Estimated reading time — 21 minutes
Note: The following is a sequel to the creepypasta entitled “Breach”. The author recommends reading “Breach” first, as it is followed chronologically by the events described in “Blood and Oil.” Thank you!
In the last hour of her life, as she ran blindly through the forest that surrounded her, Amanda Conners wondered what she’d done to deserve such an awful fate.
She hadn’t been a perfect girl, god only knew. She’d been a rebellious spirit from her youth, growing ever more independent and angry with age. Amanda had fought her parents over almost every rule they’d laid down when she lived with them in Ann Arbor. It rarely mattered to her if they made sense or not. It was simply in her nature to fight, to squall with every ounce of energy her tiny frame could produce.
Her last words to them in person before moving to Southdale had been in anger. Amanda felt bad about that. They’d reconciled on the phone, but the guilt that lay uneasily on her heart when she thought about her meek father and hand-wringing mother just wouldn’t go away. She had hoped to apologize to them in person when she returned home after the coming fall semester. Maybe then they’d understand why she had to leave. Maybe then she would have found the courage to tell them how desperately she needed to live her own life.
Moving to Southdale, a small unincorporated township just outside Spring Valley, had been frightening for her. It was the first time she’d ever been alone, and despite having a job from a young age she found the idea of working for an employer she’d never met to be a little scary. Still, Angie’s Diner had been the only place hiring for miles, and it was only fifteen minutes away from the beautiful old country home that was renting at such an attractive price. Everything had seemed so perfect. She’d felt like the Universe was inviting her to jump out into the world and make her mark.
What Amanda didn’t know was that the Universe is a cold, cruel mistress. Like a spider it had snared her, tricking her into thinking that she would have a future like she’d always imagined. The howling of the mob that pursued her through the thick undergrowth was proof enough of that. Muffled by the leather masks they wore, that sound was the death scream of all her hopes and dreams.
Weeping in panic, she floundered blind through the dark woods, hands outstretched in front of her.”Somebody help me!” She screamed, senseless in her terror, tears and mascara running down her face in dark rivers. “Please, somebody help me!”
The dreams had started as soon as she’d arrived. She was always running in them, her bare feet tearing on a dark gravel road in the middle of a field. Amanda’s muscles ached as she pumped her arms, willing herself forward, her lungs burning. Her heart felt like it was about to explode in her chest. She was covered in blood and oil, completely naked. Every ounce of her was in agony, a pain so sharp it made her gasp.
There were others in the field around her, each of them also in flight. They were dying, one by one, falling to pieces in the flickering light that seemed to follow her no matter how much she ran into the darkness. A thick, choking fog was roiling up from behind them. The fog brought death with it, a massive, hulking shape that tore into them with harsh, barking snarls. They were screaming as they died, one by one, until it was only Amanda left, running down that endless road.
The giant in the smoke was coming for her. There was nothing she could do to stop it. It would catch her, and it would kill her.
She woke weeping every time, clutching her arms around herself like a mother cradling a child. Amanda didn’t understand the dreams. They were nonsense to her. She’d never seen a road like that in her life. She’d never seen such a field, with tall grass seeming to stretch on for an eternity.
In order to forget the terror that came to her every night, Amanda dedicated herself to her job. Angie’s Diner was the only restaurant in Southdale, and that meant she was worked to the bone every day she was there. The farmers and construction workers that stopped by were extremely courteous, quite different from the customers in the city where she’d grown up. Amanda quickly got used to being called “honey” and “sugar,” understanding that the men who called her that meant nothing by it. She appreciated it, and the generous tips they always left her. Despite the horror that came at night, during the day Amanda felt as though she was accepted and appreciated by the town she now called home.
She felt especially appreciated by Byrd. She couldn’t bring herself to call him Jack now, after all he’d done, but she remembered how she’d felt when he’d first waltzed into the diner. He was older than her, maybe by five or six years, but had such a boyish face that it had taken her some time to realize it. He’d moved with an easy grace and confidence that men her own age lacked, and it had been that which first attracted her so much to him.
He’d asked her out the second time he visited Angie’s. She’d blushed and said yes. He took her to the movie theater in Spring Valley, and on the way introduced her to several varieties of country music she’d never heard before. He laughed when she told him she’d never listened to Charlie Daniels or Willie Nelson. It wasn’t an unkind laugh. He wasn’t an unkind person, she didn’t think, even though he was one of the masked men shrieking in the woods behind her.
They’d started going out on a regular basis. Every day after work he’d pick her up and take her out somewhere new. Picnics down by the river, an afternoon in the park, a matinee, it didn’t matter. Byrd couldn’t get enough of her, and it felt so good to be wanted. He was her first serious boyfriend, and after only a month she was wondering if this was what love felt like.
He took her to meet his parents. They lived on a small farm at the very outskirts of the township, next to a great cornfield on the edge of a thickly overgrown forest. His father was tall and whippet thin; his mother, short and squat. They had been standing outside the house as they drove up in Byrd’s brand new pick up truck, eagerly waiting.
They were so excited to see her, it was like they couldn’t contain themselves. Mr. Byrd had embraced her, and then Mrs. Byrd, squeezing Amanda so tight it nearly drove the air from her lungs. The old woman was practically bouncing with joy.“Bless you child,” she kept saying, over and over. “We’re so happy to meet you. You can call me Mama Byrd, everyone around here does.”
She’d put her hand up to cup Amanda’s pale cheek, her rough palm grazing one of the scars on her face. They were still visible despite the heavy makeup she wore, and usually she felt extremely self concious about them. Here, though, Amanda felt only acceptance. When dinner was over they headed back to Byrd’s apartment. She’d fallen asleep in his arms as they watched TV. She woke the next morning, covered in a blanket, to the smell of him making breakfast for her.
Amanda paused for a moment to get her bearings, the torn wedding dress she wore trailing behind her. She spun frantically in place, trying to catch a glimpse of a break in the trees. They were swaying in time with the too-close beating of the drums, the black smoke rising from the fire in the clearing billowing high into the night sky. Beads of sweat ran down her neck and filthy arms. She heard the hooting and yelling get louder and started running again, heedless of where she was going.
Byrd had understood her desire to not be intimate. After a full month of him not asking she figured he’d soon start feeling frustrated. They’d done nothing but kiss. Amanda had never done anything but kiss, and she finally told him that abruptly after one of their dates. While she’d rejected most of her parents teachings, she planned on following through with her commitment to stay a virgin until she was married.
She’d expected Jack to be upset, or to argue with her just a little. Instead he just smiled, his sharp white teeth glinting in the light of the campfire.“God has some special plans for you,” he said. “I’m never going to force you to do anything you don’t want to.”
The squealing had started not long after that. She’d heard it coming from the field outside her house one night, initially thinking nothing of it. Amanda had seen feral pigs in the area, and knew that the boars would leave her alone as long as she stayed out of their way.
It became slightly more disconcerting when it started coming from her basement. She’d heard it as she read on the couch, a low snuffling followed by a high pitched whine. After a moment’s deliberation she’d called Byrd, and they’d investigated together. She said she saw hoofprints in the dusty cellar, but he’d laughed, kicked at them with the toe of his boot, and said she was imagining things.
Something heavy struck her from behind. She gasped, toppling forward, barely managing to catch herself. Amanda got back up, not daring to look back. It didn’t matter. Powerful hands gripped her waist. She bucked wildly, lashing out with small fists.
“We love you!” She smelled cheap aftershave and whisky as the man wrapped his arms around her. His leather masked pushed into her hips as they struggled. “Scars and all!”
Amanda’s free hand grasped at a rock on the ground. She swung it overhead, cracking it solidly on her attacker’s nose. He released her, moaning in pain, his pig-snout mask askew on his face as she clambered to her feet.
“He has such great plans for you,” he blubbered, reaching up to her as she turned and fled. “He loves you so much.”
