Wings for Christopher

Here is a short story that forms the first part of a mixed media piece I am working on.  I intend to continue it as a series of short films on my YouTube channel. I already have the scripts written for those shorts, I just need to find the time to shoot everything as there are a few tricky locations I need to work out. I am enjoying the freedom I have to blend my mediums and extend my story telling in different ways, even if it is difficult and much more time consuming than I’d like. I don’t want to get too much into it, when the shorts are all done I will post about them here and tie everything together, until then I hope you enjoy:

Wings for Christopher

 

He stands up brushing the dew off the goggles on his gas mask. The lenses are always foggiest in the morning, these were not designed to be slept in. There is no option now though, to remove the mask is to become one of them.

He packs his gear with efficient practised motions. Everything is a lot easier to carry now that he’s ditched the rifle and ammo. It did nothing against them anyway, carrying it was more of a burden than it was worth. A quick gulp of purified water through the hydration valve on the mask and he’s off.

It had been weeks since he had put the gas mask on. The filter would soon be useless and he had no spares and nowhere safe to change it regardless.  The sound of his own breathing was the only thing he had heard since then. That was why the sudden crash startled him so much.

There was no movement in the forest except for him, everything had been dead since the first attacks. He frantically looked around for the source but found nothing. It was hard to see through the damaged lenses and he could hear nothing over his ragged breathing. He almost wished he had the gun until he located the source of the sound.

A tree had fallen, a massive pine. It was cracked up the middle, black with death. The trees were starting to die now too. Soon there would be nothing left on this planet besides them. He needed to hurry. There was one place, one thing that could stop this.

Hours passed in the monotony of walking through a dead forest. Night came upon him quick and he cursed its sudden arrival. He set camp knowing that he would make it there tomorrow, he had to be close now. As the light from the fire died he leaned back into an uneasy sleep.

He dreamt about the tunnel. About before. And about himself. Only it was not him. It was a different Christopher in the same forest on the same quest. This one was not wearing the mask. His dreams had been getting progressively stranger the closer he got to the tunnel. Dreams and reality drifting closer and closer together.

He was awoken by the mask being torn from his face. One of them was staring back at him.

They used to be human, they still retained some of the features of a human, still had faces. Only all the skin had fallen off and the muscle around the face had atrophied in a way that made them look like they were smiling.  That smile was all he saw through the suddenly clear vision he had now with the mask removed.

Even in his shocked state he had enough sense to hold his breath, knowing it would do little. The air was so toxic that even the smallest exposure would start the process, would start him turning into that.

It started to walk away, still clutching his gas mask in its misshapen hand. They would not attack their own and now that he was infected it wasn’t going to touch him. An ingenious plague, one of the pinnacles of human nano-bio engineering.

He lunged at it and grabbed his mask back.  It didn’t react, that was all the proof he needed to know he was infected. He still held his breath as he placed the mask back on. Hopefully a minimal exposure would give him enough time to reach the tunnel. He needed to make the bargain, needed to reach the only ones that could stop this.

There was no point in waiting until daylight now, he started off on the last leg of distance to the tunnel. He knew the route well, it was one walked often as a child. Back when he had found this place.

There are spots in our world where the fabric of reality is thin. Where one can commune with the beings that exist in that dark gap between universes. Where one can talk to creatures older than time itself. Where one can make deals with beings that exist in a space beyond comprehension.

As a child he had spent hours here talking to the voices that came from the crack in the tunnel. As he grew up he passed these voices off as an overactive imagination. It wasn’t until the special weapon attacks, it wasn’t until they started roaming the Earth that he realized the voices were real.

Fighting the invasion, he realized that there were things out there in this universe, things long discounted as impossible or scientifically not viable.  It’s hard to believe that something is impossible when you have to fight it. When the dead don’t stay dead, when creatures that you once thought only existed in your imagination start attacking you, it’s hard to fall back on science.

It was science that got them here, science that created the bombs that destroyed the cities, wiped out their homes and left nothing. Science that brought these beings here. He knew that now. Beings only glimpsed by few, inspirations of generations of horror, now walked the Earth.

With enough death, enough suffering and enough damage the barriers between dimensions, between universes can be broken. The danger lies not in what’s in the other universe though, the real power, the real horror, lies with those that exist in the space between the universes. The ones he had whispered to as a child.

He saw the man in his dreams, his childhood friend. The one he thought was imaginary. The man in black wearing the skull of a deer. The man who spoke to him and promised to take all the pain away. The man he had made the bargain with to make his Dad stop beating on his mom. The man he had caught glimpses of in the invasion, standing atop a building staring down at the destruction, standing in no mans land, arms spread out as hordes of those creatures swarmed around him.

The sun was rising now, it was getting hard to focus, the toxic air was starting to shut down his internal organs.  Even that small exposure was enough, he would have to move faster.  The gas mask made it heard to breathe but he kept it on knowing that more exposure would only hasten his death and transformation into one of those things.

