Here We Lie By Consent

So I follow it through. And then I’m somewhere else.

It takes me a few seconds to get my bearings, and before it happens, I feel the giant mitt on my ankle, and I’m in the air, spun around in a circle, and I’m flying.

Well, not so much flying. It’s more of a ragdoll affair.

Doing what I do, you learn to interpret random data fast, and as I flip through the air, end over end, I make out the standing shapes, loose teeth in a broken grey mouth, as the ground zips past beneath me. I’ve no idea how the thing got behind me, got to grab me, so fast… it didn’t look that nimble.

Yeah, yeah, hunter becomes the hunted, all that. Laugh it up, smart-ass.

Old stone, specifically an old grave marker, looks like brittle biscuit snapping when something, say a human body, hits it at speed. My rolled up body and I can tell you that it doesn’t feel as painless as it looks, although I can’t tell you what causes the most hurt, because I hit the ground and bounce once before I hit the first stone. As soft as dirt is when it’s fresh dug, it can feel like concrete when you hit it like that.

So, like a badly thrown bowling ball in some gothic-themed alley, I’ve ripped through some old corpse’s final signature, and bounced at least a couple of limbs off hard mud, before I’ve bled enough momentum to roll to my feet, and look back, twitched, the way I was thrown.

Nothing…

Well, not exactly nothing. As I rub my aching body back to action, I take in the scene, and work out where I am. This is the Cemetery of the Lost. It’s a popular spot, hereabouts. It’s where all the bodies of all the people that ever disappeared and never showed up are buried.

As such, that makes it the only place where the rotting remains of people that might never have even died rest. It’s also got the odd distinction of being the only place in creation where it’s possible to be buried more then once, simultaneously. If you’ve got two or more seperate groups of people, oblivious of each other, missing your missing ass, you’re in here twice. Or more times, depending.

Hell, no-one’s ever done a census of this place… for all anyone knows, if you’re a terrified mother, running through the possibilities of what can have happened to your missing kid, maybe there’s a tiny body mouldering here for every different possibility that you can think of. It’s not like there’s a shortage of space. Once you’re here, you can’t see much of anything but graves and crypts till you can’t see anything more at all.

The statues are what’s making my life difficult right now, though. Every piece of the periphery is full of standing shapes. Every few seconds I see something moving just out of range, but then I’m distracted by something else.

Getting a little freaked that I’m running out of time, I run back the way I came, bursting along the rows of stones, trying not to trip. I see a couple of dreamers, visiting a loved one’s marker down the way, but they don’t see me, so I don’t bother them.

I’m out of breath, and not seeing anything out of place, so I stop, and try to listen. No sound, except my gasping for air. But then, I notice the crypt…

Its little more, really, then a pair of stone doors in the ground, part overgrown with mold and moss, and part covered by a few dead branches. This place, created entirely out of the imagination of sleeping people, has some shocking detail to it, though. There’s an inscription carved into the stone, old and water damaged. You can’t read stuff so well, here, but you can glean meaning if you concentrate hard enough, so I give it a try. The words I can make out on the right hand tablet say:

“Here we lie by consent … sojourning through life … awaiting nature’s immutable laws to return us … we were first composed.”

The right hand slab, I can’t read the names written on it, and it’s mostly gone anyway, broken into three large pieces and sinking down into the darkness, the middle part as missing as the inhabitants of the cemetery, dropped somewhere down in the darkness beyond the doors.

I look around quickly, then look back at the broken edges of the stone. It’s fairly clear the cracks are fresh.

I’m running out of time, so with a steadying hand on the door that bears the legend, I drop down into the dark.

Through the other side, the world drops away in another direction, and I’m glad that I’m hanging on to something.

A quick look around, and it’s clear that I’m hanging from a window, somewhere waaay up above a glittering city. The immutable edge of the building that I’m clinging desperately onto curves away from me ridiculously, down toward the ground.

This is stupid, and clearly not the route the other guy took, so I squeeze my eyes shut, and when I open them, I’m hanging from a ledge, three or four storeys higher then I was before. Pulling myself up, it turns out I’m on the rooftop of the same building that I came in at.

On the other side of the roof, there’s a shifting, dusky shape, and in one large paw it is holding a sleeper, a skinny black guy in a suit, over the lip of the building, over the sleeping city.

The shape doesn’t look solid enough to be holding much of anything, but it’s easy to trust the sight… after all, it was substantial enough to grab me and throw me just a little while before.

I make to sprint across to the monster and the victim, but the ground seems to slip away from me, and I can clearly see that while over there they are moving normally, around me the molecules are slowing.

I persevere, but nothing’s doing, right up until the giant hand opens, and the sleeper drops out of sight like a stone.

Then time, elastic, snaps around me, and I’m moving. No time to go around the beast, so I throw myself forward, and burst through it. I feel as much as see the blown apart pieces of it as they flutter around me, dark matter detached. They begin to fall as I do, but then it’s as if they can’t be bothered with it, and they puff out into mothshapes, and they’re gone.

But I’m still dropping, faster and faster.

The good thing about this place? The buildings are impossibly tall.

I look down, and see the sleeper beneath me, suit flapping, eyes wide, his arms flailing around. That’s good, because it slows him down. I make an arrow out of my body, and aim it at him. We’re both still moving pretty fast, though, and there’s no way of telling whether I’m gaining fast enough.

I don’t know what the fuck is going on out there in the world, these long years since I’ve gone, but you know, it used to be that dreams were just something that happened to you when you slept. That bullshit about dying in your sleep if you die in your dreams? It never used to be true.

But I don’t know, something about you people these days, it’s like you’re far too attached to your fantasy lives… You do know that you can’t really catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, right?

Well, maybe you don’t. Because what, a few years back, and yes, I’m a little sketchy on the exact amount of time, because yes, that is a hazard of living here, word started to come through that bad things were happening to people out there, when bad things were happening to people in here. Nothing changed over on this side, so fuck knows what you lot did to mess with things.

Needless to say, a few of us decided that we should try to stop so many bad things happening to you hapless fucks while you’re visiting with us here. After all, it’s not as if the nightmares are taking a holiday any time soon.

So that’s us all up to date, and this is me, here, about to catch up to this suited sleeper. He’s screaming, and he’s looking right through me, not even noticing me when I get close enough to grab his tie, and claw my way up it till I can grab his lapels. Nice suit. It holds together.

The problem is, I took too long, and now I can actually see the ground when I look up toward it. I try to focus… like I said, time is flexible here, but you can’t often control it. I’m not sure if it’s an optical illusion caused by us moving so fast, but the lights of the street don’t seem to be moving up to us quite so fast for a few moments.

So time to wake up this schmuck. I pull him around, so his screaming eyes are looking straight into mine, and I yell at him to look at me.

He doesn’t, and then he doesn’t some more, and then, for some reason, he does.

We’re only a few seconds from the pavement, so I’m shouting again, shouting that he needs to wake up, that he needs to wake the fuck up.

He looks at me blankly, and then he starts to look round, look toward the ground, and we can’t have that, so I extend my fingers, find the flesh of his chest under his shirt and jacket, and pinch him really damn hard, just as we’re about to hit concrete.

And then he wakes up. He’s breathing hard, a little horrified, but he’ll live, and that’s what’s important, right?

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Nicolas Papaconstantinou
Nicolas Papaconstantinou is an enthusiastic amateur creative type, and the chap behind Elephant Words. Be nice to him. He growed up kinda wrong.

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