back with a vengeance
On forum: 07/31/2003
Through an angel's eyes .|
I was freezing. The air was still warm, as it had been since I came here, but the rain was cold as ice. Like the cleansing flood that once rid the earth of sin, now chasing me out.
I had been laying quiet and unmoving for nearly an hour now and the rain had been fallingfor the duration. I was soaked. My whole body ached and I had to keep myself from crying.
But I let the tears fall. They helped me swallow the pain, kept me from moaning.
I heard the child mumbling growls beside me. She did not cry, nor did she seem to freeze. Why would she, this was her home.
What would Melinda think of me now?
I left as a sane man, a good husband. But what would I return as? Would she still love me? Care for me? Will I still love her enough?
I had imagined what the Zone would be like. How it would feel, what it would smell like. But the human mind is too fragile to even scratch the surface of how the zone really affect a being. At least before visiting for the first time.
At first I had been stunned by its beauty. How the vegitation seemed to swollow everything around it. But soon a growing discomfort started brewing in me. We passed by a rusty old truck standing by the roadside. Twines and branches had risen from the ground beneath, stretching through every opening of the truck, engulfing it in an irregular pattern. It was with amazement that I put my camera to use.
But the more pictures I took, the more hostile the scene appeared. It was like the ground desperatly tried to get rid of the truck, tried to hide it.
I had stopped taking pictures and just stood there now, gazing with an open mouth at the scene that felt more and more disturbing. Yari tapped me on the shoulder: "You okay?"
I didnt reply.
"It's not far off now, but we'll go there tomorrow. Nightfall is coming and there's shelter down there." Yari pointed downhill towards a farmhouse. Or rather what was left of it.
I looked worriedly at Yari.
"Will we be safe in there?"
"Nowhere is safe here. But at least we wont be wet when the rain hits."
I had not noticed the darkred clouds gathering at the horizon. They were beautiful. Like a mist of blod that seemed to pour out of the sky. I put the camera back into the backpack and followed in Yaris footsteps down the hill.
Yari was a good man. I didnt know him well, and he didnt talk much, but he was a man of powerful stature and maturity. He had approached me at my table when I was enjoying an evening drink at the local bar. Appearently he had been looking for an educated archaeologist to follow him into the Zone and when told about me he sought me out.
I admit I had never though I would ever set foot in the Zone, and when offered this chance it was with doubt that I agreed. My friends knew how facinated I was with the Zone, and I had been telling them year after year that I would go there sometime. But deep within, I never thought I would. Never though I dared. Yari offered a chance for me to go there, and I took it.
He needed me to carefully recover an artifact that he had earlier discovered. The object, I was told, was of fragile nature and in order to contain its full value, Yari wanted it uncovered and transported without damage. Payment would be discussed when the artifact had been sold. Melinda tried to persuade me to dismiss such a "foolish interest for trouble" but my curiosity for the "Devil's Land" where far too strong to be ignored.
The farmhouse was since long looted of all valuable content, left with a handful decaying possessions of the poor souls that once lived here. Yari had lighted a small fire in the middle of the windowless room. Even though the air was warm this evening, the fire gave a comforting light and for a while, I was calm enough to enjoy the silence that the darkness had descended upon the Zone. Then the first few drops of rain started to fall and soon it poured down outside. The silence was over as the rain started battering the metal roof above the outside terrace.
A sudden coldness surrounded us and I shuffled closer to the fire.
Surprised, I looked across the room at Yari. He was sitting in the corner, only faintly lit up by the fire. He continued:
"When the clouds turn red, it will be Cold rainfall. If you dont mind a chill, the sky should be a sight you will not forget."
I looked at him a few moments before I nodded and quickly raised to my feet. " I'll come right back," I said. Yari nodded and leaned back against the wall.
The sky was astonishing. I had walked out into the little playground out in the front yard to get a clear view of the crimson sky above me. I felt the biting cold of the rain but I didn't even care to shield myself. Steam rised from the ground around me as the warm air collaborated with the cold rain. Yari was right, I'll never forget that sight. It was beautiful, yet in some way very disturbing. I felt like the sky was watching me. Counting every breath I took. I felt amazed and still uneasy standing out in the open. I turned around, ready to go inside again.
Then my blood freezed.
Someone was standing at the terrace. It was not Yari. It was someone short, not taller then a meter in height. I stared at the shiluette, too suprised to even speak. I looked around, and noticed the thick white mist that was starting to form along the terrain. Somehow, I hoped the shiluette would disappear everytime I looked away. But it didnt. It just stood there, facing me.
The first sign of the thunder came as a flash. For a moment the shiluette was enlighted. At first I could not believe my eyes. I could not believe there was a little girl standing in front of me. It couldn't be. A darkhaired little girl, dressed in a soaking wet white dress. A face without emotion or expression.
Then came the thunder, rolling over the forest as death himself riding across the skies.
I was trembling by the chilling rain, and by fear, but the shiluette stood firm. Just as I was to take a step forward, the second flash enlighted us, and it was clear to me that my eyes did not deceive me. It WAS a girl, it had to be.
