Hell Town RV Park
For Those Who Believe in Other Worlds
by Clara Bush
Artwork by Lara Clayton
Part Three: The Hidden
(To start at the beginning with Episode 1 click here.)
(Rated Mature for Adult content)
( Last Time in Hell: Spooky depended on him. All her life she had. Where was he? Shayd? The thought of losing both her brother and her Shayd in one day sent her body into uncontrollable shakes. Oh shit. Not now. Not now. Shayd? Shayd? she screamed in her head.
Tears formed and spilled onto her cheeks. Tears she was unaware of until the child reached up and patted them away. River placed the palms of her hands on the sides of Spooky’s head and pressed her forehead to Spooky’s.
In the child’s eyes she read the phrase she’d used, It will be okay. Spooky shuddered in an attempt to calm her trembling body. But Trubel turned abruptly and stared at her. His face a tormented reflection of her own. This was it. He’d kill her and the child. Spooky was sure.)
Not Dante’s Hell
But instead, Trubel hugged her and the child close to his chest. Close enough he could whisper without being heard. “Trust me,” he said.
Spooky broke away and nodded. What choice did she have? Really. He—for the first time—smiled at her and dipped his head quickly as if to say, We’ve got this.
She realized his tormented look was asking for forgiveness. As opposed to hers, which was total confusion at not knowing what to do or who to trust. He took her free hand in his and led her down the darkened row of blue-lit mainframes.
They weaved in and out of the rows, until they rounded the last tier of computers. It opened up to an empty space about twenty-five feet wide and as long as the room. Beyond it were two doors. Trubel released her hand, pointed to the first door and nodded. But not before raising his index finger to his lips to issue a quiet signal.
Spooky dashed to the door and scooted inside. Before advancing farther, she braced her back against the closest wall to give her eyes a chance to adjust. River jumped from her arms. Spooky heard the child’s web-feet pit-a-pat across the solid floor and stop. “River? River?” she whispered. What was River doing?
Dim, green lights filtered in from the windows of the adjoining room. Two people worked frantically at computers there. Once her vision fully adjusted, Spooky recognized Mo and Chick at the keyboards. Must be trying to plant the virus, she guessed. But where were Piper and Leo? Kappa and Guy? And Aron? Did he make it? Could he possibly be here?
She scanned both the rooms. Each had doors to the corridor. Could be a problem if they were detected. These rooms were big enough to allow for a Vrag or two, if the beasts managed to get through the slim door, that is. She looked for River.
The child knelt beside a body. It was Aron. Spooky rushed to him. Ransome was there with his head on Aron’s chest. The dog’s eyes caught the reflection of lights and glowed amber. A teary amber.
So much blood. And immediately, Spooky’s thoughts summarized, he’s dead. “No. No. God no. Please don’t be—”
From some distant place in her head, she heard Shayd trying to answer. He’s not dead, he said, weakly. But he has lost a lot of blood. So much he is unable to become his wolf. His wolf would help him to heal faster.
You’re still here, thank goodness? Where didya go? she asked. But she didn’t need an answer. She knew.
I was granted the gift of life to give to one person when I was sent to your world. Shayd’s voice grew even weaker as he spoke. Barely audible. I always assumed it would be you. But I knew if you had to choose between your life and another’s, you would pick the other person’s.
You give me a lot of credit, she said.
I know you, he said, better than you know yourself. And I knew given the choice, you would choose your brother. I merely made the choice for you.
Thank you. Will you be okay? She waited for his answer. But heard nothing in the tender place in her mind she kept solely for Shayd.
Trubel entered the room carrying a duffle. “There’s nothing in the way of medical supplies on the ship,” he said. “Part of my punishment for dealing with artificial beings. But Mogotsi contacted the resistance and they brought us what we need to give your brother some much needed blood. You’re identical twins, right? If not—”
“We are. Rare for a girl and boy to be identical twins. But most things in my entire life are rare, so who am I to question such things?”
“Now, that’s a shocker,” Trubel snickered. “Better sit on the floor. I don’t know how much of your blood he’s going to need.”
She obeyed. River took her hand as Trubel secured a tourniquet, patted her prominent right arm vein, and inserted the needle. Blood flowed freely from her into her brother.
In a several minutes, color returned to Aron’s cheeks. She examined his body for injuries. They were major. His good arm twisted into an unrecognizable limb. Several broken ribs caused protruding bulges beneath his skin, and a leg bent in a direction it had no business going.
Vrag acid had eaten away his clothing and produced gross, bloody lesions all over his body. How could he ever heal from such injuries? And heal in such a way he could get out of this hell alive? His trusty gun and holster were nowhere to be seen.
But as a hundred questions flashed in her head, Aron’s body quivered and quaked until, instead of a contorted human body, a beautiful wolf lay in the quickly coagulating blood. Festering wounds healed and broken bones mended before her eyes. The needle popped from what had been his arm as he became more animal like.
