No Bullets For A Bandolier
Part Four Of Ruth/Osiris in the apocalypse
Ash and the scent of singed hair littered the church’s smoky air. Burnt to a crisp Osiris thought. She stepped over a skeleton, avoiding making eye contact with the skull. More like socket contact really. In front of her face a flaked section of paper flew past, breaking down by the millisecond into tiny grey molecules.
Osiris coughed, breathing smothered by smog. The rucksack wearing down on her back was not packed properly to distribute the weight it carried. Rushed panic from earlier was catching up to her in the form of blistered red marks.
"No time to stop" was forming as Osiris’ internal mantra. No time to stop.
The very basic framework of the church had been leftover since the fire, loss of looks aside. Osiris stopped in the middle of the structure. Two large vertical clumps of ashy wood to her left and right sides she recognised as church pews. The nerve centre of her childhood faith now faded down to a permanent ghost. More pages of that mystery child’s diary scattered themselves with the rhythm of the wind. It took more time than she wanted but Osiris gathered the remaining pages. Each less delicate than the first. It gave off the vibe of emergency workers shifting through the ruins of a disaster for bodies to identify.
With careful grace Osiris turned the pages from hand to hand. The parts that chilled her at the first read didn’t disappoint.
“Said it was a shivered (?) baptttism B – A – P – T – I – S – M.”
“Things are breaking up past the ground.”
“Spiky hair is trying to make me hold yellow flowers. I think I am going to listen and look at the grave one more time. I hope I will be back to write more soon. Bye.”
Willowed shoulders sagged with an audible pop sound. Osiris shuffled some glass around with her foot, and a page corner dissolved in her hands. Osiris took the rucksack off and unzipped it moodily. Emptying out tumbled crystal stones and brass scales to the floor, all their shine taken off by deep-set runic symbols.
Oh no…Only one person had entered that church before her…and there was only one skeleton…
Osiris stood, easing blood flow in the right leg. Her flame-dyed hair shook off some of its collected dust and ash, as Osiris ran to the skeleton.
A pause, rattled inhaling. In her rush to go all guns blazing, she’d made a major fuck-up level mistake. Shining amethyst crystals sat next to quartz pebbles in Osiris’ hand, not spilling out as she practically jumped over to Ruth’s skeleton.
Osiris' gaze trailed off to look at Ruth’s empty eye sockets. Whatever flesh around them had fizzled out from the dead heat. Deciding on a spilling wheel approach, and using her longest fingernail, Osiris made a small nick in her right index finger. The blood dripped in slow small deposits onto the crown of the skull, before trailing to pool at the sockets. Osiris let it settle for a good minute, then picked up a brick and smashed it to bits.
As new puffs of ash and smoke curled into the air, Osiris rooted in the rucksack for her stone mortar and pestle. This ritual is precise…has to be the jawbone. Cringing, Osiris retrieved the split in half section from under the heap of bone. When the pestle broke the jawbone down bit by bit, it sounded like crickets. Osiris’ forearm ached as she twisted whatever was left into a powdered husk. It took up more time than expected considering dusk was settling itself when Osiris put the stone bowl next to the scales.
Osiris pushed a mop of sweat from her brow, slicking back her hair in the process. Its end tips reaching to the back of her neck. Silently thankful there were no mirrors. “Halfway with this thing.” She said absentmindedly.
Scales in one hand and mortar in the other, Osiris stomped over to the podium, surprised at the ache in her calves. Both objects were placed either side of the podium. The brittle pages laid down in sequential order on the flat surface. That old guilt rushed to Osiris like steam from a hot-spring.
In those words were the spirits of Ruth and mystery child. Ruth’s material body was wrecked, more dead than disco. The kid’s was still up in the air in that regard. Being dragged around a graveyard by a cult never leads to something good though. The Baron’s cult. Even if that crazy bunch had decided to kill everyone taken, that didn’t explain why Baron was wiping memories and handing out a psychic diary. Ruth was a brainwashed girl with psychic powers linked to a magick notebook. That somehow ended up transferred to some other soul. Whether she liked it or not (not), Osiris was playing into his hands. Either that or sit in the house scared until the cows come home. Any action was better than inaction. Questions needed answering, so now was the time to leap with faith and hope for feathers. Even if the fall takes a while.