Amanda ignored him and kept going as fast as she could. The forest seemed to be thinning out. That was a good sign. A second later she burst from the woodline, running headlong into the massive cornfield behind the Byrd’s house. She pushed her way blindly through the stalks, holding her dress up with one hand, hearing it tear again and again and not caring one bit.
Only a few short hours ago (though by now it seemed an eternity) Byrd had told her he had an extremely special night planned out. He’d swept her off her feet, taking her to the only Italian restaurant for twenty miles. He’d brought her back to his apartment after that, and played her a song on his guitar that he’d wrote specially for her. He told her that he loved her, in English, Spanish, French and even Japanese.
He’d also drugged the single glass of wine he’d offered her. Amanda passed out almost immediately after taking a few sips. She thought she remembered hearing Mama Byrd voicing approval, and had a vague sensation of soft lace being pulled over her face, but she’d been unable to regain consciousness.
Amanda finally awoke in the middle of the clearing, surrounded by dozens of people wearing robes the color of her flaming red hair and strange masks with upturned snouts. Her eyes widened in terror as she saw them falling down and wailing before a strange statue in front of a great bonfire, lifting their hands toward it and screaming for its blessing.
She was lying on a bed of cushions on the forest floor. They’d neglected to bind her in any fashion, not expecting the drugs to wear off as quickly as they had. As soon as she could she rose woozily to her feet and staggered away into the woods. After only a few minutes they had noticed she was gone and given pursuit, crashing through the forest behind her.
After another fevered minute of running she broke free of the cornfield. Her elation was short lived as she saw Mama Byrd and five other townspeople standing before her, between Amanda and the Byrd’s farm. The others all wore their masks, but Mama Byrd’s was pulled up onto her forehead. The doughy old woman had a pleading look on her face as she stepped forward, palms held placatingly toward Amanda.
“Please, sugar,” she said. “Please, we don’t mean you no harm. I know this must seem crazy-”
“Stay away from me!” Amanda shrieked, tripping over her dress and falling backwards to the ground.
“Nobody is tryin’ to hurt you,” the old woman said soothingly. “We wouldn’t dream of it, darlin’. You’re so precious to us, to him. All we’re trying to do is introduce you two, that’s all!”
Amanda struggled to her feet, screaming for help that she knew wasn’t coming.
“We waited so long for you,” Mama Byrd continued. “So, so long. Watching the signs, prayin’, hopin’ that the day would come when you’d arrive. And you did! You did. You were an outcast, just like he said you’d be, and you were beautiful and strong despite your scars, just like he said you’d be. You’re perfect, darlin.’ Absolutely perfect.”
They wouldn’t stop advancing. Amanda turned to run back into the cornfield and slammed headfirst into one of her pursuers. She went down again, seeing stars, the impact making her ears ring.
“Dammit Tony, you hurt the girl!” She heard Mama Byrd yell. “You better pray she’s alright!”
“I’m sorry ma’am,” the masked man, stooping over her and gently pulling her hands behind her back. She remembered his voice; she’d heard it every day in the diner. “I certainly meant you no harm.” Amanda felt cold metal circle her wrists, and heard a metallic click. “Are these on too tight, ma’am? I can loosen them a little if you’d like.”
She was too tired and too stunned to fight back. The big man lifted her gently, putting her over his shoulder, making sure her dress didn’t hike up and compromise her modesty. “No,” she wept quietly as they headed back into the forest “No, no, please. Let me go.”
None of them said anything as they walked slowly back to the clearing. When they reached it Amanda saw that those who had stayed behind had erected a small platform in front of the statue with a wooden beam rising from its center. It was there they gently put her on her feet, linking her handcuffs over her head to a wire restraint on the pole.
“Do you need water?” A familiar voice asked from next to the platform. Groggily she turned her head to see Jack standing there, his mask pulled up. “More wine?” He looked sad, as if he might suddenly burst into tears. “More wine might make all this easier.”
“Why are you doing this to me, Jack?” She croaked, her throat dry as tinder. “I thought you loved me. You said you loved me.”
“I do love you,” her betrayer said, having the nerve to actually start weeping. “I love you because he loves you, and I am his child. You are so perfect and precious. You will bring so much good into a world that needs it so desperately.”
