THE QUESTION ANSWERED PART FOUR
FROM PART THREE
The Specter hissed, its saliva-drenched teeth glistening in the ghostly blue light. Its body swayed back and forth; the rapid opening and closing of its three-clawed hands filling the cave with an eerie clicking sound. Find I. Kill I. Survive I.
The Essence stood and unleashed its energy into the Specter’s chest. The huge form screamed. Oozing black liquid from its wound, it staggered backwards into the wall and collapsed onto the floor.
The Essence stared at the still form. I have killed you, abomination. You shall torment me no longer.
The Specter jerked spasmodically and slowly opened its cold, possessing eye.
Senses overcome by numbing fear, the Essence could only watch the creature stand.
The Specter swayed back-and-forth then moved towards the ledge. Cocking its head to one side, it released its energy from a small orifice in its forehead.
The dark mass struck the top of outcropping, the force of the explosion throwing the Essence against the wall. Dazed, hurt, it struggled to right itself as it frantically searched for the creature through the suspended debris.
The Specter’s menacing outline slowly emerged.
Fear did not paralyze this time, the Essence’s energy burning through the haze into the massive creature. Die by my hand, abhorrent one. You shall rise no more. There was a sharp, guttural snarl as the Specter stumbled forward and fell from view.
In pain, the Essence sat against the wall. I must concentrate . . . know who I am . . . where I am. It proved fruitless. Unable to recall anything, its thoughts returned to what lay on the floor below.
It had to know if its tormentor was dead. With curiosity overriding caution, the Essence forced itself up and dragged its damaged leg to the end of the ledge to search the murky floor below. Show yourself, repugnant beast, so I may end your miserable existence.
On the far side of the cavern the top of the Specter’s head protruded through the settling dust.
Unable to detect life, yet haunted the Specter might rise; the Essence leveled its arm at the head only to lower it as brief, fleeting thoughts of Malaa appeared. “How? Yes . . . memory blocks. You . . . negated them. I must choose . . . life or death. I must destroy my tormenter. Love. The . . . T’Ming. The. . . Ritual. Civilization. Peace.
Anguished and confused, Oerip’s Essence, wishing no more of the experience, limped back to the protection of the outcropping.
A clicking noise shredded its senses.
Startled, the Essence turned.
Hissing, the huge form stood slowly, its raw hatred seeking to end the struggle.
NO! NO! NO! THIS CANNOT BE! I HAVE KILLED YOU! Wanting no more of this the Essence released its energy at the Specter.
Its jaw snapped shut by the impact, the Specter shuddered violently but did not fall.
The Essence stared incredulously at its nemesis and let its fury burn again.
The creature howled, fell back against the wall, but did not go down.
Caught between awe and fear, the Essence waited for it to die.
It did not.
Its pulsating eye conveying primitive hate, the Specter lunged forward and released its energy. The ground in front of the Essence erupted flinging it on top of the outcropping’s jagged rocks. Hurt and dazed, it watched the Specter eject a second mass that struck the front of the outcropping, the concussive force lifting the Essence over it and against the wall beyond. Its legs useless, body covered with a fine grit, the Essence clung to life.
The clicking seemed to be everywhere.
Its strength fading rapidly the essence searched frantically for the Specter. Fragmented images of T’Ming depravity seeking death, clashed with images of T’Ming morality demanding life, savaged its thoughts. No. No. It cannot be both. If I must choose then let it be life.
No longer conflicted, the Essence dragged its bleeding arms over the rough surface of the outcropping. It knew it did not have the energy to kill the Specter from where it lay. I must bring you to me. I feel your hunger, your desire to taste my suffering before you kill, foul creature. Come closer so you may sup on my misery and die.
It was a calculated risk, but one she knew Malaa would have been proud of.
Teeth barred like rows of Cfirian daggers, wounded torso rippling with excitement, the Specter approached the ledge, stopped and cocked its head.
For a brief moment, each stared into the other’s darkness before unleashing death.
Two rapid explosions, mixed with a grisly shriek, was followed by ominous dust-obscuring silence.
The haze slowly cleared, revealing to the collective mind the Ritual’s insensate carnage. At the base of the ledge, headless, oozing viscous slime, laid the Specter. On the ledge above, its shattered stumps grotesquely twisted, the Essence’s torso heaved in halting agony.
The choice now made, the Essence closed its eyes.
As it had always been, since times before, the rays of the new day’s sun crept silently through the huge window of the chambers East wall, bathing Oerip’s face with its warm, orange light.
The time rings sounded announcing the end of the Atalaa Ritual. The question of leadership, of its attainment, of its mastery had been answered.
Oerip’s essence had survived, her quintessence now part of the Collective Mind governing the planet Cfir.
© 2017, Raymond Tobaygo. All rights reserved.
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