Far From Home

Steal Head: Chapter 4 – Sharper Than Steel, Deeper Than Forever…

I’d told Beck some of my dreams but I couldn’t tell him all of them. Mostly they were memories and not all mine. Memories of other worlds. Some were of Shade, others were of the world that was here before. Others were of ‘his’ world and I liked those the least. They were of a life not mine. Things and people and places and events, none of them I had experienced yet I remembered them all as if I had. Tennyson should had tried having someone else’s happy memories swimming about his head for a week, especially after a fire reduced him to a walking freak show, and then see how he felt about loving and losing. No, Beck wouldn’t understand those dreams so I kept them to myself. But this dream, well this dream was different. Maybe I should tell Beck about this one.

It was night, the full moon sending silver light tumbling trough my cabin window. Something had woken me, some noise outside I think. I rose, the room swaying and bending as if made of jelly as I found I was unsteady on my feet. I looked down and gasped as I saw my legs: they were naked and covered in fur! In place of my burnt flesh and twisted limbs I was once more a strange mix of gazelle and human. Elated, I flung open the front door and leapt outside to the rocky overhang that jutted out into the river. On my knees, almost too nervous to see what the moonlit reflection would reveal, I stretched my head out over the still water. The breath caught in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes. My face was once more whole and unburnt, my ears and nose back from the stumps the fire had left me with, even my horns had returned, glinting darkly in the moonlight.

And then I saw it. As I gazed into the dark water like a dreaming Narcissus, the reflection of a quicksilver movement on the roof above and behind me caught my eye. I had a brief second in which the image of a monstrous toad came to mind before the air itself screamed as something sharper than steel sliced through it towards me. And then I was tumbling, rolling over and over into the water and down. And as I dropped to the depths of the river I saw my body, now headless on the rock above me, collapse onto its side before the darkness of the water closed the world above from my horrified eyes. With a gentle bump, my still concious head came to rest on the silty riverbed and silence began to envelop me.

There I lay. Alone, scared, undying, ever-concious until I felt I would go mad with the horror of it. And then I felt the movement. The water and silt shifting around me. I couldn’t move, only my eyes could flick back and forth, desperately searching for what I knew was coming until, with a cruel slow deliberateness, a huge clawed hand curled over my face and my head, silently screaming in terror, was dragged off into the dark.

Thankfully it was at this point I awoke, panting heavily and swearing like a navvy.

God alone knows what Beck would make of this one. Hopefully he won’t think I’ve gone totally loopy as, to be honest, I don’t fancy another stay at Caledon’s Sanitorium, not after the last time.

Headless HBA_001

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To be continued…

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) All my “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.
2) A “Steal Head” Story So Far recap can be found here.
3) All my “Mutations” posts can be read on my blog here
4) Details of how HBA came to be burnt are in the “Lost and Found” posts on my blog here
5) Details of how HBA came to be in the dubious care of Caledon’s Sanatorium are in the “Far From Home” posts on my blog here
6) Details of how HBA came to be a half-gazelle are in the “Backpacking Burro” posts on my blog here

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Disaster in Rodeo! Kahruvel Erased… AGAIN!

I was pootling around in St Helens building a log cabin when an IM popped up from Neal Lyle: Get to the Forest! Something terrible has happened! Rodeo has gone!

Rodeo? Gone? I assumed he meant the sim had winked out of existence. It happens. Red mapped we used to call it – the whole sim just vanished leaving perfectly straight cliff walls tumbling into an inaccessible sea where once hills and valleys could be explored and enjoyed. It takes a while, but The Powers That Be can bring these lost lands back pretty quickly (and since Havok 4 came into being it seems to be quite rare) so as I TPed over I simply thought this would be a panic over little.

I should have known better. This was Neal, not some three-week old newbie still green around the gills. Neal knew the grid. Neal knew what warranted an urgent message and what didn’t. I should have known.

Rodeo is still there, but it looks as though everything on it has been erased! The land looks like it must before human (or otherwise) hand had touched it. The tower was gone. The standing stones and the aqueduct too. The idol’s head Ilia found, gone. All gone.

Neal and I both IMed Sal, but he was out-of world and there was nothing we could do but wait. It was terrible thing to stand on the hill over looking the inlet and see all I have loved about the first since I found it three years ago simply gone.

2007:
The old BB blog header

2009:
New BB Blog Header - Kahruvel & Rodeo

Now!
Rodeo Erased!

I heard on Sal’s twitter feed that he’s alerted the Linden’s, but he sounds worried and if Sal is worried we all should be. What if this is the work of the Great Erase? What if it has followed me back from Shade?

Mutations: Chapter 2 – Dreams of War, Part 1

The sounds that drifted in from the night spoke of war. Men and beasts being made ready, swords and armour prepared and handed out. Countless campfires held the night at bay and filled the air with sweet camphor smoke that whipped along with the breeze and crept in through the canvas of my tent.

