Thursday, August 29, 2013

ZED'S DEAD part one

Zed was dead. 

He knew he wasn’t. But this knowledge did not make him feel any less dead. He smelled the death slowly seeping off of him; a horrific stench that made his eyelashes feel as if they had withered, nay melted, across his desert-dry eyes. His mouth desperately sopped at itself – a cruel joke soaked in foulest water. The irony did not escape him – to be dead yet acutely aware of these undesirable sensations, these tiny tortures, like the ineffectual interrogation routines of Akborovia’s “secret” police. Those fucking bastards could bore a man to death before any relevant information was rendered. This ridiculous thought – that he would prefer to be in a darksite prison on the other side of the world instead of his current foetal position location in what was the nearest place he had to a home – served to rouse Zed beyond his free-associating head-chatter into a state of near-consciousness.

Immediately he cursed his return to the land of the living. For now, the bell tolled for the core of Zed’s body. His muscles felt angry, as if they were in revolt. They were poised for a revolution, long past the planning stages, against the weakened executive branch atop his shoulders. The smug powers-that-be; their abuse of the peasants was coming home to roost.

“No war but the class war,” Zed mumbled to himself, resulting in a spasm of laughter that twisted through his body like a wine-screw shearing apart a rotted cork, opening into a sour bottle of spirits. All that effort – ruined. The time and patience to cultivate the grape, the care put into selecting the perfect bottle-shape. The agonizing wait from seed to stomach.

Zed thrashed beneath the flannel blanket, alternating furiously between soul-on-ice chill and the raging fires of hell-on-earth. “Make up your fooking mind!” he managed to croak in a pathetic voice pitched between a shriek and a dying dog’s final yelp.

A normal man would grow weary of these afternoons spent in misery and torpor. Looking back upon his last decade of spring-summers, and even harder on his fall-winters, Zed saw his coffin-paned sundowns snaking ever-further behind, like the notorious replenishing Hordes of Chkmahh. Always a new body to fill the void left by the sudden violent absence of the old.

Why-O fookin’ Why – do I always get so godsdamn cheap philosophick when dwelling in this pit of despair?

Zed felt the mutual disgust begin to force its way up from his stomach, overrunning any sort of emergency levee he rushed to erect in the space leading to his throat, erupting full-force into his mouth, and spraying like dragonsbreath over the interior of his flat. The irony of the blackened insides of his defective body befouling the insides of his cramped domicile did not escape him. Even though he felt as if his very essence was evacuating his shell, his mind remained alert enough to laugh bitterly at his predicament. Zed felt like a creature of legend, spewing forth his deadly poison with a venom reserved for cave-invaders.

As the minutes ticked by, and Zed’s grasping hand found an old wooden bucket, which perhaps once upon a time held just-ripe apples or about-to-blossom pearflowers, the torrent of blood and black goo began to assume a rhythmic cadence. And, once again, this little ditty Zed had conceived during an earlier bout with himself, came to mind –

I’m the human dragon           I’m the human dragon

with the teeth rot action       with the teeth rot action

This asinine couplet ran in his head, over and over, like a hummingbird hovering outside of his ear, reverse-feeding him a mantra to clutch. Something non-corporeal to anchor him to a reality he loathed, but one he wished to survive out of pure spite. He found the simplest emotions carry the most weight. They kept him tethered to this awful now-ness with an unbreakable vengeance. He had sworn a blood oath to himself several seasons past. He recited the oath precisely as the blood flowed over his lips and tongue – as if he had sacrificed a virgin in the deepest recesses of his guts, an intestinal temple to all that motivated him. Zed tried to laugh, as a Fuck you to his circumstances, but all that resulted was the sickening pop of a blood-bubble bursting on his seared lips. The acid from his innermost lining cascaded from his gaping jaw, singeing his bottom lip and dissolving his teeth in quicktime. The outer shell of his teeth fizzed and lathered, essential bone in imminent disintegration, his mouth a source of stalactites, sharp crags to snag a soft pink tongue. All the bad days and nights – an unkind soul would call them evil – but you’re damned if you do and fucked if you don’t, Zed always thought. And nothing had proved him wrong yet.

