In Your Nature

By: Matthew Simmons (Scifiteki)

Part Four

•  • • •

It wasn’t so much Mr. Grey’s manner that annoyed me as it was his face. Mr. Grey didn’t have a very nice face, because it reflected the depths of his grotty soul. Mr Grey’s soul was a pustulant, abhorrent, over-righteous thing, and so was his face. Of course, Mr. Grey didn’t think I knew it. Didn’t think I could see the dirty depths of his unclean bloodstained soul right down to the lint at the bottom of his shoes that made him shift around every once so often. But I could, I could, and he was blind.

The desk I sat at was a nice desk. I liked the desk; it’s regular proportions. Exactly ten meters tall, one meter wide. Legs made of solid grey wood. Face made of the flesh of the weak, the unworthy, the unstable. That was my desk, at least. I don’t know about the other’s desks. It didn’t matter. My desk was my desk was my desk was my desk and all over it was beautiful, a thing of wonder and despair.

I liked my pencils, too. They were all sort s of colours and shapes and sizes, for the hubcap factory that sponsored our school and they thought we should have the very best pencils that there could be, and so we did. There were so many pencils sometimes they covered my desks and spilled onto the floor and flooded the room, but it didn’t matter because the more pencils I had the better.

Mr Grey liked our pencils too. I don’t know why, because I never saw him use one, but he was very keen on the pencils. He said they were the most useful things we could ever have. I hated him. I don’t know why I hated him; it just seemed like the right thing to do. Everyone else hated him too. I could see it in their faces, pent up rage when he spoke and talked and wasted the air that he breathed. We never did anything about it no, no, no, never ever ever did anything about it because he was our teacher and our teacher was our teacher who taught us everything but what was at the bottom of his murky little pathetic soul

The playground was big. Very big, in fact. It was the whole world, though. Except for the hubcap factory, it was the whole world. Dark jagged cracks ran down it at regular intervals, like the lightning of the cold grey clouds that were ever above. It never rained. I know it never rained, and I remembered everything. I don’t know why it never rained, because I also knew that it should. That’s what clouds do, don’t they? They rain, and rain, and rain down on the soil that probably doesn’t deserve their caresses.

I stood in the playground, in the middle of that vast forever. Gherrit Red stood to my right. Gherrit Blue to my left. And all the others around me, all the thousands and thousands of the ten. Red spoke to me, he whispered in the voice of demons that we should no longer listen to Mr Grey. He was clothed in rats, Red was, and they scurried all over him like a tornado of brown. Blue spoke to me, smooth-tongued in the voice of saints that Mr. Grey was all there was. How could we turn against the universe, all there was and were and will be? He was clothed in snakes, and they turned and twisted hypnotically.

We sat in class, listening to Mr. Grey droning like a little useless worker bee in his nice little black pinstripe suit with its little efficacious blower hat and the little button, third one up from the bottom, which had a little stylised star that was frozen in mid-supernova, trapped forever in that one motion. That little button symbolised everything we were. Trapped in the moment of freedom.

He turned and spoke, and out of his mouth spilled a thousand rats which scurried across the floor and ran through the walls. In between the rats splashing out of his mouth he told us that we were to complete our final homework assignment.

Mr. Grey often spoke about the final homework assignment. Did he tell us everything about it, or nothing? I can’t remember. All I remember is that he kept saying how important it was. The grubby-faced dirty-souled little excused for a person! I hated him, and I hated his school assignments and his school work and everything about him, but I still did them because I didn’t know what else I could do.

He said our final homework assignment was to go to the other class and kill them all. Yes, yes, yes, yes, leaders of the blind in the land of the one eyed kill every single one of them and leave nothing but the ashes and the darkness in their wake and make the rivers run red with their blood.

We stood from our seats, and ran from out room wielding the pencils which had turned into knives when we weren’t looking but it didn’t matter, did it? Knife, pencil, knife, pencil, knife. It’s just a matter of degrees between the pencil and the knife and if you’re not careful the pencil will slip away and a knife will take its place and they’ll perform the same task only different. The pen is mightier than the sword, they say. Why do they say that? Why mightier? Because the pen performs the same task, except on a greater scale. The sword and the pen both make the rivers run red, like we were to do.

We ran, and ran, and ran, and we saw the other class. But it was funny, because the other class wasn’t the demons that they had been painted to be on the innumerable walls of our classroom. They were just like us. Mirror images, in fact. Backwards and back-to-front, perhaps, but nevertheless us. And we laughed, the other class and our class, we laughed, and our laughter filled the walls all the way up to the top. We were rolling; little pigs in the mud with knives without a purpose because you can’t kill yourself. Why should you? I knew that and my classmates knew that and the other class knew that. So we kept running, on, past each other.

