When the evil doctor ships the woman he loves off into the dead of winter on a Russian Train, Alecks is determined to do whatever it takes to get her back.
Even if that means having to break out of his prison cell. He doesn’t know how he’ll manage to get past all the guards and stop the train.
But fortunately for Alecks he has someone looking out for him ever since he was attacked by the Bodark and his comrades were slaughtered in the snow.
Maybe, just maybe, whatever happened to him on that dark night will give him the edge he needs to bring back the love of his life before it’s too late.
Another short read for teens and adults that is only 8,000 words that you breeze through in one sitting.
Start Reading Chapter 1 – Torn Here >>>
Aleks’ lips curled up into an angry sneer as the train raced toward him. He twisted his neck and felt the bones grind and crackle under the pressure he applied. He heard them pop before the sound of the shrill whistle pierced his ears.
A blast of frigid, ice-cold wind hit his face and caused him to shiver as it tore through the tatters of his pants and jacket. Long since shredded in his mad struggle for life or death against the guards and dogs that had tried to stop him from leaving the garrison.
He hadn’t expected to survive the escape. Aleks hadn’t expected to live five seconds after he stepped through the grated iron door of the prison. But he had to try. Give it his best. For the woman he had come to love. Natasha Chaykovsky. The woman who had nursed him back to health. The woman that Dr. Sevastyan had ripped out of his arms and dragged away from him.
Aleks had stood there helplessly. Grasping at the cold, iron bars of his window. Staring out of the cell the guards had thrown him into minutes before. Watching Natasha being forced into the car and driven hastily away.
He had sensed that Dr. Sevastyan had been jealous. But he hadn’t known that Natasha liked him until she professed her love and stolen a kiss. She had promised that when he was better, she would go with him and live with him forever. Aleks couldn’t resist. He had kissed her right back. Promised her the moon and a million stars. Right before Dr. Sevastyan had shown up and had him arrested.
The poor man still didn’t know exactly why the medic was acting this way after saving his life.
Three moons ago, Aleks had been sent out with his troop. He still had no memory of the events that night. But from what he had been told, the soldiers had been sent out to scout out the area around Lake Baikal.
It was an ancient, massive lake in the mountainous Russian region of Siberia, north of the Mongolian border. And it was considered one of the deepest lakes in the world. Formed within a continental rift with some of the purest water in the world. Some even thought that the lake was bottomless. That if you swam straight down, you would come out in the Great Lakes of America. The water was so clear that on a bright day, Aleks could see 40 feet down into the clear waters.
Aleks had been stationed there for a few weeks prior to that night. He still didn’t know why. All he had been told was that the military had taken an interest in strange, glowing objects floating over the lake at night and shimmering just below the surface by day. A group of divers had claimed to see silvery figures below them before disappearing into the dark depths. Their sonar equipment had picked large moving objects over thirty meters in length.
He didn’t actually believe the stories until that night. The night he returned half-dead. His left leg torn off at the knee and his right arm almost dismembered just below the shoulder. Aleks had been the only one from his troop to survive. Twenty men. Friends. Brothers. Comrades. All slaughtered gruesomely. Bodies scattered for 500 arshins along the shores of Lake Baikal. They never had recovered five of his friends’ bodies. They had disappeared completely.
Aleks had been in a coma for two weeks. When he finally came to, he was back in the camps. Dr. Sevastyan had sewed him back together. Performed some sort of medical magic to stitch his body back together. Everyone who had seen him returned that night couldn’t believe that he was able to walk again.
It had been a long slow process. But with Natasha’s help, he had managed. She had nursed him back. Given him the strength to continue when he wanted to quit. Natasha had given him new life, not Dr. Sevastyan. And now, the jealous, old doctor was attempting to tear them apart.
The words of the shaman now made perfect sense. An old native who lived in the woods behind the garrison. He had come to see Aleks after hearing what happened. He muttered and probed the soldier mercilessly for several minutes with a foul scowl. When he finished the crooked shaman backed away slowly.
“You have been touched by the Hēilóng. The darkness favors you and lets you survive for a reason. You bear the fire of the Dark Dragon. He has chosen you to save the lake. You must pay him tribute.” he whispered softly while looking around nervously.
Aleks brushed the words off. Considering them nothing but the superstitions of a crazy man who didn’t have any other normal companions in the woods to talk to.
He asked around the camp, but no one had ever heard of this creature. A few days previously though, he had gone into a nearby city for supplies. An old crone approached him with a huge smile and gave him a huge plate of food, a bag of vegetables, and several furs. He tried to hand them back, but she refused.
