On forum: 03/02/2005
Hangman by Grislysilence|
“We must stand together in this time of adversity! We must put aside our old prejudices and love our neighbors! We must stand against our enemies and prove that we will not fall to them!” The crowd roared. He spoke again, his voice cutting through the noise.
“We will beat them back! When they try to take our homes, we will beat them back! When they try to rob us blind, we will beat them back! When they try to rape our women and kill our children, we will beat them back! When they try to put us all in graves, we will beat them back into those graves! We WILL beat them back!” It was like a bomb in their midst. The crowd went nearly insane with the feeling that swept through them. They screamed and jumped and beat their fists. They vowed to send their enemies to the underworld.
He jabbed his finger to the door. “NOW!” He screamed. They turned as one. “Now I will show you who it is we fight against! You will see who it is who tries to take our homes, see who it is who tries to take your wives for their own sick uses! You will see and you will weep that filthy things like they are permitted to live in this world!”
As the last booming word was uttered, the great double doors burst open. Eight disciples dragged the three beasts in. They were dressed as humans. They had been armed, and fought like the demons they were, but not even the evil ones could stand against him, the chosen of God.
“See! See for yourself! See how they make themselves look like us! To deceive you! Their very nature does not allow them to be anything other than evil! The name they give themselves is evidence of that! Only evil ones would name themselves stalkers, like the wolves in the night! But we can see them for what they are! We can see the wolf lurking behind lamb’s clothing! We see their vile nature through their guises! Because we and we alone are gifted with the sight to see! We and we alone can cleanse the world of their evil!”
The crowd, tempers driven to a fever pitch, rushed the three demons with their righteous anger. He nearly wept at their piety.
“Wait!” The crowd stopped at his voice. They knew he was the chosen. He was their priest. Only he could teach them, guide them, show them the world as it truly was. “Wait. Death is not good enough for them, yet! We must show them our anger! We must show them what will happen when we see them! Only then can we send them to their master, where they will writhe in eternal torment! We must show Him what will happen to his villainous followers! We must show Him that we remain strong, and that we will not relent!”
>Jerek panted as he tried to keep up with her. >Tarnov was lighter on her feet than he and had already passed him. He risked a glance behind him. Gasping with fear and exhaustion, he surged forward through the pouring rain.
He stumbled in a pothole hidden by a pool of water. Water splashed up onto his legs. His clothes were soaked through, slowing him down. But he doggedly kept moving, knowing that to stop was to die.
Chest heaving, he rounded the corner of the building. The street was empty. Blinking the rain from his eyes and peering into the grayness, he couldn’t see anything. But he could hear. He wished he couldn’t. The screams from behind him brought him back into a run. He aimed for the doorway of a small apartment complex, hoping to find a back door inside. Cold soaked deeper into him than the rain could.
His legs nearly failed him as he hit the door with his shoulder, unseating it from its hinges to go flying across the room with a crash. Mercifully, it was dry inside, but he barely noticed. He scanned the room hurriedly for a door. He found one nearby and kicked it open. A black well leading into the basement confronted him. Definitely not. The next led upstairs. He cursed. Desperately running through the halls, he feared he had trapped himself. He burst into a kitchen full of water, sliding across the thin film covering the floor. Rain, driven by the wind, poured into the room. Slamming into the counter, his eyes caught on a door. Slipping as he went, he grabbed at the counters to keep from falling. A boot to the center of the door broke the rotten wood around the hinges away. Lightning flashed beyond. He fell through the doorway and rolled down the steps. His hands flailed for the railing, but it broke away. Managing to land upright, he regained his footing, looking wildly about. A park lay just ahead, with more buildings to the left and the cold brick of the apartment building fronting him on the right. Hunched dark shapes shuffling swiftly through the alley accompanied the hideous squeals behind him. He heard things breaking and thumping in the house behind. Cursing again, he turned back to the park. Maybe he could lose them in the trees and circle around into the residences. His chances of survival were slimmer than a blade of grass, but he hung desperately on to that hope. Piercing howls came from all about. They were everywhere. He bolted.
