A Hidden Message
They were in an abandoned building. Fred was looking through the Oracle’s eyes as a figure in a tattered black cloak appeared from the shadows. The hood covered most of his face but for the wild silver eyes. “I didn’t think you’d come,” his voice sounded weak and scratchy like he hadn’t spoken for a long time.
“Can’t I be left in peace even before I die?” the Oracle muttered. “Or are you here to finish the job?” He turned his back to the man. “Make it quick.”
“I’m not here for that.”
“Don’t lose your nerve now. How many have you killed since that day anyway? Hundreds? Thousands? I’ve lost count. You’re always on the news that I stopped keeping tabs. What do they call you nowadays? God? Demon?” He tapped on his chin. “Ah. Hunter. He who holds the world in darkness and preys on the innocent,” the Oracle sneered.
“You can’t provoke me into doing what you want,” Hunter replied calmly.
“What do you want from me?”
“I have a proposal. Go back to the past and change it.”
Hunter chuckled. Overhead, the sky let out a rumble. The Oracle whirled to face him again.
“That’s true.” Hunter didn’t move from his spot. “Relax. I’m not going to hurt you.” He raised his arms as a sign of peace.
“What happened to your arms?”
Red welts and slashes marked Hunter’s arms and hands. He clasped his hands behind him, hiding the disfigurement. “Nothing.”
“Those looked like burns. Why didn’t you heal them?”
“Some things can’t be erased completely,” Hunter said with finality. Then he changed the subject: “I found someone who can move through time. Calls himself the Messenger and he agreed to help out.”
“The Messenger. You’ll meet him soon. We don’t trust each other. I can’t even trust myself.” He smiled bitterly. “But I do trust you. When you get to the past, find him. Tell him that Cheska mustn’t die. Their lives are too tangled up because of what they did before. If she dies, he dies and the madness will start.” He groaned, clutching his head. “This may be the last time we,” his breathing became uneven, “see each other.” Hunter doubled over. A low growl escaped his from mouth.
“Are you alright?” The Oracle started to approach him.
“Stay where you are!” Hunter barked, his eyes gleamed with bloodlust.
The Oracle stopped.
“You’re afraid of me.” Hunter smirked. Suddenly, his expression changed to bewilderment then disgust. He retreated to the darkness.
“I’m losing, Louis,” he said in defeat. “The visions… Each day gets worse.” His voice became more strained. “I’ve given you a reason to live, I think. The mission will stay intact. But, for your own protection, you won’t remember this encounter. I will seal the memory deep into your subconscious. He will be the only person who can retrieve this. I’m…sorry.”
A thunderclap shook the building and everything was silent. A second later, an explosion rocked the whole structure.
Fred gasped and stumbled backward.
The Oracle still had his hand outstretched. “What did you see?” he asked.
The doctor began to see him in a new light. The last memory had made things a little clearer.
“What did you see?” the Oracle repeated and stepped forward.
Nervously, Fred moved to the side and away from the blind man’s path. A third trip to the Oracle’s past was a risk he can do without. Knowing the real identity of the shadowy figure called Hunter was more than enough. Fred didn’t want to learn more about his past actions.
“I—” Fred faltered. What could he say? Hunter kept you from dying in his own twisted way? Was Hunter right? Did the Oracle forget that meeting? “You touched me. Can’t you tell what you made me see?” Fred winced. It sounded like an accusation to his own ears. To his relief, his companion was offended.
“It’s not me,” the Oracle shook his head. “I had a hunch after that first time and I followed it. Did you have this ability before?” He lowered his head in thought. “Of course not. You wouldn’t be accusing me if you’ve had it before.” His lips pressed into a thin line while his finger rubbed his chin. “Was it the time travel?” the Oracle said to no one in particular. He spent another minute speculating over the subject.
Fred keenly watched the Oracle; he noted the similarities between the present and future versions of Louis. The future Louis was more matured and less emotional. Still, he was the same boy who yearned for a normal family. Had Hunter watched over him from afar?
“I saw your past,” Fred spoke up.
The Oracle lifted his head.
“Well, most of it.”
“Do you believe me?”
“Do you agree with me?” the Oracle asked quietly.
“If you mean dying,” Fred closed his eyes and dragged the last word out, “yes.”
“I’m sorry to ask this of you, Fred.”
He had no answer to that after practically signing his own death warrant. “Do you mind if I have some time to be alone?”
“I’ll leave you to you rest then. I’ll have the Messenger take you where you need to be later.” The Oracle opened and closed his mouth a few times. Fred sensed he had more to say. The blind man cleared his throat, lifted his chin and performed a low bow.
“Oracle,” Fred started to protest.
“I guess, I deserve that,” the Oracle offered a sad smile. “Goodbye, my friend,” the voice shook at the end. His face, however, had taken on a hard expression. He turned on his heel and left.
Fred flopped onto his back on the mattress. The impact jarred his head a little and he welcomed the pain that followed. The man in the Oracle’s past had disturbed him. Hunter had taken countless lives. The word which came to Fred’s mind was monster.
And yet Hunter didn’t attack the Oracle.
“You are aware.”
Surprised that he wasn’t alone in the sickbay, the doctor whipped his head to look at the speaker. The Messenger stood a few feet away. A handful of feathers circled around him before settling on his coat. He had just returned.
With the new information Fred obtained, he regarded the Messenger with renewed interest. “The Oracle said you work together. But who do you take orders from?”
“The man who pointed me to this path no longer exists in this time.”
“He passed away?” Fred frowned.
“I joined the Oracle because —”
“I’m aware of that,” Fred cut him short. He took a deep breath, his pulse quickening. “Are you going to kill me or send me to Libya to take Cheska’s place?”
The Messenger began to laugh then covered it with a cough. For some reason, he found the question funny. Amusement lit his eyes. The small smile he tried to hide with his hand transformed his normally expressionless face. He moved closer to Fred and extended an arm.
“I came to offer you aid,” the Messenger said.
Copyright © 2014-2016 Cecilia Beatriz. All rights reserved.
A/N: This chapter’s shorter than usual. Originally, it was longer but decided to split it in two. It’ll make sense after I finish encoding the next one.
Anyway, do you know who Hunter is? 😀
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