The Death Of Toby Mulholland Vol. 4

The chasm needed to be approached from above. That was the purpose of the falls. It was hardly the easiest of journeys, but it made sense. I had kept my cover while the hunt for my trail petered out. It was imperative that I remain cold – as uncomfortable as that was – otherwise I could be tracked.

The Archimandrite had made as much clear as he could before I set off. But this leg of my journey was the end of the line. I knew of nothing beyond The Eagle, and my directions to that were on the sketchy side of informative. The instructions I had found en route had only illuminated so far.

The machines could not fly in to the chasm, so they could not sweep the place as well as they could other parts of the surrounding areas. That is not to say that the area was off limits to their presence, but it could be considered relatively safe. Relatively. I will never underestimate their tenacity.

The water was green as it coursed through this place, spiralling across the hewn rock faces. It had been the action of the waters which had made the rock look like this: millennia of motion would abrade the surface to a series of sweeping curves, allowing the river maximum freedom to move.

The pain of the journey was there in every step now; months of being on my guard, on my feet, at the limits of my abilities, had taken their toll on my physical and mental faculties. I missed people, but knew that if ever I saw another soul my journey would be over. A truly double edged sword.

The rock had been carved by some previous generation, and its tunnels provided respite. They were colder than my body ever could be and darkened at both ends. I felt freer there than I had at any point during the journey, but that brought with it its own set of concerns. Complacency is death.

The mission relied on my survival through this part of the journey. I had absolutely no idea what that meant in practice, but I was committed to it. It’s not like I had a life, a family or a job to return to. All that awaited me at home was a miserable existence of gruel, ending most likely with my torture.

The sound of trees filled both my waking and my sleeping lives. It was a sound which I had only heard described, by the elders. It reminded me that there were so many people back home who would never experience the freedom of my journey. I had to push on for them. I had to save them.

The Eagle was my landmark. It was carved on to the wall of the chasm, just as it widened to a gap that the machines could occupy. Frankly I found that to be a piece of bad planning on the part of my superiors. If only they had found something somewhere narrow, cold and wet: much safer by far.

The walkways clung to one side of the gorge, but The Eagle was carved in to the opposite wall. I would have to get underneath, down to the coruscating river, and affect a passage across. There was no other way, and no place of safe crossing. The blue sky overhead threatened my exposure.

The journey to this point had been my opportunity to learn how to cope with my fate: I had had to climb mountains, crawl through miles of tunnels, fashion rudimentary vessels to cross waterways. I had nothing from which to fashion anything here: I would have to retreat in order to progress.

The opening was narrow; I would need to swim against the current, gripping on to the walls in order to even get close. My chances of actually making it in to the passage, while keeping my eyes open for any aerial approach were slimmer than any I had faced thus far, I held my breath and swam.

The need for oxygen gave way to a sense of overwhelming confusion, as I felt the touch of a human hand for the first time since I had set out. I had stayed under too long, and started to fail. I had come so far, and was almost overwhelmed by the burden of my task. So far, so noir, so close to the end.

The trees clung to the walls of the chasm, sprouting out of every crack and fissure. They had been more than mere trees, it seemed. The chasm complex, from its tiny arch all the way to its widest portions, had been lined with wires a century before; they now connected a network of cameras.

The shock of finding myself with people was the most blissful pain I could imagine. They had been watching me from their tree-held devices since I had entered their sphere, and had prepared for the inevitable drowning. I was not the first to have come via the turbulent waters, it would seem.

The railings would then be electrified, to stop any unwanted approach. They were used to pinpoint the location of any machine touching them, allowing for appropriate targeting of weapons systems. It was a lot to take in, all in one go. Apparently I passed out several times while they filled me in.

The Commander greeted me with a smile and a handshake. He had been forewarned that there was someone making his way through the trail, but he had not believed that anyone could make it this far. He had been a local military officer when the fall came, and fled to the tunnels immediately.

The roof was low, and the walls were close, but this was as spacious as I could imagine the inside of a mountain being. A train line ran the full length of the chasm complex, deep within the living rock. The ends of the tunnel had been closed off by The Commander, and provided ample space for us.

The beginning of this place had been forged in another war, against another mechanised enemy. It was never used in those battles, but provided succour now. We were in a country of redoubts and fortresses, of defences buried deeply in to the rock. It was the perfect place to build a resistance.

The end lay beyond here, but I would not learn how. Not for now. This was where my training would take place, once my recuperation had been completed. This was where I would find out exactly what I had learned on the long journey through the nests of the enemy, and the legions of dirt beyond.