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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chapter 1

Adam woke up. His muscles immediately seized in pain, and he curled up, groaning piteously. His mouth tasted sour, his hands itched, and his head throbbed. He took deep breaths in an attempt to calm himself, but inhaled a mixture of bracken, wriggling insects and blood. Adam spluttered and coughed, doubling over in pain once more. He curled his hands into the dirt, trying to stead himself enough to sit up. Noise hit him suddenly, the calls of screeching birds and squeaking beetles filling his head. The air was humid and warm, like a men's locker room on a particularly sweaty day.

A few minutes passed. Adam tried to push himself into a sitting position. Bile rushed to his already burning throat, and he vomited up something black. He choked again, his head still thumping, and too horrified to properly take in his surroundings. He curled up over his bent knees, breathing heavily with his head against the dirt. The world felt green, in a greasy way; he could hear water moving close by, and so he stood, and stumbled through the underbrush towards the sound. There was a brook, dark and clear, moving through the stones at a lazy pace. Adam slipped into the stream, and let the slightly warm water run over his bloody, aching body. Willing his head to stop throbbing, he dropped under the water for a few minutes, trying to clear out his mind.

He emerged from the water, his mind only slightly clearer. He could hear better, somewhat, and was stunned to hear someone crying. He felt his way along the bank of the stream towards the noise, which seemed fairly close by. Hazily, he saw a woman crouched over the water, crying, her head in her hands. "Ibola?" Adam barely managed to croak. The woman's jerked up, her eyes suddenly sharp, and she stood quickly. There was no sign that she had been crying. She jogged over to Adam, catching him as he slid sideways.

"Adam," she said, in impeccable French, "Whatever happened to you?"

"It's a long story," he slurred in a reply, his own French broken, and his voice taking on pitches of hysteria. Ibola hauled him to his feet, and led him to a clearing where they could sit down. She methodically looked over his wounds, and as though it were automatic, began to bind them.

Adam was a tall man, and gangly, with untamed dark hair and an un-groomed beard. He looked sallow and starved, and was covered in scars and breaks in his skin. His eyes were sunken, sad, hungry and tired. Ibola was short, and serious looking, her hair tied behind a strip of colourful cloth. Her hands were bloody even before she touched Adam's wounds, though she didn't look too injured aside from a few bruises. Adam noticed the blood, but crushed down any comments that could have been made, instead choosing to close his eyes once again.

Ibola and Adam had come to the forest with two others; Don and Simone. They were looking for children that had gone missing from a village-- taken by an unregistered "Human Rights Group" called Dande. The jungle had opened up its secrets, and showed them a massive, unholy pyramid. They were practically invited inside, and then...

Ibola spoke gently, as she cleaned one of the cuts on his arm, "We were in the temple, the pyramid, and you and Simone went off. After we got through the jungle? Do you remember? What happened when we were separated?"

"She thought she saw her father-- Simone thought-- and I tried to stop her--"

"That's wrong," Ibola said, firmly, "She ran after you."

"She did?" Adam frowned, his voice still hoarse, "I suppose she did. I thought that-- well, I suppose it doesn't matter now," he said, growing more agitated, "We ended up in a room, and the door closed in between us. I was in there a long time, but I don't know how long. There were worms, I think, in the walls. They stuck in my skin, whatever I touched, and I had to pull away, but they came out of the floor as well, but it didn't-- what day is it?"

"I don't know. We saw the jungle inside the temple on the ninth of September. You remember that, yes?"

"Yeah, and we must have spent days looking for an exit when we lost the signal. But the jungle-- it was made up of black vines, right? And it was bigger than the temple was?" Adam looked at Ibola, awaiting her acknowledgement of his memory. "Did you find your son?"

"Yes I did, he is dead. Don is dead as well," Ibola said, not meeting Adam's gaze and instead staring at her bloody hands, tearing at her dress to make a bandage, "Do you know what happened to Simone?"

"I..." Adam closed his eyes, wincing, "The forest ate people, I think-- they were like roots, and they drained people. I think-- I remember her screaming." They were quiet for a long time. "We didn't eat anything," Adam said, "We can't have been in there for more than a week or two..."

"No," Ibola said, "But before we went into the tunnels, neither of us spoke the same language. And now you speak French. You learned French in the temple, surely. Maybe time moved differently there, though." Silence fell again. Ibola tried to speak again, "I don't like it here, Adam. The forest breathes wrong, and it's full of old ghosts; not just superstitiously, and not just our own."

Adam didn't speak, but he agreed internally. There was something fundamentally wrong with the forest. The water almost felt like treacle under his fingers, and it had been warm to the touch. The roots of the trees around them popped out of the undergrowth, smooth and slick, and the air was thick and made his eardrums thud. Ibola did what she could to fix up his injuries with their limited supplies. They sat in silence for a while, in the damp darkness of the forest, waiting for something to move, for a tree to disappear before their eyes. Adam slumped onto Ibola's shoulder, "Where should we go next, then?" he said, faintly.

"We will sleep here for the night," she said, authoritatively, (though she was uncomfortable with the idea. She thought for a time, and then pointed along the riverbank arbitrarily, "Then we will go that way." Adam didn't respond; he was asleep. Ibola didn't close her eyes, but watched the trees, flinching at every movement, hating the forest, and waiting for the next attack.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Acknowledgements and the Players

To the Two-Faced Daemon, the Cowardly Lion, the Dorothy, the Tin-Man, the blood brothers of Cutting and Chance, the scientists and the fools (one and the same), Nothing, Everything, to the Entrance of Light, the Found Pastor, the Puppet/eer, the White Knight, the Riddling Chessmaster, and every other liar, idiot, and murderer that can be found in opposition to the story. 

The Players

The White King, our lord and saviour, he who needs no introduction.

The Mother, who, when she was young, ran through the muggy jungle, pursued by a tall man with four arms and no face, who, she knew, made red flowers from the blood of young innocents.

The Barrister, who, when he was older, let a child die for the sake of a spider, watched many die by its hands, who, he knows, is pursuing the result of his own actions.

The Fighter, who, at this moment, plays a dangerous game, without knowing the pieces or the plans of others, who, she knows, can't possibly win.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Once or Twice there was a game,
It was blank, without a name.

So let us play.