The Gravestone in the Pool

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: House of Drama & Adventure
One night Hannah finds a mysterious Gravestone in her pool that leads her, a stranger and her best friend, John, to Colorado, Hinsdale County where they have to find the hidden cemetery and an antidote. But they only have 48 hours. Can they solve the riddle and safe their lives?

Submitted: September 09, 2016

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Submitted: September 09, 2016

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THE GRAVESTONE IN THE POOL

 

She loved to swim completely naked. She always swam naked. Whenever she could, by night, whether it's cold or not, Hannah ran outside, stripped down to nothing and jumped happily into her big in-ground pool. She enjoyed the changing lights that were coming from below and were giving the water a bluish, greenish or orange touch. She especially liked floating under the moonlight and while looking up to the stars she admired the dead silence. The only audible and welcomed sounds were the distant chirping of crickets and quiet water.

Hannah was a young, lovely woman who was living alone with her white pom puppy in her little house in Miami. Mia was the name of her dog. She got her in a time where her life was not going well at all. There was a time where she used to be not alone. Hannah had a boyfriend. Her first and only boyfriend, Matt. They were happily together for five years but two years ago, at an unforgettable night, everything changed. Matt was on his way to Hannah's birthday party. He was in a hurry due to his present that arrived too late. Hannah loved photography so he bought her a new Canon camera that cost 400$ and a trip to Colorado. Matt was certainly not rich but he genuinely loved Hannah so it was worth it. During his drive he jumped a couple of red lights hoping he wouldn't arrive too late. Hannah called him and asked calmly where he is and why it takes him so long. She wasn't angry, rather worried. She just wanted to know if he's okay. The distraction and pressure caused loss of control and finally lead to a tragic accident. Matt crashed into a parked car and died. He died slowly in pain since it was a crushing injury that killed him. Hannah just heard loud noises until she lost the contact. She knew what happened and the horrible sounds didn't leave much room for hope. In addition to the depression and trauma that this loss caused, Hannah also had to deal with court proceedings. Matt's mother never liked Hannah and blamed her for the death of her son. She brought a charge against her and even invented lies to throw her into prison. But since Hannah was completely innocent she couldn't take it any longer. The pain, grief, guilt feelings and the court weren't the only things that made her life hard. Her lone mother abandoned her because she believed all the lies about her. She believed that her daughter set everything up, never loved Matt and wanted him to die. That was when the suicidal ideation began. Fortunately, her only and best friend John talked her out of that idea and bought her the pom puppy, Mia, in hope it would help and distract her. Hannah and John were best friends since their birth.

Finally, after a lot of sorrow she won the case and started pursuing her goals. She wanted to become a photographer so she quit her job as a cashier, improved her skills, and began working for hospitals who hired her to take pictures of infants and create sweet photo albums. Working with babies and their families was her true passion and she couldn't imagine a better job. In fact her passion, job, Mia and John were the only important things in her life and the only things that helped with curing her depression.

One Friday night when she was lazily floating on her stomach something greyish at the ground surface caught her attention. It was way too blurry to tell what it exactly was so she slowly let herself sink to the bottom of the pool. When she was close enough she saw something that looked like a big, thick, semicircle shaped gravestone. She pulled it up and brought it to the water surface awaiting that she couldn't pull it out of the pool but it wasn't as heavy as expected so she easily dragged it out. It was clean and looked relatively new. The strange thing was that it had engravings that didn't look like any language that was known to Hannah. It were just mysterious symbols.

'When and how did this get in here?' she thought sitting at the edge of the pool with her legs still resting in the lukewarm water and the dripping gravestone on her lap. The odd symbols intrigued her and she couldn't stop starring at them. After a while her surroundings began to darken and the only thing she had eyes for were the gravestone. The coldness hit her knees but that didn't distract her from starring at the gravestone until it began cooling Hannah's whole wet, naked body. Shivering she slowly stood up and could avert her eyes from the gravestone only reluctantly. With the gravestone under her arm she walked into her house.

After wrapping herself in a warm and cozy towel she went into her kitchen with the gravestone and put it on her table. Leaned against the countertop with her arms crossed and a thoughtful face she looked at the gravestone.

'Why should someone throw a gravestone in my pool?' she thought. The eerie symbols began capturing Hannah's attention again but this time making her feel really uncomfortable. She turned the gravestone around because she couldn't look at the engravings any longer. Whenever she looked at the symbols there was this feeling that she knew the meaning. But it was just a feeling. She didn't know what it means but she wanted to find it out. A short glimpse at the clock that told her that it was 2 AM didn't stop her from calling John. Even if she wanted to sleep she couldn't as long as there was a big, mysterious gravestone in her kitchen.

'John? You have to come over. Now!', said Hannah excited.

'Oh, sure! It's not a problem that you woke me up. Not at all.' He didn't sound as if he just woke up. Hannah sighed and answered,

'You don't sleep at these times, John. Hurry up!' she said demanding. She didn't really ask him to come over. John didn't have much of a choice but that was okay for him. After all she's not a stranger and he gladly comes over when Hannah tells him to do so.

'Did you swim naked in your pool again?' Hannah rolled her eyes and sighed again.

'Don't let me wait too long.' she just wanted to hang up but then John jested,

'Will I get to see you naked?'

'JOHN!' she called upset.

'Okay, Okay. I'm on my way.' said John chuckling.

When he arrived he silently sneaked into her dark house. Hannah had entrusted him a key. Only the lights in the kitchen were turned on. John slowly tiptoed towards the kitchen hoping he could play a little prank and scare her a bit but before he even came close to the kitchen he heard Hannah saying,

'Don't even try it, John.' Disappointed he entered the kitchen. Hannah was sitting at the table and was starring at the gravestone. She was still wrapped in her towel.

'You could have at least pretended to be scared.'

'I am scared enough already! Look at this!' she said standing up and pointing with both hands at the gravestone on the table.

'What? A stone scares you?' he said smiling.

'This is not just a stone, John. This is a gravestone.' she said turning it around. 'Look at these weird symbols.'

'Where did you find this?' he said carefully touching the gravestone. His fingers lingered on the engravings. 'Did you bring it from your last graveyard visit?' he said not looking away from the symbols. Hannah started starring at the symbols too and said hesitantly,

'It was in my pool.'

'Who should throw a gravestone in your pool?'

'Only the person with access to my house.' John slowly dragged his hand down from the gravestone and looked up to Hannah who was still starring at it.

'I do play pranks sometimes but I would never do something like this. This is creepy as fuck.' he said gravely. Hannah looked him in the eyes and smiled faintly.

'I do not believe that you have something to do with this. I called you so you can help me with finding out the meaning of those symbols.' John smiled relieved and lifted the gravestone in surprise due to its weight.

'You believe they have a meaning?' he said examining the gravestone.

'You doubt that?' He didn't answer and caused silence for a second. Suddenly John dropped the gravestone on purpose. He was holding it tightly with both hands but in the blink of an eye he just let it fall on the tile floor. It broke in two parts, one slightly bigger than the other one, and an unexpected ton of dust rose. Both started coughing immediately. They couldn't even see each other. So much dust arose because of that gravestone.

'What the hell, John?' said Hannah coughing and moving to the window.

'Sorry, I did not expect this.' said John also coughing.

'Why did you drop it in the first pla-,' she stopped just when she wanted to open the window. She had the window handle in her hand but she didn't move. She just stood there and looked out of the window. John's coughing slowly ceased.

'Hannah? Is everything okay?' He jumped over the two pieces and walked to Hannah. When he saw what she was seeing he understood why she stood there motionless in shock. A man was standing outside, at least ten meters away. He was doing nothing but looking at the window. In the darkness they couldn't see nothing more than the outlines. The creepy thing was that those outlines were created by lights. The lights from the pool. And the only way to the pool is through Hannah's house. Frightened they stood there for a moment in silence until Hannah, shaking with fear, whispered,

'Call the police!' John pulled his cellphone and Hannah a knife from the knife block next to the window.

'What the hell is he doing there?' said Hannah tightly holding her knife but hoping she won't need to use it.

'He must be the man who threw the gravestone in your pool. If he wants it back, he won't be happy to see what we have done with it.' said John while he was bringing the cellphone to his ear. Suddenly just one moment before the cellphone reached John's ear the man pulled a silenced gun and shot at the window.

'Get down!' cried Hannah. At once both squatted down and protecting themselves from the shards they leaned against the cabinet. Quickly breathing Hannah said,

'Call the fucking police or he'll kill us!'

'I can't!', said John low-voiced, trembling and in shock gasping for air. Not understanding why he said that, she looked immediately to him with a stressed face. Starring straight ahead, John slowly opened his sweaty palm in which he hold the cellphone. Astounded Hannah looked at the cellphone. The bullet streaked the cellphone and destroyed it. Hannah put her hand on John's shoulder and said,

'Are you all right?' John nodded slowly, still not believing what just happened. Paranoid and nervously Hannah looked left and right and said,

'My cellphone and house telephone are both in the living room and leaving without Mia is absolutely out of the que-' John interrupted her by whispering,
'He is coming!' In complete silence they could hear his footsteps. He was moving very slowly. Hannah looked to her right to the hallway. At the end of it she saw, to her surprise, Mia. Seeing her helped her calming down but she was also scared for her.

