Lovecraft is like peanut butter these days, the put it into everything
Ms. Wormwood from The Scarborough Affair.
Sun harnessed For War
Win peace wielding biggest sword
Man disturbs Ancient
Seals Broken; Nature Poisoned
Vengeance stirs In Sea
Fishing ship sinks deep
Crew consumed by History
Silence Deep Water
Panic! Submarine is lost
War Room hushed breath held
Children play Spring Day
Scientist sits under trees
Worries for Future
Earth needs not Mankind
Nations heed no warnings made
Race To Doom always
Massive Sonar Ping
Floating destroyer destroyed
Water burns bright hot
Music rises Bay
Folly crests angry water
Scales Talons Teeth Rage
Giant claws crush warehouses
Sirens scream warning
Running people shout
High-Rise collapses, rumble
Procession of tanks
Mutant marches on
Metal melts, Good soldiers die
Panic - Flee In fear
Knife drops emergency news
Wife runs down hallway
City aflame, Pride cremates
Monster bellows deep
Scientist smokes, shakes and knows
Hubris has come home
City aflame, Pride cremates
Monster bellows deep
Scramble To danger
Missiles fly, Rain faith and dreams
Fear slays valiant men
Skyline falls with sun
Devastation fills the night
Snaps power lines, Stifles hope
Looms across the world
Dawn breaks to ruin
Metropolis flattened grey
Frantic army lost
Despair eats counter attacks
Men give bleak salutes
Mushroom cloud festers, Hearts soar
Smoke clears with failure.
Motorbike over rubble
Fateful clash awaits
Death strewn streets give pause
Child’s park wreckage. He watches
Last secret project
Cancers grow in guts, Grim Smile
Towering Beast’s Eyes
Father meets Child for murder
Parent weeps bitter
Poison works from wound
Man Dies, Fiend Dies, Full Circle
Capital is Gone
Relief eats World
Plundering continues on
Screen black, Roll credits
April, 1900 – England
If there had been a time before war, most of humanity didn’t remember it. Even before the threat fell from space, mankind had a few million years experience slaughtering their own unnecessarily. It was with great expertise that their Earth was carved and bombed, raped and poisoned. With the haziest of boundaries and dividing lines they grouped themselves into camps of opposing forces. Waging war started perhaps as an evolutionary tool for securing food and territory. But like all predisposed compulsions, abominations began to arise.
“We’ve never been content just to kill ourselves.” Shanna said, glancing up from her history lessons. “But globalization hasn’t helped much. We don’t have hereditary culture anymore. We have languages, but not accents. Dialect are dying out or neutralizing in every major city as it they become more and more averaged. Even genetically we are marching towards multi-diversity. We are losing reasons to murder other people. We just have humanity in general. Did you ever wonder if we just killed Fomorians simply because they had the poor taste not to be born human?”
Her question was asked so innocently, so curiously that Allessandro had to remind himself not to scold. Many people saw Ms. Chylde as a tiresome student, but what other tutors interpreted as insolence; he was beginning to view as perhaps genuine philosophy. Of course he did have to agree that she was quite the burden, and he was really an expert on the subject. Master Voyle had been the unlucky third year mentor assigned to her almost half decade past. After only a year, he’d been burned, bitten, punched and even knocked unconscious by the feral little northerner more times than he could count. Though her episodes came much less frequently now, they were also far more severe. But sometimes, at moments like this, when she was sitting primly and well behaved in the library, head lowered into her books, it was hard to remember his dislike. In fact, as time went by, he’d developed something of an affection for the girl. This recent self-realization had been plaguing him of late and often times Allesandro found himself wondering if she felt the same way in return.
“We’ve hardly lost our hereditary culture, Shanna.” he replied in his own native language to prove the point.
“So says the one that hasn’t returned to his mother’s country since he was a child.” she countered back….in Italian as well.
The point was not lost on him, nor was her talent for languages.
“My country was obliterated. What’s your excuse?” The girl pressed with a smug little smile.
Allessandro narrowed his eyes. “My ‘excuse’ is that I am in school learning the tools I will need to be a contributing member of Society. This is perhaps a thought that should occur to you a bit more often. Now be quiet and finish the chapter. There is a test on this tomorrow.”
Shanna flashed him a pretty, mischievous grin but as instructed, returned to her reading. There was always a lot of reading to do for those taken in by the Society of Morrigan. Each and every last of them from first year student to exalted Voice could wield terrible and destructive powers. The constant learning forced discipline. Without it… well…
The boy sighed and shook his head.
“Voice of Water, what is your will?” The chairman’s tone sounded tired and not the least bit enthusiastic. A long moment passed before one of the Junior Pages awkwardly nudged his elderly compatriot back to consciousness. The Parliament of the Society was in session. All matters of business for the clandestine organization of stone-wielders and modern -day sorcerers were brought up here.
