Thank you to all my friends for your patience in waiting for the final parts of 'The Bilge' while I overcame life's obstacles. I hope you enjoy it!
If you missed part one, click this: http://nishiserrano.blogspot.com/2012/07/bilge.html
Part Three: Reality
A deep hum surrounded Sara. Along with the drone tingling her skin and ears, came the perception of walls. Perfect. It had not been real after all, her extraction from the metal prison, which meant he could not intrude on her waking world. She sighed. She was relieved, knowing the only chance he had of reaching her was in a dream, and that was really just punishment.
But something was different. She did not feel cold. Her belly no longer ached in its excruciating need for food, although, her hunger was never satisfied. And, she felt stronger, more alive than ever. Or at least as long as she could reach back and remember. Which surprised her, because she could remember a lot, in fact, her focus was positively astounding. She remembered the dreams he used to punish her with, and how in the dreams she could not remembered her true predicament. In her prison, he never let her hold on long enough to grasp why she was there in the first place. Not now, no, the answers to the riddles were coming clear.
“Are you awake?” A whisperer asked.
It startled her. Every muscle tightened. Her eyes snapped open.
“You are awake. Good,” a man said. He wore a uniform she did not recognize.
Her gaze slid past the man to the room. A hospital room, though not exactly much like one in a hospital. The room held a vaster array of equipment than she was used to.
He must have recognized her puzzlement. “You’re on a military ship. It was the closest to the deepwater workboat’s location. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Sara tried her voice. “Yes.” The sound was smooth, lubricated. She was no longer dehydrated. Tubes and bags hung nearby, feeding her. Her hopes instantly shattered.
“Can you tell me your name?”
Of course she could, and she would tell him much more than that. Things he would not believe.
“No last name?” he pried.
Death, which is the last name she wanted to declare. Because death is what her presence would bring.
“You have to get me off this boat.”
The look he gave dashed any ideas of an easy release. “Well, that’s impossible. We’re hundreds of miles from shore. And the military isn’t going to turn this ship around for one person. No matter how much of an enigma you present. You’re lucky we were on our way out when the workboat sent a distress.”
She racked her brain to find a way to express the danger lurking minutes, maybe even seconds away. Anything she said would be branded as crazy talk, the kind that comes from living in a box for who knew how long.
“Sara, you can call me Doc. You’ve been out for almost a week, not a peep, sleeping like the dead.”
Sara kept her shock to herself. Even a day was too long to be gone and unprepared for the worst.
“You do realize you were pulled—according to the boat’s crew—from depths no human could survive? And found inside a reinforced and sealed off bilge?”
Her head shake and downturned gaze confirmed his statement.
“You’re off the charts Sara. Mind telling me your story? If you don’t give it to me, a few of the boys around here get itchy to do everything at gun-point.”
Yeah, she knew all about guns, even had herself an arsenal at one time. How the tables had turned. She gazed around the room one more time and sighed.
Staring hard into the doctor’s eyes, she began by replying, “You won’t believe a word of what I tell you, and by then, it will be too late. In fact, it’s already too late.”
The doctor smiled. “Try me. Your blood tests came back abnormal. I need to find out what that means. However, the container you were in tested negative for infections. No one has shown any signs of illness, but I have to ask if you’re carrying any unknown contagions?”
Sara smirked. “No. The danger is coming from outside the ship, not from me.”
“Are you saying someone is after you? Were you hiding?”
Her eyes closed from the exasperation of his prodding. The answers to his questions were far more complicated than a simple explanation. Some of the past was still fuzzy in her head. The many years of illusions still made it difficult to pinpoint the truths. However, there was one thing she did remember clearly. Her eyes opened. “I was the leader of an elite team, and I was tricked into my imprisonment.”
The doctor seemed confused. “You mean the bilge?”
“Yes.” She inhaled the sterile air and continued. “Don’t try to verify who or what sort of team I led—you won’t get any answers from your government. We were beyond top secret.”
A guffaw escaped the doctor. “C’mon Sara, do you know how cliché that sounds? Why don’t you start by telling me the truth?”
In her anger she tried to sit up, but the doc pushed her back down. “I have no reason to lie!”
“All right, settle down. What function did this team serve?”