'Mia!' she called. 'Come to mommy!'

'I should have bought you a guard dog.' Mia walked towards Hannah but stopped when suddenly the man banged on the french door.

'Don't stop!' cried Hannah. Mia just stood there whimpering and looking up to the man. Hannah wanted to go to her despite the banging on the door that kept going in a slow rhythm. She just began crawling towards her but John grabbed her arm and said,

'We have to go!'

'I don't go anywhere without Mia!'

'As soon as he sees you, he'll shoot you!' Suddenly the banging stopped for a second. After a moment of silence the french door broke to pieces. The collapsing door made Mia run towards Hannah. Mia entered the kitchen coughing due to the dust that was on the ground. John released Hannah's arm so she can embrace Mia. They instantly stood up and wanted to leave through the other hallway but the man stepped in and shot in their direction. Promptly both stopped and did not move. Slowly they turned to the man but, to their astonishment, they didn't see a man. It was a woman. It was a young woman with a short, dark plait and a long black coat. She was pointing her gun at them with a serious face. Hannah and John looked fearful in her eyes. They stood there in silence in the kitchen full with shards and dust. The woman had her eye on the two pieces of the gravestone for a moment but immediately looked back to Hannah and John. Finally, John broke the silence,

'Ehm, yeah...sorry about that. I just wanted to-' The woman didn't pay attention. Did not even make eye contact with John. She slowly squatted down and interrupted him by calmly saying,

'Shut up.' Respectfully John lowered his head while the woman looked at the dusty ground. Carefully she went through the dust with one finger. Deliberating she examined her finger for a few seconds, stood up and said,

'Are you a couple?' Shaking their heads both immediately said,

'NO!' John also wanted to add,

'We are just-' The woman interrupted him again,

'Which one of you lives here?'

'I live here,' said Hannah. The woman pointed her gun at Hannah,

'Did you breathe the dust?' She nodded slowly and insecure.

'You are poisoned. You'll die within 48 hours.' said the woman cold. Not believing her they stood there reactionless. She slowly sat down, put the gun on the table and told them to sit down too. Reluctantly they did what she said. Hannah didn't want to put Mia down on the dusty ground. Although she knew that Mia breathed the dust too and couldn't believe that it's poison she didn't want to take any risks so she placed her on her lap. The woman looked straight in Hannah's eyes and said,

'What is your name?' Hannah avoided eye contact and nervously replied,

'Hannah.'

'Listen Hannah. I'll bring the gravestone to the hidden cemetery in Hinsdale County. Come with me and I'll bring you to a person who might has an antidote.'

'You just broke into my house. How am I supposed to trust you? How do I know that I'm really poisoned?' said Hannah.

'You were poisoned by Blooddust. In two days it will cause internal bleeding and you will die very, very slowly in pain that you cannot imagine. That's when you'll know that you're really poisoned.'

'Let's say I'm really poisoned. Why should I go with you instead of going to a doctor?'

'A doctor can't help you. He does not know what Blooddust is. It's extremely rare and so its antidote.'

'And why should someone who broke into my house want to help me?'

'I'll help you with finding the antidote and you'll help me finding the hidden cemetery.' John asked,

'What did you say? It's in Hinsdale County?' The woman turned her head to John and slowly nodded. John looked to Hannah and said,

'That is in Colorado, Hannah.' Reminded of Matt she sadly looked down to Mia and while stroking her she said quietly,

'Is Blooddust poisonous for dogs, too?'

'It is. No one is immune to it.' Hannah looked up and said,

'Will there be enough antidote for everyone?' Sighing the woman replied,

'Now we get to the difficult part. You can't take your dog with you. And he can't come either.' She turned to John.

'But I breathed this shit too!' said John upset.

'Then I'll make it quick and painless for you.' The woman said, grabbed her gun, stood up rapidly and pointed it at John's head.

'DON'T!' cried Hannah jumping to her feet. In mortal fear John was looking in the woman's eyes while she was looking to Hannah.

'If you shoot him, I will not come with you.' There was dead silence for a moment. John started sweating. The woman turned her head to John and said,

'I don't care.' she pulled back the hammer of the gun. John began to shiver.

'Please! Don't do it!' shouted Hannah.

'If there is not enough antidote you will have to choose, Hannah. That will not be easier. Choose now!' said the woman emotionless.

'I made my decision. He will live. Mia will live. And we'll all take the antidote,' said Hannah panting. The woman was still pointing the gun at John's head.

'Extremely unlikely.'

'We have to try.' The woman slowly lowered her gun and said,

'Ben will not like this at all.' In relief John exhaled. So did Hannah and asked,

'Who is Ben?'

'Our pilot.' said the woman. 'Take the gravestone, put it in a plastic bag and the plastic bag in a rucksack. Clean everything up, the shards, the Blooddust, everything! Don't worry. You're already poisoned. It won't get any worse. Take a shower, I don't wanna get poisoned too, get some rest and...put something descent on. Come to this address at 6 AM.' She took out a piece of paper, a pen, wrote the address on it and threw it on the table. 'And I better won't see you in a towel,' she added and left her house.

Sighing and exhausted Hannah let herself fall on the chair.

'I'm sorry,' said John.

'For what?'

'For dropping this stupid gravestone. It was so light that I hoped something important could be hidden in it. It's my fault that we are poisoned.' said John desperately.

'How could you have possibly known that there is poison in this fucking gravestone. It is not your fault.'

'When we find the antidote,' he paused for a moment. 'And there is not enough then I-' Hannah stood up swiftly and interrupted him,

'I will not discuss this now!' She slowly went to the window and said,

'More important is the question whether we can trust her or not.'

'Of course not. But we don't have another option.' Hannah was looking out of the window at her pool while she was stroking Mia.

'If she was looking for this gravestone then she probably didn't throw it in my pool. But who did it? And why?'

'And how did she know that you have it?' added John.

'And why is it so important?'

John sighed, hating all the questions that he can't answer. Hannah turned around to John and said,

'We'll set off in a few hours. We better clean this shit up and get some sleep.'

'We will try.'

They spent one hour with cleaning everything up and preparing themselves for the journey. Of course Hannah also wanted to take her camera along. And John his Pop-Tarts. Unlike Hannah he was obsessed with them. Not even three hours were left for sleep but both had a hard time with dropping off. Maybe they slept one hour. Maybe even less. Most of the time they spend with talking since they both slept in the same bed. John and Hannah were completely comfortable doing that. In fact they always enjoyed it. Whenever John crashed at her place they loved watching movies together or talking about things that best friends talk about. Even this time they were able to laugh and have fun together. Hannah woke up scarcely at 5:50 AM and shook John out of his sleep,

'John! Wake up! We'll be late!' Drowsy he answered,

'It's Saturday!'

'Have you already forgotten? We are poisoned!' Hannah said in a hurry while she was changing her clothes, hidden behind the wardrobe door. Suddenly John became wide awake, jumped out of the bed and said,

'Fuck! Let's go!'

They threw the rucksack with the gravestone, provisions and other important stuff on the backseat. Hannah with her camera put on and Mia on her lap, leaped onto the passenger seat. She didn't have a car because she never got a driver's license. She believed that she would never need one and she was right. She had never needed it. They only had 5 minutes left when John got into the car and asked urgently,

'The address!'

'Oh shit!' said Hannah worried. Annoyed he said,

'Go! Get it!' She didn't move.

'I think, while we were cleaning, I threw it away...accidentally.'

'No way! You did not do that!' said John with a shocked face. After a moment of silence and looking at each other with anger, Hannah took out a piece of paper and laughed. John grabbed it furiously and began typing the address in the GPS.

'This is incredible! We are getting late, we might be poisoned and what do you do? A joke that not even I would have made!'

'You should have seen your face!' said Hannah chuckling. John tried acting mature but he couldn't stifle a laugh.

'I knew you think it's funny!' said Hannah. Getting earnest again he said,

'It is. But not in this situation. Seriously, we might won't come back, Hannah.' he hesitated. 'Or not all of us.' He caused silence and bad mood for a minute. Frustrated she turned her head to the right and sadly looked out of the window.

'Is it far away?' asked Hannah.

'Luckily it's not. We should arrive punctually.'

At 6:01 AM they arrived at a private runway with a small private jet on it. The woman with the black coat was standing next to the staircase of the plane. After John had parked his car, they got out of it, Hannah took the rucksack and they moved towards the woman who looked rather angry. When they were standing in front of her she said with a scowl,

'You're too late!' Tranquilly John said,

'It's just a minute. That doesn't matter.'

'A minute more and we would have left without you, you wouldn't have got the antidote and would have died slowly in pain. Do you still think it doesn't matter?' John smiled and said,

'I thought you need us.'

