In a world where light was faster than sound, Eli found it a rather brain-cracking task to have it the other way. But that was only for a teensy moment, after which he broke out from. It wasn’t one of those moments he could sense something was wrong. No. It was one where his senses would have assumed the wrong way was right, and the right way was left. Or simply put, here, there was no need of such earthly senses.
If his mind was permitted to think the usual way, he would have realized he barely walked -literally floating, and in place of his torso was just a huge gobble of his existence moving around as collectively tagged molecules in possession of abilities that made them perceptibly possible to receive signals past the infrared spectrum; at the same time having the visual exactness of more than 1500 megapixel, three times that of the natural human eye.
He could hear more than a million voices at the same time, and he could respond to them all at the same time. Soon, there appeared all around him the bearers of these voices. All at an instance, they interacted, and exchanged information with one another. No time was lost. That was if it existed here. These were beings with extraterrestrial relevance, coming in contact with one other, exchanging in that moment, information that could have taken humanity’s entire existence, energy and time; and bolting away to their respective solar systems and spaces above human conception.
He could feel the cold tile plastered to his left ear. The hollow sound it made slowly became louder. Then it went quiet. Just like it was the first time.
His senses returned, and his eyes darted open. His head, pressed to the tile like a mutilated rubber ball.
Eli willed himself to a bended position, all four limbs beast-like on the tile, his thoughts returning. His location re-registering.
A sofa and a desk.
He sat up. His hands clasping his head together. He sensed something. It was there, at the edge of his consciousness, then it vaporized like an early morning mist.
He was perfectly still. Listening. Eyes wide shut. Seeing. His lips began to move. He was muttering. Indecipherably.
From eternity you come, to eternity you will return…
Azoy tsayt vet nor zeyn a getsayg …
From eternity you come, to eternity you will return…
I wasn’t sure were the words came from, but I was sure I had heard them before. It echoed in my head just as it formed on my lips. These were the only ones I understood among the whole gibberish I muttered from my lips. I mused on it while I had control of what I said. As before, more unknown words took over my tongue, and I just relinquished control.
I tried to bring my mental capacity to play, only for the strange words to fill up my mouth again, attempting to spill out. The only remedy was to speak them. I did.
I didn’t know how loud or quiet I was now, couldn’t tell. The words had leaped from my lips to every part of my body. Either I find a way to control them, or I let everything out. Out!
Ikh bin nisht ristreynd durkh tsayt .
Tsayt iz gegrindet far mir, aun nit mir far mol.
Azoy tsayt vet nor zeyn a getsayg far mir tsu tog meyn arbet do, aun gornisht mer.
Es gehert tsu mir mortalz …
Fun eybikeyt ikh kumen, tsu eybikeyt ikh tsurikkumen.
Underlying the words that both fell from my lips, and rang in my head, was a female voice, sounding as if from a distance. At first it sounded like a whisper, just like this one had begun. Now it seemed to be drawing closer with acceleration faster than my ear follicles could pick.
My voice slowly faded off as hers began to fill up the vacuum. I was trying to listen again. Trying to understand.
It was sounded like a distress call, but as I listened closer, I was sure she was singing. A song filled with melancholy and melody at the same time. It was carried effortlessly as if it sat on the wind. My eyes still shut, yet I could see through my mind’s eye the vividness of an imposing image.
The woman stood on a sandy shore, except that I didn’t see any lake around. Just a deep valley to show where a lake once was. I moved closer to her, or I’d rather say she urged me closer with the beckon of her finger. It was like an invisible twine was connected from that single index finger of hers, to my torso. With an incredible pull that took me off guard, I stood beside her in a split second. It must have been the wind. Did this woman control the wind? I tried to look in her eyes for recognition, but at that moment my vision went blur. As soon as I looked away, it became as clear as before.
I heard the wind. An echo from a distance sounded right under my feet. Then she spoke like she had been speaking before.
It was a song of which I didn’t know the language. But I listened to the melody. It sent a message of hope into my bones. I felt shivers run down my spine. Suddenly I felt a touch on my shoulder. The music also had been abruptly stopped. I opened my eyes and I looked up. I didn’t realize they were closed.
