終了を喰らうものども
評価: 0+x

そう、結局、こうなった。幾年も宗教寫本や數靈紋章を考覈した。この世で最も陳套で戯謔なる儀式を書き記すため、まんじりともせず幾夜も幾夜も明かした ── そして、少なくとも一つは働いた。財団宗教学部は根本的に資金不足だった。彼女の仲間は怠慢で、野心すらなかった。従って、彼女が部局長に出世したことで、あらゆることが、より単純になった。彼女は即効性かつ追跡不能の呪詛を施し、政権を握る他者へ戦略的に精神感化を施し、やがてO5-6は彼女の座となった。

今や、彼女は万事を整えた。都合良い嫌疑、都合良い異動、都合良いアイテムの紛失。それに六号は、他全てのO5の位置情報を正確かつリアルタイムで把握できた。彼女の前のスクリーンに瞬くものがある:12の赤い点、単純化された白黒の世界地図の上に乗っている。緑の点もあって、それは彼女のものだ。分布の仕方は奇妙なのに、どの地域にも集団はない。もし世界を無作為に、二つに裂けば、組織のスタッフの半分は生き延びるだろう。だが彼女は剣ではない、また、ターゲットは世界ではない。彼女のものは優雅で、意味深い切開術だ。

六号は、最初の座標のセットをフライトコンピューターに入れると、革で裏打ちした座席に座った。絹のように滑らかで、静寂である。同じように、彼女の航空機は離陸し、西へ加速した。彼女はワインのボトルのコルクを開け、グラスに注ぎ、グラスを口の辺りで舞わし、笑みのままに飲み込んだ。発つ前に、味覚を清めることは重要だ。口一杯に味わいたい。

肉を十二、忽ちに噛めば、彼女は永遠に生きるだろう。

10

「あなたと太陽が沈むのを見るつもりです。」

O5-10は重く喘いだ。手を頭上でぎこちなく握っている。錆びた釘で、手が壁に固定されていた。六号が彼の前でうろうろとしている。後ろに金色の日暮れを背負っていた。床は滑らかで赤い。赤が、かつて十号の個人護衛であった物から来ている。六号は気紛れに、歯から肉の切れ端をつまみ、あてもなく地面の上に弾いた。十号は夕焼けを眺め続け、網膜が少々焼けている。六号は笑んだ。

「その通り。外の火の玉を眺めてなさい。最期の眺めにしては悪くないでしょう。」

六号は呑気に口笛を奏でる。血が十号の手から滴り、十号のビジネススーツに染みを付ける。それ以外は真白なのに。十号は始まりの、辺鄙な場所にいた。より完全な世界にするために、行為の象徴性を補うべく、番号順で進めることもできた。だが、彼女は世界中を西に進む必要があった。夜を追うのだ。彼女は太陽が地平線に潜るのを見て、壁に釘付けの男に振り返った。十号はまだ落ち着いていると言えよう。想定よりも遥かに静かだ。

六号は十号の目を薄く切り出して、それを飲み込んだ。十号は、六号が喉を切るまで叫び続けた。

極めて短い音ブレーヴェだけが、邪道の夜を凌ぎ、十二の内の一の魂が抹消された。
悲しみの夜、掠奪の夜、叫喚の夜、秘密の夜は炎天に脅かされることはない。

4

「そうか。君は心理学者の類なんだ、そうですね?」

O5-4の応答は、口を封する分厚いマスキングテープでくぐもり、さらに頭といえばテーブルに接着されている。六号は四号の机からファイルを取り出して開き、ページを捲りつ、態度を決めかねていた。人事レポート、人格評価;それは全て、間違った場所やタイミングで人を遣ってノイローゼさせることが、決してないようするため、組織的に膨満させてきたものだ。四号は、十号と違い警備員はいなかった、その代わりに単純な曖昧なベールの裏に隠れていた。彼は、誰に聞いても、完全な平均的な中管理者だ。

