Aphelion Issue 293, Volume 28
September 2023
 
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Zombi

by Ita Ekhaletruo




A pair of hands hammered at the unyielding darkness, growing the more enraged in the small space that confined them. Thanks to persistent effort, it was not long before their fury finally produced the first loud cracks in the wood, which only incited the fists to beat harder and faster against the shadowy durance. They did not relent either until a deafening explosion reverberated. This however did not free the captive but had the opposite effect, as the space began to diminish, instead as coarse particles began to flood in.

The hands now became claws, frantically digging through the rush of sand and soil, desperate to escape through the newly created gap. Their continued vigor came to prove successful, as a body emerged from the depths of the earth, revealing a giant figure upright itself amidst the pitch black.

A sickly moon greeted the dark eyes as they observed their surroundings, finding themselves stood in a tiny clearing right under a lone mango tree. Vast unfamiliar jungle seemed to encircle him for miles, its serenity only disturbed by the nocturnal voices. However, this was of little consequence to him, as his location was as much of a puzzle as were his thoughts. Barely a coherent image could form before flashes of light seared through his head, forcing the giant on one knee.

Eventually he recovered, and with more restraint again attempted to summon his memories, simply to discover them a jumbled mess. The pain began to creep back, as if the mere exertion of will was to be punished. He did not give in though, even as it threatened to tear his head asunder, but persevered in rummaging the abyss until at the very threshold of tolerance he grasped onto a single remnant of his mind. Little as it was, its impact was tremendous. The simple image became etched onto his very soul, whispering to him so sweetly of the past. The body that had barely kept itself composed now enlivened, gaining a seemingly unnatural vigor, while the mind ignored the throbbing to focus on a sole objective.

The giant's first movements were languid and strained, even with the determination that had set the course in motion. However, the hobble soon turned into an odd lurch, and by the time he had melded into the thick of the jungle, the legs had assumed an awkward but fast stride.

As he moved in the tropical heat, not a bead of sweat perspired anywhere on him and neither were his worn lungs seemingly taxed by the decrepit body's great physical exertion. The mosquitoes, known to be voracious, strangely did not dare approach him, while the ever-curious flies veered far off. Not a living thing did obstruct the giant's path, who in his driven simple-mindedness however took no notice, focusing only on his goal.

The world was still enveloped in black when a lumbering figure emerged from the thicket. The giant now found himself on the outskirts of a small village, where he wasted no time ogling but quickly descended amidst the houses. The fast stride had reverted to the strange lurch as he moved amongst the rural structures, the villagers all seemingly fast asleep.

Just as instinct had carried him through the jungle, a fleeting memory seemed to guide his feet now as well, for he ignored house after house with barely but a glance. His steps were firm and the direction certain, and his search was soon rewarded, as he came to witness a hovel just like any other, yet to his haggard eyes it was something more than its mere ragged exterior. A faint light flickered in the only window, drawing him towards like a moth. Only the soft grass rustled and crickets chirped as the soiled feet crept closer.

Upon arrival, two huge dark eyes came to peer through the window's netting at a room, quickly becoming immersed in its details. A lone candle lit the small space on a termite-devoured table, revealing nothing but a rusting stove in one corner, rows of rotten cabinets, and tarnished upholstery on sparse seating that attempted to mask the stark poverty. He abandoned interest in these however upon noticing the aged rocking chair situated near the only door. However, he was far less interested in the chair than the person sat on it.

Long black braids fell about the pensive face of a woman, her dark complexion radiating in the soft glow of the candle. Her lips moved, whispering a melody that he wished he could have heard, while slender hands toyed with an object he could not fathom. From time to time, the long fingers would ignore their keepsake, instead coming to carefully feel the mound of her stomach, an act that always brought a small smile to her face.

He may have spent an eternity in her thrall, if the door to the room had not slammed open. A man stepped in, the expression on his face hard, as his eyes sought and found the woman. She herself upon making eye contact flinched.

"Why are you still awake?" The man asked.

"I didn't feel tired." Her voice quivered.

The man snorted loudly and then gestured with a hand.

"Come to bed."

"But I would just like to--"

Before she could even react, the man slapped her, sending her down to the floor. After the initial shock washed away, the arms wrapped themselves around the stomach, her face staring up at him in earnest distress.

"Stanley, the baby!"

"What do I care?" The man said. "It's not even mine, the bastard."

Her gaze fell to the floor, the arms still clutched onto her belly. He issued another order for her to come to bed, but this time she did not respond. He did not ask again but moved towards her, anger emanating from his face, but he never reached her.

A figure jumped in, tearing through the frail net, crashing limb and torso onto the floor shocking both inhabitants. The giant swiftly recomposed into his strained stance and made towards the man, which forced him to move into the candle's limelight. A single hiss of breath emanated from the other.

"It can't be!" The man puffed. "You're not supposed to be here."

The giant's strange walk evolved into rapid bounding steps, closing the distance as he crashed into the man, the large frame knocking the other on his back. The man's expression barely changed even as the huge hands began delivering blows. Instinct told the other to block, but to little avail, as the fists broke through to find their mark. The intensity of the blows heightened, each strike seeming to incite more rage from their master. The man's arms that had tried to defend from this onslaught soon fell to the sides, the entire body growing limp.

Yet, the giant still hacked away, his fury seeming not to subside one bit. The image had been lost, now replaced by a new sensation that this man seemed to be the brunt of. So it may have carried on, if not for the words that trailed from behind.

"Wilson?"

Instantly the giant abandoned his quarry whose face now bore no human recognition. He rose and stressed his deprived nerves to turn him around. The lumps of coal came to meet the woman's gaze, abating his rage as he became wholly encompassed in the Nubian visage before him. He witnessed the worried expression on her face, which prompted him to speak to try to alleviate her distress, but nothing came out even as his chapped lips mimed, for his words were barred, seeming to exist nowhere but in an ailed mind.

"Wilson, is it really you?" The woman asked tentatively. "Come into the light so I can see you."

He complied, emerging from the candle's penumbra, at which point she screamed.

This baffled the giant, who tried to come closer, the long arms stretching out to the warmth she irradiated, but she drew away, her face a convulsion of horror.

"Get away from me!"

He stopped in utter bewilderment, for this was not what the image had promised him. He pleaded, but the caricature of the wilted muscles of his face and body only heightened her fear, prompting the woman to finally reveal the object she had held onto. It was a wooden cross, small and unadorned, which now graced her right hand.

"Go away!" The cross seemingly innervated her with courage, enough so that she dared to approach him, with the holy symbol held out to ward him.

However, the giant felt no reverence or fear, looking past the relic into her eyes, but no solace lay in them, none of the warmth the image had possessed was to be found there, instead merely a rebuking void stared right back. He turned away and fled.

Out the window he flew, landing just outside. Voices rang about, and he soon witnessed dozens of figures moving towards where he was. They likely saw his silhouette, but he ignored their shouts. He transitioned quicker into a stride, and before the first villagers had even reached the house, he was engulfed by the vastness of the jungle.


THE END


2015 Ita Ekhaletruo

Bio: Ita Ekhaletruo is a student living in the UK and has been interested in the macabre and darker themes of prose through writers such as Poe and Lovecraft. This is Ita's first published story.

E-mail: Ita Ekhaletruo

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