I opened my eyes, unsure and lost and found myself looking into the face of a beautiful angel.

At first I thought it was my angel, the one who had tried so hard to save me from the explosion and had watched over me in Babbage. The girl in the meadow who’d risked more than her life to pull me from the flames of a collapsing reality. I thought it was his granddaughter come to my aid once more, but it wasn’t. She had wings as red as blood and eyes of shining purple stars and her voice was a chorus. No, the angel I stood before me had white wings and eyes of shimmering grey, and whilst its voice may have been beautiful it was not a chorus, “My beloved?” it said. No, this was not my angel.

I looked around the tent and recognised nothing; from the writing desk to the carved wooden bed draped in animal furs, nothing was mine. The angel was dressing me in ornate metal armour, by its feet a sword lay across a shield. “Where…?” I said, my voice sounding small and far away. The angel must have sensed something, seen something on my face, for its expression changed and its eyes flicked back and forth across my own. “But, you are not He…” it started, suddenly glowing brighter and brighter, “I do not understand? Who are you?” it demanded becoming a star falling to Earth.

I tried to answer but my mind seemed slow and tired. I tried to shield my eyes, squinting against its light “Please…” I croaked dryly, “the light…”

Immediately it dimmed, dying away until I could look at it once more. The angel looked scared; it took my hand in its own, turning it over and over looking at my wrist, feeling the flesh. “This… this is not His!” I gasped as I noticed my hands were unburnt and whole again.

“I don’t understand…” I said unsteadily.

“You are the Other. This can not be! You can not be here! We need Him! We need him to find Bloodw…”

The tip of the spear that erupted through its chest tore the final word from its lips. It fell into me with blood foaming from its mouth and nose as its eyes stared imploringly into mine. I watched as they dimmed and the life behind them finally vanished. Outside beasts roared and men screamed as war erupted…

“And that’s all you remember?”

“That’s all I remember Doc.”

“And how long have you been having this dream?”

“I dunno. Two. Maybe three weeks. Since I started the cabin I guess,” I sat on a log, Beck sitting across from me with a steaming cup of tea in his hands. He looked around at the fruits of my industrious labours and nodded to himself. “And no other dreams? Just this one?”

“Just this one, at least since it started,” I answered. There had been others. Dreams of fire and pain and people with mirrors where their faces should be. Dreams of green light and monsters in flying boats. Dreams of being erased again and again piece by piece by piece. I dreamt those every time I closed my eyes, sometimes even when I didn’t, but I didn’t want to talk about those dreams.

“Well, I’m no alienist Antfarm but I’d take a stab at anxiety and painful memories rising at a time of change as you begin to rebuild your life,” Beck didn’t sound as confident as he’d have liked to. “Look at what you are doing out here? This cabin is wonderful, you are putting your life back together piece by piece just like this cabin.”

I looked around at the felled and shaped logs, each one the product of my sweat and blood, and smiled. I’d let the doc think what he wanted, but putting my life back together was far my mind; I just needed somewhere to live that didn’t flap in the wind was all. We sat in silence for sometime, each lost in a private world of memories.

Beck made the first move. He downed his tea and stood up “I’m sorry to cut this visit short, but I better be heading back if I want to be back before nightfall.” Ever since that Chinese kid had been killed he’d been on edge about the slums at night. I guess I couldn’t blame him for that, those kids were family to him. “Look,” he said as he gathered his things and packed them away on his horse, “you’re doing well but please, please! take it easy. You’re doing an awful lot of hard and dangerous work and one slip could be serious.”

“You can say that about any of the settlers out here, Doc” I chided gently. He smiled back and shook his head as he got on his horse. “How about you take it easy, eh?” I said, “It’s a tough route back now the spring thaws are here. Don’t want to have to fish you out of the river as you bob past, do I?”

“Ha! I promise my friend but with Frank here,” he patted the horses’ neck “I’m sure I’m in good hands. Or hooves.”

We said our final farewells and Beck turned to go only to stop again and look at me, “Eyes,” he said.

“Eyes?” I repeated, feigning mild confusion.

“In your dream, you describe their eyes well.” A question disguised as a statement.

“Do I? I hadn’t noticed,” I batted away, aiming for the long grass.

“Hmm,” was all he said but he fixed me hard in his gaze. I looked back into his eyes, eyes I recognised all too well. I should. They were mine. More than that, they had been my creator’s and now it would seem they were my brother’s too.

Mutations Mutations

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To be continued…
All the “Mutations” posts can be read here.

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) For more on the return of the Bloodwing, read Darien’s, Jeremiah’s, Qlippothic’s, Koen’s, Wren’s and Ama’s Blogs
2) For more on HBA and the Mason mythos, read the previous tales The Lost Journal, Lost & Found, and Far From Home.
3) For more on the death of the Chinese Boy, read about Creaky Gloom on this blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.

