Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chapter 7

The village of Malkirk was small, quiet, and squat in that uniquely British way, like a shabby uncle after a few too many sherries. The trees were the round, fat types, with massive emerald leaves. The grass was dotted with daffodils. The train station was small and quiet, but for the old porter who hailed each visitor personally and kindly. There was a butchers, and a bakers; a small variety shop where regular household goods could be picked up, and a plumbers. There was a new office in town; a little legal place where people could get help with taxes and wills and the like. On the edge of town was a post office and a bank, providing most of Malkirk's connection with the outside world.

Adam had been living there for two months. He couldn't quite remember how he had transferred from his life on the run to a peaceful life in Malkirk, but it didn't concern him unless he thought about it too hard. He liked his neighbours, did his chores, and obeyed the rules of the Church and the Town. Obeying the rules made him feel happy, and always had. He was safe, as well, and the King kept the town safe and clean and happy. The town was practically out of a 1950s novel's utopia, a Disney village where the streets were clean and the lone bobby was never needed. People only needed legal services once in a while, but it was enough work to support his lifestyle. As for his older lifestyle, well, that just wasn't done. And Adam obeyed the town's rules.

He woke up every day, bright and early, and walked to the edge of town to buy food. As he approached the swaying fields, lined with scarecrows, his head began to throb again. Adam put his headache down to hunger, and bought fresh bread and cheese, eating it on his way back to town. He saw one of the town's councilmen greeting someone at the train station, and wandered over as his headache abated. The councilman, Roger Matthews, grinned over his half-moon glasses as Adam approached, "Ah, Adam! Such a pleasure to see you-- we were just going to drop by your office! Let me introduce you," Matthews gestured to the stranger, "This is Mr. Green. He's an American, like you, and a friend of the Church," Matthews gave Mr. Green a playfully disapproving look, "Though he's not a member."

"Not at the moment," Mr. Green said, in a clipped Midwestern accent. Mr. Green was a tall man, with fair hair, and very light blue eyes. He seemed strangely familiar.

"Have we met?" Adam asked, reaching out to shake the man's hand.

"Maybe once, a long time ago, but to meet again-- you do have a familiar air to you. In any case, well, I think that's cause for a proper greeting. Nice to meet you, Mr. Adam. Enjoy your time here."

"I have been, and I will!" Adam grinned, and bid the pair farewell. He walked back into the town, and was just getting back to his office when one of the old women by the butcher's called out to him.

"Adam, be a dearie, would you, and take this ham up to old Mr. Summanus? He's been put up by a gammy leg, again, and he needs his protein." Adam grabbed the bag from the woman-- the butcher's wife, he remembered, and walked towards the edge of town. Malkirk was growing, and needed more housing. So the edge of Malkirk was taken over by construction, though the company in charge changed every month or two. Most of the men changed, as well-- they were being run out of town, or went into the woods. And that just wasn't done. The construction site was just across from a primary school, and the kids were playing their chanting games and drawing images from their Church-provided picture books on chalk on the playground.

The Reverend Summanus lived in a cul-de-sac a half-mile walk from the main town. The walk was pleasant enough, if not for the slightly eerie and headache inducing scarecrows that dotted the fields. Adam occasionally trained his eyes across the treeline, then reprimanded himself for doing so. His fears were silly. Adam clenched his teeth a little-- the humming was acting up again. It was at the background of the town at almost all times, and there was nothing to be done about it. The hum was a factor in life everyday, and usually it didn't bother him. Still, he sped his walking to get to the Reverend's house. It was in the middle of a few other identical squat houses, all with magnificent gardens and white picket fences.

Adam knocked on Summanus' door, and waited a few moments, patiently. The old man had moved to Malkirk for retirement, and had suffered a couple of shocks that had mussed up his leg and hindered his movement. The Reverend still hadn't appeared, and something was making him feel uneasy, standing vulnerably in front of the green door. Adam knocked again. There was no movement inside, so, hoping that the older gentlemen would be forgiving or understanding, Adam tried the handle. It was unlocked, so Adam went inside, looking for the fridge. The fridge was scattered with children's drawings, which wasn't unusual, as Summanus looked after many of the town's children. One of them seemed to have fallen under the fridge, and Adam bent to retrieve it, forgetting himself momentarily.

