Grueberfest 09 R.1 - TatteredSubmitted by Ducky at 2009-10-06 02:59:51 EDT
Rating: 1.87 on 32 ratings (32 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Falling dreams. They’re the absolute worst. You could have walked off a cliff, fallen down a well, or seen black and white checkerboard rushing towards you at an ever-increasing pace because you got into a fight with Alice but well let’s face it she’s probably a total bitch, and she’s shoved you down the rabbit hole. It doesn’t matter how – it’s always the same; you always hurtle towards oblivion at some ungodly speed and manage to land, wide awake, on your bed. Sometimes you fall so fast and for so long that when you finally hit bottom, it actually knocks the wind out of you and you find yourself checking your body for damage. James had been falling for quite some time.
With a deep, laboured intake of air, he awoke with a start and instinctively glanced towards the red glow of the alarm clock and read the numbers.
It had been windy as hell the previous day – a cold biting wind that tore right through you regardless of what you happened to be wearing, but god help you if you had a scrap of skin showing. January in the isolated wasteland of Fort Challin was never forgiving. It didn’t affect him though, as James hadn’t been outside yesterday…nor the day before, or even the day before that. James hadn’t left his place, half of a small rundown duplex with cheap rent, for multiple weeks. He had only evidenced the grueling weather via the howling sounds it made as it ripped past the windows of the building…aggressively trying to break them.
He called in sick at his job, a shitty concrete plant where he labored as a mule, for the first couple of days. After that he started to receive harassing phone calls demanding to know when he would return to work, and informing him that he would have to provide a GP’s note when he came back. After a week of incessant phone calls and making innumerable excuses, he finally quit over the phone.
Checking his body for damage, he ascertained that his dream had indeed been just that. The only damage he observed upon a quick cursory inspection had been present when he finally passed out a couple of hours prior. The act of running his hand over his body snapped him back to reality, and to the unholy predicament he had somehow managed to find himself in…the same predicament that had him spending so much time in bed. He felt cold, but it had nothing to do with Mother Nature throwing her usual fit out of doors. He always felt cold lately.
Reaching with his right hand to turn on the bedside lamp, he made a few fumbling attempts to sort out the switch but was ultimately unsuccessful…making a mental note to switch the lamp to the other side of the small single bed, he reached over and used his left hand. In the minimal light provided by the 60 watt bulb, he looked down at himself, checking the poorly wrapped bandages that he had applied to his legs and arms prior to hunkering down for the night.
Initially, he had painstakingly cleaned and dressed each wound, thinking to himself that there would be time for healing. He didn’t see the point in taking the time anymore; the dressings never stayed on for long.
About a month ago he’d been out hiking…just a day trek not far from home. Fort Challin was a pretty small place; the population barely broke 4,000 most winters. There wasn’t much to do there. Most of the locals made a habit of getting shitfaced at the local drinking hole and beating their wives. It was the only place James had ever been where it was socially acceptable to lock women up at home for weeks at a time while the wounds healed. James didn’t have a drinking problem or a wife…or subsequently any friends, so he spent the majority of his downtime exploring various trail systems in the area. Most of them were fairly user friendly – well signed and at a manageable difficulty level.
Most of his hikes were typical. He might see an osprey or a group of mountain sheep…if he was lucky, a bear. This wasn’t a typical hike though, as about 45 minutes up the trail he rounded a bend to come face to face with something he couldn’t begin to imagine. Spaced out in front of him, covering a span of about 200 metres in each direction, was a flock of mountain sheep…all dead, and all without hooves. Some were also missing the lower parts of their legs. The area surrounding the mouth of each sheep was dyed a hue ranging somewhere from brown to crimson red – the colour dependant on the age of the blood. The ground itself was saturated. To his left he heard a low bleating sound. One of the poor animals was still alive.
He rushed over to the wounded sheep. It, like the others, had no hooves and was missing a portion of its hind legs. Blood was pouring profusely from the open wounds. The animal, lying on its side – energy spent – had almost finished bleeding out. Placing his hand on the sheep’s side, he knelt down next to it, felt its laboured breathing, and wished to god he had a gun to put the poor thing out of its misery.
