Please Note: This story deals with very dark and disturbing themes. Do not read it if you're squeamish. This is part 5 of the story. Part 1 of the story is online here http://www.republibot.com/content/original-fiction-truth-about-lions-and... and part 2 is online here http://www.republibot.com/content/original-fiction-truth-about-lions-and... Part 3 is online here http://www.republibot.com/content/original-fiction-truth-about-lions-and.... Part 4 is online here http://www.republibot.com/content/original-fiction-truth-about-lions-and... and part 6 will be online next sunday
The girl didn’t survive, of course. She was too far gone. She lasted a day or two, or maybe only twelve hours, and he kept forgetting she was there. He was always surprised to see her, took her to be an interloper trying to steal his food. Every time he tried to attack, however, he would notice some post-it notes he’d stuck conspicuously to her: “She is not an enemy,” one said, “She is a friend. Feed her and keep her safe.” So he did, though it did no good.
Or did it? She died peacefully in her sleep with a full belly for the first time in God alone knew how long. She didn’t die alone and cold on the floor, but rather she expired on a cobbled-together bed made of cardboard Civil Defense boxes, and in the end he held her hand, though probably she didn’t know it. They weren’t friends by any stretch of the imagination, but at least she wasn’t entirely by herself. A tiny spark of humanity had re-entered the airport.
And from that came a plan, of sorts. He looked at her body after she’d expired, forgetting again who she was until he saw the notes he’d made for himself, though of course he didn‘t realize he was the one who‘d written them. Why had he bothered? What had she meant to whoever wrote the notes? Well, that didn’t matter much, he supposed, but she must have been important to whomever left the instructions for him. She was dead, obviously, so what could ‘keeping her safe’ mean? There were only one or two things a person would want a dead body for - food and sex - so clearly he must be meant to protect her body from that. He found to his surprise that he had paper and a pen, so he wrote himself a note: Get rid of body in some way others won’t get it. Then he wadded it between his wrist and his watch band, and put her over his shoulder. They made their way to the central atrium, with him forgetting several times what he was doing, but the note reminded him of his mission. He made his way to the third floor, and then chucked her body with all of his might over the side. She fell at an angle, splattering in to the center of the swamp of feces and effluvium that made up the first floor, the impact raising slow concentric ripples amongst the chives growing on top. He thought that was oddly pretty.
Her body was driven fourth-fifths of the way in to the gelatinous mass by the force of impact. ‘Wow,’ he thought, having no memory of just having thrown her in, ‘there’s a lot of meat in that dead body in the middle there,’ he thought, suddenly hungry - but not quite as hungry as he normally was - ‘but no one will ever get to it way out there in the middle.’ He stared until his hunger became worse, then discovered to his surprise that he had a map to a cache of food, so he decided to follow it. Once along the way he noticed a note in his watch band that said “Dump the body in the central swamp where no one can get to it,” but that made no sense whatsoever as he wasn’t carrying a body, so he threw it away.
The plan that emerged from this was simple, so simple in fact that it could only barely be called a plan at all. Of course it would have to be that way, since no one had any memory at all and were all operating on reflex and basest instincts. In fact it operated on a level not unlike a subtle form of behavior modification, over time, with training, and without memory he was able to add one reflex to his normal stable of them: check the paper.
He had access to a large-but-finite supply of food, but also a fair amount of paper, pens, and some minor office supplies. He got lonely. He wanted friends. Catching and training people was a simple matter: he simply jumped people in the hallway when they were alone and looked to be easy pickings. Then he’d haul them back to Civil Defense cache and sit on them until they both forgot what they were doing and calmed down. Then he’d check his notes to find out what he’d intended himself to do with the new person. He’d assign them a totally random name - “Sarah” or “bigass” or whatever seemed appropriate, and then he’d write this down and attach it to them in some conspicuous wise, along with whatever he wanted them to do. Simple instructions - ‘stay here’ or ‘guard door’ or ‘let the boss back in when he returns’ things like that. He’s made himself a “The Boss” nametag by this point, of course.
