The Sixth 13
Noise has been coming in and out for some time, sounding a lot like hushed chatter. Light that had been dark earlier is now shining too bright for his eyes to stay open without squinting. Hurts like the slight thrumming of his head. It felt like his head was full of noise he couldn’t identify while the light was dark and still feels like it. The sides of his cheeks feel like someone used their bare hand to smack them over and over till they turned raw and in pain. His eyes adjust to the grainy light, becoming clearer.
A shadow looms. Someone is over him. Cory keeps his eyes on the shadow until it comes into focus. After his eyes have adjusted he realizes he’s seen her before. No. He’s seen them before. Anita and Winn. They are Miriam’s servants. They’d been in the room when he woke up in the morning to serve him breakfast. Cory hadn’t seen them since. They were leaned over him staring at his face. The little one, Anita straightens as soon as his eyes open.
“He’s awake, Ma’am!” She shouts without taking her eyes off Cory. She looks like she’s expecting him to jump up and scream to scare her or something. That’s just how she looked when he woke up and saw her dawdling with the window shades earlier.
Winn looks at her but says nothing. Anita shifts so slightly to the right, so slightly behind Winn, it seems like she’d been standing there a long time and is moving weight from her left foot to the right foot for some relief. Winn places a hand on Cory’s forehead and cheeks and he grimaces with the feel of her hands on his pained cheeks. Cory hears quick movement in the room. “No fever.” Winn says quietly. Her worried ice pearls moving over his face. Locking onto his eyes.
“He won’t have a fever.” Cory hears Miriam somewhere in the room, a commanding tone to her. “I’ll call for one of you when he’s ready for something to eat. Stay alert.”
Cory starts fighting his body to get up. Winn takes a hand and helps him sit. She stares him dead in the eyes, inches from his face. Her face contorts in concentration.
“Get out, the both of you!” Miriam snaps from behind her. Anita and Winn waste no time scuttling from the room and shutting the door quickly behind them. Miriam is standing by the window in the room she’d given Cory as his, while he stays here. The sun is still bright. A brooding Kiren is stalking back and forth inches from her.
He’s on the bed. The light hurting his eyes is sunshine streaming through open windows, the one Miriam is standing by and the other on the opposite side of the bed. A soft breeze is flowing in through the window on his side of the room. It’s warm like it looks outside.
Miriam’s eyes are taking him in. Moving head to foot as if she could see right through to his bones to check to make sure he didn’t break anything when he fell. Aside from searing pain numbing his cheeks, Cory feels fine. It’s quickly subsiding. He wants to tell her that he feels fine. Something has her distracted though. Something has his hands shaky, too.
Cory keeps his eyes on her. Rory. Simone. Cory shoots upright on the bed. “Be still!” Miriam orders stiffly.
He feels her subverting his thoughts of Simone and Rory. “Get out of my head!” Miriam is strong. He wouldn’t have known that from the way she acted when he met her. Sure she seems important with her red hair tied up in neat curls atop her head. A serious face with a natural wily smirk. An expensive casual wear he wouldn’t even try to guess the cost of. But she is powerful, too. Cory realizes when he tries to push her out of his head. What is it about Simone and Rory? They’re in trouble.
“No!” Miriam struggles against his attempt to break the mental link she’d formed in order to keep him shielded from detection. He should not be so strong. He’s just waking up. His head should be near fried from the kinetic blast she hit him with to keep his mind from reaching those girls. “He’ll find us.”
“My friends are in trouble.” Cory states the obvious.
“You’ll get us both killed if you don’t stop.” Miriam protests against his growing push to break free.
“Get out!” Cory struggles against her. His voice straining as if they are in a physical tussle. All the while Kiren is stalking back and forth calmly near Miriam, her eyes swiveling between them with a nonchalance resembling ennui.
“Of. My. Head.” Cory says, pushing hard against Miriam. So hard the kinetic energy he’s using to try to block her becomes a visible shimmer of light in front of his forehead. Miriam is shoved staggeringly back a step by the force of his effort. Cory begins to move on the bed. To his knees. Then his feet are off the front of the bed, left foot first, then right. His eyes flicker open and shut with the effort.
