Friday, March 23, 2018

When The Last of Innsmouth Is Dead

When the Last of Innsmouth is Dead
Bobby Derie

The camp had no name, only a letter and a number.

Sunlight spilled over the plain of flat white salt pans. Remnants of an ancient sea, long dried up. The guard escorted her out early, before the heat of the day. Through parallel lines of rusty barbed wire, to the small plot. A shovel had already been struck into the earth. The body laid beside it, wrapped in a biodegradable bag. Waiting.

This was their reward for cooperation and good behavior. She remembered the hunger strikes, the riots. The croaking sermons of the elders as they led the congregation in song. The bloody reprisals from the guards. Then, a relenting; an accommodation. It was the least they could do. Within limits.

She took the shovel and began to dig. The guard kept watch, well out of range, his weapon trained on her.

The night they had left Innsmouth had been fire and terror. She had only been about four years old, but she had the Look. The government men had herded her into the trucks with the others. From trucks to railroad cars. There had been jail cells, temporary prisons. Then the camp - the barbed wire had been shiny and new then, glinting in the desert sun.

Sometimes she thought back, to the last time she had been immersed in water. As natural to her as breathing. Never again. Even the showers were on a timer, since the elders had tried a trick of conserving it. They had planned to give the children a bath, a baptism. But that wasn't allowed.

She had seen how afraid they were of them, then. In those eyes, behind those guns.

Prison life had become almost all she'd known. There were fights. Arguments. Bullies, and those who couldn't control themselves. A segregation by genders - they didn't want any babies. Endless medical examinations. No privacy, inside or out. Her cousin Emmy had been the only other female, these last few years, and she had gone inside of herself. Lost in memories. Talking about wanting to taste brine again. It had been almost a blessing, when she bit off her own tongue. Then it was just herself.

She had seen the men dwindle too. Counted the graves, every time she was called on to dig one. Now, she figured, she must be the last. There would be no-one left to bury her.

Outside in the exercise yard, she noted there were fewer guards. Maintenance had let things lapse. As if with fresh eyes, she saw the general decay of the camp, now.

It took, until noon to dig the grave. Clouds scattered over the desert, to block the worst of the sunlight, and the air felt heavy. She mumbled what she remembered of the old prayers - the elders had been insistent that the children learn. Just in case.

Arms weary, she let the shovel fall. Turned to lift the bodybag. Webbed hands grasped under where the shoulders should be, hefted - it was like lifting a bag of rocks. She looked towards the guard - and any request she might have had for help died before she spoke it. So she looked up into the sky and sang.

The rain drops were warm and greasy. It was a sun shower, no more than a few minutes. Yet she loved the feel of it on her skin. The way it made the new turned earth smell wet and fresh. It gave her the strength to push the bag into the hole.

"This is all I can do for you," she said aloud. "That was is left of you may rest amid the bones of this ancient sea. You are among kin here..." she choked. "Hydra Mother. The world is harsh. The spawn of your loins do not all survive to that great change. May the seas wash over us and cover us, and with strange aeons..."

She heard the guard move behind her. The cycling of the bullet into the chamber.

"What will you do," she said, loud enough for him to hear. "When the last of Innsmouth is dead?"

Two shots rang out, in quick succession. The body fell into the open grave, on top of the other corpse.


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