April 25 6235 AC
Helmand Province , Afghanistan.
Joint Dimensional Marine Corps and Techno-Shaman Quarantine Zone.
Holly sighed as she prepared chicken soup for the three sick girls. She wished she could do more but there wasn't a lot of choice left in the dwindling supplies they had found when they first came into the abandoned D.M.C Motor Pool and Warehouse Depot. Back up generators and ample water tanks kept life bearable but not much else worked. Many areas were auto locked by security and others partially destroyed in the battles waged in the last days. Still she shouldn't complain as they'd be dead if it weren't for this place. She was just so tired, so very tired, and could feel every ounce of hope for rescue draining away day by day. How long had it been now since that day ?
She slumped in a chair in the grimy kitchen lit by flickering security screens and entertainment monitors that no longer received a signal.Their blue erratic light calmed her for some reason. God,she was only thirty-five but felt fifty-three. She loved the children but their being sick and constant need for attention was draining. She knew it wasn't their fault but she was so exhausted.
She wasn't alone though and for that she was grateful. Besides the three girls Ally (six), Dionne and Mabel (three and four years), there were two men and a young boy. Father Gambeon, sixty-three in the shade from the Mission, and Joseph, twenty-five years old and the Mission's new odd jobs guy. Lastly Abel a young boy( five ) who happened to be there when they all made a run for it. The girls had gotten sick two weeks ago or maybe longer she couldn't remember now.
Father Gambeon helped where he could and gave her breaks whenever he felt up to it. Joseph was busy exploring the facility trying to fix the systems or gain entry into blocked areas in an effort to try and get them better conditions and make them safer. He also hunted the immediate area for animals known to him for food and set traps and defenses for those he didn't. He also was a great comfort to her. She wished he was here now but he was somewhere down the lower levels or out hunting. Her memory seemed to be getting worse as well these days due probably to her ever increasing fatigue. Father Gambeon was watching the girls and Abel in the front room. Strange how people you've never met before suddenly become important to you. How one day can change your life. It felt like she almost had a family again.
Just then a loud noise came from what sounded like the front room followed by Father Gambeon yelling something, the girls laughing, and Abel shouting something. The door slammed and Abel came running yelling for her as fast as he could down the hall. She stood up and he slammed into her terrified.
" Abel.." She grabbed his shoulders and stooped to look into his face. " Abel calm down ! Tell me what is going on ?"
" They took Father Gambeon and they tried to grab me but I ran!" He blurted the words out more than spoke them.
" Who did Abel ? Who...." She froze suddenly as she heard strange voices coming from down the hall. Voices the like she'd never heard before. She took Abel's hand and quietly edged around the kitchen table to the knife rack and grabbed the largest one.
" Demons.." Abel whispered as if answering her question after a delayed pause. " The girls think they are angels...."
Holly silenced him with a finger to her lips. She led quietly back around the kitchen table and to the doorway. She chanced a look around the opening and down the long hall and caught a fleeting glimpse of a dark figure wearing weird armour with large spikes on the shoulders and what appeared to be a gas mask with long metallic beaded veil or hair. It was just a glimpse and she doubted herself immediately but still it chilled her. Whatever it was, Demon or Angel or whatever, they were in serious trouble. Where the Hell was Joseph ?
" Stay here OK Abel and be quiet." She whispered.
" Don't leave me..please don't leave me!!" He whimpered terrified though thankfully like her in a whisper.
" OK..OK Abel I won't leave you. " She regretted saying it as soon as she said it because she knew she had to help the girls though how she had no idea after what she thought she had just seen. The frightened boy would no doubt make it worse. " You have to promise me though the first sign of trouble you run. Run as fast as you can and find Joseph and if you can't find him you hide where they can't find you . Deal ?"
" Deal.." He sighed. " We have to go there don't we ?"
" Yes Abel we do. We have to help the girls." She smiled.
He wiped his eyes then took a deep breath. " Then I'll be strong and stop being afraid and we'll help them together."
She smiled for what seemed like the first time in ages. " That's my little man. C'mon and remember quietly."
She still saw fear in his eyes but was sure he could see it in hers as well. She truly didn't want to take him but what choice did she have. She took a deep breath and checked the hall again this time seeing no one. She motioned to Abel and they quietly made their way down the hall along the right hand side. She heard the girls voices and a melodic almost cooing voice. She heard no fear in the girls voices or malice in the other strange voice yet she couldn't help feeling a deep dread building within her. They reached the door which was now only slightly ajar and tried to see in through the gap but it was too dark. She could hear a strange rustling sound like feathers on wings or the leaves of a tree in the wind. She looked at Abel and mouthed the word " Ready " and he nodded slightly.
She breathed in and knife raised in her left hand slowly eased the door open and inwards with her right hand half expecting it to slam back into her. It didn't but the room went silent. Her hand still on the door she stepped out from behind it and stopped dead in her tracks.
She could see the girls sitting on their beds, their faces dreamy as if in a trance or half asleep, smiles gently crossing their faces as they saw her. It wasn't this though that stopped her momentarily, though she was relieved to see them unharmed and somewhat surprised, it was the surreal sight of the thing perched on the end of the middle bed. Ally's bed.Lit by the lanterns beside the girls beds but it also had a kind of dark aura which seemed to weave around it. Literally perched like a bird on the wooden post and board at the foot of her bed. It had it's back to her and Abel yet she could see it was definitely not Human. The massive wings both beautiful and horrible at the same time were a massive giveaway. Brightly coloured feathers, leaves , and what appeared to be strips of flesh or skin comprised them and a strange smell of flowers both fresh and rotting wafted from them as the thing shuffled slightly. Suddenly Ally spoke breaking Holly's thoughts.
" Look Holly.." Ally spoke softly full of wonder and joy. " An Angel ! " She grinned genuinely at Holly and as if on cue the creature slowly turned to face Holly. It was humanoid in form and except for it's feet and hands it looked like a teenage girl. It's feet were more like hands with long nails yet with only three fingers and a thumb on each emerging from the end of what would be a normal foot and heel. It's right hand was a normal human hand again with nails long but it's left was a monstrous claw with the lower ends of each digit being like massive spikes or arrow heads. It had horn like bones protruding from its legs and bone pierced through it's forearms and a weird symbol tattooed on it's upper right arm. It's skin was tight and was gnarled and slashed in places and extremely pale which set off the colourful wings and flowing spiraling locks of red hair. It was wearing a tattered dress which at one time would have been like silk but appeared somewhat dull now with age.
