Chapter 6 ; Red
The night was still crisp and dry. Eidolon could feel darkness against her skin, gently caressing her with its soothing tentacles of black fluff. It made her wish it would last forever. She knew she would hate this new dawn, hate it like none other before it. There weren't enough shadows during the day. Now it seemed like there never had been. No meter what obstacle there would be in sun's path, the light would always bounce off other things and sneak up again.
Not like the moon tonight. It was full and round like a chubby face, brightly golden in a greenish halo of light, obscured by tendrils of a thin layer of clouds, their bulk now dispersed. Laces of moonlight were gently descending upon her like falling spiderwebs, and something within her was drinking deeply into them. The moon… The beautiful moon…
A while ago she noticed that no insects or animals were on the hill she was hiding on nor anywhere near her. With her enhanced senses, she should have spotted some, but the area all around was devoid of such. The night was eerily quiet which was impossible for these types of wilderness. It was strange, but she had better things to do than to dwell on it. At least she was in peace from bugs and such.
Her senses were overflowing with such detailed impressions, she had difficulty sorting things out. If she'd focus, she could hear the distant tent flap rustling and smell the sweat of men and feel the touch of individual grains of sand with her palms. The outlines of remote demolished and collapsed tents in the darkness were now sharp and rough as if she was studying the fabric under a magnifying glass in broad daylight. She could even feel the thing against her skin as if touching it, even though she was far away.
For a moment she was quite lost in these sensations, so she almost missed a pair of guards that emerged from among the ruined tents, pacing down the dirt road about fifty yards ahead. Even on this distance, she saw the smallest details of their uniforms, stitches and silver buttons, felt the roughness of the material as if her palm was on it… She could make out their faces down to scars and wrinkles, to smell their sweat, their tobacco, their…
At once the air went cold as if winter had suddenly exploded around her. Strange cravings that had been coiled up in her gut, blossomed and she felt a pull towards the two men, a thug from within to drink… something red. It was hard to think. The cold was tormenting her with thirst. So hard to think… Chill heat and dry ice. But… there was no ice in Africa ?... Everything was slow somehow… Those two figures… she could only see the red which made them now… were warm and full of heat. The world blurred, but the two of them remained sharp, all red and juicy… She could see them amidst the dry ice, and the red strings which made them. There seemed to be a knot in the middle, pumping raw life trough red cords… red fire, forged with red heat, laced with red pleasure… She wanted to drown in red. She wanted to drink red beyond making herself sick. Red was calling… It was calling… It…
Taking a hold of herself, she clenched her gaping mouth shut and harshly gulped down the drool that rushed onto her tongue.
" Control your self, damn you !"; she almost snarled at herself, as she tried to sink deeper into the tall ferns on the hill
Her teeth were aching. For some reason, her two fangs felt sharp and long, and terribly dry. She had to calm herself, to quell these urges. Taking a few long breaths ( swallows actually ) she reached for her stubbornness and managed to focus on the task at hand. As the alien instincts sank down within her, a strong sense of grief and despair bubbled up in its stead. God, what was happening to her ? What kind of a dormant monster did she arouse, uncovering that tomb ? Her eyes watered with early tears. This wasn't…
No. She would not linger and weep when her friends were in danger ! Wiping her eyes dry, she observed the landscape again.
She was lying on her belly upon the hill's crest, gazing across an empty camp below. Everything was trashed out, tents were half collapsed with one or more of their support poles toppled, and items from within had been scattered around. They were looking for it… They were looking for her.
The two uniformed men were talking in German, one taking out a box of cigars from the coat pocket and offering it to the other. She was staring again, she realized, as the light of a mach flashed between them. The other backed away before it, just a small flinch, but he lit his cigar none the less. She was staring because she felt his sweet fear… Fear of fire. She could smell it… Even the match would cause him to… Staring made her thirsty, and it…
Forcing herself to pull her eyes away, she gazed at the distance where the horizon met the earth. So many stars. Her gaze easily pierced the whimsy drapes of cloud and fog to roam across them in their infinity. Not even with a telescope could she see them like this. Taking a few deep breaths seemed to help a bit. She would NOT give in to it ! This was not her ! She would free her friends and get rid of that medallion somehow. There had to be a way. But first…
First she needed a plan. Despite all her senses, she was… she was alone and outnumbered. The Nazis had taken everyone away and the camp was deserted, but regular patrols still roamed the camp and the dig sites. It made her wonder how long she had been gone. It didn't seem that long to her, but far too many things had changed in her absence. The hundred or so of her workers were all captured and taken further into the camp, and there was still enough Nazis to keep searching and patrolling.