In the actual sense, they were open all the while, but I seemed to see clearer now; clearer than I ever saw.
I saw her face. I looked intently at the woman’s face. It was smooth, almost without pores. Her eyes were as of some precious stone. They glistened and shone and radiated a beauty that narrated a more magnificent, superlative being. From a more superior world. She couldn’t have been older than me, yet she looked ancient, like a thousand years older. Maybe more. Those eyes of glittery stones weren’t something that the earth produced any longer from its crust. They were extinct.
I was mesmerized. I was drowning.
I pulled out of my thought, and looked in the direction of her hand. Down into the valley my eyes went. At first, all I saw were dunes of sand plateaued by perhaps the same gusts of wind that formed them. When I looked closer, there were burrows in them. Lots of burrows from which stuck out bones. Skulls and bones.
I looked back at the woman. Her face had gone ashen, sending a weary message to me. I looked back in the valley, and it seemed as though the bones were emerging from the dunes. There were lots of them. Thousands of carcasses. Millions. Were these the bones of everyone that had ever passed through the earth?
I turned to look at her again. Her face was back to its formal splendor. But in her hand was a book. A tiny book that looked so familiar. I stared at it, wondering if it was there all along.
The woman was about to speak. Her lips already formed the words. Just then she stopped, like she was listening for instruction. I looked around, there was nothing. No one, no voice. Just the wind. Perhaps she listened to the wind.
“Take. Eat.” She raised her hands to my mouth. It was a command.
I looked at the tiny book. I looked at her. Confused. Was this some kind of joke? I was about to scuffle when she opened the book and began tearing off the pages.
“Eat.” She half-molded a handful of brown pages and brought the dry morsel up to my mouth.
My mouth opened, and I began to chew on the rough pages. The closest to a familiar bland taste was Weetabix. I didn’t as much as swallow it before it slipped down my throat.
She had another mold ready for me. And I ate. I kept eating. And she kept tearing out pages upon pages.
“You have to eat all of it. All of it.” She solemnly emphasized her words.
I wondered how many pages the tiny book contained. I looked down at what was left in her hand. She wasn’t half way yet.
I kept eating. She kept stuffing my mouth in a way I wouldn’t have refused eating the whole of planet earth. At last it remained the cracked brown leather cover. It looked medieval with an inscription. A symbol. A symbol emblazoned in scarlet. I tried to make sense of it.
“Now the last.” The lady said to me. Her radiance seemed to have increase, as if fine ores constantly evaporated from her skin, leaving behind much purity to behold. As she raised her hand to put the last of the book in my mouth, a swift and hasty wind swept it off her fingers and immediately into thin air. In matching response, she raised her right hand and retrieved the book cover. It all happened before I could react promptly. Back in her fisted hand was the book cover. With no inkling of surprise in her face or demeanor, she put the book cover to my mouth, and again instructed me to eat. Her words were tough this time, but her eyes remained fervent on me.
I ate the book cover, munching down on its hard leather skin while it juiced out its bitter-sweet taste down my throat. The woman didn’t react to the contoured face I made. It seemed she was running out of time, but her focus showed she wasn’t meant to be deterred or even delayed.
As soon as I was done, and she was satisfied, she held up an hourglass which seemed to have materialized from thin air. I stared at it, as tiny grains of sand drained to the lower half of the glass.
“It’s time to go. The sun sets soon. The bats will gather in the sky, but you should have made it home if you hurry.
With no seeable path, or trail to follow, I looked perplexed, not knowing what direction to go. Vast volume of brown sand spread out in all direction. It went beyond the mountains and even blended as though connected to the clouds.
I looked towards the woman for answers. For hope.
“Run,” she commanded. Pointing towards her left. “Run, the wind is coming. Join it. You will make it.
I turned. I looked up at the already setting sun, and shifted my feet in the evening sand. They were bare but ready. I hoped.
“Hurry before the sun sets… Be gone.”