“Water humbly forgoes this honor.” The words were mumbled through sleep-thickened lips. None else noticed or seemed concerned. The gathered magus’ were feeling quite similarly apathetic in the oppressive heat.
No answer at all. All of the windows of the old stone building crafted in the time of Viking raids had been opened up. Still the cool country air did little to curb the afternoon heat.
“Lord Walden, do you move to open an inquiry into budget standards for this fiscal quarter?” The chairman sighed and loosened his tie.
An uncomfortable stir moved through the hottest side of the chamber. Voice of Fire didn’t even lift his head. Instead one of younger assistants waved the chairman on.
Baroness Elinore St. August dipped her head politely and made a vague, dismissive gesture with her fan.
“Then it is all agreed. Page Wolke, your proposal stands. Thank you for your contribution. Next order of business?” A long, miserable silence followed. No one of the Society’s upper echelon wanted to be here any longer.
“So be it. This session of Parliament is hereby adjourned.” It was as if a long held breath was suddenly released. The heavy silence of the chamber hall bled off in a series of mumbles and groans as uncomfortable chairs were pushed back and members rose wearily to their feet. All except for one. A frantic Page tried desperately to rouse his master, who was still quite content to continue snoring unabashedly.
Want to read more? Check out Cordicella Reciso - the newest serial from The Last Slice Studios - it updates Tuesdays and Thursdays!
Einstien from Demon-Pi
As she was carried up the side of a smoldering building via umbrella, Ms. Sage’s exotic face narrowed to a singularly perturbed expression. When he was feeling flippant Mr. Thistle would often comment she was beautiful when she was angry. She was never sure if their director was flirting or just trying to get her goat. At the moment her hazel gaze behind thin glasses and mind under gray tea hat were focused on the last of those thrice damned harpies as it tried to soar away on creaking wings.
Breaking free of the rooftops like a cloud of somber smoke the clockwork woman turned the middle of her umbrella’s shaft until it clicked. Leaden cover slid back over the glass encased cavorite at the shade’s core. Without the unique radiation of the miracle mineral the weight of her body was pulled downward. Cavor’s discovery of anti-gravity had been the biggest story of the last century, especially when it carried the first men to the moon. Alas like most advances in science it soon became a curse onto man, perhaps the greatest it would ever suffer. For the men of the moon soon invaded Earth. Since that faithful year the artificial stone which bore his name had been employed mostly in airships to try and give mankind an edge.
Delicate elbow creaked as Ms. Sage turned and angled the parasol just right to catch curling wind. Within moments the soles of her pointy toe boots clacked along ceramic roof arch. Delicate wrist spun and with it the sober umbrella. As her dusky skirt settled she snapped the accessory closed, tucked it tight to her side. While she was not nearly as fast as Ms. Thyme the mechanical woman shot across rooftop in a direct line toward her quarry. No doubt that harpy born on iridium feathered wings was going to try and find some place the roost nearby, hide and cause more trouble once the sun had risen. That could not be allowed.
Up the side of a short stack chimney she sprung before she twisted in a violent swirl around its white stone top. Ms. Sage lost her hat even as she opened her umbrella with a loud crack. In mid-leap she turned so cavorite would be exposed again and at the angle of ascent zipped off for the mechanical fairy. Her course was not perfect but it was close enough. Into the one of those great gear and steam powered wings the full cap of her parasol slammed. Richly polished metal tore at soft gray fabric only to reveal the armored plates beneath. It was the intricate wing which relented and bent as the harpy banked away with one of their trademark screeches. While the sound which erupted from the fang stylized grate the feminine mockery had for a mouth crippled men with its hyper-sonic waves it did little more than make the exquisite framework of Ms. Sage’s chassis vibrate as she continued her ascent. The harpy barrel rolled and one of its talons tore through dark skirts, slicing at shin beneath before being kicked away. Assuredly the winged automaton would be grounded now but a wounded monster was at times the most dangerous. Waiting until she was ten feet above the plummeting harpy Ms. Sage closed off the antigravity rock and shut umbrella once more. She fell as well but in a far more controlled motion that the spiraling robot. With upmost grace she turned in the air and along with the creak of leather corset plunged shade first.
The pointed tip of reinforced metal lanced deep into the harpy’s burned steel ribcage but stopped short of piercing dripping scarlet heart. The automaton’s talons sliced at charcoal blouse and into the cultured flesh of Ms. Sage’s shoulders before frantically trying to force the steampunk gynoid off. The Spanish toned Ms. Sage grimaced in response but was otherwise undaunted, her dark painted lips pulled with graceful snarl while coiled copper and crystal heart burned all the brighter. Rushing wind whistled around the harpy’s metal frame before rustling along her clothes but the loud passing of air didn’t last for long.
