The Music Be The Food flash fiction event continues with round four. This time, the song is one of my all-time favorite American hymns, “The Road Home”, by Stephen Paulus. This particular take on the piece of music is performed by Conspirare and the lovely soloist, Melissa Givens.
Give a listen to the tune and then read the next flash fiction piece, by Jay Wilburn.
Lost and Drawn
He did not remember who he was after he died and opened his eyes again. Not in the same way living people remember things. There was enough left in mind and muscle for him to stand, so he did that. He could not walk well where his skin was torn and his muscles chewed through, but the others stepped back from him then, so he walked slowly.
He had been holding someone’s hand before. His fingers still clasped and released on empty air. The muscles and dull impulses still fired off from the desperate fight and struggle to hold on as they had sunk into death together. He did not remember her either. There was not enough left of her to stand, so he walked alone. Still, his hand opened and closed over and over in an echo of his last act in life of trying to hold on even as the others took them apart.
Gunshots echoed through the city. Sirens and the crackle of fires burning out of control. Some of the others were drawn to these noises, sights, and temperatures. Sometimes he followed them as well. This did not draw him as strongly as the others, so he returned to wandering quicker than they did.
At some point, cityscapes became suburbs and suburbs became country. This pattern repeated a few times, but the pattern did not register in what remained of his mind. Occasionally, he pushed against the glass of car windows or houses. He beat on doors for a while. He walked through campsites, open RVs, or farmhouses. He always walked out again. He crossed grassy fields and hills. He hung in barbed wire for a while until his clothing and skin tore free and then he walked again. His feet found road once more and he would follow those trails for a while. Sometimes paved and sometimes dirt, but always onward.
They would be on one – one who was still living and still screaming. They piled around until there was nothing to see. Blood oozed red out along the road and red was the only color he could see. It made him moan and growl like the others. It made the hunger which was always there somehow grow more desperate and sharp within him. But he walked around, he walked past, and he walked away.
The rain washed into his wounds and over his dry, pale eyes. Nothing healed. The lightning did not make him blink and the thunder did not make him flinch. The noise did not draw him. He no longer responded to gunshots or screams like the others either.
Snow tripped him and made the road hard to follow. He broke the skin of his chin down to the bone on something buried just under the snow. He did not dig for it and there was nothing red left in him to mark the snow where he fell. He stood because he still could and he walked. Somewhere along the road he had finally lost his shoes. He left bare footprints in the snow as he weaved between the trees, searching for something.
He stopped at the ruins of the barn and the half-burned farmhouse. There had been many others like it, but he stared at this one. He had no way of knowing why or for how long, but he had been circling this property for some time. He had followed many of the same roads through cold and heat without realizing until he stumbled upon the road which led here.
He did not go into what remained of the house, but he walked nearer to it.
It was the tree which drew him, so he veered toward that. He lifted a hand to touch the carving on the side in the bark down low where a child would reach. That hand still opened and closed over and over and over. He stared down at his moving fingers for some time. Then, used the other hand to run his fingertips over the texture of the bark and the curves in the carving.
He did not know why it mattered or why it drew him, but it did.
The stones on the hill drew him next.
They were crooked, old, and moss grew over carved letters he could no longer read anyway. Hands broke the ground from below and fought to push free. Many were more bone than flesh.
He lumbered forward and dug at the Earth. He tore through grass and roots. He clawed away dirt and clay with the same fervor the others tore into flesh. There was no red to see, but he saw it anyway. Both his hands opened and closed over and over as they broke into the ground. First, the nails tore free and then the flesh split and peeled. Soon his boney fingers matched theirs.
Heads and shoulders broke the surface. He took hold and would not let go until they were out. Some still had hair. Few still had eyes. Some were held together only by decay itself, but they could stand, so they did.
He stood with his abused hands down by his sides. Both hands were motionless for the first time since he had died.
He turned back toward the road and the others followed because they could. He walked the road, but he wasn’t alone.
Read more from Jay at jaywilburn.com.