Amen to rot awaken, p.2
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       Amen to Rot: Awaken, p.2

           Bryce Bentley Summers
 
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  Every one of my nerves is on fire and in this paralysis I can now hear the echoes of screams coming from the hallways. The sounds of sobbing and pleading reach my ears at the same time as I hear wet rips and tears. Gurgling sounds seem to waft into the room.

  His yellow eyes fixate upon me. He is unmoving, growling, drool drips from his lips. He opens and closes his mouth, and I hear a low moan sound being pushed out. It’s like he’s trying to make words.

  My right hand slowly crawls to my lower back, feeling for the object holstered there.

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  As I’m on one knee, the memory of me inside the office drifts away. My eyes focus, and I slowly notice the swaying blades of grass in front of me. I’m muttering an inhuman, unintelligible sound.

  Biting pain seizes my entire abdomen. It feels as though something is ripping me apart. I stare down at my body and see my body is intact. Strangely though, it feels as if someone, or something, is yanking on every piece of my flesh.

  It dawns on me that I somehow have the ability to feel what others feel, like an empath. The pain subsides, becoming less intense as I’m panting.

  Another moment passes and a smell whips by my nose. My head snaps up and my eyes widen. It’s that delicious smell again.

  I quickly forget this disoriented feeling episode I just had.

  Food is close.

  My eyes squint into the distance. They catch the exquisite details that lie before me. They distinguish the limbs of each branch hanging over the sidewalk, find a bird sitting inside a tree, and even notice the overgrown grass with animals sifting through it.

  I push myself up to both feet and sprint.

  I’m amazed at my speed as I hear whooshing sounds as I pass each tree.

  Ahead, the sidewalk abruptly turns a hard right as the creek now runs right in front of me. The creek is wide here, at least twenty feet across. I leap across it like it’s a small puddle and move in the direction of the scream. I sprint faster and the air seems to vibrate and ripple as I speed forward.

  Towards the scent.

  I Need It.

  CHAPTER NINE

  I find myself running on another path surrounded by thick shrubs on one side, and dense trees lining the other side.

  Coming to a break in the densely tangled shrubberies I find a recently forged path. My eyes note the broken blades of weeds and grass bent to the ground. On the ground, there’s congealed fluid and pieces of thin, fibrous material lying on top of the weeds. People far away are running towards me in a blind panic.

  I look forward again at the sidewalk ahead of me, and there’s wetness gleaming on the pavement. Pieces of…flesh? This flesh litters the path ahead of me. I startle as something slithers behind me, over the sidewalk, and it moves between the trees.

  Spinning around, I see that whatever was there is now gone. Whatever was there did not even seem to sense me.

  I peer back through the worn path in the shrubbery.

  Something is in the clearing...or someone.

  Remembering the scream, the pain that gripped me, propels me to move through this worn path. As I step through the clearing, I detect voices from afar, two men. I catch certain words. I recognize an emotion behind each word...fear.

  “Ace, Ace! Stop! Just wait! AAACE!”

  Then, in a panic filled voice, I hear a child’s voice, “Noah…Noah!”

  This dialogue distracts me, and I don’t realize I have already walked into the clearing. I find myself standing over the body of a boy of about ten years old. The child’s clothes are shredded on his chest. The child’s arms have been partially shredded.

  The boy’s stomach has been ripped opened, intestines strewn onto the grass like spaghetti. I can sense, intuitively, that whatever was doing this had stopped, then left this clearing quickly.

  Did I scare it?

  I do not believe so, but rather believe whatever was here wanted to kill this boy, and was in search of someone else.

  Hunting.

  I observe the boy lying in the grass. I notice a perceptible rise of chest, and marvel to myself.

  He’s still alive.

  My acute ears hear the faint thrum of a heart, but fading quickly. I kneel beside the boy’s body.

  Kneeling, I am startled as I relive some of the boy’s last cognizant memory in this world. I find myself enthralled in a familiar emotion.

  Terror.