The camp translator intervened and tried to shoo the crone away. But she continued to follow them around and pester Aleks the entire day. The crone would poke him every so often and took great interest in his arms and legs. Natasha laughed and thought it was cute.
“Let the old lady have her fun. She’s never seen a man as handsome as you,” she said playfully.
Aleks blushed and scoffed her words off. Never imagining that she thought of him as anything more than a patient. In the end, Aleks gave the old lady several tins of sardines and a compass. The crone laughed and threw the tins back at him. But she hung the compass around her neck and smiled gratefully.
When they were headed back to the garrison later, Aleks got a chance to ask the interpreter what she had said.
“I didn’t really understand it. She was going on and on about some mystery monster sewing you back together. I don’t know the word. I understood the word mystery, but I didn’t get the rest. And she said that Natasha is your fire.” the interpreter said with a grin.
Aleks blushed. He was glad that darkness hid his face. Was it that obvious to the old lady that he was crushing on his nurse? If the old lady picked up on his feelings after being with him for a short time, would everyone else realize it too?
He knew that Dr. Sevastyan was sweet on her. And the last thing he wanted to do was create an uncomfortable situation. Especially since he was so grateful to the good doctor for sewing him back together and doing such a wonderful job of restoring him to perfect health. Aleks had never felt better. He didn’t consider Dr. Sevastyan to be a mysterious monster.
So for the next few days, Aleks did his best to keep his interactions with Natasha to a minimum. He could tell that it bothered her. She tried to carry on a conversation with him, but he did his best to answer curtly and shut her down. Aleks felt bad when he saw Natasha shed a tear.
He called her back over and tried to explain himself. Awkwardly. He stammered and stuttered. And Natasha realized the truth. Told him that she felt the same way. And in the same breath, she leaned in to kiss him. After that, he couldn’t resist. He kissed her right back.
Oh, sure. He held back for an instant. Still in shock. But it didn’t last long. He immediately stood him and wrapped his arms tenderly around her. And kissed her again. And again. And again.
For about fifteen minutes till Dr. Sevastyan saw them. He came running into the room and pulled Natasha away from Aleks. Then punched his patient in the face.
Aleks wasn’t sure what surprised him more. The kiss or the punch. He hadn’t expected the doctor to do that. Dr. Sevastyan glared at him on the ground. Breathing heavily. His ruddy face covered by hair that had flipped into his face. The doctor brushed it out of his eyes and backed away as he called for the guards.
Five minutes later, Aleks found himself behind the iron grating. Screaming furiously to be released. Then screaming for Natasha when he saw her being shoved roughly into the waiting vehicle. Dr. Sevastyan came by briefly to chew him out.
“This is how you treat me after all I did for you?” the doctor yelled furiously. “I’m taking Natasha far away from here. Somewhere you will never see her again.”
Aleks begged and pleaded for him to relent. He promised to never speak to the woman again. It would be better than never seeing Natasha again. But the doctor didn’t say much more after that except for these parting words.
“I didn’t do anything to heal you. I gave up on you as soon as I laid eyes on you. I knew you weren’t worth the trouble. I didn’t want to waste time or medicine on you. I just covered you and planned on letting you bleed to death on the cot. To me, you were nothing but a breathing corpse, just waiting for the grim reaper to swing by to pick you up.”
“You mean, you didn’t sew my leg and arm back on?” Aleks stammered dumbly.
The doctor shook his head and said with a growl. “You have someone else to thank for that. One of the orderlies must have done it in the night.”
Aleks took a step back and sat down on the cot behind him as the doctor walked away. It took him a moment to catch his breath. He snapped out of it though when he heard the shouts of the soldiers outside preparing to leave on the convoy to catch the next train.
The desperate lover leaped to his feet and screamed for Natasha as the car followed the trucks that were leaving the base.
“Natasha!” he screamed.
Sobbing as the tears ran down his face. And as the car disappeared from view, he screamed once more. Mustering all of his strength into that one last echo into the oncoming dusk.
Continue Reading Chapter 2 – Blast >>>
And in that parting shout, Aleks released all the pain, rage, fury and love he felt at that moment.
The bitter lover and jilted patient felt the blast of energy leave his body. Blowing the iron bars out of the windows. Blasting a hole in the wall. Flinging the grated doors clean off their hinges.
Aleks had the attention of the entire garrison. Men came running from all directions. The guards focused all of the weapons in his direction.
And for a moment, Aleks held back. Afraid to step out of his cell. Knowing they would shoot. Doctor’s orders. The men all feared him. He would exact his revenge if they didn’t. At the very least, not treat them in a moment of need. They would all do whatever he said to protect his interests.
