Chapter 1 – Torn – Dave Bailey

Chapter 1 – Torn

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 >>>

Dave Bailey

Dave Bailey started writing short stories when he lived in Brazil to help his students learn English. Now, he lives in Florida again where he continues to write fun and inspiring sci-fi and fantasy fiction stories. You can read his weekly short stories here on his blog. Make sure to join his advanced reading crew so you know when new stories become available >>>