'I do not need people who don't respect my time. Be unreliable and unpunctual again and I will kill you both. And you first!' she said while she was obviously looking at John. He chuckled and said,

'You really hate me, don't you?' The woman stepped aside and said,

'Go in.' Hannah entered the private jet first. It looked more luxury than they had expected. There were four cozy seats. Two directed at each other and with an extensible desk between them. Each seat had its own window. The private jet had even a minibar. When John came in he said in amazement,

'Wow...I hope the flight takes a long time.' While the woman was coming upstairs she said,

'Interesting to hear that from a man who'll die in less then 48 hours.' She closed the door, passed John and Hannah, as always with a serious face, and went to the cockpit. John looked at Hannah with a smile and said,

'She's into me.' Hannah sighed and replied,

'I'm sure she is.' She sat down on one of the cozy seats, extended the table and put Mia on it. John sat down on the seat next to Hannah. She was looking out of the window.

'It's hard for you, isn't it?' said John. Hannah slowly turned his head to John. 'I know you would have loved to go to Colorado with him and under better circumstances.' After a deathlike hush John continued,

'I'm sorry. I shouldn't have-'

'It's okay.' said Hannah interrupting him, turned his head back to the window and another deathful stillness began. Suddenly they heard a man from the cockpit shouting angrily,

'A fucking dog? On my plane? You know that-'

'Calm down, Ben! It's just a small dog. It won't do anything.'

'I don't give a fuck! I'm gonna throw it out of here!'

'If you do that they won't come with us.'

'Do you need them so bad?'

'She has the gravestone!' After a longer pause the man said,

'If that dog destroys anything I'll throw him out of here. And if it has to be, even during the flight!' The woman opened the door of the cockpit fiercely, slammed it shut and shouted,

'Take that dog from the table! If it dirties or destroys something, I can't promise that it will live! And didn't I tell you to get some rest? You both look like shit!' She sat down in front of Hannah, sighed, tried to calm herself and looked out of the window. John chuckled,

'It's hard to get some sleep when you know that you might die in two days.'

'So instead you fucked each others brain out for the last time?' Laughing John stood up and moved to the minibar which was right before the cockpit. He took two glasses and while he was filling them with wine he said,

'What would you do if you would know that you have only 48 hours left?'

'I certainly wouldn't waste my time with fucking.' Chuckling he sat down next to her and wanted to give her one glass but she turned her head away and said nothing. He tried to give it to Hannah.

'Hannah? A glass of wine?' Sleepy she looked out of the window and although she heard him, she didn't react.

'No? Okay.' There he was sitting with a glass of wine in each hand and a disappointed face. Suddenly the plane started driving.

'You don't drink, you don't fuck. What do you do besides searching for gravestones and hidden cemeteries?' said John and took a sip of his wine.

'I do drink and fuck but I'll do neither with you!' she said earnestly. John chuckled again and joked,

'I still have 48 hours to change your mind.' He believed that he saw a faint smile on her face but probably it was just in his mind. It's more likely that she had a serious face as always. The woman said,

'Did I forget to tell you that it doesn't have to take that long until it takes effect...fortunately.'

'You also forgot to tell me your name.' She sighed and said,

'Call me Zena.'

'I'm glad to meet you, Zena. My name is John. I would give you my hand but...yeah.' he said indicating that both of his hands were holding a glass of wine and took another sip. Suddenly the plane became faster and took off.

'Okay, enough of this awkward flirting.' said Hannah. John blushed, Zena didn't show a reaction. Hannah leaned a bit forward and said,

'Zena. Why was the gravestone in my pool? And why is it so important?' Zena sighed and said,

'I know you have a lot of questions but don't worry about those things. The only thing you should care about is the antidote.'

'So you won't tell me why you had to scare us to death and break into my house because of a damn gravestone in my pool? Don't you think I have a right to know these things?' Zena said nothing. She just looked in Hannah's eyes with an indistinct smile. Sighing Hannah leaned back again and said,

'At least tell me what will happen. What is your plan?'

'In five hours we should land in Lake City, the county seat of Hinsdale County in Colorado. Then we'll go to the First Baptist Church where we might find antidotes. Thereafter the harder task begins. Finding the hidden cemetery.'

'Where is that?'

'Could be everywhere in Hinsdale County.'

'You don't even know where it is?' asked Hannah.

'If I would know it, it wouldn't be hidden!'

'But you don't plan to frisk every square meter of an almost 3,000 km² big County that is also one of the most remote places in the US, do you?' said John and took a sip of his wine.

'Of course not, smart ass!' said Zena. 'There are a few places where I hope to find some hints. After we have found an antidote we'll go the Clawson Cemetery near to the Lake San Cristobal. But the hidden cemetery has got nothing to do with you!' Hannah and John had the same questions on their minds. “Why is the hidden cemetery so important and why does the gravestone has to get there?” But both did not dare to ask for Zena made clear enough that she does not wish to tell them more.

'Now get some sleep. You'll need it.' said Zena.

'We will not sleep!' said John, stood up and sat next to Hannah. 'Come Hannah. Drink with me!' He gave her one glass and took Pop-Tarts out of the rucksack. They started eating, drinking and laughing together.

'Why don't you join us, Zena?' said John inviting, but Zena just slowly shook her head in desperation, believing that it's stupid what they're doing. Instead of having fun with them, Zena chose to sleep.

Why can two poisoned people, who may die within the next 48 hours, can have more fun than someone who doesn't have to bother with that? Zena couldn't grasp it and Hannah and John didn't even think about it. When Hannah and John were together they almost always had fun. No matter what the circumstances were. Not even a possible close death could destroy their good mood. Maybe they still couldn't believe it completely. Still couldn't trust Zena. Or maybe they did it to suppress those thoughts. There were certainly times where they had to think about it, after all that's what kept them awake, but most of the time they had fun. After a while they dropped off too. Both were sleeping on the table, on which also two empty glasses were standing and a couple of empty Pop-Tart packages were lying around. As last time their sleep didn't last long.

A few hours later Zena woke suddenly up in confusion. Still sleepy she looked at Hannah and John who were dead to the world. Once she realized that the plane is losing height, unhesitatingly she checked her watch. It was way too early for a landing. They were still one hour away from Lake City. Zena feared to know what was going on so she immediately woke Hannah and John up.

'John! Hannah! Wake up!' she cried and ran to the cockpit. It did not surprise her to see Ben lying on the ground on his back and having a seizure. She got behind the wheel and shouted,

'Come here this instant!' They slowly woke up but didn't understand what was going on.

'Are we there yet?' said John drowsy.

'Come now!' shouted Zena again. While they were slowly standing up, Hannah looked at her watch and saw that it's too early for a landing, yet they were losing height. And that fast! When they arrived in the cockpit they saw a fat man in a gray undershirt lying on his back, banging his head against the ground, trembling and making weird sounds.

'You have to follow my instructions now!' said Zena while she was trying to control the plane in panic.

'Not necessary!' said Hannah, squatted down and got him on his side. She put her hand under his head to protect him.

'John, there must be a towel in the rucksack. Bring it here!' said Hanna. While John was getting the towel, Hannah said,

'Is this the first time?'

'The first time during a flight!' Hannah couldn't believe what she had said.

'So our pilot has epilepsy and you knew it all the time?' said Hannah upset. By then John were back with the towel and heard it too. Hannah took it, folded it and put it under his head. She tried to speak to him calmly. John said,

'It doesn't seem like you can fly this thing.'

'I cannot!' she said in fear.

'Why do you let him fly if he has epilepsy?' said John angrily. The plane was shaking heavily.

'It should stop in a few minutes. Until then I should be able to control it.' Hannah who was still squatted down and was trying to calm Ben said,

'Even if it stops he won't be able to fly a plane after a seizure!' John said,

'We have to win height, Zena!'

'I'm trying to land!' she shouted.

'Where? There are mountains everywhere! Besides that we are not even close to Lake City yet!'

'We land now or we crash! We have no other option!'

'Why don't you fly to Lake City?' asked John.

'With these flying skills? Landing is the only thing Ben has taught me!'

'You don't seem to be much better at that either.'

'Shut up, John! How's Ben doing, Hannah?'

'Not good at all. It does not stop. It just gets worse!' As they kept losing altitude they saw that there were nothing but mountains. Everything was green. No buildings except for a few small wooden cottages in the middle of nowhere. John began holding Zena's seat tightly as the shaking got worse and worse.

'We have to land on Jarosa Mesa. I don't see a better place!' said Zena. 'I do not promise that we will survive this!'

'If you land with this speed, I'm not sure whether it will be a landing or a crash.' said John nervously, observing the mountainous environment that was coming closer.

'Do you want to do it?' shouted Zena fighting with the wheel of the plane.

'Who let a man fly a plane who has epilepsy!' John and Zena started arguing.

'Guys!' cried Hannah. They kept going. 'Listen up! It stopped!' Now they ended their discussion and looked to Hannah and Ben. But Ben was not moving.

'It stopped but-' she hesitated- 'he is dead.' For a moment no one said something. They only could hear the shaking of the plane and their thoughts what Ben's dead meant for them.

'No!' said Zena not believing it. 'You don't die because of a fucking seizure!'

