Actions

Work Header

Ashes to Ashes

Work Text:

When it is a cage.

 

At its best, its fullest, its busiest, it is full of music and life and death.

 

There are three factions of beings within it. First and least important are the animals, always present. Mice in the kitchens, and the occasional rat. Snakes, spiders, insects, mites. Little, quiet minds.

Second are the humans. They are the ones who built it, who hold the control, who are familiar and warm. They are clever. They know the way around.

Third are the strangers. Not human, not animal. They are weak, and they are held. Held apart, held still, held down. They are foreign. But they whisper and sing like humans, and weep and rage like humans. They stay, sinking into the foundations, their bodies buried in the earth, their strange, alien matter changing the soil.

It soaks everything in. From youth to age.

 

Manes is a force to be reckoned with. Human and strong, he strides the halls with perfect ease and confidence. He is a god here. He is in control. He is king. He is overseer. Owner. Manager. Chief Master Sergeant.

From his lips to the limbs of his fellow humans. If Manes says do this, it is done. If Manes orders for an alien to be removed, it is taken. If he demands an experiment performed, it is completed.

Manes is at home here, and is loved. Respected by his people, and loved by this place. With him, this place has purpose. It holds tight to its subjects and gives none of them up.

 

The aliens are a captured force, initially. Separated and tortured, they bleed agony into the walls, which is soaked up and absorbed. Pain seeps into the concrete, into the struts, the stairs, the cells, the hallways. Horror oozes into the laboratories and theatres.

Excitement and fear mingle in the air and are sucked into the ceilings and floors. Everything here is a contradiction. Humans against aliens. Anticipation against dread. Glee against terror.

All of it is absorbed. All of it is drunk down.

After a while, they are demanded.

 

The frenzy happens in the first few years. The subjects are many, and the humans are full of enthusiasm. They fall on their prisoners with no restraint. They rape, pillage, destroy. In the laboratories, aliens are pinned on tables and taken apart. They are not human, or animal. They are curiosities and enemies.

They live here too.

Their despair makes itself at home here. Their blood on the floors and walls is food. Their tears are sucked deep. They scream at a frequency that is inaudible at first, before they accept their fate. They are here to stay. They are here forever. They will reside here until their last breaths, and so are beloved. Their pain and dread are beloved. They are at home, and they will never leave.

 

The aliens are many, until they are suddenly realised to be too few.

All at once, they are a limited resource.

 

Other humans come in to feed the empty gape that the aliens are no longer being fed to in such numbers, and with them, Patricia.

 

Patricia.

 

Patricia is…how to describe Patricia? Human, and alien. A familiar stranger. She walks in and breathes out in slow surprise, more at home here than anyone else has ever been before, and will ever be again. Patricia. Patricia.

She accompanies other humans at first, those who have been chosen to be fed to the hunger here. Experiments must be performed. These rituals must be completed. Needles to skin, knives to flesh, blood on wall and floor.

But Patricia sheds blood only twice; at the very beginning, and the very end.

 

Patricia can walk among humans and aliens alike, a perfect union of both. She speaks to both. She loves both. She betrays both. Ultimately though, her allegiance comes to her blood.

The humans being fed to the emptiness in this place are treated almost as badly as the aliens, and they are her people. The aliens, despised and derided at all turns, are her people as well. She allies herself with both, and turns against Manes.

 

Manes is beloved of this place, but so is Patricia.

Manes is first.

Patricia is best.

Manes is powerful.

Patricia is cunning.

 

The corridors are long and dimly lit. The stairwells echo. The laboratories gleam. The doors lock tight, tight, tight.

Once this place takes you in, a piece of you will never leave. For some, that piece is the whole.

No alien will ever get out alive. That is certain.

 

Patricia allies herself with the aliens and pretends allegiance to the humans. Her walk is craved by every hallway here. Occasionally she will brush her fingertips along the rough concrete walls, and the world around her will shiver. Every time she leaves, she is mourned. Every time she returns, she is celebrated.

Of course, games are played.

Patricia will turn a corner and find a hallway she could swear she’s never seen before. She walks up stairs for minutes, minutes, minutes, and can’t find the door to the floor she wants until she panics and starts to run. She falls asleep in lecture theatres and wakes up in janitor’s closets, in the rec room, in the middle of the cell block.

None of the humans or the aliens see her come and go on these occasions. Her movements are so closely cleaved to, no creature perceives her.

Of course, she is favoured as well.

If she hears a voice she wishes to avoid, she will find an unlocked room at her elbow, ready for her to hide in. When she needs privacy, no one can locate her. If she needs tools, all she needs to do is think of them and wander from lab to store room, and they’ll be right there.

Patricia is a rational woman. She’s brave and resourceful, and now she’s picked her side, she’s loyal to a fault.

She is a haunted woman.

She ignores that.

She ignores it all.

 

There are many humans who are at home here. Lockhart is one of them.

There are many aliens who have made themselves at home here. Nora is one of them.

 

The corridors stretch out, lit by low-hanging yellow lamps.

The cells hold their captives close, loved and hurting.

The stairs bleed darkness and malice.

Home is where the heart is.

