Cultist Animal – Short Story?????

DISCLAIMER: This is not a film related post, and usually I would put something like this on my other blog, but I haven’t used that one in ages, so it’s going on here where there is LIFE.  Enjoy.

Scottish Highlands – February 2025

The polar bear was only two hundred yards away from Tom and Emily.  It moved across the coastline below them, it shoulder bones protruding through its fur with each step.  The white fur was soaked, dripping into the grass, and was covered in dirt.  Its limbs were taut, languidly thumping through the greenery of the shoreline.   Tom was gazing at this tortured beauty through green binoculars, and Emily was crouched down with him, clutching to his skinny arm.

“We’ve found him,” Emily said, rubbing the tight knitwear of Tom’s sweater.
“We’ve found him,” Tom replied, passing over the binoculars.

Tom stood hands on hip and took a deep breath.  A tough breeze flew past, to remind them of the freezing conditions.  It blew across Tom’s untidy hair, and Emily’s flared ponytail, making it even messier.  Their faces were pale and dry because of the cold temperature.

“He looks healthier than we expected,” Emily said standing up.
Tom smiled.  “He does,” he said taking another long breath. “We could stay here you know, and follow him into the night,” he finished.
“I think we would freeze to death.”
“What’s your point?”

They laughed and reached out to hold hands.  Emily rested her head deep into Tom’s chest, hearing his elevated heartbeat, and they were still for a few moments.  Then when the beat had calmed to a normal pace, Emily pulled away and got a radio out of her backpack.

“Come in Crow’s Nest, this is Coast two, over,” Emily said down the microphone.
“This is Crow’s Nest responding, over,” a voice muffled back.
“We have located Father, I repeat, we have located Father, over.”

Coast One was the closest team nearby and appeared within the hour.  They had jogged a few miles and were panting on arrival.  Tom and Emily remained huddled together trying to keep warm, exchanging looks of gratitude every time the creature moved more than an inch.  And the creature was strolling – picking at grass and investigating each rock it came across.  The new pair came up to the hillside and there was an immediate embrace between the teams.  Coast One was an all-female coupling:  Beth and Hill.

“I can’t believe he’s actually here,” Hill said catching her breath.
“Me neither, have you been here long?” Beth asked.
“Not long.  We were tracking him for a while, all the way from the lighthouse.  Then we saw a white dot on the horizon, climbed this hill, and he was there waiting for us,” Emily said.
Tom was keeping his eyes on the bear.  “It was a special moment.  I wish everyone was here,” he said.
“This is special enough.  He looks healthy,” Beth said.
“From here yes.  We could get closer but if we drop down this hill he’ll see us,” Tom said, picking at the grass at his feet.
“We’re better off waiting for the trucks, and everyone else,” Hill exhaled, showing her lack of fitness.
“Won’t they spook him?” Beth asked.
“We’re going to find out.  They are coming whatever,” Tom said.

The trucks arrived thirty minutes later with the two inland teams, and a host of people from headquarters.  They parked on the road away from the hillside, but were clearly audible as they pulled up.  The Coast teams held their breath waiting for a reaction from the bear, and relaxed again when he didn’t shift.  He was asleep now, his face planted into the ground and his legs curled up into his body.  Without the binoculars he looked like a kind of limestone rock, that had eroded off the cliffside.  The people from the trucks walked over and cluttered the top of the hill, making greetings in whispers and soft hugs.  Leaving the scene to not be gluttonous of the encounter, Tom and Emily went over to the road, where the leader of the operation Khaled Endo was waiting for them.  Khaled had dark skin, an extravagant quiff that drooped over his forehead, and was wearing a navy blue three-piece suit.

“Guys, guys, come to me,” he called with outstretched arms.

The wind caught his deep voice.

“Two months of scouring through this empty country and here we are.  My two best eyes making the biggest discovery of the 21st century,” he continued.
“It was luck Khal,” Emily said.
“Ah, maybe a little, come and sit inside.”

They entered the largest of the two trucks and sat in the backseat.  Khaled sat down in the passenger side and turned to face them.

