Chapter 4 – Calling Grey – A Carrion Book
Many many thanks to everyone who has been offering encouragement during this project. In the last chapter, I really feel like the book has begun coming into its own. Recently, I’ve also seen it being shared through social media, and that excites me even more. So thank you, thank you, thank you!
As the beast and the girl collapsed to the floor, Grey, in one fluid motion, sheathed the swords and caught her falling body with the gentleness of a father holding his newborn child. Her eyes were open, but they were distant and empty. The carrion had sunk its claws deep into her shoulder. It punctured the veins and probably arteries deep within her chest and neck, the toxic injection had already flooded her brain with its vile plague. He watched as her chest slowly filled with air. Her raven hair hung as limp as her frail body. Both of them were now matted with blood. He looked at her face. She was young, couldn’t have been more than 17 or 18 years old. Her features were both delicate and strong at the same time like an elegant but powerful dancer. She was a pretty girl who looked like she would become a beautiful woman one day.
He tenderly wiped the hair away from her face revealing the full impact of icy blue eyes. One second earlier and those eyes would have stared back at him with a vibrant life. Now, as he gently laid her head down on the dark marble floor, they remained barren.
Her chest filled again with air, but much more slowly this time. He thought of his sister. She would have been about this age. His chest became heavy as his own vision blurred. He was a fearsome warrior. He had seen countless victims and had more bloodshed than even the most hardened soldier in the bloodiest war ever fought, but he was not hardened. He had never been physically injured in battle, but every day his heart ripped open and stabbed with the devastation of the world in which he existed. There was vengeance in every cut of his blade, but no amount of vengeance could ease the slightest suffering of his aching soul. Many times he withdrew to an isolated place and wept agonizing tears. His blade cut through hundreds and perhaps even thousands of these harbingers of death, but still, death continued its merciless advance.
Death. It was emptiness. It was blackness. It was cold and cruel. Like a supernatural storm that devoured and destroyed everything in its path, leaving only enough life behind for its victims to experience an unimaginable suffering. This enemy was beyond the reach of his sword, and now he watched as the dark cloud of death began consuming the life within this helpless daughter of humanity in his arms.
He knew how the infection worked. Although its exact origin and makeup were still a mystery to science; its symptoms, progression, and prognosis were clearly understood. Everyone was infected. Everyone would die, and everyone would then reanimate within 24 hours as one of them. As death set in, and then during reanimation, the body began to transform. These carrions somehow possessed a supernatural ability to heal most of the body’s wounds during this transformation. The process manipulated and morphed human flesh into an instrument of unequaled savagery. Without the blood scrubbing, the entire world was only a month or two from extinction.
Originally, it was thought that the plague was a virus or a bacteria, but not even the most powerful microscope was able to identify the pathogen to blame for the process. The blood scrubbing had become more effective as time went on, and it now included a delicately controlled exposure of the blood to an ultraviolet light. Something within the light diminished the potency of the plague and allowed the individual to function normally for a month or two without needing any further treatment. However, much in the same way the zombies in movies of old would infect those they bit or scratched, a bite or scratch from one of the carrions would release such high levels of the toxin into the victim that death was usually only minutes behind, assuming they survived the encounter at all.
As he gazed at her captivating blue eyes, he wondered if she had ever known happiness in her short life. The infection was moments from pulling the last glimmer of light from those eyes. Grey sighed deeply.
Emmaline was weightless. Almost weightless that is. She felt like she was suspended in the air. Like one of those space men she had seen in that book once. She was like a space man floating in outer space. But she wasn’t really floating, she was… she was falling. It was a dreamlike fall into a dreamlike bed more soft than any she had ever known. For a timeless moment, she just allowed herself to fall through this emptiness that quietly whispered her name.
Falling. Tenderly falling. It seemed as though she would fall forever into a never-ending void. The fall was so soft. There was no wind whipping her hair and clothes, no rushing in her ears. It was more like a drifting. She wasn’t falling, she was floating. She moved her arm to be sure. Her arm felt the gentle resistance of fluid. She was suspended in a warm embrace of water. With this realization, for the first time now she opened her eyes. Far above her, was a faint dot of white light that shimmered along the walls of a towering column above her.
The dim light swayed and danced along the walls giving them the appearance of movement as she slowly sank deeper and deeper into the emptiness. She didn’t feel the desire to struggle. She just watched as the dim light slowly faded. She was drifting down through the soft shadows. It was not the brilliant white of the surface that slowly shrank into the distance above her, and it was not the blackness that called to her and gently pulled her down from below. She was somewhere between the light and the blackness. It was a realm of grays.
