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Narrow House, Ukraine

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  09:53:03  10 March 2006
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Amoki
back with a vengeance
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 07/31/2003
Messages: 1729
Narrow House, Ukraine

Of all the belligerence solidified in his life, in his heart, it made perfect sense to stay out in this dreary landscape. Every season was ripened with grief. An empty sorrow as to be the blue veins interpolated inside, barely pumping. Beyond this there was nothing else. The rare occurrences of happiness culminated only half as quick as they left for Efiv, like the fading light of a destitute his life bled under his eyelids. -

Efiv Korsakov was born in the troubling year of 1988 on the west side of Kiev. The capital of present day Ukraine was very different then. It was two years after the first Chernobyl catastrophe, and as most parts of the world today, the satellite was far enough away from disaster to fear but horribly to close to correctly understand. The tragedy that preceded his young life was only a precedent for his own personal blow's. Early on, Efiv's Father was plagued with cancer in the last years of the CCCP and past away. His Mother died shortly after its collapse. Of his two brothers he lost the younger to the Russian mafia.

The last time he saw his older brother was on a drab day, twenty two years after the fateful fall of the Communist Government. Valdemar, Efiv's senior of two years, paced away for the long journey to the Chernobyl Zone on an algid, overcast eve late in 2011. The kind of murky surrealism beset that day that can be found in the deaden, monotone hue of low hung clouds that only sweep lower and become darker by every degree of the dying day's light. The wind shook and knocked the trees, and cool air traversed the meadow's tract pushing down the stocks in waves. And here in the blue-grey haze Efiv stood on the porch of his grandfather's house and watched his closest friend's back fade into the thickets. The property had been in the family since the fall of that Communist Party. Most times here were decent living with his brother, but a latent undertone always seemed to exist uneasily, and tonight this under girthing crept up into the mainstay. His stomach churned. He felt evil dance in the damp, dying November.


. . .

Forward a year and a winter and Korsakov's stare was transparent. His broad shoulders slouched back in a posture that made the chair creak under his lean, but heavy body. This man of twenty-three already had a hard, steady gaze that was compounded by the griefs of prior years. His countenance was serious with shining eyes that were both telling and deprived. As he sat, Efiv was caught up in memories and thoughts of the past. Imprinted and remember off his mind, it was a lump of sour, severed endings.

One month earlier Efiv had a visit from a brooding, tall man. This man, a Stalker, carried a clean dignity with a face covered in grim. He had generalities to his features that if not dirty, were Slavic. Foremost though, he appeared to have come out of some paramilitary outfit and was overcast with a glow of misery. Soon Efiv realized he worked for the Russian Special Operatives by arbitrating his radiation suit and an FN2000 assault rifle swung casually across his back. These were carried along with an assortment of other high priced accouterments usually indicative of state sponsorship.

The Stalker held a small bundled package. Efiv knew what it was. The soldier looked most like an honest man and from the beginning Efiv perceived his sincerity: for this man to return his brother's sparse belongings did show integrity, a rarity for a Stalker. He had no need to thieve Valdemar's meager clothing and equipment (what was left of it). And he may have been appropriating ROE orders. Yet, the act was in itself kind even as Efiv began to crumble inside.


After Efiv invited him into the house, they walked to the center of the small living room. The solider appeared to be in his thirties and in good physical condition. Efiv was 23, yet his facial expression wore like an old man's. His attire was much different from the other, reflective of his rural upbringing. He wore leather metallurgy pants his father had owned when he worked in a foundry as a young man. The faded soot-blue, cotton thermal that was once cobalt fitted strangely over the large stature of his upper body.

Efiv sat down, but the man only kept standing. So, here this Slav stood facing Efiv in his small, dingy house with the sun's soft rays bleeding through the shanty's windows. Efiv now sat in his gutted arm chair, already knowing what the visit was for. The soilure chair completely reflected his feelings inside as outside the warm Spring air settled in the lazy afternoon.

The upright solider spoke slow with empathy, "I am Captain Svoyan Nostovich." He said, "These, I believe, belonged to your brother?" extending the twain-tied package.

"Yes, they are his," answered Efiv, a little curtly.

With a pause and a sigh Svoyan relaxed his arm and started again, "My insertion team came across his body three weeks ago when we found him in the brush, torn up badly and dead. It took some time to trace him to you with the little information we found in the field . . . The 6th Army gives its deepest sympathies."

The Russian sponsored Sixth Army was responsible for containment and operations in the Chernobyl sector. They constituted the better proportion of major maneuvers in the area, and almost every thing they did was 'Black'.

Even so Efiv took the bundle in his hands and after sometime he quietly mumbled back, "Thank you." Then his throat choked before he said, "I have condolence at least knowing his end." His words connected with a glossy stare.

An odd minute later Svoyan tentatively said, "Well, you are by yourself out here? - Alone yes? Your provincial document said Valdemar was your last relative."

Efiv, answered outside of himself, affirming, "Yes. Yes, I am th-the only one here." Then he brought his eyes back to the solider's, showing a little curiosity in his face he said, "Yes?"

With understanding in the Captain's voice he spoke, "Well, if you do ever need anything I am stationed at the S-3 on Highway M20 leading North to Kiev. It is outside the perimeter . . . Though," A little hesitation cracked in Nostovich's voice as he shifted his weight, "honestly, if things get tough here, you could join up. We need good men. I could get you placed in almost any station. The pay is quite good and it is healthy in all respects."

"You mean hire out to you like a decrepit mercenary? Go get killed like my brother? Yeah, thank you for the offer, but I am fine here. I support myself. I am use to my lot in this life. I'm fine." Efiv said, lying, with a little pride in his tone.

