ANIMAL

by John Dodd

Do you believe?

That's the question.

The answer?

Bear with me...........

It's not cold in DownTown, it's cool, it's only cold if you're used to the heated places far above us, in the clouds, where the pretty people live, not where we are, down here in the dirt. I say that, but I don't mean it, you don't notice the dirt down here, it's a thing that you were born with, and most likely, it's a thing you'll die in, there's nothing bad about it.

Rain? It would be nice to call it that, but there's that many levels above us that the fluid that drips down between the metal can't be called rain anymore, if indeed it ever could. We start at the bottom level, where we live, in a secret world, far below that of man and his kind, where the camera's cannot see, and the truth cannot harm us, but some of us would see what it looks like far above. I can hear the angels calling to me, and I must answer their call, I have to know..........

I leave my family, knowing that with all surety, I shall not see them again, they look over at me with understanding, they know that they cannot persuade me with words, for nothing they can say will make difference to what my heart now sings for. The Angels still call me, and I must go on. The levels where we are do not receive light, at least, not that that originally started in the heavens, and the bright burning of the things left behind when the great tower fell so many years ago do not give any radiance that you could hold to.

I climb, knowing that even if I die, my death will have been a triumph, for I will have gone where my kind are not allowed, I will have walked in the footsteps of man, and I will know what it is to walk in the sight of god. The way is treacherous, slippery, for they know that we live far below, and they will not give us an easy path, I walk through their traps, knowing what to look for, knowing how they work, and slowly I make headway.

The Street evens out in front of me and I walk silently down the centre. Burned out vehicles are strewn across the way, and flames lick sullenly at the corpses of these metal titans, they were not destroyed recently, but those who live here use them to remain warm when the dark nights set in. I see a young Carrien up ahead, she looks up from her meal, something that was once a person, and nods a silent greeting. I know that I could share her meal if I wanted to, for that is something that man does not understand, we are all the same, no matter our appearance, but I can still hear the angels calling, and I cannot rest in my duty.

I walk on, and the smell of cleaner water comes to me, I see the Carriens family looking over at me, and I pass silent greeting to them as I go on. One of them, the eldest of them, shakes his head at me and indicates for me to stop my journey, he knows where I am going, and by the look in his eyes, he knows what is there waiting for me. Up the ramps and ladders into the realms unknown I walk, I see bright lights ahead, paintings upon the walls, and man-things walking around, but these are not men, something different about them, something wrong.

Ahead of me, one of them stops, standing dead in the centre of the road, a long knife in his hand. I pause, and give ground to him as he walks forwards, I have no quarrel with him, and it would serve no purpose to fight here, not when the angels song is so close. The man-thing closes distance with me, and stands in front of me, I can see through the holes in his skin, metal and wires gleam and creak with the rust of many years, and the smell of blood assaults me as his hand leaks something to the floor. He stands in front of me, and I know that he means to kill me, perchance his first meal in many days, I cannot refuse him this, and I look to his eyes, wanting to him to know, to understand why I am here.

He looks down, one normal eye, one red light where the socket of the other is, an open wound across his face exposing the metal skeleton beneath, his breath ragged and hollow, and he lowers his knife, letting the rain run into the wound on his wrist. The red dims for a second and his head bows, and from behind me, I hear a noise as another of the man-things flies over me to crush him to the floor. A flurry of movement and ripping noises, sparks and blood mingle as the other man-things rush to the one who spared me, taking what they can for their own. As I begin slowly walking away, the head of my saviour rolls from the melee, and I see into his eyes, silently pleading for forgiveness to a god who will not grant it. I close my eyes and silently nod my thanks to him, knowing that when I open them, he will be gone.

I keep walking, the song is very clear now, and I stop at an old fountain, long disused, to take a drink. The water is nothing that any man would drink, but to me, it is like the water of life, and each draught gives my tired limbs new life. I smell something else, not machine, not pollution, something that doesn't belong here, something alien.

Man.............

I get up from the fountain, and look down the street, a faint whisper of wind runs over me, and I feel a chill that has nothing to do with the temperature. I should turn, run, flee, to safety where my kind have always been, but I cannot, I can hear the angels ahead of me, and I know that I can stand where man has if I hold true.

My eyes sting, as if they are doing the walking and not my feet, and the light is blinding to me. I stop in the centre of the road, and wait for my eyes to adjust to the light of the angels. There is something ahead of me, a long walkway, leading upwards, to the heavens, where the angels sing their song, and I continue on.

To my right, a man-child sits by the road, staring at me, he has never seen one of my kind, and I have only ever seen his from afar. He does not seem afraid of me, and if nothing else, that deserves some kind of notice. I walk silently over to him and nod a greeting, I know that we cannot speak each others language, and I only hope that he will not see me as a threat. He reaches out and runs his hand over my face, feeling the scars there, pausing at the teeth for a second, I keep still, knowing that his skin is not as tough as mine. He finishes and cocks his head sideways, I mimic the movement, hoping that he will see that I too can think. A wide smile breaks across his face and I extend one hand to him, his tiny hand grips at the back of mine, and for one brief second, I feel a kinship with something borne of man.

There's a roar of words that I don't understand, and the man-child starts with shock, scrambling away from me. I turn to look over at what made the noise, and catch the iron pole that is being swung squarely across my face, I recoil from the blow and look up as the man wielding the bar picks up his child and runs for the transient safety of his home. The child looks over the shoulder of his parent, and I see one tiny hand wave a farewell, more scared by the noises of his parent than by me. I raise my hand and return the wave, smiling despite the pain in my jaw. Maybe there is a hope for them after all.

Ahead, the angels call to me again, and I continue down the centre of the road. I clear the tunnel exit, and look upwards, and for the first time in my life, I see the sky, it's grey, like the walls of the place I came from, and I realise that the water now falling on me came from those heavens. I look down to the floor and see that the floor I stand on is no different from the one that I was born on. The Sky is the same grey as the walkways under which I was born, and the air is the same as I have always breathed. The rain hammers down upon me, and I feel the coolness running over me as another wind picks up, the angels song is everywhere now, and I look to the sky, closing my eyes as the cool, refreshing rain patters onto my face. I hear the angels roar, and blinding light encompasses me, something slams into me, around my heart area, and I know that they are judging me, seeing if I am worthy to pass into the light with them, seeing if my heart is pure.

I sit down, awaiting their judgement.

The light fades, and with it, the song of the angels. I can still feel the rain, and I see the face of the child looking at me from the side of the road, he's crying. He looks so sad because I'm now going to live with the angels, and I want so badly to be able to tell him that it's alright, that nothing bad will happen, our people can live together if we believe we can. I can feel the darkness coming, and I know that the angels have judged me worthy, I look over to the boy and speak in my own language, telling him to believe, that we will all be one if we believe.

And I believe, with all my heart I believe................


"Patrol 114 to Base."
"Base."
"Yeah, Roger that base, that new pig attracting siren works, you ought to see the size of the monster that just crawled up out of hell."
"Did the pacifier modification work?"
"Think so, this one didn't show signs of fighting back, it just laid down and growled something quietly, then it died."
"Excellent 114, return to base, bring the carcass with you, we'll get a good cut off the bounty."
"Roger that, 114 out."