After the carnage (- an extract -)
The shaft of gentle light brought with it a sentiment of peace.
It seemed so surreal…
Yes, only peace. No memories to blemish it.
The light was untainted and white, it filled my vision, dispersed and swam into a palette of colours more dazzling than I’d dared dream of seeing, then slid back again into itself, into that white light of breathtaking purity.
But what of this, this hideous red crackling that made the light quail and cringe and lose its wholesome tint, this vile, hellish disturbance that threatened to scathe and to burn with its fiendish heat?
And slowly there was pain, pain everywhere, my mouth was parched, my skin stung and crawled like it had been rubbed brutally raw with the coarsest sandpaper. Every last joint in my body I could feel seared and throbbed and I could scarcely draw breath, it hurt so much to even try, it was so hot…
Then I opened my eyes, tore away the heavy piece of cloth that had been covering my face. And there it was, a smouldering robed corpse grinning over me. Chapped, blackened lips drew back to reveal stained teeth. One ear had been seared clean off, a shrivelled black knob with scarlet blotches replaced the nose, and the cheeks – o, the cheeks! – the skin over them had cracked and trellised from the heat, had curled up to reveal charred, sallow, oozing flesh. The eyelids of a sickly, pallid grey were shut, thank the Lords above for that… but that did nothing to prevent the brows and lashes from having been scorched clean off.
I decided to shut my eyes again.
Waves of revulsion crested and broke over me, and I realised soon enough that I wasn’t going to stay beneath this charred spectre whose thick mask and hood had, by a perverse twist of providence, fallen over my face and saved me from an identical fate. A burst of energy summoned, I hurled the corpse off me, backed away, scrambled to my feet. I stood there faint and swaying, vision blurring, as the pain that followed my exertion overwhelmed my being.
I surveyed the scene with cornered wariness. There was nothing left in the pit but rubble and ruin; scattered piles of twisted, blackened metal, scores of craters pooled with thickening, molten sand. My captor-to-be had, I recalled with some difficulty, been shot against the wall… presumably by a Berserker who now lay dead somewhere himself. Then, I surmised, he’d tottered in his death throes and fallen onto me where I lay on the ground, pinning me and (with absolutely no intention on his part, of course) sheltering me from the worst of the ensuing heat.
In this journal I write of this as dispassionately as I can manage, but my mental state of affairs back then had been anything but. In a way, I recall, my mind had been a veritable blank – but yet again it simmered with shock, disgust, dread… and horror, copious amounts of horror.
I steeled myself; I had to know if any friendlies had survived. Where was Helix? Craig? Claymo –
No, no, he was dead! But what if… what if they all were?
At that point, as I tottered through ground zero in that sweltering desert heat, I wanted so much to cry. The urge welled up so abruptly, welled to brimming point – I felt that if I didn’t let it all out, something somewhere was going to give.
But then I found I couldn’t cry. Couldn’t shed a tear. Another part of me felt so vacant, so hollow, a blank void you couldn’t probe into even if it occurred to you to try.
That other part: it knew that something within me had changed. Forever…