By Alone Dreaming
Rating: T or PG13 for descriptive gore and mild horror
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek. If I did, this would not be posted under fan fiction.
Warnings: Horror (mild), Surrealism, Gore, Influences of Kafka, Faulkner, Poe and the Zombie Survival Guide
Author's Note: I am working on a couple of other stories, one a semi-sequel to Shrinking the Gap and another with Kirk/McCoy friendship. I do not know how quickly they'll be finished, if at all. Until then, enjoy this bit of weirdness. I apologize for all mistakes.
Chapter One: Dead
The gore and wreckage of the once beautiful ship enveloped his vision and swam over him in waves. The glass face of the bridge had been crushed in, sending sharp and deadly shards flying at everyone present in the room. The metal facing around it had crumbled in and up, some of it tearing apart and latching onto other parts of the room. Delicate control panels and viewing screens had shredded in the assault, leaving nothing behind but limp and sad wires with tiny buttons dangling from them. The ceiling of the place had caved in under the pressure of the rest of the ship, flattening out like a tin can under a shoe. Chairs were splayed all over the place, adding to the debris and his own chair sat at the top of it all, mostly untouched, holding him upright.
He recognized the presence of human remains about him as well. To his left, an ensign who's name he had forgotten was lying pinned beneath a piece of equipment. His stomach had been split open and part of his innards were dripping out onto the floor into a puddle of blood. What was worse were the people he knew lying about the place, flung from their seats and where they were standing to land in awkward heaps on the ground. Sulu looked like he could be sleeping with the exception of how his neck was angled. He lay prone right near the destroyed front of the bridge, sprawled on the ground of the planet that had ended them. Near him was Uhura, her ponytail limp and ragged and her lower half crushed by a piece of the ceiling. Chekov had a piece of glass imbedded in his neck and clearly had bled out. His eyes stared glassily at the rest of the room.
He had no strength to move from his throne above it all, his arms lifeless and his legs equally useless. Even moving his eyes was a constant struggle and he soon gave up on it all. Nothing changed no matter where he looked; his crew was dead, his beloved ship destroyed and he was going to live out his last moments in this world having to watch. Some people called it karma; he called it shitty luck that his neck hadn't snapped on impact. He wished it could have happened, that he could have gone out with a piece of glass shoved through his neck or a chunk of the ceiling crushing him instead of having to spend what little time he had left seeing what his poor decision had wrought upon everyone he knew.
He couldn't even remember what that choice had been or where they'd been going or why they had crashed. The only thing that stuck with him was the overwhelming guilt and knowledge that everything that lay before him was his doing. His last decision, made in pride, had put him as king of his dead world. The decision had not intentionally led to this; that did not comfort but it was a truth. But this had always been a possibility, lurking in the background like a deadly animal . Had he thought it through instead of acting in blind hope, he would have seen the possible price and noted it as too high. Someone had once warned him against being rash; why had he not listened?
Listlessly, he waited for death to take him. It could not be far away; if he was half as bad off as the others, he had minutes at most before he succumbed to eternal rest. He wondered if he would start to feel pain soon from the injuries he'd suffered. If he did, he deserved it. If he continued on for more than the predicted time set, he deserved it. He deserved so much more than just physical suffering as punishment--
He sat up then, suddenly, without warrant and blinked around the ruins of his precious friends and ship, wondering who's thoughts those had been. They had not been his; no, he was a fighter and whoever thought this, believed themselves to be a martyr. He blinked again at the people around him and watched them flutter out of existence for a moment. Pulling himself to his feet, he carefully stepped around the dead ensign, feeling his left knee twist in a strange manner but not hurt. His opposite foot squished as though it tread on water, looking strangely misshapen inside his boot. His left arm would not move at all, no matter what he did while his right very clearly had a bone sticking out of it. His head had a hard time staying straight up, his neck trembling weakly on his shoulders. More injuries covered him, injuries he should not have survived much less been moving with, and yet, none of it hurt. A part of him, distanced from the him that was conscious, thought that just seeing this should sicken him but he felt nothing except the creeping idea that he deserved it and he determinedly pushed that back.
It was time to take action. As Captain, he needed to discover who, if anyone, was still alive and from there, try to contact Starfleet so that they could send someone out to provide medical support and transportation. No one in this room appeared to still breathe but he hobbled amongst them all, just in case, taking in glazed eyes and grey skin. Confirmation nearly sent him tail spinning into self-doubt and recrimination once more but he caught himself midway and pulled out of it. Not the time, he had to remind himself again, not the time for this. There were still many, many areas to search and not an easy way to do so. Who knew how long he had before his body realized that it should give up? He could not take the chance.