  Connecting to the boy’s mind I relive a moment from this boy’s last few minutes of life. Inside the boy’s memory I feel a firm, large, scaly claw pressed over my face, seeming to direct my mouth to the air so my screams are echoed through the field. Inside this memory, I can agonizingly feel skin being sliced and my stomach ripped opened, spilling its contents as I’m dragged.

  Remaining inside this boy’s mind, my agonizing screams are momentarily muffled as I twist and thrash, my face planting into the dirt. I am helpless as I’m dragged across a field, over a sidewalk, spilling fluid and littering pieces of my intestines behind me.

  Staying inside this boy’s mind, this boy named Noah, I’m pleading for help to people far away. I am calling for my father. My uncle. My brother, Ace. Knowing they will never get to me in time. It’s too late.

  Jumbled and indecipherable words are screamed into the dirt as I twist and turn. There’s a metallic, cold claw that slices my cheek. Only one thought is recognizable, and it is repeated until it turns into jumbled gibberish. This repeated word torrentially screamed is prolonged and pitiful, “DAAAAAAD…”

  I remain attuned to this memory as Noah’s shrieks are howled into the night, echoing out across the park. It was the same shriek I had heard earlier that caused me to sprint here.

  Then the memory turns faint and blurry. I hear Noah whisper despairingly through the blood filling his mouth, “Ace...”

  Kneeling by the body, I hear the heart slow, and then a beat, a long pause, another beat. I blink at the boy.

  He’s almost dead.

  I’m tired from being inside the boy’s memory, but also feel a refreshed sense of hunger. A loss shudders through me then, and I try to understand this.

  I once would have felt something, but what?

  My nose catches that scent again, and my eyes see the mass of entangled intestines littered in the grass. There are remaining strands bunched inside the boy’s stomach. I am gripped by a definite hunger.

  I need meat.

  I bend my head down, sticking out my tongue with a slight reluctance. I let it press against the spongy bowels. Fluid, fecal matter, flesh fastens itself to my tongue.

  Bringing up my head, I contemplate this taste. I hear the flowing creek nearby, it mesmerizes me, helping me focus. It seems to help me focus on this taste.

  Something is not quite right.

  I look down at Noah again with uncertainty and I surmise to myself, this doesn’t taste good, but why? A smell fills my nose again, causing me to have a sense of Déjà vu. This smell, the creek, a dim memory emerges. Again, my father is standing near a river holding a fishing pole. He’s speaking, but it’s mute, and I cannot hear what he’s saying.

  Following this memory, I tell myself, Patience…patience.

  I remember a scent, not a sweet scent, but supposedly a corroded smell.

  What is Rot?

  This memory was long ago.

  From another time, when I was just a boy.

  My mind returns to this … Other place. Other time.

  When I was a child, fishing with my father.

  CHAPTER TEN

  ... Childhood Memory

  My memory descends to a time long ago. I’m sitting near a creek on the river’s edge. My hands are wrapped around my ankles as I bring my knees to my chest.

  I clearly see my young large eyes, innocent soft face, and my small lean body as I sit by the river. I look to be about ten years old.

  I’m wearing green boots covered in wet mud. Near me is a tackle box and a fishing pole. I am bored with fishing and instead of trying
to put another silly, slimy worm on my hook, I stare off across the river.

  A deer comes to the edge, and my mind fills with wonderment as I watch it place its lips to the water, sipping it. A sneeze starts to come on, and I try to stifle it but it comes out full blown. The deer startles, snaps its head up, and darts back into the woods.

  I sigh. Sad to see the deer leave me.

  Dad has been gone for only a bit, and before he left he kissed the top of my head saying he’d be back in a jiffy, whatever that meant. He told me he was going to see a man about a boat. I believe that means he went to the bathroom.

  We have been out here for a couple of hours and I’m ready to go home. Mother is waiting for us, and she promised to fry up whatever fish we caught. Plus, I am pretty sure I can get dad to sneak us to Dairy Queen before dinner.

  I get up and walk along the bank and find two fish lying on the river’s edge. They still have hooks in their mouths. I pick them up, and shrug my shoulders, wondering how lucky I am. I start back, thinking my dad will be back any moment now.

