Please Note: This story deals with very dark and disturbing themes. Do not read it if you're squeamish. This is part 4 of the story. 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 3 is online here http://www.republibot.com/content/original-fiction-truth-about-lions-and.... Part 5 will be online next sunday
By the time he awoke buried up to his neck in the huge, mephitic swamp of excrement and other remains on the ground floor, he was guilty of every sin imaginable, and a victim of them as well. He had no idea how he’d come to be there, of course, no memory of who he was, but in situations like this such things don’t matter. A subconscious, sub vocal instinct sounded in his head over and over again, ‘just survive, just survive, just survive.’ It had been there since shortly after he arrived in the airport, since this new order of life had claimed him, but it was louder in situations like this. It was The First Law, after all, though he lacked the capacity to think of it in those abstract terms.
After quite some time, he managed to work one of his arms partially free of the filth - interesting how memory plays such little part in coordinating life-or-death situations - and reached out for anything solid to pull himself forward. There was a half-buried chair just in reach. He managed to get his fingers around that and pulled. It came loose from the muck and slapped him in the head. Already on the edge of panic, he gave in to it and went hysterical for such a long time that he got bored with it and then tried to rescue himself again. He found an unidentifiable bit of tubing sticking up with a reasonably intact person impaled upon it. He reached out and grabbed for it, but his disgustingly engreased fingers slipped off several times. Finally he grabbed the hand of the dead woman, and was able to pull himself forward somewhat. A few hours later he had his other arm mostly free, and he had the woman as a source of food.
In two days, he was able to commando-crawl to the edge of the dung-heap where the density of the material was less, and he clawed his way through on hands and knees. His hand struck something. It was solid, and fairly large. He became interested in it, and wrestled it out of the muck. A briefcase? Small suitcase? Something like it, anyway. For no particular reason, he took it with him when he finally reached the lowest bank of the broken escalators. After forgetting he had it in his hand and rediscovering it several times, he smashed it repeatedly against the wall and broke it open.
Inside was something more magical than magic itself: It was cleanliness.
The case had been waterproof, obviously, though he couldn’t comprehend that. Inside it were papers and pens and various office supplies that were as pristine as they day some now-anonymous wretch had brought them to this place. They even still smelled faintly of a mill or office supply store. It was the only clean thing in this entire hellish tiny world, salvaged from the filth.
It struck him as numinous and holy. Taking pains to scrape off as much of the muck from his body as he could, he touched only one sheet, and then tentatively on the edge.
“Paper,” he said, the first word he’d spoken in days. The amnesia was of slightly worse than the standard sixties television plot device variety: they could remember language, skills, things built in to them on a basic level before the more shallow things were wiped by the odd experiment going on here, but any more personal or recent memories were as volatile as the morning dew, and somewhat shorter-lived. Even these memories tended to degrade over time, much to the interest of the observers. It was a cruel miracle that anyone survived here at all, which, of course, was the point of the exercise.
He piled up some smashed furniture on the second floor until he had a pile big enough to climb up and reach the merely-grimy ceiling and rubbed his hands along that until they were relatively clean. Why? What deep instinct put that thought in him? No one would ever know, but one must be careful not to profane holy things. All the while, “Just survive, just survive” beat a rhythm in