Genghis Khan rarely fought his own battles, but this particular day, he wanted to see the faces of the villagers who deliberately disobeyed him. It had been several days since he sent warning to the people of Ningxia that he was to raid their camp. They had a choice to submit or be captured by his men.
By the time he arrived in the small city hours after the destruction had begun, it was completely ablaze. Black smoke rose from the huts and gardens and people ran in every direction. If it wasn’t for the screams, he would relish in the singular sounds of the crackling fires on the dry harvest. Winter was approaching, and he had no desire to supply these ingrates. Their deaths would not be without warning.
Temujin dismounted from his horse and walked past his soldiers, many of whom stood heaving in their tracks from exhaustion. What screams remained among the popping and fizzles sounded pathetic and small to his ears. What self-respecting slave would allow such pitiful cries to come from their mouths in the time of death?
As he walked through the destroyed village, he looked around. The smell of charred meat told him the villagers were cooking a meal, and the wares strewn on the ground told him the women were trading goods. It was a day like any other, and there was no preparation for evacuation. An uneasy feeling settled in his stomach, but he forced a gruesome look to remain menacing and domineering.
One of his prized men stood in the doorway of a hut left untouched by flame, but the look on his face seemed troubled. He did not look toward Temujin as he approached the hut.
“Why do you not burn this home?”
The man faced Temujin, but quickly tore his eyes away in shame. He bowed quickly and dropped his weapon to his feet before backing away. Temujin walked toward the canvas opening and peered inside.
The inside was dark with no fire burning, but the smell of cooked meat hung in the air. He let his eyes adjust before he finally saw her. A young woman with raven dark hair sat on her knees with her head slumped over facing her lap. She held a rusted and bloody knife limply to her side, and blood trickled down from her stomach. Her intestines spilled out and laid on her lap.
It took several moments for Temujin to notice her shoulders moving up and down. She was still alive. He quietly walked over to her, his monstrous form towering over her making him feel evil and destructive. She did not move except for her fingers as they groped the knife ever so slightly. Without hesitation, he kicked it away forcing the girl to fall on her side with a loud thump.
Her glassy eyes looked straight up at him. There was very little life left in them, but the spark that once was her spirit still hung on. It made him sick to his stomach. She was casting something evil on him, and he felt her anger in his veins. Her fragile fingers searched for the knife, but it was too far away for him to be in any danger. Instead, he raised his foot and gently covered her fingers to stop their movement, but suddenly, his anger got the better of him as he put his full weight on her hand until he heard the bones crush beneath him.
She merely let out a whimper before she tilted her head away from him and let out her last breath.
Remorse quickly washed over him as he looked at this young woman’s lifeless body. She was beautiful and he would have had her, even if she was less than he. He knelt down and looked closely at her face. His anger ran deep as he realized she would not give him what he would have taken without a care.
He glanced at her delicate feet before reaching out and picking up the end of her skirt. Slowly, he pulled it over her calves and exposed her thighs. Her skin was soft and smooth. She could not have been more than sixteen years. He ran his hand over her thigh and brought his hand further up, but he stopped when he felt something warm and wet. Temujin quickly pulled his hand free and saw it was coated with her blood.
He stood and wiped the blood on his clothing before turning and walking out of the hut. He saw his man standing guard with his head still lowered.
Temujin sneered in disgust. “Burn it,” he muttered before walking away.
* * * * *
Khada’an whimpered as tears of sap continued to form. She kept her mouth clenched tight against the searing pain that radiated throughout her body from the poisonous spider’s bite. The spider had made a home inside her belly for several days now, and with each minute, she could feel it grow and stir inside her.
The tickling and irritation never seemed to stop, but coupled with the intense heat shooting through her branches, she had a whole new level of hell to experience. What had happened to make her suffer more than her past days?
She glanced down toward the beachfront. Blood rolled over the sand leaving remnants of red in between the speckles of tan and beige. She closed her eyes and had a flash of a memory. It was quick, but it hurt her heart to remember the day after the Mongols had destroyed her village when she was a child. Bloated horses dotted the landscape mixing their tan fur with dried and spilled blood.
