Archive for the ‘Schemilix Short Stories’ Category

Fresh Air and Red Skies (2)


Eventually Ethos clawed, scrambled and struggled his way to the top, finally hauling himself over the swallow hole’s vast lip. He managed two paces, then buckled and collapsed into a web of thick vines trailing from a tree and sunk down. Rest, just rest for a while… Just for a while…

They had no choice, absolutely no choice. If they didn’t go willingly, they would have their dignity stripped before being dragged, bodily, off to whatever depraved torture the elder two had planned for them. Hence, they merely marched in grim and defeated silence behind Masochiel, with Bizde pinning them from behind with a closed off gaze.
Without any sound but for directions, they made their way through roughly three lengths of corridor before stopping at an ill used door. Milo did not like the brown stains on the handle; they were discreet marks that had not been entirely sluiced away.
Unaware of or simply unfazed by these, Masochiel pushed the door open to its pull extent, however the room beyond was far too poorly lit to make out anything but a metal glint from what looked like an operating table.
Not promising, not promising at all. Then again, had they not, covering for their fugitive friend, beckoned this?
“Do go inside.” Masochiel grunted, striding in to stand on the tips of his boot-clad toes and light what seemed to be the only lantern in the room.
The table was most definitely for operating, and the rack of utensils along the wall was probably not for cooking; Roman knew of nobody who prepared their meals with a medical scalpel. The walls were much rougher hewn than most of the other tunnels and caves, it could easily have been left as it had naturally formed, aeons ago. There was a smaller side room but the light failed to reach into its depths. Bizde guided them wordless towards the table and gestured, in his disturbingly elegant way, for them to sit. The words ‘make yourself comfortable’ were almost legible on his pale face.
Once he had fixed the lantern, Masochiel walked to the wall that the cavernous door was set into.
Smiling without a hint of warmth, Bizde pulled out a notebook from seemingly nowhere; a trait he had for conjuring tricks that nobody could explain. From the same illogical place came a pen.
Meanwhile, behind them, Masochiel was paying a worrying amount of attention to the utensils on the rack…

After channeling every ounce of resilience he had into resisting the urge to lay down and die, Ethos staggered upright and began to fight his way through the forest. His ravaged back maintained an incessant mantra of torment but he blocked it out. All vines, all branches in his way, he ignored those too; just step, swipe, step, swipe. There was nothing except that forest, nobody to hunt or hurt, just the plants and the iridescent birds surrounding him.

Once finished, Masochiel set a selection of five or so tools down on the table; neither of the cadets dared look at it enough to count properly. It was most likely for sheer intimidation, however, for Masochiel soon settled against the door and watched them blankly while Bizde conjured another object from nothing: this time a knife. By now, his intention was unmistakable.
Setting the blade down in a calm and deliberate manner, Bizde took then pen and presently began to write.
I am warning you. If you wish to tell us any information you have presently, we will not have to resort to unsavory methods. he held up the note for them to read.
His vocabulary, clearly, was not limited by the time it took for his neat hand to scratch it out. He was in no hurry.
After reading the note and settling their nerves, the friends exchanged lamb-faced glances. Neither needed to state their answer aloud, however. They simply shook their heads in complete and stolid unison. Cocking his head, Bizde smiled again, though this time it was almost sadistic. Roman immediately wondered if they were to be the unfortunate outlets for his frustration. Either way, they were undoubtedly in for a veritable waking nightmare.

For some time, Ethos walked in circle until he took a short knife from his belt and began to make notches in trees. It may not have been of much use but, it was certainly comforting. Thus he continued, marking his progress to nowhere.

Bizde spread his hand sideways and Masochiel came over.
“Alright then. Haelyn.” he looked at the redhead and for a second Milo could have sworn his life that his ruby eyes looked forlorn. Somehow, it was more disturbing that the monster was not as beastly as he seemed. “Come with me.” he lifted a gloved hand and crooked a finger. Unable to do anything else, Milo cast a final glance at Roman and followed into the blind adjacent room.
The other adult was already busy writing; taking his time as if he were sending a letter to a close friend, though most doubted he had any.
Well, Roman. Your friend is quite safe next door – for now. Again, I am quite serious. Tell me what you know, and you may return to your room as before. He again lifted the book for Roman to see and stood, picking the knife up and setting the notebook down where it had rested. Absently, he played with the switchblade mechanism. In, then out, in, then out with a soft rasping noise each time.
“I will tell you nothing!” Roman suddenly shouted, though could not lift his leaden stare from the table.
Without warning, Bizde slammed the knife down between the first and second joint of his left ring finger. Then, lifting the blade; he smiled again. Restraining a scream, Roman threw himself off his chair and stared down at his bleeding hand. Without a word, Bizde tapped the notebook and winked, though there was a hidden anger in his hawk-like eyes.
His finger bleeding, Roman gritted his teeth, forced himself to look at his enemy and… Shook his head.
“Never.” he spat, though his voice cracked. Again, that smile, and Roman’s heart began the slow journey down through the floor as the elder man slunk into the other room..

