Series One: Emergence
By Timothy Noël
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Shadows thrown on the wall, whispering quietly,
A guilty heart shuts out the realisations of iniquity,
Wintry eyes look to justice unrequited,
And raise a hand to destroy the repentant soul.
The chilly March air stabbed into the lungs of those walking the streets of Saint Petersburg, lit by the pale blue light before the sunrise. From the mouths of thousands, wispy clouds floated into the air to be scattered by the wind, leaving no sign that they once brought life into someone’s chest, save the occasional breath that brushed against a window, painting crystal lilies whose tiny facets reflected pure light into wakening streets.
The waters lapped at the bleak concrete docks, leaving behind thin lines of ice that mapped the tides’ wax and wane. A shadow glimmered over the dark waters as a man passed on the docks above. He pulled his collar up around his face while berating himself for leaving his hat in the car. His trimmed coal black hair could not come close to fulfilling its natural function this time of year. His shadow retreated from the water, allowing the city’s lights to shimmer on its surface, once again.
The man turned into an alley, escaping the constant breeze along the waters’ edge. With the light at his back, the dark alley stretched before him, a realm the brightening sky had not yet encroached. Unease caused him to glance to the left and right, before advancing down the narrow, shadowy space. He continued until he stood on the tip of the barely illuminated pavement, unwilling to set foot into the deep shadows, as if fearing he would trespass on sanctified ground. He adjusted his glasses, and waited.
The corrugated steel buildings both sides of him both decreased the noise of the awaking harbour, and amplified the ambient noise of the alley. He rubbed his chin, impatiently reminding himself of his need to shave, when he returned to his warm refuge.
Behind the man, a figure rose from the shadows and addressed him in a slithering lisp, “Isss your cover essstablissshed?”
The man turned cautiously, squinting to see where the shadows ended and the dark figure began. “Yes, it is.” despite his attempts to hide his nervousness, he took a half step back from where he perceived the thing address him from. “As far as anyone knows, I am Professor Iosif Chekhov.”
“Good,” the shadowy figure handed him a folder, only revealing a skinny, black-gloved hand.
It surprised ‘Iosif’ how close the thing actually was to him as his hesitant hand took what was offered. He glanced inside the folder, reading aloud the name within. “Maryja “Mashka” Yakovna Sharova.”
“Everything you need to know about her is in there,” the dark figure said, tapping the paper methodically, causing the hairs on Iosif’s neck to stand up straight. “Gain her confidenssse. Find out what ssshe isss. If thisss one can be of any ussse to usss, you mussst recruit her, voluntary or otherwissse.”
To distract himself from the nerve-racking proximity of the anomalous being, Chekhov flipped through the pages in the folder, pausing to examine a photo of the subject. The first thing he noticed was her olive complexion and wild curly hair that was stubbornly contained by a crimson headscarf. She did not look the part of a typical Baltic resident, and appeared more like an immigrant from the south, almost Azeri. However, she was still fairer than many Muscovites, and in striking contrast to her hair and skin were a pair of distant, sky blue eyes.
When he looked back up, all sign and presence of the creature had vanished, with the dawning of the new day. Chekhov sighed in relief, and walked out into the comforting rays of the sunrise. Sticking out of the folder that he held against his side, the girl with her two blank eyes stared upon the quiet world, ignorant of how her fate had been decided.
The inner curves of the bronze onion-dome bloomed over the apex of the majestic ceiling, sheltering the faithful below in the modestly sized sanctuary of the Church of Saint Ivan. The floor, walls, and worshippers were all illuminated in varying, brilliant hues by the stained glass windows and the hanging lamps, encompassed by ornate, antique lampshades.
There were no pews, as is customary in many eastern churches. For these Orthodox Christians, perseverance and long-suffering were held above all other virtues. An ideal gained through living out the tragic saga that had engulfed the Slavic lands for millennia. Instead of pews, the people stood in silent reverence in orderly rows divided by the central walkway.
A sable haired young woman donning an embroidered, red headscarf, and dark blue clothes entered into the sacred space and chose a spot to stand halfway between the altar and the door. Noticing she was alone, she looked back between the shoulders and heads of the parishioners and spotted her brother lagging behind. She beckoned him to join her. The golden haired youth walked with timid steps, as if the slightest noise would disturb someone‘s solemn reverie. He succeeded in arriving alongside his sister without making a stray sound. His sister wrapped an arm around her shorter brother’s shoulder.
The priest stepped onto the platform behind the altar. The stocky man had a bushy grey beard that concealed his neck and was dressed completely in black robes. He announced the first hymn with a deep voice, which resembled the voice attributed to God in the cinema. The siblings joined with the rest of the small congregation in a dirge of the Passion.
Unknown to them, Chekhov stood against the back wall near the entrance, watching the duo intently. Somewhere in his gut he felt a pang of guilt at his assignment. He did not know if it was the song, or the innocent faces that sang it. He looked up at the altar which had a crucifix hanging overhead. Iisus' face gazed down in both agony and compassion, the stature seemed to make eye contact with him in particular. Before he allowed the atmosphere to affect him any further, he shook off the feelings of remorse. If there was a god, he had abandoned these two youths long ago.
The quiet steps of the lime-clad nurse joined with the rhythmic tune of the hospital noise. She peeked down hallways and open doors, seeking a certain doctor as she walked down the wood-panelled hall. The green trim brought a soothing atmosphere and seemed to evoke the thick forests, which surrounded the Bavarian city of Munich. The nurse’s pale blue eyes brightened in calm triumph when she found whom she needed.
“Artz, the next patient is ready for you, room 402.”
