* * *
“-and once we’re there, you two get clear, no pun intended. What we’ve got planned isn’t exactly targeted, and if you really are on our side I’d hate to see you caught in the crossfire.”
Clinton and Art both nodded their understanding. Velt was being tight-lipped about whatever it was she had planned, but they’d seen enough anger in her eyes to trust that she meant it when she said to stay away for their own safety. Velt never struck anyone as the type to over-estimate how much violence going to occur.
“Velt! We have to move!” Auggie phased the through the wall a rapid clip, floating so fast he nearly careening right into the bandaged woman. It was only luck and a quick turn that saved him. He didn’t even pause to reflect on how close he may have just come to destroying himself, the news he had was too urgent. “I can touch living things, which means the third ritual is complete, right?”
“That cocksucker, he’s faster than I thought,” Velt all but spat. “Are the others ready to go?”
“Kay is waiting at the car and Topher is heading this way, he just had to go through the actual doors.”
“Good. Go back get your part of the plan into motion. As soon as you get to the cliff, send that damn thing over. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in place or not, understand? Attack immediately, we have to wreck their stronghold.”
“I understand.” Auggie turned to leave, then paused for just a moment as a thought struck him. “Velt… why didn’t I feel it this time? The other two rites nearly drove me insane, but I didn’t get so much as a twitch on this one.”
“I’ve got a hunch, but it will bum you out,” Velt warned.
“More than having my body stolen and facing down the end of the world?”
“Good point. My guess is that each time The Emissary does these rituals, he’s dragging the world of the dead further into the land of the living, and that kind of thing is uncomfortable for those being dragged,” she said. “The reason you didn’t feel it this time is that the process was already so far along that it didn’t represent a very big change.”
“So, the world of the dead is already so close to the living that this was barely a hop,” Auggie surmised. “I think I’d better get back to the garage.”
“Damn, you are a smart one.” Velt watched him go, nearly crashing into Topher as the large man barreled out the front door of the main hall. He glanced around nervously before his eyes finally fell on Velt and he rushed over.
“I’ve got everything I need.”
“Up to, and including, false confidence,” Velt said. “Come on then, let’s go. We’ve got a lovely canoe ride across the haunted lake, followed by an almost certainly deadly battle on the island of half-formed spirits, all leading up to a showdown with the body-snatching asshole trying to destroy the world as we know it.”
“I bet you use this date on all the guys who stupidly volunteer to risk their lives and stop the apocalypse.”
Velt snorted in spite of how crazy the situation was. It wasn’t entirely her fault, she always tended to get a little giddy when facing deadly opponents. It was either that, or let the fear overtake her, and she didn’t have the luxury of indulging in a nice quiet panic attack.
“You joke, but it’s been so long since I went on an actual date I probably would drag the guy to something like this. Which, now that I say it out loud, is just a fucking depressing realization.”
“Here’s an idea: how about if we both make it through this, you let me take you out on a real date? I promise no supernatural weirdness of any kind.” Topher gave her his best charming grin, and for a moment Velt actually felt tempted. He was kind of cute, and she didn’t object to a man who stayed in shape.
“Sorry bucko, no can do. I don’t date for a reason. And besides, you can’t keep that no supernatural stuff promise. It’ll find me, it always does.”
“You could let me try.” If he was bothered by being unceremoniously shot down, he didn’t show it.
“Look, if we make it through this and neither of us dies, I’ll buy you lunch. A platonic, ‘We’re-Not-Dead’ lunch. Take it or leave it,” Velt said.
“I’ll take it,” Topher said immediately. “Alright, I got you to actually make plans with me. Now we just have to save the world. Should be the easy part.”
* * *
“Forget it, you’ve had alcohol and don’t possess a license.”
“My last drink was hours ago, dick, and you don’t have experience driving through back-ass wood at night while keeping the accelerator down.” Kay held firmly to the steering wheel, refusing to give Auggie any opportunity to take hold of it.
“But I’m the one legally allowed to drive!” Auggie protested.
“Yeah, but I’m the one who can drive better. Look at it this way, we’re trying to drive a car that’s half re-wired bullshit and half bomb over a cliff to stop an apocaplyse. Those are some exisgent fucking circumstances if ever I’ve heard them.”
Auggie stared at her, temporarily stunned into silence, then spoke more quietly than before. “How do you know what exigent circumstances are?”
“Please, you think I don’t pay attention when my lawyer is telling me what to plead?” Kay fired up the engine, unwilling to waste anymore time on debate. “Just hold onto your ghostly ass, I’ll get us up that cliff in no time. I assume once we’re there you have a way to send it over?”
“Obviously. I brought tools to rig the accelerator to the floor so it will drive itself over the edge.”
“Fate of the world and all that shit aside, that’s probably going to look fucking awesome when it lands.” Kay shifted the Charger into gear, adjusted her mirrors, and mashed on the gas, sending them sputtering and pinging into the night.
“Scientifically speaking, hell yeah it will.”
