I wrestled free, and ran for the boarding platform. There I found all of the children, collapsed and unmoving. I searched among them until I located Shkinta. Kneeling beside her, I studied her face for any eye movement beneath the lids.
I then shook her. She was warm, but did not react. I felt around for her pulse before realizing her cardiopulmonary system might be different from mine. I attempted CPR. Nothing I did roused her, or made any apparent progress towards it.
I resumed shaking her, tears beginning to re-tread the dried paths left by those I cried when Tlalo slashed open my arm. I tried using the staff on Shkinta.
No movement. “It’s no use” Drena called after me. “The black syrup won’t properly power the staff. Even if it could, the staffs have tremendous healing power…but they cannot raise the dead.” I whipped around and screamed “SHE’S NOT DEAD!” then went back to shaking her, even as my own body began to shake from my sobbing.
They waited there, watching dispassionately. Finally, defeated, I rose to my feet. I then pointed an accusing finger at Tlalo. “You lied to me! YOU LIED!” He admitted that the attack on his base had been a ruse. “The rest was true however, at least for the most part. I did not lie to you, so much as I supplied you with only the truths you needed. The black syrup neutralized the Vril, exactly as I said it would.”
I ran at him, meaning to strike him in the face. His head didn’t budge, nor did he so much as stumble backwards when my fist connected. He just stood there, staring at me in quiet exasperation as a parent watches their child throwing a tantrum.
“You didn’t say it would kill them! You fucking butcher! You’ve killed them all!” My voice became hoarse and weak. The blood loss took more out of me than I’d realized and without Vril to power my staff, I couldn’t make more.
“Actually, you killed them. I only put you in the position necessary to do it. What other outcome could possibly guarantee the safety of our race, and of your own? Do you think they would’ve rolled over and given up just because we took away their toys?
No, they would have sought vengeance. Even without Vril technology they are a formidable enemy. It would not have saved my people, nor your own, it simply would’ve delayed the inevitable.” His people? I blubbered that I thought he and Drena were the last.
…Only for thousands more to approach behind him, from the darkness of a hollow Earth which I’d deprived of its sun. “The other cells, which did not attack when we did. That was always the plan, in case our main assault were to fail.”
As I watched, an opening in the ground illuminated by an electric light held up by a bedraggled looking native gy-ei poured itself out. Wearing rags, dirty and emaciated but delirious with glee, the arns and gy-eis that emerged from the tunnel began to celebrate.
I drowned them out, falling to my knees and weeping harder than before. How could it end this way? How had I been so blind? I crawled back to Shkinta and whimpered quietly as I lay next to her. Clinging to her as I used to beneath the covers, as her body temperature steadily dropped.
Stockholm syndrome? Maybe. I don’t think so. I never ignored her malicious qualities. But these people weren’t purely malicious, and much of that was down to the perspective I viewed them from. Wasn’t it? Just a mixed bag. Good and bad, like humans.
I lay there and wept into her hair as Tlalo and Drena shook their heads, then joined the raucous horde. When I at last brought myself to accept that Shkinta was dead, I dragged her body outside by the arms.
When I begged Tlalo to bury her, he answered that there were no functioning staffs left. I spent the next several hours searching for soil loosely packed enough that I could scoop it away with my hands. Even so, I bloodied my fingers in the process.
I could feel none of it, and never once took my eyes off Shkinta. The girl whose father I killed. Whose entire race I destroyed. I struggled to maintain my composure as I blubbered an incoherent attempt at last rites, then set about pushing the displaced dirt on top of her.
It was a shallow grave, but the best I could manage. A chilly wind was now blowing, and I knew with the black sun disabled it would only grow colder until I could no longer survive here. With no idea how to make my way back to the Earth’s surface, I fought back my rage and approached Tlalo.
He eyeballed me skeptically. I did not strike him again as he probably expected, instead asking that he at least return me to the surface so I could go back to my old life. He thought about it for a moment, then smiled that fake, duplicitous smile of his. “It’s the least I can do. Because of you, our race is pure again.”
