Scent is thick in this now. Green shadows, wet black earth, whispers of blue-gold air.
Waiting. Bags of juice crawling over grass, yipping to each other. Nipping. Biting.
Big bag rolls belly to empty-above. Vulnerable, exposed – WAIT.
Leaves overhead shift, rustle. Their little darkness keeps Warm Eye away. What Warm Eye sees, all can see.
A bag of juice heaves itself upwards, nosing the empty-above, turning and turning. One dark eye passes over. Watching. Wait. Not seen, not smelled. Cool air tickles nose. Thick hot juice smells coming, not going.
No squawk. Big bag flops back down to the grass.
The littler bags roll down across the green. Tumble through gold-brown stalks, scattering chips of dust. World painted in the scent of juice. World gone red.
Legs tense. Back aching to tense and twitch and release. Waiting so hard, so hard. Soon.
The air turns. The red goes away. The tickle moves left, flanks. Bad bad bad.
Juice bag pops up again, nose grabbing air, head turning-turning. Claws eat earth. Legs scream go. Back howls for air.
No more clouds clamping down the legs and quills, let the body do, turn off water in the head and let wind and fire in the limbs flow as they will.
Let the twitches ripple down the back. Flex, uncoil, set the air to hissing, and down into the legs unfurl and
bags squeal and roll and flop and
quill-shadows breaking overhead and
fall and pin them to the earth and
soft meat pierced and leaking juice and
shrieking, shrieking and
air singing all around and world is red and
legs tread air and
fall and claw and
bite and tear and
shrieking, shrieking and
warm juice spraying down throat and
Tilt back head and let joy shiver free to the empty-above. Tell Warm Eye bags became meat. Let all bags know they are meat, and all meat and juice is mine.
This green. These shadows. Mine.
World is heavy now.
Juice is washing warm into limbs. Making fire for later. Making head-water flow sharper, colder, like when empty-above is grey, grass is white and air is empty, made of roaring and claws, and bags are nowhere.
Heavy. Must be soon asleep. Find grey/brown smell where shadows can come safe.
* * *
Flat cold scent. Juice mixed in.
Safe-shadows are dark and blue from empty-above closing eyes. Empty-above is going asleep. Now is mostly scent and feel and sound. It is Cold Eye’s now, now of hunters, now where prey hides above in limbs of tall hard grass.
Where is this juice?
Follow through darkness. Red smell is cool, not quite here. Bag is already maybe turned to meat.
Other smells. Wait.
Slippery smells. Dry, dead plants. Old sun-stretched dust-bags. Strange meat.
But red is strong. Pulsing on air ahead.
Away from tall hard grass is a bag turned to meat. Juice all over. Just left? Here? No hunter?
Grass is coated by strange smells, but whispers. Juice is strong, all over, making everything red.
Where is hunter gone? No smells of sharpteeth, longnose, greatclaw or silentfall. Just strange meat, dead plants, old bags, metal.
Grab the air to see, but red everywhere. Too loud for the whisper-scents.
Moving very slow. Listen. Smell. Nothing to see, but seeing not good during Cold Eye’s now. Cold Eye is blind and makes all bags blind. Hunters smell and hear and feel.
Feeling funny grass. Like walking on soft roots. Smelling old plants.
Red, red, red. Big bag leaking cool juice all over.
Wind, ground going away, NOT RIGHT BAD BAD BAD, shiver passing down spine, quills don’t move, break and snap and poke, sleeping empty-above is below and all around, spinning, bright sharp noises, lurching up and down and here and there, twisting, biting, nothing to grab, WHERE IS GROUND GONE, fires and noises, strange meat smells, dead plants, dust-bags.
TOUCHING NO BAD DIE DIE DIE BITE CLAW RUN NO GROUND NO GROUND WHERE GROUND GONE EYES HURTING GROWLING SNARLING STRANGE SHAPED ANIMALS HITTING HITTING DARK SHAPE FALLING–
white mane animal
legs not work
making noises, showing teeth
world moving funny
red smell of juice
* * *
Strange animal smells all over. Flat cold metal.
No smelling plants. No smelling water. No empty-above awake or sleeping. Like safe-shadows overhead, but never safe. Always burning now. Now and now and now, white-mane animal claws and burns and shoves things inside. Heavy, cold, hurtful. Like full belly after meat and juices, but not in right places. Too many. Wrong shapes. Nose burns when grabbing smells. Always leaking juice.
No way out. Tall hard grasses around always. Small, close, cold. Smell of metal. Can’t get between.
Strange animals throw bags in sometimes. Always dead, cold, dry. Little juices. Always thirsty.
What now is it?
Awake or dark, hard to understand. No empty-above. No Warm Eye or Cold Eye. Only fires waving in shadows.
Better in shadows. When there are shadows, there is no sharpness. When fires come in, strange animals claw and bite. Hind-leggers. Never killing, never eating. Just hurting-hurting.
Fire-stick coming again now. Always fire now, smelling black and bitter. Growling hind-leggers enter room.
There is a littler one with them, cowering.
The big animals bark and grunt and growl at the littler one. It keeps its head down, long mane hanging close.
