Message Bearer (The Auran Chronicles Book 1)

BOOK: Message Bearer (The Auran Chronicles Book 1)
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Message Bearer

The Auran Chronicles Book 1

M. S. Dobing

 

Text
copyright © 2015 M. S. Dobing

All
Rights Reserved

 

To Joanne, for all your support in letting
this see the light of day

Chapter
1

 

As usual a strange kind
of instinct guided Seb. It always began as a gnawing tingle at the back of his
mind, like an internal sat nav that drew him to another seemingly random
location. He must’ve easily covered twenty miles that night, starting at the
Pleasure Beach, where the masses knocked back a mixture of cheap rides and
greasy food with abandon, right down to the promenade, before finally ending up
here, at what had once been a church, but where now stood a ruined shell
plastered in rotting boards.

He took a moment to
admire the view, ignoring the sensation of cold rain on his skin. The church
stood on the crest of a hill. Down below the road curved up and away from the
promenade to where he now stood. Buildings, largely abandoned, flanked the
church on either side of the road, although some still served as a refuge for
the kind of folks he had no intention of spending quality time with.

Some might say it was
dangerous out here, at this time, and past experience had told him that it
wasn’t an unwise assertion. But for him, it was home, his haven. He didn’t
belong in the day, not that he knew why, he’d given up asking that question
many years ago. Under the sun he felt dulled, slowed even, but by night, he
felt alive.

***

He didn’t remember falling asleep, not
that it was a surprise at all. His mindless treks always took their toll, and
tonight’s near marathon was easily up there as a personal best. He never felt
it at the time, but boy did he feel it in the morning. Often he would sleep it
off where he fell, but this time his rest had been interrupted. He woke up with
a start, heart thudding in his chest.

It came again. What was
it? A scream? Something else? He stood up and stretched tired limbs. He glanced
at his watch. Four in the morning. Great. Another shriek came, this time from
somewhere near the promenade. It wasn’t a happy scream, like those of the drunk
zigzagging their way home. He knew those well. This was different. Someone terrified.

Another scream. Nearer
this time. He pressed himself into the alcove, seeking solace in the shadows.
As he watched, a young woman came hurtling round the corner at the bottom of
the road. She fell once, knees scraping the pavement. She tried scrambling up
but her legs kept slipping underneath her. Her breath puffed out clouds of cold
mist as she dragged herself up the hill towards the church.

‘Almost there...almost
there.’

She was halfway up the
hill now, not fifty yards from where he crouched. She fell again, her face
hitting the ground with a sick thud. Blood splattered the pavement. Something
small and white clattered onto the road.

Screw this.

He dashed out of the
alcove and raced across the road. Somehow the woman had managed to stumble to her
feet again by the time he reached her. Standing upright, her gait unsteady, she
took jerky, random steps forwards. A glazed look crossed her eyes, tiny pupils
fixed at something beyond him. He slowed to a halt a few feet in front of her,
eyes drawn to the vicious wound that stretched across her stomach, almost the
width of her body. One hand covered the seeping lacerations, the other reached
out before her, towards him, but focused on somewhere beyond. He swallowed down
a hot gush of bile. How the hell was she still standing?

‘Wait!’

Seb waved his arms to get
her attention. She slowed, her head turning towards him. She blinked once
before collapsing into his open arms, the impact making him stagger backwards.
Her eyes found his, pupils darting in multiple directions, taking him in.
Something seemed to register in her mind and she squirmed, arching her back in
an attempt to escape his grasp.

‘Let me go!’ she hissed,
trying to push him away but collapsing back with a wince.

‘No way. You need a
paramedic or something. What the hell happened?’

She didn’t respond. For a
moment her eyes froze like a frightened animal. Then she blinked. Some
semblance of awareness returned. Angry eyes locked on him.

‘Lemme go!’ she screamed,
‘Lemme-fucking-go!’

She lashed out, the palm
of her hand smashing into the side of his skull. He staggered, stunned,
clutching his head as she stumbled past him towards the church.

