While the Devil Snickers in the Moonlight
By S. N. Rasul
He is not a hero. His cloak isn't dark and foreboding, his presence not an automatic intimidating partition through the crowds, his skin not desensitised to pain, his eyes not luminous with confidence, the hilt of his sword not looming over his head like a sleeping serpent that will devour the flesh of anyone who chooses to cross his path. He is not a hero. He is someone looking for something, like everyone else in a world brown and sooty, as an everlasting dusk spreads itself farther and farther across the sky. But he looks not for food or shelter, not power, not transport, not oil, not redemption, not the non-existent green planet or the existent grey one, not the DNA of an insect, not respect, nor his family.
He looks for love.
The radio crackles her awake, forcing her eyes to open in the dampness of a four-by-four cellar, crooked smiling grilled bars staring back, dripping rust and evaporating stale ammonia meshing to engulf her in the stench of its continuous vapour. She can hear the guards laughing as they surf from station to station. She sits up from her foetal position, back against the wall and strains her ears to listen to the unclear bursts of almost-indecipherable transmission, impulsively, foolishly longing, looking out for news about something immaterial in the world external.
“…in a planet where I clearly don't belong.” Crackle. Switch. “…rumours of the existence of a grey cat resurface, with sources indicating its last sighting being somewhere in southern…”
She hears a familiar voice in tune with jangling keys and the creaking of a heavy metal door, followed by steps leading up to her cuboid entrapment. A shadow blocks whatever lone stream of light still escaped into her dome, consisting of a caricature born of the night, in trash, eternity withstanding.
Click. Switch. “…new Solaraid! Emergency energy patches for your ca-“
“Shut it!” hisses the shadow at the guards, moving origami in the light. Click. Her fingers touch the scars on her thigh, mountains of memory, trembling to go any higher. She turns around, her naked back facing the wall, red rivers straddling the hills of her skin.
“Welcome back, Doctor,” she whispers. She can feel the animal insider her flutter.
The shadow snickers.
He has killed, tortured, blackmailed, stolen, robbed, and even sold a kidney to a Moroccan jeweller while holding his family hostage to get the information he needed, and to end up where he is now. He hears the roaring engine first, and like subsequent supersonic waves, the revolving swords are seen slicing through the clouds, and a plane emerges and swiftly lands, whizzing past, his hair a poor mockery of anime.
He runs up to the ladder extended while it stopped and sits down in the cockpit, beside the pilot, who sucks on a cigarette butt, his face hidden with a ski mask, only a slit around his mouth to leave room for air. And smoke. Some of the last remaining droplets of energy flying through the sky for his selfish will.
“Reno,” he says. The only word of the journey.
August, Mexico City
He can feel the cuffs being put on his wrists, but it's surreal, like a fleeting glance caught from the corner of one's eye. He has to find her, he has to find her.
He has to find her.
“L is for the way you look at me.”
Her neighbour is whimpering; male, familiarity. He is waking up, the vocal chords catching weight as his senses sharpen, and that voice, so recognisable, so utterly impossible, yet unmistakably there. She flickers to the iron bars, her head dented against the frame. She screams his name.
“O is for the only one I see.”
She cannot see him. Oh, how she longs to see him. Her voice has stirred him awake and he whispers it out, coarse and rough and travelling through the thickness of bile in the air and reaching sweet in her ears. She cannot help it, the tears mingling with the smiles, her reptilian heart so cold is now warmth personified. She reaches out for him, hoping to touch him, feel him.
The door creaks open.
“V is very, very extraordinary.”
She cannot reach him. She sees herself properly for the first time in a long time, her environment oblivious; he is crying out her name, again and again. She sees the darkness spreading across her skin, coldness blooming through her blood. She is glad he cannot see her. Her neighbour's door is pushed open.
No. No. No. Nonono. Leave him! No! Let him go! All these exclamations, they're all in vain. In the darkness of the light, she had failed to notice she had submerged in the darkness of the sound as well. No wonder only Levarda understood her.
“E is even more than anyone that you adore.”
Even after all these experiments they couldn't put him to any use, they say. She can hear vague snatches, but their voices, especially his, is so low, so low, like a scream wrapped in a whimper. There was too much radiation inside him; irrevocable damage. Crackling radios. They would have to recycle him.
The animal inside her breaks free, its wings in full fury, its antlers seeking out, ready to consume its host in the blink of a life. She is oblivious to it all, her hands still reaching out, her mouth in the shape of his name, such anguish soaked tones, such despair. Her last effort is proclamation. He continues to scream out her name as they dose him - poison for the future in his veins - and he does so, for so long, until they are just incoherent gusts of despondency. The animal tears into her, an experiment gone horribly wrong, and the animal, it screeches for its master, its red king.
“And love is all that I can give to you.”
Last week our topic was Post-Apocalypse. We received a number of submissions but decided this one went best with the theme of the issue as a whole. This week our topic is “New Beginnings”. We look forward to entries that make such a mundane topic interesting. Submission deadline is the usual Sunday 12pm.
After The End
By Rayaan Ibtesham Chowdhury
| Issues | The Daily Star Home|
© 2010 The Daily Star