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Far From Home: Amarantis Belfire’s Blog

Although the telling of my “Far From Home” tale has now ended, you can still read Amarantis Belfire’s wonderfully written posts connected to it (and my previous tale, “Lost & Found“) on her blog, YAFJ. I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to Ama’s typist for helping me with these tales and allowing me to drag her into my RP 🙂

Here is Ama’s latest post in which she tackles Dr Roundtree about Nurse Rain and is cleared of any involvement in Sister Grace’s death by a mysterious man with a strange, bookish lapel pin…

Far From Home: Chapter 10 – Coming Home

The water here is cold. Memories of a childhood I knew could not be mine flowered in my mind; giggles and splashes with fingers trailing in a steam and cold water flicked at friends. If I tried that now I wouldn’t even know if the few fingers I had left froze solid and snapped off. Now only the custom-made fleece-lined leather gloves kept what was left of my hands safe from injury and the elements. The childhood squeals of joy faded until only the quiet lapping of my oar in the river and the occasional bird cry from the bank remained. I liked it that way. Memories were useless out here, they would only slow me, make me careless, drag me down with them. What was gone was just that, gone.

I looked ahead, my landing point approached, a stream flowing into the river where the forest at the base of the mountain dipped to meet the lake. The trees in the forest were snow-draped as if a funeral shroud had been cast over them, white and smothering…

“You’ll have to wear this under your clothes,” the doctor from the slums stood in my room and held up long white underwear. He’d been coming every day since my return. The hospital in Caledon offered me accommodation in the local sanatorium, promised me a job, promised me rooms, promised me a prison with lunatics for cellmates. I declined. I had a home. I had a jungle. I left and I went home only to find it had gone, burnt to the ground, not a trace left. I sat on the sand and didn’t move for three days.

I saw things. They spoke to me. They pointed and they laughed and they danced.

On the fourth day the rain came. I sat on the sand and made believe the rain streaming down my face were the tears I could no longer weep. It rained for a day and a night.

On the fifth day I left the island. I didn’t know where else to go so I travelled back to where it all began. Back to the epicentre. Back to Steelhead.

People stared. They whispered and pitied and taunted and joked. In Steelhead my misery was compounded by the unruly children that inhabit an underworld no adult can hope to enter without their permission. Oh yes, the Steelhead Scamps thought me great sport.

I wasn’t sure where to go, so I went to the slums to find the doctor. He stared. They all stare. Still, he helped. I don’t know what he said and to whom but by nightfall I was in a comfortable room in a nearby hotel. From my window I could see Spirit Lake flowing out into the river as it passed through the wilderness of St Helens.

“You’ll have to wear this under your clothes,” I turned from the window (how many days had I stood there staring out into the isolation beyond?), “and these gloves I’ve had made for you. Likewise your boots and socks. You are going to have to protect yourself if you are insistent about going through with this.”

I stared at the while underwear in his hands and the other garments on my bed. “Thank you. Is everything else ready?”

He sighed, “Yes. There’s a canoe and supplies ready and Lunar has stamped your purchase order. You’re the proud owner of very remote, very isolated forest by the mountain. I’m guessing that will make you happy, eh?”

I looked at the man with concern etched across his brow and said nothing. He shook his head and placed the long thermals on the bed, “Well at least promise me you’ll make our agreed meetings. Every two weeks. If you miss one, I’ll only come looking for you and neither of us wants that; I hate the great outdoors with a passion, you know.” I tried a smile but my skin wouldn’t move like that any more so I just nodded and told him he had my word.

The next morning I set a hat on my head, wrapped a scarf around my face and walked away from the hotel, away from the city, away from the scamps and everyone and everything. I checked the canoe and set off rowing, I let the river take me for a while but I liked to row, the exertion warming me in the frigid morning air. Since the fire, since Shade, The Erase, the would-be killer, since my recovery, winter had come to these parts and it held the land fast in its white silence. There was no one around, not a living soul for miles, and it was perfect. I looked down at the river, clear and blue beneath me.

Steelhead St Helens

The water here is cold, I thought to myself…

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The End.
All the “Far From Home” posts can be read here.

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Far From Home: Chapter 9 – The Erase

The meadow was burning.

The flames were licking up my body, my fur curling back and burning off.

A beautiful girl with wings of fire stood amid the conflagration and looked at me with cobalt stars where her eyes should have been.

My skin was bubbling and melting away like wax.

Her hand extended through the flames, reaching for me in the fire.

My bones exposed to the flames began to crack and split.

The girl was mouthing something to me, her face full of fear and concern, “Chosen Unit Antfarm! You must wake up! It is coming!”

