Chapter Thirteen

Much time has passed. I am dying. 

Radiation sickness intense. Skin now black. Peeled away bed sheet to inspect wounds. Skin fell away like graphite powder and blew into the air. I am dying. I am not long for this middle world. I don’t know where I will go. Most likely stay here. Cyclones outside are inviting. Can hear them calling. 

Lucy, I have failed you. I am not going to make it. All that has happened, I could not prevent. I would have searched through the pages, but I’m too weak. My mind is a desert with only the wind calling your name. “Lucy” it sings. 

The pages in this journal are not blank and pages have not been ripped out. Have I not been writing between the train and now? About Pripyat? About Paisley? Tumour baby? The kiosk? I can remember them only as words in my vocabulary. As for the events in between? Nothing. My body is ravaged. I can barely move for vomiting. I’m in my hotel room looking up at ceiling. Bedside fan does not cool me. Instead it has blown the black powder-skin from my body. Skin has flown up to ceiling. There, an impression of me hangs. Like a mirror or a shadow looking down upon me. Most of my legs are gone. Melted down to bone. Some flesh remains. Smell of cheese overwhelming. Left arm liquefied up to elbow. Flesh gone. Just radius, ulna and carpal. Hand is liquefied up to proximal phalanx.  

Outside room, cyclones are motionless. Will one be for me? Buckets of vomit all around bed. Orange stained wallpaper no longer shows pretty ivy. Outline still visible. Just outline, no fill. Like me. I am an in-between outline, transitioning between lying on bed, and hanging on that ceiling. Can’t turn fan off. Can’t reach. Can only write. Right hand unaffected from blast and fall-out. Can barely see what I am writing. Relying on muscle memory. What can I remember? Remember the panic and the noise. Remember shouting. Crying. Remember steam. Gauges blowing. Smell of gas, of flesh. Cannot remember why I was there. Cannot remember that part. He will remind you. 

Remember immense pressure on soul. Bleeding out of eyes, nose and ears. Remember needles in glass meters shaking. Steam hissing. Remember seeing man, maybe Sacha melting though mezzanine grating above me. Remember him just pouring though it! 

Remember running to reactor. Remember Brekker shouting, then laughing. Remember being alone. Remember hand pulling me through tunnel. Then I remember waking up in hotel room. 

Sun high now. Like it was before. It was no dream, though. It happened. In the distance I can see the cloud from the explosion still hang in the air. It is red. Not like the dust red. Fire red.  

That’s all I really can recall.

Cannot speak for townsfolk. Wouldn’t know what to say. Memory gone. Eyes fading, too much strain to read over what is written. Will only write on. Sorry if I repeat. Flysheet over bed cannot stop black skin fragments drifting through. I can see my ribs. I will touch them.

Ribs bend like rubber. I tasted fingers. I have a metallic taste. Like ozone after a storm. How long has it been since I wrote last? I will take the strain to look back at last entry. 

There is no date of entry. Just when I came to Couldwell which I now know to be Pripyat – just then and now. All that is in between is missing. Like I have leapt over time. 

Need some sleep. No longer need to count to fall asleep. Happens when I close left eye. Right eye is melted through to socket. If I don’t wake, then Lucy I have failed you. You may never find this journal, but miracles happen in all worlds. Maybe you finding this will be a miracle. If you find it on the bed under the flysheet, look to the ceiling, the fan will have blown my powder skin up to it. There I am. Goodnight.

I’m awake. Dreamt of earth. Of soil piled onto me. Then dreamt of dark water. No light. Sinking into black water tank. Was no peace, just voice inside head. Voice spoke names. Over and over. Every name of everyone I have ever met. Everyone I have spoken to. Loved. Hated. Stolen from. Could not scream. Water too thick. Thickness grew. Like tar. Thicker and thicker. I sank lower and lower. Then I could sink no more. Stuck in the purgatory of the tar abyss. Still the names repeated. Seemed an eternity until Lucy was uttered. Woke up at the hint of the first consonant. Found him there, at edge of my bed. Watching me. He had come back.

He sits in corner of room looking at me. Hands on lap, head tilted. He is beautiful, like I was. His face covered with scarf to block smell of my melting flesh. Paisley sits by him. Won’t come near me. His ribcage is completely healed. The baby is nowhere to be seen. Where is he? Cannot see any wet patch. No clue as to his whereabouts. I asked man in chair about baby. He said, “gone.” I asked about Brekker. He said, “waiting.” I have told him about the dream. He will continue the journey. He must because he is me. He has sworn to continue onward. To find you, Lucy. Maybe to bring me out of nothing and reform me. Then we can all be together.

Lucy, I remember your illness. It was repulsive. But now, in my state, you seem beautiful. Now we are equal. I cast you out. Sent you away. Hid from looking at you. At the tumours. I didn’t know. Nobody could have known. Now I am no longer Master G_, I am Liquid Man, I am Master Powder-Skin and I will drift into air. Into nothing. Alone. But the other man, he will continue on. He is me.

I have given him instructions for when I go to sleep for good. He knows where to leave my remains. He will then write on. He will fill in the missing days or years. He was with me for the most part. Those parts that he wasn’t, I have told him about. He knows where to go. Seems a determined sort. Investigative too. I doubt he shall fail as I have done. Paisley likes him. Won’t leave his side.  

I wonder if...

Graham Thomas