Nostovich reading Efiv's discontent on the suggestion said, "If you do change your mind, it's always open." And then softly he added, leaning in slightly, "These parts are not safe." -that glow of misery grew a bit stronger with these last words.

The soldier fell quietly then. Efiv answered back, nodding slightly as a silence cropped up between the two. The conversation fled in the gravity that any small hope Efiv held was laid to waste. His brother was dead. And, even though this man's last comment was intriguing, almost compelling, more pressing feelings were upon him. He sat and looked at nothing with a face of solemn bewilderment.

Here Nostovich gave a silent farewell and headed off into the sunlight. The shimmering, wild grains swayed around his waist. He disappeared into the same thickets Valdemar did a year ago. Efiv then opened the small bundle. He held the items in his hands and felt a sharp pain pulse through his chest and head. His mind blurred. The cursed, golden day was so far from the cold stirrings hollowing his insides. Efiv, wrenched and gutted, doubled over in dark contrast to the radiance that plumed around him in radiance only skin deep.


Now the long days of a month had past into his current situation. He sat staring sully eyed out into the wilderness of his surroundings, the wilderness that swallowed his brother. A transparent stare was on his cold features. Depression was becoming his constant companion. Efiv barely tended to his garden, barely left the insides of his house. Somehow there was comfort in that- being inside, in the dark, the senses that had always dominated his life and at present threatened to bury him.

In this state, dreams of the most depressing nature started to present themselves in the most lucent senses of sleep. He could see his brother die. He could feel the agony. The more the worse, every night beating the serotonin out of his mind.

Soon after these different sorts of dreams began. They were more omens of the future. At first Korsakov did not recognize the premonitions, but the haze soon gave way to understanding. As when he found a delivery man coming to the monthly mail drop near his home. Efiv was steadily walking the dirt fairway outside the outskirts of his home. Here he came to a curve and was completely hit. The image of a wrecked truck shot through his mind. The feeling of the actual crash stopped his breathe short only a half second before seeing it. Already taking in the moment in unison with a recall of a twin memory, Efiv watched almost in slow motion. He could not stop it from happening.

Korsakov ran to the accident while living this dream in flux of the present. The driver's mangled legs were broken with protruding, bloodied bones coming out of his gray Soviet-era overalls. The dark red saturation contrasted heavily with the pearlseed of the cloth. The man was pinned helpless under the shady outreaches of the roadside oaks. His spine bent back as he hung half way out the truck door upside down. The smell of motor oil and gasoline permeated around a mangled engine block. Efiv witnessed in his mind the bloody mess and knew it all like yester year. He knew he had dreamt it and seen this several nights before. Although it had turned murky and befuddled as all dreams do. The revelry was in fluid recollection as Efiv aided the man and went for help.

The fact of the matter was that in honesty he could recall the future he dreamt only once the plot of time began, only in the present as it happened, only in the worst moments. These pernicious visions would always linger in confusion the first minutes of the morning after being dreamt- as he half lucidly recalled and felt the knowledge of something beside himself. Like an unnatural demon snuck into his cold, mourning room and swelled his mind with the ungodly information. Then it would fade into the gray, fatty tissues of Efiv's cerebellum solely to be thrown back like an ill man's vomit to palpitate his every wit.

In a single course of complete impotent action he stood by and watched. How could he change the future by any means? Always these living premonitions would refocus themselves in his conscious right before something happened, or as it would occur, never to be changed, never to be denied.

. . .

And so the season fell into the next and August withered. In this late summer Efiv turned to a start in his bed. Damp, the white sheets were spread in long wads around him. Under the expanding moon light from his window he lazily rolled off his worn mattress. The next minute he stumbled the few short meters to the kitchen. And as grabbing a drink of aging vodka, he felt his senses jolt, as instinctually as an animal's.

Intuitively Efiv headed toward the stoop silently as possible. The moon was out in full, and the creeping effulgence flowed through the glass panes. At that moment, as light lathed the room, Korsakov felt an acute sense of being watched. Discomforting, it was a tenfold impression of a somewhat unusually usual tinge. Slowly he gripped his fingers around his bolt-action next to the front door. He glanced with half his face symmetrically lit along the door’s embrasure. A sweaty luster held on his features until Efiv slipped through the door into the night.


At that moment, in that march of an instant in time, Efiv stood with quiet all but his own lungs heaving under his adrenaline. As the moon's monotone blanket covered him and all around his range, he watched the ghostly sway of the brush. In that brush the maddening sight of something moving, floating- walking made the lurch of his hissing breathe stop. The skulk of this creature, straight lining the meadow, sent dismay through his body. He froze. He watched the gangly, ghostlike mutant pass several meters in front of him. The humanoid had a smooth face from the point of the chin to the back of the skull. No features to sight; no eyes, nor ears, nor mouth. It stopped in the furrows of the lea and mulled around under the pale light of the moon. Prodding in the grass this nightwalker stopped and abruptly turned its pasty white head toward Efiv . . .

His next cognizant, Efiv woke up belly down on the porch. The sun glared in his eyes. He was cold and had a headache covering the entire skull from the inside out. He cranked his neck to where that demon or delusion or whatever it was stood. It had obviously, somehow, made Efiv hit the hardwood. The matter was mystifying, frightening more so. Now the stillness of the morning was soothing, for once, to have the sun on his face. The morning mist was clearing with a cloudless sky. Korsakov got to his feet and made a sluggish pace to the spot he had last seen the thing. Easing down to a crouch his blue eyes widened, he looked in the brown earth and saw elongated prints of bare feet. Closer, moving some of the reeds aside deeper depressions were also scratched out to the roots.

