Breaking the Wall - Warhammer 40K Fantasy

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  1. #1
    Senior Member citybeatnik's Avatar
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    Breaking the Wall

    I know that it's not exactly (read: at all) Warhammer related, but I've been working on this story for one of my creative writing classes and I figured 'eh, I've got some time before it needs to be turned in, why not get some critiques?' And this seemed like a good enough place to unleash it.
    If it's a problem, I'll delete the thread. =D Anyway, here goes...

    I seem to recall, at some point in my life, requesting a Viking-style funeral, fiery and exciting. A monstrous, vibrant affair complete with quaffing and singing and general mayhem. It would have been exciting and full of life, completely unlike what my family and I were scheduled to endure.
    They say that when you die, your life plays out before your eyes instantly, letting you review what you did right and wrong and generally preparing you in case there’s a test at the end. I felt gypped when that failed to occur, although part of me was glad that some of my more embarrassing moments would not be seen again. Instead of a burst of bright light and a celestial chorus, I found myself lying upon a cold table, the center of far, far too much attention. It was a mild blessing that I was not awake for most of the action; instead, my eyes slowly focused upon a woman. She looked like the mousy type (from what little of her I could manage to see) and her face twisted around itself in concentration as she struggled with getting the sleeves of my shirt down my arms.
    It was lavender. I hated lavender with a passion, but George always said that I looked good in it and what he thought was what mattered to me, had always mattered to me. Towards the end, as my metaphysical sand began to run out, I had figured that it wouldn’t matter what I was buried in.
    The girl stayed in my view for a few minutes as she fussed with the buttons before disappearing again from my sight. With nothing else to do I let my mind fall back, recalling one of the snide comments I had made to George when he had asked me to start planning for the evitable.
    “Funerals,? I had said, “are for the living, not the dead.?
    If I had known then what I know now, I would have asked to be buried in something much more comfortable; a tank top and a pair of shorts more then likely.
    * * *
    Time passed slowly on the table, and then I must have blacked out for a while (can I black out now? Is it possible?). My world exploded in a bright burst of light as the coffin lid was lifted and suddenly I could hear everything going on around me, despite the muffling effects of the thick padding (I had scoffed when I had first seen the coffin George and I had chose, commenting about the waste of comfort on a corpse). Now, my world was filled with the sounds of chairs being placed, the clattering of plates (and I was glad that George had listened to me on that part; let the people enjoy themselves at the viewing and try to remember the good times) and the soft noises of people moving quietly and with a purpose.
    It’s a shame that everyone’s wasting this on me.
    I focused my vision on the ceiling above me; whoever had prepared me (and I think of it like that so easily, so calmly… the worst has happened to me, why worry?) hadn’t closed my eyes completely, leaving slits through which I could view the world. That was as far as my senses could spread; I couldn’t feel the pillow beneath my head, but by god I could stare up at the ceiling to my (unbeating) heart’s content.
    You can only try to count the stains on the ceiling for so long before frustration begins to rear its ugly head.
    I’m reminded of the final act of Our Town, where the buried dead sit together on stage and simply stare up at the stars and talk, and I wonder if that’s what I have to look forward to: an aching eternity surrounded by people that I do not know. Nothing to do but remain in place and be judged by people that would not approve of the way I’ve lived my life so far. Is this it?
    I’d shudder, but my muscles refuse to move, leaving me locked in repose. There is just the sound of the people around me, and the faint view of the ceiling.
    * * *
    The ceiling was rapidly becoming a constant source of irritation.
    Leaving my eyes to stare (what else could I do) I allowed my mind to wander, going inward for some way to entertain myself. When I was more mobile, my hands would be aching for a sheet of paper to write with (a pen, pencil, crayon, lipstick at least once as a last resort). Now they reclined listlessly on my chest, apparently content with where they were. In fact, the only bit of me not resting in peace appeared to be my mind, which refused to compose (‘decompose’ I mentally translate in my head) itself and accept the fact that I’m dead.
    Unable to do anything else, I focused on my body, trying to will it to do something. I expended Herculean willpower towards my arms, trying to think them into moving.
    Nothing at all, not even a guttural, zombie-esque moan.
    Where’s a Michael Jackson dance routine when you need it?
    Every bit of me is numb, and not in the ‘oh-no-my-foot’s-asleep’ way. I know that I’m laying in state, my hands crossed over my chest and my head resting upon a pillow, but I can’t feel the fabric of my hated lavender shirt or the softness of the cushion. My vision remains locked on the ceiling, my lashes forming prison bars across my view.
    I wonder giddily if they sell coffins with flat-screens mounted on the inside of the lid for situations such as these.
