Storytime: Find Yourself.

February 18th, 2015

It’s up there. I can hear it breathing, see the gust of the air.
Damn, it’s cold here. A marsh should be humid. I know that much. Fetid, that’s the word. Not chilled like a grave’s leftovers.
It’s up there, and it’s not coming down.
My hands are working while my brain is stalling. They’re sliding the long bronze-tipped spear into its sheath over my back, they’re pulling out my tent-stakes and tying loops and swoops of rope around them and they’re clenching and unclenching for warmth to drive muscles to grab grips.
Looks like I’m going up.

When he woke up he woke up in a warm soft room made from hard stone walls and he stared at the ceiling with tired eyes because he’d forgotten how to be frightened.
The medic walked by and asked how Tarbon was feeling.
He stared long and hard, eyes wide and unblinking, until they felt pity and he was enlightened.
Tarbon. Voyageur Tarbon. That was his name.
That was who he was.
Tarbon had been the last one, the lucky one. He’d gotten the noose around its neck, he’d been tossed into the brush, and he’d been out cold for about twenty seconds by his count when he arose and saw it tearing open Marson. Saw it, didn’t hear it. Marson’s mouth was moving and his arms were flailing and no sounds were coming out, no sounds were coming from anywhere.
That was what made him do it, he thought. Not the rage, not the fear, but the need to make the world full again. To die with all of him there.
So he took his copper knife to its side. And as it bent over screaming at him he looked up into those eyes and he spat and cursed as it took him in its crippled, half-there grip and then
And then
Rough rock here. Rough and slimy; hard to grip and hell on your palms. Even through the gloves I can feel it trying to bite me. I wonder if I ever climbed worse than this? I wonder how it climbed up here. It doesn’t even have hands. What did it do, eel its way up? Maybe this slime belongs to it. Just like the fog does.
Wonder what it’d do to my skin?
No space for that. Keep on going. It’s waiting for you. You’re not getting any stronger, hanging off this height.

Wyrm. Wurm. Like the little soft thing in the dirt that pops up when the rain falls down.
They showed him sketches. The pencilmarks were muted by their fierce speed. The artist hadn’t wanted to look at whatever he’d-
She’d. He was informed that Jessle was a woman’s name. He did not know that. He was informed that he knew Courier Jessle. He did not know her.
-been drawing. Something that soured on your eyes.
He stared at the long, sinuous body and the suggestion of a beak and he tried hard to place it somewhere in his head. Some hint.

And then
And then
Tarbon was the last one, crippled and alone with corpses and the emptied. A wound in his side and a hole in his heart and a desperate, all-filling terror in his soul.

I’m halfway over the edge of the ledge and the spear’s sliding into my hand, smooth as honey, when down comes a godawful racket and a clamour of stone on stone that nearly buries me as surely as the boulders coming downslope do.
Twist and turn and spin and swear a meaningless word as a big one bounces off my shoulder, setting in a bruise down to bone. I’ll regret that later if I’m still here.
As the world turns itself around I see a flicker of grey sliding farther up the hill, pliable and scaled.
There we go.

The basic skills were all still there, they reassured him. Talking. Walking. Thinking. Pissing.
They showed him a round target and handed him a knife and he threw it eight-five times.
Aiming. Counting.
They showed him books of pressed ferns and he looked at them and he shrugged. Then they told him they were his. He shrugged again.
Not naming, no.
They showed him a drawing of five men. Were they anyone he knew?
“My brothers,” he guessed.
It was him and four of his friends. Other voyageurs. He asked them what a voyageur was.
No. Not naming. Not at all.
They told him he was a strange case. That everyone else they’d ever recovered from Wyrmgrip was more or less normal after a few days, all-there. The things handled you, but they didn’t take you.
(Except for him).
They showed him the man who’d lain alongside his bed in infirmary, green around the face but still more or less there. Maybe they wanted to see if it’d jog his memory.
“Holy shit,” said the man. “And you a voyageur, too.” Unsaid: you poor bastard.
Regretting. Dwelling.
That evening, he asked for a book on Wyrms. No one had written any. He asked for stories on Wyrms. There were many.

Running down the shore but Tarbon can’t think or move straight got to hide hide hide

There are plants up here. How I don’t know, there’s barely cracks wide enough for a root, but they make do. Some of them are growing on each other, a crazy-daisy-chain. They’re not good for handholds and they drip slime into your face but at least I can see which way the thing went by the bending of their stems.
I used to know the names of all these stems and leaves and roots. Someone said that and I believed them. Fool.
Someone said it took me. I believed them too. But a fool’s got to do something.