'Der'mo! This thing was actually real' he thought to himself with an inaudible mumble.

Hopping to his feet, Efiv unconsciously strolled back into his home place. All the while he thought of the strange events of the late eve before. He rubbed his temples as he walked. Once inside he happened to look down beside the doorframe. There, unloaded, his father's bolt-action sat in its place. Efiv was washed with fear. An intrusion had been made.

Anything soothing about the prior fifteen minutes vanished.





PART II


The surreal events of that night boded Efiv to stay up from dusk to dawn for a month straight; the fear making a departure for him from his usual depression. The two emotions both rivaled for the bid of most loathsome. In these days he could remember when his brother was still alive, talking to him about a "ïðèãëàæèâàéòå îå ïðèâèäåíèå" or "faceless ghost" roaming the flatlands and hillsides of the province. The fables had circulated Central Ukraine for the past several decades. Of course he never believed much of these things, even when Valdemar told him he had seen something similarly correspondent several kilometers outside the Chernobyl Zone. Although, his brother acted as if it was some faint premonition of the dark and nothing more; he never seemed to really talk about it. Efiv began to understand why.

In his nightly vigil he would stare out into the night. His grandfather acquired the land in 1990. 'Through luck' they had told him when he was younger. Now Korsakov was the last living relative, and alone in these dark hours many thoughts filled him. Most about his family and about his sore lot in life. He thought about years past when he had made a few incursions into the zone and if he could ever make a profession out of that, as some men like Captain Nostovich had, who was stationed at the S-3 âåðòåï âîëêà 1. Not, though, that most chose the career of Stalking, the miserable job that it is. Yet, that life could be no worse than his own.


On one occasion as he sat in the shadows of a moonless night that same tinge that was so usual to him was stronger then usual. As he watched out into the woods, he could barely distinguish the silhouette of something moving about. Efiv leaned forward a little bit and focused more closely on the objects. His pulse rose as he tried to determine what he was dealing with, but Korsakov's apprehension dissipated as he could remember, although somewhat unclear, already living this. The foresight was not so much the actual physical sight and sound of the moment but more the feelings. Somehow he knew that it was not a threat, and didn't move but leaned back and watch from the dark insides of his unlit house. Three figures breached the forest and started to pan out through the meadows. Slowly they drifted farther away and disappeared into the night.

Months earlier this would have rattled him badly, yet now it barely phased his mind. He did not mind these men wondering his lands in what looked like some sort of search. Probably, it all had something to do with the creature, though Efiv took no care at all to any of it. He tried to forget the best he could. It was just something you did not tell, excluding only in the darkest nights, in the deepest rooms, and to the closest friends. But, Efiv was alone. That was the problem. It nagged at him. He felt isolated and deserted and only tried to put these instances and visitations and premonitions all behind him. Though, these were the everyday things that keep popping up. It all wore on Efiv Korsakov like a grinding mill stone.


So as each week past further the thoughts that populated his mind decreased. The direction they took focused more solely on the reasons of Efiv's life, or the absences of it. It was like a path he was driven to walk, predetermined. Slowly, he stopped shaving. He stopped bathing, and began eating mostly paltry rations. This depression gave the gift of filth and bad sleep. He would wake up suddenly in his room absorbed in cold feelings. He was vexed in disturbing vibrations of emotion. Efiv Korsakov's house became a horrible, isolated hole. And as the earth's tilt crept him closer to the cold, he no longer had any responsibility for tending to most of his tasks. Only more things less to do, he sustained himself on food storage from years past having no sprout or shoot to tend to in the cold season. He did not even hunt as was common in past times. In these days, thoughts of depression solidified into suicide; his wicked foresight only compounded the solitary despair. The premonitions strangled his life into a smaller, darker room. He was losing this battle, his own, all to none.


. . .


Burrowed in this narrow corridor of his life, Efiv's eyes flicked open in his metal framed bed on a cold, November morning. Yet Efiv's body laid motionless; quiescence held him there. It saturated his partition, his bed, and his capacity. The eye stared straight, unmovable, in the pale light. The end of the pre-plotted walk had come. The rafters and plastic ridged roof whispered their regrets in silence. Finally, buried deepest in his ruins, emptied of will, Efiv decided to end his life.

So Efiv slowly got to his feet and followed his plans. He had thought about it before of course, and before long, this bearded, filth ridden man with frayed brown rope in his hands made his way into the woods to hang himself. The cloudy, cold, early morning intensified the lack of feelings. He treaded lightly across leaf scattered ground, trying uselessly to steady his fractured will. That frozen ground was the only contrast to the grey of the corpse-tone trees and lifeless sky. He was by himself except for the frost under foot and the steam churning out his mouth. Efiv spoke with himself, "Fitting scene for my last . . . to hell with this life," the words carrying away through the tall wasted gallows from the destitute they incased.


Shortly, Korsakov laid against the tree he'd chosen his hanging tree. As a boy he played in its branches. In an absent-minded methodicy his fingers grappled the course braids of rope. Efiv Korsakov shook while he clumsily fiddled out a knot for himself. His head stayed affixed with ambiguity, propped against the tree, and a stridency and fear harped his stare across the low horizon. He spied at this his last minutes only meters through those harped and hampered eyes a horribly out of place thing. Here Efiv remembered and felt what he had already dreamt. The actions fumbling in his hands were to lead to nothing. He crawled to his feet, his muted memories keyed in unison to his present actions. The feeling was surreal as the sole, cold man stumbled over and looked at the find: the carcass of that night stalker lay covered in leaves, dirt, and decomposition. From the torso down was gone. Efiv could see the sinew, in trails, and insides hanging out the bottom. Lacerations on the front of the skull and body exposed swollen, frozen tissue.

