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Link To Me

by KJC

 

 

The sky was grey in the early morning dawn.  The desert was settling down as a pink glow spread across the eastern dunes.  The sun rose quickly, warming the desert and shining on the red sand.  Above, the sky was turning a deep and endless blue.  In sharp contrast, the desert beneath was a brilliant red, rippled by the hot wind.

A hawk, perched on a lone cactus, observed this vision of wild beauty, then took wing, racing eastward towards the sun, its shadow large on the sand underneath its wings.  It circled in the sky when it caught sight of something that disrupted the quiet of the desert.

A girl raced eastward with the hawk across the sand, leaving deep footprints behind her.  The sand moved in the wind, shifting over her footprints and erasing them.

Her hair streamed behind her, her arms and legs pumped tirelessly, faster and faster.  A thin sheen of sweat covered her body, but she was not tired.  One had the impression that she could run forever.

The girl’s eyes were light in color, a shifting grey-green.  Her hair was light brown, bleached by the sun, yet not quite blonde.  Her skin was dark and pure.

Her clothes were simple, the color of light sand.  She wore a loin cloth and a light, sleeveless shirt.  A thick belt was wrapped around her waist, and on her back she carried an assortment of weapons along with a skin of water.  Her feet were bare and tough.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a young man joined her, and they fell in sync, moving across the red sand as if they were born to run together.  The young man was similar in looks and attire to the girl, though he wore long pants and boots.  They made no acknowledgment toward each other.  They had done this thousands of times.  They had run together at the same pace for longer than they could each remember.  They never fell out of rhythm, never stumbled, never slowed.  It was unreal that they could keep such a pace and not one of them showed any signs of slowing or tiring.

Then in the distance came a growing rumble.  The hawk that had flown above them broke off in its flight over the pair and flew north, disappearing into the blue sky.

The rumbling broke the silence of the desert as cleanly as a snake cutting its way through the sand.  The young man and the girl did not slow or look back.  If anything, they increased their speed, concentration written on every feature of their bodies.  Now, one could tell that possibly, quite possibly, they were running from this unknown sound, and, quite possibly, they were afraid.

From the north, antelope came bounding across the sand toward the girl and the man.  They ran with the pair, all running toward the east, toward the rising sun.  The girl and the young man kept up pace quite easily with the antelope.

The thunder behind them grew.  It seemed now it was coming from the west.  The antelope increased their speed, pulling away from the humans.  A high dune loomed ahead of them, and as the antelope bounded up its face and disappeared on the other side, the girl and the man stopped quite suddenly, sand spraying into the air from their skidding feet.  They never made an acknowledgement to each other, yet both stopped at exactly the same time.

The thunder grew louder.

Still, the humans spoke not a word to each other.  Fear was growing in their faces.  They crouched slightly, facing the thunder as it came over a dune behind them.  It was a black cloud.

El shaddai,” the girl whispered.

From the distance it did look to be a black cloud, but as it neared the two humans, one could see that it was not.  Black horses with riders clothed in black, cloaks rippling in the wind, came thundering down on the girl and the young man.

Sand and dust rose into the air as the group of riders surrounded the pair.  The riders dismounted from their dancing horses and closed in on the humans.

Still, the girl and the man did not move . . . but their eyes flickered from form to form, searching the hooded figures.  The fear had left their faces, leaving now a cold and determined look.

The hooded riders paused, poised motionless around the pair as another rider rode down the dune they had just crossed.  This rider wore a bright red cloak, the hood covering his face.  His black horse pranced nervously down to the others, then he circled the group slowly.  Though his face could not be seen, the girl and the young man could feel his gaze on them.

Schazot!” he commanded suddenly.

Sun glinted on metal as the hooded riders drew long swords from their belts, hidden before by their cloaks.

Now, the girl and the young man looked at each other.  It was a long and deep look as they conveyed unheard messages to each other.

Schazot!” the rider again commanded.

The hooded riders pulled out yet another sword.  Now, each was armed with two long swords.