Miriam is flung against the far wall near the bedroom door, just to the right. She holds her ground mentally, grunting when she slams into the wall. Bouncing off the wall like a squishy kickball thrown against it and landing on her feet, her eyes and mind locked with his still. His worry over those girls will draw Jason’s attention if she lets him get free. His mind had been bleeding psychic energy while he was out cold. Miriam holds. Raising her hands in front of her, palms clawed and facing each other to aid her focus. Her face shows the strain it is taking to hold him in her power. Miriam directs more psychic energy at Cory. He braces against the first blast of energy. On the second blast he goes sailing back cross the bed, thumping on the floor on the other side, growling in pain from the impact and effort.
Miriam keeps pressure, panting from the effort of trying to keep him under control. She had been counting on being able to talk some sense into him when he woke up. Not this. “We can find the girls.” Miriam heaves. “But we’ll need to be smart about it.” There. His power begins to wane. Miriam can now cease her struggle. She huffs out a single breath of relief. “We collect our thoughts. We get our bearing and then we go find them and help them. But if we go crazy they’ll die and we die with them.”
Kiren has stopped her stalking. Her little ears keen to the sound of Miriam. Jade eyes find Cory when he peeks up from behind the bed. “She lies.” Says Kiren in the queen’s crisp. “Like always. She lies.”
Like darts, Miriam’s eyes quickly find the little runt she once called her daughter. Dead years ago. Somehow this apparition has assumed the form of Kiren and has brought misery with it every time it shows up looking to cause trouble. The manners were a bit on the nerves, but the same testy attitude that Kiren had when she was alive. It has been downhill and economy style living since the first time it came to Miriam.
Miriam had enjoyed a glorious life before this thing showed up. Before Kiren died, long before most world leaders even knew of Miriam, she ruled the Earth with absolute authority from the far reaches of thrones and kingdoms, from generations long since forgotten. Hers had been one of the first generations. A simple wife at the dawn of ages given the power of a goddess. And why the hell not. She was a woman after all, able to give life or take it anyway.
The mother of kings, queens, entire nations Miriam had been. Her image styled through the ages of the Phoenicians, Egyptians, and well-known kingdoms unknown to the people of this age, even before those kingdoms. She had seen them all rise and lent them her power until she decided it was time to move on to the next. Obedience, wealth, luxury was all she lived for. She had it all.
Until this thing came and took it all from her. More than ten years now since that fateful day she was stripped of her authority. Five since she’d been in hiding from Jason, a mere child she had trained after he was given power over even her because of this thing. She will deal with it. Now is as good a time as any.
“She will kill them both if they get in her way.” Kiren says her brooding eyes touch Miriam. “ She wants to use you Cory. She thinks she can use you to restore herself to power.”
“Enough!” Miriam feels, nothing, in the place where Kiren is standing, the usual. She wants to silence the thing once and for all. She must find a way.
Kiren turns to her. “I will not get involved this way.” Tiny hands fold confidently behind the child. She strolls across the room to where Cory is kneeled beside the bed, just at the opposite edge of the bed, the same side he landed on, so she is out of reach of Miriam and not too close to Cory to scare him, when what must be done must be done.
Miriam starts making her way cautiously toward them.
“Dig into her mind, Cory.” Kiren whispers loud enough for all to hear, her eyes darting to Miriam maliciously, who is inching her way in that direction, sunlight cascading her in a shield of itself for a split second.
As the child speaks a spark of impulse forces Cory to send psychic energy out toward Miriam. It’s almost like the little girl is in his head, in his mind, his will, telling him what and how to do. Touching Miriam’s mind, Cory feels the instincts and a jumbled mess of what he considers her thoughts. Fear. And behind that a base instinct. It is a fleeting glance.
Miriam staggers back once she pushes Cory from her mind. The effort is more than she would have imagined. Preposterous that he would be able to read her mind. But he did. She can see it in his eyes as the realization set in. She can’t feel anything from him. Miriam is unable to figure out how much he picked up in that split second he’d been in her mind. He’s undone her link and entered her head and that troublesome child that needs her hide tanned is smirking at her.
“Do you see it, Cory?” Kiren whispers to no one in particular. Somehow, only Cory is able to hear when she says. “Calm.”
Simone. Rory. His mind is filled with them. The fear he’d felt when he’d reached out to find Simone to try to let her know he’s ok, is unnerving. The thought of his friends in trouble is stopping him from being able to fully understand the thoughts of what he’s seeing hidden in the back of Miriam’s mind. It has a feel of illusory rage built upon something of a need. A desire. The want to subject everything alive. Maybe even the want for blood.