Rain and wind whipped at his clothes and face as he ran. His flesh was numb. His feet touched grass and he kept running. He raced through trees suddenly looming around him, nothing more than dark gray shapes. Lightning flared from the clouds above, striking furiously at the earth below. Instantly, explosive thunder shattered the drumming of the rain. White afterimages burned into his eyes. He felt as if his ears might burst with the stunning sound. Lowering his head against the painful shriek, he ground his teeth and ran on almost frantically, ripping through the low-hanging branches of the trees. It felt like every step he took was another lashing from a whip carried by a brutal taskmaster. He expected his flesh to be flensed from his bone. He expected the pools of water to run red. The only thing keeping him from dropping from sheer exhaustion was the sound of tearing branches and pounding feet behind him. Growls and shrieks accompanied them. Tears of frustration leaked from the corners of his eyes. They were too close. He’d never get out. They would get him before he even reached the buildings.
Suddenly he burst through the cover of the trees. Disoriented after the confining space, he stumbled to a halt. He saw square dark shapes all around. At first he couldn’t make sense of them. They were just blurry blobs in the gray and rain. Then his eyes once again focused, and he realized they were buildings.
Hope flooded once more into him. He kept his legs moving in the direction of the streets. He should have been long past his endurance by now. He didn’t know what kept him going. Determination, resolve, or sheer stubbornness. Lungs burning, he finally made it back into the cover of the buildings. He immediately turned at a right angle and ran down the street. His boots splashed in pools and rivers of water. Slogging through the rain was dragging him down. But he was determined to make it behind the park again. If he could stay out of their sight for long enough, he might be able to get around them without them knowing it. They would be stuck looking in the wrong direction.
It felt like it took hours to run down the street. He knew it must be the exhaustion. Each step took every bit of his energy, every ounce of his strength. His resolve drained away. He ran simply because there was nothing else. He even forgot his exhaustion, caused by the sleepless nights and the fear and the constant running. He was always running. Everything blurred together into one massive gray world. He ran into that gray limbo.
>Jerek stopped when he realized he couldn’t hear the echoing howls. Blood roared in his ears and rain drummed against the street, but the terrible sounds were gone. He dragged himself into the nearest doorway and collapsed.
Later, he didn’t know how long—it could have been hours or only seconds—a dark shape appeared in the rain beyond the doorway. He couldn’t even summon the energy to lift his gun. He felt like he was chained to the floor, unable to move. He watched, helpless, as the shape came closer and leaned down. He sagged when he saw who it was.
They would stop before the demonic beings were dead. If they did not, they would know the righteous wrath of God, and He was just in His punishment. He returned to his knot work. He was careful, diligent, but sure. The hand of God guided him. He opened himself up to His will. He allowed Him to direct his actions. He felt his hands moving of their own accord.
He stared up at the barren black tree spawned from the evil ground on the ridge. No birds would nest in it. No animals would rest in its shade. No leaves would grow on its branches, and no grass would spring from beneath its suffocating shadow. The very air around it was noxious and would make one sick. One could feel the presence of evil when one was near it. Only the pure of heart, such as he and the townspeople, could withstand its evil influence. Lesser beings, sinners, had fallen to its power. They had all been sent to their master.
The priest looked down at his hands, realizing that they had stopped. Wonder filled him as he beheld the sacred work of God, wrought through him. It was beautiful, perfect. He wept with the knowledge that he was blessed with such gifts.
He looked back up at the tree. It would be a fitting place. But not yet. He had two more yet to make.
>Jerek awoke with the last lingering sights of the dream fading slowly away. His entire body hurt. It felt like he had beaten by a mob. Somehow, he didn’t like that analogy, giving the nature of his dream. He tried to open his eyes, but burning light seared painfully into them. He immediately shut them, then tried again, more cautiously. The light slowly became less painful and intense until he could see again. He looked around the little room. He felt like shit.
The room was little more than the attic of the house he had fallen into. Tarnov had dragged him there after finding him collapsed with exhaustion. He would never have been able to climb the ladder without her help. When it was safe, when she had assured him it was safe, he had fallen asleep and had another of the damn dreams, but at least he had been alive to have it.