Finally it faced her fully and lifted it's head.It's beautiful red locks parted like a stage curtain to reveal it's face. Holly was both hit by it's strange beauty yet deeply disturbed by it's eyes and mannerisms. Tilting it's head slightly from side to side like a dog trying to understand what its master is saying and occasionally jerking like a nervous twitch it gave off an unsettling alien air. It's face a porcelain mask smooth in it's perfection, a painted smile and big red rosy circles on it's cheeks, semi-circle eye sockets empty at first glance and a bullet hole complete with blood on it's forehead. Yet the eye sockets weren't empty and the mask wasn't a mask at all but real skin formed to appear like a mask.
" Girls.." Holly spoke quietly and forced calm tone. " That is no Angel no matter what it has told you."
" Yes it is Holly." Mabel said beaming. " Can't you see it's wings and it's beautiful light."
" No sweetie I can't see the light and I don't know why you can but I do know that it is not here from God." At that the creature hopped down and staring at her with an intense curiosity it began to move towards her slowly." That's right demon come to me."
" Abel quickly go to the girls." She whispered to him. He looked to the creature and back to her. " Don't worry I'll keep it's attention just get the girls and get them out of here through the door next to the beds. They'll follow you."
" OK" He said sounding extremely nervous. He began to go around slowly along the left hand side of the room. The creature glanced at him then turned back to Holly and let him pass.
It had no obvious intent as it approached it's face still painted and frozen in cheery blank smile. Eyes innocent and curious almost child like or with that disturbing bullet hole in it's head a lobotomized adult. That is until it saw the knife in her hand which she lowered and partially hid behind her back. It's eyes flashed with fear , confusion then anger and it's smile changed to a frown and it launched itself straight up then lunged down with it's monstrous hand knocking the knife out of her grasp.
Holly cried out as her hand broke with it's attack yet she managed a payback in the form of a strong right hand roundhouse punch to it's face followed by a knee to it's jaw. It cried out and hopped back out of her reach. Then it froze and suddenly the room darkened substantially and with it the creature's frown reverted to the unnerving smile. Holly at that moment heard Abel gasp and she looked and saw the figure wearing the gas mask she glimpsed before squatting down behind him right hand over his mouth left hand across his torso firmly holding him to it. Though partially concealed in shadow she could see the armour as before, the beaded hair, but this time she could make out more. Armour covered all except her breasts which had bone spikes piercing out of them and though at first appearance they seemed bared for all to see they weren't. They were actually covered in some sort of skin which was definitely not her own if you looked at her hands. She had material that hung from her waste that looked ceremonial , symbols on her armour, and material around her neck. What was startling was the spiked halo of bone that circled her masked head and the crucifix with the inverted figure that rose behind her head. Engraved on it was a word or name " IHESUS " and surrounding it or more specifically erupting from it was a black void with blue flames snaking out. It looked at her with sad and haunting eyes then looked away. All this happened in a second or two or so it felt as Holly went to yell " let him go!!" and charge over to rescue him. She unfortunately did not get the chance.
As she moved towards Abel she felt something hard and cold hook her around the neck and she was lifted off her feet and pulled backwards hitting the wall next to the door they entered with a loud thud. She cried out as pain raced through her back and neck. Her sight swam out of focus for a second then she heard Ally cry out to her. She attempted to get to her feet ignoring the pain but a firm strong hand pushed her back down and a large heavy stone axe head came down and pinned her legs down.
Holly looked up and ignored the pain in her neck and saw the owner of the axe. Another woman looked down upon her. Another woman with a mask. This mask only covered the top half of her face and hung tattered leaving her mouth and jaw exposed. It appeared to be made of skin. Through the eye sockets she could see kind almost pitying eyes looking back at her. The fact that they were red did not hide the genuine emotion they showed. She wore black flowing silk like robes that seemed almost alive and decorative armour could be seen through cut out areas of the robes. Her neck was fully armoured with a strange symbol on her throat and spikes jutting out. On her head was a massive stone head dress that looked almost Egyptian, pre-cataclysm. It was covered in carvings and lines in patterns and at the center what looked like a Pope's head piece with a lions face carved on it. It was triangular in shape and at the top there was another statue or bust carving of a dog or jackal, maybe an Egyptian god.She saw the axe was also covered in symbols and ornate in design and even had a smaller blade at the other end.
" Don't resist I do not wish to harm you any further. " The woman said firmly yet genuinely.
" Fuck you ! " Holly spat back and struggled to move the axe. It lifted slightly then slammed back down and made her cry out loud.
" No thank you." The woman sighed. " Please don't make me hurt you again. Now be silent and still. She approaches."
" Who..?" Holly started to ask but fell silent quickly as she felt pressure on her legs again causing her to grit her teeth. Then she saw the air between her and the children shimmer and turn black and form into a mass. Then a figure began to emerge like a white light from the darkness. In mere seconds it became defined yet the darkness formed a aura around her and swirled and moved across her . It was like a portal that the being was not ready to fully cross through. It hovered a few feet off the floor so it was hard to gather how tall she was but what could be seen and felt filled Holly's heart with pure cold fear.
Dressed in white she looked like a Nun of some kind. A combination of flowing layers of robes like silk, some plain, some like the flowing sleeves intricate and beautifully detailed, over which she wore an a beautiful armoured bodice. The torso part anyway.The abdomen area was covered in carved heads depicted screaming and was quite disturbing. The long robes emerging from under it were covered in designs and like her sleeves seemed to disappear into the living darkness or portal. There were vines with thorns draped around her hips also.
Around her neck were jewelery falling beneath armour that covered her entire neck. Her face was of course covered by a mask made from dessicated skin cracked and bleached or white with age. Material fell and draped down the sides of her face from beneath what looked like some kind of ancient Nun's Habit that was triangular and large in its brim. Veils of material and dark matter fell down from its rear and a character was written on the peak of the habit's brim. Above the brim on the right side flowers cascaded down and along her veils into the dark aura and on the left dark energy moved like fire with blue energy flames akin to the one in the gas mask. Barbed vines and metal spikes fanned out and down her side. From behind a cross on a stone tablet rose tall behind her head. The cross was ragged and rotting and had words written on it and a small primitive symbol at the top. The stone tablet was riddled with cracks and had runes carved into it.
