TALES OF A BLOOD EARTH: THE GAMBLE is a serial fiction series set in the world of BLOOD SKIES and BLACK SCARS.
Check out the first installment here if you missed it.
Argus woke to darkness, and the stench of the dying.
At first he couldn’t see. His body was painfully folded and twisted, and his face was pressed against something clammy and cold. It wasn’t until fluid seeped into his open mouth and made him gag that he realized where he was.
His first instinct was to panic, but Argus took a breath. His mind snapped back to what had happened before he’d passed out. He shifted his weight, only slightly, enough to pull his shoulder out from under the jawbone of the dead man on top of him. That one shift had a domino effect: he heard and felt bodies move and slide in the pile he’d been buried in.
Slowly, painfully, Argus managed to get his shoulder up and look around. His feet pushed on a dead woman’s back. Dead faces stared back at him from a sea of cadavers. Flesh walls bound him in. Every breath he took drew in the stink of decay and body sweat and bile. His lungs burned with panic.
Argus lay inside a mountain of flesh, a shifting pile of human bacon. At least he hoped it was only a mound: for all he could tell he was in a building packed wall-to-wall with corpses, but he doubted that. He could breath, and somewhere through the cracks between bodies he caught a glimpse of pale light, enough for him to just make out his vile surroundings.
The smell of the dead slid like an oyster down his throat, and the touch of gelid skin chilled him to his bones. He imagined the hands and faces reaching for him. Thankfully, none of them did.
The weight of the dead was unbearable. Every muscle roared, and Argus could barely breathe. Blood sluiced its way down fleshy pathways and fell onto his face. The weight on his back was suddenly immense, and when Argus tried to push himself up the load was almost too much for him to bear.
He tried to look through the mountain of bodies to see what lay beyond, but all that he could see were more. Dead faces had broken apart like clay. Smashed heads oozed foul fluids. Open and petrified eyes like beads of midnight glass stared at him, or out into the pale light that lay beyond. Cracked teeth seemed to smile, and the bloody rents in dead flesh stirred with flies. Argus saw jutting bones and open stomachs. The smell was something between an outhouse and a slaughterhouse, and it made the air thick and meaty.
Finally, mercifully, Argus managed to wriggle out from under the corpse he’d been wedged under. There were a few inches of breathing space between himself and a dead girl suspended in the web of corpses. Argus had enough space to move his arms, but only just. He could barely feel his legs. Every minor movement seemed to cause another body to flop or fall. He had no way of telling how many bodies were on top of him, or how many he lay atop himself.
Argus tried to calm his breathing, but his mind roamed.
He remembered the camps in the Razortooth. Fire and screaming and blood. He saw piles of bodies at the bottom of the pits. Children screamed from within them even as more bodies were shoveled down on top.
This is hell, he decided. I’m in hell now, for what I’ve done.
Argus thought that he heard voices there in the pile of bodies. He couldn’t move. Every time he tried, the mess of corpses shifted and halted his progress. He was done.
I’m imagining it. I’m going insane.
“Damn it, I said move it!”
No. That was real. It came from outside of the pile. It was a man’s voice, slightly accented, from the South.
“Help!” Argus shouted. His voice sounded cracked and distant, like it wasn’t his.
A woman screamed. He heard guttural curses, the gruff barks of the guttural Gol language.
“What the hell was that?” came a different man’s voice.
“It sounded like it came from the other side of the pile….”
“I’m in the pile!” Argus shouted. “For God’s sake, get me out of here!”
“Shut him up!” said a new voice. It was a woman.
“Keep quiet in there!” the Southerner said. “We’ll get you out, but not if you bring them down on top of us.”
Argus tried to pull his way towards the voices. Immediately a dead child’s body slid down from above and crashed onto him. Argus groaned in pain. His bones ached where the boy had landed. Argus’ breathing space was gone. His heart hammered. Bodies pushed against him from every direction. He felt them shifting, moving. He was being buried deeper.
“Help,” he said. He couldn’t draw breath enough to shout again. His skin was clammy and cold despite his sweat. His mouth was filled with a sick taste, and he felt bile in his stomach and at the back of his throat.
Argus stopped struggling. He heard bodies shift. There were sickening squelches and bones cracking. The sound of tearing.
And the sound of chewing.
Argus concentrated. It was so hard with the stench and the bodies pressing against him. He tried to move his hands, tried to move anything, but he was stuck.
The voices he’d heard had come from behind his head. This new sound came from the opposite side of the pile, from past his feet. He listened closer, and he heard gobbling and grunts, vicious moans and wet slurps. He looked down, past his feet, past a dark-haired corpse and a lady with half-a-face, and he saw something.
Teeth. Massive and white and enumerate, ripping bodies apart. Clearing a path.
Whatever those teeth belonged to, it was eating its way towards Argus.
to be continued…
Copyright © 2011 Steven Montano