Disclaimer: I have not profited monetarily from this venture, nor do I claim original ownership of the characters or setting.
Summary: Sitting in a corner / Closed eyes [ a cockroach / a boy ]
Note: Extremely experimental. Written in response to the_moonmoth 's prompt: "Jim, comfort, images only, no context." This probably would not have worked if it weren't fanfiction. Also, the title is from a TOS episode, but the content of the piece is not related to it in any way.
That Which Survives
Sitting in a corner, yellow light filtering the windows, hay scattered on the ground, wooden beams arching overhead. The smell of dust and dry. Smell of drought. Everything helter skelter, benches overturned, metal chains dangling, door swinging and creaking every so often.
Knees drawn up. Brown-red-purple scabs across knobby knees, dried and cracking like the earth itself. Pick at them, split them open out of morbid fascination to forget the constant gnawing in throat-stomach-body. Lick the ooze and taste the salt, moisture on chapped lips, when hunger and disgust hit viscerally.
Close eyes. Close eyes and pull knees tighter, wrap arms around. Lean back against the wall, close eyes and everything turns to darkness. Darkness and silence, vastness and emptiness. Empty like a stomach, vast like cruelty, dark like so much blood, silent like death. Deep and wide, closed eyes. Deep like a dried well, wide like fields of scorched grain.
a cockroach, following the two-legs as they sweep through space and colonize planets despite the best efforts at decontamination procedures, through compound eyes sees 3572 fragments of a two-leg nymph-almost-roach sitting in the corner of an abandoned barn, exoskeleton torn, fluid leaking, eyes closed, un-insectlike expression on its face
a boy, opening his eyes, sees a cockroach skitter across the floor. he watches, impassive. the air changes. inhale. he watches carefully now, rises cautiously, bending brown-red-purple knees. then lunges and grabs
legs squirm, antenna twitch, wings push, head squeezed between flesh fingers. legs still wriggling as the boy-nymph-roach shoves it all into his mouth, chews, swallows, reveling in the juice the protein flowing down his esophagus sliding to his stomach. taste buds rebel, stomach clenches threatening to expel, but he keeps it down
Sitting in a corner, faint pinpricks visible through aluminum silicate glass, deck hard and polished and cold, castrodinium beams curving in an engineer’s wet dream. Away from the hydrogen peroxide, away from the isopropyl alcohol, away from the beeping monitors and the freaky whir of the tricorder.
Hands spread against the window. Knuckles sharp, nails torn, palms covered in blisters, skin tinted strange blue in the darkness. Hands pressed to the stars as if to catch them. Galaxies slip through his fingers, sand through a sieve. On the left wrist dangles a bracelet meant to monitor his condition. He disabled it.
Close eyes. Close eyes and clench hands into fists like hammers that shatter ships, punch holes that’d rip everything apart from the inside out due to the pressure differential. Lean forward, forehead resting on the view. Darkness and silence, vastness and emptiness. Empty like a colony, vast like despair, dark like memory, silent like a heartbeat.
a cockroach, scuttling in the dark spaces between engines and life support systems, crawling through ventilation shafts, foraging through replicator waste, through two rear cerci senses the breath of a two-leg, the erratic warm breeze that disturbs the stillness of the cold air. the two-leg sinks to the floor, endoskeleton torn, fluid leaking, eyes closed
a boy, opening his eyes, sees a cockroach not two feet from him on the floor. it remains very still, then delicately moves forward, antenna probing its surroundings. he watches carefully, half memory half curiosity
the soft, sticky padding of insect feet, the rhythmic movement of six legs, the spiky hairs like the thorns of a thistle. two long, almost graceful antenna flexing up and down. suddenly, he flips it on its back and stares at the writhing and thrashing, until it stops and lies there. then begins to struggle again
Sitting in a corner, teacher droning on about the Eugenics Wars, staring blankly out the window, datapad untouched. The smell of wet and wind. The smell of tornado. Leg jiggling with anticipation, hands getting twitchy, shifting around in the seat, chair scraping against the floor.
Heart pounding. Out the door, sprint down the hall, jump the stairs, slam through the last doors to a dark sky, clouds tinged green. A cloud, a cold wind carrying dust and leaves and promise. Heart thrilling running full throttle into the storm adrenaline rushing to the center to a wall of rolling wind.
