Authors: Christopher De Sousa
“What do you want,” she said with a snarl, attempting to shield the subject of the book beneath her forearm.
He glared down at her through a crooked smile. “Anzuâ¦ That is who you saw outside the window. I could sense that something wasn't quite right.”
Despite her feeling perturbed that he could know of such things, Katherine couldn't help but find a sense of relief in knowing she wasn't the only one. Nevertheless, she wanted nothing more to do with Blake and decided to play it coy.
“I have no idea what you're talking about,” she said. “Frankly Blake, I have always found you strange and uncomfortable to be around. And this time is no different. Could you please just leave me alone?”
Blake frowned at her. “I'm afraid I can't do that. Nor do I really care much for what you think of me.”
As he stared down at his peculiar wristwatch, she felt a cool breeze brush against the skin of her face, and noticed there was a trickle of water flowing down from behind Blake, soaking the library's red carpet. This water, which soon evolved into a stream, appeared to swiftly solidify and take the shape of a crystalline woman. Before her, this figure shed of her icy exterior to reveal a smooth and pristine blue complexion. Once she rubbed away at the excess ice with webbed hands, this womanly figure brushed back her fringe of long black hair and offered her a faint smile.
“Who is she? What is she?” Katherine spluttered, the hairs at the back of her neck standing on end.
“This is Kulullu,” said Blake, as the spirit reached out a webbed hand. “Together, we possess a celestial bond; one with which we can share in each other's powers and dreams. Just as Anzu had recently done with you, she revealed herself to me, and from thereon she became my guardian.”
Katherine could feel that her arms and legs had grown numb. Barely able to move, she only sat there with both her eyes and mouth wide open.
“You know, young woman, it is rude to stare,” said the spirit through a wistful tone of voice.
“I'm sorry,” Katherine promptly replied, trying not to stare. “I've just never met anyone like you before.”
“I suppose this is to be expected,” the spirit replied.
“So you saw the gryphon too,” she asked, seeking to make sense of what she'd earlier experienced.
“Nope,” said Blake, as he pulled the old tome free from her loose grasp. “He has only revealed himself to you.”
She snatched the book back. “This doesn't make any sense, it's impossible.”
She glanced from the picture of the gryphon, to Blake, and finally to Kullulu. She still struggled to avert her gaze from the water spirit; from the faint flicker of damp scales that ran up and along her arms, to the slender and feminine shape of her body, and to the small gills that resided upon her neck and beneath a wave of long black hair.
Blake, having claimed a pencil from out of his pocket, and upon lazily crashing down in a seat adjacent to Katherine, flung the pencil about within his fingertips.
“I guess it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for one who has yet to properly ascend,” he said, his eyes fixed upon the pencil. “Now watch closely.”
Curious with how he might act, but also anxious of what this Kulullu could be thinking as she peered down at her, she sought to do as he had instructed. She stared at the pencil, watching as he made it levitate and rapidly spin about within the air as if it were the propeller of a helicopter. She soon noticed that the pencil had crystallized in the air; he released of it, letting it shatter against the hard wooden desk below.
Katherine gasped, poking at a fragment of pencil that lay before her on the table. “You were able to freeze it. Your celestial spiritâ¦, you've the power of ice.”
“How have you come to know about elemental control,” Blake questioned, his eyebrows raised.
“I don't reallyâ¦” she lied. “Such a thing is impossible.”
Blake frowned at her. “So is hearing the thoughts of your classmates.”
“How did you know”-
-“It is often the first stage of ascension,” he said, quick to cut her off and glancing down at his wristwatch.
His wristwatch had an eerie glow about it, and there were no numbers or clock hands present for as far as Katherine could see. She observed as Blake briefly whispered into its small frame, and was able to make out one of the words he'd spoken.
“Who or what is an Indigo?” she asked.
“You may very well find out in due time.”
This was all rather frustrating
, thought Katherine.