The short, stocky man thanked her warmly, “Danke schön, Ida.” His accented German and Slav features betrayed his foreign origin.
She nodded and moved on to her next task.
The doctor strolled with an even pace towards the exam rooms, reading over the patient file. He was about to pass through one of the smaller waiting areas, when something in his peripheral vision caused him to abruptly halt. His heart skipped a beat when he saw the man sitting in the corner chair; legs crossed reading a sports magazine. The doctor immediately recognized the bald head, calm smirk, and the diamond stud earring in the right ear. The man looked up at him and grinned, like a lion at an easy meal. His steely eyes were pits of malevolence.
Spinning on his heel, the doctor fled in the other direction, barely maintaining an inconspicuous speed. His hand jerked involuntarily causing him to drop the patient’s folder, scattering the contents onto the floor. Seeming startled by the noise of the crashing paper, he broke into a run towards his vacant office. He smacked open the door and with trembling hands he rummaged through the drawers of the desk.
“Looking for this?” a heavy Czech accent filled the room, dripping over every word.
The doctor glanced up to see the same bald man standing calmly in the corner. His breath caught in his throat, feeling as if a cold darkness was clutching at his skin.
The Czech smiled, his grey eyes gleaming. He presented a red pocket computer. “I assume you have some very interesting information on this.” He flicked at the touch screen absent-mindedly, clicking on the icon for Tetris. His gaze briefly left the device when he glanced sideways to the doctor, speaking in Russian, “Anything about the experiment?” His silver eyes suddenly a savage, animal glint.
“How d-did you find me?” The doctor asked in disbelief.
The Czech flipped another Tetris block into place, and sighed as if deeply wounded. “Oh come now, you do not give me enough credit.” He lowered the device and half-smiled at the doctor, “Now doubtless, you must know what I am here for--”
The doctor gritted his teeth, but only succeeded in causing them to chatter. “I’m not going to tell you anything!” the doctor declared boldly, failing to hide the fear in his voice.
The Czech began to make his leisurely way around the desk towards him. “I’m a simple man, a reasonable man, Krasnodar. Tell me what I want to know and I will not dispose of you.” He grinned in a less than reassuring way, “I promise.”
“Kill me and you have nothing!” the doctor retorted, trying to keep the tremble out of his voice.
“Really?” The Czech cynically replied, as he showed the screen of the portable computer again, displaying a picture of a woman. “I will go after her then. She worked on the project as well. So you see there are only two choices: tell me and I will leave, or I kill you and give Artz…” He glanced at the screen. “…Roth a visit.” He looked up, just in time to see the hardbound book hit his face.
The doctor barrelled out of the room and down the stairs, wisely deciding that the elevator would just delay him.
The Czech’s face exuded annoyance as he calmly glanced at the title of the book, becoming further annoyed that it was not even a worthy composition. Like a bored tiger, he walked down the hall in pursuit.
The doctor frantically made his way to the parking garage, panting heavily from the exertion. He pulled out his keys when he saw his blue Cooper. Nevertheless, before he could reach it, The Czech stepped out from behind a white minivan in front of him.
“Don't you remember that I never missed a target? You would send me on missions whenever you had problems that needed to be disinfected.” The Czech smirked at his clever medical humour and decided to continue with the metaphor. “Isn’t it ironic? Now you are the disease.”
Pure terror consumed Dr. Krasnodar. Like a trapped animal, his eyes roved for an exit.
Revelling in his distress, the bald hunter’s voice expressed his mocking pity, “You know you cannot escape. Once you join The Association, you do not amputate from it. You are part of the greater body. Though I would like to continue the medical terminology, I fear I cannot compare you to an organ. You are much too disposable for such similes. So, hand over the information. Where are the files?”
“You have no idea what you are doing. This is dangerous! We had no right to play God!” the doctor shouted, finally speaking his native tongue.
The Czech chuckled. “The confession of the guilty man!” he exclaimed sarcastically, inclining his face to the cement ceiling, as if announcing the fact to a hearing-impaired deity.
Lowering his eyes back to his prey, he continued with a rhetorical question, “Should I be touched by your sudden concern and remorse? You, who out of everyone, did the most of what you now call ‘playing God?’” He spat on the ground in front of the doctor. “On the contrary, doctor, I think what you are currently doing, is far more hazardous to your own health, than ‘playing God’.” Gradually, he raised his ornate, silver plated pistol until the doctor was looking down the barrel. “Where are they?” he growled.
“I can't tell you that!” Krasnodar almost wailed. He was sweating and his face had turned a pale green. “They need to be left alone. Otherwise, there will be terrible consequences. You’ve started to see it, haven‘t you? The Sixth… they are coming! And the more you interfere, the more likely that they will fall into the wr--”
“I will not ask again, Artz,” the bald man warned, sounding like an irritated cat at a troublesome bird. He clicked the safety off.
The doctor cringed, knowing it was all over. He did not hear the bullet that travelled effortlessly through his skull and hit the cement wall on the other side. His body fell stiffly to the ground with a heavy thud. The Czech took out his cell phone and pointed it at the body. “Smile.” A small flash illuminated the gruesome scene. He leaned down to speak to the doctor's deaf ears, “Perhaps this image of you might be more convincing to Roth. Maybe you died a hero after all.” He stood up and noticed a spatter of blood on his khaki pant leg. “And that was my favourite pair,” he said in disappointment.
He turned and walked calmly away, clicking a button on his key chain, causing a black Ferrari to chirp awake and the engine roar to life. His next destination was Bonn, to visit the brunet woman on the small screen. The body of the doctor remained where it fell in a crimson bed, to be found by an unfortunate hospital worker or patient.