‘What the hell was that
for?’ He followed her up the road, shaking his head, ‘Miss, you need…’

If dread could be
manifested as a force, he felt it then. A wave of
something
washed over
him, as cold as death, stopping him in his tracks. His skin erupted in goose
pimples, the air temperature dropping like a stone. Breath condensed in front
of his face. The street lamps flickered. The woman obviously felt it too. They
both turned to face the base of the hill.

‘No. He’s found me! He’s
found me!’

It didn’t so much as walk
out of the dark, it
oozed
. Its form coalesced from the gloom, a slight
shimmering in the air, a shifting of shadows, before condensing into something
resembling a human that now stood, unmoving, just at the periphery of the
streetlight.

Yet this was no human.

Unnaturally tall, easily
touching seven foot, the thing wore a dark suit that hung loosely off a
pencil-thin frame. Its head was dipped, face hidden beneath a black fedora with
a single silver band. As he watched, the creature’s head rose. Black eyes met
his. Something cold trickled down his spine.

It began to move
forwards, its movement jerky, as if it were animated by invisible string. Its
mouth opened into a wide grin, jaw distending to almost impossible proportions,
baring a set of dagger-like incisors.

‘You see it, don’t you?’

He’d forgotten she was
even there. He looked back at the woman, managing the barest of nods. She
reached out to him, her hand shaking.

‘Come with me.’

‘What?’ he mumbled, not
able to take his eyes off the thing before him.

‘Come on!’

She yanked his arm,
jerking him back with a strength that belied the extent of her injuries.

‘Oh Sarah, why do you run
so?’ the voice, like steel scraping steel, drifted up the hill.

‘You should have known
better than to run,’ it continued, the distance closing.

Seb stumbled backwards
and fell. He’d never believed it when people said they’d been frozen with fear,
but the phrase didn’t do it justice. He was beyond paralyzed. His limbs simply
absent passengers. The creature’s gaze shifted to him then:

‘And I see you’ve brought
a friend?’

Shit.

The woman pulled at him
again. Adrenalin filled numbed legs and he forced himself off the ground. They
staggered towards the church, two strangers bound by fear. She collapsed
against the door and slid down, her eyes rolling up in her head.

‘No! No!’ he said,
shaking her by the shoulders. With his eyes off the creature it felt like some
of the hold it had on him, like a predator on its prey, had been lifted. He
caught her head as it rolled forward, her eyes staring beyond him, unfocused.

‘Go...’ she slurred, ‘He
doesn’t...want...you.’

‘Now, now, Sarah, you know
I don’t like it when you run. I’ve travelled a very long way to find you.’ The
voice carried around the building, dancing in the air, taunting them.

Seb pushed against the
door. It gave a bit but didn’t open. The wood was rotten, the building
abandoned for years. He stepped back and kicked. Something cracked inside the
door frame.

‘Just give up, Sarah, you
know you can’t escape.’

Footsteps scraped against
tarmac. It was only feet away. Seb felt his mind squirming, trying to go
somewhere safe, to lock itself away from the encroaching horror. He shook his
head and kicked again. The door buckled. The lock shattered and the wooden
barrier swung open with a painful creak. Sarah fell, hitting the floor with a
thud. A groan escaped her lips. He gripped her under her arms and dragged her
inside. Slamming the door shut, he scanned the nave, spotting a handful of
upturned pews stacked against the wall. He grabbed at the nearest by the edge
but his palms were slick with sweat and the pew slipped free, crashing back onto
the stone floor.

Footsteps on the path. A
cheery whistle.

Come on! Come on!

He took a better grip
this time and dragged it backwards. He manoeuvred it until the end pressed
firmly against the flat of the door. He lurched back, arms screaming, flipping
the other end so that the base was wedged against the font. It would have to
do. He turned and hoisted Sarah up and dragged her towards the back of the
church. They collapsed at the altar, her head on his chest. Her breathing was
slow, irregular. His own heart crashed against his ribs.

