By Cameron Mcconnachie
3 years after Rapture
‘… Ray Allen, Roger Ellis, Shane Felt, Sharon Blackmoor …’ the ephemeral voice reverberates through my mind as it always does. Dominating my thoughts but never taking hold in physicality. The voice is almost soft and welcoming, but the fear it evokes never subsides, and I doubt the voice’s owner wants it to.
It lists all those who remain, all those unlucky enough to avoid being taken by the blissful oblivion offered years before. The list of names grows shorter as the days turn to weeks, but the effect never lessens. Being named ensures the inevitability of erasure.
The names themselves hold little importance to me but they do inform me of what time has passed. Every twelve hours they cry. We counted, while the power still worked, while watches and phones did not ignore us with arrogant dismissal. Their artificial existence holds little concern for the purgatory we have made our hell. If not for this vocal bell chime I think most of us would doubt time has passed at all.
The sky outside the penthouse in which I reside shares no qualities with the inviting blue sea I remember. A murky grey envelops us, no gaps of light break through despite the lack of clouds. There is no night, no day. Though we found ourselves uninterested in what grants us vision in this sunless existence. We were more concerned with what caresses our minds incessantly; that which haunts our vision and our being; the things that call our names and force some to abscond.
Peering out the windows of the penthouse I see it. While its entirety is in my view, I would hesitate to say I see it clearly. A writhing mass of feathered wings, all varying shades of white, black and grey. Its height manages to rival the skyscrapers that surround it. However, despite its prodigious size it weaves between the monolithic buildings, dancing without form as it moves. Amongst the squirming, fluttering wings multiple emotionless, porcelain like faces emerge. These smooth symmetrical visages dive in and out of the wing’s depths, but there is always at least one face not submerged. What faces can be seen peer around endlessly, searching for those left behind such as myself. Those who are not willing to accept their punishment.
Recently their eyes have emitted flickers of a blinding light. Whatever this light passes over becomes a mirror image of itself, but somehow more beautiful and inviting than it ever was before. At first, like most I found myself horrified, and resentful towards these creatures. But as time passes, I’ve come to accept my damnation and I see them as welcoming.
As the thing leaves and I break free of its tantalising image, I remember today’s task: food. The high-rise penthouse I ‘appropriated’ had run out of food. With the electricity gone I descend the many flights of stairs to the bottom, plenty of time to plan my route. Dust floats still in the air as I make my way down the staircase, frozen in time like the world itself. Unable to move forward and unwilling to embrace the end. After reaching the ground floor I make my way towards the nearest supermarket. Like the dust, food also sits unchanging, never spoiling or going rotten. And due to how few people are still here, it has taken years for the supplies to get low, but it is now reaching the point of worrying scarcity. On these trips I’ve grown paranoid and cautious, no longer do winged monstrosities worry me but rather my fellow man. I am unsure as to what the unknowable creatures may do, but I understand the threat of people far better.
The lack of supplies is more immediate than I had suspected. It takes me some time to find a store that has anything left, and even then, my plunder is limited. I put everything I find in one of the many plastic bags laying around. I start leaving with haste, the less time I spend here the better. Returning to the stores entrance I’m greeted by a group of dishevelled men.
“Drop the food”
Without mincing words the closest one points a pistol at me. Guilt ridden images of my past flash before me. I understand their actions but know better than to sympathise now. If people are resorting to this for food, I doubt I would have much luck finding any elsewhere.
I either die trying to protect this bag or give it up and die from starvation, the options appear to be a quick or slow death. I decide my best course of action is to act quick, so I turn and begin sprinting back into the store, hoping to find safety between the many shelves. My swiftness appears to have its intended affect as the group stands bemused before gathering themselves and taking chase. Followed by their shouts, I manage to reach the staff section of the store. Searching for an exit I notice a door ajar. Inside, the face of a frightened teenage boy looks back at me. He holds a large bag filled with food. He must have been scavenging himself when I arrived and hid from me. I’m not interested in getting us both killed.
“Close the door and keep quiet”
He complies to my hurried command and I hear the approach of my pursuers. I continue moving through the back rooms and find a door labelled exit. As I burst through the door, the sound of gunshots ring through the air, followed by my blood plastering the floor. I stumble outside, clutching my bleeding side.
Across the road I notice a small alley that leads into several more streets and buildings. I try my best to move towards it, through the pain and growing weakness. As I run, I muse that my blood might be the most colourful thing I’ve seen in years. Just as I reach the streets edge, the armed group emerge out of the store themselves. I turn, to see them leisurely walking after me. My state must be so pitiful that they doubt I will make it much further. A looming shadow covers me as I clear the road and enter the alleyway. Behind me I hear my pursuers scream in terror and flee. I slump down against a wall and look towards my apparent saviour.
