How far would one man go to find his missing sister, whom he abandoned to her own life?
By Stephen A Abell
Number Of Words: 3000
As was his nightly ritual, Aditsan walked through the forest, his every nerve set to descry anything of interest. His skin was touched by the sweet cool caress of a sultry moist breeze, reminding him momentary of a lost lover’s breathless sigh in the aftermath of passion. In his mind her face was still as beautiful as it had been fifteen years earlier. His heart drank in the joy and sadness.
The scent of the wild curled into his nostrils making his muscles tense, ready to fight or run. From high in a tree he saw the dog cowering at its base as the hungry wolves approached in slow sinewy motion. Heads down, snouts up, muscles taught and ready to attack. As the pack leapt towards their prey his mind moved away from the scene as his ears picked up the cry of birds.
Something was wrong. A murder of crows swooped above him cawing of death. The wind took up the call and carried it on its strengthening breeze. Bad news rustled the leaves on the trees. Their attack halted, the wolves howled their pain and anguish. Whimpering the dog made good his escape in the new confusion.
Aditsan turned and ran for home and the telephone sitting just inside the front door.
This was a call he did not want to make. He hoped against hope that the word was wrong as his numb fingers tapped in the number.
“Yes.” The voice on the other end of the line sounded calm and unsurprised at the call. “Do you have word Aditsan?”
He was constantly surprised at how well Ahiga knew of things which should have been unknown to him. There were rumours of Ahiga taking the Witchery Way after the disappearance of his sister. At times like this he thought they could be more than malicious gossip.
“I do, and I am sorry to say the news isn’t good. There’s a body out in the fields three miles on the far side of town, down by the old mines.”
“Is it her Aditsan?”
“I can’t say. I know it’s a female, that’s all.” He paused recalling the tales being told in the wilderness. “It was the crows; they were feeding. They say the body was already torn apart before they arrived.”
No reply came to the news. All he could hear was the ragged breathing and in his mind a picture of hundreds of angry animals, foaming, slathering, and snarling formed. A shiver cold as ice trickled down his spine. He wanted to be off this damned phone. He wanted his lover and her welcoming arms, not this raving madman. “Did you hear me?” he whispered.
“Yes. The bastard ripped her apart.” The coolness was back in Ahiga’s voice and this scared Aditsan all the more.
“Well, if you’ll excuse me…” There was no reply, just heavy regular breaths breaking the silence. “I’ve done all I can in this matter, so if you’ll let me go I have other things to do.” Covering the transmitter with the palm of his hand he whispered and prayed, “Please.”
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know. They were only talking about the body. It might not be her, you know. It may be some other unfortunate.”
Aditsan listened to the dead air of a disconnected telephone and smiled sadly, exhaling a sigh of relief.
Ahiga gunned his pickup down the country tracks and over the dusty fields until he arrived at his destination. The story was true, the headlights bounced over the ground, picking out the naked form with each bump. A dust of dry earth kicked up and drifted over the prone body as he slewed the wheel and skidded to a sideways halt.
Ahiga’s powerful frame pushed the truck’s door violently open and he stepped down heavily onto the earth. Every muscle in his six foot frame angrily cried out for vengeance as he walked to the lifeless prostrate woman.
Rage rolled down his face in tears as he bent to identify the carcass. The crows were right, the woman was now carrion, meat to feed the hungry, and she was unidentifiable. The fucking cunt had cut her face off. The blood covering her facial muscles was drying; he could still smell the iron in the air. As he looked closer he could see the peck marks of eager beaks and wondered if the birds had taken the tender morsels of her eyeballs to dine on. In the back of his mind his conscience told him it was not so; that when he found his sisters face he would once again look into her loving and sympathetic eyes.
Slowly he raised her left foot and checked for the mark in the glare from the headlights. As a child she had trodden on a piece of broken wood while they had been out playing. Her bare heal had found the sharp piece of branch jutting upwards. Her shriek of surprise and pain was heard back at their house. By the time their mother reached them Ahiga had pulled out the shard and was carrying her back home. The scar was there.
He had to be quick before the scent died away.
Jumping back into the truck, he turned the key and ignited its engine back into noisy life. If this was to play out as he wanted, he had to reach the hospital and quickly.
She lay on the bed, old and decrepit now. Life had passed and it would not be long before it would be over. As he looked at his mother lying on the bed, with tubes in her nose and a drip in her arm, a deep sadness enfolded him.
His mother had showed them both love and affection throughout their lives. She helped them when necessary and scolded them when needed. She contracted pneumonia over a year ago. It hit her hard and fast, leaving behind a dazed and confused shadow of the strong and honest women she once was.
