20. Angels of Death
TSTCW: The rope of Artemis tightens around you
Seth Aeron gasped. He stood still and refused to struggle against the rope Nimai had caught him in.
“Try to get out. It will only tighten around you.” Nimai said. “This is the rope of Artemis. The same rope she used to kill wayward men intent on deflowering her virgins. You remember Artemis, don’t you?”
“Why are you doing this, Nimai Kreo Vitus? The mother will not be pleased.” Seth Aeron’s breathing became heavy.
Nimai gazed at him with a crooked smile. Jessica couldn’t believe her eyes. Nimai was supposed to be kind, not evil. Seth Aeron was supposed to be the violent, battle driven harbinger of death, not the innocent faced Nimai. Her heart was pounding and her mind racing with confusion. What could she do?
“It matters not what Mother wants. It made no difference on Nenatooka and it will make no difference here. The mother of Nenatooka couldn’t change the fate of her world, but I could, and I did. You remember Nenatooka, don’t you?”
Seth Aeron’s black eyes grew wide with horror. “No, you didn’t.” His voice was a breathy gasp that struggled when released. Sweat trickled down his brow as he clenched his fists.
“I did, and it was easy. Oh, so easy to take it.”
Nimai wrapped the rope around his hand. Seth Aeron stumbled as he stepped closer, drawn by the tension of the rope. It squeezed tighter around him.
“Filled with inner light, I create life.” Nimai said. He was inches away from Seth Aeron now. “I create, but to do that, I must destroy. What happened in Nenatooka would have taken the natural environment a millennium to do, slowing changing and mutating its inhabitants over time into stronger, faster mortals. But what the universe can do in a million years, I can do in a fraction of time.”
Seth Aeron struggled as he said, “you destroyed that world. You created nothing but a species of ogress that devastated everything in their path. There’s nothing left. It’s in utter ruin, irreversible loss.”
“Ah, that is where you are wrong. I can create anything, and I will do it again here. But here on Earth, I will recreate the Fomorians into a greater species than they ever were. Did you know their lineage lies in the depths of an iceberg cave near the Drake passage? In fact, many creatures of Earth’s mythical lore are there, locked in vials in the icy depths of an ancient structure. Guarded by the albatross who nest there, secluded by the forbidden waters where oceans collide. Have you heard of this place?”
Seth Aeron gritted his teeth as the rope tightened. He looked weary, as if all his energy were being drained. Panic seeped into Jessica as she wondered if she were witnessing his murder unfold before her. Yet, despite the knot in her throat, she couldn’t scream or protest and her legs refused to run away and her mind scrambled about how to save him from the god that saved her life. Was his life worth saving? Seth Aeron was arguably a murderer himself.
Nimai went on, “so I created the first of its kind, a new Fomorian who possesses greater speed, agility, and strength.” He chuckled, “you could call it my greatest achievement yet and there will be more to come out of this success.”
Seth Aeron’s eyes shot at Jessica. He seemed to know what she was thinking as a sinking realization came over her. A moment later, Nimai confirmed that horror. “Behold the mother of my creation.” He said, waving his free hand towards her.
Jessica took a step back and mouthed the word, “no” but her voice died in her dry throat.
“What are you planning to do, breed her?” Seth Aeron breathed out.
He was now slumping forward on his knees. Head bowed, he looked like a feeble old man instead of a fierce god. His shadow quivered and shrank to half its size behind him. In that moment, Jessica’s eyes focused again, turning the form of Seth Aeron into shades of blue and red. She could see the orb of red fire thumping in his chest, slowing subtly with every squeeze of the rope. She blinked, and all went back. Seth Aeron returned to his normal form.
“No. There is no need to do it the old way when you can synthesize a living human through their DNA. It’s easier and quicker just to force the metamorphosis to happen.”
“And how are you going to do that?”
“Forced vaccination. I only need to start with several hundred and from there, the evolution will unfold in a rapid declination of humanity as the new species spreads across the world like a fast-moving virus.”
He shifted his attention to Jessica and said, “speaking of which, Jessica, will you take this for me? I just had a brilliant idea.”
Jessica reluctantly stepped forward and took the rope from Nimai. Fixated on Seth Aeron’s deteriorating state, she could see a hollowness in his once full face. His lustrous black hair was now haggard, strands that lay flat against his scalp.
“Hold it tight.” Nimai instructed as he left the room.
Jessica swallowed hard as she gripped the rope, gazing sorrowfully at the gaunt man. What would happen if she let go of the rope?
Nimai returned with a briefcase and arranged its contents on the table at the far end of the room. He turned around, holding up a syringe in his hand. Like a deranged serial killer in the flickering light of the fire, he strode over to Seth Aeron and hovered over him. Then he stuck the needle into his arm, drawing blood. Seth Aeron didn’t even flinch. Jessica wondered if he could feel anything at all.
Filling up the vial, Nimai withdrew the needle and returned to the table. He set it down and picked up the scissors. This time he cut a lock of hair from Seth Aeron.
“I was wondering-” He said as he made his way back to the table with the hair. “What would happen if I combined your DNA with hers?”
Jessica shivered. Again, no visible response from Seth Aeron, but his shadow growled low. Nimai returned with a cotton swab and kneeled next to him. He grabbed his jaw, pulling his face upward so his coal-like eyes looked up at him.
“Open your mouth and maybe I’ll let you live.”
Jessica’s face grew long with fear. What was Nimai going to do to her next? If he got everything he wanted from Seth Aeron, there really wouldn’t be any reason to keep him around. Jessica contemplated the idea that Nimai, the innocent childlike god, would kill Seth Aeron anyway. She had to do something, but what?
Seth Aeron laughed, a thick melodic sound. “You won’t allow me to live.”
Jessica felt the need to intervene. “Nimai, stop it, please. You don’t need to do this.”
Her voice sounded weak and vulnerable, shaky. Nimai did not acknowledge her. He gripped harder on Seth Aeron’s jaw and shook his head as he said, “open your mouth or I will slay you alive like an animal carcass. All the while, I’ll make sure you bear witness and feel the blade cut through your flesh and I’ll enjoy your screams as I remove each of your organs, one by one, leaving your heart for last.”
“Don’t.” Jessica stepped forward, allowing the rope to slack. She wasn’t sure what she feared more, a harbinger of death or a two-faced angel. Then, without a second thought, she let the rope fall from her hands. She watched it hit the floor in slow motion and just like that, the rope loosened around the dying Seth Aeron.