* * *
It was almost done; the new world had nearly arrived. With the completion of the third ritual, all the preparations were complete. He had successfully created a sealed environment where the dead could walk freely, now all that remained was to free his god, who would spread unleash the power of the dead across all corners of the world.
The Emissary hurried, Irwin floating silently several steps behind him. It would be faster if he abandoned the flesh, this vessel whose energy he’d used through the first three rituals. Faster, yes, but also riskier. The final ritual should be doable even without a body, however some tasks were too important to trust to mere probability. No, he would hold this husk of a hostage until the ritual was complete. Only then would he shed the trappings and regain his true form: that of a higher being.
Besides, this body might prove an effective shield, in case that woman were to reappear. The emissary did not doubt Irwin’s account of injuring her, but he also did not put much faith in Irwin’s judgment. She did not seem the sort to die so easily. The Emissary suspected he wouldn’t truly believe she was out of the picture until he choked the breathe from her vulnerable flesh with his own hands… and perhaps even then he would linger around a bit, just to be sure.
Whether she was truly dead or not would be irrelevant soon. The Emissary felt dark water pool in the base of the stolen body’s shoes as he stepped onto the lkae’s bank. There, across the black waters, was the island. The first vanguard of servants were eagerly waiting for him, guarding the portal as they’d been ordered. Only one more ritual to go.
One more, and the world would belong to his kind forever.
“I have to admit, this is a pretty quick way to get across a lake,” Topher whispered.
“When in doubt, use the tools you have close at hand,” Velt replied, voice equally soft.
The two were sitting in one of the camp’s few remaining canoes that hadn’t rotted or been destroyed, moving steadily but quietly across the water’s surface. Such a feat would have been impossible if they were rowing, not that they had any oars to begin with, but Velt had hit one a stealthier way to move their tiny boat along.
On either side of the canoe was one of the spirits, Art or Clinton, spectral hands clutched onto the wooden surface as they pushed the vessel along. Velt had gotten the idea as soon as she found out they were able to touch objects. It wouldn’t give them much in terms of the elements of surprise, if anything, but it might give them something. At this point, Velt would take any advantage she could get.
“I think that’s close enough, boys,” she said. The canoe halted its forward progress. Velt had stopped them a ways from the island, however they could still rush forward and close the distance if needed.
“What are we doing now?” Topher asked.
“Waiting for what?”
“Either a car careening off a cliff and lighting these bastards up, or The Emissary arriving. I’d like to have Auggie and Kay thin their troops first, but I can’t let the ritual start. There’s always the chance that the car won’t make it, or something will go wrong, and if we try and wait it out we’d just be standing here, dicks in our hands, as the undead swarmed up and overtook the world.”
Topher coughed, a gesture equal in both the quietness and awkwardness with which it was performed. “You… um… you don’t have a…”
“It’s just an expression; you understand what I mean. I hope our signal to move is that car going over the cliff, but I can’t depend on that.”
“Auggie and Kay will come through, they’re both too stubborn to let anything stop them,” Topher said.
“For our sake, not to mention the rest of the world’s, I really hope you’re right.”
* * *
It was a testament to Auggie’s technological skills that the car’s engine held up as it whipped across the narrow path, straining against the challenge of the incline to move its metal body across the rough terrain. It was a testament to Kay’s driving abilities that they managed to get up to the top of the cliff without plowing into any trees, boulders, or other types of debris. At one point she nearly hit a rabbit, but some heretofore unknown instinct in its DNA commanded it to leap out of the way at the last moment, sparing it a bloody end beneath the ancient tires.
“For the first time tonight, I am deeply, sincerely grateful that I do not have a body. If I did, I fear basic concern for my safety would have rendered me catatonic.”
“Bitch bitch bitch, I haven’t wrecked us yet, have I?” Kay asked.
“The absence of past events doesn’t preclude them from happening in the future.”
The Charger burst through the last bits of brush, coming to rest at the top of the cliff overlooking the lake. It was almost peaceful to behold, the late night’s sky twinkling with fading starlight, all reflected in the dark, still waters of the lake below. This was a spot famed for its romance among counselors back when the camp was functioning, and it didn’t take much in the way of observation skills to see why.
Of course, the effect was somewhat marred by the horde of ghosts milling around the circle of red ling on the island, but that was precisely what Kay and Auggie had come here to fix.
“Look at that shit, made it safely after all,” Kay announced, letting the engine die. She popped open the door and emerged from the driver’s side, then headed around to the back and popped open the trunk. “I’m going to start getting the gas jugs and liquor bottles prepped, you set-up your auto-pilot doo-dad-fuckery.”
Auggie slid over to where Kay had been, grabbed his bag of tools, and went to work. By his estimates, they could have the car ready to go in five to ten minutes. The drive up had taken surprisingly little, thanks in no small part to the very driving skills he’d been critiquing from the passenger’s seat. It would be close, but if they hurried then they should be able to get the horde of ghosts destroyed before The Emissary arrived on the island.