'I'm sorry. That can happen. It's called “sudden unexpected death in epilepsy”.' Zena didn't say anything. She tried to focus on the landing but her anger was obvious. Hannah took the towel and put it over Ben's head. She stood up, looked out and after seeing that the landing was imminent she ran to the corridor, lifted Mia up and ran back to the cockpit. John who was still embracing Zena's seat stretched his hand out. Anxiously Hannah looked him in the eyes. She tried to smile. So did John. But the fear in their faces was more dominant. She took his hand and held it tightly. Both looked out of the big window. The uneven ground was coming closer and closer.

'You got this, Zena!' said John.

'People always become kind when death is close.' said Zena. The back tire touched the undulating ground. The whole plane started shaking uncontrollably. It didn't take a long time until the front tire made soil contact. The front rather fell abruptly on the ground. Way too fast but still slowly enough not to destroy the plane. They were still driving on the rough ground. Zena couldn't believe that she managed to land the plane. She was so overwhelmed that she forgot something important. They kept driving towards an abyss.

'The fucking brakes!' shouted John. Zena startled and immediately pulled the brake. Slowly the plane came to a deadlock. Just a few meters away from the abyss. After a longer time of quiet panting, and relief John said,

'Not bad for the first time.'

Zena had nothing to say to that. She stood up and moved to the exit. Hannah and John stayed in the cockpit for a while and looked at each other. They didn't say anything. Just looked at each other and understood each other. Hannah took the rucksack and went outside. After a short look at Ben, John followed.

Outside, in the middle of nowhere, they all looked around while they were getting hit by the cold wind.

'It will take eight hours to get to Lake City. With pauses even longer. The chances that you'll die have increased.' said Zena.

'Aren't there any symptoms?' asked Hannah.

'No, they are not. It will be a “sudden unexpected death in blood”.' Hannah was confused for she couldn't understand why she said that. Insecure and restrained she said,

'It's not my fault that Ben-'

'It is not.' interrupted Zena. 'Let us go.' Hanna was carrying the rucksack and John and Mia were walking next to her. Zena was walking at least four meters ahead of them. They had to fight against the wind. It didn't just slow them down. It also exhausted them since the cold wind hit their faces. Hannah whispered to John,

'Can you understand why she said that?'

'Don't bother your head about that. That's typical of Zena.'

'I wonder why she does that.'

'Does what?'

'Keeping us alive. She only cares about the gravestone and the hidden cemetery, not about our lives. Why doesn't she just kill us and take the gravestone? What I'm trying to say is that she maybe needs us and invented the whole Blooddust thing so we follow her.'

'Maybe she did invent it. Maybe she didn't. Don't worry, Hannah. It was the right choice to follow her. Imagine we would have refused to come. We would be sitting at home, wondering whether we will die or not. And we couldn't do anything to find it out.' Hannah was sadly looking down but not for a long time. Suddenly a smile appeared on her face, she looked up and said,

'Do you remember the day where you ate so many Pop-Tarts until your stomach hurt?' John laughed and said,

'Yeah, I even had to throw up.'

'And you swore you would eat it never again.'

'And the next day you saw me eating another Pop-Tart.' Hannah chuckled,

'I'm amazed that you managed not to become fat.'

After half an hour John said weary,

'Can we take a break? We are walking for hours!'

'This was just half an hour you wimp! Besides that you're the poisoned one. You shouldn't want to take a break, dickhead. One hour more and we'll reach the highway, then we can take our first break.'

'A street? That means we can get to Lake City by hitchhiking!' said John excited.

'No, it does not mean we can hitchhike because they are no cars. Don't expect to see any other person around here. We are alone. Accept it and shut up.'

They reached the forest where the wind was not that brutal. But the pain in their legs got worse.

'How do you know where we're going and how long it will take?' asked John.

'Intuition.'

Hannah and John looked at each other and both were slightly shaking their heads, telling each other that she's hiding something.

After one hour of walking they finally left the forest behind and reached the street. As Zena had said it, they didn't see anyone on their way so far.

'You have one hour. Then we'll move on.' said Zena and sat down next to the street. Panting John let him self fall on the ground and said,

'Finally a street. I'm sure someone will drive by. I mean they didn't made those streets for no reason.'

'We can wait for a car that probably won't come before you die or we can move on and diminish the likelihood of your death. You are the poisoned ones. Choose as you want.' Hannah dropped her rucksack and sat down too. John said,

'I can't walk over six hours. We'll wait for that car. Right Hannah?' She seriously thought about the question for a while. Like John she believed that a car must drive by sometime. She replied,

'Certainly a car will pass by but Zena is right. We cannot wait for that car. We should move on as soon as possible.' John sighed.

'And John!' Hannah added. 'You will carry the rucksack now.' And he sighed again.

'I didn't see you taking any pictures. What's wrong with you?' asked John and took two water bottles out of the rucksack. She just shrugged drearily and said nothing. They took a few sips and after a while all of them fell asleep. They slept for almost an hour until John suddenly woke up.

'Wake up, guys! Can you hear it?' he shouted.

'Hear what?' said Hannah sleepy.

'It's a car!' said John excited. Zena wasn't happy about this at all.

'We have to hide immediately!' she said.

'What? Are you out of your mind?' Suddenly the car that was hidden by bushes and rocks appeared and slowly stopped.

'You will not speak!' said Zena and slowly moved towards the car. An older man with a white beard, a cap and a lumberjack shirt got out.

'Looks like you guys want to Jarosa Mesa?' said the man friendly smiling.

'Who are you?' asked Zena.

'Doug is my name. I have a ranch not far from here.' he said pointing in the direction he was coming from. 'When you're done with Jarosa Mesa and need a place to stay, just follow the highway and turn right as soon as you can.'

'We are not going to Jarosa Mesa.'

'Then get in the car. I'll gladly bring you to our ranch.'

'We have to go in the other direction.'

'The other direction? Really? There's nothing interesting, though.'

'Isn't Lake City in that direction?' asked John.

'No, Lake City is 17 miles away from our ranch. Come with me and as a thank you for staying at my ranch, I'll drive you to Lake City.'

'Sounds great' said John. Zena turned to John and whispered,

'Shut up, idiot!' She put her hand on her gun which was under her coat, on her back and said,

'What is the name of your ranch?' Doug hesitated a while but said,

'Well, we have a lot of names. But that doesn't matter, right?' He chuckled.

'I think that does matter quite a lot.' She moved a few steps closer towards Doug who looked rather worried.

'Freemons Ranch is the name. Or one of the names.' he laughed and continued with a forced smile, 'I am driving there anyway so jump into the car and let us go.'

'Freemons Ranch? Indeed?' Zena went even closer to him. She was standing directly in front of Doug.

'Didn't you say you're coming from your ranch?'

'Yeah...that's where I'm coming from but I'm happy to turn back for you. It's just 10 minutes away from here.'

'Well well!' Zena said, waited for a moment and continued, 'You know what? Freemons Ranch does not mean anything to me. Why don't you tell me a few of the names that your ranch has? Maybe I know one of them.'

'Frankly they aren't many. Maybe you know it under the name...Oleo Ranch?' Zena immediately pulled her weapon and pointed it at Doug. Scared he kneeled down and started begging,

'Please don't kill me! I have nothing to do with that stupid gravestone!'

'I didn't mention a gravestone yet you know what I want to know. Tell me and I'll let you live.'

'I have a wife and two kids. That's all I care about. I just work at the Oleo Ranch and I do not care about them nor the gravestone nor the hidden cemetery!' said Doug crying.

'Another thing that you know about that I didn't mention. The symbols on the gravestone. What do they mean? And where is the hidden cemetery?'

'I swear I do not know! I beg you! Let me live and I will not tell them!'

'You also won't tell them if I shoot you. Don't try to negotiate with me. I give you the options. It's not the other way around. Answer my questions or die.' She touched his forehead with the gun and pulled the hammer back.

'I wish I could. I wish they had told me more.' said the man weeping.

'Too bad that won't wash with me.' said Zena and pulled the trigger. She squatted down, took his keys and also found a gun. She stood up and looked to Hannah and John who were standing there with a shocked face.

'Who of you can handle a gun?' asked Zena. They didn't react. Before they could think about handling a gun they had to handle what had happened.

'No one? Then I have to teach you how to do it. The Oleo Ranch is our enemy now. We have to hurry even more than before.'

'If you wouldn't have shot the poor innocent man we wouldn't have any enemies!'

'The poor innocent man? So you believe his words to be true? That's what they do, John! They try to manipulate you! I thought his attempt was pretty bad but it seems to work with you. Besides that the Oleo Ranch was already our enemy but soon they'll know that we are here.' She put the dead body into the trunk and said, 'Now get into the car.' She threw the keys to Hannah and said,

'You'll drive.'

'I've never learned how to drive.' said Hannah and threw the keys to John. 'Why don't you drive?'

'Never learned it either.' said Zena and opened the door to the backseat. 'Go. Sit next to your friend.' Jack threw the rucksack on the backseat, turned the car around, and hit the road.

'Now where we have a car, how long will it take until we arrive in Lake City?' asked John.

'About half an hour.'

'Your intuition again?' said John. That he was smiling was audible. Zena ignored the question. Instead she took the gravestone out of the rucksack. It was in a plastic bag that she, of course, did not want to open. She took out a piece of paper, a pen and began tracing the symbols. John found an audio cassette and put into the player. An old country song started playing.

