Ieuan Holt: ‘Mors Terrea’
My name is Ieuan Holt, I am a second-year student studying English and Creative Writing at the University of Plymouth. I started writing only last year after I left my position as an Officer within Merchant Navy to pursue my goal of becoming a horror writer. ‘Mors Terrea’ follows the story of Long Thing, an entity that dwells on the salt plains of a post nuclear event earth. Sat in a rocking chair, Long Thing battles with the physical pain caused by its aversion to duty and the voices of an all too human past that haunt the recesses of its mind.
On the shores of a dead sea, something long struggles with a rocking chair, that craves for motion.
It must not move.
To move was to disturb the bells. Those globular tumours of immaculate gold that adorned the chair’s spine, radiating white under the phosphorous sun, as if it were proud, showing off its affliction, on show to a world that had lost its sight. A quality that had been disregarded along with the ability to stop, to think and finally to reason. Long Thing had witnessed it all. Entire languages, cultures and people, traded away all for the fulfilment of a single word to the most atomic of proportions.
To be and not to be, there was no choice in the matter anymore. To live by one was to be eaten by the other. Except for Long Thing and its leg like limbs, that it had buried deep into the ground, slick with sweat that oozed. Each one was a criss-crossed network of veins that had wormed their way up the length of its lanky form. From bruised wrists, all the way to the stray lengths of black hair that still clung to Long Thing’s scalp, the veins beating in unison against the scorched skin, as if in defiance of the perpetual state of motionlessness it had enforced upon itself. Its arms and legs were like the surface of a meteor ridden moon, the blanket of its greenish yellow skin a cratered mess of congealed red sores that had forgotten how to heal. Silent it sat, a splash of decayed colour against a landscape that was otherwise devoid of life, whose surface stretched in unbroken strokes from bleak horizon all the way to the one that still tasted of chemical death.
A different kind of death hung around the chair and its pocked flesh occupant; air as heavy as a corpse left too long in summer’s embrace, suffocated the senses. Dotted amidst the anchored limbs lay the source of the rancid smell. Tools that reeked of rusted rot, coloured in the orange and blue sores wept along their metallic edges. Instruments meant to cut, and chop at things that had all but been burnt away, left uprooted by distant detonations. Despite how much things can change; purpose has a funny way of staying somewhat the same. The slithers of dried flesh that had jammed themselves in-between the moving parts of the blades, like tissue used to stop a leak, would have argued otherwise.
To cut…chop… to provide?
Always the one to provide. A role performed so that meaning could then exist in which someone could find… purpose. A burden disguised as a promise. Even in the cold nights, duty still whispered to it. No matter how still it sat, the voices of the past continued to echo against the walls of Long Thing’s mind, a place that once resembled Eden now turned prison. Their persistent calls were like the weakening punches of the vengeful dying. Move. What are you doing? Have you forgotten about us? Please… we are so very hungry… we know you can hear us… look behind the rock… we are still here… you know that we are still here… MOVE… Mothe-
Something in its leg twitched.
I must not.
If it were to pander to the pleading voices and the failing muscles in its legs, then the chair would grant the bell’s dearest wish. Free to ring out to those that could still listen to its cancerous tune, like a town crier welcoming a plague into their village with open arms. Even now under the afternoon glare, on the borders of consciousness, the memories of their toll lingered in infectious tinnitus, along with the faces that Long Thing could not bring itself to completely forget. Haunted notes that had damned any chance for Silence to remain silent, forced to forever scour ruined cities, charred forests, and mountains for a single slither of a past self that could not be regained.
At least there was some freedom in that. Not shackled by a sense duty and the horrors that it entailed. Familial faces that stalked the night-time shores. Tortured things of hunger made manifest, their eyes glimmering with unforgotten youth, like gems caught in the waves of a sea, coloured in the black of nightmares. A never-ending mass of nuclear flesh that roiled to the incessant grinding of teeth.
Endless in their need.
There was a time when Long Thing would try to run. But the bond that it shared with those creatures that lurked, could not be severed, for it had been left too long intact. No matter how many miles it managed to put between the chair and the searching host; the toll of the bells would still be just one step behind, and in its wake the things would follow with childish laughter, as if it were all but a game to them. And so, wherever Long Thing hid they would inevitably seek… and always find.
Each time, they would carry Long Thing back and to place it onto the rocking chair that could not… would not let it forget that they, and their needs, still existed. A wooden reminder that it’s duty… it’s promise, would forever remain the same as the promise that it had made on the day that they took their first breaths of the long-lost Eden air. Cut… Chop… Provide…Nurture.
I must not move.
With the presence of the new voice, something cold stirred within the depths of Long Thing’s mind. To the echo stumbled steps, it emerged out from behind the rock that was its prison. There was no time. Before Long Thing was even able to repel its approach, its hands had already clasped around its consciousness with all the tenderness of a lover brought back from the dead. It squeezed.
Why are you fighting my love… isn’t this what you wanted? For them to grow up to be big and strong… for them to never leave you… Isn’t that what you said in the hospital… Too late to go back now; you will have to see them again my dearest… I always thought you were too kind to them, even back then when their skin was still pink and new… Don’t you see it… you must pay the price for your inability to let go… for your attachment…
“I will not move,” Long Thing said stuttering to the empty air, its eyes welling up with tears as the voice’s mind forged hands released its hold. It was too late.
It had done its damage.
Sharp pangs of fraying ligaments tempted the anchored limbs into a flinch, flashing up bundled nerves like sporadic lighting. Long Thing’s humanoid face scrunched, unable to stop its pocked lips from falling into a tremor. Its eyes fixated on the speckling horizon, pupils widening as dark dots began to splatter along its length, like droplets of ink spreading their stain over an old piece of paper. Growing and growing, till the worlds edge was consumed by an organic night.
Laughter clattered and rattled against the inside of the Long Thing’s skull in successive waves that mimicked the motion of a rocking chair. Something in its legs splintered and then broke. Its vision faded; the tinnitus licking at its cold skin…
Come on, there is no point sitting around now silly. We’ve found you… You made us come out from behind the rock… Our rock… We need you… daddy is buried too deep for him to help us. Only you can…We can’t…Yes, we’ve tried but you are so very good at it… cut… chop… you’ll always provide, won’t you? Please don’t leave us alone again… Why aren’t you smiling…
“Don’t you love us anymore?” said the voices that were no longer inside Long Thing’s head, their tone a vortex of distorted speech, conjured by the staggered utterance of a million disjointed childlike mouths, their words forced through the grind of teeth and the tolling of the chair’s bells.
“Of course, I do,” the Long Thing replied, its eyes focusing on what had replaced the chemical sky above. Things that were not quite human, coloured in the darkest tones that the pallet of radiation had to offer, writhed around the space in which the chair occupied. At the centre of the circling dome of flailing limbs and salivating jaws that snapped and tore at one another, the Long Thing reached down for one of its tools, hands clasped white around the handle of a pair of oxidised shears.
Stillness seeped into surrounding maelstrom. Irradiated eyes glued themselves onto the forearm that now lay between the two blades. It had not thought it would be like this. A special bond that only family could forge, boiled down to the last three words that could define their relationship.
Cut… chop… provide…
“Don’t you worry. Oh my sweet sweet children,” it said wincing, tears trickling down its screwed up face and onto the outstretched arm, leaving pockmarked craters on its shaking, bleeding flesh, “Mother always does.”
She had not thought it would end up like this.
Anything but this.
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