    Then, suddenly, release; blessed, wonderful release in the form of George’s bearded face obscuring the ceiling as he gazes down at me. I focus in upon his grief-stricken face intensely, overjoyed with the thought that I could let him know that I was still here. Our eyes lock for the briefest of moments.
    And then he looks away; he has no clue that I’m still here, still listening to every thing he says, hanging on to every word as it leaves his lips. I’m trapped in place, my body a prison, and there’s nothing that I can do about it. The brief flicker of hope fades away, leaving only his voice.
    “Hey Joe,? he says, tears rimming his beautiful eyes as he spoke before falling into silence; this was the first he’d seen of me since that final visit to the hospital, I realized. Last time, he’d said goodbye to me while surrounded by electronic beeps and wires. Now he was expected to do it all over again, in front of a crowd of watchers and well-wishers.
    “Sorry about the lilies,? he began again, trying to speak in the same tone he would about the weather, as if it was a trifling mistake that he wasn’t agonizing over. “It’s… not quite going according to plan.
    “But,? he continued, his eyes closing as he sighed, “maybe that’s okay. Some people worry about their wedding day, fussing over the small details and the needless fears so that when it all finally snowballs out of control, it’s a relief.? He pulled back then, disappearing from my view. “Maybe it’s the same way with us now… maybe all the problems are just there to remind us about the parts that went correctly. Of everything that went perfectly, past, present, and future. The mistakes and small disasters make the few things that felt right, the handful of things that were perfect, seem so much sweeter in comparison.?
    I want to cry, weep like a child, but of course I’m unable to. It’s only when tears fall from his eyes onto my face that I can pretend to be mourning with him, and those are wiped away with a careful hand. For a fleeting moment, I swear that I can feel his fingers on my cheek, but the moment he pulls away I’m back in my cold, cut off world.
    He talks for several minutes more, as if he expects for me to be able to respond, and I realize that I want to, my very mind aches with my efforts to talk with him a final time, but I can’t. Instead I try to soak up his words as best as I’m able, to memorize the sound of his voice so that I’ll always have it with me, even if the neighbors two plots down decide to not talk to me for a few decades.
    “Your mom’s not going to be coming,? he says, shifting subjects yet again. He’s disappeared from between my prison bar eyelashes for a while now, leaving his voice as the only real thing in my world. “She didn’t even answer the phone… but she did send that priest to the hospital for you, so I guess she still kind of cares.?
    If I could, I’d roll my eyes. The priest had been kind and understanding. My mother was not; her sending the priest was the closest thing we’d had to contact since she found out about the real me. Still, George was the sort to try to find the good in anyone.
    After all, he’s stuck close to me.
    “But your sis and her kid are on their way, getting close, and I know that you’ll like that. We’ve still got plenty of time until the service really starts, so you’ll get to talk to them.? His voice is quivering now, but he’s not despairing. Maybe if this whole thing had come as a surprise, but we’d both been dreading and expecting this to happen.
    There was a sudden buzzing and a jolly tune completely out of place in the room. George started suddenly, I could hear him moving against my coffin, and answered his phone quickly. “Catherine?? A few moments of silence. “Yeah, I’ll meet you out front. Just give me a second.?
    I hear the click as he folds his phone shut, and then he reappears in my vision, smiling sadly down at me. “That was her, she got lost again, but she managed to find the place… I’ll be right back, I promise.?
    His head disappears from view and I wonder what he’s doing. Then, I feel his hands smoothing the hair back from my face as my sense of touch returns for a handful of moments. He leans down and kisses my forehead, and something moist falls on my cheek. Then, he’s gone, leaving me to cry his tears.
    * * *
    He returned after what felt like hours, his footfalls followed by two others. Everyone is so somber, after I spent months telling them that they didn’t need to cry for me. Of course, I had been somber as well, especially towards the end. Still, there had been a small part of me was glad to know that it would finally be done with. As I’d devolved from being able to walk on my own to needing a cane to finally the accursed wheelchair, death had become a glimpse of freedom.
    Now, it seemed that I’d traded one prison for another.
    “Hey Joey, it’s Cat.? My sister’s voice rang out as she moved near, her footsteps uncertain. Which was odd for her; throughout our childhoods, she’d been the one that knew what she was doing. Now she was older, and as she gazed down into my eyes all I could see was sadness. “Sorry we’re a bit late, but you know how I am with directions.?
    She pulled back then and sighed while resting her hands on the lip of the coffin. George was gone: I could hear him shepherding the growing flock of friends and family. All there was now were my sister and her daughter.
    She continues to talk, and I can hear Sarah fidgeting next to her. I haven’t seen my niece in almost a year, I realize, and I begin to wonder franticly what she looks like now, if anything has changed.