She carried a staff magnificent in it's crafting, covered and adorned and sculpted in symbols and figures and draped with banners and flags of some description. At it's top was more of the strange black energy and blue flames. It was a staff of power, like a Warlord's staff, not a religious staff yet it seemed right in this creature's hand though with the dark energy swirling around her that hand could not be seen.
Her eyes were the worst though. At first milky white dead like she was blind then as she scanned the room they flashed pure white and seemed the could see through all and burn through souls.It moved towards them but didn't seem to even notice Holly. Holly's skin crawled from the cold seeming to come from her and the revulsion she felt as she smelt rot and death. It spoke to the warrior woman in a voice so soft and peaceful yet devoid of any emotion.
" Is all as it should be ?"
" Yes Holiness." The Warrior answered reverently with head slightly bowed.
" Then let us finish and be away ." It said and turned to drift away towards the children.
" Hey !!" Holly called after it. " Hey Holiness !!! I'm talking to you !!" It didn't acknowledge her.
" Silence !!" The Warrior hissed down to her. " If you value your life be quiet."
" No I won't be quiet ! " Holly spat back. " I want some fucking answers. I want .."
" It doesn't matter what you want now be silent or you'll force my hand and I'll be forced to mourn you." The Warrior said almost pleading. " I do not want that."
" That's nice..really." Holly said not quite keeping the sarcasm out of her voice. " But it doesn't really matter what you want."
" Then be it on your own head." The Warrior replied sadly.
" Yeah on my own head. So what else is new." Holly slid her right hand around the floor and found a small ball that the children had left lying around. " Hey Holiness you fucking bitch don't you dare ignore me !" She through the ball before the warrior could react and it hit the being in the back.
" On your own head." The Warrior said and to Holly's surprise lifted the axe off her and stepped aside. The other creatures looked at her in disbelief. The one referred to as Holiness turned slowly and glided back to them.
" That got your attention didn't it ?" Holly laughed a little and even to her own ears it didn't sound convincing.
" Something struck this vessel." It spoke to the Warrior ignoring her again. " How came this to be Protector of The Word and Will "
" It.." The Warrior started to answer but was cut short when the " Holiness" thrust it's staff inches from her face. It forced the Warrior through the wall into the hall.
" It is beneath us as you are beneath The Word and Will. It should not be here, it should not have a voice , nor should it have been allowed to strike The Innocent."
" Forgive me Holiness..." The Warrior whispered on her knees.
" Listen bitch.." Holly grabbed the holy one's dress and ignoring searing pain used it and the wall to get to her feet. Simultaneously all in the room bar Holly gasped and froze.
" It..it touches .." The winged creature referred to as The Innocent cooed in shock and horror. The gas masked creature released Abel and moved towards them. Abel ran swiftly to the girls who were crying out to Holly to let go of The Angel but The Innocent swiftly blocked his way causing him to back away and crouch back where he was.
" ..I am not an "It" and I will not be ignored ! " Holly yelled into it's face. " I hit you with the ball and I hurt your precious Innocent . She warned me and I ignored her." She pointed at The Warrior through the hole in the wall. " She said it would be on my head and I said yes it would be on my head...." It finally looked at her. "..because I want answers, I want the girls, and I want them fucking now !! Have I finally got your fucking attention you arrogant bitch!!!"
" On your own head..." The Holiness barely whispered.
" Yes !" Holly shook with pain and frustration.
" Then so be it." The Holiness sighed then turned the staff towards Holly and it flared and she flew across the short distance slamming into the corner hitting then landing hard and winded. Tears ran down her face from the incredible pain and she fought unconsciousness. She looked through blurred eyes at the woman and met eyes of pure white light.
" On your own head." It whispered and suddenly all the anger and all the bravado drained away. Suddenly she knew true fear. It turned it's gaze away from her and spoke something to the Warrior and then addressed the other two but Holly caught not a word. The gas masked one then seemed to disappear into a aura of darkness then reappeared seconds later at the same time as two more dark masses formed and two new creatures appeared. One next to The Holiness and the other barely visible near the girls beds. That one stayed in the shadows as if awaiting something.
" What have we here ? " The creature next to The Holiness asked. Creature was not exactly correct as it seemed a mixture of animal, reptile, plant, bird and humanoid. Female was the only certain aspect about it or feline being more fitting. That being as most of it's body from feet or paws, legs and torso and long tail were like that of a tigress except more humanoid in form and chest covered in fur and stripes. Arms definitely humanoid except reptilian in skin covered in scales and also pierced with bones. Half her face was beautiful and definitely Human whilst the other half seemed to have branches and vines sprouting from it twining and tangling with the auburn wild hair that cascaded around her.
The most disturbing thing was the giant black bird that spread it's massive black wings behind and around her that appeared to be formed out of her back and possibly connected to the fleshy pulsing almost umbilical chord that ran from a gaping slit in her stomach twining around her and disappearing into the tangle of her hair on her left side. It stared intensely at Holly as the creature raised her arms up and over it's wings as if to stroke it and calm it. A scent of earthiness and nature and underlying rot wafted from it.
" That is what we are about to find out. " The Holiness replied softly." It demanded The Word and Will's attention and has received it and agreed it to be on it's own head. "
" How did one such beneath thee acquire the honour of the Divine attention may I ask ?" The feline asked.
" It laid hands on this vessel." The Holiness replied.
" Blasphemous yet spirited." Both Bird and Feline glanced at Holly. " Let's see how spirited it is after it's questions are answered and the Truth told and laid bare."
" Then let us begin." The Holiness sighed. " Innocence, Nurturer please take the children outside as this is not for their eyes and ears."
" No way!!! " Holly cried out. " You aren't taking my kids anywhere. I won't let you ! "
" And what pray tell are you going to do to stop us ?" The Natural laughed whilst the black bird stared with a look of amusement. " You can't even stand."
" They will come to no harm,unlike they have been till now, and we both know they are not your children."The Holiness glanced at her with a look that chilled her." The Innocent and The Nurturer will protect them where you have failed."
