Ladies and Gentlemen, the table of contents for Twist!
We have finally arrived at the end. After an intriguing journey, I put a close to this novel. It has been a fascinating experience to be sure, and I hope you have enjoyed traveling with me through this as much as I have enjoyed crafting the voyage. It is with intense satisfaction, yet a twinge of sadness that I end this novel. I apologize for the darkness of this story as a whole, but it was an experiment, a trip of discovery you could say, and I have learned many things. So, without further ado, I present to you Chapter 10 of Twist: Forgiveness. Enjoy. 🙂
Forgiveness, one of the numerous qualities that raises us above the common animal.
Charles and Elaina stood silently, looking through the one-way window where Katherine talked animatedly with a doctor. She looked– happy. Charles gave a satisfied smile and turned to Elaina. She smiled back.
“I’m glad you didn’t kill Katherine,” Elaina said, studying Katherine’s childlike behavior as the sanatorium doctor showed her multiple new objects of interest. Katherine had undergone an operation to remove the tumor that had developed in her brain, but this had caused severe amnesia, and now she was relearning all that she had forgotten.
“I’m sorry I even ‘ad to shoot ‘er,” Charles said gruffly.
“Well, at least she’s not dead. I hated her you know, but seeing her like this, the innocence in her manner, I realize that that wasn’t her back there. She’s not a monster. She was what we made her out to be.” There was a pause as both their minds travelled back in time, then Elaina said merrily, “Let’s talk about lighter topics.
“So, what do you think of your American citizenship?”
Charles grinned. “It sure feels good isal I’ll say.”
Nathaniel’s death had been reported as accidental, for both Charles and Elaina argued that since Katherine had not been in her right mind when she killed the detective, it was technically unintended. The bullet wound on Katherine was a little more difficult to explain away, and they had had to resort to some amount of deception. It had all turned out well however, and as the two new friends stood together in the sanatorium, they felt a peace that they had been completely devoid of previously.
The duo just stood there, basking in each other’s company, and in the silent space that followed, Charles reflected on how much he had changed. He used to be an unrefined person really, making whatever money he could, and living completely destitute of education. Now he was an American, living with an exceptionally kind guardian, and was slowly learning English.
But these were only the tangible differences. He had changed in so many more ways. Previously – though he had done a good job of hiding it, that much he could be satisfied in – he had been uncertain, fearful even. His past haunted him like his shadow, and he had never truly escaped from the harrowing incidents of his life. Now though, he was different. He felt confident, confident in the fact that he was not completely worthless, and that he was not the jinx to every situation. He had even started to look into the belief that caused people like Pastor Seth to journey into the wild depths of the Amazon.
Charles was plucked from his thoughts by a furrowing in Elaina’s brow.
“What’s wrong?” he asked worriedly.
She flashed him a reassuring quick smile. “Nothing really, I was just trying to figure out what Katherine meant by saying that you must fulfill the name of Agteroe.”
“Oh– uh–” Charles seemed rather embarrassed and ill at ease. “Agteroe is m’last name, and it means ‘Hero’. I guess, in some twisted sorttof sense, she connected our last names with their meanin’s to come up with a sort of dest’iny.” Eager to direct the attention away from himself, for he felt uncomfortable taking the limelight, even if it was in name only, Charles hurriedly posed a question without thinking.
“Why do you blame yerself for yer mother’s death?” Then, realizing what he had just said, Charles hastened to make amends. “Imean– If it’sa touchy subject, then I’d b’fine t’ignore it.”
Elaina turned away. She was quiet, for this question conjured up memories as unpleasant as those that had lately been created. Charles was chastising himself silently when she spoke, “I was driving.” She stopped, and Charles heard her take in a shaky breath. He could see that she was warring terribly with herself, so he took a step towards her, but something warned him back, and he waited patiently for her to continue. “My Mom was sitting beside me. I turned to her to say something.” Elaina spun around, tears streaking her face. “Then we crashed. And she got sent to the hospital, but she– she never recovered.” Elaina was sobbing now. “And me? I got out of it completely unscathed. Don’t you see? It’s all my fault….”
Her voice faltered, and burying her face in her hands, she collapsed to the floor. Charles stood for a moment, unsure of himself, then he stepped forward and helped Elaina back to her feet. Feeling even more embarrassed than he had before, he regretted bringing this topic up. Relentlessly he racked his mind for something to restore Elaina’s comfort with, but before he had even formed a complete thought, he found himself speaking.