The tunnel had to be close now, he was recognizing more and more of the surrounding forest. He had come here too much as a child, escaping the seemingly constant fighting at home. Escaping his father’s fists. The first time he met the deer man he had been frightened but there was something calming about his voice, something about the slow movements the man made that put him at ease.

He had shown Christopher the tunnel, had shown him the gap in reality from which he had emerged. The first time he had seen that gap Christopher had run, frightened by the sounds rumbling from that place. He had been unable to stop thinking about it though. It wormed its way into his consciousness and refused to leave.

He found himself returning more and more, holding commune with the voices there. The deer man stood silently by, a sentinel for the portal. It had been after a particularly bad beating that he had brought up the deal. An offer to make the beatings stop in exchange for something Christopher would do for them when he was older.

Christopher knew what that was now. He knew what he had to do, what was going to be asked of him. He was going to try and alter the deal, he was going to try and save as many of those who remained as he could. He was the only one who could save them all, who could save humanity. He was just going to have to make an impossible bargain in order to do it.

Cresting one last rise the tunnel finally came into view. He started to jog toward it but had to stop. It was too easy to get winded in this mask. That was made worse as each breath was a struggle now that the gas was starting to attack more and more of his organs. It was hard to quiet his excited mind knowing that he finally might be able to accomplish something. That he would finally be able to stop the end that was barreling toward his species.

He knew what they wanted of him, they had told him in his dreams. The man in the skull had come to him many times, told him that they were calling in their favour. He had ignored it as long as he could, now it was time. It would be a fair request to alter the deal, they had tricked him with it after all.

Yes the beatings had stopped, but that was almost worse. That day, when he came home after agreeing to their deal he found his mother on the couch sobbing. His aunt was in the kitchen and came out when she heard his voice. It was her that told him that his dad was dead. He had been killed in an accident at work. Christopher knew that he had died the moment he shook hands with that man in the tunnel.

The messenger, that was what he called him now. The man wearing all black and adorned with the skull of a deer. The man who refused to leave his dreams. The one that had been there all through the war, following him as he was forced to kill and forced to watch as his friends died.

At the entrance to the tunnel he paused, knowing this would be the last time he saw the world. Looking back all he could see was ruin. The war had taken everything and ground it up into a mess of blood and bone. It had all started when they invaded his country.

They had developed a new weapon, one that would level the battlefield and remove the supremacy long enjoyed by his country.  This new weapon had removed the need for nuclear weapons and actually protected their land from any kind of missile or bomb attack. It was so effective at defence that they could finally engage in offence and they took this opportunity to remove the head of a world order that had been in place for so long it was growing stagnant.

All they could do was fight on the defensive but their attack was too strong to hold off for long. It was his country that had released the chemical weapons into the air. It was his country that had cemented the end. That was something he had to live with. The gas killed those that inhaled it then turned them into living husks that only knew how to create more of themselves, attacking those not infected.

It was the gas, and the weapon, the war and the endless suffering that all combined to open more of these portals. These places of ancient power that lead to that space between universes. That space where they lived. He knew they couldn’t pass through though, they could only send emissaries for now. They needed to be invited in.

That was what the Messenger had told him in his dreams. It was coming back easily now that he was close to the gap. Now that he was close to death. It was coming back like a flashback to an earlier life.

He entered the tunnel, happy to turn his back on the world. Knowing that there was not much left to save but he had to try. Had to offer them a different world in exchange for his. They were timeless, dimensionless beings, it shouldn’t matter to them which world they received an invite to enter. That was what he was hoping.

It was getting hard to walk now. His vision was blurring more and more as the poison worked its way through his system. A mix of nanites and super engineered viruses the gas worked fast. It lingered in the air he was going to have to ask the old ones to purify the sky in order to make the planet habitable again.

The dead ones were amassing at the distribution points for the gas, drawn to it. Stopping the gas would only be the first step in reclaiming the world. He knew he wouldn’t be around to help, but he had to make a sacrifice if he was going to give even a slight fighting chance to those that remained.

The Messenger was waiting for him at the gap between worlds. He stared into Christopher’s mind, entering his thoughts and lifting him up.

The idea of altering the deal had angered the old ones, the Messenger informed him, but they were willing to consider. They admired his persistence in coming here to try and honor the deal. Even if he was dead, they were willing to let him keep his mind while he tried to grant them another world.

Christopher closed his eyes as the pain in his skull from the screaming Messenger reached an impossible pitch. Then there was silence. He opened his eyes and was back in the forest. The air looked different. There were animals moving in the trees. Things were still alive, the gas hadn’t reached here yet.

He didn’t know how but he knew everything. They had filled his mind with all he needed to know. In order to save his dead planet he would need to convince himself, this universe’s version of himself, to let their planet die. The old ones would much rather have this universe’s planet, it had more life, it was yet to be as ravaged by the war.

Except that things were already unfolding on this planet. This version of himself was well on his way to the tunnel. Well on his way to trying to alter the deal and save the planet from the coming invasion. He had to work quickly.

They would never know his sacrifice, never know how he had saved them all, but he was going to stop the death of his world. He was going to earn his wings and leave the plain of existence as an angel.

 

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