by Laurie Razor
Weird Tales Winner for May! ~956 Words
| When I close my eyes, I dream in rich sepia tone, like those old expressionist pictures that used to play at the Karvon theater. I used to love going to see those films as a teenager, they were so unlike anything that the American studios were pumping out. Nothing can squelch good art.
My favorite picture was Sunrise by F.W. Murnau. Looking back, it's hard to say exactly why, especially considering how little actually happens in the picture. There are no big set pieces, no big action scenes, just a man, his plotting mistress, and his poor wife. Maybe that's why I like it, because it is so undeniably human.
Lately though, I feel more like the somnambulist in the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a stalking ghoul traipsing through fanciful dreamscapes in the hopes of once more finding reality before it's too late! One wretched nightmare in particular has haunted me for weeks now. It has gotten to the point that I am fearful of closing my eyes, lest I travel to that horrible underground cavern.
Each night is the same. I lay my head on my pillow, I awaken on an underground bed of stone, I see her, she screams, then the native warriors come. They clamber down the cliff face with the proficiency of agile spiders moving through their own webs, their drawn knives may as well be poisonous fangs for I fear they will kill me one of these days, nay kill us, both me and the girl.
Ah, that girl, that beautiful blonde damsel. Why does she feel so familiar? I've never seen anyone who looks quite like she does. Believe me, I'd remember if I did. A carnal vision draped scantily in hewn gold and carved ivory, such as her. Oh, I'd remember someone looking like that vividly licentious hallucination.
My dream always ends before these native warriors reach us, and I knew that I had to find out what they were after. To learn what I had to do, I held a short meeting with the local village elder. He spoke in odd riddles, most of which went completely over my head, although I am grateful for the dream tonic which he brewed for my taking.
The moment I got home, I drew all of my curtains closed, gulped down the foul-tasting tonic and fell prone against my mattress. Slumber overcame me sooner than I anticipated, although this time, I was ready.
I awoke in that same stone hall, and she was lying down beside me. Everything was going exactly as expected, until she screamed and I looked over to her. She was absolutely horrified, not of the approaching brown-skinned horde, but of me. I looked down at my hand, and saw why; a bright plumage of glossy red feathers covered me! Here, I was something other than human, something monstrous.
At that moment, I knew that these advancing savages wouldn't harm her, they were coming to save her, from me. My plan then, was to let them take her. I tried to speak but ended up letting loose a horrific screech, that some distant beast returned in kind.
One screech turned to an army of screeches, an obvious battle-cry of an as yet unseen squadron of birdmen. I wondered how many there were, as must the natives as they slowed their progress to look up at the cavern's tall ceiling. The lead scout's knife neared my face before large talons dug into his naked shoulders and whisked him high into the darkness.
His swift abduction terrified the other tribesmen, so much so that they stopped in place and watched for more incoming attackers. I screeched again, calling down more allies to take the natives for whatever nefarious purpose my fellow birdmen see fit.
Feeling safer, I spread my wing-arms and started flapping them up and down, surprising myself with the ease at which I was able to master the power of flight. Call it intuition or whatever you will but I swooped down, nabbed the girl and took off to the great beyond, far outside of the caverns. My next destination was a place I'd never seen but somehow innately knew, the sky altar near the human village.
I was the first to land, though dozens of my comrades circled overhead. The villagers fled as we landed, all save for the returning band of soldiers and two men emblazoned in the same ornate gold and ivory as the girl still in my clutches. They spoke, but I couldn't understand their queer alien language.
Upon noticing their lavish towering headresses, I recognized them as the sovereign rulers of this barbaric kingdom. Again, my understanding came from some arcane intrinsic knowledge of this body in which I now resided.
After placing her on the stone disc, I wrapped her torso in my wing-arm. The extravagant duo stopped and waved worriedly, they obviously cared for the screaming girl. I released her and cawed as my wings lifted me into the air once more. Those poor saps ran onto the disc to save her, but didn't notice as the circling birdmen descended upon them in force.
Within moments, my avian brothers tore the savage nobility asunder by a vicious medley of heavy beaks and sharp talons. Their massacred remains covered the uniquely carved stone disc. Where once stood three humans, now was a gruesome unidentifiable mess of torn entrails, gallons of blood, splintered bone and viscera.
This land, these people, these cliffs now belonged to us. None can save those who try to regain control of the cliffs of the birdmen.
I awoke. My mind free of anxiety, fear and woe, as I now knew my true self. A birdman of the cliff!