Female. Maybe? Littler one’s scent is strange. Big ones smell of thick meat, grease-sweat, poisoned juice, anger. Littler one is rotting bags and plants, bad dirt, old juice, hunger, fear. Coated with sticky-slippery black dust.
Very small. Growlers so big.
Big hind-leggers leave. One claws the littler one in passing. She cringes, squawks softly, does nothing more. It growls; a bright spark clinks into moldy dead plants on the ground. Warm, damp metal. When they take the fires away, she digs for it, sniffing.
A little light in her hand. She rubs her eyes and hides the metal away.
She looks through the metal grasses between us, makes a soft, scared noise.
She leaves. She comes back walking slower, carrying metal. Not thin sharp metal, like hind-leggers claw and burn with. Big, round. Sounds like water, smells of meat and juice. Carries it to the metal grass between us.
She pushes it through with the tip of one leg. She smells of sweat and trembling. She is waiting to run.
But it hurts all over. The air presses down so hard. Every breath is fighting. Don’t want to move.
The meat and juice in the metal smell bad anyway.
She waits. Watches. Hoots softly. Strange hind-legger sounds.
She goes away. Maybe quiet now. Maybe rest and air squeezes to sleeping, to being meat.
Don’t want to be meat.
So hurting. So tired.
Wavering light. It is now for burning again? Clawing?
No. Not big hind-leggers. Little female back, holding fire-stick to turn shadows into awake.
Stick-light falls on us. On claw-marks and burned places. Her nose grabs the air. She makes strange noises. Her eyes leak water.
She lowers herself to the ground. Reaches out one of the legs that don’t touch ground, the ones with all the little squirmy bits at the end. Big hind-leggers put claws in their squirmies.
She doesn’t have claws in hers. She is sweating. Breathing funny. She howls softly in the dark.
Can’t move. Too tired. Too hurting.
She touches, flinches away. Touches again.
No fire; wind. Light, soft.
Her touch is just wind between quills. Not near places burned and clawed. Warm wind, like the now after grass is white and air cuts. When empty-aboves are thick with sweetness, strange colors, falling water.
But watch. Maybe her wind turns to claws later.
Don’t trust hind-leggers.
* * *
The metal-grass squeaks into light. Little fires waving along walls. Little fires on metal snowflakes above. Light everywhere. No shadows.
Been in this place many nows. Many juices spraying all over. Many skin roasted by fire. Place smells of red all over.
White mane has bright cold metal claws in his squirmies.
Rumble shaking inside. Bright room goes to shadows. Only see white mane.
Smell the red of him and
juice so close and
legs full of air
and fire and
white mane close and
near to tasting and
claws on metal ice and
ground of white-grass-now and
White-mane growls and howls and shows its teeth. Pack Hind-leggers grunt and sway and surround the metal-grass. Their limbs bite the vines around legs, around throat.
Air goes away. Bright little bugs pulse in the shadows. Metal grass wobbles.
Legs sliding on the ice. Pulled apart. Skin ripping all over. Juices leaking. Can’t keep hurt noises in.
Grunts. Howls. The metal-grass parts.
No air. Underwater.
On the ground that smells of juices.
Scraping noises, like when claws catch stone.
White mane snarls. Icy claws come at head—
LIGHT WON’T GO
WRITHING ON CLAWS
WORMS IN HEAD
OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT
* * *
Always hurting now. Always claws and fire.
Never so bad.
Light burns eyes.
Still feel fire squirming inside head.
Can’t stop hurt noises.
Little female is here. Her smell is in the room. Sweat, rot, old juice. She breathes strange, fast. Howls softly in the dark.
“It’s all right.”
Hurts to look, but open eyes anyway. Shadows. She is in wobbly fire-light. Water leaks from her face.
What sounds were those?
She opens her mouth and makes the hind-legger noises. Same as always. But now there is more than sounds. There is – “I’m here, boy. I’ll stay with you.”
Try to make noises back at her, but it comes out all wrong. Not like her noises. Not at all.
Female wipes water from her eyes, but keeps coming out. Does it hurt her?
She opens her mouth and makes different noises. Sounds like water, swaying up and down as she touches like wind. Furless little squirmy leg-ends warm on old scars and sores. Not hurting. She touches and is not scary. But she makes sounds like she’s hurting inside.
Sounds turn into shapes. Not real shapes, not like can be bitten. Shapes in burning head, seen and smelled somehow.
Why I know what this means?
Why she sings for I?
Why I hurt less when she does?
Why is she hurt inside?
* * *
Mai 12, 1543
One month after the Dawngate opened
Progress remains slow and inconclusive. The regenerative properties displayed by Experiment IV remain below anticipated levels. My first attempt to replicate my successes in a replacement limb was… distastefully unsuccessful. Perhaps I am pursuing the wrong remedy. It seems I have little skill with flesh, but stone and steel are another matter.
I will continue for the time being. My speculative efforts in performing Shaping directly on Experiment IV’s brain have yielded some surprising results.
I suppose it is a pity about the girl, but there is no shortage of orphans.