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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Finely tuned (Part three)

            “It's a strange feeling, isn’t it?”

            Bernie’s head rang like a drum, and the smell of something burning choked his breath and made him nauseous.
For a quick refresher on what came before read Finely Tuned (Part Two) -the management

He was laying on the bank of a wide, deep river, and merely being near it made his insides churn and boil, his mind immediately aware of the tons of water surging past, its thick, choking darkness picking away at what little self awareness his mind was struggling to assemble.

            He moaned and something liquid forced itself out of his mouth as he struggled to sit up. His eyes ached like open sores and when he struggled to turn around to find the owner of the voice, the torn, wrenched muscles in his neck screamed at him in agony.

            His lawyer stood on the grassy bank behind him, a thin smirk on his face. He was as impeccably dressed as ever, his absurdly handsome face partly obscured by his broad-rimmed hat. The sun had almost completely set, and in the pale, weak light that remained, Bernie thought that Mr. Timaeus’ skin looked pale and dead.

            His lawyer slid his hands into his pockets and looked serenely at the growing dusk, “It feels like every inch of your body is on fire, and yet it is not unpleasant.”

            Bernie choked and realized that beneath the searing pain in his skull, eyes and bleeding extremities, his skin did indeed sear with a delicious, terrible energy. He put a hand out to keep himself from falling back over, and he realized that his skin was grey and scorched, and all of his veins were livid blue, standing out like a thick spider web arching down towards his heart.

            He gasped, “It hurts…”

            Timaeus’ eyes opened a little wider as he regarded Bernie silently. He then started to laugh, “Yes, I imagine so. You were just electrocuted to death.”

            “I…” Bernie gasped as he realized that the burning stench that was suffocating him was in fact the smell of his own smoldering skin. He looked up at Timaeus in horror, but his weak body couldn’t muster the energy to form words.

            “Yes, you are dead, Bernard Hughes. Very dead. However, that doesn’t have to prevent you from living a full life. I know, that was a contradiction in terms as you know it, but trust me on this: what I am offering is much better than everything that you have known as life.”

            Bernie stared down at his hands with a fresh wave of horror: his fingertips were gone and the bone protruded from the burned flesh. He gasped and looked up at Timaeus as he set his palm against the top of his head and felt a sticky, warm smoothness that could only be protruding bone.

            The lawyer walked to his side and squatted next to him, “I’m offering you an end to the physical pain you are feeling. Right now, you are in between worlds: you aren’t amongst the living or dead, but neither are you truly one of my people. Left alone, you will wither and become truly dead in a matter of hours, and those hours will not be pleasant in any regard. Just ask, and I can help you make the rest of your transition.”

            The freshly electrocuted man stared up at Timaeus, and from the reflection in the lawyer’s glasses, he could see that every blood vessel in his eyes had burst from the electrocution and that the balls were now brilliant red with withered black slits for pupils.

He gasped and grabbed Timaeus’ arm, leaving a bloody smear along his suit sleeve, “Help…please…”

The lawyer leaned in closer, his face so close to Bernie’s that for an instant the freshly dead man thought that he was about to place a kiss on his burnt, flaking lips. Timaeus’ perfect mouth curled into a grin and he almost whispered, “Of course, Bernard.”

He drew back just long enough to bite into his own wrist, and Bernie’s fried brain vaguely wondered for an instant why he’d never noticed the long, sharp canines framing Timaeus’ mouth before.

The lawyer held out his bleeding wrist, “Drink. It is easy enough, all you have to do is drink, and the pain will be gone.”

Bernie knew that he should recoil: everything in his soul reminded him that he should be appalled, but the pain that racked through him was so intense and persistent that he seized Timaeus’ wrist with his own ruined fingers and brought the wound to his mouth.

As soon as the blood touched his tongue, Bernie felt as if he were being electrocuted once again. His nerves jerked with unbridled energy and the unbearable, yet intoxicating surge of heat that rushed through him made him tremble convulsively. He tried to push Timaeus’ wrist away, but the fake lawyer pulled him closer into an embrace that was so immovable that he might as well have been bound by iron trestles.

After what seemed like both an eternity and half a second, Timaeus released him and Bernie collapsed onto the ground gasping, rivulets of blood running from his mouth in thick streams.

Timaeus stood and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his wrist. As he did so, the wound slid closed almost as if it were being sutured. He sniffed disdainfully and stuffed the soiled cloth back into his coat pocket, “Sorry for the roughness, Bernard, but once you start down this path, there is no going back.”

Bernie’s eyes opened and he lay flat on his back, his chest heaving as he stared up at the stars. The heat in his body was growing to the point where steam vented from his nose and mouth until his breath stopped, his body no longer needing his lungs. His heart grew slow in his chest until it stilled to a sleepy murmur and he felt all of his other organs shut down, their functions replaced by a horrific energy that felt as if it would tear him apart. Finally the heat subsided and he felt as if he were once again a child, full of life and strength.

He sat up and blinked at his hands, noting that the skin on his fingertips had grown back and even though they were still visible through his skin, the dark veins had receded slightly. He brought a hand up to his skull and was shocked to discover that even though his skull was no longer slimy, it was in fact still protruding from the skin. He blinked and looked up at Timaeus, a question on his lips.

“Not all of your injuries will disappear,” Timaeus shrugged and opened his shirt. A huge hole ran through the man’s chest, its edges ragged and dark and the slender, almost elegant curves of his upper ribs were visible, “The one that killed you will always remain on your skin.”

Bernie crawled to the edge of the water and was startled to realize that the same sensation he’d felt before when he stared at it was still there, almost stronger now. He retched slightly and Timaeus laughed, “I wouldn’t try to swim anytime soon. Water does terrible things to us, to our minds. It pries us apart until we…well, until we can’t control our impulses anymore.”

The electrocuted revenant turned and looked at Timaeus, afraid and exhilarated to ask about what the horrible burning urge inside his gut was, “And what impulses are those?”

“The impulse to feed.”

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