Superstition of Soil
Humans aren't the only species that tend to bury their dead in the soil of their planet. The superstition of dirt is something very common throughout the universe because people stupidly think that because they can't see the dead they somehow cease to exist.
The remains of the living are still there, buried beside the living, all to keep the mourning process alive. To keep the memories alive. To keep the dead alive, barely.
And sometimes, with a surplus of psychic energy and a catalyst, the dead have been known to come alive, through sheer will, hanging by a thread of life.
As the old envy the young, the dead always envy the living...
So, those skulls are going to come alive then? Is that it?
No! Did you think this story was going to be about zombies? You underestimate me, Amy Pond. Surely, I'm not that predictable.
No, zombies were never my cup of tea. They're no good for conversation...Vampires on the other hand...
I'm sorry, Amy. You didn't want a depressing tale but this story is definitely taking a turn for the worse, but that's the rule of storytelling, isn't it? Create obstacles for the hero to overcome, dragons for the knight to slay...
Life can't always be fun and games. It wouldn't be life without death.
Joy without sadness. A sky without soil isn't sky...it's the universe...and there were some down there living among the dead who hadn't seen it in years.
Since the remains of the dead had been exhumed and transferred into the underground caverns people had been drawn toward them, because let's face it: everyone loves a good mystery, especially one as scary as this one.
These pirates weren't the first to be lured into the dark to hide and nor were they the last, but I have to say that for people known to be sporting a skull and crossbones flag, or a Jolly Roger, they couldn't have picked a more better spot.
"Respect the dead!" the leader of the illiterate band grumbled through a teethless mouth.
They had walked far into the depths of the unstable mines, through tunnels they could've sworn were inches away from cracking and crashing into a pile of debris and bone. Lots and lots of bones. At times they were even standing on them. Piles and piles of it.
Then they finally found some encampment in the dark, some form of sanity within the looming threat of the skulls.
Again, superstition! When ever has a skull hurt a man? They're just empty. Except that's even scarier. 'I shall show you fear in a handful of dust.' T.S. Eliot wrote that, or was it Madison Cawein? I always get those two mixed up.
Then again, skulls can have very nasty teeth...
"Why is this one in chains?" their toothless leader asked, rather grouchy. Jack thought it was safe to assume their day wasn't going well. So he took the bait and tried his strategy.
Everyone must have some kind of hope down there. So he used it to his advantage.
"I'm a prisoner," Jack spoke in between breaths. "You saved my life. They were going to execute me down here."
Of course, "down here" doesn't mean a thing to those that have never been "up". For them, it's just "here". Everything's relative.
He thought he could find some way to be recruited by these pirates, if they were looking for help.
He tried to deduce more about their current situation but in the dark there was little to see. His ears heard only grunts and curses in the dark and lots of lifting. They were preparing for something.
Something that sounded a lot like war.
The warm light of their torches barely registered on their tanned faces. Somehow they had retained their muscled shape but there was barely any flesh left on their bodies besides their bony hands, hardened with thick callus.
Yet their seemed to be something graceful in their motions. They moved through the dark past one another without a hitch, without a single word of communication, as if they were all just cogs in a well-oiled machine or a well-rehearsed play.
The leader pointed at the two girls and Jack couldn't help but be disgusted by his perverted smile as if he could read the thoughts that accompanied it. So many years in the dark...
Jack was cautious not to play too eager. Nobody likes a traitor.
"You're not French," the leader spoke.
"You're right," Jack spoke. "I'm not. I used to be stationed in the United Kingdom..."
"Kingdom?" he asked. Like him, Jack guessed, they weren't from around here either.
Mentioning Torchwood, Jack realized, wasn't going to help either. He was going to have to think outside the box for this one.
The toothless leader crouched down at the warm fire at his feet and Jack noticed how the fire was fueled by something non-terrestrial, that means 'not from this world'.
I know what it means.
"We haven't got time!" the man with gaps in his teeth cried out and he hissed orders at his people in his native tongue.
They had been killing tourists and mine inspectors for weeks now, and anyone else who dared to venture below the skin of the city, but now there were government agents lurking in the corridors dumping bodies beneath bodies...
Jack recognised the language, even though he could not speak it. It was Dokka, the language of the Rygellian pioneers.
He had assumed they were human. Their clothing revealed nothing about their otherwordly nature, nor their human appearance. The Rygellian pioneers were descendants from the Asian ambassadors who settled on Aura Prime. Hundreds of years into the future.
What were they doing down here? And in this time, even?
"Sha-dokka mare ton ta peh! Laka?" Jack said and it worked. He immediately caught the leader's attention.
"Tal dokka maru ma'ch peh tata? Jho?" the leader asked in return with a tilt of his head.
"Sorry, that's the only Dokka I remember. Although I do know a couple of swear words in Chidoth."
"Chidoth. You speak the language of the snake charmers?"
"Long story. I met this girl. You know how it goes," Jack grinned.
He eyed his new keepers carefully, while his old keepers lay on the floor behind him, crying silently while their mouths were being gagged.
The guys that had dragged them into this place seemed to have been the only truly big people of the crew. The rest were smaller in stature but Jack knew they were probably far more dangerous.
In the dancing light he could see teeth dangling on chains from their neck, and in the back he could hear a sharpening of knives.
Jack waited for the toothless leader's judgment.
"Perhaps we have a use for you yet, chon-pau," he said, his gums smacking against rotting black teeth.
"'Chon-pau', doesn't that mean 'stranger'?" Jack asked as his cuffs were removed.
"No," the toothless man said with a smile. "It means 'dead man'."
Jack grinned reluctantly as he started massaging his sore wrists, but just before he could say another word there was another order and two guns were drawn in the dark. Jack caught a glimmer of light reflecting into his eyes as he turned. Then there were two bangs that echoed through the tunnel and he screamed.
When he looked again, Claire and Michelle were lying next to each other in the mud, each one blemished with a tiny dot on their forehead that grew larger and larger in the light of the fire.
I'm afraid so.
"Don't think you are free yet, chon-pau." the toothless man then turned to Jack. "The boss will decide your star."
Jack made fists of his hands were they could not see it. You can't blame him for wanting to avenge their deaths, even though they were his captors. They were prisoners, helpless and unarmed.
"Star... that means fate, right?" Jack relented with grinding teeth and his new keeper smiled.
Jack held in a primal scream, and it hurt his gut.