'Not my taste.' said John. 'But suits our situation, I guess.' That might be one reason why he kept it playing but another was definitely the fact that he wanted Zena's attention. John himself didn't realize this but unconsciously he hoped that she would say something. Zena, though, focused on the symbols and didn't react to the music. Maybe she liked it, maybe she knew what John's intention was or the symbols captivated her so much that she wasn't even aware of the music. Hannah with Mia on her lap was sadly looking out of the window. Just like in the plane, whenever she looked out of the window she couldn't help thinking of Matt. How couldn't she think of him? She was in the state that she should have visited with her boyfriend. Instead she was poisoned in Colorado, looking for an antidote and a hidden cemetery with a ranch as an enemy. When Zena was done with tracing the symbols and wanted to put the gravestone back in the rucksack she saw a water bottle. After a few seconds of hesitation she said,

'Can I have a sip of water?' At once Hannah and John looked at each other with a faint smile. Both were surprised to hear such a question from Zena so it took them a while until they could find the right words. John said,

'Sure!' And Hannah added,

'Yeah, go ahead.' Zena slowly pulled the water bottle out and enjoyed her sip of water since she didn't have one for hours.

John took the cassette out of the player and for the next 15 minutes there was silence. No one said something. Hannah kept staring out of the window, Zena examined the symbols and John concentrated on driving. But this went on like this only for 15 minutes. They could only get to the Slumgullion Pass. That's where the car slowly halted.

'Why did you stop?' asked Hannah.

'Two reasons.' said John. 'I gotta piss and Doug was too stupid to fill this one up with gas.' Zena sighed and said,

'The chance that you'll die has increased again.'

'How many hours are left until we are doomed to die?' asked John.

'A maximum of 38 hours.'

'Then we better start walking. What does your intuition say? When will we reach Lake City?' said John.

'We will walk three hours without any break until we get to Lake San Cristobal. There is a lodge where we shall spend one night so I have enough time for examining the Clawson Cemetery. After I'm done with that shit, it just takes an hour to get to Lake City.' explained Zena. John began thinking about what Zena had said. He calculated for a few seconds and said sternly,

'That is at least 18 hours of wasted time!'

'I do not waste time. I never did and I never will. Chris the pastor of the First Baptist Church, the person who, I hope, possesses the antidote, won't be there anyway until tomorrow.'

'Lake City can't be that big. We'll just check every house.'

'Well, John...THAT is a waste of time. But I oughtn't choose about your life.' John looked to Hannah but she didn't think about it for a very long time,

'I do trust Zena's intuition. We will stay a night in the lodge.' Sighing John opened the door and said,

'Let me piss very quickly and then we shall move on.' His vanishing in the woods caused Hannah and Zena to be alone. It did not even take a second until both felt a desire to say something. But both remained silent for they did not know what to say although they knew something needed to be said. Otherwise they would not, both are certain, feel this urge to speak. But the silence shouldn't be broken by neither of them. It were two sudden and aggressive knocks on Zena's window. However it wasn't as Zena had expected, John who tried to get her attention since he was still busy in the woods. It was an old fat man, looking into the car with an expression as if he was on the verge of breaking the window. Zena repressed her first thought to open the window for she could not bear sitting in the car any longer. Her second thought to open the door seemed more convenient despite the stranger who was standing outside. But a man couldn't frighten Zena. Standing in front of him, as always with confidence, she looked the man in the eyes.

'Who are you and why are you sitting in Doug's car?' said the man.

'Doug is a friend of mine. He'll return in a moment.'

'I saw who got out of the car. Besides that I know Doug's friends. All of them since he has not many.'

'We are his new friends.'

'Why don't you just admit it? You stole his car. I cannot let that happen. Bring it back and it shall be forgotten.'

'Turn around and I will forget that you ever spoke to me.' The man was already infuriated. Hearing such thing did not calm him. He breathed heavily for a moment and said wrathfully,

'You will never find the hidden cemetery!' Zena pulled her weapon and pointed it at his fat belly. The man said,

'You've killed Doug. You will kill me. And what do you think will happen then? That you will get away with this, cunt?' Zena pulled the trigger and the man fell on his knees. Looking up to Zena, he chose his last words to be,

'The Oleo Ranch will hunt you down!' Falling to his side he took his last breath. Suddenly Hannah got out of the car. Since she didn't see or hear anything she asked confused,

'What has happened?'
'The Oleo Ranch has lost another man. That's what happened.' John, who slowly came towards them and also wasn't aware of what had happened asked,

'Did I miss something?'

'Come on, guys. We've still got a long way to go.' said Zena. They took the rucksack out of the car and left it behind with a corpse in the trunk and another dead body next to it. This time, Zena carried the rucksack and walked next to Hannah and John. Their journey to the Lake San Cristobal Lodge was a hard one. They couldn't allow themselves to stop. The increasing likelihood of the sudden death that could occur anytime, the Oleo Ranch that they were chased by, and all the pain in their legs made the following three hours truly a torture.

 

In the meantime at the Oleo Ranch:

 

A man named Robert was sitting in his cottage. Playing his guitar he sat at the fireplace with other people. Guests, friends, and family were laughing and talking together. Among them also kids. Suddenly a car parked before the cottage. It was the car that Zena, Hannah and John had stolen. A young boy got out of it and moved directly towards the cottage. Hastily he ran up the few steps that were separating him from the door. His hurry was comprehensible for he knew what had happened and he did not want to be the only one who had this information. Blundering into the cottage he began speaking. In both, his face and his voice, they could see and hear his worry,

'Robert! I have to talk with you!' The good mood was spoiled within seconds. All the laughing, talking, and playing stopped instantly and they all turned around to the boy. A few seconds passed until he added,

'Alone.' No one said something. No one moved. Not until Robert put his guitar down, stood up and said,

'Let us go out then. We don't want to bother our guests.' They left the cottage and Robert continued amiably,

'What is it that troubles you, lad? You can tell me everything.' The boy couldn't answer immediately for he still could not believe it. Dejected he said,

'They have killed two of our men.' Not showing any reaction but definitely feeling one, Robert said,

'Where are they?'

'In the car. I have found them at the Slumgullion Pass.'

'Tonight we shall bury them. And then with no longer hesitation we will start chasing the person who is responsible for the death of our friends. We shall find the person and we will not show any mercy for they did not either.'

 

Back to Zena, Hannah and John:

 

'I wonder how we are still alive after all this walking without any break.' said John moaning. 'When we arrive, I think, I will eat a Pop-Tart. Eventually it might be my last Pop-Tart.'

'Then you will be glad to hear that we have finally arrived.' said Zena. Even she hit the wall. It wasn't just the nonstop walking. Zena also constantly tried to hide her weakness. She couldn't show that she was tired, exhausted and seriously needed a break. But that only took more strength. Of course she could not and did not want to realize this.

They were standing between a couple of buildings with a view to the Lake San Cristobal. They entered a small lodge on the waterfront. It was dirty. So dirty that they obviously hadn't dusted it in months. The three felt there way through the cobwebs until they saw a man standing in front of them with a scowl.

'We need three rooms.' said Zena.

'Two are enough.' said Hannah. John said,

'Actually one room should do it, too. If you don't mind, Zena?' Her late answer after a moment of awkward silence was surprising,

'One room is enough.' The man said nothing, gave them a key and went outside. They barely made it to their room which was upstairs. It wasn't less filthier than the lobby. It had two beds. Hannah and John shared one and the other one was Zena's. They did not dare to complain about their circumstances for all they wanted was sleep. They spoke no word and let them themselves fall on their uncomfortable beds but that did not matter since they would have slept everywhere.

After ten hours of sleep, Hannah woke suddenly up in the middle of the night. Drenched in sweat she bobbed up and sat down at the edge of the bed. She knew she had a horrible nightmare but she couldn't remember what she saw and did not want to. After calming herself she took Mia and her camera and went outside. She sat down at the lakeside where she got reminded of her pool. Everything she loved about swimming in her pool was there, too. The moonlight, the chirping of crickets in the distance, the night sky. She did have the desire to jump into the lake but she didn't for she couldn't afford to become soaked. But the night sky was not the same as in Miami. There was zero light pollution in Hinsdale County. Hannah had never seen so many stars at once in the night sky. She could even admire the Milky Way although she wasn't aware of what she was seeing. Suddenly she heard steps. She turned around and immediately knew who it was. The person's face wasn't discernible but the silhouette was already familiar.

'Couldn't sleep?' said Zena and sat down next to Hannah. She shook her head slowly and said,

'And you?'

'I got enough sleep.' said Zena killing the conversation. Like in the car they couldn't speak. They wanted to speak. They had things to say but both did not dare to open their mouths. Zena tried to revive the conversation,

'Is this your first time seeing the Milky Way?'

'The Milky Way?' asked Hannah confused.

'Do you see this hazy band of white light? That is the Milky Way.' Hannah was flabbergasted,

'I didn't even know that you can see it from earth.'

