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You can submit your continuation here.
Chapter One (Psyche) by Lucy.
Chapter Two (To the other side) by Andrada Costoiu.
Chapter Three by B.V. Stratton.
Chapter Four (The fateful night) by Smita Ray.
Chapter Five (Insight Part I) by Amitbhat0912.
Chapter Five (Insight Part II) by Amitbhat0912.
A humongous figure, overly bulging muscular arms covered in a distinct fur like growth, his bald head resembled a barren land with a crisscrossing array of canals; it was so vivid as if a network of ropes were levied under the skin of his skull.
The grandeur of terror was announced by the mere appearance of this wildered beast. He adorned a neck band with a series of lights flickering from green to red as if he was destined to follow the impulses of the wavelengths fed to him by an unknown source who owned him, or perhaps his creator—or his worst nightmare of which he was an inseparable part of now.
He passed through the well-guarded gate of the control room and stood, facing the ringmaster. His face was faintly visible against the bright control room screens and lights. A mixture of human features with a set of the coldest eyes possible: deep black–callous, blood thirsty. Two canines sharp as stalactites and stalagmites intervened, perverting out of the contoured nose merging into a wolfish snout. Whiskers sharp, as huge as darning needles.
He was an absolute replica of the Egyptian feared God, Set.
This was, perhaps, the first time the name resonated in the control room; he bowed his head crossing his stump-like muscular arm over his chest, and in a loud voice resembling the roar of an angry lion, “Zargaff at your service, Madam Anastasia. What shall I do to please you?”
Known to all in her crafted eternity as the ringmaster, she rose up in a grandeur of a queen. It was an image of absolute command, complimented by a poisonous charm and beauty.
She was adorned in a red bustier, “red as a blood rose.” The tusser silk gown with an immaculate poison ivy gold thread embroidery draped over her curvaceous ravines as if a serpent coiled around a Sandalwood tree.
Holding a thin cigarette in her right hand, in-between the crafty fingers, it occasionally reached her lips for a puff of life. Her lips were as if two blood clotted hearts of nightingales were placed in perfect harmony, but on a maiden’s glittering face. A set of two beautiful eyes to drown the entire universe in their depth, a callous but chiseled face with symmetry perfected to the core. A mystic aura that could charm the deadliest serpent.
She responded to Zargaff’s flattery in a callous tone, yet sober like a cuckoo singing in the newly blossomed almond tree.
“THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED SO FAR THAT Z46 HAS NOT BEATEN HER CLOCK. I DON’T LET TIME MOVE AHEAD OF ME. GO AND GET THE TWO WHO HAVE ESCAPED THEIR COCOONS SO THEY CAN KNOW WHAT MY WORLD IS LIKE.
“SACRIFICE ANYTHING THAT STOPS YOU IN THE PATH. GET ME THEIR BLOOD RIDDEN BODIES YET BREATHING, THEIR COURAGE – DIMINISHED, AND THEIR LIFE – LIFELESS THOUGH, OR YOU SHALL NO MORE BE SEEN AGAIN.”
The red dot was consistently moving along the designated path. Zara tried to quench her thirst and maintain her dignity of a ruthless killer, but somewhere in her cold heart, an unknown warmth was persuading her to divert into an unknown, leaving aside the fear of consequences.
Controlling the urge, she didn’t realize her subjects had crossed the bridge. They were heading towards their last pit stop before finishing their lap to the first crossed destiny.
Down the riverside, a few miles away, Zargaff was gaining ground on them at a steady pace, huffing and puffing, adrenalin erupting in every cell of his genetically engineered body. He sniffed like a wolf for the evaporated traces of warm blood scattered in the atmosphere from the wound in Tom’s calf.
Lauren pushed Tom harder to avoid any futile conflict. Her fears had only exacerbated with the distinct hiss she kept hearing from before.
“Come on, Tom, it’s just paces away now. We have to cross the bridge and get submerged in the grassland ahead. Most likely won’t be any dangers lurking over there, and we can somehow camouflage with the surroundings.” On hearing this, Z46 grinned.
Tom agreed to Lauren’s command, and they moved steadily towards the bridge to cross over. The grass was indeed thick, hiding them at shoulder length, so when they got on their knees, they became almost invisible.
