Of Blood and Bones


What would you do to save your own flesh and blood? Would you kill? Would you defy all rules, all truths? Well, in a world with the Revenants anything can happen. And Imogen is about to learn that.

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1. The horrors of reality

Of blood and bones

 

 

 

Blood was everywhere. It was the main thing she saw. It was on the axe she held in her tense, blood stained hands, it was splattered like a brutal pattern on her clothes and it was even in her mouth; the metallic taste of her own blood from injuries and from biting down in hope and desperation. It formed a dark red, grungy ocean on the forest floor. Around the prone figure of her sister whose eyes were unseeing and whose pale skin was marred with blood and bites. She only hoped that she was in a better place than the corrupted, grotesque world they occupied. Blood came from the creepers that now lay eternally dead but the damage they inflicted would never be forgotten.

The creepers were originally ordinary people but then the sickness hit that caused those people to forget all reality, all morality and crave human flesh. Two factors hadn’t helped; one being the government: who kept it concealed, and the public: who outright refused to believe it, when it was released, and in a panic didn’t heed the government’s words (after all everyone lost faith in them long ago). She could never forgive them for what they did. They killed her sister. She heard a scream. She looked to the east and saw a creeper latch on to her father’s shoulder. She swung the axe into its head but her father was long gone, the light had left his eyes. Then, just as she retrieved her axe, her mother stumbled into sight, her neck was severely bitten into and a creeper lurched after her. Her mother slumped in front of her and cradled Imogen’s face in her hands. “Run,” she whispered “and never look back.” The creeper grabbed and dragged her mother backwards and a final scream was the last moment Imogen had with her mother.

She ran. She tripped; she was grabbed. She kicked. She screamed. She was free. She ran again. She had lived while her family had not.

 

Imogen awoke, her body rigid with fear, after yet another lurid nightmare. The bark of the tree trunk dug into her back and she moaned quietly in discomfort. She looked skyward to the branches above her where Leo slept peacefully; his face relaxed like a child’s, she hadn’t seen that face in a while.

 

In a way she longed for the cotton sheets and beds back at Dawsbury. Then she had to remind herself that Dawsbury was a town constructed by illusions and lies. For all of the few months she had stayed there she had thought that the town was a safe haven away from the Revenants but she, like so many others, had been cleverly deceived. She remembered how that truth came to be.

 

 

Her hands gripped the cotton sheets and her skin had a sheen of sweat. It was always that memory that haunted her, always the regret of running. But she wasn’t in the forest any more she was in Dawsbury, the village that preserved and protected human life (that was what the motto was anyway), there were no creepers or Revenants, as she had been taught to say, there; they dwelled behind the fence. She was safe. Imogen swung her feet off of the bed and on to the cold floor. She sighed and looked at the two capsules she had ‘forgotten’ to take in her stubbornness to not be drugged for once. Silently, she stood and crept across her room, avoiding creaking floorboards. Imogen didn’t want to wake the other occupants of the household as she didn’t want to alert them to her plans and worry them. Ever since she was rescued, perhaps 4 or 5 months ago, the Harden’s had taken in her from the good of their hearts – their son, Leo, had actually become her best friend. Making her way to the window, she eased it open quietly and looked out at the dark skyline. Stealthily, she climbed over the ledge and down the rose bush that curved its way up the trellis. She felt better when her feet touched the cold grass; her trembling had stilled and her eyes were less haunted and more focussed. Imogen sighed and walked with no destination in mind.

 Why did that dream always haunt her? Dr. Henley had told her because it was the traumatic stress from seeing her family die but Imogen wished that for once she could have a dreamless sleep free of the torture. She knew she would never get it. Stupid Revenants, stupid illness, stupid... she was so lost in her own thoughts that she didn’t notice the footsteps that matched hers until it was too late.  Hands snaked around her waist and a hand clamped over her mouth to prevent her screaming. A voice whispered in her ear “Now what’re doing out here?”

“Leo!” She said muffled and he laughed into her ear. Letting her go he chuckled. Leo Harden was a boy her age, 15, with sandy coloured hair and pale skin, he was a jokester and a loyal friend.

“I’m serious Gen, you’re not meant to be out here, you know because of the dead are up and walking.”

“They’re not dead, they’re just sick,” she retorted. Leo rolled his eyes. Leo thought that they were not human anymore that the person they used to be was now dead and a monster walked its place. They walked for a while in a comfortable silence.

