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[Fiction] Tomb


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She woke up in the hospital. This wasn't unusual for her, but she was sure that something was different this time. For starters, she didn't hurt - and not in that "boy, aren't these drugs good" not-hurt, but in the nothing was wrong with her hurt. And she didn't have her glasses, but she could see the tiles that formed the ceiling over her head.

She could hear voices murmuring somewhere. It sounded like Spanish or Portuguese but since she didn't know either language, she couldn't say which. With a sigh, she sat up, noting that there were no needles in her, just sensors. The leeches gave up a chance to poke me with a needle?, she marveled. Her head felt funny, and she reached up to feel. They had wrapped her with a thick bandage for some reason. It didn't hurt, but she had long since learned that doctors did things for a reason, so she left it alone.

Drawing breath, she called out. "Hello?"

"Jael Carver?" a voice asked, and she immediately responded with, "Willa."

A older gentleman wearing a doctor's coat stepped from behind the privacy curtain. "Excuse me?" he frowned, deep lines forming in his Mediterranean skin. His voice was accented with the rolling tones of Spain.

"I go by my middle name," Willa answered. "Jael was my mother's idea of a strong female name."

"I see," the doctor replied, though his tone said he didn't. "I'm Dr. Bosque. How do you feel?"

"Fine," Willa said. "I mean, I feel too good. I've been in a hospital several times, and I always felt really bad when I've woken up." She hesitated before asking in an uncertain voice, "Why am I here?"

Dr. Bosque sat down on a chair, drawing out a pen and readying his clipboard. That was never a good sign. When he was situated, he asked, "What do you remember?"

Willa frowned pensively, searching her memory. "I-" Images flashed through her mind, but they were gone, leaving only rank fear twisting her stomach. "I don't know," she finally answered.

"Ibiza Town is in ruins," Dr. Bosque said. His voice was brisk. "You are currently in the Pac de la Pau emergency field hospital, where we have been treating the survivors."

"Survivor?" Willa asked. "Was I there?"

Dr. Bosque frowned. "You were found in a crater in what was central Ibiza. What is the last thing you remember?"

Willa struggled, and a image came through - a face, twisted and alien, with strange rock-like skin. "I'm Carl," the face told her. Willa shuddered as another image surfaced - Shelly helped her apply makeup, caking the mask on until it was thick enough to dig scars and runnels in it. "You're going to look great," Shelly laughed as Willa put on the battered fedora. Willa looked into the mirror to see that she was dressed up as one of the most terrifying members of the horror genre - Freddy Kreuger.

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“Willa?” Dr. Bosque frowned at her when Willa lifted her head. “Do you remember something?”

“There was a costume party,” Willa murmured, holding her head. “I was dressed up as Freddy Kreuger.” At Dr. Bosque’s frown, she said, “He’s a character in a horror film.”

“I know who Freddy Kreuger is,” Dr. Bosque huffed. He pronounced it ‘Freh-day Crew-garh.’ He leaned forward and said, “Willa, there is one thing that I need to ask you. Who is Carl?” Willa had assumed that her memories would come back slowly in chunks, but at the mention of Carl’s name, they all rushed back…

Willa woke in darkness. She gasped, her eyes flying wide as she tried to penetrate the darkness. She was in utter blackness; when she held her hand in front of her face, she saw nothing. She blinked once and her eyes must have adjusted because she could see. Her vision was stained green, like the shots of taken of wildlife at night. But Willa didn’t have time to worry about that, because she had bigger problems.

She was trapped in a bubble in rubble; the area was only about ten feet by ten feet, and was clogged with clumps of concrete and rubble. The space was made even smaller by the tilting, crumbling walls; only one remained vertical. The ceiling was cracked and sloped down from the vertical wall, shortening her space even further. Willa whimpered as she realized that she was in a tomb; a crypt made of the building she had been in.

“Oh, god, oh, god,” she moaned as she sat up. It was a mistake; the room swirled around her and a spike of pain stabbed through her brain. Willa screamed as the pain blinded her, deafened her, destroyed her. She screamed until she was hoarse, digging her fingers into her skull. And just when she thought she couldn’t take it anymore, she passed out.

“Help me! Get me the hell out of here!” The voice was loud and insistent, its desperation driving through Willa’s sleep and forcing her awake.

Willa sat up slowly, looking around the green-tinged space. It was empty. “Where are you?”

“Here, over here! God, lady, please, please don’t leave me in here! I’m begging you, please!”