Tile and dust sprayed upwards as false fairy collided with a wide building’s roof first. There was a keen of energy and high pitched cracking before the harpy’s heart detonated in a rain of sparkling motes. Stumbling away from the point of impact Ms Sage let her feet slide along gable’s slope and fell off the edge. Her umbrella popped back open and down she drifted to emptied street below. Shade closed once more she rested it across her stately shoulders and adjusted spectacles with two fingers. A quiet moment was allowed to look over her black leather clad hand before it brushed chocolate brown hair back into proper place.
“I really did adore that hat.” After a brief sigh the aerial expert turned to get her bearings. The night was still split by the occasional raid siren, when they could be heard over the ordinance exchange between Scarborough Castle and what had to be a fomorian ship in the harbor. Long columns of smoke whiffed from the seaside. Ms. Sage however was far more concerned with the smaller scale destruction throughout the residential districts. She had directed Ms. Parsley to rush ahead of the gathering troops and Ms. Rosemary to assist in clearing rubble so more of the castle’s forces could get through. Then off hunting fairy stragglers she’d went. The damn harpies had made a mess of things and Ms. Sage was utterly concerned with the fact they had come from an inland path. In these troubled times it was not uncommon for the eyes on the sky to miss things but this was disappointing. If she and two of her other sisters had not been taking in a recital in the park from that rather dashing violinist and thus been near where the harpies’ bombing rampage began who knows how many additional lives would have been lost.
The red sky drew her gaze back. Ms. Sage watched the clouds for a moment, scarce as they were, and malevolent moon. Balor’s Eye hung there, its tears twinkled; threatening really that more spires would fall and puncture mother earth. She and Mr. Thistle mused now and again atop the ramparts about how to take the fight to the enemy’s home but it was pure fancy. As was any ‘romantic’ time spent with their foreman. Her eyes focused on the stars beyond and Ms. Sage had to wonder what horrors lay among them that would make these twisted moonmen pale by comparison. Blinking she did her best to chase away such dystopian visions; there was a battle on after all. With no stray harpies in sight she started the trek back to main thoroughfare. From there, as long as everything went well for Ms. Rosemary, it should be a quick trip down to the beach and the main conflict.
His crown felt so soft against her tummy and the smear of pre-cum it painted finer than any… she had a really hard time thinking up any metaphor. One hand meandered away from Eddie’s hip so she could cup his scrotum in her hand, feel the weight of his desire. It was so very heavy.
“Pi.” He shifted but not to kiss her mouth. Instead the math geek recalled her reaction to his fingers at the base of her horns. His teeth were reapplied after a faint touch of lips. The tender flesh nibbled, and then appeased with licks made Pi’s sexual tension grow.
“Eddie. Careful of your chin.” In spite of how wonderful that felt the succubus didn’t want to lose an eye. Her fingers curled loose around his shaft, the side of her thumb teasing the main vein as she stroked up and down.
“Sorry.” The word was muttered against her forehead as he nipped over along to the other horn. It was apparently something erogenous for his tutor. He tugged at the flesh and suckled on it as he would a woman’s nipple and as Pi trembled the heady scent of her sex just overwhelmed the room.
“Do not be sorry.” She pushed against his chest even as she chuckled. “Just be inside me.”
“Okay.” Eddie joined in the laughter and shimmied back so she had room to twist and lay down. Stygian hair fanned against one of his pillows. “Okay.”
Spreading her legs she gave him a come hither and cum inside me look before brushing finger along her lower lip. Even without him firmly between them Pi’s hips were already bucking. Oh she felt that she was going to orgasm soon. In and of itself that was not so strange, she was a succubus after all, not a regular and frustrating human woman.
Looking over her red body once more Eddie wanted to spend some more time getting to know it. The way the tip of her tail was teasing at the back of his thighs was almost maddening. It was body part he had a feeling he was going to ask her to use often. As he moved between her legs the mortal took in a deep breath and just let her smoldering gaze hold his.
“Please, Eddie.” Pi panted and her bosom jiggled.
Struck mute for the moment Eddie ran his hands along the inside of her thighs as eyes fell to her sex. Vaginas were always damn mysterious to men, equal parts alien and erotic. After he chased away hesitation with a steady blink he shuffled on his knees and tipped down, his heat gravitating toward hers. With a long breath he grinned down at her and she gave him a languid look even if the grasping of her fingers against his arms was a thousand times more urgent. Blindly he adjusted his manhood, brushing head through her folds and he groaned. Shifting here and there the mathematician did his best to try and find her hole before pushing boldly with his ass muscles.
Pi’s breath hitched and her arms slid up to Eddie’s elbows then his biceps as that wonderfully fat meat sawed between her lips. That felt nice, especially when the tip teased against her clit. However it wasn’t exactly what she needed tonight. “You are not in.”
Those male hips immediately stopped as much as Eddie wanted to keep churning. He coughed and muttered an apology. Drawing back he adjusted his cock here and there watching her until he felt a depression. “There?”
