Slaughterhouse Shaman

by Jay Sutton


The sun beat down on the plastic ocean, and scorched those who stood just a few feet away. Hektor’s stand provided minimal shade, which both Hektor and Bellamy cowered under.

“No, you don’t understand,” Bellamy said. “It’s more like a… chunky sort of texture. Coconut milk rice pudding has actual rice grains in it, it isn’t ground into a liquid.”

“I am code in a video game, my friend, just as you are,” Hektor said. “I cannot taste anything. I’m not even programmed to eat.”

Bellamy hummed and looked at the sea of molten plastic. They couldn’t wish such a sad existence on anyone, and yet Hektor had to suffer as he did every day. 

A few wisps of hardened plastic floated in the air, looking oddly like asbestos. The wisps danced, twirling in the smoke shortly before being consumed by the ravenous ocean. 

The Plagueman broke Bellamy’s trance, as he always did. He came limping to Hektor’s stand, blood and other viscous fluids covering his white uniform. 

“I’m losing blood,” he said.

“Losing blood?” Bellamy laughed softly. “No. I think you know right where it is.”

The Plagueman shot them a look that looked like a placid viper tasting the air, gauging if the energy it took to strike was worth it. Even though he looked like it, he would never dare try to hurt Bellamy. They were much too important: if he killed them, he would lose access to Hektor’s business and wares.

Hektor hid a smile by pretending to adjust his mask and implored the Plagueman to peruse his shop. The Plagueman did so, but not without a snipped sigh in Bellamy’s direction. 

He sifted through the items, totally unconcerned with the fact that he was practically soaked with his – and other’s – blood. Bellamy could do nothing but watch. They had seen him like this a million times before, witnessed the tape being rewound so many times that it all almost felt normal. 

The infection that pulsed within this land’s blood would never be purified, but Bellamy still couldn’t bear to tell him that. Yes, he was at the mercy of some unknown, cruel god, he deserved triumph, even if it was imagined. 

The Plagueman was in a perpetual state of falling. He would pick himself up, dust himself off, take a step, and fall. The Player would tell him to get up, Plagueman, because there’s a job to do, and watch him fall again. Bellamy always felt the urge to help, and yet they could do no such thing.

It hurt, having to relive this putrid land and odd story countless times. But it was this man, this slaughterhouse worker pretending to be a shaman, that kept them from changing the plot and leaving this house of cards keeping a facade of a castle. 

The sound of a plastic bag being opened pulled Bellamy from their thoughts. The Plagueman held the blood bag over his head and tipped it so that it poured down on his upturned face. It fell over his body, staining his clothes with brighter, fresher blood. Even though it was grotesque, his wounds sealed themselves all the same; new muscle and sinew grew where it was ripped from him, hiding his bruised ribs and torn guts. The Plagueman stood up straighter. The Plagueman was healed.

He nodded curtly at Hektor and left. Bellamy watched him leave, and kept their eyes trained on the corner where he disappeared. He made them wonder, as he did a thousand times over.

“You are thinking,” Hektor said. “Is that not dangerous for you?”

Bellamy let out a huff of laughter and a smile ghosted their face. “It’s dangerous for both of us.”

Ay, Dios Mío, I shudder to think of what horrible monsters your thoughts, articulated, would bring about.”

“The Plagueman. It would bring about the Plagueman, as it has every time before.”

Hektor hummed. “Don’t you remember?”

“I remember everything,” Bellamy laughed humorlessly. “It’s like the Player, that false prophet and undivine god, wants us to suffer. I have seen everyone die millions of times, but everything starts to blur together when you’re like me. When you’re immortal.”

“Are you truly immortal? Or is it in your code to think you remember everything?” Hektor leaned closer. “Are those memories really true?”

“No, you don’t understand,” Bellamy said. “I know it’s scripted. The love, the erasure, the global flood and the experience of being born anew. I’ve memorized it by now. But you cannot compare coded memories to mine. They simply fail in every way.”

The plastic ocean crashed on the concrete shore.

“I am Zeus and Rhea. When Cronus devours his children, when the Player dares to start a new game, I am spared. They were the only ones not to be eaten. I am the only one who remembers. Hektor, I know you cannot understand. You are our brothers, our sisters. I want you to remember. I won’t impose upon you such torture.”

Hektor looked out on the plastic ocean. 

“Do you want to be Zeus and Rhea?”

A hurricane started to form. 

“I want to be someone else. Anyone else.”