The sheet of paper appeared to be blank, at first, but closer inspection showed it to be lined with white crayon. Intrigued, Adam fumbled for a pencil, and lightly sketched over the paper, in an attempt to see what the wax was outlining. He scribbled for a few minutes, not thinking about the ham, warm in its bag, or his burgeoning headache. Adam stepped back from the children's drawing, and frowned. A man, drawn as a child draws, with too long arms, fingers, and legs, and a line separating his torso in two; a line with three sharp prongs on the end; and a group of blocks, arranged into a circle. The third item could be one of the "faerie rings," or the Malkirk Circles, that span around the Tafe woods. More places that were forbidden. The rest seemed like childish scribbles, and Adam chuckled at himself, that he would spend so much time on such a thing.

Still, there was no sign of the good Reverend, and Adam was nervous; he was supposed to be housebound, after all. Adam put his delivery in the fridge, and crept further into the house. Summanus was neither in the lounge, nor the bathroom, nor his bedroom. The guest bedroom was empty too, and had gathered a noticeable layer of dust. Adam walked back down the stairs puzzled, and then noticed a door he hadn't before. He knocked three times, and tried the knob. It was a study, lined with many books that looked like they hadn't been touched in months. The only books with much ware were Church pamphlets and tomes. On the desk were a few letters, and above it was a golden... a golden staff. It was clawed at the end, with three "prongs."

Something at the back of Adam's mind flickered, slightly.

At the clinic, Ibola managed to wake up from the awful fever dream long enough to see the nurse plunge the needle back into her arm.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Chapter 6

They left London a day later, by train. They were instructed to get off the train at Lancaster, stay there a night, and then take a bus to Keswick. From there, they could take a more local bus to Malkirk. The train station was loud, and crowded. Ibola grabbed Adam's upper arm as they negotiated through tubes and tube station. A few times someone growled a unfriendly sentence at them, and Adam was temporarily relieved that Ibola couldn't speak English. The electronic ticket booth was broken, so they stood in a queue for twenty minutes to talk to a sour-looking vendor, who practically spat an exuberant price at them and gestured uselessly when they asked for directions. Down a crowded hallway, that smelled strongly of grease and cigarette smoke, they stumbled to a large room with several platforms. It took them a few minutes to find the right station.

They sat on the train in a daze, facing each other across a hard, grey table. Ibola's fingers played with someone's spilt coffee as she stared out the window, into the drizzle outside. Adam closed his eyes and hunched his shoulders. theerrrrre was a throbbing in the front of his skull, a little above his nose, and it tensed all the muscles in his forehead. He rubbed his temples, eyes still closed, and asked an attendant for a glass of water. Ibola said nothing. The world seemed washed out, desaturated, and flavourless. All the train car's inhabitants seemed glum and distracted. The only colour that peaked through was a wash of sickly yellow. The train was eerily silent, apart from the occasional cry of a baby.

"What are we going to do when we get there?" Ibola asked, gently.

Adam shrugged, "I don't know."

"Do we have to get this-- thing she was asking for? I mean, surely there are other ways of--"

"She has the information we're looking for. I don't trust her at all, but I can't think of any other way of finding out what happened to me, or to your son..." Adam bit back his words slightly, and looked away. Ibola seemed unaffected by the mention of her son.

"If you don't trust her, how can you trust she has the information?"

"I--" Adam began, but swallowed, the sentence dying in his throat. He mumbled, "She didn't give me the information, but she displayed that she had it-- a name. She gave me a name."

Ibola shrugged, and went back to staring out the window, her fingers still playing with the coffee spill. They ate sad sandwiches out of plastic triangles and too-sweet soft drinks. Every attempt to make conversation was muted and suffocated by the dull fog that seemed to inhabit everything. They were on the train for five hours. As it stopped, they were hurried off by a tinny announcement in a non-threatening female voice, and were rushed through to the streets of Keswick. It took them twenty minutes to find a bus station. The buses were spotty, and they had to ask another tinny voice for a bus schedule to Malkirk. "That's interesting, not many people go out that way," the woman said, in a fierce attempt to be friendly. She gave them a bus schedule, a brochure for hotels, and directions to a good pub.

They stood outside the bus station. It was raining. "The next one to Malkirk is at 4:30am tomorrow morning, and it looks like it takes an hour and a half..." Adam said.

"Are we going to make a plan of how to steal this... staff?"

"I think I need a drink, first," Adam said, walking off in the direction of the pub they'd been pointed towards.

The Hog's Head Pub was dingy and squat, and empty. Outside, a few women sat with cigarettes, chatting over their drinks beneath an umbrella. Inside, an old man nursed his pint in the corner. The bartender looked up from a crossword as they came in. "Beer, please," Adam said, proffering his credit car.

The bartender grinned, picking up the hint of desperation in the man's voice, "American, eh? I'll get you something a little weaker than the house, then..."

Adam ignored the bartender's crack, and asked Ibola if she wanted anything. She shook her head.