“I feel that this’ole experience ‘as been a lessun on forgiveness. Us forgiving Katherine was a big step in the right direction, but I think also that w’need to learn to forgive ourselves.”
Another minute passed, and after a valiant effort on her part, Elaina’s sorrowful emotions slowly subsided. Looking up from staring at the floor, she said, “Thanks– Charles. I’m sorry about all this, but thank you. I really needed to get this off my chest, and sharing with you has really helped. I don’t think you realize the magnitude of what I’m feeling, but I really am grateful.”
Charles smiled inwardly. If only she knew. Merriment from the neighboring room caught their attention, and looking back through the window they saw Katherine laughing with the doctor at a joke he had made.
“At least I brought happiness to somebody,” Elaina said with a smile.
“Y’know,” Charles said slowly. “That’s how I feel too.”
“Really?” Elaina asked disbelievingly.
“You doubt me?” Charles questioned impishly, then he sobered. “Yes; exactly how I feel.”
A moment of silence followed. This was then broken by the appearance of an adult couple at the end of a hallway.
“Come on kids!” they called. “Time to go!”
Charles strode grinning towards his new parent and greeted her with a cheery ‘Hey Mom!’. Elaina, after wiping the tears from her face, rushed forward to her father.
“How’s my jewel?” he asked, smiling broadly at his daughter. “Recovered from the ridiculous trip I sent her on?”
Elaina smiled back. “Completely.”
The four turned and exited the building in pairs, both parents first, followed closely by the two teens.
Inside the doctor’s office in the sanatorium, Katherine was watching attentively as he explained to her how to open a bottle.
“You see here, you hold the bottle firmly in your left hand, then you grasp the lid like so, and turn it. Here, you try. All it needs is a twist.”
Katherine took the bottle from him. First she examined it from all sides, then imitating the doctor, she said softly, “All it needs is a twist.”
~ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life ~
Ok, so you may have wondered “What in the world happened to writing each chapter of the novel project the instant class was over?” Well, this being the climatic chapter, I wanted to post this when nobody could read it so that you guys would all be getting it fresh in class, so this is what i have done, and if you happen to see this chapter before tomorrow’s class, then please, I beg you (I mean it’s the internet, you can do anything you want, so I have to beg), wait for class so that you guys will all be hearing this for the first time. And if this is class, well previously, we had Elaina resurrected (yay!), and some menacing things discovered about Katherine. Enjoy. 😀
I finally see now. The Twist has arrived.
“So it was you,” Nathaniel said, slowly inching away from Katherine, who now drew a knife from inside her sleeve. He reached back for his rifle and seizing it, pointed it at her. She shrugged expressively, and checking his weapon, Nathaniel found that it was empty. Berating himself silently, he stood up slowly. Then his anger overcame his outward calm, and he spat, “You killed Elaina!”
Katherine looked confused. “No, you killed Elaina. You drove her away, and she died.”
“No!” Nathaniel denied, all the more vehemently as he knew in his heart that what she said was undeniable. “You were the one who murdered her.”
“You’re wrong,” Katherine said quietly. “You sent her to her doom. I saved her. I pleaded for her life!”
“You mean she’s not dead? B– but the body….”
Katherine’s visage changed in the same time a fractious child takes to switch from mood to mood. “Katherine may have saved Elaina’s life, but I had to have a replacement. I knocked Elaina out, left her on the bottom of the double floored pit, as you saw, and took her shirt. Then I put it on Seth’s convenient body. It was too easy to fool you.”
Another spasm seized Nathaniel and he collapsed to the floor again.
“A– and the note. Six. Of course… The first word and every sixth word after that: I…am…the…murderer…Katherine. Why would you do that? Why would you leave an incriminating message like that?”
A shadow crossed Katherine’s face, and she said almost pleadingly, “I tried to tell you. I tried to warn you that Katherine was the killer. You didn’t see. You just didn’t see–”
“Shut up!” Katherine cut herself off viciously. “No more whining. I must do what must be done.”
“Why did you kill the other two students?”
“They knew,” Katherine said, her eyes becoming haunted. “They knew–” her voice turned cold. “So I put an end to them.”