Cory gets distracted further when he feels something else. Fear. Not Miriam. Not near by. It is distant. The air is thick with dread. But Kiren clearing her throat forces Cory to focus on the task at hand. To the bedroom with its beautifully decorated blinds and art hung on the walls and furnishing of ivory white. Miriam. Simone. It is Simone that distracted him. She’s escaped and is on the run.
Before he can scan further Cory sees subtle movement from Miriam and meets her eyes. There. In her eyes at the back of her mind. Murder. Her face is calm and welcoming as it had been when he woke up to find her hovering over him the first time. But behind those eyes he feels the wicked intent, the same that had catapulted her to power long ago.
He sees it. All of it in dreadful clarity he wishes he’d never seen.
“Don’t believe anything this thing tells you.” Miriam says, her voice kind, reassuring him that she is utterly unaware that he is stealing pieces of her memories.
Kiren sighs deeply. There is sadness to her when she speaks to Miriam. “I believe, he will believe you.” She stands where she is on the far side of the room watching Miriam inching her way to them with a pacifying look in her eyes. “Though, dare I say, not as intended.” She backs deeper into the room when Miriam closes in.
Miriam is just on the other side of the bed now. “Cory?” Miriam implores moving one cautious step closer, observing the skewness of his face against the edge of the bed. His eyes. She can’t imagine that he’d have seen anything so quickly that would make him look like he does. Eyes absent. Grimacing.
“Abbieasom,” Cory answers in frightening recognition. He chills from not even knowing how he came up with the word but it seems to have frozen Miriam in her tracks, leaving her mind wide open, spilling everything else on a canvas for him to see. The images he gets are even more frightening than the word he’d conjured.
How could this woman have done so much in one lifetime? But then, how could things like this exist in one lifetime – ancient things and modern things. All of them blending into one incoherent stream of mental blabber smacking Cory flush in the brain. He breaks eye contact with Miriam when her thoughts begin to pour from the crevices of her mind too fast.
Swords. Guns. Weapons Cory had never heard of in any history class he’d ever taken and frightening wooden armors and metal ones in colors and shades he’d never even seen in movies, swimming in the darker reaches of sanity. Chariot-like things and transports darting cross ancient ravines. Wars. Deaths. Miriam had been there. Frightening events. She had ushered them in and depleted them all like chewed bubblegum when she grew tired of them.
She’s staring at him voiceless and motionless, with unflinchingly dilated pupils. Her lips quiver ever so. She turns at the neck mechanically toward the child a foot to the left of where Cory is kneeled by the bed, spindly arms twined peaceably behind her back, a profound pout beamed at Miriam. “What did you…?”
“Righto! Course!” Kiren screeches flinging her arms free from one another and pointing an accusation at Miriam with the right one. “Bloody well blame me for every bloody thing like you always bloody do. No blame for you, eh?” She chastises. “This is not my bloody mess. I’m simply beginning the cleanup since you seem to believe I’ll tolerate this crockery forever. I’ve warned you time and again, Abbi. No more!”
It’s about time this thing’s mouth was washed thoroughly since it’s chosen to take on the form of Miriam’s beloved six-year-old daughter. Miriam starts angrily toward Kiren. “I will deal with y…”
“Oh do shut up!” Kiren stomps a tantrum, sadness and anger permeating the air between them. “I’ve warned you too many times to delay any longer in vain hope that you will somehow see the error of your ways. I’m so done.” When Miriam gets within inches of her the child vanishes and appears standing on the bed in front of Cory like a true apparition. An impish smile offered to Cory. “I have something to show you, Cory.”
Cory flinches his eyes toward the cryptic creature with its tiny head of red curls beaming at him. The bed ruffles under her weight when she turns to him. It strains when the child morphs into a man. Glasses. Brown skin covering a kind face peeking at him from behind the glasses. Cory has seen him in pictures. Pictures with his mother clinging to him smiling. One of those pictures had this man beaming lovingly at a three month old swaddled in the crook of his arms.
Cory repulses at the sight and stands up. Takes one quick glancing step back from the creature that had just been a little girl tormenting her mother. His mind is a bevy of confusion shock and horror. To say the pain is real is an understatement as he gazes at the man his mother had pointed out in the pictures, was his father. Dead before Cory can remember knowing him.