Then Aleks realized that some might not wait for him to step out of the cell anyway. They would shoot him just to please the angry doctor and avenge Aleks perceived betrayal just to get in his good graces. No telling what story the doctor had fed them. Most likely Dr. Sevastyan had told them that Aleks had assaulted the woman. They would be furious at him.
Aleks bolted back out through the building. There was no need to run right through the middle of the soldiers just itching for a chance to pop him off. None of them would be friendly. Most of them resented the fact that he had survived the slaughter of his comrades. All of his friends and brothers were no longer among them.
There were still a few guards in the building. But it would be easier to deal with them than the angry horde outside. And it was actually easier than he thought.
The first guard he saw stood up from his desk and raised his rifle to his shoulder. Aleks held up his hand and shouted for him to stop. As soon as he did, an invisible wave of energy swept out from Aleks core and out through his extended arm.
Aleks felt the warm wave sweep out across him. He could feel the built-up pressure leaving his body. He could even sense when it reached the soldier. Shoving him violently backward. Aleks realized that he could feel everything that the energy wave passed throughout to a range of about thirty arshins. It was almost as if the energy were an extension of his very body.
He smiled grimly at his new source of power. Aleks had never felt anything like this before in his life. But then again, he had never loved anyone like Natasha before. He walked over the fallen soldier who had been slammed back against the wall and then knocked forward across the desk.
Aleks pursed his lips. Blood pooled dripped down from the soldier’s head where it had been smashed against the back of the wall. The man’s legs fractured where the desk had slammed into his body immediately after. Pushed back against the wall in the blast as well. Crushing the lower half of the soldier’s body.
He picked up the soldier’s rifle and slung it over his shoulder just in case. No telling how long these energy blasts would last. Or how long he would be able to use them.
The sound of running steps echoed down the hall. Aleks turned and held out his hand toward the sound. Waiting for them to appear. He stood there as they turned the corner and came to halt. Nervously eyeing the dead guard at Aleks’ side.
Several raised their rifles uncomfortably. Nervously.
Aleks raised his hand calmly. Confidently. Waiting for a few more racing feet he could hear echoing in the halls to reach the rest of the group. No sense in having to shoot out more than one blast at a time.
He had sensed some weakness in his body after the first blast left him. Immediately after, he could feel the energy building back up again. Almost like a battery. The feeling of energy trickling back into his core.
It might take a bit to build back up again. He had no idea if his next blast would be as strong as the first. He didn’t want to have to take the risk of using it and then being to weak to follow up on the others.
“Stand down! What have you done with Comrade Feodor?”
Aleks looked down at the fallen soldier. He looked back up at the group of soldiers at the end of the hall. They shuffled nervously and slowly moved forward as the well-trained unit that they were. Aleks didn’t want to kill them unnecessarily like he had Feodor. But he wasn’t sure how much power to release. The first time had only been a single soldier. This was a group of about twelve men.
Ultimately, Aleks didn’t hold back. He released the energy as he had previously. A quick shout. Extending his fingers out from his balled up fist in their direction. The effect was swift and deadly. The fact that this was a group didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
The men in front took the full brunt of the blow. Slamming back into those behind them. Flinging them back down the hall like rag dolls.
Aleks had the sensation that his body adapted and released the necessary amount of energy accordingly. The effect of the force was the same on the men, but he could definitely tell that it took more out of him. He released a second blast in quick succession at the one man who was still alive and tried to get back up onto his feet.
It was a much weaker blast than the first, but still strong enough to knock the man back up against the wall. He lay there unmoving. Aleks heard men the sound of more footsteps coming in from behind him. Through the hole in the wall. He didn’t wait for a group this time. Aleks moved quickly past the pile of bodies in the hall.
He heard shouts behind him when they reached the pile of corpses he had left behind. When he reached the front door of the building, Aleks opened it a little to look around. Most of the guards from this end had been knocked out in the blast. The rest had run around to the other side.
Aleks stepped out and ran quickly for the far end of the camp. A few men saw him. Those that tried to stop him, he took out with a single silent blast of energy. These were definitely weaker than the others. But still powerful enough to get the job done. The only sound they made was the rustle of the leaves and grass that moved out from him.
Neither were the blasts very visible. He could see a light shimmer in the air immediately after the energy blast left his body, but that was about the extent of its visibility. His strongest connection with it was in his sense of feeling. Aleks could feel every blade of grass and leaf and object as the waves moved out from him.
The feeling he had was almost that it was as if his body expanded out immensely and then immediately occupied his space once again.
Aleks could hear the guards following along behind him. The dogs barking. He picked up his pace. It would soon be dark, and he had no idea where to go.
