Shadows of the Past – Part Four
"You won´t believe the dream I just had." Brand pinched himself several times in a row just to be safe. Last thing he wanted was to find out this was actually the dream. When he didn´t wake up, he was sure he was back in the world of the non–dream. "It was a whopper!"
He felt weak. All those muscles he´d gained in the dream were gone; his body reverted back to the lean frame it once was. That was all right with him. It was beginning to turn into a nightmare and he was good and ready to be gone with it.
"Customer," Megan said. "Might want to, I don´t know, do your job?"
"Job, right." Brand grabbed Megan and kissed her with all his might, then rushed out of the break room. Megan just stared after him, then twirled a finger around her ear and rolled her eyes. This was definitely up there with the top ten Brand´s–acting–weird moments.
Behind the counter, back where he belonged, Brand ran his hand over the cash register and grinned. There were times, times that seemed oh so long ago, that Brand wished he could be anywhere but here. Now was not one of those times. He would have given anything to be back here and here he was. Back where it all started. Back to reality. Back to life as usual. Simple, boring, life, it was grand.
Toward the back of the store, someone was moving about among the aisles of books. Brand waited patiently, marveling over how much of the dream was retained. That´d never happened to him before. But this dream, this dream was different. He could remember everything like it had actually happened. Uneasiness tickled at the pit of his stomach, trying to warn him of something but he ignored it without mercy. It was just a dream. Nothing more, nothing less. Time to move on.
Brand blinked. He shook his head and turned toward the customer that had somehow sneaked up on him, then blinked again. A large, bulky fellow stood opposite Brand on the other side of the counter. He was older, probably around Buba´s age, maybe a bit older, but there was something so strikingly familiar about him that Brand almost couldn´t place the face. Then it came to him like a train on cocaine.
He was looking into the face of William Shatner.
"Chocolate bars, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate Santa, chocolate Easter Bunny, chocolate icing, chocolate–"
A gunshot blasted the distant air and Buba fell silent, jumping to his feet. Before Lisya could react, Buba was dashing into the forest after Brand. The purple and red mix of panic had overwhelmed Buba´s true–self in the beat of a heart, causing a queasy feeling of dizziness to strike Lisya. Rarely had she witnessed such a change in someone and it took her more than a few seconds to get her bearings straight. She took off after him.
Not too far ahead, she heard Buba shout Brand´s name and the fear that lined that voice was all too real. She ducked under several low–hanging branches, catching a glimpse of a broken branch to her right. It caught her attention because of the blood that was dripping off the end. When she found Buba, she skidded to a halt.
He was kneeling beside Brand, rolling him over to his back. A pool of blood soaked lazily into the ground while Buba frantically shook Brand, trying to wake him up. The redness tainting Buba´s aura was fading and that was not a good sign. In her experience, that red was almost symbolic of rational thought. If it was gone, Buba could end up hurting Brand more than he was already hurt.
She rested her hand on his shoulder and said his name softly. At first he kept shaking Brand, trying to wake him up with force. When she repeated his name, he hesitantly looked toward her and for a moment she pierced the true–self and saw the burning pain in Buba´s eyes. She placed her hands on each of Buba´s cheeks, gazing deeply into those lost and confused eyes. Her voice took on an almost angelic tone as she spoke softly to him, never releasing that eye contact. "Relax," she said in that hauntingly beautiful voice, "relax and breathe." Then she leaned down and pressed her lips against his. There was no pleasure from this act. In fact, over the years, such acts have probably forever tainted Lisya´s lips. At the moment of contact, she closed her eyes and breathed in. In her mind´s eye, she could still see Buba´s true–self and it had exploded with color. The whole spectrum was there, overtaking Buba with a force beyond comprehension. She drew in the confusion and panic, the red and purple of Buba´s aura faded away into oblivion before her mind´s view. Oblivion was not exactly the truth, though. Her true–self had taken on the purples and reds. She pulled back from Buba, tripped over her feet and collapsed on the ground in a puff of dirt.
She had to flee. Something terrible was happening here and it was out of her control. Her mind was pulling her in a hundred different directions. Death filled the air, causing her stomach to roll every which way. She struggled to her feet and rushed the nearest tree, trying to climb it to safety. But it was no use. Her arms were shaking, making it nearly impossible to do anything much but grope for a freedom that was unattainable.
