Memento Mori

Title: Memento Mori
Time Period: July 31, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Flint Deckard is haunted by memories - not his own.

Daylight is slow to break through the forest, forbidden by the trees and the leaves and the fog pooled through it all. Flint is often active at this hour, crepuscular as his condition dictates.

He just wakes up.

It works to his advantage, anyway. Fish and the odd frog haven't been cutting it. When he rustles back from washing his hands it's to the doe he's just finished gutting, long legs splayed wide from the split of her pelvis. The last of the steam wore off while he was gone – weather too warm to hold it for long. Hungry, after a while spent staring he sinks into a crouch out of hoof's reach. Her throat's been torn out, fur matted wet from open belly to chin. Meat glistens red under a white sheen of fat about her ribs.

He should probably cook it.

The most mundane of actions takes on an ominous aspect in such a space, where peace meets apprehension, most of all in twilit, liminal hours. Small wonder the Celts had such ambivalent views on their gods and monsters - only majestic, mist draped danger could ever spawn a euphemism like 'the fair folk'. Blood mixing with morning dew.

Even a kill this fresh tends to draw attention quickly. The narrow, ruddy faces of foxes peek over great twisted roots and out from brush, but never brave the open. Bloodsmell and wolfsmell and mansmell keep them curious but cautious. An eagle settles on a great black branch nearby, staking claim.

Then something spooks the foxes. The many small rustles of their retreat coincides with a change in the wind.

Does Flint know how to make fire? He tries to remember, elbows angled bony away from his knees and wrists hanging slack between them, working at a bit of grass. He doesn't have any matches. Just a pair of pants and the jacket he's wearing. Bottle cap blue and streaked with dirt.

He should have thought about this before.

A look over at the corpse borders upon resentful for his having to think about it at all, brow hooded over bruising blotched in artistic runs around the side of his mug.

The spook through the woods around him grants him a temporary reprieve. Shoulders stiff with adrenaline from he-doesn't-know-where, he hunkers down on his heels and is still. Waiting. Listening, bit of grass lost between his fingers.

The mist ripples into eerily perfect hillocks before breaking like waves against the stranded mangle of the deer carcass. A trick of the wind. Silly man, to be frightened as easily as a pack of scavengers. He calls himself a predator? The eagle gives a single reproachful caw.

It's chilly, but what else would one expect of a morning wind?

"A fucking mess-" a voice out of nowhere, colder still, "a greedy wolf, gorging alone."

Paranoia rings white around a shutter at Flint's eyes; he reaches for the blade of stone he'd cleaved off to get the dirty work done. Still bloody.

It weighs sticky in his hand while he waits in the fog, glare raking first to the eagle and then upward into the nearest trees. Pressure itches behind his teeth, a held breath shivery cold when he finally lets it go. If he runs, he'll leave a trail. If he climbs a tree, he'll be trapped.

“Go away,” he mutters, knuckling over like an ape to seat his back to a trunk broad enough to watch it for him, “go away, go away.”

Who's he talking to? The air is empty before him. It's just Flint and the eagle and what was once a deer. The bird eyes the meat, and when it meets eyes with Flint, it looks like it considers Flint the third that makes a crowd. But it says nothing.

Maybe he's hearing things?

He hears more.

"Bit late for that-" there is no visible substance to the voice, though it's loud enough, clear enough, "sure it've made a fine change of tune from 'help me, help me'."

Flint's a miserable composite of angles and lengths hunched in the mist, finger bones bleached white around his rock. Maybe he's hearing things.

Maybe that's one of the things that happens when you're alone for too long.

The thought doesn't bring him much comfort and he sticks close to his tree past a lean to glance around its back side, pulse pounding against the bruises around his throat. After a few seconds spent trying to smother logic into the cracks in his brain, he looks to the deer.

Still dead.

But now they are four. Kneeling next to the carcass is a man with a length of stubble competing with Flint's own. He wears a leather jerkin and a braided belt, with a hatchet hanging from it. His boot betrays the bulge of a hunting knife.

"This could have fed my wife and children for a week- fed them well," he turns his head to look at Flint - his features are… indistinct. As if there were some imperfection in Flint's eye. He looks like no one, still less anyone Flint knows.

"Bit late for that, too."

Hatchet and knife — Flint sizes up the height and breadth of him next, staying an impulse to scramble around the far side of the tree in favor of flattening himself further against it instead. The absence of aggressive body language gives him space to look confused in. Unsure. A lot of things happen to him that are inexplicable.

It didn’t take him long to stop asking why.

“That’s mine,” he says instead to a man without a face. Maybe a little too intense in his insistence, fear wavering at his resolve. He still has his rock.

"I can tell," the no-face man says, "looks about the same way my mule did. Figure that was you as well-" he snorts, "there a word for something that's sad, funny and foolish all at once?"