How long had it been? Minutes or hours? Ethos tried to be optimistic but he knew it to be well into the latter. Panic rose again – NO! Even if he wandered for days, he had been well taught. Better this than that man, he thought, unaware of what Lowell was doing to his closest friend.

Roman could not count the time he had been waiting, drowning in fear and anxiety. He had no idea what had happened to Milo; what could be happening right now? Having thought that, he would hear if Milo made a noise. Despite the pain of having a finger removed, Roman had remained quiet, though, so…
At long last, Bizde re-entered the room and leaned against the doorway. Though his hands were still smothered in blood he was not perturbed ,and simply scrawled in his apathetic manner. Suddenly, there came a muffled sob from the adjacent room. Milo was alive, but by no means well.
I am giving you one more chance. Oh, you heard that? Bizde held it up for a second then continued to write. I give you one more chance, Roman, dear. Just one more.
The page was by now splattered with red, it was all up Bizde’s otherwise tallow arms, dripping down the pen in gory rivulets. These bloody hands he now raised, after dropping the book to smack on the ground.  His expression now one of conviction but still, that sick amusement. On one hand – Roman felt it was deliberately his left – he held up five fingers the cadet no longer had.
One by one, his fingers dropped, but Roman made no sound. When only the thumb remained, Roman shut his eyes, and shook his head, one side, the other.
Abruptly, Bizde slammed his hand against the door-frame with a loud and echoing thud. There was the briefest of pauses, then a resounding crack that took too long to die. A gunshot.
Roman could only pray that the sound had taken longer to die than his friend had. It took a few seconds for his voice to return, but when it did, it was a surge he could not control. One friend was dead, the other may well have been, for what?! Without realizing, his despair burst out in a visceral cry that rose from somewhere he didn’t know he had. And… For what…

Ethos’ blind stumbling and wanderings led him to something that could only be called a cliff. Far, far below the tops of the trees were visible in a ring, but directly below him it was just dead earth and yet more roots. His fear deserted him for a moment, leaving him free, and he crept closer, staring down the gaping single jaw of the precipice.
Closer, and closer, he edged, until his toes dangled over the edge and sent a cascade of dust and pebbles down, down to the shrinking ground. It was so far down he did not hear their dying noise.
Quietly, he felt a veil descend and as it continued it pulled his eyelids down. A gentle breeze rustled his hair and lifted it from his face. Slowly, he began to tilt. Let it all go… No more running… No more pain…
“Ethos.” there came a powerful male voice from behind him. Ethos’ eyes remained closed and he was still yearning forwards.
“ETHOS NEURO AMAURUS LISTEN TO ME!” it roared, with the rage and crackle of a wildfire in a dry and desolate forest. This caused Ethos to snap his eyes open and lurch back from the edge, realizing what he had almost done.
“Wh…Who are y-y-you?” he stammered, but feeling unable to turn around. There was an intense, though not unpleasant, heat on his back.
“That’s irrelevant.” the voice rumbled. “I suppose you could call me your will to live, if you care for such sentiments.”
Ethos shuffled forward and peered over the edge.
“But…” he murmured.
“No, Ethos. You don’t want to. No matter what suffering comes to you, you have survived your life so far. Why end it now when it has only just begun? You are young, and you have escaped from a fate worse than death here. Don’t mock you friend’s help by giving in now.”
Ethos stared at the floor; torn.
“You know not who you are. And the second you fall from that cliff, you doom yourself to never know.” the voice continues, crackling passionately behind him.
“Live, Ethos. For the sake of everything you know.”

