Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ink

As promised, this is the Halloween story you voted for:

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Ink

David saw half a peanut in front of him. It sat next to the metal foot of a chair where it was screwed to the floor. The peanut rolled back and forth slowly. His head was pounding. His cheek was pressed against a plastic strip of dim, flickering lights. He couldn't move. He was temporarily afflicted with catalepsy, but he thought it might of been paralysis since he was not aware of what catalepsy was and had never encountered the sensation before. He started to panic, trying to move his body.

Just as he thought he would be spending the rest of his life in an electric wheelchair, letting a computer voice with an Oxford accent speak his wishes, he regained voluntary use of his nervous system, scrambled to his feet like a just birthed giraffe and hit his head on the luggage compartment. He let out a girlish scream and collapsed into a seat.

When that pain melted into the background pain of his existing headache, David began to wonder why he just woke up on the floor. The last thing he could remember was downing his fourth glass of free wine. He looked around. There was no one in the row next to him, or in the rows on the other side of the aisle. He wondered why he was in coach when his seat was in first class.

David stood up carefully, not wanting to repeat his confrontation with the luggage compartment. He looked around. He couldn't see anyone else. All of the window shades were pulled down. He walked up and down the aisle looking in each row. He went all the way to the back of the plane and up again to first class. He checked the crew areas and all of the bathrooms. There was no one else. The door to the cockpit was locked, but he pulled on it nonetheless. He kicked and slammed his body into the door. He screamed for help, hoping there was at least a pilot inside. His lungs were contracting and expanding as rapidly as his heart. His face and fingers started to tingle and feel numb. He began to worry that the plane was on autopilot. Where has everyone gone? he thought.

He ripped up a shade. He couldn't see anything. It was pitch black. He ran back to the middle of plane, and opened several shades. It was enough light to show the wing and engines in dark gray. The plane was flying, there was no ground below. David went back to the cockpit door. He wondered how to open it; cockpit doors were reinforced and bulletproof to prevent terrorist attacks.

He went to his seat in first class and opened the luggage compartment. His bag was still there. He pulled it down and opened it. The dress suit he was going to wear to the awards ceremony in Stockholm was on a metal hanger. He pulled out the hanger and shoved the suit aside. He went back to the door and tried shoving the crook end of the hanger into the crack between the door and the frame, but the wire was too thick to wedge in. David slumped to the floor and started panicking again.

The interior lights started to flicker. The plane hit some light turbulence. Abandoned glasses bounced on extended tray tables. David tried to quiet his breathe and reassess the situation. The plane started to list to the right. There was more turbulence. The seats vibrated in a different direction than the ceiling and cabin walls. David crawled back to his seat and buckled himself in.

The turbulence got more violent. David opened the window shade next to him. He still couldn't see anything. The plane bounced so hard that the David hit the side of his head on the window and he blacked out for a minute or two. When he woke up the cabin lights had completely failed, only the safety strips on the floor were still on. Yellow oxygen masks had descended. All the luggage compartments had emptied their contents, but the turbulence was over. The plane was completely still.

Have we landed? thought David. He looked out the window. Still nothing. He felt oddly disoriented. He reached out for his oxygen mask, and put it on, pulling the elastic strap tight, as he learned to do on countless flights in the past from incredibly bored flight attendants. There was no air flowing through the mask, but it felt slightly comforting so he kept it on.

He noticed that the cockpit door was open. "Hello?!" he yelled. There was no response. He took the mask off and got up. He stepped tentatively towards the door. He yelled out again, no response. When David got to the door he couldn't see much. He fished in his pants pocket for his keys. The security screeners never seemed to pay attention to anything on a keychain, so he was armed with a tiny swiss army knife and a tiny pen light with fresh batteries. He turned on the light and shone it around the cockpit.

There was no one there. He put his hand on the each of the pilot seats. They were cold. No one had been there, at least not in the last several minutes. David suddenly noticed that he could no longer hear the engines. He scrambled into the co-pilot seat, tried to get as close to the window as possible, and pointed the light outside. Nothing, just black all around.

Just as he was about to get out of the seat, something glinted in the weak beam. It looked like a large wet snowflake. This must be Sweden, he thought, there must just be a power failure.

