Presque Vu
rating: +17+x

Content Warning

This entry contains suicide, graphic child death, spousal abuse, and miscarriage, alongside general imagery and themes of death.

The mud easily gives way under foot, your boot sinking into the dense stuff, a mixture of water, dirt, wood splinters, and ash. The slime climbs up just to your shin, sticking with you for a moment after you draw your foot out, falling heavily back to the ground. It's been like this for miles, your legs weary with the effort.

The bird flies overhead, wings rigorous, dead, propelled by the chronic cough of diesel.

This place likely used to be a plain of vibrant grass, trees dotting the landscape, until it was mulched by fortification, trenches, and artillery. You can almost hear the boots digging into the same ground as you, shouts ringing out through the still air amidst the pop! pop! pop! of distant gunfire. But it's just your mind wandering. Everything is still, quiet, save for the squelching of the mud. The only movement is your body and the swirl of unknowable particulates behind you as you disrupt their idle suspension in the air.

The flotsam suspended in the sea of air isn't from the intranational conflict— a symptom of the greater whole— it's from what leveled all of the trees in the area, charred and scorched, spat on the land and left in its wake the detritus of the gods, ichor spilled, toxic to mere mortals, cancerous and hot. The thick plastic suit you're wearing is keeping you safe from the remnants, what's left after the blood has faded, but it's a furnace, trapping in body heat and coating your skin in sweat and fog. The rubber mask that encases your head keeps your lungs from being coated, latching on like an industrial petromyzon, till you cough yourself to death, like so many before you, but the scent permeates, rot and stagnant water.

It's a mockery. Twisted and bent, brash and horrific. But not an insult. Adoration.

You trudge forward, unfocused on the path ahead, lost in nothing, letting everything fade to white noise, whittling the nothingness away.

Your tranquility is disrupted when you spot a disfigurement in the distance, a benign lump on the terra epidermis. Curiosity propels you forward slightly faster, desperately searching for anything that could break the monotony of no man's land. The very same curiosity's nearly gotten you killed before, you have a crater on your left shoulder blade to remind you, little shards of metal that never left still scrape the bone occasionally. Jackass in his little shanty in the woods with his hollow point stash. But you find it hard to resist the urge, falling back onto gambler's fallacy as you remember all the times you've found interesting things or met kind people by following your draw towards the unknown and likely unsafe.

The abomination of modernity soars high up, fearful of its own cargo. Six nations away from its nest, homesick and crafty.

As you get closer and closer to the mound, you realize that it's a small, cubic lump of concrete, a double door sitting in the top. Just beyond, maybe forty feet away, is the ruins of what was once a house, only the foundation and some rubble left. You walk up to the doors and knock, the hollow sound ringing out, disrupting the unnatural silence of no man's land. If someone's in there, you want to know before you try going in. The clangs of your fist on the metal dissipate, the eerie quiet settling heavily again.

Nothing.

Below lies the superpower, burning and writhing, full of war-ending potential. A parasite twitches, the bird responding lazily, stomach opening.

As you sit and wait for some kind of response, you notice that sitting some twenty feet away from the doors are two graves. Curiosity again drags you away from your focus, bringing you to the graves: two crosses made of scrap wood, stuck into the ground next to one another, the left one placed just before a noticeable mound, the other without any sign of burial.

"HUGO" is carved into the wood of the left marker, "PERCY / PENELOPE" into the right one.

You don't spend much time at the graves, no point in it. You're a carrion-eater, but not of that ilk. You haven't stooped so low.

Forehead, chest, shoulder, shoulder. Kiss. Pleading forgiveness. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's.

Returning to the doors, you knock again, but there's still no response. Opportunity takes its turn to knock, whispering for you to wrap your hands around the handles and pull.

So you do.

Bombs away.

Much to your surprise, the doors open wide, no locks or chains keeping them secure, the hinges screeching out in protest as rust crumbles. Dampened sunlight falls into the bunker, revealing a ladder that goes down maybe eight or ten feet. Laying at the bottom is a length of chain and an open padlock. You shout into the hole, calling to see if anyone responds.

Nothing.

You toss one leg over the lip, resting it on the first rung, before following with the other, beginning your decent. The ladder's in good condition, you don't worry too much about falling through a decrepit foothold, but the scarring where rebar impaled your thigh is a constant reminder to be careful.

At the bottom, you stand in a pillar of light, like an actor standing before a silent audience obscured by darkness. Something lingers here, the phantoms of days gone, apparitions leering at you, wallowing in the standing dust. You shake the feeling off. Slipping your backpack off of one shoulder, you grab a flashlight from within before sliding it back on.

The metal is surprisingly cool, sucking up heat from your gloved hand. You aim the flashlight forward, resting your thumb on the rubber button, and push until you hear a dull click.

You swing your flashlight beam around, taking in the small hallway that's appeared before you. Just beyond it, only twenty feet away, the light slips into a larger room. The walls are concrete, a dull grey and beige reminiscent of a prison. Next to you, there are four pairs of boots. Three are adult sized, the last pair sized for a kid, maybe six or seven, if you had to make a guess. On the wall, above the shoes, six rebars stick out, acting as hangars for a set of backpacks. Above each backpack, written with chalk, are names rendered in rough, lopsided handwriting.

DAD MOM GRANDPOP BIG BRO BIG SIS ME

The backpacks under "BIG BRO" and "BIG SIS" are missing.

You pick up a pair of adult sized boots that're a size larger than yours, inspecting them. They're barely worn, still in good condition. You tie the laces together, running them through a loop on your backpack. The bags are all unzipped, seemingly having been rummaged through, but plenty of good supplies still sit in them in spite of the apparent looting. You stow away some first aid, a few energy bars, and hydrating salts from the backpacks.

As you walk down the hallway, a new stench makes itself known, worming its way through your mask. The putrid scent is all too familiar. You feel bile rising up in your throat, your stomach churning, but you manage to swallow it away before it slips out, leaving only an acrid burn on the back of your tongue and throat. Images of grey flesh and snow white writhing maggots fill your mind.

You take a few deep breaths, trying to adjust to the scent, fighting off less and less vomit each time. You shut your eyes tightly, clenching your fists and flexing your jaw, before continuing on.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License