" Does that include the whelp ?" The Innocent asked.
" No it's purity is of no consequence." The Holiness replied. " Let it see the souls of those that have damned it."
" As you wish." The Innocent cooed sweetly. She turned to Abel. " Go to her whelp."
" My name is Abel.." He whispered.
" Irrelevant " She replied and moved to the girls and gave him a backhand like shove towards Holly with her wing.
Holly watched with anger and frustration both at the creature and at herself for not being able to do anything but slump in the corner and watch. She hated feeling weak and helpless but her physical pain outweighed her will at the moment. Then her feelings both physical and emotional were replaced with horror as the one known as The Nurturer emerged from the shadows into the light of the lanterns next to the girls beds.
It wasn't so much her initial appearance, at least from the torso up, it was the pulsing flesh both around her sides and from stomach down. She was beautiful in a way, peaceful yet sad, kind yet truly alien. Her attire was beautiful and decorated, religious somewhat , and adorned with symbols and jewelery. A head piece that was gorgeous and somewhat like a fantasy maiden's or medieval yet draping from behind and flowing and pulsing was the living darkness that seemed to be a part of these beings. She wore bracelets and jewels on her arms, she had eight, two normal adult Human arms and three sets like that of children.
Beneath the veil and half emerged as if part of it were sacks of flesh with glistening slits in the middle, like nightmarish vaginas,that quivered and leaked fluid. There were three on each side of her. Her stomach region bulged out as if she were pregnant yet she had a disturbing slit that appeared stapled shut which her small hands occasionally almost absent-minded in fashion caressed. Below the stomach which unlike the others, the sacks, appeared to have something in it, a long plain black dress of the darkness like substance flowed down beneath her hovering form giving the distinct impression she had no legs. It glided slowly to the girls and smiled kindly at them yet in it's sad eyes Holly saw a gleam of underlying hunger, or better put, obsession. She saw the sacks at her side shudder and flex as if with anticipation.
" Get that thing away from them!" Holly cried. She started to try and get up and was hit by waves of pain. Abel tried to help her. " I will not allow that thing to touch them !"
The Nurturer turned and looked at her with genuine hurt in it's eyes. " I would never.."
" Do not speak to it dear one you do not have to explain thyself to the likes of it. " The Holiness addressed it whilst turning once again to face Holly. " Take the children outside and care for them as only one as blessed as you can. The Innocent will help you. We will join you shortly."
" Like Hell she will.." Holly somehow managed to get to her feet regardless of the pain half leaning on the wall and half with help from Abel.
" Spirited indeed." The feline one said somewhat surprised. " Too bad it's all in vain. Whelp sit her back down her obvious physical pain is making The Sight unsettled." She stroked the bird when she said that.
" Fuck you and your bird bitch.." Holly glowered at it. " No one is taking those girls anywhere ! Human, Alien, Angels or Demons I don't care what you are !"
" How dare you.." The feline seethed.The Holiness flowed up to her blocking the enraged creature.
" Enough !" She said softly yet with authority silencing both Holly and stopping the other in it's tracks. " There will be no more violence nor ignorant outbursts. We have wasted too much time here as it is and I will not tolerate any more unbecoming behavior from both the lesser nor the Divine."
With that she pulled a ceremonial curved blade from within the darkness of her robes and held it towards Holly.
" No further violence..." Holly glare at her. " What's that for then Demon ? "
" Ritual and Blessing.." The Holiness looked upon her now with pure white eyes and Holly could not look away. " Spit your blood on it's blade so we can finally begin."
Holly spat on the blade then on The Holiness' mask. It looked at her and wiped the blood on the blade on her mask herself and spoke a few words that Holly didn't understand. It nodded at Holly as if to thank her for her assistance. Not the reaction she hoped for. As The Holiness stepped back Holly saw that the girls and the other creatures were gone. She literally saw red and looked back at The Holiness who cut her off before she could get out one furious word.
" It is for the good of the children for they have witnessed, heard, and been victim to too much horror as it is, especially since being under your care." It raised it's right hand to cut her off again. " It is the reason We are here. We are not Demons, we are not monsters or even Angels, and we are not remnants nor servants of the one who plunged your world into darkness and chaos. A mere lost soul usurped by ancient darkness and chaos was she and beneath us as shown by her eventual defeat at the hands of heathens ,science and mere mortal men."
" We are Salvation and Redemption to the worthy, Truth and Mirrors to the souls of the Damned."
" So you are here to save us is that it ?" Holly asked through gritted teeth. " You expect me to believe that bullshit after you abduct three children ? You are truly kidding yourself lady ."
" I said nothing of saving you." The Holiness replied.
" So I'm one of the Damned then ?" Holly asked.
" No." The Holiness sighed. " You were not even a minute concern to us. Until you interfered, until you laid hands on this vessel, you did not even exist. We were here only for the children ." She paused and looked at the wall to her left as if seeing or hearing something the others could not . The feline moved a little back towards the open door through which Holly had originally come through after seeing a minute gesture from The Holiness to allow her to move closer to what had attracted her attention. She turned her back to the wall and returned her attention to Holly.
" Your situation now is through all your own doing. The three children are safe and blessed. Unlike under your care The Nurturer will protect them and help them flourish."
" She exists for nothing else. " The feline joined in." She was a kind soul under enslavement to a Tyrant who raped her repeatedly so she would give him a son to carry on his cruel reign yet when he discovered she was pregnant with a female child he tried to kill them both by attempting to cut the child out. She fought him till her life was nearly extinguished which was when The Tracker found her and we were able to save her. Her child died and so devastated was she she asked to be with it and The Word and Will granted her request and they have been together ever since and have dedicated themselves not only to God but to the protection and salvation of all children. Along with The Innocent, an abused and neglected child shot by her own Mother in a drug induced delusion, who also dedicates herself to the protection of children of all species and planes of existence these girls are truly safe now. Unlike with you and yours."
"I protected those girls, I've cared for those girls and I've come to love those girls and Abel here. I'd do anything to protect these kids. " Holly coughed and pain wracked her body causing her to pause a minute then she continued." Look at me, twenty shades of shit kicked outta me and I'm still fighting for them. I'd die for them."
