The Red Hand Part 8

by Shane Migliavacca


Part Eight The Boy


The storm has finally passed and I lie face down, partially covered by sand. I prop myself up on one elbow spitting the sand. The rag over my mouth didn't stop some from getting in there. I get up in a kneeling position. Sand got everywhere, I thought as I feel it tumble down between my breasts. Apparently it's in my butt crack as well. I pull the blindfold from my eyes. After getting whisked away I managed to pull it back over my eyes. My eyes take a few seconds to adjust to the light. Leaving me looking at bright blurs. The air is so still now, nothing like the raging winds that came through before. When my eyes finally adjust a large shadow looms over me, I turn around to see a large stone structure behind me. No, make that many. On my little journey I appear to have been deposited on the outskirts of that city Tenth mentioned.

Tenth! Maebh! I stand up. Frantically scanning the horizon. Turning in circles.

"Tenth! Maebh!" I call out. I'm greeted by silence. So I call out again, I could be giving myself away to anything unfriendly nearby, but I don't care. I call again and again. Each time calling out louder and louder till my throat hurts. But it's for nothing. There's no answer. For all I know they were taken in another direction. Or buried under the sand. Maybe they figure I'm dead and headed off to Tenth's home. Good riddance to the weak link. No, if they could they'd be looking for me. Gone with them is the food, which the old woman has. All I have is my flask of water, my bedding and what junk Maebh put in this pack. Well at least I've got the sand up my ass crack.

It's then I hear the pathetic whimper. From somewhere in the city. I enter the city. Tenth said it wasn't smart to come here, but what if it's one of them making that sound. The city has been overtaken long ago by the desert sands. I wonder how far below the sand the actual streets are? The buildings are mostly crumbling ruins. They remind me of that ancient city that got covered in lava, Pompeii I think. The whimpering grows louder. A warm breeze blow through. I can smell it. The smell of urine. That's when I see it. One of those large dog things like the blue lizards had. This one looks wild compared to those two, its hair matted and filthy. I see the reason its making noise, its back leg is trapped under some rubble from one of the buildings. It growls upon seeing me, baring its very large fangs. I put up my arms in a gesture of surrender.

"Not going to hurt you. Just want to see if I can help." I say.

I circle around it. Staying out side of its paw range as it watches me, beating its tail against the ground. The rubble over its leg is too heavy for me to push. But there's a space there where I could work some kind of lever in there, maybe push it off or raise it just enough for it to escape. Maybe the crap in my pack could help. I rifle through it. I don't even know what this junk does. But there's something I do recognize along with all the crap. My practice sword hilt. If I could get the damn thing to work, maybe I could cut through. Like the old woman did to the cave wall. I concentrate. Picturing the blade growing the crystal on the hilt. C'mon! I can see it in my mind, practically hear the distinctive humming sound.  And of course, nothing happens. Crap.

The dog thing whimpers again.

"Hang on okay?" I say. "I'll get you out."

I climb over some of the rubble. Maybe there's something in one of these buildings I can use. The first building I enter looks like it was someone's home. Sand has invaded here as well. There's a table still set for a meal that never came. After some looking I don't find anything useful, I leave and enter the building next to it. Another house with nothing helpful. But this one has a store attached to it. Some kind of metal worker's place, maybe a blacksmith. I find a long heavy metal rod. Perfect! It's partially buried in the sand. It's stuck in something. I try pulling on it, but it won't budge. I get down on my hands and knees and start clearing the sand away. It appears to be embedded something metal, I can see where it's gone through. Maybe I can pull it free now. I start tugging on the bastard. Whatever it is stuck in starts to come with it as I pull. The bleached white skeleton of one of the lizard people emerges from the sand. The rod comes free from its chest and it fall's to the floor. Somebody killed him with this rod. Is he the blacksmith or did the blacksmith kill him? Certainly doesn't matter anymore. They're all long dead. I leave with my prize.

As I walk back towards the trapped beast it occurs to me that I'm going to be another skeleton. Bones picked clean by the desert unless I find some food. I look at the metal rod. It's long enough, I could bash that thing's head in. It's big. There's got to be a lot of meat there. I'd be putting it out of its misery. How far could it get even if I did free it? With that bad leg? If I do free it it'll probably attack me. I see it sitting there trapped. It sees me and growls, thumping its tail on the ground harder.

"Hey. Look what I found." I say.

