Clifford Engram: Paranormal Investigator, Accursed
Zebediah Kane (Phoenix) : Senior Investigator, Accursed
Jan Havel (Rock): Sanction Operative, Accursed
Acedia Bela (Paper): Sanction Operative, Accursed
Sean Harper (Scissors): Sanction Operative, Accursed
Ben Fisher (Barghest): Deputized for Duration, Accursed
Lt. Phil Franklin: Military Escort
Part 5: Accursed
For the better part of an hour, no one died.
The creatures had thinned. They appeared, sometimes they saw us and attacked, other times they ran the other way as if they already had a different purpose than our obliteration. We were grateful, three of the marines had already perished when we were overcome by waves of the entities and they were swept away. Each activated the flame rune they were given by Paper and exploded, breaking the wave and each bought time for us with their lives.
We considered ourselves lucky. Then the tunnel darkened ahead and split. We knew which way we were headed. The direction in which the darkness breathed evil, in and out, a respiration of desperation, a necrotic fear which crept into our bones and gnawed its way through to our souls.
The canvas was laid before us with this final stroke. “Hello Zebediah.” The low contralto resonated through the tunnel. All around us, but without an echo as if it were right next to each of us, whispering in our ears. It was a voice I knew but I also knew it was impossible to be hearing that voice.
Zebediah Kane walked out in front of us, his ice-blades lit the way into the inky blackness. When he heard the voice he stopped. His voice was hoarse from shouting and he croaked in response, “Francine.”
“Zeb, you know you shouldn’t have come.” The voice came from in front of us now, it was leading us. We followed, nerves frayed, weapons held tight. I pushed Fisher, his motions had become sluggish as he recovered from his use of the Barghest. The manifestation had disappeared after rescuing Kane and driven the creatures back from him. Each exploded into a pile of quivering flesh as the howl of the Barghest consumed them.
Only Fisher’s acknowledgement of our friendship prevented us from being liquidated along with our enemies. Even so, my cursed marks shook as the howl tore into the boundaries which compressed and bound my curse within me. I saw similar distress in the rest of our party as their own curses momentarily became too much to bear. Only our truly human members experience anything like the ordinary horror associated with a hound from hell.
Fisher, upon seeing the work of his spiritual partner, wailed and passed out. Rock carried him over her shoulder, her preternatural strength took his bulk in stride until he woke some time later. Now on his feet again, I shoved him along with the sound of a voice I hadn’t heard in forty years; Francine Kane, a woman I suspected of being my mother…
“You are not Francine.”
“Yes, I am. You know I am. All that was Francine Kane is now here.”
Kane ran off into the darkness. We all sprinted after him to keep him in sight. “Francine is dead. Stop using her voice. Just stop it!”
Everyone looked at me, my face conflicted with the scene as it unfolded. Kane had slowed his pace, paused for a second and then continued to run. He stopped suddenly and appeared to have to regain his balance. Then we saw the light as he dimmed his ice-swords. The area had sunken into a pit fifty or sixty feet down. After the initial lip and a ten foot drop, there was a shallow grade, dug into the gravel, and eventually rock below.
It was a treacherous and sliding surface, not an ideal one for a fight. A cool chemical glow, greenish blue, lit the pit that was easily a kilometer wide. The thing at the bottom was… indescribable. It was surrounded by hundreds of the creatures, who stood up near it, and waved as a single organism might, like the frills on a coral swayed back and forth, their tentacles raised up, their tips toward us.
The creatures slowly parted and two humanoid forms began to walk forward. At this distance they were unrecognizable. Kane jumped to the gravel below and began to walk toward them. The rest of us followed. We readied our weapons. Fisher seemed barely aware of what was happening and Rock jumped with him in her arms like a child. Scissors and Paper supported each other in the jump.
Kane picked up the pace and I ran to close the distance between him and I. I knew the next few minutes would be the final tableau one way or the other. We had only fifteen minutes until they began firebombing this pit. We were right under the central target proposed by the military, hurrah for science.
The Lieutenant’s flashlight lit the woman and her single human companion as well as her escort who towered over her as we approached. She appeared in every way to be the spitting image of the long dead, Francine Kane, down to the nineteen fifties style outfit she wore.
As the light played across her, everything she was wore and even her skin itself was varying shades of vermillion, from a coral skin tone to a brilliant red handbag and a burgundy dress suit and hat. Her human companion wore clothing from this period but he too had been done over in shades resembling dark and clotting blood.
She walked toward him, her arms out and she spoke. The eerie everywhere voice continued as she hugged Kane like a long lost friend. “Welcome Zebadiah. Welcome to the end of your world and the beginning of a new age.”
Kane hugged her back, hard, like a man holding onto a life-ring in a storm.
“Thank you for getting him to me. My children are unruly and hard to control at great distances.” She locked eyes with me as she spoke over Kane’s shoulder, her voice heard by everyone, but the message was for me.
Her entourage, however did not stop moving, and soon he was on the far side of two dozen of the largest creatures we had seen, ever.
She and Kane began walking back toward the glowing mass in the distance.
“Kill them,” the omnipresence whispered.
Anger Without Enthusiasm © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved