Fictional Frights: “FLIGHT” by Jason Jenkins

FFWith the return of our FICTIONAL FRIGHTS short story series, we thought we’d give you fright fanatics one hell of a story. Icons of Fright friend Jason Jenkins (Jinx) (writer for Dread Central, as well as various others) sent this tale our way, one called “Flight” and was originally submitted to be a part of the MIDIAN UNMADE short story anthology all featuring stories inspired by the world of Midian created by Barker in his book CABAL and subsequent film, NIGHTBREED. The story wasn’t included in the book, so knowing that we love to turn our readers onto really cool stories and individuals, Jinx was nice enough to include it in our ongoing series. I personally read every story sent to us, and I’d be lying if I said that “Flight” didn’t make me happy with bloody joy.

An added bonus to the story, is a brand new reading of the story by Jinx on the most recent SCREAM ADDICTS podcast, so if you feel like reading the story while hearing it being read or want to listen to it in your car or at home, we’re including that here as well. So peel your faces off, and get ready for some Midian greatness!

Podcast reading of “Flight”.


 

“Flight”

 

Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail

John Donne

 

 

Moonlight shone down cold on the desert sand, ash filling the air along with the pungent smell of smoke and blood.  It reminded Junn of the old days, the Times of Persecution for his kind.  Though he’d never admit it to another such as he (how could he?), he missed those days sorely.  At least he’d felt alive – dodging the Purifiers, narrowly escaping capture time and again as he attempted to save his brothers and sisters from certain death.  From noose, from pitchfork, from bonfire.

The body swung back and forth in front of Junn like a pendulum over the small fire he’d built out here on the open sand, hanging from a small apparatus fashioned of wood and leather that had been assembled in mere minutes.  The corpse, once an old man named Hall who’d had the misfortune of hitching a ride from Junn, had begun to blacken about its scalp and shoulders, forcing him to swing it to and fro over the flames until the blood had warmed just enough.

Junn would honor this man’s loss, using as much of the body as possible once it had been fully prepared.  His blood would be drunk, greedily no doubt, likely mixed with Jack Daniels or whatever booze Junn had stored away in the rusted pickup truck he’d left back near the tiny dirt road which had brought the men here only an hour ago.  Hall’s organs would be eaten, of course, fried up here on the prairie with as much of the man’s meat as Junn could stand to gulp down.  All as the coyotes might sniff about but never attempt to claim to cooking flesh – Junn’s own scent overpowering the smell of his heated meal, warning away any creature not bold enough to consider a bad death.

The bones could make weapons, obviously, while the skin could be stripped, tanned, and carved with sygils, creating a makeshift protective shawl that could cloak Junn’s presence if he began to feel the eyes of the Others on his back again.  “Others” being anyone, really, who wasn’t human or ‘Breed.  Others like the undead Dutchman, or the tattooed occult detective, or the Order of the Gash – those pit-dwellers who’d long wanted Junn to answer for his trespasses against them.  It was a shame that he would have to resort to such trickery to stay hidden, but his invisibility had long since left him – had left him on the day he’d torn his wings from his back to better go out amongst the humans.  He regretted that choice, from time to time, and occasionally the small wing-stubs that barely jutted from his back would itch as though they wished to grow back to their former glory, but they never did.

But for all the treasures to be harvested, Junn had really only wanted Hall for his eyes – gorgeous, ocean blue, set deep within the man’s ancient, lined face.  Standing out like sparkling gems.  Blue eyes that told of a haunted past.  Of strife, regret, and ultimately murder.

It was through these eyes that Junn would see into the future – the future of his kind, the Nightbreed, so that he might hope to one day reunite with them.  And with his father.  The father of all the ‘Breed.

With the right words, the right ingredients at his disposal, the right eyes – Junn might possibly see even more than that.  Might see through to the path that would lead his people from concealment and subjugation to peace, and from peace to domination.  The superior race, recognized as such as long last.

But first, the work.

Junn recovered the big iron blade from his satchel, its edge quite long and very sharp.  He’d taken it from the ruins of his people’s sanctuary on the day of their decimation and flight.  Taken it from the smoldering ground, as its button-masked owner and his deformed lackey searched the site for it and all those like it.  “The Man of Knives”, Junn had always thought of this man.  The man who was not ‘Breed, but Other.  Junn had been afraid of this man that day, afraid of the mask and the coat full of blades, and had hid from him amongst the tombstones even as he clutched what was obviously the Knife Man’s blade to his breast.  But that was over twenty years ago.  He feared no man, now.