“Yes, right there.” She purred and her strong thighs pulled him closer. Her legs urgently wrapped around him, hooves clicking against one another. Eddie of course was pleased by her clinging and sank in with a steady motion, the awkwardness quickly forgotten.
He held his breath and just reveled in the feeling of warm wet flesh encasing him. It was a pleasant friction that was for certain, he could almost detect the topography of her inner muscles. She was just tight enough to tease, just wet enough to obscure. For Pi she held her breath as inch by inch her tunnel was stretched even as muscles worked and flexed trying to draw his maleness deeper. The first time with a new lover was always the best. Her pussy always conformed to fit his girth and length, and then shrunk just enough to give her a thrill. She rolled her hips with a dreamy forcefulness, needing him deep and needing him deep now.
His hands skipped off of her waist and curled against the cover. Pubic hair meshed, her dew slithered across his root. Arching his back Eddie loomed over his demonic lover and starting to roll his hips against hers. This was the part in porn where one side or the other started saying oh, or fuck, or a dozen other dirty things. However the human was too lost in the softness he was driving down into the bed every time it rose to talk.
Pi tried to say something perverse to stir his pumping but could only bubble out a moan that felt like it had started at the pit of her stomach. He’d fitted so perfectly this first time, more so than most of the men she’d mused before. She reveled in feeling the hardness of his shaft press against her pearl, his sac heavy with anxious seed batting against her drapes. Each of his lances didn’t coax her closer to climax but rather drug her along to that apex like the harsh gravity of Earth itself.
Then it just happened, hours of pent up need came unraveled when his thickness bottomed out and Pi felt pressure against her cervix. Her voice raised into desperate screams, sucking in breath between cries while her sex milked at his. Heat raced through her muscles and nails pulled hard along whatever part of his body she was touching at the moment. Her tail lashed up and down beside them similar to that of a frantic cat hyped up on ‘nip and waiting for a mouse to come out of is hole.
Needless to say Eddie was a bit stunned, pushing hard against the crushing power of her inner muscles. He’d in truth never felt a woman orgasm quiet so intimately himself and later he’d wonder if every girl he’d been with before had just been faking. For now he drove against the sea of her satisfaction. The tail stilled before curling along her arm and Pi’s eyes died back down to a steady flame.
“Eddie.” Now she managed a word before aftershocks set her world off-kilter once more. He was still fucking her, steady in his pumping. One of her hands lifted and caressed over his hip, urging him to slow if he wanted to. Every few strokes when he wasn’t trying to accomplish something the back lip of his crown would catch her g-spot. She wanted to cum again.
“Pi?” He asked as if waiting for instruction. Beneath her hips the wet spot grew.
“It’s okay.” Squeezing her hips one of her hooves caressed at the back of his shin. The tail curled against his stomach, tickling lightly. Her voice remained drenched with satisfaction still.
The Scarborough Affair is on hiatus until July 4th. Now is a great time to catch up! www.lastslicestudios.com/scar
‘The Sun Always Sets’
Israel woke with traces of bile in his throat and the taste of copper coating his parched mouth. He blinked slowly, trying to knock loose dirt and dried blood. Through the dim haze of pain he struggled, drawn to full consciousness by what at first sounded like insidious laughter not too far off. It wasn’t until he started to sit up that Israel recalled his circumstances. His crown grazed at the ceiling of rock above him. Back down the battered man hunkered. The outcropping was his protection and with any luck would not be his tomb.
He groaned softly, not wanting to attract the attention of whatever was making that noise. His fingers pressed to the gash above his ear and found it more or less a mass of matted hair. His ankle and elbow still hurt like hell. He’d twisted them both in desperate flight an untold number of hours ago. From the little light that filtered into the hole into which he’d wedged himself it was either dusk or dawn. He just couldn’t tell. After groping along the stone face in front of him Israel pressed against it and focused on the noise on the other side.
It was closer to high pitched cackling than actual laughter. After a moment he decided that it had to be coming from some animals. There were even a few low snarls, snaps of teeth and other sounds he could not give a name to. If Richard were still alive he could have told him right off what beasties were responsible. If Richard were still alive he’d not be hiding like an errant school boy from an angry headmaster’s switch.
Israel scowled, more at his behavior than the situation. Looking around he spotted where he’d thrown his revolver ahead of leaping into the hole. It took a moment of patting around before he scooped it up. In the faint light he squinted and wondered if it still worked. This safari hunt had turned out to be a terrible idea. Oh sure, the lure of exotic landscapes and real blood and guts adventure had been great for the first week. However, now that the innards spilled were not of big game but of his mates, the cog-smith wanted to take the first rail out of the damned savanna and hop a tramp home. He sighed and tried to decide if his luck was turning or not. The recoil suppressor on the underside of the oversized gun had a bent gear but he was pretty sure it could still fire.