The barking got louder quickly. Three of the dogs had been released to run on ahead of the pack. Following swiftly on Aleks trail. But they didn’t pose much of a threat. He took out all three with a single blast.
It was almost like petting them. He could sense every square inch of their furry, black and brown bodies. Aleks felt sorry for them and started to pull back. Until he sensed sharp ferocious teeth in their powerful jaws preparing to snap around him as they leaped into the air.
He almost had the sensation that he could have let the energy blast pass harmlessly over their bodies if he had wanted. But he didn’t. Their teeth would hurt. So, he knocked them backward as carefully as possible.
One managed to get up and ran off yelping in the opposite direction. Back to the guards that had released it. But the other two lay still. Aleks felt sorry for them. They were only doing their job. They were good creatures.
But he couldn’t feel sorry for long. More were coming. The sounds of the group died off as the dog reached its pack and the guards stopped to calm it down.
Aleks continued to run blindly into the woods. Trying to put as much distance between himself and the camp as possible. He wouldn’t be able to run forever. His leg and arm still hurt from that fateful night. Even though his body had healed well, Aleks could still feel the after-effects lingering in his cells. And the little physical therapy he had been through wasn’t enough to get him back into the peak physical performance that he needed to outrun his battle-hardened comrades.
After a few minutes of jogging, Aleks paused to catch his breath. As his head cleared, he realized that he was moving in the wrong direction to catch up with Natasha. She would be getting on the train with the rest of the soldiers. Tonight’s train would be headed back west toward Moscow where Dr. Setvastyan would be intent on sending Natasha.
The tracks nearest the base ran along the edge of Lake Baikal. Aleks needed to get back down there and find a way to hop on it. Or stop it. Whatever it took to be with Natasha again.
Continue Reading Chapter 3 – Bodark >>>
Aleks turned around to backtrack toward the tracks. It would be an excellent way to confuse the dogs and throw them off his trail. Once he hit the stream again, he could walk in the water so the animals couldn’t follow his scent nor the trackers follow his path.
As he turned, Aleks noticed the old shaman watching him from behind a pile of brush. The old man didn’t seem frightened to have been spotted. He nodded at Aleks and motioned back toward Lake Baikal.
He started to walk toward the old man who shook his head and indicated by bringing his fingers together that should meet farther down the trail. So, Aleks stuck to his plan of backtracking to the stream.
It was nervewracking with the sounds of the dogs growing louder as the guards looking for him got closer. Aleks almost gave up and turned back another way. But the sight of the old man moving parallel to him in the distance gave him courage to continue on.
The young man followed his previous trail back down to the stream. When he arrived, Aleks debated whether to follow it down to the lake or to turn back up toward the old man. But the old man motioned him up in his direction once his feet were back in the cold water. So, he sloshed quietly up in that direction. Pulling himself in behind the old man just as the dogs reached the shoreline where he had crossed before.
The animals and guards didn’t waste any time crossing the stream, and the dogs quickly picked up his old scent and continued to follow his original trail.
Aleks breathed a sigh of relief. He wasn’t sure why. There hadn’t been more than five dogs and a dozen men or so. Nothing Aleks didn’t think he could handle. The only danger was that the men would be spread out farther. There were no boundaries of the halls to keep them clumped close together. While he was busy taking care of one soldier, another could have time to get a shot off in his direction. It was better for him to stay out of sight here in the open.
After a few seconds, the old man nodded in the direction of the lake. Indicating that it was safe to move out from their hiding place.
Aleks could see the fear in the old man’s eyes. He knew that there was something different about the soldier. He had sensed it before. And that feeling had only intensified. Aleks doubted that the old man knew he could blast out energy from his body, but surely he knew that the lad possessed some sort of strange power.
“Fire of the Dragon?” the old man asked as if reading Aleks’ thoughts.
He shrugged and then nodded in agreement as he pondered the thought.
It wasn’t exactly the way he imagined dragon fire. But still, it made sense. Aleks’ could visualize his body shooting out invisible flames of energy in all directions even though it didn’t exactly burn with heat.
The old man pulled out a gourd capped with cork. He popped the top and handed it to Aleks.
“Drink,” he muttered quietly in the twilight.
Aleks sniffed at it and wrinkled his nose at the bitter stench wafting into his nostrils. Wondering for a brief instant if the shaman wanted to poison him. Aleks could tell that he feared this Dark Dragon thing he had mentioned in their previous conversation. He shook his head and handed it back.
The old man refused to take it back by holding out the palm of his right hand and placing his left finger over his lips as they continued to pad quietly in the shallow water of the stream. Careful not to make splashing noises.
