As promised, here goes episode 4 of “The executioner”, publisher approved and re-edited. Stay tuned next Friday for episode 5, and every week for much more.
When she meets heartthrob Damian Novac, shy student Alice develops a heavy crush against her best wishes. Hoping to get close to him, she joins Damian and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains – a choice that will change her life abruptly.
When the train derails in high snow, they seek refuge at an abandoned cottage, but soon people of their group start losing their minds and dying. Alice barely escapes with Damian and some of their friends, only to realize she’s far from safe even back home. A shady corporation which conducts experiments on humans and which seems to have ‘engineered’ Damian into something monstrous many years before is on their trail.
A man of secrets and obscure powers, Damian might be a villain or a hero. He might save Alice’s life or he might take it. Though aware of the danger he poses, she can’t fight the obsession that will draw her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?
Mom drove all the four-hour way to Constanta in silence. George was in great need of it. He was sensitive to all sound, he’d cover his ears, his face would twist in a grotesque mask and he’d squeeze his lids shut at every word he heard. He’d killed a man with his own hands, the trauma was most severe for him, the doctor had explained. He remembered every detail of it vividly, which tormented him with violent headaches.
“Don’t leave him alone, for whatever reason,” the doctor had warned.
The street up to my parents’ house revealed itself on a last turn, cobbled and ghostly in our headlights. Barking from neighboring yards and the crisp sea air were the first to greet us, lonely and timeless, like the screech of our old iron gate and the warm darkness of our living room. I think that was my first real experience of synesthesia, I could almost feel the massive oak bookcase through my skin, the homely upholstered couch, Dad’s favorite armchair.
George didn’t wait for an invitation to throw himself face-down on the sofa in the small antechamber that opened into my room, which I used to call my boudoir back in high school. Ruxandra and I shared my bed.
Mom turned on the lamp outside, the thick skeleton of our old apple tree bathing in its mild light. We kept the curtains open so we could face it from the bed, my old guardian from childhood days. It felt safe, it felt home, but I still couldn’t close my eyes until the early morning hours. Something was missing, something wasn’t right. Something wasn’t home. It only hit me when my eyes snapped open at midday, my brain refreshed: Where was Dad?
I threw the blanket aside, squirmed out of bed – squashing Ruxandra in the process, provoking a grunt and a sleepy frown – and rushed to the master bedroom.
The curtains were drawn, making way for the pale winter light through the overlarge window. The just as oversized bed was made – of course, Mom must’ve been up for hours, if she’d slept at all, considering the circumstances. Having left the parental home a few years ago to live with Ruxandra and her sister in the town suburbs, most of my parents’ habits had moved to the back of my brain, only to resurface when exposed to them again. As they did now. I remembered the smell of scrambled eggs that used to draw me to the kitchen when I was a child. It hadn’t spoilt my olfactory senses in many years and it didn’t now either, but, as I said, old memories resurfaced.
I tiptoed to the kitchen to find Mom sitting at the table, her thin fingers slowly stroking a coffee mug smeared with souvenir photos of San Francisco – one of the few items that still bound her to her own home. Her stare was lost over the black liquid that didn’t give out steam, which meant she must’ve been staring blankly at it for some time now. Her hair, blond and crisscrossed by platinum strands, fell rumpled to her slim shoulders. She was clad in a fluffy, white nightgown.
The sight was disconcerting, considering her usual innate urge of always looking flawless and making an impression of aristocracy on all eyes that fell on her, including the cleaning lady’s. Now the absence of an elegant and shiny bun and the uncovered wrinkles on her meager face in the presence of a stranger were another definite sign something was wrong.
His sitting on the kitchen couch, the corner cupboard hanging over his head like the Sword of Damocles, was even more disturbing. A heavy winter coat was hanging negligently off the couch edge, his chubby hands cupping a coffee mug of his own like pillows of flesh emerging from under thick pullover sleeves. His mien was grave as he set brown, warm eyes on me.
Round and young, but marked by determination, that’s the impression his face made. Common features, like mine, someone I wouldn’t have noticed in a group or anywhere else. But now he sat in my parents’ kitchen. Was he a lover? No way, my inner self snapped. She would’ve gone for someone less . . . fat. Plus, he didn’t seem to be feeling awkward, nor did he try to justify his presence.
Just a few moments of puzzling silence, then he stood up, gathered his coat and turned to the door that led directly to the back garden – something told me he’d come in through the same, but I was clueless as to the reason why he refused to use the front door. With a hand on the handle and the coat on the other arm, he turned once more to Mom.
“We’ll be close.”
She nodded. He threw me a glance that said, “I’ll let you girls talk,” before he left.
Unable to formulate questions even in my head, I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Still, the sixth sense activated again and sent me with slow steps to the table, then seated me in the man’s place.
Mom didn’t raise her head. On the contrary, she seemed to sink it even closer to the mug, a hunch forming on her slim back that was otherwise as straight as a wood plank. Hadn’t it been for the thick nightgown, I would’ve seen the skin stretch over her ribs. The truth of the man’s visit must’ve been a burden not much different from an affair. Could it be?
“So?” I managed after a while.
Her fingers still stroked the mug with slow, even moves. “We’ll be under surveillance. I don’t know for how long.”
“You and your friends. The . . .” she chewed on her lower lip, probably to keep back what looked like a nervous breakdown. Her cheek twitched. “Those people from the mountains. BioDhrome, they told me.”
Panic shot to the tips of my toes.“BioDhrome’s our priority now, Tiberius. They won’t stop here.”
Only now Mom looked me in the eyes, eyebrows up like a crying pet’s. She looked for the way to put it, there was no doubt.
“No, God, please no!”
Mom’s expression grew from wrecked to worried, more alert now, the way it had been at the hospital. She gripped my wrist, voice soft and soothing, though it cost her some effort.
“No, baby, no. He’s all right, safe and sound.”
Pulse still up until the information sank in. “Where is he then?”
This was the news she’d been nervous about, I could tell by the pause and fixed gaze on my eyes.
“He’s been extracted, they told me.”
“Extracted? What’s that supposed to mean?”
Another nervous chew on her lip. “This BioDhrome thing.” Then reconsidering, “Alice, this must stay between us. Tell no one, not Ruxandra, not anyone.”
“Just tell me, Mom!”
“Give me your word first. For your own safety, not mine.”
To be continued.
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