Around me, the meadow was burning. The beautiful girl’s hand found mine, slender fingers webbed with fire curling around my dissolving bones. She pulled me forward through the flames and into her embrace. Her wings closed around me and she said {Chosen Unit Antfarm! You must wake up! It is coming! The Erase event is here!}

My eyes snapped open. Shade hovered and bobbed above me framed by a light brighter than anything I’d ever seen. I closed my eyes against it and was looking up into the girl’s face again {Hold on to me, Chosen Unit Antfarm. We must flee!} I wrapped my crumbling arms around her and held tight. Her wings unfurled and beat down into the flames of a world alight. We rose above the fire into the air and beneath us the meadow fell away into smoke and chaos. I closed my eyes.

The city fell away beneath us, Shade flew high and fast and I steeled myself for a glance behind us. A cry of horror stuck in my throat as my body froze. From horizon to horizon and standing over three hundred feet tall a wall of crackling energy roared towards us, its surface streaked with blots of plasma the colour of my nightmares it devoured and deleted everything in its path. It was if the universe itself had torn open and all the light in Heaven was flooding out, pouring itself on the earth and scouring it all away. It had reached the tower blocks on the far side of the city and I watched in awe as they simply dissolved and crumbled to nothing, erased as if they had never existed. The wall of energy roared unstoppably towards us with a sound like an entire ocean being poured over a cliff higher than eternity.

{You must wake up, Chosen Unit Antfarm!} Shade was shouting over the scream of his world being deleted.

“Wake up? But I am awake!” I shouted back.

{Not here! You must wake up in Not Shade!} He flew fast but my weight was too much for him and I could see the Erase catching us, screaming towards us as the city between us fell into its bottomless maw.

“It’s… it’s eating everything!” I gasped, my mind all but overcome with the terrible beauty of what was happening in front of my very eyes. How many people had it killed? How many lives had it snuffed out, deleted, erased from history? How many of those people must have stood, unable to flee, and gazed in both fear and wonder at the wall of screaming light as it washed over them?

{You must wake up! Shade is lost, but other worlds can be saved. This is why you were Chosen. You must wake up!}

“But how? How can I wake up?” I bellowed, “Tell me how and I will! Tell me!”

The light shot from the robot again, it drilled through my skull and the world around me was overlaid with another. My eyes saw two lives simultaneously, the light of never pouring from the Erase and the crowd of people in my hospital room. My ears heard both lives together, the roar of eternal obilvion closing in on me and the voice of the doctor in my hospital room “If he makes it through tonight it’ll be a miracle. After that, who knows my dear, who knows.”

{Youuuu must makkkkkkkke iiiiiiiiiiiit. I caaaan takkkke youuuu no fuuurther. Choooosen…}

The light snapped off, the worlds split and we fell from the sky. Shade’s light’s blinked briefly and went out forever. We crashed through trees, branches cracking like bones beneath us until we hit the ground hard. Shade bounced away out of sight with an empty metal crash. A moan eased from between my lips and I felt the edges of sleep curling around my skin…

NO! I would not sleep! I would not sleep!

I forced my eyes open. The light of the Erase powered towards me, the city now gone and the short stretch of countryside that led to where I lay would soon follow. I pushed up on my elbows, pain exploding inside me until I was facing the beast. “YOU WILL NOT TAKE ME! DO YOU HEAR ME YOU BASTARD! DO YOU HEAR ME!” I was but a speck of dust before the hurricane, but I felt far from powerless. I had squashed my rage down for long enough. Fear had paralysed my anger and kept me meek, but no more. My fury boiled over, rose to the surface and focused my mind like a falling angel. The Erase was not going to take me. I was going to take the Erase and no power in any universe could stop me. With the trumpet call of a capricious and cruel God seconds away from me, I closed my eyes.

I was above the meadow and it was burning. I opened my eyes and looked at the beautiful girl holding me above the flames. Thank you, I mouthed, but let me fall. Her cobalt eyes widened in horror, NO! she mouthed back. Please, I said silently, you must. I smiled at her and with tears of diamonds she let me go. As I fell back into the fire I closed my eyes…

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To be continued…
All the “Far From Home” posts can be read here.

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Links to other blogs and stories:
1) The Great Erase is a tale told by Salazar Jack and you can read more here and here.

Far From Home: Chapter 8 – Mercy Dash

One Minute Earlier…
Mack, the nightwatchman, breathed hard and was sweating despite the cold wet night; he was an old man who had thought such exertions were long behind him. He’d helped subdue the suspect until the town constables had arrived and then dashed off to fetch Doctor Roundtree. To his surprise, he’d met the grim faced doctor rushing into the hospital grounds, apparently already aware of the night’s events.

Mack struggled to keep up with Roundtree as the clearly furious man strode along the corridor like an angry bear. The room ahead of them was bustling with people with young Doctor Hayes at the centre of the chaos surrounded by a gaggle of nurses.

