Nightmare Excerpt: 1/5/10

I’ve dated a guy who came home from Iraq with PTSD. Several of my friends, soldiers too, have PTSD. I think that all soldiers wind up with some of that. War changes people.

War changes the people left behind, too. How do you look at someone who has come back from war? They aren’t the same person they were. They might have killed someone. They most likely lost at least one person they knew.

I think we all, somewhere in our psyche, fear that all that will come back from war is the monsters.


Then came another Tax. And another. Enough people were left to till the ground and tend the livestock, but no more. Destiny was spared for reasons he didn’t understand, and it galled him to watch the frightened townspeople marched off.

The thriving town turned into a silent, ghostly relic. Destiny drifted through the empty buildings in a daze, missing his father and sister, missing the loudness of the market. Without enough men to work the fields, the old men and women took over the duties of the house, and the young mothers spent their days in the fields.

People whispered, wondered when the next Tax would come, if it would be less or as bad or worse. The Watchers broke these discussions up, and occasionally Cleansed those who whispered too loudly, but the silence and ill-luck continued.

Great clouds of black ash drifted across Haven, settling in lungs and on crops. It blocked the sun, and the Year of Night began. The people first wore wet cloths across their mouths and noses, then masks over their eyes to protect them from the harsh ash.

The Goddess-Queen ordered her inventors to come up with something to protect the eyes and lungs of the people, and new masks were distributed in every town square. It was too late. Thousands died, coughing up blood and scratching out their eyes. Animals and plants withered and died. Famine followed Ash-Plague.

The Goddess-Queen won the War of Fire, and the troops were permitted to return home to a nearly-empty nation.

Some attempt at celebration was made. Flowers, limp and scraggly, edged with black ash, hung from doorposts. Women dressed in their finest clothes and washed their children’s faces with precious water. A few people laughed, some cried with happiness. Blue sky shone through shifting clouds of ash above, seeming to promise a new day, a new hope.

The column of returning heroes approached, and the people shouted welcome. The shouts died as the column came closer.

Lumbering human beasts led the way. Grotesque with extra limbs and faces, they bristled with weapons, with weeping wounds and a stink of decay. No one wanted to look into the faces of the beasts. A woman cried out in horror when she recognized her husband’s face, twisted with madness, peering from the back of a Behemoth. The faces caught in the monsters’ rigid flesh wept ash-black tears, hands reached for their loved ones. This way and that, three men, four to a body, each reaching for a lover or family member who screamed and recoiled from them.

One creature roared in anger when a women stumbled away from it. Lashing out with a mighty arm, it caught
the woman across the lower back and flung her, screaming, against the wall of a house. She did not move again, and the people pressed together in terror.

“Mother…” whispered Destiny. “Mother, what happened?”

There was no answer from her, except for an arm tightening around his shoulder as they watched the parade of monstrosities.

Some did not have a name. Skeletal women with snake’s eyes and tongue hissed and scented, sweeping close to this person or that to lick their hand or face. Shambling skeletons, shackled together in a line, clacked through the town. Shreds of flesh and muscle hung from them, eyeballs rolled in their sockets. Tongues flapped from loose jaws, babbling nonsense.

And, most numerous of all, Memories floated in the wakes of the monsters. Their shimmering forms blurred and wavered in the sunlight, spreading cold through the crowd. The essence of man and woman, torn from their bodies.

“One shall become twain,” said the Book of Night, “and the nation shall founder against the Darkness.” Destiny remembered those words too well, the priest had been preached them often enough. Once, Destiny had thought it was about divorce. Now he understood.

A few living people were left, yet received with the suspicion and fear of their monstrous cohorts. Fear and distrust settled in the hearts of the townspeople.

The songs and celebration died, and silence descended again.


One Response to “Nightmare Excerpt: 1/5/10”

  1. Okay the real problem I see in this is the voice. Much to passive, even for you my dear. I cannot way to see this in an active showing voice, it will be exquisite!
    And don’t worry, Dragon Masque is being written in much the same way right now. Passively. I know how to make it more active, it is just quicker to write it passive right now. 😉

    So far it is beautiful, as all of your work generally is.

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