Bad Day Clay

Clay sat bolt upright and coughed a handful of worms into his hand. He could feel more wriggling half way down his throat. He tried to reach down and retrieve but found them to be just a little too far. He swallowed the little buggers down for the tummy juices to deal with instead.

The moon was a spoon, silvery and scratched. It drew outlines of his surroundings — low brick walls, marble statues chipped by age. He was still somewhere in the Great Garden. This was no use to him.

Clay pondered getting up and having a wander, give his eyes some practice, but already he could smell the men hunting for him. Soon enough they’d be here with their torches and looking glasses. And he caught a damp, hairy smell as well — they’d brought dogs this time as well. Clay cared not for dogs.

Clay turned and pushed his fingers, the nails long ripped away to nothing, down in the cold soil. They sunk quickly; he continued to push till he was buried to the wrists. He made handholds in the earth and pulled himself further in. It was like swimming through the worst water ever; each stroke exhausting. With one final gulp, his head slipped under.

* * *

Clay felt chill air against his fingertips and pushed till he was free of the earth once more. He had dug without deviation and so should now be on the opposite side of the sphere. Here the sky was waxy, yellowy, full of promise. The grass under his knees was still moist. He was near a gravel path, neatly lined with sandy coloured pebbles.

Somebody was humming and that somebody now strolled into sight. It was a girl. A woman. A woman girl. She looked somehow different from the others, her face broken in a permanent grin.

Clay crossed over to her. “I like your teeth.”

“Hello there! I’m Sophie, how are you?”

“They say I’m called Clay,” said Clay, chewing on a baby slug.

“You’re all mucky — what a mess!” laughed the girl.

“Been digging. Digging is what I’m good at.” Clay decided that he liked Sophie. She smelt like warm camomile and was interesting to look at.

There was a rumbling and both Clay and the girl looked up to see the shadow of another sphere approaching theirs. It’s surface was covered in water and as it neared, it began to rain gently down upon them.

Clay, accustomed to such events, kneeled and sunk his hands into the earth to hold on but already Sophie was being lifted upwards by the other sphere’s pull.

“Oh I’m not sure I like this!” she called, flapping her legs back and forth. “Help me Clay! Help me please!”

Clay did try, stretching up and to grab at her nearest foot but the red sneaker just slipped off in his hand and then the girl was out of reach. The rain began to ease up as the other sphere retreated once more.

Clay felt sad to see his new friend slipping away and felt scared for what she might encounter alone on the other sphere. He had to go with her.

Up on his feet, Clay tried jumping as high he could but to no effect. There was a cherry tree nearby so he ran to that and began climbing. The rain had stopped completely now but he could still feel some suction from above. He reached the highest branch, squeezed his eyes shut and leapt upwards.

He felt that old sensation in his stomach and knew that he was falling. It hadn’t worked. He waited for the impact of the ground against him. He waited and continued to wait. Odd — the tree hadn’t been that high had it? He opened his eyes just in time to see grey waves racing forwards to embrace him.

“Cway, Cwlawy!” Clay’s head resurfaced above the water and he saw Sophie treading water nearby. “Clay!”

The water tasted like poo and smelled even worse.
“Clay I can’t swim,” called Sophie and Clay did his best to reposition himself closer to her.

“Neither can I!”

“What are we going to do Clay? My legs are getting achy!”

Clay looked around them, there was no sign of land or anything to hold on to. Perhaps this entire sphere was covered with water. There was nothing else for it, Clay decided to do what he did best.

“Pretend to be a stone,” he told Sophie.

They both took deep breaths then tucked their knees under their arms, allowing themselves to sink. Beneath the water was a murky void. Occasionally shapes twitched in the grey.

The moment Clay felt himself touch the bottom he made Sophie grab hold of his ankle and started burrowing. The seabed was made of soft sand that they slipped quickly under. Once they were deep enough, with aching lungs, Clay slithered back around above them, using his back to plug the hole and form an air pocket. They gasped with relief and sucked hungrily on the dusty air.

Clay dozed for a while. When he awoke, Sophie was sobbing.

“Why are you sobbing Sophie?”

“Oh Clay! I want to go back home. I want to see my little kitty again. But instead we’re stuck here in the dark and we can’t go back up or we’ll drown!”

Clay didn’t know what to say so licked he away her tears. They tasted like buttercups.

“You two tickle.”

“Why did you say that Clay?”

“I didn’t say that Sophie. I thought maybe you had said it.”

“It wasn’t me. I didn’t say it either Clay. That’s a bit odd isn’t it?”

“I think that it is” said Clay.

