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Love in the MOrasse II

In Love in the Apocalyptic Morass on September 21, 2010 at 4:24 am

Karl lifted the man’s skull with a firm grip and shoved it with all his strength on the rocks.  It made a gristled cracking sound amplified by the walls of the burned, brown valley.  He saw that the eye had come lose and was starting from the eye sockets and he closed his eyes and turned his head, but maintained his own strong fingers in a death grip that could bend steel or crush the wind from a child’s throat.  Twice, three times he smashed the man’s head into the dust covered precipice, and with the third strike the sound became a wet, dull thud and he felt the skull give way and crumple like a bag of soft fruit, and the man’s arms suddenly fell away from Karl’s throat and face where they’d scrabbled in vain.

He sat down by the yellowed stone wall jutting out of the precipice like a steeple, and looked at the body. He looked for a long time, trying not to concentrate on the smashed head and the pulp.  How long could he keep doing this?  How long could his luck hold?  How long before he met a man bigger, stronger, craftier, or more desperate than he?  He was tired and he allowed himself to sigh aloud and decided he would come back here the next morning to bury the body.  If it was still there.  The blood sun, dark and deep as a shimmering lump of lava rock pierced and hung in the sky, kept the land dying in its shimmering heat.  That bitter old sun, with nothing to do, but roast away as much life as it could every day before it too died.

Karl walked down the precipice, with that sun bearing down on his back, wary of his footing.  A long time ago (months, years?) he had spotted a deer and in his haste for its flesh had fallen and cut himself badly.  The wound became infected within a few days and grew yellow and then black around the cut.  He remembered Laura using every last bit of their splinters of soap, scrubbing them into the wound.  He remembered grimacing with pain and especially how he thought even then that the pain was nothing compared to his fear.  Not of dying, but of being lame.  He had been terrified of becoming unable to provide for her, and forcing her out of their hut into the sodden madness hell the world had become.

Death’s wide skulled grimace and cold cloak did not bother him, but the thought of Laura alone stopped his breath midway in his body and held it there.  Karl quickened his pace and carefully scanned for friends of the man he’d killed as he descended, though he knew the man had none and was just a lone scavenger spying and starving.

Karl jogged to the hut and saw Laura waiting for him, smiling.  He felt his skin tingle and lift from his toes to his face.  What was she smiling about?  I’m so happy you’re home and safe.  Me too, my little baby.  Your hands?  I had tried to kill a deer but the bugger got away.  What’s the matter?

She was touching his face, the marks of the dead scavenger’s fingers.  He cast his eyes downward.  It wasn’t a deer…you killed someone didn’t you?  Yes, I did.  He had been spying on us from above.  He would have killed us.  You don’t’ know that, maybe he just wanted some food.  Food we don’t have to spare.  We could have helped him, and learned from him, and worked together…or…or learned about where he came from – Shut up!  Do you remember the last time?  Huh?  Santiago?  My point is we don’t know, and we’ll never get out of here!  I’m sorry about that time, I was stupid…but if we’d approached him carefully.  CAREFULLY?  Bring him into our hut so he can stamp out or brains with a stone while we sleep and then take everything we’ve stored away.  This rotting meat!!!? These blankets that the cold laughs at?  These walls themselves?!!  Or…take YOU?!! I’ll be damned if I let any man safely set foot within a mile of here!  I’ll wrip his throat out, twist his arms until they crack, pull them out of their sockets, and stomp them into the putrid ground.  I’ll push their eyes into their brains, and crush…I…oh…

Laura sat silently on the floor of the hut.  She’d long ago dried up in that beautiful husk, with water too scarce to refill her wells.  She just sat there with her back slumped looking at the ground.  Karl stood over her with his palms hanging limply at his sides.  She glanced at their basket of food and supplies that had kept them alive for countless days and nights after the atomic dust had cleared and the nice old world was proven vanished.  She looked up at him and saw his eyes brimming with tears and his lips pursed and beginning to quiver.  She smiled up at him, like a child in a world without children.  She was the last one left, and he bent down and sobbed his guilt and grief.  That big malnourished bear of a man, just as he did the last time he murdered someone.