“They’re not going to pick him up yet, are they?” Tom asked anxiously.
“No, no of course not.  We will observe him first, do our tests and then we shall inform the rest of the world,” Khaled replied.
“They’ll want him,” Tom said.
“Well they’re not getting him.  Don’t worry Tom, we’re going to keep him safe,” Khaled said.
“What about the media?” Beth asked.
“They have been following us, as you know, but we’re keeping them at bay for now.  They will want to speak to both of you,” Khaled replied.

Tom and Emily pulled a face at each other.

“For now though you should go back to base.  Have some tea, get some sleep, you’ve earned it,” Khaled continued.
“I think we’d like to stay,” Emily said grabbing Tom’s arm again.

Khaled smiled.

“Fair enough.  Just please stay here a while and warm up.  Maybe grab an extra layer of clothing from the boot, because remember what I always say…”
“Human lives over animal lives,” Tom and Emily said together.

The sun had gone down when they returned to the hillside.  Small tents had been erected and short-range telescopes had been stuck into the mud.  Everyone was communicating in quick breaths and acute sign language.  The wind had stopped but the air had grown cooler, causing many to retreat back to headquarters.  Those that were left sat under muted temporary lamps waiting for the beast to wake up.  Fergus, the only native to the country, sat with his legs hanging off the edge of the cliff.  Tom joined him, whilst Emily dived into one of the tents.

“It’s hard to see him in this light,” Tom whispered.
“Aye, thank god for the moonlight,” Fergus said in his thick Scottish accent.
“The stars too.  The sky is so clear up here.”
“Untouched land, no wonder he was so attracted to this place, though we’ve got a little bet on.”
“A bet?”
“Aye, he hasn’t moved for a good while now, Jackie reckons he could be dead.”

Jackie Gunn was the technician and was fiddling with the telescopes.

“He’s not dead.  After all this he can’t be,” Tom exclaimed in defense.
“What makes you so sure?  How many dead prospects have we seen over the years?” Fergus questioned.
“He looked good Gus.  Majestic and well fed, like we expected.”
“That’s the problem with you English, too hopeful, too poetic.  I have the animal to be alive though, I think I saw it twitch just before you came back.”
“How much is on it?”
“Well then you’ll be twenty quid richer by the end of the night.”
“We’ll all be a lot richer if he turns out to be the last one.”

Fergus scratched aggressively at his long hair, then his bushy beard before letting out a huge yawn.  He then laid back, bending his body over the cliff, and Tom took this as a signal to leave him be.  Emily was in the fetal position with her eyes shut when Tom opened the flaps of one of the tents.  He rolled down next to her, feeling her body heat surge through him and then drifted into a slumber himself.  Tom dreamt of a sunny horizon.  He was floating, on some kind of cloud, edging closer to the polar bear’s eyes and nose.  The bear’s body was absent and soon Tom’s body drifted away too, causing him to reach out without the hands to do so.

They were awoken an hour later by the sound of smashing glass, and few calls of “fuck,”.  Emily leapt up and untangled herself from Tom, emerging out of the tent asking what was going on.  Tom followed and suddenly the small group that were left on the hill were surrounding a lamp that had been knocked over.  It was in pieces in the middle of the campsite, and the bulb had blackened some of the grass in a small fire.

“Shit, it was my fault, I was trying to shine it down the hill to see him more clearly but…” Jackie started.
“Shine it down the hill, are you insane?” Hill exclaimed.
“We thought it might have been dead,” Jackie replied.
“You boys and your stupid bets.  You could have set us all on fucking fire,” Hill continued to berate.
“Guys come on, calm down.  No-ones hurt.  Let’s all take a deep breath and see if we can pick up the glass,” Emily said calmly.

During this, Tom had sped down to the cliff edge to check on the bear.  Where was he?  Fergus had abandoned his spot and was engaging Hill on being too harsh on Jackie.  Where was the bear Tom scanned across the coastline, squinting to almost a point of pain.

“He’s moved,” Tom said.

