Elwin fell through the water, falling. Falling deep, falling through the riverbed. Deep down into the Earth. There was nothing but darkness in every direction. No light, no sound, nothing he could hold onto, nothing for him to grasp. The only thing he could feel was the burning agony in the centre of his chest. A thought crossed his mind: have I died? Has my hearted stopped beating forever? A pain oozed through his flesh as though liquid fire was spreading throughout his body. The pain reached underneath his skin and thousands of sharp hot needles started to jab into his body from every direction. He panicked and tried to flail but could find nothing to push against. Realising his powerlessness against the pain he stopped and just let the sensations wash over him passively.
Acceptance of his torment eased it and soon he discovered thinking again:
“Where am I? I have fallen down somewhere, to someplace deep underneath the surface. I must be deep under the Earth. Yet there is only darkness everywhere I look. Am I in Hell?”
The darkness was complete, but the silence was not. Somewhere in this dark empty place Elwin could hear a voice. A faint distant voice… he could just make it out. A spark of recognition fizzled deep in his memory, a voice he knew very well: Agatha. She was the nursemaid who had been so kind to him when he was very young.
“Come to me…” Continue reading “Thorns – Part 21”
Despite how tired he was, Elwin headed back to do another work shift after having lunch with Kylie. After finishing late in the evening he made his way back to the condominium alone as he had started that day. He peeked through the window of his apartment and for once Holda wasn’t there. Moving as quickly as he could in his tired state he fetched a blanket and a pillow from underneath the bed and quickly left the apartment. He dragged it down the back staircase with the door leading outside and worked his way to the bottom. There he crawled underneath the stairs and made a bed for himself using the rotting cardboard boxes for a mattress. He hadn’t washed and was still covered in dirt and grime. However, he was so tired he didn’t care and drifted off the sleep.
He didn’t know for how long he had been asleep when he was woken up by a finger poking his cheek. Startled he looked up to see a dark silhouette standing over him. He was terrified yet so apathetic from tiredness he couldn’t find the energy to run or plead. He just stared in weary terror at the figure.
“I knew I would find you down here,” came the sound of Erian’s voice.
Elwin gasped a sigh of relief, but his relief was short lived.
“So is this where you and Kylie made tender love?” snarled Erian venomously. Continue reading “Thorns – Part 20”
When Elwin eventually arrived at the café in his condominium building later that afternoon Kylie had drifted off to sleep, her head resting in her arms on the table. Elwin cautiously sat down but bumped his knee on the table leg waking the sleeper. Kylie jerked upright her face contorted from much crying she stared at Elwin for a few moments before she managed to speak.
“Elwin! You came! I thought you had forgotten me, here is your lunch,” she passed him the sandwich which was now soggy. Elwin didn’t complain, but thanked her quietly for the sandwich and for waiting for him. Wearily he started to eat the sandwich. Kylie watched him and slowly it occurred to her how dirty and soot covered he was. Although Elwin often worked in the coal mines he didn’t typically look this bad. She inquired and he related to her the incident with the Kellite engineer. He did so in flat even tones betraying no anger.
“I have listened to you telling me of the Kellite engineer and how he treated you. I can tell that you are not angry, but allow me to say that I feel angry. I do not know why because this engineer was one of our betters and one shouldn’t question them. Yet all the same part of me burns with fury that he should do this to you.”
Elwin felt too uneasy to make eye contact with her so he continued to focus on the remains of his soggy sandwich. He felt a sense of confusion: on one hand he was pleased that she was angry, on the other hand he felt angry with her for speaking ill of a Kellite. It scared him think that perhaps the treatment he had received was somehow unjust. If the Kellite engineer had been unjust then many other threads threatened to come loose from Elwin’s mental fabric. He did not know why, but it still felt somewhat important to keep those threads safe, and so he pushed the idea aside and focused again on the sandwich. Besides, the thorn in his chest hurt less when he avoided thinking about such things. Continue reading “Thorns – Part 19”
Kylie arrived back at the condominium for lunch and found herself a bench at a table. The waiter took down her order and was surprised that she was ordering two lunches. She explained that she was waiting for a friend. The waiter grinned obscenely and made a sexually suggestive motion with his hand. On any other day Kylie would have giggled at this but today she felt different. She stared blankly at the waiter not responding at all to his lewd gesture. He didn’t notice her lack of reaction, and informed her that the two lunches would take about an hour to prepare. Kylie nodded, that was about right. Service was typically this slow and that’s why she ordered the lunch she promise Elwin before he had even arrived.