After his unsuccessful quest to locate someone alive, he attempted to find a way to the next deck of the ship only to discover himself boxed in. His only option lay out a small hole, not blocked by debris, where the glass had shattered. He gimped over and used his broken but movable arm to maneuver his body through. It was not as easy has he'd expected. Not because he grew tired or ill or dizzy-- though he would have felt more comfortable with everything if he had-- but because his body would not move the way he wanted it to. He had to keep stopping to rebalance and force his limbs to behave. Eventually, he was half-way through and paused to stare out over the twilight dappled terrain.
The best description would be a graveyard but not just for bodies; everything that had been created decayed before him in mass-- houses, cars, trees. Skeletons of everything he'd ever seen lay before him in the blue grey world, not touching each other, all in various stages of disintegration. Simple things, complicated things, organic, non-organic; he'd never seen so many different things in one place in his whole life and he doubted he would ever do so again-- even if his life hadn't been dramatically shortened by traumatic injury. He stayed where he was, taking it in the vast expanse of things in a distanced way. Then he slipped down to the ground, catching himself on the side of the ship when his foot twisted underneath him with a sloppy crunch.
He needed something to support his weight on now. The foot that had been squelching originally was now completely unable to carry him. He crawled along the side of the ship, trying to stay upright on four wounded limbs. His good leg-- if it could be called that-- twisted underneath him, throwing him to the ground. For a moment, he lay there, trying to figure out how his broken body could support his weight. Five minutes passed, then ten. Sudden lethargy overwhelmed him followed by the unforgivable urge to give in to despair. His body could not take him, his crew was dead, his ship destroyed; what was there to do but to wait until his body melted--
He shoved himself up with his broken arm, then intentionally smacked it against the hull of the vessel. Distantly, he thought he could feel a twinge beyond the numbness that had overtaken him. At the very least, it helped him shove away the dark feelings and get the energy to keep going. He focused on his plan and then included motion. Reaching around him, he grasped a thin metal rod. It had not come from the Enterprise, but it had not succumbed to rust. He could use it as a crutch. Pawing about in the surprisingly soft ground, he found a shorter piece of material, resembling wood. A long string was his next acquisition and using the two of them, he braced his foot to the best of his ability. The foot, no longer a foot really but instead, a shoe full of blood and flesh and pulverized bone, seemed to be willing to support him again. This did not stop him from testing it briefly before he levered himself up using the metal rod. When he was upright again, he clung to the crutch with one arm.
He journeyed around, looking for a way into the destroyed vehicle but finding only large cracks and shattered chunks. The few entry points he initially discovered were too far up for him to consider plausible. He was becoming increasingly aware of his body's limitations as he trekked along and it was a new sort of experience. Usually, he equated physical limitation to lack of endurance and strength; here, he never ran out of breath but he also could not tell how well his body could support his needs. Things did not hurt or feel as they normally did and he had to depend fully on his visual perception and consequences to understand what he was capable of.
He reached the end of ship and began circling around it when he found a place where he thought he could squeeze through. It wasn't terribly wide, less than a foot with rough edges, but it would do for the moment. Shoving his walking staff in first, he used it to lever himself through, feeling the tug of the jagged entrance as he slipped in. Something on his chest caught and when he finally was in, he noted that he'd not only lost a section of his shirt, but a strip of skin as well. It did not bleed, but stood out red and glistening in the continuing dimness of the place. He clung to the rod with the crook of his elbow so he could touch it, trying to see if it was blood. His fingers came away damp but still it did not run. He wondered if he was actually dead but his mind had yet to realize it yet. Better, something said, to just lie down and allow his poor, battered brain to shut down and rest. What did it matter to continue? No one else was still alive, the ship's communications were clearly not working--
He jerked his head and his neck creaked ominously. Holding his head up became considerably more difficult. Going forward with as much vigor as he could muster, he navigated the wrecked hallway. He twisted through the hallways, stepped over bodies and tried to determine where he was. The problem was everything looked the same after a crash unless the room had distinctive aspects. He paused again, trying to get his bearings when he became aware of a sound coming from a room a little ways ahead. It sounded like something moving the debris around. Hopeful, he moved to the doorway and squeezed through the opening that was blocked by a shifted table. His limp arm tore as he went through and he knew he should have been nauseated by the sight of a mostly severed finger. It was dulled though, like all his emotions, not worth noting. What currently mattered was seeing who or what was moving.
It was definitely a person. Before he could even call out, the person swung around, phaser drawn, prepared to fire. Unlike Kirk, he moved easily, gracefully, and his stance was firm. His body clearly had withstood the crash better than Kirk's and most of the crew. He had gashes like everyone else, his uniform torn and ragged, but his limbs were not bent in strange angles and Kirk could not see any splintered bone.
