The Last Broadcast

Fuzzy Birds

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The first few chapters of my latest short story. It's rough, I've yet to truly edit it, but at least this time I have a direction, a definite story to tell, as opposed to Words, which was made up as I went along.


The Last Broadcast

By Alex Verbeke



1

I'm dreaming, I think. Floating.

Floating in a vast emptiness, a painful space that should be filled, but for reasons I can’t comprehend, isn't. Everything is white. But it could also be black. I don’t know. I feel hazy, drugged. I don’t know who I am, my body is utterly devoid of feeling. After an age spent numbly hanging in this sea of nothingness, barely capable of thought, I sense a presence. Something is approaching, I can hear it but I can't yet see it. There’s a noise, something at once familiar, but in my present state so perversely alien that I can’t even begin to recognise it. As it begins to accumulate, it penetrates the numbness, and some semblance of feeling, of being, of existing, rises within me. At first, I’m overwhelmed, drowning in this rich emotion. But as the feeling becomes more acute, I realize exactly what it is. Dread, hopeless dread. A searing cold washes over me, stinging my eyes, cracking my skin. The sound climbs, climbs, becoming ever more unbearable, more insufferable. A horribly pitched piercing that rattles my bones to dust and shakes my teeth. Something grasps my shoulder, and that touch is so devilishly disgusting that my very skin tries to shy away from it, but to no avail. I turn my head sluggishly, I don’t want to, but I can’t help it. There's something there, something…

Something.


2

I become aware of my own wakefulness long before I open my eyes. I lie, wherever I am lying, and slowly start to think. My mind feels rusty, antique. I determine that I've slept for a considerable amount of time, considerable enough for the exact details of my location and situation to be out of my reach. After an unspecific amount of time, I slowly open my eyes, expecting a harsh, penetrating morning light. I find darkness. A darkness without depth, without texture. I try to get to my feet, and find it strangely taxing. What happened to me, that I cannot now even bring myself to stand? After a bitter feud with my own flesh and blood I eventually find myself on my feet. Reaching out, I come across a hard, smooth surface. Perhaps wooden, but for the life of me, I can't quite recall what it should feel like. As I move more, something tugs at my left arm. I reach for it with my right hand. There's blood, I think, but nothing else. I rub the blood inbetween my fingers, smell it, taste it.

I'm reluctant to use my feet for anything other than standing, not because the dark has little grounds for bearings, but because every muscle and joint is screaming a silent protest at me for breaking the comfortable paralysis of sleep. I attempt to take in my surroundings. At first, I stumble over my own feet, using the nearby surface to steady myself. Eventually, my body seems to remember how to walk, and agonising step by step, I eventually find myself in contact with a wall. It's cold. Everything is cold here. After inching along the wall, I find a door, and a handle. It won’t turn, my hands are too stiff. I panic, frustrated, confused, angry. I beat my useless fists against the door and it swings to, evidently an outwards opening door. My situation has somewhat improved. I'm in a hallway of what appears to be a regular office block of sorts. It’s still dark, but I can actually make out shapes, surfaces, outlines. A faint light passes through a window at the end of the hallway. I feel something strange brushing against my skin, and after a moments comtemplation, I realise it's the wind. When was the last time I felt a breeze?

I make my way to, and look out through the window. It’s broken, the glass dirty and thick with grime. Below me stands a city. I drink in the uniform skyscrapers and car filled streets, the indigo night sky, with it's full moon and vague stars. The moonlight brings with it not just realization, but a dull, throbbing pain in my eyes. I squint, and look in more detail at the sights around me. There's something about the city that doesn't quite ring true with me, and just as soon as I realize what it is, it's gone. I examine the shapes below me for some time. I don't know this place.


3

After laboriously navigating the dozens of flights of stairs, and the labyrinthine ground floor of the building, I walk outside to find a typical city environment. Except for that one thing, that nagging inconsistency that refuses to show me it's face. Whatever it is sits timidly on the fringes of my subconscious, a grotesque creature hiding from my gaze. I make an effort not to focus on it, instead letting it come to me in it's own time.

I sit on a nearby bench in some kind of industrial garden and try to collect myself. A large bird glides past and perches on a nearby statue. The bird is peculiar; it’s something like an eagle, but it’s coloration is more that of a parakeet, red feathers interspersed with jarring yellow streaks. It’s talons are thick and long, and its musculature is highly defined. The beak is sharp, and a rich blend of black and crimson. It’s eyes are a fierce orange. It cocks it’s head towards me, the only movement it has made since landing. I divert my attention to the statue it sits on, some modern art piece consisting of harsh jagged strips entangled with thick vine like tubes, the whole thing a dull, metallic black. I’ve no idea what it’s meant to be, but it sits rather flagrantly in what is otherwise a fairly nice, if overgrown garden. And then, something breaks the silence.

‘Why did I take the stairs?’

The bird flies away, rather unsurprisingly. Was that me? Of course it was, my throat still hurts. That was my voice. When was the last time I actually spoke? And then I focus on what I actually said. Why did I take the stairs? I distinctly recall looking at the elevator, it’s presence definitely registering. But still I passed, and went instead to the fire escape. It was something that I had seen out of the window. Or not seen.

I stop, and think, and look around again at everything. I try to clear my head, I try not to focus on one particular thing, but to absorb everything around me. I can feel that little creature emerging from it's hiding place, coming closer, closer...

And then, I can see it.

This isn't a typical city at all. There's no light other than from the night sky, no electricity, no noise, in fact.....there's no one here. Even at whatever time this is, a city should be bristling with people, lowlifes and junkies crawling out of the woodwork. My memory might be having a bad hair day, but I know that much. I look again at the statue and realize that half of it is obviously not of the artists initial intent; not vine-like, but truly vines. This is not some overgrown garden: the grass, the weeds, even the trees have burst out from the very sidewalks. I didn’t even look behind me when I walked out. The face of the building I arose from is crumbled, itself overgrown with thick black, leathery vines, undoubtedly holding it’s fractured structure in place.

I rise from the bench, the hairs on the back of my neck standing, my skin rife with goose bumps. Something is terribly wrong in this place, the normal way of things has been hideously twisted. Why then, is the first reaction I have upon this revelation, one of immeasurable joy? I smile, my lips cracked and bleeding, my gums aching. My heart beats faster.

There are parts still unchanged though, a nearby section of the office block I awoke in retains it’s floor to ceiling glass windows. I run toward it, determined, hoping that the sight of myself would clear my clouded mind. Reaching the glass, I wipe a thick film of moss from it and look at my reflection.

This night has been unusual to say the least, but now things take a turn for the slightly more peculiar. I stare at the face in the window, and it stares back, myself, and not myself. For what I see in the window is new to me. Dark wiry hair, a wild beard springing from gaunt cheeks. Pale green eyes sit in bruised, lined sockets, thin lips cover yellow teeth. The skin is white, slick. I examine the reflection for some time. I don't know this face.
 

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