Re: Introspections #1: Me, Faith & Zombies

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IntroSpections #4: Through the Fire and Flames

The effect the fire had on the Plague was immediate. The squeal I had heard inside my head came again, this time as a fully audible shriek of agonized fury that vibrated my skull and made the door on the cigarette case shatter behind me, sending tiny, jagged breadcrumbs of safety glass plinking to the tiled floor. To my shock, the Plague began growing spines and whipping appendages and snapping jaw-like structures in a fit of poorly directed, futile rage.
I felt a stabbing pain in my right wrist as one of the jaw-things managed to bite me, and knew I could not ward off such a formidable creature with such a small flame.
But I kept it burning all the same as I ran once again, making the short but agonizing journey to the aisle where we sell lighter fluid.
Not to get you Loyal Readers sidetracked from the imminent danger Past Me has currently found himself in, but the barbecue supply aisle at my store always seemed to convey a mixed message about the proper care and feeding of animals. It isn’t just the barbecue supply aisle, it’s the aisle where everything ends up because it doesn’t logically go with anything else. Yes, it’s mainly filled with cat food, dog food, and enough collars and leashes and fuzzy, squeaky things to keep your pet amused as you play with the toys yourself, but the remaining space is occupied by poison, motor oil, a variety of tape and rope, and (most importantly for Past Me) anything you could possibly need to set something on fire.
I know. I tend to haphazardly change the tense of my verbs, and right now you’re probably thinking that temporal confusion is a maddening subject, aren’t you? Well, let me just say that Present Me—or Future Me if you like that better—has dealt with his fair share of time-space anomalies, so I don’t exactly care if you’re confused by my inconsistencies with time. As I’ve said, my scope of experience with the confusing, tragic, and all things beyond comprehension would make you feel like a grain of sand on a beach, so just go with it. I do.
I found the lighter fluid easily (you know, because of that whole spatial memory Rainman thing I do), and because of that whole I-don’t-have-three-arms thing we humans are known for, and that whole rushing-into-action-without-a-plan thing I do, I fumbled stupidly to keep the lighter burning on the black blob covering my left arm and reach for and open a bottle of lighter fluid with that third arm I don’t have.

Another interesting diversion for those of you who are waiting for me to stop avoiding what’s to come and just get to the big, exploding point of it all, but haven’t stopped reading just yet: I am slightly ambidextrous. I was also born with brain damage, which I have come to believe is just one in a series of unfortunate events that ultimately led to my surviving D-Day. And if you could ask my parents, they would insist that I was born to survive.
I came into the world blue as a Smurf and half-dead. My doctor was an apathetic moron at the mercy of the inferior medical practices of his time. I had to be force-fed because I refused to eat, and I aspirated on the formula.For those of you living in a universe without WebMD, aspiration is a fancy word for choking on something and throwing it up at the same time. And that was just my first day in the world.
Whether as a consequence of the aspiration or because of the hole in my heart, I wasn’t breathing properly either. If not for my father giving me CPR, I wouldn’t be trying against all logic and human physiology to set my own arm on fire, and you certainly wouldn’t be reading about it because I wouldn’t be hunkered down in the middle of the road to Hell writing this right now.
With no oxygen going to my brain, my motor-control center was damaged. That in itself led to several complications that have both haunted me and blessed me in turn all my life.
As I said, I am slightly ambidextrous, but I wouldn’t have gotten that way if the brain damage had not first made me “severely right-handed” (that’s an optimistic way of saying I didn’t use my left hand at all). So my parents trained me to use my left hand by forcing me not to use my right, and here we are.
I suck at pretty much every sport that involves hitting, kicking, catching, or throwing anything (so let’s just say every sport), I take at least twice as long to accomplish something as other people—although that has gotten better over the years—I went through a phase where being in a room with large numbers of people would make me black out and/or have seizures (that and my nascent heart condition are genetic on my father’s side), and of course there are the social awkwardness, OCD, and the impulsive, self-destructive behavior I mentioned before.
I am seriously screwed up, but my parents did everything in their power to make sure I survived and succeeded. The rest is up to me.