"Captain," Spock said, lowering his weapon. His eyes widened. "Jim?"
"Spock…" he croaked. "S'good to see you moving."
Spock reached him faster than he thought possible. "You should sit down."
"Nah," he managed. He had to work to make sounds. "I have a hard time getting up and I get really weird thoughts."
"Jim, please, you need to sit down," Spock insisted, taking away his crutch and grabbing him by the upper arm.
Kirk pulled away from him, stepping back. His foot made an unpleasant sound. "No, seriously, no. I know I look bad but--"
Then Spock turned and he lost his train of thought. He could see the Vulcan's brain, shiny in the dim light with green blood. The entire back of his head was smashed in, bits of skull dripping down the back of his neck and clinging in bits to scraps of skin. His hair around the injury, what was left of it, was sticking up in unnatural angles, with flecks of tissue wrapped in it. Kirk knew that all of this should sicken him and yet, all it did was increase the feeling of inadequacy. Spock had him by his arm again, and this time, he did sit on a piece of overturned equipment.
"Your head--" he began.
"Hold still," Spock commanded, as he looked at the bone sticking out of Kirk's arm. Next, he looked at the unstable knee and the foot that wasn't a foot any longer. "How are you even walking, Captain?"
"I could say the same for you," Kirk replied, depression dragging at his psyche. "Your head--"
"Does not affect my ability to walk," Spock interrupted, "even if the injury is severe. You need to stay off your feet until I can do something for your wounds."
"I don't think it matters," Kirk said, as his friend examined his neck. "Spock, I think," he found it difficult to speak, "I think I may be dead."
If it shocked the Vulcan, Kirk could not see it. He'd gotten much better at reading the Vulcan's subtle facial changes as he had spent more time with him and he knew that if Spock felt any surprise, he'd have noticed it. But all he could see in his friend was concern and determination. He has a plan, the voice in his head said. He thinks things through. He did not make rash decisions which led to injuries, perilous situations and death. Spock should have been--
"Jim?" Spock gave him a gentle shake, causing his head to wobble unsteadily on his shoulders. "Do not sleep."
"I wasn't," he said. "I-- do you feel the strangeness here?"
"Strangeness?" Spock queried. "Captain, you claim to be a walking corpse and judging by the state of your body, I am inclined to believe you. I, in turn, have a traumatic brain injury and yet, feel nothing. You must be more specific in your questions."
He didn't know how to describe the oppression to someone who purposefully redirected emotion all the time. Spock's controlled and repressed feelings would make it near impossible for him to understand the extent of oddness Kirk was suffering from. The vague nothingness compacted with the lethargic, jaded self-loathing was beyond his understanding. He doubted any of the words he had could fully describe it to another regular person, much less a half-Vulcan. This did not stop him from trying.
"Do you keep getting the creepy sense that we should just lay down and give up?" he asked. "Depressive thoughts? Anything?"
Spock shook his head and a chunk of skull dropped down to the ground. Kirk tracked it with his eyes, and stared at the shiny green and white juxtaposed against the grayish ground. He wondered if Spock even knew that he had shed a piece of himself or if the Vulcan was completely unaware of his plight. He knew Spock realized the injury was present. Did he know that he would lose his brain if he shook his head like that again?
"Jim," another gentle shake brought him back, "Jim?"
"Spock," he answered. "We need to keep moving."
Spock was squatting before him, his hands at his sides. There was a peculiar, minute expression on his face. "Not until we tend your injuries." He stood. "Stay here while I find something to brace your knee."
That's when Kirk knew he couldn't be real. He blinked once, then twice and the third time, Spock had vanished from the room. The real Spock would not have left him by himself on a strange planet after a crash. He would have made due with what he had to tend the injuries or, if he had nothing to make due with, he would have brought Kirk with him. Whoever or whatever that was, it was part of the problem, not the solution. It was encouraging him to give in to the strangeness, to become part of the planet of death, and that was not what he wanted.
He needed his crutch. The imaginary Spock-- or the thing that pretended to be Spock-- had left it on the ground, just out of his reach. Scooting forward slightly, he leaned over and made a snatch for the staff. His body, much abused, overbalanced immediately and his broken arm snapped again when he attempted to catch himself. He hit the ground hard, his head bouncing against the ground, his neck making a disgusting sound. Something had jabbed his stomach, but he could not tell how deep it had gone. He could not move anymore, his one arm useless and the other broken beyond repair. All he could do was lay there and give in. This was not merely the dark urge that had been haunting him from the beginning but also, an undeniable truth. He closed his eyes.