Suddenly he found himself on his back.
In a final show of strength, the sheep had craned its head around…head-butting James out of the way, and tried to reach the bloodied area of what was left of its hind legs. Failing, it slumped over, let out a bleat of resignation, and expired. James was aghast at what he had just seen. Walking around to each of the other bodies, he evidenced that the legs had clearly been gnawed off – no clear cuts or any other signals alerted him to human involvement. Some animal he thought…but what sort of animal would do this?
The joy of hiking stricken from him, he quickly made his way home, called the conservation office, and relayed what he had seen. The receptionist thanked him for his call, and informed him that since the only conservation officer in the area was out of town on holidays for a few weeks, nobody would be able to make it out for a while.
Later that same evening, as James prepared himself dinner, he subconsciously gnawed at the inside of his cheek, stopping only after the metallic taste of blood filled his mouth. Moving into the living room with his plate, he plopped down on the couch to watch some TV. 10 minutes later he was doubled over by a twisting in his belly…it felt like something was trying to wring it out. 10 minutes after that, he was bent over the toilet emptying his stomach of his supper. For the following two days, James couldn’t keep anything down. His sleep was irregular, and he found himself waking throughout the night with blood on this face caused by biting his lips in his sleep. Even the water he tried to drink to soothe his throat, which was by now ravaged by stomach acid, was regurgitated.
On the third day he woke up, weak with thirst and not feeling at all like himself. He looked down at his hands, flipping them over back and forth…wiggling his fingers as though he’d never seen them before. Moving into the kitchen on autopilot, he opened the utensil drawer and removed a small serrated knife. He then proceeded to slowly tear a line down one of his fingers and held it to his lips. He sucked on the finger until it was puckered like he had been swimming, and then opened another.
No reaction from his stomach.
All ten of his fingers bandaged, he went to sleep that night feeling better, but was awakened in the early hours of the morning by the sound of his own screaming. In his slumber, he had bitten into his forearm. A large chunk of chewed flesh lay on the sheet covering his stomach, and in line with his pulse, blood spurted from his arm. Instinctively placing his mouth over the wound and ingesting the blood, James suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of hunger wash over him. With his free hand he lifted the saliva and blood covered flesh from the sheet. He was repulsed at the thought, but the insatiable urge to feed took over. He removed his wounded arm from his mouth and ate the flesh. Afterwards, he ran to the bathroom and bandaged himself up.
James was running out of resources. There were only tattered strings of flesh where his lips used to be…gradually chewed off during the many sleepless nights he’d had. They were the next thing to go after he’d eaten his tongue. He didn’t wake up screaming anymore, but rather to the guttural sounds of blood mixing with air. Sometimes he would take one of the many soiled bandages lying around the room and gag himself with it before attempting to sleep, but the small amount of blood it leached into his mouth only wakened the savage need for more. As the clock flicked over to 3:16, James matter-of-factly picked the knife up from the bedside table and began to gouge into his side.
The paramedics arrived on a crisp, clean Thursday morning, coming at the behest of James’ neighbor Molly. She had just returned from three glorious weeks in Puerto Nueva…in winter, nobody spent the entire duration in Fort Challin if they could help it. She hadn’t even dropped her bags before hearing broken shrieking coming from the other side of the wall. Upon opening the door, the attendants all instinctively raised their hands to their faces to block the thick wall of human waste stink emanating from the room. It was strongest by the bed, as after eating his legs, James no longer had the strength or capability to make to the washroom. One of his arms had been roughly torn from the shoulder, and a bloodied iron sat in a mess of feces and urine on the floor nearby…apparently used to cauterize his wounds. His other arm was still intact. Next to a pile of bones, James sat propped up on his bed. He had a gaping hole torn in his stomach, and clenched in his remaining hand was a portion of his intestine. Two of the paramedics vomited and had to remove themselves from the scene. The other two moved in to confirm that James was dead before making a call to the police.
Later on that same morning, a blue truck with amber lights pulled off down an old logging trail – its driver investigating a strange call put in three weeks prior.