I started on my heels, gradually working my joints to gather speed. I didn’t look back, I feared there might be consequences. All I heard was the woman’s voice.
As my heart thumped against my chest, and my feet carved an endless trail on the sand, I could hear the woman’s voice fade. What was her name? She didn’t tell me her name, neither did she ask for mine. Did it matter if I was Sam, or Eli? I needed to escape before the danger she feared loomed, got close.
I ran for miles unending.
Suddenly, I heard a howling sound behind me. It was piercing too, attempting to drill out my soul from my body.
I felt my head swell beyond proportion. I trembled for an instant. I turned. Yes, at that instant I turned. Just for a split second, to see what in the world made that forbidden dirge of a sound. I knew I shouldn’t have turned, but I did, and I immediately regretted it.
A thick shadow had begun to gather up in the sky about a mile behind. That was what I saw. The mysterious woman had warned of bats. I was supposed to make it with the help of the wind. Where the heck was the wind?
Where was my destination? I was headed toward the orange sun, but I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the horizon before the bats caught up with me. These weren’t a school of exotic birds but a colony of flying beasts let loose from Hades, and prepared to make a carnage of anything and everything on their path. I was sure they had seen me. These flying cats could hardly wait for the sun to finally set, the speed at which they descended towards me was enough to terrify.
I ran. I felt the thick skin under my feet crack open. I looked down as blood pressed out of the crevices of my torn skin. The landing of each foot on the sand became less and less bearable.
Looming ahead, the predators gnawed their fangs and spread their talons in desperate anticipation as they narrowed their focus on one prey. Me. Their cry was intended to cripple me, and so far, my pace had slowed to a desperate attempt for survival.
My brain was seeking for an answer. My mind was seeking for refuge in itself.
The bats descended.
Perhaps this was the end. I didn’t even make it halfway. I thought the woman told me I would make it.
My heart burned. I was going to fall and die even before the creatures made their landing.
A foot ahead of the other. And then the next. I was on tenterhooks, somehow brazing up for the butchery.
The sand under me seemed to loosen, as though its foundation was beginning to give way. As I wobbled along, with a squealing sound set to go off from my vocal cord, my feet dug painfully into the sand, and truly my legs began to sink. I struggled to stay on, to keep moving, but it was apparently the elements were against me. All of them. I was on quick sand.
From up above, the monstrous flesh eaten creatures descended; down at my feet, I was trapped and rendered immobile by the ground that should have bore me up. Where was the wind the woman said was going to help me? And what the heck was all the book eating exercise meant for? I couldn’t have noticed if my stomach had digestion challenges.
As a matter of fact, I was trying to move my feet to escape the pending doom; at the same time I was trying to keep myself from sinking into the sound. I was already waist deep, and the more I struggled the more I got enmeshed.
The bats didn’t hover like the matter was up for deliberation. They had one mission, and it was apparent that I was going to be torn apart in seconds. I looked up from my trapped position in the sand, at the gapping fangs of the creatures, the noise from their wings buzzing irritably and dangerously down. I shut my eyes and let out the most terrified squeal ever. My arms where raised to hood my head, but I knew this was going to be of no consequence.
I screamed again, as the first set of hematophagous bats stabbed their fangs into my skin, and tore at the the scalp of my head.
I screamed. Only this time, I didn’t hear my own voice. It was drowned from the awful crying sounds of the bats and the vigorous flapping of their potagium.
I neither had a sword nor a hopeless arm to brandish, perhaps it would have swayed the horde. In all of the madness, some sort of glimmer nudged for my attention. I was simply sinking deeper than I supposed was possible. I was submerging into the sand. And for that split second, it was a thin thread of hope I desperately held on to. Whether this was a trap or a snare, it was a case of choosing to drown in the deep blue sea rather than being dinner for the devil and his cohorts.
I was suddenly swallowed in the sand as if some gravitational force had pulled me down. Not without an incessant talon tearing into my scalp, though.
I screamed as I once again impulsively attempted to cover my head, instead clenching fistfuls of warm sand in my hands.