The rest were still arguing.

“I think he’s moved,” Tom said, but again no-one listened.

He got to his knees and hung tightly to a large weed on the side of the cliff, then slid.  On his side he jagged his way down the side of the hill, using his right arm to guide him.  He cut through branches and dirt with his boots until he touched the bottom with a thud.  His body ached and his sweater was ripped, however he was able to stand up and look more for the bear.  It was pitch black down there, and Tom could hear the waves crashing against the coast to the left side of him.  Walk inwards, he told himself.  The foliage was more disorderly at the bottom of the hill, and the grass was sharp on his legs.  He crept forwards slightly, then froze.  A white silhouette flashed in his eyeline, and he took a second take to see the bear blurred into the darkness only a few feet away.  Following his training Tom dropped face down into the heavy vegetation, tucking his arms in tight.  The bear let out a long growl.

Back on the hillside Emily felt the blood run through her veins when she heard the growl echo into the abyss.

“Where’s Tom?” She said in a flash.

They all looked around puzzled.

“Get the prod guys in now Jackie,” Emily demanded.
“What?” Jackie replied.
“Call them fucking in!” Emily shouted.

Tom could feel the vibrations on the ground as the bear came closer to him.  He looked feeble from the hillside, but was a towering force now.  Tom was trying not to breathe too heavily as the adrenaline seeped through him, causing a cold sweat.  The bear growled again, this time much louder.  More vibrations, and the bear was upon Tom, breathing hot steam onto his back.  Tom pressed his eyelids together and thought of Emily’s skin.  He was brought back to reality when he felt the bears nose rub against the side of his head.  This is it.  The nose pushed against him, with so much force that Tom was forced to roll over onto his back.  He glared up at the bear’s dark brown eyes, seeing the little red in them.  The bear glared back for a few seconds, then turned to march off in the other direction.  Tom was stuck in a trance, then remembered he had to breathe, coughing as he did so.

The ‘prod’ team were on standby at the trucks, and when the radio call came in they were ready.  They had been waiting for this moment for weeks.  It was a team of three bulky men, each with a bomb defusal like outfit on.  They couldn’t move with any pace, so Emily and the rest of the camp beat them to the bottom of the hill.

“Can you see him?” Emily said leading the group.
“Wait.  I can hear him.  Stand back, the boys close,” Fergus said holding his arms out.

They backed away, Emily squirming, and panicking.  The sound of electric cattle prods came from behind them, and through a helmet a voice told them to get back to the hillside.  One of the men carried a giant torch light that he was waving from side to side, the other two advanced in tandem.  They were in a pre-prepared formation, holding out their prods at a long reach.  The bear came into their sight, and under the torch he looked smaller than ever.

“Surround!” One of them yelled out.

They gently negotiated their way to either side of the bear, and began to poke their prods towards him.  The torch bearer kept the light onto the bear, which was blinding it, and making it cower in fear.

“Ready,” one called.
“Ready,” the other replied.

They both hopped forwards and ZAP, hit the bear with their prods simultaneously.  The bear dropped with a moan.

Watching on from the hill, Emily was using the torch light between attacks to look for Tom.  When the bear fell, she saw him laid in the grass, and ran back down the hill.  Emily launched herself onto Tom, holding his body weight up as he tried to stand.

“Are you okay, are you hurt?” She asked in a heightened tone.

Tom struggled to get any words out, and simply pointed up at a helicopter that was now buzzing overhead.  He then passed out in Emily’s arms.

A kiss on the forehead is what woke him some hours later.  He peeled his eyelids open and saw a white light, with Emily’s face coming into focus.  In that moment, her eyes were the bluest he had ever seen them.

“Hi,” he said sitting up, adjusting the many pillows behind his head.

Emily smiled, and tucked her dark hair behind her ears.  “Hi,” she said.

