Please Note: This story deals with very dark and disturbing themes. Do not read it if you're squeamish. This is part 3 of the story, and it's rather short. Part 1 of the story is online here http://www.republibot.com/content/original-fiction-truth-about-lions-and... and part 2 is online here http://www.republibot.com/content/original-fiction-truth-about-lions-and... Part 4 will be online next sunday.
The concourse from that terminal to the main section of the airport was wide, dark, and a thousand years long. He would later have no memory of how long it took him to get through it - fifteen minutes at a brisk pace? A day? A month? A lifetime? - nor, indeed, would he have any memory of ever having been in it at all. In this new world without memory, every time was a first time for everything, no matter how rote it had been. How many times did he stop, forgetting his purpose in the hallway, and just stand around until some new, conflicting thought formed in his head? How many nights did he sleep in the filth against the wall? Where did his food come from? How many times was he beaten and raped by the people he met on the way? He would not and could not have any recollection of any of this, and in that one regard, his captivity was oddly kind.
All that could be said for sure - though not by him of course - was that at some point after that he awoke after a violent three-day illness that he had no memory of. He had been thirsty and drank some standing water he found in an old storage room that had filled up several feet deep with runoff from an ancient fire sprinkler system. He had drank his fill, but unbeknownst to him, the place had originally been a storage space for dead car batteries from the airport’s fleet of golf carts. These had grown groady and corroded during their long submersion, resulting in him poisoning himself. This had happened to him three times so far, but of course he had no memory of it.
He awoke thirsty and famished in a bathroom stall, with very little strength, and encased in a living crust of cockroaches. As he started to move about, they scrambled off of him, but he grabbed several and munched on them vacantly. Several more he pinched the heads off of, and stuck them in his pocket for later. To his surprise he found a small, dead rat in there. A bonus!
Scratched in the wall of the stall was a line from a song. He read it. He didn’t remember it, but reading it last night was the thing that made him choose this stall to sleep in.
“We are living in an age
When sex and horror
Are our new gods”
He could still read. Curiously some of the other people lost this ability when they came to this place, others didn’t. Neither he nor the instigators of this awful place knew why that was. There was lots of graffiti around, most of it nonsensical, most of it quite old, the overwhelming majority comedicaly half-finished when the vandal forgot what he or she was writing in mid-sentence, and trailed off.
He didn’t know why, but the words made him feel calm and safe, as though, “as though, as though there’s something I’ve forgotten here, but I can’t quite recognize it.” Ignoring his hunger - the ones who survived learned to ignore their hunger for long periods of time - he picked up a broken metal door stopper out of his pther pocket, and scratched the phrase “I do not like this age” in the rusted stall side next to the Frankie Goes To Hollywood lyrics, then put the stopper back in his grimy pocket and looked at his work.
“I have done something,” he thought, but while reading the wall he forgot entirely what it was, noticed he was hungry, and went out looking for food. He shuffled his way out to the main hallway, then followed the light to the main concourse.
It was a massive atrium five stories tall, with blackened skylights letting in a sulfuric light, terraces of stained, prestressed concrete connected by banks of long-dead escalators. There were lots of people - perhaps hundreds - in there. On the big atrium walls there were a few examples of large framed artwork left , generally high enough and far enough from outcroppings to prevent them from being torn down. They were all vague abstracts., whether by intention or simply the passage of time. Whatever they had been intended to be - a cubistic representation of the glories of flight, or a mural of a cow - they‘d ended up abstracts now. The walls were stained with blood, grime, soot, dust, dirt, every bit as bad as the floors in the terminal had been. Small objects thrown against them would stick. Larger objects thrown against them would gradually pull away with an intestinal “Schlopping” kind of nose before they fell to the floor. The ground floor was covered yards-deep in human feces, refuse, and dead bodies. It had been so long that this was gradually turning to compost and soil, after a fashion. It was covered with a small forest of mushrooms and chives. There was a perpetual cloud of cooking fire smoke at the top of the atrium. What they were cooking is best unasked.
How long had he been there? A moment just coming out of the concourse, or had he been living there for years? For him there was no substantial difference, everything was in the now.
In the now, with no memory of how he got there, he stood looking around in the purgatorial half-light that could have been a cloudy day or a bright cloudless night. He saw the abstracts, and for the hundredth time he couldn’t make sense of them.