    What will change, I think as I watch my sister. This is my last chance to see my family before I’m bricked away beneath six feet of soil. It gives me a sense of urgency as I try to memorize every slight perfection and blemish on my sister’s skin.
    I try to imagine Sarah, picturing her the last time I visited her, where I’d given her a ride on my lap as I manhandled my wheelchair about the apartment. I can’t remember the unimportant details, just the general shape that makes her up. A smile filled with missing teeth, hair tamed into a braid, and Jessica, the ever-present rag doll that she always had clutched to her chest. We had shared laughs, and I had shared stories.
    George and Catherine and Sarah. Perhaps the three most important people in my life, and we’re leaving each other after today. I try again to force some sort of movement into my limbs, and only relent with reluctance. Throughout it all, my sister was tearfully apologizing for not being able to be there, to having had to stoop to calling me days before the end. The futility of this whole situation is maddening.
    “Mommy?? Sarah spoke up as Catherine’s voice became as brittle as spun glass. My sister disappeared from view, leaving me a silent listener, as always.
    “Mom’s fine, dear,? Catherine lied. She sniffled slightly and tried to put on a brave front. “Do you want to say anything to your uncle??
    “Yes’m,? she breathed. I could imagine her standing there, patiently (she’d always been such a calm kid) while holding Jessie. “Can I see him??
    “You’re getting too big for mom to lift, honey.?
    I had never before in my life wished that my sister had been born a professional weightlifter, but I did in that moment.
    That seemed to mollify Sarah for a moment before she spoke up, her voice the only bright thing in my somber little world. “Then can I stand on a chair? I promise I won’t fall.?
    My silent shout must have had some sort of effect (or at least I hoped that it had) because Catherine relented and, after a bit of a struggle with the chair, Sarah appeared in my line of vision.
    I could barely see her, and I wished that George had had the coffin placed somewhere lower. Possibly on the ground. Just so that I could see my niece one final time.
    Still, she was exactly as I pictured her. Dressed in black now, instead of the pink nightmare all mothers seem to force their daughters to wear, and her hair was tied back instead of braided. But the freckles were there, some of the teeth were not, and Jessica was clutched to her chest. I’d remembered the important details, and that was all that mattered.
    She eyed me carefully for a few moments, with the extreme seriousness of a child trying to imitate the grown-ups.
    “Mommy says you’re in a better place now,? she finally said, trying to sound like an adult. I watch her, entranced, as she pauses to gather her thoughts. “And she told me not to cry, just like you did, so I’m not going to cry.?
    That’s a good girl, I say silently, attempting to will my dead tear ducts to work. Even towards the end, I had known that I was going to be leaving my family behind. But I had never expected to be trapped in place, forced to watch them make their good-byes while unable to do anything about it. They’ll have moved on and I’ll be there, alone among the countless plots. Some of them will come and bring me flowers but there’ll be six feet of mud and dirt separating them from me. A wall that I’ll never be able to break down.
    “But,? her voice shocks me out of my mind, the seriousness in her voice colliding with the freckles on her cheeks and a missing tooth, “I don’t want you to be lonely… I’ll come visit you as often as I can.?
    Suddenly, she leans closer, her voice dropping to the one she uses for when she’s telling me secret things, things like her imaginary friend Bubba or how she saw a baby bird fly for the first time. “Jessie is going to cry, though, and Jessie is going to miss you a lot. And I don’t want you and her to be lonely, and I want Jessie and you to be happy.?
    My world stood still for a handful of moments as she stared down at me before she twisted to look at her mother.
    * * *
    I’ve never believed in the fairy tale happy ending (it’s one of my better character flaws). But, I do believe in things ending well when they’re deserved.
    There is soon a sea of voices as the viewing gets under way, mostly friends and family of George who have come to pay their respects. I don’t mind it all that much; Catherine and Sarah are the only family that I really spoke with anymore. Now, it’s just important for me to see who it was that truly cared, the ones that showed up.
    The speeches start (there’s always speeches, sad memories of happy events that the teller wants to memorialize in their listeners) and I wonder if I’m the first to be able to listen and critique their own eulogies. If I’m the first to be stuck in this position. I doubt it.
    There’s a general theme with them. ‘Gone, but not forgotten’ is something they keep returning to; it might comfort them vaguely, but to my worried ears it’s a balm. Maybe the six feet of rock and dirt won’t be a wall. Maybe I won’t be trapped in a prison.
    I’m actually peaceful at the very end, my mind resting as easily as my hands are. I don’t worry as they close the coffin lid and the whole world begins to go black and I can feel myself slipping away again.
    After all, it’s not as if I’m alone; tucked gently in the crook of my arm is Jessica. I can’t feel her, but I know that she’s there. And as long as she’s happy to be with me, I’ll be happy as well.