Making her way to a free table she tried to read the Paradise Times, a weekly newspaper produced for circulation amongst the Delforians, but found herself distracted. Looking up from the newspaper she spotted Edith at her usual table working feverishly away sorting through documents. Kylie found herself staring at her crown of blonde hair neatly tied up. Edith noticed her looking and stopped what she was doing to glare at her. Kylie didn’t notice she just kept staring fixated on the intricacy of her hairdo. Edith grumbled, tried briefly to get back to her work, but decided to get up and walk over to Kylie who was still in a trance.
“Excuse me,” grumbled Edith.
Kylie looked up at her blankly, a soft, ‘yes’ passed Kylie’s lips in acknowledgement.
“I noticed that you’ve been staring at me. Is there something you would like to tell me?” Continue reading “Thorns – Part 18”
Looking out the window Elwin felt fearful that the old man he had just turned his back on was boring a hole in his back with his eyes. Elwin wanted to look back at him, and at the same time wanted avoid looking in his direction ever again. The train hit a bump and Elwin sneaked a surreptitious peek over his shoulder while everyone was struggling to regain their balance, but the old man was looking elsewhere as though he had already forgotten Elwin had even existed. Relieved by this Elwin looked out the window again and this time with enough presence of mind to notice something as if for the very first time: There by the entrance to the coal mine was a colossal machine.
The machine was technically a vehicle, yet it was taller than most buildings. It could have easily stood eight, nine, or even ten stories high. It towered by the side of the train yard like a gigantic sauropod made from steel and rubber. Instead of jaws it had a huge wheel with a series of buckets built into it. A large conveyor belt ran along the neck section into the body. An immense platform for caterpillar tracks supported the massive apparatus. It had been said in the old times these machines could dig through entire mountains and do the work of ten thousand men in a single hour. Whoever the ancient people were who built these great machines, the secrets of their technology were now long forgotten. No one alive could recall this machine being used. Instead it had been left to gather rust outside the train yard standing as a constant reminder that giants had once walked the Earth. Continue reading “Thorns – Part 17”
As the sun rose over the horizon of the city, thousands of Delphorian workers crept out of their district housing towers and trudged down to the train station. They trudged down the shadow clad streets in pairs; for gathering in the streets in numbers greater than two were forbidden. They all wore the same style of blue working overalls. About half of them wore clothing that was worn and tattered from excessive wear and tear, while the other half were wearing fresh clean pairs of overalls. There was however no pair of Delphorians with one person neatly attired, and the other raggedly so. It was as though Delphorian society were divided into two different sub-species. Along the roads patrolled Groods brandishing wooden maces ready to pounce on any Delphorians wandering too closely to another pair.
Normally, Elwin would travel down to the station with Erian, but this morning, Elwin was traveling alone. The Groods eyed the one lone Delphorian suspiciously, as though at any second he would join up with a pair of Delphorian commuters and commit a public offence: One that the Groods openly relished correcting by pouncing on all three or four offending Delphorians and beating them with their maces. The other Delphorians nearby detected the anomaly and the increased danger the non-conformer presented to them and consciously made an effort to maximise their distance from Elwin. Thus an invisible circle of exclusion surrounded Elwin as he made his way down to the station. Continue reading “Thorns – Part 16”
Elwin stopped writing and took out a fresh sheet of paper. He started writing out the calculations for how much social debt a wife could pay off if she didn’t work during the pregnancy. He looked at his results. Blinked firmly. Checked his calculations. The thorn in the side of his head throbbed. He stared at the results. His vision grew blurry. He turned the page aside with confusion. He must have made a mistake, he thought, and dismissed the calculations. It was a good offer the Kelites had, they are after all the savours of the world he recalled. It wouldn’t make sense for them to push a debt system that couldn’t be paid back. It was only a matter of time before the Delphorians atoned themselves into salvation. “I need to have more faith,” he told himself and resumed his writing.
