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Authors: Glen Krisch

Arkadium Rising (25 page)

BOOK: Arkadium Rising
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"Name's Darvil," he said and sucked at the gap between his front teeth.

"I don't care." Her lip curled with involuntary disgust. Why would she care to make small talk with any of these assholes? A high-walled enclosure complete with ramparts surrounded them. There were several low stone buildings spread throughout the grassy courtyard, and a tall tower made of the same yellow sandstone as the walls stood at the center of it all. She saw gardens, a greenhouse, and a clutch of chickens pecking away at a shadowy patch of grass. It somehow reminded her of what she imagined a medieval village would look like.

As she scanned her surroundings, she saw Dawn a few feet away. They looked into each other's eyes and shared their disbelief, their misery, their total sense of hopelessness.

"Here, have some of my water." He held up his water bottle, drawing her attention. Her lips were cracked and starting to bleed. "Come on, I'll help."

So tempting, but…
"No thanks."

"You might want to care if you know what's good for you." At first glance he looked no more than five years older than her, but then she saw the slight wrinkles at the corners of his eyes and the flecks of gray at his otherwise dark temples. She realized she had been looking at him too long when his eyes gave her a lecherous once-over. "I get to have you the first night, and if you're good to me, I'll make sure nothing happens to you."

She stared at him, dumbfounded. He arched one eyebrow and bit his lower lip. Gave her a knowing, salacious nod that sent a chill through her.

"It's all fair and square. Me and the others, we flipped a coin. Don't worry. I'm nice once you get to know me."

She didn't know what to say, so she cleared her throat and spat at him.

The man laughed as if she'd flirted with him. "You need to learn some manners." He wiped the spit from his arm, but had a mischievous grin nonetheless. "And I might just be there to help you learn."

"That's not going to happen," a familiar voice said. She turned away from the vile face of Darvil to see RJ standing kitty-corner about five feet in front of her. She felt a moment of relief, but just a moment. "You have my word."

"Watch your mouth," Darvil said. "Quiet now, all of you. That's Adam coming out to speak to ya'll."

A number of armed men faced the gathered "volunteers." They all lowered their heads respectfully as a man with silver hair walked past. Many of the men were taller than him, but he had a way of looking down his nose at anyone beneath him. Apparently, everyone present was beneath this man.

"You better watch your lip around him or there's nothing I can do or say to save you," Darvil said from the corner of his mouth. He didn't take his eyes away from the silver-haired man.

When Adam reached the front of the throng, he held his arms up as if he might give a blessing over the events to unfold. "So, I will keep this short. I know everyone is tired from being on their feet. As you might have noticed, you all have been separated into two groups."

Kylie looked to Dawn and then at the others around her. Only then did it become obvious.

"The men are needed for their muscle. Their labor."

RJ looked over his shoulder as a murmur grew among the ten or so men.

"You will work when and where we say. You will work as hard and long as we say. It's as simple as that."

A man with a brown buzz-cut charged from the front of the pack toward Adam. He let out a roar as he closed in on him, but a number of men armed with clubs moved quickly to beat him bloody. Adam grinned as he watched them work him over well beyond what was needed. When they finally let up, the man didn't move and was quite possibly dead.

"And for you ladies, we have different labors for you to see to. You are all sinners in the eyes of God, just like the generations of women before you, just like the original sinner, our ancestral mother—Eve. Your role will be to sate the physical needs of the members of the Arkadium. And to remind you of your role as sinner, you will all now go by the name Eve. Welcome to Sanctuary Island, Eves."

Darvil let out a throaty chuckle and Kylie's heart sank. Her worst fears were coming true.

"What? No! You can't do this to us!" a woman cried out. "You can't! No, I won't…"

The woman was somewhere in the back of the group, and there was a sudden commotion, but Kylie could no longer bear to look. She tried to ignore the sounds of violence, but couldn't escape it.

When the struggle finally ended, Adam continued. "You all will die eventually, but it's up to you to decide how much longer you want to survive. Another day? A week? A year? It's all up to you."

Despite the Arkadium's willingness to resort to violence, the murmuring swelled within the ranks of captives.

