The Toxic Children, страница 1
Copyright © 2015 by Tessa Maurer
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
You can hear the sound of death above the dust-covered floors I call a ceiling. You can hear it whisper in the wind, reminding us of what we have done. The shifting of a billion souls scattered in the air… It’s the lullaby of my childhood.
Funny how you can be put to blame for the destruction of a world you never knew. We are the Adaptions, and in this wasteland we can survive. Maybe that’s why they say it’s our fault. It took ten years for enough of us to be born for the fathers to die out, standing and screaming and guarding the graves of their dead wives. Born into a world of chemicals and poison, us little babies had to adapt to survive. We became toxic, inside and out. Maybe it makes us mental, yeah, but we survived. That’s more than I can say for humankind. They made themselves a casualty.
“Do not forget we made things beautiful,” says the Woman. Her hair is red as fire, skin as pale as the passing glimpse of the moon. I’d call her poetry, but she’s more like hell.
“Dead people don’t know shit,” I say, fingers pointed at her in the shape of a gun. Click, click, bang. What a beautiful sound. Too bad the bullets can’t pierce the fabric of my mind, of which she is so poorly made.
“Inanis, you disconnect us. We are not so dis—”
“I disconnect,” I seethe. I smash the side of my head with my fist until it throbs, until it bleeds, until she fades.
I get up from my half-broken chair. I sleep there most nights. Beds make me feel vulnerable—I can’t attack fast. You have to attack fast. If you don’t, you die, and you don’t get a second chance. If you got a body, you got that life and nothing more. These bodies burn souls. You start out with this energy, this burning light in your essence, and this flesh eats it until all that’s left is some shriveled, pathetic shred of humanity. And then when you die, you’ll be another agony-ridden soul polluting the sky with the rest of the humans. That’s it. You’re done. No more lives. No heaven or hell. Done.
So you don’t die. We don’t know how long we can live yet. It hasn’t been long enough for anyone to know, but we think we can survive until the sun explodes. By then, we will be like walking corpses. I look forward to it. Then they will leave me be.
I grab my knife and tuck it in my jeans. I need to go up today; I need to kill something. These bodies don’t run right without blood on the hands. These poison brains don’t operate right, as if all the little connections and circuit ways got filled with rust and blood. There used to be some part of me that tried to make it work right. That part of the essence is gone.
I get up on the ladder and knock open the latch, the portal in the ceiling to the beautiful hell of earth. The dim sunlight burns my eyes, but the feeling I don’t mind. It is something…alive. I can hear the rush of wind; it pounds at my ears, so accustomed to the stillness of my dark hole beneath the house. I climb out, my weight making the old floorboards creak. The roof is half gone; it’s a skeleton of a building now. I was born here, but nothing is left but barren walls and dirt. I got rid of the relics of the humans long ago.
I walk through the place, kicking the broken door open and stepping out onto this world I now own. The grass and trees are dead; the sky is green and grey and smells of chemicals and corpses. Houses left and eaten by bugs line the distance. It’s all grey. Color left with humanity.
Like an animal I slither through the thick of weeds and plants that refuse to die. I am an animal. That’s why I go mad. Animals aren’t supposed to think; that’s what makes them different from humans. When the human in me dies, I will be all animal. It gets riled up and tries to fight, and I fight back. Sometimes I don’t know which side I am. Sometimes I don’t know what I fight.
Find something that moves. I thought once about why I kill things. I came to the conclusion that it’s because killing things is like killing what’s inside of me. If I kill the things that move, I move less. It dies quicker, the essence.
So I kill. Human, animal—it’s all the same. If it moves, I kill it.
I stiffen. I hear something—something is alive in the silence of the wind. I can feel the energy like a rash on my skin. I want to scratch it and kill it and put it out. Put it out—put the fire out so it doesn’t burn. Burn and you feel; feel and you live; live and you are human.
“Shut up, shut up,” I say aloud, and damn it, shut up, Inanis, you have something to kill. Do not startle the kill. My breathing disappears; my energy becomes still. I am ready.
Something moves to my right in the tall brush. The only parts of me that move are my eyes and my eyes see nothing. Nothing, and then something—something bright red and human—
“Stop!” I scream, but the words weren’t supposed to come out, and the redness disappears. I can feel that it’s gone. I hit my head, punishing the thing in me that does stuff, that feels stuff. Go away, go away, you stupid relic.
I move on. In a hollow in the road, I find a rabbit and skin it alive. Something in me screams, writhes and lashes and tries to get as far away as it can. I ignore it. It needs reality. I kill; it does, too. When it enjoys it, I will be whole, and I will become beautifully dead.
I don’t like sleep; things are inside of my head when I sleep, things I cannot control. The essence runs rampant when the chains on my mind break. Awake or asleep, the people I have killed never leave me alone for long. The little blonde girl is here tonight. She was one of the first whose life I took.
“Still don’t get why you do it,” she says. Her hair is a mass of curls and she never sits still. I want to pin her to a wall with nails.
