Flash fiction from the world of E:
Knight Threatens Rook
Buildings jut like bad teeth, crooked, blackened, jagged and broken. The sky is bright red and heavily etched with deep black scars. An alien firmament covering an inhospitable world. These heavens are mine. They reflect what is inside. Rage and darkness.
Overcast emotions that fill the angry sky. Manifestations of the eternal enemy, my constant companion, the ever present insanity. Facets of the disease that look like feelings but feel like madness. They erased me, but they couldn’t erase it. They just robbed me of my coping mechanisms. Left me helpless. At its mercy.
When I first woke in this enforced innocence, devoid of memories, I assumed everyone was like this. With the paranoia, delusions, fear, rage and hallucinations. Now I realize I am alone, I am the oddity, a freak. I see now how broken I am, but they stole my ability to tell in what way. To know what is reality and what is confused delusion. Is the sky actually red? Is this nightmare of an outpost made of concrete or is it a manifestation of hell? Which me is me?
The only ones who have these answers are the Sentries. They took them from me and I must get them back. I have to subdue a Sentry and retrieve my sanity from it. I’ve often thought about it, but now I have a special reason. I want to do it for her. The one who smiles at me every morning as we pass. That pretty smile. Kind smile. It makes me feel at ease, not crazy, for a moment as we gaze at each other. I can’t talk to her in this state. I have to get my sanity back.
The ambulatory fortress that is the Sentry will not easily be conquered. Thick with armor, huge in stature and massively strong. I will need to be smart. But I know I will prevail. The large are always felled by the small. It’s inevitable. All the stories say so.
Two smiles later. I have a plan, I’ve pilfered my equipment and I have taken up position. Now I lie in wait, surrounded by shadow. I stand on a second floor window ledge, the building is little more than a façade, the rest having fallen away. It’s enough for my purpose. The cold numbs my limbs. The steel bars in my hands are solid ice through the scant protection of rag wraps. I stand motionless, as if the cold has already turned me rigid.
I hear it before I see it, clanking in the dark. It approaches its post beneath this window. I feel an anxiety attack rising. I have to keep calm, now more than ever. The machine registers abnormal bio-readings, elevated heart rate, increased adrenaline, labored respiratory system. The exact things affected by anxiety. I must pretend to be sane, just for this one moment, I have to be normal. The answer is obvious, the only answer. The answer is her. A girl I’ve never even met, but her smile is my solace. I picture that pretty smile and I feel the anxiety drain away. She makes me feel normal. The machine looks at me for what seems like a long time. Eventually, deciding I am no threat, it steps up to its post then turns its back to the building and to me.
The Sentry are built without a head. Instead they have a large, curved face. This featureless face is supported by a number of struts that radiate from a hub on the neck. Each articulates independently giving the faceplate, with all the sensors it contains, a vast range of movement. It is also the weakness I intend to exploit.
I slot my jousting lances through the latticework of robotic tendons behind the face, throw on the welding goop and cover my eyes. I can see the sparks through my closed lids and protective hands. When darkness returns I eagerly look at the results. The Sentry is trying to turn, but it is all jammed up. A metal hand is pulling one of the bars, but the chemical weld is holding. The bars are solidly fused.
I leap on its back and pour heavy aether down the face of the machine. Its arms grab for me, but I’m right in that spot you can’t reach when you have an itch. It moves tentatively. As I had hoped, immobilizing the hub of sensors has all but immobilized the beast.
“If you don’t answer my questions, I’m going to light that aether and permanently cripple you.” I yell at it. “Do you hear me, machine? Do you care? Let’s find out.” It continues grasping for me. Do I sense a new urgency in its movements? “I need sanity. I want the knowledge of good and evil. I want to be able to talk to girls. What is when and why? At all times! The secrets. I had them once. You took them. I want them back!”
The second Sentry appears out of nowhere. Out of the black that surely shrouds death. Too soon. I need my answers. I need what they took. It’s freezing hand is on me before I’ve barely begun to hesitate. It will kill me now. They call it removal, but I know what it is. Removal is the ultimate erasure. To be erased from life. I smile suddenly in that cage of a fist, realizing, when they remove me they will remove the disease. I’m getting what I wanted. I will finally be free of it. My grin must be huge. I only wish I could show it to the girl before I go.
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