Curses (Kast)

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                Air she had to gulp it even though doing so made her head hurt, no measured breath nonsense just sweet lungful after sweet lungful of the freshest atmosphere Natasha had inhaled in years.  Ten seconds ago she’d been in deep space sucking old CO2 as a substitute; hyperventilating a little wasn’t going to hurt anyone now, so why not spoil herself?  Her ribs popped as she took another deep draw, her shoulder blades arching into the hard ground as they twisted to make room.  A week ago taking over Douglas as head of the research lab would have made her happy, now all it took was in… out…  Priorities can change quickly.

                Natasha sat up trying to see something besides white light, it seemed to go on forever but then again the glare didn’t let her see very far.  The anomaly wasn’t very wide a few yard should let her see some kind of landscape.  She checked her wrist for a compass, but no screen showed up.  That couldn’t be right artificial or not shouldn’t the luminous surroundings do something for the solar striping.  All the same either there was no power or she couldn’t see the controls.  Wandering aimlessly out of the brightness wouldn’t be difficult either way.

                Indistinct shouting erupted to her left, she didn’t understand a word of it but it was definitely human, not Chinese, not English, which just leaves a few hundred languages I don’t speak a word of. Natasha walked towards the shouts at first picking out six or seven distinct voices and at least three languages she wasn’t sure she could name until English finally found its way into the mix, “Don’t you’ll just piss it off!  Barbaros tell him to put it…” Something heavy broke into a run a loud scream accompanying the chaos of voices.  “Get alongside it…  Aurgughhhh” she still couldn’t see them but she could hear footfalls breaking off in every direction an elephant sized creature stampeding after one of them.  “GREEK ROMAN ARAB JEWISH SODOMITES, I CURSE YOU SPINELESS LACKWITS THAT YOUR ANCESTORY SHALL REMAIN CONFUSED AND UNCERTAIN.  YOUR OWN CHILDREN WILL FORGET YOUR NAMES AND WOLVES SHALL DIG UP YOUR GRAVES.  I… HHhhhh HHHhhh hhhhh, I...” anger dissolved from the voice suddenly filling with a distant pain, “You stayed… go ahead, take it, you can’t steal from a dead man… good riddance”, Natasha had slowed to a crawl but the last part had been little more than a whisper hardly a foot away from her.  One more halting step and the light thinned just enough that she could see the grey old man whose lower half had been stamped into the unyielding ground at her feet.  He muttered under his breath for a moment until a gasp like sob found its way out of Natasha’s mouth and the dying man turned to regard her, “Yoruba, what are you doing here?  Will your camel trains take me to heaven Yoruba?  That would be a story to tell the bishop a pretty Yoruba took me to heaven on a camel’s back… and that’s not even the best part she’s dressed as a knight in the finest Ivory cuirass.  Hah, I must be seeing things”

                “I was hoping it was something along those lines myself old timer, but I’m real enough”

                “You speak English Yoruba…  You’ve traveled far for one so young”

                “You’re bleeding out, I’m going to try and put a tourniquet around your waist and then I’m going to figure out where we are”

                “Not too far from home for a traveler such as yourself, this is Rome’s Empire or Syria it’s hard to be sure so close to the Divide.  This is assuming of course you are in fact Yoruba and not from the other side”

                “What’s that supposed to mean?”

                “A woman knight would have to be from the other side, there is no other way to explain it.  Which of course means you can’t go back”

                “Listen you’ve been in an accident but as soon as I find a way to get power I’m going to hail medical and we’re going to fix you up, okay grandpa”

                “No, you listen Not Yoruba; your journey here was an easy one.  You’ve fallen from a great height with no way to climb back up.  You’re…“

                “Trying to save you so shut up and hold still”

                “Have you traveled between worlds before Not Yoruba?" 

                “All the time now hush”

                “I’m dead Not Yoruba”

                “It’s Natasha and I was as good as dead five minutes ago, yet here I am”

                “Perhaps you fell from the heavens where such things are easy cures but here I should have already moved on.  You need to forget about me, I’m no one to you and someone who knows this world has to explain, you need to understand let me do what must be done before I pass.”