An obscene contortion of feathers greets me. One of the colossal creatures that have become our constant wardens’ hovers over me. For the first time I have ever seen, it is faceless, but its mass of wings soon writhe and bulge before countless perfect faces appear from betwixt itself. Their closed eyes open, and light pours out of them, no longer flickering and inconsistent.
The light from their gaze does not reach me but coats the ground before me. The edge of the light whips out towards me like a fire, licking at the shadows I hide myself in. The warmth emitted feels better than anything I’ve experience in years. The faces themselves, though still, emanate an aura of disappointment, pity and acceptance. I sit for minutes gazing between the unmoving thing and its light. It wants me to enter the light myself. Considering the blood flowing from me I have little choice. I acquiesce.
A week later
His face runs through my mind, I could have helped him but instead I cowered in that room. I heard the shots, I heard them chase him down. I sat in that room for what felt like hours before I crept out. When I made it back to my uncle, I told him everything. He chastised me for my cowardice, he told me that this is why I was left behind when the skies turned grey and the majestic beings graced us.
3 years ago, I was having a rare visit to my uncle’s place. My parents almost never let me see him, let alone stay at his house, he had done something in the past that had split him from the family. He had always been kind enough to me, always trying to guide me to be a better man. With his guidance, I’ve been trying to avoid sin so I can leave this place.
He stayed behind when it happened just so he could keep me safe from the ‘demons’, as he calls them. He speaks of the feathered giants with vitriol, every word always spat out from gritted teeth. I never understood his hatred. They always seemed beautiful to me, their wings entangled in a flawless dance that twisted and turned in ways my mind could never comprehend. The light that came from their pretty faces always covered the otherwise forlorn world in hope and warmth. I tried talking to my uncle about the light once and he yelled at me. He assured me that no light or anything good could come through their “black enveloping eyes”. I had never seen the black eyes he spoke of, but it could be because he sees through their tricks. He always tells me they are trying to enrapture me and draw me to my demise. At first, I believed him, but I find myself questioning him more and more, though I dare not voice my doubt to him.
As I wander the streets, my mind is filled with thoughts of my uncle, these beings and what the world has become. The food I acquired, thanks in part to that man’s kindness, didn’t last long. I was certain I had grabbed a lot, but it has disappeared already. Uncle sent me out today to find more food. After last time, I’m nervous to venture into more commonly scavenged shops. I don’t think there will be much food to find at all though. I’ve been trying to convince uncle to leave this city in hopes of finding somewhere else where food still remains, but he always shuts me down. I fear he refuses to leave the hotel room, which he has holed himself up in.
Turning the corner, I’m beholden to a great feathered form. ‘… Ray Allen, Shane Felt, Sharon Blackmoor …’, I realise now, I had been ignoring the calling of the list. The names had become so familiar that I sparsely notice when they are called. As it continues its duty, the orgy of wings seems to turn towards me. A multitude of faces escape from their winged entanglement and shine their inviting light before me. The faces exude a kind, welcoming feeling. And their luminary expulsion calls to me. In an instant the doubtful questions directed towards my uncle surface.
What reason do I have to distrust these enchanting creatures? I feel nothing but love from them. A love more encompassing than that of my own uncle. I enter the light.
As indescribable brightness blinds me, I lose the sensation of my body, of myself. We find ourselves in a world of white. Then that bright plain gives way to the absence of all, void becomes our existence. Fear, joy, sadness, anger, lust, jealousy and guilt flood our consciousness. All emotions pull at our waning sense of self before they all burst with overwhelming intensity and we are left with nothing but euphoria.
Countless years after Rapture
Its list has been reduced to one. I see now only I’m left to defy these beasts.
They took everyone, the strongest of us held out at first, but they broke us. They even managed to take my foolish nephew. Though the boy was too stupid to see their evil and deceitful ways. He spoke of them as if they held beauty, but the creature before me now brings nothing but bile to my mouth, and hatred to my heart.
Its wings spread out in an attempt to hold dominance over me. The feathers move in such a disgusting manner, like worms crawling amongst the mud. Their stiff stone faces glare at me with their cold black eyes. Nothing but disdain radiates from them, but their distaste for me only fuels my defiance. I will not be judged for I have done no wrong, these things have no right to judge me as if they understand life.
I will remain here for eternity if I must, they brought me to this hell undeserved, so here I will stay.
About the Author:
Cameron Mcconnachie is currently studying English at James Cook University with aspirations of writing novels or writing for video games. With a love for most things geek, he hopes to one day contribute to the culture he loves with his own works. He can be found at @CamConno on Twitter.