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You can submit your continuation here.
Chapter One (Psyche) by Lucy.
Chapter Two (To the other side) by Andrada Costoiu.
Chapter Three by B.V. Stratton.
Chapter Four (The fateful night) by Smita Ray.
Chapter Five (Insight Part I) by Amitbhat0912.
Chapter Five (Insight Part II) by Amitbhat0912.
Chapter Six (They’re still out there Part I) by Lucy.
Content Warning: References of blood, minor gore and violence in this chapter.
Darkness wailed, as they shuffled silently ensuring Anastasia had indeed left the basement. Tom balanced himself up with one of the boxes sequestered in the room. “I don’t want to see her,” his eyes twisted shut.
“You won’t have to. I will. She should have those symbols on both of her palms. I’ll have to cut it off her to get access to open the gate,” Lauren whispered, never withdrawing from Tom’s eyes; they were a display of a man with grief and coldness. A confliction, no doubt, of what he remembered and what was now his life to compare to.
Lauren made her way, with Tom following at a distance, to the corpses. She stopped when her eyes reached Zargaff. His chest was strewn with a coalescence of green, veins spurted like white Lotuses—and even red roses as Zara’s cracked skull had a puddle of blood and pink to latch them together, physically.
“Now you have brawns and brains, big guy,” she murmured, trying to stomach the sight. When Lauren pulled out a knife, angled at Zara’s body, Tom nearly tripped over Zargaff’s tumored and sinewy bicep.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” He held Lauren’s wrist tightly.
She kicked him in the groin, which caused him to tumble over in pain. “You’re lucky I didn’t kick your tourniquet. Back off, fuck face.”
He caught himself on one of the metal beams that was displaced near the wall. Tom’s eyes never left Zara. “Don’t do anything to her! Please!”
“I have to, Tom. If not, it’s us with their fate.”
“It doesn’t have to be that way at all, Lauren. You don’t have to do this to Zara. What about the other guy? Doesn’t he—”
“Fuck, Tom, don’t you think I checked?” Lauren bent down to Zara’s level, taking her palm in hand. “Listen to me. This is not Zara—not after they took her. Look at her! This is a killing machine. Get it, buddy? She was dead the moment they gave her those injections.”
“She remembered me, she remembered us.”
“She may have, but she would never be the same. Not after what they did.”
“I—I remembered her,” Tom choked. “I did—I did.”
Lauren stabbed Zara’s palm, right around the metal circle. Tom trembled at the abrupt contact as Lauren continued to dismember Zara’s hand; how the blood just oozed out of Zara—she still looked warm. He knew it would be a bit before rigor mortis would set in. “Fuck,” Lauren hissed. She looked back up at Tom. “Turn around.”
The quiet serenity was terminated as the first chip of the bone was heard. Lauren thrust the knife further, trying to carve an outline of the metal circular rings, and her hand pressed against Zara’s wrist—holding it up as she whittled away at the skin.
Tom looked away once broken out of his stupor. He swallowed bile when he felt particles of warm blood drip onto his leg, coinciding with Lauren’s, “Got it!”
“Oh, fuck,” Tom paled.
Lauren swallowed as she curled her fingers, before hesitantly brushing the blood on her cargo green tank. “This should do,” she breathed. “This should do.”
Lauren had no preconceptions as she watched on with a wary gaze at Tom. She sagged her shoulders as she scrutinized his side profile: he was bone-white now, his face in a constant depot of twitching, and his murmurs bordering on delusional. While in her quiet vigil, she played with the symbol from Zara’s hand; she scraped off the epidermis of her freshly lain body, plugging it into the I.D. lock, while Tom was a blubbering mess; the only thing she could see illuminated, at that moment in time, were his eyes.
“Fuck, dude. It’s not like I cut off her entire hand.”
“You—you didn’t just have to stab her like that! Have some respect for the dead, Lauren. I—I loved her.”
Lauren nearly rolled her eyes, turning as the door shifted open; she placed a hand to keep it still. She hissed. “Tom, that was fucking chromium metal—chromium, need I spell it out? With a dull hunting knife, you think I have a shot at playing around with it like a piece of playdough? I had to do it to save us both. Let’s move it.”