Efiv Korsakov hunched over awkwardly. Physically he was captivated so much so he couldn't move. Save his eyes, which gathered from one end to the other the azure tones of the bruised, sliced body. Though inside- inside a deep confusion swelled in him. Something did not 'feel' right. In the sound of this confoundment he turned inversely from the physical surroundings around him. Efiv, perplexed, could not add this up in his mind. It troubled him. He stood, his minds eye recalling the path which brought him here.

He was still feeling this happen in his memory, his thoughts and the ether around him, like living in a book. It was like knowing the next page, right before it turned. In the which a sudden alarm catapulted the bite of cold air back to sensation! In an instant the frigid demon's closet arm wildly flung off the ground lunging at Korsakov's leg! Innately, though, he moved with concord to escape the frantic convulsion (for that's what it looked like more then a steadily controlled attack).

If he had not felt the misplacement of danger dreamt strangely and even more so strangely forgotten, Efiv probably would not have avoided the icy grip. But now in a blur his adrenaline pulled him from the forest. Only indistinct color and panic flared in his thoughts as heavy breathed he reached safety and fell to his knees and slower still to his hands. The end of Efiv's evasion, an instinctual sprint, was but a flash in memory. The end of which flight brought him to the ragged, cold yard behind his birch paneled shanty.

As he sat in place with his palms and knees bearing on the frozen ground, Efiv's face pulsed red as vapor billowed out his mouth. His stomach turned as steam rose off his back and head. He heaved with constricting muscles rolling through him. Efiv's blue eyes glazed up with saline. He could feel the next dry heave come through him and he braced. This time though stomach acid streamed forward from the dark gut of Efiv. His whole body contorted with the burning pain; he hadn't eaten much the last few days. This bore badly since little was in his belly but burning acid. Again shortly this acidic liquid throbbed through his channels and strained through his teeth. He groaned. His vocal chords, now overtaxed, scratched and vibrated as once more he pitched his body forward with a swell; dryly choking and coughing as his body tried vainly to push up more of what wasn't there.

Efiv paused after the last dry heave. He then shakily and slowly brought up one hand and whipped his eyes and face. As he did so he drew off mucus in a string from his lip. Then squinting and spitting he rolled to once side. With the burning still in his throat, he laid stiff in shock. Fright and apprehension over took him, and as his eyes studied no particular thing a light snow started to fall softly down. The clouds gently turned overhead.


The Destitute Korsakov laid for the better part of an hour. The ground siphoned off his warmth despite his thick parka and his skin and fingers began to deaden cold. Here so many things streaked deep through his mind yet at the same time no real thought came to light, just numbness. Emotions grew with each shallow breath. Tears began to roll across the sides of his face. In an imperceptible transition into a lite, mellow sobbing Efiv wondered what he was doing. His life was cracked into shambles. In all, a culmination of twenty-four years had only brought him here. But more so this thing, this monster, wasn't supposed to be real. He told himself a thousand times it wasn’t so.


All in short time, he gathered his insides and brought himself to the present. Finally pulling out of his sobbing drone, sight and sound came back to him, along once more with a consciousness of himself. He pulled his legs up to his body and wearily rolled over back to his feet. By this point he had absolute zero drive. Wobbly, he rubbed his face. His weight shifted under his feet. Efiv couldn’t comfort his psyche. The pseudo truth he tried to veiled his mind with for so long that the creature wasn't real now vanished. He could not now, not with all that had happened. He could almost manage a bitter smile at the irony of being saved from himself by such a deviled thing.

Here and now he made a resolution to himself: to take care of the half-dead monstrosity not two minutes walk from where he stood. Like his dreams he could not deny the facts he already knew.

Following heed, Efiv very naturally devised his move and gathered the implements needed. He then dragged (mostly in fault of his weariness) the canvas tarp and shovel he had gotten from the small work shed aside his house toward the tree line. Cautiously Efiv made his way back into the darker woods, back to the animal. He crept along deliberately, taking note to the strain and movement of his body. Almost twisting like a languid serpent, he came up toward the monster. His feelings tighten. The emotion in the air was strong with sour repulsion. Like a dampener had settled on the outward radius of its death throws, the rotten ether bore all around the fiend's encompassment.


Efiv almost began to shake nearing the depression the deformity lay in. He could feel its presence. Cresting right near where it laid he stood idol. The destitute and the demon both were motionless in the dull light that was filtered through the clouds and again darkened by the forest. The snow fell still and melted into the ground. Efiv opened his lungs, breathing deeply. He gathered his strength and lifted the shovel as an axe over his head. The next moment a thud brought to place his blow, accompanied with an echoing sound. He only realized after that the sound was his own scratching roar.

At that he had half-severed the head from the body of his monster. The discs of the spinal column had cracked and ruptured, twisting the featureless head into a peculiar angel. But this did not matter the slightest to Efiv. In a sudden jolt his soilure heart felt once more, as if the current of the Dnieper had reversed all in one accord. Yes, he was freed. Deprived emotions were back in his reins. The depression and doubt vanished. At twenty-four years of age, Efiv Korsakov's life began with the death of this creature.




PART III

Nostovich's station was just a blurry memory from his early adolescence of a black sky and dust ridden steppe cruising down the highway fleeing from north of Kiev to his grandfather's only days after the second explosion. APV's sped past as he sat in the back of the same pickup he now drove. At that time, there were soldiers setting up clusters of camouflage and steel gray tents with check points everywhere, Army men running all around. Now things were different; the area had changed a lot. Snow was underfoot with a cluster of thick ominous armor plated building dark umber, slate, and beige. The modernism was in stark difference to the landscape and structures in the surrounding area. The atmosphere was thick. The day was ending and everything was still. The glow of the over head lights lit the snow as it passed into their beams.