For a moment Zara thought she lost them, but her mutant instinct didn’t relieve her of her task; she submerged herself in the surrounding grassland with them.
Zargaff was moving as if a stampede of bulls were running towards a water body in a Kalahari Desert; his footsteps left distinct marks on the wet ground moistened by the torrential rainfall. He didn’t need any element of surprise for his introduction to his enemy. His brute strength and physical features were good enough to make a bully go puke.
He was only a few miles away from the siblings, but his enthusiasm to flatter Madam Anastasia was already at the highest degree. He was planning the mauling in advance, imagining the massacre with a callous smile.
He could have easily chosen a mode of transportation to his battle ground, but he wanted his every atom to burn in rage. He was going to throw into the act of his desecration.
Lauren could ascertain reaching the point X within an hour’s time, that is, if Tom’s condition doesn’t deteriorate any further. Though, Tom was trying his best to move along and support Lauren, not for his own life, but for hers.
Zara was now in jeopardy all because of a strong feeling which generated a few minutes ago within her. She was unsure if it’s the visions of her past or the lack of her genetic supplement she forgot to consume as prescribed.
The flashes of the operation theatre, the boat and the shrieks on the table were appearing and disappearing in front of her eyes in an unusual manner. She went on with her stealth, though.
The room was massive. Huge walls that were painted pure white, white as the face of the ringmaster; a high ceiling embellished with an enchanting chandelier, dangling on a golden chain. The architectural marble in the shape of cut glass windows had satanic verses in praise of the devil itself. An opposite of the Gods’ place of worship.
The square pool in the midst of it all was adorned by statuettes of cupids carved out of limestone rocks, giving them partial blemish faces with saline potions. Inhibiting more seclusion rather than love. The marble steps dropped down into the depth of the pool in a palatable texture of serpent scales; these were arranged in such a way as if a mythological python engulfed a prey into his gripping coil to its belly.
The massive mahogany door with the carvings of blood roses growing on a poison ivy with thorns resembling the fangs of the python, opened up in a parallel motion; both parts in tandem, dead silent in its journey from center section to the side walls.
No hinges visible, no bolts, no nails–it was if it was suspended in the air with a mystic force–anti gravity. A perfect engineering genius created this.
She entered inside with the grace of an ancient Goddess, not in red anymore, but a lifeless icy white robe draping every lustful curve on her body–it was like a second skin for her. As she descended down the steps, her toes entered the liquid and the water gradually covered her neck deep as she reached the middle section of the pool; her robe rhythmically parted off in the same sequence leaving her into the arms of her enchanted companion.
She appeared as if a white lotus has bloomed to its full glory in a pond of murky water. A concoction of fresh musk “as if a thousand musk deer have tribute their life in the worship of their deity,” and essence of a million roses all “crushed out of their hearts flowing out into the oasis envisaging the reverend in it.”
In the mystic submersion, not even a single wave formed, not even a single ripple.
Anastasia took a deep breath as if she wanted to go into a deep trance filling her lungs with the mystic aroma, and she disappeared inside the pool.
Her maidens who were her trusted aides, stood head down, lifeless without any movement as if casted as mortar bricks. They were awaiting the sequence to unfold as usual.
A ritual, which otherwise in a normal circumstance would be called nothing much more than a bath, was a ceremony of a demonic cult.
Time had stopped with her submersion inside the pool – and when she emerged from the depths, her white face changed its color to blackish red. With the same pace and grace she went in, she came out one step at a time until her hourglass nakedness caricatured against the white wall.
The aides encircled her, pouring ice cold water over her contours–head down to wash away the “heam!” (Hemoglobin). The journey of the elixir of life for humans, fighting against the elixir of her life, cleared away the tint and exposed the nakedness of her pristine body. She crossed her arms and covered her bosoms before she turned to be draped in her blood rose colored gown.
“Tell the agents, the thickness of the serum is losing its intensity. Better be selective lest they end up in here themselves,” saying this, she went towards the chamber to lay down on her black bed linens.
The blood bath was complete.
Lauren and Tom, unaware of what was lurking their way, were struggling to keep the pace, but a will of being alive drove them ahead.
