Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Breath of Dawn

Clark (offscreen Chlark) futurefic
Rating: PG-13 (character death)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Inspired by "Upon This Dull Earth," by Philip K. Dick

For to his angels he’s given a command
To guard you in all of your ways
Upon their hands they will bear you up
Lest you dash your foot against a stone
And he will raise you up on angels wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of his hand.

-"On Angels' Wings"

They were out there.

Clark had always been able to sense them, though he wasn't quite sure how. It wasn't his superhearing or his special vision or his ability to go into superspeed that allowed him to know they were there.

He could just... feel them.

Curiosity impelled him to learn more. Around his fifteenth birthday, he began going into the local church graveyard in the deepest dark of night, just so he could feel more of them flitting past him. They felt like the merest brush of a feather against his skin, a soft summer breeze. Utterly insubstantial, and yet undeniably there.

And when they became aware that he could sense them, that he knew they were there, they began flocking to him. He could sit in the graveyard at night and feel them pressing in on him, a vast throng. They were still insubstantial, yet they pushed against him so tightly that he felt suffocated.

For the first time, he began to feel afraid of them. They weren't physical, in any sense that he understood, and he couldn't imagine how they could hurt him. And yet he had the terrifying sensation of thousands of hands, clutching at him, trying to draw him away from the shadowed dark earth, and into a realm of brilliant light.

If he strained with every aspect of his abilities, he could almost see the world they wanted to pull him into. It was just beyond his ability to comprehend, but he could see enough to know that it was beautiful beyond anything he'd ever known, so brilliant that the Earth looked drab and lifeless by comparison.

Somewhere deep inside, he wanted to go into the light.

But he couldn't. He had a life here, upon this dull earth. He had friends and family and duties here.

He stood up and fled from the clutching invisible hands.

But the next night, drawn by a need he couldn't explain, he was back. And the next, and the next. And each night, the hands grew more and more insistent. Thousands upon thousands of them thronged around him, so thickly he could almost see them, and he began to have the feeling that they were feeding on him somehow.

He wasn't sure if they were drawn to him because he was an alien, and thus different from anything they knew, or because he was aware of them. Or possibly they weren't drawn to him at all. For all he knew, any human who spent much time in a graveyard would be surrounded by an enormous cloud of them. The difference was that he was aware of it, whereas a human wouldn't be.

But maybe on some level humans were aware of them. That might, he thought, account for the stories of ghosts and angels and demons that humans had told over the years. It might even account for the ancestral human fear of graveyards.

For whatever reason, each night there were more of them, feeding hungrily on him. By the third night, there were so many they seemed to fill the air around him. There were a legion of them, and they bore him to the earth, irresistible and silent and terrible. He lay sprawled beneath them, helpless, screaming as their unseen hands dug deep, clutching greedily at his soul.

"No," he cried, trying to beat them off-- but without success, because they weren't corporeal. "No! No!"

They didn't listen. He had a feeling they couldn't listen, that they were being irresistibly drawn to something deep inside him, like birds drawn instinctively toward the south, unable to resist the call of migration. He could feel that there was no malice in them. They weren't consciously trying to hurt him.

They just... wanted him.

He sobbed frantically, genuinely terrified now. He'd been drawn to them out of curiosity, but what had started out as an interesting experiment had somehow turned deadly. He could feel his soul being drawn forcibly out of his body, and he screamed with agony and fear-- and with a strange, unearthly rapture.

On some level, he wanted this, wanted it more than anything. But for the most part, he was terribly afraid. His heart clenched in his chest, and fear clotted the blood in his veins and seared his nerves.

Driven by a wild panic, he managed to surge to his feet despite the impossible weight of them, despite the frantically clinging hands. He burst into superspeed and fled from the graveyard, leaving them behind.

He'd learned his lesson.

He'd never dare enter a graveyard in the darkness again.


He'd avoided graveyards at midnight for fifty years now. But this night, he walked slowly into the same graveyard where he'd spent hours as a teenager. He could see the dark shapes of trees silhouetted overhead, inky shadows against a bright backdrop of stars. The thickly leafed branches rustled in the light summer breeze, and a full moon hung low in the sky, barely visible above the treetops. The headstones were silvered by moonlight, but the earth over the graves looked dull and dark.

There was peace here.

He walked further into the graveyard, looking for her grave. She had been buried here this morning, and he'd stood above her coffin, listening to the pastor talk about the afterlife, and then dropped a handful of earth on her grave, while tears ran down his face.

The tears were gone now, replaced with a grim sense of purpose. He walked slowly through the maze of granite stones, not bothering with superspeed.