                “Pass nothing you’re staying right here. 

                “I walked the Divide in the days of my youth skipping from world to world without a care to where I landed but the path here is like the edge of a cliff easy to slip down but impossible to climb.  I have been stuck here most of my life.  I may have come to test the rocks once more but instead I found you and you can’t make the same mistake I did.  If you ever wish to return to wherever it is you came from you must leave this place behind only an Ordinator has the power to return one such as you, you cannot return as you are.”  Metal fingers fumbled awkwardly at the thick cloth of the man’s pants laboriously tearing strips to add to the ones she’d already wrapped around his waist.  But his hand reached up to hers halting the action, “Look me in the eyes Not Yoruba”, he was a complete stranger but she still didn’t want to believe he was dying, she was so busy fooling herself that she did what he said without thinking about it, “Ordinator, say it”


                “They can’t know what you are Not Yoruba, so Yoruba you will have to be until you find a way to steal the keys to this world.  I know you don’t understand but you will soon enough.  Just remember the Ordinators they are the gate keepers here”

                “You can tell me every crazy detail once you’re better okay”

                “Do you know which way west is…?  Let the sun rise on your back and walk into it as it sets”

                “I’m not just going to leave you here”

                “West” the man repeated his eyes dulling as his hand slipped back down to his side

                “Old Timer?”  No answer, “come on stay with me now”, she pressed her ear to his bloody chest listening for a heartbeat, calm silence had never been so deafening…  “I should have acted quicker; I stood there like an idiot trying to decide if he was real when I should have already been helping him”.  It wasn’t really a goodbye but then again there hadn’t been much of a hello, if only someone who’d know him had stayed behind to say words.  Metal digits set about to scooping handfuls of crusty earth for a grave, protective layers certainly added a sense of distance between her and the work but without power the suit was also a fair amount of dead weight, the work was immediately tiring.  A long day full of universe shattering discovers and unbelievable circumstances, is not without its fatigues.

                In a few minutes Natasha was half way done making a sufficient dent for a shallow grave when a large dusty foot stamped down beside her; she tried scrambling back up but only succeeded in tripping over the fresh corpse in front of her.  Glancing back she recognized the bud shaped head with long cheeks and the fat back lined with giant fin plates.  It should be extinct but things had been so weird lately she didn’t even think of that, stegosaurus’s were herbivores she was safe.  Getting up she dusted herself off, “you scared me you oversized leaf eater”, its cheeks shook as it snorted the low hanging head shooting skyward as it stood up on its hind legs three and a half tons crashing quickly back down to shake the ground like a loose floorboard.  Natasha backed up slowly “wow easy there I’m the biggest animal lover of all time”, that was a lie.  Natasha hated being around animals almost as much as she hated camping and the outdoors.  The stegosaurus seemed to know this; why else would it huff angrily as it stepped forward.  “I hear you have a brain the size of a walnut.  That’s nice, can’t take much to occupy that mind.  So I’m just going to keep talking in a soothing tone and you’ll… ”, a long throaty bleat cut her off, “Or I can stop talking that might work too”

                It kept coming forward and she kept backing up until a sickening step crinkled bone like a pile of twigs spilling bodily fluids as the dinosaur crushed the dead old man’s upper torso.  As the light thinned out thick ropes became visible hanging down from the edged plates that ran along its spine swaying lightly by the wooden spear that protruded from its side.  No wonder it was ticked.  The chubby misshapen grass eater pawed the ground like it was some kind of rhino ready to charge, “Fetching Muttnick!!!” Natasha swore as the bulk plowed towards her folding its head down so the shorter plates near its neck stuck out like axe heads.  If her suit was aligned for structureal support she could have just lied down and let fat dino walk right over her but it was still in a heat regulation and she didn’t have so much as a spare watt to try and change that.  “Fetching Muttnick!!!” she cried again right before trying to jump clear mentally cursing the dead weight of her unpowered protective gear.

Created: Feb 20, 2014


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