Fresh Air and Red Skies (1)


Ethos awoke without his senses, yet again. He was lying in a black, blank space; he could feel, see, hear, nothing. He concentrated and remembered how to open his eyes.
With a flick, a snap, a dilating, narrowing, finally a focusing of the pupils his vision started up a sluggish relay between his mind and his eyes. Piece by piece the room started to exist for him, and it took on form.
A lantern was set on the desk and emitted a sickly yellow glow. It was the only source of light, paltry and wan though it was; there were no windows. What could windows look onto here, but rock and earth? The light almost seemed to ooze across the wooden table, and flowed lazily onto a chair, then the floor, and at last drew shy of the unconquerable shadows reigning behind the furniture. They loomed across the polished stone walls and magnified tenfold. This cave was not his room… Something told him it was wrong, that he was out of place.
Next he remembered how to move, which was difficult with every nerve in his body numb. After some blind scrabbling he found purchase on the smooth floor and hauled himself upright to prop his shoulders against the wall.
Other than the lantern, very little else was of interest in here: Shut doors, one on the wall, two cupboards, a wardrobe closed. Were any doors in this place open? No windows, no doors, no sunlight and no air. The place was entirely natural, hewn from centuries of water’s stubborn wearing but somehow it felt oppressively artificial and… So dead.
Lifting his weightless hand he smacked himself in the face then, more carefully, spread his fingers to rub his eyes. Steady, Ethos. He was about to deem the place safe – perhaps even go back to sleep when he noticed the corner. He now realised he’s been avoiding it by force of… Force of what?
First he noticed the blood, and then the man it was issuing from. Then he noticed the pillow it stained, and finally the bed. There were deep marks gouged on the walls from inhuman talons, as well, etched into the soft rock. A violin was propped up in its case at the foot of its bed, unused. When its master played it, it seemed to have a malevolence of its own and even now it seemed almost quiescent. In his daze, Ethos could almost feel it watching him, impossible though that was.
Thought escaped him for a grace period of perhaps five heartbeats before his nerves jump-started. The pain was indescribable: it seemed to emanate from his back though he could hardly tell; everywhere hurt. Ethos clenched his jaw to avoid crying out and managed to dull it to a whimper.
Immediately he looked over to the corner. The man was still asleep. Or dead, that was possible, that much blood might mean he’d somehow dashed his brains out… Or had them dashed out  Ethos’ shudder sent several more knives of agony through his spine and he struggled to breathe. Now it had settled, he could feel that the pain was, most definitely coming from his back. His wrists chafed too, and his head ached but they paled in comparison. Panic started rising in his gut like bile and threatened to spread, but he grappled himself into a state of semi-calm.
His back has quite literally been torn open on the right hand side, five deep gouges… he looked back at the wall. Five deep, identical, burning slashes. Unlike the ones in the stone they were arrow straight, and for that, deliberate. That didn’t surprise Ethos, however. What did was the memory it forced on him.

There was the smell of fresh blood, probably his own, and there were flashes of movement, springing, his nerves on fire from adrenaline, confusion, panic, a seething madness. Going berserk, and fear, fear snapping and cutting all the sensations into nauseating fragments and the whole insane mess ending with a sudden and terrifying clarity. Ethos curled over and held his head, which had only started to ache more, almost uncontrollably. His name was Bizde, Lowell Bizde, the second highest ranking demon in this whole forsaken place and he had bitten out his tongue. Ethos gingerly ran his own across the sharp ridges of his teeth, careful not to slice it open on the edges. Even now he could taste blood.
That explained the blood, and it was unlikely he had bled to death. Which meant that he was alive, very much so, and very much infuriated at missing his silver tongue. He could only be glad he couldn’t remember what had driven him to do such a thing, though being routinely detained and tortured was certainly a matter for consideration. With a sincere and frantic hope that Bizde was unconscious, he pulled himself upright.
His scream echoed round the cavern. He felt like his back was being torn open again but there was nothing to be done, he had to go. A panicked glance told him that Bizde was still out cold. Another mercy. Steeling himself against the inevitable torture, he fumbled at the door, inhaled, exhaled, and then he was off like an arrow from a bow.