Drifting. Down… Down… Further from the light above. The walls of the cave into which she sank still swayed back and forth in the grey light. She watched the murky light shimmer along its uneven edges. The shadows created fleeting shapes. A hand. A face. Almost believable in this dreamlike descent. She imagined that in the shadows she could see one of those fleeting hands outstretched towards her, reaching out for her as she slowly fell beyond its reach. She watched, mesmerized, as one of the shadows took on a fleeting but realistic appearance of a child’s face carved from a colorless clay. Transfixed, she beheld as the shadowy visage seemed so detailed she imagined she could even make out expressions on its face. As she watched the form disappear above her, she extended her own hand towards it, wanting to feel the unique surface that created such a lifelike form.
As she lazily reached up with one hand, her bare foot extended and bumped the edge of the wall. Only it wasn’t like her foot bumped the wall, it was more like the wall bumped her foot. At first, this was only a curious thought as she reached her foot out towards the wall of this cave or well or hole that she was sinking into. This time though, there was no doubt. The wall didn’t just bump her, a cold waterlogged hand grasped her foot tightly.
As she jerked her foot back, she startled and had the beginnings of a scream, but as she opened her mouth, the bitter and rancid tasting water nearly made her gag. The shock awakened her senses and snapped her out of the dreamlike state. Realities that were unreal assaulted her. She was no longer numbly descending. She was now feeling the cold of the blackness below as it invaded and chilled her body. She became terrified at the sight of the surface so far above her as she felt her lungs fighting her will for control. Air! She thought. I’m drowning! She started to swim towards the top.
The surface was already a mere speck of light far above. As she frantically swam with all her might, she couldn’t help but looking at the walls. She reeled again in terror as she saw the hands and faces all around her reaching for her. Their faces contorted in sorts of disfigured and silent screams. The entire column above and as far as she could see into the blackness below was made up of these hands, arms, and fingers reaching out for her.
She swam harder as her lungs began to constrict forcefully. It was taking all of her willpower to keep them from gasping for air. As she swam with all her might, she looked at the wall. She wasn’t rising. She was sill sinking. Her feet felt the intensifying cold beneath her. Down… Down… She swam upwards with all her might, kicking and pushing the water with all the strength she had, but still she sank.
Her lungs tore at her chest fighting for a breath. She kept trying to swim, but it only seemed that her slow decent was gaining speed. Help! She thought. Someone help me! She looked at the now very dark wall that she also noticed was now more narrow than it had been above. One of the faces stood out in the chorus of body’s reaching towards her. It was her dad! Daddy! Her heart leapt with hope as she reached for his hand. She grasped it. It was cold and an icy wet, but it was her dad’s arm! She looked into that face. Her widened eyes pleading for him to pull her towards the surface, but the eyes that stared back at her shared none of the fatherly love she had known as a child. Ouch! She tried to pull free as his hand squeezed hers with a crushing force. As she looked into his eyes, a greater terror than ever gripped her as she watched those cold eyes become cruel as the hand shoved her forcefully down even further.
Even wanting to hold the air in, she couldn’t help it. She screamed. The burning gas escaping from her lungs and formed undulating globes of air that rose above her as she still sank deeper and deeper still. Her chest would explode next and she would suck in the contents of this cold watery grave that she was sinking into. She still tried to swim, but the cold was numbing her body and she was losing her ability to control them as she began to shiver uncontrollably. Faces… Arms… Hands… Everywhere… The cruel faces were no longer reaching towards her, they were swinging at her and clawing through the water as they tried to get to her. As the walls became even more narrow, the jabs began to connect with her flailing arms and legs.
They punched and hit. Pushing her down further and further. Although it was now nearly black, once again a face stood out among the faces. It was her mother. Even against her better judgement, she reached out instinctively for her hands. As her mothers hands grasped hers, they were gentle as they took hold of her arms and stopped her descent. She began to pull towards her mothers face, but even in the darkness she watched in horror as her mother’s face began to morph and contort its shape until it became one of the beasts. Her gentle hands became painful grips as the claws formed and dug into her wrists.
She struggled to escape, but the grip was too tight. The claws dug deeper into her flesh. In the darkness she saw the cloud of blood fill the water around her. Suddenly she felt another clawed hand grasp her ankle and jerk her down and free of her mother’s grasp. She was able to pull free from the wall’s reach again, but her lungs were searing with a fiery burning now that was even more intense than the wounds on her hands and her feet. A clawed hand raked down her spine. As her body jerked away, another claw sliced her thigh.
