This turned out to be one of those stories that I really enjoyed writing. Today, as I celebrate being passed on to the second round of contestants in the Black Library’s contest (the folks who do Warhammer have opened for submissions for a short story in one of their upcoming anthologies, with the potential for so much more later on…fingers crossed) I am pleased to give you part four of this little ditty.
The backstory here isn’t terribly original, but if read with the rest of the story it gives validation to Edmund for returning to the Canadian wilds to confront his fears of the Wendigo and, well, you’ll have to wait and see, won’t you? Read on, my friends. Read on.
A Matter of Life and Death IV
Christian Warren Freed
The last month had sped by with blistering speed for Edmund Sorenson. All that he had known, or thought to know to be truth, was quickly being unwoven by the fabric of duplicity and, to an extent, intrigue. Events threatened to fracture his already damaged psyche. Nothing, absolutely nothing was as it used to be. Any notion of what he once thought his life would turn out to be dissolved under the fury of an emotional hurricane. Edmund took his seat in the old, decommissioned Army Huey helicopter and, after fumbling with the straps, buckled in.
The rest of his new team hopped aboard, stowing their packs in the center. He couldn’t help but notice two kept their weapons on them, barrels pointed down. That suggested prior military experience. Edmund frowned, knowing that Rolstein was expecting danger and was prepared to deal with it two frightening possibilities. He didn’t mind being the one with the gun, but having others he didn’t know riding across from him, men who clearly looked dangerous, threatening even, was most disturbing.
His gaze swept across the others. Brief introductions had been made back in Rolstein’s secret armory, a room Edmund still wasn’t sure should be allowed to exist. None of the names or faces in his new crew meant much, not that it mattered. Rolstein insisted and, as long as Edmund had no other option, the big game hunter was bound to accept.
The two mercenaries made sense. They were rough and tumble kind of men with little time for nonsense. Their medic made even more sense. Where the team was headed he knew they’d need more than what they were bringing. While Edmund didn’t enjoy working with such men, he appreciated their professional demeanor.
The only one who didn’t make sense, at least from a going into the field perspective was the woman. Edmund understood needing a botanist, but the slight figure seated directly across from him didn’t seem capable of handling herself. If anything, she only served to remind Edmund of why he was on this chopper in the first place. Nestling back into the webbed seat, Edmund closed his eyes and allowed his thoughts to return to that fateful day in Buffalo General Hospital.
The whirl and hum of various machines dominated the small room. The very atmosphere was oppressive. Austere walls void of decoration and disrupted by a single, large window made him feel like he was trapped in a prison. The very same prison his daughter continued to spiral through. Blowing out a sigh of frustration, Edmund took his now well-worn seat beside the bed.
She looked so fragile. Lying swaddled in blankets, helpless to prevent the pain and disease racking her body. Lucy was only ten and, according to every professional Edmund had encountered, unlikely to see eleven. He had never felt so helpless in his life.
Doctors said that her body was degenerating at a substantial pace. Not only were they completely baffled by her condition, but there was no known precedence of it. Lucy had a disease with no name, no understanding, and no hope. Edmund’s only solace stemmed from his only child being induced in a coma with the vain hopes of stalling the illness.
Edmund reached forward to remove a lock of golden hair obscuring part of Lucy’s face. So angelic. So peaceful. The world worked with little regard for those living. Life and death were entirely too interchangeable. Especially among those who could do little to prevent or even understand those special circumstances afflicting them. Like Lucy. There were times when Edmund not only lost faith in humanity, but his faith in God. Priests and doctors became equally useless in his eyes.
Edmund stirred at the unexpected sound coming from the doorway behind him. He turned, staring blankly at the small, older gentleman standing there. Dressed impeccably in a jet black Armani suit with a crisp red tie, the man held a small case in both hands in front of him.
“You’re no doctor,” Edmund said.
“No. I’m not.”
Snorting, Edmund said, “Go away. I don’t need you.”
“What do you need, Mr. Sorenson?” the man asked.
Edmund tensed. “Who are you? What do you want?”
“My name is Crispus. I represent a…very influential gentleman who has taken an interest in you.”
“I’m not interested.”
Crispus grinned. “I think I can change your mind. What if I told you my employer has the ability to cure your daughter?”
And that was it. Edmund was hooked. Now here he was on an ex-military chopper with a handful of people he didn’t know or trust, heading back into a nightmare he couldn’t avoid. The chopper continued deeper into the Canadian wilderness and the dangers within. Edmund sighed.