" Then why didn't you ?" The feline asked.
" What ?" Holly asked.
" Protect them." She replied
" Die for them. " The Holiness said
" I ...why didn't I die for them ?" Holly asked not believing what she was hearing. " Why didn't I die for them ? Are you serious ?"
" Quite." The feline said coldly.
" How would my death have protected them? How could I protect them if I was dead ?" Holly was truly confused.
" If you had died they would not be here. If you had died they would not have endured and been exposed to what they have. They would not be the victims of those who were supposed to protect them and deliver them to safety. " The feline stared at Holly with contempt."
" You're truly mad.." Holly shook her head." I don't have a clue as to what you are talking about. I should've died. When should I have died ? What have I exposed them to by not dying ? Who here has victimized them ?"
" You do know." The Holiness spoke her eyes piercing pure white. " You have just chosen to forget or to let your mind paint a different picture more palatable for you to live with. "
" I truly don't.." Holly started.
" Then let us remind you." The Feline cut her off. " Three months of your time ago you were sent to a Mission Field Hospital on the edge of what is now the perimeter of this so called dimensional barrier. A punishment I believe for petty theft in time of war. You were just trying to survive we understand but at this time food was scarce and the Military needed help in all areas. So they sent you to the front lines to help out at the hospital run by the believers of the false God."
" How do you know.." Holly was cut off again with a finger to the lips by The Feline
" Please don't interrupt." The Feline said sounding a little annoyed . " The Ritual and Blessing, which you thought was just a trick to distract you whilst The Innocent and The Nurturer escorted the children from the room , opened your mind to us. By saying " On my own head " you gave us permission and also made yourself accountable for your actions and accepting of the judgment The Word and Will passes upon you. You also pardoned The Protector of her failure this evening."
" Yes we know you thought you were speaking of taking whatever pain and damage that may have come from any attempt you might have made whilst trying to save the girls after you said the phrase but ignorance is no excuse and you are bound to it. It is why both The Protector and The Word and The Will asked you numerous times. It is not something to undertake lightly. "
" You are an open book to us and try as you might you won't be able to hide behind the words." The Word and The Will as Holly now thought of her instead of The Holiness said. She looked to the feline. " Continue Natural."
" After two of your days the final battle between your worlds forces and the Dark Ones reached the pinnacle moment of it's four hundred year journey. The Mission was caught in the back and forth and word came to evacuate and it was then that your string of decisions began to lead you down the path of failure to where you are now and the need for us to intervene."
" That day was insane and I fought my heart out trying to keep these kids and myself alive and from where I sit I did not fail ! " Holly defended herself.
" You failed to get them to Camp Bastion as was ordered. " The Natural stated. " You were too slow getting them to a Marine transport because you hesitated during the heated crossfire. You allowed yourself and the Sister to get turned around in the confusion instead of listening to her when she told you the correct way and in doing so led to her being cut in half by a creature. A sight which has plagued young Mabel's dreams ever since. Then by chance you stumbled upon the two men you know as Father Gambeon and Joseph who were making their way to a freight transport vehicle, light armoured yet fast, along with two British Marines. The Marines fought valiantly as Joseph drove the vehicle fast and at times recklessly. Despite repeated warnings from the two warriors to slow down and watch out for Improvised Explosive Devices he hit one small yet powerful enough to disable the vehicle a mere three hundred meters to where the gate of the barrier that was activated whilst you were en route was just about to close."
" The remaining forces of The Chaos being who is beneath us to name had escaped before the major portal was sealed fell upon you all and the two Marines gave all they had and yelled at you to take the children and run as hard as you could to the gate before it closed. A mere three hundred meters. Joseph and Father Gambeon both had weapons yet defended only themselves and were trying to get to it on their own. Instead of running to the gate you hesitated and waited a minute too long and only ran as both Marines fell. The Marines at the gate were offering cover fire the whole time yet now as you waited too long they turned their weapons solely to holding off the horde of remaining creatures."
" You still could have gotten the children close enough so they could reach safety. The Marines even called out at one stage for you to try .You however were too frightened you'd lose your own life which you should have done like you swear you would do for them. The creatures would have gone for you first allowing the children time to reach the gate and the safety of the soldiers. Yet you made another mistake and instead ran to Father Gambeon and Joseph. Both were still fighting towards the gate but were obviously not going to make it as they were going up the hill away from the main struggle."
" The Marine at the gate yelled to you to try and get to this facility and find a way through the underground tunnels to reach Bastion. You only did the first half of what he told you to do. You then compounded your string of errors by relying upon and listening to and believing two men you had only met briefly on the first day at the Mission Hospital. Two men who are not what they pretend to be and who have lied to you ever since. Two predators, different in ways, yet vile creatures in their appetites. The children escaped one evil only to be trapped with another and it was down to your failure to protect them as you should have."
" You weren't there ! " Holly snapped. " There were explosions, smoke, screams and noise, and creatures and gun fire flying everywhere. It was chaos. It was hard to see, hard to discern screams from voices, and one wrong move could see you torn apart by the creatures or blown apart or shot by friendly fire. I was trying to keep all of us alive!! I.. "
" Did the best I could.." The Natural mocked her.
" I fought hard.." The Innocent who had returned silently and had been watching from the shadows mocked her.
" It was chaos I didn't know..." The Tracker breathed, laughed through her mask as she emerged from a dark portal next to The Word and Will.
" Denial. " The Word and Will breathed the word softly.
" How dare you !! " Holly took a step towards The Word and Will. Abel held her legs to stop her moving further. "I.."
" You are still lying to yourself. " The Natural spoke matter of fact. " You can rationalize, lie, hide and transfer guilt from yourself as much as you desire."
" But you can not lie to us." The Word and Will stepped forward and held the staff towards Holly. Holly slammed back hard into the corner and cried out in pain then despite Abel's efforts slid down the wall like a rag doll.
" Stop it ! " Abel shouted at The Word and Will. " Stop hurting her ! "
" Aww.." The Innocent cooed. " The big hero."
" Shut up demon ! " He snapped at the creature. " In fact all of you shut up and just leave us alone !"
" Silence the whelp.." The Word and Will spoke to The Tracker. The gas masked creature gave a slight nod to her and moved towards Abel.
