Chapter 8: Matthias
The moon rose over the Mediterranean as we finally washed ashore, bore by the sea to the coast of Greece, where Katie, waterlogged and drenched, finally beached herself. The great beasts were slain, and the avians were the first too the feast. The stars blinked in and out of existence as birds of prey from every nation flew overhead, as if guided by some instinctual, basic programming laid deep in their DNA. They could smell the rot of the corpses, a stench that would soon envelope the world. One could feel the necrotic scent writhe into their nose, and root itself deeply into one's mind.
I popped Katie's head, to see what condition the engine was in. This was only one of a few times I had actually taken a look at what she hid inside her chassis. Very little water had leaked into the engine, the hood was lined with a rubber seal, one that seemed insubstantial to me, but as in the case with so often with Katie, functioned despite the impossibility. The engine itself was made of a material I had never seen, a glossy black metal that was warm too the touch, just slightly above room temperature. An elaborate, glowing, neon blue cooling tubes snaked around the area under the hood. There were no pistons on the engine. Neither was there a battery, and many other relatively significant parts seemed to be missing. How Katie's engine functions was a mystery, however, it did appear to be functions, and that was my only concern.
What to do next was a puzzle. The first thing was to find a town, any town, and get our bearings. We needed radio, or television; we needed to figure out how the world was reacting to the great melee we had just witnessed. From there... well, I would need to contact Daphne, but I had no idea how. The death of the great beasts meant that the final stages of Project H would be set into motion, and when Midas had completed all his preparations, once each of his ebony pieces sat in position, he'd flip a switch, and Project H would end the universe. Even now, fighting seemed hopeless. In the back of my mind I knew that even if we stopped Midas, even if we destroyed Project H, the world would still end, and we would all die. That is what the death of the great beasts assured, they were born with the Earth, and the Earth would die with them.
In very few words, I ordered everyone into the car. They were all silent. Nick and Smith were both terrified, I could see it in their eyes. They were mournful, it was as though they knew, through instinct, deep in their gut, the tragedy that they had witnessed. Jus as the birds knew to fly to the feast. Just as the beasts of land would soon prowl to the corpses, guided by an insatiable hunger deep inside them, deep inside of every living being. Even humans. I could feel it, inside myself, in my heart, and in my throat, and in my stomach. The desire to turn around, to about-face, and return to the beasts. It was like a craving, it was like the most intoxicating smell you can imagine. I wanted to devour the flesh of the great beasts, the fallen beasts. I wanted to devour the flesh of the Earth.
We drove, and it became clear that I wasn't the only one called by the base animal desire. Nick's gaze kept returning to the sea, even after it was long out of sight. We were miles from civilization of any kind, but every once in a while, a car would pass us, some man or woman, driving towards the see, a glossy look in their eyes. They were consumed by the hunger. At the time, I had no way of knowing how bad the hunger was, or how powerful the scent would become. However, with each car that ran counter to us, a sense of unease within me grew stronger. I wondered what would happen when they reached the sea. Would they stop, and stand there, at the coast? I pictured lines of men, women, and children along the cost, gazing unblinkingly towards the corpses of the beasts. Perhaps they would try to swim? Or maybe they would simply drive their cars into the sea...
After driving for just over an hour, we found a small, desolate village. The air was burdened with the dead weight of silence. The entire town was less than perhaps a half-mile long. There was a small cluster of residences on the outskirts, then a schoolhouse and general store, and beyond that a pub, a hardware store, a few other retailers, and a fire department. Every inch of the sleepy town was empty. We crept down the main road, the eerie wind tossing papers into the street. Outside one of the houses was a dog, leashed to a mailbox post. The beast struggled against his collar, yelping and howling with a desperation typically reserved for situations of mortal consequence.
We circled the town once, then we decided to make another pass, to see if we had missed anything. A pair of scared eyes hiding behind the blinds of an dark house. We needed to find someone, anyone, to tell us what had happened. We hadn't anticipated the battle between the great beasts, certainly I hadn't, and depending on how the governments of the world reacted to this event, our plans could be shot. If Switzerland locked down their borders, it would be much harder for us to get into the country. However, I also hadn't anticipated the lure that the death of the beasts had resulted in... Would the governments corral people for the own good? I found that unlikely. If anything, I think the politicians would be the first to give into their animal desires.
Natasha was scanning the radio on a low volume. She cycled through the frequencies, listening to the constant static assailing the airwaves. Not a single station was broadcasting, save for one the kept repeating a senseless emergency message in Greek. I don't know what she expected to do even if she did find someone broadcasting. We wouldn't be able to understand what was being said. We wouldn't be able to contact him. We wouldn't be able to help. All we would be able to do is sit and listen to the incomprehensible babble of fear and confusion. I preferred the silence of our own group, too jaded and too robbed of our humanity to feel the fear. Nothing but ghosts in empty shells.