I open my eyes to a throbbing burn in the back of my head, whatever happened, it wasn’t good. Lifting a hand to the pain, there doesn’t look to be any blood, so at least I’m not bleeding to death.
I realise I’m lying on the cold kitchen floor, the house isn’t making a sound, complete silence. Holding onto the counter next to the sink, I lift myself up. Feeling the rush of standing upright, I hold on with both hands and let the dizziness fade. Vision blurs and the sound of blood passing through my head fills my senses for some time. The burn fades, as does the sound of life from within and my vision focuses on the garden outside.
A sheet of grey has covered everything visible, outside. Snow, maybe? Still no sounds coming from the rest of the house, or outside for that matter. I go from room to room, calling out for anyone to answer. I notice the snow has begun to fall once again outside, as it must have before I woke up.
I open the front door and feel a warm embrace of air from outside, this isn’t right. Warm snow? Kneeling at the front porch I touch the grey and it crumbles under my hand.
Ash, and it’s falling more now, settling into piles around my feet.
I take a few cautious steps into the fluttering curtains of low visibility and the piles around my feet kick up into larger clouds. I twist and tuck my hair into my jumper to keep it from the peculiar weather, holding the sleeve up to my face so I can breathe without inhaling any of it.
Thinking logically, if I can’t see anyone in my neighbourhood, surely there should be someone in the centre of town. So I begin my walk, it’s a short distance, only taking a few minutes. The ash is falling harder now, and even with a slow breeze brushing against my exposed cheeks and forehead.
Breathing through the jumper has quickly became more than essential as the ash is so thick I have to hold my other hand out and really squint to see even a small distance ahead of me. Eventually I stumble against a small wall of stone, smooth and cold despite the heavy warmth lingering over the town.
I’ve reached the fountain, meaning I must be in the middle of the town square. I’ve made it to the centre and still nothing or nobody, nothing makes a sound except the crunch underfoot.
Kneeling next to the fountain, holding it with one hand for support, falling into this ash would be a bad idea, it’s nearly knee height now. I reach a hand down and my hand makes contact with something pointed, harder than ash should be. I grab whatever it is and lift it up closer to see, it’s a crystalline structure, reflecting what little light is coming from above.
A wind picks up and blows a large volume of the collected ash from behind and a steady whirlwind forms a distance away, clearing the nearby area and revealing a dead town square, and crystal formations all over the ground. They must be forming as the ash falls, revealed in the brief moment of clarity from the blankets of soot surrounding them.
The whirlwind subsides in gradual stages and within the walls of ash is revealed a larger structure. Flashing dull moments of light from above its clear that the crystals aren’t simply random, they’re purposeful.
Before me, a small number of feet away I see a clear silhouette of jagged legs, a torso and slowly forming arms, ending in long sharp fingerlike shapes. The sight of this creature rushes to my head and like before I have to hold onto something for support. Stepping back towards the fountain I grip with one hand and breathe through the jumper, as the ash gathers in front of me.
Through the smog, I can see the creation of the creature has accelerated even as I turned away only briefly. The hardened figure has wrapped itself in the ash falling around it and is now a softened form, compared to the craggy sharpened skeleton inside. With no distinguishable head or neck, just a large bump resting on its shoulders, it opens into one big jaw and screams a most deafening scream.
Whatever it was, the creature in front of me is what happened to the town.
My grip on the fountain quickly changes to a push and I’m running in the opposite direction, now consciously aware that the crunch coming from the ground is the birth of even more of those things. Screaming is useless, there is nobody to hear.
I am all that is left.
Another guttural scream sends a sharp pain through my head and the ash around me stops, suspended in mid-air the ash defies the very forces pulling it to the ground and everything is visible. I see the creature now, crystal clear.
It moves for the first time, the sound is similar to stone grinding against glass, scraping and scratching as, no doubt, the joints I just saw form have never moved before. The movement is clear and defined, it now faces me. With a decided determination and a puff of ash…
– – –
So that was my first A to Z post for the month of April. It’s exciting to be writing and publishing my ideas again and at this point that seems to be all they are, ideas.
Throughout the month of April, as I post a new piece every day corresponding with the next letter in the alphabet (so tomorrow will be B) I hope to improve as I did last year.
Thanks for reading.