He surprised all present then by producing the knife that Holly had lost in her fight with The Innocent and as quickly as they all registered he had it he threw it hard fast and straight . It entered The Tracker's throat and buried itself to the hilt. The creature's eyes went wide behind the lenses of it's mask and blood flowed freely down it's neck onto it's chest. It's scream of pain more a pathetic gurgle. It collapsed to the floor .
" Oh God.." Holly in total shock turned to Abel. " Run Abel. Now kid run as fast as you can and don't stop till you are far away! " He just looked at her. " Get the fuck outta here now !!"
She used the last of her strength to grab him and shove him through the hole in the wall. To her relief it must have woke him up from wherever his head had gone after killing the creature because he looked at her one last time then ran.She looked back to the creature then up at the others. The Word and Will stood with her head bowed and made the sign of a cross with her hand as if she was finishing a prayer for the fallen creature. The Natural began to move towards the door and The Innocent was crying and pacing and mumbling it's movements jittery and erratic. The Word and Will looked up and saw The Natural walking out the door and called her back.
" Leave it ." She said.
" It has to pay for it's sin !! " The Natural snarled.
" It pays for nothing." The Word and Will whispered coldly then gestured to Holly. " She does. She brought the weapon and returned the whelp here when it had left and was of no further concern."
" You are right of course but still.." The Natural started to reply.
" The whelp is alone now and will assuredly fall to the natural predators. " The Word and Will cut her off. " It will pay for it's actions at Nature's discretion."
" So be it then." The Natural sighed.
" You two make me sick." Holly said. " You say you came here to save the children yet you wish harm on a poor frightened boy who was only defending himself . Sure he killed that thing but you drove him to it. You kidnap the girls who he had come to see as his sisters, you assault and for all I know have killed Father Gambeon who was like a Father figure to him, and you've assaulted me in front of him. What do you expect ? What sort of reaction do you expect after what you've put him through ? You didn't even treat him like a person. I say you should be the ones to pay and be held accountable for your sins. Not me and most certainly not him."
" You weren't even referring to him when you said you were here to save the Children." She paused to cough and winced in pain." You're fucking hypocrites and bigots. What was it? Was it because of his mixed race or was it merely because he was male ? "
" Male.." The Innocent replied.
" Silence !" The Word and Will snapped at the creature.
" Outta the mouths of babes.. " Holly smiled at her small victory. " Murderers, kidnappers, sexist, deluded hypocritical religious freaks. "
" Why you..." The Natural moved a step towards her.
" Now now.." Holly waved her finger at it. " Don't you remember the old rule ?"
" What is that ?" The Natural glared at and nearly through her.
" Judge not lest ye be judged yourself." Holly smirked loving the confusion and distress she was causing this arrogant creature.
" Natural step back and compose thyself." The Word and Will commanded calmly. " Listen not to it's words. Listen not to it's lies. It only seeks to cause confusion. To undermine and sew seeds of doubt. "
" Now who's in denial ?" Holly laughed softly with little humour.
" Your words have no effect upon me and my Faith cannot be swayed by your pathetic attempts and outlandish accusations." The Word and Will looked down at her with dead eyes.
" Just calling it how I see it." Holly spoke calmly and held it's eyes with hers. " You are going to kill me either way so why not be honest. Everything I said is true and you know it. At least they do." She waved her hand to The Innocent then The Natural. " Being The Word and Will of your so called God you're probably too brainwashed to at the very least acknowledge it. Faith as blind as your eyes."
" My eyes are not blind infidel nor my mind clouded from the truth." The Word and Will said without a trace of anger. " For I am Divine."
" Infidel..? " Holly rolled her eyes. " Not above a little name calling either I see."
" This serves no purpose." The Word and Will sighed. " Time to end this. Innocence take your sister's body from this damned place and then return with..."
" Hang on a second your Holiness." Holly interrupted her. " We haven't finished yet. You still haven't answered all my questions."
" Quickly then.." The Word and Will replied as if talking to a difficult child. "..our time here is nearly at an end."
" Firstly where is Father Gambeon and is he alive ? Joseph too." Holly asked.
" Father Gambeon as you refer to him is outside bearing the burden of his lies and actions. He suffers befittingly and assuredly wishes he could die but that mercy we have denied him. His voice too denied so his screams may not be heard and he shall suffer in silence like his victims."
" His lies and victims ? " Holly sighed. " What pray tell has that sweet old man possibly done ? "
" Impersonation of a servant of God, fictional though it may be, a manipulator of people for his own personal gain. Admittedly not a crime worthy of our attention but he also used it for his own vile predatory desires. Children.."
" Oh you are so full of shit..." Holly jumped in.
" Of course you disbelieve but ask yourself this. Why is it that the whelp more often than not was sent from the room to help you or Joseph ? Why was it that the girls fell quiet whenever he spoke to them in your presence ? Why is it that they have been so sick and getting worse when physically there is nothing wrong with them ?"
" You are a liar ! Father Gambeon would never do.." Holly fired up.
" He was adept in playing roles to allow people to relax around him their usual defenses allowing him to position himself so he could pursue his evil desires." She looked at the wall again as she did earlier as if seeing or hearing something the others couldn't then continued. " You were too consumed with the children and yourself to see through his act, just as those at The Mission were when a new priest turned up suddenly a week before you did with a young man named Joseph who offered to help out for food and board."
" I would've known." Holly stated firmly. " I was always close by. I would have heard the girls if they were in trouble. One of the girls would have called for help especially Ally. She's a strong girl and would fight tooth and nail to protect Dionne and Mabel. "
" Yes she would if given the chance which she wasn't. " The Word and Will answered." The little ones were threatened the loss of Ally by Gambeon who held a knife to her throat and Ally the loss of her own life and the promise that Dionne and Mabel would be poisoned and die painfully and slowly."
" I don't believe you." Holly said softly. " Even if you were telling the truth about him there was no way he could get away with it. The doors don't lock and Joseph and I could've walked in at anytime."
" Yes there was that possibility but being the twisted mind he is he thought of a way around it. " The Word and Will said and once again turned her dead eyes towards the wall. " He either waited until you were asleep or being distracted by Abel or entwined with Joseph. The latter you did more frequently as time passed. " Holly turned a little red as that part was true." He also found a way to enter the room at these times through a secret door that he and Joseph discovered. He swore Joseph to secrecy or he would reveal Joseph's own vile practices to you. This secrecy however was not uncommon as both men kept many secrets from you about themselves and this place."
