Fragment # 3
Neddal Ayad
They have stabbed, shot, strangled, beaten and burned me. This last time they tried to drown me. That they caught me was entirely my own fault. I'd been drinking in a small, dingy pub. I'd let my guard down enought to get drunk. Not drunk, smashed.

Three men jumped me as I stumbled out a side door into a claustrophobic little alley. The first two came on fast, all gnashing teeth and stubby fists. They were sloppy and over-anxious, and even sweating gin I took them down quickly; one with a broken neck, the other with a shattered temporal bone.

The third held back. He was larger than the others, with a thick neck and a flat face. Snails moved in lazy spirals under his skin. His movements were precise. He brought me down with one quick jab to my sternum and one quick shot to my thorat. I could feel the shell, rock hard, under his knuckles. As he stood over me the snail trails that ran over his face shone in the moonlight like silvery tears.

The crying-man along with two others (where did they come from?) bound me and tossed me into the back of an unmarked police car, and brought me here, a series of hills and escarpments just outside of town. The landsape is wind-swept and desolate, with shale cliffs abutting deep dark water. The area is popular with hikers and suicides. The locals will tell you that both groups come for the scenery.

It was a clear night and I could see sickly yellow light from jumbled, mismatched buildings leering into the harbour behind me. I thought about the people in those houses, speaking in that peculiar high-pitched chirping dialect they used amongst themselves. I wondered if they could see the rot and filth behind the brightly coloured buildings; if the fighting, fucking and drinking distracted them long enough that they could forget the solid black walls and oddly angled spires of the cathedral that dominated the skyline but cast no reflection.

The crying-man interrupted my reverie with an obscenely lumpy hand as he and his two helpers dragged me to the edge of the cliff. As I looked down I noticed that fossilized ammonites and other assorted mollusca were scattered through this section of the cliff face. Then without a word, there was a push, and I was over. I didn't bother to struggle, I closed my eyes, and when I hit, I let the ice-cold water fill my lungs.

I awoke, as I had every other time in the catacombs underneath the town's largest cemetery. I've never quite figured out how or why the dog-faced surgeons bring me here. My best guess is that their cousins, the ghouls that hunt and pick through the miles of tunnels and warrens that connect the town's cemeteries and abandoned buildings, speak the language of crows, with whom they seem to have an understanding.

The cynocephali never speak to me directly, but each time they bring me back, when they're satisfied that I've recovered enough to stand, they bring me before a strangely proportioned, vaguely rectangular piece of what might be metal. I've never been able to discern the exact nature of the material as it seems to shift and weave so as to defy focus.