• ERIC BUTLER

Ephraim Godwin and the Sins of the Past - Part 22 Ch 56 & 57


CHAPTER FIFTY-SIX


Zona sat in a rowboat in the middle of a rather large lake. She couldn't be sure, but she thought the boat floated in the exact center. How very odd. The thought bounced around her head, but Zona wasn't sure if she meant odd that she floated in a lake or odd that she realized the boat's location on the water.


Shifting left, then right Zona gazed around, looking for an end to the water. A dot appeared on the horizon behind her, and she kept her eyes locked on it. As it grew, she realized a man was walking towards her. Zona stood, her hurry causing the boat to rock and for a moment she feared she might fall in the water.


Holding her arms out on each side, Zona quickly regained her balance as a wide smile broke on her face. Her brother marched toward her, his long legs eating up the distance between them; his feet skimming over the top of the water as if he strode upon glass.


She waved at him, willing him to hurry as the excitement bubbled throughout her body. He nodded toward her, neither slowing nor speeding up. Zona eyed the water, suddenly curious if she could also walk upon the gentle waves.


"You can if you believe," a deep voice said. Zona shrank away as her attention shot back to her brother's face. It was her brother before her, but somehow not. His eyes were darker, no longer pale like his skin or hair, but deep wells of eternal blackness.


"You are not Zachariah," she hissed, frantically searching for a weapon in the boat.


"You are correct," the voice said, a smile blooming on her brother's face. He hovered above the water, positioned like a puppet at attention. "I am simply using your brother since his body, while freakish, is still easier to navigate throughout the Empire."


Zona turned around, trying to pinpoint the voice's exact location but there was nothing but the boat and her brother. She gritted her teeth, fighting the desire to snarl and attack her brother's body. He's no longer here, that is only a shell. She hoped the thought would calm her, but it only inflamed her rage.


"I would ask you to leave my brother," she said struggling to keep her voice level, "before I am forced to remove you."


Zachariah Whitlock stayed still, his black eyes staring through her causing her body to shiver. The voice's booming laughter crashed down on her, making the water churn and the boat to dip. She fell to her knees and covered her ears, her head ringing from the volume.


"You?" the voice asked, the word filled with contempt. "You are a fly." The sky darkened at the last word, and soon Zona saw nothing but her brother's white face. It shone with a pale light, almost as if the moon reflected from the water to his skin.


"I may be a fly now," Zona said struggling to rise, "but soon I will be powerful enough to stop you..."


"ENOUGH!" the voice boomed, shattering the boat and sending Zona into the cold waters below.


The water was so cold, Zona's limbs turned numb. She struggled to move them enough to rise up and break through the surface. Taking huge gulps of air, she fought to keep her head above the choppy waves slamming into her. Lightening and fire streaked through the sky while thundering booms deafened her.


"I AM THE COMING STORM," the voice roared over the wind and thunder. "I AM YOUR GOD AND YOU WILL ALL BE SACRIFICED TO MY GLORY."


Zachariah Whitlock's body rose higher, his head thrown back as red fire shot from his mouth. His arms and legs splintered and cracked until multiple tentacles writhed and squirmed away from his body. Zona stared in horror as the tentacles stretched and grew until all she could see was a mass of wiggling and twisting dark flesh pouring from her brother's limbs.


"I AM COMING LITTLE FLY, AND WITH ME WILL BE YOUR DOOM," the voice howled over the screeching wind.


Zona wondered how much longer she could stay afloat as her limbs grew heavier. The mass that was once her brother sunk beneath the waves and the water began to boil. Zona whimpered as the intense heat flashed over her body, jolting the cold flesh into searing pain. A tentacle wrapped around her ankle slowly slithering its way up her leg.


"Help me," she screamed as more tentacles grabbed her and pulled her down. She strained to reach up to find the surface when a hand gripped her wrist and pulled her free from the tangle of gripping tentacles. She caught a glimpse of Ephraim's face before the world went black.


CHAPTER FIFTY-SEVEN


Oringo studied his master. Looks plum tired. He was late; delayed as he grabbed two meat pies from the local vendor. Ol' man Jacob made the best pies in the area since he rarely added anything to stretch the filling. Oringo didn't like to think about what might make its way into the local area's food.


Sitting the pies on the table, he shifted his attention back to his master. He had only been in Whitlock's body for a bit, and already Oringo noticed some wear. Around the eyes mostly...and the color of the skin; Oringo couldn't explain it but the master appeared more shadow than man. Like the colors been wrung from him. Oringo shook his head, no time for thinking. They needed to get moving if the master was to be believed. He reached out, pausing before gripping his master's shoulder and shaking.


"Enough," his master said, his voice a raspy whisper. Oringo jumped back and put his arms to his side.


"It's done," Oringo said, eyes glued to the floorboards. His jaw still ached from the last time he needed reminding not to stare at his master.


"Very good," he said, patting the young man on his head. He stepped by Oringo and sat at the table. "Ah, dinner...very good indeed. Sit boy before it gets cold."


Oringo spun and sat at the table, eating in the steady way his master required. The Colonel didn't mind rude table habits, encouraged them in fact, but his new master would not accept anything but perfection. They ate in silence, Oringo stuffed the last piece in his mouth and resisted the urge to suck the grease from his fingers.


"Here," his master said passing over a handkerchief. Oringo took it with a mumbled thanks and wiped himself clean. "With the first seed planted, we need to leave. I have special plans for the second seed and the third one can be dropped off on our way. I've been thinking about your lost locket...and how to fix the situation."


He rose from the table and moved to the cages. Oringo studied his master from the corner of his eye wondering where they were off to. A knock on the door drew Oringo's eyes up. The knob turned and the door swung open.


Oringo watched with mouth agape as his mother shuffled in wearing the same torn and bloodstained dress she died in. Her vacant eyes stared right through him, chilling him to the bone. She opened her mouth letting bloody dirt fall down the front of her dress. A soft moan slipped out, increasing in volume until her cry pummeled his ears until they rang.

Throwing his hands over them, Oringo tried to block out the noise. Strong fingers gripped his hair and pulled his head back. Oringo's eyes bulged in fear as he tried to wrestle loose from his master's hold.


"Your work is just beginning...this will help with the distractions," his master said with a broad smile as he placed the second seed on Oringo's face.


Oringo opened his mouth to scream, realizing his mistake too late as the creature slithered past his lips. He clawed at his mouth, trying to grab any part of the creature but his fingers slipped from it. His master's grip loosened and he slumped to the ground. His eyes locked with his mother's as she faded away. Was she ever there?


Oringo struggled to ask, but his master no longer appeared interested and had moved across the room. A jolt of pain pierced his chest, and his vision dimmed. A trick of the light, he thought but as the world grew dark around him, he knew light had nothing to do with this.



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