" A secret door ? " Holly laughed. " Now I know your lying. The amount of time I've spent in this room I got to know every inch of it. There are no seams, no book case to hide it behind, no tapestries, nothing. "
" Allow me to enlighten you." The Word and Will sighed and turned her staff to face the spot that kept drawing her attention. The wall began to shimmer then a door was revealed." A mere glamour requested by the military and supplied by the heretics and heathens known as Techno-Shamans." She said with distaste. "Now as for Joseph, well, let's just save time and invite the filth in." She said turning her staff to the right and the door.
Suddenly it hissed open sliding to the right and a young man with long black hair stumbled out as if he'd had his ear to the door listening. He was also holding a D.M.C quad barreled Pacifier shotgun. He quickly regained his composure and leveled the weapon at The Word and Will's head.
" Don't fucking move bitch or I'll blow your fucking head off !" He yelled with slightly obvious bravado. " I mean it !"
" How original." The Word and Will said totally blase. She didn't even flinch or look at him. " Joseph is it ? "
" Yes." Joseph replied with what seemed his best attempt at being the " tough guy hero ". " Now both you freaks are gonna back away and let Holly go. Holly come here quick."
Holly couldn't move now even if she wanted to which she did but for some reason not to go to him. " I can't move Joseph."
" You bitches ! What have you done to her ?" He shoved the gun closer to The Word and Will's head.
" You should know.." The Word and Will said. "..you've been hiding in there the whole time."
" What ? No..I.." Joseph stammered like a guilty child. " Holly don't listen to her. She's lying just like she's been lying all along ! Haven't you bitch ?"
" All along..?" Holly looked at him as the realization hit home.
" All along." The Natural repeated as she looked into Holly's eyes and saw the truth sink in.
" Shut up freak !" Joseph backed a step towards the hidden room and passage.
" Or you'll do what coward ?" The Natural asked with contempt.
" I blow you both away ! " He said unaware of the room behind him turning suddenly pitch black and the woman known as The Protector stepping from it behind him.
" I don't think so boy." The Protector said making him jump. In a blink of an eye the towering warrior ripped the gun from his hands with one hand tossing it across the room and pinned him to her tight with her axe shaft across his throat. She quickly pinned his arms to his chest with the arm she used to disarm him. He struggled for a second but gave up just as quickly. " Pathetic." She said sounding totally disgusted.
" That it is." The Natural smirked. " She leaned forward lifted his face to see into his eyes. The Bird leaned forward with her.
" Fuck you.." Joseph began to bluster then his words turned into a scream of pain and shock as with lightning speed The Bird plucked first his right then his left eye swallowing each. It reared its head back for a second closing it's black eyes and The Natural stood straight and released his face and took one step back. Like The Bird's her eyes were closed too.
Holly too stunned to react looked on silently. Her mind raced and reeled an her heart screamed both in divided horror at her lover's pain and the slowly dawning fear that was growing by the minute that she was not ready to face. She looked to The Word and Will and saw she was looking at her. Her dead eyes somehow expressed that she knew what Holly was thinking and she gestured with her hand for her to return her attention to what was transpiring. Holly reluctantly did so.
" It seems Protector you have missed one weapon." The Natural said with barely contained fury. Though it was not directed at the now confused warrior. " A concealed weapon used in the despicable acts performed with sick perverted desire. The same acts he did not wish Gambeon to tell you of Holly. I believe you've even seen this weapon before. "
The Natural tore off the lower half off the t-shirt Joseph was wearing with the bone spikes on her left reptilian forearm and then placed her cold hand on his bare stomach. The hand then transformed from what looked like a Human hand into something that to Holly's fearful eyes like bark of a gnarled old tree. The fingers then transformed into thick coiled vines covered in thorns that immediately snaked downwards tearing flesh as they went. Joseph began to scream and thrash his legs about but was held tight and upright by The Protector as the cutting vines disappeared beneath the waistband of his jeans.
" Oh God.." Holly heard herself whisper. Then nothing but Joseph's howl as The Natural violently and swiftly pulled her "hand" back out with blood squirting from what it held. Joseph slumped like a rag doll as blood soaked his jeans. The Protector tossed him to the floor like a side of rotten meat.
" He used this on animals, natural creatures that posed no threat, that he desired more from than just their meat." The Natural looked into Holly's tear filled eyes with naked fury and a simultaneous deep felt sadness. " He also used it when he lay with you."
Holly violently wretched and bile raced and burned up the back of her throat at the same time as she wanted to scream. The Natural threw Josephs genitals at her feet and Holly turned away to her right and vomited.
" What's wrong Holly ? " The Natural mocked her. " Doesn't it turn you on anymore ? Pathetic whore.."
" Enough Natural !!!" The Word and Will uncharacteristically shouted. " Leave us !! Such base and emotional behaviour will not be tolerated !"
" No ! " The Natural shot a look at The Word and Will almost threatening. " She needs.."
" NO !..." The Word and Will uttered in disbelief. " You say NO to your God !!! How dare you !!!" She roared and thrust her staff mere inches in front of The Natural's face. The Bird screeched and tried to turn away but The Natural merely pushed it to the side so she could see The Word and Will.
" Yes I said no ! " She stared defiantly at the masked woman. " I'll not turn the other cheek anymore."
" So be it !! " The Word and Will's eyes shone brilliant white.
The staff flared brilliantly and The Natural flew back hard into the wall next to the secret door. The Bird screeched in pain as in the impact it's bones were broken. The Natural roared in fury as it fell silent and it's head hung lifeless next to hers. She was about to reach out and try and grab the staff but she found she couldn't move. Pinned against the wall and paralyzed it was easy and quick for The Protector to swing her axe and behead The Natural.
" Burn !!" The Word and Will commanded and The Natural's remains were incinerated. The staff ceased to blaze and her eyes returned to normal. She made a sign of a cross and whispered some words, to which The Protector replied " Amen", but it did not seem like a prayer more a mere statement or required ritual. She lifted her head and returned her attention to Holly once more.