Just when one of my questions has been answered, it's not long before ten new questions pop up and take its place. How did he know about what I'd experienced? What is a guardian? And how could any of this be truly happening? Why me?
“Look, I just suffered from a little stage fright,” she mustered in explanation.
But Blake appeared not to fall for such a flimsy excuse.
She scanned the space, and came to realise there was no way past both he and the water spirit. “What do you want with me?”
Blake sighed, as he collected of the fragments. “I've been assigned to oversee, and ensure that you remain safe.”
“Safety from whomâ¦?” She questioned. “Safety from whatâ¦?”
“Evil spiritsâ¦, outside agenciesâ¦, and probably your own stupidity.”
“Thanks, but no thanks,” she snapped. “I don't need your help.”
With that, she abruptly rose from her seat, pushed her way past the pair, and made a desperate dash for the exit.
Well that was easy,
, but why did they just let me pass?
Once she had left through the library's front doors, Katherine decided to linger a moment longer, trying to figure out what she should do next. She rationalized that it was best to simply try and forget about what she'd seen and heard. She figured that perhaps these apparitions of a lone gryphon would fade with time, and the hearing of student voices might leave her if she were to go home and get some rest. But what was she to think about this water spirit?
This creature must be some kind of trick, some sort of illusion
, she believed.
At this stage, she saw two options before her; to dwell upon, and let herself be haunted by her recent supernatural encounter, or try to move forward and get on with her life.
“I sense there's something which has you agitated, but you've concealed it so that I'm unable to see,” said Kulullu, as both she and Blake were seated in the back compartment of a black utility vehicle.
“If you wish to read my mind, you need only to ask.”
She gazed intently through her cold blue eyes; she reached out with her webbed hands, and she cupped them about his cheeks.
“I see,” she responded, her head bowed. “But you mustn't let it bother you.”
Blake wiped his face, he could still feel a clammy and tingling sensation left by her touch. “It's just infuriating to hear them speak of her so highly, when she's yet to have done anything.”
He could also sense himself growing more frustrated the further they travelled, tired of the vehicle constantly jolting as it rushed over many a crack and bump along the road.
“You best get ready,” spoke a voice from the vehicle's front. “We will arrive at our destination shortly.”
Blake immediately withdrew a crinkled navy blue uniform from his school bag. He wriggled his way into a long sleeved shirt, and adjusted at the straps of a vest; the initials P.I. were embroidered in bold toward the right of its chest. He reached for a matching pair of leggings, a pair of combat boots, and retrieved a long dark cloak which he'd earlier draped over a nearby ammunition crate.
I'm not exactly looking forward to facing Walter either,” he said. “I mean we would have been on our way out here sooner, if we didn't have to keep playing the role of a babysitter. But he'll still hold me accountable no matter what we say.”
“We've arrived,” Kulullu whispered, springing to her feet and toward the vehicle's back hatch.
Once the vehicle was finally stationary and the back latch of the vehicle had been opened, they both leapt out onto the coarse ground of a sand swept roadway. Blake surveyed his immediate surroundings. The surrounding land was in poor condition, the relentless earthquakes had taken their toll on this once vibrant little city. He looked to the remnants of buildings that had recently been reduced to rubble; to the bent lampposts, and the fissured footpaths which lined the sides of streets.
He looked to his water guardian. “Kul, you'll need to conceal yourself. “See, they've yet to secure the entire area.”
Up ahead, many construction workers under the council's employ were brushing scattered fragments of glass and rock curb side, and clearing away the debris from out of fallen structures. There appeared no end in sight to these continuous earthquakes, Blake had thought. What's more, these tremors seem to be felt heaviest within the city's centre than anywhere else about the Anabasis region. There were so few citizens these days that lived here, so many had moved out into the suburbs and outskirts.
“I wish we could help these people,” said Kulullu.