He was in no hurry. He wanted them to sense him.

He wondered if they'd remember him. He wondered if they would still want him with such hunger and desperation. He wondered if he'd have to visit, night after night, before they were numerous enough to surround him and bear him to the earth, or if one night would be enough.

A few moments later, he found her grave, and sat on the freshly turned earth, right in front of her headstone. And he waited.

The moon slowly rose higher in the sky. He waited with inhuman patience, while long hours crept by.

At last, he felt something brush over his skin, very lightly.

He closed his eyes.

"Chloe?" he whispered.

There was no answer. He hadn't expected one. In all the time he'd hung around graveyards, he'd never heard a sound. But a moment later, something else brushed over his skin.

They were coming. At last, they were coming.

He sat there, waiting for them, holding very still, as if movement might frighten them away. Before long there were dozens of them, and then hundreds, and he could feel them brushing against him like butterfly wings, insubstantial and yet incredibly numerous. They surrounded him until he could barely draw a breath.

"Chloe." His voice was a whisper in the night. He had no idea if she was there, in all that throng, but he hoped she was. God, he hoped. "Chlo... take me with you."

They hovered around him for long moments more, and he felt more and more of them gathering. And then they were pressing against him, hungry and eager, like sharks drawn by the scent of blood.

He shivered at the image, because although he had always felt intuitively that they were good, he had no way of being certain of their intentions. Were they demons, or angels? Were they denizens of Heaven or Hell? Were they simply the souls of the dead, neither bad nor good, but like the rest of humanity, somewhere in between?

He had no way of knowing for sure. But he did know they wanted him, very badly. Not his body, but his essence. Everything that made him Clark Kent, deep down. They wanted to free his soul from his body. They yearned for his essence.

And his essence yearned toward them, too. It always had. Perhaps it was just the natural pull of a soul toward whatever awaited it after death. Perhaps it was those glimpses he'd caught of a brighter, more beautiful world. Or perhaps it was just ordinary curiosity.

Regardless of the reason, now that she was gone, he had no reason to stay upon this dull earth any longer.

They surrounded him, jostling and crowding. He let them push him down onto the ground, allowed them to feed on him, let them rip into him. The soft brush of feathers gave way to the agonizing sensation of talons tearing into him, piercing their way into the depths of him, yanking his soul from his body in sharp, excruciating tugs.

It was agony, and at the same time it was rapture. He sobbed with pain and pleasure, but made no move to fight them.

There were too many of them. He couldn't draw a breath. He was smothering, suffocating under their weight. Panic rose in his chest, but he pushed it back.

It's the only way, he reminded himself. The only way to get back to her.

His eyes opened, and he stared into the sky, seeing a faint golden glow in the east. Dawn was breaking, and soon they'd fade away.

He wondered if they'd take him with them.

They seemed determined not to leave him behind. Their efforts grew stronger and more frantic. At last there was a terrible ripping sensation, a shattering burst of agony like nothing he'd ever known before. A final wail of pain rose from his throat, wavering in the still night for a long moment.

And then they were bearing him up, soaring upward with him, and the light shone ahead of him, diamond-brilliant and gloriously beautiful. Not the light of dawn, but the unearthly, lovely light he'd sensed long years ago, and longed for.

The pain was gone, and all he felt was a profound happiness. He knew he'd left his body behind on the cold earth, an empty, useless husk that he no longer needed. The breath of dawn would blow over his vacant body, sprawled on top of her grave.

He rose upward, surrounded by a cloud of dazzling white entities. He could see them now, could see their glory and their beauty and their inhuman purity. They were like nothing he'd ever seen before, and he knew of no words that could describe them. And still he had no idea what they were.

But whatever they were, he was one of them now.

On first glance, they were all exactly alike... and yet, he realized, they weren't. Flying beside him was one he recognized.

Glowing and opalescent, it bore no resemblance to the Chloe he'd known on Earth, and yet he knew without question that it was her. It wasn't the way she looked. It was the way she felt. Her essence was undeniably Chloe.

At the knowledge that he'd found his way back to her, an all-consuming peace filled him. He had no idea where he was going, or what they were, but the questions no longer concerned him.

Whether they were angels, demons, or spirits didn't matter... because she was one of them.

He rose with the cloud of beings, and let them carry him into the light of a new world.

-The End-


Anonymous said...

That was very beautiful. I love your descriptions of what he feels, his thought process.

Brilliant story!

Bard Girl said...

Great story.

Anonymous said...

that was so beutiful darling!! :)