8Fold: Incarnate #3 -- "...That We Are Made"
jamie.rosen at sunlife.com
Sat Sep 1 18:16:13 PDT 2007
)))))) "...That We Are Made" ||
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[1981. January. New York.]
The snow crunched under their feet as they walked from the highway to
the woods outside of Midsummer, the light from the passing cars fading
as they trudged further and further from the arteries civilization.
The shadows that danced before them melted into the darkness of the
cloudless, moonless night, and soon enough only the faint sparkle of
the stars above their heads enabled Joanna to make out any of the
shapes before her.
"You're sure about this?" David asked from somewhere out in front of
her. "Going back to Midsummer?"
"Absolutely." She nodded. "This is where we came from. It's where they
should come back, when they do."
"It won't be the same."
"I don't care. They deserve a home. At least a glimpse of it."
He fell silent and they continued walking. She thrust her hands into
her pockets and, not for the first time, regretted not bringing a
warmer pair of gloves. She wasn't in any danger of frostbite or any
other medical condition, but that didn't make the cold night air any
less uncomfortable. Of course, part of her discomfort may have come
from being nervous about what she was asking David to do -- but she
wouldn't admit that to herself.
David stopped so suddenly that she almost walked right into him.
"Right here," he said.
They were standing in a clearing in the middle of the forest. It
wasn't large, but it was obvious that at some point in the last few
years the trees had been cut down and the earth dug up. The blanket of
snow was thinner here, and the air was palpably warmer. "I don't like
it here," she said.
"You shouldn't." He crouched down. "This is where they buried the
bodies. The men and women and the kids who were too old to replace.
Your mom and dad, and mine." He started to trace symbols in the snow
with his bare fingers. "The energy here is ugly. It isn't the Odic
force, because nothing here is alive. It's something else, something
much closer to them and their world." He stood up and walked her over
to a tree at the edge of the clearing. "I want you to stand here," he
said. "You'll be safe."
"Nothing grows there. The energy of the dead prevents it. This tree
must be outside the area of effect to keep growing." He started to
walk back, but she wouldn't let go of his hand.
"But what do you mean I'll be safe?" she asked.
He turned to her, pulling his hand from hers. "I've never done this
before," he said, and she could see the hint of a smile on his face.
"Who knows what could happen?" She wanted to slap him, but instead she
watched him walk out into the centre of the clearing until he was
almost invisible in the gloom. She closed her eyes and let her other
senses take over, listening to the distant wash of traffic on the
highway, the rhythm of his breathing, and the snow compressing beneath
his every step.
Against the insides of her eyelids danced forms in unnameable colours:
bars with tendrils extruding from their tips; shifting protoplasms;
velvety fuzz surrounded by ragged, pulsing fields. All these shapes
were strangely familiar to her, and stronger here than they had been
when she'd closed her eyes before. They swam across her vision in
three dimensions, oblivious to her observation and yet somehow still
menacing by virtue of their very existence. Even in the almost perfect
darkness of the night, these images were somehow illuminated, as
though light were coming from within her own eyes to show her these
Her eyes shot open and she could see David silhouetted against
twisting columns of brilliant white and impenetrable black. He was
floating a few inches from the ground, his eyes open, his arms thrown
back in mock crucifixion. She started to run towards him, but he
shouted at her to stop.
"Don't move! Please, Joanna, just stay where you are."
"They're coming." He smiled, and the intertwining black and white
climbed upwards from his mouth. "They're coming back."
[1992. May. Pennsylvania.]
Even after all this time, there was something exhilerating about
flying through an atmosphere that she just didn't get from the void of
outer space. The friction of the air against her body was enough that
she kept the smart suit wrapped around her at these speeds, but even
so, her senses were patched into the matter and she could enjoy the
translated sights and sensations as she sped across the landscape.
"I don't know what you see in this place," the Doctor commented.
"Of course you don't, Doctor," she replied. "It's not the place, it's
the people. Real human beings!"
"Which you aren't."
She frowned. "I'm close enough. Besides, I like them, and I like that
I can help them with their lives."
There was no reply.
"Will you be quiet? I'm analyzing something."
She let herself slow and settled to the ground in a field. Most of the
snow had melted, leaving the ground muddy and full of the ingredients
for life to bloom again. "Analyzing?"