"Now listen!" he said, and everyone fell silent. "This is a cruel world, and the sooner you understand that, the better." He turned to a young man standing behind him. "Travis, take the men to the quarry. We'll need more stone if we're going to get those buildings up by winter."

RJ looked back at Kylie, his fear absolute. He shuffled along with the others as a dozen or so armed men herded the male captives away from the gathering, marching them back through the gate in which they'd just entered.

"Where are you taking my husband!" a woman next to Kylie called out.

"The men will still be on the island. We've turned the far side of the island into a makeshift quarry. Our little group is growing. Just look at all of you fine people!" He turned to the rest of his men, who had all crowded in closer, their anticipation evident. "All right, I know you've divvied them up. Go ahead, have at it."

Another group of armed men fell in on the huddled female captives. Dawn and Kylie clutched one another and tried to shy away from anyone heading in their direction. Kylie closed her eyes and could hear the dull sound of fists connecting with flesh. The screams of the helpless.

"What are we going to do, Kye? I'd rather die. Just die…" Dawn said, clutching Kylie in her arms.

Kylie felt a shock of pain as someone nearly lifted her off her feet by the hair. She stood up, her legs weak, and Dawn continue to hold her.

"Told you I got first crack," Darvil said, exhaling his sour breath into Kylie's ear. "You're my Eve."

"No, please, just leave me alone!"

He held a fistful of her hair and then groped her chest. Her stomach swam with roiling revulsion. "This will do just fine!"

When he started dragging her away, Dawn said, "Wait! Take me with you! You won't know what you're missing."

Dawn looked desperately around her as the men divvied up the newly consecrated Eves. She went up to Darvil and pressed her body against his.

"Whoa, would you look at that?" He stepped back and considered the situation. He looked around, and all of his buddies had pretty much paired off with their own choice. "Sure, you know, why not! It's been too long and I think I could go just about all night and into the morning."

Darvil took hold of Kylie's arm just as he had to guide her to the gates of Sanctuary Island. He grabbed Dawn's wrist with his other hand and pulled them along.

 

2.

 

Darvil's quarters were located within the outer wall. Not much more than a bed fit inside the room. He first entered the room, lit a lantern, and then called for them to enter.

The room was rank with the odor of sweaty socks and unwashed sheets.

"Are you sure about this?" Kylie whispered to Dawn.

"I didn't know what else to do. I wasn't going to let us get separated."

"Okay, stop your yammering, ladies. Let's have some fun!" Darvil hopped on the bed and pulled his filthy shirt up over his head.

"Come on now, don't just stand there. It's your turn."

Kylie reached for the bottom of her shirt and reluctantly started to raise it up to her chin.

"That's right. And if you treat me right, I'll make sure I get the two of you regular. No need sharing, am I right?"

"I have to pee," Dawn said.

"Well, go right on ahead. The chamber pot's over in the corner."

Both girls looked over at the same time at the stained white pot sitting in a small puddle.

"It's not like I'm not going to see your high-and-mighties in about two seconds anyways."

Someone pounded on the door. "Criminy. Don't anyone know not to interrupt people getting to know one another?"

"Come on out, Darvil," said the man at the door.

"I'm coming. I'm coming."

He climbed off of his bed and straightened his obvious erection. When he patted Kylie's behind as he walked by, she came close to scratching his eyes out. But she didn't do a thing, and when he reached the door and opened it, she felt miserable for not defending herself.

"The girls need to come with me," a man said.

"No, they're mine fair and square."

"They aren't for me. Adam said they are to be brought to him, and that no one is to harm them, or touch them in any way."

"Well, I'll be fucked," Darvil said and stepped aside as Kylie and Dawn exited the room.

"Not tonight, you're not," Kylie said.

 

 

Chapter 20

 

 

 

The question was simple, but Jason didn't know the answer.

Where are all the people?

This area of the state was sparsely populated and landscaped in endless miles of cornfields, but still, it felt like he was the last person on earth. An eerie silence had filled the long miles since he'd quietly put the meth cookers behind him the day before. When he escaped from Marcus, he'd expected to encounter people not only right away, but in droves. Reality had proven to be the opposite of his expectations.

