Updated: Jun 9
Arkology was basking in the Great Machine's blue radiance as the city’s denizens were going through their daily routines. But the shanties on the city’s top-level a man raced through the narrow alleys sprawling like a maze through the ghetto. His throat was parched, but he had to keep on gasping for air to fuel his souring limbs in his attempt to get from his pursuer. There! He spotted an abandoned workshop beneath one of the many scrap-built apartment complexes. After fleeing inside, he squeezed his eyes to find his way through the gloom. His gaze shifted from shelf to shelf, each of which had turned to moldy breeding grounds for a wide variety of mushrooms. Then, between some cabinets, he spotted a doorway and propelled himself toward the exit. But before he could reach his goal, the closet shelves ahead started to tremble.
He stopped dead in his tracks when the old cabinet moved in front of the doorway as if being dragged and then collapsed into a collection of boards and misplaced objects barring his way out.
“Oh, curses!” he hissed in a panic as he looked for another way out. But he lost all hope when he heard the sneering laughter like the cooing of a dodo.
*I would appear yae ran into a dead end, Al-zahef.* spoke a feminine voice distorted by static.
“What? No. Leave me alone!”
*Yae shouldn’t have run, kip. Yae know better than to run for the Strix.*
"Y-You don’t understann’. T-the Eiraf. H-he commanns the spirits. If I talk, he’ll senn his spirits on me!”
His reply was met with more condescending laughter. *Ia too can command the spirits, Al-zahef. And Ia can do it, right now.*
“No, he’s too powerful. He-”Al-zahef squinted his eyes as he saw something moving by the entrance.
Then, a small apparition appeared whose dark form contrasted starkly against the Machine’s bright light. Its long shadow glided across the tiles as the creature, the size of his lower arm, came toward him walking upright like a human. However, the malformed proportions of its silhouette were that of an imp from his ancestral myths.
He backed away as the creature stepped out of the light, its true appearance became apparent in the gloom. It was a plush child’s plaything. The horror had buttons for eyes and a stitched mouth shaped as a malicious grin.
“No, please. Don’t come any closer!”
*As yae can see, Ia too have a spirit host. This is the toy of the girl killed by the Eiraf’s so-called curse.*
“What? I-I din’t know of any youngster-”
*Silence!* screeched the Strix.* Her father is still stricken, and shae cannot rest until the curse is lifted and her murderer has endured proper justice.”
*Don’t ruin the moment, Al-zahef!* the Styx growled agitated. *Now, if yae tell mae where Ia can find the Eiraf, Ia can appease her spirit. Or…*
Al-zahef crawled with his back against the wall as the haunted doll approached him with its taunting smile. “No, no! Alright! I’ll know where he is!” he said his heart pounding as the demon was standing at its feet. “But, you have to protect me!”
*Leave it to mae.* said the Strix. *But yae have spared us the effort of going through the interrogation, there is still the matter of yaer hand in his daughter’s death.*
His heart skipped a beat as another gestalt appeared in the door opening. “But you said you’d protect me! I-I didn’t know!”
The Strix’s voice spoke clearly. “Would it have mattered, Al-Zahef?” The Strix finally revealed herself. Though she looked like a scav, her hide overalls were sown exquisitely. Even her gas mask reassembled earth’s bird of prey, with a crocked beak and a pair of goggles with an owl-like brow. She raised her left hand at was protected by a gauntlet with claw-like fingertips. “Well, Al-Zahef.”
The doll too raised her left arm.
“I toll’ you,” he spoke word for word while shuffling away from the doll. “I din’t know.” Suddenly, he reached for his neck as he felt a force squeezing his throat shut.
“Al-Zahef,” spoke the Strix as he struggled to breathe. “Yae don’t sound like a man who feels guilt over murder. But a man who regrets getting caught.”
The Strix’s cooing laughter resonated through the room. “Pleading for mercy? Al-Zahef. This is Arkology. Kips get killed for less than murder.”
“B-but… Eiraf,” he groaned.
Both the doll and the Stryx lowered their arm, and he was free to breathe again. “Thank you!”
“Very well. But realize, your life now belongs to me.”
“Yes, yes! I under-” He got distracted as the doll looked away. He foll