Fear The Dawn: Chapter 29

It had been quite a few nights since Karma had set off in search of that missing ship. The first few evenings he had tried the tail trick again, to see if the other ship might have reappeared of if he might simply have been mistaken, but no matter how many times he checked, the number of signals remained three. He had not had another experience like the first night, and for a while he worried that he might have veered off course or even gone past the location of the missing signal, but there was no questioning it now. Tonight he could feel it.

At a glance, nothing appeared out of place in these waters, but there was an unnatural thickness to the air, like a heavy fog. Whatever it was was totally invisible to the naked eye, but when he ran his paws through the night sky he could feel something passing through his toes even though there was nothing there. No, he thought, shaking his head, there was something there, or there had been, it just wasn't something he knew how to see. Whatever it was, it was getting stronger as he sailed in this direction, so at least he knew he was on the right track.

By the middle of the night the air had gotten so thick that he was beginning to find it difficult to breathe. His ship was losing speed, too, as it struggled against this unseen force. He reigned in the sails, bringing the ship to a complete stop, and took out his spyglass, but no matter how closely he looked this patch of the ocean was the same as any other. “Could it have sunk?”, he wondered, peering down at the waters below. He had seen his fair share of ships capsize or break in two and sink beneath the waves in the morning, often a direct result of his own actions. On that last morning he had sank a whole harbour full of ships and greatly enjoyed it, but the idea did not seem so appealing to him now. A vision of Banshee's body sinking beneath the waves as he watched from above flashed through his mind, and he knew he had to take action this time. Ignoring his misgivings, he threw open the hatch to the lower deck and jumped down below. He tore through the rooms below, searching frantically, but none of the cabins had what he was looking for. There was only the last room, the last place he had seen Banshee, and he was hesitant to go in there, but he made himself do it anyway. The dust swirled around him like a fine mist as he entered the ruined common room, the signs of his rampage still on full display. Broken furniture, stuffing from couch cushions, and even a handful of white hairs littered the floor, but he forced himself to avert his gaze, they weren't what he needed right now. There was a small storage room off to the one side, and he tossed open the old, weathered door, almost causing it to fall off his hinges. He scoured the shelves and was greatly relieved to find something he could use, a long, sturdy coil of rope. He snatched it up and quickly returned to the deck.

Fastening one end of the rope to the mast, the other to his waist, and holding it tightly in his paws, he slowly walked down the side of the ship. When he got near the bottom, he dipped his left foot into the water. It was warm, almost uncomfortably so. In all the time he could remember, the water had always been cold, another strange omen on this bizarre night. He let himself down into the water, and as soon as he was sure the rope was still securely fastened he dipped his head under the surface.

It was very dark underneath the water, even after his eyes adjusted to the water he could barely see his paws in front of his face. He came back up to the surface, took a deep breath, and dove below the waves. He was not used to swimming underwater, and the first few times he could barely make any progress at all, but slowly he managed to make his way underneath the hull of his ship. The water became even warmer as he swam deeper, but it was still pitch black. He rose for air again, using the rope to help pull himself up, took another breath, and went back under. He tried kicking off the ship to propel himself a little farther, but it was no use, he simply couldn't get any farther down without running out of air. If there was a ship down here, it was far beyond his reach. He was just about to return to the surface again when he heard something.
It was faint, and muffled by the water, but he was sure he heard something.
...can't go home...”
...help me...”
There were more voices, coming at him from different directions. He wanted to hear more, but he couldn't stay any longer, he could already feel the air beginning to escape from his throat. He forced himself to swallow what little air remained in his mouth and frantically tugged on the rope to pull himself upwards. He was just about to pass out when his head finally burst above the water. He splashed about, coughing and gasping for air. When he finally regained his composure, he saw something that nearly made his heart stop a second time.
There was another ship heading straight towards him.

They think I'm responsible”, he realized instantly. And why wouldn't they? Here was the Destroyer, who had menaced them many times in the past, in the exact location where another ship had gone missing. There was no way he could reason with them, the only possibility was escape. He quickly began scaling the side of the ship, but the rope came loose from the mast and he fell back into the water.
The morning was approaching, that was how he had been able to spot the other ship without his spyglass, and they would have seen him as well despite his black sails. Frantically, he began to climb the side of his ship using his claws to dig into the wood. He finally managed to reach the deck and ran to turn the ship around. He tried to sail straight away from the other ship, towards the rising sun, but the heavy air slowed his progress, and they were quite close now. There was no chance of escape now, the only question was whether or not they would catch him before the sun took him away. The light became brighter and brighter until it completely blinded him.