He’s no sooner finished that moment of calculation than he heard a boisterous cheer roar forth from the island. Though he was too far away to make out details, the way the ghosts were gathering up around one side, encircling a single spot, told Auggie all he needed to know.
They were just a hair too late, and The Emissary had beaten them to the goal.
* * *
“That rat-bastard is fast,” Velt muttered. She gently knocked on the side of the canoe, getting the attention of Art and Clinton. “Full steam ahead you two.” As the canoe began to move, Velt reached into the duffel bag at her side, pulling out several road flares and two plastic bottles filled with a milky substance.
“Liquor?” Topher asked, getting his lighter and bugspray ready.
“Pretty much. It’s mixed with non-dairy creamer for extra kick.”
“Non-dairy creamy is flammable?”
“Are you kidding? The stuff is super potent. It’s what stage magicians use to make fireballs,” Velt told him.
“I see. So you’re going to throw the liquor and creamer at them, then light it with the road flares?”
“That’s the gist of it.”
“Maybe next time you should make water balloons,” Topher suggested. “That way you can just toss them, they break, and you’ve got a good spread instead of just spurts from the bottle.”
“You know… that’s not a terrible idea,” Velt admitted. “If I get out of this one alive, I’ll keep it in mind.”
“Glad to help. Any advice for me?” Topher glanced over the edge of the accelerating boat. They would both be on the island in less than a minute.
“If it isn’t me, burn it. If you run out of spray, grab a stick and light it on one of the nearby fires then use it as a weapon.”
“How do you know they’ll be a fire for me to light the stick on?” Topher asked.
Velt answered his question with an over-sized smile and a jiggle of one of the bottles in her hand. That pretty much told Topher all he needed to know.
* * *
The Emissary was wet, his stolen body trying to shiver aft her experience of swimming through the cold waters to the island. It wouldn’t hold up in this state for very long, but fortunately he only needed it for one more task. After that, he’d shed it like a rotten cocoon and re-ascend to the his glorious fleshless existence.
As he pulled himself onto the island, the spirits gathered around him, letting a triumphant cheer at their leader’s return. These loyal souls were closer to wisps than true spirits, much of their strength had been sacrificed to feed his own power. He intended to see each of them restored as well as every other follower waiting to cross over from their god’s domain. For millennia they had served there, waiting for the ritual to be complete, earning a place to linger as the fruit of their efforts ripened. The Emissary would bring them all back, and they would be the rulers of this new, better world. The faithful would be repaid and the blasphemers would be torn to dust and scattered on the wind.
He barely had time to soak in the welcoming words of the spirits gather around him, let along begin the ceremony, when the first inhuman howl tore through the night. From the back of the crowd, a bright light rose. It was unlike the crimson taint that oozed from the waiting portal. No, this was clear and unsullied, it danced across the shadows, destroying all it touched. As the spirits parted, The Emissary could make out a pair of spectral soldiers laying on the ground, their form rippling into nothingness as the fire devoured them whole.
Next to them, holding a sparking cylinder and a plastic bottle, was that woman. Her right arm hung low, probably broken in the crash, and there were bandages wrapped around her appendages and head. One might have expected that to dull her ferocity, but one would have been exceptionally mistaken in such a belief. She locked eyes with The Emissary and gave him the smile of a jungle cat watching from the underbrush. There was no deception in her, no false overtures. Her sentiment was perfectly and honestly written across her face: she had come to sow havoc and reap destruction. In a strange way, The Emissary respected her candor. Though they were clearly entrenched on different sides of this battle, he found it impossible not to appreciate someone who entered battle with such earnest intentions.
“You appear to have failed me after all, brother.” His eyes flicked to the edge of the body’s vision, taking note of Irwin trying to float quietly away.
“N… no I didn’t! I haven’t failed you unless she actually stops the ceremony. If I deal with her right now, I’ve still done my duty.” Just as Velt did not conceal the violence in her intentions, Irwin made no effort to hide the desperate begging in his voice.
Had he been a few steps closer, The Emissary would likely have destroyed him right then and there. However, Irwin was just far enough away that attacking him would require The Emissary to turn his back on Velt. Even at this distance, that was not the sort of thing he could see going well. In this situation, it was better to let her handle Irwin and hope his flailing failure bought them more time.
“Very well. Go forth and prove yourself, brother. It is the last chance you will get.” The Emssairy leaned back and raised his voice, bellowing to all the spirits clustered about. “That woman has come to stop our ceremony, to invalidate the countless years of sacrifice and effort we gave to create a better world. Kill her now, no matter what the cost!”
Across the island, Velt licked her lips and tightened her grip on the flare. This was going to be interesting.
-Had to write ahead, since I'll be going to a friend's wedding tomorrow and won't have a chance to work.
-Next scene will cut to Auggie and Kay getting the car ready.
-Dropped the backstory idea from the boat-ride, didn’t fit the attitude of the scene. May go back and remove from initial chapter.
-Next chapter break will be when the car issue is resolved.
Daily WordCount: 3,141 Total WordCount: 43,504