Catching people was easy enough to begin with, and it got easier still as the ready supply of food improved his health and strength. Initially he only went after women for obvious reasons, but as his harem of minions increased in size they had more needs than he, himself, was able to supply, and they began abducting men and indoctrinating them the same way he’d done his initial captives. All were given names - which of course they couldn’t remember - and maps back to the cache. Their instructions became more involved, their missions more complex, they began more arcane missions driven by curiosity rather than survival, and standing orders gradually evolved.
Standing order number one: Do what the paper says.
Standing order number two: No one is ever to be alone, everyone must always go in twos at least.
Standing order number three: If what the paper says doesn’t make sense, follow the map to home.
And so on. These were written on every paper for every person, regardless of the mission. He was not their leader, though; they didn’t and couldn’t have one since their situation was too unstable for any form of hierarchy to evolve. Instead the written word was their leader, even though they couldn’t remember who gave them instructions just moments after they’d been written. Their society was basic and rough and barely functional, and it certainly couldn’t deal with any kind of prolonged crisis lasting longer than a few minutes, but it was a working solution to an untenable problem.
How long this happy state of affairs continued no one can recall, but eventually they reached a tipover event: Attacks, fighting, rapes, and murders began to decline. More and more people went out to follow their written instructions and came back. First only some of them came back, then they started coming back bloodied and bruised, but they always made it back. Presently the teams started coming back without having any incidents of note at all - neither ones they could remember, nor otherwise. Eventually there were more people in his ad hoc community than out of it, and from that point on things progressed rapidly and safely. The endless violence disappeared, the written word had saved them and the pen had become their sword.
The lions operating entirely on aggression and instinct had been subverted, defeated, by the lambs operating on organization and something akin to compassion. Primate curiosity re-asserted itself: They mapped out the entire airport, they traveled in twos, they had enough to eat, and a basic code of behavior had evolved that prevented most crisis and strife. Anything that couldn’t be handled by the standing orders was resolved by their short attention span and shorter memory. Fights erupted, degenerated in to chaos, the same as before, but when the chaos degenerated in to exhaustion the fights fizzled out, the combatants surrounded by rings of people shouting “Check your paper! Check your paper!”
True, the food was running out, but as it was intended as disaster relief for a town somewhere, and there were less than a thousand of them. It would last a while yet. There was time. When the food ran out, all bets were off, but for the time being they were safe. More than safe, they were curious. ‘we can’t get out of here - WHY can’t we get out of here?’
When the next airliner landed, it was met by him and a group of his minions in the terminal. New people - so clean! - came from the boarding gangway, already looking confused and panicky. His people met them and gave them papers: ‘do what these say at all times’ they said, ‘or else bad things happen.’ They couldn’t remember exactly what the bad things were, but there were enough scars and missing teeth and limbs and gouged out eyes that no one had any real doubts about the existence of the bad things.
He went down the gangway and spoke with a nervous man standing by the door of the plane. The smell of stale coffee and half-cooked airline food washed over him with a sensuality he’d never before experienced.
“I’m sorry, sir, you can’t go back on the plane,” the flight attendant said.
“I don’t want to, I just wanted to tell you something…uhm…odd.” he said.
“Is there a problem?” asked the flight attendant, who had been told simply to keep his passengers from re-boarding. He hadn’t been told what to do about this crusty, half-naked, disgusting, hairy mass of a man who smelled like a sewer.
“Problem?” he said, absently to the flight attendant.
“Yes sir,” the attendant said with fake cheefulness, “just follow this hallway to the terminal, and everything will be fine.”
“Terminal - you know, it’s the damndest thing, I was…I was just gonna’ tell you something, but I forgot what it is,” he said.
“Must not have been very important then,” the attendant said.
