Blood & Candy

Blood and Candy

“A sign that says ‘footpath closed’ that has been there for ages and no-one knows why.”

You kneel down, and cup it in your palms. It’s cool to the touch, and as you examine it, a metallic glow emanates through your skin like the belly-coals of a dead dragon. Its core—that pulsating, cold blue core—has sprouted weaving strings that break the surface and stroke at your fingers, and one of them, a long spindly one twisting and curling like a corkscrew, slips in behind your right eye. For a moment, you smell the sugary scent of jellybeans and the air rises up and out of your chest—and then it’s over. The CHARM is still in your hands, your fingers digging subtly into its flexible surface.

What do you do?

You look around, gather your bearings. You’re standing at the rear of a factory of some kind, its red brick shining dully in the heat of the sun. Smoke-clouds billow from its chimney-tops, and the sound of machinery and conveyor belts can be heard from within. To the EAST, lying neatly behind three wooden bollards, is a CONCRETE FOOTPATH leading further behind the factory, forming the flimsy line between industrial and suburban life. To the NORTH, a factory worker mans a yellow forklift, and beyond that, the street; someone, a WOMAN with brown hair and hard-set features, is shouting and waving at you hurriedly from the sidewalk.The sky is a shade of minty teal, and the air a soft gradient. It’s time to go.

What do you do?

You walk swiftly east onto the footpath, sliding in-between the wooden bollards. The PATH continues to the EAST, cracked deep and weathered by age. Wide BLADES OF GRASS sprout from the sides of the concrete, and the lines between the concrete tiles. On your left lies the red brick wall of the factory delivery bay, and on your right, a bleak WOODEN FENCE punctured with holes where nails should be. A chorus of dog howls jerks to life from the other side and planks of fence rattle and unhinge, revealing wooden boards hammered haphazardly across its length. You smile, imagining the owners unable to keep their dogs contained after countless runaways, just boarding the fence up frustrated—but lovingly—from the inside. A SIGN, face down, is lying on the ground here.

What do you do?

You jog further east. Beneath your feet, the cement begins to crumble away. The grass is thicker here, brighter, more colourful; you swear there are shades of blue among its SHARP BLADES. As you run, the wall and fence break down into something resembling THICKETS, the bristly twigs and leaves of which scrape against your skin and threaten the integrity of your CHARM. You clutch it close to your chest. The sky has devolved into a canvas of navy clouds, and you hear the WOMAN calling your name from behind.

What do you do?

No. You don’t. At this point, you need to run away. The WOMAN is approaching. The WOMAN is chasing you. The WOMAN is going to kill you. You need to run. At this point, you need to run away. What do you do? You run. There’s an aural flash as lightning strikes some distance ahead. Heavy pellets of rain topple from the sky, drenching you in seconds, and with each one comes a cascading howl that hurricanes around your ears, splutters into your eyes. WHISPERS from behind carry your name in fear and worry, and those ahead whistle it in blame. The PATH keeps going. You can’t run for much longer. The PATH keeps going. The PATH is never-ending.

What do you do?

You dive north. The THICKETS engulf you wholly, slicing through your skin and clothes like a shark’s fin through seawater. Brambles explode up and down, left and right, until you can’t tell EAST from WEST, NORTH from SOUTH. It’s just twigs and leaves, wild blueberries smelling of sweetened must, and your arms and feet and scrambling legs. There’s nothing else to do but keep going forward. Never stop.

What do you do?

You keep going forward, never stopping. And come crashing down into a dim clearing. You roll, taking tangled branches and the smell of eucalypt leaves with you. You’re sprawled onto a patch of wet bluegrass, the BLADES of which dig into your bruised knees and forearms. The sky is absent, hidden by the flurrying mass of bushes which tighten around you, their thin blue TENTACLES seeking your warmth. Cowering in awe under this bristled dome, you lift your head and notice a CONVEYOR BELT breaching one thicketed wall, that extends, outwards, into darkness. There’s a muffled shout.

What do you do?

You pluck a BLADE from the dirt. The edged metal shimmers with some unknown tint, and as you hold it, the handle unwraps at the seams—a mummy, ridding itself of its bindings. Your heart leaps at the sound of rustling twigs and leaves coming from… somewhere.

What do you do?

You slide into the bushes, and face the clearing. Holding the BLADE against your right breast and your hand against your heart, you wait. Your eye is throbbing. Are you missing something? The CHARM! It’s laying there in the dewy grass, rolling itself back and forth with those wiry STRINGS. But the WOMAN is there too, reaching for it, her brow furrowed. Your heartbeat pounds against your temples, and sweat carves lines down your face.

What do you do?

You take a breath—and launch yourself at her, brandishing the BLADE. She recoils, face a wide ‘O’, body contracting as you stick the BLADE in her gut. Blood is already seeping from the wound, and you twist the handle in disgust—not from the bodily fluid, but from the thought that your SOUL was hers to tamper with. She falls to the ground clutching her oozing stomach, and you pick up the CHARM, hold it to your cheek. Its TENDRILS wrap around your face, your neck, dig sweet somethings into the backs of your eyes. But you’re not done here yet. The CHARM calls to you. It asks you what you’re going to do. So you clutch it, kneel down, and without further hesitation plunge the CHARM into the back of the WOMAN’s throat. She gargles, her eyes widened with pain and fear, but she’s too weak now to retaliate. With a clenched fist you push it further down, the tops of your knuckles rubbing against the roof of her mouth. Her hands pry limply at your grip on her neck, but it’s fruitless.

You SMILE. There are tears in her eyes. You need to block the airway. You grasp the BLADE by its sharpened side, feel as it cuts into your palms, and strike the handle against the CHARM. Over, and over, and over again. Shards of blood-soaked TEETH bounce onto the grass, and with each one comes a suppressed, heart-writhed groan from a voice-box strained. The TENTACLES from above twist your hold on the BLADE, forcing you to grip it by the handle. They raise your hands in prayer.

Finish it. You pull back your fists, skin shredded and pared from the tinted BLADE— and drive home the stake. Your vision saturates. A strangled sound of despair escapes from the WOMAN’s throat—the last whimper within her life as the living leaves her tongue—and it’s to there that her eyes roll. A bubbling, blue liquid rises from within, and crawls over the corners of her lips.

What do you do?

You drag the WOMAN across the blue grass, and heave her onto the CONVEYOR BELT. Sitting yourself down in front, you watch, as her frail BODY trundles away. You realise your shoulders are tense, so you relax them. Blood pours from your palms, your vision begins to swirl—but you watch. Your heartbeat slowly slows, and the belts clink and clunk, and the upturned BLADE fades into the darkness—and she’s gone, to be compressed into a number in a bigger machine. Clink clunk. Rain patters against the dome, and water wells up in your left eye. You think for a moment that you’re crying, but then there’s a squelching sound: the gel making way for a valued client. Your vision dilates for a second—the world tilts—as something squeezes its way out. The thing falls onto your already outstretched, bloodied palms, and you see that it’s a small, blue worm. White sugar-dust sparkles beneath its pruny skin as it wriggles, looks around, looks at you—and screams. There are flashing lights. Red and blue. All around you, there are flashing lights. Red and blue. The bush is receding, revealing. You don’t want to look. You can’t look. Your vision fades, and your eyes close.

What do you do? What do you do? What have you done?

The lights penetrate your eyelids, and you track them as you fall away. Red and blue. Red and blue. Red and blue. Red and blue. Blood and candy.Blood and candy. Blood and candy. Blood and candy, blood and candy, blood and candy, blood and candy, blood and candy, blood and candy blood and candy blood and candy blood and candy blood and candy