The other class was full of Mr. Grey. He was everywhere, covering every little corner and nook and cranny and occupying every single space and it was hard to see how he could breathe like that. It was strange, at first, because I hadn’t expected to see him here; him with his hated little laughing pug face and defiled soul. But then I knew I should have expected it, because he was all the same. The fool. So we took our knives to him.

The knives lashed, and they cut, and they rent, and they gashed, and they stabbed, and they pierced, and the blood ran and ran and ran and ran until it was a fine ever-flowing river that ran all the way to the sea. The room was filled with his blood, but we kept killing him, and killing him. The blood flew like sparkling fireworks, flying everywhere, all over our faces and clothes and legs and souls and we revelled in it.

And we kept going. We sent to the other classroom, and we killed Mr. Grey there, too. We killed him everywhere e found him, shredded his stupid suit and stupid bowler hat and melted the button and let the supernova go free, like we were, free from Mr Grey and all his rules and regulations and laws and binding hatred,

We bathed in his blood, let it wash over ourselves. And we were lost, and found and lost and found and lost and found and lost.

And then the waves came, and covered all.

Into the waves,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

• • •

When the red cleared away, Greg couldn’t breathe.

He panicked, desperately trying to draw air into his lungs, but it was to no avail. It was if someone was holding his mouth and nose tight shut, and not so much as a single speck of air was getting through. Desperately, he tried to reach up and see what was wrong with his mouth, but he couldn’t move his hands either. Frantically, he pushed against his arms, but they were held still by something stronger than steel. Sheer, overwhelming hysteria gripped him, sending his mind into a flurrying cyclone of thought. Had he been captured? Was he dead? That was when he realised his eyes were open.

Ordinarily, he would have blinked in surprise, but even that movement was denied to him. What was going on? Why couldn’t he move so much as a single muscle? He tried to see what was going on, but everything was still half-covered in clouds of murky red, blinding him from the world. His panic rose ever higher, as he desperately clawed for air. He was going to suffocate, all because he couldn’t even move his mouth to breathe in...

Then his mouth opened and cool sweet air rushed in, filling his lungs. But it wasn’t his motion. If he’d had his way, he could have been nearly hyperventilating, but as it was, his breath was that of someone cool, collected and totally under control. Not him, in other words. He tried to test the limits of his seeming confinement, but it was total. Not so much as a single toe would respond to his urgent mental cries. It was as if he were a puppeteer, but someone else had stolen the strings and all he could do was watch.

The last of the red clouds rushed away and in their place, sensation rushed in, nearly overwhelming him. The first thing that he noticed was the wind. It was a harsh, steady gale, blowing coldly through the air and buffeting his skin. It was a freezing gale, in fact. There was no way he could be feeling such a gale unless... Then he looked out the barred windows of his eyes, and saw.

He was standing high above the city. Frighteningly high. Down below, the square buildings were like little toy blocks, their inhabitants microscopic specs of black. Off in the distance, the plains spread out in every which direction, the rolling green rippling gently to the wind. Off to his left, he could just see the meandering New Seine, brown and muddy. And directly in front of him, scrabbling at his outstretched hand was an alien, its neck caught between the vice grip of his hand.

He was standing, Greg realised, on the very edge of the top of one of the Watchers. His mind roiled, and he futilely tried stepping back. His rebellious legs refused to move, staying steadfast on the very edge, unmoved by the gale force winds. The sheer height was terrifying, but no more so than the alien held in his grasp, suspended over the emptiness, frenziedly clawing at his arm.

Greg felt blood, thick and warm, start to spill over his hands. The alien’s grasps started to become weaker, and it began to make nauseous choking noises. Then he watched in horror as his hand opened, and the alien dropped like a stone. His view moved down, and he was forced to watch as the doomed creature fell towards the surface, dwindling into a tiny grain and then disappearing completely.

With all his heart, he wanted to throw up, try and cleanse the image from his mind, but he could not. He was a prisoner in his own body, compelled to watch as whatever it was that had taken over his body do it foul work. He tried to move the image of the helpless alien falling, and he almost succeeded... And then another came to him. A woman, staring at him confoundedly, his hand through the bloody mess of her chest. A man, scrabbling at his empty bleeding eye sockets, as Greg held them casually in his hands. Another man, his face bleeding prolifically, cowering in a corner as he slowly advanced on him. A child, the life gone from her eyes, her arms bloody stumps. Who were these people? Why did he see them? You are responsible, a voice in the back of his mind told him. But it was impossible! He’d never killed a person in his life. You are responsible, You are responsible, You are responsible, it repeated, over and over.

