“The Damned, To the South” is the previous installment of Chloe Bradshaw’s saga.
I remember Antarctica as a desolate place, and also the most beautiful. The sun shines down upon the five of us as we walk non-stop, all the way until we reach the ice.
Two days have passed and we are halfway there. We haven’t seen any other Demons on the way down. The sun stopped shining a day ago. I have zipped up my jacket all the way – the cold zip rubs against my neck – and I have pulled my hood up so you can just make out my eyes. We walk in silence. I know that we are getting closer, for the weather is becoming harsher.
I haven’t been keeping track of the days and now they have seemed to merge together. The weather has been dull with dark clouds filling the sky, there has only been the occasional shower of sunlight.
We have come to the border of Patagonia. Breathtaking scenery often stops us in our tracks. Large trees tower over a clear blue river. In the distance across from the river loom snow-covered mountains that reflect in the water. It’s clear enough to see the large fish swimming freely. I take in a deep breath of clean air and savour it in my lungs.
As we walk down towards Cape Horn – which is right on the end of Patagonia – the scenery changes. The air around turns colder. We stand at the edge of the Southern Ocean, staring into the distance towards Antarctica. The chill of the wind cuts through me, but my Demonic blood makes sure that I am not too cold.
“How do we get across?” One of the new Demons asks. I make a mental note to eventually learn their names.
“We swim,” Marius answers.
“We swim,” Marius repeats himself.
“I know what you said!” Travis snaps, causing all of us to turn around. “I’m sorry,” he apologises, “Its just that I haven’t fed recently.” A flicker of red runs across his eyes.
“Alright,” I say, “I am growing hungry and I am sure that everyone else is. So I suggest that we start heading back, and wait till the sun goes down so we can feed.”
Wild dogs roam these lands, where long grass grows, and birds of prey own the sky. The large orange sun sets as we make our way back. I find a large rock among grass and sit down, the others surrounding me. A wild dog circles us, nose twitching.
The dog edges closer and stops. His sniffs the air. The dog growls, revealing dangerously white teeth. I laugh.
“That dog,” I say. “He won’t come near us because he knows that we are not human, he doesn’t know what we are. Ha!” I pick up a stick and throw it sideways at the dog, making sure that it will fly right over its head. The dog gives out a small yelp and runs. “Idiot.” I snort. Marius and Travis give out a small laugh.
The sun finally sets and a bright moon rises.
“When do we leave?” Travis asks.
“When the moon goes up higher in the sky,” I answer.
The moon ascends, and we walk on. Starlight and moonlight help us to find our way. We enter five different houses.
Travis comes out first, I second, Marius third and the other two seem to come out of their houses at the same time. “Right, let’s get going,” I say, cheerful now that I have quenched my hunger. We make the journey down to Cape Horn and, at last, look down into the sea. Travis staggers back, overcome by vertigo. “We… we are going to jump into that?” He asks.
“Yep,” Marius says. I have only made this journey once, with Marius by my side and he was like this last time. Travis sheepishly creeps forward to the edge of the rock.
I walk closer to the edge of the cliff and turn around so that I am facing my comrades. I salute them, and fall back. My first instinct is to scream, but I hold it down. I close my eyes and hit the cold surface of the water. I plummet down a few metres before rising back and swimming away. Marius comes second, and then the new Demons come. Nobody screams, but Travis alone teeters at the edge.
“Jump!” I shout. I see Travis walk away from the edge. “Where has he gone?” I ask Marius.
“Like I am supposed to know, the coward can kill his own parents, run away from the police and live on his own in a deserted house for years on end, but he can’t bring himself to jump of a cliff, even after four other people already have!”
“He can’t just leave!” I say. I swim a little bit away from the cliff to try to spot him, but all I can see is darkness.
“Travis!” I shout as loud as I can, which turns out to be quite loud. I see a darting figure race across the little bit of land that I can see. A loud scream reaches my ears and I watch the figure fall from the cliff and form a dark ball which splashes into the ocean. As the figure swims toward us, I make out Travis. It could have been any other Demon making the journey to Antarctica.
“Travis, why the hell did you do that?” I ask.
“I had to get a quick start; I couldn’t jump of like the rest of you.” He gasps.
