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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.
Chapter Six (They’re still out there Part II) by Lucy.
Chapter Seven (Cycles of violence Part I) by Lucy.
Content Warning: References of blood, minor gore and violence in this chapter.
Terror bulged in the impulses of red by a protruding, barren skull with a series of spots that arched along his back, lightly trimming a mixture of sea-green. His canines were sharp crisscrossing out from his cheeks if he grinned. His head was like a crafted tree-stump, but it was whiter than the moon’s eyes.
He had been born yesterday, no memories of his life before, but as effaced from his past as he was, the only feeling he could summon was love for the entity before him. He was engineered to feel this way, and as the waves grew, he found himself getting uneasy and slightly seasick. He kept his feelings covert down to the haggard depth of his serpent thorax, instead listening to the engulfing wind carve through him like the thorns of blood roses in tandem with the sensations of ants crawling on his muscles like a beaten log.
Anastasia took a breath, her white face encircling the tint and nakedness of the night. “How much longer?” Asking this, she turned to her latest creation offering him a hinged, sobered look upon her foundation.
“At least a half an hour, Madam Anastasia.”
“Thank you, A-36,” she said with gritted teeth. His whiskers twitched happily, and adorned with green embroidery tattooed on his skin, he gave the aye-aye gesture. Her fingers coiled around the pack of cigarettes she brought, breathing one of them into life.
She lingered on again to her pockets. She had her maidens supply her with the most recent elixirs from her labs before stepping on board the ship. This would provide her the strength she needed, that while not mutant, it would make her vulnerable to both male and female pheromones. Male pheromones were more distinct, but now she could find anyone reliant on her senses. Due to how far they were from any capable signal, the GPS they had acquired could not pin-point an exact range on the iconoclasts.
Well then. At least, she can enjoy the chase more the longer they think they have to escape. She would find it more pleasurable that way, at least she would consider it in such matters until A-36 reached her side once again.
“Yes, Adom? Is this important?”
“We were able to get a brief signal in, the lab said. The siblings are separated.”
“Yes,” he grimly nodded, a vein popping from his gray-white snout. “One is unmoving.”
“Do not displease me.”
A-36 was about to respond, until Anastasia clenched her fingers around the mutant’s head until they were almost touching noses. “I want them both of the same. I want them as I will allow it. If one is dead, kill the other. If one is alive, let the other one live and capture them.”
A-36 eagerly nodded having now left in a trance, while Anastasia rolled her eyes.
The woman was adorned with the occasional splay of the musty sea waves, and the blemish of the sky turned a pigment darker than it was before. Inhibiting a more solemn stance, the woman gripped her white robe imagining the oasis before her, a lustful crimson act upon their skins to share in submersion.
All of her maidens and slaved mutants were aboard on this navy ship cruiser. She wanted her family with her as she will add to the addition, if alive that is. They had been sailing for close to two hours in the approximate location the escapees were last tracked at. Anastasia had let them get a head-start into the game, since it will gratify her to no end once they are found.
She wanted to feel each bit of a wet silk upon her skin from these mere mortals. She also wanted them to show her their ways. It was a cross-connection of emotion to her, confusing, but she had to know if it is nature? Is it nurture? She didn’t know how special they were before, considering them only useful in their repetitive loops to carry out tasks and orders for the island to survive. With blood draped on their very hands, the mechanism of survival no longer crossed her minds, these two must have been more powerful than her pure creations and transformations in any lab she owned and dwelled in.
She now wanted a blood bath, it was aching her very heart, and rhythmically, her skin broke out in shivers. She parted in the breeze, leaving what was thought to be heard as a sigh as she reached into the back of her dress pocket for a vial. It was a red elixir, of which she subsequently poured on her head. It mutated an icy green, parting to the sides of her ears and then sliding down her neck, dissolving in her flesh.
She gasped looking down at the fresh blackish waves, staring “deep in liquid indigo” with lust and a growing intrigue. At the highest point of intensity, she grasped her arms and let the moonrays dance in silhouettes upon her face; Anastasia desired time to be still, she desired death to be a cold, cold dismay that shatters the minnows of time. It was never to turn to the past or to see the future, it was to kill the present. It was to create what couldn’t exist at one point and what was ultimately taken away.
This was an act of prevention. Afterall, she never let time move ahead of her. And it never would.
