It’s all gone to shit. The Stone is missing, as are Jonathon and two other reporters. Carrie said it’s the Chinese and Pakistani journalists. The Cubans are furious; we’re in lockdown at the hotel, we can’t leave nor can we contact the outside world. Carrie is devastated. She can’t believe Jonathon would betray us like this, but the evidence isn’t looking good.
It’s been three days since the theft was discovered. They think the Stone is still in Cuba, apparently the Vaktia can sense it, they just can’t pinpoint its location. How the three men made their way to the compound and stole the Stone is a complete mystery; they must have had inside help. The first I knew about it was when they rounded us up at dawn, three days ago, and interrogated us for hours.
Carrie is under close scrutiny, since she is a close friend of Jonathon’s. No-one seems to care about me, thankfully. It’s obvious I’m in way over my head. I confessed to Carrie and Paul; they took it in their stride and assured me most of the journalists were here because of who they knew, rather than how good they were. Still, I’m the only person here under thirty, and significantly under thirty at that.
I sighed and stretched my legs out on the bed. Boredom ate at me, and I spent a lot of time thinking. It was pretty pointless wishing I was somewhere else, now. I just had to deal with what life had thrown me, and stop whinging about it. There was a sharp rap at the door and I jumped up to open it. Three Cuban soldiers stood there, looking very grim. One barked at me to follow, and I did as he said.
They loaded me into a jeep and we drove off. I had no idea what was going on, and I’d had no chance to speak to anyone else. They looked so harsh and forbidding, and I felt terrified. Courage failed me when I considered demanding an explanation; instead I gazed out the window and realised that our destination must be the compound. Thoughts coursed around my head, the three celtic dogs perpetually chasing each others’ tails.
We arrived without fanfare, and they ushered me into the main tent. Doctor Fernandez waited, face twisted and hands fidgeting. When he saw me he waved the soldiers away and grabbed my arm. “They want to see you,” he hissed. “Is there anything you’re not telling us?” I stared into his face, eyes wide with shock. Why would they want to see me? I shook my head, mute with fear and he huffed and beckoned me to follow.
We negotiated our way through the busy tent, dodging scurrying assistants and purposeful soldiers. An officer stood and glared at me as we passed, but Fernandez kept me moving. A huge canvas wall stretched before us, and Fernandez unzipped the door and pushed me through.
There were hundreds of them. All silvery grey, all dark-eyed and unfathomable. They turned as one at my entrance and stared at me. Two of them approached us, and Fernandez muttered names at me. “Takta, Sekti.” I recognised the first name; she was the Vaktia I’d met five days ago. It was hard to distinguish her from the others, but she was slightly smaller than Sekti, who I assumed was male.
They stopped in front of us and spoke in their tongue to Fernandez. He frowned and turned to me. “They would like to explore… I think your hair… what it means.” Exasperated with his lack of understanding, he shook his head and said a few words to them. They replied and he nodded, understanding dawning in his eyes.
“Your hair is a sacred colour, and they wish to see if it can provide any benefit to them.”
I clutched at my curls, wondering if they wanted to shave them off. Fernandez laughed. He said something else and they nodded.
“Don’t worry Miss Cavendish. All they need is for one of them to be in physical contact with you, say, holding a hand. That is not too onerous?” He smirked at me, my vanity I assume, and I wanted to hit him.
“What about the other woman with red hair? The one that was here the other day?”
“She dyes her hair… they were most disappointed when they found out. Took a while to explain the concept to them.”
I took a deep breath. “Is it going to hurt?” He translated my question. They shook their heads as one.
“They are hoping you will act as a focus, so they can find the Stone. They are not sure that it will work but want to try, if you are willing.”
“It’s just hair! This is crazy!” My world was spinning out of control, this was insanity. But then I knew, I had to let them try. I nodded once, looking straight at the Vaktia I thought was Takta. An alien smile appeared on the furry face and she reached out and took my hands.
I was surrounded by music. A complex harmony, dipping and weaving, immersing my whole self until I didn’t exist. I wasn’t Melissa, I was part of something much greater, a thing of warm beauty. The sound swelled to a crescendo and I swayed, overcome by the immense power and emotion pouring into me. And then it was gone, wrenched from me, and I fell to my knees. The silence in my soul was deafening and I gasped at the aching loss. Tears leaked from my eyes as Sekti spoke hurriedly to Fernandez. The other Vaktia watched me silently, until the conversation ended. Fernandez helped me up and led me out of the gigantic room.
On the other side of the wall he faced to me and spoke. “It worked, they described the location of the Stone. Miss Cavendish, you are not to tell anyone, not even your friends Mr Brown and Ms Fallon about this. Am I understood?” The look on his face cowed me completely. I nodded, not trusting my voice to remain calm. His face softened slightly. “They expressed their gratitude, and they would like to see you again another day.”
I thought of the music. To be submerged in that again would be bliss. “I’d like that,” I said. Already Fernandez had turned and begun snapping furious orders at the closest soldier, who bolted. Another appeared at my shoulder and steered me out of the way, and back to the jeep. As the tyres spun in the dirt I hugged myself and hoped I would be back soon.
It cast about in darkness, aimless and hungry. Its prey had disappeared from underneath it, and, thwarted, it searched without clear direction. It backtracked and went around in circles, seeking the gateway that had swallowed them. It had wanted to swallow them, and take the glowing light for itself. If it had the glowing light, it had everything. It could swallow everything. Its hunger would be satiated, at long last. It wanted the music, it wanted to twist and bend and disrupt it until their souls shrieked in agony, like it had done the others. Then it could be swallowed, the music, the essence of their lives.
But they had escaped, and it was frustrated. It was a new feeling, and did not satisfy its hunger. It made the hunger worse. So it searched, back and forth, hunting for a gap to follow through. There was nothing left on this planet, indeed, nothing left in this universe. Nothing to consume. So it waited, time meaningless to its understanding of the world. It was one long night, stretching uninterrupted into nothingness.
It was rewarded. A glimmer of light flickered, wobbled precariously at the edge of its senses. The barrier was weak and it pushed against the fabric of the universe. Not weak enough, however; the barrier still held. The light flickered again and went out, and the Dissonance felt gnawing hunger. It could be patient, though, it had nothing to lose; the hunter had seen what it wanted.
Prompt: “Include this theme in your story… After a long night, a hunter sees something he/she cannot believe.”
I took liberties with the prompt again. Originally the hunter was going to be someone tracking the missing journalists but I decided I wanted to leave a bit of mystery around them for a bit longer. This needs a rewrite but oh well!