He draws the knife from out his boot, and looks down at the blade, as if it might have answers for him. "What else do you call it, when you hire a wolf to watch your flock?"

The tip of the knife slips under the jaw of the deer, set askew in silenced terror. He lifts it, leaning to get a better look.

"Just like my mule. Like my wife and children, too-" there is no change in tone at this comparison, but the air suddenly gets even colder, fogging Flint's breath, "-the throat and the eyes, in particular. A killer's killing- no clearer sign for a hunter.

"A wonder that it's taken me this long to find you again, ravener."

Flint blanches, blood drained white out the plank of his face and cold through his gut. It takes him considerably longer to trip through shock on to disbelief, uncertainty marked by the dumb slack of his jaw.


There's a flinch of tension in protest at the push of a knife into his doe, rock hitched in his grip like he might have a mind to throw it. Same as he has a mind to flee and a mind to try and wake himself up. Again. He doesn't want to be here anymore.

"Who are you?"

"You don't remember me?" The words come in a cold snap. Skin doesn't just pimple. It crawls. Something is wrong.

"You really have made an art of ingratitude-" the no-man is on his feet, posture loose in a way that belies the firmness of the grip on that knife; he turns to face Flint, indistinct gaze pinning him to the tree, "if you had a speck of fucking decency, you'd let yourself be put down. Let my hatchet find your head."

Suddenly it comes clear. A face not vague, but mangled - a face so ravaged it does not deserve the name. Blood soaking chin, neck and shoulders, welling up from great gashes - then drying in a thick coat of gore. Death by exsanguination.

"No matter. Time will come. More hunters, more men like me. As many as you make."

A single blink, and Flint's vision is full. The knife’s blade bites bark, inches from his ear. The air reeks of blood. The no-man's voice bubbles out from between unhinged jaws.

"Every man forgets himself from time to time- but no man can afford to forget his reputation."

Time allows for denial allows for defense. Every second Deckard has to parse through accusation and insult wrings incoherent panic into reproach. His nose hardens under the furrow of his brow, glare knapping sharp out of its disoriented haze.

Now wait a second

This isn't fair —

He doesn't even know

He doesn't have a chance to decide where he should start. The figure falls into focus all at once and Flint stares, stricken back into silence. Within and without. Mouth hung dry and lungs stifled with air they can't seem to breathe, he lurches away from the knife on his way to his feet and stands there wheezing, hands empty away from his sides. Eyes wide. Too stupid to run.

He's lost his rock.

Total system failure.

In the next blink, it's like he's woken from a dream. No man, no knife, no voice.

Just Flint and the deer and the eagle, who has kept impassive witness. Not its business.

The ragged plume of Flint’s breath fades into the warmth of early morning; light blends from blue to yellow, casting his shadow long between the trees.

It’s a long time before he’s coherent enough to sink into a squat. Then a sit. The trees are further apart than he remembers a moment ago. There are fewer places to hide.

After spending most of yesterday morning and afternoon in a tree watching an eagle pluck at his kill, Flint was eventually coaxed back down to earth by the gnawing ache under his ribs. No matches.

No fire.

In the time since he's propped a rusty plate of tin siding up between two trees and all but buried it in pine needles and old wood. He's even slept a little, hunkered in the shade away from the buzz of flies around stale meat. It might still be edible.

The more he lies there and thinks about it, the less he's sure.

The refrain that comes floating through the trees is slurred but not out of key. It's something bawdy if a bit rote about the tune. It's something that's been sung so long, it's lost sensation, like an over-tugged prick - you get the idea. There is a pause - so routine it's almost part of the song's performance - that marks a swig from a bottle. It's more than half full, if the sloshing sound can be trusted.

It's a vagrant, one of surprising old age, with a salt and pepper tangle of beard. His slight limp, which syncopates beneath his song, suggests just one bump in the likely ill-kept road of his comparatively long life.

There's a lot of traffic out here in the woods around Dornie. More than he would have expected.

Not that he knows much about how the world works anymore.

Jacket balled up blue under his head as a makeshift pillow, Flint shifts enough to push it deeper into his hideyhole. Out of sight.

Then he lies still, eyes set dimly out ahead to track after the song's source, if it even crosses this way.

Bandaged boots amble into view, stop, turn away, turn back, turn towards. Ruined trousers, sometimes soiled, thump into view as the vagrant goes to his knees. The bottle thumps down among the needles, pale glass filled with smokey brown. A filthy, gloved hand, and then a head.

The vagrant might have wandered out of a cautionary tale. He is indistinguishable from all the thousands of men who have descended to his condition over the centuries. His breath is godawful rank even from a distance.

"Sumone in tzhere?"