“And what about me? Why are you trying to kill me?” Beads of sweat began to form on Nathaniel’s forehead, and he felt as if his insides were on fire as he studied the knife Katherine held so casually.
Katherine balanced the blade on her index finger, then flipped it in the air and caught it deftly. With a tone completely devoid of emotion, she said, “You know.”
Katherine watched Nathaniel silently as his mind ran over what he had just learned. She was fulfilling what had been ordained wasn’t she? Elaina Cara. Cara was friend. Katherine Verraaier. Verraaier was traitor. Now she just had to complete Nathaniel, then the only remaining person would be Charles. She smiled. Dear Charles.
It was in moments like these, moments of crushing pressure, that Nathaniel saw things with the greatest clarity. Katherine came here before. She found this temple. The artifact must be radioactive. That would explain the death of the person who touched it, and the spasms I am getting now. This would mean that Katherine somehow managed to get her head damaged by the radiation. I get it now. The hallucinations, multiple personalities, vacant expressions, she’s gone insane…
…and I’m going to die.
Nathaniel struggled to his feet, and with one hand clutching his side, and the other on the wall supporting him, he faced Katherine. With infinite slowness, he assumed the best fighting position he could take up in his state. There was a tense moment as Katherine and Nathaniel studied each other, then mustering his remaining strength, the amateur detective straightened and said in a clear voice, “Bring it on then.”
He did not even see it coming. With a sweeping kick that went by his eyes like a flash of light, Katherine took Nathaniel’s feet out from under him, and as his head and shoulders hit the hard stone floor, a similar flash of light shot through his head. Instinctively he rolled aside and was satisfied by hearing metal clink against stone.
Getting to his hands and knees Nathaniel shook his head. His vision continued to swim however, and a kick to his kidneys had him on the floor again. He rolled onto his back. Katherine, her hair flying around her head, was coming down on him, the knife in her hand. Nathaniel blinked. The knife came closer. Nathaniel swallowed. The knife came closer. Nathaniel raised his arms. The knife came closer. He closed his eyes.
Nathaniel was confused, then he blinked open to find Katherine poised over him, the blade inches from his face.
“That I was wrong,” Nathaniel said, and pushing the teacher off, he started back down the passage. Dropping her knife, she darted forward and grabbed his neck. He wriggled out of her chokehold, and out of desperation, she grabbed his necklace. It came off in her hands, and he continued down the passage.
All Nathaniel heard was a swish, then his heart was punctured from behind. He stumbled to his knees and stared disbelievingly at the blood rapidly soaking his shirt. He had been right, just as he always was. He would die. At least Elaina was not dead, though he would not be there to celebrate her resurrection. Then his mind travelled back to the day his father died, when he had gone for his checkup. He smiled.
“I would’ve hated to die from cancer anyway.”
Katherine silently pulled the knife from the warm corpse, blatantly ignoring the spurt of blood that accompanied it. Her face turned sorrowful as she studied the back of Nathaniel, and a moment of pity seized her. Bending down she whispered into his unhearing ear, “I’m sorry, but you were Aberth.”
Charles was about to lead the way down the second passage when Elaina screamed. He looked at her only to find that she was immovably pointing to something behind him. He began turning slowly, then realizing the impracticality of such a form of motion, whirled the rest of the way around.
Katherine, her forearm stained with blood, a knife similarly adorned in her hand, and Nathaniel’s necklace clutched in her other fist, was standing at the entrance to the tunnel staring at them blankly. Then, in the manner of a child asking for forgiveness, she advanced a step, only to be stopped by Elaina shouting.
“No! Don’t come a step closer. Charles, do something!”
The convoked remained motionless as Katherine said in a pleading voice, “It got him. It came, and killed him. I tried to stop it, but it would not listen.”
“You monster!” Elaina said savagely. “You killed Nathaniel didn’t you?” In her anger she advanced recklessly, until she was standing right beside Katherine, but the latter did not even turn. “Admit to your crime! You killed him did you not? It was you. Not ‘it’!”
Something seemed to click in Katherine, and she said in a clear voice, “Charles, you must fulfill the name of Agteroe. It must be made complete.” Then dropping the necklace, she raised her knife and began advancing.
