A Dance with the Reaper: Part One
Aleksei turned his weary eyes at the approach of the hooded menace. He was unable to escape, bent over from the vicious kick. If there ever was a time to resign, it was now. There was nothing more that could be done.
Time seemed to slow, The Messenger’s next steps almost froze mid-stride and the ripples on the lake halted. To Aleksei’s mild bewilderment, a golden vapour rose from beneath the docks, silently swirling in a column behind the messenger.
'Odd,' he thought, 'I didn’t do that.'
The Messenger’s foot landed on the dock and moved to take another step forward, ignorant of how obscenely slow it was moving. The sparkling wisps ceased their dance and a figure emerged and passed through The Messenger, not affected by the slower time. She was the blond girl Aleksei had seen in the woods. A golden light surrounded her and reflected off of her white dress. She smiled sadly at him, leaning down and brushing his hair aside, as her own long curls tickled his face.
“Don’t let it end here,” she pleaded, “This is not how it’s meant to be. You need to make up for my assistance, pay your debt to me. Get up, you need to help your sister.”
She looked like she was about to continue, but something stopped her. She backed away from Aleksei, then threw her hands forward as if trying to hold back the wind, then some invisible force blew her away from him, her visage scattering and vanishing like desert sand in a gale. Duscha’s charm of Our Lady of Vladimir fell between the cracks and off the string, making a tiny “plop” into the lake.
The comforting light had gone, followed by an even greater darkness than before.
When Aleksei opened his eyes again, his gaze confronted a flat stone floor. He pushed himself up, surprised he did not feel any pain and had the sensation of being lighter.
He glanced around. He stood in a colossal hallway, lined with stone columns, whose colour like the floor, were a deep blue-green hue. Beyond the columns were tall arching windows that overlooked grey mists. He looked upwards but could not see the ceiling, just the two rows of columns, vanishing into the dark heights.
“Where am I?” he asked aloud, then continued with an afterthought “Most cliché question ever.”
He looked ahead and behind him. Both directions ran straight, and had windows with dim light shining in from on both sides. He decided to walk forward, for the simple reason that he did not know what else to do.
The Messenger stopped in front of the boy and leaned down, about to inject the sedative with a small syringe. Behind him, the icon of Saint Seraphim of Sarov, followed Our Lady into the lake, his pacifist gaze averted from what was to come.
Aleksei’s hand shot up and gripped The Messenger’s throat. In the next moment, it was standing on tiptoes struggling for air. Aleksei had risen to his feet, and with one hand, held the gagging Messenger.
All the creature could do was hiss and gasp for breath. It had dropped the sedative, which fell between the cracks into the water. The Messenger felt uneasy, like it had just come across a new opponent, one who it had reason to fear.
Aleksei spoke, “You have troubled us long enough!” his voice was harsh and joined by another voice an octave higher, mimicking his words a quarter-second slow. Aleksei pulled The Messenger closer, then flung it outwards, with previously unimagined strength.
The Messenger flew back and landed hard on its posterior, five metres away from where it had started. It leapt to its feet, but apprehension froze its insides.
The clouds parted, permitting the moon to grant her light which reflected off the lake and illuminated the boathouse, just enough to cast a shadow behind the boy, and the shadow that The Messenger saw, caused its blood to run cold. From Aleksei’s normal figure extended the shadow of an invisible wing, which spread ten metres across the entire back wall of the boathouse, as wisps of fog swirled around him like the stormy embrace of Neptune.
“Wh-wha-what are you?!” it wheezed through its sore throat.
Aleksei looked at it with an irate grin. “The ashes from the past, scourge of the present, and curse for the future, and we are Aleksei Sharov, what else could we be?” the two voices declared, echoing through the boat house.
The mist continued to clear, to be replaced by the darkness of a near starless night. Only on occasion would the moon break through, and shine its dim glow on the earth.
Evan ran through the silence. He was about to head back. 'Perhaps I missed her on the way out,' he thought, but he stayed his steps when he heard what he thought was sobbing.
He hurried down a dock to his left. As he approached the sound became less like sobbing, and more like laughter. He took cover and approached cautiously, seeing a figure sitting on the dock.
“Why didn’t you fight?” Anya cried between giggles. “What did you want to accomplish, huh?! You acted like you were protecting me. Even up ‘til your death, you acted like I was the one in danger!”
It took a moment to realise what the target of Anya’s mirth-filled words was. He stood up from his hiding place and sprinted forward. Anya stood and stared at him with a disinterested glare, as if he was interrupting something important.
Evan grabbed her jacket roughly and shook her. “What have you done?!” he growled. “She was just a girl. A scared, intelligent, beautiful girl, and you did this to her!” his body shook in rage. He looked at the bloody mass to his left, his stomach lurching at the sight. Her body bent unnaturally, as if still writhing in pain, and her open eyes staring forwards, with a sad smile frozen on her lips.
Evan released Anya and knelt down before Mashka’s bloody form. He reached out to pick her up, but froze. A cold, sharp object pricked at the back of his neck.
“We’re going.” Anya said, “She’ll be collected later during clean-up. You, on the other hand, are coming with me.”
