Authors: Christopher De Sousa
“Are the same marks present about her neck?” questioned Blake, looking over to the victim and trying to avoid Walter's gaze.
“See for yourself,” said Walter, looking down at the screen of his wrist communicator.
Blake carefully treaded around any medical equipment that lay in his path toward the victim, and examined her neckline. With persistent concentration, he eventually saw jagged blue tooth marks materialize; marks which proved a positive match with one prior victim he'd earlier encountered.
Blake frowned. “There's no doubt about it. That same winged Corrupted who got Andy Mickelson has claimed another victim.”
“Based on your words to me via your communicator, and other corresponding information pertaining to location, time, and place,” said Walter, his eyes locked upon his wrist communicator's screen. “You had an unusual encounter with a Miss Munroe.”
“Yes, and as you had suspected,” Blake begrudgingly admitted. “A guardian has been pursuing her, and she had a minor episode again during English period.”
“You don't exactly sound pleased about learning of this revelation.”
He looked down on Walter, apprehensive at how he should answer. “If I must explain myself; you have your mind made up that she could prove useful to the organisation. And with all due respect, I can't help but disagree.”
“We shall all see in due time,” said Walter, as he spun round in his wheelchair and headed for the nearest vehicle. “For you were not there, and never saw what her mother was capable of.”
“Her mother was indeed a surprise find for the organisation,” said Blake. “But that doesn't necessarily mean she'll follow in her footsteps.”
“Excuse me,” a gruff voice cried out. “What is with all these armed operative's roaming about my jurisdiction.”
, Blake thought to himself, instantly recognising the man to whom this voice belonged.
This man had proven a constant bore and nuisance with all their ensuing efforts over the last couple of months, and Blake couldn't restrain himself from screwing up his nose at him and groaning aloud as he approached.
“How many times must we go over this Mr Waite,” Walter sighed, retrieving a silver plated badge from his jacket pocket. “We are with the project: a branch of area fifty-one, and thus have jurisdiction over such circumstances.”
Blake and the other operatives remained idle as the frail police chief stumbled forward and examined the badge. The man appeared anxious in face of Walter; there was dust and sweat accumulating about the creases of his forehead, and he was biting with yellow teeth about his upper lip. He looked on as the police chief pushed his way through a pair of surrounding operatives, and berated another set as they were amidst removing the victim from the scene.
It appeared as though a frothy substance was forming about his mouth as the police chief barked at them. “Stop, where are you taking the victim, this is now a crime and she is”---
“A victim of the supernatural, and an act outside your jurisdiction,” Walter had been quick to interject, before he turned toward the nearest utility. “Now if you would be so kind as to let us continue in our duty.”
“Rubbish, what evidence have you collected?” the police chief questioned, the jowl of his jaw swinging from right to left. “How can you even seek to validate such an outrageous claim?”
Blake could sense that Walter was growing impatient. “I'm afraid that's classified. Now if you will excuse us. Any further issue you might have should be taken up with Senator Gates.”
“Shall we escort him from the area?” asked one of the organisation's operatives.
“If he will not leave on his own accord,” said Walter, as he was assisted into the back of the utility.
Blake watched as the elderly police chief huffed and flailed his arms before he was eventually escorted from the vicinity. But as the police chief was walking away, Blake felt a cold chill run along his spine. He spotted what was thought to be a stream of fragmented rock fall from the police chief's face. What's worse, he sensed they were being watched from high above. An intense pair of glowing red eyes abruptly flashed within the scope of his mind's eye, they glared back at him with a menacing candour that suggested his end was near.
Katherine laid there in her warm bed trying to fall asleep, hoping that both the illusions and voice's she'd been tormented with over the course of the day might finally fade. But it came as no revelation that she found this no easy task.
How can I possibly hope, or expect to find rest
with all these images of gryphons and water spirits constantly floating in and out of my mind?
She thought to herself.
The words Blake had uttered within the confines of the library were also beginning to haunt her. She thought about how he'd claimed he was assigned with her protection. This in turn left her asking the question, over and over again, who or what warranted this course of action? She felt it difficult enough dealing with those elements of her daily life, those which many would see as normal, let alone the fears that something, or someone, could possibly be after her.
Then there was the mascot.
What am I going to do for the school mascot?
I still can't seem to find that necessary source of inspiration.
She stared up at the ceiling.
What about the Gryphon?
Now there's an idea. The very creature which has been following me would make a perfect school mascot. The proud head of an eagle, dressed in a mane of silver feathers. Its regal coat of fur, glistening gold beneath the sunlightâ¦
The irony was not lost to her.
I've been lying here, trying to forget about these mythical figures,
she thought to herself,
trying to rid my mind of these obvious delusions. Thinking of gryphons as mascots would just add fuel to a fire already ablaze
But she had to do something; she couldn't simply lie there in the vain hope of sleep to soothe her frantic mind. She found herself wide awake, and figured she might as well put some of this pent up anxiety towards something productive.
A cup of tea, or coffeeâ¦coffee would be nice right about now
, she thought. With that, Katherine raised herself out from beneath the blankets and descended the stairs.
She scrounged about inside the refrigerator, but was unable to find any milk or cream. Not a fan of black tea, nor the prospect of coffee without, she peered about the kitchen counter in search of Duncan.
“Dad, we're out of milk, and there's no cream,” she yelled. “If you fling me the car keys, I could go and pick some up from the corner dairy.”
She waited, quietly anticipating the groaning and sighing of her father as he'd likely envision the prospect of her driving the jeep. Despite the fact she already knew what his answer would be, Katherine intended to persist in the hope that he'd eventually come to his senses.
“Dad,” she again shouted, as more than a few minutes had now passed without a reply.