Karl walked up the stone steps to the temple and saw the Doctor waiting.  He thought he was smiling underneath the bone-white paint covering the Doctor’s face.  Karl glanced at each guard at the entryway, huge men as big as Karl but with bodies untouched by hunger.  And the secret of their strength, and the Doctor’s, lay in Karl’s arms.  The Doctor walked behind Karl as he carried the body and lay it in front of the fire.  Women lounged among the walls and blankets of the temple, some covered slightly in the heat, some fully nude.  All of them gazed languidly at Karl for a moment before staring back into the whirpool of nothingness.

Karl squinted at the fire and turned around.  The Doctor looked him from head to toe and back again, and then he grinned.

“We of the Temple of the New World thank you for your kind offering, and may your rags turn to riches and you live a long life full of love.”

Karl looked into the eyes for a moment and felt fear for the first time.  He had never seen the Doctor so happy.

“How are you, Karl?”  The Doctor was a powerful man, a man who’s gaze never wavered in one part because of his stature in the morasse and the burned plains and the junkyards, and one part because he was insane.

“I’m fine,” Karl responded.  In the swirling smoky air, the smell of burnt flesh and the toxic inscense that permeated the atmosphere of Eden, Karl felt sick.  He yearned to be outside, outside in that baked wasteland, back in his hut in the morasse.

The Doctor’s head stayed in absolutely the same physical plane, only it moved forward as if the face was being zoomed in, or his neck were extending out of his body like a monster.  The skull white face, smooth shaven, the cannibal grin, the yellow-red eyes, were now just a few inches from Karl’s own nose.

“You look very thin.  Out there, everyone, everything, withers and dies.  Even love.  I won’t ask my question again, that is, my offer, with all its original, unsullied kindness, neighborly love and generosity…my OPPORTUNITY, now will in most respects and angles be in its final phase.”

Two of the girls took the body and were preparing it for the fire, there was a large steel shaft with a point being carried by a third.  Karl wished for something to steady himself on.  The guards looked in.  He coughed, hacked, and coughed again.

The Doctor spoke again, his hands moving like two animals wrestling with each other in front of his chest, his head and body not moving, “What I am saying, dear friend Karl, is this is your last chance to join our beloved Temple.”

“I won’t,” Karl said.

“It is time to enlighten yourself, and to partake in the reality of our glorious world.”


“You’ve already killed, you’ve already done this much for your survival.  You’ve brought offerings, why do you hold yourself back?  Why cling to the past in misery?”

“He would have killed us, I did this for survival.”

“Yes, survival, in the end we do everything for survival.”

“I’m leaving.”

“What of your wife?”  The Doctor’s hands were moving faster now, and with a concerted effort he stopped them and held them against his breast.

“I told you not to talk about her!” Karl took a step forward and the guards moved into the temple before the Doctor waved them away.  The acrid smoke, the cooking man, was building up.

“I won’t cross that line, I won’t do that…”

“Why deny her a haven from the misery you live in?”

“Stop, shut your mouth, or you will receive nothing from me in the future.”

The Doctor looked at him gravely, the smile was faded.  “Look at you, Karl.  I give you this last chance because you no longer will be able to provide our Temple with anything.  Realize your situation, the carrion crawlers creep closer to you and she every night.  Your love is a selfish one, keeping her in squalor, unable to provide for her like you promised.  You deny her with your idealism, while the crows pick at her body by day and your scrounge like an animal for the carcasses and feces of the plains.”

Karl took the axe and flung it.  It went end over end over end at the Doctor.  The Doctor had raised his finger and pointed it at Karl right before the axe was thrown; it happened that the axe blade sliced through the index finger perfectly down the middle like the peel of a banana and buried between the first and second knuckle of the hand.  The Doctor looked in disbelief at his right hand and suddenly his other fingers began wiggling wildly.  He screamed at his hand, looked up and roared at Karl.  Karl paused to say something, then turned and ran out of the castle back to Laura.

1.       Murder

2.       Body to the Doctor, nasty reaction

3.       Returning home and reflection

4.       Home, fight, and shining star from above

5.       What to do?  Paranoia, decision

6.       Returning to the Temple

7.       Love