Tortured

Chapter One of Endgame

Written by jrcsalter

Part 3

ENDGAME

 
A good life has but few days
but a good name endureth forever.
— Ecclesiasticus 41:13

It seemed few things surprised Allison anymore. She had come across psychic powers, witches, vampires, angels. But to learn the manner of her death was something stranger than anything else in her life. Of course she told Kate, who remained defiant and refused to let anyone kill her. Allison appreciated the words, but didn’t see what Kate could do to prevent it. Allison tried to see the future again, to see whether the prophecy was true. But she still saw nothing but Cylnaunteb stuck in a wooden floor.   Rob was taken to hospital and after a blood transfusion and a few stitches, he seemed to be recovering well. Holly stayed by his side until he regained consciousness the next day. With his first words, he asked Holly to marry him. Her subsequent hug nearly ruptured his stitches.   After the waterfront duel, the police took statements from witnesses, and reviewed the video evidence taken from the many mobile phones. The proof seemed undeniable. Allison Sands possessed powers previously considered impossible, and she fought an enemy who also used the same skills to kill officers of the law. In court the judge concluded it to be a singular case. The mysterious woman would have been difficult, if not impossible, to apprehend and detain without someone of Allison’s power. The jury’s verdict was she acted in self defence, but she would need to undergo scientific testing to help future cases. Allison agreed, and they studied her for almost a year, testing different theories, special holding cells, weapons, and anything else to aid in detaining a telekinetic prisoner. After her powers became common knowledge, she occasionally used them on stage, or on television appearances, often without thinking. After the first few years, everyone considered it normal behaviour from her. Three years after the waterfront duel and after the release of a further two albums, Allison and Kate made the decision to have another baby. This time, Kate took on the burden of pregnancy and gave birth to a girl they called Dawn. The band took a five year break to allow the couple to bring up their daughter.   Allison continued to train with Atharron, despite surpassing his skill and winning almost every fight, and when Dawn was eight, Allison asked Atharron to train her as well. On her tenth birthday, Allison and Kate gave her a sword, forged and designed just for her. Around this time, Dawn began to exhibit signs of Allison’s power. Often in uncontrolled ways, though never to the extent of the wild rages Allison experienced in her youth. Allison also trained her on the proper use of her powers and within a few short years, she used them with ease and moderate strength.   As the years wore on, Allison became increasingly worried about when the Emissary would reveal himself. According to the prophecies she demanded from Cat, he would announce his presence publicly, and then topple nations, but they never mentioned dates. So any time a small skirmish started between countries, Allison feared he would soon be ready to kill her. Unfortunately, they found no leads on who he could be, or where he might be found.   As for Anna, there was even less information. No prophecy directly mentioned her, and no details presented themselves as to her or Naomi’s whereabouts. The witch’s disappearance since the Waterfront Duel was one of her quietest periods. And the longer it went on, the more suspicious Allison became. She he was planning something, and Allison knew Anna had to be involved, but the wait took its toll on her.