She wandered into the lounge. Duncan lay there upon the couch; sound asleep before the buzzing static of an old television set. Having decided against waking him, she turned for the kitchen, before she trudged up the stairs in defeat.
I could easily just wander down toward a corner convenience store
, she thought to herself
, but a mere coffee or tea is far from worthy of all that effort, and it is getting dark. Besides, it would only prove a distraction from working on the mascot.
She claimed a seat before her desk; she withdrew a sheet of sketching paper out from one of its drawers and reached for a pencil. Clutching at the pencil, she soon after found herself succumbing to procrastination. Her eyes darted back and forth from the sheet of art paper, and a nearby laptop. With the laptop having eventually won her attention, she jumped onto a chatroom where Naomi was also often known to linger. Sure enough, Naomi too was surfing the web, and the pair struck up a video call. Any work on the mascot would have to wait, she had decided.
“So what happened during English period?” asked Naomi, her head floating within a box screen upon Katherine's laptop.
“I just froze; stage fright I suppose. Can't really explain why, it just happened.”
Naomi gazed out at her from the computer screen. “Have you come up with any more ideas for the mascot?”
“I have,” she replied, having known it'd only be a matter of time before Naomi would bring it up in conversation.
Naomi giggled with excitement. “I hope it isn't anything earthquake or tremor related.”
At least an earthquake design would be a fitting representation of Anabasis
, she thought, believing Naomi's joke was in poor taste given the region's struggles of late.
“No, it has nothing to do with tremors or earthquakes,” said Katherine.
“Then do tell, the suspense is killing me,” blurted Naomi, her shrill voice echoing through Katherine's speakers and about the bedroom walls.
“I will when finished with the design,” Katherine replied. “Just to change the subject for a moment, Blake cornered me earlier today in the library.”
“Blake Mathieson?” Naomi questioned with a puzzled expression.
Before giving any further response, Katherine pondered for a moment upon whether it were wise to discuss with Naomi what she'd recently experienced.
Naomi isn't the sort to poke fun and might be able to provide me with some sound advice
, she considered
. At the very least, she might just shed some light from another perspective. Although, she just might confirm what I fear most; that I've grown completely insane and beyond anyone's help.
Naomi appeared to lurch forward. “Wait, did I hear you correctly, you were in the library?”
“Why is that so surprising,” she responded, before giving it more consideration. “On second thought, perhaps you shouldn't answer that.”
“What did he want?” Naomi asked.
“I don't know,” she said, thinking it best not to tell her what had truly happened. “That guy just is, and will always be forever creepy.”
“You're hiding something from me,” said Naomi. “What did he say? What did he do?”
Before she could properly reply, she heard a hoarse screeching noise pierce the tranquil evening sky. She gazed out her bedroom window, and downward into the property's front yard.
“Did you hear that?” she asked.
Confused, Naomi looked back at her through the monitor as if she'd lost it. “Hear what?”
Katherine scanned about her father's apple tree, her eyes coming to rest upon a mound of golden fur before its trunk.
“I've got to go,” said Katherine, as she sprung up from her seat. “We'll talk tomorrow morning before school.”
She raced from her bedroom, hustled her way down the stairs, and scampered out onto the dimly lit porch at the property's front.
“It's the gryphon,” she gasped aloud, as she cautiously made her way closer to the apple tree.
The creature lay there before her; it restlessly squawked and squirmed about against the grass in a distressed state. As she crept closer toward the gryphon, she felt herself becoming swept up with emotion, overwhelmed by the sight of such a majestic creature. Her heart was beating so fast she thought it would burst out of her chest, and she could feel a tingling sensation toward the tips of her fingers.
The creature, having now taken note of her presence, lurched forward and glanced up at her through eyes speckled with gold. As it slowly stumbled toward her, she caught sight of its many wounds; there were numerous gashes torn through its fur, and there were what appeared to be small bite marks running up about its legs and neck. She found it difficult to imagine how anything could harm such a creature; with its formidable body of a lion, its powerful beak, and its razor sharp talons. But she was sure that someone, or something, had gotten hold of it. If the wounds were not enough of a telling sign. She couldn't keep herself from peering at the stream of blood that seeped through and painted the grass a dark red. Now that she found herself less than a foot away from this creature, she had the urge to provide comfort, to reach out and stroke her hand through its mane of feathers. But before she could move her hand forward through the air, she somehow sensed that something didn't feel quite right.
Why have I stopped
? She thought to herself,
this creature needs me, but I can't bring myself to move
Pleading for her to run away, she heard a voice in her head call out.
“What are you saying? I can't just leave it here to suffer.”
She spun round in search of anyone who could, and might, be able to help. But it was now late at night, and she figured that no one was going to be loitering in the neighbourhood at this hour.
But it's not like I'm dealing with a dog or cat here,
And how can I possibly be the only one who can hear its loud crying?
“Stay here,” she said to the gryphon. “I'll go find someone to help.”
“Whom do you expect to find,” Asked a cold and grave figure that now stood between her and the pathway toward the porch.
“Who are you?” she questioned, her body shaking.
The figure, cloaked in black, failed to respond and only glared back at her through the eye slits of a porcelain mask.
“I'm more curious about whom you think could possibly help,” she heard a more feminine voice say; one which sounded to echo from behind her and up within the apple tree.
When Katherine squinted upward at the tree, she caught sight of a gloomy and gothic, yet slender and delicate looking figure, perched upon one of its many branches. This bewitching and unusual creature then pounced, landing gracefully before Katherine and the gryphon. Next, this lustful looking demon removed her cowl in the moonlight to reveal a pair of black horns that protruded from out of the forehead, and brandished before Katherine a series of long piercing fingertips from beneath the sleeves of her tattered cloak.