Chapter X: Janus
He felt the sand between his hands. Warm and sticky with blood. His face and body too, covered in the viscera and congealed cells of the faithful. He thought that he would be dead. He had wanted to die in that moment though not by His hand. That choice still remained his and he had taken it gladly. He was not disappointed to still be alive, just surprised. Happy even. Peaceful. He had not been broken. In his way he had beaten that God of light and been reborn in this sickly embryonic fluid.
There were people here too he realised. Screaming in his face. Panicked as they wiped away the blood from his eyes.
“We need to go now!” the woman shrieked.
“Rachel! He’s a fucking priest! Leave him! We have to go!” screamed the man.
She beat him away, smashing at his hands as he released his grip from the straps of her pack.
“Dimi no! Help him onto my glider.”
They dragged him then, by his arms through the soup and sand of the desert which appeared to boil and gnaw at itself as they went, so thick was it with feeding. The Woman and the man dragged him with one hand each, the other engaged in shooting wildly at the animal life that lunged at him and his delicious bloody covering.
“Get his legs Dimi. Go! We have to go!”
He felt the belt click about his waist and he lolled forward against her back as the engine engaged and they left that place. The blood and tears stung his eyes but he was able to see behind him at the boiling red sands beneath the waste gates and looking up, saw the purple light of the city disappearing rapidly as they sped onwards to his fate.
“Sleep” she said.
“You’ll make it now”
“What were you doing in the waste!?”
“He didn’t break me” Janus said.
They sped on. Slowing only to traverse the great sand storm at the edge of the arc before throttling down once more, piercing the white sand as they went. They didn’t speak again and Dimi did not once look at his sister during the journey.
They had never found someone this close to the city. Not least a priest. His burnt eyes had stared calmly back at Dimitri even as they drowned in the blood of the city. Only the righteous are calm in such circumstances, possessed as they are of that surety in life and in death. It was impossible, Dimitri thought, to distinguish the doe eyed look of the faithful from that of the truly stupid. Dimitri mistrusted that look more than even the tattoos on the priest’s eyes. Anyone could choose to be tattooed, it may even be a good strategy for those wishing to hide in plain sight but it was impossible to fake a look of utter serenity in the face of one’s own oblivion and Dimitri had wanted to leave him there in the filth.
But his sister. His sister had always been this way. Passionate. Benevolent, innocent even and she had not hesitated when she had seen him falling. And now here they were, arrived back home with no food and this priest.
“What the fuck Dimi?!” Janus heard
“You know the rules man, he needs to go to the ward for quarantine”.
Dimitri felt embarrassed. He wished his sister were more like him. Rational, hard, cruel even. He would never endanger the life of the many for the life of one, not least a Priest. He made hard decisions constantly and was well practiced in it though not, so it would seem, when it came to his sister.
“Dimi!” Noma restated.
“I know Noma, man. I know. Look, just let me think, ok? Where’s fucking Charlie?”
“He went out to check the Twins while you were out.” Noma explained “Look we didn’t know you were coming back with a fucking priest. He’s on his way back now. Diagnostics are run.”
“Goddamit Rachel!” Dimitri said turning to his sister.
Rachel was bent over the priest, whispering into his bloody face, squeezing his hand, reassuring him as he lay and stared blankly with his black eyes. She didn’t know why but she was worried for him. He looked so pathetic. His face so sad.
“What are you doing Rachel?” Dimitri asked.
“He’s repeating a name. It’s…..her name Dimi. It has to mean something”.
Dimitri looked up as she spoke. The air lock clicked above them and opened slowly, the wind and heat flooding the gantry where they stood as the door opened and slowly shut as footsteps clinked down the stairs.
“Is that fucking you Charlie?”
“It’s fucking me Dimi” Charlie said as the group now all turned to see him coming, hands held high, down the final few steps from the Void. He wasn’t laughing and something about the way he walked raised the hackles on Dimitri’s neck. As his huge frame came into view they saw her, sharp, grey eyes peering coolly over Charlie’s shoulder, pistol resting on his neck muscles pointing right between Dimitri’s eyes.
“No!” Alecto said putting a round into the chamber and pressing the gun to Charlie’s neck as Dimitri and Noma reached for their weapons.
“Alright. Alright!” Dimitri said as he raised his hands, showing his palms and indicating for Noma to do the same.
“I’m not here to hurt you” Alecto continued “I just need…I need to speak with you”.
“Let Charlie go and we might be able to do that but I’m not going to let you come even one step closer with a gun to his neck.” Dimitri affirmed.
“I need to know what this is?” she said, raising the rabbit pelt up with her spare hand.
“Who brought this to me?”
“I don’t know” replied Dimitri “but put down your weapon and we can find out together, ok?”
Dimitri and his people had long sought mammalian life and he was just as shocked to see the pelt as Alecto seemed to be. They only hunted birds and reptiles and also ate insects frequently. Where had she acquired it? He was excited to discover the source, to hear her story but the threat of her presence needed addressing first.
“WHO BROUGHT THIS TO ME!?” She screamed once more into the silent faces of the crowd.
Dimitri made no sound.
She stared a minute longer, calm in spite of her voice and never once taking her unblinking eyes from Dimitri’s. They stared at each other and as they stared her eyes brimmed with tears then, not of weakness, Dimitri remarked, but of pain. A lifetime of control and the constant suppression of a scream that threatened to destroy her if even the merest squeak escaped was now unnecessary and as she pushed Charlie from her and sunk to her knees she let out a fierce, guttering howl and clutched the rabbit skin to her breast as they moved in to secure her and her weapon.
“What is this?” she whimpered staring at the pelt.
“Alecto” Janus said again.
“What’s that?” Dimitri asked as he bent low to Janus’ mouth.
“Alecto” he said again.
“Yes. I know.