“How long have I been out for?”
“A few hours, how do you feel?”
“Fine, I’m not even sure why I passed out.”
“Yeah, apart from a few scratches on your arms and legs you’re good.”
“He didn’t attack me, not at all.  He came close, and then just stared, it was so strange.  I’ve never been so scared in my life.”
“You’re safe now.”
“And the bear?”
“They airlifted him out, then contained him down in the basement.”
“Can we see him?”

Tom’s body was stinging, so Emily helped him out of the bed.  They left the room and headed down the corridor, having to dodge many bodies on the way.  With the bear coming in, the headquarters were manic – everyone had something to do and somewhere to be.  At the end of the corridor they went down a few sets of stairs that Tom struggled with, and Emily made a comment about how they should have taken the elevator.  The basement was sealed off, and guarded by two men with machine guns, but Emily had a clearance card.  They were nodded through, and they entered the containment room.  It had tall ceilings, and a circular catwalk that went around a central glass chamber.  The bear was sedated inside the cube like structure, seemingly at peace.  Tom winced at the sight of him.  He can barely move in there, he thought.  Stood observing the box was Khaled, Fergus, the prod guy who was giving the orders and a woman Tom had never met before.  She had a sickly purple pantsuit on, and a face like a wet book.  They all turned their heads at Tom and Emily’s arrival, apart from the woman.

“You’re awake then big lad.  What exactly did you pass out from?  Being a total fucking moron?” Fergus said.

Khaled shot him a look.

“I was just trying to save your money maker,” Tom said.
“Think you’ll find I saved the lot of you, and the beast,” the prod guy announced, his name was Frank.
“We’re always grateful for your team Frank, especially when my guys are trying to kill themselves,” Khaled came in, with a knowing look to Tom this time.
“I’m sorry Khal, it was stupid,” Tom said.
“It’s fine.  If you were killed then you would have been sorry,” Khaled said with a trademark grin of his.

Tom was still leaning on Emily, and she was rubbing his lower back.  “How is he?” She asked.

“The same.  He’ll be out for a while yet.  We got him good,” Frank replied.
“I hope not too good.  Are we sure the things even alive in there?” The woman said, swiveling her snake like head around.

Even from a few metres away, Tom could see her thick nasal hair.

“Oh sorry Tom.  This is Miranda Larkin, the cabinet minister for the environment, food and rural affairs.  She’s just flown in from Downing Street,” Khaled said.

Tom recognized the name, and now her face, but she was far uglier in person.  He nodded to acknowledge her, thinking of the all the decisions she had made that had caused so much desolation.

“You found it then?” Miranda asked.
“We did,” Tom replied.
“Right, well, the PM will be happy with the both of you.  This is a great opportunity for the country to be one of the good guys again,” her voice was high like a screeching pig.
“Nicely put, what will be done to him?” Emily asked with a bite.
“Nothing will be done to him.  He will be cared for in London, and you won’t have to worry about it,” Miranda bit back.
“Giving your record, I’m worried.  You don’t own him,” Emily said.
“I’m afraid we own everything,” Miranda said sharply.

Khaled came in to defuse the situation.  “We can discuss this all later, between those who are allowed to have the discussions.  For now…” He began.

A loud hum echoed through the walls, like a thousand bees were flying above.

“What the fuck is that?” Fergus exclaimed.
One of the guards burst through the doors, flicking the safety off his gun.  “You guys might want to come outside,” he said.

They followed the guards up through the headquarters, the hum still ringing around the building.  Tom and Emily were at the back trying to keep up.  There was a commotion at the main entrance, with more armed guards trying to keep people from leaving.  Khaled parted the crowd and they made it to the front door.  They were all taken aback by what they saw outside.  Scattered across the car park were people, of all shapes, genders and race sat down cross-legged humming towards the headquarters.  They all had orange clothing on, and had their eyes closed.  There was at least a hundred of them, and the noise was deafening.  Several guards had their guns putting firmly at them, fingers on trigger.  Khaled looked at Miranda, and Miranda looked at Khaled.  At the front of the horde was a man wearing a brown outfit, who was standing.

“Who are these people?” Miranda asked, shouting over the noise.
“I don’t know.  They’re not with us,” Khaled said, also shouting.
“Can we get them to stop with that noise.  It’s killing me,” Fergus yelled.