He’d frozen when the elephants had turned suddenly and attacked his party. There were still six shots in his gun, not a single one fired before he’d run for the rocks. As far as the coward knew he was the only one still alive. He used the meat of a thumb to wipe his mouth clean. Was it wise to see what was making the noise and the state of his fellows or should he keep hiding?
In the end Israel mouthed a short prayer and crawled carefully out of the break in the rocks. He wasn’t prepared for the sight that greeted him.
Dogs. His fine associates and the stalwart man who had led them into the African bush were being eaten by dogs. The indignity of the idea was almost too much to bear. The canines were hideous, misshapen and discolored when compared to the fine breeds back home. Their coats reminded him of patterns one would see on a cat instead of noble canine. The mocking sounds came from the animals’ gore smeared muzzles.
Fury and shame, a potent concoction, mudded the blood left in Israel’s veins. This could not stand! Men of the Empire should not be treated in such a way! He jutted out his chin. The fact that he could not put a name to these ugly dogs infuriated him all the more. By quick count there were seven or eight of the blighted things. He didn’t have enough lead for each of them but with any luck a few shots would send them scurrying. The revolver was leveled at one that in turn raised its head. Its ears flicked as if it knew that mortal peril was upon it, but the feeling came a moment too late.
Although the bullet fired knocked the ‘dog’ off of its paws the pistol nearly came out of Israel’s hands. Without the suppressor he was pretty sure it might break his fingers or wrists. By the time the boom echoed across flat land and tall grass, however, the scavengers were in disarray. They were not really sure where the attack came from or if they should scatter. Despite the throbbing of his hands the desperate fellow fired again. This time the bullet went wide but so did the animals. They dashed off in all direction seeking shelter from the noise and high speed death.
“Bollocks.” There was no celebration for Israel. As he slid back down into his hole for a moment the rough rock grated at his stomach despite shirt and vest. His thumb had jammed and the rest of the hand went numb with it. He didn’t dare drop the pistol though. He gave the offending extremity a hearty shake to try to get feeling back into it.
A growling maw appeared over the lip of the rock above sooner than he’d hoped. He gripped the gun with both hands and squeezed off another shot. The gnarl evaporated along with the carnivore’s head. Israel was no longer menaced as dawn slowly gave way to morning.
It was still some time before the novice hunter came out from his hiding place. It took some effort to do so as well. His hands were still somewhat numb, the right one bruised. As he scrambled over the rock he caught what he thought was another person out of the corner of his eyes for a moment. His mind registered the lovely contours of a dark-skinned woman. Imagination had filled in details of nakedness and traces of ethnic jewelry by the time he’d pulled himself all the way to the top of the rocks and could get a good look. There was no one there, just shadows produced on part of the outcropping by the rising sun. He shivered and hoped he wasn’t going to have hallucinations due to blood loss and shock. That would be ever so bothersome.
A few carrion birds were shooed away as he waded into the trampled and scattered remains of the hunting party. It took all of Israel’s willpower not to empty his stomach as he picked through the gore. None of his friends had made it through the incident unmolested. Hell, the only parts he found of Stetson was the man’s clockwork arm with strips of meaty shoulder attached - and one boot. Their guide, Richard, had been trampled by more than a single elephant. The rest were in various states of dismemberment after being fed upon by the local wildlife. Israel let a long breath hiss between his teeth after he plucked up the least damaged goggles among them all. He slid them on to help protect his eyes from the rising sun. There was no way that these men were going to get a burial, especially a Christian one. He needed to gather what supplies he could for his own survival first and foremost.
Worst of all, the rover they had used for travel had been mangled beyond repair by the angry pachyderms. He gave one of its iron wheels atop a twisted axel a futile turn. It more wobbled than spun, its bronze filigree glinting in the early morning sun. The boiler had been ruptured and twisted; the cables severed beyond repair. The cabin was flattened and the great pair of ivory tusks on the front partially powdered. Really he had to wonder if the bull elephant had taken the time to tap dance atop the horseless conveyance thinking it a downed rival.
Water canteens, one serviceable repeating rifle, one elephant gun, cloth ripped to bandage his head wound, knapsack of jerky, cog-spark lighter, half-bottle of bourbon, his travelling tool-kit, a steam distiller, and a cracked gyro-compass. He tapped the side of that last item then gave it a shake. He was almost sure that he could fix it if he had time. However, orienteering was beyond his capabilities. It made him feel better to have it though. Israel kicked Stetson’s false arm with the side of his boot. It wouldn’t be any help so he’d leave it there. Last he took up Richard’s wide hat and settled it on his crown. He’d need to keep the sun off of him.