Blake agreed, but they'd so far been unable to identify the cause behind such activity. Most of the populace simply reasoned the earthquakes were the misfortune of nature, and that their frequency meant it was only a matter of time before the city itself was relocated. Bordering states, which initially supplied them with aid had also ceased, as it seemed these earthquakes were endless and they no longer had the capacity to sustain such efforts. But there were others, Blake included, who believed there was something else at work.
“Do you think they have any more leads into this winged Corrupted's whereabouts?”
“I wouldn't count on it,” Blake sighed, as they turned round the corner of a building, and found a collection of their organisation's black utility vehicles parked before an alleyway. “I fathom this'll be more of the same.”
Once they had passed through the maze of vehicles, and having made his way along the alley, he spotted the limp figure of a young woman at its end; slouched up against a brick wall.
He watched as Walter steered his automated wheelchair toward him. “You're late,” he said.
With his head bowed, Blake gazed back at the older gentleman, apprehensive about the likely scolding which would surely follow. Just by looking at him, he could tell Walter was far from pleased; he was glaring up at him through the small frames of his spectacles, a large vein throbbed on his brow which indicated his displeasure, and he was rubbing the grey hairs on his chin with quiet contemplation. This he'd often do before admonishing a subordinate.
“Sir, the perimeter is now secure,” a voice echoed from out of the communication device fastened about his wrist.
“Very well,” Walter responded, speaking directly into it. “Proceed with caution.”
Blake glanced down at his own wrist communicator.
Why am I not party this communication channel,
I've not been alerted of any progress made.
“Mine must be on the fritz again,” Blake muttered, as he prodded about its screen.
It hadn't been long ago since these wrist communicators were first issued to each individual operative, and he could already see that his own was beginning to fall apart. He now noticed there was also a fracture on top of its screen, and he'd already come to learn earlier that the internal speaker had become muffled with excess dust.
Walter peered down at Blake's communication device. “It's little wonder you are so often late when called upon. And the state of your uniform is far from acceptable.”
“Sir, how can the perimeter be fully secured when we've seen so many workers about?” Kulullu questioned, attempting to change the subject. “Moreover, has there been any sign of this winged Corrupted?”
Blake averted his eyes up toward the rooftop; a number of the organisation's armed operatives roamed about with their rifles pointed, and were actively surveying the surrounding environment.
“I'm afraid not,” said Walter, as he adjusted his spectacles and removed a handkerchief from his pocket. “But as you can see, we now have another lead.”
Walter rubbed away at the condensation residing on his spectacles' lenses, before he placed them back atop the bridge of his crooked nose. He motioned a finger toward the young woman, his eyes opening and closing as if he had something in his eye.
“Now, you still haven't explained why you're so late.”
“Blame Lance,” said Blake. “He was slow to pick me up.”
At this point, a young man marched toward them who resembled Blake in many respects. He had oily black hair, shorter cut than Blake's, and the same dark brown eyes. He was also significantly taller, and unlike Blake he wore his uniform with pride, and had gone to great lengths in ensuring no loose thread or crease could be found. Blake could not figure out how he had the time for such things, and thought this young man's priorities must be misdirected. Nevertheless, he knew his own uniform was worn and had clearly lost some of its shape, and he'd regularly need to adjust the leggings so that they didn't drag along the ground, or get caught under the heels of his boots.
“Sir, we've yet to receive any response from the victim,” Lance said, his hand raised in salute. “But all vital signs are normal, and we're ready to transport her back to the facility.”
“Very well,” Walter responded, briefly diverting his attention from Blake.
“Sir, why was it so important you needed me here?” Blake asked, knowing full well that this would only court Walter's ire and cease this momentary respite.
Noticeably strained, Walter looked back at him. “Another two sets of eyes, and those of which are more in tune and developed at detecting celestial energy. But I've not yet felt his presence, and I suspect that he's long gone. So there's little reason in discussing this any further. And don't think this means you're off the hook.”