Silence.  The man in the brown clothes approached.

“That was easy,” Fergus remarked.

He was the only one who could find the words.

“My name is Shinji.  If you would lower your weapons, we would like to speak to you,” the man said in a monotone Eastern Asian accent.

Khaled waved his arms.

“Thank you.  Who is in charge here?” Shinji asked.

Khaled and Miranda exchanged looks again, then Miranda stepped forward.

“Who are you people?” She asked.
“We are Fukahi Shinjitsu.  We have travelled from Japan to be here.  To be reunited with our master Owari.”
Miranda gulped.  “I know who the Shinjitsu are.”
“Many now do.  For better or for worse.”
“Your leader is dead.  He was executed by the Japanese government only a week ago.”

Tom gripped onto Emily tight.  “They’re terrorists,” he whispered to her.

Emily’s throat stiffened and Fergus looked over to them.  Tom nodded to him with wide eyes.

“He was executed in this life yes, but he has the power to be passed on to another life force.  A life force so strong it has survived the destruction of the rest of the species.  And he has presented himself to you,” Shinji carried on.
“How did you find us?” Miranda questioned.
“We have our ways.  Owari has blessed us and guided us here.”
“You are not welcome.  You must leave now, or be dismissed by force,” Miranda said waving to the guards.

Shinji bowed.  “We will respect your judgment.  Owari will look over you, and we shall be back at noon to collect him,” he said.

One by one the orange outfits sat and up and walked away.  The guards followed them with their gun sights, until the car park was completely abandoned.

The operations room was crowded minutes later.

“Am I only the one who doesn’t know who these guys are?” Emily started the conversation.
“Me too,” Khaled added.
“They’re a terrorist group,” Miranda said.
“I think they’re classed as a religious group actually,” Fergus said.
“Aren’t they all?  They killed 13 people in a chemical attack on a Japanese train 7 years ago.  Their leader Owari Osako took all the blame and was put on death row.  His appeals ran out last week, and he was hung,” Miranda said with an informed intensity.
“They still hang people?” Emily asked.
“They do.  It’s hard to argue that he didn’t deserve it though.  He was a class A fundamentalist, and a class A brainwasher.  Except the dangerous kind, where he actually believes what he’s saying.  They are a Buddhist and Catholic mix, with a lot of mysticism and bullshit thrown in.  Fukahi Shinjitsu translates to Inevitable Truth.  Like the rest of them they believe in a doomsday, but they’re trying to get there before God does, so that Owari can take his place,” Miranda replied.
“How do you know so much about this?” Khaled asked.
“I was the defence secretary when the train attack happened.  They put out threats to all major cities across the world,” Miranda replied.

There was a few moments of silence.

Fergus chuckled.  “And they think this Owari guy has transformed into the bear or something?” He said.
“Seems like it,” Miranda said.

Tom didn’t say a word, and was staring at the wall.

“So, what do we do now?  Get the military or the police involved?” Khaled said.
“No, we can’t have any attention brought here.  This bear is too important to throw away the good image it brings,” Miranda said.
“Good image?  You said their terrorists; my people are in danger here!” Khaled exclaimed.
“We have enough protection on base.  I’ll call the PM,” Miranda said looking around the room. “In private. Khaled you stay,” she finished.

Tom and Emily went back to their quarters, whilst Fergus went to de-brief everyone else.  In their small room, that had nothing but a bed and a sink in it, Tom collapsed onto the bed.  Emily was pacing up and the down the tiny amount of floor space that they had.

