[Original Novella] Come Hell or High Water, Part 2 (the finale!)


Previous parts: 1

I played a bit of that and found it equally inscrutable. You’re a Bible themed superhero infiltrating a city enveloped by a dome of “Satanic lies”, armed with a digital Bible which can only store one verse at a time. To combat the sinister robots who try to shake your faith, you go and choose the correct verse to rebut them from special scripture dispensing stations, then return and use the verse to defeat them.

I had flashbacks of similar edutainment software from my youth. Something about a spaceman who shoots math problems, and a cartoon rabbit game centered around literacy. Number Munchers was legitimately awesome. This game, not so much. I tried to imagine the reaction of some poor kid whose well intentioned grandma bought him Captain Bible for Christmas.

The man’s voice in the background trailed off and the tape shuddered to a stop. I’d tuned it out while dicking around with the computer and couldn’t recall much of what he’d said. Popped that tape out anyway and put the next one in.

Charming guy. I fiddled with one of the books as I listened. The bookmark turned out to be an MRE wrapper. Spaghetti with meat sauce. Better him than me! Backpacking food is similar, I could only ever stomach the chili mac. The voice droned on, sounding increasingly excited with each tape.

All the apocalyptic stuff aside I began to empathize with the guy. Reading between the lines, he didn’t feel like he belonged anywhere and more than anything else was just lonely. Then it occurred to me to put in the first tape marked 1988. When it started playing I heard the man’s voice as before, but frantic and breathless. There was also muffled crying in the background.

I grew tense, my empathy rapidly diminishing as I got a clearer picture of what sort of person had recorded these tapes. I put in the next one. It began with a minute or so of soft weeping. When he spoke, his voice continually broke up.

I dunno. I guess I expected the ‘moment of truth’ to be funny. Not sobering. Certainly not so troubling either. Yet on the next tape he sounded as if he’d completely recovered.

I didn’t recall seeing any guns on the way in. I got up and opened the fridge. To my surprise there were wrapped bundles of meat in there. No discernible smell, either. Remarkably well preserved, all things considered. Curiosity gripped me. How had he reacted when 1989 came and went without incident? I felt tempted to climb out, shut the hatch and be done with it. But I never could do without closure. So I popped in the next tape.

The next tape was the first of those marked 1990. This is what I was looking for. How could it continue? Surely he’d figured things out by then? If so, he must be in jail now. Providing he didn’t shoot himself or something. I could see no other way for this to end. Yet there were plenty more tapes. So I hit play.

My stomach turned. Could the whole thing be a sick joke? Something he’d recorded and left behind to freak out trespassers? The urge within me to leave was growing stronger. Yet, there were still tapes I’d not listened to. I could never abide leaving a story unfinished. On the next tape he sounded disjointed and manic.

My hands shook as I switched the tapes. Where was it going? Where else could it go. On the next tape he sounded even more unhinged.

I heard stirring in the other room. I stiffened, and strained my ears. Nothing. But the tapes had put me in a state of mind where I couldn’t leave it alone. I got up and proceeded to the bathroom. Only, it wasn’t a bathroom. Upon opening the door, I discovered a modest bedroom with a filthy queen sized mattress, sprawled across which was the most pitiable figure. Emaciated to skeletal proportions but with only stumps from the knee down. Plainly still alive as the chest rose and fell erratically.

With great effort it propped itself up enough to make eye contact. I convulsed. The face hung flaccidly from the skull beneath it, most of the hair having long since fallen out. The eyes were bloodshot with immense rippling bags beneath them, the mouth entirely toothless. It bellowed incomprehensibly at me, then began to cry. Clutched in her arms were three small, shriveled masses. One hand over my mouth and the other holding my stomach, I backed out of the room and stumbled towards the airlock.

I shut the inner door, and spun the wheel until it was tight. But before I could take hold of the wheel on the opposite door, it began to turn on its own.

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