Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Dali's Egg ~ 5. The Stripper

John awoke from a fitful sleep, the bed was uncomfortable and hard, his clothes still felt prickly and dry, despite the sweat that covered his body. Darkness having fallen while he slept, the lamp that illuminated the entrance to his shack gave off a swampy odour and attracted a multitude of winged insects, all vying for their moment of fame and glory, all vying to go down on flaming wings to the ground where the non-flyers awaited their meat.
He shook the cobwebs of dreamlessness from his mind and rising, noticed that there was a fire burning near the tall tree in the centre of the clearing. Surrounding the fire, a number of the villagers lounged in silence, their eyes reflecting the flames.
John could hear the river singing and, in the distance, the surf’s murmured harmony as he ducked out of his shack and straightened to stretch his spine, his hands on his lower back. Looking up at the clear night sky he realised that there were no stars, just a vast black vacuum. He turned full circle and the sweat on his back condensed cold at the sight of the steely grey face of the moon that stared with hard black eyes at some point far out to sea. In the moon’s grey light John could make out a white hut on the top of the mountain that rose on concave slopes from somewhere upriver.
As he approached the circle of villagers he made out the figure of Dr Morose where he reclined beside the Oriental woman who had served him in the kitchen earlier. John also recognised the boy from the beach; the boy looked at him steadily.
The doctor smiled up at him and pointed to the mug of steaming liquid in his hand.
“Coffee Gabriel?”
“Thank you”
Morose nodded to the woman beside him and she rose gracefully and hurried off in the direction of the kitchen. His eyes followed the sway of her hips before turning back to John, “Sleep well old man?”
“Not really” John sat between the doctor and the boy from the beach, who looked at him with the same wide-open curiosity as before.
“Are you going to walk the chain?” the boy asked.
“What do you mean?” asked John to the general murmur around the fire.
“The chain?” the boy pointed north, rolling his eyes, “Some people leave here, the only way off the island is by the chain.”
“Where does it lead to then?”
“Nowhere,” Dr Morose cut in, “…In my humble opinion anyway.” He added in a tone that feigned unconcern. “And besides, the chain is way out there in the forbidden zone.”
“Mike said that anywhere else could only be better than here” said the boy to Morose, his expression defiant.
“Mike didn’t know when he was well off” replied the doctor, and turning to John, “So old man, did you sleep well?”
“Forbidden zone? Forbidden by who?” asked John, unwilling to have the flow of information diverted.
Morose smiled bitterly, “The powers that be have…”
A deep and echoing cough from the darkness beyond the clearing cut the conversation short. John jumped up, his escape reflexes singing wildly.
“What was that?”
Nobody laughed, but they all remained seated – tense and alert.
“Stripper” said Dr Morose staring into the flames “Nasty parasitic creatures; strip the body bare, leave nothing but the bones.” He looked at John, “Don’t worry old man, you’re safe in the light; their eyes are so sensitive that they operate in almost complete darkness, anything more than a lighted match causes them immense pain. Best bet is not to go walking around at night, stay close to the village and make sure your lamp has enough fuel before turning in.”
The woman returned with John’s coffee, she cast nervous glances into the darkness as she crossed the clearing.
“Thank you” said John as he accepted the hot mug.
“Saki will take you fishing tomorrow – show you the ropes, so to speak” Dr Morose glanced at the woman who smiled back at him, her eyes showing real affection. He turned back to John, “And just so you know, she’s spoken for.” He gave John a wink, as if to underline the seriousness of his words. “From tomorrow you can see what duty you have been assigned to by checking the rota,” he pointed over his shoulder to the clipboard nailed to the tree. Morose lit a cigarette, this time not offering, and exhaled a plume in the direction of the boy, he said, “Go and check that the nets are ready Adam”
The boy rose reluctantly and slouched off in the direction of the shacks. Morose raised his eyebrows at John, “Discipline Gabriel, its all about discipline.”

