death is caught, what happens next ...
|This is one of my first real attempt to write a story that is longer than two paragraphs. This is only the beginning, and perhaps a very compressed version of it. I have the plot in mind, and i've just begun to understand my characters. If it seems fast, it is fast. It sort of took me with it. Hope it's enjoyable : )
The hall was long and dark. Candles lit tiny pockets of glimmering light that beckoned Quinn down. He had not walked down this hallway since everything he knew was taken from him. Too many memories haunted him keeping Quinn cautious of the dark hallway. He knew what lay at the end of it. It was the end of everything he ever understood, and the beginning of all his dreams and fears.
Quinn took in a long breath and stepped forward. He found himself continuing his steps until he had reached a very familiar blue door; diamond bejewelled and taunting, it stood silent as a gravestone before him.
“Stiff upper lip, Quinny.” he murmured as the palm of his hand stroked the blue wood. He dared not touch the diamonds. Not after what happened last time. Quinn’s fingers lingered over the door for a split moment; a moment he immortalized in his mind; and it opened.
“Ah, you’re here! Right on time.”
Quinn stared into the face of a bright, silvery blonde girl with grey eyes. Her smile was strangely perfect in all aspects, but for a tiny smirk that lingered in the corner.
“Yes, I was called.” Quinn raised his eyebrows and straightened himself out, pulling his black suit flat.
“Would you be here if you had not?” her grin widened, but all Quinn could see was that ever lingering smirk.
“Perhaps not.” he muttered, then said authoritatively, “Please take me to see him.”
She turned to look at Quinn with laughing eyes and a long, swinging ponytail.
“Yes?” her voice was softer this time, though her eyes didn’t change at all.
“What’s your name?” Quinn felt his cheeks burn, “I – I mean, maybe I could put in a good word for you.”
The smile disappeared so quickly; Quinn felt his stomach drop to his feet. The odd silence between them was so deafening that Quinn attempted to break it with a chuckle and a shrug. But the girl looked so scared, Quinn realized, that ice added to Quinn’s already dropped stomach.
“Forget I asked.”
The girl pursed her lips and turned to show Quinn the way. Quinn wasn’t sure if he would be taken to the office or not, but he followed the girl anyway. The corridor had changed from the dark, grim, candle-lit hall to gold-embroidered white panels. White curtains that were opened to a bright blue sky framed the windows, allowing the corridor to feel comfortable. Quinn felt his breath squeezed from his lungs as his eyes feasted on the cloudless sky. He longed to be out there, in the open wild. But no one had been outside for hundreds of years. It was insanity to even dream of it. Quinn felt that it was safe for him to feel insane for the moment. He had insulted the only human he had met in two years and was now walking toward his nightmare, rather than running away and waking up.
“In here, Quinn.”
Quinn jumped as he saw that they had reached the end of the corridor. The girl had opened a plain white door, and was standing within the office staring at him.
“Thank you.” Quinn said as he entered. As he passed by her, the girl leaned toward him and whispered so quietly it tickled his ear, “It’s Nimue.”
Still stunned with the knowledge of a name, Quinn fumbled into the office staring at the man in front of him with a mix of awe and resentment.
“Quinnton, or just Quinn? I can not really remember.” Dr. Henry Slate sat at his desk, his legs crossed on top, over his papers. He did not move in greeting, but watched Quinn from where he sat. He was a darkly featured man, with brown complexion and black, gelled hair. Being older did not seem to bother him, because Dr. Slate was muscular and his face was severe.
“Just Quinn …Sir.”
“Stand there Quinn, let me look at you.”
Dr. Slate, though dark and menacing, had eyes the colour of green crystal that balanced meanness with a look of regard and fatherly curiosity. He had not summoned Quinn to punish him, but to allow Quinn a chance for redemption. Both men knew that this was dangerous, and perhaps foolish.
“Quinn, you are older looking than I remember.” Dr. Slate smiled, lifting his legs off his desk to stand, “But that would be impossible, as we know.”
“Quite true, sir.” Quinn smiled back out of obligation.
Dr. Slate’s slender, but strong, frame came into view. He was terrifying to Quinn, who only just received a proper body.
“I assume that no one has told you what this probation is about.” Dr. Slate walked toward his bookshelf, which was plain white and full of old books, whose covers were beginning to fall off the binding.
“No sir, I am completely in the dark.” Quinn ventured. He quickly realized his eagerness was detected, and looked away as Dr. Slate eyed him with authority.
“Quinn,” Slate pulled off a tattered book from the shelf and turned around to face Quinn, but did not look at him, “I have hesitated and fought this decision for some time. I remember a time when you were important and were a part of life as we knew it all those millennia ago.”
He began to leaf through the book. Its pages were so old that they clung together from the ink that was used to decorate the letters.
“You were very important. Then you became obsolete.” Dr. Slate looked up from the book at a very confused Quinn.