“You had that nightmare again didn’t you?” Leo knew her like an open book so she just nodded weakly.

“How did you know I had snuck out?” she said and looked at him expectantly. They had stopped now, in the middle of the deserted path. A street light casted a weak circle of yellow onto the cracked pavement and sounds of the night; animals skittering about and calling to others, echoed all around them.

“It’s the type of thing you would do. Anyway, when I came in to check on you after dinner, I saw the pills still on the nightstand and don’t forget about the creaking floorboard right under the window.” She knew she had missed something. Leo gazed at her for a while; dirty blonde hair drawn into a hasty bun to keep it off of her face, emerald eyes darting around, only holding on a place for mere seconds before checking others, in a wild panic, teeth pulling at the chapped lips in worry. He was withdrawn from his studies by her exclamation of ‘what’s that?’ His gaze followed hers to rest on the line of light in the crack of a door. Who would be awake at this hour? He nodded at her and they crept slowly up to the door, standing as still as statues in the shadows, eyes peeled to the scene inside.

It was Dr. Henley’s office and inside stood the Doctor and the Governor. The Governor was a brute of a man with a livid scar running down his left eye, but he kept them safe and maintained the peace. Veins stood out on the muscles of his forearm, which protruded from his black tee-shirt, his hands rested on the gnarled wood of the Doctor’s desk. “So ya telling me that we lost the girl, our forces killed their entire guard and ya let a little 5 year ol’ girl get away,”

The Doctor was an ant compared to him as he sat shrunken in his leather chair “I know she is immune to the disease but what would you do if we retrieved her, how would you hide her from her?” Who was the ‘her’ and the little girl they were talking about?

“We need her to cure my family down in the basement as for the sister; she won’t have a chance against me,”

“But this is Imogen Robson we are talking about here,” Imogen felt her blood run cold... it couldn’t possibly be – no her sister was dead; she watched it with her own eyes. “Once she knows we have her sister, Lyra, she won’t rest until she has our heads.” The Governor snorted and consulted the map in front of them, and then he shook his head.

“Just get her,” He said and barged out into an adjacent room. The kid’s heard the Doctor reply that their forces were too tired. Imogen couldn’t believe it, she had been lied to. While she stood motionless Leo went in and grabbed the map from the table and shut the door. He herded her away to the watch wall (a huge wall of tires built just inside of the fence) the guard sat slumped along it, asleep. He wrote a note, from the paper and pen he removed from his pocket, and manoeuvred her out of the fence. The note said ‘you cannot trust the Governor, he has lied to you, Imogen’s sister is alive and the Governor has killed hundreds to get her, hundreds of innocents. That could be you next if you stand in his way. Get out of Dawsbury, the Governor is not who he says he is.’ Leo knew that they would be considered traitors to the Governor by dawn.

Imogen only ‘woke up’ when she noticed the horror all around them.

 Reality was hell. It was a conclusion she reached so easily and it startled her. Nothing could’ve prepared her. Time, stubbornness and medication had dulled the intense truth of her dreams and so now everything was contorted. The stench lingered in her nostrils, the moans of the dead immortal despite them being non-existent at that moment. She and Leo had just slain an undetermined amount of Revenants with weapons from the stash at the outer base of the wall. Her chest heaved. They pressed on further, albeit rather slowly.

 

Due to the map the hideout of the people who had had her sister was a prison on the east side of the Rue River. The trek was uneven and they had crashed in a high tree with a stomach full of bread and rationed water. Imogen woke Leo and started the day much as they had ended their last, with a few bites of bread from Leo’s satchel (he always took a bag of basic provisions with him, in case of an emergency) and a handful of dark berries from the nearby bushes. They started on their long journey.

It was filled with quiet conversations and weapons raised in fright of creatures ambushing them. Every miniscule sound was a danger to them. After all they were only 15 years old who had only been given training on practice dummies, not on real life terrors.  There were a few Revenants but nothing too unmanageable. The dilemma came when they reached the river. The only way to get across was to either swim or cross an intricate path of moss covered stepping stones. Only one could go at a time. Imogen barely made it; one foot planted on one the other nearly missing the next. Leo didn’t, he crashed head first into the water, and the chill froze his insides and shook his movements. The map was their only hope and they couldn’t wait to reach the prison. For Imogen it was her life line, her sister was alive. After all of this time reliving her death, she was alive and well and, above all, immune to the curse of the Revenants.