Walking to her bedside, Ahiga took her hand. Gripping his hand loosely, she slowly opened her eyes. Deep within those hazel depths he saw a glint of intelligence and understanding. She opened her mouth and, soundlessly, tried to speak.
Ahiga lowered his head, bringing his ear to her lips; he knew her words before they were spoken. Together they said, “It’s time.”
His mother continued “Isn’t it?”
Her son replied, “Yes.”
Gently he kissed her cheek and watched her smile as he put his hand under chin, helping her into a sitting position. Her mind said to his, “Thank you.” With a deft quickness he pushed her head up while twisting sharply to the left. There as an audible crack and the life left her body.
Laying her back down, he respectfully covered her and closed her eyes. She appeared to be sleeping. With one last kiss to her forehead, Ahiga arose and walked calmly and quickly away.
His sister deserved more than this. Being used and abused, then discarded on a lonely unused stretch of land.
She had been vibrant and loving, gentle and kind, but worst of all she had been trusting. Yanisin was looking after their mother, during and after the sickness hit her. It was at this time, her time of weakness, when he showed up in town. She was both mentally and physically exhausted from the constant strain. He knocked on the door enquiring if there were any jobs he could help with.
Ironically, Ahiga had sent him to their house. He had met the stranger at the hardware store, asking about employment. It had been the storeowner’s laughter which drew him to the conversation. The stranger told of travelling across the land, making enough money to live and travel. He was good with tools and his hands, he said.
Ahiga, thought of his sick mother and his poor sister, the idea of another person to help out agreed with him. After putting the proposal across, the stranger smiled and told him of a couple of jobs where he had been employed as a porter in some Hospitals; some experience around the sick was better than none.
During the next couple of months the stranger and Yanisin grew closer. Ahiga was happy his sister was happy. Her smile once again brightened the day, and their mother was being well looked after. It was after the stranger moved into the house and his sister’s bed that the changes took place. He sat around the house, watching television and drinking beer. Yanisin was now spread between two dependants. One sickly in the bedroom: One lazy in the living room. Ahiga was alarmed at how haggard and tired she looked. She could have been mistaken for their mother’s sister.
He took it upon himself to work this matter out, for better or worse. It was for the worse. The argument was monumental and epic in proportions.
When the shouts and screams subsided; when shattered plates were swept up; when knives were back in the kitchen drawer; Ahiga thought all was… not exactly well, but each of them had spoken their piece, the air was clear.
When he returned from work the following day his sister and her lover were gone.
Now here she lay at his feet, her naked body covered with a layer of dusty earth.
No matter how many times his teacher told him, he was not ready for the pain which erupted throughout his body like molten lava. The sound of breaking bones echoed and ricocheted in his head. Every limb in his body itched as muscles and tendons wreathed and reformed. He thought he should pass out, though sweet oblivion was far from his grasp.
The price for this last bit of magic was the killing of his mother; the pain was retribution for that unholy act.
Envisioning the creature he wanted to become, the dark magic took care of the transformation. An eternity passed before the wolf stood before the dead human female.
Bending its neck low, it sniffed at the sticky wetness on the faceless head. In his mind the scent was stripped down to individual components; iron, water, cologne, sweet, excitement, rot, and a million others. It seperated the ones it required and disregarded the rest. Lifting its snout into the night air it drew in deeply, short sharp breaths, finally locating the path of the strongest scent.
The howl was full of woe and pain as the wolf bent double, it’s back arched. The eagle took flight and soared in the moonlit sky towards its scented prey.
Two days on the wing brought him to the cabin deep within the forest.
From his perch high in the old maple, he watched his sister’s lover leave the wooden cabin and head toward the lake. Ahiga thought and the squirrel scampered along the branches at the tops of the trees, jumping easily from limb to limb. The human on the ground had no idea he was being followed. The squirrel watched the man disrobe and walk into the water. The stranger checked his reflection then splashed his face with cold water. Lifting his head back the human bellowed; just another beast in the wilderness. The stranger dove forward and swam out into the lake.
Moving quickly through heavy foliage, the squirrel came to an overhanging bough. Without hesitation he leapt away from the tree. As the squirrel fell toward the lake’s surface it twisted and turned. Its fur retracted, to reveal gills; its tail shortened and flattened into a double fin. The piranha hit the water and plummeted into the depths and swam after his prey.
He stopped in mid stroke and turned toward the noise. He thought someone had thrown a stone into the water. Nobody stood on the shoreline nor waded in the lake. A butterfly in his stomach fluttered. Something was wrong. Maybe the kill had set his nerves on edge. Though why now? He asked himself. The other five had been harder and more dangerous kills than Yanisin.