Fifteen years after her duel, Allison stepped out from a late television appearance. She really didn’t know why she still needed to plug her albums. Everyone knew it would be out in a couple of days, and pre-orders alone had all but guaranteed it the top spot. But Kevin insisted on it. In each of the seven interviews, she said basically the same thing, often using the exact phrasing. ‘Our eighth album is a rock opera and is something I’ve been working towards over pretty much all the other records. It’s called Discovery and will have many themes about war, the greater good, loyalty to family … etc etc.’ All this could be found on her website, but Kevin insisted it drove up sales.   Anyway, it was over now, and she was just about to get in the car when her phone beeped. She took it out and read a text from Kate.   I’m ready xxx   With the entire day spent being interviewed, from waking up at five to make it to breakfast television, to late night entertainment, meant she had yet to see Kate awake. Looking forward to finally spending some time with her, the half hour’s drive home felt much longer than that.   Arriving at her house, she bounced through the door and shouted, ‘I’m home. And boy am I thirsty.’ She closed the door, hanging her bag on the hook by the entrance and made her way to the living room. ‘Blimey I could drink a lake. I hope you—’ she stopped, her smile fading, as she saw Kate sitting on a sofa with a man she didn’t recognise. He seemed around thirty and, even though he lay down, Allison knew him to be only a little taller than she was. Kate sat next to him, tending to the many bruises and cuts that covered his face. His clothes looked to be a tweed suit once, but now they draped over him, ripped and blood soaked. His hair, long and matted, clung to the sweat on his forehead and a scar wrapped his throat like a gruesome necklace.   ‘Who is this? What happened?’ Allison said, running over and kneeling beside the half dead stranger.   Kate seemed reluctant to talk, but taking a deep breath, she revealed, ‘He’s my father.’   Allison drew back from the man. Nicky Harris died before Kate celebrated her first birthday. The only way she knew what he looked like was from a picture on Kate’s wall when she still lived with her mother. Allison saw it every time she stepped into Kate’s house. She remembered the face, but this man looked nothing like the composed gentlemanly image portrayed in the photograph. The same shapes stood out; the small hazel eyes, the same small nose which Kate inherited and the disproportionately large mouth which Allison was glad Kate did not get. Now she saw him in person, she observed what the picture was unable to reveal due to Nicky’s (probably deliberate) pose. A mass of scars, painted the side of his head where his left ear once was.   ‘You’re shocked,’ Nicky said. ‘I can understand. I need to tell you something, but have been prevented by my daughter’s unnecessary fussing.’ Kate began to attach a bandage to his bleeding and obviously broken fingers. ‘It’s not unnecessary. And it’s not fussing,’ she said   Nicky smiled at her. ‘Just like your mother.’ He turned back to Allison. ‘It is you my story is for. That’s not to say it isn’t nice to see my baby all grown up. And with a family too! But I need to tell you this. I’m not sure how much time I have. I am a Tarimai, what you might call immortal. I won’t go into the specifics, but a few months ago I was captured. Every day they took me from a tiny dark cell, shoved a blindfold on me and asked me the same question. They wanted to know what a certain Calnissian phrase meant. I’m sure they could translate it, but even then, they didn’t know the precise meaning. It basically said, “The blood of the glory of the Immortal.” I’m not sure what it means and I have no idea why they wanted to know. They tortured me for this information, but I couldn’t give it to them. I eventually managed to escape by fighting my way out. The whole thing is hazy and I can’t remember much of it, but I do recall Catíra picking me up and bringing me here. She told me who you are and that she would deal with those chasing me. But now to tell you what you really need to know. I was being tortured by one person, but I felt another presence in the room. The one torturing and asking the questions was feminine. I recognised her voice as soon as she spoke. Her name is Naomi Knowles, a witch—’   ‘Yeah,’ Allison said, ‘I’ve met her.’   ‘Then you know she’s bad news. After a few weeks, she spoke to the other person, but whoever they were, they remained silent. A couple of times I heard them kissing, and at one point I’m sure they had sex right in front of me. But two nights ago, Naomi sat on my lap, holding my hand against a rough surface. It felt like a cheese grater. She spoke to the other person. But this time, it was different. Usually she spoke in an affectionate, often submissive way. She practically gave an order this time, so I guessed her companion was a different one than usual. I didn’t recognise her voice, though. She told her to get her usual companion because he’d want to see this particular method of torture.’ He paused, considering the weight of his next words. ‘Allison, she called him the Emissary.’   Nicky’s words met silence as both women absorbed this pivotal revelation. After years of nothing, the ultimate appearance of the Emissary forced Allison into her destiny as hard as being hit by a truck.   ‘You know what this means?’ Kate said, breaking the silence. ‘Naomi’s dating the Emissary.’   Nicky looked at her and let out a rough laugh. ‘Say it like that, it sounds like some kind of supernatural soap opera.’ Kate finished treating his wounds, fastening the last bandage, and Nicky thanked her. He sat up and leant forward, putting his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands together. ‘They spoke occasionally, talking about portions of strategies. They didn’t reveal much, but from what I could gather, they plan to attack. Very soon. They didn’t reveal when, but they spoke of the army being ready for the Takeover and the Fall.’   Allison remembered back when she met Naomi. ‘The army of vampires. Naomi said something about it. They’ve been preparing this for fifteen years. They must have a huge army by now. I’ll phone Atharron and get him over here.’   Allison made her way over to the phone and Nicky burst out. ‘Atharron?! You know him?’   ‘Yes,’ Allison said, the phone forgotten, ‘he trained me.’   ‘Don’t trust him.’   ‘Why not? Cat does.’   ‘She may do, but I don’t. I’ve never known him to lie, but he does what he does for his own reasons. I can’t confirm it, but he seems to have an agenda he refuses to share. Just be aware of what he does. And why he does it.’   ‘Another question. Kind of a big one this,’ said Kate. ‘Mum told me you were dead, what hap—’ Kate stopped as the windows smashed in and six tall muscled men climbed in. Before Allison had time to think, one of them grabbed her and put a hood over her head. She heard Kate’s scream being cut off, and struggled with the man holding her, but his arms may as well have been stone. She tried to use her mind to escape, but all her efforts met static. She heard the sounds of fighting, powerless to stop it.   Soon the sounds of shouting and other bodies died away. The man holding her loosened his grip. Allison turned and hit him. She pulled off her hood and saw him recovering from the strike.   Finding her powers restored, she telekinetically opened a box on the mantlepiece and floated Cylnaunteb into her hand. She stabbed his stomach, toppling him over. ‘What have you done?!’ she shouted at him, holding the sword at his neck.   Now she had a break from the fight, she took a good look at him. His face, drained of blood and with golden eyes, reminiscent of Linda’s features, told her of his vampiric nature.   After her encounter with Linda, Atharron taught her how to deal with these creatures, but she had never faced one since then. Wood ran the centre of her blade, but she had pierced the wrong part. She moved her sword down to position it over the heart. ‘Tell me!’ She stared into his yellow eyes and saw stubborn refusal to speak. Nor did his mind reveal anything but static. She vaguely wondered why she had telepathy when it worked on no one useful.   She prepared herself to plunge her sword in, but stopped when he suddenly tensed. His skin turned red, darkening to black. Flames appeared in his eyes and mouth, and she felt the heat radiate from his body. His clothes burned to ashes from the heat, and finally his body fell to the floor in a heap of charred remains.   She turned around to speak to Kate, but instead she saw Dawn in her dressing gown. ‘Mum? What happened?’ her daughter asked.   ‘I don’t know,’ Allison answered, distracted. Her eyes searched the room for Kate. She walked around the ground floor still looking but saw no one else. ‘Kate!’ she screamed, now frantic. ‘Kaaate!’   Allison turned to Dawn. ‘Dawn. Have you seen Mummy K anywhere?’ The girl shook her head. Allison screamed, and slammed her fist into the nearest wall. ‘Shit!’   For a few seconds, she allowed her anger walk her up and down the length of the living room. Then she grabbed the phone and called Atharron. Without waiting for him to say anything, she shouted, ‘Get here now.’ She slammed down the receiver just as Atharron walked through her door.   ‘Well, that was quick,’ Allison said.   ‘Yeah, I—’ Atharron began.   ‘Not now, explain on the way.’ Allison grabbed Dawn’s hand and pushed past him.   ‘On the way to what?’ He followed her out of the house and towards the car.   Allison fastened Dawn in the back seat. The child didn’t ask questions, she knew what her mother was doing. Allison got in the car and Atharron sat next to her. ‘What happened?’ he said.   Allison started the car and made her way down the drive. ‘They took Kate.’   ‘Where?’   ‘That’s what I’m trying to find out.’   ‘How?’   ‘Stop asking questions!’ she shouted, concentrating. They came to the first junction and Allison thought. She tried to picture Kate, but again she only sensed static. The white noise dimmed the longer she concentrated. Moving her head side to side as if listening, she decided. Putting her foot on the accelerator, she turned left.   Atharron spoke again. ‘I saw vampire dust on your carpet. What happened?’   Allison remained concentrating until they reached the motorway. Confident she knew they were on the right track, she told him everything.   ‘Well … that’s not good,’ Atharron said when she finished.   ‘No need to exaggerate,’ Allison said.   ‘I heard from a reliable source, an army is forming in Exeter. He too told me of a takeover. But that’s not the only thing that worries me. Nicky is dead.’   ‘That’s what we thought.’   ‘No you don’t understand. He’s dead. I saw him die. He stood as close to me as you are now. Not even a Tarimai can come back from death.’   ‘He looked like his picture. It was definitely him.’   ‘No. It can’t be.’   Allison took her eyes off the road to look at him. ‘Then … who is he?’   Atharron looked through his window, thoughtful. A moment later, Allison went back to concentrating on driving filled with the certainty that Kate could trust no one. And the person she thought she could, probably aided in her kidnapping.   She slalomed through the cars, always sensing the static ahead. After a few miles, though, it disappeared. The shock of the sudden absence distracted her and almost caused her to crash into the car in front.   Allison slapped the steering wheel. ‘Shit! Where’d they go?!’   ‘Allison stop,’ Atharron said. ‘If you’ve lost them, there’s nothing—’   ‘You said they were forming an army in Exeter right?’   ‘It was hearsay. Even if it was definite, we don’t know that’s where she’s being taken.’   Allison ignored him and continued to drive with a renewed determination.   ‘Look, Allison!’ Atharron shouted. ‘Stop this car! We are two people against an army! Let’s go back, get some weapons, gather information and allies, and formulate a strategy.’ He paused, waiting for Allison to see sense. ‘Allison!’   Allison whipped her head around. ‘I am NOT losing her again!!’   In this momentary lapse of concentration, Allison didn’t notice the sudden curve ahead. She turned her head back too late to react and ran into the barrier. The car kept moving, bending the railing, and eventually stopped, wedged in the contorted metal.   ‘Cat, get us out of this!’ Allison looked up over her airbag to see Atharron shouting at the air. He carried on. ‘Your ward is the most careless, inattentive, negligent, irresponsible, impetuous, reckless—’ he grunted. ‘I could go on if I had a good thesaurus. She hasn’t even thought of her own child in the back seat!!’   This woke Allison and she unfastened her seat belt, turning into the back. ‘Darling,’ she said, ‘are you okay?’ Dawn nodded. She appeared to have no injuries. Allison looked around and found the same to be true about herself. Atharron, still ranting to the sky, likewise seemed fine.   Allison opened the car door and stepped out. She looked around. A few cars ran the motorway, grassy hills and fields surrounded it, and an overcast sky let in a little of the moon’s light.   The world would change. She knew it. The Emissary had placed his pieces and now he had begun to strike. Tomorrow he would make another move, the next day another, and another. In this game, he would not take turns. Whether Allison moved her pawns or not, he would continue. Until checkmate. Standing on that road, Allison fully realised the weight resting on her shoulders.   She put a hand over her mouth and cried.

