Day and night mean nothing when everything is black but each time he wakes he feels stronger. He still remembers the old conversations but now the memories are coherent, no longer random snatches of words in the dark. If he can get away he knows where he will go. He remembers who the outsider is; if he can get to the man again he thinks he will be safe. Sometimes he hears the muffled sound of the protective suits moving around his room but makes no effort to respond to them, they do not walk with the rhythm of his friends.
When the time comes there is no warning. The door opens. He hears Thanatos breathing heavily as he rushes in and drags away the hood, the blindfold and the gag. The Theta cuts through the restraints holding thin limbs to the bed frame, tonight it will be over, there will be no second chance. Instead of the very obvious orange scrubs he is in dark fatigues. Outside it is night-time. I have exhausted the bitch and left her asleep. His bulk blocks the light from blinking eyes. Are you hungry? Do you want me again?
Not here. So close to being away Dave does not want to risk discovery, sure that failure would be the end of them all. I do but not here. The door opens again and the two nurses rush in – one tall with her black hair in a long pony tail, the other short with a crew-cut offsetting his soft features – they closely resemble the image that Thanatos has projected of them, he calls them Ishtar and Galahad but Dave knows that can’t be their real names. These two also wear dark colours and carry the same for the thin man. Thanatos takes him from the bed as easily as lifting a child and Ishtar helps him dress while the others disappear – sounds of a fight coming from the room next door, things being smashed, a chair thrown, a loud yelp as something hard connected with Galahad’s face, a thud of a body falling against furniture.
They meet up in the corridor. The short man leaves a splash of red on the door jamb and lets his burst nose bleed out on the floor. He’s none too steady on his feet and seems a little unfocussed. He assures his wife that the cut to his scalp doesn’t hurt as much as the flow of red suggests. It is a small price to pay for the pretence of coercion. Ishtar supports Dave and Thanatos half carries her husband as they make their way through security checkpoints manned by unconscious guards.
The car waiting for them is as silent as his rescuer. Thanatos drives carefully with no lights, keeping at the maximum speed he can without the engine taking over from the electric motor. They don’t make for the perimeter road but instead Thanatos takes them passed the old lakeside house and parks up in a scenic overlook. Enough evidence has been left. Galahad allows his wife to seal the cut; they don’t want to leave too obvious a trail to follow as they head on into the woods.
Careful not to leave definite trace on the foliage around them they try to stay to the centre of the pre-defined paths. Dave recognises the woods from his first flight from the noise and violence of guns. He guesses that Thanatos can see as clearly as he can but the humans are struggling in the unlit night. Coming across a clearing they are halted by the darker shadow of a soldier, rifle trained on them, the red threat of the laser sight moving from face to face. Dave is not afraid and he realises he should not have been surprised. He recognises the silhouette against the wooded night; he catches her scent on the breeze – he would recognise her anywhere.
“Lori.” She runs into his open arms, nearly bowling him into the dark figure behind him with the force of her rush.
She takes them deeper into the forest to a hiding place ready for them and assures them that they will be safe. Others will help keep the search away from them, to give them time to be together. The inside of the camouflaged tent is dimly lit by a shaded lamp. Though Lori says they are safe she won’t be careless. To Dave she offers a bowl of thin soup from a flask. “They told me you haven’t eaten for a while, this should help but don’t have too much at once, there’s more for you later if you want it.”
“What happened?” It is good to feel the soup go down, he reminds himself not to rush. The physical heat moving through him is not as strong as the gift of the theta but it is comforting to a body that had been close to losing all connection to reality.
“I was looking for you. I knew I couldn’t tell anyone but I kept my eyes open hoping I could see you or someone who would know you. I used to think there was a girl in a bar who had the look, but when I went back she just seemed normal. One night in there I saw these two and they had the same glow I was looking for only they said it came from another one, not you. I guess that’s the big guy. I’ve seen the big ones being moved around, never seen one as quiet as that though. I was looking for you. They were looking for proof of who you are. They said things were being done to you and they wanted to do something about it.” And what had they done? They had given him to the Theta and he had been changed.
“Are you … are you OK?” Her young face is all concern as she watches him slowly empty the cup. The others stay to the shadows, noises in the dark as they settle in for the night – Ishtar and Galahad together promising each other that everything will work out, both of them leaning against the bulk of the theta. His silent head seems to be part of the quiet conversation and his strong arms encircle them both. In the shape of a killer he has hidden a heart of love.
“I’m better than I was, and much better for being able to see you again.” Sex in the dark, in the daytime. He remembers the feeling of her skin against his. He still doesn’t know how long it has been but he feels the familiar response start again. He sets the cup aside and reaches for her. It doesn’t matter that three pairs of eyes watch them kiss and undress each other. No one says anything as she lays him down and lowers herself onto him. She is careful not to hurt him. For the brief time it takes nothing else matters and he soon shares his new strength inside her, a soft moan accompanying the release. The sound seems to be a signal of some kind, Dave is aware of everyone else relaxing, a collective exhalation matching his own.
Dave does not want to move from the moist warmth encircling him and the sniper is equally reluctant to let him slip from her, keeping him in her for as long as possible as she shuts off the small light and covers them both with the other half of their sleeping bag. Between the two of them, one stretched out along the other, they take up little space and fit easily under the down filled material. He lies back and relaxes, spent but very alive. Galahad and Ishtar are also asleep under their shared cover, human blankets for the giant.
We should talk while the humans sleep. The voice echoes in his head, Thanatos has been waiting for him to be at peace. Tomorrow Lori is going to find them and you will be gone. They will say that I forced them to release you and to help me get you out. Ishtar is pregnant. She is just starting to show. They will say they were scared I would harm the baby if they didn’t help me. Like many women now she has lost several in the early stages. They would be right to be scared of something like me. An immense hand gently strokes a curl of hair fallen over the sleeping nurse’s face. It’s obvious that Thanatos would never hurt her.
Lori is also pregnant. Only a few weeks, it’s just a ball of cells triggered during a series of encounters with a senior officer. He likes her and he will be a good provider. He has already given her her alibi for the night, they were both here together earlier and she told him her news. They celebrated here. And now you have filled her with haoma. Like Ishtar’s her child will have two fathers, one human and the other of us. What could be better than to be a child of the Adam Kadmon?
Dave lies with the soldier girl slumbering against his skin and bones frame too tired to argue with name this time. He’s already taken the giant to task for calling the technicians ‘Ishtar’ and ‘Galahad’, refusing to accept the application of yet another ridiculous name that the choice implied. He holds her close and closer still, trying to feel for a change that will confirm the silent ones words. Maybe. Possibly. That particular trick of life was something he had found endlessly fascinating. That it meant the girl had been with a man after him was of no consequence, she had still wanted his sterile flesh inside her, had risked everything to be with him again. He marvelled at the flicker inside the embedded conceptus, the mark of haoma according to the clear silent voice.
I will watch over us all tonight. Sleep safely and gather your strength. In the morning there will be time for you to make love to her again, to give your child a better chance. If you need more than food I would be honoured if you would consider accepting my gift.
This dark is full of warmth and comfort and the scent of vibrant humanity. Listening to the steady breathing, feeling the weight of the girl against him it is easy to go with the feeling and let real sleep take him.