“Sir,” Quinn began timidly, “I … um …”
“Silence.” Slate shut the book with such force that dust spew from the pages, “I have not finished. You were always, and forever, young and old. You were always forgotten and remembered. You were cruel and unforgiving. Poetry was written for you, songs lamented and praised you. You, Quinn, have always and never been.”
Quinn felt a sense of frustration that Henry Slate was actually vocalizing his emotion at him without giving real answers. “Please, sir.”
Dr. Slate sighed heavily and put the old book on his desk. He walked toward the window slowly and methodically. Each step had meaning and a story to it. He reached the window, which viewed the outside; a blue, clean morning; and sighed again.
“I am damned to let you loose again.”
“I am flattered that I am needed so badly.”
Slate spun around his fiercest anger and his greatest fears played on his face all at once.
“Of course you need me, Henry Slate. Humanity is out of control. People will not leave the sanctuary it built to avoid me, and now its sanctuary has become its cage.”
Slate’s anger subsided, but the fear remained. He was no longer in control.
“I am, and was, and will forever be a terror and a blessing because humanity cannot sufficiently go on without me.”
“Do not get cocky, Quinn, it will be your undoing.” Slate managed to spit out.
“Do not blow your fire at me, Henry Slate.” Quinn, who a moment ago stood in a locked position of inferiority, was now standing tall, legs spread slightly, as if he were blockading an army of thousands. He was not about to be knocked over. “I am death, Henry Slate, do not tempt me.”
A new feeling overcame Quinn. No longer was he timid and uncertain. He was himself again. But he was not rogue or free; he was certainly under condition and obligation. He was still confined to a body.
“What did you summon me for, Slate?” The question was more plead than demand. He needed to hear it out loud, though he knew quite well what he was wanted for.
Dr. Slate moved toward his desk again. He rested a hand on the back of his chair and felt the leather absentmindedly. He stood like that for more than a minute before he looked up at Quinn again.
“You look no different … did I tell you?” He smiled sadly.
“Did I mention … that I have no other choice?”
“Henry, you did.”
“I need you to kill.”
“Henry,” Quinn said after a moment of heavy silence, “You know I can’t ‘kill,’ but only ferry those who have died.”
“Quinn.” Slate stared at his fear with strong, hard eyes. “I need you to kill.”
“Why?” Quinn did not pause to allow the request to sink in, “You and humanity have all you need, right here. Why on earth would you need me to cause chaos again when you have survived quite well without me?”
“Because we have not ‘survived’ as well as you think.” Dr. Slate gripped the back of his chair and prepared himself to answer Quinn’s questioning eyes, “Humans do not die. And what does that mean? Well, Quinn, it means that we live forever and ever. We still age, but we never die. We live until we reach a point where we can no longer stand and talk, we suffer. We suffer.”
The sadness was so strong on Slate’s face that Quinn felt a pang of guilt, though it was no fault of his for being kept in captivity for hundreds of years.
“How do you expect me to ease their suffering, Henry Slate?” Quinn was not condescending but sincere. “I did not create this world and I have no power or means to end it.”
“No, do not end it. Revive it.” Dr. Slate became suddenly energized and tightened his grip on his chair to the point that his knuckles were white.
“I tell you, sir, I cannot! I have not the power or the means,” Quinn paused before saying, “Nor the motivation.”
The silence between them was so thick Quinn found it hard to breathe; a new and frustrating sensation to him.
“No motivation.” Slate repeated in a huff of exacerbation and exhaustion. “You would see humanity hideous and vile, old crumble but do not leave and the young crawl over their live, exhausted bodies to reach a new, unavailable role in this joke we call life?”
“I do not see what I have to gain in helping you, sir. You, and your kind, sought out to capture me and succeeded. You trapped me and left me to the darkness of my own mind and memories. I too, Henry Slate, can suffer.”
When Dr. Slate did not rebut, Quinn pulled on his suit again and ruffled his dark hair. He then held out his other hand and, which Slate took in wonder, and shook it.
“Until we meet again, Dr. Slate.” Quinn smiled kindly, and turned to leave his former master to agonize over his defeat.
A rush of freedom ran through Quinn’s body like an awakening. He was a new man quite literally, an embodied power. Not a moment ago he had confronted a legacy of fear and doubt that had trapped him in a cage of indefinite
Yet a new sensation overcame Quinn: the realization that he knew absolutely nothing about being human.
Perhaps he mastered being afraid and angry, but surely that wasn’t all the humanity had to offer? He was going to be in this shell of skin and bone for quite sometime if ‘death’ did not exist, and would need to know more.
“Excuse me? Sir?”
Quinn’s chest twang with a sharp sting; his heart pounded so loudly that he thought it might jump out of his chest. He found he had wandered into an inset of the white hallway. Where only wall and glass existed before now a door opened into a small room.
“Y-yes?” Quinn managed to mutter. He looked about to his right and saw the desk, which Nimue worked at. She had been sitting there still as marble, her silvery hair catching the light through the glass that made up the ceiling. She looked up at Quinn concerned.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
Oh, fright, not fear, Quinn thought. While he considered the differences, he noticed the girl staring at him.