She shrugged and looked around. In the distance she could see an old
farmhouse with smoke coming from chimney, and when she adjusted her
vision she could make out a dog tied to a post in the front yard,
rolling on its back in the soggy dirt, a sight that brought a smile to
her face. That was the sort of unbridled experience that she envied
the people of this time. And the dogs. Although really, the cats
"You know I can hear you thinking."
She smirked. "Sorry, Doctor. All done?"
"Yes. And I have something interesting to share with you."
The ground gave way slightly as she took to the air once more. At this
slow of a speed, she let the smart matter of her suit peel away and
enjoyed the feeling of the spring air against her skin. "What is it?"
"That building about which you were so recently waxing rhapsodic," the
Doctor said. "And the parasite-ridden animal bound to it."
"Yes, the dog." She rose a bit higher and enjoyed the earthy scents
that wafted to her from the ground below. "Both are emitting
abnormally high amounts of Kirlian energy."
She stopped her ascent. "Kirlian energy? But they haven't even
developed effective Korotkov-GDV monitors yet."
"Curious, isn't it?"
She sank back to the ground. "It's more than curious," she said. "It's
[1981. February. Pennsylvania.]
The house pulsed with a life that it had never had before.
Multilegged... things crept in silence behind the walls and scurried
under the floorboards; ephemeral constructs flitted through the air;
miniscule strands of organic material flowed through the pipes and the
bloodstreams of anyone who stepped through the front door. David kept
his eyes closed almost every hour of the day, and Joanna knew from the
words he muttered in his sleep that this was hardly any protection
from the sights that assaulted him.
They slept apart now, sharing a bed but no longer touching, no longer
connecting the way they had, backs to one another, a no man's land in
between. She rolled over to face him and reached out, hesitated, then
touched him, resting her hand on his arm. He flinched, but she didn't
pull away, and neither did he.
"Do you hate me?" she asked.
"No." He flinched; even the act of speaking could be overwhelming to
him now. "No, I don't hate you," he repeated, turning to her. "I love
you." He opened his eyes, and there was nothing looking at her but the
black emptiness of the void.
She felt herself falling forward into the abyss. Falling and falling
and falling, until she woke up in the bed, sweaty sheets cloying to
her, his side empty but still warm from his presence moments ago.
"David?" She climbed out of bed and slipped into the silk robe he had
gotten her for Christmas that year. "David?" He wasn't in the
bathroom, or in the spare bedroom down the hall. The stairs creaked a
little as she descended, and she saw that the flickering light of the
television was illuminating the otherwise dark room.
She smiled. He was asleep in the chair, a late night horror movie
showing on the screen in front of him.
"I had the strangest dream," she said, lowering herself to his lap. He
stirred a little and looked up.
She kissed him on the forehead. "Sorry. I shouldn't have woken you
up." She buried her face in the indentation where his neck met his
"'sokay. I love you."
If she looked into his eyes, would there have been anything looking
back? She chased the thought from her mind.
"Was there somethin I was sposed to do?" he asked her.
"No, love." She squeezed him tighter. "You've done everything you
could. Just get some rest, okay?"
When she felt his breathing slow to a crawl, she opened her eyes
again. Whatever had happened to him that day in the forest, he looked
no different, except for his eyes. His eyes, which had once watched
the world with a sight no one else could understand, now betrayed the
fact that he no longer understood it -- or himself. He had moments of
lucidity. Moments when she could almost pretend that the man who came
to her from out of those writhing columns had been the same man that
went into them. But she knew the truth. He had pushed himself further
and done things no one had ever even tried, and while he had succeeded
he had paid the ultimate price to do so.
And the only one who hated her for it was herself. He didn't know what
had happened. He couldn't remember what she had asked him to do -- or
if he could, he couldn't understand what it had meant. But she
understood. And she understood why it had happened. The childtakers
never gave anything away. It was always an exchange, and they always
-- always -- came out of the deal better than they went in. It was how
they operated, and it was her fault for not realising it beforehand.
Her fault for thinking the borrowed Odic force would somehow be enough
that he could bring their friends back without paying a price.
But there would come a time when they would be the ones to pay, and
she would be the one collecting. She promised herself that; it was the
only thing that kept her going.
[1992. May. Pennsylvania.]
"Hello?" She kept the smart suit masked to her skin colour and under a
suit of clothes Neil Also had given her. "Is there anybody home?" The
door gave under the slightest pressure, swinging open on its hinges.
It hadn't even been closed properly.