He finally allowed Hall’s body to come fully to rest over the flame, then pressed the knife’s point to the warmed flesh just above the wound that had taken his life.  The sharp metal freed even more of the corpse’s blood to seep out at gravity’s will.

He worked quickly.

 

*                                  *                                    *

 

His belly full, his satchel stuffed with useful items courtesy of Mister Hall, Junn rested by the fire, sitting cross-legged.  Closer to the flames than any mortal could bear.  It was his people’s gift.  They were born of fire, they had no fear of it.  It caused them no pain.  He could bathe in flame, and often did.  Once, he even dreamt a patchwork man and his grotesquely beautiful bride had taught him to dance within the heart of any roaring fire.  He still danced in the blaze on occasion, whenever it pleased him.

Junn looked to his hands, to the beautiful white and blue orbs which rested in the tiny crimson pools that had formed in either palm.  He planted brief kisses on each, then set them onto the slab of curved iron he used as a makeshift pan.  Junn ran one of his small amber claws over his wrist, letting his black blood flow onto the two eyeballs.  Next he doused both with human ash, then spoke words over the concoction in a language the world at large had all but forgotten.  At last, he spat into the mixture, then placed the pan over the flames – letting it cook, sizzle, boil.

Junn locked his eyes with Hall’s, which barely peeked above the bubbling muck.  Locked eyes, and concentrated, repeating an ancient mantra under his breath as the mixture’s smoke pushed its way up through his nostrils, filling his head.

And then, Junn saw.

Saw past this night, past this place.  Saw into the future of his kind, to their greatest battle.

But he saw even more than that.

Junn saw his own death.

 

*                                    *                                    *

 

The images flitted by, choking Junn’s mind with moment after moment, showing him his past – every moment that had led him here.  These flashbacks ripped him from the present, back to his very beginning.  Back to the Majlis al-Jinn, the massive cave in Oman where he had been conceived.

He witnessed his own birth in the burning desert, as he was ushered into this world by his parents under the watchful gaze of Agonistes, the towering practitioner of the First Art who’d been summoned by prayer to deliver Junn safely after his parents had learned his mother would likely miscarry.  Though he was only moments old, Junn could still remember his grateful parents being claimed by his deliverer, their bodies to be reformed, resculpted at will on another plane of existence as payment to Agonistes for his services.  He could still remember the strangely soothing lullaby the man had sung as he brought Junn into the world, and sang still as he took his parents from it.

Junn saw himself being left in the care of relatives, all members of the Tribes of the Moon, who raised him properly as a child of the Nightbreed.  His aunt and uncle, his cousins – they all had a hand in bringing him up – teaching him when to fight, and when to flee.  When to eat, and when to hide.  And as he came of age, they taught him the magic of their people.  How to hear the summoning of his kind, the power that could be both wielded and granted, should the occasion call for it.

More images.  Years passed, lifetimes for humans.  There were wars, between his and humankind.  Wars that most of the world never knew of, wars between the Nightbreed and humans.  His family eventually fled to Canada, to a safe haven for his kind.  The home of his people’s maker – Midian.  There was…not peace, perhaps, but a lack of war in this place.  But mostly there was hiding, and rules, and boredom, and the awful weight of each day’s sameness.  Curiosity flourishes in environments like this, for men like Junn.  Soon he sought knowledge, and the places within Midian that were forbidden to most of his people.

He had been told – warned – not to descend into the city’s depths.  Warned by his uncle, and by Midian’s leader Lylesburg, who’d barked that the city’s underground held terrors for even their own, not the least of which was lord Baphomet himself.

So, of course, he had needed to see for himself.  Had to see, had to know.  One night, young Junn pushed past ‘Breed after ‘Breed, racing down stones steps, through vast halls, past beings that would give him nightmares for weeks after – not the least of which were the “Berserkers”, impossibly large creatures that would just as soon have eaten Junn and shit him into oblivion as cast him a mere glance.  Only when he’d reached the bowels of Midian did he catch sight of the Nightbreed’s cherished god.

What he saw turned Junn’s raven-black hair white, and drove him screaming from Midian.  From the country.  From the continent.