Willa crawled over to the source of the voice, staring at the sloping wall from where the noise came. “Are you behind this wall?”

“Please, lady, I’m trapped in here!” the voice screamed, trembling with desperation. “Dig me out!”

“Dig?” Willa said. “I don’t have anything to dig with!”

“Use your claws!”

“My-” Willa looked down at her hands. She had long, silver blades extending from each finger, each about three inches long. The thumbs were shorter, about an inch in length. They looked like the fake claws she had worn for her costume, but they grew from her fingertips, somehow looking like they belonged there.

I’m dreaming, Willa realized. Or dead. Either way, she started to claw at the wall, tearing the concrete away in chunks. Before long, she realized that she wasn’t randomly tearing pieces away; instead, she was cutting the concrete away. She was sculpting something from the rock.

Willa finally sat back, looking at what she had carved out. An alien visage grinned gently at her, his cheerful face warming her heart despite its terrifying appearance. “Hi,” the face said. “I’m Carl. Thanks for getting me out of there.”

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“I’ve cracked,” Willa moaned, still curled up in the far corner with her back to the sculpture. It was the fourth or fifth time she had said it. She thought that maybe saying it often enough would force her mind back to sanity, but Carl’s ringing voice filled the room again.

“Geez, lady,” he grumped. “You sure know how to make a guy feel welcome. We’re trapped here together, you know, so you might be a little nicer.”

“No,” Willa snapped, “I’m trapped here. You’re a figment of my imagination.”

Carl was silent for a long time; so long that Willa snuck a peek at him. His face was a moue of sadness – didn’t I carve him with a smile?!? – and when he saw her looking at him, he said, “That wasn’t very nice. Why did you say that?”

“Because rock faces carved into walls don’t talk!” Willa screamed. “They don’t! It’s not right. It’s not sane!”

“It’s insane that you can hear sculptures trapped in a wall or a block of stone?” Carl asked gently.

“Yes!” Willa shrieked. Her breathing rasped loudly in her ears; it sounded like the desperate pantings of a trapped animal. That’s what I am!


“Calm down,” Carl instructed her, his voice forceful. Willa found herself obeying his order, pressing the flats of her fingers into her temple. She noticed, belatedly, that her claws were gone, if they’d ever been there. But the thought that she didn’t have claws was more troubling then the thought that she did – if she didn’t have claws, then where did that face come from?!

When Willa’s breathing had normalized, Carl said, “Look, I know that this is all a lot to deal with, but you saved me. I know that you don’t believe that I’m real, but I have been trapped in that wall for years! If you hadn’t gotten me out, then I would have gone mad! You saved me.”

“I don’t understand!” Willa hissed, rubbing her temples harder. If she wasn’t careful, she was going to bruise herself.

“Look, have you ever heard that Michelangelo once said that his sculptures lived in the marble until he found them?” Carl asked. “I was living here, unhappily, I might add, and you found me, carved me out. That’s all.”

Willa laughed, a high-pitched, insane sound. “Yeah, but I never heard him saying that they talked to him!” she whimpered.

“But what if they did?” Carl said. “He had to know they were in there somehow.”

Something slipped and settled in Willa’s mind, and she suddenly felt better. “Ok,” she said, turning back to face Carl. “Now what?”

“Now we wait to be rescued,” Carl said cheerfully. “After all, once the building collapsed, I’m sure they started to make plans to get the people out.”

“I hope so,” Willa said. “I’m getting hungry.”

Carl laughed, “Well, at least I don’t have to worry about you eating me!”

“True!” Willa giggled.

“No ‘Donner party, table for two’ for us!” Carl laughed back. And the laughter chased away the fear and despair for a time.

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Once the laughter had faded, Willa began to poke around the room, looking for a way out. Carl helped as much as he could, but he had a limited range of sight and mobility. It would be one of the drawbacks of being a living statue, Willa mused as she sifted through rubble looking for something that might help her.

The room was disturbingly empty. It took Willa a moment to remember that she had been in the parking garage under Rafael’s apartment. That explained why she was surrounded by concrete.

A memory taunted her and Willa remembered, hadn’t Shelly been with her? Willa quickly figured out that if Shelly had been on her right when the garage had come down and she had been here, then Shelly should be there. She looked at the corner where the rubble was piled up; was that a piece of Shelly's costume sticking out there? She moved toward it, but Carl’s voice stopped her.

