Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Excerpt from A Christmas Evening Vigil

Sebastian Cole drifted through an endless half-conscious hell. When he was awake, he knew he was in a bed, aching from the waist up, curiously numb from the waist down. He still preferred being awake to sleeping.
When he slept, the nightmares returned. He was back at the garage, holding it against a foe that knew no mercy, no retreat, and no end. Again and again they charged through the courtyard, guns seeking him out. Again and again he smashed them into scrap, hammered them until they burned, or exploded, or just plain stopped moving. All the while he ignored his mounting exhaustion, his accumulating wounds, the failing Mechanicals behind him. The one thing he couldn’t block out was Gardner’s corpse, what was left of it. An enemy Mechanical had pulled him half through a heavy bunker door and used the door to grind him against the courtyard pavers until most of him was little more than a chunky paste. In his nightmare, he could still make out Gardner’s face, but it wasn’t Gardner’s face. It was his own.
The DaVinci that had killed Gardner had been shattered by the same woman who repaired his broken Mechanicals, sending them back into the line. She was an angel in a drab olive dress, ignoring danger, dashing unarmed and unarmored to drag damaged Mechanicals back to her tools. Nothing stopped her until Sebastian fell to the siege gun of the Bertha Command Mechanical.
Every night he fell, and every night she abandoned him as too damaged to repair. He tried to crawl back into position, tried to fight against the waves of Blitzmen charging the gap, but his legs wouldn’t work. He looked up and saw a Blitzman raise a blade to end his life. Every time, it was then he woke up screaming. Every morning, he shamed himself with his screams, and every morning, they came with more drugs to force him to his nightly shame once more. He wished he could get back into action, come to grips with the enemy once more, but in his lucid moments, he remembered his legs refused to work. When he tried to get up, all he heard was a faint metallic grinding.
Then, one morning like any other, he woke screaming, and she was there. An orderly was reaching to administer more drugs, to confine his screaming to the inside of his own head. With a gesture, she froze the orderly in place; with a word, she pushed him back to the corner of the room.


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