“Right then.” Back in London if one got lost it was best to find a major street and work their way back home. There were no streets here and as far as he knew no help was coming. He tipped his head down to fend off the heat and adjusted his goggles. Let’s see the river they had come down was back in… Israel turned slowly trying to recall the landmarks they’d passed despite the dull ache in his head. Why did so much of the African bush have to look the same? His attention skipped off the carnage around him. One thing was for sure he didn’t want to be here when more scavengers returned. For a tick he thought he saw the woman again beckoning him in one direction. Her come hither sweep of arm was as tempting as trying to sleep his ache away. When he pulled down the goggles to get a better look she was gone. Still that felt like it was the right direction. Laden with enough equipment to survive, he hoped, Israel started walking.
Over the course of that day while meandering through tall yellow grass he took note of the majesty of nature as he never had before. Without the illusion of protection that his now-dead companions or the rover had provided Israel felt very small. He wanted to marvel at a tower of giraffes but fear that if he neared the long necked creatures they might startle and trample him. Likewise the sight of exotic birds gathered around a watering hole nearly drew the man over to wonder at their shapes and plumage. Then he imagined what might be lurking unseen in the muddy water that would find him a better meal than a few dozen birds. No it was better to stray from that area as well; after all he still had plenty of water in the canteens. A few times he was certain there was a predator nearby lurking at the edges of his senses and he’d un-sling the repeater from one shoulder.
Nothing of fang and claw ever materialized though and thus he continued walking. It was when the ache in his legs added to the pain of bruises, the throbbing of his head, the beating sun and the leaden weight of all he carried that it struck Israel that he should have tried to follow the rover’s tracks back to what passed for civilization around here. The realization was hours late, and he kicked himself for being so very daft. By then the afternoon had grown intolerably hot so he found a downed tree next to its still living sibling and set his burden down. He knew that having a full pulls of bourbon was a terrible idea, but he did it anyway. It dulled the myriad hurts and the self-admonition. It also made his head swim.
He brushed away a few ants from his leg before leaning against the still upright tree. His gaze rose to the dancing leaves above and rays of sunlight that trickled through them. It wasn’t just the spirits that were making him weak. He’d lost blood and was battered all over. The searing sun didn’t help and he wasn’t sure if eating would either. Still it was the smart thing to do, at least Israel hoped so. Thus far his choices had been those of a simpleton.
When the cog-smith snapped awake, he found that the half-eaten strip of dried meat in hand was covered with ants. The jerky was tossed away with a startled cry. He leapt to his feet spilling what bourbon remained and frantically brushed the little bastards off of his arm and shoulder as well. Lord above! He was surprised he wasn’t already half-consumed! He’d heard stories after all about the voracious appetite of African ants. Why was everything here so savage? Well for the time being anyway. Soon enough the flag of Britannia would bring Nature to Her heel here as it had on the isles. That didn’t help him at the moment though.
Balance quickly drained from Israel’s body and he toppled against the stump. His stomach bunched up in knots but he successfully fought to keep down the little food that he’d eaten. This was hopeless. By passing out he’d lost enough hours that night was already fast approaching. When he squinted in the direction of the setting sun he caught a long glint of metal on the horizon. He lifted his goggles and tried to focus on what he was seeing. There had to be something crafted by the hand of Man in that direction! He wasn’t sure exactly how far it was but it was a sure sign of civilization. The gleam persisted and he was able to make out a bulky shape around it. Perhaps it was a military fort or trading outpost along the river!
As fate would have it as soon as Israel’s heart started to soar a string of thick black clouds swallowed the sun. With it went the glimmer of hope as the wind picked up. He sighed deeply and left the goggles up. From the way those clouds were swollen it was going to be a storm of biblical proportions. He didn’t have time to lose. Booze and discarded meat forgotten he scrambled to his feet and started moving.
The Dark Continent plainly had it in for the Englishman. It was not long before the torrent came. His filched hat, no matter how wide the brim, provided little protection front the driving rain. Nor were his soiled shirt and caked trousers any help what-so-ever. Israel wanted to solider on, but after stumbling forward through all but blind in the falling sheets, it was clear that he needed to find shelter and fast. Lightning danced across the sky in a wild manner creating momentary highlights of purple shade through the clouds. The thunder that followed rolled freely across flat plains and drowned out even Israel’s heartbeat. There was nothing he could see through stinging drops besides another copse of trees and he hurried to them. He half expected to be haunted by the female apparition once more but was disappointed. Along the way he let the elephant gun was slid off into the mud. He wouldn’t need it once he got the outpost.
Under the branches he found some succor but not much. Hat was taken from his head and given a good shake before he tried to peel shirt from his chest. The bandages around his head were thankfully more or less dry for now. He slid down to sit on a gnarled root. It was best to wait out the storm here, he decided. The cracked gyro-compass was taken out of his pack and he rolled it from one palm to another thoughtfully.
