Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tarma's Song by Andrew Freudenberg

 Tarma’s song reached out into the Station. With serpentine determination it slithered through the power conduits, slid along the narrow walkways and caressed the bones of the mostly dead. Where once there had been melody there was now none. Any sense of rhythm that the song may have once contained had been crushed by time. There was no longer any vestige of beauty or humanity remaining.
    The song did not come effortlessly for Tarma nor did it come without pain. Born as a mere whimper somewhere down deep in the knotted recesses of her gut, it scraped its way up towards her larynx. On arrival this rotten travesty of an organ gave it some volume and a modicum of form before forcing it on its way. By the time it crept over Tarma’s black and broken teeth it was as much moan as mantra. She threw back her head and just let it come.

     The best part of two full centuries had passed since her mundane birth four and half billion miles away. That this twisted creature was ever an innocent human child, a thing of beauty and hope, seemed impossible to reconcile with her current reality. Time, always a cruel mistress of decay, had been allowed to play for too long.
   At first glance, if there had been anyone present to make the erroneous observation, her skin appeared to be smooth and dark. On closer inspection the many harsh repairs became more obvious. Her dusky complexion was actually a patchwork of dried meat and knitted polymers, a collage of finely grown synthetics interweaved with the dead remains of her own flesh. The finer parts of her face, nose, ears and lips, all had become contorted by the excess surgical attention that they had received. Her fingers were claws, permanently splayed on shaking hands that she could only clutch closely to her chest. One eye stared blindly and endlessly, the lid lost some years before. The other was a swirl of unnatural colour that held little promise of sight but in fact retained some function. The synthetic surgeons deserved praise for this small miracle. A few clumps of grey hair remained, unruly outgrowths amongst the scars on the bumpy savannah of her skull.
  Sanity and self awareness had begun to fade fast as she passed the century mark leaving little but animal instinct. The machines dispensed necessary nutrition and cleaned up after her, leaving her free to roam aimlessly as she pleased. She had become not much more than an ailing pet.
       Of course eleven healthy adults had not been sent so far from home without some faint hope of return. Failing that, the crew had been assured, more flights would be bound to follow. Events had turned good intentions into lies and history had left them to die slowly in their remote prison. Disease and degeneration had eventually claimed half a dozen victims and suicide had killed another three. Then there were two.
    Eventually Tarma’s song would wake Luiz from his fitful nightmares. Luiz’ groans would bring a faithful server to his side, stimulant injections at the ready. Once these polluted his blood stream he would follow the sound of the song as fast as a man with no limbs or sight could possibly manage. He had no more idea of why he did what he did than she. His conscious mind had lasted several decades beyond hers but eventually the ministrations of the medical minions had left him equally damaged. Their skills at prolonging the human body were almost supernatural but the inner spark eluded their touch and in the end its extinguishment was no small mercy.
An hour of writhing and rolling bought him, scratched and exhausted, to the floor of the observation chamber where Tarma performed. With an entire wall made of glass the view of Neptune below them was magnificent and the blue planet bathed them in an azure glow that only she could see. He would join her in duet, his song a scaly baritone barrage of unrecognizable curses and spittle. Together they would spend the day howling of their lost humanity to the swirling clouds below.


Andrew Freudenberg is amused by darkness so he writes about it. His work can currently be found causing trouble in anthologies from the likes of Knightwatch, Rainstorm and Angelic Knight Press. He lives in the South West of England where he is raising a small army of boys and attempting to create ‘longer stuff’.
‘Tarma’s Song’ was originally featured in ‘Kizuna: Fiction for Japan’. Please check it out!
Copyright 2011 Andrew Freudenberg

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