'Pretty astounding, right?' said Zena. After another moment of silence Hannah said,

'We are so worthless. So worthless with all of our dreams and problems. What are we? Nothing. Nothing compared to our galaxy let alone our universe yet we are seeing us as the center of everything. We are keep forgetting that we are just a tiny worthless dot in infinite space. Still I am sitting here, wondering whether I'll survive the next 20 hours or not. Whether I'm poisoned or not. Who cares if I am?' Zena said nothing so Hannah looked to her and continued,

'Are we really poisoned, Zena?'

'You still don't trust me?' Hannah didn't know how to respond to such a question. Zena went on by changing the topic,

'In the plane...when Ben had a seizure. Why did you know what to do?' Hannah hesitated but said,

'When I was eight years old, I was alone at home with my father. I can't remember where my mother was that night. We were watching a movie together. It wasn't the best movie that we had seen so both of us felt asleep. Suddenly I woke up. My dad was trembling and I knew what was happening. I put him on his side, put a pillow under his head and talked to him. “What am I supposed to do?” I said in desperation. I knew what to do for it was not the first time yet I was scared. It never happened when I was alone with him before. But I knew it would end in a couple of minutes and it did. He was lying in my arms when it abruptly stopped. He didn't move and I couldn't know why. I thought everything was okay. I thought he is sleeping. I thought he would wake up in a minute.' she stopped for a minute to suppress a tear. 'I was naive. I couldn't know what had happened.' she said wiping away a tear before she allowed it to roll down her cheek. 'He didn't wake up. I called my mom and told her what had happened. She began crying and I didn't know why. Later she told me that it was a “sudden unexpected death in epilepsy”. I didn't want to believe it. I couldn't accept it. I blamed myself. I thought I had made a mistake.' A long deathlike hush began. Hannah was done with her story and did not wish to say more. Zena knew how to respond but she seldom used such words so hesitation was understandable,

'I am sorry. What I have said after the landing...that was-'

'No need to apologize. I know how it is.' Zena stood up and said,

'It's very cold. I will go in and try to figure out what those fucking symbols mean.' Hannah didn't say anything. She kept sitting there a couple of minutes until she heard steps again. This time it was John who sat next to her and said,

'Couldn't sleep either?'

'The nightmares have begun.'

'Same here.' he said biting off his Pop-Tart.

'Did you know that this is the Milky Way?' asked Hannah taking a picture of it.

'Finally! Hannah took a picture! I was worried something's wrong with you. Let me see it!' She gave him the camera and while he was looking at the picture he said,

'You can see the Milky Way from earth?'

'I didn't know that either. Zena has told me.'

'She was here?'

'Didn't you see her?' He shook his head looking up again and said,

'Hannah. It's my fault that we are sitting here in the middle of nowhere. I do not deserve an antidote. I am not here to find one for me. Promise me that you will not discuss this with me in case we get so far.'

'We have already talked about this, John. I will not discuss such thing.' Hannah said and took the camera. 'Let us take a selfie.' She moved closer to John. Both tried to smile but both failed. It was a fake smile that they slapped on. The two didn't realize this for they did not see a true smile for hours and these hours felt like weeks. John took the camera and looked at the selfie.

'This was probably our last selfie.' he said and started browsing through the other pictures.

'Don't go too far to the right.' said Hannah. John, though, kept going to the right. Suddenly a picture of Hannah came up. It was a selfie that she had taken in front of her pool. She was naked. John immediately pushed the button to go to the next picture but for a second, Hannah saw what John had seen. She immediately ripped the camera out of his hands and said,

'John, I've said don't go too far to the right!' John suppressed laughter and said,

'I am sorry I didn't know-'

'I've told you not to go there!' she said upset.

'Come on. You needn't get mad about it. We know each other since birth. I've seen you naked hundreds of time...and you saw me.'

'That was when we were kids!' said Hannah still angry. John stood up and went inside for he couldn't understand why Hannah reacted like that. After all he didn't do it on purpose. Hannah didn't follow him for she was still furious.

Inside John saw how Zena was sitting in the lobby at a table, with a glass of wine in her hand and gravely looking at the piece of paper with the symbols. He went to the kitchen, got a glass and sat down at the table in front of her. He took the bottle of wine that was standing on the table and while he was filling his glass he asked,

'What are you doing?'

'Trying to figure out what those symbols mean.'

'By staring at them?' asked John and took a sip of his wine.

'By analyzing them.' said Zena.

'Do you have a guess what it could mean?'

'Could be everything. Could be a hint on where the hidden cemetery is. Could be a trap. Could be completely meaningless. This is like an enigma.' she said sighing.

'You're like an enigma, too.' said John, lifted his chair and moved right next to Zena. 'Let me see it.'

'If I can't solve it, you certainly won't either.'

'You're right. I'm glad when I solve you.' said John chuckling.

'Which you also won't be able to do.' said Zena and took a sip of her wine.

'You said you hope to find some hints somewhere?'

'I'll go the Clawson Cemetery at first light. There might be some hints.'

'Hopefully, I'll also find hints on how to solve you.' He took another sip.

'I doubt that because you won't come with me.'

'We'll all go together, Zena.'

'I've said this once already and I'll say it again: You only should care about the antidote.'

'The antidote isn't for me, anyway.' They looked in each others eyes.

'Do you love her?' she took a sip.

'Like a sister, yes. But not more than that.'

'You wouldn't die for a sister.'

'Do you have one?'

'I don't speak of things I have no idea of.' she said and wanted to stand up.

'Wait!' said John. He smiled and said, 'Drinking with Zena – Check!' This time Zena smiled too. It wasn't just John's imagination. She really smiled, moved closer to him, and kissed him on the lips. After the kiss they kept their faces close to each other, both faintly smiled again, and John said,

'Have I just kissed a woman who has shot in my direction...twice? And wanted to me kill me...twice?'

'No.' said Zena. 'A woman who wanted to kill you, has kissed you because you didn't have the balls to do it!' Both chuckled. John said,

'In Miami, in Hannah's house...you targeted my cellphone, right?'

'Oh, I hit your cellphone?' asked Zena surprised. Shocked John said,

'That was not your target?!'

'I missed your head!' she said and smiled. 'Of course I wanted to hit your cellphone. If I didn't want to, I wouldn't have.' They leaned back again and John's smile slowly vanished.

'Do you really want to go alone to the Clawson Cemetery?'

'It's just a few miles away, John.'

'But you have killed one of their man! They want to see you dead.' retorted John.

'Well, actually two.'

'That makes it better...' Zena looked out of the window and said,

'The sun is slowly rising. I'm gonna start on my way.' She took out a gun and gave it to John.

'I hope you won't need it but carry it with you.' she said, stood up, and moved towards the exit.

'I don't even know how to use a gun!' shouted John. Before she left the lodge Zena said,

'Aim and shoot.'

'Great advice!' whispered John to himself since Zena had already left. Carefully holding the gun he looked at it with respect. After a while he put it away and went outside to Hannah. He didn't sat down next to her. Instead he said,

'Please come in, Hannah. I can't protect you outside.'

'Neither can you inside.'

'You're right. Only Zena can but she's not here now.' Hannah didn't move. She kept sitting there with Mia on her lap.

'Come on, Hannah. We have to kill time somehow. And you know what the best way to kill time is.' said John smiling. Hannah stood up, turned around and said,

'Where did you find it?' She moved towards the entrance.

'I didn't. Zena did.'

'Please tell me you didn't flirt awkwardly again?' John chuckled but did not tell her what had happened. The next six hours were quite boring. They drank wine, talked and waited for Zena's return so they can finally go to Lake City.

Suddenly a car parked in front of the lodge. They instantly looked out of the window where they could see how three men got out of the car and moved towards the lodge. Hannah and John made eye contact but said nothing. Both knew that they were thinking the same.

'Kinda scary without Zena.' said Hannah.

'Just stay calm. We got this.' replied John. The men entered the lobby. It was Robert. He brought two men with him.

'Good morning!' said Robert.

'Good morning!' responded Hannah and John.

'I don't wanna bother you for too long. Did you guys see a woman in a black coat?' They tried to show no reaction.

'We are alone here and have not seen anybody else.' The man looked skeptical but said,

'Okay. If you see her, be careful. She's dangerous. We have lost two of our men because of her.' said Robert and wanted to leave but John said,

'Wait. Why don't you stay and drink with us?' Hannah couldn't understand why John had said such thing.

'Thank you very much for your offer but we have to find the woman in black.'

'Maybe she will come around. That's more likely than that you'll find her out there since she could be everywhere.'

'We know where she might be and we will check there now.' said Robert and wanted to go outside. Hannah understood what John was trying to do. He was trying to protect Zena by putting himself at risk. She stood up, got three glasses and before Robert opened the door, Hannah said,

'We won't let you go if you don't drink with us. Just one glass and you can move on. I'm sure you guys need a break!'

'Driving and killing people after drinking is not very easy.' said Robert yet he was moving towards the table.

'But still doable!' said John.

'I guess you are right.' said Robert. The three men sat down at the table and John filled their glasses.

'Thank you, we appreciate it.'

'So this woman in black killed your men and now you want vengeance?' asked John.

