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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Dark · #2264394
Into the Darkness Contest January 2022 entry
Contest Prompt

1100 words

Beaoul sat with her eyes closed, communing with Toni, the sentient pocket universe that acted as a place of refuge for both Beaoul and Raen. Beaoul, it might be time to revisit your origins to see if you can discover a solution to the problem of this plague, perhaps if you find the source?

"Toni, Mira is still looking for me. Someone may see me if I return to the Main Dark Compound!"

Beaoul, only other hellhounds can see you, and perhaps Mira.

"Don't you think the queen of darkness might just be hanging out in her compound? Beaoul grumbled.

You lived there for a year as her private hellhound companion. You know when and where she is likely found. Avoid those places. You aren't usually this timid about danger, what is wrong?

"I am not afraid of much Toni, but Mira scares me. She pulls out teeth and fingernails of torture victims to entertain herself, and they tend not to have even pissed her off. I betrayed her. I ran away from her."

You aren't a hellhound in name only Beaoul. You have been through hell, lived it. You can walk through the flames again, I don't think you will be harmed by it.

Beaoul sighed, and whined, "What if I don't come back?"

What if you do? Here, I have a gift for you. A shimmering pearlescent key on a short necklace materialized on the surface beneath Beaoul's feet.

"Did you take the key back from Raen?"

No, Beaoul, I have been working on one for you. This one will only work once, but do know I have a permanent one growing for you. It takes a lot of careful effort on my part to affix them to me across all space and time.

Beaoul closed her eyes for a long moment, memories of her first year of life beneath Mira Black's thumb played across her mind's eye. She focused on the many times she deceived the Queen of Lies. She had defied Mira with her every breath since birth. Lesser creatures had found death as a reward for that defiance. She should have been long dead. Luck and perhaps divine providence was on her side. She knew the answers would only be found in Mira's domain. "I'll go."

Beaoul placed the necklace around her neck with her mind. Without further communication, Toni opened a portal out into the universe beyond. Beaoul closed her eyes as the ethereal door swung open and she stepped through into her past. On the other side of the doorway, Beaoul turned and watched the portal swing shut. She stood in the same corridor she had last occupied within The Main Dark Compound. Feet away from her was the place where Seyona had died while they attempted to escape

The foul conflicting smells of blood, decomposition, and various poisons assaulted Beaoul's nostrils. They were the familiar scents of her puppyhood. If fear possessed a smell, this was it. Beaoul cloaked herself in undetectability. If she chose invisibility, no one would see, smell, or sense her presence. She even retracted her claws to prevent them from making sounds or leaving marks in the stone and concrete of the floor.

Where to look first? Beaoul followed her internal map to the experimental cell block. If anywhere that would be where Mira developed the plague. The corridors leading to the cellblock were fairly empty at this time of day. Unnoticed, she passed through several security checkpoints, not there when she escaped. It was a good sign that she might find answers. Beaoul entered the cell block proper, most of the cells were empty. Half of those with occupants held half-dead prisoners. They were victims of various diseases by their physical symptoms, smallpox, leprosy, anthrax, but none showed signs of the disease Mira was debuting on Tradehub.

Deflated, Beaoul began searching through the less than meticulous records on disease trials. They existed as paper files scattered around on laboratory tables near various flasks. Eventually, she came across a file referencing the "Tradehub Project." Beaoul gathered the file and any that even looked related to it using her telekinesis. Then balancing the files she used her mind to insert her key into a locked door. She turned the key and felt something akin to a sense of homecoming when the door opened inward revealing the infinite whiteness of Toni's interior. Beaoul crossed the threshold and kicked the door closed behind her with a hind leg. She went, faced her fear, and returned hopefully with a prize worth the risk.

Beaoul dealt the files out onto Toni's surface. She opened the folders and began reading. They talked mortality rate which was nearly impossibly 100 percent. Beaoul didn't know anything about diseases or the like but the wording of the files told her that the scientists involved found it remarkable. There was a lot of technical information on how they transformed it from a blood/contact-borne illness to one spread via respiratory agencies. None of the files told her where that original disease had come from and none of the files identified the source of the inoculant. They did tell her that the inoculant could be overpowered by more virulent strains of the pathogen, but she knew that from her own experiences.

"Hey, Beaoul, what is all of that?" Raen asked coming out of the Bedouin-style tapestry tent that they used for sleep in the infinitely white space within Toni.

Beaoul considered restacking the files and minimizing their importance, but ultimately saving Raen's homeworld was the reason behind raiding the Dark Compound for this information. "I am trying to figure out where the plague came from and how to stop it."

Raen stared at her with a puzzled look on her face.

"Toni and I have discussed things and we think we can save the people of Tradehub."

"How? I mean aren't they all dead by now?"

You have told her we can go back to the moment you left Tradehub, haven't you?

"Toni wants me to make it clear we can go back to Tradehub at the exact moment we left if not before. We can still save them all."

Raen's eyes teared up, "Not all of them." Her lips drew thin and she walked away.

Beaoul started to follow after her. Don't follow her, Beaoul. Remember the ones you culled were her friends, family. Beaoul's spirits dropped from the high of finding the right trail, to the desolation of guilt. That was the universal law of dealing with Mira Black. It didn't tend to end well.

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