It also posed the question of how they were able to get such a large force this far without at least one of her diggers spotting their approach. It made no sense to her, but than again she never could remember all the military tricks from history books. Hard facts were what she was about ; who won what, where and when.
An unpleasant thought nibbled at her awareness but she wouldn't let it in. It was like a worm that tried to invade her fragile sanctuary of sanity… what if… no it couldn't be… What if they were… They were just diggers, just workers, for God's sake ! They had no reason to… There certainly would be no reason to… She was gripping Nm'bopo's necklace so hard the tooth was pressing painfully into her palm, but she couldn't let go. What if they were killed ?
Suddenly, the two men beneath the hill dropped their chatter and pointed their bayonets towards the torn-down tents to their right. Smoke of their cigars scattered before their swift motion. She could see him now ; a scared digger in a stripped cloth and a blue turban. His very breath reeked of fear ; something within her chuckled to that. He was a bit older, past his middle years with white hair and mustaches gracing his sun-darkened face. An old man.
He came slowly with his hands up and spoke to them in a shivering voice. She wished she could not hear what he was saying. Words of a desperate man spoken in a most humiliating way, forced by crude fear for his naked life. It pained her to see such a sight. If she could only…
The gun fired. She didn't see which one, but from that moment, time started crawling along slowly like a stream of molasses. She watched the old man fall backwards to the ground in perfect clarity of fluid motion. Dust billowed from underneath his body and the stench of gunpowder assaulted her smell. An old man… He was just an old man… a digger… Giggles from the two soldiers echoed in her ears.
No, not soldiers ! Animals ! Things ! A machine would have more heart than this. They were no worse than that thing she was stuck with… No worse than… She was cold all of the sudden. Moon's spider webs turned into a snow blizzard. Everything was slow, except the giggle and the laughter. Her ears throbbed with it.
The body of the digger was lying in a pool of blood.
It was hard for her to think, as if a bunch of wool had been stuffed between her thoughts. Somehow she realized that her claws stabbed into the ground and her nails dug in deep. She tried to make herself pull them out, but they only went in deeper. The world became mist. These men… It was very cold now. She wondered why there was no frost or ice anywhere, but that too was a distant thought. These men… No, it happened… These men…
The body of the digger was lying in a pool of blood.
These men were so small it made her sick to cower from them. So cold, and no ice anywhere. Why was there no ice anywhere ? Why was there no ice ? What was the color of ice ? Red ? No, it was…
The body of the digger was lying in a pool of blood.
Red got mixed with the dirt and dust, but on the moonlight she saw it sparkle like liquid rubies. Red, red, red… She never pondered the wonder of it. In the world of ice, red was the flame. In the world of fire, red was ice. Red was red. Her eyes were glued to it and the moonlight that red was reflecting towards her.
The body of the digger was lying in a pool of blood.
She went for it. Red, red, red. Beautiful red. Why were there no songs about red ? But red was the song in itself, a song of warmth and bliss and power and desire and need and lust and...
The body of the digger was lying in a pool of blood. It was lying in a pool of blood…
Jorgen reloaded his bayonet and laughed out loud to Sigmund. He doubted that Sigmund would share his laugh, but he wanted to laugh in his face. He wanted to show him how easy it was to laugh about their work.
It was an important work to purge the world of all those inferior and lesser. He wished that Sigmund would come to realize that. His mind was on the task, but not his heart. He was his friend, but Sigmund had to realize how sacred their duty was soon, or he wouldn't be able to protect him from their superiors. He'd be labeled a sympathizer, and made an outcast, if he was lucky.