He had just past through the gates of the S-3 compound. It was only accomplished after some debating and affirming and reaffirming of radio communiques between the check post and the buildings of just whom he was and what he had. Efiv was worn. After he had rolled the dead remains of the beast onto the tarp with the shovel, he tied it up with the rope that earlier would have been, ironically, to lynch his own neck. Afterwards, he grabbed the last canister of diesel petrol he owned and filled the old truck which had been around since the era of the Soviets. When placing the mutant in the wood-plank bed, he found some of his rifle rounds tucked tight in the disfigured palm of its hand. It still bothered him some that it had been inside his home, but he was feeling good. Most probably it was just the way any man felt, just normal, but to him it was close to elation.


At any rate, Korsakov parked down a wide, open lane next to the massive blast proof walls of the main building. He got out and looked around. Further off by the high walls that were made of the same composite as the buildings in which they enclosed was a cluster of T-99C main battle tanks. This regiment dominated the rather empty driveways of the compound. Most had extra armor jutting all over in the customary high density packets, and all were garbed and painted for field use with external fuel tanks already atop the broad behemoths. They were exclusively deployed on the perimeter of the zone because although on the modern battlefield of 2012 tanks were very obsolete they were a strong deterrent to hoards of controller zombies and anything else pitted against the 6th Army's field-containment posts.


Promptly, a large blast door panel slid open across the way with a left swinging, windowless door coming open after it. The man who had manually opened the second, inlayed door came out and stood guard. He was followed by three more men, all in field gear, one of which was Captain Nostovich.

As the trio walked briskly toward him, Nostovich called out naming him in full, "Efiv Korsakov!"

Efiv smiled a bit and answered, "Yes Captain. Hello!" As Svoyan neared, they shook hands warmly with the Captain nodding his head, happy to see him alive. To Efiv, although he had only met him once before, it felt like meeting an old friend. Svoyan Nostovich really was a good man.

And almost on cue, this thought was confirmed further when Nostovich bent forward, "You know I really did mean what I said about if you needed anything to contact me. I'm glad you came," he said with a smile of his own. Then turning in more of a business like manner, he looked at the truck. The two other men had already had Geiger counters waved over the dead flesh in the truck bed and were proceeding to pull the mutant out. "They told me inside that you had brought something interesting to the gate?" he said with his head still cocked at the vehicle and a distant look filling his features. Notosvich just stared at the creature they were handling for a minute. Then abruptly he jerked his head back toward Efiv, doing so the same way as when someone asks an unexpected question, although Efiv did not speak. He just sort of stared at him.

Efiv's eyebrows raised slightly with some inquiring and he calmly asked, "Yes . . . ?"

To which Svoyan only said, "I suppose you're tired. We should head inside and tomorrow we will gather things up and sort this out." Adding, a scant more focused, "come on, I'll show you where to stay." He turned as he spoke to follow the other two men, who carried the grisly corpse, back toward the door. Efiv followed them, completely sure right then and there Captain Nostovich knew what he had killed that forenoon.


. . .


The next morning Efiv woke to a brilliant cast of morning sunlight coming sidelong his bed from a single skylight above. He, at last, was at peace with himself. Warmth dominated his feelings. The world around him was in a wholesome regression from the inner decay that harassed him for so long. Even in his isolated cot in an untenanted room the feeling held as he stared at the glimmering glints of dust in the stream of soft light beside him. A knock came at the door and with it the recollection of where he was and what he was doing sounded in the din. It was 7:00 A.M.

With a new change of clothes a guard came in and talked to him for a little bit. The pile of folded clothes handed to him was all new. It was a full outfit with army grade combat boots and socks, underwear, a long sleeved, ribbed shirt, and tightly knit, insulated wool pants.

Following then, he and the escorting guard walked under the blue iridescent lighting of the wide, scrub-clean hall leading off to the wash room. The solider beside him had a discretely smug expression on his face wondering if Efiv realized he had spent the night in a room that, although furnished with a class-A issued officer’s cot, was a high-security holding cell. Mr. Korsakov, as they called him, did not notice the man's subtle look. He was alone with himself, examining in introspection that no molested dream had been evoked in his mind the night before. With further thought he decided he had awoke from the best sleep he could have remembered.

The day wore on and in due course, after physical examination and mental evaluations, it was decided in another part of S-3 'Wolf Den 1' between two voices Efiv had never heard before tha hould be told him the other half of the picture. From this point, in the late evening as the clapping swash of tree branches and frigid wind howled outside, all inside silence stilled the air, except for a high frequency clicking that beaded from an over head light in need of service.

Efiv was summoned by the same soldier that escorted him all morning. The feeling of the night was moody as Mr. Korsakov was told of a briefing that he was asked to attend. Going in, he already knew most of what he was going to be told. Simple examination of the facts told Efiv that the mutant, some how, physiologically besieged his emotions. The thing wanted him dead. The reasons, he soon found out, sickened him.


. . .

He entered through the doorway of two oak paneled doors, both which were lined inside with ceramic ballistic armor. They would stop anything short of 50mm rounds, and made all the others on the inside of this room feel secure. Efiv clinched his jaw, tense with nervousness, as he entered the dark conference room. In spite of the things he had faced in his recent years, the new environment made him uneasy. He would stand in confidence facing the unknown procession of events ahead, yet it did unnerve him some.

