Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Leaning Tower

From the corner of Richard's ruined mind, he recognized the ding of opening elevator doors as some sort of signal. No longer able to process what the sound might portend, Richard was drawn to the sound by the undeniable force of his unrelenting hunger. Like a living fire blazing within him, the only thing still living within him, Richard's hunger grew with each moment until it was raw torment, a twisting, gaping need that filled him with an unknowable void that must be filled. Had he any semblance of self left in his shattered mind, this terrible need would have destroyed it, ravenously devoured any soul or mind or sanity in this thing, obliterated through this hunger's singular insatiable desire.

Staggering forward, mindful only of the sounds of the footsteps and heavy breathing that followed the ding of the opening elevator doors, Richard made his way out of the wreck that used to be his office. Moving in a straight line, clambering over an upturned chair instead of going around it, doing the same for the boxes of paper and the file cabinet that were now strewn across his previously immaculate office, the thing that was Richard made his way into the hall.

Without the hesitation of thought and doubt, Richard began his slow stumble toward the sounds of a man cursing softly in the office down the hall. The closer Richard got to the source, the more his hunger gnawed at him. His mind was hungry, his very blood seemed to teem with an angry, buzzing need. He began moaning in an ecstasy of anticipation.

As Richard began to moan, the large man sitting atop a mahogany executive desk dressing a leg wound looked up. The man on the desk was easily twice the mass of Richard, and not the type of man who, in saner times, would or should be afraid of a slight, and slightly pudgy man like Richard, but these were not sane times, and the large man's eyes widened in shock and fear immediately. This man, most recently nicknamed "Juice," looked around the office desperately for something to use as a weapon even as Richard pushed forward down the hall, moaning.

In the corner, dusty and unused, near a plaque for the 1999 Century Insurance Invitational, lay a cheaply gold plated golf club. Juice seized the club and held it in his trembling hands as Richard moaned his way into the office, hands outstretched and grasping, mouth crazily snapping, strings of thick saliva pouring down his chin. Juice pulled the club back, raising its weight over his right shoulder, poised to strike, feeling the reassuring bulge of his massive frame ready for the blow.

Richard stepped forward again, still moaning, and that was all Juice needed. That step brought him within range of the club and Juice yelled crazily as he swung, ripping the air with the speed and ferocity of the strike. The weighted wooden bulb streaked through the air crashed into Richards face like a miniature freight train, sending teeth flying from his head like tiny bloody shrapnel, crushing his jaw and pushing it obscenely off to the side, where it hung, stupid and useless. Even as the wooden club's head smashed into Richard's face, destroying it, it broke from the shaft. The continued motion of the sharp aluminum stick ran like a blade down Richard's neck, slicing it if not cleanly, efficiently in a jagged line, deep enough to expose the windpipe. Blood immediately began to ooze in thick, curdled streams from the frightful gash.

For a moment, Juice felt triumphant. He had connected with that ghoul hard enough to kill a god and he knew it. But he wasn't fighting gods, or men, and though his face was an unrecognizable lump of crushed bones and blood poured in thick streams down his chest, Richard didn't go down. Instead he reached out and grasped Juice, pulling and clutching with surprising strength. Juice, still holding the ruined golf club, shoved Richard back with all of his strength. Richard flew back a couple of feet and crashed to the floor in a heap, but before Juice could react, Richard began crawling toward him, and now the moaning started again, this time sounding thick and gurgling as the air in his lungs mixed with the streams of blood still pouring from his ragged neck and face. Juice was beginning to panic, and, thoughtless with fear and rage, raised the stump of a golf club and brought it down again and again on the crawling, bloody former actuary. Juice was a powerful man, and the force of the blows knocked Richard prone, but the instant the club lifted from his back, Richard was beginning his crawl again, and before Juice could realize what was happening, Richard had a hold of his leg and brought his ruined face to it, trying to close the dangling mess of a jaw on Juice' leg. Roaring, Juice raised the bent and nearly worthless club into the air and drove it down like a lance into Richard's back. He could feel the shock of the club as it first hit Richard, then pierced him, crunching and cutting with its saw tooth tip first through skin and muscle, and then through bone and gristle. For a split second, Juice thought he could feel the thing rip a hole right through Richards heart before the tip slammed its way out the front of Richard's chest, through the thin carpet, and into the plywood, pinning Richard like a bug against the floor. Juice, raised his head and began to howl in primal, triumphant rage, when he felt the crushing pressure of Richards decimated, nearly toothless jaw bear down upon his leg in precisely the spot where that bitch had clawed him earlier. Looking down more in amazement now than pain, he realized that this thing was trying to gum him to death and he nearly laughed when one of the teeth still left in Richard's mouth managed to push its way through the makeshift bandage Juice had applied to his leg. That single, sharp piercing rekindled his rage, and juice jerked his foot out of the grasp of the squirming bloody thing, raised it chest high, and began to drive his foot down into the skull of Richard again and again. A few moments later, panting, Juice realized it was over. Richard's head was a mess of bone, brain, blood, and hair, and Juice was covered in the same. He sat heavily on the desk, panting.

A few moments later, Juice jerked his head up, realizing dimly that he'd been staring at the wall opposite him, but not remembering why or for how long. He knew he was in trouble, and was vaguely curious about the corpse on the floor, but even as he tried to remember where he was, the answers seemed to dance out of reach. Vaguely, he understood that he was beginning to drool, but before he could reach up to wipe his chin, his pupils expanded, and the world was painfully bathed in light. Moaning, he reached out, and stood up. He was slipping, his memories growing harder and harder to reach. A moment later, Juice tried to remember his name. He thought for a moment it had something to do with water, but that passed from his mind as quickly as it came, not to be replaced. Even as he tried to concentrate, his feet shuffled forward. He began to become aware, as if from a distance, that he had stopped shaking. A calm settled over his mind, erasing not only worries, but thoughts, and after the thoughts went, memories. With a blank mind the most studious Buddhist monk would envy, the thing that used to be Juice became aware he was hungry.

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