In a deep trance, she climbed upon the railing, the breeze biting, and leaned into the ocean’s curve to fall off the ship. Her maidens, head down, stood in awe and horror. A-36 collapsed, howling to the skies and God himself like a newborn infant craving for his mother’s breast.
They didn’t see Anastasia’s body float back to the surface.
If you sleep, you die. If you sleep, you die.
Every few minutes, Tom would jerk awake. He was trying hard to not plunder into the darkness, into the inner-depths of his own psychologies, but lest he should die…
No, he shouldn’t think that for now. He just had to wait for Lauren.
He felt the knot on his leg loosen, and he leaned forward to place it back over his wound. In his vigil, he subjected himself to the brutality of what he could remember, but he paced away from those memories as soon as they began.
Sure, he was half-dead (he felt like it too), but he gathered enough strength to find a more stable tree branch to lean on to help him keep awake. He checked his wound again, blood oozing out from his calf; he looked to the moon above the ravines in the distance, carefully positioning a sheath of light over his skin.
The moon-light was enough.
The wound now looked like an angry red sinkhole. He covered it up, shifting his weight on the bark, keeping close to the gun that Lauren left him. In the silver light, it was a navy green, punctured with drops of dried blood, a struggling green and red that mixed to the surface.
Dwindling, he kept his sights to the sky. Parallel to the moon, there was a shift within the stars that reflected to his gaze a hidden depth to the ocean waves across from him; the wind penetrated his skin as a light downfall began to pour all over his body. He could see on the shore an object floating his way, sails hung with red tarmac jutes, and shadowy figures into the midnight mist on the deck of the ship.
He latched onto his firearm, gaining ground away from the ship. Adrenaline had shot through him as he reached towards the sides of the forest, Tom imagining the flashes of disfigured mutants on board right behind him, when he knew that at this point, he was running from the air.
He only had a limited amount of ammunition on his person, and it looked like there were at least two or three figures on the ship. He wouldn’t have a chance if they were mutated or if they also carried weapons. He concluded he reached at least a quarter in the forest, so he secured himself with the gun at his side, ammunition within his reach, and his mental wits about him.
He looked to the moon and instinctively began marking shadow tips, as the luminescence was enough to cast shadows. He was able to create a north-south line with the short shadow that formed.
He hugged a nearby tree-branch, as his parasympathetic system kicked in. His breath hitched into his throat, and within minutes, he collapsed.
Lauren set up a fire at the site, grabbing a couple of more logs to throw in. Tom watched at a distance as he kept looking back at the camouflaged tents in the woodlands of the island, and biting his lip, he watched as the smoke tilted into the sky as a signal.
She caught up to him. “Let’s get the fuck out of here. I set it up. We can leave.”
As they walked into the silent night, Tom was the first to speak. “We’ve been camping out there for awhile to set up the trap… How do we know they aren’t watching everything we do?”
“I have a couple of sources who told me that the society is focused now on containing their mutants. There’s been an error in some of their genetic code that the serums are not responding to. They want to fix them first before letting them loose on anyone who escapes. Right now, that’s what they’re focusing on, not the two orphans who they don’t even know broke out of the loop.”
Tom scratched his head. “I never understood the point of this.”
“We need them worried about a break in the system. They’re not going to be confident and this buys us more time to set up everything to escape, to barter, and to grab any essentials we need.”
“But, that gives them more time to build up the mutants,” Tom pointed out. “They will get stronger and it will be harder to circumvent their methods.”
“This is the only way.”
“If you say so, Commander.”
Lauren bit her lip, eyes roaming at the musty ocean waves, their fate to freedom she could think. She lowered her voice, “I need to tell you something, Tom.”
“What is it?”
“I’ve been having my eye on this ranch. I think we can get it under their noses so that they won’t monitor our activity. We can stockpile in there. It’s by acres of land so we can farm if need be. We can stake out there occasionally, and it’s even by one of the former testing sites.”
Tom raised his head to the moon, chest fuzzy either at the prospect of freedom or happiness at having a more stable living situation, even if temporary. “You think you can get it?”
“I hope so. I’ve been trying to work out a deal through one of my contacts. I think they’re going to um… pull through…” she said a bit grimly, but forced herself to perk up, “and we’ll be able to inhabit the house in a few months.”
“This is great!” He beamed. “I can’t wait to tell Zara.”
At the mention of her name, Lauren’s eyes widened. “Tom, I don’t think that’s a good idea. I think she’s a risk.”