In reply, the girl and the young man each pulled a staff of wood from their backs.  Simultaneously, they held the staffs before them and poised, ready, back to back.

Ha ra neim!” the red rider shouted.

As one, the hooded figures attacked.  Their steeds, which had been patiently waiting for their masters, panicked at the sudden movement and fled.

In the fray of rapidly moving bodies, it was apparent that the two humans who had appeared to have been outnumbered had easily gotten the upper hand.  They worked together, almost as if they were of one unit and of one mind.

The staffs they were using appeared to be made of wood, yet the swords that made contact with them made no dent in them.  When the clash of metal on metal was heard, it was apparent the staffs were made of a lightweight, yet durable sort of metal.

The girl and the young man showed no fear, dispatching their assailants with ease.  In less than ten minutes, all of the hooded riders lay motionless on the ground around the young couple, who stood poised over their last opponents, panting now, sweat shining on their bodies from exertion.

Selah,” the young man said to the girl, turning to leave, but then stopping when he noticed she had not moved.

The girl stood staring at the rise of the dune where the riders had come from.  The lone rider sat on his horse at the top, his blood red cape blowing in the wind, watching them.  The young man stared at the rider as well.

For long seconds, the three held their gaze, then the rider turned his horse and disappeared.  Sand billowed behind him.

The young man looked at the girl, then said again, “Keira, selah.”

Both slid their staffs into position on their backs and began their journey again, racing across the sand away from the circle of motionless forms.

Above the pair, the sun shone hot and white.  The wind from the morning had died down.  The scavenger birds began to circle.

 

Keira and Jolnas ran side by side across the desert sands after confirming that they were not being followed.  There were many hours they needed to run before reaching their people.

They were the last of the Protectors.  There had been many of them before the evil ones came.  The humans did not know their name, and had called them the Seol, for they brought death wherever they went.  Some had suggested that the role of the Protectors came about because of the Seol.  The Seol hunted the humans down for sport, causing many groups of humans to either perish or move to areas of the Earth that were harsh, hoping that the Seol would not follow.  To the desert, the last place on Earth the humans would want to be, it appeared their salvation had come.  The Seol hated the sun and did not appear to be wise in the ways of the desert.  They were adapting quickly, however, using horses as their transportation and staying on the outskirts of the desert when they rested from their relentless searching for humans.

Of all of the creatures that inhabited the Earth, why the Seol would choose to hunt the humans, no one would ever know.  Perhaps it was because of the terror the humans displayed when the Seol first came, destroying entire cities and wiping out the entire population of a single continent in one week.  Perhaps it was because of the cunning way in which the humans hid from the Seol.  Perhaps it was the courage the humans showed when they fought against the Seol, certain though they may have been of their own deaths.

It had been long years since the Seol had first come, and no one remembered those first days of terror.  All they knew was that the Seol brought death and wished death upon any human they came across.

In recent years, however, the humans had become stronger, banding together and using what little resources they had to hide from the Seol.  They were frustrating the Seol by their superior fighting techniques.  The only way the Seol could overcome a human was by superior numbers.

The Seol wished to study the human’s new fighting techniques, and captured several Protectors in the beginning, but they learned little.  Now, they concentrated on hunting down the last of the humans, hunting in large groups.

Keira and Jolnas did not know how many humans were left on Earth.  As far as they knew, the group that they protected may have been the last.  Now, they raced back to make sure that they were safe.

Several hours later, they reached a deep canyon running north and south in the desert.  It was more of a long, deep cleft in the earth, rent there by the shifting of the Earth’s crust centuries ago.  In the far distance, rocky cliffs pushed up out of the desert sands, continuing the canyon at a dizzying height.  The Protectors climbed nearly a mile down into the cleft, and, upon reaching the cool, dark bottom, followed a small trickle of water upstream towards the cliffs beyond.

They began climbing up into the taller cliffs once they reached the taller walls of the canyon, Jolnas following behind Keira.  Located at various intervals were small pocket caves.  The group of humans Keira and Jolnas protected hid in these caves in the canyon’s walls.  Keira and Jolnas split up, searching all of the familiar pockets to check on their charges: small families and individuals.

