Echoes From Dust
by L. S. Popovich
In the Cauterhaugh, lifeforms and even the landscape are composed of synthesized metals, and beasts called cynths ravage the dwindling human settlements. Riku is a Mag, an inorganic human born in this harsh and unforgiving land.
Riku has grown up hearing stories about Mitchlum, a metropolis of habitable trees and the bastion of the Priesthood, which channels divine powers in defense against the encroaching cynths. Riku is chosen to undergo the sacred trials, assume a priest’s mantle and protect her homeland. Everyone has high expectations for her, but her destiny is hers to decide.
|Table of Contents||Glossary|
Chapter 57: Decision
Riku watched the shape of Izzie’s beast-form circling toward the heart of the city. Seeing the transformation up close had left Riku shaken. Calm down, her god soothed. It wasn’t until she glanced down from the hole Izzie had left in the wall of the Fjord that she understood Yumi’s words. In the chaos of the streets, dense packs of cynths fought groups of priests, and lightning flashed in a blinking rhythm through the sky.
Mitchlum’s streets were crowded with rampaging cynths. Priests fought alongside initiates from the cloister, but for every creature that fell more rose from the depths. The streets ran with accumulated filth, and the rain continued to pummel fleeing citizens.
By the time Riku made it out of the Fjord into the tumult below, the cynths easily outnumbered the human beings. The air was lit by rhythmic flashes from above. Follow the lightning, Yumi told her.
A spike of lightning attracted her eye. Rushing through glowing puddles, she stumbled over the fallen and followed the trail of light to its base.
What she saw took her breath away. On the squat stump of a former dwelling, Telos stood, radiating brilliant arcs of light and blasting creatures with the tip of her sword.
An odd grin contorted her friend’s face, making her difficult to recognize.
* * *
Izzie hit the ground running and didn’t slow down until she came to the twisted barrier of the catacombs. Making quick work of the cynths along her path with her dagger, she tore through thick roots into the lush organic cavern. She recognized the mottled crystalline forms streaking through the wooded pathways. It was eerily silent, she thought.
Tromping over large fungal pads, she passed beneath roots twisted into vibrant spiral-arches.
When she stumbled upon her mother’s body, her mind went blank. She approached slowly. With one hand she checked for a pulse, and with the other, picked up the small rectangular contraption by her side.
It wasn’t like Remera to faint, Izzie thought. But she found the wrist cold and damp. There was no heartbeat and there was no wound. Izzie trembled. Her heart sped up until her temples throbbed.
Though she had never seen Remera carrying the object she found on the ground, Izzie had seen many machines like it. It clearly belonged to the lost world. She pressed one of the plastic buttons on the handheld contraption. It made a whirring sound. She pushed another one and a voice emerged. It was Virgil’s voice, then her mother’s. She listened for a few minutes, looking down at the pitiful body of the woman who had held so much power. Tears fell from her eyes, though her heart continued to rage.
When the recording stopped, she sat down meditatively. She knew time was running out but, after her mother’s death sank in, her anger boiled out of control. All the hate she had felt toward Remera ran rampant through her mind and body.
“You’re manipulating me again,” she whispered, clenching her fist. “Even in death. You left this message for me.” Her voice broke and she turned away. “I hate you!” She spat out the words. “I’ll never forgive you for controlling me like a puppet!” She screamed, rising and pounding the wall until the rocks burst into splinters.
“I only wanted a different world. One that wouldn’t need me to fight.” She glared at her mother’s body, then leaned against the rubble. For a few moments she worked to bring her breathing under control.
“I never agreed with your world. You only saw things your own way. Gods and people will always fight. And maybe that’s what makes us people. But this is wrong. Virgil and you aren’t that different, after all.”
Izzie laid Remera’s body on a bed of white moss. “I should’ve listened to Riku. I’ll find a way to stop Virgil. If there is a way, Mother, I’ll find it. I’ve finally decided.”
There was no affection in the look she gave her mother, nor was their contempt. She felt the loss, and much of her anger had flowed out with her tears. The air around her had changed subtly. The glaring white foliage stirred. There was no more time to linger. She proceeded deeper into the catacombs, where she had never gone before.
She sighed and glanced further down the tunnel, as if she were waking up from a dream. The path would be dangerous. Forms of matter would break down; sand and plastic and metals would intermingle and converge. This was where the Fjord maintained its tenuous hold on reality.
If her father was there, at its base, what could be happening to him? What would happen to them all?
Copyright © 2019 by L. S. Popovich