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Fantasy Crime Fiction

Can you see the blood on my hands?

Me neither, but I know it’s there. I can feel it, like acid on my skin. It writhes and burns, and sometimes, just out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of it. But not often.

I don’t know whose blood it is, and I don’t know how it got there. I have no memory of it. I have no memory of anything apart from the last two days. Two days ago, I opened my eyes, and found myself standing in small general store, my hand outstretched to pick up a can of beans. It never made it. I just stood and stared at my hand, seemingly floating and disembodied from me; that’s when I felt the burn of the unseen blood. I snatched my hand back and put it under my jacket; that’s when I realized I didn’t know where I was, and I didn’t how I’d got there.

I stumbled out of the store and into the blinding sunlight outside. The frigid air-conditioned atmosphere of inside gave way immediately to a hammer-blow heat that took my breath away. The grey tarmac parking area was dwarfed by the desert prairie stretching away to the horizon on either side. A huge 18-wheeled truck rushed by on the blacktop road, swirling up a choking dust that danced in the scorched air.

So, I started walking. Across the parking lot, out over the blacktop, its gritty surface stretching into shimmering infinity in either direction. And I kept walking. Out over rock-strewn sand, the heat sapping at my strength with every step, the sun seeking every exposed part of my skin, to burn and gouge. And I kept walking.

The night came suddenly, I awoke with my cheek pressed hard against a rock. The sun was gone, and the heat had fled with its passing. Now the night sky was resplendent with a shining belt of stars, and where the sun had gouged and burnt my skin, now the chill night air clawed at it. I don’t remember falling, but I suppose I must have. Getting unsteadily to my feet I could feel the grazed abused skin of my palms and knees where I must have struck the ground.

The pangs of hunger beginning to tear at my insides, were as nothing to the thirst that plagued my sandpaper dry throat. And I walked on. Although there was no moon, the dim light of the sparkling star array above illuminated the ground around me.

The second night is ending now. The stars have spun their course and have slowly faded as the rising sun works its way towards the far horizon. There is a grey line in the East, it silhouettes the far away mountain tops that scratch the surface of the sky. I found water in a shallow rock bowl, late yesterday afternoon? The memory is vague now, but I know the sun was sinking although the air around me was still afire with its heat. Warm and brackish tasting, hidden in the lee of a rocky outcropping, I had slumped into its shadow and pressed my face fully into the liquid bliss.

I think I may have eaten during the night. I can feel dry, sticky blood around my lips, but I don’t when I ate, or what it was. The blood on the front of my filthy, ragged shirt is visible at least. Unlike the blood staining my hands, which steadfastly refuses to show itself, just burns me with unrelieved flame.

And I walk on.

My feet are bloody, and feel as though they are glass pierced. Blisters formed, burst and formed again. Tortured flesh in my boots complementing tortured flesh on my exposed skin. The sun has flayed me, and the unseen blood torments me. And still, I walk on.

The unremarkable desert is slowly revealing itself as the sun’s rim pierces the horizon. Scrub bushes, rock strewn sand, and a mist at the distant pinnacle of my vision. The pain has become a part of me, moulded itself to me, partnered itself to my being. I welcome it now. I have stopped moving. Swaying gently in the slow dawn breeze, pre-cursor to the harsh heat-driven wind that will soon scour me once again. There is a darkness at the edge of my vision, and I can feel my thoughts crumbling. Memories crowding at the back of my mind, seeking a way through the pain-haze, trying to inflict their actuality against me. I do not want them.

The unseen blood is dripping from my hands, running down my face, eating the flesh away with its acidic kiss. I do not want it. I need to walk on, but cannot move my rooted feet. I do not want to remember. I do not want to see them.

The mist has crawled closer now. Rolling towards me in billowing contempt, its damp fingers seeking to clutch and hold me still in a deadly amorphous embrace. It swirls around me, denying the early light of the sun, covering me in a grey blanket of chill dankness.

I cannot walk on.

The memories are crowding now, pushing their way through, forcing entry.

I deny.

I deny.

I deny.

I…acquiesce.

Then…..my vision swims. It clears, slowly, deliberately. My hand is hanging in the air in front of me, outstretched, reaching for…a can of beans. The general store resolves itself around me, the clerk looking from behind the counter, a puzzled frown marring his glance. Other shoppers have ceased their conversation and turned towards me, countenances swimming with fear, shock, amusement.

Did I say something? The chill air conditioned breeze has dried the sweat on my face, and the memories….the memories are there.  The memories of what is yet to be. They have settled, a flock of crows feeding and tearing at my sanity.

I remember. I remember what I am going to do. My hand drops from the shelf, steals beneath my jacket, and alights on the cold handle of what is concealed there. The fear now is palpable in the small store. The individuals there can feel/see my intent.

Of course you cannot see the blood on my hands. I have yet to place it there…..yet.

ENDS

January 07, 2021 10:51

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2 comments

Laura Woodside
10:35 Jan 16, 2021

I enjoy the feel and the flow of your story and your wording is well chosen. I would just be careful about mixing past and present tense. Overall, well done.

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David Francis
11:13 Jan 16, 2021

Thanks Laura - much appreciated. I got confused myself with the mixed tenses in this story. The narrative just tumbled out of me and clearly needed a bit of a polish in editing:-)

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