“Must drink. Will purify your blood,” he whispered softly. “Moon waxes stronger. Almost full. You were torn apart by the Bodark when you crossed their pack. Hēilóng saved you. Gave you fire. But you still carry the curse of the Bodark in your blood.”
Aleks stopped and stood there in shock. Almost as much as at hearing the old man speak so many words as he did at what the shaman actually said.
“You’re crazy, old man. Bodark are a legend. The stuff of fairy tales.” Aleks finally managed to stammer.
“You no feel bristles under tongue?” the shaman asked sticking his tongue out and pointing to the bottom of it.
Aleks swirled his tongue around in his mouth and realized it was true. That was the strange sensation he had been feeling in his mouth for the past few days but just couldn’t put his finger on it. He had thought it was the effect of the medicines drying his mouth out.
He popped the cork out of the gourd and guzzled as much of the contents down as he could before gagging. Aleks leaned forward and scooped a palmful of water to his mouth. But the old shaman smacked it away lightly.
“No water. Must drink blood.”
“What? Blood? I thought this potion was to keep me from becoming a Bodark.” he hissed angrily.
“Blood not for Bodark. Blood restore energy quickly. Refuel. Release dragon fire make Aleks weak.”
Aleks nodded dumbly. As if he understood what the old man was saying. But honestly, none of it was making any sense. He would have been killed by Bodark. But he had been saved by a dragon. He carried dragon fire he could blast at will but was in danger of turning into a Bodark himself. Could things get any crazier than this on the night he had lost the woman he loved?
“Finish,” the old man commanded. Pointing to the rest of the gourd.
Aleks grimaced but complied. Took a deep breath and drank it on one go. Fortunately, the gourd was small.
He resisted the urge to scoop up another handful of water and began walking again. The old man followed close behind him.
“Must carry fire to the lake,” the old man whispered in a hushed voice.
“No, I have to get on the train and get away from here,” Aleks replied.
The old man shook his head.
“Must pay tribute to Hēilóng. Save you. Else evil comes.”
“Evil is already here. And his name is Dr. Sevastyan.” Aleks shot back.
The old man nodded.
“Army evil. Army destroy lake. Kill Hēilóng. You save lake. You save Hēilóng.”
Aleks mulled that one over in his mind. He didn’t quite understand it, but he had heard rumors that the base had been set up to run some military exercises. Some whispered of a special type of weapon that could destroy entire countries. A bomb that poisoned the land when exploded.
“So, what? Now, you and I fight the entire Russian army by ourselves?” he roared.
The old man cringed and smacked Aleks on the back of the head.
“You fight. Dragon fire. Me no fight. No dragon fire. Me only watch.”
“Oh, great. Thanks for the encouraging show of support. My odds just increased dramatically.” Aleks muttered to himself.
They continued walking for a way when the shaman raised his hand and touched Aleks’ arm. He motioned for Aleks to remain silent and pointed behind them.
“Guards. Dogs. Coming.”
Aleks listened, but couldn’t hear them yet.
“How did they know where we went?” he asked.
The old man shrugged.
“Lucky. Guards guess.”
Aleks shrugged. He felt good. He wanted to use his dragon fire to take them out. But the old man put out his hand.
“Must save energy. Dragon fire burn fast. Refuel slow. Save to stop doctor.”
They continued to move swiftly now. Aleks didn’t worry about making noise. If the guards were on his trail, then the dogs knew he was here. Silent or not.
The old man led him up out of the stream and over a hill. When the reached the top, Aleks realized why. The stream doubled back on itself and followed a torturously long series of curves. By heading down the hill, they were moving straight toward the lake and the train tracks. He could see the lights of the city flickering in the distance.
Then he heard the shrill whistle of the train.
“It’s coming,” Aleks said under his breath and cut down the hill in front of the old man.
He heard the old man’s footsteps pattering along behind him. Suddenly they stopped. Aleks looked back. The old man a few steps behind waving him on.
“Stop train. Destroy doctor. Save lake. Save Hēilóng.”
“And save Natasha,” Aleks retorted hotly. “Nothing else matters without her. Aren’t you coming?”
The old shaman shook his head.
“Strong fire. Blast all. Me stay.”
“Great. Fine. Be that way. I’ll do what I have to do to save Natasha.” Aleks said and took off down the hill leaving the old man behind.
He wanted to blast the old man for leaving in him in the lurch like this. Shame on the old shaman for not wanting to fight. But help or no help, he intended to stop this train. It wasn’t worth it though. Alex needed to conserve his energy. And the guards would be along soon enough. Some of them were cruel enough to do him in if the dogs didn’t attack him first.