“Willa, don’t,” he said gently. “You know what you’ll find. Don’t make yourself see it.”

“But Shelly’s my friend,” Willa whispered. “Shouldn’t I find her?”

“Would you want her to find you?” Carl asked.

After a moment, Willa moved away from that corner, sitting down next to Carl. “She helped me apply this make-up, you know,” Willa said, scraping at the last of the gunk on her face. She pulled the fedora off, dropping it on the floor. Her hair whispered down around her face as she sighed, “She bought my plane ticket.”

“Where are you from?”

“Phoenix,” Willa answered. “I’m attending the state university for my art degree.”

“You’re a very good sculpter, if I may say,” Carl said with a wink. Willa had long since stopped wondering how he showed emotions or moved; she just accepted it. It was so much easier to accept things than fight them.

“Why don’t you get some sleep?” Carl asked her, nodding toward a corner with a sloping wall. She propped herself against and tried to sleep. She was surprised when she was able to do so.

Time passed like this, though Willa had no idea how much. Willa slowly became convinced that she was really dead and having a Jacob’s Ladder moment. It would explain so many things.

She hadn’t had nearly enough food or water, but she wasn’t suffering the effects of malnutrition as quickly as she should have. Nor was she sleeping as often as she should and was not showing any ill effects. She passed the time talking with Carl and ignoring the smells that built up over time. She smelled pretty bad herself, but worse was the rotting scent that was strongest in the corner that Carl had warned her away from.

She was dozing when she heard a growing rumble. She sat upright and shouted, “Carl?”

“Put your head down!” Carl screamed. “Cover yourself; protect your head and chest!”

Willa ducked her head under her arms and drew her knees up to her chest, hugging them tightly as she waited for the rumbling to end. The noise finally died away to silence and Willa cautiously lifted her head. She opened her mouth to call out to Carl when a roar screamed through the room, deafening her for a moment. Willa pulled her head back under her arms as the room began to shake and debris rained from above, pelting her on the back and arms. When she finally glanced around the room, she was shocked to see that her familiar little tomb was completely different.

The room was smaller and shorter; Willa couldn’t stand upright anymore. The debris was piled deeper, especially on the collapsed side of the room, which had moved closer to her supporting, upright wall. Dust hung thick in the air, and Willa waved it away from her face, coughing.

“Carl?” she choked out, peering through the dust at her friend. “Carl?”

His face was cracked in half, torn asunder by the crumbling wall. Willa reached out and touched one cheek, lightly; that half of Carl’s face fell and cracked into pieces.

Willa screamed.

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Willa screamed until her voice gave out. Then she huddled in a corner away from both Carl’s cracked visage and the corner with the rotting smell. Time passed, but she didn’t move; she sat and waited to die.

Why? The thought blazed across her mind, white and hot. Why are you waiting here to die?

What choice do I have? I’m here all alone-


The command was so forceful that Willa was on her feet and scrabbling at the ceiling before the thought registered with her. Even her claws jumped to attention, appearing now that she needed them. At first, she was just doing what the voice had ordered her to do – she was very good at obeying other’s orders – but slowly the task became hers. She carved and cut away chunks of stone, dropping them into the room that she was slowly leaving. When she could reach no higher, she cut squares of stone out and piled them up to stand on.

As the work progressed, Willa became better at it. Her cuts became more efficient; it was as if the stone was whispering to her, telling her where and how to slice. As if directed by an outside force, her claws cut and slashed and shaved, reducing solid concrete to rubble and dust. She began to cut handholds before she had really thought about it so that she could climb higher in the tube.

And up she went. She worked steadily, amazing herself at how well she was doing. She wasn’t getting worn-out; her arms weren’t tiring from the repeating cutting and climbing. She cut steadily upwards, pushing the rubble under her or into the pockets in the rubble she sometimes hit. A couple of them had bodies; people who hadn’t been as lucky as her. Those she tried to ignore, cutting past them as quickly as possible and trying not to breathe. Strangely, most of the levels had been compressed, as if something had landed on top of them and pushed them down.

She realized, somewhere in her tube, that she was a Nova. It was the only explanation for everything – the claws, the endurance, the fact that she hadn’t eaten in days but wasn’t dying. She wondered what her parents and friends would think of that; she wondered what Jimmy back in Phoenix would think. She hoped that they would just be happy she was alive.

