Everything I Want Is Just Beyond by Jay Wilburn

The 7th round of the Music Be The Food flash fiction event continues. The new song is “Golden Sunlight”, by 311 and the next piece of fiction is by Jay Wilburn. Listen to this particularly uplifting song and read Jay’s wonderful story.

Everything I Want Is Just Beyond

The waves turned rough and even as they struck the shallows closer to the beach. His body torqued and slammed against the sediment as the water boiled with the movement of the wind and the tides. Armor, older than many of the creatures he had killed in the last battle above mountains and sea, absorbed the impacts against sharp coral and the last of the rocks before shore.

As the waves retreated and left him on his side in the wet sand, salt water poured out from between the textured plates which shelled his body. Then, he coughed and vomited up water and acid from his stomach and lungs. He opened cloudy eyes on predawn purple over the land and storm front over the endless ocean. The next wave overtook him and tumbled him closer to the grassy dunes.

He found his knees before water retreated again. He crawled through the sand like a lobster in its hardened shell. Two more waves battered him, but he kept his head above the surface until the sand became hard and dry-packed. He collapsed again.

Lobsters were immortal, he heard. They died, of course, and were eaten, but otherwise they went on growing and living from one shell to the next larger one up until an outside force ended them. He was like a lobster in that way too except for the growing. He never changed and nothing ever got better. His hunger for the blood of mortals never subsided and the wars between factions of creatures like himself never ceased.

He found his hands and knees. With an effort, he drew himself upright facing east and inland. It took him several minutes to renew any sense of balance. He could fly through the night clashing swords and claws in the sky, but on this beach, he struggled to find his center upon his knees.

His fangs extended halfway out from their slots in his jaw with the effort. He felt the pulse of cold blood through his skull, but there was no one in sight to feed upon even if he had the strength to do so.

Morning approached. He needed to shelter and sleep. He had no idea how long he had been below the waves nor how far they had taken him. The mountains and cliffs were no longer in sight. The climate was wrong too. Too warm.

His guess was he had been beneath a long time and had come far.

He needed to find a structure or burrow into the sand like some other shelled creature before the sun broke the horizon. Barring that, he’d have to plunge below the waves for another day.

He unstrapped his helmet and let it drop to the sand. It rolled three times away from him. Water drained out from curves and pouches. Something crawled out of it and scrambled toward the ocean with its antenna waving.

The light changed quickly. Purple became something brighter, but his cloudy eyes would not process the hues for his brain. Fangs extended farther.

Go now. Hide.

He hated dawn when he was human too. He hated it as a child as his parents forced him up before the light. He could not remember their faces, but recalled turning his back on the east every morning to spare his eyes from the painful light.

He remembered changing as if it were the last thing that happened to him. He held those memories clearer than the pitched battle between armies of his own kind which left him in the ocean to drift.

He had gone to her in his new form and tried to convince her to join him. She had refused, but he seized her and sought to change her anyway in the most profane of violations. She never stopped fighting despite his gurgled begging against her bloody neck. All she had to do was to let go, but she fought right down into death. And after he drank up the last of her life as his first feeding, the hunger and thirst would not leave.

A few of his children managed to escape, but not many. Some of them may have grown old with generations after them which carried the human form of his blood … and hers. He may have unknowingly fed upon some of them too in past centuries.

The morning after that slaughter he had nearly stepped out into the dawn to face the light and end the curse. It was the outside force which could rest the torture of pointless immortality. In the end, he slept under the bed where she lay dead. The following night he left her behind and refused to look back in her direction again.

Light threatened the horizon in a bright blade and he felt the painful heat. Thunder rolled across the ocean behind him.

Time to go below. Time to go. Time to let go. Nothing but time beyond yet more time …

He pulled at the buckles of armored plates designed to protect from sunlight as much as the weapons of humans and god-monsters. He shed them down to pale flesh, leaving only his armored knees and boots in the sand. He spread his arms naked above the knees and offered himself to the agony of dawn.

Heaven or more likely Hell or just as probably nothing at all waited for him on the other side of this burning death. Whichever doorway it opened, it was all he wanted. The reunion of those he killed whom he loved or hated would be bliss. The emptiness or eternal torture which he had more than earned would be just as well too.

Smoke rose off his skin and he tilted his head back, unable to will his face into the sun any longer even with just the top edge of the disc showing. Hell came early as he screamed through his fangs into the dark clouds and competing thunder.

Raindrops fell fat and sizzled off his blistered and blackened flesh. More poured over him in a wash and the heat fell away. He shuddered and opened his eyes to see the heavy clouds overtake the horizon and extinguish the sun. His eyes cleared and he saw the shades of shadows and sand clearly once more.

He dropped his arms and bowed his head as the rain poured over and through his wounds. His chest hitched with laughter which sounded very much like sobbing.

He would heal, but it would be slow and the scars would take their time in vanishing below his armor.

He found his balance and stood up in the raging storm. After gathering his armor, he walked inland through the rain to look for a place to shelter and possibly feed.

Read more from Jay at jaywilburn.com.