They finally reached the edge of the grassland, a distant silhouette of shattered ruins emerged against the night sky. Lauren bent her back, still keeping her knees strong. However, she held her head in dismay.
“Tom, seems our first cross is as broken as us, but at least we are at its reach.”
They finally reached the door. It appeared to be no challenge to just push it open, no securing signs visible, yet Lauren decided to be discrete. She pushed it gently with the makeshift spear and it opened with a screech, as if the hinges were dried by a Dracula–lifeless, no rebound, no remorse.
The siblings walked into the cold darkness with warmth of their hopes to find some sort of relief from the miseries they have been toiling hard against.
The place was more or less like a beach house but looked struck by a dreaded Tsunami; devastated to the foundation, yet some geometry still loyal to the architects who would have created it for a perfect getaway, or perhaps a romantic honeymoon.
Lauren helped Tom on a tethered armchair near the mantelpiece and she started looking around for any signs of life, and even perhaps the presence of the hissing sound which has been haunting her.
She almost tripped over a metal box kept near the wall. “Holy shit, what the hell was that?” She uttered, but continued scavenging the place.
Their silhouettes were somehow visible at times and that was good enough a reason for Zara to know of their position. She finally landed on the hind-side of the ruins, silent as a monk in meditation, but callous like a BLACK MAMBA waiting to strike.
She ran her fingers over her waist belt, took a glass vial filled with a luminous green liquid, slashed its top end and gulped down. In an instant reaction, she felt as if molten lava had run through her nervous system; her pupils shrank, her heart felt as if it would explode anytime. She dropped on her knees with her head between her arms, her fingers thrashed throughout her hair to uproot them in a single pull. She knew this was necessary to give her the edge she would need in a few hours’ time to come.
She was ready for this.
While Lauren was exploring the authenticity of her facts about the reinforcements on point X, Tom was trying to figure out his turmoil. He was like a rag doll, being dragged, being beaten, shaken, commanded and confused. He closed his eyes for a moment and a strange sound caught his ears.
He turned his head in the direction of the sound, but couldn’t see anything. “Another fuckin’ mirage… Nothing else,” he murmured to himself. “Hey Lauren,” he tried to keep calm, “any luck?”
“Yeah–coming up with a mochaccino frappe topped with hazelnut cream and a cinnamon pie for you bro, and for myself a double shot of Blavod on rocks, because that’s what I need in this pissed off life,” Lauren said in a callous tone. But, Tom didn’t mind it at all as he knew if he was alive, it was because of her.
Zara was waiting for the moment when the potion reached its highest effect to enable her to make her move with the maximum impact. It would be any moment from now.
Zargaff was rumbling like a locomotive engine off the tracks to reach the rendezvous as fast as possible.
Anastasia was in a state of an intoxicated mirage, waiting for the lifeless bodies of the two subjects who escaped their cocoons before she could turn them into the butterflies of her choice.
“TOM! I think I found something.” Lauren was trying to open a part of the wooden floor, which appeared to be very well camouflaged under a dusty rotten mat. She was pulling with all her might, but the floor block wouldn’t barge from its cast. Tom mustered some strength and helped her pull it so they could drag the wedge off to the side.
Lauren slipped the bamboo spear into the gap, pushing it down with all the juice she had left in her tired body. Finally salvation, the hole in the hell seemed to lead into a staircase going down.
“Hope it doesn’t go to another hell,” Lauren cackled with sadistic pleasure.
Tom smiled for the first time. “We crossed one so far, let’s take on another one, commander.” Both of them bursted into laughter before disappearing underground.
The red dot on the screen stopped perpetually at a stagnant point. The guard monitoring the screen rushed to a nearby microphone and pushed a red button; the voice on the other side hit him like a boulder. In a frenzy he uttered a few code words (koker, che, watmet, zaba, khanas, pujh, Chu nebre) and disconnected.
Zargaff stopped abruptly in his pursuit, as the LED’s around his collar flickered in a coding synchronization. (Koker, che, watmet, zaba, khanas, pujh, Chu, nebre). The message was loud and clear, but this time the informer was not bedazzled like the guard in the command center. He turned towards the grassland, sprinting with double vigor.