“SILENCE!” bellowed the older Doctor. Everyone fell quiet, even Doctor Hayes, “Now tell me Hayes, what has been happening?”

“It’s the Antfarm man, Doctor Roundtree. She tried to kill him with opium!” the younger man was gabbling, trying to put everything into one sentence and failing.

Two of Caledon’s finest constables shuffled through the hospital staff and out of the room, between them a hooded figure hung, iron handcuffs on her slender wrists.

Roundtree stepped up the woman and took hold of her hood, “Sister Grace! If you have killed him…” he said as he pulled it back.

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Five Minutes Earlier…
“I’m coming, I’m coming” Roundtree said irritably. Someone was rapping on his front door in an entirely unnecessary fashion, “I hope you have not damaged my paint!” he added as he opened the door to the cold night.

No one.

He narrowed his eyes and glared into the dark street “If I catch you rascals, I’ll box your ears!” he shouted in to the night.

“I’d rather you didn’t,” the voice from the shadows was deep and commanding.

“Gods! You made me jump!” snapped Roundtree, clearly flustered. “Who are you and why are you skulking out there? Come on, speak up! What is the meaning of all this nonsense?”

There was the faintest of ripples in the shadows as a man dressed entirely in black with his face hidden beneath the rim of a striking top hat stepped forward into the light and replied “Who I am is not important, safe to say I am a man of science and medicine such as yourself. Why I am here is far more important as I think you will find we have a patient in common, the burnt gentleman in room fifteen and he is in great danger.”

“You’ve come to my house to tell me that? I know he’s in danger you fool! I’m his doctor!”

“You misunderstand,” the night caller spoke over the doctor, “He is in danger right now, from a killer in your hospital…”

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Ten Minutes Earlier…
“That is enough of that, Sister!” said the young nurse from the darkness of the room as she reached out to grab the wrist of the cloaked and hooded figure bent over the bed. The woman beneath the hood whirled round in shock and with a shriek jabbed the glass pipette at the nurse. There was a shimmering in the inky shadows, as if the night was unfolding like a black flower kissed by moonlight, and the young nurse was replaced by a beautiful creature of wings and teeth and eyes of pure cobalt fire.

The woman beneath the hood gasped, too terrified to scream or run. A nightmare made real fixed its terrible eyes upon her and she fainted dead away.

The creature looked down at the face beneath the hood and coolly registered her shock before she once more slid into the shape of a young nurse and walked out of the room and into the corridor. Behind she heard the night nurse enter the room and bark orders to fetch the nightwatchman and the duty doctor.

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Twenty Minutes Earlier…
It was there again, that tang, that wave, that sense. She was back. Amarantis Belfire looked down from her vantage point on the roof and peered at the hospital with her glowing blue eyes as if trying to peel away the layers of brick and plaster and paint so she could see inside. Somewhere in there a killer in the guise of a healer was making her way towards her next victim as surely as a spider crept over its web towards its trapped, helpless prey.

She had to do something! She leapt into the night and to the rain-wet stones below. From the shadows emerged a non-descript trainee nurse who, after straightening her uniform and checking her hat was attached correctly, briskly made her way inside and headed for room fifteen.

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Two Hours Earlier…
The incinerator room was thankfully empty. She pushed the laundry cart over to the large, belching fire and carefully opened the heavy metal door. The body in the bag was heavy, she’d have to feed it in feet first and hope it folded up as it went. It was hard and she grunted as she struggled.

“Ere’ I can’t have you doing that!” She froze. The old boilerman was stood in the doorway, looking at her with a stern face lined with soot. She didn’t know what to say, just stood there as he limped his way towards her and the body in her arms. “Let me ‘elp yer, eh? Can’t have ladies lumping around great ‘eavy loads now can we?” She mutely shook her head, lowered the sheet-wrapped body back into the cart and backed away. The old man gave her a grimy smile and bent over the cart. She inched her way behind him until her fingers closing around the stout wooden shaft of a coal shovel lent against some pipework. He stopped, suddenly surprised, and began pulling back the sheets “Ere! What’s this?” She raised the shovel high over her head. An arm rolled out of the wrappings “Bloody ‘ell! What’s go’in on?” He turned to face her. The shovel sliced down once. Twice. Three times.

Panting, she closed and locked the door and went back to her grizzly task.

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Five Hours Earlier…
Ward Sister Grace strode down the scrubbed corridors of Caledon’s Regency Hospital as she headed towards the laundry room and Trainee Nurse Rain. Terrified nurses peeled back and gazed down at floors before her as she stalked past. She was a fearsome beast at the best of times, but it was clear from her face that someone, somewhere was in for one hell of a roasting.

