I walk on broken glass, can’t you hear my laughter? A scream inside a gasp. Alone is my ever after …
I smile, pleased I’ve finally figured out the bridge to my newest song, Undone. Golem’s been shambling around for the better part of the day, giving me lots of time to work on it. It’s pretty good so far. Too bad no one’s ever going to hear it.
A sudden movement draws me from my thoughts. I’ve been trailing behind from a distance today. I needed some space. I mean, I know Golem doesn’t talk, but sometimes a guy can only handle so much mindless groaning.
From where I stand, I can tell Golem’s found something. He’s frozen in place, his muscles coiled as he stares into the distance, like a cat preparing to pounce. I follow his gaze to see a man standing beneath a withered maple tree. Golem’s eyes are locked on him, and suddenly huge pang of hunger wrenches my gut. Before I can prepare myself, Golem has sprung. He scrabbles towards the man with a speed that shouldn’t be possible, pulling me along with him.
I yell, trying to warn the man he’s been seen, that he needs to run. I know it probably won’t work, but since I can’t escape Golem, I’ll be damned if I don’t try and save every person I can. I run faster, pulling in front of Golem, waving my arms and screaming at the top of my lungs. I’m close enough to see the man now. He’s leaning against the tree, using it to support his body. It’s obvious he’s been hurt.
“Go! Run! Get out of here!” I scream, flailing my arms like a madman.
He doesn’t hear me.
It’s only when he doubles over and wretches that I realize he’s already gone. Black vomit spews from his mouth and splatters to the ground in an unending river of sick. I lurch to a stop, afraid to get any closer, but I’m already near enough for the image to be etched into my new memories forever.
He leans against the base of the tree, using it to support his body. His legs are shaking so badly I’m sure at any moment he’s going to tumble over. Telltale burns on his hands and singed sleeves show he’s taken some drastic measures to fight off the cold. The blisters are red and oozy, filled with infection. His clothes hang loose off his form, and his cheeks are sunken in. Though he’s breathing heavily, he already looks dead.
A chill runs through me as I look at him and think that once, that was me.
There’s a small tug at my back and I turn to see Golem. He’s shambling off in the opposite direction, completely disinterested in the living corpse beneath the dying tree. I’ve seen this before, the Fallen chasing down a victim only to realize they’ve been Marked. I know because it happened to me.
Just like the wrecked man under the tree.
He won’t last much longer, his body is wasted. Lost to Cainnes. Golem knows this. He’s abandoned him. I spare one last glance at the dying man before I follow Golem, my tether to the earth.
We walk on in silence, Golem in front, oblivious to my existence, and me lagging behind. Trying to find ways to entertain myself. The chords to Undone start playing in my mind again.
Lost and alone, can anyone hear me? Silent screams, begging you to save me. I’m laying here, does anybody see me?
Another pang in my stomach startles me from my reverie. Golem’s hungry. Really hungry. I didn’t notice before, but after the promise of a meal denied, he’s ravenous.
I slow, putting as much distance between us as I can. I have no interest being anywhere near his next meal. I bury my thoughts in the chorus, to distract myself.
I’m pulling apart, broken in pieces. Forgetting who I was before I shattered, before I came undone.
The bushes beside me rustle as I walk past them. I pause, and warily check out the dried leaves to see what’s hidden. Since I’ve become a ghost, I’ve gotten much braver, what with the whole I’m already-dead-nothing-can-hurt-me business. The bush shakes again, stronger this time, and a branch snaps. Whatever’s inside seems angry. I lean in, and a large dog lunges at me, hackles raised, growling ferociously.
I glance over my shoulder at Golem to make sure he hasn’t seen him. Animals aren’t the Fallen’s first choice when it comes to supper, but they rarely discriminate when it comes to snacks. Unbothered, Golem ambles along, trudging through the abandoned field. I let out a relieved sigh. I’ve never been a huge fan of dogs, but that doesn’t mean I want to watch one become lunch. “It’s alright boy,” I whisper. He’s a good looking dog, a mutt of some sort. Based on his speckled white coat probably a mix of a cattle dog with some sort of retriever. “Nothing’s gonna hurt you.”
I have to suppress a laugh as I say this. It figures. I finally have something to talk to, and it’s an angry dog. I’ve known for a while that certain animals can see me. Turns out, the stories people used to tell about cats and dogs being able to pick up on spirits were all true. The only problem is they all hate me. I guess I can’t blame them. If I had seen someone like me before— well, you know, I probably wouldn’t trust them much either.
This dog is no different. He lets out another rumble from deep inside his chest, warning me to stay away as he slowly backs into the bushes. His blue eyes train on me until he is completely covered by the underbrush. I back away, not wanting to rile him further. He may not get lucky a second time if he leaves his hiding space.
“Good luck,” I tell him, then hurry to catch Golem. He’s moved steadily moving along, and I can feel the invisible cord tugging at me impatiently. “I’m coming, I’m coming,” I mutter bitterly as I follow him.
Though he’s far behind me, my mind drifts back to the dog in the brush. Claire had always wanted a dog, but mom and dad never went for it. Dad always used to tell her . . .
Damn. Panic runs through me as I realize I’ve run into another memory hole. Quickly, I recall my mantra, to make sure nothing else is lost. I recite it perfectly, and relief floods over me. Still there. I’ve still got them. The panic that gripped me eases, but I can still feel nagging doubt in the corners of my mind. To chase it away, I retreat into my songs.
I’m always surrounded, but I’m alone here. I scream out loud, sharing my fear. But no-one hears, nobody can hear…
An anguished sob curdles the evening air. In the distance, a pack of Fallen are bent over a writhing figure, tearing into its form. The ruckus has captured Golem’s attention, and he shifts course, veering slightly left to go join the frenzy. There won’t be much for him, between all the other Fallen already feeding, but it will sate his hunger.
I drag my feet, fighting against the bond between Golem and myself to stay as far back as possible. I can hear cries of pain as the Fallen rip pieces of their victim from its body. I turn around and face the other way then clap my hands over my ears and squeeze my eyes shut. Time to practice. But even singing at the top of my lungs, I can still hear the sounds of Golem’s hands cracking bone and his teeth ripping flesh.
Lost and alone, can anyone hear me? Whispered cries, begging you to save me…