Images still.  Of Junn’s “walkabout”.  Free from his family, of his unmentioned obligations to his people, Junn had travelled the world.  Fighting, fucking, and eating (often the same people, one at a time), while doing his best to drink his memories of Midian’s bowels from his mind.

He practiced his magic, helping and hurting desperate humans (depending on the desires of those who summoned him).  He tried sating his own desires as well.  With women, and with magics he stumbled across and learned.  With trinkets and artifacts from other times, other worlds even.  Most were unsatisfying, while a few proved to be quite dangerous (his brief dalliance with the French toymaker’s puzzlebox might yet be the end of him).

But there was no pleasure that could calm his mind and make him forget what he witnessed that night.  And as his years progressed, Junn felt more and more drawn back to that place.  Midian.  The Home of Monsters.  His home.

And one day, just over two decades ago, the need to return to his kind’s sanctuary drew him back with a ferocity he could not ignore, practically dragging him back to North America.  Back to the little ghost town with the massive cemetery.

And when Junn arrived and saw what had become of his people, he wept as he never had before.

 

 

*                               *                                    *

 

Once the maniac and his flunky had gone, Junn moved amongst the bodies and rubble, the smoke and flames dying down at last as the sun climbed higher into the sky.  He was surprised, at first, that no authorities had yet arrived on site, given the scale of carnage before him.  But as he walked about, he saw a great deal of the corpses wore uniforms.  There were likely to be no cops arriving any time soon from the neighboring town, given that they were all already here.

The sights before him sickened Junn to his very soul – the bodies of his people, charred and blackened, bloodied and battered.  Men, women, even children.  It pained him to think that he might have helped prevent all this, could have fought alongside his brothers and sisters.  At the very least, he might have died with them.  If only he had been here, he thought, instead of fleeing in fear all those years ago, fleeing in fright at the sight of Baphomet.  The guilt rose in him quickly, tearing and chewing at him on its way up.

And then he saw his uncle.  His body charred and bullet-riddled, barely visible beneath a few corpses in somehow worse shape than he.  Junn approached slowly, biting back both tears and screams.  He cast aside the other bodies and cradled his dead uncle.  His dead father, really, given that the man had raised him from the time of his birth.  He whispered into unhearing ears anything that should have been said long ago and many times over.  Sentiments that were too hard to part with when they mattered most.  “People are stupid, and time is short,” his uncle would always say.  Junn laughed harshly at remembering these, of all words.

He swore then and there that he would find what remained of their kind – there must be some of them left – and would band them together again, lead them to a new home.  Build their ranks back up, before leading them against the humans.  He bore the sapiens as a whole no ill will, their time had simply come to an end.  Had come to an end when members of their kind had attacked his own.

But first, he’d have to find the ‘Breed before he could lead them.  Find them, wherever they might be.  He let his uncle back down to the ground, kissed his forehead, and said a prayer he’d learned from the man when he was but a child.

He then tore his uncle’s eyes from their sockets.

 

*                               *                                    *

 

The eyes had shown him much – had shown him the battle that ended Midian.  Had shown him the man who had led the humans to Midian’s gate, then led the surviving ‘Breed away in a small band.

Junn had spat in fury at this revelation, even in mid-vision.  A human, leading on the Tribes of the Moon.  ‘Breed now, sure, but once a natural.  A natural who had brought ruin to his kind, no less.

Boone.  “Cabal” now, rather.  It had infuriated Junn.  He’d needed time to ruminate on this, to gather his thoughts and form a plan.  It came quickly, and simply:  Junn would find the survivors, kill Cabal, take his place as a full-blooded ‘Breed leader.  The rest would come to him in due course.

But nothing’s ever so simple.  Junn had tracked the Nightbreed for years, tearing through countless miles and eyeballs, never getting any closer to his people.  Oh, he’d neared them from time to time.  Would hear tales of terror from frightened humans left in their wake, could catch sight of the carnage left by the wandering troupe of creatures like he.  He even ran afoul of the Knife Man and his mutant priest once, all of them chasing the same invisible trail, but evaded them easily enough.

Junn’s drive to find his kind and lead them eventually dimmed, dying down from a roaring fire to smoldering ash, and then to little more than a dull itch.  He went back to practicing his craft on humans, offering his services and letting the poor fuckers damn themselves with their own desires.  One such as Junn might have been content with a life like this, plying his trade.  A genie, with no bottle of any sort to ever restrain him.