Just as the second thunder started rolling across the zone, the girl exploded into a sprint and before I could even react, she was far out in the darkness. I stood paralyzed a few moments before I rushed into the house again.
The fire was almost out when I entered our temporary haven. Yari was sitting in the same position as I left him in. I breathed heavily and water fell from my clothes down on the murky wooden floor.
I was about to speak but didn't know what to say. I hesitated for a moment and then Yari broke the silence:
"Beautiful, isn't it?"
Another moment of silence before I continued:
"But, in some way, very hostile. Does anyone know why? Why the sky turns red? And why the rain is so cold?"
"No one knows much about anything in here. All just a bunch of theories, each more akward then the other. People who never sat foot here write books about the Zone, its orgin and its purpose."
With the girl still tearing on my fractured mind I continued nervously:
"There was a little girl out there..."
Yari turned his head towards me. I continued:
"She was standing there all alone...Watching me."
"A little girl? Alone?"
"Yes. I only saw her face, briefly, but she seemed...Emotionless. Then she ran off."
"No human child could survive out here. You should understand that."
I was about to reply but I hesitated. I didnt know what to believe. I knew what I saw, but Yari didn't seem to believe me. Thoughts rushed through my mind as I sat down on the floor.
Yari sat up and faced me in the dim light of the slowely dying fire. In his hands rested, as always, his rifle of some, to me, unknown military orgin. He looked at me for a while before continuing:
"I can't tell you why the Zone is here. It's purpose. I can't tell you anything about it's orgin or if it's gonna die because I do not know such things. But I do know that this place, this Zone, is more then we would like to believe. After visiting this place as many times as I have, I am convinced that this place has a life of it's own. It breaths, grows, give life...Take life. It's a living, growing paradise, filled with unknown secrets and breathtaking scenery, more beautiful then anywhere on earth. But exactly like it's biblical counterpart, there are rules. Rules that humans have yet to learn. And when these rules are followed, the Zone takes care of you. But if you break the rules, you are punished."
Yari was now staring at me, or rather through me into another world. His eyes, dark as the shadows surrounding us. He continued, now with a hissing wispering sound to his broken down voice:
"The Zone is a heaven. And within it are we, it's angels. And as long as we fulfill our roles, and follow the rules, we are rewarded. Outside of the Zone is Hell. A place of chaos and suffering. An unfair world that slowely moves on towards it's end. And while most humans see that "Hell" as their home, I fear it. I rarely leaves this place. I will live and die here, in my heaven. And no matter where I go afterwards, this is my path now, and I walk it gladely."
"And some angels sought refugee in hell."
Yari did not react to my somewhat sarcastic answer.
I felt somewhat disoriented. I had not though Yari to be interested in the Zone for anything else then the money involved. We had know eachother for only a few days, but I had got to know him at least a little. And now he seemed like a stranger. I had been told that Stalkers often develop a strange addiction to the Zone, and I guess Yari was no exception, yet I felt uneasy sharing camp with this man now. Thoughts rushed through my mind and somewhere along the night I remember wondering what Yari was like before he visited the Zone for the first time.
I slept little that night. I was cold and my clothes where wet. My thought was with Yari and the little girl. And with Melinda. Was she thinking of me right now? What if I didn't make it out alive? Or if I got caught? Would she wait for me while I was in prison? Would I want her to?
Of the fire remained only ash and a little smoke. The rain kept on pouring down. The battering on the metal roof outside kept me awak and thinking for most of the night.
Eventually I fell asleep though. It lasted for perhaps two hours before Yari woke me up. He was already packed and ready to go. I stumbled up on my feet and rubbed the tiredness from my eyes. I sighed as I heard the constant battering from outside, telling me the rain where still falling. Yari went out onto the terrace as I got my things together and stumbled after him. He had not said a word and I found him standing at the far end of the terrace, gazing out across the mistcovered terrain. It seemed as though the thunder had passed.
"It's gonna be a cold day today."
He turned towards me. He looked fairly alert and I concluded he would have slept far more then I had.
"Your not afraid of catching a cold, are you?"
I shook my head and we put on our synthetic ponchos and prepered for departure. The sky was as red as it had been last night, though it didn't show as good in sunlight as it did during night. Steam had stopped rising from the ground and a glittering layer of frost had developed across the ground. Ice where present at certain plain surfaces. The light of the dawn played a glimmering pattern across the terrain. It was beautiful, almost like a fairytale. But the presence of the mist lay a hostile tone to the beautiful starscape.
We couldnt see but 15 meters ahead but Yari seemed to know where to go and I followed close behind him. The wildlife of the Zone, however, seemed to still be asleep. Only the faint song of a distant bird could be heard through the falling of the rain.
We spoke little during the walk which lasted for about an hour. We had reached the destination where the artifact would be located. Now it was time for me to do my part in the expedition. My body ached from the biting cold and I trembled. I wondered how difficult the excavation would be in this hostile weather.