The snowflake followed a random path sideways and out of view of the cockpit windows. David got up and went into the cabin, hoping to follow the snowflake, though he didn't quite know why. He opened the nearest window shades, but he couldn't see anything. He sat down in his seat again and stared at the locked cabin door at the end of the row ahead of him. He wondered if he should try opening it. If he was on the ground it seemed like the obvious course of action. He had to be on the ground since the engines were off and the plane wasn't plummeting, but his sense of disorientation overwhelmed his commonsense.

Suddenly a bright red light shone through all the open windows. It went dark a second later and all David could see was retina green. While his eyesight was returning, he could hear rumbling coming from outside. It sounded almost like the low keening songs of humpback whales. After a minute the sounds stopped. David peered out the window again. There were more of the snowflake things floating by in a gentle breeze.

One of the flakes brushed up close to the window and must have gotten stuck to glass somehow. David examined it closely. It looked less like snow and more like some sort of pollen or seed. There was a central yellow nucleus surrounded by feathery tendrils. The flake or seed or whatever it was shivered and dislodged itself back to the breeze. It left a little gluey-looking smudge on the window.

A second intense light, this time white, shone just through his window. It moved to the row behind him, then came back to his row. It slowly widened to encompass the entire side of the cabin, then it spread to the cockpit and the other side of the plane. David closed his eyes tightly and tucked his head between his knees. His heart was racing. He could still see the light behind his eyelids. He suddenly felt light, and the seat cushion fell away. He instinctively grabbed the headrest of the seat ahead of him. He twisted up and his legs touched the luggage compartment. He was weightless.

The light stopped. David opened his eyes. He turned to looked down the aisle. Bags and suitcases were floating midair throughout the cabin. The plane rapidly rolled yaw-wise. David was thrown against the far cabin wall and all the breathe was knocked out of him. Several bags landed on him for an extra measure of injury. The plane finally settled upside down, and David slid to the ceiling.

He got up slowly, finally realizing he was somewhere far stranger than Sweden. At least gravity is back, he thought. He started to get angry.

"Is that all you've got?!" he screamed. He didn't know what the "you" in that was, but he was convinced something intelligent was involved. He picked his way through the luggage back to the cockpit. He had to crouch down in the cockpit to look out the windows with his little light. The flaky seeds had increased to a blizzard. It was beautiful. David began to feel a bit calm.

Then the rumblings started again. Some of the sounds were so low he felt rather than heard them. The sounds were coming from different directions. One source was directly ahead and getting closer, more intense. There were several pulses followed by a pause, then repeated. Echolocation, he thought.

The cloud of seeds in front swirled and parted revealing the pitch black. They filled in again, then swirled and parted again. David pressed up against the glass. It was vibrating. It must have been from a pitch of sound so high that he couldn't hear it. The cloud completel parted. Darkness surrounded the cockpit. David eased backward. He felt like he was near a source of electricity. The hairs on his arms and neck were standing up.

A shape came out of the darkness and slammed against the window. David fell backwards and coughed violently on his own saliva. He shone the light at the windows. The form wrapped all around the cockpit. It didn't look like anything in particular, but it looked, pink and fleshy. there were parallel ridges that undulated. It was gripping the plane.

It moved and twisted, and a hard chitinous part came into view. David thought it looked like an octopus beak, only this one was four feet across, and had three moving parts instead of two. When it opened up the maw inside was lined with inch-wide villi. David was frozen in place, fascinated by the anatomy of the thing outside. The beak scratched and felt around for purchase. It finally found the metal ridge between the two front windows. It grabbed and squeezed. The windows cracked. The thing tore off the metal then shoved it's beak between the windows, pushing inward.

David scramble back and out of the cockpit. He looked back as the beak and a fleshy, muscular appendage came through the opening. He got up and tried to stumblerun over the luggage. The appendage followed, searching, flinging suitcases to the side. When David got to the divide between first class and coach, the appendage stopped then retreated. He thought maybe it was too big to get through. He started moving slowly backward in case it tried with some other, perhaps longer limb.

Instead two appendages forced their way into the cockpit and started to pull the plane apart. Metal moaned and screeched as it tore apart. When the thing had opened the plane up to a twenty degree angle it stopped. Then it rumbled a deep, angry wail. David felt a blast of hot acrid air. He continued to pick his way to the back of the plane, hoping the thing didn't find an alternate point of ingress along the way.

