New Fiction Friday

Posted: November 4, 2016 in Fiction, Flash Fiction Friday
Tags: ,

This month’s story was prompted by a random d20 roll to determine a psychic power, in this case “retrocognition”. I give you, “Someone Else’s Memories”:

Caroline paused in the lift as the doors slid shut, taking a deep sniff of her coffee to appreciate the aroma and the psychological triggers that would help her fight through the normal morning “fog” toward mental acuity and alertness. The lift’s bell dinged as she arrived in the basement, the doors sliding open upon a clinically spartan hallway that had a sign on the right-hand wall at head-height as she walked by that read “MUSEUM PERSONNEL ONLY”. Caroline navigated the maze of branching hallways — some leading to public areas, some leading to storage rooms and vaults, some leading to laboratories for restoration or to employee offices — with practiced ease as she sipped at her to-go cup, absently unwinding the thick scarf from around her neck that had protected her from London’s frigid air outside the museum’s walls.

“Morning, Yank,” were the first words to greet her as she stepped through the door into the office space she shared with three other archivists. Caroline smiled at the Irishman, Seamus, who sat as his desk sipping tea and glancing up at her as he perused his morning emails. At that point in the morning they were the only people in the room.

“And a good morn’ to you, Mick,” she replied sweetly as she pulled her winter outerwear off and settled in at her own desk..

Seamus snorted out a soft laugh. “I’d be offended by that if you weren’t a compatriot also laboring under Imperial oppression. Mind your P’s and Q’s, though.”

Caroline barely suppressed her own laugh due to the mouthful of coffee she had, but once swallowed she fixed the Irishman with a sardonic gaze. “Says the man who told me yesterday, quote: ‘I can’t believe I get paid so well to play around with old stuff.’ And: ‘Indiana Jones eat your heart out!’ End quote.”

Seamus was quiet for a beat. “Imperial oppression can take many forms. Sometimes it takes the form of a nicely-summed five-figure salary and three weeks’ paid vacation.”

Caroline snorted loudly as she brought her attention to the computer screen in front of her. “I’m sure your forebears weep for the hardships you suffer under England’s iron fist.”

“You better believe it, Yank.”

Once she was done getting her things in order for the morning, Caroline grabbed her lab coat from the hook on the wall behind her desk and donned it, making her way down the hall to the small lab assigned for their use. There was a stack of shipping containers in one corner containing new artifacts from a dig in Indonesia that had arrived the previous afternoon but there hadn’t been time the previous day for her to start examining and cataloging them. Caroline opened the first box and began carefully laying out the contents on one of the laboratory tables in the center of the room. Most of the objects were stone: arrowheads, spearheads, axeheads, knappers, et cetera. There was one thing, though, a bronze blade shaped like a sickle that had a note riding alongside it in the large, plastic bag it had been packed in. Frowning, Caroline opened the bag and pulled the note out, scanning the message scrawled on it.

 

Found in situ with the other objects. Caroline may want to have a ‘look’.

— Nikolai

 

That quirked one of Caroline’s dark eyebrows and she snorted out a soft laugh. She was known among some of the field researchers for her own special ‘talent’: psychometry. Caroline didn’t exactly advertise that fact, but after she’d ran into Nikolai at a Society for Psychical Research seminar a few years back and learned that he was amenable to some of academia’s more…”heretical” ideas. Since then she’d used her gift more than a few times to help elucidate the original use or nature of some of the objects and artifacts that came through the lab.

Delicately, she pulled the blade out of the bag and set it on the table away from the other unpacked objects. She pulled the latex glove she wore off of her right hand, balling it up and placing it in the pocket of her lab coat. Taking a slow, deep breath Caroline closed her eyes for a few heartbeats, centering herself and quieting the normal chatter of her mind. When things were still inside of her, she opened her eyes and calmly extended her hand toward the bronze blade’s naked handle. As her fingertips slid over the cold, smooth surface she reached out with her mind as well, letting it caress the metal and the secrets held locked within.

She inhaled sharply as she suddenly found herself standing on a vast plain at night, the full moon shining down from on high. In the distance she could she black silhouettes rising up high along the horizon, and through the gnosis of the experience she knew that they were mountains. Mountains that rose up from the plains and then dropped back down into the sea, forming the southern border of this now-sunken land. She found herself walking, moving through high grasses up a hill, her gaze rising to the cloudless sky above and finding her real self — Caroline in the present — gasping in awe.