Elaina would not stand for such a thing, and amassing what strength she could find after her own harrowing experience, she leapt upon Katherine like a wildcat. However, apparently evincing such a move, the mad teacher drove the pommel of her weapon into Elaina’s head, knocking the valiant friend unconscious. Then she continued her slow advance.
Shakily Charles reached into his pocket. One step. With shivering hands, he drew out the gun it contained. Two steps. He brought the sights to bear on Katherine. Three steps. Tentatively he curled his finger around the trigger, closed his eyes–
So, apart from the fact that the knife handle is too small and that I have no clue which brush is for blending, I’d say the above is a pretty decent picture.
I meant to do color I promise, but apparently when I scanned it into the computer for digital painting, it converted it into a black and white image and I have no idea how to change it to color. So enjoy yet another black and white picture. 😄
Major cliffhanger here. The end of this is basically the beginning of the climax. Previously we left Charles, Nathaniel, and Katherine trapped in a sacrificial room. In this one, they escape, and we have some pretty startling revelations.
Of all people, who would have looked for a genius in Charles?
“What r’we gonna d’now?”
“I don’t know,” Nathaniel dropped his head into his hands. “I don’t know.”
Charles was silenced at this, and he began shuffling his feet. Then he flicked his eyes around, and locked on Nathaniel, twisting his head to one side slightly.
“What are you staring at?” Nathaniel grumbled.
“Your necklace. Those verse references. I know them.”
“Well it’s none of your business,” Nathaniel snapped, hurriedly shoving the pendants back into his shirt.
Charles returned to eyeing his feet. Then, getting tired of staring at his toes, he started studying the pictures on the walls. Nathaniel did not even bother to look up; he was too dejected. However, his head did jerk up quickly when Charles gave a yell, almost of excitement, and clapped his heels in the air. Before the dejected amateur detective could say anything, Charles ran towards the hole at the back and stood teetering on the edge.
“What are you doing?” Nathaniel said standing up speedily. “Get back!”
“We should jump down here you know,” Charles said nonchalantly.
“Suicide is not the w–” Nathaniel was not allowed to finish his sentence when Charles leaped off the brink, arms and legs flailing madly.
Nathaniel dashed to the edge, and landing in a slide, stopped himself with his hands at the side. Peering down into the blackness, he could see nothing. The darkness completely obscured his view. Standing up shakily, he took his flashlight from where it rested on the altar and shone it down into the hole. Halfway down, there was a small ridge that ran around the circumference of the pit, and right at the bottom were numerous upward pointing spikes which were intermingled with the numerous human skeletons. There was no body.
For a moment, Nathaniel was relieved that in some miraculous manner Charles had survived, then a groaning sound filled the air, and the spiked floor began to move aside revealing an even deeper hole, at the bottom of which was what appeared to be a human figure. Nathaniel’s heart sank, and his hand began to tremble. Not Charles too?
Something tapped Nathaniel’s shoulder and he jumped, hurriedly turning onto his back. There was Charles looking down anxiously into his face, and in his shock, Nathaniel moved back and felt– nothing. He began tumbling down the deathtrap, but Charles, reaching forward, caught Nathaniel’s wrist. Nathaniel, however, was no light burden, and he began pulling Charles along with him.
Charles reached down and stuck his fingers in a crack between two of the massive stones that formed the floor. Nathaniel was now suspended in the air, but despite all of Charles’ valiant efforts, he could not pull Nathaniel back up. Then Katherine walked unhesitatingly to the edge, and bending over, gave Nathaniel her hand. As he grasped it, a lock of hair on her forehead fell aside, and he saw once again that mysterious symbol that had first led him to allow her to follow them; only this time he felt that he had seen it before, but where?
There was no more time for his deductions as Charles and Katherine both heaved back simultaneously and hoisted him back onto the room floor. Charles lay on his back panting, Nathaniel just sat staring at his hands, and Katherine stood as if pondering the two of them.
“How did you do it Charles?” Nathaniel asked.
“T’was al’ays a farce,” Charles said with a laugh. “Th’sacrifice was never killed, just bled a little. Th’priest would hit th’catch, just like y’did, then they would all begin praying as th’sacrifice was thrown into th’ole. Y’see itton th’wall there. But th’sacrifice was a gymnast, an’ he’d grabbahold on t’the ledge an’ swing ‘imself into a hole in th’wall. Then it’s just a tunnel with a lever on one side. See, th’ door is open.” Charles pointed to the formerly obstructed doorway. The block of stone that had formerly been there was once again hoisted up into the ceiling.