>Tarnov sat up against the wall next to the trap door in the floor. Her lantern lay next to her, providing the previously harsh light that lit the room. It was quiet. The rain had stopped. The only thing to interrupt the silence was their breathing. >Tarnov’s dark eyes shined in the yellow rays of their miniature sun as she looked at him. He looked back. No one spoke.
Uncomfortable, he cleared his throat. “Thank you.”
She nodded, silent. He was wise enough to leave it at that.
He tried to sit up, but felt something pull at his legs. He felt them through his pant legs. Heavy bandages wrapped both thighs. A vague throb emanated from under them. He looked up questioningly at her.
Realizing what he had noticed, she spoke. “When you were knocked down in the sewer, one of them clawed you. Apparently you did not feel it.” He grimaced. No, he had not felt it. Running had been more important. He felt the bandages again and turned crimson. He put his back to her so she couldn’t see his face. She would have had to take off his pants to put the bandages on.
The floorboards creaked. He looked up. She stood above him, her short black hair framing her cheeks. “We will need to set out soon. Not a good idea to stay around. Especially with the smell of your blood. I would have left earlier, but I can’t carry you.” She gave no hint that she saw how red his face was, nor did she reveal if she knew its cause. He decided not to pursue the matter.
He carefully extricated himself from his blankets and began folding them. >Tarnov studiously stayed on the other side of the room near the door. He found his weapons resting beside his pack. He ran his fingers along the cool metal barrel of his SVD sniper rifle. It felt solid, permanent. He allowed himself a small grin at its familiar feel as he swung it around his back. Next were his belt and the USP45 pistol in its holster. He felt better already.
>Tarnov yanked the handle on the trap door. She had already packed her lantern, so it was dark once again. She shoved the barrel of her G36 assault rifle into the hole. When nothing tried to leap through and kill them, she started quietly down the ladder. When she was clear, he followed.
The house was empty and dead as they walked through it. It was like an ancient corpse, little more than a shell that had once housed pleasant things. No more.
The world that greeted them was much the same as the night before. Gray. The color looked to have been washed out of everything by the rain, and everything left the same dull gray. At least the rain had stopped, though the water still ran down the streets and pooled in blocked gutters. Jerek watched the shadows. No telling how many of those things were still out there. They might have returned to their sewer lairs with the coming of daybreak, but one could never predict their habits for sure. There seemed to be an unnatural hush over everything, as if the whole world was holding its breath, waiting for something to happen.
They proceeded through the streets quietly, afraid to break the silence. The shape and arrangement of the buildings could carry sounds a great distance in a quiet like this. While it would also be nearly impossible to tell where the sounds came from, there was no pointing in waking things that might be better left asleep.
They walked a little easier when they left the city limits. They headed south, where their dealer was located. They had managed to obtain something to sell in their incursion into the sewers.
Jerek was able to get Tarnov to start talking now that the last leg of their journey was under way. She was a little more at ease in the woods. Especially now that they were on their way back. It wasn’t that she wasn’t still cautious, but that she became a little more casual about him. She generally didn’t speak much, so he was glad to get her engaged in some sort of conversation. They didn’t say anything personal, as that seemed somehow improper, but rather remarked on things they came across; a strange rock, a cloud formation that resembled some shape, the peacefulness of the forest.
He thought on their conversation back in attic, and realized something that he had missed. “ >Tarnov?”
She grunted questioningly.
“Back in the attic, you said that you would have left earlier but you couldn’t carry me.”
She turned. “And?”
“Well, why didn’t you just leave? You had the artifact. We’re really only together for mutual profit, but you could have easily just left me there and escaped from the dwarfs without putting yourself at risk.”
She frowned, but said nothing, returning her view to directly forward. He guessed maybe the question was too personal. Hell, he didn’t even know her first name. Her reticence aside, he could hope that maybe her staying with him had meaning. He kept that thought in his mind as they continued south.