“This is crazy.  This is so crazy.  How did they know that we found him?  And then got here so quick?  It’s crazy and it’s scary.  They’re terrorists, actual terrorists.  And Larkin going on about the country’s image, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s selling him onto the highest bidder.  She’s half the reason for the extinction, her and all those anti-conservation organizations,” she said hysterically.
Tom was motionless, and Emily only noticed because she was out of breath. “Are you okay? Does your head hurt?” She asked.
“I believe them,” Tom said.
“Who? Larkin?  You’ve got to be kidding.”
“No, the Shinjitsu.”
“They’re out of their minds Tom.”
“You didn’t see the way he looked at me.  His eyes had red in them, have you ever seen that before?”
“No, but there’s always variations.”
“In his eyes I saw something.  Like a clearing, like my mind was emptied.  We had a connection, a human one, and it took me back to Peru.”

Humid jungle. I’m sweating hard and my shirt is sticking to me.  They’re chanting in the distance, and the branches are enclosing around me.  Is the warmth coming from the sun?  Or their torches?  The smoke is getting in my eyes.  I’m uncomfortable but there is nowhere I would rather be.  They tell me to keep moving, that it’s my turn.  My mind tells me to go back, and get on the plane back to London.  Something is pushing me forward.

“Maybe you should go back to sleep for a while?” Emily said scratching Tom’s head.

Tom was going pale, and felt cold to touch.  Emily was worried about him.  He obliged her request to get some more sleep, and she left him.  When she had gone, Tom got up and shook his whole body in an attempt to feel something, anything.  The pain from the hillside had faded away, and there was a numbness to his body.  He laid down again.

I can see them now.  They’re grabbing onto my arm, and my feet are dragging.  My bare feet are scraping against the sand, I resist, but they are too strong.  The chanting is more intense now.  Getting closer all my mind thinks about is Emily.  Why didn’t she come with me?  It’s too late for her, and this is my chance to let go.  I reach the man with the antlers, and he passes me the ivory jug.  Drink, they say.  It tastes foul, and chemical.  I’m waiting for a sensation, for the ending I was promised.  Waiting, until the man with the antlers turns to dust.

Tom took a breath like he was drowning.  A breath so strong he nearly choked himself.  He leapt up and went into his shared wardrobe with Emily to pull out a black wooly hat and a fleece jacket.  After putting them on he looked out into the corridor to see if the coast was clear.  He only had to avoid Emily, everyone else would be unsuspicious of his movements.  She wasn’t around, so he pulled her clearance card off the door handle and darted for the closest fire exit he could find.  It led him outside to the side of the headquarters, and there was a guard on the other side, who Tom nearly knocked over as he pushed open the door.

“Woah, you can’t be out here.  The whole building is on lockdown, all the exits are covered,” the guard said trying not to trip over.

Tom said nothing, and returned back inside, then leant against the wall next to the door.  He sighed.  The fire exit was in a closed off point of the building, next to a stairwell.  No-one can see me here, he thought.  Tom sighed again then walked a few metres away from the door, then ran full pelt towards it.  At the door he threw himself into it, and he burst through with a bang.  The guard was still on the other side, and the door slammed into him, launching him onto the concrete.  Tom scrambled to jump on top of him, then yanked off his hat to force it into the guard’s mouth.  With his other hand he reached for the guard’s holster, then awkwardly pulled out the pistol and pressed it against the guard’s skull.  The guard stopped trying to wriggle away, and Tom got off him, the hat falling to the ground.

“Don’t say a word or I’ll shoot you,” Tom said pointing the gun at the guard.

The guard raised his arms, and Tom checked around to see if anyone had heard the noise.

“Where’s the nearest exit that’s open?” Tom asked, speaking as quietly as he could without sounding too timid.

The guarded jolted his head backwards to indicate an entrance behind him.

“Is it guarded?” Tom asked, clumsily waving the gun around.

The guard shook his head.

“Okay.  You’re coming with me, go ahead.”

The guard tentatively turned and walked slowly to a gate not far from them.  Tom came up behind and dug the gun into the guard’s back.  The car park was too dark for anyone to spot them, and they made it out of the base.  A woodland surrounded the headquarters, and Tom pushed the guard towards it until they were far enough away to not be heard.

“The Shinjitsu, where are they?” Tom asked, holding the gun more relaxed now.

The guard remained silent.