Efiv took a seat where told to sit while looking around the room. Of the several serious faces he only recognized Captain Nostovich's. The Captain sat along the wall side amongst two other men wearing the insignia of sergeant on their shoulders. The way his eyes cast off careless toward nothing spoke the same look Efiv saw the latter night in the yard, thinking intently on something. All the other personnel, military and else wise, were new to him. They sat in chairs lining the back and sides of the room, except one which sat next to him. There were nine other people in the room, from Efiv's count. Half of them were armed. He only concluded this after a few quick glances over his shoulders from where he was seated at a table in the center of the floor, facing the doors.

The room was a prep and briefing room commonly used to inform field agents on specified missions and maneuver. Its ceiling hung low and had a calm ambient light around its edges. Several monitors lined two sides of this space. They now were shut off.


While Efiv absorbed the new surrounding, a woman, the only one in the room, stood up. The scat undertone of whispers died as the twenty something DIA Operator began to talk. She had pale green eyes with a bundle of dark auburn hair atop her head. Her face was quite beautiful which accented her body. She wore thick double layered work pants, olive green, with off-centered cargo pockets on the legs and a 9mm holstered on her hip. These went along with the faded grey thermal shirt, accustomed to the one Efiv wore, and a black flak jacket adorning her with the Russian lettering DIA printed in white on the back. All this with a pair of military boots that finished off the outfit.

As she began, her words were in disparity to her personable, becoming face. Opening without giving her name she started, "Efiv Korsakov, Because of your intimate relationship to active study number 19-2012 and for assisting in the capture of the creature, regional sector command has decided to inform you of what you have been dealing with, a Mutant type called ïðèâèäåíèå. This is as well as questioning for any information regarding this inanimate subject you turned in the night previous."

Efiv nodded and acknowledged, "I understand."

Yet overlapping his positive agreement, she continued on as dryly as before, "First, we will start with questioning. The mutant: when was the . . . " A barrage of questions followed, first from the women standing in front of Efiv and then from a few of the others sitting around the room. Slowly they pieced together the pertinent history of Efiv's past. His memories of the encounters, and dreams, and premonitions all recounted. The man, a meter to his right, began typing a transcript of the debriefing into a portable laptop he'd pulled up from his side at the beginning.

The fact of the matter was that this conference was about as good as it got in these parts. A ' best it was this bunch of Military personal and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.S. in field gear inside a hastily converted mission prep room with an informant freely answering questions who brought them that "inanimate subject" they had been hunting for four years now. More times in the field they would just strong hand any leads until the person either gave up the information or died.

What had been bothering Efiv in the back of his mind was why the Defense Intelligence Agency was in on this stint. The 6th Army was very territorial about their rotting, warped real estate. Maybe it had to do with the rumored government projects that they were so touchy about. The which never quite got finished before everything was blown in dom come. Yet, in any case, he decided, the DIA probably was prodding around since his mutant friend (so fondly as it seemed) was trailing so far South of the Exclusion Zone.


As the questioning came to a close, the operator walked back to her seat. She glanced ever so slightly at Efiv as she went. With this another man stood, dressed in a plain, wool-knit sweater, turtle neck and dark navy blue. He wore civilian trousers and dark leather dress shoes. His body structure was smaller than Efiv's. In fact the man was not very large at all.

As Efiv studied him, the man put on a pair of thick-rimmed glasses from the top of his bald head. He looked at Efiv. "Mr. Korsakov, I am Oleg Komanov. I direct the department on this compound that is over research and forensics. The mutant subject was one of our more unverified, difficult tasks assigned to the department. Mostly because the threat is over and you had a . . . an intimate connection with the aforesaid subject we plan on debriefing you about the nature of just how it worked. I'll try to fill in some of the holes. Before I begin, though, I need to ask you one question." In a practiced turn of the head, Oleg Cleared his throat then continued, "What do you know, yourself, about the mutant responsible for harassing you?"

Efiv could already tell that Oleg was not going to tell him all of what he knew, yet he didn't really expect him to. The man did a decent job of presenting himself; all be it the fidgeting look in his eyes and the slight shuffle of his feet. Efiv took a long breath and sat forward in his chair. By this point the meeting had lasted close to two hours. He figured that he must have brought them something spectacular for all this interest, and openness for that matter.

He started his answer, saying, "Well," pivoting his head down a little in thought then back toward Oleg Komanov, "The depression I experienced was compounded by it, as also the horrible dreams and feelings. Which drum of destruction stopped with its demise. The creature wanted me to die, I know that now. Also, somehow it manipulated time, at least in the vision of the future. Just as I mentioned earlier about my premonitions. I believe, Mr. Komanov, that it was some side effect though. I'm not sure."

Oleg's eyes had grown more intense at this time; the wheels began to turn in his mind. In a notable seriousness, he said, "Yes, the ïðèâèäåíèå," which was the name they commonly used in the lab, "was trying to 'persuade' you to murder yourself. It preyed on humans, and as you probably can attest to, was not very strong physically. So it used its physiological prowess to harness people who are not the most static emotionally . . . Um, as you were. Essentially it was inquiline- or a parasite . . . "

Komanov continued on for another ten minutes, basically delving into the facts of the ghost-demon. It had been slowly, in a method, overtaking Efiv. If he had hung himself the morning prior it would have slipped into his cold, dead body, festered there for a series of days, and integrated its self into his biological pathways and nerves. Within a week the monster would have been basically developed. It would have readmitted itself in somewhat of the same form, scraping off his ears, lips, nose, and eyes so that the sensory organs could fully grow into the bloodied cavities left behind. Physiologically it would have mutated, inside and out. All of Efiv's hair would have fallen out as well as his reproductive organs. Inwardly it would have adjusted the metabolism, being able to survive using his body for anywhere from six months to a year and a half. The basis of the matter was tha uccored the nutrients out of the host body, which was finite. Since it could not intake its own food it would search out and prey on another human.

