The cleric

~ a short story


art by G-ong

Observe a young woman in an apocalypse scenario, birds eye view of the streets of a wasted and burning city.

The young woman stands atop the ramparts of a building overlooking her once great city. Clouds of smoke blur the panorama before her, but she remembers. She wears a cloak, her face behind a mask letting her breathe through the toxicity in the air. From this vantage point, the streets abide an apocalypse still in-progress. Here, she bears witness to Man’s last great failing.

The streets are filled with people, in hordes. Or at least figures that used to be people.

They mill about, monsters in Man’s form. The populations turned faster than they any of them had anticipated, faster than they could move. By the time they had mobilized and implemented any countermeasures, it was too late. The whole damn world was gone. She continued to look, sighting children among the hordes. She bit her bottom lip, force of habit. So hard, in fact, she began to bleed. But she appreciated the pain – wanted it – any feeling at all.

They are hostile to the woman, but don’t immediately try to kill her when she is among them.

She could walk freely through them at this point. She didn’t fully understand why. They hadn’t the time to properly research them, and now – alone – she didn’t have the manpower or equipment. Or the motivation. Her guess was that it had been so long now, they had simply forgotten what they were. Whatever it is they were driven to do, to kill and expand themselves, to propagate their virus or disease – somehow it had faded in the years hence. Thus, she could be on the streets, side by side with monsters, if she so wished. She could even talk to them; something told her they heard her, that they could understand. But more and more, she realized it was better for her head and her heart if she remained on high, away from the chittering, mumbling masses. It was something in their eyes that made her fear for the soul of this world; it made her want to die, to finally join them…

Sometimes even able to communicate with them, she lies to them about who she is and what they are. They don’t suspect her deception. Until they do.

Years ago now, she had made contact. Of the ones safely captured in the beginning, they had attempted to train them. She and some others had spent considerable time trying to get each of them to remember who they used to be. In such endeavors, they were mostly unsuccessful. Many of them eventually tried to kill their keepers or themselves. It seemed they had retained their human desires to be free, to be sovereign beings. Being caged turned them feral in ways that their street wandering out in the world did not. However, there had a been a group, some of the oldest, turned within miles of ground zero – with which they had reached through to. They broke out of their mindlessness, re-grasping at something like consciousness. It took many days but eventually, the hostility drained out of them. Replaced by desperate confusion and incessant curiosity, they began to speak. They were at least as articulate as their former selves, if not more so. It was incredible. But they began to ask questions, about who they were and who we were. About what had happened, about the differences between us, about why they were in so much pain. She had made a conscious decision, to lie to them. Seeing them as they were, after so long, coming back to the realm of the living, to consciousness and humanity, she found she did not have the heart to weigh the truth upon them. And so they all lied to them about what they were and who we were, about reality. So much of that time is past now, she could not remember why it all fell away, why they revolted… They’d seen through the deception. Somehow. In the end, it must have been the pain.

This was her greatest regret.

Tonight she plans her redemption.

They are extremely dangerous to her now. The most feral ones are the worst. She moves from building to building quickly, trying to find her way somewhere. She carries a large sniper rifle, but doesn’t use it other than as binoculars to plan her escapes and movements. She is a “cleric,” capable of healing the beings in the streets of whatever their ailment is. But in order to heal any of them, she herself has to die. She is planning to heal as many as possible, sacrificing herself, when the time is right and the bodies around her most copious. She spends the night cautiously watching and waiting from the rooftops, searching for the right time and place…

~ adapted from a dream