「全員のファイルを得て、わかった。」

四号は藻掻く。拘束から脱しようとあれこれしている。額の叩かれた所が、腫れ続けている。六号は部屋のあちこちのキャビネットから、一つ取り上げては捲り、ついに彼女の名前の場所に来た。彼女はそれを山から引き抜いて、中身の見当をつけて可笑しく思った。彼女はファイルを開いて要点をざっと読んだ。それはかなり正確であった。もちろん、彼女の末期かつ重いサイコパスは書かれていない。その点で、これは彼女の仮面の評価にしてはかなり正確である。ただ、それだけにすぎない。彼女はレポートを閉じ、見つけた場所に置くと、キャビネットを閉じた。それから、彼女は振り返り、四号に笑みを見せた。四号はまだテーブルに固く束縛されている。

六号はハンマーを四号の上にやった。肉が裂けるまで、骨が割れる音が鳴るまで続け、そうして、その髄を深く飲んだ。四号の血がゆっくりと尽きてゆき、四号は自身の死を悟った。

十二の五主たる象徴に多事囂囂と一葉を記させぬ。
生と死の楔を断ち、生か死が鳥籠であらぬように。

7

「おやおや。強力な麻痺ですね。しかしこれは麻酔薬ではないんですよ、友人。」

O5-7は鼓動が弱まっていくのを感じ、座り込んだ。さっきよりも動けない。常時、悪寒に苛まれ、指の慄えは決して止まない。それでも先ほど、死の間際に、ようやく酷い痙攣から逃れられた。できることなら七号は微笑んでいたはずだ。だが、彼女にはそれができない。目がゆっくり乾いてゆく気がした。瞬きすらできない。六号は反対側の椅子に座っている。あのボディガードの内臓をリチュアル・ナイフから拭き落としている。

「できる限り、あなたには耐えて頂く必要がありそうです。」

六号は席から立ち上がり、手を七号の頬に付けた。六号は微笑むが、一方の七号の顔は鬱血したまま。
醜悪な唸り。六号は、片腕で七号の顎を掴み、もう片方で頭を掴み、引っ張った。それから彼女は結合部の肉をナイフの鋸になっている側で切り始めた。血が止め処なくテーブルの上に流れていた。しかし、赤いベルベットに痕を遺すことはできなかった。七号はずっと静かだった。顎は力なく垂れ下がり、頭蓋を結びつけているのは、一部分のほんの僅かな腱だけだった。

鋭く切ると、七号の下顎は六号の一杯に伸ばした腕に落ちた。七号の瞳孔が一点に凝縮し、直に、魂の全てが終った。

締盟の一族の血汐と涕涙と、汝の糧を毀した者総てを以ち。
零れ出でし鞘の軌跡、指示に遵い、新たな道が導かれた。

8

「あなたは、実際に、私を切ったね。」

O5-8の警備員は、以前の他のものよりもはるかに有能であった。六号は早々に、多くの時間を浪費するとは思っていなかった。現在は2時間ほど予定から遅れている。だが、計画上のエラーパラメーターの範囲内だ。八号のプロテクターを屠殺しながら、オフィスの中に這入ると、六号は不意に頬に冷鉄の感触を味わったのだった。六号は血の染みを傷口から拭うと、傷口が元の一つに癒着していくのを感じた。その間、八号はずっと椅子に鎖つながれていた。

「目覚ましくはありませんが、十分適切ですね。」

八号は、皮膚を金属に貫かれたように感じた。六号は八号の頭を掴み、顔に吐息を吐きかけた。生であるが腐った肉の悪臭が、八号を咳込ませ、吐き気を催させた。六号は笑みを見せ、捕虜が蠢くのを見ながら、ひたすらに、手際よく締め付けていった。彼女は跪いて、八号の左手を取ると、注意深く皮膚の上のそばかすと斑点を調べ、は最も小さな指から、薬指、そして中央に触れた。

六号は八号の人差し指を折り、その指を歯の間に挟んだ。それから徐々に、ほかの指に移っていった。八号は、呼吸を止めるその時まで、すすり泣きを続けていた。

新たに奪われた触感、記憶されている意志、海上の三日月。
騰勢の玉座、落勢の太陽、地上を歩き、永遠に在れ。

13

"It's warmer than I expected."