"Africans!" the old man cried, merrily, "Haven't seen your types up here in a while!"

The bartender waved away at the man, "Shut up, you damned idiot, not every black person is an African. They're Americans, right?"

The end of the bartender's sentence suggested it was a question, but he seemed certain enough that there was no response to be given. Adam grabbed his beer, and the two sat down. "Plan? Please?" Ibola asked.

"I kinda figured we'd go in, asking him to preach to us or something, then you grab it when his head is turned and we run."

"That's a terrible and vague idea," Ibola said, smiling faintly, "But we don't have much else to work with. We don't even know what the layout of Malkirk is like, or what escape routes we could--"

"Did she say Malkirk?" Interrupted the old man in the corner, "I couldn't tell."

"She did?" Adam said, "Why?"

"Are you two going up there?"

"Yeah, we're visiting a friend," Adam paused, "But, uh, we've not been up here before. What's it like up there?"

"Haha, you'll not be needing return tickets. They're insular types, lots of people are attracted to the town but not many of 'em leave! Lots of woods, and they have fairies up there-- real ones, dark ones, not like the pussy-footed ones you have today! The towns small, lots of copses of houses around, and it's all focused in on a church."

"Oh?" Adam said. The critical part of his mind was telling him that the old man was mad, that faeries didn't exist; but if the monster existed, then who was to say what was real.

"You'll want to be in an out soon. It's a depressing place, and the people are mad. Real religious, good, godfaring people, pay their taxes like the rest of us, but mad!" The old man cackled into his drink.

"Thanks, that was very helpful," Adam said dryly, not sure if he was being sarcastic or not. He turned to Ibola, switching back to French, "He says Malkirk's weirder than most small towns."

"Of course it is. We don't go anywhere normal anymore," Ibola said.

The old man didn't seem to apprrreeeeciaaaeciate the attention turning away from him, and burst out, "You have to stay out of their stone rings, or they'll get you! The world's melting away here, don't let them get to you!"

Adam frowned, and downed his drink, "I can tell."

"Can we go?" Ibola stood, her question actually an instruction. Adam followed her out of the pub, but he glanced back a couple of times as they walked away.

They stayed the night in another seedy motel, Adam collapsed on the bedspread, and Ibola barely sleeping. She dug her fingernails into her arm, and planned for the coming day. They would be on the bus, ask for preaching, and then something would go horribly wrong. It had to. She listened to the rain, and wondered if it was too late to go home. Adam mumbled something, and shifted in his bed. Maybe it wasn't too late to get him home.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Chapter 5

Something was broken in Jean Domremy. When she was younger, she was an avowed pacifist. She cared deeply for her friends, and wanted "to help people" when she grew up. One day, her best friend moved to America, and she followed him, hoping to help him. The next year of her life was a cycle of death, and misery, and despair. Yet she still cared, even as all support was cut out from under her. She tried to find a way out that wouldn't get people hurt. She lost her closest friends, and her family, and those she'd barely met. She held onto the hope that her younger sister was still alive. The day her younger sister was killed broke something in Jean Domremy.

The red-headed girl with milk-white skin and the grimy look of one who doesn't sleep much passed a note to the couple who ordered in code. They seemed to understand. She then ended her shift, went back to her apartment, checked the coordinates on her computer, and smiled. Jean Domremy had found the person with a key to the present, future, and past. This person was at a net-cafe in the heart of London, so she went that night to find them, armed with a crowbar and a can of stolen pepper-spray. She stalked the hoodie-wearing writer to their hotel room, where she hit them with an axe and took them to the back room of her apartment. They were tied up. They were gagged. They were left alone.

She went about the rest of the day as normal. She invited a girl over, smoked a bowl, drank too much, convinced the girl to leave, and poured over medieval texts and obscure court cases. She fell asleep at two in the morning, and woke up at four in a cold sweat. She made herself a drink, to calm the nerves, and went to the back room. She interrogated the key, with a cricket bat to the knees.

Ibola and Adam were still fairly convinced that the address and instructions were a trap. Ibola was almost convinced that they shouldn't go, but Adam refused to think about any other options. The best she could do was convince him that they should both have weapons. They sat in the hotel, too tired to talk. It was cold outside, and so the heaters were at full blast. Ibola sat on the chair, staring at the television, too tired to understand it. Adam lay back on the bed, his closed eyes occasionally fluttering open to stare at the wall. The slow, heavy hum of the radiators and the background noise of the television (about 2012 conspiracy theories) made the room seem heavy, and desolate.

The next morning, they bought a cheap breakfast, and killed time in the library looking up aeroplanes and shipping schedules to kill time. Ibola listlessly asked for books on Dande, though she had no hope of finding anything.