Later, they met above the canyon, perching fearlessly at the edge of the cliffs and looking out over the desert towards a red and orange setting sun.

“Keira, selah.  Do you think it is true?” Jolnas asked Keira.

She glanced at him questioningly.  “About what the messengers said?”

“Yes.  That there are other people coming here.”

“I don’t know.”

“They said that they met others coming in large groups.  They are coming here because they believe it is safe.”

“I am more concerned about the lack of Protectors,” Keira stated.

“Yes.  We will have much work to do.”

“Elohim will protect us.”

“Indeed.”

True to the messenger’s word, more humans began arriving in large groups, hiding their passage upon entering the canyon.  Keira and Jolnas grew nervous.  There were far too many people for two Protectors to watch over and keep safe.  Day by day, the numbers grew until there were over two thousand.

Jolnas addressed all of the people one day.

Reinii selah.  As one of only two Protectors, I must have a word,” he began.  “So many humans will attract the Seol.  They can find large groups of humans much easier than small groups.  I know you have heard that this canyon is a safe place, but with so many humans here, it has become a danger.  As your Protector, I must tell you to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.  We do not know now how safe we all are.”

Later on, Jolnas and Keira left the canyon and scout-ran the area surrounding the canyon for many hours in all directions.  There was no sign of the Seol.  Still, the Protectors did not feel safe.

A few evenings later, Keira stood watch over the canyon while Jolnas ran in the direction of the last place he and Keira had seen the Seol.

The sand shone red beneath his racing feet in the late light.  The sun had nearly set, and the air began to feel cooler.  It was a prime time to run.

Unfortunately, he was forced to confirm his and Keira’s worst fear.  The Seol had not moved from their encampment, and their numbers had grown.  A large herd of horses had been grouped beneath a dune south of the Seol camp.  It appeared they were planning a massive hunt.

Jolnas observed a group of black cloaked Seol grouped around a great bonfire which raged large and bright in the darkness of the desert.  They beat a strange, dance-like rhythm on a set of drums, and an alien horn sounded through the night.  This had been observed by many humans to be the Seol’s ritual before setting out to hunt.  By the signs that Jolnas read, it appeared the Seol were to set out in the early morning.  He only watched for a few minutes before turning back to the night desert and racing to the canyon.

Jolnas gathered all the people together and spoke three words: “They are coming.”

The people were silent, knowing what they had to do.  Jolnas and Keira climbed back to the top of the canyon to keep watch.

“Jolnas,” Keira said.

“Yes?”

“Do you think . . . do you think we might die?”

There was a long silence before Jolnas finally responded.  “I don’t know, Keira.  This has happened before, but never to us.  We have to have faith.”

Keira closed her eyes, feeling the wind against her face.  The sun was beginning to rise.  Red and warm, its light began creeping across the sand towards the canyon.

“Jolnas . . . I’m afraid.  We can’t protect them all.”

The young man put his arm around his comrade, pulling her close.  “I know, Keira.  I am afraid as well.  We all are.  There is no shame in that.”  He pointed down the face of the canyon wall.  “If we cannot do it, then only by the grace of Elohim will these people stay safe.  We have to put our trust in El, for then we shall have no fear.”

Below the pair, the people were streaming out of the canyon walls and following the small stream of water upward towards the towering cliffs beyond.  They all were running, carrying only what could fit in the packs on their backs.

It was an awesome sight.  The color of the canyon was enhanced by the rays of the rising sun, reflecting off of the orange, red and brown layers of color.  At the bottom of the canyon, the people moved together at the same incredible pace, men, women, and children, running at top speed, north out of the canyon.

The wind picked up in strength, and Keira’s hair whipped wildly around her face.  She and Jolnas leaned over the edge of the canyon, watching until the small forms reached a bend in the canyon wall and disappeared from sight.

