Not of My Blood
Not of My Blood: Memphis TN Summer Solstice, 2009
The rental car rattled angrily, its air compressor fighting the oppressive Memphis heat. Inside the abused Ford, Dr. Francis Solomon glanced back and forth trying to find the driveway he needed. To his left, an empty park gaped open in the night. A stark and unnatural hill rising up in the far side. To his right, a high wrought iron fence and tall oak trees screened off a brick and column building. The old 1900s Marine Hospital was forbidding in the daytime, and now it was downright eerie. As his contact had indicated, the lights in this part of town would be out during his approach. He pulled his car into an open gate and heard the crunch of his tires on the decomposing pavement. The chain from the gate lay coiled at the entrance with its busted lock atop it, like a snake waiting to strike.
He passed the few outbuildings and found a parking space in the minuscule lot. Dr. Solomon stepped out of the car and into the sticky heat of that early summer night. The car ticked away while he gathered the supplies he had procured earlier. Wet heat and darkness pressed down on him from all sides, yet they weren’t the only contributor to his sweating brow. He hipped the door closed and tucked his load under his arms. With a small suitcase of glassware and equipment and a Tupperware with a bubble wrapped package inside, Solomon made his slow progress toward a side door.
The door howled at him in a foreign language, screeching along its hinge as loud as it could. Wincing, Solomon darted inside and was lost in total pitch black. For countless quick heartbeats punctuated by a steady quiet dripping, he fumbled with his smartphone, carefully balancing the Tupperware under his arm. The light struck out into the hallway boldly, but broke against the overwhelming inertia of the inky dark. Outwardly, he cursed the nosey members of the community nearby who made this secrecy needed, inwardly, his stomach clenched and he found himself standing only on the balls of his feet. The hospital was now familiar to him as he had been working out of here for the past six weeks, but it never became comfortable. All the same, he was able to navigate the abandoned beds, discarded wheelchairs and collapsed stairs to come to the center of the building.
The Ether Dome was built to mirror those older operating rooms where only external light could guide the hands of surgeons. In much older hospitals, a room like this would have had a glass ceiling to focus light down on the patient, a set of galleries where medical students could observe and all sorts of equipment. This one was not an actual operating room and therefore had several nods to what was modernity in the 1900s. The galleries which would have held gawking medical students were a mere facade along the back wall and the operating table had been replaced with a desk for some hawkish clerk to sit at. However, the domed glass ceiling and white walls were spot on to the historical forms. This room alone was lit and then only dimly. A makeshift lab took the place of what would have been surgical equipment, the half circle of galleries crowded with racks of test tubes and machines. As Dr. Solomon approached, a shadow leaned out and called to him:
“With that much noise, I’m sure someone heard you.”
Had he not expected a jump scare, Solomon would have needed a way to extract his stomach from his teeth. As it was, he was certain a few years of heart health had just been stolen from him.
“Do they teach you to spout lines like that, or is your whole tribe born with innate stereotypically “indian” bullshit?”
The snort the shadow answered with was half amused and half threatening.
“I hope you have something useful to show me if you’re going to ask me to come in so damn late.” Superstitious morons. Solomon continued. Despite his banter, Solomon knew why they were here and was secretly excited to tackle the issue.
“There is a storm coming in about…” the shadow checked his phone for the time “…forty-five minutes. It’s my guess that we’ll get more activity from the sample if we combine factors like the solstice with weather.” he finished.
This made plenty of sense to Dr. Solomon given that the sample they had been working with was most certainly imbued with storm magic and some form of ancestral locking. So far, The Shadow who went by the name Nathan when he wasn’t fulfilling Native American Stereotypes, had been unable to activate any of the latent power in the bone fragment they had uncovered from the prehistoric mound site in the park across the street. Tonight though, Solomon would pull out the ace he had picked up that day and show this amateur something incredible.