It occured to me that there where no buildings in sight. Though the mist wastly reduced my visibillity, I could neither see any trees or sign of vegitation. All around us where only sand and gravel covered with a thin layer of ice. Yari stood with his back against me as I dropped my backpack and started searching it through after my tools. I moaned as I crouched down. The coldness of the rain was really getting to me now.
"You will not need your tools."
He spoke, still with his back turned to me. I halted my search and looked suprised at him.
-"Why? Is anything wrong, Yari?"
He dropped his head.
"First of all I want to apologize to you for the inconvenience this may cause you. I have not been entirely honest to you. I did not bring you here because of your skills within archaeology. I brought you here because I need the help and understanding of an educated man."
I was equally suprised as I was uneasy. I dropped my backpack and jaw in the same motion as I stood up. Yari still had his back against me.
"However, I DO want you to bring something with you out of here."
Yari paused for a minute.
"What is it? Tell me now, yari."
He turned to face me.
"I want you to bring my daughter out of here."
I went numb. From behind him, out of the mist, came the little girl walking. She stopped at Yari's side and hugged him tightly, still staring at me. I noticed now that Yari's eyes where filled with tears. He hugged her lovingly.
"You see...Even if I fear the outside world, the Zone is no place for a child. She deserves a life with friends and a loving family. Things I can never give her."
I gazed at the two.
"But...You said a human child could not survive out here."
"Yes...That is true. A Human child could not. But she is more then capable of surviving here. The Zone is her mother. Years ago I found 12 foetuses insnared in a cocoon deep within the swamplands southeast of here. They were all dead, all but this one. I took her as my own, raised her as good I could do, but I quickly learned that she seemed too familliar with the Zone. Whe have never been afraid, never cried.
He pushed the little girl towards me and she kept her eyes fixed on me.
"Do you...Want me to take her with me?"
"Yes...I want you to take her out of here...Raise her with love. She deserves it. This place is spoiled with Stalkers and military conflicts and theres no telling how long this place is gonna last. Please."
In her hands the little girl held forth a small metallic box, tightly sealed. I took it from her.
"The content of that box will give you a hefty sum if sold to the right dealer. Now please take her with you now and leave this place. Go back the way we came in."
I looked down at the girl. Her face was as emotionless as it was when I saw her that night in the thunder. She was cute. Rugged but cute. Her soaked, dirty hair where long and dark brown. She wore a white dress, the kind a child her age would have, but it was dirty and soaking wet in the rain. But her eyes where deep. Like she could see right through me. I looked back up at Yari.
"May I ask what her name is?"
Yari smiled slightly behind all his tears.
"Her name is Katrina. She is 5 years old. Now go."
I put the metal box in my backpack, and lifted the girl up in my arms.The rain kept falling and the mist was thicker then before. A sudden feeling of panic gripped me, and
I started running. Katrina began growling, like a child imitating an animal. Did she know no language? Or was this perhaps somemean of communication?
What was she?
I was freezing. The air was still warm, as it had been since I came here, but the rain was cold as ice. Like the cleansing flood that once rid the earth of sin, now chasing me out.
Katrina was still growling like she had done since we left Yari. I knew the gate would be opening soon, with the arrival of the transport wagons that would bring material and equipment into the zone.
Two guards where standing patrol by the station, and a third one managed the overhead light.
Darkness had come quicker this night then the night before. The sky where crimson red again, but I could not appreciate it any more. My body hurt too much...My mind tortoured me...
Suddenly the massive gates hydralic engines kicked in and with great noise, they slowely began to divide. I heard the clanging sound of the railwagons approaching from outside.
I took Katrina in my arms and made ready. She went quiet. It suprised me. She was looking deep into my eyes.
"Dont worry. We'll be fine."
She didnt react, I didnt expect her to. I looked up as the huge railwagons rolled slowely through the wide open gates. The noise from the wagons deafened even the battering of the rain.
I looked around, tightly gripped the little girl in my arms...
I don't know how long I had been gone. Neither how long I have been back.
But it doesn't matter. I know only that I will return there soon.
Melinda will get a better life without me. She and Katrina.
Somehow I sold my soul to the zone. I can never run away. Will never be free. I will always be crippled by this disgusting urge to return. A hunger for the unknown. I took something away, and replaced it with myself.
It's my home, calling for me when I'm gone. Greeting me on return.
How can I fear something that loves me? Can I deny that I love it back?
They say I'll be thrown into hell when kingdom comes. That such an urge for the sick land is never unpunished. The Devil's land, they say.
But I guess even hell may seem like home...When seen through an angel's eyes.
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We fight our countrys battles In the air', on land, and sea.
First to fight for right and freedom , And to keep our honor clean,
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Our flags unfurl'd to every breeze From dawn to setting sun';
We have fought in every clime and place Where we could take a gun.
In the snow of far-off northern lands And in sunny tropic scenes,
You will find us always on the job - The United States Marines.
Here's health to you and to our Corps Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we've fought for life And never lost our nerve.
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