    - Thoughts, comments? -

    "Some days you're the Mekboy building the kannon, the rest you're the grot being blown up by it."
    - Quote attributed to Sorkrates, before his much mourned death due to ingestion of Hemsquig Juice.

    "Dis iz my choppa, and herez me gun. Dat's for killin' and so'z dis one!"
    - Bloodaxe Kommando Warchant

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  3. #2
    Senior Member lLonginus's Avatar
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    Wow. Really, wow. That was very well written. You built up a character, and made a past, without ever making an introduction. Good writing style, characters. One thing I was uncertain of. The main character is a man, right? You were mostly vague, and I have known some girls called Joe(really), so I would like to know for sure. A very interesting perspective on the afterlife, and it actually runs along the lines of what I think to be accurate. That when you die, you don't go to heaven or hell, you just go into the earth. A very very good story, I was impressed. I was even more impressed to learn an ork player wrote this (there are some stereotypes that go with being orks, sorry), now I know Ork players aren't the brutes we expect them to be. Absolutely awesome!
    My gaming group's new motto: That army you're using is overpowered because it hurts my guys, codex is broken and needs a rewrite.

  4. #3
    Senior Member citybeatnik's Avatar
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    Glad you enjoyed it. I'm defiantly not 100% happy with it myself (rereading it makes me flinch; if I had spent some more time on it before turning it in...) but that's what the editing process is for.
    And, yeah. I was heavily influenced by the end of Our Town, for some odd reason. Love the play. Oh, and...
    Quote Originally Posted by lLonginus
    One thing I was uncertain of. The main character is a man, right? You were mostly vague, and I have known some girls called Joe(really), so I would like to know for sure.
    In one of the parts I deleted, George calls Joe 'Joseph', if that clears it up any for you...
    "Some days you're the Mekboy building the kannon, the rest you're the grot being blown up by it."
    - Quote attributed to Sorkrates, before his much mourned death due to ingestion of Hemsquig Juice.

    "Dis iz my choppa, and herez me gun. Dat's for killin' and so'z dis one!"
    - Bloodaxe Kommando Warchant

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