"Haven't even seen another cat. Isn't that weird?" he asked Kat. Whenever Kat didn't give a corresponding meow, he wanted to believe that she was asleep on her perch on top of his pack. It was either that or admitting that his habit of talking to himself was getting out of hand.

He came across a population sign that had long ago been peppered with buckshot. Rust grew around the bullet holes like mold on a loaf of bread.

Despite the damage, he was able to piece it together:
Rose Ridge, Illinois: pop. 921

He was hungry just as much as weary. It didn't really matter to him who he met in Rose Ridge—he just needed to get some food in his belly and get off his feet. The densely packed corn stalks transitioned to overgrown lawns on either side of the road. A deserted baseball field extended off to his right, while a tired-looking single story home was off to his left.

He stopped in the center of the road and waited. A few abandoned cars sat idly in the road ahead. Tipped-over garbage cans littered the curbs for as far as he could see. Obviously the end of the world had coincided with Rose Ridge's garbage pick-up day. Standing at the edge of town, the sickening odor of the sunbaked trash wafted out to greet him. Beneath the spoiled refuse he also sensed the stench of burning; dying fires tempered to low embers, livelier ones still lingering—two-by-fours turned to ash, melted plastic swept away on carcinogenic breezes. He palmed sweat away from his forehead and considered turning around. After mentally retracing his path—mile after mile of cornfields fated to wither on the stalk—he couldn't recall a crossroads that seemed like a better option. At least not one within a day's walk guaranteed to lead to better prospects. His stomach, despite the foul odor coming from town, began to grumble again.

The windows of the home closest to him, the one off to the left, had been shattered. Sooty scorch marks marred the walls framing the windows like tear-ruined makeup. He kept his eye on the house as he started again cautiously down the road. The side door stood open, dangling by just its bottom hinge, ready to pull free completely with the next gust of wind. From his odd angle it looked like some malevolent force had plowed a deep furrow through the shingles, from the gutter line to the peak of the roof. Shingles stood on end like riotous sleep-mussed hair.

He stepped away from the road when every instinct told him he shouldn't. He approached the house when it was obvious that nothing good could come of it. The overlong grass dragged at his tired feet as he circled around for the best angle of the roof. The sudden sharp call of a blackbird made him turn with a start. It sat perched on the porch railing of the neighboring house, staring at him with little fear in its beady eyes. The big oily bird looked fat and happy as it cawed again—almost an undertone of laughter in the sound—and preened its wing feathers. This neighboring house was in similar condition—a ruined front door, shattered windows, obvious fire damage throughout. And those same upturned roof shingles. He could see it now in this second house; a scored trench that reached the inner layers of the house, wisps of pink attic insulation clinging to the shingles like blood to an open wound.

The blackbird cawed again and Kat jumped from Jason's shoulder, sprinting not-so-stealthily after it. Even before she could get within ten feet of the porch railing, the bird took wing, cawing its discontent as it cut quickly higher until it disappeared from view.

"Maybe next time, Kat. You stalk like the only thing you've hunted is your own tail." He climbed the stairs to the porch and peered inside through the splintered doorway. Holes had been punched through drywall, not with fists, certainly… but perhaps a sledgehammer or fire axe. The ceiling was a ruin. Sunlight shone through pockmark holes in the ceiling's plaster, spotlighting dust floating through a living room like flecks of white plastic in a novelty snow globe.

"Jesus…" he muttered, stepping away from the scene of destruction, not wanting to see any more.

He made his way back to the street. That's when he realized it was a thoroughfare mapping similar destruction through the entire community of Rose Ridge. Every house had been maimed, exposed to the elements and left to rot. Weak, days-old smoke billowed from a few buildings, the defeated exhalations of a vanquished beast.

When he neared a two-door sedan sitting at the center of the road like a giant paperweight, he saw an arm dangling below the open doorway. Blood had pooled on the road in a red-black slick, having formed one drip at a time from the bloody fingers above. All he saw was the dried blood, the feminine hand a ghostly white, and absolutely no sign of life. He didn't bother getting any nearer. He'd seen enough.

BOOK: Arkadium Rising
11.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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