They waited, silently watching the play of light on the canyon walls, then Jolnas reached into the bag at his side, pulling out two small necklaces.  He placed one around Keira’s neck, and placed the other around his own neck.  They were not remarkable necklaces.  A small square piece of metal was attached to a long string which was then tied together into a loop.  Jolnas and Keira tucked the small pieces of metal inside of their shirts and rose together, facing the sun.

They began to run together towards the Seol.

 

What the Seol encountered on that day they could not explain.  They knew the humans had protectors.  They knew that most of these protectors had been slain, and they knew that though the protectors were few, they were fierce and well trained in their arts.

That day, they encountered two protectors, a girl and a young man.  The Seol could pinpoint the human’s location that these protectors were trying to hide.  The protectors did not know of the Seol’s power.

A quarter of the main hunting force stayed to keep the protectors occupied while the rest swung around out of the sight of the protectors and raced towards the canyon where the rest of the humans were fleeing.

The humans were several thousand strong, and they were easily brought down, though they were swift.  Every man, woman, and child was killed.  Surprisingly, the humans offered little resistance, believing that their protectors would still save them.  They did not realize that their protectors were fighting for their lives only a few distances away.

The leader of the hunting party, Ga’tek, ordered the protector’s capture, wanting to have a few questions about the ways of the humans answered before they were killed.  Because he did not want to tire them, Ga’tek ordered the execution of a sleeping bomb in order to subdue them quietly.

Coldly, he looked down on their still forms, then swung on his horse without a backward glance.  “Bring them,” he ordered over his shoulder.

 

When Keira woke, she realized she was still on the sand.  The sun shone bright overhead, heating her skin.  Jolnas lay beside her.

“Jolnas!  Selah!”  She shook his shoulder, eyes wide.

The young man came to with a start, then leapt to his feet, looking around him.  “What happened?”

“I do not know,” Keira turned, instinctively keeping her back to Jolnas’ back.

The sand was empty and quiet around them, but after a moment, the black figures of the Seol rose from behind the dunes where they had been keeping watch.

All but one of the Seol were on foot, standing silently with their traditional weapons in hand, their black robes waving gently in the wind.  The rider was dressed in red, and he approached slowly, keeping a tight rein on his black horse.

“I am Ga’tek.  Who is it that you protect?” the Seol asked, his voice inhumanly deep.

“We protect those who need our protection,” Jolnas replied.

Ga’tek circled them slowly, raising his hand to stop his warrior’s advance.  Jolnas and Keira were surrounded on every side, and Ga’tek walked the circle within the black circle of warriors.  Jolnas and Keira stood still, following the Seol only with their eyes, conserving their strength for what they knew could quite possibly be their last battle.

“Who is it that you serve?” Ga’tek asked.

“We serve El,” Keira relied.  Elohim is our guide and protector.”

“And who is this great protector if he cannot protect his people?” the Seol sneered.

“He does not fail us,” Jolnas said firmly.  “Whatever his will, it shall be done, no matter the outcome.”

The Seol laughed and looked past the humans, up towards the top of a dune.  Hesitantly, Jolnas and Keira followed his gaze.

A Seol stood at the top of the dune, holding a small boy at the neck.  The child struggled against the strong grip of the warrior, but his struggles were in vain.

Ga’tek looked back at the humans.  “Can your Elohim protect this child?”

He nodded, and without hesitation, the Seol on the dune raised a knife and drew a stroke cleanly across the boy’s neck.  The boy sagged limp in the Seol’s arms.  Red blood soaked the sand.

Keira’s eyes widened in shock, and Jolnas’ mouth hardened in anger.

Ga’tek watched their reactions, then laughing again, broke the circle of warriors and galloped to the top of a dune.

Schazot!” he ordered.

The Seol drew their weapons, and Keira and Jolnas stood still, preparing themselves.  Both closed their eyes, and breathing deeply, drew their staffs.  Jolnas gripped the necklace around his neck in one fist, raising it to the air in a silent tribute before letting it fall against his chest.  Keira did likewise as the Seol advanced.