It was then a pleasant surprise to realize that Sigmund was already smiling. It soon became a giggle. He never tossed a glance in Jorgen's direction, only on the old devil. The bastard had tried begging him. He dared to speak to him ! It should have given him pleasure, but instead it only disgusted Jorgen. He remembered begging satisfying him once to the measure of ecstasy, and now he only felt sickened by such weakness. Sickened from the very presence of this old rat ! Even his corpse reeked. Sigmund went silent now, though he was still smirking. Ah, he would be an Arian yet.
Just as Jorgen wanted to pat him on the shoulder he saw something in the pale moonlight which made his eyes bulge ; a shadow with pearly-white jaws and red eyes was oozing down the slopes of a nearby hill. It was gliding down, all smeared and blurred, leaving a fading misty trail behind it like it was made of black winds. Sigmund saw it too, and reflected his own gapping. Whatever it was, it was… flowing… closer to them !
The two rifles went off the shoulders instantly and got aimed at the thing.
" Jorgen, "; Sigmund whispered :" this must be what we were sent to find… "
Jorgen could only nod. His head was full of awe. Only to think on their armies made of such warriors made him swell with pride. And he would be there ! He would make it happen by capturing this one. It must have been this Eidolon Barker, the scholar who escaped. And she had indeed tapped into this power they were sent to retrieve ! Greed made his chest puff up. He wanted it. When he'd capture her and deliver her to his field-marshal, he would have the right to be the first one, elevated to such a degree. It would be his by right !
" Think of it, Sigmund !"; Jorgen marveled :" Think of our glories armies, imbued by this force ! Think of our men wielding this power !"
" I would ponder that after we take her. "; Sigmund replied cautiously
He was a fool, Jorgen smirked. No matter ; this power would be his, and not even his friend would stand in his way. But he was right from a certain point of view. If doctor Barker was able to turn herself into a streaming shadow, who could say what else she was capable of. There was no harm in being a little more… careful.
The two of them aimed at her. It wasn't easy, since she was so blurry and unclear and moving in a chaotic zigzag pattern. Even the red eyes and white fangs were all rippling, leaving a smoky trail behind her as she went. Though moving quickly, the wraith was meandering, waving her path all over the hill's slope. But constantly drawing closer towards them.
Once she got close enough to see the actual outlines of her through her ripples, Sigmund shouted :
" Halt !"
She was almost ten feet away. Jorgen fired a warning shot right in front of her foot. That stopped her, though she was still a black wraith with bare white fangs and red eyes which glittered like amber. It was than that she spoke… something. It was not English but it had the tone of amusement and casual curiosity. And her voice… echoed somehow, as if a man and a woman were speaking simultaneously. She spoke her line and just stood there with no motion, still a black ripple, like a shimmer of the night.
Sigmund made a step forward and screamed. Jorgen jumped back, trying to keep his gaze on her, but unwillingly, Sigmund drew his attention. He'd dropped his rifle and fell to the ground shouting and rolling in the dust. His teeth were bare and his eyes huge, already on the brink of tears. Screams he was making through clenched teeth must have been tearing his throat and lungs like sand paper. He acted as if he was trying to clean his clothes with his hands, constantly hitting it fast as if trying to shake something off.
" Sigmund !"; he shouted :" What ? What is wrong ! Tell me !"
" The fireeee !"; Sigmund screamed :" Put it out ! Please, put it ouuut !"
" Put what out, Sigmund ! There is no… !"
But than he saw her ; the shadow oozing towards them again. He reached for his gun, but jerked his hand at the sight of his uniform ; It was crawling with scorpions ! He was surrounded by huge scorpions, some even twenty inches long, their claws clicking loudly, their insect legs stirring up dust ! Droplets of waxy liquid dripped off their stingers and mandibles. Sigmund's screams were still echoing, but only those clicking sounds could reach Jorgen now. He was completely surrounded by monstrous bugs and some were crawling over his boots and pants.
Shivers ran through him like through a stretched rubber cord and cold vast emptiness of freezing terror ate away his insides, leaving only bones locked in ice. He had to get away, but he couldn't ! There was no where to run ! He tried to shake them off but for every one that would fall, two more would crawl upon him ! He was screaming too now, he realized as he jumped up and down desperately trying to cleanse himself of the nightmarish menace.