Before Cory can take another step his mind whirls from a vision. This man. His father, locking a black wrought iron gate with three thick dulled-silver chains and locks, terror in his eyes, determination in his voice. “Don’t look back, Tatiana. It won’t do us any good. Just follow the direction they gave you to the letter. They’ll be waiting.” He’s saying in the vision in Cory’s pain. He checks the thick chains and padlocks he’s just snapped onto the gate before handing the keys to his wife. She drops them into the swaddle where her sleeping child lays.
To the left and right of the black wrought iron gate is a black wrought iron fence, ten feet in the air spired at the top with pointy arrows aimed at gray metal slabs some ten feet above, that make up the ceilings with a few recessed lights meant to keep the place as dark as possible while offering some light. It ends a good one hundred yards on the left and three hundred to the right, cutting the expanse on either side, one from the other. A field of metal covering the expanse top to bottom. Behind the fence where his father is standing is a series of entrance and exit ports in a labyrinth formation, he can see about four of them on either side, close proximity. Inside the tunnels’ metallic entrance curve sharply blocking everything from sight four feet in. No lights to speak of except those recessed in the ceilings in the open expanse where they are now. Mother looking longingly at father surrounded by metal up, down, left, and right.
She tries to speak. Nothing. Tears stain her eyes.
“You have to go, Tatianna. You gotta go now.” He says, his voice heavy with pain and urgency. He reaches through the columns of the gate to touch his sleeping son one last time. He’d injected him with a sedative to keep him sleeping so he wouldn’t make noise and give them away. Tears sting his eyes. “Oh God I love you.” He touches her cheek and his eyes linger briefly on his son before he flinches away from them upon sensing danger. Then he turns and starts back toward the middle tunnel on the left.
“Hurry!” Cory hears a familiar voice, Miriam, shouting. “They can’t be allowed off the premises.” He can’t see her or the people she’s giving orders to, but their boots beat a rhythm on the ground soon. Inside the designated tunnel, Tatiana pauses with her young son in her arms and looks back to see dad, his name is Theodore Raymond, rushing for a tunnel. She ducks behind the curve of the tunnel she enters and watches him run for one of the tunnels on the other side of the fence, skidding to a halt and turning toward another.
Several figures run from the tunnel he’s trying to get away from now. But his attempt to escape is futile because more come from the tunnel he wants to go to, trapping him in the middle of them. More spill from the others around him. And, as if on cue, Miriam walks from the tunnel he tried to run away from in no particular rush. She pauses to look around with no real sense of urgency. She spots the chains on the gate and groans.
Turns toward her prey trapped between her guards slowly forming a circle around him. “Get a little power and get ahead of yourself, Doctor, but all can be forgiven. I understand how power can open a mind up.” Miriam is saying. She glances at the tunnels beyond the columns of the gate, at the thick metal ceiling of the complex. At Theodore. “I’m hoping you’ll have enough sense to save me the trouble of tracking which tunnel they slipped through, Dr. Raymond? You are one of my more valuable researchers and I would prefer not to have to harm you. And since these tunnels belong to me, along with the surveillance equipment in them, I think we can both see how quickly this event will rectify anyway.” She finishes bragging.
Theodore says nothing. He’s ripped enough wires from the equipment she’s talking about to keep her people busy for hours. He can feel the techs working diligently to try to get some signal back. But even if they do, they’ll have to dig to find the additional jamming devices he stuck inside the mainframe of their controls as a precaution. He stands warily in the midst of the unarmed guards all eyes on him.
It had been a brilliant plan. Kindness. He brought the guards coffee every morning since he’d been hired by these labs and dropped it in the security booths to thank the people who kept them safe every day. He knew where they were. Knew the cameras mainly focused here or there. Caught them on a changeover. Who would be crazy enough to break into this place except a few environmentalists who would be ushered off the premises in chains? He brought the coffee as usual like he’d expected a full house. One guard who’d been on overtime needed to use the restroom was the only person working. Dr. Raymond said he’d cover as long as it was quick.
As soon as the guard vanished he went to work, signaling his wife to pick up the stuff they had packed for the event and make for the lower labs. There were tunnels there that led out of the place that few people knew about. That was all he knew about the plan and all he wanted to know. The rest had been told to Tatiana because he knew what he would have to do to make sure they escaped before he left. He hadn’t counted on Miriam being around today.
He’d used the flat bar to pry the consoles apart because he no longer cared how things fit together in this place. Smashed pieces he could with it. Ripped wires he could get to and tossed in the signal jamming devices in each one. Made sure they fell down into the dark where techs would need to take the machines apart in order to find them. Then he ran to escort his wife through the maze of the labs with his badge. He saw Miriam on his way down and somehow she read his mind in his panicked rush. They’ve gotten this far, but he will not be going any further. He didn’t need to. His son would be safe as long as his wife followed the plan just like the resistance people told her.