“Then what about–” Nathaniel again stared into the hole, but the floor was as it had been before, with multiple large spikes pointing directly up and the skeletal structures of humans on it. “It doesn’t make sense,” he murmured. “We need to find clues.”
He stood up and led them out of the room without another word. AB 34 had led them in from the left previously, so he went right, only to come to a fork. For a moment the travelers were silent.
“I’ll take the left,” Nathaniel said.
“Then I’ll g’right.”
“Who will you go with, Katherine?” Nathaniel asked, passing Charles an extra flashlight.
“You,” she said promptly, and so the explorers went each their own way.
The passage that Nathaniel and Katherine were following twisted and turned, winding left and right, and even changing in elevation. Then Nathaniel felt his chest spasm, and he slunk to the ground, grasping his torso with a hand. Pulling open his shirt, he shone the flashlight down onto his chest. His recently acquired necklace moved aside and saw, just above his heart, a black linear pattern that matched the design on the “artifact”, and he realized with a start, the pattern on Katherine’s forehead.
He winced again as another jolt of pain shot through him, and he looked up at Katherine in wonder.
“You’ve been here before?”
Katherine looked confused, then she seemed to decide upon something.
“Y– es– yes I have.”
The passage that Charles took dead ended after five minutes and with an internal groan, he turned around to return to the divide. He was feeling strange. For very long, he had been afraid; afraid of hurting those around him, afraid of trusting himself. But he had just saved a life, by himself, and with no outward prompting! He paused, and reaching down gingerly into his pocket.
Carefully he drew out the only object inside it. It was a small gun; a gun with one round left in it. Despite conscious resistance, Charles’ memories traveled far far back to a year after his sister had inadvertently killed herself. Back then he had not understood completely what trouble his father was in, but now he knew that the only parent he remembered owed somebody a lot of money; and they were very angry.
It had all culminated one day when there was a loud banging on their door. Charles’ father had shoved this weapon into his shaking hands, then fully loaded. Telling son to be quiet, father had then opened the front door only to be seized by an enormous man who started strangling his parent.
Their wrestling took them all across the house, and Charles found himself backed up into a corner. It was not long before the larger man began getting the upper hand. Swallowing his fear, Charles had raised the gun and lined the sights up with the intruder. His finger began to apply pressure to the trigger, and his mind began traveling back to the fateful day his sister had died.
Just then, Charles’ father gave a loud grunt as he suffocated in his opponent’s chokehold. This was echoed by the gunshot in Charles’ mind when his sister had shot herself. He still remembered closing his eyes and squeezing the trigger uncontrollably. When he had finally regained his composure, he recalled opening his eyes and finding both men lying on the floor.
Charles shook himself out of this terrible memory and shoved the gun back into his pocket. He continued along his path back to the intersection and when he arrived, he saw a sight that startled him so much he stumbled over backwards. Elaina, in a tank-top, and covered in dried blood, was standing, barely able to support herself, in the middle of the hallway.
“Katherine,” she whispered hoarsely, sunken eyes looking up to stare at Charles. “It’s Katherine!”
By the way, I expect five stars on this for bringing Elaina back.
Ok, so this one is more of a calm before the storm chapter, and yeah, I kind of deviated from my outline in this one, but that’s just cause I didn’t like what I had planned. Anyways, in the last one, we had Elaina’s death confirmed, learned some stuff about Charles, and had a robot come and greet the travelers. What happens next? Read on and find out. 😀
I see, I hear, I smell, I feel, but my heart knows nothing but numbness.
“Where are you taking us, AB 34?” Nathaniel asked as their guide led them into the temple.
“The ceremonial chamber. All who come here must go to the ceremonial chamber for cleansing.” the robot replied.
“And if I refuse?”
“You shouldn’t. You’d miss an intriguing puzzle.”
Nathaniel knew he was being baited into a trap, but he decided to follow along anyway. When the two students before him had come here, whatever had happened had affected them greatly. They passed by piles and piles of robots, all in pieces and lying motionless on the ground. Charles was looking around in wonderment, while Katherine was staring straight ahead; that is, until it grew too dark to see. Then Nathaniel pulled out a flashlight from his pocket and switched it on.
