1356, January 31:
Today’s my 12th birthday, one of the nicer sisters at my orphanage, St. Paul’s, has given me this parchment and a few pieces of charcoal to practice my writing, she told me to hide them and never tell anyone. I hope I don’t waste it much. Other than this few pieces of paper, I got my customary daily lashes, “being 12, from now on, “, sister Mary explained, “you will get 12 lashes instead of 11. For your sins.” I hope they won’t find out my other sin.
I can barely write this down, as I had suffered all 12 plus 30 lashes, though it felt like a hundred. They saw me near the tree, again. They warned me that the tree is wicked, but I don’t believe them. Pray this stays with me. Let no one sees what’s being written down in my delirious state. I love the tree, she takes care of me, like no one ever did, as long as I could remember. It tells me things… I better stop.
I lost my only friend Paula today to fever, at least that’s what they told us, though no one else has gotten sick. I only just talked to her yesterday and she seemed dreadfully burdened. She was not herself lately, she would not tell me what’s the matter. I think she might have taken her own life, like this other girl Josephine from the year past. It’s not safe here. The tree says so.
I heard screams last night, they had to come from Father Joseph, our paster. The terrible screams echoed in the chamber where all of us orphans huddled. No one dared to move. I could hear my heart beating like a march and the muffled cries from the children around me. I just let my mind wander. The tree comforted me as I entered a dream-like state. She said, “it’s OK, you are safe.” So I fell asleep.
We buried Father Joseph today, in the graveyard in the back of the church. I could almost see the tree from where they had made us sing hymns and look sad though none of us felt sad. Quite the opposite. Father Joseph was not a good man. He once drowned a kitten right before our eyes in order to kill our “sinful joys” that he said must come from the Devil. I sang hymns to the tree instead, praying that man had gotten what he deserved.
I couldn’t help myself, I went to the “garden” today. To the others, it’s a just patch of green between two graveyards in the back of the church and it’s forbidden ground, but it’s my sanctuary. The tree is in the middle of that green. She calls me. She gives me comfort, freely. She keeps giving me the will to live. I fell asleep leaning against her. She tells me secrets. She says Paula is in peace now, so is Josephine. And she said Father Joseph belongs to the Black Church now, and will never hurt another kitten, again.
First, there were the pills. Nobody knows where they came from, they were just distributed at the door of the party. I mean, who cares, it must be safe if they are giving to everybody, right? That’s where it all started. The pill.
The party is wild, the night wilder, pretty soon the stereo’s pumping as hard as everyone’s pulse. In the middle of this beautiful congruency, I noticed the crowd started to thin. At first, I thought it must be past someone’s bedtime, you know. But no, I checked my watch, it was only 7 o’clock. Yeh, in the same evening, if you really wanna check me. So, the people started to leave, or so I thought. Now, I did have a date that night, a co-worker of mine who’s not really the going-out-partying-all-night type, but I got him to go. Poor Tommy, it wasn’t his fault he ended up like me. But anyway, I thought I was doing him a favor, you know? Having a good time. What could go wrong. Well, you will see, and you won’t believe me., even you see me like this, you won’t believe my story.
Like I said, I paid no attention of what’s happening until Tommy started falling sick. At first, I thought, “Oh, Tommy, don’t tell me I have to drive you home”, then, right before my eyes, he started to dissolve! Yeh, you heard me right, and I hope that recorder is working. You see me now, and let me tell you, I’m still way better than… that. What’s that? You sure you wanna know? … Fine. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Tommy started to dissolve. Into a puddle. It’s not like, whoosh! No, no, no. I had to witness something so nightmarish that I don’t dare to sleep anymore. Tommy dissolved gradually. I will not give you the step by step, but let’s just say, his eyeballs are the last to go, and they looked like oily-dull-red marbles. I was so… shocked that only when I looked around I realized this was happening all around us. People turning into puddles. There were no screams, it was too late once it started, you have no faculty to scream, you see? No lungs, no heart, no brains, and all that. Just two red marble eyes staring up from the puddle, then even they are gone. I saw the whole thing. Then it started happening to me.
What’s strange was I could still “hear” the music, you know? It’s still pumping. I can still feel the pumping. I think, it just might have accelerated the “melt”, or whatever you wanna call it. I have to say, it’s not all unpleasant. Or rather, I felt lot better once it started working on me. “How do you know it’s the pill, you ask?” Well, that’s for you to find out, isn’t it? I can only tell you what struck out to me. I mean, people don’t just start spontaneously melt without a trigger. Even I know that.
Anyway, hold up with the questions, the best part is still to come. So, the pumping kinda eased the, the horror of… the process. I don’t know what happened, it was like this one time, when I went to the public bathhouse, and the steam in there was so intense, I just, got lost, not just what’s in front, what’s behind, but also my arms and my head. I was like a speck of something that’s somewhat aware. It was… rather pleasurable. Oh, don’t give me that disgusted look! You wanna know or not? Yeh? Ok. Back to the bathhouse, it was like I became one with the mist.
At first, I thought it was just a hallucination, a bad dream. Then I remembered what I saw, with Tommy, and I tried looking around, only I couldn’t. I felt trapped. Nothing is working, I can’t move my neck, I can’t make a sound, well, I can make a sound, a strange gurgling sound, or rather a chorus of strange gurgling sound. I had to realize that was me, somehow. I needed to orientate myself. All the scuba diver training is not for nothing, you know. Death was not in my mind, you see, what I saw was so far outta my experience, death was but a fallback. I knew I was somewhere, and I knew who I was, and I knew I felt something all around me. I found that my “skin” felt weird, like, they turned into rubber somehow, and they were making this squeal sounds and I could not feel anything from them rather than an unpleasant pressure. I could not see anything, or rather I didn’t know where my eyes were. What? Oh, yeh, I can try to explain further. It’s like I was in the womb again, I didn’t have any knowledge of how anything works anymore, and we are talking about my own body. So, I had to relearn.
With time though, I made progress. How? Don’t ask me. The body is a wonder, I guess. Somehow, I surmised that we had been turned inside out. I know, it sounds how it sounds, but look at me, how else do you explain my current… state! I could not see, I could not speak, everything tells me my heart is beating not in my chest cavity, but against some alien object that inflated and deflated, like a lung, but whose lung, I don’t know. I still had this weird feeling of congruence. It’s not unpleasant, at all. In fact, I would be lulled into that state of being and contented to stay there if not for my training as a medic. “Pain tells you that you’re still alive.” So, I started seeking out pain. I pushed, squeezed, I fought the lull, and slowly, more and more movements around me told me that, I was not alone, more… I guess, people were waking up and were doing the same thing I was doing. So, together we rocked the place, whatever that place was. I couldn’t see, remember?
Then I woke up, like this. You wouldn’t tell me, you military type, but I bet there are other survivors out there. I know what you thought of us now. I saw that little paper in your hand. How do I know what it said? Well, that’s for you to find out, isn’t it? “The balloon people”, well, I can live with that. I can live with a lot of things, it turns out. I can live with my intestines the size of an 18-wheeler, and my heart is currently one state over, but my eyes and ears are working real good these days. And I bet, you will have a use for that. So, what do you say? Shall we continue the party?