Nathan, a member of the Choctaw Nation, had come to Dr. Francis Solomon a few months ago through back channels in order to revive and activate his own latent ancestral magic. The price was right, and Native Peoples were one of the genotypes Solomon had yet to collect. Nathan had brought a bone from his own ancestor and that had proved useless. Nothing in the ancestral sample had come up in any the screenings Solomon had designed. From there, Nathan had moved to using traditional rituals to try to spark some change but these too had failed. At a prompting from Solomon to go deeper into the ancestry they had found this mound site. The bone was an easy find for a cheap bribe and that brought them to the hospital. Now Solomon had another bone, an older one by far which he procured on a tour of the University of Memphis campus. Certainly the curator won’t check the bottom drawer of her archives THIS week…
They busied themselves with preparing the sample for genetic transfer and fell to basic instruction-response. Despite some initial friction, Nathan had learned who among them was the expert and generally smarter individual. Solomon made sure to prep his ace in the hole separately while doling out menial tasks to Nathan. Nathan, on the other hand, was keenly aware of how irascible and stuck up Dr. Solomon was and had learned how to work around him. Besides, once Nathan had the power he sought, the annoying doctor could be dealt with.
The sliver of moon was near its zenith and they could feel the change in pressure as the storm closed in on them from across the Mississippi.
“It’s time for your idiotic dances again.” Solomon drawled to Nathan. The latter had already donned his tribal garb and was placing the focus items around the desk. Nathan felt a pang of guilt, knowing he was pushing the traditions of his rites well out of their natural bounds. Dr. Solomon dropped into a velvet calm and took his position by the oscilloscope. His breath slowed and the dancing man in front of him melted into background noise. There was only the scope, the tools and instruments of his trade. His vision narrowed to only those things he would need. His hands found them without thinking and moved dials or opened valves in perfect order.
Nathan’s chanting didn’t enter his mind nor did the slow feeling of increasing humidity, nor the start of the rain. Rising and falling, Nathan danced and sang with more intent than he had in these past weeks and still Dr. Solomon saw nothing. The first bolt of lightning struck nearby, rattling the windows. Small rivulets of water began to come through the cracks in the roof and still nothing.
Nathan called after the spirit of the owner of the remains and still nothing. Called for the blood of his blood to come and answer the questions of his son. A spike on the scope. Dr. Solomon gave a wordless cry to Nathan to order him to hold. He stood and moved his prehistoric bone fragment into the circle. Nathan watched with barely contained energy, his own spirit boiling with the surrounding storm. The Doctor nodded to Nathan and the dance resumed.
“Come forth and answer me! I am of your blood! I call you from rest to answer me!”
Another spike, this one much larger. Several of his test fluids changed color. The floor began to vibrate. Solomon’s glee was almost uncontained. His hunger driving them both onward. He released more catalyst onto the sample and urged Nathan on. The rain pounded down upon the old roof and the rivulets became streams. The thunder rolled out in an unsteady marching beat coming closer and closer.
Nathan shouted out a command in the Choctaw tongue, demanding that the dead one show itself. All at once, lightning struck just across the street, the glass on the Ether Dome panels shattered and rained down on them. The rain came in a solid mass making a steady roar against the failing roof. It was here! He had made contact! Francis snapped his switches to document every last reading and immediately began extracting what information he could. It was fascinating! This ability was rooted in a control of those storms that strike when the air is hot. So rich in its power and details! They flowed past him and he devoured them, already beginning his work of synthesizing them for himself.
Air came hard for him yet his hands still flew from catalyst to additive and heater. Moving like a high volume manufacturing plant in his efficiency, he thanked his luck that the rain had stopped and the thunder had lessened. Barely two minutes had passed. Nathan had stopped his idiotic dancing, the rain had stopped all together and even the air held its breath for him.
“There!” He proclaimed in triumphant pride, scooping a little bit into a test tube and sealing it. Something answered him out of air so hot and humid it could be cut.
“Not of my blood.”
It was a curse, a sentence and a threat.
Where Nathan had stood there was a cloud of flying rain in the shape of his body. What he had been was encased in water several inches thick. His terrified face tried to mouth words and only served to open a route for the water to enter. The glass from the panes was swept up by the very air itself into the standing puddle and dove inside. The Cloud turned red with Nathan’s blood. Glass shards shredded him like a tree losing its leaves.
