Spectator of Time

Writing Prompt: After a near death experience, you can now see ghosts. There aren’t as many as you had expected to see. The ones you do see are always hiding or on the run. Then you see why, as the ghost of a dinosaur devours a human ghost.

Marcus could see perfectly well, he could hear perfectly well, he could feel perfectly well… but he couldn’t move. Not an inch. Not a muscle.

Seven months ago Marcus had been victim to a vicious attack. He’d been walking home after working the late shift at a mundane job that warrants no description.

A car seemed to be lazing along the back roads, stalking his every move, his every turn. Gradually building pace, trying not to give over the heavy fear that thumped at his heart, Marcus made a run for it. He turned on his heels, running toward the car, hoping he might reach the alley between 43rd and 45th. There were bollards there, bollards that would stop a car dead in its tracks. The driver slammed down into reverse, streaming smoke as they hounded back toward him.

There was a dull thudlike sound as the wheels drove over Marcus, and with a snap broke his left thigh bone clean in half. A shadow reared itself from within the car, three more followed. One by one they struck hard boots at the writhing body on the ground. Marcus felt each rib crack before finally he passed out as the heel of the driver stomped down on his head.

When he woke, some weeks later, he was lying in a hospital bed, comforted only by the gentle beep-beep of the heart monitor. Christ, I’m alive. He really hadn’t expected to be. On the ground he had felt his life flash before his eyes, he could’ve sworn he’d seen the whisper of a wraith simmer over the shadows that attacked him. After all, there’s no better way to tell that your dead… or dying… than being able to see the place that you’re soon headed.

That place had been an echo of the living world. Earth as it was, but in a tangle of the ages. Where there stood an office block there too lingered the remnants of post-war house, a pre-war barrack, the watch tower of an ancient fort, the withering wheat of a farm, the shell of a sculpted cave, and the trunk of a prehistoric tree. It was as if all time that had held once to that spot revealed itself, peeling back in layers, each age lost before the next.

Only Marcus had survived, he wasn’t dead, so why was it he could still see this tangled mess of time?

As he lay in the hospital he watched the heart monitor tinker away before the slightly blurred vision of a blood bag that was occasionally tended by the skeletal form of a nurse (a nurse who never failed to smile when she caught Marcus watching, though it was a smile that sickened his soul, full of blackened teeth with strange things that cricked behind the hollow sockets of her skull). Behind even this there was the blinding sunset/sunrise of a vast open land covered by thick, dripping marsh. And yet behind this still there wavered the idea of towering plants with leaves the size of your head, between which monolithic, insecticle creatures roamed.

I’m going mad. Marcus whimpered. What was worse is he hadn’t a person living he could share this notion with. No matter how hard he strove to speak, to grunt, to move even a finger, he couldn’t accomplish it. He could barely blink, for all it was worth. The doctors had attributed the bouts of blinking to a simple reflex of a deadened mind. They spoke about switching him off. His family (his daughter Ellis, and his Husband Andrew) couldn’t bring themselves to do it though. Not whilst he could see them. So long as his eyes remained open they would let him live. In hope. Yet still the endless struggle to communicate was slowly breaking down his will.

No, he hadn’t a person living he could share this notion with, just that skeletal nurse and the strange critters that roamed in those jungles of the past.

That was, until she came.

Marcus wasn’t given a name, apparently introductions were an unnecessary formality. She wasn’t skeletal at all, she was entirely flesh ridden, barely rotting, with a faint shimmering blue to her being. She had been floating through the halls (not the walls, what was solid now seemed to be solid then or there or wherever this she truly was). He was met with stunned awe as the shimmering figure settled upon him.

“You can see me?” she asked.

Yes. Marcus thought, simply and with a deep sadness. He could see her, but that didn’t give him the sudden power of speech…

“You can really see me?”

Yes. Marcus welled from within a dry and stagnant throat.

“Then you need to hide.”

Hide? Marcus would have laughed had he the capability. I can barely move my eyelids, how on Earth would I hide… better still, why would I hide?

“Oh, you’ll see soon enough.” the woman floated over Marcus, shaking her head, then quickly disappeared from the room.

