October 3rd

Spooky month story-a-day: six tiny stories for October 3rd.


#1

On October 3rd, he asked me what day it was.

“What day is it?” he asked.

“It’s October 3rd,” I said.

We’d been in hiding for five days.


#2

On October 3rd, he asked me what day it was.

“What day is it?” he asked.

“It’s October 3rd,” I said, “you have two more days before the summoning.”


#3

On October 3rd, he asked me what day it was.

Asking what day it was had become a kind of code between us— he’d ask me what day it was and I would respond with a weekday, like “Tuesday” or whatever, and he’d know that I hadn’t found her yet, that we still had preparations to make, and while we may not understand what we were up against, at least we knew who. Different weekdays meant we were talking about different people… well, not really people anymore… different meat-suits is more like it, meat-suits who used to be our friends, our boyfriends and girlfriends, our frenemies, now inhabited by forces our minds refused to fully grasp.

If I ever said “Saturday,” it was a call to run. We were in immediate danger. And if I said “Sunday,” it meant that he should meet me in the back parking lot after class, that I had finally found her, that we were ready.

But if one of us ever broke the code… well, a broken code was like a broken window. We would know that something was wrong, that he or I had finally been taken, too.

“What day is it?”

“It’s October 3rd.”


#4

On October 3rd, he asked me what day it was.

“What day is it?” he asked.

“It’s October 3rd,” I said, “well, as near as I can figure—”

“Thanks.”

“—I mean, I always was good with keeping internal time, y’know? Before? Like sticking to a regular sleep schedule, even without an alarm clock—”

“Okay, thank you.”

“—and even though there’s no sunlight in here, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been sleeping less than the recommended eight hours—”

“Shh. That’s enough.”

“—but I was just saying, y’know, you said ‘What day is it?’ and I said, ‘October 3rd’ and I just thought I would give you some insight as to how I could know the date—”

“Shut up!”

“—even after so long. I mean, we’ve been in here for weeks. In fact, why would you even want to know what day it is? Why wouldn’t you ask a more useful question, like, ‘When was the last time we got food or water?’ or ‘What did you do before They came?’ or even ‘Hi, what’s your name?’—”

“Please, be quiet. PLEASE!”

“No! Tell me why you wanted to know what day it was?!”

“STOP TALKING!”

“NO! TELL ME! WHY DOES THE DATE MATTER?”

… his head dropped as low as the collar around his neck would allow and he sobbed silently, the heat of his heaving breaths visible on the cool damp air of the cell. Recalling an instinct from another time, from another place, from before They came, her hand tried to reach out to console him, but was met with pain— a searing reminder that each of her fingers had been pinned to the wall behind them, just as her feet had been pinned to his, preventing either from moving without agonizing the other.

What day was it?

How could that possibly matter anymore?


#5

On October 3rd, he asked me what day it was.

“What day is it?” he asked.

“It’s October 3rd,” I said. “Dark Web sources report 11,686 dead so far. The power imbued them by the Eldritch Knights appear to have made these machines unstoppable, sir.”

“It’s not the machines, Cadet.”

“Sir?”

He looked up from the screen, the red-orange glow of the infos lighting the underside of his features like a cheap horror mask. “Cadet,” he said, “Do you remember the old platitude about machines killing people?”

“The one about machines killing fascists, Sir?”

“No, Cadet,” the Commandant said to me, stifling what was either a grin or a sigh, I couldn’t tell. He went on, “the one that went, ‘Machines don’t kill, they’re just machines’ … or something like that.”

“No, Sir,” I said, still at attention, the readout in my left eye indicating that the number had already gone up. In the time we were talking, we had lost two more. 11,688 dead now. “No, Sir, I don’t recall that one. Was it sloganized, Sir? Shall I search for it in the meme archives?”

“Nevermind the saying, Cadet, I’m trying to explain something.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“The machines, Cadet, are not killing anyone, per se. If I summoned a Hezrou demon and he slashed your throat, ripped out your spine, and ate your heart, would you blame him?”

“Sir?”

“No, Cadet, you wouldn’t blame the demon. It’s only doing what’s in its nature to do. You don’t blame the demon, you blame the spark of evil in my soul that summoned it.”

“I’m sorry, Sir, but I’m not—”

“The machines are doing what they were designed to do. That’s their sole purpose. When you blame the machines, you blame the wrong thing.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“The machines kill, Cadet, but blame the evil. Blame the evil that allows the machines to exist. The evil has taken 11,686 souls.” (By now it had climbed to 11,691, but I had learned not to interrupt the Commandant when he was diatribing.) “The evil that we allowed to fester, the black oil that we saw creeping over the land and chose to ignore, that’s who killed those people, Cadet.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Every politician who attended a summoning, every shop owner who sold the Fire Rights, every man who pledged to the Eldritch Knights and every woman who wore their standard. They are the responsible parties, here, Cadet. Do not forget that.”

“Yes, Sir.”

At 13:25 he asked me what time it was.

“What time is it, Cadet?”

“13:25, Sir,” I said, “Reports from the Dark Web indicate 11,692 dead so far.”


#6

On October 3rd, he asked me what day it was.

“What day is it?”

“It’s October 3rd, the last day.”


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