'That's right!' said Robert and took a sip of his wine. 'We are also looking for a gravestone. It has symbols on it. Very strange thing. Only few people have seen it but if you find it somewhere I would be very grateful if you could bring it to our ranch. Just drive eastwards and you'll see signs with the name “Oleo Ranch”.'

'Well, actually I have seen some strange gravestones. I'm not sure if they're the ones that you're looking for, though.'

'Where did you see them?'

'If I remember rightly, I saw them on Jarosa Mesa but I'm not sure where they exactly were.'

'Thank you for letting me know. We'll check it out after we've caught this cunt, unless she already has the gravestone which is very likely.'

'You said you know where she might be?' asked Hannah.

'Yeah, probably at the Clawson Cemetery.' He took another sip. Hannah and John looked at each other for a second, knowing that they have to be persistent.

'And what are you guys doing here?' asked Robert. John leaned back, sighed and looked into his glass,

'My wife and me were stressed out and we thought we need a vacation...a long vacation so we decided to come to a calm place where we can zone out.'

'I think you chose the right place...but didn't you say you guys came alone?'

'Yeah, as I said we have seen nobody else so far.'

'Whose glass is that then?' Hannah and John had just realized that Zena's glass was still standing on the table. Tensed John answered,

'Well, that is my glass...I have two glasses.' said John and smiled. 'I had my last drink a couple of hours ago and I don't like to use it again, you know.'

'Why so tense?' asked Robert.

'Tense? I am not tense.' said John and looked to Hannah. 'Am I tense, darling? I'm not, am I?'

'It's OK.' said Robert and drank the whole glass, banged it on the table and stood up. 'Thank you for your hospitality. We gotta go.' The three men moved towards the exit. On the one hand they were relieved but on the other hand they couldn't allow them to leave for that would mean Zena's death. John shouted,

'We also have Pop-Tarts!'

'No, thank you.' said Robert a bit annoyed and shut the door.

'What are we supposed to do now?' said Hannah in panic. 'Zena won't be able to kill three men! They will surprise her and shoot her dead or even worse! What can we do, John?'

'Chill out! I'm trying to come up with something!' said John not less calm. He went to the window, opened it and shouted,

'Hey! Can you guys take us with you? We want to go to Lake City.'

'Sure, we would even drive you there after we have finished the bitch.'

'That's kind of you!' said John and closed the window.

'What the hell are you doing?' asked Hannah.

'Not sure yet but we'll figure it out. It's definitely better than sitting here and twiddling our thumbs!' said John while he was running upstairs to his room.

'And what are you going to do? Tickle them dead when they're pointing a gun at Zena's head?'

'Shoot them dead!' John whispered and pulled out the gun.

'Where did you get that?'

'Zena gave it to me!' he said and took the rucksack. 'Now let's go!'

Robert was driving the car while a man was sitting on the passenger seat. Hannah and John were sitting on the backseat, next to each other, and next to Hannah were one of Robert's men. The rucksack were on Hannah's lap and Mia between her and John, who opened his window. In case he sees Zena he could give her a sign that they're not held captive. He assumed that this would be the first thing she would think and he knew that wouldn't go well. To show Zena that the men think that they're friends he asked for a name,

'May I ask what your name is?'

'You can call me Robert.'

'A pleasure meeting you, Robert! I am John and this is my wife Hannah.'

'What do you wanna do in Lake City, John and Hannah?'

'Have to buy stuff, you know.' After a while he saw someone in the distance coming towards them. He knew it was, Zena. He leaned towards Hannah, who was opening the rucksack to get something to drink, and whispered,

'I can see her. Be careful about what you say!'

'Can I just say nothing?' whispered Hannah back.

'Worth trying! They were getting closer to Zena but she still didn't realize that the car was after her. John slightly stuck his head out to give her a sign but he didn't know how to unobtrusively tell her that Robert was thinking that they're “friends”. He made himself visible to her but did nothing more for he trusted her cleverness. The car stopped, Robert and his men go out with theirs revolvers in their hands and Zena pulled out her silenced gun. Hannah and John got out of the car as well, together with Mia and the rucksack.

'So this is the woman in black, Robert?' said John and winked at Zena.

'It is over.' said Robert pointing his gun at Zena. 'Drop your gun and choose the way you want to go for we let even our enemies die with dignity if they wish so.' Zena kept pointing her gun at Robert.

'Tell me one reason why I shouldn't kill you? I know, your men would kill me but at least I would take you with me.' she said and looked for a second to Hannah and John who were nervously observing the tense situation.

'You have already killed two of our men. Innocent men as we all are. If you think the right thing is to kill another man before you die then go ahead.' One of Robert's men were standing close to Hannah and the rucksack. The rucksack that Hannah forgot to close.

'Robert?' said the man. 'I think I have found a gravestone!' Robert slowly lowered his gun and turned around. The man took the rucksack, gave it to Robert and pointed his gun at Hannah and John. The other man at Zena. Hannah and John kept desperately looking to Zena, wondering how they're supposed to get out of this situation. Robert pulled the plastic bag with the two pieces out of the rucksack and threw the rucksack away.

'Indeed!' he said surprised. 'John, why didn't you tell me of this?' asked Robert unsmilingly.

'Well, we found it somewhere and thought it's interesting but we didn't know that it's a gravestone.' said John.

'Why is it broken and in a plastic bag if you don't know what it is?'

'It was already broken and pretty dusty. We didn't want it to dirty our rucksack, you know.' Robert carefully took one of the pieces out of the bag and said,

'Yes. It is dusty. I assume you know why?' He turned to Zena with a smile. In despair she slowly lowered her gun, understanding what Robert's intention was. Cautiously he rubbed off a bit of the dust and slowly moved towards Zena.

'They call it Blooddust. Kills you within 48 hours in the most painful way imaginable. But you already know this, don't you? Kneel down!' Zena dropped her gun and slowly did what Robert had said. Seeing Zena like this made Hannah and John feel very uncomfortable. Even Zena was helpless. She looked up to Robert and said,

'Killing someone with poison? That was the “death with dignity” you were speaking of?'

'I have changed my mind. You do not deserve such death.' said Robert and moved his hand with the Blooddust over Zena's head. John wanted to do something but there was nothing he could do. Nothing could save them now. Robert slowly opened his hand. Zena immediately started coughing. Hannah and John had a hard time watching Zena for they were not used to see her like this. Robert took Zena's gun that was lying on the ground and turned to Hannah and John,

'What shall I do with you two? You didn't kill my men so I will not kill you but you have lied to me and I do not know how often. I will not drive you to Lake City but you can be glad that you are still alive.' He put the gravestone into the bag and moved towards his car and so did his men. John looked to Zena who was slowly standing up. She nodded briefly and knowing what it meant he pulled out his gun and shot at one of the man's back. Zena immediately snapped the neck of the other man, took his gun and shot at Robert's shoulder before he could understand what was happening. She didn't want to kill Robert since she hoped to get some answers out of him. Hannah took the gravestone and put it back into the rucksack. Zena took her silenced gun back and the keys for the car. She dragged Robert into the car and said,

'Jump into the car. We are finally driving to Lake City!' During the drive Robert said in pain,

'Four of my men! You have killed four of my men...yet you will never find the hidden cemetery!'

After five minutes they arrived in Lake City.

'Finally!' said John. 'People and buildings! Never thought I would miss that.' Zena parked in front of the First Baptist Church. It was small and blue/white. Zena pulled out handcuffs and threw them backwards to John.

'What the hell? You wanna go to the next point on the checklist already?' asked John grinning.

'No time to be witty, John.' said Zena seriously. 'Cuff him! I'll get back to him after I'm done with Chris.' While John was doing what Zena had said, Robert, quietly and exhausted due to the shot, whispered,

'I know what you guys want. You will not find it.'

'Yeah, yeah.' said John and got out of the car and so did the others. They entered the tiny, empty, and dark church.

'CHRIS?' shouted Zena.

'No reason to cry for I can easily hear you.' said Chris, the pastor of the First Baptist Church, turning the corner.

'You know what I want. Give it to me and we'll leave.'

'Yes, I do know what your desire is but it is beyond my power to fulfill your wish.'

'I don't have time for this!' said Zena and pulled out her silenced gun.

'Do you dare to shed blood in this holy place? Do you want to sin?' said Chris calmly.

'I know you have them. If you don't give them to us, you will be the sinner!'

'I would be the sinner if I would misuse them by giving them to the wrong people. The antidotes were given to me so I can pass them to the forsaken and for you're not one of them, you shall die since, I believe, that's what god wanted.' Zena pointed her gun at Chris but he showed no reaction. Dismayed Hannah said,

'Something's wrong with Mia!' Mia was whimpering and trembling in pain. Hannah knew what was happening and so did Zena even without turning to her. John pulled out his weapon and shot Mia to end her pain.

'Is this what your god wants?' cried Hannah letting Mia fall down to the ground.

'One last chance. Will you give them to us?' shouted Zena. Chris sighed and said,

'I will not for I believe-' Zena pulled the trigger before Chris could finish his sentence.

'I don't give a fuck what you believe!' said Zena. She searched the corpse but only found a necklace. It had a vial attached to it. Filled with pale red liquid, it appeared to slightly emit light. Zena turned to Hannah and John, showing them the vial.