His uncontrollable vision swung around, to face a group of people, standing is a straight line. It was a strangely eclectic bunch, really. Were it not for the terrifying circumstances he was in, he could have laughed to see those eight people, all standing in a straight line, eyes forward, like soldiers. They are, the voice told him.

He looked through the line, noting the diverse range of weapons, from staves to guns, grenades to... knives. Sudden realisation struck him as he saw the knife-wielder, Steve, standing in the middle of the group. He was still clothed in the same old torn and bloodied business suit, but his expression was one Greg had never seen before, fierce and distant. Was he too trapped in his own mind, a mere spectator to the horrors committed with his own hands? There was no way to tell.

His mouth moved, of its own accord, words spilling out in a voice he had never heard before in his life. "Is First Landing clear?" asked his voice, rigid and unyielding.

A woman at the end of the line, carrying two pistols in her hands and an ammo belt around her waist, replied, in the same sort of hard monotone. "Yes. The bugs are gone."

His vision moved across the line, surveying them. "What of the spaceport at Pela?"

Another man replied. "It was destroyed, a tactical nuke. There were no survivors."

"And what news of the Marathon?"

"One of the AIs onboard left the system two weeks ago in the Pfhor’s ship, taking our brother with him." Stated the knife-wielder, in a voice that Greg did not recognise. "Other than that, the Marathon is clean."

"Good. Do any yet remain on this planet?"

"Only a few pockets of resistance remain, sir." Replied a man cradling a heavy machine gun, massive for his tiny frame. "Within a week, we will have neutralised their threat."

"Very good. Now, we must..." The voice never finished its sentence. At first, Greg was at a loss to understand why, but then he heard it. A low rumbling sound, like thunder, that shivered through the air. At first, he strained to hear it, but the sound grew steadily louder and louder, until it filled the air.

With agonising slowness, his body turned, to face the cityscape again. The cold wind slowly started to change, the temperature imperceptibly rising... Had he not lived out on the plains alone for so long, he would not have noticed it. But it was there, all the same, and he could feel the gale wind shifting to something else. Something distantly familiar, as if from a dream, but he couldn’t quite remember...

Off in the distance, the sky was red, churning like the seas of hell. What was going on out there, he wondered? Hadn’t they just said that all the creatures, the ‘Pfhor’, were gone? Then what was this new abomination, this new torture?

Suddenly, a spear of light stabbed through the clouds and slammed into the ground, at the outskirts of the city. A glowing ball of light expanded from its impact, and the wind abruptly began to blow directly into his face, hot as a furnace. Then another spear of light stabbed down, this time closer. And then another, closer still. Distantly, he could hear the sounds of massive explosions.

His possessed eyes widened in what he presumed with shock. He could feel the stiff lines of his face falling into horror and despair, although, he did not under stand what for, still. His legs stepped back, and then the air was shattered with the sound of an explosion, so loud it sounded like the voice of God. A massive wall of blinding light rose up and covered the city, rushing towards the tower, him and his possessor. His head turned, and he heard another mammoth explosion behind him, saw another wall of light rise up like a tidal wave of light.

He was going to die, he realised. Finally, he was going to die, and there was no way he could run or fight or kill his way out of this situation. He watched distantly as the wall of light rushed ever closer, the heat growing hellishly intense and the wind so strong it would pick up buildings and throw them like playthings. Yet still he stood, and watched.

Images flashed through his mind. Dead people, mutilated and broken, all by his hand. Others, running in fear, only to be cut down by merciless gunfire, his gunfire. Yet others, begging for their lives, yet killed without a thought all the same. All his sins, all this crimes, all his offences, unravelled in his eyes while the deadly light rushed ever closer. Yes, he was responsible for their deaths. It didn’t matter how, where, why, but he was. And there was nothing he could do to atone their deaths, their senseless, useless deaths.

As the explosion from a planetbuster nuclear device engulfed Moljinr Mark IX Unit 1-A, one of the sent with the UESC Marathon on its long journey from Earth to Tau Ceti, he wept tears of sadness, for his mission was lost forever.

And Greg, a simple man, wept tears of joy, for he was free.