Solomon could not move. The air so thick he couldn’t have pushed through it anyway. When the horrible work was done, the Cloud turned to him, eyes of glass shards, reflecting the now constant thunder. The rain poured in upon him. He couldn’t see. He couldn’t breathe!
A limb like an iron rod struck him across the chest and he flew against the wall. The glass shards bit him and stayed in his flesh. He rose, now under a more sturdy part of the roof and saw the Cloud coming to him. It moved with a hazy shimmer and its exact location was hard to determine.
He dove into his pocket and pulled an epi-pen out along with a shower of other jingling objects. In a violent motion he slammed it into his leg with a painful grunt. Usain Bolt had been hard to track down, but having the power to run like the fastest man alive had proved useful in the past. Dashing along the walls of the round chamber, he made to bring the thing further away from his equipment. The trick worked, if only to his detriment. It was faster than it looked and caught him with another swing. While the method had been different, the intent was served and when he came to, he found himself next to some of his equipment. Glass shards stuck out from his skin on his face and stomach. He swiped the test tube and turned to the beaker. In a split second, a thousand calculations crossed his mind:
Was the sample concentrated enough to give him its power now?
Would injection be needed or could he ingest it?
What would the side effects be? The being does not seem to be corporeal but that could be because the body isn’t complete.
What are the costs? Death, or certain death…
The Doctor grabbed the entire beaker containing the the rest of his “Storm Magic” Serum and he downed it in a painful gulp.
As the syrup like fluid slithered down his throat, he rose again to face the thing. It was already upon him. A hand reached out and closed over his throat. The Cloud lifted him up, eyes flickering with malice. He swallowed and swallowed but the draught would not pass down. Blood trickled down his neck and chest, welling up and mingling with the raging mass before him. The grip tightened and his vision tunneled in on those terrible eyes.
Now he was part of it and it him. Like a sudden shock, he touched its essence.
Not…of my…BLOOD!The thing raged in his mind. The injustice it felt crushed in on him with the strength of the hand on his neck.
These whelps called me out of my sleep. They called me by the right of blood yet they had not that claim.
Nathan wasn’t related to her. The remains weren’t Choctaw…
She felt him think it.
You stirred me without even the right of blood. You hunted my bones.
The grip tightened. Blood flowed freely down his chest and into her wildly flowing hand. But now there was another sensation. He felt the air around him as if it were his own skin. The rain, his hands, the thunder, his voice. With narrowing vision he bore down in his focus. Imagining one thing with such force that she would surely feel it too.
The roof blasted down upon them in a torrent of water and wood. The deluge carried him through a doorway, slamming his head against the sill.
He awoke in a stinking puddle of blood and grime, his body cut and bruised. The sun was rising sullenly in an otherwise clear sky. A quick check of his own vitals revealed he was not dead, as he had suspected. Francis found that he was laying at the bottom of one of the collapsed stairs, now on the first floor. He stood slowly, counting the aches and bruises as they pained him. His thoughts turned to the equipment above him and for a minute he pondered returning to the Ether Dome to retrieve them and then the thought of Nathan and The Cloud chilled his blood. It was a terrible loss, as the equipment he had up there represented a significant investment.
“Still, probably a total loss given the collapse of the roof.”
Instead, he oriented himself and made for the door through the now flooded passageways. His tired feet slogged through inches of thick mud until he reached the door he had entered from the last night. It had been knocked off the hinges by the violence of the storm and now hung cockbill. With a solid push, he took it the rest of the way off and the light of rising sun blasted his face with a savage heat. Already the humidity and temperature were nearly unbearable.
The Ford sat where he had left it, (nicely parked and locked). Solomon’s hands moved for his keys. The pocket was empty. In a panic, he rifled through the rest of his pockets and found them all similarly devoid of keys. With desperation, Solomon reached into his breast pocket and felt a bulge. Triumphantly he pulled the object out and was shocked to find a small plastic test tube. It held a few milliliters of milky fluid.
“Not a total loss.” He muttered to himself and set out past the gate and toward the park. The prehistoric mounds just catching the morning sun.