Zara could see him dashing toward the ruins, astonished and perplexed, for it has never happened before that she was assigned a mission and a backup was dispatched… Well, besides a backup which was a damn army in himself. Perhaps their paths will cross while apprehending the cocoon abandoners.
She turned away and focused back on what she did best: ambush.
Lauren and Tom reached the end of the mysterious staircase where the air was heavy with a musty smell of the ocean, and they could hear the waves hitting the other side of the wall. An occasional thud would announce the presence of some debris rattling against the concrete.
Lauren took out a flashlight. It faintly illuminated the chamber, and they could see some boxes stacked one over another. A few rows alongside them was a steel structure resembling a cold storage barrack door. “Bingo!” Lauren jumped with joy and abruptly controlled her emotional outburst.
Tom was unaware of the fact he didn’t react as his hopes of finding anything useful in such a place was next to none.
Lauren started examining the stacked boxes–NOTHING USEFUL–old rotten rugs, broken empty bottles, books half nibbled by termites. She however stumbled over a particular box with the contents concealed with masking tape. The marking outside the box read “EMERGENCY SUPPLIES.”
Lauren quickly dissected the tape to have a look inside, hoping and praying to her stars for a whiff of relief.
She unfolded the cardboard lid to reveal the contents. Her eyes widened in shock and she dashed back in a frenzy as if she had seen the face of Medusa. She uttered in disbelief, “Fanculo quell figlio di puttana cazzo di.”
Benzino Venitolli, her Italian friend with whom she devised the plan of the escape, gave her all the details of the possible find in point X. However, as she ventured into the box, it turned out to be a total disaster and utter disappointment. In a fit of rage and anger she uttered some desirable unsocial, unethical words in his fucking praise.
Tom tried to ask but she was in no mood of giving an ITALIAN LESSON to him.
Zara was trying hard to find a heartbeat in the darkness, unaware that her subjects had gone underground, and the depth was good enough to conceal Lauren and Tom, although temporarily. She went to circle around the perimeter in a tactical manner and just as she was moving across a corner, a very tight grip engulfed her neck.
She made a swift maneuver and escaped the clutch, simultaneously unleashing a deadly blow on the unknown attacker. Their nocturnal eyes met and in an instance the duel ended.
Z46 and Z91 were face to face.
Lauren moved on to box after box, but it was of no use or luck. It seemed her entire plan was being jeopardized. Tom could feel the stress on her face and tried to soothe the tension. “Commander, I wonder what lies beyond the big boy pointing towards the heavy gate?”
Lauren smiled and moved towards the gate to give it a strong push.
The heavy metal door didn’t budge from its place, not even a millimeter. Tom joined with whatever force he could generate with his tormented body, but still the door didn’t move.
“Seems it is locked as our luck,” Lauren sighed. She ran her fingers around the edges to find evidence of a possible keyhole. While covering the edge on the left side of the center portion, her fingers bumped a symmetric circle awaiting a piece to complete the puzzle. It looked like the dial on the black book of HAMUNAPTRA of ancient Egypt.
Zargaff and Zara broke into a conversation before they could embark on their mission(s). Zara asked him about his subjects and was astonished to know they were sharing a common ground to fight for. It surprised Z46 but the message was loud and clear: She doesn’t want time to go ahead of her. The distinct face of Anastasia appeared in front of her eyes in reflection.
Zara finally realized that she had delayed this kill and Zargaff was the replacement killer unleashed to complete the task.
In this hazy moment, the scenes from the flashback once again flickered in front of her eyes in a dreamy sequence, this time more vivid and intense. Zargaff, on the other hand, had a dual mission–to eliminate the subjects and the competition he had always hated, Z46.
They moved in a synchronized stealthy formation and entered the main corridor of the ruins, covering all ends with their nocturnal eyes. Within no time, they were moving down the staircase. The darkness in the basement was illuminated in flickers by the LED’s on Z91’s slavery band.
Lauren and Tom heard the footfall, and they plunged into the corner behind a stack of boxes. Each held their breath in wait of fate.
