This story has no name…let’s call it “Reminiscence” for now.
The corridors are filled with people-students and lecturers, and the randoms who walk in from the street. Not in the normal, between-lectures scurry and rush, with everyone so courteously keeping to their side. No, it is a flood, strangely silent, which carries rumours the more contagious for not being said. A silent alarm. A kind of danger, undefined and mysterious. So the flock stampedes, hurrying down stairwells and corridors, away. Not to anything, you’ll note, as you yourself are pushed along. That implies a safe destination. But a nameless threat is boundless, its limit imagination. And so there is no to.
But I question this. This sheep-like running in circles, hoping vainly for the protection of the flock-as likely to run off the metaphorical cliff, or drown in the (again metaphorical) river in the mindless panic, mindless madness of the mob. I always question: it is my nature, I suppose. But now, it seems more pertinent than ever. Is it not better to know what you’re up against, to know how to defend yourself? As it is I have no idea. And so I halt. And the people part around me, and join on the other side. A rock in the middle of a river. A single woman is no obstacle to their rush. But a moving one? I turn, and forge my way up the stairs, and through, through to the corridor beyond. This one is almost empty. The geology floor, still as the rocks it holds at the best of times. Now, a couple of absent-minded people dutifully locking up labs, and hurrying to the stairwell. Hear the swish of lab coats, clanking keys, tap-tap of feet…back to the flock they go.
After wandering for a while through a maze of turns, using back stairways and crossing empty rooms, I reach a familiar corridor. The library. And I see Mrs M, with curly hair, a stubborn and well-padded woman. She’s well-known for her unwillingness to ever, ever miss her show. Her reason for putting herself in danger makes mine seem really robust, but I don’t doubt she’d think the same of mine. Doubt? Knowledge? The concerns of only the few who are at university to actually learn.
And now I’m face-down on the floor, with the idea of a great explosion echoing in my mind, a force slamming me to the ground. I twist around to see what it is. Standing above me is a dark figure, black-garbed, long-haired, and smiling faintly. But what really attracts my attention is the gun aimed at my head. I don’t know much about these things, generally hating the noise, so crude and violent, but this gun seems pretty big. And to focus my attention, pointing, no, being aimed at my head. He shoots, once, twice, five times at this point blank range. My head thwacks against the floor, again and again. Annoying, really.
As I get up, I register the shock on Mrs M’s face. I think it’s because I was shot. I mean, it doesn’t happen every day on campus, does it? And gone. When I turn, I see no dark figure; when I look back, no library staff, no Mrs M. The place is empty.
And now there is an idea of green, of eyes watching me. And I realise that I’m seeing myself in the glass doors-the automatic ones. They’re not opening now-closed for the night. And so they reflect my eyes. Like twin stars, shining green and vague, distant. Maybe that’s what Mrs M was staring at. My eyes were brown before, a brown dark enough that sometimes you couldn’t tell where iris and pupil met. I have no such troubles now. I have no pupils. Strange. But not stranger than standing after 6 shots to the head. Not stranger than the lack of blood-I mean, I’ve read that head wounds bleed heaps…but a hand inspecting my face and head finds no blood or matting, no protruding bullets. I muse a while longer before seeing.
There are others approaching me. I don’t recognise them, but it’s hard to really see them with all these green, blazing, flaring eyes coming towards you from the shadows. And they’re so quiet. Feet noiseless, and not a rustle from their clothes, like the evening has wrapped them or my ears in cotton wool. Either way.
We move along, a slowly growing group. I’m trying to find a space for us, safe, and dark, where we can talk. Their eyes don’t leave me, so it feels like there are dragged along by their eyeballs. Where has the dark man gone? Is he the cause, or a witness? Did he, zombie-killer-like, try to stop it? Is it-are we- the danger we were fleeing? Questions. I come up with them too easily. The hard thing is finding answers.
We gather in a wide, open hall. My feet lead me here, but I don’t rightly know where here is. But it’s dark, shadowy, and still. The roof, arching high above us, adds yet more shadows. Not a light on. Pin-pricks of starlight shine through a single skylight, far from us.
And the eyes surround me now, gathering, building, and stopping. Not a crowd as such, although they crowd around me-more a large gathering. Silent, probing, dark-robed figures. You see their shadow-garments before their clothes. Or have their clothes, like their eyes, changed colour? Not a word, but they question me; look towards me, with growing trepidation-some mixture of fear, respect, and impatience.
Leader: first-changed: eldest.
Those around me are the alright. Their clothes are torn, some of them, and their hats riddled with holes, but they stand, unharmed.
Are we safe? Are we different? Why the darkness? Why our eyes? Why the silence?
And I try to find answers within myself for them, for those questioning eyes. My story, my mind, my questions laid bare: the best answers they’ll get.
Do we scare the others? The people? For a reason? Can we hurt?
The last is really two questions. Some want to know if they are invulnerable, undying. Others worry about hurting their loved ones. Oh God, do we still have loved ones? What if we can’t avoid hurting them? One question, at least, I can answer.
The university is uncharacteristically dark-unlighted. But this hasn’t bothered us. Indeed, we seem to have naturally migrated to the darkest point on campus. That tells me a lot. Light isn’t our friend anymore.
And so I walk across the hall toward the skylight. I leave them behind, but their eyes follow. Towards the skylight, and underneath it. There, purposefully, I lie down: As a lesson. There is stillness, a waiting, and time passes. The sun rises, and eventually its light pours down through the skylight, spills into the hall-stopping feet short of the gathering.
And the screaming begins.
Pain, a million shades of agony, that little-sampled spectrum, dances, a thousand plucked notes. Chords, broken, shards. I view this, I watch this, absently: that is to say, in absentia, I watched me lie there. Watch me writhe- surprisingly little, if truth be told… I view this from around the corner of my mind, unwilling to be quite in the same room, so to speak.
And my fellows listen, shocked, despairing. They listen, they think, to the sound of their death, their freedom, and their death.
We can hurt, but can we die?
The sun passes over. Shaking, I stand. Maybe my eyes are dimmer than before, but other than that, physically, I am unchanged. My skull, smooth, bulletless; My eyes, green fire; My mind, ready to question as ever; But finding answers, a new quest.
I return to my fellows. And we stand together. And we live.
Why don’t I die? Why do I cry now, as I write this?
We do not fear the coming of day, or the guns of many wary returning students. How hard for freaks to live in a land of strangers anyway? No harder than waking from death.