'Is this the antidote?' asked John. Zena turned around and moved towards the altar. She put the necklace on the altar and pulled out a piece of paper which she placed next to it.

'Will it be enough for all of us?' asked John. Zena slowly turned around and said,

'This vial is enough for only one person. But I will not choose who will live and who won't. That is up to you.' She raised her gun and pointed it at her own head.

'Zena! Please don't do it!' shouted John.

'What John? What am I not supposed to do? Do you want me to use the antidote? Do you want to die instead?'

'John is right, Zena. You have still plenty of time. I'm sure you will-' Zena interrupted Hannah,

'Do you trust my intuition, Hannah?'

'Yes, I do.' Thereupon Zena pulled the trigger.

'I've tried to talk with you about this situation.' said John looking to the vial. 'We both knew it would happen. Before I go, I want to see how you take it. I want to be sure that you're safe.' Both slowly moved towards the altar. Suddenly someone entered the church,

'I had trusted you, John.' It was Robert who leaned against the door frame with a gun in his hand. He didn't have much energy left. 'Don't worry. I will not kill you.' he said, pointed his gun at the antidote and pulled the trigger. 'The Blooddust will do it.' Hannah and John looked at each other, not knowing what they're supposed to feel now. Robert slowly moved towards the rucksack. 'You will not need this anymore.' He grabbed it and was already limping towards the exit but John pulled out his gun and pointed it at Robert,

'Why should I let you go? You have killed the woman I've loved. You have destroyed the antidote that should have saved my best friend! Why should I let you go, you son of a bitch?!' Robert turned around and burst into laughter,

'Do it! Go ahead! Shoot me!' John pulled the trigger but the gun was empty.

'I knew it! You think I can't see that this your first time holding a gun? Whoever gave it to you didn't do it so you can kill other people. You got it so you can kill yourself but apparently you have misused it.' he said and turned around again. Hannah and John sat down and leaned against the altar. They couldn't believe that they were sitting in a church with three corpses. All three slowly losing blood and filling the ground with it. The destroyed antidote that they tried to find all the time, in pieces above their heads, with its content flowing down the altar, the siren of the police cars and Robert who was stealing the gravestone that they had carried all along made the whole situation ridiculous. Suddenly they heard gunfire outside but they didn't care about what was happening. They did not know what to think, feel or say in that moment. After the gunfire stopped, unexpectedly a man with a shotgun barged into the church. Hannah and John couldn't believe their eyes. It was Ben, sweating and running out of breath, he was standing in front of them. They thought that they're going insane. Shocked they immediately stood up and scared they pressed themselves against the altar. Ben slowly moved towards Zena.

'How?' asked Ben calmly. Stuttering Hannah said,

'She was poisoned...she killed herself.' After a short moment of grief, Ben said,

'Let's get the hell out of here!'

'There is no reason for us to run away. We are doomed to die.' said John.

'I don't wanna die in a church. Let's go home, John.' He turned to her and with no power left and reluctantly he said,

'If that's your last wish then let's go.' Hannah took the piece of paper that Zena had placed on the altar and ran outside. There were lying a lot of corpses, among others, the dead body of Robert with the rucksack next to him.

'Get the rucksack and get into the damn car.' John grabbed the rucksack and said,

'Why are you even alive?'

'The fucking police will be here in a minute...we'll talk in the plane.' said Robert and got into the car.

'In the plane?' asked John jumping into the car. 'How did you get it down from Jarosa Mesa?'

'I'm the best pilot on earth.' said Ben and hit the road. After a few minutes they arrived at a private airport where the private jet, that they used to fly to Hinsdale County, was standing on a runway. While the police was still after them they ran towards the plane. Ben immediately went to the cockpit and took off as soon as possible. When they were safe in the air they could finally start talking,

'I think you have a lot to tell, Ben.' said John.

'I was close to death but still alive. I woke up and started looking for Zena. That's it.'

'How did you find us?' Ben sighed and said,

'Zena and I went through all possible scenarios before we started this journey and the worst case scenario occurred: I got a seizure. She knew what she had to do and I knew where I could find her.'

'That explains why she knew all those things.' said Hannah. John sighed sadly and left the cockpit. He sat down on one of the seats. Hannah went to the minibar and filled two glasses with wine. She sat down next to John and wanted to give him one glass but he said almost inaudible,

'No.'

'What? You always want-'

'NO!' shouted John, turned away from Hannah and looked out of the window. For the next four hours they spoke no word. Hannah already started to miss Mia sorely on her lap. She had this urge to pet her but she wasn't there anymore.

After the landing in Miami, Hannah took the rucksack and went to the cockpit. She wanted to get rid of the gravestone by giving it to Ben.

'I don't want it,' said Ben. 'I'm done with the hidden cemetery.'

'What will you do now?'

'Dunno yet. I definitely won't stay in Florida or Colorado. Everywhere else is fine.'

'Okay.' said Hannah nodding. 'Thank you for bringing us home.'

'No problem.' Hannah turned around and wanted to leave but Ben said,

'Wait. I almost forgot.' He took out a gun and gave it to Hannah. 'It doesn't have to end painfully. And thank you for you helping me during my seizure. I wish I could help you but unfortunately I can't do more than giving you a gun.' She smiled faintly, nodded briefly and left the plane. She got into John's car and they started their way to her house. And again: They spoke no word.

When they arrived at Hannah's house they went to the kitchen and sat down at the table. Finally, John dared to speak first,

'I could really use a shower now.'

'After 12 hours you'll get one for free...'

'12 hours...do you wanna wait until it happens?' Hannah pulled out the gun, put it on the table and said,

'We don't have to.'

'How are we going to do it? Flip a coin?' asked John. Hannah said nothing but pulled out the piece of paper that Zena had left on the altar.

'She made progress. Some symbols are deciphered.'

'That's not important anymore, Hannah.' She, though, kept staring at the page. 'Do you wanna do it yourself or should I do it for you?' asked John but Hannah grabbed the gun and put it away. 'Seriously, Hannah?'

'I can solve this, John! I can finish Zena's work!' said Hannah excited.

'But why do you wanna do that?'

'Go, bring me a piece of paper and a pen!' Reluctantly he did what Hannah wanted but said,

'I don't understand why you bother with that, Hannah. Even if you solve it, what do you wanna do? Go back to Hinsdale County?' Hannah said nothing. She kept trying to decipher the symbols.

At 12:00 AM, ten hours later, John woke suddenly up after a short nap, looked to Hannah who was still working and then to the clock,

'We have only two hours left and you're still wasting your time with that shit. It's a miracle that we are still alive!'

'Shut up, John! I'm about to solve it.' said Hannah tired. John couldn't understand why Hannah was doing that. He was confused.

'Jesus! I can't take it anymore, Hannah! Give me the gun.' Hannah looked shocked,

'This is simple! So fucking simple!' She took the rucksack, a knife and ran outside to her garden. John followed her unwillingly.

'What are you doing, Hannah?' he shouted. Hannah took out the gravestone and threw both pieces into her pool. Slowly sinking to the ground they filled the water with Blooddust. Then she took the knife and cut her own hand. She hold her hand over the pool so the blood can drip into the water.

'What the hell are you doing?' Hannah gave the piece of paper to John who started to read it aloud:

 

The fresh blood of the poisoned one

colors the water under the starlit sky

with the sinking stone that is losing but enclosing

the combination with its dust.

And the night sky it has to be

for the moonlight is necessary

Its light shall shine through the composite

and reveal the unseen path

that leads to

The Hidden Cemetery

 

John let the page fall down to the ground and said,

'You are insane, Hannah. Forget the hidden cemetery and give me the gun!'

'It will work out! It has to!'

'Nothing is happening!' John was wrong. The water in the pool had already started to go down. Suddenly they heard loud noises that sounded as if they're coming from a heavy machine. When the pool was empty, the ground started to shift to a staircase that was leading to a dark hollow. Hannah and John looked at each other but said nothing. Hannah jumped down and moved towards the hollow.

'Wait, Hannah! Let me get a flashlight!' shouted John and ran into her house. When he returned with a flashlight and jumped into the pool he realized that she had already entered the hollow. John turned it on and slowly moved towards the entrance. He saw how Hannah was standing in the middle of a big and wet cave. She was just standing there, staring emotionless into the darkness. He started to illuminate his surroundings and wasn't surprised to see gravestones everywhere. But what surprised him was that they were all golden. That was it, that was so special about the hidden cemetery. All gravestones were gilded. Calmly Hannah said,

'I was swimming above all this richness all the time and for I wasn't aware of it, it was worthless. Now, I know about it yet it's still worthless. Just because I'll die in two hours it's worthless. Let's say I wouldn't be poisoned. Let's say I would expect to be at least 60.' She pulled out the gun and spoke her last words, 'What is it that would have given all this shit it's value?'

 

Written by Ahmet Koctar

 

(This story was inspired by the relationship between Hannah and John, the host of ThinkTank: https://youtu.be/kggwcHK8Qf0?t=10m54s)

 


© Copyright 2017 Ahmet Koctar. All rights reserved.

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