Close eyes. Close eyes and run across the plain, chase a tornado. The rain soaks through his shirt, slides down his skin. The wind almost knocks him over, almost lifts him into space, then he’s actually floating whirling out of control. Scream. Scream and laugh facing darkness and roaring silence, the deep throat of the storm, the vast insanity of the vortex.
a cockroach, emerging from the remains of destroyed home caught in the path of the tornado, poking around the wreckage, through the sensillum covering the 140 segments of its antenna senses a temperature of 31 degrees Centigrade, the fleshy smell of a two-leg, lying still under its legs. the ground—the two-leg—shudders. everything seems to be closed and torn and leaking
a boy, opening his eyes, sees a cockroach on his arm. it makes its way up to his shoulders. he reflexively tries to shake it off, only to find that moving hurts. it stops, then continues walking across, onto his chest
continuous probing of the antenna on the skin of his throat, trying to swallow and turn his head to see the brown-gold-yellow dragging up to his face. try to move an arm to brush it off, but everything is splinters and pain. the cockroach continues up his cheek and grazes, mandible rapidly moving. he jerks his head, it falls off
Sitting in a corner, lights low, the hum of people, alcohol flowing, laughs and bubbles of conversation. Cheap perfume mixed with cheap beer, musk with old furniture, soiled booth cushions. Everyone loose and boozed, leaning on pool tables, gathered around holovids to watch the game.
Eyes gleam. Body coiled. Wait for it. Stare into the gold-amber, drink it up. Wait for it. Order another. Hold that. Gotta take a piss. Bump into a guy. Keep moving. Luck. Eyes gleam with a challenge. Wait for it. All eyes on him and as the first punch comes towards his face, grab and throw the guy. Jujitsu, bitch.
Close eyes. Close eyes for a moment and smile, empty and wide. But they always have friends, and soon the kicks and punches come from all sides. Keep smiling until nose is flowing, until eyes are busted and last week’s bruise bleeds under the skin again. Thrown out, sprawled against asphalt. Stand, eyes half-closed. An empty alley, a vast stupidity, a deep idiocy. A wide wandering.
a cockroach, having taken up residence in this two-leg’s abode, is perched on the wall when the two-leg slams the door, rattling the house and its old timber frame. through its spiracles, stilted air flows in, releasing carbon dioxide and allowing oxygen to pass through. the two-leg should do the same. all it does is close itself, tear itself, leak everywhere. un-insectlike creature
a boy, opening his eyes, sees a cockroach on the wall. he watches it disappear into some dark, damp corner, and shrugs. he leaves it alone, goes upstairs to clean up. another one on the bathroom floor
walking around each other, he brushes he teeth and spits pink-red foam. the cockroach scuttles along a wall, antenna constantly skimming the surface to remain oriented. he watches as it finds its way back to whatever home he imagines it has, not particularly caring that the house is probably infested
Sitting in a corner, tired of sitting in corners. Tired of running and bleeding, fighting and smiling, screaming and watching. Sick of the smells that haunt him, the floors that follow him. It has nothing to do with a dare, or the silver trinket he holds in his hand. He’s fucking tired of these cockroaches everywhere.
Life burns. A supernova inside, exploding him apart and fusing him back together, shredding memories and mistakes, destroying past lives. A supernova teetering on the edge of collapse maybe to a neutron star, maybe to a black hole, maybe to an alternate universe. Life burns with destiny-fate-doom.
Close eyes. Close eyes and see the empty, vast. Hear the dark, silent. Taste the deep, wide. Life burns with destiny-fate-doom, the siren song of an escape. Born there, should have been raised there. The unknown. The thing his dreams are made of: a comforting vastness, an infinite emptiness, a total darkness. The complete silence, the limitless depth, the terrible wideness. See it, touch it, return to it.
a cockroach, surviving all manner of disaster and disappointment, flexes its thin inner wings and attempts to fly. barely able to stay airborne, it climbs walls, trees launches itself off cabinets and countertops. and falls. on its back, on its side, on top of a leg, crushing an antenna. a cockroach, surviving extermination campaigns, living under dark corners, eating and being eaten, attempts to fly
a boy, opening his eyes, sees a cockroach in the sunlight. he remembers a summer amid a blue sky, fields of green, watching a cockroach try to fly, twitching its wings, floating and falling through the air
un-insectlike creature, reaching for the sun when its place is in darkness. he remembers grinning at the sight of the bulky, graceless body spinning across his field of vision, only to get pulled down by gravity. he remembers the temptation to catch it and stick it in a glass jar. but he left it, sputtering and yearning for the sky
"Four years? I'll do it in three."
[ Fucking cockroaches. ]