They went to the apartment address that afternoon. It was 14a Burton Apartments, a greasy door set into grimy yellow walls that bordered a concrete floor. Ibola knocked. The girl opened the door with a cigarette in hand; "Oh, it's you," she said, nonchalantly, "Come in, I suppose." Ibola and Adam glanced at each other, uncertainly. The girl laughed, "I don't have any weapons, and I don't have any reason to hurt you. I just want to discuss a business proposition, don't you worry."

Ibola walked in first, her shoulders raised in a defensive pose. The room she walked into was messy and under furnished, but covered in an abundance of books and papers. They crowded over the crates that seemed to be used as chairs and tables, and were pinned up to the walls, covered in sticky notes. A large map was under some of them, covered in coloured pins. A few other physical pieces were around; an axe, rusty from misuse; a skull of some kind; what looked like an eye on a long gold chain; and other miscellaneous occult looking goods. The redheaded girl cleared off a couple of crates and gestured for Ibola and Adam to sit down.

"My name is Jean Domremy. I was a student in the midwestern United States up until about a year and a half ago, when the monster with no face began to stalk me." She waited a moment, "You should probably translate for your friend," she said, "I know she doesn't understand English." Adam gave Ibola a rough translation, and they continued in that matter. Jean went on, "I've spent the last two years trying to figure out some... things about the bastard and his minions. And I have a plan or two. But, and here's the thing, I need help with my plans. And I think you two can help me. I can help you."

"How?" Adam asked, and then clarified, "How can you help us?"

Jean grinned, "For one, I can get you both into the United States. And for another, I can deliver you Dande." Adam opened his mouth to respond, but Jean interrupted him, "But only-- and I mean only, if you help me."

"Well, what do you want?" Adam asked, angrily.

"I thought you'd never ask. I have a...friend who lives in the town of Malkirk, up in the Lake District. He has an item, bequeathed to him by another friend, and I need it. It's a clawed staff, and it looks golden. I'd get it myself, but I wouldn't be allowed back there in a million years. The man's name is Reverend Edward Summanus, I've got his details written down here--"

"Wait, are you telling us to steal from an old man?" Asked Adam, after he'd translated her words.

"And a priest, at that?" Ibola asked.

Jean laughed, "He's one of them, and they're barely human at all. He indoctrinates children for Christsakes. He's a monster anyway. Like the Gentleman."

Adam translated this to Ibola, who looked down at her hands. She mulled over her own thoughts for a while. Then she looked up at Jean, and asked "Comment pouvons-nous te fais confiance?"

"She asks how we can trust you..." Adam said.

"Well," Jean said, "I can't provide her with any proof, but I can prove it to you..."

"What do you mean?"

"I know who Charlie is, and I know where he is, and I know you don't want this information to get across to Ibola, so you both better trust me sooner rather than later, right?"

Adam's knuckles clenched. "Right," he said, faintly.

The Author notes, please father, hurt me not, it was not my fault, I'll get the information to you as soon as I can but I can do this no faster, it has to be timed. please father don't send your men after me again. Don't be concerned, she won't catch me.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Not a chapter.

Hello, all two readers of this blog. Jean Domremy here, writing. Sorry the Author hasn't been updating-- he's been all tied up for a while.

Oh man, I've wanted to use that one for ages. You see, it's funny because I have him tied to a chair in the back room of my apartment. Couldn't have him screwing up my mysterious, slightly ominous plans, you understand.

I met with your "protagonists" a few months back, and sent them on an errand-- they scratch my back, and such. Then they disappeared for three months, so I'd pretty much given up on that stage of the plan going, well, according to plan. I was just about to put my contingency measures into play when they called me. That was Monday.

Schemes are back in motion, and we're back in business. I'm not giving out the details now, since the Author will quite happily get the world properly up to speed when I let him go. That'll probably be Sunday.

To any idiots with fantasies of attacking my apartment, I have two shotguns aimed at the door and am willing to set the complex on fire. What I'm saying is don't try it.



Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chapter 4

The Author notes; an apology for the delay. There were technical difficulties. The technical difficulties are continuing. My apologies for the lack of a unified font.

Nothing happened, and nothing continued not to happen. Adam and Ibola got to Rabat with surprisingly little incident, thanking Christian as he dropped them off outside the American embassy. A little further away from the embassy was a coffee shop, and so they went inside to wait for morning to come properly. The man behind the counter took their money, and returned with two cups of black coffee and some food, which they ate quickly, in silence. They sat at one of the tables, staring onto the street and trying to figure out what to do next. "We should plan," Ibola said, "For how we're going to get back into Europe. If your mysterious contact can get us to the United States, well, that's okay, but just getting out of the country is going to be difficult."