“Not my fault you’re slow,” I say. I look around. I don’t realize where we are at first, and then as if to answer me, the world forms. We’re sitting in an empty field—a green field all alive and wrong.
“Am I? Come on, don’t you think you must be the slow one? You tell me what to say, don’t you?” she says, watching me. Her eyes shine with detail, with a light she should not have. Human eyes are so alive with unseen worlds. When they are dead, their eyes only reflect me. I match the dull, lifeless stare. Some part of me finds comfort in the emptiness.
“You’re a pest. You buzz. I don’t make a pest buzz.”
“If you lie to me, you lie to yourself, Inanis. I’m just a friendly reminder of humanity. I’m helpful. Least I try to be, anyway,” she says, swaying.
“Don’t kid yourself. It’s not healthy,” I say, and I want her to shut up, but she won’t. Why can I make the world but not the people? Why can’t they just shut up?
“You don’t care about my health, silly boy. You wouldn’t have killed me if you cared about my health,” she says. There’s a rabbit in her lap that she keeps stroking. It sniffs at her fingers and she smiles at it.
“Maybe I thought you were better off dead. You really think flesh like yours can survive this? No. I did you a favor. Could’ve been worse.
“And you know, it’s funny how you act like you’re so much better. Your kind made me. Don’t you fucking forget that,” I snap, cracking like ice because she’s a hammer that digs and chips and wants to break me, but I don’t break.
She opens her mouth to say something, but I stare so hard she disappears. And fo
I walk the silent world. They say it used to be loud, cars and planes and voices filling the world up to the stars. Now it’s just the wind and the souls and the hum of bloodshed in the distance, a sound like a heat wave in the back of your mind. The loudest, most incessant places left are the cemeteries….
Something feels off. I am in the field by the house. I hear this noise, this ticking, humming, something—something with a heartbeat.
Red. Flashes of that damn red. I am silent. I listen for the sound, the sound in the dead silence of something alive.
I follow it, letting the animal do what it does best. My eyes scan and my mind shuts off. I move. I hunt.
Plants brush against my skin. Ravens call. The sun is high and hot. An Adaption is sixty feet to the right. A cool breeze sets in. The sun burns my eyes. My skin sweats. My mouth is dry. Pests buzz. Time passes. Red.
And it’s gone out of my sight, lost in the brush, in the distance, in my head. Can’t be real. There’s nothing so vivid left. Our toxic forms and toxic minds and toxic urges killed them. Any left hide and never come up.
The world shifts into focus. I am in the cemetery. I should not be in the cemetery. I can feel death in a way I do not like. I can feel the agony and I can feel the anger and I can feel. I feel everything. The souls swarm to me like moths to a flame, like leaches to flesh, like sharks to blood. They want to rip me up, don’t they? Kill me for what I have done? Make me one of them? Human and Adaption alike, all trapped and wanting out—wanting in.
It weighs down on me like nothing physical knows how to. I lose my footing. I see faces, and I know I put some of them here. I see a man before me, the one with the messed up eye that always squints.
“Still feeling, I see.”
“What do you care for?” I say. I clutch at my chest, but it doesn’t do a thing. Why would it? I cannot touch what’s inside of me.
“If you have to ask, you care.”
“I—“ but the souls try to get inside my head and I cannot think. They force guilt down my throat like swollen hands trying to find the soul lost inside this flesh. I drown like thick blood pooling in my lungs.
“Stop!” yells the voice of a girl, and I must be imagining it.
Something is shifting, changing… They’re leaving me be. The souls move from me, and my numbness comes back and I feel…nothing. I feel so profoundly nothing.
I turn towards the voice, and see a girl with fire red hair and sun-specks all over her face, skin burned to a tan. She has a gun, ancient and powerful.
“What are you?” I ask. I can feel the killer in me slowly waking up.
“Human. Living, breathing, proper human,” she says. “The ashen skin tells me what I need to know about you, and yet it doesn’t tell me anything. You know you were crying?” she says.
“What?” I say. My mind never has to process like this. I have seen humans, I have killed humans, but I have not spoken to one in so long save for the ghosts in my head. I run off of something old inside of me that I do not understand. It tells me how to function.
“I’ll take that as a no. You were crying, sobbing, eyes leaking. Heard of it?”
I touch my face and feel the dampness. “I don’t understand.” Kill it, kill it, kill it. The urge will not stay asleep.
“Don’t ask me. Some part of you must still be connected to humanity,” she says. She is silent for a moment, watching me. “Give me one good reason not to kill you. You might love it, but I hate it every time.”
“I have none. I am going to kill you. That’s the only thing I know,” I say. It feels so unnatural to be speaking with another being outside of my head. I have this rushing feeling in my gut. I think I’m anxious. Nothing feels right. I stopped being able to cry years and years ago. I cannot function in such ways.
“Come on, just give me something. I want you to be human. Don’t you hate being alone?”