Wait, you can hear me? Marcus thought, hoping that thought might chase the glistening being. What’s coming? What am I supposed to be hiding from? Who in Gods name are you? Each thought fell on deaf ears, the woman would not return for many a long day ahead. And before she’d return, Marcus would meat it.

It first appeared the night after he’d seen the shimmering woman.

The time was a quarter past midnight, the room was almost-darkness save for the soft green-glow of only the necessary machinery. Shadows loomed about the room caught between past, further past and present. Always in the dark Marcus would have flashbacks to the shadowed figures that beat him into a coma. Always in the dark a rage would fester in his heart. But this night that rage would subside and in its place stricken fear would prevail.

He heard it first. A heavy striding through the halls, the deep snarling of wet and hungering jaws, the low grumble of a tyrant. It began searching several rooms down from Marcus. There would come the sound of a door thrown open against the concrete of a wall, then the scream of whatever capable throat was hiding inside. Only those throats wouldn’t see the poltergeist that prowled from across the river Styx. They’d see only a door fly suddenly open, cracking against the wall, splitting plasterboard, then creaking slowly shut. The room would be flooded with a sudden coolness of air released from two large and dying nostrils, then for them it was over. They couldn’t see it and it couldn’t see them.

Four doors down. Then three. Then two. All the while the ground would hum, threatening that the next whip-smacking of a door would by the very door that led to Marcus.

One door down…

Marcus fought the bounds of his comatose state, but it was useless, he’d never again move in his living body. He was stiff, trapped within the cage of his own mind. Shackles rattled away at his ears from a time lost to the hospital that now stood proud in reality. And now that hospital began to fade, all but the bed.

In place of machinery nature crept around the room, plant life blooming, the buzzing of wings ringing in the ears, the ceiling torn back to a blackened, midnight sky. For but a second the face of the skeletal nurse hovered by Marcus, over his cheek, kissing him gently before grinning a last goodbye.

Something with more legs than Marcus cared to count climbed up onto the hospital bed and scuttled over his stomach, stopping momentarily to intake a sharp breath.

Whip-crackle and pop.

It wasn’t a door that was torn from its hinges, but a thick trunk that was split before what looked like the fleeting image of a tail. Up above Marcus could see two luminescent, white eyes leering down upon him from above pale gums that bore archaic, beastly fangs. Scales flaked the skin of it, visible only under the soft moonlight that revealed the looming sense of decay the creature held about itself. It was held together by barely the threads of muscle that snapped with each movement, a drool of congealed crimson and blotted black seeped down from the ghastly jaws of the creature, coming to a drop and a slop over Marcus’ face.

It’s real, it’s wet… it’s here. 

Marcus’ mind struggled to comprehend his surroundings. Fear had further bound him to his bed, had he been able to move his muscles would have seized. He stared unblinking up into those glowing, white eyes, and they seemed to regard him in like. The creature’s head lowered from upon a scaled neck, coming down until one eye sat beside Marcus, twitching in its rotting socket, a cool mist spilling from a single, giant nostril.

Marcus tried to scream, tried to summon something, anything from within himself that might wake him from this nightmare. But the nightmare had faded. This was his reality.

The creature seemed to give off a grin as it inhaled, a soft moan coming from within its skinless throat. Its jaws came open, wide around the out-of-place (out-of-time) hospital bed. Marcus closed his eyes, cowering behind the cover of his flesh lined lids.

Please God, don’t let this be my end…

“Rise and shine.” a familiar voice called from the reaches of the here and now. “I really must stop saying that.” the voice tittered to itself, “I suppose it could be considered… insensitive.”

As Marcus dared to open his eyes he saw the prehistoric jungle fading from sight, fading to the background, fading before the hospital, the humming machinery, the bland, white-washed walls. The skeletal nurse croaked a laugh as he sped past her where and when and in the place of the undead stood Martha, one of many a nurse that saw to Marcus’ care.

Marcus couldn’t hold it back, his entire body sighed motionlessly, a single fear-wrought tear rolled down his cheek, and behind it all waited the spirit of a prehistoric giant. He had time, he had a day, to figure out just what the f*ck he was going to do when nightfall came again.

Copyright © K R Perry 2019

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