Evan hesitated, he wanted so badly to gather up Mashka, hold her tight, clinging to the fanciful hope that she might come alive with the slightest warmth.
“Listen,” Anya added, “you’re the one person I have permission to kill, so get moving.”
Evan arose slowly, the knife tickling the back of his skull. He looked remorsefully at Mashka, as he turned away. Anya guided him from the macabre scene.
What they did not see was a single, blood-covered finger, twitch. Then two blue eyes blinked, turning towards the departing persons. A heavy, forbidding sigh escaped the woman’s throat, as she rose from the dock. Semi-dried blood cracked and dripped off of her torn clothes.
A shudder ran unbidden up Anya’s spine, as she chanced a looked back. There Mashka stood, head bent over, arms hanging limply forward, a few drops of blood falling off her fingers.
Evan knew something was strange when he no longer felt the cold metal on his skin. He hesitantly turned his head. There, standing stiff like some wraith from a nightmare, was Mashka. He almost felt relief, but something kept him from that emotion. Something was wrong, but he did not have time to contemplate this as Anya dashed forward, baring her knife.
“I’ll kill you!” she screamed, “For good this time!”
She made for the final thrust when a sickly pale hand grabbed her knife-wielding fist, the blade slipping harmlessly through the fingers.
Mashka spoke, with a dark vehemence Anya had never heard before, “I’m afraid you’re mistaken. Mashka is already dead, I have eaten her heart, but I’m the one you truly desired.” She turned her face up to Anya’s, her tangled mass of curls falling away from her golden cat-eyes. “And I have you to thank, for forcing her to release me.”
Immense pain stabbed Anya’s hand as claws extended from Mashka’s fingers, and forced themselves into the skin of her fist.
Anya released the knife and tore her hand away, leaving a trail of beaded blood in the air. She took a few hurried steps backward, holding her hand, wincing in pain. “So it really is true,” Anya stated, “you Jinn are monsters, hidden within human shells.”
‘Mashka’ turned her back to Anya, then glanced over her shoulder with a bored expression, “I don’t know what I am, nor do I care what you think I may be. All I am interested in is ridding myself of you…” she grinned wickedly, “and then I’ll consume your heart, too!”
Evan saw Anya draw a kunai and aim at Mashka’s turned back. He ran forward, ready to snatch it from her.
Mashka turned around and passed by Anya, stopping in front of Evan. She had moved so quickly, both he, and the assassin, were still comprehending her movement. Mashka grabbed Evan’s arm, flipped him over and cast him into a small fishing boat, as if he was a bag of feathers.
Evan landed in the wobbly deck with a crash. He was stunned, trying to figure out how he ended up in this position.
“Don’t interfere.” Mashka ordered him. Then she turned her attention to Anya, and her voice took on a sickly, seductive lilt, “This is only between us.”
Anya smiled, drawing a second of her stylized kunai. She charged and threw one of them.
Mashka dodged to the left, the knife tearing through her sleeve. She made a leaping back-flip, twisting around and landing on a fishing boat, hopping to another boat, then onto a dock. Anya pursued relentlessly. Despite her insane agility, Mashka had a slight limp, though it did not slow her down much, and it took all Anya’s might to keep up with her.
Mashka suddenly halted and lashed out with a kick. Anya did not have time to stop, so she bent backwards, nearly falling to the ground, Mashka’s leg passing a finger width above her face. Before the leg could pass over any further, Anya grabbed it and used it as a lever, throwing Mashka off balance making her fall forward, smashing her chest and face into the dock. Anya fell the remaining distance to the ground, threw her legs upward and leapt to her feet. She raised her knife to strike, but had to jump back, to avoid a clawed hand from slashing open her gut.
They stood facing each other, breathing heavily.
Anya took the opportunity to examine her enemy. Somehow Mashka had begun fighting like she had trained for years. She was not quite as good as Anya, but she was dangerous enough, having greater speed and strength. The assassin looked at her face to read her expression, but something distracted her. The gashes she had made on her face were only barely visible, mere hairline cracks in the skin.
'She’s healing!' Anya realised. 'Even her limp is gone now, and the cuts on her arms have disappeared!'
Seeing Anya’s face twitch, Mashka spoke mockingly, “Ah, so you’ve realised. You see, my body heals far faster than yours. Does that frighten you?” she gave Anya a toothy grin, making visible her long eye-teeth.
Anya quickly put on a foxy grin, and replied calmly, “Well, I’ll just have to test how well you heal, won’t I? Can you recreate a stomach? A throat? An eye? I’m dying with curiosity.”
Three knives flew towards Mashka. She sidestepped the first, smacked aside the second, and caught the third. “Ha-” she was about to throw a taunt, but was interrupted when Anya closed the space between, her drawn knife tearing towards Mashka. Fear shown in her beastly eyes, she could not dodge, she could not fight back. The knives had been a ploy to put her into an awkward angle. The blade drew closer to its target, a moment later, blood washed over it.
To the hundreds of folks from around the world who've read this, thank you! We are approaching the end of the story, I hope to offer some surprises in the coming episodes.
Please vote for Chrysalis Experiment at TopWebFiction.com and check out the other awesome webnovels out there!