“I am human. I just evolved. Don’t try to make this my fault. You people, you purists, you made this,” I say. I feel anger.
Her green eyes widen and she looks down to her gun. “I know that. We kill, we pollute, we destroy, we rape, we harm—we expect it’s only a second, a time period, but we lied to ourselves. We created a world we could barely live in, so we had toxic children and they killed us.”
“Then why are you still here?” I ask. I stand up and her gun follows me. I welcome its bullets just to see if I could survive.
“I don’t know what that means.”
“It means I like my own pain.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“I’m human. You think we ever make sense?” she says, and there’s this emotion, this spark, this thing I don’t understand, but I can feel the reverb in my bones.
“I don’t know humanity,” I say. She stops being human to me; she stops being words and emotions and becomes a reminder, a burning thing that I need to put out. I move towards it.
“I will kill you,” it says. I don’t care. I walk forward, the gun raised to my eyes. In an instant, in a second, in something inhuman, I lunge. The gun goes off; pain erupts in my left side, but it doesn’t matter because the gun is in my hands and the human is on the ground and I am on top of it and I feel the flesh, alive and warm and beating. It matches my own rhythm and I don’t like that. It looks up at me, its eyes alive and bright and vivid. It looks too deeply and I want to stop it—
“You kill me, you kill yourself,” it—it—it—she says. I distinguish her from animal and it makes my stomach twist.
“I can’t let you go,” I say, and I take my knife—
I wake up to a pounding in my head and a burning, piercing pain in my side. I don’t know where I am. I open my eyes to blinding white light, and then shortly it fades to the sky. It must be afternoon. I touch my side and my fingers find blood. I remember the gun, the shot, the girl—
I sit up much too fast and the pain courses through my body, but I do not mind pain. I look around, but there is no sign of her. The only thing I see is a rock covered in blood….
She knocked me out. I was seconds from slitting her throat and she stopped me. I feel some vague shadow of a smile on my lips. It’s a sensation I haven’t felt since I was a child. This is the first time in a long time I didn’t kill something I intended to. It stirs me up, and that’s not a feeling I like.
I check my side. The bullet just pierced the flesh. I slowly get up and make my way back to where I live, blood seeping through my clothes.
When the wound is patched and the night fallen, I sleep. I see faces in my head, but they do not speak to me. They only watch.
The cold weather begins to set in. My mutated skin does not care. I enter the world looking for a kill. Time has passed and nothing has changed. I have not seen the girl. I live, breathe, eat, kill, sleep, and they haunt me. The boy is with me today. He is close to me in age, but I am not certain how old I am. He’s as shy as the day I killed him.
“Do you remember how you killed me?” he asks quietly, sitting on a rock, watching me scan for prey.
“Pickaxe through the left eye,” I answer, not looking at the figment.
“Then why do you imagine me whole? Does it hurt less?”
“How human—“ I turn to face him and stop, his eye a gaping, bloody hole. His right eye conveys what I understand to be sadness, “—do you think I am?”
“Not human at all, if that’ll make you happy,” he says, blood dripping into his mouth. His intact eye is vivid blue against the red.
“Happiness is intrinsically human. I am not human.”
“So are words, but you seem to love them.”
Usually I don’t mind him as much as the others, but today he’s getting under my skin like a razorblade. “I’d take out your other eye if you were real. Take a blade to it, nice and slow.”
“I’m just as real as you are,
“Oh yeah? Then what’s your name?”
The boy moves to open his mouth, but all he can do is look at me.
“That’s what I thought,” I say. I’m about to turn back to the task at hand, but something changes in his eyes, and it holds me.
“Azure. My name is Azure,” he says and before the smile can fully form, he disappears, and I am left with the silent wind. I feel something twist in my stomach, but it doesn’t mean anything to me. He cannot know his name; I never knew it. I need something to kill.
Something catches my eye, something red. I look up and, on a distant rooftop, I see the girl. She watches me. I could find her, kill her, but I see a deer in the brush in front of me, its horns blackened with chemicals, fur patch-like and strange. I choose the deer. Deer I can eat. Human…I am not that far gone yet. That thought makes the twisting worse, and I put my mind to the kill.
I eat the raw deer meat in my hole of a home. Just when I think no one will bother me further, the Woman shows up. I hate her most, with her red hair and pale skin like blood on paper.
“I wish you had been human. You would have loved the world of my past,” she says. She always has a sad smile on her face. It angers me every time I see it. It’s the most pure anger I feel.
“I wish you would screw off.”
“I am sorry,” she says, and it makes me sick to hear those words. I hate the sound of them, the nature of them.
She sits there, watching me silently. I try to make her disappear, but she won’t go. I wonder then if the madness in my head is something we all endure or if there is something innately wrong with me. When I see other Adaptions, they look so dead and soulless. I cannot picture these people in their heads, pestering and prying. Maybe it means that, one day, they will leave me be. If there is one thing I long for, it is for that day. I want silence. I need it.