Fearful, he decided to head back to the cabin. No sooner had he started back then he felt a sharp pain at the back of his ankle. Swearing he pulled up, trying to inspect the wound. Blood began to pool around his waist. Quickly he reached to the injured ankle and his brain alighted with pain. In a spray of crystal water and crimson blood he yanked his hand back to the surface. Staring in shock and disbelief he watched his blood jet into the air, his little pinkie was gone.
The nip to his thigh brought him swiftly back to reality and he knew being in the water was dangerous. He started for the shore, swimming faster than he ever before. A couple of small sharp stabs brought fresh pain to his feet. Scared to stop and check the damage he soon reached the shore and quickly pulled himself to the safety of the land.
Both soles of his feet had sustained cuts and hurt when he placed them on the ground. Breathing a deep sigh of relief he asked the air, “What the fuck is going on?”
Not expecting an answer, he squealed when he heard the throaty growl. The bear’s head slowly rose out of the water and he forgot about the pain in his feet. He was running. His clothes, forgotten. The only thing on his mind was staying alive. If he could reach the cabin; it was sturdy and the heavy door had two thick log deadlocks, enough to keep the bear out. It crashed though the undergrowth behind him. Branches broke, twigs snapped, rocks cracked. There was the cabin. A hot sour breath tickled his neck setting his hairs to attention. With all the strength left in his pain wracked and blood covered body he sprinted faster. Rounding the corner of the cabin, he felt a claw rake at his ass. He jumped through the door, slamming it shut. As he lifted the first beam and dropped it into the placement, he heard the bear growl. As the second beam dropped into place the bear’s huge paws pounded on the door. It held.
Breathing a sigh and saying a silent pray to god he slumped to the floor.
The hammering and scraping on the door ceased.
The spider scuttled along the porch floor and started to climb the log wall towards the roof and the unguarded chimney at its zenith.
Inside the stranger was relieved to be alive and confused about the incidents. Ahiga was satisfied with the situation. As he chased the killer through the woods, he could hear his pitiful screams and pleas in his mind; the fear fed him and drove him forward. Now as he descended inside the chimney, the killer was relaxing under the impression he was safe.
The spider ran nimbly and quietly to where the killer sit sat on the floor and moved behind him. Ahiga, formed a vision in his mind…
“Why did you do it?” Yanisin asked.
Her lover spun around on his blooded backside and stared dumbfounded at her, unable to speak.
“Why?” She repeated.
“I… I killed you.” He stuttered.
“I know that,” she hissed, “I was there. What I don’t know is why.” In his mind Ahiga could see pictures of the killer, his father and his mother. The father belittled the mother… Beat her… Abused her… and made his son watch… Made his son call his mother abusive and degrading names… “It was your mother, wasn’t it?”
“How did you know?” His voice suddenly cold and devoid of emotion.
“I reminded you of her; and that pissed you off. Those other women reminded you of her, and what you and your father did.”
“You couldn’t know… you couldn’t.” His voice was weak and started to crack. Shakily, he pushed himself off the floor and stood before his murdered lover. “Are you a ghost?” The question came in a frightened whisper.
“No. I’m much worse.” Ahiga held up Yanisin’s hands. “This is for your mother and the other women you abused and murdered.”
The stranger watched as the transformation began to the apparition’s hands and backed away in fear. Fur grew thick and lush upon them, as they doubled in size. Coldness clothed his naked body as the long claws slid from the ends of the newly formed paws.
“You were afraid to feel… to love. Afraid to give your heart to someone. So now I’ll just take it.”
Yanisin pounced; frantically he tried to fend off the attack. Though it was useless, she possessed an unearthly strength and speed. Claws sliced through the flesh on his arms, cutting down to the bone, rending his arms nothing but a mess of tattered flesh and muscle. His blood covered walls, floor and ceiling alike. With the tendons severed his arms swung futilely at his side, fingers twitching madly. His back against the door, there was nowhere left to run. The pain was so encompassing, he did not feel the urine running down his legs as the claws ripped into his chest, breaking and shattering ribs. Ahiga drank in the stink of fear and death as he pushed the claws in deeper hunting the heart. Severing the arteries with his claws, he forced the paws back into the form of his sister’s delicate beautiful hands and pulled the severed heart from the cavity.
The killer’s bowels gave and shit hit the floor, seconds later his dead ass hit the shit.
Sloughing off Yanisin’s form Ahiga looked the insignificant man over, then smiling, he placed the heart in between his dead splayed legs.
Over on the table, by the fireplace, sat six hand-carved wooden boxes. On each of the lids an inlaid heart held a woman’s name. He picked up Yanisin’s box. Inside her sightless eyes stared back from the graying flesh of her headless face.