“My people! God’s people! Now is the time for retribution. Now is the time for punishment. After this day, the evil ones will not hold any influence in this world. They will quake and weep for fear of our righteous anger!”
His gaze swept the crowd. Those the stare passed prostrated themselves, knowing they saw God through his eyes. “Since that day, many years ago, we have known this was our destiny. When the bright light of God came from the east, we knew! When the ground trembled with His fury, we trembled with fright. But He was not angry with us! He swept away those that delved too deep in things they should not have. The very clouds were burned from the sky! The stars cringed at His awesome power. As did we!
“But then He turned his gaze towards us. He told us of the evil of the world. Evil we did not know existed. He warned us to hold His commandments sacred. He told us we would be taken away, and we were! He told us we would find a way back, and we did! He told us that when we returned, we would find our homes gone, ravaged by beasts, and they were! He said that demons would walk the earth once more, as they did ages ago, and they did! He told us we must give them no mercy, and that we must keep them from corrupting the pure spirits of others, and we did!
“And now, He has delivered three more of the great demon’s disciples into our hands. Once again, we must do our duty! Once again, we must cleanse our lands! Once again!”
Cheers erupted from the crowd. “Once again, we must prepare for His coming, for He will come again!”
The crowd surged forward, carrying the three demons to the forbidden tree. He handed them the gifts God had given him. He watched in satisfaction as God’s will was carried out. Ropes were thrown over tree limbs. They settled into well-worn grooves. Loyal disciples came forward and placed the loops around the evil ones’ necks. Teams of men grabbed the ropes and heaved back. The evil ones were lifted high up off their feet.
A town lay before them. Somehow he knew it. He felt as if he had been there. That thought made him uncomfortable, because there was only one time he could have been there.
>Tarnov stood beside him, looking down on the deserted streets just as he did. Cyrilla . That was her real name. She had told it to him the night before. He liked its sound. In exchange, he thought he should tell her about the dreams. They unnerved him. She was convinced they were merely dreams, despite how vivid they were. She had persuaded him with her cool assurance. But now he wasn’t so sure. This was the same town in his dreams.
“Are you positive?” She whispered.
He nodded. His eyes were scanning the cobbled streets. Why were they empty? They had been full of people in his dreams. He didn’t even question that he was taking the dreams as fact, because this the town. There was no mistaking it. It all seemed to be merely small outbuildings gathered around an overly-large church. Uneasiness swept through him as his gaze rested it on. Something about the church didn’t seem right.
>Cyrilla shouldered her G36. “Let’s go see what’s in there.”
He nodded absently. It felt strange being in the town. The town he had only been to in his dreams. Everything felt familiar and yet alien at the same time. It left him feeling decidedly uncomfortable. But he followed her lead, and eventually took it, knowing where he was going without really knowing why.
Doors and windows hung open, drapes flapping in the wind. A rocking chair set on a covered porch creaked. But for the wind, it was quiet as a grave. They reached the square with the ominously huge church looming above it. >Jerek knelt down. The light cobblestones were stained with a dark patina. He looked up at the yawning chasm that was the entrance to the church. He didn’t feel it would be a wise idea to go in there.
He felt something pulling at the back of his mind. Turning, he saw the one thing worse than the church. The tree.
Just like in the dream, he could feel its power. Too many people had died in its embrace. Far too many. He was mesmerized by it and felt his feet moving towards it. It was black. Unnaturally black. He hadn’t seen any tree the color of pitch in his life. Some trees turned black with age or rot, or after a rain, but it was a natural black. This was…evil. Even >Cyrilla seemed nervous. The closer he got, the more he didn’t like it.
There was something hanging on the tree.
When they were close enough to see what it was, >Cyrilla stopped in her tracks, mouth gaping open. “What…?” She was dumbfounded. So was he.
Hanging from nearly six dozen branches, and nearly six dozen ropes, was the entire population of the town.
The priest was not among them.
The Story of the Man She Loved - by Siro
http://tinyurl.com/yecfnxz -in progress
"Люби меня, и я для тебя горы сдвину! Обидь меня, и я свалю эти горы тебе на голову." - Неизвестен