“What are you talking about?” She whispered.
“We are all god’s children,” Jack said, his eyes burning with the conviction of a true believer. “The whole world. But we’ve strayed. We’ve strayed so far away, Amanda. The time is coming for a new flood, a different kind of deluge that will wash away the wicked and save the righteous. The sons and daughters of god will walk the earth again, as righteous judges of the entire planet.”
“What does that have to do with me?”
“Can’t you see?” He replied, his face shining, voice cracking. “You’re his bride. You’re going to be their mother.”
A sudden pounding of drums cut off the rest of his words. Amanda looked up to see the few remaining cultists emerge from the woodline. They began surrounding the statue and the bonfire, swaying back in forth in time with the music. They were chanting, bellowing words that made Amanda’s ears hurt.
For the first time she really looked at the statue, barely able to comprehend its bizarre shape. It was humanoid, but only roughly so. It was fifteen feet tall, standing on a pair of legs that appeared to be made of thick lead pipes. Its torso was a rapidly burning wicker cage, stuffed with dozens of eyeless dolls, dirty plates and melting silverware. Hundreds of cables and wires made up its arms, ending in massive shovel blades and rake heads for hands. It had no head, only a sharp three-pronged barb at the very top.
The drums increased in tempo, the townspeople that circled the idol beginning to sway faster and faster. A small break in the circle appealed as four robed figures came forward, carrying a litter on their shoulders. The drummers wailed, and the fire behind the idol suddenly grew hotter, making Amanda’s skin prickle.
The bearers reached the statue and lifted something from the litter. Amanda couldn’t see what it was. With their backs to her they climbed a small ladder going up the side of the edifice and raised whatever it was high. The cultists cried as one as they set it down on the spike, pushing down hard and twisting it into place.
Byrd was still weeping as the litter bearers climbed down. “Look,” he told Amanda, her mouth open in horror. “The face of God.”
It was a pig’s head, a massive, tusked boar that looked to have been killed quite recently. Crow feathers had been painstakingly sewn into it, giving it a mane of jet black feathers. Its wide maw was open, its teeth ripped out and replaced with rusted rail road spikes. A crown of barbed wire and rodent carcasses sat upon its head. The crest of the crown, forming a symbol that made Amanda’s eyes hurt to look at, was adorned with seven human skulls, their mouths wired open in a perpetual scream.
A hush fell over the clearing. The cultists fell to their knees, their hands silently lifting towards the statue. Byrd slipped away from her side, quickly taking his place among the rank of worshippers. One of the litter bearers stepped forward, standing directly before the great effigy.
“We call upon thee oh lord,” he shouted, his voice unmistakably that of Byrd’s father. “We call upon thee to enter our sinful world and make straight our paths! We offer you the blood of nonbelievers, and the blood of our conviction! “ He gestured with one hand behind him, towards where Amanda was bound. “Behold your pure Bride. We pray that we find favor in thy sight, even as she has. Walk amongst us, oh lord! Bless us with the thunder of your footsteps!”
There was a high-pitched wail that seemed to come from all around them. Amanda screamed as a bolt of lightning tore from the sky, crashing down into the idol. Byrd’s father was thrown to the ground, the light so bright it left all of them blinking. Amanda saw stars, the heat from the lightning strike so intense she felt as if her face was blistering.
She passed out for a moment. When she opened her eyes, blinking away the afterimage of the lightning strike, she saw something impossible happening to the idol. The lightning strike had set it completely ablaze. The fire climbed higher and higher over it, twisting around it like a snake. Amanda watched as it shuddered, creaking in a phantom wind that blew out of nowhere.
The fire reached the idol’s head, and the eyes of the pig blinked. The entire structure shuddered as a squealing roar tore out of its mouth, the crown of its head rattling wildly. The eyes blinked again, rolling around in their sockets. Its stout legs snapped backward, turning into the disjointed hind quarters of a ruminant. The wires around the arm seemed to tense and bulge as black, burned flesh covered the skeletal wires. Its massive claws grew longer and more slender, ending in stiletto-sharp points that curled and flexed.