"I'll go talk to the embassy-- when I was deported out here, I was only told I couldn't go back to the United States, not that I couldn't leave the continent. Europe should be okay, right? So I'll ask them to check my passport and maybe see if I can get them to give you Simone's, and then we can buy tickets-- I still have a credit card, even if it's covered in blood. We can go up through Europe to London. That should be fairly simple, right? The Eurozone practically has no borders anymore, I think..." Adam said, too sleepy to realize how wrong he was.

"If all else fails, there are always traffickers, in every country. And I'm sure there are plenty of routes that illegal immigrants take. It'd be more dangerous, but it's a plan to fall back on."

"And you're sure you want to come with me?"
Ibola nodded, "I'm not going back home until I've washed the stains of what has happened off my hands. Or until I have taken revenge on Dande."

"Alright. So we're in this together, then..." Adam said. He checked the clock that was ticking above the door of the cafe, "Well, it's a more reasonable hour, now. I'm going to go talk to the embassy. Will you wait here?"

"Okay," Ibola said, "But-- be safe."

Adam left the cafe and crossed over the street to the American Embassy. He was gone for a long while, a couple of hours. Ibola bit down on her worry, knowing that the wait was probably only for the sake of bureaucracy. She watched people enter the cafe, sit around, eat breakfast, drink coffee-- they were mostly tourists, obvious ones at that. She kept her guard up, though, worried that one of them would turn out to be some sort of Priest to the monster. The sun was rising steadily in the sky. Ibola bought another cup of coffee, and glanced over some of the magazines. She couldn't read them too well-- she'd only really had a primary education. Her son was supposed to have had the education she couldn't get, as there was a school in her town and access to a high school nearby. But he was dead. She pushed her thoughts aside; the only way either she or Adam were going to be able to get anything done is if they pushed their heartbreak away. Adam still hadn't come out of the embassy.

What if they'd killed him?

She decided to wait another hour. People kept going in and out of the cafe, all of them so foreign that she couldn't read any potentially dangerous body language in their movements.
"I... You don't even have to go in to the embassy," Adam said suddenly from the door of the restaurant, startling her, "They were... really weird about the whole thing; gave me the passports almost as though they were trying to rush me out of the country."

"So we can take a ferry across soon, then?"

"Yeah," Adam said, sitting down, "And then, to London."

"You really trust that voice on the phone?"

"I don't really trust anyone," Adam said, ignoring Ibola's hurt expression. He sat back down at the table, and put his head in his arms, "I think I might-- just for a little while." Ibola didn't respond, and when Adam looked up to her, she was stiff and tense, staring at the window. Her eyes were wide. Adam followed her gaze, and saw outside the window a tall, faceless man, standing still. Other people walked around it, seeming to not notice that it was there. Ibola's fingernails dug into Adam's arm, and the three stared at each other, silent. Ibola stood, not taking her eyes off the window, and walked to the counter. "There isn't a--" she squeaked, her voice half-dying in her throat, "Is there a back way out of here?"

"Only through the kitchen," the 'barista' said, "But why-- you two aren't bringing gangs in here, are you?"

Adam and Ibola were already backing their way to the door. The faceless man stood still, his long arms resting in place. Suddenly, his head cocked to the side, and he was gone. Ibola and Adam ran blindly, through the kitchen, and down the street, sprinting as quickly as their legs would take them. They flagged down a taxi driver to take them all the way to Tangier as quickly as possible, Adam waving his credit card. They piled into the taxi, and were on their way. Ibola stayed transfixed on the world outside the window, almost hoping to see a sign of the monster. Adam just buried his head in his knees and breathed heavily. The taxi driver pretended not to notice their strange behaviour, and turned on the radio. To Ibola and Adam it sounded like screeching static; the taxi driver nodded to a beat that everyone else could hear. The car wound along the roads of Morocco, out of Marrakesh, towards the sea, emanating the sounds of screaming static.

Ibola bit her lip until it bled.

They were in Tangier that night. Adam looked over Simone's "new" passport; it already had stamps in it, and had obviously been used. The photo looked like Simone, but could also look like Ibola in the right light. They could pass for an American couple, if Ibola pretended her accent was an American one, and they both explained that they'd been mugged. In all honesty, there were so many holes in the plan that a spelunker would call it too airy and unstable, but they were desperate, and the world was forcing them west. In the Ferry's ticket office, Adam played the part of the loud, obnoxious American tourist, and Ibola the part of the despairing wife. Her acting was indeed so good that they were rushed through the procedures to get them on board the ship out of pity. Adam's magical credit card came into action again; he didn't care about the mounting debt-- having any sort of future seemed to be at best a distant possibility. They only managed to relax when they were in their cabin on the ship; small, but private, with a rickety bathroom. The entire ferry seemed to be designed for Middle Class Europeans to get a taste of the exotic without actually having to leave Europe. It was cramped, kitschy, and ludicrously safe.