It wasn't real ! It had to be a dream ! Sigmund thought he was on fire ! He too had to be just thinking he was facing a hoard of scorpions. stand still and look around. Sigmund was still rolling in the dust crawling with angry black bugs he was not seeing, still shouting to put the flames out, and as for her…
Professor Eidolon Barker, PHD, crowned and acknowledged member of the archaeological community, a brave explorer of many continents with numerous expeditions in her career… was on her knees, eating the blood of a dead old man. She had stopped rippling now and was clearly visible, but Jorgen wished she wasn't.
With two fingers of her left hand she would slowly dip into the overflowing gunshot wound, and than gently bringing them to her mouth, sucking the blood off of them. Panting half trough her nose like some angry ox, she would stretch her blood-smeared teeth in a grin of purest dementia when ever her mouth was free. And her eyes… Jorgen wished he could not see her eyes… All big and red with bursting capillaries, so wide they seemed like they would fall out. She had those fixed on something before her, something beyond his comprehension… It was a most frightening sight he had ever seen.
With every dip, she smiled, grinning and quivering, with her head tiled to her right and shacking chaotically. And those eyes… Those horrible red eyes… Not even the scorpions frightened him any more, but he was terrified of her. Next to him, Sigmund was still screaming and roiling, and the scorpions were still crawling all over him, but he had eyes only for her now, and through all the chaos around him, he thought he heard her whisper :
" …I love you red… "
Spoken in a tone of dark amusement and restrained agitation, in an echoing voice of two persons together. It had to stop ! This was madness ! Jorgen managed to muster some control, and jump for his gun. In an instant, she broke out of her trance and everything seemed to happen at once. The scorpions were gone, just like that. He grabbed his gun, but she already leapt on top of him. As he struggled against dwindling seconds to aim and take the shot, she hit him hard, falling on him and grinning like a psychopath trough red and white jaws.
This close he saw her teeth. They were clenched so hard her jaw should have cracked. Red spit dribbled from her lips, dripping on his face, hot like molten metal, but the worst of it were her fangs, long like stakes and sharp as needles. Steam erupted out of her mouth and nostrils as she barked some imitation of a laughter. She was filled with heath and warmth, almost burning with a fever, and against her, he felt like he was lying in icy water. He was suppose to have this, to be her ! Not this !
Those huge eyes were full of hunger… Hunger for him, he realized. He desperately tried to reach for his gun but she overpowered him, grabbing his wrists and slamming his arms to the ground above his head, forcing him to groan with pain. Her nails were sharp like knives, sinking deep into his skin, and her grip threatened to crush his bones to powder. Like a hawk watching a mouse, she studied him, except for the monstrous grin. She was a monster, he realized, and there was no escape from her… He was already dead…
" …I love you red… "
Was all that came from her before she plunged her teeth trough his skin, tearing the flesh of his neck with bare jaws, amusement and agitation and chuckle. Pain enveloped his neck like a jolt of live fire as she growled and gurgled trough his bursting blood. It was unbearable ! His legs kicked wildly. He tried to yell, but he was choking and coughing his own blood out. This could not be happening to him ! Not this ! His efforts to free himself were now reduced to a mild floundering, the last struggle his body had to offer. It was suppose to be his. Not this ! It was suppose to be his !
Through his fogged-over eyes, he saw the outlines of something gray rising above them. There was a 'thud' in his ears, and her jaws released. Her grasp on his hands was gone. Even as she fell off him, he could just stare at the sky, shaking and not blinking with blood leaking out of his neck. It was his by right ! Just staring, shivering and not blinking… His by right…
Sigmund took a few breaths. Beneath him, Jorgen was on the ground, helpless with the shock, and professor Barker was lying next to him unconscious from the blow he had given her at the back of her head. The wooden hilt of his rifle seemed to have cracked at that blow and she received a sizable bump at the back of her head, but it seemed that she was still alive.
Further away, the other soldiers started to emerge from the night. No doubt they heard his screams. Why did it take them so long ? He was sure he'd been screaming for hours. Those flames had surely been roasting him to crispy bones for ages. He didn't know why they stopped, or where they went, but he was whole and alive. Alive ! He was alive ! He wanted to jump and shout with all his might. He was alive ! Alive and well !
As the other soldiers got to them they first had to pause, observing the pair on the ground and Sigmund laughing and shaking.