Black Heart – Chapter IX Part IV
by Steppen Sawicki
Continuing Cam’s story.
“A wild series of explosions sounded, rocking the ground and sending dust down on our heads from above. I thought I could see the light from them but it was hard to tell. It’s hard to tell anything when it’s that dark.
“’They’re feeding off the energy from the bombs,’ the voice explained. ‘The ones that didn’t get blown up, anyway. Not as filling as life energy, but we take what we can get.’
“And you’re going to feed off us, I thought, but I couldn’t bear to say it. None of us could.
“One more explosion went off, this one even closer, and we gagged on the dust that showered down on us.
“’Kill us already,’ Molotch shouted at the voice in the darkness.
“It didn’t answer. It said no more. The voice’s owner may have already left. We demanded some answers from the others around us, but none would speak to us.
“’What can we do?’ Mouse whispered between us, his voice shaking. ‘Where’s the lodestone?’
“’We can’t do anything,’ Molotch said. ‘We don’t know where the lodestone is kept outside of gate time, or even what it looks like, or what it is.’
“We fell silent. We had no weapons, and even if we had our demons the four of us could barely take down one Eternal. There were a hundred Eternals around us, looking us over, trying to work out how to get at us. Some did try, snuck up like cats stalking birds. As daylight came and sunlight leaked in around us we could see them, gaunt and shriveled and eyes wide and red. Just before they could pounce, another Eternal from the group close around us would leap on them and they would fight, screeching and howling, skin and blood flying, until the stalker ran away – or was dragged away. Then the other Eternal would turn back to us, us clinging to each other in our fear and helplessness, and it would bare its teeth at us – filthy blood-stained teeth. And we knew they were enjoying this, our reactions, our fear, our helplessness. It was a moment of excitement in their long years of nothing.
“The crowds thinned out as the day wore on, hot and stifling in the enclosed space. The place looked about to fall apart, practically rubble and strips of metal piled over our heads with pillars of stones stacked to the ceiling. It’s a wonder it didn’t fall when the bombs went off. That horrible dust drifted in the air constantly, making it even harder to breathe. Our ‘guards’ fell asleep in a pile around us. No concern at all about what we could do, just laid down and went to sleep right next to us. Though there were less Eternals, they crept closer to us, studying the sleeping guards to make their move, but if they came too close the guards would wake and chase them away. Except when they didn’t. One snuck in very quietly and would have grabbed Mouse, but Moreno jumped between them and was dragged off. She punched and kicked at it but it was like it didn’t feel any of it.
“It couldn’t drain her – couldn’t take the life energy from a Possessed. But it could rip her leg and stomach open. Her screaming woke the others and they tore at the attacker, chasing it off.
“God. Moreno. She lay there on the baking floor, her insides spilling out, her blood seeping into the dust and gravel. She spit up blood and looked right at me and…her eyes. I’ve seen people die. I’ve seen so many people die. But this…she died for nothing. No point to it. We had gone on a suicide mission and failed and she was gonna die anyway, having done nothing. I saw it in her eyes. The woken Eternals fell on her and she screamed again. They left nothing. They even broke her bones open to get at the marrow. They sat around us, cracking them and sucking them dry.
“That was it for us. Any thought that we could do something to effect some change was gone. Mouse broke down and cried, but me and Molotch…I think we were just numb. Molotch told Mouse to shut up, and then we all sat there, drenched with sweat and struggling to breathe and waiting for whatever to happen.
“Eventually the crowds began to thicken again as the sunlight faded, and there was even more fighting as they tried to get at us. But our guards were awake and tore them all apart, until the darkness descended again.
“Bit by bit they all started speaking. Chanting to open the gate. Thousands of them, until they were all in unison. All dusty throaty voices. It was sickening. I threw up.
“Molotch was shivering, but I knew it wasn’t from the cold. At some point she could take no more. She stood up and shouted. ‘If you’re going to eat us, eat us!’
“’No,’ came the first voice that had spoken to us. ‘We’re sending you back.’
“Molotch sputtered, trying to ask why, but the Eternal cut her off, already knowing what she would say. ‘We get bored. Tell them we’re still coming. Find something new to do. Give us a challenge.’
“’We won’t make it back,’ Mouse argued, his voice shaking again.
“’We only need one of you on this world to make it over to get the message across.’
“Molotch fell back down, and didn’t speak again.
“They went on for hours, and the demons gathered and blew around and coalesced in the space before us and pressed against the shielding that was holding them away from us, until we really were nearly suffocating. Until we couldn’t take anymore. Then the gate burst open.
“They broke our totems and tossed us in.
“I was in there for months or years or a lifetime. I don’t know. I didn’t get hungry though I was thirsty from nothing to drink in that dusty other world. I never slept though I was entirely spent. There was no time there. There was no color or temperature. There was nothing. I had only my demon and being an alpha it wasn’t interested in language, though we grew to know each other. But it couldn’t overtake me, because we were only together for seconds. I didn’t know until I came to this side that only those seconds had passed. In the gate, I thought I must have been lost in the void, and years had passed and Earth was already demolished. An age in seconds. And they’re still there, Molotch and Mouse, there in the nothing.”