*Beep, beep, beep*
He didn't hear the sound of cannons firing or raiders coming aboard, only a soft, repetitive beeping noise. He wiped his brow with a gloved hand and breathed a sigh of relief, he had been taken away in time. Now all he had to do was return to his ship quickly and get out of there. He opened his eyes and instantly recognized where he was.

A woman was lying down with her eyes closed on a brightly coloured bed below him, and he was wearing the white robes and gloves of the creature the strangers feared the most, the doctor. Back when he called himself the hunter, these mornings were his favourite by far, the strangers would just lie there, often strapped in place, completely at his mercy. He could hurt and punish them any way he wanted, while they looked on sickened terror and begged futilely for it to stop. “I'm not that person anymore”, he reminded himself, pushing those thoughts as far away from his mind as he could. He looked over at the tray of weapons beside him, and chose the one that looked the sharpest.
A quick and painless death”, he promised her, raising the knife-like object above her throat. He had promised not to kill anymore, but in this situation, what else could he do? He had to get back to his ship and get away from here, and this stranger was standing in his way. At least he could make sure she wouldn't suffer. The machine next to her continued its quiet beeping, but it would stop in a moment.
...help me...”, he heard the voice again.
Help you?”, he repeated. Had it come from the woman? She was still lying there, totally motionless. He put the tool away and put his hand on her neck. She was still breathing, but only very faintly. He took a closer look at her, and he noticed that she was already very badly hurt, there were dark bruises and scars all over her body. Even if he did nothing, he didn't think she would last much longer.
It's just like before”, he thought, remembering that morning with the vehicle. Even when he had tried not to kill the stranger, it had happened anyway. Was there something he could have done to prevent it?
How am I supposed to help you?” he asked, to no reply. He had no idea how to prevent someone from dying, the thought had never even crossed his mind before.

Just then he heard a noise from somewhere behind him. He turned around and saw two large doors with a round window in the middle. He peeked through the window into the next room, and saw that it was filled with strangers, but none of them seemed to be doing much of anything. One man was walking around, but the rest just seemed to be sitting still, as if they were waiting for something. Then he caught a glimpse of something and quickly ducked down out of sight. One of them had yellow eyes, like his own. The strangers didn't have those, and there was something different about that man...
He was one of them. He must have followed him here from that other ship. Karma peeked through the window again. The man with the yellow eyes wasn't doing anything either, he was just sitting there. Why hadn't he come to get him? Did he not know where he was?

He turned away from the door and back to the girl. She was still lying there, unchanged. He noticed there was some kind of paper attached to the side of the side of the bed she was on. He pulled it out, and upon it was written only one word. “McDougal”. He read it aloud, but there was no response from the woman.
The beeping sound was growing quieter and less frequent. “No!”, he cried. She really was going to die anyway. He threw open the cupboard at the back of the room looking for something that would help, but it was empty. He was about to burst through the doors and ask the strangers for help when the beeping noise turned into a solid tone and died out. It was too late.
He walked over to her now lifeless body. The voice that had called out for help was gone and the machine had fallen quiet, leaving the room in total silence. “At least now I can go home”, he thought, but even though he had managed to keep his promise he didn't feel very good about it.
He waited a few moments for the floor to fall out beneath him, but it didn't. He looked through the door to see if his ship had arrived, but that room was still filled with strangers, and there was no other exit to the room he was in.
What am I supposed to do now?”, he wondered, instinctively raising the hand that still held the sheet with McDougal printed upon it. The words had not changed or disappeared, as they sometimes did, they remained clear as day. “What does it mean?”
He looked through the little window again. They were all still sitting there, waiting.
They're all looking towards the door”, he realized. It was him they were waiting for.

