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       Eldnium, p.12

           Enoch Pyle, Jr

  Jackson laid there, the moisture of his breath freezing against the pillowcase around his head. His hands were stiffening, his fingers too numb to feel the intricacies of the knots in the yarn. When he’d struggle, Bink would give him a swift kick, so Jackson had decided to lay quietly.

  He closed his eyes.

  With all else at stake, he was surprised at first by the flashes his brain began projecting…flashes of light..light blue…the fence…the girl who let him go…Underwear Man…

  The girl.

  His eyes flashed open. “She let me go!” he screamed, unsure of whether or not Bink was even still standing near him. “I watched them kill a man, and then she saw me, and she let me go!”

  No response.

  He whispered to himself, “Why would she let me go, if I’m the one they’re after?”

  There was a long silence. Jackson could hear nothing…not even the chirping of birds. No rustle in the leaves on the forest floor.

  He closed his eyes again to more flashes of blue light. This time, the focus was Underwear Man, the knife entering the back of his neck—FLASH—Back to Underwear Man. The approach. Running toward him—FLASH—Jumping into the air. The knife stretched out. Piercing flesh—FLASH—Seeing him from the distance—FLASH—Running—FLASH—Jumping—FLASH—A spray of blood—FLASH—It all played behind a bluish veil, like watching an old slideshow, jumping through time like a skipping vinyl record—FLASH—Running—FLASH—FLASH—


  And then he was standing there again, at the corner of the building, and he could feel the world around him as more than a memory. The grass at his feet. The wind against his face. The sunlight. The cold… He was there…really there…and before him stood the fence, with Underwear Man working away.


  He could hear his rapid breath beneath the pillowcase…the cold ground pressed against his injured leg…Underwear Man at the front of his mind. And why? The Control were coming. His life was at stake. So why was he focused on Underwear Man? Was it grief?

  No. It was the lack of grief… Jackson was ashamed of himself for feeling nothing. He’d killed a man…a sick man…a dangerous man…but a man all the same.

  That he felt nothing, Jackson found incredibly disturbing.

  There was another long span of silence, Jackson afraid to close his eyes. In the distance, he could hear an approaching vehicle. It had to be The Control. They were close now…

  Bink must have heard it, too, because he finally spoke. “She let you go because they aren’t here to hurt you. They are here to collect you and send you home.”

  Jackson was startled by the break in silence but replied, “It just doesn’t make sense. None of it. It’s crazy. Things don’t work like that, don’t you see? They’re building a tower out of recycled scrap metal! Why would they need to do that?” And then, like magic, Jackson got his answer…

  The ground started to vibrate, and the siren began to scream directly from the terra in rhythmic pulses. POUND, the siren would strike and fade away. POUND, again, the siren would strike and fade away. POUND. POUND. POUND. Each time, the ground was hammered, as if a massive weight was smashing into the earth, and the rocks would cry in agony.

  It was deafening.

  The yarn was beginning to cut into Jackson’s wrists, but the siren was more painful. He could feel each pounding rebound into his head, shaking his entire body. And the sound of the rocks against his skin…like tiny knives.

  “YOU HAVE TO LET ME GO!” He shouted as loudly as he could, but could not even hear his own voice over the siren. He thrashed about, and a speck of light caught his eye. It was a hole in the pillowcase, and so he made moves to put that hole as near to his eye as possible. He writhed, rubbing his head against the pulsing ground, trying to manipulate the pillowcase, until he finally was able to peer through the hole.

  He couldn’t see the cabin, but he could see the rough path leading to it, and how it slithered away into the woods. At its furthest visible point, a big, black vehicle came pouring into the clearing, bouncing against the rough, uneven lane.

  Bink stepped into view, his back to Jackson, facing the newcomers. Jackson watched as the vehicle emptied itself of four masked individuals, and the memory of what happened outside Jackson’s own home flashed before his eyes.

  They were all dressed the same, except for the one who exited from the front passenger side. His uniform was draped with a red cloak that covered his shoulders and was pinned at his collar with a bright, silver medallion. He stood in place beside the vehicle, and the other three moved forward, pistols in hand. In unison, they raised their weapons and pulled their triggers.

  Bink crumpled, and even against the pounding of the siren, Jackson thought he could feel the spatter of blood and brain on the ground.

  The three approached Jackson, grabbed him, and carried him away.

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