And opened them in the Captain's chair again, slouched to the side, his head resting on his shoulder at an impossible angle. Everything was the same as when he'd left from the crumbling walls to the dead crewmates. The only differences were how he was positioned and the severity of his injuries. The thing that had jabbed him in his midriff stuck out of him, wires dangling from it like a flag. His broken arm drooped limply when he moved it, only held together by skin and muscle. He could not get his head to sit up on his shoulders anymore.
"You are very strange," someone said. He did not see them but he knew that this someone was the same someone who'd pretended to be Spock.
"S'not the first time someone's said that to me," he mumbled. His tongue garbled the words. His top lip flopped against his bottom, torn away.
There was shimmering in front of him. "Why did you not fall into stasis like everyone else?"
He tried to shrug but couldn't so he spoke instead. "Just lucky that way, I guess."
"I do not think so," it replied. "Luck has nothing to do with it. Why is it you will not give in?"
"Because, I'm the Captain. S'my job to keep going until I can't."
It solidified a little, looking like everyone and no one all at once. There was no gender, no real shape, no color; it just was and it sat and stood all at once, using its arms to gesticulate and yet having no arms to do so. Its lips, all shapes and all sizes, twisted. "But you can't now."
He agreed. "Yeah, having a hard time moving."
"Then why have you not fallen into stasis?" It's voice was a child's and yet a scolding adult's and a best friend's. It's eyes were gentle and harsh and curious and understanding. "You should be in stasis."
"I don't know-- maybe it's because I'm dead?" he offered.
"Everyone here has perished," it told him. It came closer, and it wore no clothes and all clothes. "You perished long before you tried to move. Tell me why you still resist."
"Just… not who I am, I guess." It felt like a fake answer, or a non-answer but the creature took it to heart. It backed away and came closer and then disappeared and came back. Kirk became aware that it was everywhere and yet nowhere and felt vaguely disconcerted. "Gotta save my crew."
It solidified into the nameless ensign, still dead near him. "But you are too late. They are all dead. Does the Captain not go down with his ship?"
"He does-- but he makes sure that everyone who can gets off first," he replied. His mouth was dry and he could not moisten it. "What do you want from me?"
"Answers," it said. "Or stasis. Either would be satisfactory."
He could not give in and he could not give answers. He also could not speak. His broken neck and twisted tongue refused to produce sounds. He simply slumped and let his tongue flap dryly against the roof of his mouth. The thing waited-- watching but not watching, patient and impatient, in existence and not. Waves of failure tried to overwhelm him while they had their silent stand off but he backed them away. Somehow, he would find a way to get this ship home and the bodies returned to those who had loved them. He wasn't sure how it would happen but it would.
"You confuse me," it said after a while. "I do not understand your perseverance or optimism." It paused. "I would like answers and yet, you are unable to give. Would you, for the sake of us both, simply allow for stasis to occur? Then I can take the answers from you. My inquisitive nature will be satiated and you will be able to rest. Would you not like rest?"
No, he thought fiercely. The emptiness was now completely shoved into the furthest corner of his being. Wherever they were, he would not allow this to be their eternal resting place. He tried to force this out but could not.
"Could I offer you something for it? I haven't much to give. I am a collector of things but most of them have been consumed by time," the thing continued. "When I saw your ship coming so close, I wanted it. I made it crash and that sorrows me, but now I have it. If I wanted, I could make it whole again but then it might try to leave me. Then all would have been for naught. With the knowledge of my power, tell me what I can give you. The trade would be your compliance in answering my questions. I wish to explore your mind." When he did not speak, it did not understand. "Can I give you nothing?" He could not motion to his mouth or make sounds. He tried to make it clear with eye movements and failed. Then suddenly, his mouth was wet again. "I apologize, I forgot your death would affect your speech."
"You'll give me anything I want?" he asked, voice cracking. "Anything at all?"
It came closer but was everywhere anyway. "Anything."
"And I have to just give in to everything?"
"That is all. It will not hurt. I never let it hurt."
The answer, to him, was obvious. "Then I want you to fix the Enterprise, and everyone on it. I want you to let them leave."
"That I cannot give," it said. "I will not give. It would negate everything I have done to begin with which would make this conversation pointless. Ask for something else."
"That is what I want. I want them to live."
"I see," it said, and then it became his mother. It paced about the ship but stayed in the same place and turned to him and away from him. Time passed by as it moved but did not move until finally it spoke again. "I think I understand you, now."
"Takes a lot to understand me," he snipped. His mouth was drying out again.
"Agreed. I like you, I think. I like you better than the ship," it was small, a child of a race he did not know. "I think I can let the ship go, if I can keep you."
"If that means the crew will be alive and safe with it. Show me it and we've got a deal," he replied.
It smiled and frowned and stayed blank. Strangely immaterial hands reached out and touched his face. "You will be a fun thing to have-- will you give in?"
The next chapter will be up on Saturday