Plugs

A kilometer outside the fortress of the Green Empress, a small white rabbit huddled naked against a dirty concrete shed cracked with age and bombardment, clutching in her small arms a tiny version of herself: her shivering baby, the only one left alive after the incessant aerial bombings of the Dragonflies over the past four weeks.

The skies were the ever-slate of the Land of Grey Dusk, but the Dragonflies’ explosive ordnance threw up smoke incarnadine and lavender. Overhead, the massive insects droned, searching out any remaining warrens or burrows not yet obliterated by their patrols. The rabbit squeezed her eyes shut and held her little one tight as she dared, her entire body ajitter, anticipating the descending whistle of the ball of light and noise that would destroy her completely.

But instead she heard, “Psst! Over here!”

She eased up her right eyelid and saw a young girl poking her head out of a doorway in the shed, a doorway the rabbit was certain had not been there before. Within was dimness, but the rabbit skittered over and leapt inside onto a dirt floor. The girl slammed the door and the rabbit laid eyes on the motley assortment gathered there in the faint light: a tortoise, a cat, and two person-shaped things with spears.

“We’re looking for the Green Empress,” the girl was saying. “Can you tell us how to find her?”

“Do you mean to kill her?” asked the rabbit.

“What? No! I just need her to send me back home. Why would you want to kill her?”

“She did the same to my lifemate and my dozens of children. To her we’re pests to be exterminated.” Her one remaining bunny trembled and wept silently in her arms.

“Is that so?” said the girl, her facial features set hard and angry. “Well then, I have yet one more thing to discuss with her.”

“And then afterward you will kill her?”

The girl bent down and gently touched the rabbit on the arm. “No. I don’t believe in killing. It wouldn’t bring back your family. But I will make her stop her extermination, and there will be recompense for the survivors, you can be assured of this.”

The rabbit said not in a word in reply, but held out her precious baby to the strange girl, who took her. The rabbit closed her eyes again to concentrate, and despite her exhaustion both physical and mental, she touched her forepaws to the dirt floor and began to dig.

***

(This piece was inspired visually by Lisa Snellings’ evocative eponymous painting, and aurally by Linkin Park’s “Krwlng (Mike Shinoda ft. Aaron Lewis).“)

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***

Previously:
01: Mini Buddha Jump Over the Wall
02: The World, Under
03: Androcles Again
04: Look Into My Eyes, You’re Under
05: Shiftless, Hopeless
06: Cricetinae’s Paroxysm
07: Wind and Harmony

Limb-Reanimation Dysphoria, also known as Limb Enigma Disorder or LED is a recently described condition ailing those patients whose limbs have needed extensive reanimation techniques. It is obvious that limb-reanimation–usually due to heart failure to the limb–is a specially traumatic medical intervention, particularly for those patients who, except for their limbs, remain conscious during the affair. The majority of patients experience some sadness, heaviness and lack of joie de vivre in their limbs for a few days, but in a small percentage of cases, this condition becomes persistent and merits the diagnosis of LED.

Following yesterday’s “Masker.”

The drummer drums.

I march. I sing

Behind us is a procession of ghosts, all singing the song that won’t leave my head as long as I wear this mask, the same mask they also wear. All of us marching in time to the drum, up and down a series of hills through unbroken snow.

I force a word out between teeth gritted against chattering. “Where?” It’s the next hill before I manage another: “Going?”

The drummer points with the human thigh bone he’s been using for a beater and the whole parade is still. On the top of the next hill, a human-shaped, tree-tall figure stands against the half-risen moon, which shines waveringly through it–a statue of glass?

Up the final, steepest hill and the statue turns out to be ice, a colossus with a tangle of white cloth in the depths where its heart should be. The ghosts march past me, silent now, and ring the statue. The drummer doffs his hat in an exaggerated bow, as if he wants me to step forward. He taps the drumhead lightly, twice, and my feet move me into the circle.

The ghosts reach out, mouthing the song I can’t hear in my head anymore.

That tangle of the cloth, I realize, is an angel, its wings in tight like a dead bird’s.

I reach out and the ice burns my palm. I’ve forgotten the song.

The ghosts are still silent, but watching their exaggerated enunciation brings the slightest whisper to my mind and I croak a single tentative note, then another, the tune gathering force until I’m shouting the refrain.

The statue shatters to splinters. The moon ignites like a circle of paper, becomes the sun. The angel, freed, falls forward in a slow-motion tumble, cradling a burning clock in its arms. Just before it hits the ground, the angel convulses its wings in a downbeat with a sound like thunder, and it’s gone.

The drummer collapses in a heap of rags, and I tear the mask from my face. I can remember my name.

In the strengthening light, I recognize this hilltop, a couple miles from the family and life I left behind. The ghosts fade–not ghosts, but echoes of this same ritual carried out in previous years, by previous maskers, as a trace of me will return, I’m sure.

I hurry home while, somewhere above, the clock still burns.

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