Tom did not have an ample rebuttal—not that he was capable of one in the first place. He was following orders in a stupor, and presently, in a grief-stricken void.
As the siblings ventured into the depths of the outer territory, they realized it went further deeper than they had originally thought within the island. It was juxtaposed with sands and lodes of ocean isles bilateral on the sides of the isthmus. Tom sidled off to the brief waves that would connect to the sands, but all he could imagine was the bloodbath and chaos that diminished his skin, blemished his mind, and above all, tormented his senses in a colligation and cross-connection of memories—both real and unreal. He could trust both realities, but he would be lying to himself either way.
What was truly real?
“Tom,” Lauren caught up with him—he shook himself out of his reverie, watching the azure waves inch at his beaten boots, and then retreating back as if out of fear. “I didn’t mean to be so harsh earlier. I’m sorry.”
“Okay,” he murmured.
Lauren looked on at the waves as well. “We can’t be sitting ducks,” she grabbed him by the arm briskly, leading the way once more. “We have to keep moving. We have targets on our backs.”
“Zara and I were here—well, not here, but it was similar to this,” he looked around, though his eyes remained blank. “We found an abandoned boat on the foreshore; we were going to sail, but they found us as we got on the water. I remember being penetrated with a dart shot—it felt like a knife, and I,” he swallowed, “I lost consciousness as I fell into the—the…” He looked ahead at the ocean, a marmalade of white into the waves that surrounded both Lauren and Tom. He let the silence speak for him.
“The water…” Lauren noted. Her eyes searched his face for anything—a twitch, especially. “You were leaving with her?”
“There are still some blanks I can’t fill in. I don’t remember much, but I remember her, and that—that I really did love her.”
“I’m sorry, Shnopsey.”
She sighed, looking into the eye of the sun as it serenaded the blood-bath that dried on their skins. She didn’t want to think of what Tom was saying, what he was actually implying. She held her tongue, disposing of the thought as it came. What use would it be at this point? There was no telling that if she revealed it to him, he would remember—and if he did, it would most likely happen again.
She couldn’t lose her brother again. Not after all they’ve been through these past few days. The death they witnessed, the blood on their hands (literally), and the faces they can never forget; she had a vague feeling that she will never get the scent of Zara’s breath as she plunged the elixir down her throat out of her memory. She was calloused, but not cruel; she was still averse to death’s measures in spite of what the lab tried to do to her and Tom while in their repetitive loop.
They were considered a failed experiment—which was why they were able to live “freely” on the island, although in the darkness of a loop; a beating cascade that felt like coming alive through the different stages of Mortis.
When Lauren emerged in hazy consciousness, she was inconsolable; only shattered and fragmented memories were left in the wake of her mind of the past. Worst of all—it was watching her brother go through stages of dementia from the failed laboratory experiments. It would seem they were auspicious in the one thing being that whatever concoctions they were injected with, it had a short half-life in their systems.
She shook her head—too many dark memories in the heart of it all. But, they would be rich in her subconscious if she had dreamt. She still felt sick, as she instinctively wiped the back of her hand on her torn shirt, covered with particles of verdant colored blood.
“Is there anything else you remember?” She levied the bamboo spear to the air to avoid making clear track-marks in the pockets of sands. Tom slowly frowned at the question, eyes flickering into what he could see—a mixture of life before and after. There was no in-between.
“No. I’m sorry—I just, it’s just hard. I guess it will come to me eventually.”
“Probably when your brain starts making new connections,” Lauren then stuck the spear into the ground, making them both come to a halt. “You don’t remember your kid, then?”
Lauren looked at the scattered riverside; a trace of mist could be seen. She found herself submerged in her thoughts.
“Lauren? Lauren?” She hadn’t realized Tom kept calling her. “I don’t have a kid, right? Fuck, I’m still in my twenties! I really don’t, right?”
She slowly looked ahead at a leaf pile by the waters, dangling in the wind. She was dead-silent, as she stared back at her brother.