“Lauren, she’s not a risk. For fuck’s sake, she’s been helping us gather resources.”
“Yeah, no, she’s great, Tom,” his sister nodded eagerly, but her mouth formed a thin line in reflection. “I think they did something to her.”
“They don’t know about her breaking out of the loop.”
“That doesn’t mean they’re not drugging her, okay?”
“What makes you say that? You don’t know that.”
“I don’t. But, I suspect.”
“And you’re a fucking batshit moron who can’t realize when he’s being used! What if she’s not using you directly, but they’re using her to possibly spy on us? What if she’s one of those… sleeper mutants? She may be activated with the serum in her sleep. She hasn’t been as careful as us, Tom. We take EVERY precaution in the book.”
“But, no one is as careful as us, Lauren. No one can be if they are even like us. The only risk we actually have are through your island contacts, who we don’t even know if we can trust.”
“I told you,” Lauren gritted her teeth, “that it was a calculated risk. You even agreed with me before I decided to befriend them to get some information.”
Tom shrugged. “Just relax, Lauren. Zara is not impulsive. She’s been really discreet from what I can tell.”
“Her fucking red hair is all the smoke signal we need…” Lauren grumbled, crossing her arms petulantly, but then she spoke a bit louder. “She can’t come with us to the ranch. I’m sorry, Tom, but remember both of us need to agree if we invite anyone in. I don’t trust anyone right now, only you.”
“I’m not leaving her here on this island!”
“I’m making sacrifices too, Tom. This is the only way. If we bring her along, we might die because of it.”
“But, we can trust her. I know her.”
“You don’t know her, you’re infatuated with her. Get a fucking grip and stick with our plan. Once we’re out, we can try to get a military raid on the island when we’re back in the U.S.”
“That doesn’t guarantee anything. Just let her come with us, she already thinks she is anyway. She wouldn’t be helping only to help us escape, do you really believe that?”
“No. Of course not. This isn’t even her fault, Tom, just understand that. It’s the circumstances we are in and we’re trying to survive. Let her think she’s coming and then we have to leave her here.” Tom was ready to open his mouth for a rebuttal, but Lauren cut him off, “Do you want to lose me, Tom? What if I die? What if you die? We can go back home, a real home and have real food. If we bring Zara, we may never see that again.”
“…What if Zara dies?” Tom asked quietly as they stood before the stars.
“We’ll, uh, we’ll light a small vigil for her.”
“Fuck off. That’s not even funny.”
“I mean, it wasn’t entirely a joke,” Lauren looked away, not wanting to face Tom. “It’s you and me. We’re all we have, and you can’t risk our lives because of an infatuation with someone who may not even reciprocate anyway.” Her face was now saddened and solemn as she realized the gravity of her words on Tom, “Does she, Shnopsey?” She asked softly.
“I don’t know.”
“Oh.” She paused awkwardly, deciding to diverge from the topic. It was too raw and emotional to discuss, so she’d rather focus on the logical aspect of things. “Um, so about the ranch… I know a path that would lead us to the ocean once we avoid the mutants and night-slayers. I will need to retrieve access to the abandoned sites, though, to get some of their antidotes and poisons they have shelved there.”
“Let me guess, your contact let you know of this.”
“Contacts,” Lauren snarled. “And yes, but access is limited. They only wheel dead bodies in there, so it must be a cremation site.”
“And how do we do that?”
“That’s what stumps me, Tom. That’s the problem.”
It was long before they reached the hillside which was their base. The siblings could see Zara finishing up the brown tents, and now in her hands, she gathered a handful of native cashews, setting them up into a sanguinolent bowl.
“What if we disguise ourselves as employees?” Tom brought up after some time. They were silent most of the way back.
“It could work, since they don’t have photo evidence or facial recognition technology in the cremation buildings.” As they neared Zara, Lauren finished up with, “We’ll need a corpse, though.”
Tom noticed Zara’s eyebrows raise with interest. “Why do we need someone dead?”
Lauren ignored Zara, turning back to Tom, “Remember how Friar Laurence gave Juliet a potion that made it seem like she was dead when she was actually asleep?”
“They don’t have anything like that, Lauren.”
Zara stroked her chin, startling Lauren when she spoke. “They might have it at the labs… I remember something used that would aid the mutants into their hibernation and when in the cages, they looked like they were just dead.”