“Why is it odd?” asked the sphere. “I think you two are odd.”

“I’m not odd” said Sophie uncertainly into the gloom.

“I am” said Clay.

“I might spit you out now if that’s okay?”

Before either could reply, the earth around them start to vibrate and streams of sand began sliding around them. Then, flung forwards by a force unknown, Clay and Sophie were hurtling through sand then water and then air.

They struck ground again with a thump.

Looking up they found that they had landed before a row of gravestones, weathered by time and uneven in the ground. The nearest read: “Here lies Carson the Fibber. Eat dirt.” The sky was still dark here, only a few stars twinkled.

“Oh no,” said Clay, rubbing his sore bits.

“What?” Sophie asked. “Are we still on the wrong sphere?”

Clay shook his head. “No. We are back where we came from. Only we’re in the Great Garden, which isn’t a good place for me to be.”

Somewhere beyond the hedgerows and gatherings of mausoleums, hounds began to bray and howl. They knew he was here.

“We should go away from here.” Clay grabbed Sophie’s hand and started off down one of the avenues. There were too many bodies buried in the ground to risk burrowing here. Clay had once, unintentionally, dug up into a grave and had had to fight himself free as the cold bones tried to snatch and grab hungrily at him.

As they ran, the paths and hedgerows shifted around them, making it impossible to judge if they were making progress or not.

“There it is! There’s the Clay!” called an angry voice and they turned to see Clay’s pursuers had caught them up at last. The men wore dusty trench coats, their bodies beneath, bound with yellowing bandages. Two dogs had been unleashed and were sprinting forwards, showing off their glistening fangs.

When Sophie and Clay turned to run once more, they found a brick wall, riddled with ivy, had sprung up. They were trapped.

“Catch it! Bind it with rope. Burn it with fire!” called the men. The hounds had come to a halt before their prey, taking turns at snapping at the terrified pair. “The Clay must not be allowed to continue existing!”

“Clay — what did you do to make them so angry?” Sophie asked.

“Do you know the Book of Broken Promises?”

Sophie shook her head.

“Well I read from it. No one’s supposed to even look at that book, let alone open it and read what’s inside!”

“And what is inside?”

“Broken promises.”

The men were almost upon them, the spaces where their eyes hid piercing into the fugitive and his young friend. Two of the men were rolling an iron wheel forward, chains at set points around the rim as if designed for binding a man to.

“I don’t know what to do Sophie,” said Clay. “I’m sorry that I brought you here. We might be going to die now which is unfortunate.”

“I’m sorry too,” said Sophie and started to cry but the tears that ran from her eyes did not look like normal tears. Each was a different, bold colour from the last and they sparkled a little. Then Sophie began to clutch at her stomach and winced her face. “Oh no, no, no.”

“What is it? What’s happening to you?” asked Clay and when his woman girl friend looked at up him, her eyes were filled with stars. She was a Dazzler.

Sophie looked at the approaching men then opened her mouth, vomiting forth a stream of rainbows, small fizzing comets and dancing little bolts of lightning. The wave of Dazzle spread out and struck the men full on, the light and colour and sound tore at their clothing and their bandages began to unravel about them. Whatever had been lurking beneath, quickly evaporated away. They tried to scream but all that came out was “la, la, lahelala.”

Soon Clay had to look away and when he finally dared turn back, some hats and flickering torches on the ground were the only evidence the men had ever been there. The dogs had become transformed into Shar Pei puppies, happily play-fighting with one another. A few stars still sizzled on the ground and some of the nearby bushes glittered a little.

“I’m… sorry about that,” said Sophie, tenderly getting back to her feet and wiping the glitter and spittle from her lips.

“Don’t be,” said Clay. He’d never seen Dazzle happen first hand before, had only ever heard stories. “That’s quite a trick.”

“I can’t always control it. We were lucky today but not always. I’m on my seventh kitten now.”

“Maybe you need some around to help you control it,” said Clay, taking her hand. Where her tender, still fizzing skin met with his, hardened and mud-streaked, they almost seemed to even other out.

“Maybe you’re right,” said Sophie. “Maybe what we’ve been needing all along is each other.”

Overhead, the rising sun and setting moon bled into one another, painting the sky with streaks of vivid pink and purple. Nearby, birds were beginning to chirp.

Clay grinned broadly. From behind one of his broken teeth, a worm squiggled out.

Title image courtesy aaronescobar

Published in: on December 31, 2011 at 4:36 PM  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This was very inventive, and it feels like it comes from a wider universe of stories. Very cute ending!

    • Thank you – let my imagination run riot on this one!

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