So I did the second stupidest thing I could possibly think of because the most stupid thing I could think of at the time was to just stand there, inches away from salvation, with a lit flame to my arm, for the rest of my steadily shortening life.
I shut off the lighter.
With that decision came more agonizing pain as the Plague began working double-time to invade the flesh on my arm, but I focused on the task at hand (no pun intended), pulling a bottle of charcoal lighter fluid from the shelf, the lighter gripped loosely between the bottle and the palm of my hand.
Glad I wouldn’t have to unscrew the cap, I gripped the lighter fluid’s tilt-open nozzle between my teeth and pulled, a hint of pent-up gas fumes puffing their way down my throat.
Coughing, in pain, and getting closer to a life as a professional meat-puppet by the second, I squeezed an entire liter of lighter fluid onto my arm and dropped the empty bottle, being careful not to toss away the small Bic that would ignite my salvation, and struck a flame once more.
They say it isn’t the fuel that ignites first, but the fumes it puts off. And with a whole bottle of lighter fluid dripping down my arm, I’m surprised my body didn’t go up in flames. But as I watched the small flame from my lighter ignite the air above my arm, cascading through the rising fumes like some infernal waterfall, I got the sense that something else was off, although I couldn’t immediately tell what it was.

Then I saw my face, poorly reflected in the half-inch metal cap of the lighter I was holding. That sudden disembodied feeling came again, and I was speeding through my thoughts, each one poking out at my careening consciousness like spokes on the drum of the world’s most intricate music box. No control this time; no invading Plague to give me a purpose, no nemesis to keep me grounded, just my mind getting lost in itself at a million miles an hour.
Just like that, I knew what was off. With the speed and complete absence of control that I was being thrown around my own headspace, I could feel my mental firewall crumbling away, and I could hear a thought coming to me over and over again; a maddening, one-word mantra in a voice I did not recognize as my own: Vaaaaacksssssssss, Vaaaaacksssssssss, Vaaaaacksssssssss. Though it reached me with the pathetic force of a whisper in a hurricane, it had a venomous intensity I could only attribute to the Plague. Even burning to death, it had tried to take advantage of my vulnerable mental state and control my mind.
That familiar feeling of skeletal fingers probing through my thoughts made something click into place in my mind, and I was able to stop the hectic pinball motion of my thoughts, and traverse them confidently like the stacks of a library. Apparently, my spatial memory gift could work inside my head just as well—if not better—than it does in the outside world.
I was also able to use that alien voice and its ethereal, hissing mantra as a strong beacon, which led me to the place where I had heard that cerebral click.
By no coincidence, it was the exact same spot where the Plague had first tried to invade my mind. Floating in the air like a video game power-up (perhaps because my subconscious designed it this way) was a miniature of the music box drum I had pictured earlier. One of the spokes was glowing, pulsing in time with that serpentine chant.
I touched the glowing spoke and felt a sharp pain. A spot of blood formed on my index finger. Apparently, you can also bleed when you’re dreaming…or whatever this was.
Only, it was too dark to be blood. It had the same oily appearance as the Plague puddle that had chased me and was trying through fire and flame to turn me against the world in which I live. As in a nightmare, I could only stand and watch as everything within my field of vision was covered in black. Through the encompassing darkness, I could see ghosts of the world as the Plague meant it to be. I saw myself, shambling through the streets, my lifeless eyes surrounded by rotting flesh, my hands mere twists of bone and frayed muscle. I saw faint suggestions of creatures no man could survive witnessing in their entirety. I saw murder and carnage on a global scale that could not be sated with one planet. I felt the depthless hunger and hatred this being had towards all things Other, especially Others who challenge its power, like I did.
“Albie?” A woman’s voice, calling to me from some far-off place.
With that, my body (if you could call it that right now) started shaking, my head flopping every which way like a dashboard hula dancer, and the pinprick of pain in my finger spread up my arm, growing into a howling agony as the dark world before me erupted in a wall of fire.