After Cat teleported the three of them back to her house, Allison crept to her room and lay on her bed with Dawn in her arms. The girl slept, but not until sunrise did Allison lose consciousness.   She woke up with the sun shining through her window, high in the sky. Allison felt it mocked her. She mourned, while it gave warmth and joy to everyone else. Wanting to escape it, she got up, leaving Dawn still asleep on the bed, and went downstairs.   A hectic atmosphere greeted her as she opened the living room door. Atharron held many sheets of paper and looked at more on the carpet which seemed to be organised in some way or other.   The television played a news channel reporting a breakout, and Cat had a phone to her ear. ‘Well, when did you last see them?’ Cat said, a little higher than her usual pitch, revealing her slight exasperation. ‘I saw them on Sunday too … Okay, call me when you get some news.’ She hung up and saw Allison for the first time. ‘You’re up.’   ‘Yes,’ Allison said, looking around again. ‘What’s going on?’   ‘You know the rumours of a takeover?’ Allison nodded. ‘It’s no longer a rumour.’ Allison’s eyes widened a fraction. ‘They’ve been reporting it on the news all morning. Listen.’ Cat pointed at the television as they reiterated the situation.   The reporter spoke with the seriousness common to all newsreaders. ‘This morning, students at a college building in Exeter, Devon, started the day as normal. But when classes began at nine, an army of masked terrorists stormed the building. No demands have yet been made, but they have sealed the premises and no one has been granted entry. Over to our correspondent, Belinda Patel.’   He turned to face a large screen featuring a short Indian woman, her black hair stopping just shy of her shoulders and her dark eyes looking into the camera. When she spoke into the microphone, a slight London accent came out. ‘As you said, Peter, the doors have been closed to all, but only this second, I received an invitation to go in. I believe they may be ready to make requests. I asked if they wanted someone more qualified, but they specifically asked for a news crew.’ The reporter turned and walked to the building in the background. The camera followed her, and together they reached the entrance where a door opened, held by a muscular man about one and a half feet taller than her. A black hood covered his entire face, except for his eyes hidden by sunglasses. Black clothing, gloves and boots hid any patch of skin. He motioned for her and the cameraman to step inside, where blackness greeted them. The camera flickered for a second before it adjusted to the darkness, revealing the reception area. No light shone through the blacked out windows, but a few small candles dotted around the lobby gave enough illumination to see by.   The man who opened the door for Belinda took his hood and glasses off; his eyes reflected the light of the fluttering candles, and Allison knew the reason for the darkness. Belinda followed the vampire as he stepped inside a lift. Even here, they killed the lights save for a solitary candle at the back of the elevator.   Belinda attempted to interview him, but he yielded no information, nor gave any sign he knew anything.   As the lift reached the top floor, they stepped out and travelled along a blackened hallway to a door previously marked as ‘Principal’s Office’. The first word had been crossed out with a single black line and, above, in its place, a single word was neatly engraved in the wood of the door. This was now the ‘Emissary’s Office’.   The vampire knocked on the door and a voice inside said, ‘Enter.’ The vampire stood still, allowing Belinda to open the door and walk in. Behind a desk sat a teenage girl. She hadn’t aged a day, and through the scarring scratched on half her face, and dimly lit by a multitude of candles, Allison recognised Naomi. Allison sat forwards, her heart beating faster at her hatred of that woman.   Naomi stood up, smiling as a secretary would when greeting guests. ‘Hello. I take it you’re from the BBC?’ She held out her hand. Belinda hesitated before slowly shaking it. Naomi’s friendly attitude seemed to have unsettled the reporter. She looked back at the camera, eyes wide with uncertain fear. Naomi turned and opened a second door. She announced the arrival to the occupant and showed them in.   A wooden desk stood in the middle of the room, empty except for a closed laptop, a few pens lined up together, and a pad of paper. In the far right corner of the room, a man cowered. His sweat drenched face reflected what little light there was. His hands moved to loosen his tie, he stroked his hair once, and his eyes shifted back and forth to the person occupying the chair behind the desk.   