“What are you?” he asked AB 34.
“I am Annabel 34. Self-aware robot custodian and primary guardian created by the People for the defense of the Temple. What are you?”
Charles thought this a funny question and muffled a guffaw; Nathaniel did not deign to answer. Instead he was examining the walls of stone. They were covered in strange runes, many of which resembled the geometry of the ‘artifact’ that he had picked up. There were even some depictions of people worshipping a giant sphere covered in linear impressions similar to that on the pendant he had recently acquired. Another showed a man touching the sphere and dying. Nathaniel realized it was a story, and his eyes flicked to the next carving.
Another worship ceremony, and more people. Different people though. Nathaniel moved onto the next picture. The new people were attacking the worshippers. The conquistadors! The next relief was a closeup of the sphere they worshipped, with what appeared to be a smaller sphere approaching it. In the next carving, the bigger sphere was shattered by the smaller one, and Nathaniel realized that the tribe’s idol must have been hit by a cannonball.
Nathaniel was interrupted from his study of the wall when AB 34 called out, “This way! Over here.”
The robot led them into a square shaped room. At the center of it was a pedestal. The back floor seemed unusually dark, and Nathaniel was about to question the robot about it when there was a loud bang!
He whirled around, only to see a large stone cube blocking their entrance. There was a moment as the stunned travelers just stared and dust settled. Then Nathaniel turned to Annabel menacingly.
“Oh dear,” AB 34 said. “I do believe we are trap–”
A gunshot from Nathaniel sent pieces of the traitorous guide flying everywhere.
“What d’we do now sir?” Charles asked, eyeing Katherine who, despite chewing on her little finger, was doing it in a manner that indicated she did not seem to realize the predicament they were in.
“It’s a puzzle.” Nathaniel walked to the altar. Standing there, he was in the middle of the room, and he began to examine his surroundings. He now realized that the dark spot at the end of the room was a giant hole in the ground. Looking up, he found numerous intrinsic patterns sculpted across the ceiling, and a ring of holes above the altar.
The sacrificial table itself was an excellent piece of carving workmanship. There was a smooth surface on which no doubt the offerings were executed, and small sloped irrigation channels led to holes which were unquestionably to drain the blood of the sacrifices away. This was obviously the worship chamber in the carvings, yet it was trapped, which meant there had to be a way for the priests to release the people.
Nathaniel pictured the scene in his head. The giant sphere, hanging from the ceiling. The priest, standing at the podium Nathaniel now stood on, with his back to the hole in the floor. The ‘People’ bowing down before the altar and worshipping the sphere. The priest would kill the sacrifice, the blood would flow into the holes, and then what?
Nathaniel looked at one of the two dimensional stone pictures on the wall. It showed a man, obviously the priest, sticking his finger into the altar. For a moment, it didn’t make sense to Nathaniel, then he thought of the fact that it was a two dimensional image he was looking at. Of course! The release catch was hidden in one of the blood receptacles.
Nathaniel bent closer to examine them. His thought proved accurate, except for one fact; there was a catch in each one of them. Nathaniel looked back at the picture. The priest’s finger was going in at the middle of the altar. That brought it down from four to two; the right and the left side. Then the thought that the picture might be false occurred to Nathaniel, and it went back to four.
“What ye doin’ sir?” Charles asked.
“Trying to decide which catch will let us out, and which catch will kill us.” Nathaniel pointed at the picture.
“Well, that’s easy,” Charles said. “Th’ pi’ture is obv’ously fake, s’it’s not th’ right or th’ left uns. Th’ people would b’worshipp’ng in front of th’altar, an’ th’ sacrifice would be lying acrossit, s’it’s not th’ front, ‘cause it would b’awk’ard for th’ priest t’have t’reach over th’ sacrifice an’ act’vate th’ catch. Ittwould also reveal th’ secret, s’it ‘as t’be th’ back un.” And Charles reached forward to release the catch.
Over the years of Nathaniel’s experience with mysteries, he had learned to trust his instincts, and right now they were telling him that something did not add up. He went through Charles’ logic. It was flawless, except for his assumption that the picture was fake, but even if it was not, the priest’s doing that, followed immediately by the opening of the room, would instantly reveal the secret. So why did Nathaniel get this feeling? The priest doing a blood sacrifice to the god that would open the room–
Wait! That was it! A blood sacrifice. It had to be a blood sacrifice. The blood, it would drain into the holes, release a primary catch…
“No don’t!” Nathaniel exclaimed, but it was too late. Nathaniel gave Charles a shove that sent the guide flying away, then he himself leaped back, but time was already up. Six large spikes fell from the ceiling, one of them pinning Nathaniel’s foot to the ground.