  Back at my tackle box, a ting of concern tugs at me. My dad has been gone a long time. The woods are menacingly dark as I peer inside and I call out, “Dad?” I’m surprised that my voice slightly shakes.

  Starting to walk into the woods I move a low hanging limb out of my face, it flings back and I duck so it doesn’t hit me in the eyes. My dad is nowhere in sight and my stomach knots up. I start walking further into the dark forest. I can hear my heart pounding in my chest, my fingers clench.

  It’s then that I almost walk into a man standing much higher than me.

  Relief swells over me. My face must show I was getting scared as my dad ruffles my hair asking, “Going for a stroll, kiddo?”

  I frown and squint at him saying, “You were gone a long time?”

  He shrugs, smiles gently, and replies, “When nature calls kiddo, you simply obey.”

  He then peers down at my right hand. His smile broadens as he asks with an amused tone, “Hey kiddo. What you got there?”

  I look down and see the fish I’m holding by the line. My father takes them, examining each, “You catch these, kiddo?”

  Looking down at the ground and feeling slightly embarrassed, I say “No.”

  Starting to push leaves away with one foot, I look back up to my father’s face. I wonder why I thought picking up these fish would work. I should have known that dad would have known I never caught these.

  My lip tremors just a hair and I’m ashamed knowing he can so easily see my impatience.

  Learning patience is something I have yet to grasp. I look up at my father, my voice rising,”I’m sorry dad. I just...I wasn’t catching anything…and…and I’m tired of fishing.” I look down again.

  My father ruffles my hair, and I look up at him. He’s smiling which lightens up my heart. He soothes, “I know kiddo. I already knew.” My father raises his eyebrows asking, “You want to know how I knew?”

  My face scrunches up, concentrating, but the answer doesn’t come to me quickly. I still have years before I learn to take time in thinking about my answers. Now, I simply shrug and look up at my father, waiting for him to tell me. Surely, he already has the answer.

  My father chuckles and does not give in that easily though. He wants me to learn confidence in myself, learn how to take my time, learn that the answer will come with patience. He pats my shoulder, encouraging me, “Think. Be patient with yourself. Follow your thoughts.”

  My father smiles warmly as he puts the fish near my nose, telling me, “Clues are always helpful. Here, smell it?”

  I can certainly smell the fish quite fine without it being near my nose. But my father is asking, so out of love for him, I humor him and sniff. The smell turns my stomach, makes me feel dizzy.

  My father then looks at me expectantly. I look up at him, and I give him a crooked smile. Shrugging my shoulders, I say in a doubtful high pitch tone, “It stinks?”

  My father chuckles, and smiles warmly at me, “True.” My father waits, his eyes sparkle as they stare at me with a soft loving amusement. My father remains quiet; he’s interested to see where my thoughts will lead me, interested in my deductions.

  I stare at the fish he’s holding, then at my dad, who has a warm smile on his face, then look back at the fish, and finally ask, “But don’t all fish stink?”

  Tilting his head back, my father lets off a roar of laughter. He looks at me, and his eyes are filled with gentleness and adoration. He gently grips my shoulder, “Yes. Yes, they do kiddo. Indeed. Amen to that.”

  My father holds the fish up, peering at it closely, telling me, “But this guy smells a lot worse than one you’d catch in a creek.” Father then looks down at me, raises his eyebrows and concludes in simple terms, “These aren’t fresh.”

  Bringing the fish up to his nose, I watch as my father takes a whiff, and wrinkles his face in disgust. He exclaims in a high pitch voice that makes me smile, “Whew, but these are ripe.” He crinkles his nose at me and seems to think out loud, “They’re a day rotten I’d say.”

  Turning his eyes to me, he predicts, “If these had been out here for another day or so, they would have had a definite pungent odor.”

  I frown at this and annoyingly ask myself, Why do grown-ups use words kids don’t know?

  I turn my eyes up to my dad, trying to remember the word he just used, and ask, “What’s pun-giant?”

  A gentle smile crosses my father’s face as he stoops partially down, apparently considering how to explain this word, “It just means these fish would have had a very strong smell. You would have clearly smelled the rot. You would have known, instinctively, just known to leave it. People don’t eat rot, kiddo.”

