Issue 19 Preview

Collector of Broken Things
by Lauren Halkon

The soft creak of a slowly opening door accompanied the passage of a shaft of light across a hitherto darkened floor. A breeze drifted in, lifted dust into the air to decorate that expanding triangle of light. Throughout the building there was a sudden silence, the kind that descends upon the abrupt cessation of frenzied activity. The man, at least he was called ‘man’ for want of a more appropriate term, lifted his slanted nose and breathed deeply. His second eye-lids flickered across his expanding pupils. He knew something had happened during his absence.
He closed the door. The light blinked out.
The bag’s handle slid gently down his fingers till he felt the floor take its weight. He let go.
Unburdened now, he padded forward. The floorboards creaked under his weight. He concentrated for a moment, then proceeded in total silence.
Somewhere in the depths of the building he could feel her. She had done it again.
His mind drifted lazily into the contents of the bag, caressing them with tendrils of his thoughts. He lifted each one up to the light of his inner eye, remembering their circumstances. The chaos of noise, blood and fear did not disturb him. His footsteps continued carefully, one in front of the other, each physical eye scanning the high, stretching shelves. He was not angry. He did not know how to be. He just wanted to find her. To see her. To see what she had done.
He moved faster now. She was hiding. She always was, even though he never did anything to her. Maybe she didn’t want him to see. His eyes were too greedy.
Scuffles filled the gloom, like rats in a pipe. Dust plumed. A shelf above him bucked and rocked, something slid off, he almost stopped to pick it up but knew it was a distraction and began to run.
As if this were a trigger, the whole building burst into uproar, falling metal clanged and whirled, creatures howled and roared, leaves and branches thrashed, the moist, rotten scent of burst and fallen fruits impinged upon his senses. Light shattered the darkness and lanced through the shelves, illuminating the apparent lack of ceiling, the brilliant epiphytes, the huge spreading green boughs, the water pouring down millennia old rock, all stacked row upon row in an endless space within time.
A raptor in flight flashed overhead, the downdraft of its wings stirring his hair.
Something small and agile leapt from shelf to shelf, swinging through trees its ancestors had never seen.
Oh no, the man thought, I’m not so easily deterred.
He skidded to a halt, almost pulled the ladder from the wall in his urgency and sprang up it three rungs at a time.
Silence and darkness fell like a wall. He felt almost sorry for her. It was the only veil she had. She should know better than to use it against him.
He lifted a hand ahead of him and saw a shadow move. Eyes opened and looked at him. They were large eyes, mirrored and reflective in the darkness. She was not human. She could see him. But he was not human either. His second eye-lids blinked again and his vision cleared.
He saw another pair of eyes before the darkness took them beneath her obsidian wing.
He did not care; he stepped up onto the shelf and over the boundary. The darkness grew deeper, darker, thick, like drowning water burning in his lungs. The lack of noise was anti-noise; he felt it sucking eagerly at him, yearning to mask the steady thud of his heart, the quiet pulse of blood in his veins, to kill him by total negation of his being. Incongruous softness tickled his ankles, a green fragrance drifted upwards from unseen bruised stems. The shadow shifted, a languid dancer in the molassic depths. He shook his head, determined, blinked again.
Now he could see.
There were others.
She had made others just like herself.

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Full version only available in Visionary Tongue: Issue 19

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