pair of worn but sturdy boots. Up close the glow was more subtle. It was less as if the Man emanated light but rather that a soft light rested upon and illuminated him. The result was that, while the Man was near, he saw less of his surroundings. But as for the Man himself, he could make out every minute detail. He could make out the Man’s face clearly (though afterward, when asked, all he could draw forth were vague memories and impressions.) A stranger in the wilderness might not be trustworthy, but here was someone he could trust. The Man’s presence seemed almost to alleviate his breathing troubles, but the real cure was to come later. The deep lines that surrounded the Man’s eyes and mouth spoke of great things, great joys and great sorrows, great loves and great loss.

Why was he here? I tried my best to stand and introduce myself. But a searing pain shot up through my spine and to my heart. The Man looked down at me and smiled, his expression telling me to stay seated, not to worry. He glanced at my chest as it heaved from the recent effort. Almost unwittingly, without thinking, I told him my story. Why I was here, where I was coming from, how I’d begun to have trouble breathing, the pain, what it felt like. Everything. All the while he listened and nodded. Finally I ran out of things to say. By now I was almost gasping for air. The pain was keeping my chest from fully expanding, my lungs were burning from exertion and desperation for oxygen. I knew was dying. 

The Man knelt down in front of me and placed a hand on my chest. He looked at me and his eyes asked, Here? I nodded. He adjusted his position on his knees in front of me, on my rock. He rolled up his sleeves and with one strong hand held my shoulder. The other hand again found its place on my chest, at the epicenter of my pain. He pressed lightly and then… his hand went into my chest. In through my skin.

The pain was indescribable. I heard the sick, wet crunch of my ribs as they parted and broke. It felt as if my very being, the core of my self was being scrambled. I had not thought the pain could be so much worse. After a moment I was able to come to my senses and heard a wailing. It was only after looking around that I realized that I was the one screaming. It only lasted seconds but the Man’s hand felt like it was in my chest for an eternity. 

Finally the Man removed his hand. I gasped with relief, sweat dripping from my chin and brow. When I looked up he was holding… something. Vaguely round, darkly veined, pulsing, and the goddam ugliest thing I’d ever seen. Had he pulled that out of me? I looked down and felt my chest. My shirt was torn, but that was the only sign of what the Man had done. My skin was intact and my ribs felt whole. 

Looking back at the Man I reached out to retrieve my Thing. He pulled his hand back, frowning at me. Sure it was ugly, but it was mine, wasn’t it? He had pulled it out of me. The Thing’s odd pulsing had a strange sense of purpose. With each beat it seemed to reach out to me. As disgusting and offensive as it was, I felt a strange affinity for it. Again I reached out and again the Man pulled the Thing just out of reach. I was about to protest when he spoke.

“We must destroy it.” He said.

His voice was deep and wonderful. It had the effect of stopping me short. I thought clearly for the first time since I had lost my senses to the pain of the… amputation. I realized that my breathing was regular. I even felt light. The lightness did seem to have an empty quality to it, but it was not bad. Had the Thing done this to me? 

“Are you sure?”, I asked, “Can’t it wait?”

The Man frowned again.

We have waited long enough,” he said, “Who knows, if you had stopped sooner, rejected this Thing sooner, perhaps you would have made it to the city by now.”
“… I’m not sure. I can’t decide.” I hesitated.
“This is not true, you decided long ago.”

With a swift motion that lasted but a moment, the Man crushed the Thing in his hands. A viscous black liquid poured out steaming. I cried out involuntarily, feeling that something terrible had happened. The empty feeling intensified for a moment then subsided. The Man’s jaw was clenched and there was a clear look of pain on his face. His hands were burned and yet he still held onto the Thing as it squirmed in his hand. Then with great effort the man ran a few steps and hurled the Thing away from him, from me. I watched as it soared in a great arc to the West, in my daze I fancied that it burst into flames, miles away, perhaps as it reentered the atmosphere. 

When I looked back the Man was gone. I was alone once more. By now the night was slowly surrendering to the dawn and I could see my hands trembling in the pre-morning light. With nothing left to do I stood up on my shaky knees and continued walking East.

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~ by justinhong on October 11, 2011.

One Response to “As far as”

  1. Nice.

    Things have to get worse before they get better.

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