Their bodies had not been easy to dismantle, it had taken brute force and determination. At first, he hadn’t been sure what to do or why he felt the compulsion. He allowed Y Greal Sanctaidd to guide him, had listened to it as it whispered in the darkness. He’d applied sharpened rocks to slice the skin and cut through the muscle, and afterwards he’d pried and pulled using his bare hands.
Once their bodies had been reduced to their basic components — stacked neatly in two piles, one for the adult, one for the infant — he sat and gazed at the gore. How long he remained there he had no idea; he couldn’t remember when he’d started the process. Had it been day? Night? He glanced out of the bunker. It was dark beyond.
He meditated on what he was supposed to do next, but the visions wouldn’t come — he’d been abandoned. Was this a test? A test of his resolve? Of his ingenuity? He stared long and hard at Y Greal, until his eyes pulsed from the green glow and his skin was blistered and raw.
“There are three comforts of old age,” said the elderly woman to his left. She was all shrivelled up, like a raisin.
“Hm?” he asked, curious. “And what are those?” With his teeth gone, it sounded more like, And wo’ ah ‘ohw? It was no matter, however — the old bat appeared to have understood him. He dimly recognised her. From where, he could not say. If she’d asked him his name, he’d have come up emptyhanded.
“Number one—” she raised one gnarled finger “—is fire.” She cast a glance at Y Greal. “Not quite what I had in mind, but close enough.”
He grinned into the throbbing radiance. It grinned back. “And the second?” An’ ‘er ‘econd?
Another gnarled finger raised. “Number two,” she said as she regarded him with the empty sockets of her eyes, “is tobacco.”
He frowned. He didn’t have any tobacco. He was about to tell the crone this, when she shooed his words away before they’d even had the chance to take form. “How long have you been here?”
He stopped and thought. He shook his head. He had no idea.
“Too long. Too long to not have sampled the local flora. There grows on the precipice a weed. This weed does not grow anywhere else, for it is an eyesore. Harvest it. Smoke it.”
He was about to say, “Sure, why not?” when he discovered he was outside, beneath the starless sky. Lo and behold, from out of the gravel sprouted an ugly little thing. He crouched down and inspected it. In the darkness, the green of the stem and leaf was almost black. To say that there was the head of a flower at the tip would have been a misnomer — rather, there was a misshapen tumour. He plucked it from the base and suppressed a shudder when he saw the roots that wriggled in the air, like spider legs.
With the awful thing in his hand, he turned to head back to the bunker and was astounded to discover he was already there.
“Good, you found it. Bravo.” The old lady clapped, but no sound could be heard.
“Let’s see, you’ve got fire—” one raised finger “—and tobacco, of sorts—” a second finger “—now all we need is… oh yes, tea!”
“I haven’t got any tea.” I aven’ go’ anee ‘ea.
“Why, of course you do!” The old lady gestured towards the little black teapot that he didn’t remember owning.
“Oh.” Stumped, he approached the pot. Swirls of steam drifted from the spout. The smell that wafted from the charred pot was something awful. He turned away and gagged. Had his stomach not been empty, he would have surely brought up its contents onto the floor of the bunker.
Behind him, the weed had been lit and placed at the base of Y Greal Sanctaidd, which continued to pulse and throb, indifferent to his actions. Rotten smoke coughed from the green-black flame and circled around his head in a halo of decay.
“Look,” said the old lady. “See.”
He didn’t want to look; he wanted more than anything to leave that rusted thing be. But he floated through the air on legs that did not move, he reached for the lid with hands that were not his, he saw the contents that steeped within through the eyes of another.
Oh my God, he wanted to say.
The old lady crowed laughter and clapped her hands together. She rocked back and forth on a chair that was not there. “God? God? What god?” She gestured to Y Greal. “What use of a God have you? You renounced whatever deity you once claimed to believe in when you began your prayers to us.”
The old crone leaned in close — somehow, she now towered above him — and he could see that her eyes were rotten. No pupils twitched in those clouded orbs. She grinned a grin that was both toothy and toothless. Her skin sagged and drooped from her bones, as if naught but a dress draped upon a hanger. The smell on her breath was death.
She prodded a knotted finger into and then through his chest. His heart seized up and the blood in his veins turned to ice. He gasped for a breath that would not come because his lungs had been calcified into stone.
“And your prayers have been answered.”
27th August 2020
Written for the August 2020 BlogBattle: Tea