"Unless you're being chased by the Slender--" Adam began, but he was hushed by Ibola; he began again, "You know, I read somewhere that he can't go on water. Boats are supposed to be as safe as you can get."

Ibola hushed him again, but more halfheartedly. The ferry ride wasn't supposed to be long-- 27 hours-- but water was supposed to be okay. They could avoid the monster by taking a ship, or so they thought.

Adam heard someone singing that night. His first thought was that it was Ibola, but she had fallen asleep on the bed next to him, and was breathing heavily. There was no radio in their room, no way for music to get in. He carefully edged out of the bed and walked out onto the ship.

A woman stood at the edge of the railing, staring into the water beneath the moonlight. She was singing. Adam approached her, cautiously. Her voice was strange, and distant, almost ethereal, and the words were in a language he didn’t understand. The ocean seemed to be silent, and the rest of the world seemed to be getting further away and her voice rose and plummeted into an angelic finale. Adam tried to see the woman’s face, but as he moved closer she stopped singing. Everything went mute. The woman turned around, her face a silhouette beneath the moon, and asked, quietly, “Comment tu vois? What do you see?”

Adam was startled, but looked out onto the ocean; “I see—“ he began, but was winded as the world flickered in and out. For a moment he saw something different from the peaceful ocean. The world had throbbed into something entirely wrong, covered in thick pulsing veins of black ichor and burning dull light. He stepped back and cried out, alarmed, as the smell of the sea intermingled with the taste of fire and sulfur. The taste burned the back of his throat. Then, as quickly as the spell had come upon him, it left. The silence of the ocean returned, and the woman was gone. Adam hurried back to his room, feeling ill. He didn’t tell Ibola about what had happened.

From a busy port in Spain they took a train and a bus to Paris, where Ibola felt overwhelmed as Adam bought tickets for the Channel Tunnel. They easily passed for confused tourist, for, in a way, that’s what they were. They were in London about a week after the telephone call had ordered them to go.
The Bear and the Bull pub looked like it served a certain type of person, but it had an airy beer garden covered from the slow drizzle. Adam made the order, and Ibola asked for some food. The waitress who brought them their order was a tall, red-headed, thick-set girl with glasses. She grinned at them, but it didn’t reach her eyes. After they ate, she slipped Adam a piece of paper with an address on it, and said, “Tomorrow.” Then she vanished into the kitchen without further explanation. Adam and Ibola, confused, made their way to a seedy hotel, and tried to set up to get some sleep.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chapter 3

Ibola slept for a few hours, and awoke in the early morning in a pocket. The shadows of the room seemed off, and there was a long, dark shape across the window; she heard something creaking within the room, almost breathing, and Adam was gone. Ibola cried out, and stood up with her heart pounding; but as her eyes got used to the dawn light, she realized that the shape outside the window was broken pounding. The sound was the sound of a boiler, and the shadows were off because of the flickering light. As for Adam, if the creature, the monster, had taken him, it had given him time to dress and gather his personal items before stealing him away. She calmed down, and sat on the bed.

Adam burst through the door, a bag in hand, "Ibola-- are you okay?"

"I thought it had taken you-- sorry, I was silly," Ibola smiled, a little embarrassed.

"No, it's okay... I spent half of last night awake, terrified that the boiler was coming after us," Adam returned the smile, though it didn't reach his eyes, "I bought some clothes? And there's food next door, then Christian'll pick us up--"

The room's phone rang, interrupting his train of thought. Both of them froze. Adam picked up the receiver; "There is a phone call for you at the front desk," said the clipped voice, before hanging up.

Adam stood and walked to the door; "You're really going?" Ibola asked, "It almost certainly a trap."

"Yeah, but I want to find out who's trying to trap us. Why would the-- the monster want to 'set us up' if he can break into our room while we sleep."

Ibola said nothing, but started going through the bags of clothes, and Adam went down the stairs to the front desk.

He picked up the phone, his eye on the front desk manager. There was nobody else in the lobby, "Hello?" He asked.

"Adam Greene, I'm presuming?" The voice on the line was female, with a harsh tone and a British accent, "Don't speak, I know you are. Now, I'm here to offer you a deal. I can get you Dande, and I can get you back into the United States-- for free, as well. I can help you-- but only if you help me."