Aleks was soon out of breath. Even though he was only running downhill, but still he was out of shape. It had been almost three months since he had trained.
He arrived at the tracks a bit before the train. Aleks could hear it chugging along in his direction. He smiled grimly as he paused to catch his breath. Looking out over the immense size of the lake in the setting sun.
While running along the river, he had thought that the sun had set. The tall trees had blocked the last of the sun’s rays. Casting dark shadows over the two men as they walked. But out here, away from the trees, Aleks could still catch a glimpse of the final rays.
Hues of pink, orange, and purple rimmed the edges of the horizon beyond the lake. It was a stunning sight. Aleks wondered why he had never stopped to pay attention to the beauty around him before today.
Continue Reading Chapter 4 – Fallen >>>
But he didn’t have long to enjoy it. The sound of the engine grew louder. Soon he could see puffs of steam rising above the trees. Highlighted in stark contrast against the sunset colors of the sky behind them.
Aleks prepared himself. He wasn’t quite sure what to do exactly. His first idea had been to run alongside the train and hop on. Then take on the soldiers one by one. But the old shaman had told him to stop the train.
Maybe he could stand on the tracks and shoot out his dragon fire at the train. Head on. Slow it down or even bring it to a complete stop. If he blasted it from the side and the train derailed, it could end up killing Natasha.
That was a risk that he didn’t want to take.
Aleks lowered himself down into a crouching stance just to the side of the tracks. He took several deep breaths and shook his arms to prepare himself for the blast. The engine came popping out from the forest. He could see it completely now.
The thought crossed his mind since he was off the tracks that even the slight angle of the blast could derail it at that speed. If even only one wheel got bumped off, all the other cars would pile up behind it.
He had worked on a rescue team once. A terrible train wreck that had taken place just a few weeks after Aleks had joined the army. It had been a horrible sight. Agonizing. Pulling bodies out of the wreckage. The corpses weren’t so bad, but those who had still been alive were the worst. Their screams as the troops pulled their mangled and broken bodies out of the smoking rubble to get them to the medics.
Aleks had heard those screams in his ears every night for weeks after the rescue mission was over. He couldn’t let something like that happen to Natasha. He had to do it right. So, he stepped on to the tracks to face the iron beast head on.
They had seen his outline in the last bit of sunlight. The engineer blew a shrill warning for him to move out of the way. He heard the squeal of the wheels as it seemed like they were going to break. But then the engineer let up. Aleks realized why as it got closer.
Dr. Setvastyan stood at the doorway of the engine looking out over the tracks. Waving his fist. Aleks grinned at the challenge. A duel of two lovers. The iron beast versus the fire of the dark dragon.
Aleks prepared himself. Willing himself to wait for just the right moment. If he shot out too early, his energy blast would dissipate and be of no effect. If he waited too long, he wouldn’t be able to slow the train down, and it would run him over.
He heard a loud pop and realized that a guard was on the other side of the train door shooting at him. But there was nothing he could do now. If he fled like a cowardly chicken now, the train would barrel on by, and he would lose Natasha forever.
So, Aleks leaned his body to the opposite side of the track briefly and crouched down for a second to make a smaller target.
Then, when he sensed that the train was just the right distance out to hit his blast at its farthest zenith that still held his strength, Aleks released every bit of energy that he could with a mighty roar that echoed off the mountains to his right and shot across Lake Baikal to the left.
Complete silence covered the mountain and water as all of nature hushed at the sound of love’s desperate cry.
And the entire world seemed to come to a complete standstill around him. Even time itself seemed to pause for the briefest of moments.
After the initial blast had left his body, Aleks continued to hold force the energy out of his body. Channeling it through both arms for as long as he could.
Dr. Setvasyan had leaped back inside the engine as soon as he saw what was coming and realized a collision was about to take place. The guard shooting at Aleks from the other side was thrown clean out of the moving machine.
The iron monster slowed down as moved in Aleks’ direction. It probably would have stopped too, if it weren’t for the doctor’s quick thinking. He threw the train into full throttle. Giving it more juice in spite of the engineer’s protests.
So, the entire train continued moving. Albeit very slowly as if just starting off again.
Aleks couldn’t unleash any more energy in its direction and threw himself off the tracks at the last second. The train continued to roll on slowly by. The infuriating Dr. Setvastyan grinning maliciously and waving at Aleks as he rolled by.
The soldier wanted to stand up. Run after it. Hop on. Save Natasha, but he could barely move. It was all he could do to sit up and watch it go by. He tried to crawl in its direction. Got right up against it and tried to reach out to grab on to some section of it. But by this time, he had captured the attention of the soldiers who were watching. Those closest to him would kick his hand away before it even got near the train.