Planning. Acquiring. Departing.
One two three and by dawn he was down the coast and following the map in his head that he’d carefully placed there after finding it buried at the bottom of the medic’s file of unsorted reports.
The clearing was small. The marks his face had left in the soil were still there.
The shore. It had made a break for the shore.
(He’d liked the shore, they’d told him. Tarbon had liked the shore).

Tarbon tried to treat the wound but none of these damned plants are right none of the plants here are right
He knows their names he knows their petals he knows he knows this but the facts are a jumble is he poisoned? Why won’t the words make words

Rain rain rain RAIN. Streaming into my eyes and my ears and my insides. A soft land can’t take rain like this; it’d wash into the ocean in two days. Is this that thing’s doing? Is it trying to wash me out?
No. No, but it’d be ready to get me. It’d be ready to take me while I was busy being damp and distracted and-
-WOOSH there it goes just past me, I can hear the clack of the beak as I swing out with the spear –
-There! I’m safe. Lost a piton, but I’m safe.
I’ve got you, beast. You’ve got me, but I’ve got you.

More than the shore. Easy meals.
Little fisher-towns. Illegal, of course, but Her Worshipped said that Afar was to be explored and that meant support and supplies and hangers-on and shantytowns and now this stretch of the coast that (five? Ten? No-one had told him…) years ago had been dead mist and ghosts was pocked with rods and nets and sleepless nights spent listening to the squelches of the mire and hoping you hadn’t heard something move.
A catch torn out from its cache. A dog vanished in the night. A pen with one less pig come morning.
No-one missing, though. And a man said he’d followed the marks as long as he’d dared-
(Not long, not with a Wyrm about)
-and found a cold thickness smeared against a tree that seemed to suck sound into itself.
He looked at the little jar, and he felt the soft hum against his fingertips.

Someone’s after Tarbon trying to fool him going to give him a surpri

The blood is worse when it’s fresh.
It was an ooze, by its marks. A broken scab that wouldn’t scar and wouldn’t mend. And now I’ve driven a fresh cut into it and oh how it loves its chance to bleed anew. If it had lips it would kiss me.
It won’t leave my ears alone. I’m scrambling through it, feeling it slick its way into my clothing, and I can hear the world turning into murmurs from roars as it does it. Muting.
I wonder if it’ll stop when I split the heart?

On the first two nights on the trail he found nothing but broken twigs and stray bones. Some were buried, but not buried carefully. Hurried.
On the third night he found a droplet in a mud puddle that wasn’t water. That evening he put up his tent and slept in a tree.
The fourth dawn confronted him with an untouched tent. He clambered down cursing, swiping at the sap that stuck to his hands.
Then he felt a telltale hum and looked at his fingers more closely.

Oh god. Tarbon knew who it was. He knew what it was. He knew what was coming and he knew he couldn’t stop it too slow too slow

This ledge and no further. All else is below now. Roll into the plateau and leap over the sweeping tail that tries to flick you into the air and down below, legs cramped and powerful.
Now up and forwards. Thrust with the spear and aim where, where, where it’s all scales and screams, aim for the eye – aim for that great black-centred eye and STRIKE.

A chase. A chase after that.
Chasing. That much he still knew.
Through bogs and stones and hideous scrub-trees that tried to rip flesh off his ankles and then at last there, to the base of that hillock. It looked like a glacier’s leftovers, lonely and angry all at once.
It was up there. He could hear it breathing, see the gust of air.
It wasn’t coming down.

Tarbon had to climb. He had to get away.

It’s so much smaller than I expected. Bigger than a horse, smaller than a building.
The beak is wrong. Twisted on one side. The tail forks. One eye is too little, and the pupil is tiny. Malformed; how did such a bent little thing take me from me?
It won’t stop looking at me, breathing through that fresh hole in its throat, my hand still finishing the cut. Draining away with seconds left and it won’t stop looking at me.
I can’t stop looking.

As the blood pours out the mind pours in.
On top of the hill Tarbon waited. Bleeding, exhausted, and alone. He could feel the stone scrabble underneath his belly, and he knew the hands that moved over it.
No time. Swing out that big slow tail and over he goes, lean back and away and watch as the bronze comes in towards your face, slow and sure.
And then it’s all over, waiting for the cut.
Look at that face.
Well. That’s who he was.

It’s so very cold up here, above the marsh.
No place at all for anyone. I’d better get done with this before it’s too late or I’ll chill.
Damn that’s a lot of work. But I’m not a small man even if I’m a small monster and this grave’s got to hold me both or it’ll be all manner of nuisance.
Hard work, with no shovel. But my beak makes a fine tool. Beak and a spear for a shaft a shovel will work.
I can do that. I remember how to do that.
Not fair for me to die so young but I made the rules I’ve got to die by them. My hands do the work while my brain does what it’s doing.
Tarbon. Voyageur Tarbon.
That was my name, before I killed me.

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