While the $20,000 pay out for me was tempting, I just didn’t want to live alone. I remembered the nursemaids from the nursery and I wanted to live with a woman because I imagined they would be just like Agatha. When I arrived here at the apartment complex I was informed that a new wife would be allocated to me in the following month. For my first month as a freeman I explored every nook and cranny of my new apartment and apartment complex. I found that my dorm mate Erian from school whom I hadn’t seen in seven years also lived here. But what fascinated me the most was the women. Continue reading “Thorns – Part 15”
He tried thinking about Kylie at first, but the truth was he did not find her attractive at all. He didn’t like that way she slept with so many different men so often. He liked how Edith had kept to herself and hadn’t shown any sign of wantonness. However, he couldn’t put the idea out of his mind that Edith was actually bald and her glorious blonde hair was actually fake. Why should it matter? He chided himself. It shouldn’t actually matter, she still looks the same! Why am I so shallow? He berated himself. He felt Holda’s slimy lips slide onto his shoulder, then the sharp prick of her yellow teeth as they drew his blood.
At that moment he wanted to scream and punch her in the head. Grab a chair and start beating her with it. How dare she do this to me? He went to speak out, but the thorn in his cheek stifled his words. He went to push her away, but the thorn in his knee made him too weak. He tried to tell himself that he mattered, but the thorn in his heart whispered that he didn’t actually matter at all. Continue reading “Thorns – Part 14”
Holda glared at her husband with her dark little eyes. Elwin wanted to run away, but he was stuck to the floor. Thanks to the generous allocation of food available only for breeding couples, Holda had managed the achievement of being fat in a society where the expense of food meant most people were on rations. She pulled herself up from the chair, the ring of flesh about her middle wobbled as she did this. She moved menacingly closer to Elwin. Her voice was uncharacteristically quiet but every question she asked sounded like an order.
“Where have you been?”
“Just out with Erian.”
“Where were you?”
“At Erian’s apartment,” lied Elwin. He stuttered as he said this, the area around the thorn in near his cheek always hurt when he lied.
“You’re lying, Elwin, now tell me the truth.”
“I was with Erian.”
“I went to Erian’s apartment to look for you. I searched every room, you weren’t there. Now where were you?”
Elwin felt his throat tighten and close over. He gasped several times before he could finally croak the answer out, “I was in the complex next door, in Kylie’s apartment.”
Holda’s fat cheeks flushed red and Elwin knew she was about to start shouting. Continue reading “Thorns – Part 13”
Then the black thread of poison morphed into a trail of crimson blood. Kylie’s body jolted back into life and all her limbs flayed about spasmodically in the water. She gasped hungrily for breath and with the rapid violent movements she brought the warmth back to her body. Elwin helped her out of the water and she shivered uncontrollably. Without knowing why he wrapped his arm about her and cradled her close to his chest as she sobbed.
Elwin was holding onto Kylie protectively for several minutes when they heard the sound of approaching boot steps. Erian was running towards them from the pillar he had been hiding behind. Kylie seemed jolted into wakefulness. She hastily put her clothes on. Erian stopped a short distance off and watched her putting her clothes back on hurriedly, while Elwin was looking away from her.
“What is it Erian?” asked Elwin.
“Groods! At least two dozen of them, they’re marching through the canal.”
The trio quickly moved up the edge of the canal and concealed themselves in the brush. Elwin pointed out the wet marks Kylie had left behind while climbing up the slope. Erian dismissed his concern stating that the Groods were too stupid to notice details like that. Kylie was unusually silent she hadn’t yet spoken a word since waking up. Continue reading “Thorns – Part 12”