Behind her, Buba was zoned out only momentarily. After her contact had been broken, he was back and clueless as to what had happened. But he knew where he was and he knew Brand was in trouble. His head whipped around to Brand, his hand falling to the blood soaked tunic. One jerk was all it took to remove the cloth from Brand´s body. He tore away several long strips from the bottom of the shirt, then wiped away the blood from the hole in Brand´s shoulder with the remaining cloth.
The blood continued to seep from the hole in Brand´s shoulder, but that didn´t concern Buba so much. There was a network of spider–web–like, dark–green veins starting to spread out from the wound. That wasn´t normal and it gave Buba pause. He probed at Brand´s shoulder, pressing his fingers along the collarbone. As far as he could tell, nothing had been broken. The bullet – he still wasn´t ready to think about how Brand could be shot in the first place must have passed straight through.
"We´ve got to get out of here!" Lisya shrieked.
Buba spun around and blinked. Lisya was still clawing at the tree, trying to climb it in some kind of twisted fit of insanity. He debated what to do, then turned back to Brand and pressed the first strip of cloth against Brand´s wound. Then he took the second and wrapped it around the first cloth, over the shoulder, against the armpit, and back. He tied it off tightly, then got to his feet and looked at the tree Brand had collapsed in front of.
There was the bullet, smashed against the trunk of the tree. He pried it out with his meaty fingers and glared at it with a bitter resentment he didn´t know he had in him.
Pale red walls surrounded the temple´s altar in such a way that the sunlight flowing through the windows covered everything with a faint, disturbing red tint. Chrava stood at the top of the short stairway, staring at the three thrones in front of her. The middle one held her attention the most with its diamond encrusted frame and its immaculately decorated back. She´d wondered often how Zadara could sit in such a chair. It seemed so uncomfortable with all those jewels jutting out of the very place Zadara pressed her back. The other two "thrones" were much simpler with their basic chair–like qualities.
Chrava lightly turned the small box she held in her right hand as her gaze turned into a glare. That middle throne, Zadara´s throne, was the unattainable seat of power. Once Zadara´s ass touched that seat the world fell. Oh, Zadara would never admit it but nothing has ever been the same since then. Adara had ruled this kingdom as it should have been ruled and then Zadara came along and brought it to all to ruins. Day by day things grew worse and worse and now, now the Wielder had finally arrived.
This world was coming to an end.
She turned and gazed down at the sacrificial altar as it lay at the bottom of the stairway in front of the thrones. Its stone surface was stained with the blood of the innocent. Just the simple act of looking upon it should have turned Chrava´s stomach but she´d been there for a good number of the slayings and it really didn´t bother her.
Something was changing, though.
Something inside her was trying to crawl out from the hole she´d stuffed it in. She wouldn´t let it. As the days grew longer and darker, so did the surface of that stone. Before it is all over as the prophecies so state the blood of the Wielder will spill upon that place of death and the world will weep. This, too, didn´t bother her.
Four steps to the right and back two. Chrava sank down onto the seat of her throne at the right of Zadara´s. Tonight there would be eight deaths in this very room, on that very altar.
But things were changing.
That bitch Zadara had ripped Chrava´s heart out of her chest and eaten it. It may have tasted lovely to her but before all was said and done Zadara would come to regret such an act. Chrava had given herself fully to that monster. She´d exposed herself completely without fear or doubt. Zadara had called her naïve and now she was aware just how naïve she´d been.
Again Chrava turned the small box in her right hand, a slow, creeping smile spread across her face behind the strands of black hair that hung from her head. She needed to put the fear back in the people now that Zadara had turned her into a fool in their eyes. Or so she thought before.
That change, though, that change was changing her.
In the end of time the world shall revolt, as the people of the world shall also, the prophecies foretold. She settled back on her throne, tilting her head toward Zadara´s seat of power as her hand clamped down on the box she held.
"You dare to challenge me," she said to the throne. "I´ll show–"
A sharp pain stabbed Chrava´s neck. She jerked her head around, eyes wide. The world was rapidly fading to darkness as she reached up and pulled a small, metallic... something out of her neck. It reminded her of an arrow; a very small, very condensed arrow the likes of which she´d never seen. Her vision dulled as two blurry figures approached and a bag was pulled over her head. The miniature arrow slipped from her fingers, as did the small box she´d been holding. She never heard them hit the ground, though. As the darkness of the hood overcame her, one last thought drifted aimlessly around her groggy head before she blacked out: Oh, shit.To be continued...