Time started flowing for him again when he reached a second door and, for lack of conscious thought, collided with it. Two voices called out in unison and Ethos buckled when the door was heaved inwards and, by default, him with it.
“Ethos!” one caught him under his arms before he hit the floor.
“R-R-Roman…” Ethos snapped out of his daze. “M-Milo! … Help…” he gasped for breath. The one who had caught him – Roman – looked at him concernedly.
“You’re stuttering even crazier than normal, what’s going on?” he spoke with something of a French accent, and in hushed tones. “Milo… Get something… He’s bleeding everywhere.”
“N-nooo… Tiime.” Ethos’ every word came out distorted, either stretched or stuttered. “I… I n-n-need to g…go. Now.” he shook his head furiously and forced himself to support his own weight. Roman looked at him for a long time before responding.
“You heard him. Sit down Ethos.” he helped him over to a chair, despite protests, and strode over to the back of the room, where they kept their own belongings.
Ethos was alert enough to hear what his friends were whispering.
“Nine years Milo, nine years that creep‘s been hurting him and we‘ve let Ethos lie to us. I don’t know why he’s suddenly decided but he’s almost a man, isn’t he, nearly sixteen. Whatever he’s doing I’ll help him. If he has to go he has to go.” Roman hissed and shoved a black cloak into Milo’s arms before he could answer. Ethos pretended not to overhear. So they had known… Contrary to logic, he was grateful that they humored him when he made out that whatever injuries he got were from training. He started when Milo dropped the cloak on his lap. At least he guessed it was Milo, all he saw was a streak of almost-crimson hair go past him. Last time he checked, Roman was blonde, not an outrageously bright redhead.
“Th-th-thanksssss…” Ethos mewed and pulled himself upright.
“Don’t. Just go. That cloak’s to help avoid anybody recognizing you, OK? Do whatever you can to save yourself, don’t worry about us back here.” Roman cut him off. Pulling on the cloak, the other just nodded. It reached to his ankles. Ethos was tall for his age, but Roman was over a year older than him and it was only meant to be calf length. “And Ethos?”
“Mm?” he looked up at him through his black fringe and squeaked in alarm as Roman pulled him into a rough hug.
“Don’t get yourself hurt.”

Concealed by dark wool and prudently chosen pathways, Ethos encountered no interruptions or disturbances as he headed for the only reasonable escape he could think of: the swallow hole.
His feet were aching when he arrived, feeling like the soles of his boots were made of red hot iron. He allowed himself to sit down and wrangle the remaining dregs of energy he had left for the ascent. Above him, the great stone walls reared. Austere gray rock, pitted and strewn with half dead roots that jutted and curled like paralyzed, wooden snakes burrowing through the bowels of the earth.
At least, he thought to himself, he had handholds, and one enormous runner the side of a branch even looked good enough for a serviceable rest point. Once he’d taken his time to recover and evaluate, he skirted the wall to check for the best way out. The fledgling courage that had ushered him this far soon failed, but his natural tendency towards fear goaded him enough to force him into climbing the looming precipice.

Roman was hunched over, resting his elbows on his knees, when he heard a piercing note cut the air.
“Hey… Milo?” he whispered, feeling an inexplicable need to lower his voice. “Milo?”
“What? I’m trying to listen… Do you know what that is?” Milo flapped a hand in his direction. The note got louder and more distinct and, after some time, the two of them heard that it was a melody played in time with somebody’s slow footsteps. It came from a violin, and the newcomer walked to a tune all too akin to a funeral march. A second beat of heavier footsteps came behind, out of time but the first was evidently not put off.
Since the source of the music became apparent, neither boy had spoken; they could only stare at the door. There was a plethora of outcomes for what was to proceed, but not one among the many would be pleasant. They were both suddenly, agonizingly aware of that. Not long after, the music stopped and the footsteps ceased.
The door handle rattled once, twice, then its catch gave and two men came in. First, a tall man in the uniform of a high ranking officer; the highest, in fact, as said the bat-wing badge on his left shoulder. He was tall, lithe as a tiger and, despite looking ragged and pale, he still maintained his permanent, imposing air. His venomous aura permeated the injured atmosphere of the room. Lowell Bizde, refusing to rest, despite -perhaps to spite – the wound dealt to him.
Behind him, bearing the bat wing on his right shoulder, less tall and altogether less striking, was a man less imposing but perhaps more dangerous than his superior.
“Roman Chevalier, Milo Haelyn. Do you know why we are here?” the second stepped out to stand beside Bizde. The other remained silent; for what choice did he have now? Numbly, the two younger demons shook their heads. “We have heard that your room mate, Ethos Amaurus, has escaped. As you may well know, you are all here for a reason.” he spoke emotionlessly and without changing his expression. “We are inclined to think that you may have some part of this… And you may well know of his whereabouts.”
“He hasn’t been in our room since yesterday afternoon, Masochiel. Uh, sir…” Roman straightened his back and addressed Bizde, eye to eye as much as he dared. Any demon knew that though second in rank only to Lowell and his subsequent superior, he was not the man responsible for any autonomous orders, even to the cadets themselves.
The corner of Bizde’s lip curved upwards subtly, and Roman’s blood abruptly went cold.
“We have reason to doubt that.” Masochiel replied flatly. “Come with us. Both of you.”