Her lips pursed. The longer she stayed in this bed, the more time she lost in preparation. “To hunt the nightmares you most fear. Reality does not run in a straight line. There are many dimensions to this present universe, and the universes beyond.”
Now it was his turn to sigh. She could tell he did not believe her. “Sara, what year do you think this is?”
Confused, she looked around. “I don’t know.”
His head bobbed up and down to some question he must have answered in his mind. “It’s 2016.”
Her eyes widened and she gasped. So much time had passed!
“You seem surprised,” he said.
He waved a hand to catch her distant gaze. “Hey, stay with me Sara.”
Snapping her gaze directly to his, she growled, “No matter what I say, you have already made up your mind that I am crazy.”
A soldier appeared in the doorway. The doctor swiveled in his chair and barked. “Hey, I’m in the middle of—”
“Sir, Doctor, Sir, bogies have been spotted. Our orders are to take the woman to a secure bay.”
After all this time, he had finally arrived. Sara ripped the needles and cords from her body and jumped out of the bed as the two soldiers moved to grab her arms. The Doc looked profoundly flabbergasted, and a bit scared. She knew he questioned the reality of her words. Too bad for him—and her—the danger had arrived.
“Let go of me and give me a weapon,” she cried, as they hauled her down a corridor. At every turn, military personnel ran to and fro, determined to get to their positions in case the unidentified objects on the radar proved malicious. Sara began to panic as well. What would he do to her? It was the one question she had no answer for. She only remembered the promise that if she ever left the bilge, he would find her. And bring hell with him.
It was obvious to her that they had no intention of letting her go or supplying her with a means of defense. As they dragged her farther down into the bowels of the ship, a loud boom surrounded it. Deep rumblings and pinging sounded, halting the guards as they glanced about in fear. The ship rocked. The men let go of her. Instead of running, she too stayed and listened. From above came the faintest hint of screaming. The guards were hesitant to move, in the confusion of the moment, they realized the ship was under attack.
One of the guards grabbed her by the arm and squeezed, demanding an answer, “What is going on up there?”
“You wouldn’t believe me,” she replied.
The other guard responded, “Shit we don’t have time for this. Leave her here. We need to get up there!”
Her arm hurt as the other man dug his fingers into her flesh. “That wasn’t our orders.”
“Screw orders, shit’s hitting the fan up there!” He was right. A horrible racket seemed to be tearing the ship apart. Blasting and shrieking came down the passage promising carnage.
Her protests went unheard as they dragged her back the way they had come. In the upper levels there was madness. The ship had been riddled with blasts and smoke. A few bodies lay on the floor in pools of blood where the deadly shrapnel of the vessel had smote them. Sara’s terror increased. The sight of the blood woke something inside her. The doctor appeared hollering for them to retreat. His eyes locked onto hers.
“No,” she yelled. “Is the bilge on this ship?” She had to know, it was the only chance for survival. If she made it back inside, perhaps he would leave her alone.
“The bilge stayed on the workboat,” the Doc replied.
Surprisingly, the guard let go of her arm, reached behind his back and withdrew a Beretta and handed it over to her. “You know how to use one of these?”
The ship heaved sideways as she shouted an affirmative and attempted to steady herself. Down the passage came a roar and several military personal screaming. There was a sudden jumble of profound confusion as blood sprayed the walls and body parts seemed to explode and cover her in gore. Hands shaking, she pointed the gun in the direction of the horrible noises. Bodies lay around her in a jumble of steamy intestines and dismemberment. The doctor’s head rested with a gaping mouth on top of the torso of the guard who had given her the gun.
Her terror increased. Goop dripped off the barrel of the weapon as she waited with bated breath for whatever monstrosity had arrived. The corridor remained silent. She stepped over the corpses and continued, keeping the muzzle pointed ahead. Then she heard a noise that was all at once familiar, and utterly horrendous. A clacking and pawing, as of large hooves roaming a desolate canyon echoed behind the garbled and distorted language of unfathomable beasts.
She lost her sense of courage then. Retreating back the way she had come, her mind unhinged, her only thought was to find a hiding place, somewhere she could not be found. Of course—the deepest recesses of the ship! If she could find her way down, perhaps there would be another space to crawl into, to let her mind sleep. Maybe then, she would be safe.