The composition of the rock changed and Willa cut upward into something that gave and ripped. She grabbed the rough material and pulled it down, surprised to see that she had a piece of carpet. She had dug through the levels of the parking garage; she should be close to the point where she could move sideways and get out of here. This room had completely collapsed; Willa could see the ceiling was five inches over the carpet. She reached up and cut through the ceiling-

Light poured in, and Willa jerked away from the incredibly bright light, hiding behind her hands. Light? she thought, I should have another fifteen floors to dig through.

Her eyes quickly adjusted and the green tinge to her vision was gone between one blink and the next. She looked back at the hole, at the golden light streaming down. She put her hand out and felt the blissful warmth of the light, breaking into a smile. Only sunlight could feel this warm, this alive on her skin.

Excited, Willa dug harder, cutting and ripping away chunks as fast as she could. As soon as her opening was big enough, Willa wiggled through and blinked around, eager to see life, humans, anything other than talking statues and endless dirt.

She was greeted by smoking ruin as she stood in the heart of a massive crater.

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That was the last thing that she remembered until waking up in the hospital. As Willa struggled to incorporate these memories into her mind, Dr. Bosque asked again, “Do you remember something?

“I climbed out of the rubble,” Willa said softly. “And I think that I passed out from shock and exhaustion.” She met Dr. Bosque’s eyes. “I’m a Nova, aren’t I?”

Dr Bosque smiled; it took ten years off of his face and made him handsome. It was also the first genuine emotion that she had seen from him and it calmed her. “Willa, if you hadn’t erupted, you would be dead,” he said to her. “I know that the coming days will be stressful for you, but you just need to stay strong.”

“Thanks,” Willa said, smiling back. She honestly felt better now.

“Now, there have been some physical manifestations,” Dr. Bosque said, “but-”

“What?” Willa blurted. “Manifestations?”

Dr. Bosque sat back and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Willa, what do you know about the Nova condition?”

“Not much, just that they’re super-powerful and some are good,” Willa admitted. “Some don’t look very human.” Her eyes widened. “Oh, god, am I mutating into some kind of monster?”

Dr. Bosque held up a hand to forestall her panic. “You have shown some manifestations. Your eyes, your hair-”

“What?” Willa’s hand flew to her hair, still bundled up. She began to pull at her bandage. “Give me a mirror!”

“Willa, please under-”

Give me the mirror!” Willa screamed. It wasn’t a bandage, she realized when it came off in a big square of terry cloth. Her wet hair tumbled around her face and Willa didn’t need the mirror to see that her hair hung in red and green stripes. But it wasn’t the happy red and green of Christmas; the colors were lifted directly from the Freddy Krueger sweater, muted and grungy.

Dr. Bosque handed her a mirror as he said, “The nurses washed it this morning.”

Willa looked into the mirror, expecting the worst. Her face was the same, but her eyes were a silver gray and glinted unnaturally. It looked like knife blades twinkled in her sockets. Dr. Bosque was quiet, giving her time. “I can stick with a theme, can’t I? Freddy Krueger all around.”

“You’ll probably want to talk to a counselor,” Dr. Bosque said softly. “One will be here from the Facility soon to pick you up. They were just waiting for you to regain consciousness.”

Willa nodded, shaky with shock. “Yes, of course,” she said. Dr. Bosque said some more, but Willa didn’t hear him. She was caught up in her misery, staring at her hair and eyes in the mirror.

When the Facility representative came for her, Willa was ready to leave. She picked up her few belongings and followed the woman with the purple hair. The woman asked her to wait out front for a moment and Willa weakly agreed.

She stood in the warm sun and tried to imagine her life now. “Hey, bitch!” someone yelled, breaking her reverie, and Willa glanced around, trying to see who was yelling. She saw no one, and she went back to looking straight ahead.

“Bitch! You, bitch with the striped hair!” the voice howled, and Willa glanced around. Her eyes fell on a large, decorative rock and Willa’s heart sank as she realized that it was talking to her. “You get me out of here, bitch!”

“Are you ready to go?” The woman with purple hair was back; a silver sports car purred in front of her.

“Yes,” Willa whispered, fighting tears. “Yes, let’s go.”

“You goddamned bitch!” the rock screamed. “If you don’t get me out of here, I’ll tear your tits off! I’ll fuck you up so bad! Get me the fuck out of here, you slut!”

Willa climbed in the car and ignored the screaming voice as best she could. This is the rest of my life, she thought as she rode away. This is all I have left.

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