“Can I help you?” Quinn’s voice grew stronger, but there was still a note of uncertainty. He felt like he was going to be thrown back into the substandard creature he had been when he first met her.
“Well, you can’t stay here, obviously.” Nimue chuckled, her features light but professional.
“Um,” Quinn ran through what he knew about the sanctuary he had been contained in for the last two hundred years. “Where am I going?”
“Well, I don’t know! Go figure that out.” Nimue shook her head, amused, “Just don’t do it here. I work here and you’re distracting me.”
Bewildered, Quinn stumbled backward. It was so odd to have regained total control over a man like Henry slate and then to become nothing but a boy in front of this woman only moments later. It was disheartening.
Quinn stood in the middle of the white room with windows being awkward and feeling useless. He watched Nimue sit at her desk and type away, or pick up papers and stack them together to staple. It occurred to Quinn that humanity had not changed much. It’s like the world stopped imagining. All the dreams and goals that were celebrated centuries before were suddenly ridiculous because no one needs a legacy if they never die.
“Sir, are you waiting for something else?”
“Um,” Quinn started running fingers through his hair. It was something new habit-wise and perhaps was subject only because he was given this particular body. “Look, could you just tell me where I am?”
Nimue, slightly puzzled, took in a breath and let it out with understanding.
“You do know who I am, yes?” Quinn asked quietly, like he was treading on glass just leading her to the answer.
“Yes, actually.” She smiled, the smirk still there right in the corner. But a new sparkle in her eye suggests that she was just as wary as she was certain.
“Then you perhaps know that I haven’t been anywhere outside of this room, the hallway, and my prison.”
“Indeed. It would have been reckless to let you anywhere else.”
Quinn wondered if Slate’s own secretary knew what he had asked Quinn to do today. Why had she looked so worried at him when he asked her name?
“Ma’m, I’m so new. I don’t understand this … world.” Quinn looked around him; a feeling of adventure mixed with nostalgia overwhelming him.
“Perhaps, I can help?” Nimue’s voice, hesitant for a moment, offering aid to an extent. She was not about to sell her soul.
“Well, that would be nice, actually.” Quinn smiled as a gesture of acceptance, but realized it was eerie to the girl when he saw her eyes: just a tint of fear.
Immediately the fear dissolved and Nimue stood up, straightened her blouse with a tug and looked at Quinn with professional assessment.
“Let’s start from the beginning, when where you last let out?”
The question hit Quinn like a bludgeoning insult, but he pushed the anger feeling aside to let his reason work.
“One hundred years after this place was built.” Quinn said flatly.
“Where you allowed walking about? Allowed to see the outside?”
“Which … outside?”
Nimue laughed a strong chuckle that took Quinn so off guard he jumped.
“You really haven’t been around, have you? No one has been outside the sanctuary since it was built. It’s dangerous.” Nimue’s smirk was no longer fascinating to Quinn, but slighting.
“The bodies, sir.”
Quinn began to stitch it together in his mind. Quinn would never forget when he was imprisoned; it was too traumatic to imagine forgetting and forgiving. But it dawned on him that though he had not been around, as Slate said, man would continue to age. Age until the skin slopped off the bones and the muscles atrophied. It would be a sea of human bodies, breathing, thinking, but in such agony … humanity brought to the point of animals because disease and disorder would continue to rage, but not kill.
It was like hell.
Quinn felt a stirring in the pit of his stomach. The inside of his mouth tasted like iron and a dizziness and disorientation made him want to sit down and hunch over.
“Can I get you something? Water?”
Nimue’s voice sounded distant and faint. Quinn could feel her cool hands on his shoulder, even through his jacket. But it was too late.
Though Quinn had not eaten at all for the three days he had possessed a body, he was surprised at how much was now on the floor at his and Nimue’s feet.
“Awh, Jeez, did you have to?” Nimue sounded queasy herself. She covered her mouth with her hand and went over to her desk. “Maintenance, I need a Clean Crew for the White Room.”
“Please, sit down.” Nimue led Quinn to a sky-blue chair at the far corner of the room.
“What happened?” Quinn was shaky and exhausted but immediately felt better after he had emptied the contents of his stomach.
He sat with his head leaning against the back of the chair, facing the glass-covered ceiling. Nimue, kneeling beside Quinn rubbed the back of his hand.
“Perhaps you are experiencing short side-effects from receiving your body.”
“Nimue, why are you ok with all this?”
“You know who I am, you know that they had to do something terrible to the man whose body I am in. Why are you not anxious or concerned or worried?”
“For starters, anxious, concerned and worried are all basically the same thing.”
“Oh. Am I losing knowledge being trapped in this body, or what?”
“You’re exhausted from everything being new. You’re probably over stimulated and Mr. Slate shouldn’t have talked to you for at least a week.”
“You did not answer my question.”
“I don’t want to answer it.” Short and simple. Nimue stood up to receive a young man in blue uniform and Quinn continued to watch the clouds move methodically through the pale, dusky-blue sky.