It had been Stetson who first suggested that they take this holiday. Israel had met the man when he had been hired to fine tune the clockwork arm and they had been business partners ever since. They were more than partners really. The mountain of a man had been the engineer’s closest associate, the brother he’d never had. Israel sighed deeply and closed his eyes as the storm continued to rage. He should have dragged what was left of his dear friend out of the wilderness. The last day had been one terrible mistake after another, atop of misfortune. How could a jolly foray, into backwater colonies, gone terribly wrong? How was he going to face Stetson’s family and give them the news?
For that matter he expected quite the verbal lashing from poor Wallace’s wife. The banker had been very excited to come along with him and Stetson even if it meant leaving his precious ledgers for a time. Of all of the Englishmen it was surprising that Wallace had perished, he was an avid hunter after all. How many times had Israel sat in a pub regaled by tales of fox chases and dangerous encounters while stalking harts? He’d never have to hear those stories again. Wallace’s wife had urged her mate not to go. Mostly she was worried about the lure of aboriginal women, as Wallace put it anyway. Clearly the wife had been right. They should never have come.
He opened his eyes and tried to pierce the night before him instead of falling deeper into melancholy. Part of him was worried that he saw no firelight in the direction in which he’d caught the trace of civilization. The anxiety was rationalized away by the storm around him. There would be no way light would travel through so terrible a gale.
Out of the corner of his gaze he caught ‘her’ again. He saw the shapely curve of hip and waves of dark hair barely covering comfortable bosom. Understandably he started and let the compass fall from his fingers when he abruptly stood. “Hello?”
A stroke of lightning illuminated the truth however. It was not the dark woman of his delusions but branches brought low under the weight of rain water against the slope of a tree. He was certain his injuries fueled such fantasies. That and recalling what Wallace claimed his spouse was really worried after.
Not that Israel didn’t understand, on some level, the woman’s worry. He had been struck by the primal and exotic cast of the women here. There was something about them that stirred his blood more than the corset bound waifs of home. Richard had in fact encouraged him to dally with natives, part of a good Englishman’s vacation in the bush he’d said. Israel had declined, however, feeling that such unions were unclean.
Their other two companions, Massingberd and Phillips, on the other hand had over-indulged in such things. They had often gone on about how the women here were plentiful and eager to please for a taste of the wealth of England. Some of the litany of crude tales and euphemisms the pair had come up with had been too ugly for Israel to give more than give a passing chuckle to. He’d always thought them good and God-fearing men until they were away from the constraints of society. In fact he’d often wondered the last few days how he’d ever become acquaintances with the two physicians in the first place. Yes, they had all shared a passing interest in coming up in ways to protect those that could afford it from choking fogs along with other inventions. However, it was obvious that he’d never really known them. Not that he needed to worry about such associates now. They were surely being picked at by buzzards or spotted dogs.
After a rambling sigh he settled back among the roots of the tree and curled up close to it. If he continued to just brood, he was going to drive himself mad. Besides his head was swimming again and he’d need his rest to make it somewhere safe tomorrow. Eventually the rain abated enough that Israel was able to sleep.
More animals surrounded Israel when he woke. This time it was not predators but rather a thick herd of wildebeests which had apparently taken shelter among the same trees in the night. He was surprised their cattle like bellows to one another had not woken him sooner, or the stench of still drying hair. A gag preceded a cough which he had to stifle. He didn’t want to frighten these otherwise docile creatures and end up like his fellows had. Ginger on his feet Israel picked his way through the wooly bovines. More than once he had to pause when one turned their head to him and snuffled. A few expressed the discontent of having a human among them and shifted away. He tried to speak gentle words to emphasize that he meant them no harm. The worst that happened, however, was him getting bumped by the rump of one of them turning who didn’t care he was there.
Once he was outside the herd he let loose a long sigh of relief. He left behind the broken bauble that didn’t really show the way. He drank from his canteen and ate the rest of the dried meat as he trekked. If the outpost was more than a day away he’d have to shoot something edible before night. By the time he was done with breakfast, such that it was, he could already see the vague shadow of his absolution.
It was slow going though as the landscape dipped. Arid land had been turned into patches of mud overnight. As the day warmed the air grew sticky and thick, as did the unclean feeling of his clothing. He had to slide his goggles back down into place and knew that the bandages would need to be changed soon so infection didn’t colonize the wound. He didn’t stop walking though. One more night out in the bush would surely do him in. He’d lost sight of the goal for several hours thanks to the rolling hills. Though he was sure, now and again, he caught the distant shadow of a flag dancing in the wind. That was definitely a good sign.
A breeze danced through swaying grass, clearing the air of miasma for a moment. It carried with it the fresh scents of flowers and Israel could have sworn the gentle laugh of a woman. To his ears however it had a mocking tone. He stopped and took the repeater into hand. Had the spotted dogs tracked him? The hat was stripped off of his head as the wind picked up, quickly lost from sight as it tumbled through the scrub. His temple throbbed and one ear was ringing, however, Israel was all alone. After a second, and then third long look around, the fellow continued on his way. With any luck over the next rise he’d get a clear look ahead.