Karma took a deep breath and pushed the door open. All eyes in the room were upon him instantly, including the man with the yellow eyes. He looked down at the paper to hide his face.
McDougal”, he read aloud, not knowing what else to do. Some of the strangers got up from their seats and walked towards him.
How is she?”, a female stranger demanded, and then he understood. It was just like before, the woman in the room wasn't the stranger, it was the people outside who cared for her, and it was his job to deliver the bad news.
I'm sorry”, he said, trying to act as though he knew what he was doing all along. “She's gone.”
No!”, the female stranger cried, sobbing into her hands. A smaller stranger also started to cry. The large, male stranger shouted out angrily and struck the wall beside him so hard with his fist that it seemed to shake the entire world, and when he pulled his hand away part of the wall had been destroyed. Karma instinctively put his hand on the man's shoulder, if only to caution against another outburst, but to his surprise the man just grabbed onto his robe and started to cry. Even he couldn't help but share in their sadness to some extent.
Would you like to go and see her?”, he asked. None of them could reply, but they nodded, so he took them back through the doors. It might have been his imagination, but it seemed a little darker in the room than it had been before.
It was the smallest stranger who ran over to her first. “Michelle”, she said, her voice hoarse. “Please, wake up!”. The taller female stranger tried to console her, and she buried her face in her stomach.
It can't be true. This has to be a bad dream!”, the male stranger declared. “You!”, he said, grabbing onto Karma again. “Tell me this isn't real!”
Karma looked into the man's brown eyes, but he had no idea what to say. Suddenly, the ground shook, and everything started to turn dark. He expected the floor to give way, but it didn't, instead the people and objects in the room just started to fade away as the whole room went black. The back wall was gone now, and he thought he could see his ship off in the distance, but there was still a faint light from the other room. He hurried over to the door and peered through it. Almost all of the strangers were gone from that room, too, but the man with the yellow eyes was still sitting there. He hadn't come after him this entire time. Was he simply lost? Karma looked back towards his ship. The floor tiles were starting to sink away from a corner of the room, in another few moments there would be no way to get back.

In that moment, all of his better judgement left him. He burst through the door to the other room and went straight up to the yellow-eyed man. “You shouldn't still be here!”, he told him. The man looked up, but didn't immediately start moving. There was no time left. Karma grabbed his arm and pulled him to his feet, then charged through the door with the man in tow.
But it was too late.
The floor underneath the door gave way and they tumbled down into the darkness below as his ship floated away, far beyond their reach.


It was over. In the end, he wasn't able to help that voice, or apologize to that woman. Whatever purpose he had been brought back to fulfil, he had failed.
Can I go back now?”, he tried to say, but he couldn't speak. It seemed that his thoughts were all that remained of him now. He thought of her, of course, the girl from the other world. This time, her face came back to him, she had light-coloured hair and skin, almost pure white, pale blue eyes, and the kindest smile he had ever known.
You've been trying so hard, my Karma”, she said. “I'm so proud of you.”
Wait!”, he wanted to call out to her, but she was gone. The world gradually regained its colour, and he found himself upon the deck of a ship. He sat up, and two things quickly caught his eye. The black sails that identified the ship as his own, and the orange-furred man who definitely didn't belong aboard it. The man had a cut on his arm from where he had been grabbed, and although he seemed to be breathing fine, his eyes were closed and he did not stir.

Karma immediately pulled out his spyglass and looked for the other ship. He spotted it, some distance away, motionless this time, much like the man who belonged aboard it.
The hunter would have just tossed him overboard and made his escape, but he was gone now. Karma contemplated finding something aboard his ship that would float and setting the man upon it to be collected by his crew, but if he was to slip off he would surely drown, just like Banshee had. He could also simply wait for the man to come to, but who knew how he would react, especially with that injury on his arm. He was bigger than Karma was, so he wouldn't easily be able to lift him, and he certainly couldn't swim with him in tow.

This is insanity.”
It was barely even a plan at all, and he was all too conscious of the danger he was putting himself in as he sailed toward the other ship, keeping careful watch with his little spyglass. The man could come to at any minute, or someone else from that ship could spot him, and there would be nothing he could do about it, but it was the only plan he had and it was too late to change it now. He tapped his toes impatiently as the other ship gradually drew close enough that the spyglass was no longer necessary. He pulled up along the front of the ship, close enough that they were almost touching, then propped a broken table across the gap that he had hauled up from below deck earlier. Taking special care not to fall or drop him, he dragged the orange-furred man's limp body across to the other ship. The moment his feet came off the table, it shifted and fell into the ocean with a splash. “Nobody saw that”, he thought, remembering Line for a moment, but he had no time to waste, he quickly propped the man up against the wheel and hopped back onto his own ship. Somehow, it didn't seem like anyone else on the other ship was back yet, and he sailed out of there as fast as he possibly could. It wasn't until he was already some distance away that he realized the heavy air had dissipated.

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