She’d been camping many times in her life. Hell, there had been more than a few times where she’d almost face-planted walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night because she’d been so captivated by the panoply of stars shining above her.

This, however, was like that times a thousand. Not only were there millions upon millions of stars spread out across the sky, it was like they were in high definition: so crisp, so clear, so breathtaking.

It was like a psychedelic experience.

Her gaze descended from the heavens a moment later and she saw a handful of campfires along with the silhouettes and half-lit shapes of huts. There were people there, a motley assortment: some tall and thin, some short and built like linebackers, some as small as children but, again, that gnosis told her that they weren’t children. That same gnosis told her that assembled masses were not just different races — different species, her rational mind translated for her — they were the outcasts of this place, driven to the edges for survival. As she got closer, she could see that they clutched weapons made of wood, stone, and sinew. Whomever it was she was viewing this through — she knew she was male, she wore some kind of leather and scale-mail armor, and the sickle-blade was sheathed on a wide belt about her waist — they were here to parlay. To talk because they were desperate. She heard voices call out into tongue that she didn’t understand, but the man did, and she heard him respond with a mouth and a voice that both was and wasn’t her own.

The scene shifted quickly and she saw what looked like a city of mud-brick houses built around a step-pyramid as she and a few others rode in a platform atop some kind of war-elephant. At the fore of the platform was a bulky man with night-black skin, wearing the same kind of leather and scale-mail armor that glittered dully in the daylight, slung across his back as double-headed axe made from bronze. This, Caroline’s gnosis told her, was Anesh’koreth: once the highest general of the great city they marched upon, but now leader of the uprising against its masters.

As they traveled closer along the wide, dirt road that ran toward the city, she realized that the “pyramid” was actually some kind of low, shaped mountain, its sides carved away into steps and ramps, some of which glittered with flowing water from springs that welled up within. Atop it, she knew, was the temple of a mighty god of the waters — both oceanic and subterranean — whose worship had been eclipsed by some demon of darkness and blood. To her sides she saw more of the strange war-elephants as well as motley infantry that had to number in the thousands, some wearing armor but most not. Mixed among the numbers were strange beings whose shoulders were three times the height of even the tallest man. They were humanoid in only the vaguest sense and hurt her eyes to look too long upon their visages.

They were the Fallen. Here to deal with their corrupted children.

The battle was long, it was bloody and ugly and many fell on both sides. In the end, though, the rebellion succeeded: they ousted the demon-worshipers and executed them, they tore down the temples and shrines to their infernal patron. And as blood ran through the streets of the city, flowing along the gutters into the hand-hewn canals that separated the districts, the Fallen ascended the pyramid at the center and called down righteous judgment from the heavens. For though they had taken the city, the empire that the demon-worshipers had usurped stretched far.

She watched from the city as a blinding light atop the pyramid blotted out even the sun for several long moments before a shadow crossed the reappeared sun, its darkness cracking and breaking up into separate chunks as it moved from west to east, disappearing beyond the horizon. She stood near the general, who watched the comet as it streaked across the empty, blue sky, and heard him softly speak. His tone was somber, his voice as quiet as the grave.

“And so falls Atl’mutan. May our sins be washed away with it.”

Caroline inhaled deeply, her hand instinctively pulling back from the bronze blade and ending the vision. For a long time she just stared at the antediluvian weapon before she finally swallowed and felt back on stable enough ground to begin thinking rationally once more.

What the hell had she just witnessed?

Absently, she dug the latex glove out of her coat’s pocket, rolling it back onto her naked right hand. Calmly, Caroline picked the bronze sickle-blade up and carefully placed it back in the bag, sealing it and setting it aside. She stared at Nikolai’s note for a long time, biting her lip thoughtfully. Finally, she picked it up and crumpled it in her hands, her mind going to the small bottle of Irish whiskey in her desk drawer that Seamus had given her over the Christmas holiday. That’s what she needed: a little bit of whiskey and some time to think. As she exited the laboratory, Caroline tossed the paper ball into the trash bin next to the door, though it still weighed on her mind.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s