The train was beginning to pick up speed, but still moving slowly. Aleks could have hopped on without even having to run if he had just had the strength to stand up. But he couldn’t. His legs wouldn’t work.
“Blood,” he thought.
The thought of drinking blood grossed him out. Even more than drinking the shaman’s bitter brew. But if blood would allow him to save Natasha, he would drink whatever it took. He glanced around for the body of the soldier that had fallen off the train. He spotted it back where the man had fallen, but it was on the other side of the moving monster.
Aleks threw his head back and roared.
The soldier spotted the tip of the moon peeking up over the horizon and wished he hadn’t drunk the bitter brew. Maybe he would have transformed in a Bodark. He would have lost his soul forever and never been fit for Natasha. But he had lost her now anyway. And it would have been worth it, just to get one over on the doctor and wipe the smirk off his face.
The third car of the train was going by. It was still picking up speed. A bit more and it would be going faster. Then one by one the rest of the cars would pass him by as the engine continued to pull them speedily on their long journey through the night. Within four days, Natasha would be back in Moscow and lost to him forever.
Aleks threw back his head and screamed out in agony. Letting his voice tear through the oncoming darkness at the soldiers leaning off the sides and mocking him.
And then, over the roar of the engine and chugging of the train, Aleks thought he heard footsteps running in his direction. He turned. Imagining the worst. The soldiers and dogs behind him. Coming to drag him back to the garrison.
But it wasn’t. The old shaman. Outstretched hands. Reaching toward him. The gourd.
Aleks reached out to meet him. Another concoction? Blood from the dogs? Had he killed them? Or even the soldiers themselves?
Would it be enough? Would he regain his energy in time to stop the train? He could blast the train off the tracks without having to worry about a pile up if it derailed at this speed.
The old shaman didn’t make it quite far enough. He stumbled and fell forward into the grass a short distance away from Aleks. He waited for the man to get up and continue. But he didn’t. The Aleks realized what had happened.
He looked up toward the engine. Dr. Setvastyan with a rifle of his own. Pulling it down off his shoulder with a satisfied grin. The look of a hunter who had proudly felled his prey.
Aleks screamed again. The doctor smiled and waved. The soldier tried to drag himself in the old man’s direction. Slowly. Agonizingly.
Several more cars had gone by. The train was almost halfway past him. And it was still picking up speed. He willed himself to move. Pulling himself through the grass and stones toward the gourd.
He sensed the energy of life leaving his body faster than his soul battery could produce more. Aleks could barely move. He stretched out his hand and almost reached the gourd. But it was too far. Aleks could feel hope slipping away from his mind. His vision began to darken.
“This is it,” he thought. “I did my best.”
Continue Reading Chapter 5 – Wrecked >>>
The old man came to at the last second and turned his head to meet Aleks gaze. He nodded and pushed the gourd toward the young man.
“The dogs,” he said.
Aleks breathed a sigh of relief as he stretched out his fingers and slid the gourd toward himself.
He might have to drink human blood someday. But not if he could help it. He was just grateful that his first taste was from an animal. It didn’t feel as wrong even though it still made him sick if he thought about it too much. But he had to do this for Natasha. For Hēilóng. For the shaman. To honor the old man’s sacrifice to save Aleks.
He popped the cork off and lifted it to his lips. There wasn’t much. It wasn’t more than half full. The old man hadn’t had much time to work with. When he reached out his hand with the gourd, Aleks had noticed the deep lacerations on his arms and face where the dogs had torn into him before he managed to bleed them to death.
Aleks raised the gourd shakily toward his mouth and gulped it down quickly. Two swallows. That was all, but it was enough. He licked greedily at a few drops that clung to the sides of the opening. Willing the gourd to give up more. Willing his body to absorb the energy and refuel.
An almost immediate wave of strength shot through his body. Aleks was able to stand to his feet. But now there was no rush. The train was just a little over halfway past him. It wouldn’t move on past him before he had time to do his thing.
Aleks was like a mighty bear toying with his prey before delivering his final blow. He extended his energy outward toward the train. Feeling along each car for Natasha’s presence. Sensing the soldiers who were there on the train.
He could count everyone within the range his blast could reach. And that seemed to be even farther out than his earlier blasts. Aleks could sense that his next blast would be his strongest yet. Partially a mix of refueling with the blood and also the bit of practice he had acquired.
Aleks waited a bit longer till Natasha was out of his range. She was several cars away. Close to the engine and the doctor. He didn’t want her to be affected by it when he blasted the train.