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Thirteen Hours Earlier…
Trainee Nurse Rain looked up from under her bonnet at the fuming Sister and found her staring at the wretched figure on the bed.

“Sister?” she ventured timidly.

Without shifting her gaze from the patient, Sister Grace said in a voice dripping with ice “You will report to laundry and work there until further notice. I do not want to see you snooping around here again, am I understood?”

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Now…
Doctor Roundtree pulled back Sister Grace’s hood and gasped, “Nurse Rain?” The young woman was almost unrecognisable, her face twisted into a terrible mask of rage and fury. She spat at the Doctor, cursing him with words foul enough to shock a navvy, she bellowed at him demanding release so she could end her patient’s suffering. Her strength, fuelled by her raw, naked anger was terrible, but the constables held her fast until she became calm and once more went limp between them.

“Why? Damn you, tell me why!” he demanded, his voice shaking with barely controlled anger.

“To help, you stupid stupid man,” she said simply, an ice chill dripping from her lips.

“You call this help? It’s murder, damn it! Murder!” hissed the doctor.

“I help them escape their pain. You merely prolong it, you arrogant bastard. You and all your kind, you just want to watch these souls writhe in agony to satisfy your twisted need to feel like a God.”

Her eyes were twin points of hatred, each carrying the joy of more murder than he could imagine. A shiver ran down his spine, “You… you accuse me?” he demanded.

“I do.” She had gone limp and compliant between the arms of the constables but it had been a ruse. She leapt forward, an animal snarl on her lips as she dove at Roundtree. The police caught her and yanked her hard to the ground, but not before she had bloodied his nose with her forehead.

“Good god!” he stammered, staggering back with blood streaming from between the fingers he held to his face. “Get this filthy animal out of here! Get her out of my sight!”

“Physician heal thyself,” she chuckled as they dragged her out and man handled her into the night.

Roundtree held to his face and entered the room to see if his patient was dead. Amazingly he could see his chest rise and falling in slow, unsteady breaths. Could nothing kill this man, he thought?

“Will he make it?” asked a nurse.

Roundtree looked at the burnt man in the bed and wondered about what Nurse Rain had said about keeping him alive to prolong his suffering. He sighed and through a handkerchief said, “If he makes it through tonight it’ll be a miracle. After that, who knows my dear, who knows.”

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To be continued…
All the “Far From Home” posts can be read here.

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Links to other blogs and stories:
1) Amarantis Belfire takcles the killer here and then Doctor Roundtree here and here.

Far From Home: Chapter 7 – The Erasing, Part 2

“What the hell do you mean erased?” I was shouting, suddenly very, very awake. The word terrified me although I didn’t know why. It was something more than the connotation of death in erase, and it wasn’t the thought that Shade may be a killer. No there was something else, something deeper.

{All units have been deleted. Removed. Erased}

“You mean dead”, I demanded.

{Unknown. No evidence of death, only erasing}

I glared at the humming, hovering robot as I felt my old friends confusion and fear rise inside me. They had always been with me, living and feeding off me. They gave me my anger, my pure points of rage and fury and it was, I had long ago come to realise, a symbiotic relationship of equal dependence. For now I sat on them, squashed them a little deeper until I was in control; anger would come and anger would save me, but for now I needed answers. “When? How?” I asked through gritted teeth.

{Thirty two minutes and forty five seconds ago}

Precise. Robots. But that was… “How long have I been here, in Shade?”

{Thirty two minutes and forty seven seconds}

“Did I arrive at the same time, or just after?”

{The same time}

I hadn’t expected that. My rising anger sank a little, tamped down as I tried to form some sort of timeline. “I was in a meadow…”

{You awoke under the trees on the mountain} Shade added.

“No, before that. Before here. I was in a meadow… it was on fire I think… I’m not sure. I was in the meadow and I had,” my hands shot to my face, “fur! I had fur and horns! Oh god! I had horns!” I ran my hands over skin and through hair that wasn’t mine, “What happened to my horns?”

{Unknown}

“I wasn’t asking you!” I snapped and immediately felt bad. “Look… sorry, I’m… Tell me again, I arrived at the same time as the rest of the people were… erased?”

{Correct}

“Then why wasn’t this body erased?” I asked patting both hands on my chest.

{Unknown}

“You don’t know much, do you?” I said with bitter sarcasm.

Shade bristled. His hum increased and several of his attachments whirled and snapped {I am Shade. I am everything you see, hear, smell and touch. I contain enough data and knowledge to maintain a whole planet of ten billion people. The erase did not originate on this planet and I hold no data on it or similar events}

“What did you say?” I shot back at the robot, my eyes wide with recognition.

{I am shade. I am this planet…}

“No, what did you call the event? The erase?”