It stepped out of the fire, shaking bits of debris off its hulking form with another roar. Its feet were massive hooves that left smoldering prints in the dead grass; prints that looked all too familiar to Amanda. Another bolt of lightning split the sky, the thunderclap drowning out the fevered praise of the cultists. They prostrated themselves on the ground, babbling mindless prophecies and rending their clothes. They cut themselves with knives and hooks, falling upon one another in violent ecstasy.
“Behold the Pig!” Byrd screamed, suddenly rushing forward to stand beside his father. “Behold the Pig that takes away the sins of the-”
His words were cut short as it reached down and grasped him in a massive eight-fingered hand. He didn’t have time to react before it lifted him to its mouth, opening its maw with a screech of tortured metal and snapping sutures. It slammed its rotted teeth down around his hips, shaking its head back and forth, ripping him in half in an instant. It shoved the rest of Amanda’s boyfriend down her throat and swallowed hungrily.
The Pig stalked towards Amanda as Byrd’s father cut his own throat at its feet. It moved with an unsteady gait, occasionally dragging one of its legs as if not quite used to gravity. She wept at its approach, desperately trying to wake herself from the nightmare. It towered over her, blotting out the night sky. The seven skulls in the crest of its crown were screaming, rattling out words forced upon them by a savage power not seen on earth since the days of the bubonic plague.
The skulls told her of her destiny, of the future that was approaching. She saw it all in her mind’s eye: what the Pig intended for her, the horrific union of mortal and god, the months of torturous gestation as monsters grew within her body and soul. Amanda saw the fruits of her womb, a dozen blasphemous half-deities that devoured Human cities in the form of plague and genocide. Millions would die. Humanity would burn in the fires of a new dark age, never knowing that the savagery inflicted upon it came at the hands of a demon-god’s children.
It stepped towards her limp form, its claws reaching down to roughly grip her arms. It delicately severed her handcuffs, lifting it slowly up towards her. As she stared at it, unable to move, unable to even utter a plea for mercy, the skulls leered down and told her the identity of her tormentor.
In that moment, as its name thundered inside her mind, several things happened to her all at once.
There was a flash of light so bright it made the lightning pale in comparison. It was enough to be noticed by air traffic controllers nearly a hundred miles away, and caused temporary blackouts in all surrounding cities. The Pig was at the epicenter of it. It dropped Amanda to the ground, squealing as it backed away, raising its hands to its singed face.
The woman who was Amanda Conners died in a heartbeat, the name of the monster triggering a thousand hidden memories deep in the very darkest recesses of her mind. Her mother and father, her high school years, everything about her life before Southdale, was wiped away like the flimsy falsehood it was. She remembered the truth. She remembered
sitting with her arms crossed in the briefing room, staring at the holographic image of the target. “PE I-X-889 will be far too canny for any other approach,” she said, brushing a strand of blood-red hair out of her face. “Any attempt at psychic infiltration will likely be noticed immediately. It’s waited nearly seven centuries to attempt a return to reality. If it has any idea at all that this is a trap, it’ll turn tail and run back into the aether and likely try and come up on the other side of the planet. We’re lucky it chose a crossing in North America at all; if it runs we’ll never have another shot at it.”
Dolos sighed, running spindly fingers through graying hair. “So conventional means of infiltration are out of the question. That doesn’t change the fact that we need to lure this thing into reality to take a shot at it. What are you proposing?”
“Simple. Use me as bait.” She let it sink in for a moment before continuing. “Lock away my memories. Create a completely new history, a life story that will make me exactly what we know this thing is looking for in a mate. Make me weak and vulnerable and damaged. Even if this thing scours my mind, it’ll only find the fake memories we’ve planted there. A standard hypnotic trigger will suffice to bring down the barriers we put in place once the time comes for action.”
“It’d have to be a very specific trigger,” Dolos said thoughtfully. “If you remember too soon, it’ll sense your awareness and your cover will be blown.”
