Strange Remnants, 3

1a

Shanghai’s train station is a hive of humanity. Luckily its ticket office also sells Ship Tickets, so when Marie booked a cabin on the locomotive journeying north she took advantage of the opportunity to buy another.

She changed trains at the Soviet border. The new locomotive, emblazoned with a red star, wound its way through Kamchatka to an icy wilderness.

Marie stepped down off of the locomotive’s foot plate and surveyed the ramshackle station. “Good God!” she thought, “this dump makes my Louisiana marshes seem like paradise.” She recalled grand-mère’s words, the ones which had launched Marie on this globe-trotting nightmare, “When the planets align with the center of the universe and the Earth falls under the shadow of an eclipse, that which would devour all life seeks to pierce the veil that keeps the darkness at bay. Go to the Kingdom of Sarawak where an old evil has returned.” This was the reason why she’d been singing So In Love in the Indo-chinnie nightclub and why she’d followed a trail of clues which had led her here. Here! Again she looked around and was dismayed by the desolation of the place.

The locomotive puffed away; Marie was left stranded and feeling very alone. A reindeer herder, dressed in coarse-stitched hide and with features like her notion of an Eskimo’s, ducked out from his yurt, bowing to the wealthy foreigner. They agreed terms, Marie’s watch—he would not accept money—for a guide, food and a bed, amongst his livestock no doubt.

˜

Twilight fell ever so quickly. Marie saw a cheery-looking bonfire at the foot of an obelisk, its flames reaching upward into the night sky.

Grand-mère’s voice echoed the words spoken by the Sister of Indolence: “Not all who walk the Earth wish to see humanity survive the eclipse.”

An arm wrapped itself round Marie’s neck, pulling her off balance, she stumbled and fell upon the slushy, dirt track. A thumb probed her neck, crushing her windpipe; she couldn’t breathe, her eyes rolled upward and she began to suffocate. “Don’t give up!” raged a familiar voice. Her fingers found the Ritual Dagger and she blindly jabbed it into her assaulter’s flesh, over and over again.

The reindeer herder lay beside her, his face a bloody mess of punctures. Marie vomited into her hand.

The bonfire was extinguished—with the death of a servant, the ritual, a plea to the court of Azathoth, had failed.

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