The Red Hand Part 33
by Shane Migliavacca
The Red Hand Part Thirty Three Gauntlet
I scream but no words come out. I want this nightmare to end. The horror of it is that it’s all too real. The mist people stand over me as I clutch the dagger in my hands. Kneeling over the sleeping Tenth. Their voices overlap in my head. Every bit of me trying to fight the impulse to drive the mist dagger into her chest.
It’s not me that says the words finally. No, it’s Hallie the Mater Sphere. And she’s saying it to Tenth, not me.
Yes! Yes, Tenth wake up!
Why didn’t I think that? If Tenth could wake up, maybe she can stop me. Stop me from doing this horrible thing. I can feel it inside me, forcing me to kill her. Their thoughts are in my head, driving me to do this. Controlling my every movement. I bring the dagger down!
Something collides with me. Knocking me on my back. Hallie! That damn little sphere is trying to stop me! I smile deep down inside me. I wish I could have felt that. My body feels asleep. Every sensation is numb.
I climb off my back, up to a kneeling position again. The dagger still locked in my hands. Ready to kill Tenth. Hallie only delayed the inevitable it seems. She buzzes around me, shouting for Tenth to wake up, for me to stop. I try swatting her away, but she’s too fast for me to connect with. I raise the weapon up for another attempt. Then Tenth’s eyes pop open. Confusion in her eyes for a split second before she acts. She grabs my hands as I try to bring the dagger down. We struggle. I manage to push the blade towards her. In her weakened state, I’m scared she’s no match for me.
I can hear their voices in my head. Urging me on. Commanding me to kill my best friend. We manage to get to our feet, both fighting for control of the situation.
“Sister, what is wrong with you?” Tenth asks, her voice staining.
She manages to get some leverage, pushing me away. I charge at her with the dagger, slashing at her. She manages to back off, barely avoiding my attack.
All around us they stand watching in the fog. There’s more of them now. Their eyes glow eerily green in their mist formed bodies. A silent audience, watching us try to kill each other. I have to fight them.
Your name is Serena Van Allen. You’re not their puppet.
Tenth goes for her sword. I charge, trying to strike her down before she can arm herself. I’m not fast enough and Tenth draws her sword. If I’m going to die, let it be by her blade.
“Serena, don’t make me kill you.” Tenth says, trying to give me a chance to back down. Too bad these things aren’t going to play along.
Despite her warrior training, Tenth hesitates. I don’t. Lunging with my dagger. Trying to cut her open. Tenth manages to land a good kick to my side. Knocking me away from her.
Your name is Serena Van Allen. You were born in Brightwich, New York. You’re not a puppet. You have a home, a job, a mother. Mom. I’ll never get to see her again. She must be worried sick. All by herself.
I feel bad for putting mom through this. First dad leaves her, now me. I can feel their control wain. Sputter. Have to concentrate. That’s the key. The more I think about home, about something that makes me emotional, pushes them from my thoughts. Saps their control.
My mom, painting Easter eggs with my name on them.
I always loved the purple ones. My favorite color. Always saved them for last. As if they tasted better. They were all the same.
Mom. Home. I’ll never see either again. So many memories there, good and bad. I can see her, dropping this scared little girl off for her first day of school.
An overwhelming sense of sadness washes through me like a tidal wave. I can feel it forcing them from my head. My body freezes just as I’m advancing on Tenth. My hands go to my head. My giving those bastards a headache. Good.
“Serena?” Tenth says, unsure, keeping her distance.
I have to keep it up. Get a stronger emotional response. I know what will do it.
Who I never got to meet. Dad, who I never got to hang out with. Never tucked me into bed. Never got to chase the monsters away. Dad, who’s pictures mom keeps in a box. Too painful for her to look at. So much I wish I could say to him and will never get to. Another wave of sadness, larger than the last, followed by regret. I actuality feel myself crying. Uncontrollable spasms of sobbing hit me and I fall to my knees shuddering. A long tendril of mist escapes from my mouth. Pushing its way out.
As it leaves I’m hit with something, a vision. A great battle. Advanced weapons of war. Killing machines. Two massive armies clashing. One wolf like, large hairy bipeds and the other…the other race. There in shadows, what are they? Then the vision is gone. I can feel my lungs burn as I cough. Retching out the last of that things horrid presence. The dagger in my hands evaporating into thin air.
“Are you okay?” Tenth asks, still keeping her distance. Smart move.
Hallie flies in close to me. “She could be only be acting. Be wary. She may still be controlled.”
I stain to speak. “There-There are no strings on me.”
“Why did you try to kill me?” Tenth asks, studying me intently.
“Not me.” I say, coughing. “Them.” I point to the figures in the mist, watching us in silence.
Tenth looks around. “There’s no one here. Just us.”