River placed his head in her lap, as she’d done before at the lookout, and stroked his body from behind his ears to as far as she could reach with her healing hands. “My wolf. My wolf, you came back to me.” She kissed where his coal-black snout met brown fur.
“Damn, brother, don’t ever do that again. Do you hear me?”
The wolf lifted his head enough to lick her hand. She scratched between his ears. He released a heavy sigh, closed his eyes, and lowered his head back onto River’s lap.
“I’ll stay with him, until he has healed completely and regained some of his strength,” the child said. And Spooky marveled how one minute River was a mere child and the next, adult in her actions and words. So wise of the creator to forge an entire world of children. How innocent River’s world—Mist World—must be, Spooky thought. Perhaps, violence and hate never touched these children. Well, at least not until the Ingenium and their Vrag invaded.
On Ternion: Enemies and Allies
Trubel stood with his back to her, staring into the other room where his son worked diligently to eliminate the threat that had destroyed Ternion.
Spooky touched his shoulder. “You should be proud of Mogotsi.”
“I am. I never realized how much until now.”
“What made you change sides so…so quickly?”
“They killed Leo without even a thought. With no regard for me. The Ingenium no longer feel, nor can they show mercy. They exist with the most primal of instincts. To survive at all costs.”
“Killed him?” Spooky couldn’t control the shock in her voice. “But. But.” She’d always been a dreamer. Believed in happily-ever-afters. But this would not be one. And though she didn’t care for Leo, she didn’t want him dead. “I’m so sorry.”
“When they first landed on our world, the Ingenium were—though artificial—an intelligence possessing some degree of compassion. Soon, however, they evolved into what they are now. They sent me to Gate World. While there, I was blind to their evolution. I had to lose a son, for my vision to be restored. What an unforgivable price to pay for clarity.”
There was so much sorrow in his voice, Spooky found it hard not to open her heart to him. She edged closer to him. “I lost a child once. Nothing compares. It’s a void filled with pain and longing. A little soul lost from our world forever. Never to know them again. Never to hold them and whisper, I love you.”
Trubel turned toward her. “I can only do two things,” he said. “Ask for you and your army’s forgiveness, and pray my granddaughter lives.”
“Piper?” she asked.
“Yes, she is still alive. But barely. Your snake soldier watches over her.” He pointed into the other room. “There. Under the table where her mother works.”
Spooky made out Piper’s lifeless body. Guy encircled her in a protective cocoon with his snake form. “What was that big brain thing the kids were attached to?” she asked.
“To put it in terms you might understand, let’s say it’s the Ingenium’s collective central nervous system, so to speak. Besides controlling the functions of the body and mind of the Ingenium, it housed their history. Ironic they used something so fragile as a brain, which they no longer possess, to contain this information. See…” His words began to drift away. He stared blankly at her.
She could tell he was trying to shut out the pain. The pain of not being able to save his children. But she needed as much information about the Ingenium as she could get. “But why use the kids?”
He raised his eyebrows. Her question seemed to register. “The Ingenium brain was dying. They needed a new one. They connected Leo. I begged them to use me. The bastards thought me too…” His words trailed off again. She touched his arm.
“Old. They thought me too old. They wanted a young brain, but the download was too much for my Leo. He went into shock. Then a coma. So they connected my granddaughter. The only thing keeping Leo alive is his connection to his half sister. But in truth, I don’t think any part of my real son remains. Nothing I, or anyone, can do will restore the Leo we knew. That’s why I gave the Mist World child the signal to kill the big brain. To put an end to this Ingenium madness.”
Out of curiosity she asked, “Whose brain was it?”
“A Vrag’s. Before the Ingenium, they were a highly evolved species. But no more. The Ingenium took their minds and their souls. Like they did me. Had it not been for you and your army…”
Spooky gently nudged him with her elbow. “And Piper. What of her?”
He shook his head. His looked away and then up as if trying to appeal to someone—perhaps his gods—for mercy. “She’d only just been connected when your army was brought in. So maybe there’s a chance she might recover if we get her the proper treatment. But there’s no one and nothing left on my world to offer such assistance. And Gate World is not advanced enough to help.”
Spooky was a little insulted at his lack of faith in humans, but she chose not to argue. “Who could help?”
“The Starlings, perhaps. The Booners for sure. But why would Booners ever help me after what I’ve done?”
“My snake soldier is a Booner,” Spooky said.
Trubel appeared truly taken back by this revelation. “And he is—”
“Yes, in love with your granddaughter.” Spooky finished for him.
A light came to life behind his once vacant, clouded eyes. “Then, maybe there’s hope,” he said.
“Could Booners help Leo? Where is his body?” she asked.