O5-13 shivered in the freezing cold, completely naked; harsh, billowing snow coating him in glistening white. Six had waited weeks for tonight. Not because her plan remained unfinished, but a far more fundamental reason: to kill all twelve in a night, all twelve must live within that night at once. Thus, she had to wait until Thirteen's native Antarctica ceased its endless daylight. There were no sentries or protectors here, save for the unbearable cold.

"Your skin's probably weathered enough, now. Turn around."

Thirteen's jaw chattered uncontrollably. He could no longer feel his fingers, wedged as they were beneath his underarms. Six towered above him; she grabbed his shoulders, and pushed him down to his knees. She took off her insulating gloves, then discarded them into the powder. She ran her hands across Thirteen's gut, moving upwards, feeling the bumps of each rib against her nails.

Six drove her hand roughly into Thirteen's chest, breaking through flesh and bone. She massaged his heart in her icy hand until it stopped.

The brilliant, piercing, striking sound, bereft of constant drumming tune.
The pattern stops and starts again, cross watered flesh on sandy dune.

1

"There's no hiding in a cage."

O5-1 stared emotionlessly at Six. She did not have to restrain him, for he could no longer move. His muscles had long since atrophied; his needs met by tubes and electronic screens. Long had he sat, deep underground, in the cool, dry earth. Layers of steel and concrete insulated him from The Outer, keeping him safe. Secure. Protected. Yet Six had thrown it all aside.

"I wonder if you've enough left in you to cry."

Six ran her knife through the pipe feeding One oxygen. He twitched as she pulled it from far inside his nose, ripping off skin that had long since formed around it. He coughed with vocal chords that had not been used in decades, though it came out more as a long, laboured sigh. Six extracted a thin metal instrument from inside her coat. One realised for the first time how much he truly feared death.

Six placed the auger against One's forehead and twisted. The strangled screaming started after two rotations and stopped after twenty nine.

The will of life and verve of kind, the movement new and thinking clean.
Yet foreign thoughts, intrusive, come, of kinds so old yet never been.

5

"I didn't think you'd be so young."

O5-5's research was esoteric, though not unrelated to Six's own field. Ghosts, spectres, the unseen; taken as a joke by some, though perhaps one of the most dangerous areas of study. Five had heard the alarm and ran, retreating from his research laboratory and into his office. He heard the wails as Six banished or bound every one of the spirits he had been studying. Six found him shaking in a corner.

"Up you get, kid."

Six knelt down, grabbed Five by the back of his neck, then walked to a table and pushed him against it. She flipped him over, face-up. Five looked at the face of his attacker. Six appraised him casually, bored by his resistance. Five struggled, but Six pushed his chest against the table, even as he pounded against its polished steel. He grabbed a pencil and stuck it into her arm; she sighed, pulled it out, and watched the deep wound heal.

Six held down the screaming child and slowly sheared off Five's skin, starting between his toes and working up to the head. James survived longer than anyone could have hoped.

The pound of flesh, reclaimed at last, with Shylock grinning, teeth askew.
Another smile takes smile from saint, and saint takes sordid breath anew.

11

"Greet me thankfully, old man."

O5-11 was seated on his porch, illuminated in the night only by his glowing cigar, swaying forwards and backwards in a rocking chair. Six walked up the stairs of the porch, only to feel buckshot tear through her chest. She staggered backwards, frowning, clutching at her ribs; half the lead had passed through to the other side of her body, while the other half remained lodged in her gut. She grabbed at her pierced flesh, picking out the scraps of metal and dropping them, red-stained, onto the ground. Again, she started climbing the stairs; Eleven had placed his shotgun beside him, instead focusing on extracting as much enjoyment as he could from his final cigar.

"I'm past halfway. Far too late for bullets."

Eleven simply nodded, quietly puffing away. His face was severe and taciturn. Six walked over, then plucked the cigar from the old man's grasp. She put it to her lips and breathed in heavily, then exhaled into flawless rings. She flicked it to Eleven's garden, starting a fire in the grass that was soon to consume the entire house.

Six snapped apart Eleven's ribcage, then squeezed his lungs empty. Eleven felt his last breath of smoke whistle out of his lips like a deflating balloon.