"What do you want?"

"Come to the Bear and Bull pub in London, in Croydon," the voice said, "Order two Cokes and a half shot of vodka. I'll explain more there."

"I--" Adam began, but his voice was met with a dial tone. He sighed, confused, and turned to go back up the stairs. Ibola met him at the bottom of the steps, their few possessions in tow. 

"I feel like I can't breathe in here. Let's leave," Ibola said, "We can wait for Christian outside." Adam nodded as a response, though he didn't feel so sure. They waited outside in the cool morning air, as the city slowly made its way back to life. Christian drove up in the jeep, and they hopped in the back. He drove to a grocery store on the edge of town, and hopped out of the front.

"If you guys don't mind loading up the car, I'm going to go pay Eddie, the manager. Be right back."

Adam jogged over to the car, and leaned down to pick up a box. He recoiled, eyes wide, his nose wrinkling. "What's wrong, friend? You've handled a chicken before, surely? A box of them is no different," Christian said innocently. He laughed, "I'm sure your lady friend knows how to work with chickens-- Ms. Ibola, will you give me a hand?" Ibola stared at the boxes but did as she was told. They lifted the relatively heavy box onto the back of the truck, where it stacked beside similar ones, of the same type. Then, Christian went over to the storekeeper, who was bringing the boxes to the back of the truck. They distracted each other well enough for Adam to lean over to Ibola, "Do you see that?" He said, "or am I going mad?"

"You're not going mad," Ibola said quietly, her voice a little choked. In the boxes that were piled behind the car and on its flatbed were scores of bloody hands. They looked like they had been wrenched off by knives, and were clammy and rotten looking. Blood was dripping out of the boxes. Ibola glanced at Christian and the shopkeeper-- they were laughing. "Maybe we're both mad," she said faintly.

"We should take this as a warning-- he's under the control of the monster," Adam said, looking queasy.

Ibola put a finger to her lips, straining her ears, "Listen," she said. They were quiet, and beyond the sound of the conversation between Christian and the shopkeeper, beyond the sounds of the town waking up, was a faint clucking.

"Why would-- why the hallucination?" Asked Adam.

"Don't look at me like I know anything, Adam." Ibola replied.

Christian walked back to the car, beaming, "We just have to load these boxes up and then we can be on our way. I'm sure you want to get on as soon as possible."

"Thank you," Ibola replied. Adam said nothing. The three loaded the boxes of faintly clucking hands onto the back of the truck, then hopped into the front of it. Christian started talking about his family, his business, the news about riots throughout the Middle East.

"Of course," he said, "We aren't really the 'Middle East', we're practically Europe! I can't see anything going wrong up here."

Ibola and Adam sat silently, too nervous about the hands in the boxes to really talk about anything. Occasionally, a faint cluck made it over the sounds of the engine.

"It should be about 5 hours to Rabat. But we might have to take a little more time, because of problems with the road, but hopefully it'll be a smooth ride!"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chapter 2

It was two days before the trees started thinning out at all. Though neither of them liked the water, they drank it, and stumbled beside the stream in the dark. After two days, however, the trees seemed almost normal, and the sky could be seen through the canopy above. The roots looked less like veins, and more like wood. They stumbled back to normality; a rapidly thinning jungle with increasingly sandy earth. The creek ran dry. They finally emerged from the forest, blinking in unfamiliar sunlight form a grey sky, onto a piddling dirt road. Ibola glanced at Adam, who had recovered somewhat from his trauma. "Droit?" She asked. He shrugged, and so they turned right. There were no markings on the road, or signs of civilization; humanity still seemed to be very far away. Right went away from the forest faster, though, and that was their real goal.

It was surprisingly cool, for what seemed to be a desert environment. The sun was watery and alien, making the pair feel even more isolated. The silence of the road was finally interrupted by the sound of a car's engine; a jeep barreled down the road, but stopped just after it had passed them. They sped up, towards the vehicle, and Ibola walked up to one of the front windows. The driver leaned across the front seat; "What're you both doing out here, friends?" He asked, speaking French, "It's a nicer day than usual from a hike, but if the storm comes, you're miles away from shelter." Ibola bit her lip, and Adam didn't move. The driver glanced over them, and his grin faded, "Still, got to play good Samaritan, yeah? Were you mugged? Look, hop into the back of the car, I'll at least take you north, or at least as far as I'm going. It's a bit of a ways to civilization, but you're miles out from even outposts."

Ibola nodded, and helped Adam into the back of the jeep, piling in after him, "Where are we, anyway?" she asked.