“I placed him in a stasis chamber the resistance brought on board when they delivered the equipment for your brother’s blood transfusion.” He looked at her and answered her next obvious question. “They hurried off as soon as they unloaded the equipement.”
Ummm. No help from the resistance out of this hell, Spooky concluded, but still managed to offer Trubel a positive statement. “There’s a chance Leo could pull through. He’s a strong kid. I believe in chances,” she said. “You should too.”
Trubel cocked his head, “I’m trying. These emotions are new to me. Being royalty on Ternion guaranteed me many privileges, but little knowledge when it came to love and heartbreak. When everything you’ve ever wanted comes easily, it’s hard to determine what really matters.”
Spooky was listening, wanted to be more comforting to Trubel, but a haunting thought surfaced. “If Kappa killed the big brain, then what’s keeping the Ingenium collective functioning?”
Trubel did something she didn’t expect. He shrugged. “There were rumors among the members of the resistance who were caught years ago and tortured,” he said and hesitated.
“At least I thought they were merely rumors. The resistance believed another brain, or maybe more, existed. Backup brains I guess you’d say. Like external hard drives. But if that were true, why did they need Leo and Piper?” Trubel clenched his fists. “But it makes sense. When the Mist child stabbed the brain that should’ve brought down the entire collective. And it did disable some facets—mainly the bots—but a few are still operating. So are most of the Vrag. And if there is another brain, then that means Leo’s and Piper’s suffering was needless.”
Spooky took a step back. Trubel looked mad enough to hit something. Or someone. When she did, she noticed the door to the hallway in Chick’s room open. At the same moment, the door in the room she was in opened. Groping Vrag tentacles barged through and whipped about the room.
She drew her gun. Shayd, if I get eaten by a Vrag, you make sure the Avenir put an end to me quickly, Spooky said as a Vrag feeler crept dangerously close to her. He didn’t answer. She prayed he heard. Promise me, damnit. The Avenir owe me that. She didn’t have time to question his absence.
Trubel cowered in a corner. Wolf Aron leaped to his paws, and nosed River up and onto his back. He ran to stand beside Spooky.
Vrag tentacles explored the room in search of them. “Trubel, can they get through the door?”
“Don’t know,” he managed and then jumped over an approaching feeler. “But they somehow know we are here.”
It looked like a chaotic game of hopscotch to Spooky. As an appendage came close to one of them, they hopped over it sometimes on one foot, sometimes on two, depending on the size of the arm.
In the next room, Chick and Mo stood on the computer tables to avoid invading Vrag tentacles. With keyboards in hand, they desperately punched the keys that would bring the Vrag to an end. Guy hung from above on a rafter by his tail. His body coiled around Piper to keep her safe. Every time an appendage came close, Guy struck at it with his venomous fangs. Thus far, missing each time.
“Come on, Guy. Come on, kill the bastard.”
All they had to do was hold out a bit longer, Spooky figured, and the couple’s mission would be accomplished. Just a bit longer. Could they keep hopping, striking, and hoping long enough for the virus to take effect?
Suddenly the entire outside wall of the rooms was pulled from its frame, leaving a cavernous hole for the two Vrag to enter. Together the monsters twisted the wall until it shattered. And then, both demons loomed before them daring Spooky and her army to come for them.
Thank you for returning time and again to follow Spooky into Hell. As I explained, in one of my earlier episodes, this is a work in progress—part of the reason for my irregular blog posts. Creativity does not approve of me placing him on a schedule. He comes like a secret lover. Unannounced. Elusive. And illusive. But oh so sweet.
The other part of the reason is family time, which I cherish, but tends to scare away my secret lover. He doesn’t surface during my time with family. Perhaps he understands, unlike Spooky, there isn’t always more time.
I just returned from visiting my son in Louisville, KY. (They really go all out for Halloween. So cool.) Our flight was cancelled due to the storm in Denver. This is the main reason my blog post is late this time. But you came back! Thank you.
Also. Please, forgive errors you might find. I don’t hire a professional editor for my blogs like I do my published novels. And damn, as much as I hate to admit it, I make tons of mistakes. I try to catch them. And I do have a friend, who is kind enough to let me know each time she finds errors, but I still miss some. Please, let me know if you find mistakes we’ve overlooked. And if you’re not sure if it’s a mistake, let me know anyway. Just in case.
About the Artist
Lara resides in the Texas hill country with her two adorable but exhausting little boys, her husband, and two male dogs. She confesses her life is dominated by male influence.
She graduated from Trinity University in 2009 with her Bachelor’s degree in art and with an art history minor. During her life, she has worn many hats—bartender, barista, massage therapist, newspaper circulation manager, wine shop manager, and the list continues. These life experiences have added a richness and depth to her artwork.
Lara is on her way to accomplishing her dream of becoming a freelance artist. The illustrations are Lara’s original artwork and are created specifically for Hell Town.