Tom looked at her in curiosity and wonder. Lauren was looking down at the ground, perhaps sheepishly.
“Think you can head back there?”
Footfall was heard on land, jolting Tom into consciousness. His head was killing him. He took a deep breath and clung to his pistol as he stumbled deeper into the forest. A guttural sound came from the sky like a Tsunami, and he noticed flashing lights uprooting the clouds, scattering lower to the ground.
They know now. They know.
He dodged the rays and kept making ground through the limbs of the trees like a red pronghorn. His pistol never left his side, but the further he got away from them, the more he could hear rapid footfall. He let a grunt escape from his tired body, soon kneeling to the dirt to elude the climbing rays of light. He tried to remain silent, letting instead his hearing fall onto the waves of the ocean. Time felt like it had stopped.
The ocean waves had roared like shattered glass, the wind howling into the nightmare of the sky. A contoured fog of bright white amalgam was above. Stalactite-like claws pierced shallowly on his chest, Tom let out a cry as he saw the mutant before him. The gun had been thrown by his legs. Locked eyes, black like a Boomslang, processed his body before the creature leaped onto his chest, ungues and teeth bare.
Adorned in red veins, throbbing on his triceps and chest, the creature let out two clotted hands to wrap around Tom’s throat. Tom jabbed his fist into the mutant’s eye, roguely, and it only gave him a second of time to try to inch his pistol near him, but the hands were back around his neck to choke Tom to death.
He kept trying to use the balls of his hands to shove into his assailant’s face, but that too was nearly futile. Huffing, a few gushes of blood emerged from his leg by the shifting weight toppled over his body. He tried to impart his lungs for air, but it felt like the bridge to his chest collapsed from all the pressure.
“SEE WHAT YOU CAUSED. SEE.”
Tom opened his eyes, but the face was a ghost to him; yellow eyes claimed him. He could only murmur incomprehensible words, before hacking blood into the creature’s face. It broke the distance between the two. Tom clutched the pistol with his weak leg, pushing it towards himself. Gushes of saliva dripped on him from the mutant’s wide maw, and in the struggle, the mutant put his overly-impulsed arm over the gun.
“SHE IS GONE.”
When the transmutant leaned in, eyes trained on the weapon, Tom kicked him in the gonads. The escapee gasped when there was no trace of the pistol.
The rain wailed now, and the transmutant was in a fury. He tried to raise the pistol at Tom, firing aimlessly. All were misses. The mutant’s eye began to swell, pivoting in his vision a blood lotus and tusser line in his perception. He stumbled aback, rubbing his face with calloused hands by the almond tree.
They were in a tangent circle, covered in a monolith white of fog, and bruises that were like purple hearts on their skins. Tom rolled onto the ground and with limited motion in the darkness, he was able to jump on the back of the transmutant, back bent in pain as tears willed themselves to come from the monster’s damaged eye.
The unknown pummeled at the mutant as his chest began to erupt with veiny lines, moistened by sweat. On the back of his neck, Tom could see inscribed A-36, and then noticed two triangular symbols on each of A-36’s front limbs, two sharp-edged cuffs on both of his wrists, and one ring on his thumb.
Tom bent himself to the stream of fog as he tried to strangle the mutant. But, it was difficult to stay steady when two giant fists were pounding on his rib cage, fanatically. The mortal let his focus slide with one hand around A-36’s neck putting him in a constricted headlock to cut off his breathing, the other ripping the loose cuff off of his wrist. He plunged it deep into A-36’s eye until it reached his bone sockets, which were sparse with black wires like liquorice. A-36 flinched back and pools of blood escaped, until from the shock, they both grappled to the ground. Tom was covered in dark red.
A-36’s body twitched in agony, the screams never ending. It went off into the night like a siren song. Tom found his gun, adrenaline coursing through his veins, fingers feeling like breaking in response upon the clutch of the pistol as he kept it in his grip. For a moment, he allowed himself to breathe and to feel himself all over, ensuring he was still alive.
The flashes of the sky started to hit A-36. Tom descended deeper into the heart of the forest, coating himself with the fallen Sandalwood branches and leaves as he ducked to the treaded ground. Large footsteps were crossed on the dirt, at least a creature with three claws in its feet. He winced in pain and in fear, not knowing what else was out there to face.
The forest leaves lightly fell on his head. He sighed.
End of Part I.