{Correct}

I felt the colour drain from my face and my legs buckle beneath me. The erase. What else could remove ten billion people? What else could eat up planets without stopping? The erase. The Great Erase. The name slotted into one of the many dark holes of my mind like a small but important jigsaw piece. The Great Erase. A terrible echo of massive power rippling through the multiverse deleting all in its path. And it was here. A thought stuck me. “Why are the buildings still her? Why is the city? You?” I tried to stand up but my legs seemed to want to sleep, “Why haven’t you been erased?”

{Current data indicates the erase continues. Expectation is for further, deeper erases shortly}

“Shortly? What do you call shortly?” my voice hard with panic.

{Do not sleep Chosen Unit Antfarm. You must remain awake}

“What?” I was confused, “Never mind that, I’m fine. What is ‘shortly’, tell me?”

{The event is returning. Expected arrival in ten minutes. You must not sleep!}

“I told you, I’m not tired.” I said as my body crumpled to the floor and the world winked out around me.

****{}****

To be continued…
All the “Far From Home” posts can be read here.

*****{*}*****

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) The Great Erase is a tale told by Salazar Jack and you can read more here.

Far From Home: Chapter 6 – Killing With Kindness

Sister Grace stood by the patient’s bed with a look of shock on her face. Only yesterday Doctor Roundtree had diagnosed coma due to an overdose of opium. He wasn’t supposed to make it through the night. He was, she thought, supposed to be dead! And yet here he was, his lidless eyes once more focused, his gauzed wrapped lips twitching in thirst. She bent down, took her trusty pipette from a pocket in her gown and dripped water into his mouth. She moved her lips to the side of his head where his ear had been and said gently “There there, Mr Antfarm, you’ll be better soon enough I promise you, I’m here to help and I’m going to take good care of you. I’m going to take all your pain away, I promise.”

Behind her, unseen by Sister Grace and standing stock still in the doorway, Nurse Rain’s eyes grew wide with the shock of what she saw.

“Nurse! Are you planning to start a new career as a door, by any chance?” Doctor Roundtree’s voice boomed out causing her to jump. Sister Grace stood bolt upright, slipping her pipette away into the folds of her uniform and glared at the young trainee. “Sister Grace, I’m sure this wee child could be better employed if she were actually allowed into the patient’s room, don’t you hmmm?”

“Er, yes doctor,” Sister replied, never taking her furious eyes from the young girl’s face, “I’ll make sure she is properly employed, mark my words doctor, mark my words.”

Nurse Rain gulped hard and felt an icy trickle of fear run down her back. Sister Grace’s livid gaze was too much for her and she dropped her own to her feet, her cheeks burning red as she moved into the room allowing Doctor Roundtree in.

“Now, let’s look at our patient shall we?” he announced the room, his tone patronisingly jovial. He moved to the the bed and gasped in surprise, “Good Lord! He’s conscious!”

“Yes,” said Sister Grace quickly, “I had only just discovered that myself,” she glared at the young girl covering by the door.

“Well that is excellent news, looks like you’re off the hook eh?” Roundtree said jovially whilst looking into his patient’s eyes.

“I beg your pardon!” exclaimed the ward Sister.

Roundtree looked up at her angry face, “Oh don’t take me to heart Sister, I merely meant that if he’s pulled through then there need be no investigation into any accidental overdoses. Now, have the patient cleaned up and I’ll return after lunch, eh?” He span on his heel and breezed past the young nurse without even seeing her. She looked up from under her bonnet at the fuming Sister and found her staring at the wretched figure on the bed.

“Sister?” she ventured timidly.

Without shifting her gaze from the patient, Sister Grace said in a voice dripping with ice “You will report to laundry and work there until further notice. I do not want to see you snooping around here again, am I understood?”

“Snooping!” Nurse Rain protested but was cut dead with a single stare from Sister. It was a stare that would have stopped a runaway train. It was a stare that would have made a bear turn and flee. It was a stare that drove the young trainee running down the corridor, tears steaming down her face. She would come back, she would. She would come back help because she knew that what the poor man in room fifteen needed more than anything was her help.

**{}**

The moon was hidden behind clouds, a dull drizzle soaking the night. Inside room fifteen, a figure reached into its cloak and pulled a small glass pipette and a bottle of opium from a pocket and bent over the terrified face of the burnt man. “There there Mr Antfarm, I’m here to help you. You’ll be better soon. Let me take your pain away.”
Far From Home 5

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To be continued…
All the “Far From Home” posts can be read here.

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Far From Home: Chapter 5 – The Erasing, Part 1

“Danger?” I asked the disembodied voice? “What danger? From you?”

{No. Not from Shade. Danger is to your other Unit, Chosen Unit Antarm}

I was confused, “Why do you call me chosen unit? What is my other unit?”

{Chosen Unit is you, you were chosen. Your other Unit is in grave danger, Chosen Unit Antfarm}

My thoughts were slowing, my head filling with water “I’m tired, you know” I said, “funny to be tired in a dream.”