He noticed a piece of paper in his hand, “Oh, I must have written it down,” he said to the attendant, “Let’s see: Standing order one, two, three, four, five, ok, this seems to apply: ‘Try to find a way out, and when you’ve found one, come back home and tell the others.’ Uhm…We’d like to leave, please,” he said.
The attendant freaked out at this, and ducked back in to the plane, pulling the door shut behind him. There was the sound of screaming and argument from inside - the people on the plane hadn’t wanted any part of this, they’d known it was wrong on a very basic level. They were frightened and overstressed, and it didn’t take much - just a man with a pleasant disposition and written orders - to push them to a breaking point. Their own standing orders didn’t cover such an eventuality.
He wrote his observations down, “We must have come in on the planes,” “We need to get on the planes and leave.” He got as far as “Position people in every terminal in small groups…” when the plane backed away hastily from the gangway, leaving him standing in the air, thirty feet above ground, the generic horizon in the distance, the weather still as pissy and sleeting as it was the day he arrived, not that he could remember it. The hallway didn’t fold back against the building this time. He watched the plane take off, as another of his minions wandered up and stood next to him.
“You shouldn’t be alone” the new one said to him, reading from his paper.
“I feel…I feel like watching that plane leave should mean something to me, but I can’t think what,” he said. Then he checked his note.
“ohhhhh, right!” he said, slapping himself on the forehead with the same filthy had he used to wipe his own ass. Eventually the two of them got confused as to what to do, and went back to the cache.
For the first time in the deliberately murky history of the airport, a plane arrived and discharged its compliment of damned without anyone dying. They were incorporated in to the group safely and quickly. Order prevailed.
Half their supply of food was gone by the time the next plane came. This caught them less by surprise, and so they had orders written down to deal with it. As it happened, the orders weren’t really terribly useful - trial and error was the major factor in the evolution of these things, but if a starfish can exhibit complex organized behavior without a brain, so can a community of humans without memory. They tried to get on this new plane. This resulted in a fight with a hysterical flight attendant - a woman this time - and a heroic (or merely guilty) pilot who came out to rescue her. The somewhat less heroic crew of the plane backed it away while the fight was still going on, and took off, stranding those two. He had hoped to get some information from them, but of course inside of a few minutes they were as vacuous as everyone else. They, and their passengers, were assimilated in to the group, and the standing orders evolved a bit more.
By the time the next plane came, they had decided to just rush it the moment the doors opened, though they had no idea how they’d get the crew to fly, or what they’d do with the people already aboard it. As it docked with one of the boarding gangways, they wandered down it somewhat confusedly, repeatedly checking their notes to see what was going on.
With a loud ‘clunk’ from the moving gangway, the connection was made.
The door opened.
They ran - he ran - blasting past the flight attendant, and suddenly his face erupted in a wall of pain as a man in black police combat gear punched him hard in the nose. He went down, and was dragged out of the way. Thirty or forty more men in SWAT gear filed past him, fighting hand-to-hand with the five or ten people who’d managed to get on the plane. One of them was stabbed in the groin, another fell over and took a knee to the face, Two more ran away. The one who got hit in the face fell awkwardly in the close quarters, sprawling on the man who was holding him down. He was able to wriggle out of the guard’s grasp. He had no idea what was going on, but getting the hell out of there seemed like a fine idea. The guard grabbed for him, but he kicked him square in the throat and the man fell down, sputtering, and didn’t get up again. Getting away from the dying guard, he scrambled to the hall just in time to see the squad with shotguns firing beanbag charges in volley after volley in to the crowd, who, of course, fled in abject horror.
Two of them turned. One shot him in the chest, and he felt pain unlike anything he’d ever experienced before. He went down on all fours. Another guard rushed him and grabbed him by the hair, yanking his head up and punching him again and again in the face, each impact more painful than the last. He felt a searing white heat of pain and heard a snap as his nose broke.
“At least I won’t remember this,” was the last thing he thought before he blacked out.
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