“Shhh, don’t wake him up.”
“Now you want him to die, after you have spent so much energy trying to save him.”
“You know that’s not what I meant. You know.”
“Really. Why don’t I believe you?”
“I would rather he got to his destination gold mine, than wake him up. I can bet he would have a cuss ready for you by the time he comes to consciousness.”
They both stood silent for a few seconds, monitoring the course of things. Well, except for the humming sound from their central intelligence board, they were silent.
“Ever met anyone who died from their dream?”
“No, have you? Anyways, Dead Man doesn’t strike me as someone, who would die again. Not anytime soon.”
“Hmm, you have a point there.”
“Hey, there he goes. Guess he’s finally awake.
“Hmm, here we go.” Abati cleared his throat.
The kicks and turns from his unconsciousness became less and less as awareness of his present abode began to set in. He was folded up in a praying-mantis way, his body visibly rising and falling fast from exhaustion in his breath.
His eyes flickered open. He stared, not sure where he was.
“Hi.” Abati called out from a corner. Eli jerked at the unexpected voice. He clambered on the closet support he could find.
He looked closer at the two images before him, only then did his clamp on the furniture loosen. He looked as if he had been tortured. Mentally.
“Hi Dead Man,” Isaaci said.
Eli raked his fingers into his hair, feeling for his scalp. He came up with nothing. He employed both hands in like manner and searched his fingers for any sign of blood. He checked his arms, then his feet. He seemed unbelievably satisfied. He looked up at the two robots at the corner of the room. They seemed to produce a vibrating sound. It buzzed like a something he had heard from his dream.
It was a dream. A bad dream.
“You must have had a nightmare, Dead Man.” Isaaci spoke up after it became obvious their guest had relaxed somewhat.
“They surely want to keep you dead, right?”
“Who?” Eli asked in an accusing tone.
“Hey, not us. We are your friend, remember?”
Eli robbed his face again. His dream was absolutely surreal. The bats, the bones, the dunes of sand. The lady. She was almost too white to be human. That was the feeling that crept in his mind while they spoke. He should have sensed then, that he was only having a dream.
“Yeah.” He sighed, grateful it was a dream after all. “It was a nightmare. A very terrible one.”
“Indeed.” The two robots spoke in unison.
Eli began to really relax. He dropped his head on the sofa, remaining seated on the floor. He stared at the ceiling above. For the first time, he thought he saw a hidden perforation. He strained his eyes to look at the pattern. He stood to his feet, still staring up, now searching for other intricate patterns to confirm his finding.
“Hey,” Isaaci called out.
Eli turned to them, abruptly putting aside his survey. “Where is Dr. Islo?”
“Yes. Where is she? She left me here some hours ago, and hasn’t been back since?” He recalled the situation that had prompted the young female scirntist to bring him here. “Is Dr. Robert still around? What did he say about me?”
“Dr. Reuben, you mean?”
“He didn’t say anything. Dr. Islo didn’t bring up your case with him.”
“Guess it wasn’t a big deal after all, right?”
“Yeah, it was no big deal whatsoever.” Abati said.
Eli blinked in rapid succession in the split second. Was that some sarcasm he sensed, or just the plan nonchalance?
“So she sent you to bring me, right? Shall we?” Eli was very eager to leave this room. He moved towards the mirror wall and looked at himself. Apart from the fact that he wasn’t dressed in the right clothes, he wasn’t bad looking after having been swamped by strange creatures on desert sand. He observed the sole of his feet. He remembered in the dream how they cracked and bled. He sighed.
He looked boldly at his face in the mirror, observing every stretch of skin, down his chest, then to his belly-button. He observed the incisions behind his ear, the tiny piercing in his pinna, and the tattoo. He opened his mouth wide and stared into it. Into the mirror. No, there were no left-over from the pages of the book the woman had made him eat. It was a dream. He nodded. Finally he gave himself one overall view, and thought he wasn’t too bad after all. He owned the body for now, and he promised himself to take care of it.