There was no answer as she stepped across the threshold into the
house. She'd shifted her senses only slightly towards the GDV spectrum
on the Doctor's advice, enough to be aware of the stronger sources of
Kirlian auras but not enough to let them overwhelm her, and now the
whole house seemed to shimmer and vibrate.
"Fascinating," the Doctor whispered inside her head. "It's as though
every particle of matter in this building is alive! Even the glass and
steel is suffused with the Kirlian aura unique to living beings."
She nodded, looking around. There wasn't even a single mote of dust
that she could see. Could the same people who didn't close their door
really be so fastidious? She walked over to the fireplace, where an
antique clock rested on the mantlepiece. She picked it up and examined
it: the hands had stopped, but there didn't seem to be any mechanical
problems. The gears were in working order and set in their proper
places. Everything should have been moving. It just... wasn't.
"So you've come."
She turned around. The voice came from a woman standing in the stairs,
her tangled, knotted hair falling in her eyes. She might once have
been beautiful, but now her figure was gaunt, almost skeletal, and her
eyes were sunken into their sockets. Her fingers were like bones with
long nails, and her clothes were layer upon layer of torn and tattered
"I knew you'd come." She either laughed or spat, it was hard to tell.
The woman was on her before she could finish her sentence, clawing
with the jagged edges that were her hands, trying for the eyes, the
throat, or anything else she could reach. Instinctively, she brought
the smart suit up to protect her, and the woman recoiled from her,
rolling into a crouch in the corner.
"I'll kill you! Take you! Make you pay!"
"Please, ma'am." She backed up, but the madwoman advanced on her.
Everything seemed to freeze for an instant, and then she was being
beaten back by her assailant once more. The suit absorbed the damage
without difficulty, but she wasn't sure how to fight back without
injuring the other woman, who seemed to be nothing more than a normal
"Why don't you just punch her?" the Doctor asked. "It's worked so well
for you in the past."
Before she could respond, the sensation of everything freezing
returned, but this time it didn't pass, and she found herself
immobilized as the woman advanced on her.
"Surprised? You shouldn't be. After all, you were the ones who made me
what I am. I've just spent the last few decades refining my abilities.
Did you know I can stop time anywhere, on almost any scale, now? But
that's not all. In all this time I've taught myself about the Odic
forces David used to see, and how to draw on them." She laughed again.
"Of course, I'm not as precise as he was -- but that seems only fair,
doesn't it?" The woman ran a finger down her unmoving cheek, slowly
digging the nail in until it broke the skin and blood would have
flowed if time had still been active.
She watched as the woman stepped back and closed her eyes, and
suddenly everything started moving again, agonizingly slowly at first,
but gradually, painfully accelerating. Her head was swimming, but she
could see that her attacker was experiencing some discomfort as well,
her face screwed up in confusion.
"This isn't right." The madwoman opened her eyes, regarding her with a
mixture of fear and guilt. "You aren't -- you aren't like them. You're
like us, aren't you?" There were tears forming. "Lost. Stolen." The
woman collapsed like a marionette whose strings were cut. "All this
time. Waiting for nothing."
Time returned to normal and she moved to the woman's side. Her vision
revealed the Kirlian aura surrounding her -- the Odic force? -- was
fading rapidly into nothingness.
"Doctor?" she asked, cradling her in her arms.
"The woman's body is deteriorating rapidly," the Doctor said. "If what
she says about time manipulation is true, it seems that a lifetime of
living at the wrong speed is catching up to her."
"There must be something we can do."
The woman's eyes fluttered open. "David?" she asked weakly. And then,
weaker still, but with a smile: "You liar."
[1981. January. Pennsylvania.]
There was snow falling in the pre-dawn glow outside their window,
casting vague shadows across the darkened room. Joanna couldn't sleep,
and she could tell that David couldn't either. Today was their trip to
New York -- their first trip back to the world that had once been
their home -- and her stomach was tangled with itself.
"Aren't you nervous?" she asked him eventually.
He laughed. "No, not really," he said. "A little, maybe. But not
"Because," he said, rolling over. "We'll be together." He kissed her
on the forehead. "And I promised you we'd be okay." She held out her
arms and he climbed on top of her. "Remember?"
She smiled. Because she did remember, and because she could stop time
anywhere, on almost any scale. And that was just what she did.
INCARNATE, all characters and contents (c) Copyright 2007 Jamie
All rights reserved.
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