Zargaff let out a fierce cry challenging the subjects to appear before him in surrender, when instantly Zara burst out at him with an inquisitive attitude. “These are my subjects, MY mission. I decide who goes alive and who goes dead–That’s a pact.”
Zargaff grinned. “The reason I am here is to execute the mission and terminate the subjects. If you come in my way, their fate will be your fate as well.”
“So be it.” A pause. “It will be a pleasure to send you down the churning wheels so SHE can bathe in your blood as well.”
This steep turn astonished Lauren and Tom who were not silent witnesses to a fierce battle of egos clashing to claim the supremacy and dominance of being the foremost loyal servant to their creator.
Z46 and Z91 engaged in a deafening feud: Z91 with his brute strength, and Z46 with her agility and flexibility, matching knock to knock.
Zargaff clutched Zara’s neck in his strong arms and was choking her to death. Her razor sharp nails slithered through his flesh, and he groaned in a fit of pain while a few gushes of his green serum dripped on the floor. He fanatically pounced back on her and passed a rib cage jab with a simultaneous upper cut under her chin. She flew in the air like a lifeless corpse, landing right in front of Lauren and Tom.
Zargaff followed her flight and grinned in an anticipated anguish. “There you are! But, your turn comes after this bitch.”
Zara’s lifeless body lied on the floor without any motion. Lauren was dumb struck and perplexed in a rogue horror, while Tom’s eyes were locked on Zara’s wrist. Three distinctive marks were profoundly evident.
“Zara” – this name broke the silence between the four of them. Lauren was astonished on hearing this name from Tom’s mouth. Zargaff was not concerned and continued to make his way towards Z46.
Furious to the core, Zargaff moved towards Zara to finish the duel, before he could continue the massacre. As he lifted her convulsing body to impart the final impact, eight shots, one after another were fired rapidly in a perfect line of sight and accuracy.
Tom didn’t even remember grabbing the gun from Lauren’s satchel; he just did it.
Zargaff held her up in his bare hands above his head as a stream of green blood dripped from his chest like a fountain. He dropped Zara to the ground.
“Wake up, Zara! Wake up! Please, listen to me!” Tears flowed down Tom’s eyes meeting the blood on his cheeks, when abruptly Lauren sprang into action, grabbing the vial of the neon green concoction from Zara’s waist belt; she snapped the top and emptied the contents in Zara’s mouth. An immediate reaction started and a faint puff of wind came out of her mouth, blowing the dust of time to the floor.
Z91 couldn’t believe that this was his first and last battle of supremacy in which he lost to a mere mortal. He too dropped down like a lifeless boulder, breathing his last whiff of air.
Lauren was shocked with the series of dramatic events that unfolded in front of her eyes, but her concern was still lurking towards Z46, who was the killing machine unleashed to finish off her and Tom.
Tom couldn’t stop crying, still shaking Zara to get up.
Her eyes slowly opened, and she gazed into the dead cold ones of Zargaff’s who now lied lifelessly on the floor. She turned her face towards Tom and a smile perfected her lips. “Oh, my Tom. If only you would have listened to me….hisssssss… You would have been along my side…hisssssss…….and not running away from me….hisssssss…….”
Tom took her into his arms and hugged her carefully. “I am so sorry Zara, I am so sorry,” was all he kept saying. Tears running down his face like the torrential rains that dampened the entire world around them.
Lauren came forward and tapped his shoulder. “Tom…Tom … TOMMY! Get a fucking grip, dude. She is not your Zara. She is a multi-gene trans-mutant, a killing machine and nothing else, nothing more. Your Zara is dead.”
There was silence.
Tom lowered Zara down back on the floor, and held her hand in his. He felt something in-between the skins of his and hers.
It was a metal circle with a distinct shape to it. Tom was unable to understand this gesture from an assassin, but Lauren did.
The rain was pouring as if the sky was wailing over the demise of a star. Anastasia stood by the entry door in the basement, looking at the punctured chest of Z91, and Z46 twisted in a haphazard posture, eyes wide open and a smile on her cold dead face.
Her eyes moved in an inquisitive manner, stopping on the circular mark by her palm.
She took a puff from her cigarette, looked at the cadavers, and a faint smile appeared on her moist lips. “I never let time move ahead of me. Never.”