The Problem 2

May 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

He took the stairs two at a time, his boots clicking on the faded wood where the metal along the front edge scraped each other step. As always, committing to the action made it feel real. His memory often slid a patina of protective sepia tone over his own thoughts, but not now. The shadow he cast as he went down past the recessed lighting reminded him that he had no real idea of what he’d do when he found them.

As he burst out of the back door of the converted old whaler’s house that served as apartments for college students too young to know they were being cheated and people like him, who took the trade off for anonymity, he could actually smell them on the wind. Four, maybe five (the fifth smelled different somehow, as if the smell of the other four had gotten all over him but not inside him) and heading down the street towards the water. The moon was entirely hidden behind clouds that speeded and gleamed and quivered with its light.  As he ran around to the front of the house (a front door he didn’t have the key to and had never used) he saw an old disposable lighter on the ground and stopped to pick it up. A few experimental flicks of his thumb told him it still worked, and that he still didn’t know how to use a lighter without hurting his thumb.

He stood there for a few moments, letting the flame of the lighter heat up the metal cap on the end. The he drove it into the center of his palm, hissing as the heat seared him.

“Vigrid the plain is called where Surt will meet the Gods.” His voice was tight from the pain of his burned hand but he kept the lighter and broke out into a loping run. “Vigrid that place is called, a hundred miles on every end are its measurements.” His lungs seemed to swell in his chest as he ran, each breath hotter than the last, his hair snapping in a breeze that had come out of the west to blow hot and dry against him. “Vigrid is that place where Surt will belch flames over the world entire.”

He reached the door to the Red Hook and remembered nights spent there with Thea, before she’d gone entirely out of his reach. His own fault, and yet even that memory seemed to burn now. He could feel his upper lip peeling back from his teeth in a snarl even as his burned palm made sizzling contact with the door, smoke trailing up from his fingers where the paint blackened between them.

The door opened onto death. Several people were huddled in the dim light from beer signs in the far corner of the room while on the bar, the fat old quahogger who owned the place (he was surprised to realize he didn’t even know the sallow old boar’s name) bled from a gigantic hole torn in the folds of skin around his throat. If he’d been himself, he might have remembered he didn’t particularly know or like the man. Looking at his torn open neck, the bristles of his two days unshaved skin matted and blackened around the edges of the hole, he felt heat travel up and down his spine in waves.

One of them was standing near the door and was already turning to secure it. That one was a large male, extremely pallid with hair so blond it was almost gold and eyes like sapphires under the surface of wine. Two females were standing between him and the cowering patrons, both indistinct in the dim light of the bar, and a fourth who was near the window wore a long black coat that rendered him or her impossible to identify. There was a fifth, a short balding grey haired man who did not smell even remotely dead.  He’d long since grown able to smell it.

The poster child for the Turner Diaries at the door smiled as it reached out what it doubtlessly believed to be a very fast hand, revealing a mouth full of long, pointed teeth.

“I bear the scathe of branches.”

His hand snapped up and caught the wrist of the arm reaching for him, and the burn on his palm erupted into flames, orange-red fire that crawled up and around him. It poured from his eyes, and from his open mouth like molten brass, lighting the whole room. The dead thing barely had time to scream before its wrist was crushed in the grip of a hand nearly twice the size it had been. The burning figure had surged upwards, nearly reaching the ceiling with its head wreathed in flames for hair, flames for a beard, flames for clothes.

The burning giant brought his other hand down and completely covered the mockery’s face with his palm, and then crushed it with burning fingers that seared it on contact. A twist of the arm and the ruined head came popping off of the neck, flames now leaping from every exposed surface and burning flesh, bone and even brains into ash between those enormous fingers. He stepped fully over the decapitated corpse, brushing it aside with a sweep of his terrible arm.

“You never learn.” His every breath was like the blast of a furnace. “Filthy parasites. Less than insects, corpses that don’t know to stay dead. Oh, let me teach you.”

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