“Take it easy, Shnopsey. You should have seen your face, though.”
The submersion of time formed through an alternate wave to Anastasia. If it is nothing more than a dream, it was merely an hourglass. The caricatured silhouettes ran through the wall as she peered through the anterior; the darkness captivated her mind, and she thrashed the authenticity of her beliefs. They were indeed true, they were cocktails of dreams becoming reality; time would stop, and then it would never stop.
It could be paused, thus letting her have alternate chances. It could reinforce the integration of a higher-self, casting thus the ultimate being. Her ego locked, her mind was aroused at the ramifications of the siblings’ work. The cadavers of Zargaff and Zara were dragged and ready to be cremated. There would be no use of their bodies, at this point. They were disappointing and devastating—far beyond experimented to the point of mutilation. Either in death or in life, she could not say, but what her labs created, they could create again as they always had—and beyond that as well.
The two cadavers lied at her feet, her eyes merely baraccading in disinterest.
“Madam Anastasia, would you like to watch the cremation or would you like to have their blood?” Her helper, this time, looked like Osiris the Egyptian God of the dead.
“Dropping a dead pigeon at my feet, Akl? How rude.”
Anastasia lifted her head up with grace, blemishing the momentary seclusion with the gripping lubricant of dark blood splayed on her fingers, then to her chest. Her skin had a clear, arranged complexion as she kept envisaging their bloodbath all over her body; oh, she would be adorned with palpable human blood that she now craved, not the portions which reflected the gravity of their monsters within. She wanted helpless souls visible on her skin. She wanted to feel it like a lustful deity should in an oasis of death that she had caused.
She did not want to watch the fires of those who disobeyed. “Now think for a moment, why would I want to waste my time with these lusus naturae? They are not worthy of being seen in the fires, let alone be under the consideration of being within my bloodbath.”
“Yes, Madam Anastasia.”
“Akl,” she felt the cold darkness of his skin as she lowered his face to hers. The ultimate act of seduction. “You have disobeyed my orders. Disembowel yourself immediately.” She brushed her fingers over his, handing him then a dagger from the rear pocket of her circle trimmed, cream dress. They were all specimens, truly. They did not have a purpose and were disposable by the flicker and ignorance of fate.
Anastasia’s eyes widened in lust as Akl’s river of blood architected her skin. It was warm. The high then subsided–it was not the liquid she wanted, she rather desired the depths and virtue of human blood.
She licked her lips. The two iconoclasts on the run greatly intrigued her.
Artemis cracked the shell of the coconut against the bare bark of the tree. She observed its contents before dumping it on the dark sands. It was nearing the evening, and she had started puncturing the different offerings of nature’s breast to limit the capacity of anyone else’s survival. That is, if she were to be found this time–and really, she was always found, she just murdered the mutants before they could discover her. It seemed that Anastasia wanted to keep her alive for the time being.
Artemis did not need to eat. That was a long-term effect from the injections. In the epitaph of what would become a starry night, she heard the emergence of two people. Humans. They could have draped themselves in the imitation of the human body, but Artemis, in the pre-dusk of the shadows, kept her watch. The shores were exiled with the juxtaposition of different lines and colors; streams of water coalesced with blood, fake ichor and moisture from different organs that would be harvested, then eventually discarded once deemed redundant for experiment trials and different mutants.
She noticed the man walking with a pronounced limp; he’d be an easy target, and while she could not determine the source of his injury or wound, it would be salient enough for other creatures in the dark to find him alone by his pheromones. The woman, however, only bore shallow injuries as she carefully lifted the bamboo spear into the air against her sides.
Artemis witnessed the set moon bowing from the clouds, while the sky was still light and pink. She crossed her arms over her chest and began crafting ways to kill the two wanderers–if they indeed were sent after her. She would clot the injuries of the man before ripping off his wound completely, eating it like a black cancer. She would stab the woman with the spear, blossoming the whitish crescent of blood as it would emerge from her neck wounds. If Artemis hit an artery, it would indeed be a bloodbath.
