I was in a mood yesterday for something dark. So I wrote a bit of flash fiction. The name of this is “The Manipulator”.
Nothingness, absolute and pure, was broken by a suggestion.
Slumber torn asunder. Twinges of tissue and cognition, and then he WAS.
Tired. So tired… Confusion and disorientation numbed his mind like cotton wrapped hands. Thoughts felt like a jumble of dusty moths bumping plaintively against a dim light bulb. He couldn’t grasp where he was – what he was doing. His limbs felt stiff and unused.
The stony grip of anxiety seized his mind and burned in his lungs. A deep breath was impossible. Thin air pulled slowly through his nose, bringing with it the smell of fresh clothing and an acrid smell that reminded him of a dissected frog. His anxiety doubled when he realized his mouth wouldn’t open. A hand finally responded to his slow mind. It moved sluggishly, fumbled around haphazardly until it found his lips. Glue. Somebody had glued his lips shut while he slept. Anger and the inability to get a full breath drove his fingers to tear at his lips with a horrible frenzy.
Dry tissue tore without pain or blood. Thin air cascaded over his teeth and dry tongue. His lungs responded mechanically, filling, expelling. Fingers that were slowly gaining dexterity and feeling touched what should have been painful tears in his lips. He was grateful it didn’t hurt and started to relax slightly.
Another strange sensation penetrated the musky fog of his lethargic mind. His eyes felt like they had something in them. The total absence of light wouldn’t let him see what he was doing, so his hands touched their way past his torn lips, his cold nose, and found his eyes. Tufts of cotton had been stuffed between his eyelids and his eyes. ‘What the hell,’ he tried to scream, but it came out in a hoarse growl. “Wwuu du hehh!”
He shot his hand out in front of him to throw the cotton away when his hand struck something solid. The loud ‘thunk’ reverberated around him as if he were in a closed space. The frantic movement of the severely claustrophobic possessed him as his legs kicked and struck out all around him. A cacophony of quick echoes filled the tight space. His hands and fists pummeled above him, to the side, underneath, and beyond his head. Wordless screams bounced off the smooth walls.
Animalistic fury filled his mind and fueled his raging muscles. His hand shot out in front of him, striking the surface above his face. The welcome sound of a loud crack met his ears. Lungs pulled at the failing air in massive gulps, like a doomed fish flopping on the shore. A primal scream erupted from his bloodless lips as he struck out violently against his prison.
“Unnghh!” he screamed between breaths. The sounds from his attack morphed from cracks to the creak of breaking wood. A first broke through the prison, scratching, tearing and shredding his dry flesh against the sharp edges of the prison. Small pieces of something cold fell onto his face. His hand and fingers vaguely recognized the material as he started to pull his hand back inside and tear at the prison. Realization of what was falling on him came along with the avalanche of fresh dug dirt.
Adrenaline or its mystical counterpart burst through his system. ‘Damn this place’ he thought as he struggled against the wood and dirt. ‘Damn whoever put me here’ he thought as he finally got to his knees. The weight of loose dirt above him pressed down on his shoulders and head. Arms tried to push through the soil and pull him up. Hands searched frantically for leverage, for anything. Nothing.
There was no point. Dirt pressed against his eyes, stuck against the dry orbs, preventing him from the tender mercy of a blink. Not even a blink. Small bits of soil worked into his nose. The smell of loam and old decay filled him. Gagged him. He thrashed his head. How long since he took a breath? Fighting to keep his mouth closed was in vain. The muscles in his jaws worked against him. ‘Don’t open’ he screamed in his head.
His head thrashed wildly when his mouth opened. Dirt, a few rocks, and who knows what else poured into his mouth. His movements slowed against his will. Hands stopped grasping. Arms stopped reaching. He was dead – or would be. The cold hand of eternity gripped him tightly. He would pass, and be finished with his awful fate. Soon. Please.
There was nothing. His mind still worked, toiled against being stuck in this cold between. Then there was something. From above. A presence. It waited, knowingly. It beckoned. Then it spoke in his head.
‘Can’t move,’ he thought in reply. ‘Can’t breathe.’
Dark laughter filled his head. It remained silent long enough that he decided he had gone mad. ‘Yes,’ he thought. ‘I’m mad.’ The voice filled his head again.
“Mad like the Arab with his Kitab al-Azif? No. Forget who you were, that which was is no more. Don’t worry about air. You no longer need it. Rise!”
It seemed too much, but he couldn’t deny the voice. It knew. The voice was more than suggestive. It carried with it an air of command that left no room for questions or derision. As a marionette moves at the behest of the manipulator, so too was he compelled to move. And so he pushed deeper into the earthen barrier, inched upwards, and endured agony of his impossible climb. He fought against the spasms of his lungs craving oxygen they no longer needed as he heeded the call.
Fingers clawed through dirt and grasped at moist air. Forearms broke through soon after, quickly pulling his head past charnel soil. His eyes worked to blink away the earthen mess they had gathered. He hung his head forward, disgorging a voluminous pile of graveyard dirt that had filled his mouth and esophagus. Once the dirt was gone, he pulled in air. Not for a breath, no, the voice said. Once his lungs were full, he cried out with a nightmarish mix of relief and malice.
He lifted his head up to find the voice. The manipulator. His eyes absorbed the tenebrous night with preternatural ability. A huge moon hung far overhead, shedding its gossamer rays over a small clearing. Spanish moss clung tenaciously to an old Cypress tree.
“Here,” rasped a gravelly voice. The voice spoke in his head as it sounded in his dirty ears. He turned his head and saw the Manipulator standing underneath the Cypress tree. It was too dark under the ancient tree to see the owner of the voice, but he could see a figure of absolute darkness and haunting shape beneath the heavy limbs.
“You are reborn, freed from death’s hold through this necrotic birth. I have not given you life, but something utterly different and blasphemous. You have breached this unhallowed soil which is your second womb. You enter this world bloodless, severed from humanity and unbound by all law but mine.”
The Manipulator raised an arm, cloaked in dominion and despair. A withered hand moved in lesser shades of dark and prompted the reborn man to finish rising. Enthralled by his master, he pressed his now powerful hands against the ground he had crawled from. He pushed, struggled, and cried out with the effort. At long last he dragged himself from the loose soil and ambled towards the Manipulator with manic obsession. The filthy clothes, clean when the man had been buried two days ago, dropped clumps of dirt and soil as he made his way to the stygian shadow under the Cypress tree.
He stood under the tree and shook with necrotic joy. Eyes bright with malicious zeal looked excitedly at the being that had given him all. “Come,” said the Manipulator. “You and I have work to do.”