“Occupado,” says Flint, voice at a growl from the murk of his hovel. Not even a hovel. His hole. Teeth show white in the gloom, his outline a rough assembly of muscle, bone and scruff amidst the needles packed in coarse for bedding. Rough as his own breath is, the vagrant's makes him cough.

He's sensitive.

“Fuck off.”

Whump. Flint officially has a squatter. The foul smell of the man is both pervasive and sharp - ubiquitous but still impossible to ignore. He takes another swig and then, not an ungracious guest, leans over at a remarkably limber angle to offer Flint the bottle.

"Ave a drink," is an equitable offer, even a little apologetic.

The squatter comes in one side and Deckard nearly goes out the other, caught off guard by the older man's persistence. And heedlessness. He gets as far as shoving himself up most of the way into a sit before he stops, suddenly incredulous. This is his lean-to and his stretch of forest. Who the fuck is this guy?

Hey,” is the universal what-the-fuck this guy probably wasn't looking for, one foot pulled into a position where it might be loosed into the trespasser's face. It isn't. Yet. Flint's brow stays furrowed when he looks to the offered jug and then back up again, exasperated. Irritable. Tired and sweaty and sore. He doesn't even know what to say.

“What – no,” isn't exactly inspired, carrying with it the distinct ring of a silent, Come on, man. Being a human in the woods sucks.

Also the last time he said yes he woke up in a pit.

The vagrant is nothing if not persistent.

"Comon ave a drink." A palsied hand spills some of the contents as he tilts the bottle.

It doesn't smell like scotch. It isn't scotch. It leaves silt on his threshold, and he can see particulates swirling in bottle. It's murky river water.

“Lemme repay you, for your kind company yearsh ago."

The flies on the deer's corpse have thickened into a carpet. Their buzzing is a chorus.

"I'd drunk everything away- everything I'd done, on my way down. Bloody, dirty deedsh, for money or drink or nothing. I was shleeping in a ditch when we met. I was waiting for death and you kindly shtopped by."

Even through the sensory assault this guy represents, Flint registers the distinct lack of alcohol stink issuing forth from the spill. He finds himself breathing deeper than he'd like to, curiosity snagged and spurred into unwilling investigation by river water's cloying presque vu presence in its place. A shuddery half-exhale finally spooks him backwards out of his den, shirtless and light-headed.

Static rings shrill through the lower buzz of fat black flies. His vision fades white around the fringes when he tries to stand and the old man is still talking, taking a conversation he didn't want to have to places he doesn't want to go.

As Flint rises, so does his new friend. The old vagrant sways on his feet, limping leg shaking, buckling - the man falling forward, into Flint. Upon him.

He smells like piss and shit and sick and death. The flies are swarming in thick clouds now.

"It all comsh back at the end, you know?" is whispered, a secret, "seeing everything rishe up outta the liquor mist- all sho clear - it wash-" he gives a belch, hair curlingly foul, and croaks with a hoarse clarity, "Hell."

He's rotting away. His gangrenous gut dissolves into his soiled pants.

"Sure you don wanna drink? I took you for a drinking man."

Nooo no no no. Flint staggers under the additional weight and the stench that smothers with it, dazed instinct to catch and support thrown off in a wrench of flesh and cloth away from his person when everything starts to fall apart in his hands. Literally.

Can't breath. Can't see. It happens quickly.

Animal panic finally fights to the fore and wrestles its way out as he twists away – spine ridged thick and his shoulders reset on either side of ears laying back and teeth raking forward, old muscle winching joints out of the way of new bone. He bellows and snaps at air thick with flies in the between, struggling, suffering for his haste. Misshapen until the final stages flesh out into recognizable order and he roars again. Incoherent.

Furious. And accounting for all the backing up he's doing – terrified.

Spongy flesh comes apart in putrid trails of blood, puss and viscera. Flint goes from man to wolf - the vagrant goes from man to disjecta membra. The pained groans of the initial moments dissolve into the muttering release of noxious gas. The air is thick with miasma, a stench that settles into the lowest levels of instinctual memory.

What does deja vu feel like to a man with a double life?

The bottle strikes on the ground by Flint's hind claws, bursting into a dozen jagged fragments, its contents sloshing out in a lukewarm gout.

For being involved in a retreat that may be measured in more ways than one, Flint musters a fair amount of bluster. He's loud enough to reverberate in what bone the dissolution of man has left, coat the color of a disturbed grave in daylight bristled black down the curve of his spine. Snarls break into snorts and sneezes the longer he lingers, stomach even rolling into a toothy retch in the start of a reel backwards.

Disorientation muffles back in familiar funk; the bottle smashes and he finally turns tail, tearing off into the woods on all fours.

He runs for a long time.

At first he sees nothing, because the darkness is that of his own lids. No morning light penetrates, however, as per the usual insistence of waking. It's a feeling he wakes to, not a sight; it's the feeling of something warm and close, unfamiliar but unmistakable - a body against his own.