But, as she observed from afar, these two strangers of fate did not seem to be killers. She looked at their skins with the dignity of dried red and green blood. The wombs of the sand had turned cold on her foot soles, and she quickened her pace, thus getting a more resolute glimpse of the travelers. She saw the scatter of blood drip from the man’s leg.
She camouflaged with the surroundings, hiding her confusion at the woman’s brisk steps on the sands. Artemis wondered if she even were aware of the man’s wound reopening, but she found it more important to trust her instinct and follow them without immediate notice.
“Tom, how’re you holding up?” Lauren steadily turned her head around; her brother suppressed a grimace, and in the darkness, she assessed his current state. He didn’t seem too bad, at least when compared to earlier. Looked better, she thought. The torrential flower bushes were mauled by the apogee of wind ahead of them. They were drawing closer to a different section of the island, as designated on the map.
Carvings of blood stained the earlier sands; that would be one of the ways they could be found, so they had to discard some fragments of their clothing to the water.
“F-fine, Lauren,” he forced himself to say. As they descended into the silhouettes of the night, his sister did not question his actual miseries that he tried to keep hidden. He was thoroughly worn, and if he laid down on the sand by the seas, he was almost certain that he would die in his sleep.
It would be peaceful, he would think. There would be no looking back. “What do you think is up ahead, commander?” he instead asked.
She darkly chuckled. “Oh, just our graves.”
“Well… Besides that.”
“Oh,” Lauren dropped the spear to the ground, facing Tom directly. Her fingers thrashed onto his shoulders as she pulled him along with her. “Bro, don’t you see it? Right here on the map? Look right there, a Starbucks, and down the road, a Burger King.” She pushed him aside, picking back up the spear. “Stop asking me stupid fucking questions, macchia di merda. We’re following the trail, it doesn’t mean I know what is ahead.”
“You don’t need to be so bitchy about it,” he was finally tired of inching along her varying moods–making him feel at unease . “I never know how to engage with you, if you are ever in a good or bad mood. You give me anxiety.”
“I give you anxiety, he says! Ha, very funny.” Lauren moved closer to Tom. “Don’t you fucking get it? I know as much as I know, which again, is only enough for general stakes here.”
“Still, you don’t need to keep treating me like crap. I’m sick of it, Lauren. I’m sick of you being snide one minute, then the next minute concerned. I don’t know if you’re mad at me for not remembering everything, but Christ, give me some time. That is all I ask.”
Lauren stopped in her tracks and looked at Tom again. “I’m not treating you like anything. You’re obviously in a pissy mood.”
“I have a good fucking reason.”
“So do I, dipper shit. We’ve both lost enough, haven’t we? I don’t want to fight, Tom, but you’re not making this any easier on me.”
“What did you lose, Lauren?” The way Tom asked it was derived in cruelty. The vein of her neck started to pop and accentuate from her skin, as the flashes in her mind rooted her to what she has known. Death and abandonment.
Lauren closed her eyes, imagining the mirage of blood the day their parents died in the car accident. The children were in the backseat, as the front portion of the car suffered what seemed to be superficial damage. The car carrier trailer next to them swerved in front, however, to avoid further collision up ahead, and one of the cars it was carrying fell onto the front half of their vehicle.
Their parents died instantly.
“Go fuck yourself, Tom,” Lauren brought herself back to the coldness of her voice. “You may not remember everything, maybe not even our childhood, but you don’t get to say that to me. Ever. You are making me wish you sailed away with Zara.” She tilted her head up in thought, eyes widening. “You were up and ready to leave me behind to go with her, weren’t you?”
Tom stood in shock. “What are you talking about?”
“How did I not realize this? After I gave you the resources so we could go together, you, you were going to leave. While I was collecting everything for us, you were trying to leave with Zara instead. You were going to leave me here to die.” She only now discerned what fully happened in the in-between of her reaching out to different contacts to gather their resources, and what happened after, which led Tom back to her with amnesia.
“You were all I have, Tom. It’s why I was still around despite it all, but you know what? I’m done. Fuck off and die.”
End of Part I.
Translations (Italian to English):
“Macchia di merda.” –> “Shit stain” or “Stain of shit.”