Chapter 7

After taking her shower and washing off the last traces of her grief, Terna NoMort pulled on a blue jumpsuit and reviewed herself before the full length mirror in her bedroom.

Not bulky nor broad shouldered. Quite thin and even waifish. But there were signs of the athletic and limber tendons, calves and biceps her wild life had toned and thickened, even underneath the thick leather-cotton mix of the jumpsuit.  

Her hair was still snarled, so she spent time tugging at it with a purple brush that she had obtained from the pile of sundries behind the bathroom mirror.

And then, pleased with her mission, her state of mind, and her state of body, she lay down on the bed and caught some sleep.

A long time later, Terna roused. Her body was stiff all over, and there was a thin smell of sweat, but she would hold off another shower for later. Assuming she’d slept the night, it was a good time for her to head out and see what the rest of this facility was about.

Terna padded over to her door and slowly let it open, her eyes going wide when she saw her sneaker clean and pristine neatly placed in front of it. 

These were good people.

She put them on and laced them up. It felt nice to have protection. A lack of shoes felt almost like a leash. It limited the places where one could go, and kept you close to home. 

The hallways were dim, though, with most of the lights off. And there were no people to be seen. Terna paused, wondering if maybe she should head back to bed and try to sleep again. But the fact of the matter was, she knew she couldn’t. Her body was quite clear about when it was time to sleep and when it was time to move.

And right now it was the latter.

Her belly croaked, liquid sluicing in her guts. Yeah, and there was that too.

Terna padded through the hall, paying attention to its details in the shadows of this faux interior night. There were old posters on the walls, things from before the arrival of the BuyMort. One promised a Night to Remember, and had dates and times that might have meant something once but were quite meaningless to them all today. There was a place too. The Pehelp Isles. 

They looked so beautiful in the photo. So green and lush, a mountain of tremendous jungle rising out on a corkscrew from the depths of an azure blue sea.

It probably helped the look of the place that it was fantastically sunny the day they took the photo.

Chuckling at the thought, Terna pushed on, noting how all of the doors had letters and numbers on them. But the letters and numbers were sometimes from an alphabet that she did not recognize.

The elders had said before that accepting the BuyMort would open many mysteries and give one many abilities. They warned about the cost of it, though. If we didn’t take the offers, if we didn’t give away our presence, we could live meaningful lives and go to the Halls of the Blessed when we died.

The BuyMort-tainted surely had no problem reading any of these letters and numbers. People like Crawley.

Terna felt a shiver of sadness run through her. She would pray for the human. He did not know the evil he was dealing with. 

She continued on to the end of the corridor, finding that it branched both left and right into more corridors. In the semi-darkness it seemed so much larger than it had when she was being led through it all.

But at the end of the corridor to the left she also noticed a flickering reflected light against the wall, and could barely make out a wide and tall entryway. Surely it was the opening to a common area, she realized. And the flickering could only mean some sort of screen device.

They’d had one of those in the tribe when she was younger. It showed films. They’d had a few of those as well. Hobbs from a variety of different worlds undergoing different tests and adventures.

Perhaps now she would experience all of that again. A good start to her quest for vengeance. It would settle her mind and grow her boldness.

She walked up the hallway, adding a little bit of weight to her steps to hopefully get any people in the common area to notice her approach and not be startled or surprised. Reaching the aperture of the room, she strode in boldly and saw her thoughts to be correct. There was a film playing. At the moment a young and skinny-looking human was wielding a sword. He wore no shirt, but his pants were of a fine hunted rat-leather, and a wooden shield hung askew from his other, broken, arm.

It took her a moment to notice, but the film was playing with no sound. Scanning the room, she caught the glint of light flashing off of the lens of a pair of glasses and she started.

“Oh, hey, didn’t know anyone was awake,” a male voice said. He sounded youthful and kind. Terna approached and he got out of his chair, but not before pausing the film on the vidscreen.

Walking close, she got a good look at the man. His visage was startling. Pure white skin with scarlet eyes. His teeth were gangly and full of gaps. And his hair — it was the color of Oratanian silver, that mythical metal of the Elevated Ones. 

It felt like looking at an angel, and suddenly she was afraid. She averted her eyes.

“I have not partaken of the BuyMort,” she muttered to the albino figure before her. He stared at her.

“Okay.”

She heard surprise mixed with a hint of laughter in his voice, and she looked up sharply.

“You are not of the heavens? I am Terna.”

He chuckled, sticking out a hand. “Horta. And yeah, not of the heavens. Pretty opposite really. I’d be living in the underground if my planet was still alive.”

Terna stared more intensely.

“Yeah. I know what you are thinking. Planets can die. They’re big and they take a beating, but take enough from them, do enough to them . . . they die.”

“Kaput,” she said.

Horta nodded. “Not that it matters I guess. I left before the end. Not a grimm of a grimm am I. I’m the sort of grimm who doesn’t fit in with the rest of them too well. Wasn’t even there when the final death blow was delivered.”

“A grimm?” Terna asked. Horta cast about and grabbed a chair, spinning it and setting it down next to him for her to sit in. She noticed that his arms looked disfigured as compared to the other types of humanoid sentients she’d met before. And that they were very very long.

“Yeah, night dwellers. On our world the top level is deadly. The star is too young, too big, too powerful. So everything lives in the darkness. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised if BuyMort had passed us by and we’d never been discovered, given how our planet looked from the outside. But that is what it is. That’s me. I’m a grimm.”

Terna smiled and held out a hand. He glimpsed it then held out one of his own. His hand had long silver talons, she noticed, and he maneuvered them carefully so as to avoid their contact with her skin.

“Poisonous?” Terna asked.

“Sharp,” he answered. “So, Terna, what are you doing up in the early hours of the next day?”

Terna talked and talked, explaining all of the details of her capture, rescue, and even her pledge vendetta. It felt good to let loose and get the words out. Better still that there was someone there to listen so closely and with so much interest. 

She wrapped it up wryly by explaining her wake up and her trek to the room. 

“That is quite the story, Terna NoMort,” he said. “You are a tribute to your people.” He held her gaze for a moment, then picked up a cylindrical remote, flashing off the movie on the screen and flashing on a new image.

Tales of the Hypothetical and Theoretical – BuyMort, a Proposed Theory of What It Is and Where It Came From. Professor Gregory Larnden, Knowle Universal Academy Unlimited

Terna scowled. “BuyMort is the enemy,” she said.

He nodded. “Yeah, a lot of days it is. Most of the bad shit that happens around here and there and everywhere is for a quick mortie. Bastards wrecked my home because it was worth the cost of doing it. To them anyways.”

Her face smoothed of emotion. “So, you aren’t going to try to tell me that it is a service and that there is no evil in the BuyMort.”

“Nah. Not my style. What I am gonna do is tell you something quick, then let you decide if you wanna watch this vid with me. A wise man from some planet somewhere in the multiverse once said, ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.’ Now you tell me, do you know the enemy? Or would you like to sit here with me and learn a bit. Maybe find out their weak point?”

Terna shifted uncomfortably in her chair.

“Cause I’m gonna tell you something right now. If you want to kill BuyMort and you plan on just flying out of here and, what, finding it somewhere and stabbing it through the heart, well . . . you obviously don’t know what the fuck you are dealing with.”

Published by Damien Lee Hanson

I am the founder of Damien Hanson Books. Come check out awesome authors right here at my website!

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