“We know from the PE’s we’ve interrogated that this thing is arrogant,” she said. “We’ve heard it screaming its name in the aether ever since it came into the shallows six months ago. It’s been a long time since 889 walked the earth, and I’m certain it will want to make its presence known to its bride. Make its name my trigger. As soon as I hear it, I’ll be ready.”
The woman that had been Amanda Conners a moment before levitated in the air, borne on the burning winds of damnation. Her eyes glowed an electric blue, hellish red light issuing from her open mouth. She howled into the aether, calling out to a presence that waited patiently for her hundreds of miles away. It answered her call, thundering out her name as it raced towards her via translocation. The cultists echoed its cry, gripped by the terrifying power she unleashed, wailing in agony as they tore themselves to pieces in psychic shock.
BELLONA! BELLONA! BELLONA!
A hole in reality opened up behind her, a vortex into worlds only ever seen by prophets and madmen. The Pig took another step back, its ancient mind racing feverishly to understand what was happening. Never before had it encountered such resistance. Never before had it seen its sacrifices rise up with such anger and power.
Something massive came stomping out of the aether; a jet black construct five meters tall, its breastplate opened like a set of titanium petals. Tortured ghosts trailed from it in long, frozen tendrils, lesser spirits that had been caught in the wake of the behemoth. It stooped low, its massive arms reaching down to gracefully catch the tiny woman before it up into its chest.
Bellona stood, a smoky-eyed goddess of war in armor that shone in the brilliant light of the fire. Needles punctured the skin of her back in a hundred places, slamming into her spine and brain stem. Her body spasmed, the arms and legs of the armor reflecting her every motion. The Aegis was glad to see her; she could sense it in every relay, every system scan, every tactical readout that flooded her brain.
The dispersal cannon on her left shoulder hummed into life, the missile rack on her right immediately locking onto the target. Dozens of laser-guided munition systems highlighted the Pig in every energy spectrum known to exist, paving the way for the high-energy laser batteries stacked onto her wrists. She clenched her fists, allowing meter-long blades made of silver and cold-forged tungsten to snap from their sheaths between her knuckles.
Bellona sensed the Pig’s confusion. With a single thought she seared an image into its inhuman mind. She showed it a burning sword, raised in defiance of all gods old and new, blazing eternally against a darkness whose time had finally come to end.
The long night is over. Dawn approaches, and I am its herald.
The Pig seemed to finally understand what was happening to it. It took a step forward, its skulls chanting blasphemous prayers to beings even more loathsome than it. Bellona grinned, baring her teeth. The trap was sprung. The enemy was before her. The Aegis’ thirst for blood and war mingled with her own, sending out murderous pulses of psychic energy that set the trees on fire.
“Alright, you bastard. You wanted me,” she snarled, her visor slamming shut. “Come and get me.”
Walking through the blackened remains of the forest, John Hauser slowly made his way to the center of the clearing. His heavy black boots sent small ripples through the pools of blood still covering the ground. The charred remains of the trees were covered in the stuff, sticking to his hands as he pushed his way forward.
The cleaners were hard at work, each of them outfitted in bulky biohazard suits built to protect their mortal frames. While the bodies of the cultists had all been removed by the time he had arrived, he could still see the fire close by where the lingering remains of PE I-X-889 continued to burn. It would take several hours of continually purging and salting the fields to erase the beast’s presence.
This was one of the most important jobs of the cleaners; to completely remove any lingering trace of supernatural taint from a region. To do otherwise meant running the risk of the location becoming a confluence for supernatural activity. Hauser remembered many dark days in the early years of his organization when they had learned that the hard way.