The tense tranquillity of the night’s fireside vigil was shattered by the appearance of a panicked figure at the clearing's edge.
"What is it Geoff?" asked Dr. Morose
“Strippers – they got Irene”
The villagers sat up tense, all eyes on Geoff where he stood in the red sand, hands shaking and jerking at his sides.
“Somebody do something please, we were just walking – it bit he neck, took her. Please help”
“Show me where you were when they took her” said John, grabbing a flaming torch from the fire. Geoff led John, Morose and the scarred man a short way down the path toward the beach.
The torches caused the forest to loom and veer with giant black shadows and green imaginings.
“We were just here when it took her,” Geoff pointed at the ground where a large splash of blood contrasted blackly with the sand of the path.
John plunged into the forest, the flaming torch held high above his head. He tried not to imagine the creature that had left the glassy smears of blood reflecting the torchlight on the carpet of dead leaves.
He broke into a crouching run, hopping over fallen trunks and small bushes, ducking to avoid the clutching branches. He followed the flattened undergrowth and dark smatterings of blood until, slowing briefly, he could hear something rustling and crackling away from him in the darkness ahead. He stopped abruptly as he became aware that the shape up ahead had halted and turned in his direction.
At the edges of the torch’s reach crouched a large and hunch-backed creature, its fur was matt black and it turned its face sideways on to John, keeping its large eyes averted from the light. The creature’s lips were stretched impossibly tight over a mouth crammed with oversized and perfectly symmetrical white teeth. The shiny blood trail down the side of the Stripper’s neck led John’s eyes to where the pale body of Irene hung in the creatures powerful arms. The gaping chunk of flesh missing from her throat made it obvious that he was too late – she was gone.
The Stripper belched deeply and quietly and on the wind of the belch came the words:
“What do you seek out here on the limits of consciousness John Gabriel?
Surely you did not come to deny us this bland and spiritless flesh?
These meagre treats are all that are afforded us here in the blackness.
We, like thee, are animals whose code prevents our straying too far from the path.
But we are ill equipped to live in the light, let alone to walk the chain.
This flesh is our eternity
This flesh is our curse”
The creature ran its bloody tongue across the edges of its teeth, it turned, and hefting Irene’s carcass it concluded
“Leave us be John Gabriel”
John could feel the absolute weight and gravity of the creature as it moved slowly off into the darkness leaving him speechless, sweat cooling on his body, the torch sputtering above his head.


Anonymous said...

Pisces, this part reminded me of what the Morlocks did with the Eloi in Well's "Time Machine". What interests me further is that everyone seems to know who Mr. Gabriel is...even the Strippers.

Of course, his curiosity aroused about the "Forbidden Zone"...but 'tis the "chain" I look at. Each link is but another day closer to destruction or salvation...

Jimmy Bastard said...

I'm more than comfortable with the outline of this post. It has a ring about it that makes me look very hard at the main players.

In short.. it makes me think!

James Higham said...

Now that's atmospheric, Pisces.

By the way, I got here today by clicking on your post in Bloghounds - the system does work, amazingly.

James Higham said...

Just saw your sidebar - Babylonians, eh? :)

Pisces Iscariot said...

Subby: Yes, I guess some part of the Morlocks has crept in to this story - the difference, however, is that the Stripper tries to invoke some sympathy as a victim of circumstance.

Jimmy: my original intention was to create archetypal characters and place them in an odd world. Much of the circumstances are translated from various places I've worked :D

James: Yes! Babylonians - if you look back at much earlier posts entitled "Babylon Keyboard" you can read my early thoughts on the whole 'blogging' process.

Anonymous said...

Pisces, I did note that, yes. Albeit a fairly gruesome kind of sympathy. The hunger of life is indeed an appetite in itself...

Tom said...

what is this place!? More questions...!

Anonymous said...

I can see I'm not the only one with questions...

Pisces Iscariot said...

Subby: "a fairly gruesome kind of sympathy" - is their any other kind? :)

Tom: keep on asking - perhaps the answers will come... perhaps :}

Anonymous said...

Oooh scary. Not the sort of stripper I was waiting for. What, are you Stephen King? You're giving me the same shivers.

Pisces Iscariot said...

Cinnamon: mmm... never considered myself to be writing horror (but if the cap fits etc)

Justin Russell said...

Strippers eh? A sincere archetype of primal menace you've introduced here Iscariot. I want to know more. Much more.