It had been nearly a sun-cycle since Zed had radically altered his existence – since he had assassinated the Ascended Masters. Zed had endured a body-shattering post-omnipotence comedown. That taste of eternity had set off a series of ravaging events that plagued Zed’s body. No witch, healer or clerk had been able to definitely diagnose what was ailing Zed. Then again, the majority were charlatans; Zed had tasted power beyond what they could even comprehend. Nevertheless, what plagued him remained a mystery -- a new quest to fulfill his lifelong restlessness. The treasure he sought was now his health, his well-being, his very life. That should have made it precious, but more often than not, Zed found it difficult to give a solitary fuck. Zed found his thoughts dwelling upon the darker realms, the nether regions where lurked a lust for oblivion, for a final cancellation of all breath, all need to gather another fistful of oxygen. One day, Zed would vomit out the remains of his internal organs and that would be that, ashes will be ashes and dust will be dust. Zed would be dead and the birds will still chirp. The breeze will still blow and the gallows will still swing. All will be as right with the world as it had ever been. Zed could only manage a weak smile at the thought. The rest of his energy was devoted to keeping himself propped up enough to enable the crimson waterfall of rancid body juices to funnel forth from his chapped and burning mouth.

Zed read the churning fluids in the wooden bucket as a witch-woman reads the swirling leaves of their famous tea – the one purported to kill hangovers, enliven the sexual glands, and generally restore humans to being humans. But even the strongest Witches’ Tea could not compare to Zed’s preferred poison – the perfect blend of cycles-fermented barrelwhisk and heaping nosefuls of finely-grated unicorn horn. Round off this demonic duo with copious amounts of the sageweed Zed incessantly smoked, and you had a triple thrash threat of intoxicants coursing through his poor body nearly every moment of the day. Even when on dangerous missions to shadowy corners of this sprawling world, Zed found himself absorbing these sometimes expensive, sometimes difficult-to-procure chemicals into his ever-roiling insides. He had managed to stave off that most amorphous of emotions, guilt, until the recent past. Now the little gods inside of his skin were demanding his tributes cease. Even they could not endure much more.  


The day seeped into night and the night folded into day.

Outside of his window, Zed heard the early morn rustlings of the townsfolk; the shouts of greeting, the sighs of resignation, the unfunny jokes bandied back and forth like the world’s least valuable currency. It felt like a half-remembered dream, a semblance of an idea of society. Zed refused to believe that these people truly existed, that they lived lives of modest ambitions, of a hard day’s work and a good night’s rest. That the wives toiled diligently in their little houses as their husbands wore their calloused hands to the bone, whether humping in the fields all day or slaving in the scorched air of a blacksmith’s workshop. That the confluence of these events, initiated and silently agreed to by a certain vicinity’s citizens, constituted what most people viewed as a healthy, functioning society. This implicit social contract made Zed’s head swim; his brain plummeted down a mineshaft, and the blood continued to funnel forth.


The day ebbed. The hours shifted amongst themselves, hiding their time away like a child hoarding sticky-sweets. It took a severe state of disrepair for Zed to drift into memories of his own wretched childhood. A non-childhood, truth be told. Zed was a foundling, a literal babe in the woods, stumbled upon by caravanning Jipsies. To them, he was a novelty. A family pet for an expansive set of relations. A chaotic, tumbling family rife with internal friction and hair-trigger tempers. But also full of the toughest love a boy could ask for, or endure. By year four, he was the finest pickpocket in the entire traveling village, by seven he was leading daring burglaries of the aristocracy’s ill-gotten gains, and the following year he thanked the Jipsies for his brutal education, spat in their faces and went along his way. And he never looked back. Except in these pitiful reveries.

If he wasn’t occupied with vomiting so violently that his entire body quaked with the force of a mage’s earthshatter spell, he would have shed a tear, perhaps two. Instead, he was an active volcano spewing the earth’s guts into the air with a fury borne of centuries locked underground, biding its time for the inevitable molten prison break.

His attitude towards Jipsies was ambivalent, at best. That was a step-up from his attitude towards most things, which see-sawed between indignant vitriol and an acidic humor which threatened to poison those around him. If it didn’t kill him first. Days like this, spent in bloody fugue, acted as a sort of antidote. If he could come out laughing through this hell, then what he did he have to fear from any man, monster or demi-god? He had not only rejected infinite power, he had survived himself, the deadliest son-of-a-(presumed)bitch around. He was Zed Nihil, so Fuck you and Eat shit, asshole. You never heard of me? That’s probably because I killed everyone you know and stole their bedsheets while I was at it. Maybe burned their house down, or dismantled their castle stone by stone. Drank the godsdamn moat in one gulp and pissed a new river, sure to give a nasty disease to any fool who bathed in its waters.

The bravado was earned, but it meant nothing in the present moment. He hadn’t figured out how to defeat himself yet. But he was working on it.


