Sunday, June 24, 2018

Crypt-Cities: Waking Up Dead.

So, you woke up.

It might have been a few hours after you died, or as much as a week. Most civilized places have regulations in place these days to prevent the processing of someone who might Wake, so hopefully you didn't have to claw your way out of a coffin six feet under.

Your eyes have probably sunken back or rolled out, but your vacant hollows are still able to see in ugly shades that are either faded or lurid. You've lost your sense of smell for baked bread, wind through the flower fields, and running water, but when it comes to rancid meat, waste, or your own unique brand of desiccation, you've got the nose of a bloodhound. Taste isn't much better. Hearing is probably the least impaired, though your range seems to have widened beyond the human norm in order to accommodate some unique and very painful decibels. Fortunately, you aren't likely to encounter many dog whistles out on the wastes. You can feel still, but unlike the diversity of sensations that the living can experience, you feel something in the spectrum of pain, or nothing at all.

You're going to want to cleave as close to that last one as possible, if you want to keep your wits about you.

And even if you can't enjoy food, drink, or rest anymore, you're going to want to mimic your living fellows for the foreseeable future anyway. Otherwise the pain will grow day by day until you're a withered little bundle of mindless pain. You've probably heard stories about the Awakened degenerating into savage, feral beasts that attack anything within arm's reach and thirst for blood and/or brains. And while that can happen, that isn't even the worst state you can find yourself in.

Don't fret, though. You're not alone. If misery loves company, you've got a whole battalion. Scores of you have probably popped up in the last month, and will continue to appear for a few more weeks, all across the land- you seem to appear in batches, though all the calculations and theories in the world haven't been able to determine if it's random, responsive, or cyclical. And countless thousands of you have already walked this way for centuries, stretching back into the ashen depths of history.

Take a moment to think about that. Whatever you were in life, no matter how wretched or ostracized you were, you now have a people with whom you share an unbreakable connection. You understand what they're going through, and they you. That's pretty damn impressive, and it's a level of feeling and empathy that most humans never really understand in life. You're all a family, as sickeningly sweet as that may sound. You're all suffering together, like it or not.

So try get out there and suffer well.

That isn't to say that you aren't still going to be ostracized and outcast, of course. Your former people, right down to your old kinfolk, have probably already either turned their backs to you as if you are just a shade of their dead-and-gone loved one, or actively tried to drive you away or destroy you. Remember: just because it's illegal in most places to try and deal lasting damage to your kind, doesn't mean the living don't still try.

At least they probably won't try to burn you.

Unless you're from the moorland east of the four lakes. If that's the case, you want to get really good at outrunning torch-and-pitchfork-wielding mobs really quick, or else you'll find yourself on an express trip toward that "bundle of mindless pain" destination mentioned earlier. Except you won't be much of a bundle. If they spread your ashes around, then every single infinitesimal mote and grain of you is going to be spending the rest of eternity experiencing every nuance of being disintegrated and exposed to the elements, with nothing to do about it except scream with every fiber of your unbeing until the wind itself gives you voice. Granted, that's only a theory. But it does sound convincing, if you've ever heard that keening on the wind, or if you've seen one of your new kin squirming around, even when they've been chopped to bits and pieces. And surely you heard the stories about the City of Ashes. No one, living or dead, has gone there since the fire, and that was a thousand years ago now.

But it's best not to dwell on such horrors. You've got enough on your mind right now.

On the bright side, your new, wretched form has made you tougher. Your nerves and sinews simply shouldn't work, and it's that broken fact of reality that allows them to work even better. You might be surprised to find how easily you can tear a door off its hinges now. That might be part of why the living don't like having you around. Your wounds might not stop aching, but the edge you have over your old, living self is that back then, you couldn't sew an arm back on and have it work almost as good as new. Now, as long as you afford the time to rest and shovel nutrients down your vile rot-chute, you can. You could even get your block knocked clean off your shoulders and walk away from it, if you're lucky. Which you obviously aren't, considering you're in this mess to begin with, but still.

Just don't try to take your mask off. You probably aren't very attached to it, but it's certainly attached to you, and it keeps most of the smoke from leaking out of your face-holes. It's also your ticket to a new identity. Contemplate its motifs and meaning. Embrace its qualities. Or don't, and take a hammer and chisel to it at your next convenience. Just really don't try to pry one of your fellows' masks off. No matter how pretty, gilded, and more ornate it might be than yours, your people tend to frown on such behavior. Yes, the rich Wake too. And yes, their masks and burial goods are every bit as fine as you would envy. No, you're not all equal in death.

What's so special about your mask in particular, you might ask? Well, that comes down to a variety of factors, not least of which is your homeland, the story of your life, and the circumstances of your death. It also probably has your name scratched into its surface, somewhere.

You do remember your name, don't you?

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