My hands tremble. I can do this. Just smash its damn head it and you've got some food. Of course I have no clue what to do after I kill it. Skin it? How am I going to cook the sucker? It tries moving, maybe it senses what I have in mind. The movement must cause the beast some pain, because it whimpers again. My heart skips a beat as I feel a weight in my stomach. I can't. I don't care if I do need food or if it attacks me, I can't. If it dies out there, that's the way of things, but I won't kill it.

I jam the rod into the gap in the rubble and lift. My muscles strain. Is it even moving? Sweat drips down my forehead, stinging my eyes. I can feel the large piece of rubble start to go. I push myself a bit more. My arms feel like they're going to snap off. A pain runs through my shoulders but finally I lift it enough and the beast pulls its leg free. Exhausted I drop the rod and the rubble crashes back into place.

Even with a bad leg the dog thing is fast. It stands there, eyeing me. If it thinks I'd make a tasty meal there's not much I could do. Even if I could get to the rod lying at my feet. Those teeth and claws would rip me open no problem.

"You hungry?" I ask.

It snorts, sniffing the air. Then it turns limping on three legs and trots off.

"Guess not."

I sit down on the rubble and laugh.

"I just want to go home!" I scream. "Is that too much!"

After sitting there a few minutes I get up. I pick up the metal rod. Who knows what else is in the ruins of the city. I may need it.

"Perhaps I could help you?"

I spin around to see a figure in white robes and a cloak standing there. Their face covered by the cloak's hood.

"Wh-Who?" I say.

"A fellow traveler." They answer. Their voice gentle and silky smooth.

I grip the metal rod tight. They wave their hand through the air. Like some kind of magician. They have two hands. The other is holding an old looking book. This couldn't be Hagen. Unless he has a new hand.

"You don't need that. I mean no harm."

He smells of rancid fruit and rusty metal, it's suffocating, I back away from him. Keeping my gaze firmly planted on this strange man.

"You human?"

"More or less."

They sit down on the rubble I'd been sitting on. He looks at me and I feel his gaze go through me.

"Oh, I'm sorry. You were sitting here. I can move."

This guy is too polite. I don't trust him, his manners feel plastic, manufactured.

"How'd you get here?" I ask "This planet I mean."

"Same way you did I would imagine. A painting yes?"

"Yeah. A painting."

He lowers his hood, his head is wrapped in another sort of skin tight hood. Covering his face is a featureless white mask. There were two holes for his eyes and a slit for him to breathe through. I feel a slight shiver go through my body.

"Who are you?" I ask.

"Do I have to be somebody? I am. Need there be more?" He says.

The way he shrugs off my question, maybe he's a politician, I jest.

"Forgive the mask. You see I have a skin condition."

"Are you here alone? Or with friends? A companion?" He asks.

Why would he want to know? I start to slowly back away from him. Gripping the steel rod tight. A cold sweat drips down my back. He's just sitting there on the rock. Maybe I could run for it before he had a chance to react.

"All on my own, sad to say."

My voice cracks. I'm not a very skillful liar under pressure. I get the feeling that even if I was, he'd see through it.

"Perhaps an old hag with one hand?"

This was the straw that broke the camel's back. I hurl the steel rod at him. What he does next nearly freezes me to the spot. He waves his free hand in front of his face. The steel rod stops inches from his body. Hovering there before he moves his hand slightly and it falls to the ground with a thud. I turn on my heel and run. I can hear him call after me, telling me to stop. I barely make it twelve feet when something emerges from one of the buildings, something short. I only get a brief glimpse, before colliding with it. I land hard on my back, the air knocked out of me. Stunned, all I can do is lie here helpless. I feel something moving at my feet so I prop myself up on both elbows. The thing I collided with is like a lunatic's idea of a ten year old child. Its face is sunken and deformed. Like melted wax. It's nude body muscular with gray-toned, veined skin. One of its arms is thick and stubby, the other long. Almost spider like. Its legs are short but powerful looking. It walks hunched over. Its eyes are pupil-less. Carved into its chest, scars forming weird symbols.

"Don't move." That silky smooth voice again. "You wouldn't want to frighten my "boy" would you?"

The "boy" walks over me. Straddling my chest. Drool drips from its mouth.

"Show her how we make friends."

It reaches down and grabs my head pulling my face to its. It gurgles before planting a slobbering kiss on my lips. I try to pull away but the thing is too strong. I feel it spew a sweet fluid into my throat. I wanted to spit it out, but the thing held its mouth firm to mine. I felt the world start to spin around me as my mind fled to unconsciousness.


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