The cog-smith again didn’t like what he saw.
While he could not make out all the details at this distance, it wasn’t a fort or outpost . It wasn’t even a blasted village full of savages! It was an airship, or more precisely the wreckage of an airship. The vessel had crashed on its port, boat-like underside twisted with loose planks jutting out. The planks reminded Israel of a hand reaching up for rescue that would never come. Only traces of the wood’s once fine stain remained, the relentless African sun, storms, and sand had taken their toll. The bow had all but broken off of the rest of the ship on impact. A gaping dark maw was left on its exposed belly. Long ago debris had sloughed out of the breach, but most of it now was covered by years of blown dirt. Some of the smaller articles were even overgrown with patches of grass.
Absolutely stunned, Israel didn’t move for several minutes. He wanted to sink to his knees and weep out of frustration. His demeanor wouldn’t let him do so. Part of the upper decks were bent vertical by the ancient trees they had crashed against. It was from one of shifted section that the Union Jack flew. What remained of the flag anyway, the symbol had been reduced to all but tatters. Proud colours had faded and it now flapped languid in the wind.
Despite his best efforts stinging tears rimmed Israel’s eyes. There was no hope here, no civilization – only its desiccated corpse. He should never have come to Africa. The rifle was slipped back over his shoulder and Israel tried to take a step forward. He didn’t want to get any closer to the wreckage though; it broke his heart to see something so magnificent in such a state. Most of the portholes had long been smashed out; the white paint of its upper decks stripped down so that only stripes of it remained between scars. All of the rigging was frayed and snapped, exhaust pipes on the aft were rusted out. He could barely make out the last remaining shreds of the dirigible float clinging to the branches of unyielding trees.
No one had lived here in a long time, or at all after it had crashed. He squeezed the bridge of his nose and fought down gasping breaths. He had to face the fact he was hopelessly lost now. Even if he was lucky civilization was leagues away at best and in which direction he didn’t know. He tried to sooth his eyes with a slow rub of forefinger and thumb. Once they hit his cheeks, the engineer’s tears were soaked up almost immediately by the day’s dust. What the bloody hell was he going to do now?
The breeze shifted and carried with it the sound of his name and curls of exotic spices mixed with smells most definitively feminine. He blinked wetness away and peered ahead. There was that damned hallucination again. This time however there was more than just a fleeting impression at the edge of vision.
The beautiful black woman drew into the shadows as soon as she was spotted. Israel could make out only the dim shape of her comfortable curves and the supple planes of her ebony skin. Though, that was enough to stir what little blood remained in his body. Sunlight glinted off of the circular bands of metal draped around her neck and across the top of her bare bosom. His gaze lingered on her soft chest for a bit too long. He coughed and blinked rapidly again before starting forward without an air of caution.
“Wait, miss, please.” Maybe a local tribe had set up a home within the scuttled airship?
She smiled with a slow push of darkly painted lips against one another and only a hint of teeth. The woman tilted her head in a coy manner more in common with the street women back home and brushed her hands against her hearty hips. Every movement, breath and feature of this dark beauty spoke of the promise of her fertility. Her yellow eyes shimmered. She took a step further back into the darkness of ruptured hull. Ivory bracelets clacked off of one another.
Israel stumbled over a half-buried pipe but managed to keep his footing. If he didn’t reach her in time he might lose his chance to get out of here. Part of his mind realized that this was nothing more than a phantom. The rest, unfortunately, had reached its breaking point. “No! Wait!”
In response the woman merely purred low and sensual. She finally smiled fully with a row of bright sharp teeth, complete with pronounced canines. That slash of white was the last Israel saw of her before she faded away into the gloom.
“Just a figment. Dear Lord, just a figment.” He muttered.
A low growl rolled out of the depths of the flotsam. It had a lovely timbre to it, but came from no woman. Israel’s blood shifted from lustfully hot to frozen in just a breath. Fingers twitched for want of the rifle on his back, and for good reason. With womanly grace a lioness stalked out of the darkness. The occasional ray of sunlight which pierced through the hull cast shimmering gold across her fur. Muscles sensually rippled under pelt as she locked gazes with the interloper. Her tail lashed back and forth with clear agitation.
“No. Not like-“ The rest of his words were dashed away by his blood curdling scream. Even though he was trying to slid rifle from his shoulder the Englishman was not fast enough. The great cat pounced with claws outstretched and jaws spread wide. His scream echoed out until it became a wet gurgle…
A breeze rustled through the tall grass. A flock of birds crossed the sky. Wildebeests lapped at muddy water that sparkled in unrelenting sunlight. Giraffe stripped leaves from tall branches. Hyena picked at carcasses. The lioness licked her red chops clean.
The savanna continued on.
A Harpy from The Scarborough Affair