+++ CEREBRAL TRANSMISSION RECORDED 25-12-2017 23:57GMT – AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY +++
The walls are bleeding.
I’m lucid. I know I’m not hallucinating; not going mad. It’s real. The slick red sheen on the bricks, the thick flood of it gouting from the cracks. I can smell it. Taste it, like metal rust on my tongue.
It’s human. The blood. I know that for a fact, even though I have no evidence to support it. No idea how it got here, down in this forsaken pit. No clue where it’s coming from, where it used to be, other than inside someone, where it’s supposed to be. And now it’s not. It’s out, gushing, painting the walls, pooling on the ground, making a thick russet paste of the undisturbed dust.
And I know, as certain as anything I’ve ever known.
I know I’m going to die.
Damn phone. The battery icon’s taunting me, a mocking mirror of my own diminishing time. The bloody thing might outlast me, a fraying lifeline that my dead fingers won’t be able to grasp.
My legs feel like they’ve got spikes driven into them, rasping between my splintered bones. I don’t look at them, don’t want to see the mess of me. I shift my pelvis, igniting the agony into a supernova of lacerating shards that explode up my spine and almost make me pass out. I bite my lip to stop myself screaming. More blood, warm. I spit it out, let it mingle with the rest of the gore slicking the floor.
I can hear it now.
Low, just loud enough to hear above the screaming in my head. Footsteps. Slow, deliberate. Determined. They’re getting closer, step by step.
I wipe my bloody mouth then unlock my phone. Smears from my fingers on the glass, a scarlet film across the screen. Everything’s gone red.
The photo’s still there: the evidence. The reception down here’s dire, but it should just be enough. It has to be. I share it, select her address and let it go: a message in a broken bottle, a dove from a sinking ark. It starts uploading, slow as a glacier. It’s all I can do.
It’s all I’ve got left.
I lay the phone on my lap, accidentally slide the photo to the right. The one before it appears.
She looks back at me streaked with crimson. I’m there too, beside her: proud, determined. Smiling. She’s not: I don’t think I’ve ever seen her smile, not even heard a hint of warmth in her voice. She’s so cold. I guess that’s what makes her good at what she does. She doesn’t let it get to her. Doesn’t let anyone close.
I’m so cold. My arms are shivering. The movement sets the supernovas off again and this time I can’t help but scream.
The noise echoes wetly off the walls, then it’s pushed under by the footsteps, so close now they sound like they’re right behind me.
I look back at her face on the red-filmed screen. Minck.
But she’s all I’ve got, down here surrounded by the bleeding walls and the closer than close footsteps. I smile down at her, thank her for everything she’s done, and everything she’s yet to do. She couldn’t save me, not here, not even if she wanted to. I knew that, when I accepted the job. Knew I wouldn’t be coming back. But still. I guess you always just kinda cling onto hope, don’t you?
There’s no hope down here though. Just the blood, and the thing that I can now feel breathing on the back of my neck. I ache my shivering arms, slide the photo back to the last one. It’s nearly uploaded.
The photo’s clear enough. I can make out the sign, freshly scratched on these ancient bricks. Unmistakable. The sign none of us ever wanted to see. Right here, right now, on these walls, under this blood. Real.
I know what it means. Know how little time we’ve got left. Twelve months, tops. Not long enough to do anything about it.
Anything other than fight.
I can hear the breathing now. Low, guttural, hot, dampening the skin at the base of my skull. It’s soothing in a way, like the exhaled smoke from a last cigarette.
Fingers on my shoulders, the touch a lot gentler than I’d been imagining it would be. The mouth against the soft skin of my neck. Almost tender.
The photo’s gone, wisping its way through the ether from this bloody tomb towards Paris. She’ll have it soon, and she’ll know. She’ll maybe even be able to do something about it.
My work here is done.
I will myself to turn. Just so I can see it for myself. Just because.
The pain stops just short of killing me.
And I see its face.
And it’s smiling at me.
And it’s a face I know. A face I saw only a few days ago.
A face I love.
So I smile back.
And then like a fountain, all the blood on the walls is mine.
+++ CEREBRAL TRANSMISSION ABORTED +++