Fic: And Over Each Quivering Form a Funeral Pall (Winona - gen)

Title: And Over Each Quivering Form a Funeral Pall
Author: igrockspock
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Winona
Summary: A rescue mission marked by scorched silhouettes of bodies on the ground and a strange stench in the air.
Notes: prompt fill for boosette, who fiddled with the lay-out at where_no_woman, and wanted a fic for the poem "Out—out are the lights—out all / and over each quivering form / the curtain, a funeral pall / comes down with the rush of a storm"

Embrel III does not look like the scene of a disaster. A cloudless blue sky hangs over neat rows of corn and soybeans that remind Winona of home. The houses on the empty street are just pre-fabs, but their lawns are green and the hedges trimmed.

"Hoax?" she asks George with a hand on her phaser. Whitlaw and Jones had died on a world like this, and George just barely escaped. They'd been lured with a false distress call and strung up from lamp posts just because the Federation hadn't sent the grain subsidies on time. She'd been on the team sent to retrieve the bodies. Their necks, bruised and burned by the rope, had hovered in her dreams for weeks.

"It's real," George says slowly, his eyes hovering over a dark stain on the ground. Most of it is a blur, but she sees the outline of a hand, five fingers outstretched as if scrabbling for a handhold on the dusty road.

They form an uneasy circle around it, their eyes swiveling back and forth between each other and the shadow of a human in the dirt.

"Can you smell that?" Cheung asks, and Winona breathes in deep. The odor, faint before, is suddenly inescapable, something burnt and putrid like rotten meat thrown into a fire.

Her eyes lock on George's.

"We've got to find the survivors," she says.

"If there are any," Cheung adds.

"Somebody sent the distress call, and we're going to find them." George's voice is steady, his face not as pale as the rest of the team. Shoulders straighten and eyes lift from the mark on the ground. "We'll go in teams. Dawson, Montgomery, Martinez, you're with me. We'll head south. The rest of you, go north."

Winona turns north, the rest of her team fanning around her with tricorders extended. They sweep every ten meters but find nothing more than shadows, some unidentifiable blobs and others human forms stretched in agony or curled tightly on the ground. Over each one hovers the same stench.

When they've walked nearly ten kilometers, Cheung seizes her elbow and points toward two battered cellar doors shuddering in the green grass. Wordlessly, they circle around them, phasers drawn in hands they all pretend aren't shaking.

"On my count," Winona whispers, bending to grasp one of the handles. "One, two..."

"Wait," Cheung hisses. "Do you hear that?"

They all go still, straining to filter out the sound of the wind. Winona's hands go sweaty when she hears it, a low and steady rustle underpinned by an occasional keening cry. She leans closer, pressing her ear against one of the doors. Then she picks out the words.

"Glory to God in the highest, hallowed be thy name..." It's a hundred voices whispering together punctuated by someone sobbing in the background, "my boy, my boy."

"Survivors," she says, and they pull open the doors. They are packed inside so tightly that they fill even the stairway, their bodies twisted at odd angles to accommodate the slope of the doors. They reek of sweat and waste.

None of them will say what happened. Their lips are drawn tight across ashen faces. Few of them are injured, but almost all are shaking. In silence, they walk back toward the rendezvous point, their progress slowed by survivors who stumble at the shadows burnt on the ground.

"David?" one woman whispers, bending to trace the blackened outline of a head. It takes the combined strength of Cheung and Walters to pull her back up.

Winona quickens her pace. The survivors twitch every time a dry leaf skitters across the street, and it's making her away team jumpy. She needs to get them back to the ship before they completely lose their heads. Hell, she needs to get back to the ship before she loses her own head. The hairs on the back of her neck are permanently raised, and she can't shake the feeling of being watched.

A pale blond girl walking by her side suddenly tugs her hand.

"It's coming back," she says. "It smells us."

Winona frowns at her tricorder read-out. No signs of life but her team and the survivors, no atmospheric disturbances or strange electrical readings. She kneels in front of the girl, thinking of Sam at home in a town not so different from this one.

"It's going to be okay," she says, squeezing the girl's shoulders. She flips open her tricorder and points to the display. "See, this one is a map that shows all of our life signs," she starts, but the girl cuts her off.

"You're wrong," she says flatly. "We're going to die."

"Sir?" Cheung calls from the back of the crowd. "I'm getting a strange reading." And Winona sees it too, spikes and curves that she's never seen before and cannot interpret. In the distance, a horse screams.

"Stand in a circle," she calls out. "My team will each take one side. If you have any weapons, get them out now."

But her words drift away on a sudden wind that carries the scent of putrefaction with it. All of the survivors are staring up at the sky, and Winona lifts her eyes to see a steadily advancing curtain of blackness. With one hand she draws her phaser and with the other, she flips open her comm to call for help. From the corners of her eyes, she sees the crowd dropping to its knees one by one, her team falling right along with them. The comm crackles uselessly in her hands before it shorts out, and she flings it to the ground.

She decides to face the darkness standing.
This is the poem in full, and while it's not one of Poe's most lyrical, it's one of my favorites. (Of the lyrical ones: I prefer The Bells to The Raven, save that I always get tongue-tied on the former and actually have a portion of the latter committed to memory.)


And oh, oh you have a gift, an absolute gift for the creepy and hair-raising and omg, last lines. THE LAST LINE. (oh Winona you badass). And <3333333333333333
SPACE MARRIEDS is the best vocabulary word ever! I seem to have discovered your secret kink...

I'm really glad you enjoyed it :)
I am so glad I waited for daylight. I may never sleep again.

That outline on the ground... there's an image it reminds me of that on second thought I will not inflict on you. Just trust me that this is truly, truly horrifying.

(And Kirkparents, EEEE)
Were you thinking of the shadows of atomic bomb victims left on the sidewalks of Hiroshima? That's actually what inspired the story.
Yes, yes I was.

That and the year of nightmares the book Hiroshima gave me (which was nothing, really, considering the story it told).

Ooh, creepy!!

This was like reading a Wyndham novel--a fun read with lots of freaky!

Thanks :)
Well done, very haunting and I saw it while I was reading.

I am from startreknews community.

I thought the title was from London by Blake, but I read earlier comments, it's from Poe. If you've not read the poem, you might want to.

I want to read more of Winona's adventures.
I always thought it was pretty kick ass, having a baby in the middle of a battle zone. Kind of epic. Putting the opera in space, so to speak.
I love the details in this, the sense of forboding and unknown fear. I love that Winona is a fearless and strong -- the last line is amazing. I can believe she is the mother of Jim Kirk (and I could believe that George was his father too). Wonderful work, as always!