It was the following day. The crimson froth had subsided, and Zed had finally managed to sleep longer than the brief intermissions that granted him blessed relief at those moments when he thought he was finished with this mortal coil. And even though Zed had intimate knowledge of other mortal coils, he still had some things to take care of on this particular one. And perhaps a few people to kill.

Just as Zed endeavored to raise himself to his feet, for the first time since the ordeal began, a hideous squawking penetrated the cracked glass of his drafty window. What the fucking fook? Zed grabbed ahold of the rickety sill and pulled himself up, his face smashing against the glass like a bird with bad eyesight. As his eyes congealed into focus, Zed saw a messenger crow glaring at him from only inches away. Ahh fuck me, I don’t think I’m in the condition to deal with this shite. In his experience, messenger crows brought only news of impending hardships and future misery. And they were used exclusively by only the wealthiest bastards in the land.

They were the only ones who could afford the crows’ high prices. Their services did not come cheap, and they weren’t shy about informing you of their excellent performance record. Reluctantly, and with great effort that he tried his best to disguise, Zed lifted the window and let the bird in.

“Rough night?” the crow squawked.

“Aye, keep it down, willya? I’ve got neighbors, and ears.”

“Well perk them up, Mr. Nix, I have an urgent message for you. A summons from his Highness himself, Sir Lord Altimore.”

Zed’s head was still foggy, but he quickly pieced together the basic facts. Sir Lord Altimore was a pompous ass that had employed Zed to steal his father’s crown back from the bandits who had savagely murdered the patriarch. It was a relatively routine, if bloody, job, and paid handsomely. Zed had used one of his myriad aliases after accepting the quest. By pure chance, he had read a parchment nailed to a communal bulletin board in some random beatdown village he was passing through. Talking walls, they called them, usually situated in the town’s square.


While Zed did not relish the idea of walking straight into one of his most hated institution’s many outposts, he was also flat broke, and, as usual, bored silly. Everyone in the surrounding area was so poor and miserable that he would feel like a complete and total shit-heel for picking a pocket or breaking and entering a supply store. And they had Sir Lord Fuckface to thank for that. The man taxed as if money was going extinct, and did he provide his subjects with better roads, clean wells or even basic protection from marauders? Hell no, he didn’t, and this pissed Zed off almost as much as this crow’s presence in his flat.

“And what the fuck does his High-ass want?”

“Mr. Nix, please conduct our communication cordially, we crows do not appreciate disrespect.”

Uppity fucking birds, Zed thought. I’ll murder the lot of them one day.

“Apologies, Mr. Crow. Now spill it.”

It seemed as if the crow almost sighed. Zed thought – can a bird sigh? Fucking drama queens; get on with it, before I puke blood and guts all over your preened feathers and unblinking inhuman eyes.

“Sir Lord Altimore requests your presence at his court. He is in need of your particular…….skills. Please prepare yourself and present yourself -- with some decorum this time. The court is still chattering about your last visit.”

Zed managed a smile, more of a smirk, at this last comment. Hoo boy, did he have some fun at the expense of a certain lady’s innocence, and to the embarrassment of a few of the minor royal ass-ends’ chagrin. Stick-in-the-muds, all of ‘em. They should have showered him with praise and luxuries, not ran him off, especially considering he got the damn crown back from a formidable gang of killers, Hexnar’s Raiders.

Zed considered telling the crow to fuck off, but then he remembered Altimore’s hellhounds, and he certainly didn’t have the strength to evade those snarling beasts. They did not require rest and would not cease hunting until they were dead, and they were a bitch and a half to kill. Fuck. Typical rock/hard place situation Zed seemed to constantly find himself in.

“You can tell Alto I’ll be there as soon as I can gather my thoughts, tools and testicles.”

“Hurry, Mr. Nix, time is of the essence.”

The crow gave him one last disapproving glance and then, without warning, spread his wings and flew right past Zed’s face, out the window and back into the sky from whence he came.

“Fuckin’ cocksucker!” Zed yelled after him, but the crow was gone, back to deliver the news to his employer.

Zed looked around his disheveled flat, spied a roach of rolled sageweed, balanced it between his lips and forefingers, struck a match, inhaled deeply and sharply, held the smoke in as long as he was able, then exhaled in a long sigh. Zed slapped himself in the face and goosed his plums. Time to be yourself again, he thought.

Lock up your daughters and clasp your jewels tight, Cypher Nix is on his way, and he is one bad motherfucker!

to be cont.