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.
* * *
Full version only
available in Visionary Tongue: Issue 19