However, when Komanov trailed into the reason why the legs were missing on the beast he faltered. Try as he might, his body language betrayed him. He was not the best liar, and as he spoke about how 'they', the military stalkers, had been hunting the mutant, he got a little nervous again. This was not his ground. He wasn't sure about it like the physiology or anatomy.

Oleg didn't like how big the hole his superiors had told him to leave was, but he began, "The reason its legs were missing when you came upon it was from a shrapnel grenade. Yet," he continued, glancing past Efiv to someone in the back of the room, "we are, um, not sure how it eluded us. Though we do know that it was," he drew the word out a little, "a single anomaly; a radiated mutation from the Chernobyl Zone. All evidence yields that conclusion." He paused and quickly glanced around again. Then following after the silence with a jittery smile Oleg concluded, "Um, fortunately so, you were very lucky. Still, that's all the information we have for you. We are very grateful for your effort."


With each detailed piece of information delivered to him, the pensive room shrunk around Efiv. The sick, glum shot of truth boiled about Korsakov's stomach. His Face had turned pale slightly, and as he sat there blankly the others in the room began to stand. He heard a voice over his shoulder through the drone of discussion around him, "The lieutenant is waiting outside to escort you back to your quarters." He exited while the makeshift assembly gradually disbanded. Wearily he trailed the solider back to his quarters.


. . .

Later that night Efiv laid in the cot provided him. Darkness was all around him with the shimmer of the moon faintly coming down through the small skylight. The stars were barely visible through the single, laminated-glass casement. He realized now that he was in a holding cell. It came to him earlier when he had to ask one of the guards to turn out the lights remotely. Efiv had been so exhausted and disoriented the night before he didn't even notice.

Now that a few hours had past he wasn't so worked up over what he found out. The information they had told him didn't scare him so much anymore, even though it was still very unsettling. Calmer and more rational, he did not trust all their reasons though. Everything Oleg Komanov told him didn't add up. Of course, Efiv had little doubt that his mutant parasite wa by a shrapnel grenade after seeing the marred leftover laying in his woods. Though the way Oleg spoke about how they were not sure how it had gotten away did not stick. Something slipping in the tone of his voice made his words otherwise. Efiv also was not very convinced that they were so sure there was only one of these mutants that had been roaming out there. For some reason it didn't seem likely. He was not sure why, but with these thoughts brewing in his head it only made him more tired. Softly, with the long day behind him, he slipped soundly away into the recess of sleep. The mysteries went down with his head to the pillow.



PART IV


The next morning the smell of exhaust mingled in with the sharp, cold fragrance of early winter air, leaving the people on the loading docks feeling crisp in the twilight of early dawn. Two KA-29 assault transport helicopters took off from somewhere on the other side of the compound and buzzed overhead. They were followed by a MI-24 Hind, which, along with the KA-29s, was probably making the eighty-some kilometer flight North to the outposts near the Zone’s perimeter.

Efiv felt good. The concerns of the previous night melted away in his sound sleep, the second night in a row that nothing conjured in him. He was being assisted by a few corporals and the stalker Nostovich as he loaded his truck bed with provisions. The supplies which were being loaded were a part of a substantial sum of credits on the Army’s Reserves and Supplies Depot. It was a favor in return for bringing in the dead animal. Though, it was definitely not what Efiv had in mind, He was thinking more along the lines of actual currency. But you had to go other places to get anything good out of a find. So Efiv had to very well take what was offered as that was the only line and hook the Army would cast.

In any case he was thankful for what he had been given and more thankful that they helped him load his truck. Doing so, Nostovich and Efiv chatted as they worked. Efiv found out that because of restrictions and protocol he could not fuel his vehicle at the base but would have to go further south past his own home to do that in Bila Cerkva, which would accept his account. In any case it did not matter because he had enough fuel to get home and probably just enough more to get to the petrol depot in the next few days after he got home. Nostovich went on to tell him to just take care of himself and keep in touch.

The load was finally packed and secured as Efiv climbed into his truck in the waking morning. He was pulling himself in when he saw the same DIA operative that asked him questions the night before coming out of the building along with a few other soldiers. She walked with a stride that spoke of resolve, and as the party headed toward an idling APV, she turned her head with a fluid pivot and looked at him. Her face was an odd mixture of spite and curiosity and Efiv only answered with a weak, wirily smile of his own. Although it was done quickly, she did not try to disguise her focus. He closed the door shut and turned the wheel, driving off. While the truck moved through the cold, clear dawn he watched her get into the APV in the rear view mirror. It was a brief, strange experience. He felt like he knew her from long ago.

The drive home gave him time to think, but he couldn't place himself in the transition between one paramount experience into the next of his life. Like coming out of the trough of a deep ocean wave and spurring to the crest, the feelings were new and unsure of themselves. He only knew it felt right and was grateful this episode of life was fading behind him. With the sun rising to his left, he just enjoyed being alive.

. . .

Further along in the day, as the sun fell to his right, he pulled into the lot of his property. It was late in the afternoon when Efiv Korsakov finally arrived back on his land. Though there was no comfort in his homecoming: his house was now gone. What had stood now was only black ash. The sole part left upright was a corner beam completely charred and barely taller than Efiv himself. He got out to look around, but his legs froze dormant, unable to move. The feelings that had built in him all day flickered and fretted away like the chasing light and gleam of an abandoned, drowning fool. The warped board of ebony carbon became an edifice to the dark moment stealing away the right.