Lies and half-truths were already being spun up about what caused the disaster. In an era of uncertainty, Hauser’s superiors had quickly decided that terrorism would be best to blame for the death of fifty-five members of a three-hundred person town. Already corpses with Middle-Eastern features were being flash cloned and deposited in strategic locations at ground zero. A few citizens in the town proper had heard the violent battle between Bellona and the Pig, but none had come to investigate. There’d be no reason for them to disbelieve the story that several of their fellow townspeople had been rounded up and then blown to pieces by a group of highly-trained Islamic suicide bombers (quite probably hailing from Pakistan, as Hauser’s men would suggest through a variety of carefully hidden clues)
Hauser wasn’t worried about the press or the government taking too close a look. Individuals loyal to his organization had already begun exerting their influence. Homeland Security would think that the FBI had things well in hand, while the FBI would receive word that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms would be taking control based on the terrorists utilizing weapons purchased in the States. There would be power struggles with the local police and sheriff’s office. All organizations would receive word that biohazard teams from the CDC had gone to the site in order to quarantine for a possible anthrax threat, but upon further investigation it would be discovered that the CDC had never sent such a release to anyone, and that it had been mere hearsay working its way through the various departments. It’d be extremely embarrasing for all involved, and more importantly, would give Hauser’s team a full twenty four hours to complete their work. By the time someone actually got on the scene, they’d all be long gone.
As he finally reached the edge of the clearing, he saw the massive frame of Bellona’s Aegis standing protectively over the girl. The suit was almost completely out of power, but he could sense a lingering consciousness in the Veil hovering near it. The construct was prepared to protect the tiny figure sitting at its feet, staring into the fire as she meditated. Not for the first time Hauser was highly impressed with the latest prototype. The men and women in engineering had done an excellent job.
“I was wondering when you’d get here,” she said, still gazing at the witchfire that consumed the Pig’s corpse. “I sensed your arrival as you translocated.”
“I’d hoped to arrive in enough time to prevent such damage from occurring,” he smiled, repeating the words she’d once spoken to him as he fished a cigarette out of the pack. “Would you like one?”
Bellona didn’t answer. Hauser shrugged and lit up, the acrid tang of the smoke a welcome relief from the smell of charred flesh and corruption.
“I had dreams, you know,” she said. “Dreams of being a little child, running naked down a gravel road. Something was chasing me, murdering my kin as it went. I was covered in blood and oil, and I have no idea why.”
“The Pig was linked to your mind as soon as you arrived here,” Hauser said thoughtfully. “Perhaps you were accessing some residual memories of another target.”
Bellona shook her head. “No. These weren’t residual memories, or hallucinations brought on by psychic trauma. These were my own memories. Memories of a time before I was an agent.”
“That’s impossible.” Hauser sat down next to her, beneath the Aegis. He seemed almost comically oversized compared to Bellona. “Our memories of our previous lives are completely purged away. None of us remember anything before the indoctrination.”
“So they say.” She turned slowly to look at him. The light of the fire cast strange shadows over him; shadows that looked like that of a hulking beast that chased young girls down dark gravel roads. “I had a life for a moment, Agent Hauser. I had a family that I believed to be real. I had a relationship that was real, even if it was for all the wrong reasons.”
“You played the part incredibly well,” he conceded. “It was the single greatest feat of infiltration I have ever seen.”
“And now I am returned to this world where I am Bellona, not Amanda.I do not know how old I am. I do not know if I am capable of love. I do not know if she was who I might have been had…” She turned back to the fire. “Had you never come for me, years ago.”
Hauser was silent for a moment. Then he said, “You are as capable of love as I am, Bellona. While you’ve sacrificed much in becoming an agent, you haven’t given up the core of humanity that makes you who you are. None of us have.” His gaze followed hers into the fire. “Jovlin taught me that,” he said softly. “And it remains the most important lesson I have learned in nearly eighty years of service.”
Bellona did not answer. After a few more puffs on his cigarette Hauser rose to his feet. “The cleaners will provide you with transport back. The Director will be in touch with you as soon as you’ve cleared medical.”
“Do you want to know how I killed it, Hauser?”
He glanced down at her, and suddenly Bellona looked very much like the nineteen year old he knew her to be. The scars on her pale face were a livid red, and in a few places there were deep gouges that would only add to the rictus mask she wore. She looked completely exhausted, her voice heavy with a weariness that belonged only to the damned.
“I already know,” he said, his voice equally tired as he turned away. “You showed it the truth.”
Credit To – IlluminatiExposed, JohnGrammsIlluminarium!
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