 

But when they reached the prison they were shocked at what they saw. Dead littered the floor. Holes were blasted in the otherwise blood stained walls. The army who had moved through here had shown no mercy, all for a little girl and her immune blood. There was only one body that was untarnished, the last survivor. The woman wore a thick band of scarlet rubies that circled her neck. It gave the impression that her throat had been slit, ironic in her death. Hope diminished. Imogen choked up, they were all dead and yet her sister was supposed to have survived this. Leo cleared his throat once than twice more before he could speak “She mustn’t be far,” With those words he herded her out of the carnage.

From there they didn’t know where to go, they had only heard of the prison. So they wandered. Then they heard the moans. Trouble had arrived. And at the centre of it all was a small cabin. A cabin surrounded by Revenants begging to be let in. They were jerking like road kill, their skin necrotic, and they had blood-rimmed eyes. They were malodorous as they reeked of sludge and rotten flesh. One gnawed on the entrails of a man by the door, her sister’s final sentry. Imogen was soul-harrowed as they caught the smell of live specimens and stumbled towards them.

The next moments were of panic stricken stabs of her axe, passing through heads and scattering brains. Guttural moans invaded her senses and she just stabbed and stabbed through the spine chilling nightmare. Leo wasn’t doing any better he killed Revenant after Revenant ending their pitiful, cursed lives. They came towards him with the spasms of the damned and he killed the abominable creatures. He didn’t know whether he – they, were going to survive this, but he couldn’t think of any better way of going. He was in Imogen’s company and that was all that he wanted. In his distracted state he felt a demonic hand clasp onto his shoulder and rake their fingers down his flesh, tearing it into a hellish pattern of ribbons. His eyes went large and his mouth opened in a silent scream yet he drew his weapon into its brains and watched as it slumped down onto the ground. A path had opened up and they both ran, throwing open the door and slamming it shut just as a herd pressed their dead weight up against it. The bolt was thrown and they gazed around the room.

 

A small child laid huddled behind a mirror a small butter knife held in her hand. Once the child saw her she broke out with a shout “Gen,” Imogen ran towards her and huddled her up in her bloodied arms. Her movements restricted by a glimmer of sanity.  Her sister had grown. Though it had only been a handful of months, her youth was still kept but her mind seemed wiser, her eyes more conscience to the terrors of the world. Leo was happy, even though he felt a trail of bile rise in his throat, Imogen was more awake then he had ever seen her. In the first few weeks he had saw a girl staring out of the window, lost in her own world, a girl who awoke everyone with her blood curdling screams. He slumped down the door and muttered some words. Only then did Imogen take notice.

 

With a barely repressed panic she inspected his wound. “You can’t turn with just a scratch, can you?” He shook his head and then it hurt to do so... he never knew it started this quick.

“No one knows, they think it’s just a bite but this could do it.” He wheezed. Lyra stood close by nervously.

 

Later, time couldn’t be kept in this hellish world, Leo felt himself pass into the feverish world and saw his father, the dirty useless lump that he was, with a belt in hand and a rage in his eyes and then the eyes turned dead and rabid as they left him chained in the basement. He saw Imogen happy with his arms around her and then it turned into him chomping on her arm, teeth cracking through bones. He didn’t want that. “Gen... Kill me.” She was startled at his request.

“What? No, I can’t do that, you’re just delusional.”

“I... can’t come back and hurt you... I just won’t do it.”

She couldn’t do it either. Leo was someone she couldn’t bear to leave behind nonetheless kill. She loved him, and yet she couldn’t see him as a Revenant, she couldn’t bear to be turned (as selfish as that was). Some part of her might have wanted to have turned to be with her parents and with Leo but who would look after Lyra.  “Kill me,” he whispered and she got up, her decision made. Lyra screamed somewhere in the distance “No Genny, don’t.” But Imogen didn’t hear her; it was as if she was underwater. Her hand clasped around her axe.

“I love you,” Leo gasped,

“I love you too,” Imogen said and kissed his feverish lips. She swung her axe. His eyes closed, with a sigh of pleasure of knowing that the girl he loved, loved him back. He would die happy. She would never forgive herself. The blade came in contact with his head. It rolled onto the side. Lyra screamed again.

 

Blood was everywhere; it was the main thing she saw. But despite it she gave Leo a service where she recounted past memories and wept with raw sorrow. And as she walked out of the door of the cabin, with her sister’s sweaty hand in her own, she realised something; she was alive, her sister was too, yet she had never hated herself more.

 

 

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