He turned to face the two robots, and realized they hadn’t moved an inch from where they stood. “Shall we?” he asked again.
“Actually,” Abati began, but obviously didn’t have the words to continue.
“Actually, Dr. Islo hasn’t sent for you.” Isaaci helped out.
“Neither is she around.”
“Yes. We just wanted to see if you would want to game just a little, since everyone has gone home.”
Eli’s eyes narrowed. His forehead fitting into a funnel. He allowed the words register in his mind. When he was done, he realized he had to find the right words to say. The right questions to ask.
“I don’t understand.”
“Dr. Islo left the building in the morning, just a few minutes after she brought you here.”
“Why? Where did she go? What did she have to go do? What’s the time now?”
“PM.” Abati and Issaci choose to answer the last question alone.
Eli closed his eyes, as if that allowed his lungs work more effectively. He let out what seem to be frustration building in his head.
“So I would remain here all night? Can I just go? Can I leave? Trust me, I can do fine all by myself.”
“No, what? I can’t be fine, or I can’t leave?”
“What do you mean both? I have been here for what, five days now? Shouldn’t my family know about this?”
“That’s Dr. Islo’s prerogative.”
Eli was visibly traumatized now. He tried pacing, but gave up after only three steps. “So what do I do?”
“That’s why we are here, buggie.”
“We can play games. Everyone’s gone home now.” There was expectation in Abati’s voice.
Eli stared at them with so much incredulity in his face. He couldn’t say a word.
“But first, we’ve got this for you.”
Eli responded with a frown on his forehead. A compartment from the side of the Abati’s torso slid out, and Isaaci brought out an aluminium pack. It had that sizzling appearance of a freshly prepared shawama pack, definitely not failing to create the saliva dripping effect. Eli just paused his thought.
“We figured out that you will be hungry, as you have inhaled lots of chlorocarbon compounds all day.”
“It’s nothing, really. It’s just some component in these private rooms that keeps one from getting aware of hunger, until one takes site of food. This is Light Room, used for brainstorming and thinking. Every scientist here’s got theirs.”
Eli concocted another facial expression that showed he wasn’t comfortable with the information they shared with him.
“Dead Man isn’t afraid of dying, is he?”
As soon as the aroma reached Eli, it seemed as though the worms in his belly became awoken and instantly began to latch at his intestinal walls.
“Please, I am so hungry.” He begged as he moved closer to grab the food pack.
“Not so fast, buggie.” Isaaci retracted the arm of food.
“First, promise us that after this, we will game on the console,” Abati chipped in.
“What else?” Eli was close to cussing.
He grabbed the food from Isaaci and literarily ripped the aluminium wrap apart.
Ethel glanced at the time device on the side stool. It was five minutes past eleven. She had been lying down in bed for about thirty minutes now. A lot had happened today, more than her entire social life put together. Her ring still glittered, her smile was still wide, and the little churn in a stomach from having taken too much wine, was just as it was: little. She tried to ignore it. Thomas had said it would pass.
They had been out all day, and she had no doubt it was already a red-lettered. Now her head felt quite heavy, but the butterflies in her belly well outnumbered the slight dizziness she felt in her head. It too shall pass.
She waited for Thomas to join her in bed. Before he finally took the comfortable sofa in the living room, they had to share a moment. This would be her way of appreciating and reciprocating the love her fiancée had shown her. She was going to tell her how she felt about their decisions on spending the rest of their lives together. And maybe more.
She waited for him to join her. He was on his phone, attending to the calls he had put aside while they had been away all day.
She was supposed to do the same, but she needed to have this talk first with Thomas. She had called Dr. Bambo, her colleague, once on the lab line, to find out how activities went in the lab. The feedback was great, and that had allayed her fears. So far no one had noticed that one of the specimens she worked on was missing. No one had peered into her work today. She thought of Dr. Reuben who had acted strange in the morning, and had desperately hoped that his new love for politics kept him away from the lab areas all day. Then finally she was glad she encrypted and isolated her logs.