The vehicle we trundled down the tunnel on was powered not by Vril but a bank of archaic looking batteries. Tlalo explained that in anticipation of this day, they’d fixed up every pre-Vril vehicle and weapon they could find, so that they would not be helpless once all Vril within the Earth was annihilated.
“We never integrated Vril technology into our bodies, understanding the vulnerability that would introduce. The Nordics were so confident in their defenses that they made their very life processes dependent upon, albeit also greatly accelerated and enhanced by, Vril powered implants.”
I recalled the faint golden glow from Shkinta’s veins that I noticed that night, curled up under the covers with her. I couldn’t help but resume weeping. Tlalo looked away in disgust. After some hours of traversing the pitch black tunnel, we arrived at a familiar chamber.
At the end of a long golden corridor with alternating right side up and upside down V-shaped supports was an enormous cavern which, when our lights swept across it, turned out to house one of those gyroscopic cosmic energy channelers. Past that was a hangar full of obsolete looking Vril saucers like the one Neil and I were shot down in.
I soon trekked through the chamber just beyond it where the ceremony had been held. With the trumpets, the drums and the robes. There were no robed cultists to be seen however. I wondered if they even knew what’d happened yet.
Beyond that was a triangular, motorized elevator platform. The fire within me began to burn out. I’d simply run out of energy to sustain it. My tears dried up, and during the ride up the elevator, I was somber. I felt everything and nothing, the events of the past…year? How long had it been?…replaying rapidly in my mind. All within the Earth, while everyone I knew before went about their little lives far above, oblivious to it all.
When the elevator arrived at its destination I retraced my steps, unsure if this was the same entry point that I arrived to the inner Earth through right up until I reached the shower room. Digging around in the lockers, I found my old clothes, earrings and smartphone. Of course the battery was dead.
In an adjacent locker I found rings bearing the black sun insignia, like the ones I saw Neil and his cohorts open the subterranean passage at the Feuerbach monument with. At some point I’d lost the one he’d given me, so I pocketed twelve of them in case they were necessary to get out.
They weren’t. As I approached the top of the spiral staircase, a great rumble and electrical whine accompanied the descent of each individual step, leading up and out of the passage. The monument was exactly as I remembered it except that the Vril runes covering the stone monoliths no longer glowed.
Once I stood fully out of the passage on the surface of the Earth, beneath the beautiful starry sky, I screamed. Students walking in the distance paused to stare, but then continued on their way. I collapsed, overwhelmed with anguish, finally trying to process it all.
The distant illuminated windows of the nearest building on campus drew ever closer as I trudged towards it. My mind still raced. What month is it? What year? The receptionist seemed startled. “Dear, you look like a train hit you. Should I call somebody?” I assured her I could do that myself.
But as I held the phone in my trembling hand, I second guessed myself. Who did I plan to call, exactly? Melanie? My parents? Who would believe what I told them, and even if they did, what good could possibly come of it?
Tlalo and his people now had uncontested control of the world beneath my feet. They were already armed, and would now begin to properly rebuild. One day, they might resume channeling the energy needed to manufacture Vril.
It wouldn’t be long until they reignited the black sun, and assumed dominion over the depopulated remains of the inner Earth. What then? Wouldn’t they grow in number, the top of the food chain conveniently snipped off so that they could retake that position?
Would they not one day run out of space, and look to the surface for more living room and resources? What did I save us from? Anything? As Tlalo said, I’d only delayed the inevitable. The worst part was contemplating the position it put me in.
Among all of humanity, only I knew of the looming threat, and desired to actually do something about it. Neil’s demented friends would never help me. The professor would never help me. Yet nobody else would believe what I had to say!
I sighed, and put down the phone. Perhaps it’s better this way, I thought. Even if they knew, they could do nothing to stop it. There is no defense humanity could muster that would drive those creatures back into the Earth, should they one day emerge from it.
The best I could hope for would be to live out the rest of my life in comfort and whatever degree of happiness I might still attain, while trying not to think about it. The kindest thing I could do for those around me would be to leave them ignorant of what, even now, was growing stronger beneath their feet.
I stepped outside, cold night air caressing my face, stars twinkling above. “Let them sleep” I whispered to myself, “…who do not know the power of the coming race.”
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