“You can speak now,” Tom said.
“They’re camping in the woods, at the end of the road,” the guard said.
“How far?”
“About a mile.  They’re easy to find because they’ve got several fires going.”
“Okay, let’s go.”

They cut across the tree-line, following the road leading away from the base.  Tom was keeping the gun on the guard, urging him to move quicker and quicker.  They tripped on branches in the darkness many times, but Tom never let the gun slip from his hand.  It didn’t take them long to get to the end of the road, and the guard was right about the Shinjitsu being easy to find.  Their large fires lit up the forest, emitting a bright orange flame and a jet-black smoke.  The orange outfits sat around these fires, some asleep on one another, some on their feet dancing around.  Tom and the guard crept into the camp, and stumped for an introduction, Tom just tried to make as much noise as he could by kicking at some leaves.  A dancing orange outfit at the nearest fire heard, and began signaling to his fellow followers.  Tom dragged the guard forward, and seeing the gun the orange outfits backed away.

“Don’t worry, the gun is for him not for you.  I am here to see Shinji in peace,” Tom announced.

One of the orange outfits broke away, and came back a few moments later with Shinji.  He sat down on a log in front of them.  Sitting down showed how tiny Shinji was, he was almost child sized, and he had a narrow face.

“You were the one to find Owari, weren’t you?” Shinji asked.
“Yes, I was,” Tom replied.
“Good.  Please put the gun away and sit down.”
“This man is my captive, I can’t leave him unwatched.”

Shinji leant over to an orange outfit and whispered something into his ear.  The orange outfit then whispered something to another follower next to him.  They went over to the guard and grabbed an arm each, taking him away from Tom’s side.

“Fine,” Tom said, sitting on a log opposite Shinji and putting the gun by his feet.
“I believe you have something to say to us,” Shinji started.
Tom took a deep breath. “I saw red in the bears eyes.  A red so sharp and vibrant it cut into me, and for a second me and the bear were in our own world together,” he said.
“That is Owari’s spirit calling to you.  You must be very special.  Tell me, what is your name?” Shinji asked.
“Thomas Pieters,” Tom replied.
“Okay Thomas, did you feel a human connection when you looked into his eyes?  A connection that you have only felt with someone that you love or desire?”
“Yes.  And it took all the pain away.  At first, I thought it was a fluke that he didn’t attack me, and the feeling was because we have been looking for him for so long.  But hearing you speak, I understand what the bear really is.”
“Tell me what the bear really is Thomas.”
“It’s your master Owari.  It’s a god.”

The orange outfits cheered and hugged one another.  Shinji was cackling.

“Yet you come here alone?  Have your people not witnessed god?” Shinji asked, standing up and speaking louder.
“They haven’t seen what I’ve seen, if I could show them,” Tom replied, looking down at the ground.
“The whole world needs to be shown.  And you can do that Thomas, by getting us to him.”

The guard began to push and shove his arms into the orange outfits that had a hold of him.  “You’re all insane! The polar bear is a fucking animal, there’s nothing behind his eyes!  Tom, we’ve never met, but I know about you and your team, don’t throw everything that you’ve sacrificed for these maniacs!” He exclaimed, trying to get away.
Tom remained looking at the ground. “I can get you in, you alone Shinji.  Once there if Owari speaks to me again, my friends will understand,” he said.

Emily searched everywhere in the headquarters looking for Tom.  It was now the early morning, and in a panic, she headed to the operations room.  Khaled, Miranda and Frank were inside, talking to a man in a military uniform on a large screen.

“Get her out of here,” Miranda said dropping her spectacles on the table.
“You can’t be in here, not now,” Khaled said.
“I can’t find Tom,” Emily said.
“I’m sure he’s…” Khaled started.
“Wait, you can’t find Tom?  When did you last see him?” Frank interrupted.
“I don’t know, maybe a couple of hours ago,” Emily said.
“Ms Larkin, I think we’ve been breached,” Frank said sternly.
Miranda instantly switched the monitor off.  “How is that possible?” She asked.
“One of our guys was meant to check in an hour ago, and never did,” Frank replied.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Miranda demanded.
“We didn’t think anything off it.  We assumed he just missed it, because of all the new lockdown protocols.”
“Do you think Tom could be with him?” Emily asked.