  He then throws the fish over to some shrubs, wipes his hands on his shirt, smiles at me, and lightly places his fingers on the back of my neck leading me back to the creek. “Come on, kiddo. Let me show you how an old pro does it. Where’d you put your bait?”

  I’m quiet, not answering his question as we walk back. I had accidentally spilled my bait into the creek where it was quickly swept away. My father teasingly but softly hits my arm, “Well, you got any more bait?”

  The soft flowing of the creek is growing louder as we near it, and I answer, “Nooo. I lost my mine.” My father chuckles softly, saying, “Always bait to be found son. Always bait around.”

  As we walk away, I hear my father say, in a prophetic way, “Aren’t our jaunts wonderful. Learning all of these life lessons? Amen for life lesson.” He messes my hair again.

  As this memory fades, I roll my eyes again, asking myself. Another big word?! What in the world does jaw’nt mean?

  I ask as we reach the creek, “Dad, what’s ja-aunt mean?”

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  The smell of that fish is still in my nose as I find myself kneeling by this dying boy named Noah.

  This body is about to die. He hangs on by the tiniest sliver of life. I breathe in the scent emitted from the body.

  He’s definitely not rotten. He's fresh. But I don’t desire this.

  At this moment I reflect, Maybe, I require something more alive, perhaps a heart that is pounding? Again, I have a strange feeling fill me. It somehow seems wrong to want human flesh. A wave of sadness shudders through me.

  Deep down inside me is a definite sense of loss that I may need to feed on a live person. Doubt seeps throughout my body.

  What am I?!

  I need more time to think. I need to be patient.

  In a knelt position, I face toward the creek and the soft sound of splashing water against the rocks soothes me. I place my elongated talon arms to each side. I focus. Concentrate. Patience, I will myself. Follow this thought. I bend my neck down, closing my eyes.

  A strange sensation takes over as I find myself hovering outside my body. I’m kneeling. This reminds me of something.

  From…a time ago.

  An unfamiliar word emerges and I ask myself, what is praying? I forget this word
as I startle at my own features as I can fully see myself in this out-of-body experience.

  I have a slight snout that protrudes from my face with large nostrils at the end. Jagged teeth protrude from my upper jaw extending out.

  My eyelids appear almost metallic. Short crop pointed ears stand on the top of my head. A row of dark spiky hair extends from my head to my back.

  Dirt and grime are plastered to my leathery looking skin. In the darkness it almost appears as if my skin is grey, but it’s a dull green, camouflages with the surrounding area. My tail is unconsciously making small whipping motions.

  Without warning, I am yanked from this meditation as a dark force is at work.

  Something is about to attack.

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  Still in this trance, I can tell those humans are much closer to me.

  Far in the lead is a small figure.

  Ace.

  The other two adult humans are closing in fast. The two adult males continue to desperately call out Ace’s name, “Ace! Just stop! Aaaaace!!! Wait pllllleeeeeeeeese!!”

  I sense Ace is slowing down. I hear Ace shriek back to the two figures, “Blood. I see blood!”

  Connecting partially to Ace’s mind, he’s hysterical. In his head I hear him bawl, ‘Noah! Noah! Please, God, don’t take my brother!’

  Ace stops near a tree, bent over, puffing out air. and I understand, he’s winded.

  As the two human figures close in on Ace, they have emotions of relief as they catch up to him. They stop several feet away from Ace, slightly bent from running and appear to be out of breath as well.

  Then, in the next split second, there are two shadows hidden in the tall grass that attack. Undoubtedly, these are the same ones who attacked Noah. I also instinctively sense they are something beyond this world.

  The two adults, who I sense are Ace’s father and uncle, are instantly slammed to the ground by these two large formidable shadows. I hear one scream in surprised pain as claws dig into his skin.

  In this surreal trance, I not only clearly hear, but feel Ace’s terrified guttural scream, “Noooooo!”

  The scream then reaches me in real time.

  My eyes snap open. I blink down at the corpse, Noah.

  I comprehend.

  Noah was bait.

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  I move with haste. I already understand the path I need to take.

 
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