"The road to an outpost, a little off the N-9," the driver said. Adam frowned, faintly, and the driver restarted the engine, "Near Rhessouane? Ends up in Marrakesh?"

"We're-- we're in Morocco?" Ibola started, glancing at Adam. Adam shook his head, and leaned against the window.

"Yeah," said the driver, confused by her reaction, "Did you not know? You must've crossed through the desert of the mountains to get all the way out here, and those're some pretty big indicators."

"Are there any jungles around here?" Ibola said, though her gaze was still fixed on Adam.

"Ha, madam, if you're looking for jungles you're on the wrong continent."

It was quiet for a long time. Ibola sighed, "I'm Ibola, and this is Adam."

"I'm Christian. Are you two Americans? You have an accent, and your geography... Well, it isn't the best."

"Yes, we're Americans, both of us," Ibola lied, "We need to get to an embassy. We were mugged, you are right. Do you know where the nearest embassy is?"

"I believe there's an embassy in Rabat. If you need help getting there, I could give you both a ride. You're both looking pretty bad, I must say," Christian said, glancing at their reflections in his rear view mirror.

"Uh, if you, uh, don't mind," Ibola said, feeling suddenly uncomfortable, "I don't want to impose anything on you, I mean."

"Not a problem at all! I needed to make a run up to Rabat at some point anyway-- I have a cousin who insists that Marrakesh chickens are so much better than Rabat chickens, but he says the trade is better. He's a bit of an idiot, drives his wife crazy, but he says that Rabat is better for business and chickens are better in Marrakesh. I think if the chickens are better in Marrakesh, then the business would be, but he pays me good money..." He went on, and Ibola tuned him out. Adam was long asleep, frowning through his dreams. She leaned her head back, watching the world outside her window, sure that, at any moment, she would see a slightly too-tall man with slightly too many arms. She was sure of it, as sure as she was that she was going to spend the rest of her life waiting for the monster to show up. The sky darkened, and the car wound along the road slowly. There were no lights outside, other than the car's headlights, and other than the sound of the engine, everything was silent.

Christian hummed something to himself, and Ibola tensed up at the noise.

It was late by the time they got to Marrakesh. Christian happily dropped them off in front of a hotel; Hotel Narjisse, a cheap tourist destination too close to the airport for richer clientele. Adam mentioned, offhand, to Ibola, that he only had American money, and Christian responded by offering to trade them dollars for euros. Adam pulled out a wallet, covered in black gunge, but managed to pull out a couple of twenties, and gave them to Christian. They paid for a room at the hotel, and Christian left them, saying he'd be back early the next morning if they still needed to go to Rabat. The hotel had a satellite television and one bed, but both Ibola and Adam felt like someone would have to be awake whilst the other slept, in case of intrusion. Adam leaned back on the bed, staring at the ceiling.

Ibola curled her legs beneath her in a chair, and glanced at Adam; "Do you trust Christian?" she asked.

"Not really. Nobody is that friendly, especially not in a world like this," Adam said, yawning, "I'm sorry... I just feel so tired..."

"What're we going to do now?" Ibola said, worried.

"I still have stuff to take care of back home, in the US, so I need to find a way to get back. They've all but banished me, but if I can get through Europe I'm sure there's some way back over there, back home," Adam mumbled, "I need to find out who's in charge of Dande, I need to find out who deported me and Simone, I need to find my family-- in case something happened to them. I need to fight Dande."

"I need to come with you." Adam seemed surprised. She shrugged, "My family is better off without me near them, now. I have a child's blood on my hands, no matter what the circumstances were, and I am cursed by that creature. By being with my family, I would kill them. And I want a chance to avenge Dande myself. Besides, you need someone to stop you from making foolish mistakes, am I not correct?"

"You're right," Adam said, with the ghost of a grin, "So we'll have to find you a passport or... something..."

"We will make our way to the United States through Europe, using your money and citizenship. We will find your family; we will get our revenge. Tomorrow we will go to the embassy in Rabat, and we will use Simone's name to get me a passport. I will stay awake a while so that you can sleep, so rest."

Adam's eyes closed obediently, and soon his breathing became rhythmic and regular. Ibola watched out the window of the room, hoping that her awakened presence would be enough to fend off any would be attackers. Her son had been taken by gangs of men. She wasn't going to let it happen again. He had been taken by "volunteer care workers", members of an unregistered group called Dande, and she had been too late to save him from their demented cult. To spite the monster, she wouldn't let Adam die, and she refused to die herself. Hours passed, and the lights flickered. Exhausted from days of travel, Ibola's head slid sideways in her chair, and she fell asleep.