Beneath him are the rough, age-old arms of the tree where he took refuge, its trunk marked with long gashes, betraying the disrespect of his ascent, the ungracious way he treats his refuge.

Upon him are slimmer arms, un-anthropomorphized. A light weight, worth bearing. The scent of a home and a hearth - cooking smells, worked into long-worn fabric. And skin smell, flesh smell, soft- the scent of a woman.

A visceral, kind of instinctive relief stirs off Flint's bones into a chill as consciousness recalls him to reality. His skin prickles under coarse hair and muscle winches stiff, eyes slivered drowsily open squeezed firmly shut before he can adjust enough to see much of anything. An initial waking breath shudders behind his sternum, heart already picking up its pace.

He can't have been asleep for more than an hour.

Trousers in tatters, skull rested against a branch thicker than his middle, he doesn't move.

His waking wakes her. He can feel elbows edge apart, grazing the grooves of his ribs. Hands against his chest, calloused but seeming soft in the manner of their motion. A temple pressed against his sternum turns to cheek, then to lips. A sleepy kiss and a sleepier murmur.

"I'm so glad you managed to get away."

How long has it been since anyone touched him this way? A while. He knows without knowing when something that isn't fear tingles through his nervous system on its own, sparking horror into nausea. A knee's already drawing up dumb on its own, enforcing distance same as his right arm withdraws into open air.

"Please…" sounds pathetic in or out of context. Quiet. Begging. He's sorry. He'll go back to town.

She shifts as he does, hips canting as his leg lifts, ever so accommodating. Her chin tips up - she’s looking at him, he can feel it. He can feel the threadbare linen of her dress, soaked deep with a smokey smell - woodfire and roasted meat.

“I was so worried they’d chase you down. But I knew - in my heart I knew - you gave them the slip.”

She is crawling up his body, slowly; her nose feels its way up to his collarbone, ‘til it finds the crook of his neck. Into that intimate niche, that vulnerable spot, she whispers.

“I tried to make them understand. It’s like the fable my mother told me - about the lion and the mouse; you’ve heard it, right? That’s how I felt about you - a beast with a thorn in his paw. Nothing is truly savage, just wounded. In need of care.”

“I didn't do this.”

Flint's breathing hard, voice sanded hoarse in humid air. Lacking the necessary steel for certainty or conviction. She slips against him and in that moment he knows he might have.

Guilt stings at his eyes and burns his throat, plausible deniability withering dry with his resolve. He can't think of anything else to say.

Instead he forces himself to look, sideways and slow out from under the hood of his brow.

Rendered in the dim starlight, her face is grey and her hair a striated tangle of pales and shades. She is young and she is pretty, or she might be. She might as well be.

"Even while I burned, I could bear it, because I knew you were burning for me as well."

Her hands take his shoulders, and she draws herself up. Her lower body, dragging against his, is unsettlingly inert. Skin to skin, he feels that hers is peeling. Blistered. Scorched.

"That you'd burn forever. That I was a brand upon your heart."

His stomach grumbles, an involuntary admission of appetite. All that running. A man doesn't persist on rest alone. She echoes with a groggy, affectionate laugh.


A wince bites into the bridge of his nose at the deadened pull of her, eyes averted when she starts to change. Doesn't matter. He can feel it all in fine detail, the hand he'd turned away earlier finding its way to her side.

He is hungry.

And tired. And sad. And sore. Dysphoria sinks into his bones and in the lines around his face, fear giving over into something more like defeat when she laughs and he looks at her again. No resistance.

No recognition, either. He just doesn't answer, self-pity sloughing half-heartedly to fill in the blanks.

What is he supposed to recognize? The past is past, long forgotten - as if it never happened. This is only now just happening - and it isn't happening, isn't really. Can't be.

Another drag, leg against blackened leg, and she's eye to eye with him. She weighs of nothing. She's empty, and full of feeling. Her neck bends. She kisses him on the lips. She tastes- indescribable.

"You're always so hungry."

The insubstance of her begins to fall apart against him. Her pale face fades into paler ash, waves of hair crumbling into dust. The last caress he feels is that of the wind, wiping her away.

The longer she lingers the worse he feels, until there aren't even really facets for him to dwell over anymore. Bad. Is all. Shame or something similar winds like a vice in Flint's chest, breath held back out of surreal courtesy when she closes in, lest he disturb the ash she's made of.

He even tries to hold still when she goes in for the kiss, throat closed around a swallow that escalates into a push. Too much.

His hand passes through her without finding resistance and he rolls out of the tree like a sloth not long after, too exhausted to go much further than gravity will take him. He sits amidst the roots in the moonlight, devoid of thought. Or of any desire to think.

He can't stay here.