He still didn’t like the idea of stopping the train like this. It was too dangerous. Derailing just one car could cause a massive pileup. Crushing Natasha along with everyone else. It was too risky.
There had to be another way to stop it.
A soldier kicked out at his head as he went by. Aleks ducked and turned.
At the same time, he noticed several soldiers leaning out the windows. Pointing guns in his direction. Preparing to shoot.
Aleks reacted instinctively.
Blasting instantaneously in the direction of the men. He tried to hold back a bit. Measure his blast.
But it was strong. Aleks felt the wave wash over him as his body released energy. Powerfully. Much stronger than before.
Time seemed to slow down around him.
Aleks watched helplessly as the train directly in front of him lifted off the tracks.
He willed it to stay down low. To land back on the tracks. He wished he could use his energy to pull it back in. But the car of the train continued to rise. Pulling up the others around it.
The men in the window tossed back like rag dolls. Their guns flung high in the air.
The soldier who had kicked at him was only a dark-red outline on the train wall. A lighter red mist sprayed out around it.
The wheels of the engine still on the tracks squealed loudly as they spun frantically against the trails. Those that were completely off the rails spun uselessly.
The engine roared loudly. Smoke billowing up from the stack as it clawed to keep itself steady. The cars behind it rising one after the other into the air.
In the end, its forward motion wasn’t strong enough to resist the pull of the other cars and followed suit.
The entire train rising up off the track from Aleks’ single blast of refueled energy.
He watched in awe at the power of blast against the machine. Half-gloating at the look of horror on the doctor’s face while simultaneously cringing at the destruction taking place around him.
The train reached its zenith. High over Aleks’ head. Twisting and turning as they came crashing back down around him.
Aleks raced along the twisted metallic carnage in the direction he had last sensed Natasha’s energy. Afraid of what he would see when he reached her.
Hurrying breathlessly to find her before the soldiers could catch their breath and get their wits about them.
When he arrived at the engine in the low light of darkness, he realized that he had passed by the car Natasha had been in.
He hadn’t sensed her when going by. His heart sank. Had she been crushed in the wreck?
Aleks saw the doctor and engineer lying off in the grass a short distance. The doctor groaned and moved slowly, but the engineer was completely still.
He turned and moved back in the direction he had come from. Anxiously extending in his sense of energy. Feeling for any sign of life within the cars.
The signals were weak, but after seeing several dazed soldiers rising from the metallic wreckage, Aleks realized that his energy was low again.
It worried him. He didn’t have much left to fight off any soldiers. But he was relieved as to why he was having trouble sensing Natasha.
Fortunately, he didn’t seem to have to worry. None of the soldiers appeared to focus their attention on him. They were in shock and too dazed to notice him.
Aleks realized that most of them probably hadn’t even looked out the windows earlier and wouldn’t know who he was anyway.
Finally, he sensed Natasha. A soft blip on his radar. He dove through a window into her car that was lying on its side off the tracks.
He scrounged around and heard her moaning softly. Alecks reached for her in the darkness. Pulled several bodies away from her. He could sense that they were still alive. They were either unconscious or still too dazed to move.
Natasha reached up in his direction.
“Aleks? Is that you?”
He pulled her into his arms and hugged her closely for a moment.
“Come. I thought I lost you?”
“What are you doing here? What’s going on?”
“Shhh! I’ll tell you later. Let’s get out of here before Dr. Setvastyan comes to take you away from me again.”
Aleks pulled her gently up. Then pulled himself out of the window. He looked around and noticed the doctor stumbling along on the other side. Trying to find the door in the dark shadows of the twilight. Trying to make sense of why the entrance to the car wasn’t in its usual place.
He pulled Natasha up beside him and placed his fingers over his lips in warning. They slid down the train on the other sidecar opposite from the doctor.
The light of the moon had begun to fill the night sky as they raced toward the vast forest.
Aleks noticed three large, dark shapes hunkered down in the shadows. Watching from the edge of the woods. He could sense their energy, but it was almost human. But not like the humans he had detected so far.
“Bodark?” he wondered.
He didn’t mention them to Natasha. Aleks knew that they had noticed him. But they didn’t make any attempt to approach or block his escape.
They were fixated on the confusion still going on below. Aleks didn’t stop and stick around to see what was going to happen.
Right now, he just wanted to get somewhere warm and safe. Far away from here. Tomorrow, he would figure out what to do. There was no sense in worrying about the future.
For now, he just wanted to be present. Appreciate life. And contemplate the beauty of the moon and stars lighting up the trees around them as they walked back into the city below.