The sensual song that played around the room slowly faded to end, and the few seconds that passed before the next song played enabled her to hear Thomas’ voice over the phone. He must have kept a high voice because of the music that played through the entire apartment. She guessed.
The next song started, and all she wanted was to be right in the strong arms of Thomas. Letting go of all the stockade and fortification she had built over the years.
Deep in her mind, she was ready to relegate work from her head completely till tomorrow. If only Thomas could just end that call and come to her. What was so important?
She stood and stared at herself in the mirror. Her figure was absolutely pleasing for scientist. If she had the chance for a second life, she would be a model, she made a promise to herself.
Men would kill for this body.
Hagee, her cat had been sent to the animal pound, so there was no distraction, or unnecessary whining of her over pampered pet.
Ethel decided to walk to the living room, show Thomas a little of what he’s missing while talking on the phone. Maybe they could even start right there.
The passage from the bedroom to her smaller living room as dimly lit by rays of light from the adjoining room falling on a side of the wall . The only time she felt she ever needed it fully lit was the first night she moved into the apartment. That was almost three years ago. Since then, she didn’t feel the need to consume another tungsten. She could literarily walk blindfolded through her entire house.
As she made her attempt at cat-walking towards the living room, and maybe if fortunate, try out some lap dance with her fiancé, Thomas’ voice became louder although it seemed a bit masked in clenched teeth. She just heard a whole sentence of what he just said. No. It was when she replayed it I her head, did she truly hear what Thomas had said.
She paused on her track, momentarily balancing her weight on the strained muscle of her left leg. She quickly placed her left palm on the oil paint portrait in the dark passage to aid her support.
“…I have done best, but it can’t be tonight. I need to cover my tracks. You can come in early in the morning.”
Her eyes darted in the dark. She was sure she heard him clearly. Her trained mind immediately took control. She slowly tip-toed back the way she had come.
Thankful for the music that still played, she dashed towards her wardrobe, quietly pulled open the drawer she hardly ever used. She searched with her hands for the weapon she had kept there, loaded, for months. It wasn’t there. It was empty.
Ethel tried not to panic. There was no time to bask in any surprise. She made another mental decision, and immediately pulled up a jeans pant, leaving her once sexy underwear on the wardrobe floor. She wanted to pick a blouse, but a second might just cost her her life. She would be fine, she thought.
The music still played, but this time, she could hear Thomas’ voice approach the room. He sounded as though he was still on the call, but she knew better.
She walked towards her study through another dark corridor, pamphlet and poke in hand. That was all she needed.
She heard his voice in the bedroom calling out for her, faking an aroused and sensual tone in his voice. She had calculated the number of steps he would need to get to her. She was ahead. She walked on calmly.
Thankful that she had heeded to her mum’s advice to practice using the hi-tech emergency exit in her apartment, which was made of one of the lasted HD technologies, Ethel slide into the enclave, and immediately sealed it. Just then, Thomas ran into the study, and towards the end of it where the exit pit was.
A thick yet flexible glass separated them. Ethel stood still, face straight as she watched her fiancée shout on the top of his voice at her. He was saying a lot, maybe even begging but she couldn’t hear him. Didn’t need to. Just before she pressed the green button that read ‘escape’, she gave a good look at Thomas, the man that was supposed to be her fiancée.
He stared at her in return, rage and defeat plainly etched on his face. With an ugly glare, he pulled out the tiny pistol that Ethel had practiced with many times. He aimed it at her. He knew the glass was impenetrable, but as long as it was manmade there was a loophole. He would test it’s density.
He fired! The bullet would have nailed her head to the wall had it penetrated. She trembled inside, but on the outside, her face held no emotions whatsoever.
Just before she pressed the green button, she realized she still wore his ring. She pulled it off her finger and let it fall to the padded floor as she watched him pull the trigger for the second time.
She pressed the button.
He pulled the trigger.
The glass cracked with a tiny web. But then she was gone. The enclave had sped away to a destination hundred stories below to a secure location determined only by the person it carried.
Ethel sat on the floor of the motor enclave. She let the tears roll down. This was it. This was the end