The shadows loom there in the fog. Are they going to try to take me over again? That brief contact with their mind showed me something. Why they’re here. It also gave me insight into what they are. Specters of the past. All the dead from the great battle that happened here. Driven mad with anger and longing. Compelling the living that come here to kill. Their spirits joining the others. Trapped here forever in a never ending undeath.
I can hear their voices still. Whispering all around us. Angry they didn’t get their blood. Wanting our spirits.
We want you to join us.
I stand up, my body aching from the fight. “You don’t have to worry about me now.” I say, trying to reassure Tenth. I don’t think she ready to yet. I take my ax from my belt. “Don’t worry.” I say. “Something I gotta do.” I concentrate. Channeling my energy into the crystals on the ax. “Go away! Leave us alone!”
I see the energy from the crystals cutting through the heavy mist. I can hear their pained voices. Afraid of the light, the energy given off.
No. No. We burn.
The mist starts to withdraw. The figures flowing back into it, as it slowly creeps away. Exposing the hard, dead wasteland once again. Tenth stares in wonder as the mist retreats. The sun is rising on the horizon. The light from a new day shines down on us. I can feel the warm sunlight on my face. Feels wonderful.
We leave…for now. Go. Before we change our mind.
I power down the ax. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
My body hurts like hell from the fight. From this long trek. But my friends are here. Tenth is walking at my side, no longer laid up. The warm sunlight has reinvigorated her. Hallie in front, our metal point man. I explain to Tenth and Hallie what happened. After I’m done they ask me about these ghosts. I tell them what I saw. After the crap we’ve been through, Tenth doesn’t have a hard time accepting ghosts as a possibility. A year ago, I’d thought something like that insane. But you get sucked through a living painting and talk to a giant spider and ghosts are not so hard to accept.
“I’m sorry.” I say, feeling shitty. If I hadn’t been able to fight them, my best friend might be dead.
“You overcame them. That says much about you Serena.” She smiles. “I am lucky to have you as a friend.” Tenth looks up at Hallie. “And we’re both lucky to have you, little metal friend.”
“Thank you.” Hallie responds in her usual neutral tone. I wonder if she can feel emotions? Thus far, Tenth is the only one of her people open enough to let the Mater sphere be around. The others harbor a deep-seated fear of A.I. and technology in general. I shiver as the images of the battle fought here return. Large war machines clashing. War Droids slaughtering anything in their path. Bodies blown apart, littering the burned earth. On one side a wolf like race. But the other race, why can’t I see them? The image is there, just out of reach. Obscured. It almost comes into focus before slipping away.
“We’re close now.” Hallie says, snapping me out of my thoughts. “But, we’re not alone.”
I scan the horizon looking for what she sees, forgetting she can see better and further then I can. There’s something there, too far for me to make as anything other than a black shape in the sky. The rising sun doing a good job of making it hard to see.
“Is that their warship?” I ask, knowing it probably is. Seeing how our luck runs.
“Affirmative.” Hallie confirms my fear.
Tenth narrows her eyes. “How close are we. Closer than them?”
Hallie hovers in place. Giving off a faint glow. Is she computing the distance? After a minute or so she answers. “We are closer, but only a little.”
“Then we’ll run for it.” Tenth unsheathes her sword. “Where?”
“It’s near the skull of an ancient beast, near a red stone. A hatchway leading into a ship, buried in the dirt.”
Tenth turns to Hallie. “Go back to the others. Tell them about the Red Hand. That we’re trying to keep it from the Imperium.”
Hallie doesn’t answer.
“That’s an order.” Tenth says. “Understood? Tell them everything.”
“Good. Go little one.” Tenth says.
“Good luck.” I say, readying myself for perhaps our last moments. Cradling my ax.
We momentarily watch Hallie leave, before turning towards our goal.
“Ready?” I look at Tenth.
We take off running. Keeping in mind the landmarks Hallie mentioned. A skull and a red rock. Skull and red rock. My eyes dart over the ground. Rocks. Lots of rocks and no skulls. Did we miss it? Did we pass it? I’m about to tell Tenth we went past it.
“There it is sister!” Tenth points with her sword.
Shit! So it is. A bleached white skull of some beast. A long flat head with curved fangs and large empty sockets. We stop. There’s the damn red rock! Quickly we start looking for the hatch. I turn for a moment, looking at the sky. The black dot is getting closer. Still far enough out where I can’t make out any details of it. But the speed it’s moving, it’ll be on top of us soon.
My foot smacks into something metal. “Oww!” I look down at my throbbing foot. Fuck. Sticking out of the dirt is a metal handle. Like on a hatch.
“Here!” I holler to Tenth.
She runs over and the two of us pull the hatch open.
“How the hell did that little ball get in here?” I ask out loud.
Beyond the hatch is a long shaft leading downward into darkness. Great. Is there going to be a giant spider or ghosts down here?
I motion to Tenth. “After you.”
Tenth shakes her head. “No my friend. After you.”
back to Fantasy