Holly felt her gaze more than saw it as she was too tired, beaten physically and emotionally, to raise her head to look at the woman. She just lay there quivering next to her vomit resigned to whatever came next. When nothing did she rolled over slowly and pushed herself up somehow enough to slump against the wall so she could see the woman. Her dead eyes locked onto Holly's immediately.
" Why are you just staring at me ? " Holly almost whispered. " If you are going to kill me just do it."
" Are you that eager to die ?" The Word and Will asked but did not wait for an answer. " Such a release from your current pain and suffering, both physically and emotionally, would assuredly be a merciful blessing for you indeed. Question is do you deserve such mercy ?"
" Maybe I do or maybe I don't. Either way I don't care." Holly paused to cough and spat out blood and some residual vomit. " I've had enough. There's nothing left for me now. So if you truly are a messenger of God then pass your judgement and end it all now."
" Self pity provides no motivation for us to kill you Holly." The Word and Will sighed. " Quite the opposite. "
" It's not out of self pity." Holly said matter of fact in tone. " It's because you were right."
" About ? " The Word and Will asked sounding a little more interested this time.
" All of it." Holly said . " My actions, my ignorance and selfishness. My denial and guilt. All of it true. You forced me to look where I've always avoided and through what happened here I've seen that truth. In myself and in others. I've nothing left to live for and nothing left to give. "
" Then so be it. " The Word and Will softly replied. She looked to The Protector who gave a slight nod and disappeared into a portal of black energy. A minute later two such portals opened out of which stepped The Protector and a new creature. Grotesque and foul smelling it at first glance invoked a fearful response yet as Holly forced herself to keep looking she realized the creature was more frightened than she.
Black as night it was hard to see fully at first but in the glow of The Word and Will's staff and the light from the secret doorway it was revealed in all too much detail. Frail, twisted and deformed it reluctantly and nervously inched forward to crouch before The Word and Will. It's skin was black, like cancerous cells not natural skin pigment, and stretched tight over gnarled muscle and bone. It was covered in pus filled sores and boils, infected and weeping lesions and growths. It's long limbs shook with the creature's surprising nervous disposition yet were strong enough to support the burden of it's largest deformities. A massive right hand, what fingers it had, long and spread wide. In it's palm another opening like those on the pods of The Nurturer. It's feet large and long two toes and extended heel.
Protruding bones and other spike like shapes and growths lined it's legs and arms. Some looking like weapons some like broken bones pushed out through the diseased skin. Some like cancerous growths one upon the other. It's back was a mass of growths, spires and spikes, and snaking flesh funnels wet with secretions unknown. It's head elongated and impossibly heavy looking. Too heavy for the whisper thin neck to possibly support with it's layers and protrusions all tapering up and out. A snaking parasite with tiny legs with only a dribbling opening in what would be it's head emerged from her forehead looking like a demented vision of a penis. Above the layered bony ridges near the top of the head another thing snaked out of another vaginal like opening yet on the end it was like a hand or flower with five petals or claws with a small opening in the center.
It's face sad and pathetic. Eyes sunken weeping tears of unknown liquid, skin taught over Humanoid shaped face and nose, and a small mouth that gave the impression it had never curved into a smile. It's eyes showed genuine sorrow and fear. It appeared to truly be here against it's will. It looked back and forth between Holly and The Word and Will and cowered when it's eyes locked finally with it's leader.
" Do not fret so Purifier." The Word and Will spoke softly to it like speaking to a child. " This night is a special night for you. Your sins atoned for and redemption achieved. Your final task to cleanse this one's soul and purge the darkness of others you've been forced to accumulate for centuries."
" Thank you.." The Purifier whispered nervously yet with a hint of joy and relief. The Word and Will simply nodded and turned to Holly.
" You are not frightened by her appearance. You see past the exterior to the soul inside." The Word and Will stated as her eyes began to shine pure white once again. " Not many do. Along with your genuine acceptance of the truth of what was revealed to you this night , your unforeseen actions and reactions, you have shown a truth of yourself that was not initially evident. Not to us nor even to yourself. You also revealed hidden truths within The Divine "
" What does all that mean ?" Holly asked.
" You've changed your fate." The Word and Will replied.
" I'm not going to die ? " Holly asked.
" Yes you are still going to die. " The Word and Will replied as she turned and signaled to The Purifier to begin. " You have to die to be reborn." With that she disappeared into a portal leaving only The Purifier and The Protector with Holly.
" She'll answer your questions if need be in the morn when she returns." The Protector said. " Do not fear all will be well."
" OK.." Holly started but lost what she was going to say as a foul smell filled the room and her eyes were drawn to The Purifier. From every sore, every tube and opening, black reeking liquid along with pus and blood was being excreted. The creature writhed and whimpered in what seemed a mixture of pain and joy. When finished the foul excretion covered all except the creature itself and Holly and The Protector though it seemed to be trying to reach Holly. The Protector spoke in a language unknown and the foul excrement was pulled back into a single mass in the center of the room. A portal opened and it was bathed in blue flame and dragged inside.
With the purging finished The Purifier turned to Holly. It was pure white energy shining through a thin layer of pink skin now and it gave off a calming warmth. Pure blue eyes locked with Holly's and it's giant hand touched her face. " This will hurt a lot." It smiled kindly not maliciously and Holly blacked out.
As morning broke outside the Quarantine barrier inside it was still dark except for the light from the silently screaming crucified burning man and some spotlights around the complex. Three figures emerged from inside. The Protector, The Word and Will, and between them another that Abel didn't recognize. He didn't care. Whoever this new creature was she'd die with the rest of them. He'd already killed one and felt no remorse or guilt. What's a few more ? They are killers after all. Kidnappers as well. They killed Joseph, he heard him scream in the night, and what they've done to poor Father Gambeon. Demons, monsters one and all.
Worst of all they killed Holly. She was so kind to him, looked after him, and loved him as if she was the mother he never knew. He heard her scream out in the night not long after Joseph and his heart sunk. She suffered terribly at their hands protecting him and trying to protect the girls. Accused her of things not true and then just killed her ruthlessly. He could not forgive them and they would pay severely. Then they would die. The one they called Innocent would die first, then one by one the rest till finally The Word and Will. That fucking bitch will suffer slowly.
To Be Continued...