Never before had the Seol seen humans fight as this pair fought.  They seemed to be one unit, never stopping, in a continuous flow of motion.  They knew that this was the end, that there would be no more time left for them.  Their people were gone, yet they still held onto the hope that they might survive, every attack and defense full of confidence.  It took Ga’tek long to realize that these protectors would fight to exhaustion.  They were unstoppable together, and Ga’tek knew that if they were apart, they perhaps would fall quicker.

Re kapara!” he ordered.  “Separate them!”

Now, instead of concentrating every effort on bringing the protectors down together, the Seol worked slowly and diligently to bring them apart.  It was a deceptive process, a few successful death strokes by the girl to one end, and overconfidence brought the protectors apart.

Keira realized what had happened when it was too late.

“Concentrate on the man!” Ga’tek ordered.  “Ignore the girl until he is taken care of and down.”

The attackers fell relentlessly on Jolnas.

Inbi’inoh!” Keira cried in anguish, trying to warn Jolnas of the danger.  The young man fought valiantly against his attackers, but alone, he was half of the force the Seol were used to dealing with.

Keira fought to get to Jolnas, stabbing right and left with her staff and attempting to toss the Seol away from where they seemed to swarm over Jolnas, but her efforts were in vain.  The Seol were a solid mass of flesh that ignored her attempts, concentrating on Jolnas.

One well aimed staff caught Jolnas in the chest, the blow powerful enough to break bones.  Gasping for breath, Jolnas struggled to keep his guard up, but the blows came too fast for him to compensate.  Another staff swung into his left shoulder, and it dropped, useless at his side.  One handed, he managed to take out one more Seol before the final blow swung into his head, snapping it back.  Another staff swept under his knees, and he collapsed, flat on his back on the ground.

The black  mass of Seol swarmed over Jolnas, and Keira lost sight of him.  Anguished, she screamed in rage, attacking the Seol.

They finally turned on her, and alone, she was still a match for them, but the sight of her companion going down had left her dazed, and a blow to the head was quick enough to end her.  She fell, on her back, at Jolnas’ side, and lay, motionless.

Ga’tek approached the two protector’s bodies, observing them for any signs of life.  There were none.

These two were the last of the known human race.  Ga’tek had done his duty.  He straightened, leaving the still scene.  The human’s bones would be picked by the birds.

As he swung himself onto his horse, he notice a hawk sitting on a dead tree nearby, its inquisitive eyes turned towards him, fearless.  For some reason, the sight of the bird sent a shiver through Ga’tek’s body.  It was an accusatory look.

Guilt would not smother him, however.  The humans deserved to die.  They were a stench that he had helped rid of the galaxy.

The hawk did not move as Ga’tek turned his horse away and rode across the desert towards the setting sun, blood red on the horizon.

Unseen behind the Seol, the still forms lying on the sand vanished.  No trace remained of the blood from their wounds, nor the stirred sand from their inert bodies.

Behind a dune a short distance away, Keira and Jolnas watched the leaving Seol.  The deactivated hologram transmitters still hung around their necks.

Pushing themselves to their feet, they walked together away from the Seol and towards the cliffs that were their home.  They were going to lead their people away from the Seol.

Shadows detached themselves from the cliffs at their arrival, and transmitters were deactivated as the humans that Jolnas and Keira had sworn to protect revealed their hiding spaces.

Selah,” Jolnas said softly.  “Let’s go home.”

* * *

Two forms raced across the sand, free as the wind that blew at their backs.  Red sand whirled behind them, stirred by their flight and the wind that had picked up behind them.  The sand flew into the air, softly clouding, then settled, erasing any trace of their passing.

The humans were a resilient species.  They were as fast as the wind and could run for hours without stopping across the desert.  Time had changed them.

Legend said that they could never be broken.  It was true.  They had escaped their captors, they had escaped death itself.

Elohim,” they had said.  It was El who was their helper.  Whoever he was, he was a great one indeed.

Two birds flew high overhead.  Their shadows engulfed the humans racing across the sand.  The humans merged into the bird’s shadows and became one with them.

The sun shone on the sand.  The desert was quiet.

The humans were gone.

They were free to run.

Like wind.

Like fire.