Chapter V: Alecto
Alecto turned off her Spider’s engine and removed her helmet, rubbing her eyes as she did so. It had been a long drive to this, most remote outpost within her quadrant, fringed by the Arc’s edge and she was ready to settle down to rest within the shelter of the Dome. Tomorrow would be a hard day, finding the water that she had detected on her last trip out here and readying the source for extraction. She covered her head once more and released the seal to the driver’s side door, which hissed and clicked as she slid backward down the ladder, her feet cushioned by the thick, white sand where she landed. The landscape was a brilliant white. The intensity of His Sun had bleached the earth to create a monochrome landscape here in the deserts. The burnt sky hung above, covered in cloud, its vicious winds licking at the peaks of the dunes, which towered above the city and rained down upon it, drowning it in a hot, white snow. For all it’s dangers and the history of how it came to be, Alecto had always found it to be beautiful, especially on approach back to the city where the violet cascade of the dam tinged the landscape with its fluorescent light and for miles around the sands were aglow with that shade.
She stepped into the Dome and sighed as her body relaxed, away from the winds and the sand. The automatic lights clicked on and the gardens glistened as the neon light caught the water droplets that had come to rest on the plants.
“Hi guys” Alecto said.
She shook her head when no reply came. It was a stupid joke but an obsessive quality within her had made a ritual out of this act. A way of tricking her mind into believing she was safe. She knew she wasn’t but it comforted her nonetheless. The plants were alive at least, where out here there was only death.
The fifteen knew, of course, of the survivors that existed in pathetic groups beyond the arc. Only they were trusted with the knowledge that not all people had been united under His banner and it was they who were tasked with eliminating all and any people with whom they had contact with whilst out in the Void. The general population had an idea that there were indeed some pathetic, heathen, stragglers shrivelling away from His light but rumours were actively discouraged and the idea of these people given to negative propaganda. Ironically, Alecto thought, the general population of the cities would never consider these disparate peoples as a threat to His power given their total submission to Him and His power through His technology. They would not consider these weak specimens as capable of challenging their Lord in any confrontation and the subtlety of their challenge would be lost. Perhaps only Alecto herself realised what it must mean though she suspected, given the fervour for their work that the other fifteen brought to executions of survivors, that they too realised that the power of these people lay not in any strength they may possess, but in the strength of the idea that they implied. That there was life without Him. That it was possible. That somewhere, beyond the Arc, something had perhaps changed such that The Sun God was no longer all-powerful and, as Alecto had known all along, that His power was the finite power of a man. That unknown shade, she had long ago isolated in the emanations spoke to her of this and she was sure that an answer to her doubt lay beyond the arc.
Alecto completed the work required of her upon arrival to any of the Gardens out here by testing the soil p.h., relative humidity, vegetable and fruit growth and for any signs of disease and checked for the good functioning of the automated systems before throwing down her pack and hungrily eating an apple from the gardens. She removed her boots in a puff of fine, white sand and slowly slipped her clothing, a thick, white, one-piece garment, from her strong shoulders, down over her slim hips and to the floor stepping into the shower as she did. Once clean, she climbed into her bunk and slept, her body naked to the hot air.
That night she dreamt.
She found herself outside the dome, naked to the wind and the radiation, her soft, white skin smoking in the air. A little girl, sunburned and bleached sat and stared at her, her head cocked to the side as an inquisitive pet. In her hands she held an orange still glistening with the water from inside. As Alecto stepped forwards, the girl jumped to her feet and, crouching, bared her yellow teeth before turning to run towards the edge of the Arc.
Alecto cried after her, mouth open, gaping yet emitting no sound against the winds as the girl turned and disappeared behind a wall of sand. Alecto began to run too, sprinting through the treacle of her dream to follow the small footprints she left behind.
A full moon was in the sky that bathed the sand in a pale blue light, lengthening the shadows.
“Is that…..no. It can’t be”
The shadows grabbed at her as she ran, as in slow motion, towards the black horizon ahead and the flashing pads of the girl’s hard soles. Looking back she saw the bright purple pinprick of the city, an aberration in the darkness, guttering in the light of the crystal moon that lit up her surroundings with its brilliance.
“It CANT be!”
As she ran, she closed her eyes and bathed herself in the moon’s light, delighting in it, until she felt almost as though she was flying, skipping on the structure of the night. A hundred miles she flew, the girl’s padding feet just ahead, providing a rhythm with which her heart beat in time. A bliss was upon her as the rays of light from above beamed her hence with unnumbered variations of colour. It was an immersion. Much like the solisphere, though organic, pure, ancient and divine. The moon was said to have not been capable of producing its own light, rather it reflected the light of the sun, whose brilliance survived the night, shining from it’s brother’s face. Within that moon’s light she saw it again, the unknown shade that spoke to her of His destruction except here it was not hidden. It glowed, stronger than every other colour and had its source in the very heart of the moon. A deep, dark crimson. The colour of blood. Not of a drop but of a gushing torrent, rich and dark. The colour of the blood moon.
“It can’t be”. Alecto told herself again.
“It is”, said a man’s voice beneath her.
Alecto looked down then and saw him, arm outstretched, clutching a small pile of bones, stripped of their flesh. His mouth was red with the blood of his kill and in his other hand he held the soft, thick pelt of his meal. His mouth opened, flesh clinging to his molars and flapping in the breeze as a fetid wind came forth from his lungs, a stinking blizzard that whipped at Alecto’s hair, forcing her to shield her eyes from its hot intensity.
“Do you not seeeeeEEEEEEEEE”.
She woke then, outside the dome, naked to the night and buffered by that hot wind from the void. At her feet was a soft, thick pelt matted with blood and still warmed by the life that once inhabited it.