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No more walks but here, old friend
John insisted on checking Kelly’s back and she leaned forward, facing the seat as the plane made its way through the night sky. He put on surgical gloves as he lifted the hem of her t-shirt and gave a sharp intake of breath. Kelly shivered and turned her head in panic.
‘Is it bad?’
He looked at her, his forehead furrowed with concern even as the medication took effect and his eyes lost focus for a moment.
‘There’s swelling and inflammation plus it’s spreading. There’s fibrin knitted in there but I won’t risk cutting into it here.’
Kelly gave a choked sob.
‘What the fuck is fibrin?’
John swallowed as his face tightened.
‘It’s a protein which knits damaged tissue together. I’m familiar with it because I produce it when I change.’
Kelly tugged her t-shirt down and turned around.
‘Am I changing?’
He shook his head and raised his hands.
‘Kelly, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. I’ve tested everything in myself and there are no traces of anything resembling what I have.’
She leaned into his space and pointed at him as tears welled up in her eyes.
‘Have you fucked anyone since you’ve -‘
He shook his head, scowling as he stood up and peeled off the gloves, looming over her as his chest rose.
‘If I thought for a second it was possible, I wouldn’t have touched you.’
Kelly swallowed her shame and got to her feet. The skin on her back pulled and she cried out. John’s instincts made him hold firm as he let her clutch at him. She thumped his chest as she wept and he held firm in the face of her anger and her fear until the blows grew listless and she rested her head in the cleft of his pectorals as his arms came around her.
The wounded, inconstant silence was all they could bear as the intercom crackled into life.
‘We’re about to descend Mr Howlett. Would you mind taking a seat, it’s a little rough tonight.’
Kelly drew back and wiped her face with her fingers.
‘Fucking tell me about it, right?’ she said.
John smiled and brushed her hair from her face.
‘If it’s any consolation, you’ll get to meet my dog.’
She frowned as she gave him a challenging look.
‘Are animals ok around you?’
He nodded and gave a faint smile as he touched her cheek.
‘I think it’s the most normal thing about you I know.’ she said.
He held her face in his hands for a moment, his eyes dark with feelings complex and primal before he lowered his eyelids and said they should sit down.
‘I left him with a kennel. I needed time apart and I didn’t want to risk anything happening to him.’
He drew back and grimaced.
‘I’d never hurt him. But there are animals which would.’
Kelly felt a wave of dizziness press down on her as she reached for the seat behind her. John found gauze and surgical tape, covered the area and sat her down.
‘Thank you.’ she said.
He nodded and sat next to her as he took her hand in his.
The plane began its descent as she squeezed his hand to show him the feelings too powerful for words. She had trusted him this far, and Kelly looked at him, wondering if it came down to that or whether she should have trusted herself. John closed his eyes and lowered his chin as he knitted his fingers between hers.
‘Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould Me man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me.’
John Milton, Paradise Lost.
He had his memories. Tableaux of sensations which he replayed with such clarity of recollection, he can no longer tell the difference between recollection and action.
His fingers recalled infant bones breaking beneath them but otherwise he remained inert, encased in thirty feet of ice, neither awake nor asleep.
He had spread his consciousness across two hundred miles of tundra, fascinated by the subtle interplay of environment and life. After he realised, he was no longer bound by ordinary notions of sensory acuity, he developed synaesthesia, chlorophyll became a diminished fifth chord. The mewling of an arctic fox cub was a caress on his face.
It was neither life nor death which defined him, but an existence in perfect symmetry between the two with the wonders of both. He had built utopia and destroyed it within himself until he believed it impossible.
The world was held apart by twenty feet of ice, impermeable and irrelevant when he had the means to move his mind outward although he had not sent his perceptions beyond the tundra for a long time. There was no point when he found mystery and beauty in the ordinary brutality of nature. Animals were predictable in their appetites, and all he had learned of man stained his memories.
There had been flares of portent in the psycho sphere which roused his attention. He felt them as a prickling surge running through his black bones and grey skin, pooling in his sinuses and behind his eye sockets until he was intimate with the texture and weight of a headache for the first time in centuries. He lived with the pressure but it was becoming a challenge to maintain his vigil.
It was midnight when the signal compelled him to action. No one witnessed the first patterns in the ice, cracks appearing and spreading over the space of hours. The impact reverberated into the air but was drowned out by the violent winds which blew across the ice.
Chips of ice leapt into the air, thrown away by the wind before larger chunks of ice loosened with the force of his blows. The cracks deepened as his blows gained purchase with a cumulative fury, borne of compulsions he had fought for centuries. When the ice broke, he pulled himself up with hands torn to the bone and bleeding as he raised his face to the sky and roared with a voice not heard by anyone living.
He crawled out and got to his feet and walked towards the source of the portent.