After reading over those pages and memorising key parts, location, time, any and all indicators she could extract, Osiris folded the pages carefully and tucked them into a side pocket. The scales replaced them on the podium. As a final touch Osiris removed a large handful of powdered jawbone from the mortar and put it on the empty scale side, setting it against the crystals. The overall weight started up the process of balancing itself, and Osiris repeated keywords in her head, matching them with the runes. She felt drunk, her balance slipping as her brain turned to lazy sludge. The scales dinged but Osiris never saw which won out between the powdered bone and crystals. She was locked in too deep now. Astral tendrils cracked down past the sky, overriding the weather pattern. Osiris left the earth, going between the diary’s words into one of its dimension.
Meanwhile in the diary dimension:
Ruth’s iron sight sparkled, she narrowed her focus. The Baron locked eyes with her. She’d just shot him with a lead pellet at nearly point blank range, and the evil bastard was holding it between his index finger and thumb. Its bright side dappled in the sunlight. The Baron repeated himself. “Hey Ruth.” Time limped as Ruth made her trigger finger a vine to the trigger itself. Then she almost fell from the tree. Leaves fluttered to the ground. Baron watched, an amused cat in an amusing situation. Ruth wobbled again as she shakily tried to load another pellet.
“Bullets would be better you idiot.” Ruth snapped to herself, not caring if Baron heard. Her new lead pellet shook loose from its bandolier, almost falling with the leaves. The Baron made a hand signal, and his followers snaked past the graveyard’s iron bars before sprinting barefoot over long grass, their faces manic with controlled adrenaline.
“Let’s cut all the bullshit Ruth. Get off the tree. We have a mutual friend missing from this, erm…”
The Baron gestured around at the graveyard. “This…gathering.”
Ruth considered, and dropped the rifle. “Where is she?”
Elsewhere at the Underspirit Hive:
It was like the rain would never stop. Either out of stubborn spite or lack of self-control. Ava chided herself. Going crazy for sure.
Sitting still had lead her legs and arms to bored numbness. Ava stood up slowly and stretched. “You’ve gone loopy for sure now Ava. Having a huff the sky is mental…maybe.”
On reflection the idea was not so bizarre. Things had been going in weird directions for a while now. Being dragged to the underworld was the tip of the iceberg to say the least. Ava remembered “talking” with graves and now here she was. Surrounded by Underspirits. Those that’d torn down her -and everyone’s- world to pieces. When growing up in a hippy-dippy household, Ava had been taught that any kind of demon you encountered became fused with your aura.
There sure are a lot of them. Underspirits slept a lot for seemingly undead entities. When Ava was taken – for lack of a better word – one of the first things they’d done rather than eat her soul or whatever, was to sleep. Although when Ava took into account the place they called home it all made a lot more sense. It was a strict geometric structure of a honey type substance. It stuck to you like superpowered superglue. Pods they rested in had the cut-out inlay shape of coffins. Ava counted forty two so far. H.R. Geiger on steroids and mescaline. Talk about a wild trip…
How to describe the Underspirits exactly was pleasantly stressful, like if Ava succeeded it would be a sort of bragging right. Shame there’s no one to brag to anymore. All Ava’s friends were dead thanks to them. Weirdness from an Underspirit began from the crown of their head and continuing downward. Tight sinewy skin pulled tight like a concert drumkit. Gaunt cheekbones connected to a swaying bone structure, with arms crossed at sharp elbows and hands clasping withered deltoids, Underspirits resembled pharaohs. They twitched in unison, dust puffed up in increments from their ribcages.
Ava watched, remembering being dragged along mountains by all the creepy people who’d sent her to the Underspirits. Actual clouds had guided her wandering imagination as the group navigated the terrain. Either lightning or the northern lights had struck behind the clouds. It’d given the illusion that the sky was flicking on and off like an impatient light switch. An easy idea to laugh off in the moment. But all Ava needed to do was look at her surroundings to realise a simple thing.
“Nothing is out of the question, except getting out of here.”
A woman’s voice crept into Ava’s head, drumming up a headache.
“Hi my name’s Ruth. Ava, you need to listen closely...”