It was over. She wanted it to end now. The pain in her lungs and her body, even the pain in her heart was more than she could bear. She opened her mouth and sucked the rank blackness into her lungs. The sour rottenness wasn’t so repelling this time, and instead of gagging, she sucked it in again, and instead of dying, a numbness flowed through her body that blanketed the pain with a cold nothing. Her lungs were filled with this black water now, and above she no longer saw the glimmering light of the surface, only a faint darkness slightly less than the blackness which was now slowly engulfing her. Her lungs still craved oxygen, but somehow this fluid, which was obviously something other than water, lessened that craving. She began gulping it in. The more she inhaled, the less she hurt. The pain in her wrists, back, and thigh slowly subsided. Even the aching pain of her heart slowly numbed and transformed.
As a clawed hand reached out for hers, she grasped it with both of hers and bit it savagely. She felt the bones beneath the skin breaking. It felt good. She sucked in even more of the murky fluid. She opened her mouth wider and wider until she could feel it stretching the skin on her face tight. It opened further still as she ferociously inhaled the blackness. She could feel her mouth stretching, even growing. Another claw sliced her stomach, but there was no pain this time, only an awareness. She grabbed the hand with hers, but her hand was no longer frail and weak, it was strong and vicious. She felt her own claws dig deep into the forearm and slice down through the muscles and tendons or the attackers hand.
A piece of its flesh came away in her hand. She stuffed the muscle and skin into her mouth. She was no longer a victim. Her new teeth tore through it with ease. She was even growing accustomed to the darkness. She couldn’t see in it, but she could feel in it. Maybe it was a little like a bats radar, but in the darkness she knew what surrounded her. This ‘sight’ was growing in clarity within her consciousness. She grabbed another hand beside her before its claws could embed themselves into her shoulder. She crushed the bones of its fingers in hands.
She was powerful. In the darkness, she found that she was no longer trying to swim to the surface. She was now swimming into pulling force of the depths below, welcoming the embrace of its pure blackness. As she swam down, the numbness completely took over her body and heart. There was no more pain. There was only hunger and cold black rage. With her new ‘sight’ she suddenly became aware of a human form beside her. Instinctively she hated it and felt the uncontrollable urge to destroy it. As she neared it, she became aware of its small and fragile frame. It was a girl. A weak and puny girl hiding in the blackness shivering, cold, helpless, and naked.
This thing in front of her was strange. It was foreign. She wanted to destroy it, but she couldn’t remember why. As she sucked in more of the blackness, and all of the memory of pain was slowly erased from her mind, she had the momentary and simple understanding that this thing in front of her had once been her. She was looking at the pathetic weak thing that used to be her.
She thrust her clawed hand into its stomach. It struggled pathetically in her powerful grasp. She wanted to kill it and utterly destroy it. Anger and fury raged within her. She wanted to forever erase all memory of it from her dark mind.
Grey watched as the girl’s breath caught and started to become constricted. Her glassy eyes stared straight ahead. They didn’t dart about. They were just open and fixed, but there was something in that stare. It was like she was looking through our own reality into a world that was much more real than any she had ever known. As he looked into those eyes that could not see him, he pulled the gloves off of his strong hands and touched her face. Her skin was already growing cold to the touch. Instead of fighting for another breath, her body began convulsing. He grabbed the edge of her shirt where the beast had attacked her and tore it back exposing the spreading wound. The edges of the holes were unnaturally dark, and there were black spidery veins were surrounding them.
His heart swelled and broke within his chest. He looked up through the ceiling and into the mystery that lay beyond. The invisible waterfall of power that poured from those heavens flooded his body once again with a torrent of power. As the flood entered his body, Grey placed his hands directly on the wound in the girl’s shoulder. Where his hands met her flesh, he felt the warm flow of energy leaving his body. He felt as the cold black flesh around the wound slowly warmed under his hands. As the life-stream poured through him and onto her, he watched the spidery black veins slowly fade under his fingers. Her body stopped convulsing and fell completely limp. He looked intently into her blank eyes. He spoke only one gentle word to her. “Breathe.”
The girl gasped violently and jerked upright as if she was bursting through the water only moments before drowning. She screamed. Emmaline didn’t quite know if she was screaming in pain or rage.
“I’m a friend.” Grey spoke calmly to her as he released her shoulder and stepped back. “You were attacked, but you’re going to live.”
If you enjoy un-dead thrillers, check out ‘Calling Grey – A Carrion Book’. Read for free online! wp.me/P1ti0i-pV
— Jeremy Binns (@Jeremy_Binns) November 13, 2012
Thanks again for reading this chapter. It has been the most difficult to write thus far. If you’ve enjoyed the book, please share it with your friends.