The Last Recruit
By Jeffrey Lipinski
So much of my life is lost to me as I wander this world. A fog hangs over my memories, and I wonder if it perhaps has always been this way, but I never look back into that haze regardless. For you see, I’d rather not reflect on the people and places that I have idly passed on this road. Such things will only cause me to falter; my path is my own.
For many years I have searched through distant lands seeking a means to bring this world to an end. I have seen too much pain; too much evil; too much death. Long ago I abandoned the naive hope that I could do anything to help my fallen brothers and sisters. Instead, I sought the secrets of this world. So I find myself in the valley where I am now, led here by the whispers of a cold wind.
Surrounding me, the perished ancient mountains have been worn down to feeble hills. I see the exposed rock, as old as young stars, crumble in the whipping winds that swirl around me. I shudder from the freezing air, and wrap my cloak tighter as I push on into the grass before me.
Walking into the center of that antediluvian place I behold what I have been searching for all these years, but in horror, I see that I am too late. On the ground, is a book. On its cover, the seals, keeping the secrets bound, have all been opened. In disbelief, I look all around me at an intact world. This cannot be! It was meant for me to keep hidden!
I kneel down and pick up the book off of the ground. As I stand up, I notice in the distance a man on horseback approaching me. He rides in from the same direction that I came from earlier. I hold the book at my side and watch the man become more visible as he draws near.
He rides on top of what appears to be a white horse and looks as if he were a righteous man of great status. When he comes into view I see him as he is, and he stops what I thought was his horse. I can see now it is actually two men, acting like beasts of burden, carrying the rider, and he drapes a white linen over the two. His once seemingly exquisite gowns and vestments are but rags, and he carries a bow which string is broken.
I say to the rider, “What happened here?”
His voice echoes off of the surrounding hills, “We were defeated.”
“There were others?”
“Yes. They followed me.”
“Come! Tell me more.”
The rider kicks his “horse” and rides toward me. He passes, and as I turn to question him further I see another rider approaching the same way. The first horseman stops behind me, and I see this new rider’s horse appears as if its coat is red.
The second horseman stops at the same point the first rider did. I see clearly now that his horse was not always red, but changed as the dried blood caked onto its hair. I gaze at the ancient warrior, wielding his terrible blade. I look upon his eyes and tremble, for they glow as if a raging fire burns within them. I reach to the depths of my mind to find the courage to address the rider, “Who are you?”
“Why are you here?”
“Come! Explain yourself.”
The rider kicks his steed, which shoots flames from its nostrils in resentment. He passes me, and stops next to the first rider, but I find my gaze upon him distracted by the sight of a third horseman approaching that same direction the two had previously come. This rider appears to be riding a black horse.
He draws near and stops where the others had before him. I see his horse, its coat covered in an oozing black oil that drips onto the ground. The rider looks sickly, as if he has not eaten in years. He looks toward me and smiles. Before I can question him, the rider asks, “Do you have any wine?”
“Surely you must hunger?”
“Must I deprive myself of luxuries so that I can eat?”
“Come! Do what you will.”
The rider’s kicks his horse, splashing oil on the nearby grass. He passes and joins the others, and I am amazed to see another horseman approaching in a dark fog. This one’s horse seems to appear a palish green color as it rides toward me.
When he stops where the others had, I can see his horse is unlike anything I have ever seen. It seems to be a mechanized horse, wrought of iron and copper. Plumes of ash billow from it, and its gaze is dark and hollow, save for the faint glow from the fires of the furnace deep inside it. The rider is wearing a large black hooded cloak which hides his appearance even from this close distance. I feel a sense of horror beyond what I have ever felt before, but find myself speaking to the rider, “Did you follow them?”
“But of course. That is the way of the world, brother.”
“Brother! Who am I, that you call me, your brother?”
He says nothing. After a few moments I evince, “Come! Tell me who I am?”
The rider approaches on his horse and, as he nears me, I see his skeletal face leering at me from the shadow of his hood. He says, with words that chill my very soul, “Ignorance, and we follow in your wake!”
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I studied creative writing and live in Los Angeles, aspiring to be a writer.
Labels: Jeffrey Lipinski