The guards have him completely surrounded, but as long as they’re focused on him they won’t be trying to get through the gates. He’ll buy as much time as he can for his wife and son. Obviously, they’re not going to kill him. And trying to reach Tatiana will be useless since she now has people shielding her mind. Miriam must be aware of that by now, which is why she stopped.
He is already struggling against Miriam trying to get into his mind. “Why him?” He says, struggling to keep her mind from leeching information from him.
“Because he’s mine.” Miriam says scaldingly. “Consider the honor it will bring your family, Dr Raymond.” She boasts after composing her anger. “He will be working directly with me from the moment he can walk and will be trained solely by me. I doubt you could do it, he’s already twice as powerful as you are. I’ve seen the reports, how you and your wife struggle to keep his probing curiosity in check. Imagine when he starts understanding.”
She studies him when he says nothing. “Surely, doctor, you want your son working with the very organization that pays you so well to sit on your ass and look at the things you enjoy studying, while providing you millions of dollars and equipment to do it with?” She asks. “You have been granted money each and every request. Why in the world would you want him anywhere else?”
Theodore thinks. “Last year and the year before we were shorted, by a mile and a half.”
Miriam grunts in disgust. “You wanted to study bloody, Wormholes! I don’t give a shit about worms or the hole…” Her eyes light.
Unseen in the tunnels a mortified Tatiana slinks into the darkness and into the tunnels and sneaks quietly away. Tears roll down her cheeks. She stifles her cries and keeps moving quietly through the darkness doing her best not to make a sound but moving as quickly as she can. She can’t do anything for Teddy and she will not let them take Cory after what her husband had told her about Miriam. The vision doesn’t follow Tatiana, it stays where Miriam is standing.
She chuckles sarcastically. “That’s why I like you. Creative. Which tunnel?”
He almost looks at one of the tunnels and he realizes it. Miriam is smirking. But he does not know which tunnel they went into. He’d made sure he didn’t know. He would never know and hopefully Miriam would never find out. Never get a chance to give his son to that man who comes by every now and again. Theodore gets a feeling of darkness personified from him, from that Mr. Knowles and he would prefer Cory have nothing to do with that man.
“Where are they going to go to, Doctor?” Miriam says. “I mean, really, I own every fucking thing. I have hands, arms, and eyes everywhere.”
“No you don’t.” He says. Keep stalling. Keep her talking.
Miriam stops her mouth from moving before she answers. Theodore realizes he’s made a mistake when Miriam begins cleaving into his mind with brute force, no longer caring if he’s damaged in the process. She listens to him scream in agony at the pain he must be feeling from the amount of power she uses to overwhelm him.
He tries in vain to stop her with a psionic blast but Miriam deflects it without effort. The gate shudders from the invisible blast of energy as it slams into it. For a split second the energy moves like a wave of smoke in force toward the tunnels outside and then dissipate as they get close to the tunnel entrances on the other side. He falls to his knees panting. Blood trickles from his nostrils.
Miriam turns to one of the guards. “Get in touch with your people on the outside. He’s made contact with those annoying idiots forming a resistance against me.” She takes measured steps toward him in the dimly lit corridor, tan shorts and brown boots to her ankles, a too tight mauve t-shirt on her torso. Her red hair and green eyes let loose. “I won’t forgive you inviting vermin into my den, Doctor.”
Her left hand forms a clasp around his neck and hoists him to his feet. Pressure mounts on his temples as Miriam squeezes his neck and punches psychic energy at his brain. He’s unable to defend against her power or scream through the pain because of her vice-like grip on his neck restricting his airways.
His nostrils ooze blood. His body goes limp and his breathing has ceased. Miriam snaps his neck for emphasis before she lets his lifeless body fall to the ground. Then she holds her hand out vainly for someone to tend the blood he bled on her hand while she studies the fences beyond the gate. The padlocks and chain fall away by her sheer will. The gate rents from its rails like paper and twangs on the floor in a twisted heap that shoots noise around the dungeon. Her hands are wiped clean by the time it happens.
Cory blinks himself from the nightmarish vision back to the room. His eyes are a bright ochre, brightening and dimming at Miriam. She sees unfiltered rage in the young man’s eyes and she hates the apparition for.