“Lordy!” Charles exclaimed upon seeing Nathaniel’s wound, and he had to look away for a moment.
Nathaniel did not really register it, since he felt no pain, but the warm blood surrounding his foot brought to his mind recent memories that he wished to forget. Charles was blubbering apologies as he approached Nathaniel, but the latter paid him no attention. Katherine just stood, head cocked slightly to one side, and looked quietly at the scene unfolding before her. Carefully Charles pulled the spike out and bandaged Nathaniel’s foot.
Elaina. Gone. And because of him! Nathaniel could not bear the thought.
“We need blood,” he murmured. “A blood sacrifice.”
“I know, I know,” Charles crooned comfortingly, paying no attention to the meaning of Nathaniel’s words.
“Then what are you doing?” Nathaniel asked, ripping the bandage off his foot savagely and staggering to his feet. He heisted the wounded appendage onto the altar, where the blood drained into the holes. Then he took his foot off the altar and picking up the bandage, began dressing his wound again.
“Press the catch again,” Nathaniel commanded.
“Are ye sure sir?” Charles asked, hesitant after his mistake.
“Of course I’m sure!” Nathaniel said irritably.
Charles pressed the catch, and then cringed. Nathaniel looked up sharply.
“What s’it sir?” Charles asked, wondering if he had again blundered.
“Nothing happened,” Nathaniel said slowly, as if not believing the evidence before his eyes. “Confound it. After everything I have ever learned– nothing happened?”
And what do you know? After the harrowing incidents of chapter 5 (Elaina’s death, the pastor’s death, the resurrection of the murderer, etc.), things get
worse better– I don’t know. Do they get better or worse? You decide I guess. Enjoy. As a side note, this chapter gets pretty gruesome, so if you want something lighter, check out Elena’s version of chapter six.
Too fast. It’s happening too fast for me.
Nathaniel reeled. He had been beaten. No! He had not. Not yet. Six– six– why six? Why was there a confounded six on the end of the note? It didn’t add up, there had to be something more. He was missing something. And Elaina! He had to find her. She was the mystery he could not solve, the puzzle he could not decipher, and, he realized, the friend he never had.
“Argh!” Nathaniel cried out, dropping to his knees and driving his hand through his tangled hair, something he had not done in years.
“Sir! Sir!” It was Charles, running along the path Nathaniel had taken. Nathaniel looked up, the haunted look in his eyes startling Charles quite badly.
“What is it?”
“Kath’rin, she’s,” Charles gulped in some air, for he was fairly out of breath. “Something s’wrong with’er.”
Nathaniel got to his feet slowly and followed Charles as the excited guide led him back to the campsite. Nathaniel realized what the detective had been talking about now. And Nathaniel had not even seen a murdered body yet. He thought– Then as Charles stepped forward, something swung down from the trees and smacked the leading boy in the face. Nathaniel heard a sharp exclamation as his eyes followed the downward trajectory of Charles.
Looking up, Nathaniel felt his body go into utter shock. His eyes took in a mutilated face with eyes gouged out and hair ripped as he sunk to his knees. The chest had been slashed, ribs crushed, and both arms were missing. As darkness closed in on his vision, Nathaniel realized hazily that the corpse was wearing Elaina’s clothes.
Nathaniel could not been have out for more than a few seconds before he sat up straight. Charles was in the bushes gagging and throwing up; he did a lot of that, some part of Nathaniel’s brain perceived. Nathaniel pulled Charles up by the collar roughly; he looked terrible. Despite this, the guide managed a weak, “What would y’like sir?”
“Come with me,” Nathaniel said shortly, leading the way back to the campsite. Purposefully averting his eyes from the body, he gave it plenty of room as he followed the trail that he had so recently taken.
When Nathaniel reached the campsite, he saw a figure lying straight on the ground beside the fire that Charles had relit. Going over beside Katherine, Nathaniel put a hand on her shoulder and shook her. She did not move. Then Nathaniel realized her eyes were wide open and that she was staring straight ahead, unblinking. God, not her too? Nathaniel felt for a pulse, and was relieved to find that she did indeed have one.