A live body fell past his balcony on the second floor of the atrium, and hit the fungus and feces and chives with a loud slapping, splattering sound. He hadn’t seen where the body came from - if he fell from the third or fourth floors, he had a fair chance to survive, since there was a good six feet of squishy filth to cushion the blow. He, himself, had once been thrown off the fourth floor after loosing a rumble, and survived, though it took him two days to dig his way out of the suffocating filth. Again, fortunately, he didn’t remember it.
There was a general migration from day to day from the bottom of the atrium to the top. People began down below in the filth, and wandered upstairs gradually, rediscovering themselves time and time again in some new-to-them surrounding with no memory of getting there, no sense of who they were, and they attempted to survive by instinct. The top two floors were the most crowded and violent, the place where everyone wanted to be, though no one knew why. From thence, people went back down again, one way or another: Perhaps forced out by stronger people working their ways up from the lower floors, perhaps thrown over the side. Even in this there were a couple ways one could go: either as a person, or as the digested remains of a person shat over a high banister in to the emptiness below. What goes up must come down, he had thought several times/for the first time, and chucked to himself, then forgotten his own cleverness before he’d even finished laughing.
A gaggle of people came by, several of them carrying food. He wanted food. He jumped in to the small throng and attacked one of the people carrying a mercifully-unidentifiable shank of meat. The others piled on him and started wailing on him, and he clawed back at them. At first focused, the fight went much longer than it should have since everyone involved was on the edge of starvation. As the fight progressed, their focus was lost, and the sides of the competitors began to drift, but the fight itself remained. They must have been fighting for a reason, right? So keep on going!
By the end, he was part of the small throng, and the rest of its members had attacked and killed two of the food-carriers, assuming them to be thieves. The third, with two broken legs, was chucked over the railing in to the muck below. They feasted on the meat - if that’s what it was - and he discovered a dead rat in his other pocket, which he shared with a pretty-but-malnourished lady, which resulted in the two of them excusing themselves from the throng to go into a concourse and have sex in the shadows. This they then did, but half way through she suddenly found herself in dilecto flagrante with a total stranger, and no memory of how she got there, and ran off screaming ‘rape.’ This attracted the attention of several other people lurking in the shadows who then beat the hell out of him and raped him themselves, then they all went off looking for food. By the time the rape-gang got back to/discovered the main atrium, he was their leader, though no one was quite sure how this had happened, not that it really mattered. They heard noise on the floor above them and decided to go up and check it out.
This resulted in a rumble with another gaggle of people, which degenerated in to a bloodbath, and he ran away, down the broken, frightening escalators that slipped back and forth under his feet, and just ahead of an angry mob who pretty clearly wanted to eat him. They would have, too, but the combined weight of the gang was several thousand pounds, far more than the stripped old gears and belts of the escalators could handle, and the steps ripped free, just as he got off at the landing. The group behind him ended up sliding fifteen feet or so to the ground, and ending up in a bloody heap, ass-over-teakettle, with no idea how they got there. They quickly began fighting amongst each other.
A glob of human excrement which had previously itself been a human fell on him. He scraped off as much of the filth as he could, then ducked in to a bathroom that was occupied by several women who were startled to see him. Before they had the chance to attack, he stabbed one of them in the abdomen with his metal doorstopper, and pulled it swiftly up gutting her like a trout. Huge gouts of blood sprayed out, adding another layer of stains to the already-mephitic walls, and to his already-filthy skin and tattered clothing. The others ran off in fear. Overcome by adrenaline, he punched one of the old stalls doors, long since off its hinges, and leaning against the cracked, tiled wall. He punched it again and again until his knuckles were sore and bloody, and covered in mildew from the door itself. Then he calmed down, and wondered how he came to be in this place. He was tired, and decided to go look for a safe spot for the night, but on his way out he found one of the stalls still had a working door.
Was it safe? Not really. A good swift kick could easily break it in, but just as he was about to leave for a more secure spot, he noticed writing on the wall. Someone had scratched
We are living in an age
When sex and horror
Are our new gods
I do not like this age
It was all in the same handwriting. For some reason he couldn’t understand, this made him feel secure and even happy, so he settled in and went to sleep.
To Be Continued
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