“Let’s just get going.” I say. I lead us toward our destination, there is only a slight chill in the water now – it doesn’t take long to get used to the cold. Anything living in the sea keeps its distance from us.
The waves are extremely choppy farther out and it is hard to keep your head above the water. Swimming in the untameable sea, I have gone under a few times and so have the others; however we have all come back up and are still heading in the same direction. The moon has started to go down leaving the sky free for the sun to reign in its twelve hours of glory. The sky is starting to become a lighter shade of the blue, which hangs around when the moon has its last hours. The stars have subsided, faded away in the blue sky. The waves have settled slightly, but they are still as rough as hell.
I see a dark cloud a few metres under the surface of the water. I stop swimming and breathe in deeply before plunging into the water. I open my eyes – they don’t sting from the salt water – and peer down.
“It’s a whale!” I shout, pointing down to the amazing creature. Everyone goes down into the water to see it below us, like an enormous shadow.
The sun soon rises high in the sky and we were not far from Antarctica. Icebergs scatter along the water. We wade through ice as penguins chatter to each other and seals grunt and breathe out clouds of warm air. Marius catches up with me and asks: “Do you remember how to get to Vinson Massif?” I look around, searching for a sign before giving in and saying: “No.”
“Well it’s a good thing I do then, isn’t it?” I can’t help but smile at him. Vinson Massif is the highest point in Antarctica, at the altitude of four thousand eight hundred and ninety seven metres.
An amazing white landscape surrounds us; sparkling white, it nearly blinds us.
“This way,” Marius takes the lead. The penguins scatter ahead of us. I see no sign of other Demons anywhere.
“Are you sure the meeting is taking place?” I ask.
“Yes,” Marius answers. “I’m sure.” We continue to walk and snow falls, coating our black clothes.
The way to Vinson Massif is a difficult trek to follow, but Marius leads us like an expert, and treading carefully on the treacherous ice, we glimpse its mass on the horizon.
“I told you so,” Marius mutters.
We continue to walk faster. Penguins disperse the closer we get to Vinson Massif. The sun is now starting to set, however I know that we will reach our destination by sundown. It’s then that I hear footsteps overtaking us, and spot the shopkeeper from long ago.
“I thought it was you,” She says, breathing heavily. “I did what you told. We turned many humans.”
We walk in silence the rest of the way, with our ally on our side. It doesn’t take long to reach Vinson Massif, and we climb. It is an extraordinary place; I have forgotten how breathtaking it is.
On the summit, I can see a podium and standing upon it a Demon, surrounded by others. There are a hell of a lot more Demons this year then there were five years before. It looks like we made it just in time, as the Demon on the podium begins to speak.
“I am sure that everyone here knows the peril we are facing. The Hunters have been recruiting many more humans, they have been building up their numbers, driving our race to extinction. None of us here would know anything about it, were it not for Lilith, who first spread the word. Is Lilith here?”
I raise my hand sheepishly; I was not expecting this to happen.
“Stand up here, Lilith.” He says, and I approach him, giving Marius and Travis a quick backward glance. “Now tell us what you know.”
“All that happened was a Hunter came up to me and told me that they have started to recruit, he said that the Demons had no chance against them, that we will all die. I killed him. A few days later the same thing happened. I do not know why I was singled out. The Hunter said that his master told him to find me. He would say no more. Of course, I killed him after that. I have no idea who their master is. But I knew to get the word out, to tell our race the Hunters’ plan so we could start recruiting ourselves. Like you all here, I will not go down without a fight!” A massive cheer comes from the crowd and startles me.
That’s when I notice that we are not alone, someone is coming to join us – a group moving fast, approaching the summit.
“Are there more coming?” I ask.
“There shouldn’t be.”
“Then what’s that?” The man looks in the direction of my pointing finger. He glances back at me, bewildered. As the figures come into focus, I feel as if my heart has leapt into my throat.
I know immediately who is coming and why I was the only one who was warned. I am looking at my brother’s face; I don’t think he has spotted me yet. The Hunters are here.
“Lilly,” my brother’s voice makes my blood turn to ice. I look at Marius and Travis, their faces are pictures of shock and confusion. People are looking around to find the person called ‘Lilly’ but they cannot.
“You know, Lilly I never would have thought it would end up this way, and I never wished it to…”
To be continued.