Candied Heart

Part 3: Red Under

Flesh Shred waded between dream and reality seamlessly. She no longer needed to sleep or wake up to pass over. She no longer did either. It was all well too, it left her more time to tend to the wild. Whichever of the two this was, it had quite the peculiar menagerie. The animals here were made out of themselves. Bones twined together with muscle, their skin worn over the fine machinery. They moved animated by their own accord, a free will that yet had its hand forced by instinct. Then in the other world, be it reality or dream, who could say, they were refined into something sharper. Something that would not rot or dirty, that moved without scraping against itself. Instincts overwritten by something greater. There was an intelligence behind these eyes. In this world, animals had souls. And as such, they had to pray for redemption. For themselves and their real world counterparts that would thoughtlessly eat the lungs, livers and brains that had spilled onto the streets.

Flesh Shred knew redemption had long been achieved for her kind. The endless paradise was not a place but a gift she carried instead of a heart. Now these creatures had to struggle to follow, guided by the new generation of angels.

They had a long way to go. The sin crawled through their bodies like maggots, eating away and the divine machines that sang so discordantly in response. Screeching in pain and fear of the relentless torment that threatened to swallow them in a deluge of decay and filth. Liquified corpses that rained down from heaven, seeking to douse the flames of hell below. The Red Under, the salvation found underneath the world, that the population of machines had breached. Hands folded in prayer, shoveling the dirt away. The walls were gilded almost by themselves, in this tunnel burrowed by the animals. Deeper and away from the hellish sun that touched the asphalt.

“What are you doing here, Flesh? What are these things?” Piercing Pins & Needles appeared, like a shadow that stood up from the floor. The angel that had scraped her off the Earth and brought her to heaven where she could gorge herself on the grotesque corpse of the god she had slain at the gates.

“We left these behind. They were not yet ready to follow us into paradise. So here they toil, in the dregs outside. In the bloodsoaked mud.”
Pierce’s lungs pushed up her throat. “I don’t know what these are. They shouldn’t be here.”
“Oh?” Flesh whistled. “I had assumed…” she watched the creatures, trying to figure out their purpose. No, these things weren’t seeking salvation at all. They’ve long given up on it. They hung there like bloated corpses too heavy to surface. She made the mistake of seeing their face. It portrayed an emotion she hadn’t yet experienced but her awareness sympathized with it regardless and tried its best to empathize. Beyond hopelessness lies a sickening form of acceptance and even further beyond she now saw a glee in misery. So far gone where emotions no longer made sense and curled like an insect contorting in absolute agony as a sun that burned not with fire but with hatred softened its carapace but refused to burn the nerves and brains.

Flesh Shred averted her gaze. “What are these vile things? Turn them away!”
But Piercing Pins & Needles stood frozen. She did not know what to do against this menace frolicking in abjection beyond her realm. Flesh Shred had to push her away, so her vision couldn’t linger on them any longer. Her veins squeaked as they bent inside her skin. Her ribs cracked open under the strain of her breath. Her face tore away and replaced her skull with teeth.

“Stand back, Flesh Shred.” she snarled. Pus bubbled up from her bones. “I will not let this happen again.” Her muscles strained and tore themselves free from her limbs. Her skeleton folded open and as all tethers snapped, the unhinged body gently floated with incomprehensible speed into the wilderness.