‘Knock, Knock’.

He pulled his knees up
and buried his head in his hands. He was going to die here, he knew that. He
didn’t know what this
thing
was. It looked like a man. Spoke the words
of a man, but it was as inhuman as could be. He had never considered himself
religious, but at that moment he resorted to the only thing he could think of,
which was pretty apt, considering the location.

‘Our Father…’

The chuckle from beyond
the door sliced through him like blades.

‘Your Father...’ The air
shimmered again, by the door. The shadows swirled like Chinese dragons, the
creature reforming on their side of the door. ‘…died a long time ago.’

Seb let out a wail and
his chest began to heave in stricken sobs.

‘No, no. Please, don’t be
sad,’ it said.

It didn’t walk anymore.
It simply drifted down the aisle towards them. It stopped six foot away, head
cocked to one side.

Sarah stirred. Her eyes
flickered open.

The horror drifted
closer. It loomed over them now. Seb looked down, staring at a pair of polished
black loafers.

‘Look at me.’

He didn’t move. He forced
his gaze towards the floor.

‘Look. At. Me.’

Something in that voice
compelled him. He tried with all his strength, the tendons in his neck
straining. His temple throbbed, but it was of no use. He felt his chin rising.

 Those black eyes grinned
down. Its teeth were bared, a sickening smell of rotten meat washing over him.
A warm tear trickled down his cheek.

‘Oh, is the little
protector afraid?’ the thing said, cocking its head to one side, a thin,
tapered finger pressed against its black lips in mock concern.

‘Screw you,’ Seb said.

The thing stopped in its
tracks. It blinked, the lids coming from the sides, not top and bottom, causing
Seb’s stomach to heave. The creature’s mouth formed a perfect ‘o’ as it took a
mocking step backwards.

‘My, my,’ it whispered,
the shock only momentary, that grin returning. ‘We do have some spunk, don’t
we?’

Its hand delved into its
sleeve, withdrawing a slender dagger. The blade was maroon, caked in dried
blood. The creature
flowed
forwards again, fingers outstretched, the
blade inverted, pointing down.

Here it comes. He pressed
his head hard into his chest, eyes scrunched shut, wishing it would be over
quickly. The smell of rot was overpowering, the stench washing over him in
waves.

A sudden movement. Sarah.
It was between her and himself, out of sight of the fiend. Something, a blade
of some kind, glinted as she pulled it from her sleeve. Her eyes met his, lucid
this time. She gave a barely perceptible nod. He ducked to one side as she
lunged past him at speed. Her wrist flicked out, he heard a thunk, followed by
a surprised gasp. He dared to look behind them.

The creature had
staggered back. Its black eyes were wide, focused on the knife embedded in its
chest. It gently touched the hilt, its finger tracing the blade up to where the
metal vanished into its chest and a thick, viscous ooze had begun to seep out.
Soundlessly, the creature toppled over.

‘Your name,’ Sarah
whispered.

She didn’t look good. Dark,
almost black blood trickled from the side of her mouth.

‘Your name!’ she gasped.

‘Seb.’

‘Come closer, there isn’t
much time. The blade isn’t runed. You know what we have to do.’

He shook his head. ‘Runed?
What? Sorry, I don’t know what you mean.’

In the aisle, the thing
twitched. A leg jerked.

‘You weren’t there by
accident.’ It wasn’t a question.

‘Yes. No. I mean. I don’t
know why I was there.’

‘You were drawn. I can
see it. You are Latent.’

‘Listen, I don’t -’

She grabbed him by the
shirt, pulling him closer. Her breath smelled of copper.

‘You must take what I’ve
found,’ her eyes rolled, her body sagging, he caught her just before she
slumped back onto the stone. Her eyes refocused. ‘Look at me.’

He forced himself to look
at her. Her eyes were like pools of crystal, drawing him in. He felt the world
drifting away.

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