They used to be human. They were parcels of flesh and time; that tick-tock of blood, that soul-ridden skin, walking and talking, eating, working, sleeping. They wore tailor-made suits, jeans, shorts and flip-flops. They wore wax in their hair, brushed their teeth, sprayed perfumes and flirted audaciously with each other. They would kiss, hug and make love. Now, they hunted.
That haunt of sound and scent surrounded us now. Those deceptively beautiful eyes dancing; a fan of peacock feathers waving seductively in the shadows. It was an easy mistake to make.
"Where are we?" the soul filled newcomer blinked. I shot him a look - quiet.
He shuffled uselessly through the dirt, as I watched the shadows gather, knotting and coming apart, flooding light and separating into darker pits. The creak of their limbs and gears, unoiled mechanics, fluid soulflesh - the form of soul, still soft and malleable before thirst stiffened and cracked the skin. I could swear I saw one, all phantomlike, with a seraphim set of swan's wings. Not thrust to the back as expected but to one side of their face - all half mouthed and cylopsical.
Even if we made the shore they might surround us, pin us down and take us out in the open ground. Their wheellegs and engineheads made them faster than us. From the distance there were the ironically inhuman screams of those as they felt their souls ripped from them, their own nails dug in their own back, wrapped around their own spine as they watched themselves pulled from their own bodies.
Hood up I hit the floor, Hunter's distracted by that ocean air; soul atoms on particles of wind. My cloak pulled over my charge's head. He tumbled reluctantly and clumsily. I peered out from beneath the thick leathered hood. They had lost us, that step for wheel for crutch for stump they had matched our pace with was lost, they had stepped too far and somehow out of our soulspace, latching onto another unfortunate victim.
I waited as long as I dared. At my side, my new travelling partner fidgeted. I nudged him to stop.
An hour must have passed, our faces laid flat down in the dirt.
Cautiously I peered from under the leather again, the world was lighter, less crammed with that alluvion of shadows. We had reached that bony, shard ridden shore. Skulls, rib bones, claws of fingers scratching at the sea, yes we'd made it out to the Skeletal shore.