Death Stories for Those Who Stayed Behind - Stitches

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The screaming and smell of smoke often plagued his dreams, as it was such a recurring theme in his pathetic, short life. He would put his head down and start stitching the people back together until someone stopped him. It wasn’t until they melted into the ground that he would stop trying to save those poor people. He would wail for those who showed him kindness and quietly sit vigil where the rest of them died. It was when people would start screaming at him, pulling him away from trying to save the little ones that he would be jarred awake. The sadness and rage that filled him was so overwhelming, so confusingly strong, that the immensity of it always made him wake up. This confusion was how he started every single day.

Stitches was walking back towards Steel Horse Crossing on one of his “collection walks” when he heard the screaming and smelled the smoke. Visions of the orphanage filled his mind and he started running. The closer he got to town, the stronger the smell of smoke and the louder his memories started to scream at him. He veered off the slim, barely-visible trail he had been following towards a path that ran along the darker, backside of town. He heard someone screaming and visions of Clapton filled his mind. He ran towards where he thought the sound was coming from, but it grew weaker as he got closer. He feared maybe he was too late and he wouldn’t be able to stitch them back together.

Heavy footsteps were to his left, the side nearest town. They were grunting and the smell of  blood, sour body odor, and burning carried their identity on the wind. Stitches was not as ignorant as most would have imagined, as his experience hiding from danger was far more expert than any of the “normal” people. This poor wolfchild had been hiding from danger all his life, and his acute sense of smell was one of the greatest tools he’s had in staying out of harm’s way. He knew that concoction of foul aromas far too well. He’d encountered it every time he lost everything.

Ducking down behind a rotting ball of tree roots, he quickly pulled some rotting leaves around him. He knew they were fast approaching and he had to hide. However the voice from the back trail whimpered again, hoarse from calling for help. The faces of Liarsberg swam in his mind’s eye and then he started to panic. Who was it? It didn’t sound like Rhea or any ladyperson. It sounded familiar, but he couldn’t quite place who it was. Did it matter who it was?

Steel Horse Crossing was the second kindest place he’d ever been. He may have made a friend or two at the orphanage, but the larger people didn’t understand him and chased him away. Liarsberg was the only other place he’d felt like home and they acted as his family. When he came into Steel Horse carrying the remnants of his happy life inside a burlap sack, people didn’t beat him away. Some stayed their distance, but some were kind to him, fed him, and even played with him. He even loved some of them, especially Rhea.

It didn’t matter who it was. He was going to go save them. He quietly snuck out from behind the wall of muddy tree roots and bent over as low as he could before he started running as fast as he could towards the wimpering. It wasn’t far and the bad ones would probably disregard him as some other kind of monster out in the woods. He came up on pieces of people-insides off the edge of the trail. He reached down and grabbed it, collecting it like a slimy red rope. He finally got to his friend who was lying there in pieces. Stitches didn’t know if he had enough thread to sew poor August back together. He started putting the insides-rope in a pile on top of the strange bloody basket the cracked ribcage created. August looked up at Stitches, trying to form some kind of words with what was left of his mouth, but instead he just formed a small smile before he started to sink into the ground. Stitches started to pull at the insides-rope, hoping he could somehow get a few more minutes to try to save his friend from melting away. He wailed with his distorted voice, sounding like a wounded animal.

He howled for not being able to save his friend. He keened for knowing he was going to lose everything again. All the games, the food, and all the nice people who were friends (or at least not trying to hurt him), but especially for Rhea. He didn’t think he had it in him to try to find another home again. He keened for the life and love he wanted because the closest he had ever gotten to it was being eviscerated and burned to the ground. His soul-crushing howls were so loud, so transcendentally siren-like, that the crunching of his bones under a heavy mace weren’t even heard. The silence after his remains were destroyed by a grenade was truly deafenening.