Khada’an blinked away her vision and searched for Captain Smith below. It was after several moments that she finally spied him. His left arm was completely gone now with only blobs of black flesh at his side, and his shoulder now had spots of decay forming. But he had not moved. Still stuck in his same seated position, he stared at his feet with no movement. It would not surprise her to learn of his death, but alas, they were all dead in this horrible underworld.
Just then, she felt a stirring in her belly. Instinctively, she tried to look down, but her face sat frozen in place. The rough bark surrounding her eyelids ruffled through her lashes causing dust to capture in her eye.
The itch was terrible, but it was useless to try and satisfy it. She conjured up some tears to wash out her eyes, but no matter how hard she tried, the small fragments of dust would not budge.
The stirring in her belly alerted her again. She gasped and felt sheer terror flow through her veins. With her eyes firmly closed, she tried to move an arm to her stomach. The sensation was so strange, that she had no idea if it came from outside or from within, but it didn’t take long to find out.
At first, she coughed. It was just a polite tickle of the throat. But when the tickle didn’t clear, she coughed harder making her branches shake and crack. She cried out in pain as splinters entered the rough ridges in between the bark. But her cough did nothing to let fresh air in. Something blocked her airway. Desperate, she tried to take a deep breath in and cough, but it was impossible. She could not take in an inch of air.
Khada’an opened her eyes in fear hoping to see whatever terrorized her, but all she saw was the red boiling lake for as far as she could see. For centuries she looked out in that lake with envy. She wanted to be surrounded by liquid rather than a breezeless air that only made her rough skin brittle and indelicate, but this time, she felt as if she were drowning in that very molten lake.
Her heart raced. She could not clear her airway and she could not take in any air. The only sounds that came from her mouth were empty squeaks of terror. Surely, this was it. There had to be death at the other end of this. She could not life eternity choking to death.
Her eyes fluttered open and closed as she opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue in desperation for air. Even though she craved eternal relief, her body fought the nature to die. She could not relax and let nature take its course, but to her chagrin, nature did come rearing its ugly head.
The blockage in her airway moved a millimeter allowing a small breath of air in. It was just enough to wake her, but not enough to give her relief. But relief would not come soon as suddenly she felt the sensation of a thousand tiny pricks on her esophagus and tongue.
Terrified at this new feeling, she moved her eyes rapidly around. The tiny pricks finally made their way to her lips and up her cheek. When a tiny spider crested her lower eye lashes and crossed her iris, she saw the unmistakable markings of a black widow. It did not linger, but her eyes opened wider in sheer terror.
The flood of hundreds of baby black widow spiders flowed out of her mouth in a river of black and red. A small voice entered her ear,”Scream.” She breathed in deep and let out a terrible scream that echoed in the depths of hell, and with the force of her breath, dozens of tiny spiders entered the air before her and fell in a beautiful display toward the beach and boiling lake below.
After her body was finally empty of the tiny demons, the tiny voice said, “Thank you. I have no further need of you.”
The tiny tickles of the mother spider crawled down her arm toward her wrist. Khada’an, filled with fury, gritted her teeth and twisted her wrist in such a violent fashion that the spider had no chance to jump free of the branch before it crashed onto the cliffside. Khada’an could only hear the bark shatter on the rocks, but she hoped beyond all hope the force of the fracture killed the insect.
Blood instantly rose to the cut and pooled in a bubble of poisoned venom. The pain was secondary to Khada’an’s exhaustion. Her eyes fluttered closed as the blood streamed from her body to the sand below.
* * * * *
The taste of poison filled Temujin’s mouth and veins. He sobbed under the surface of the boiling lake and let as much of the lake in his body as he could to quickly drown himself, but it was no use as his skin sloughed off his bones and tendons. Even after a few moments, he could no longer sob as his jaw dislocated and floated away on the next steaming wave.
To be continued…
Depleted of energy and spider-free, Khada’an will go back to her silent and lonely realm of hell. Her body was a vessel for a deeper evil, so continue reading next week for the next installment of Dreadful Dantes.
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(c) Copyright 2017 Alison C. Wroblewski. All rights reserved.