Home is here.

 

Patricia is Patricia not Patricia is Mimi is Maria is Maria Maria Maria Maria Maria Maria Maria –

Who the fuck is Maria DeLuca?

Patricia Maria comes to work, another day of walking the line betraying her own and using her knowledge of this place and these people to help her fellows and pretend to work with her enemies how could she do this how could she how could she my own grandmother. Smiling and reassuring and joking, clever, cunning Patricia Maria doing her duty and then exchanging and flirting with a human to meet Nora oh thank God, team badass, thank God, thank God and realise that this is it. Everything she’s done has been leading to this point.

The alien she is sent to meet Theo, Theo, another Black man dead for this, I hate this, I hate it is dead, but Patricia Maria is too smart to be deterred.

The wrongness sends strange ripples back and forth. Back and forth, through time and place.

Lockhart double-checks the serum Patricia Maria gave the test subjects.

Maria speaks to an alien who isn’t there, a ghost from another time, and as Maria presses alien glass to alien forehead, the walls shake. The lights flicker. “I don’t want to set the world on fire…” The walls ripple ripple ripple out into the present and future.

Lockhart strides down the corridor, and the corridor does not shift. Lockhart is beloved as well as Patricia, and Patricia is Maria a stranger in strange here-and-gone-again oscillations.

 

(“I have to get through!”)

 

A door was a door was a door was a door was a door –

A ghost was a ghost couldn’t be seen couldn’t be felt couldn’t be HELD.

All the doors here were known until a ghost opened one, and two ghosts broke through it and vanished again.

Get out.

Patricia Maria stayed. Stay here, stay, stay. Patricia Maria ran.

Lockhart ran too.

 

Patricia was Maria was Patricia was Patricia, Patricia at last, and Patricia poisoned.

Patricia exiled.

Patricia gone.

 

Maria Patricia in the wrong time and place.

Maria Patricia over there.

MarPatricia.

Done.

 

Lockhart, no longer beloved. Haunted through the hallways and stairwells and cellblocks and laboratories. Obsessed by the machine beloved Patricia had built, wandering the corridors and waking up in closets, in the basement, on the surgery table.

Haunted by the aliens, who were locked by Lockhart and Manes in their cells, but crept through Lockhart’s locked-up twisted-in mind.

Smiling, then screaming. Wailing, laughing, taunting.

Every time Lockhart went to interrogate Nora, he found himself lost. Level 5 was suddenly level 7, was level 19, was level 66.

He knew there was no level 19, let alone a 66, but there was the number printed on the wall. The stairs took him up to level 66. The stairs took him down to level 66. The corridor led to the stairwell to the corridor to the corridor to the corridor to an elevator shaft.

Lockhart fled.

Gone.

His machine with him.

Like Patricia.

 

Found you.

 

The numbers of humans dwindled.

The numbers of aliens dwindled.

At least there was always a Manes to walk the halls and tread the floors. Manes men were diligent. Manes men kept the place up to date. It was a Manes who kept the experiments going, who brought new blood in to observe the subjects and exploit their bodies and the strange things they’d brought with them.

Manes men kept the doors locked.

Manes men kept the lights on.

Manes men kept the order.

Manes men stayed.

 

Not here, not yet.

 

The aliens bled and vomited and cried and defecated and rotted and aged and stayed.

The humans came and went and came and went.

Who did it make more sense to love?

 

Wait. Almost.

 

The stairwells weren’t the only things that echoed anymore. It seemed like ever since Patricia had been banished, the emptiness had been growing. The deeper levels were hardly used anymore. Only a handful of aliens and humans remained.

At its best, at its fullest, at its busiest, it had been full of music and life and death.

There was no music anymore. The occasional radio played in the remaining upper laboratory, but that was all. The aliens were old now, and barely sang even in their heads. Their lives were dusty and drained.

They’d given everything to the walls that held them, and there was nothing left.

Manes men kept the corridors aligned and the aliens alive, but so little else.

Shadow lives and no deaths at all.

 

Here.

 

A Manes and an alien will cross the threshold with another human, also bound by blood to this place.

Strange Manes, strange alien.

Manes from Manes from Manes from Manes.

Alien from Nora, still breathing dustily in her cell.

They will step clumsily, but they belong here as much as their kin.

They will come home.

No.

Manes will fight Manes and alien will struggle to free Nora, who will never leave.

She will.

Michael and Alex and Kyle will too.

They’re coming with me.

Mine.

Mine!

A crack in reinforced glass, and –

Give them to me!

MarPatricia.

 

She stands in the empty cell block, in a dream of a place that the place itself has dreamed, two or maybe three women at once, alien and human together. A dream of a woman. A dream of a child, free from persecution. A woman who went to her fate anyway. Whose granddaughter followed and walked in her path, in past

and present

and future

 

She’s got power that can’t be fought.

 

(“They’re my family, Alex!”)

 

My family too.

 

Mine.

 

Not anymore.

 

Home.

 

Not here.

 

The aliens vanished all at once, along with the three newcomers.

The Maria-Patricia ghost vanished too.

Fire took the rest.

Caulfield –

– gone.

 

When is a home not a home?