{You are not dreaming Chosen Unit Antfarm. You are in grave danger. You must not sleep Chosen Unit Antfarm}

The voice no long pulsed through me, instead it wrapped around me like a warm blanket. The world faded out and the floor caught me.

**{}**

I dreamt.

I dreamt of the meadow.

I dreamt it was on fire. My nose filled with the stench of burning flesh.

I dreamt my skin was burning away, melting off my body like wax. The muscles and bone beneath gleaming in the hungry flames.

I dreamt I screamed and screamed and screamed.

**{}**

I opened my eyes and saw the face that was both mine and not mine looking back at me. Curious how it was curved, big and round. With a slight smile I realised I was looking into a large glass bubble the colour of steel. I moved my head back and could see I was looking into the lens eye of a beetle-like collection of metal and wires hovering above me. I was led on the ground looking up at what I guessed must be a robot.
Far From Home: Meeting Shade

{Chosen Unit Antfarm} it spoke to me, its mechanical voice urgent {I have stabilised the connection but you are in grav…}

“Grave danger, yes I heard. I remember.” I yawned a soul-deep yawn, “What is this danger? Who are you?” I struggled groggily to my feet.

{I am Shade. I am the city, the oceans, the forests, the sky. I am all you see here. The danger is to your other Unit in not-Shade. A non-you Unit wants to shut it down}

“But this is just a dream, Shade, just a dream.” I smiled.

The robot whirled and hummed, {Negative. Units have split. Chosen Unit Antfarm in Shade and not-Shade. Unit in not-Shade currently malfunctioning. Repair process started. Non-you Unit has begun shutdown attempt. Relay available. Download initiated}

“Huh? Downlo…ARRRRRRG!” I began to ask before a thin beam of light shot from under the robot’s lens directly into my eyes. My mind was filled with the image of a small hospital room, it was night and bent over the only bed in the room as a figure hidden by a dark hood and cape. Whoever it was had a small bottle in one hand a pipette in the other dripping something into the mouth of the patient beneath them. The patient was in a bad way with what looked like burns to his whole body. I knew without knowing that it was me and that the mysterious figure was not a doctor on night rounds. The image blurred, faded and was gone. The download was over.

“What the hell was that?” I demanded.

{Relay from not-Shade} Shade informed me as if the fact were simple enough to be understood by a child. I struggled to my feet, the hovering machine humming gently as it kept up with me.

“And not-shade is?”

{Not Shade}

“Of course. And I am there as well as here?”

{Correct}

“How? How is it possible?”

{Dimensional split evident. Reason for split unknown}

“So you are saying this not a dream?”

{Correct. Shade is real. Not-Shade is real. Split between two is real}

I had the strangest feeling that this all should surprise me, terrify me even, but it didn’t. Although not sure why, I took this information calmly, “Can we start at the beginning?”

The machine whirled slightly {Time is limited Chosen Unit Antfarm, yours and mine}

“OK, we’ll have to be quick then. Stop me if I’m wrong. I’m not dreaming, I’m really here but I’m also led in a hospital bed badly burnt and with someone there trying to kill me, correct?”

{Correct}

“Right, and here is a city called Shade and you are the city, or its monitor, correct?”

{Correct}

“Do you know how I got here?”

{No}

“But you said something about a dimensional split?”

{Correct}

I stared at the robot before realising that was the entirety of its answer. “Well, care to explain what that is?”

{A energy force large enough to achieve escape velocity would be required to break through the walls of the multiverse. Speculation is not within my nature, but evidence would lead to speculation that you encountered such a force and were transported to Shade dimension from your own and the process split your units in two}

“But how can I be here and there?”

{Unknown}

“Speculate?”

Again a long pause from the robot.

“Shade?”

It hummed briefly and gave a click {Your unit here is not your unit. Speculation is your other-unit consciousness is here in this not-you unit}

I looked down at my body, at hands I didn’t recognise and at a reflection of a face I knew was not my own, “Makes sense,” I said to no one in particular. “But then,” I addressed Shade again “where is the person who owns this body.”

{All units have been erased} It’s cool, mechanical voice could have been reading the shares index or shipping forecast.

“I’m sorry? What did you say” I struggled to make sense of what I had just heard.

{All units have been erased}

“All units?”

{All units have been erased}

The city was empty. I hadn’t seen or heard a single soul. Coffee steaming in cups. Half-eaten food. Not one single person. No bird calls. No dogs. Nothing. No one.

{All units have been erased} Shade repeated as I slumped against a wall on legs suddenly made from string…

{All units have been erased}

****{}****

To be continued…
All the “Far From Home” posts can be read here.

*****{*}*****

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) Amarantis Belfire watches over the burnt man here.