Part Four: Wake
She fled. There were others she passed, looking baffled and perplexed. They had given up and gazed on her despondently, hoping for an answer or an ending. And the ending came upon them quickly. An invisible force that only they seemed to comprehend rent every one as she ran onward and away from the infernal echoes of the unseen devils. When she hit the stairs leading to the darkest fathoms of the ship, she listened. Nothing, the ship’s thick layers muted any signs of the struggle from above.
Holding her breath, she descended the stairs. The space below was empty of life. Only a small amount of light from the boats machinery imprinted an eerie glowing. She searched frantically to find a place to hide. Pulling open a hatch, she gazed down into a dark hole—perfect. Half-way in, the ruckus began. A cavalry of beastly clatter announced she had been found. She aimed the gun in the direction of the noise and fired. Something howled, followed by a rasping growl.
Monstrous footfalls charged forward. She jumped from the ladder with the hatch slamming down overhead. The air rushed out of her as she hit the damp floor, gun skittering out of her grasp.
“Shit!” On her knees, she searched for the Beretta. The hatch banged open. Her fingers closed around the barrel. She snatched it up and ran blind in the dark space.
They were following her inside! A sharp crack of a voice, guttural and hair rising, called out in its strange language. She turned to fire, still running, and … “Argh!” smacked into a wall.
This is the end, she thought as she lay sprawled on the cold floor. Quickly gathering herself, Sara backed into the wall, arms wrapped around her knees. She huddled there, and waited.
The beasts came slowly, chattering back and forth. One barked an apparent order and the rest went silent. They were close enough now that she could feel their infernal breath warming the frigid space. She closed her eyes and scrunched tighter against the wall. All was silent, but she knew they were there. This was not a figment of her imagination. Her eyes opened. A light flicked on, bathing her in radiance. It burned her retinas. She blinked rapidly, the light painful.
“Sara?” questioned a male voice. What was happening? She couldn’t respond. “The name the humans gave you is Sara, but you are not a human. Can you understand what I am saying?”
Confused, her brain glitches—literally—she felt as if a switch had clicked over mechanically. “Yes, I understand. Who are you?” But she knew … she knew it was him.
“Do you not remember me?”
“You have come to destroy me,” she said. A sound of grating laughter erupted from the creatures.
The voice of him ordered more light. When the corridor was lit, Sara gasped. Giants filled the space. Her mind reeled as she tried to focus on their true form, which appeared to dazzle and mutate quicker than her eyes could adjust to. What she could fathom was their huge and numerous limbs—armored and clawed—displaying an impressive arrangement of weapons.
He bore closer to her. His eyes level with hers; she was mesmerized by the coal fires of hell that burned within his large, intense orbs. “No, it is not my intention to destroy the one I had long ago given up hope of finding.”
His words disturbed her. What manner of new torment did he have planned? “I … I don’t know what you mean. You entrapped me and swore that if I ever left, you would hunt me down.”
The creatures became excited, their banter momentarily heated. Then, silence. “It was not I who trapped you. It was the humans. You are our queen.”
Sara stared emptily, the monsters were speaking nonsense.
He continued, “A war raged between the humans and our kind. In the end it was the human commander who defeated you. You disappeared in the blink of an eye. We were forced to leave this planet, our leader had been vanquished. Or so we thought. When the humans released you, it ignited the tracker.”
No, this was another dream. She was not one of these monsters. How could she be? Another layer of her supposed memories sloughed away. In its absence, a new memory replaced it. They were different eyes now, not the eyes of the creature before her, but of a fierce man, his grim face and cackling laughter following her descent into a dark hole. He had made this place in her mind, and when the transformation was complete, he had buried her where no one would find her. And if this were true, then so were the other memories that came back now. Horrible pictures of death, by her hand. No, no, no, no … and now she could see it was even her own self that had killed the doctor, the humans on the ship. Sara screamed.
The creatures snatched her up. The one she had thought of only as him cradled her in his arms as they left the bowels of the ship. She didn’t bother to struggle, there was no use. She belonged to this tribe of fiends.
The deck was in shambles, utterly destroyed. Blood and bodies littered every inch of space. And there above, hovered the massive sky-ships of her kin. Her humanity slipped away. What replaced it was the knowing that her hunger would never be satiated, that she was the nightmare, she was him. There were no longer any walls to save the world.