But every once in a while, Junn would catch sight of a pair of eyes, and couldn’t stop himself from peeking around in the ether for the Nightbreed.  This led him down many a dark road, all the way to the present and one unlucky Mister Hall.

 

*                               *                                    *

 

Junn tried to brace himself for the next bit, even knowing how futile this would be.  Seeing into the past is difficult enough, to be certain, but glimpsing the future comes with a yield of pain nearly too great to endure.  Pain as razors gliding across every nerve, pain washing over his brain all wet and white-hot, pain threatening to shake his atoms loose from one another.

It began.

He bit his lip bloody, clenched his fists white, ground his teeth so hard they began to fracture.  Heart pounding in his chest like a tribal drum.

And then – peace.  Clarity.  A vision of the future.  The vision he’d sought for so long, yawning before him.

New Midian.  A home for his people, hidden from the world.  That long sought after safe haven the ‘Breed must have thought they might never again have.

Junn allowed himself a smile, pleased that his kind had finally found some measure of safety, some semblance of hope.  The smile broadened to a grin, before vanishing completely. Vanished at the sight of Boone, walking tall amongst the ‘Breed.  Smiling at his followers, his once-human bitch faithful at his side.

A growl rose up in Junn at witnessing this.  It was unfair.  Unfair for a human to bring about the end of the ‘Breed’s way of life, to nearly destroy their creator, only to be loved by all for simply leading them to another, far more confined retreat from the natural world (though who needed Midian’s seemingly endless expanses, now that their numbers had been whittled down to nearly nothing?).

Unfair.  Infuriating.

And then – then Junn saw himself.  Within the vision, striding into New Midian.  Drawing looks of admiration and welcome from those who’d long since written him off as dead.  Drawing looks from those who marveled at the wings spread wide from his shoulders, regrown to the impressive former glory.

Junn saw himself approach Boone – Cabal – who stood ready to welcome Junn back into the fold.  Words were exchanged between the men in a conversation that grew quickly hot, then boiling, and then, inevitably, explosive.

The Nightbreed of New Midian backed away, collectively absent-minded in forming a circle around the two as they squared off.  Junn’s talons clicked against each other as tribal sygils rose up on Cabal’s flesh, even as tiny fangs revealed themselves between both.

Silence, save for the excited breaths escaping from combatant and spectator alike.  Silence, but only for a moment.

Junn and Cabal collided as titans, and as animals.  Impossible strength met with tooth and claw.  Fists hammered and teeth tore, claws gouged as arms wrestled with bodies.  Blood sprayed the onlookers, some of whom couldn’t contain their excitement at seeing a live bloodsport after so very long.

To the shock of each Junn, both the participant and voyeur, the battle resolved itself rather quickly.  Junn’s body fell to into the dirt, surrounding itself in its own blood and piss.  Gasping for breath through lungs tore ragged.  Dozens of wounds left to weep black into the welcoming earth.

As the mighty djinn gasped his last under the gaze of his kind (did his murderer even look pained at having killed him?), Junn yearned for the impossible – hoping against hope that he could, in his dying moments, grant himself a wish.  Just the one.

“Another chance.  Give me just the one more chance…”

Junn emptied his bowels as he passed, no better than a beast at its death.  An ignoble end for one of the universe’s more exceptional creatures.

 

*                               *                                    *

 

The dawn’s light felt warm on Junn’s skin, pushing away the clinging cold that had set in once his fire had burnt itself out.

Junn packed up his gear, then started for his truck.  Determined to have a plan set by the time he reached the rusted heap.  Though, in truth, he already knew which direction he’d point his vehicle.

No matter his fear, no matter his future-self’s hope for that one last chance, Junn knew that he couldn’t possibly turn down the opportunity to walk amongst his kind once more.  To confront their false leader, even if it meant his certain death.  He had run for too long.

Junn tossed his satchel into the truck’s bed, his course now chosen.  He knew where New Midian was now.  He knew where his destiny lie, even if he yet hoped to change his fate while trying to save his people.

Either way, his youthful flight from his responsibilities had at long last come to an end.   He was finally heading home.

As Junn’s pickup truck roared to life and screamed down the highway toward the glowing horizon, Junn shifted uncomfortably in his seat.  Felt an itch present itself in between his shoulder blades.

He could feel his wings growing back, after all this time.

Junn smiled.  He didn’t mind.

 

End.

Leave A Comment