In the far left corner, stood a young girl of about fifteen or sixteen. Her blonde hair fell loose behind her to an unseen length and she wore a divided white dress. She held a sword and rested the tip on the floor. She twitched when they came in, showing that, despite the casual way she held the weapon, she wanted to use it. Her eyes looked at the visitors, then affectionately at the same person the man looked at with fear.   Behind the desk, the high backed chair sat facing away from the camera so neither Belinda nor Allison could see who occupied it. ‘Sit down, please,’ said a voice, evidently coming from the unseen person.   Belinda took a nervous step towards the only other chair in the room and sat.   A pause.   ‘So. What do you want to ask me?’ the voice said.   Belinda creased her brows. ‘Don’t you want to make demands?’   ‘All in good time. I feel we should get to know one another. I know you. I’ve seen you on telly. Belinda Patel, isn’t it?’ Belinda verbally confirmed this. ‘Yes, I like your work. That part a few years ago about the breakout? Very entertaining. A lot of wild theories coming up. And each one less true than the last. If there is one criticism, it’s that you should stick to the facts. Don’t speculate. The news is there to inform people. Not make them scared. That’s my job,’ he chuckled. ‘Still. I think I should give you something to call me by. The name I used at Lightfield was one I came up with on the spot. I won’t tell you my birth name, or my real name, but I shall give you my title.   ‘I am the Emissary.’   Belinda slowly opened her mouth. ‘An emissary of who?’   ‘An emissary of whom,’ he corrected. ‘Anyway, I am not an emissary. I am the Emissary. In answer to your question, though, I represent Sifellon. The one who has been christened the evil one. The being who is known by many as the Devil.’   Belinda swallowed.   ‘Don’t be afraid. He has been seriously misinterpreted by the media. The largest piece of propaganda in history. As to my demands. I make none.’   ‘Then … what did you want me for?’   ‘Because … I am going to tell you what I am going to do. I will keep this campus as the base of my operations and it shall be Hell’s Embassy on this plane. I am claiming lordship over Exeter. The mayor shall be deposed and everyone shall answer to me. My power shall spread throughout the land and night will cover the world. Like Jonny said, “You’re gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud”. Nobody can get in my way, save one. It is to her I am now talking. You know who you are and I know you are watching. Phone this number and I will speak to you directly.’ A telephone number appeared on screen and Allison immediately picked up the phone.   A few seconds after dialling the number, a Star Wars ringtone sounded on the television, cut short by the Emissary answering it. ‘Hello, Allison.’ Allison said nothing. ‘What! Not even a greeting to a mortal enemy? Come on Alli, I’m sure you can at least say hello to the one who currently has your wife.’ Allison refused to give in to him. ‘What the fuck are you doing with her?!’   ‘Language Timothy. She’s okay. But whether she stays that way or not is up to you. I have taken her for insurance. As you well know, we are destined to enter mortal combat. Oh, I love that phrase, don’t you? Anyway, I will set a date for the fight. I have a few things planned and want to get them out of the way first. I don’t want to die knowing they’re not done. Even though it’s unlikely I will die, but I like to cover all my options. The date is the 16th of January; only a few months from now. I ask only this, that you stay out of my way until then. If you do not, I will torture poor Kate. I’ll stick her in a dark room and play nothing but Justin Bieber all day … and maybe rip out her fingernails. Each and every time you try, I will think of a new torment for her. If, however, you are patient, she will be treated fairly. Do you understand?’   Allison put her trembling hand to her mouth, her eyes fixed on the television; fixed on the back of that chair, trying to bore a hole in it to see this monster. She breathed heavier; she tightened her mouth and stood up as the television exploded. She threw the handset into the flames and began to kick it, grinding its skeleton in the carpet. She screamed and tears fell, hissing on the remains of the hot appliance.



Cover image: by JRCSalter

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