It shoved in more limbs, but David stopped looking back. He crawled into a bathroom and closed and locked the accordion door. The tiny "occupied" lock was little solace. Blue fluid was dripping down from the inverted toilet. He crouched down and shone his light at the mirror. His face was ashen, and blood was on his temple. There was half of a small pretzel in his hair. His eyes were wide and his breathing was ragged. The thing outside continued to grumble and tear. David hoped the bathroom would hold together for a little while longer. He continued to look at his reflection, realizing that he would be the last person he saw.

The thing finally succeeded in ripping the plane in two, and David was tossed in the bathroom as that side of the plane fell so that the door was "up". David leaned back and pressed his legs against the door. Suddenly there was a strong pressure at his feet. It was trying to get in. David put the light in his mouth and braced his arms against the sides of the bathroom.

It pushed and pounded and screamed. The lock snapped but the door held. David figured the thing didn't have any leverage. The pounding stopped, but David knew it was still out there. He felt light again, but as if the plane was being thrown. It landed and skidded against something else. He felt sharp pains in his knees, but the door held. The room was now righted.

David felt hot breathe coming through the cracks in the doors. Is it smelling me? he thought. The beak started scraping at the door. "Gow waway!" he screamed awkwardly, the pen light still in his mouth. The scraping stopped. Did that actually work?

The room rolled over again so that the door was on the upside. There was a heavy pressure on the door. In the dim light, he could see a black liquid oozing through the door cracks. It seeped down in mucousy tendrils and began to pool near his head. It smelled a bit metallic, but it wasn't as foul has he would suspect a black liquid coming from an unidentified monstrous creature would be.

The liquid got nearer and neared to his fingers. David wished he was the other way around, with his hands at the door and his feet in the liquid. It started gushing, squirting through the cracks. It spattered on the walls and his legs. Some of it got into his mouth. David spat out. It tasted like blood and had a gritty texture. He wanted to wipe his mouth with his hands, but he couldn't.

It continued to gush. How much more of this stuff does this thing have? he thought. He also thought about his family for the first time since he woke up on the floor. He remembered the first time he kissed his wife, in the lab, next to the tuberculosis slides. He remembered the day his twin daughters were born, and how surprisingly hard it was to cut the cords. He hoped they would get the award money, if there was anything left of the world, back there. Had this happened everywhere? Was it just this plane? Why me?

The liquid was now touching the top of his hair. He pulled his head up out of it. Some of the liquid dripped into his left eye, stinging and painful. David winced, trying to cry to wash it out, but he had too much adrenaline in his system. His arms were shaking, ready to give out. The liquid was up to his forehead. His arms and legs burned. He had to relax his neck -- the liquid came to his eyes, it was searingly painful. He screamed, dropping the light. The liquid continued to rise and got into his nose; tried to shake it out, but more and more of it kept coming into the room. It got to his mouth and he held his breathe. He held out for thirty seconds before his lungs cried and he sucked in a great gulp of the black stuff. He coughed and choked, and finally relaxed his arms and legs. He lay crumpled in the pool, unable to lift his head above it. He had no more energy left.

He didn't lose consciousness immediately. He wondered why he had not yet found himself intimate with the creature's peristalsis. He began to feel prickly and numb all over. The mass clogging his throat itched. Slowly the black invaded his mind. His thoughts narrowed to a thin thread. All he knew was that he still existed. After a few minutes, even that faded away. It was the last thought of the old world, before it was transformed anew.

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Kanaloa is a Hawaiian god symbolized as an octopus and who dwelt in the underworld. He was conveniently satanized by missionaries even though he is not specifically malevolent (he seems to be somewhat associated with technology, and also with creation/destruction myth). I didn't start writing this with Kanaloa in mind, but as I was doing some research on octopuses (I need to stop saying octopi, even though it's more whimsical) I found the desctruction myth stuff involving him and thought it would make an interesting ending. There might also be some layers of Chthulu, and the old 19th century kraken-battling-ships stuff as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so! really nice post. financial help
You nicely summed up the issue. I would add that this doesn’t exactly concenplate often. xD Anyway, good post…