The same hum from earlier echoed through the walls again.  Emily shuddered.

“They’re back.  Frank, I want all your guys out on the front, now!” Miranda ordered.

They all clattered past Emily, who was left flustered and alone.  The headquarters were at full speed again – bodies gliding against each other to get to the front door.  Fergus was one of these bodies, but he stopped at Emily.

“Have you found Tom yet?” Fergus asked.
“No.  They think he’s with one of Frank’s guys, who’s also gone missing,” Emily replied.
“He’ll be safe then.  Come on, don’t worry, he survived a bear attack don’t forget.”

They followed the crowd, that had dispersed into designated ‘safe rooms’, then went outside to the car park.  The orange outfits were there, in the same formation as before, doing their hum.  Shinji didn’t spear head them this time though, and they couldn’t be quietened.

“Where’s our speaker?” Miranda said, behind a line of armed men.
“No sign of him.  Shall we proceed as planned?” Frank asked.

Miranda nodded, and Frank’s men advanced, machine guns in hands.  At first the orange outfits kept their eyes closed, and their hum going.  Frank’s men applied more pressure, screaming at them to shut up, pushing their guns closer towards them.  Some of the outfits began to flinch slightly, before returning back to their solid state.  More pressure and more hints of a submission, but the Shinjitsu followers stayed strong.

“This is a bit brutal to watch,” Fergus said into Emily’s ear.
“This is a distraction,” Emily said back, thinking only of Tom.
“The bear,” they said together.

Emily and Fergus sneaked back inside headquarters, where the corridors were abandoned.  There was no sign of human life as they scurried to the stair well.  They darted down the spiral steps, jumping down several at once, whipping around the rail.  The door to the basement was unguarded and left slightly open.  Emily could hear Tom before she could see him.  He was talking to someone, and going into the containment room she could see who that someone was.  Shinji.  They were on the other side of the glass box, stood on the catwalk, the bear blocking most of them.  Emily called out Tom’s name across the room, but he didn’t respond.

“What is he doing?” Fergus said as they came right up to the cube.

Emily called out again.  No response.  She went to run around the catwalk to him, but Fergus yanked her arm back.  Shinji had given Tom an axe, and Tom was approaching the glass.  The bear was snarling and growling at him, pressing its head against the glass, its giant paws pounding on the floor.  Tears were streaming down Emily’s face, and she was fighting Fergus as he pulled her back.

“Don’t do it Tom! Please!” She yelled.

Tom paused, gazed at her through two layers of window, then swung the axe into the cube.  It smashed on the first hit, and millions of tiny shards fell onto the bear like rain.  They cut into the animal, sending a sea of red into all directions.  It let out a loud cry then charged.  Emily was repeatedly screeching no, and Fergus had both his arms around her, dragging her back.  The bear flopped in pain over Tom, striking him with its arms.  He then exposed his teeth, and bit at Tom, taking a chunk out of his cheek.  Half of Tom’s face was launched off – meaty flesh spraying.  He didn’t make a sound.  Shinji had disappeared, and Tom was now on his back.  Fergus tried to cover Emily’s face, as he guided her out of the room, but she had seen too much already.  Tom was dead, gushing with claret red and the bear moaned whilst picking at his limp body.

Retreating back up the stairs, Emily was effectively in a state of comatose in Fergus’s arms.  Frank’s men came to the basement and it only took a few bullets to kill the bear.  A few bullets to kill all sense of hope.  On seeing Shinji fleeing, the rest of the Shinjitsu fled with him, and were picked up at a private airport a few miles away by the British military.  Miranda saw to that.  The death of the bear brought the death of Operation Father, and a two-year long investigation into the decision made by Thomas Pieters.  Many people tried to explain to Emily why Tom had made that fatal error.  She never understood, and spent her days waiting for reassignment sitting on the coastline, watching the tide come and go.


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