East European Plain, Baltic Europe, Year 1201 PA
The dry, brisk breeze blew across the great Sarmatic plains, shaking shrubs and brushing grass as if the wind were a comb that groomed a pelt of a lion. The movement of the vegetation faded into the distance. Not a single prominence rose from the land's end. Only sky, clouds, and smoke.
Among the smoke, a troop of several dozen men and women walked jointly, huddling closely together in resistance against the blinding wind. Steam-like breath surrounded their dark, weary, and feeble faces. On the overt terrain, their footprints faded from the dusty earth. The migrants bore many garments and furs, enough to keep their undernourished bodies warm and comforted, but never enough to warm and comfort their spirits. In the arms of the women were small infants and empty food canisters. In the arms of the men were firearms, supplies, and torches. They trekked across the landscape as if there was no end.
Then the sun began to fall.
One of the men, thin-bearded and young, juxtaposed to the other men, scampered ahead toward the slowly dimming horizon before him, and farther from the setting sun. Like the others, he suffered a dire exhaustion, but nevertheless managed to reach the peak of a hill. As he stepped to the highest point on the mount, he jerked open a leather belt bag and pulled out a metallic object; a shabby pair of rust-ridden binoculars. Using a finger of his, he rubbed the dusty lens clean. He dragged them up to eye-level, flashing his eyelids and squinting his eyes into the proper position. Then his vision stretched into the beyond, grabbed ahold of the treasure he looked for. His vision let go, and he brought down the binoculars.
"There's a road out there! A road!" the thin-bearded man nearly jumped for joy as he bellowed to his comrades through the wind. Withstanding the wind from their ears, the wanderers looked to the now hopeful soul, and place their final trust in his message.
As they neared the distant road, the group began to quicken the rate of their footsteps and a dose excitement shot through their veins.
"Angel's luck, Arttur!" One of the men shouted to his son, "Automobiles!"
The leading men broke in a sprint. Worn out moccasins touched the loose rubble of an archaic highway. On the road stood rusted remnants of the past; several meager automobiles scattered around the road, but they were no longer mobile, for they have been immobilized for many centuries. The windows, mirrors, lights, and iron girders were fractured and decayed. The tires had no air and labels were indecipherable, excluding a license plate that read "год 4666". But the wanderers had no interest in a satisfactory form of transportation.
One of the men, a bald, middle-aged fellow who bore a red beard, ran up to an adjacent vehicle, directing the butt of his rifle into the driver seat window. His hand reached in and grasped ahold of the lock, and with the press of a button, the door unlocked, and the man slid it aside. But the pressure cords were frail, thus the door detached from the automobile and tumbled onto the ground, smashing the loose gravel and pushing dust into the air. But the man paid no attention, for there was no authority to punish him for vandalism and thievery here, even upon the deceased. The man climbed into the jalopy, and stared upon the white, skeletal corpse before him. But he was neither afraid nor disgusted, for he was analyzing this discovery. He climbed out of the vehicle, and after a final glance, called out to his compatriots.
"This un' is naked! Someone of something took its clothes!" He hollered. "Nomads or demons, take yer pick!"
At the word "demon," a tall, elderly man looked to his younger and shorter comrade. A man of great age, he donned cloud white hair and a bushy beard of the same color. Though starved, this man was strong. He was a survivor.
“Come Olav!" He blared to his colleague. He looked to the other men, and immediately they came to him, for they knew he was leader.
"If other Nomads come, greet them with open arms. If the Demons come, greet them with firearms." The elder's throat throbbed in thirst, but his words were decently comprehensible. The others nodded in compliance to the elder's words.
“Shall we stay here for the night, Tamarkin?" One man spoke to the white-haired elder.
"That, I believe, is the only good decision we have," old Tamarkin exclaimed. "Now get to work. Night will come soon."
"Look! Water!" shouted a man in the distance. He brought his hand from behind the automobile he had looted. His scrawny fingers wrapped around a plastic bottle of water, his face smiling in delight. Then, from the trunk of the vehicle, he heaved a large box. He proceeded in discarding the lid, then turned the box over. Several dozen plastic bottles of water tumbled onto the gravel. The women and children ran to receive their gifts, stumbling to the earth and snatching a bottle of water for their own in a rush.
The men raised their eyebrows, and prepared to engage the offerings themselves, but the elder Tamarkin halted them.
"Let the women and children drink first," He asserted. "After all, its our job to keep them alive."
The men could only nod in agreement.
By the time the fire had been lit, the moon settled over the resting people.
In the darkness, there was light... not of the Moon, but a spirit. And the spirit saw another light… the fire of humanity, and it knew it had found what it needed to find.
Morning had come. From the end of the old highway, the sun rose bright. Field mice scurried about, shaking the grass ever so slightly in various patterns. Vultures and ravens circled about in the air, while falcons swooped to catch the prey below.
From under the rusty shaft of a broken automobile door, the bald man named Olav, who bore the red beard, rose from his slumber. His nostrils filled with the scent of smoke from the fire that lit up the night before. After fulfilling his consciousness, the man picked up his weapon, and began a trek from the highway, determined to find food for his companions.
Subsequently, Olav had spotted a sizable rodent… a mountain hare. Though his weapon was fit for the death of a beast larger than he, Olav administered his firearm, and aimed a shot at the hare afar. Shots were fired, and the hare fell dead. Since the vultures and ravens began to circle over the dead mammal, Olav sped toward his kill before a feather could touch the earth.