So with prolix, Efiv back stepped and carefully slid into the cabin of his rusty, dented vehicle. In somewhat of shock he slowly turned the engine over. Korsakov already started thinking about it. He could tell it was something deliberate because only the house had been burned. If it was a natural wild fire then the surround area would be scorched too. Moreover it was not right in the seasons for a lightning strike, nor could it have been electrical. In a minute he started to piece himself back together, regrouping. It was a blow, yet it was not fatal. He had been to the depths of Hell. This shocked him but when he thought about it; it was no where close to his former trials.

The sun snuck away under the West. Efiv sat for a minute with the truck idling while he thought of how he could rebuild his home again. He was feeling like his rational self that had been missing for so many years, when the depths of Hell did sneak up on him. In contrast to before, he did not jump or clamor, only quietly and calmly brought his gaze back to the surroundings. He knew the feelings from before and he knew he had to get away from there. He could feel "them" in the woods watching. So Efiv jammed the transmission into reverse, and as he did so he eyed a creature much different from that of his former stooped in the darkness of the evening trees. It crouched across the field, motionless; starring with its large, crow-black eyes focused intently at him.

Even though the truck was already in motion, the controller's focus caught him. Very suddenly Efiv's limbs shook and quivered. He was losing control of his own body! In urgency, he thrust his foot completely down on the gas pedal and awkwardly and clumsily threw the wheel spinning. The whole time his head and body completely shuttered as his sight blurred and blackened in and out. But, as the truck wildly turned in a U, his back faced the mutant and the effects almost instantly weakened. Disillusioned still Efiv Korsakov unsteadily reached down and put the ancient Soviet hardware into drive with his quivering hand. The last of the golden sunlight shown into the cab illuminating his tear streaked face; his eyes were thick with saline and his lips filmed with saliva.

Instantly out of the blue, a thud and then another landed unorchestrated against the side of his truck with hollowed out dins. Hardly being about to throw his head back, Efiv caught a glimpse of what was never supposed to be: two faceless demons, very much like his own, grabbing and batting the side of his vehicle! A shock ran through him as he heard the last pleating screech of a gangly hand rubbing heavily off the aluminum back quarter panel in long tugging pulls.

The truck sped off as Efiv started to regain his physical composer. In the mudded, gravel drive way, however, the two faceless ïðèâèäåíèå mutants stood side by side in the cold air with a tapering, sifted light falling through the leafless trees. Each turned its head toward the other and moved in closer with their pasty, smooth skin and translucent red and blue veins just scarcely showing through the epidermis. For a few seconds they kneaded their frontal sensory lobes together communicating with each other before walking off toward the direction of Efiv's hasty flight. They were very thin and needing, and their master was very angry.

. . .


Efiv Korsakov barreled down the dirt and gravel roads and eventually hit paved avenues. He pushed his vehicle for as much as it could give him and came to Highway M20 in twenty-two minutes proper. Thoughts whipped through his head as quick as the pavement underneath. He knew where he needed to go. The only place it would be safe would be back at S-3 âåðòåï âîëêà 1. Somewhere in the midst behind him he could feel their wanting. Efiv knew what to resist, but overall the situation nagged at him. He was so free that very morning and now the ungodly came back for him. That crest of the wave he had finally sputtered up to after so long crashed as violently and quickly as a breaker into the rocks of reality.

The darkness grew around him and day turned to night. The needle in the fuel gauge read empty, but Efiv kept pushing it. "Those asinine protocols! There was no point to it. If I filled up in Kiev this morning I would still have half a tank," Efiv impetuously reasoned with himself. Which only half a minute later the engine shuttered and pulled as all the petrol was pumped out of the tanks before completely dying. Efiv cruised a few hundred meters to a dead stop. He sat still for an instant. The dark world was muted around him in an eerie silence before a low whisper turned into a howl as the wind snapped across his truck, gently rocking the body on the shocks.

Efiv open the door and pushed out into the hard winds and cold, black night. He gathered all the equipment he needed for the rest of the trek to S-3 Wolf Den 1. A flash light and flare gun, extra thermal insulation from the cold, rations, and a field pack where all ready to go within 15 minutes. Most of it was Army grade equipment which was extra beneficial to Efiv in his dyer need. At any rate he started off down the two lane highway into the blackness, fairly sure he would not see any of his belongings again. The last twenty-four hours, as the twenty-four before them, had turned his life on its head once more. And as he walked the algid wind didn't bother him much. It kept him awake and aware which may not have been the best thing since it kept his mind spinning. So many things bothered him. So many mysteries left unsolved. It was obvious that his suspicions they were lying to him were true. Why though? Why did they not warn him? Why was he the one thrust into this unnatural quandary? Why his life? Then the women, the DIA Operator, why was she so familiar to him? Why did she look at him so distasteful? So many intrusions and disruptions had been made against his life. So many unanswered things, it was all a wash of splintered glass. In the next months he hoped much of it would be clarified.

Efiv walked through the dark night toward Kiev and by the early morning he could tell he was getting close as he began to recognize the rural landscape lightly dotted with distant houses and thick brush and tree lines. Still under labored breath he pressed on as a new cold front began to move in from the Northeast. Ahead of him the sky darkened more with plumes of snow and fertile, black silt blowing off the farming steppes in the distance. The dim light of the first daylight hour was manipulated and transformed by these atmospheric conditions, making it cast harder and more defined than usual. At the same time, against his back he could feel a foreboding and unnatural evil pressing somewhere to his rear.

The land looked so close to what his adolescent escape from the city so long ago had appeared. It was nostalgic. It captured him, and he thought of something once more that he had thought of so much lately. Efiv Korsakov made a decision: "Stalking is a miserable job, yet that life could be no worse then my own."
 
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