A swallowed wind with coins ablaze, through flames and ice and untilled soil.
Through hollow chest and stolen breath, dead fingers twist and turn and coil.

3

"You can't touch me, dog."

O5-3 grasped at the floor. Six had already massacred his personal assistants, but was taking her time with him. She kicked him in the side; Three groaned, and she kicked again. Six was not smiling. Three had wasted her time, her precious time, throwing soldier after endless soldier to their death at her hands. After a time, he had stolen the joy from killing. Three had made her act makework, no longer a celebration.

"Just lie down and die."

Six once again drove her steel-capped boot into Three's ribs, feeling them snap behind the force. Hours had been lost. Hours of her life that she could not get back, hours of this night that was the most important her world had seen. How dare he. Six so wished she could make the end excruciating, breaking every bone in Three's body with delicate care, to watch him cry and beg and mewl. But there was no time. She got down to her knees, holding his head on its side.

Six roughly bit off Three's outer ear cartilage, then gnawed unrelentingly inwards down the canal. Three felt Six's tongue burst his eardrum, and then all was his screaming silence.

Emphatic curse, empathic cure, antipathy will grow in full.
New screams, old screams, all screams of man, yet in your ears shall be no wool.

12

"Stop your struggling. Give up."

O5-12 emptied another clip into Six's chest. She felt her body extrude the pellets, then drop them to the floor. She no longer bled. Twelve reloaded desperately with one hand, still shooting with the other. Six scowled, continuing her pace towards the tall African. His suit was crumpled and dishevelled. Soon it would be crimson. Six grabbed the guns from Twelve's hands, throwing them out the nearby window. He stood, staring into Six's eyes. He felt his legs quiver.

"Shaking like a malnourished rat."

Six grabbed Twelve's shoulders, then pushed him against the wall. She watched him scream as bone snapped and tendons tore; his shoulders burst through his skin, and the concrete behind him started to crumble. Six sneered. She pulled down his face, looking deep into his watering and bloodshot eyes, and felt nothing but loathing.

Six opened her mouth wide, positioned Twelve's nose inside her maw, and bit down. She chewed it blankly, then snapped Twelve's neck.

The wind of change can turn again, the salt in breeze abrasive past.
Though winds in worlds of airless planes are never truly meant to last.

9

"You repulsive little worm."

O5-9 felt his face slam against reinforced glass, feeling both fracture. The depths outside his pressurised chambers rippled, a dull and electric light permeating through the water. He didn't mind it so much, any more. There were worse places to be than the sea. Six spun him around, staring at his face. He gasped desperately, trying to refill his lungs. Six rearranged her face, contorting it to a look of intense condescension.

"How dare you breathe my air."

She lifted him from the ground, slamming him against the floor. She picked up his wooden chair, then tore off a leg and drove it through his arm. He screamed. She tore again, and drove a second stake into his other arm. He screamed. Tear again, third to left leg. Screams. Tear again, fourth to right leg. More screams.

Six pried off Nine's toenails first, then moved to fingers. Six tired of the screaming and crushed Nine's skull with an errant flick.

With claw and maw and tooth and rot and movement edging ever in.
Immortal man has naught to fear, for only he is free from sin.

2

"Disgusting."

O5-2 sat, head and eyebrows shaved fully bald. In her hands, a platter with every hair from her body, carefully and individually plucked. Six stared at the offered meal. The guards had stepped aside, fearful of death. Six had made her way to Two's chambers, then heard the steel door seal behind her. It was no matter. One more bite, and it was done. She would live forever.

"Disgusting."

Two knew she was to meet her death. She had designed the room especially for it. Thick layers of cold steel covered every surface. Six's plot had to complete successfully; with her rite finished, it could never happen again. The Foundation would be vaccinated. With the death of the O5, the O5 would be free, as would the world. Six moved over to Two, silently grabbed a handful of hair, and shoved it down her gullet. Two looked at Six with disappointment; she was met only with hatred.

The men with guns watched on from the video feed, horrified.

The room flooded with acid while Six ate Two.

The blood runs cold, the oceans red, in screaming silence and decay.
Yet living not, but dying still, the soul shall never pass away.

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