But as Olav had reached the beast's place of death, the rabbit was gone. But the earth was splattered with rodent's blood. His red beard shook with fury, and he looked to see the sign of a a scavenger. Then suddenly, Olav felt a sharp object slide into his back. Then a scaled, leathery hand grasped onto his neck, and pulled him to the ground. Standing above him was a nightmare. Standing nearly seven feet tall, this creature wore full battle attire. The screen of its helmet shined ruby crimson, and a horseshoe line of horns protruded from the rear of its forehead. Olav, shaking with pain, looked to see that he had been stabbed by this horrific creature.
"Bloody… Demons…" He uttered two words, then his mouth was overcome with his blood. The vultures and ravens circled above them, for they did not crave for the flesh of a dead rabbit, but the flesh of a dead man.
The demonic creature stripped the dead man of his garments, taking them as prizes. Then grabbing a firearm of its own, the creature walked over the hill, and gave a great, malevolent cry of triumph. And soon the distance filled with the cry, bellowing over the wind, for others had joined in on the lament.
A while later, the travelers awoke to hear the odd buzzing echo in the distance. Though his wrinkled eyes and blow of the wind made it hard to see into the direction of which the noise came, Tamarkin could clearly hear the sound. Grabbing his weapon, he walked toward to the end of the highway, and proceeded in moving up the hill. Something faint lie among the distant horizon.
"Svengald! Bring me the binoculars!" He shouted through the breeze as if it were a cry of help.
The thin-bearded young man with the rust-ridden binoculars ran to his comrade. His fingers stumbled as he prepared the binoculars. Impatient, Tamarkin snatched the binoculars from Svengald clutches, and connected his vision with the center of the lens. But when his vision met the figure in the distance, Tamarkin's face fell, and was overcome with bewilderment. For he saw the eyes of the red-bearded man, his head scarlet red, no longer attached to a body, but instead, a pike.
"Grab your weapons. Let's get on the move!" With all his strength, Tamarkin sprinted back toward the highway, crying out for an escape. The men promptly seized and loaded their guns.
Then the buzzing grew louder. Like a storm of locusts, the wind began to strengthen. Then several chain shots was fired, and a man fell, his back streaming with blood. The people panicked, grabbing their children and fleeing. A women stumbled to the ground toward the dead man, tears in her eyes. Another shot was fired, and the women fell over the man, and both were drenched in crimson.
Horns rose above the horizon of hills. Then Tamarkin saw the products of darkness. Demonic creatures, appearing as if they were a hybrid of technology and nightmare, lunged into the battle field, chanting barbaric shanties and malevolent war cries that seemed to cause more fear than their appearances alone. Blades flashed and guns fired. Men and women alike fell dead. A son-turned-orphan joined his mother as bloodstained blade cut through his neck. Death cries, war cries, gunfire, and the sound of slaughtering was deafening. Tamarkin fell to his knees, staring at the horror around him. He thought of the little orphan who was shot before him. He thought of the woman who's child died in her arms, falling to a demon's bullet. He thought of the man who was knocked into an automobile, his body cut and bruised with glass. Then, he thought of his daughter and grandson; and that brought him back to consciousness.
“Naira!” Tamarkin faltered through the cries of death, fury, and the volley of fire, yelling, for his heart was set on his progeny.
Then he caught an eye at who he was looking for. But it was not much of a who, and more of a what.
A young adult girl lie in a ditch at the edge of the highway, her body covered in dirt, and her mouth moaning in pain. She looked to the elderly man, and mouthed that could barely be heard.
"Naira!" Tamarkin floundered to the girl, grasping her stained face in his hands.
“No… take the baby…"
With her final strength, she turned over her arms, and revealed a bawling infant at her bosom. With wide, astonished eyes, Tamarkin took the child. The girl smiled, then closed her eyes, and never opened them again.
His bewildered eyes were now wet with tears. But Tamarkin knew his mission hastily. With great pain, he crawled to a nearby automobile. Although weakness nearly became a nemesis, an adrenaline rush allowed him to access the vehicle, and place the infant child at the feet of the passenger seat. He smiled, for he had completed what his dear Naira, his dear daughter, had voicelessly prompted him to do. Then he crawled as far as he could from the vehicle, and prayed that the child have luck. Then suddenly, a devil appeared over him, aimed the barrel of its gun at the old man’s forehead, and fired.
And as he lay at his last seconds, Tamarkin knew it was his end. But he also knew this was a beginning for another.
Excluding the sun's golden rays, another light come upon the ancient vehicle, and peered over to see the small and round face of a tiny infant. The spirit watched over its fortune, then entered the void, drawing upon the child's soul.
In exchange for life and the supernatural, you will return the favor and save your kind. The spirit whispered. The baby instantly stopped its wail. Then the spirit entered the soul, and the child was overcome with light. The golden hue of the sun shined upon the child's face.
The highway was scattered with blood, rubble, and broken glass. The demons, after slaughtering the people, took their weapons and treasures of glory and left without the beating of the heart, soulless as ever. The dry, brisk breeze blew across the great Sarmatic plains once again. Not a single prominence rose from the land's end. Only sky and clouds.
Then the sun began to fall.