“She must be halluci–” Nathaniel’s dialogue to Charles was interrupted as Katherine sat up, shoving the former onto his back as she did so.
“No! No! Stay away from me!” she screamed, then burst out sobbing.
Nathaniel felt like his world was crumbling around him. He felt cold, so cold. His blood was like liquid ice being pumped from an even icier heart. He automatically noticed Charles crouch beside Katherine to comfort her, but he did not register it, and falling limply onto his back, Nathaniel closed his eyes and tried to sort out his mental disarray.
Nathaniel was running from something. He didn’t know what. Then he looked over his shoulder and saw that it was death. He was running from death! But he began to feel tired, and soon he felt like there was no need for him to run anymore. Surely death would be better than running endlessly?
He woke up.
Katherine was sitting, hugging her knees and staring at him quietly. Charles was out by the fire, snoring serenely. Nathaniel noticed a picture of a smiling little girl in a locket that hung out from under his shirt; Charles’ little sister, Nathaniel thought vacantly. Birds chirped overhead, and Nathaniel could hear the chattering of monkeys in the distance. It was all very peaceful, and the events of the previous night could have been a nightmare, except for the missing person.
“We must go,” Nathaniel said, standing up. He desperately wished to ask Katherine about her hallucination, but revenge against those who had murdered Elaina gripped his heart and set him on one course and one course only. Charles awoke instantly at the sound of his voice.
“Where to sir?”
Nathaniel carried a rifle, while Charles held his scythe in his hand. The latter had adamantly refused when Nathaniel had offered him the use of the other rifle. Katherine was lagging behind, occasionally stopping to admire some flower or another, and acting altogether like a carefree little girl.
“Why?” Nathaniel asked Charles, as he shoved through the underbrush.
“Escuse me sir?” Charles said, not fully comprehending what Nathaniel meant.
“Why no rifle?”
Charles was quiet for a moment, then he said in a low voice, “I shot m’cat,” then his voice went up several semitones as did volume. “Th’gun was not s’posed to b’loaded!”
Nathaniel began laughing, but there was a hollow ring to his mirth. Then he said darkly, “You did not shoot your cat. You shot– your younger sister.”
Charle’s face contorted and then became wretched.
“I ‘ad jus’ come back. Sh’knew she was s’posed t’stay away from th’gun! Nex’ thing I knew, sh’d shot herself through th’ead. I didn’t meanitt! Th’gun was not s’posed to b’loaded!”
“This is a wretched little party isn’t it?” Nathaniel observed evenly as he stepped into a clearing. Before him was a giant pool of water, and behind it was a large temple. The sacerdotal stone structure loomed before them like some great grey and green giant, for it was covered in vines and moss. Nathaniel looked at the temple keenly through brown eyes. Then he murmured, “Now, key, what door do you unlock.”
Nathaniel stepped forward and stubbed his toe on something. Bending down, he picked it up. It was not very big, but was an iridescent piece of layered metal with a strange line pattern across its surface. Nathaniel did not know why, but he felt the urge to have it on his necklace beside the cross that his father had given him in time long past. There was a hole through the piece of metal in the most convenient of locations, and Nathaniel found himself wondering if it had been used as a pendant to a necklace.
Turning to Charles to tell him about the plan of action, Nathaniel saw the guide gaping in shock, and looking back at the temple, Nathaniel saw why. What appeared to be a robot was emerging from the entrance to the temple. It was very damaged, and as it shambled around the pool of water in front of its residence, Nathaniel could see that its parts were primitive in the utmost. Yet it was a robot. What people group could have been so advanced as to construct robots?
The ramshackle robot stopped before them, and Nathaniel saw that it was in even worse disrepair than he had first realized, and it made him wonder even more what sort of people could have made something like this that could survive through the ages. His keen eyes took in wood body parts and crudely made metal joints, along with a head containing eye sockets so deep that the shadow they cast on the visual orbs enclosed was near black. Then to his surprise – though little could surprise Nathaniel before, and even less could amaze him now – the robot began speaking.
“I am AB 34, guardian of the celestial temple of the People, and you have just retrieved a piece of the Artifact. Please come with me.”