When I awoke, it was to burning pain. I looked down at my body and closed my eyes when I saw what had happened. My chest was a bloody pulp and I could see ribs, white against the bloody red. The Belgian's sorcerous antics had taken their toll on me, and I knew my time was running out. I tried to stand up but the pain was so great that I gave up instantly and contented myself with attempting to remove my shirt, to better examine my wound.
It was painful work but I managed to remove it. I looked around my surroundings for anything I could use to clean the wound and stave off infection but there was nothing. I was lying in a small oasis of light in a huge ocean of darkness.
That was when I saw him, wreathed in shadows. Goodfellow.
He was standing directly in front of me, his lanky frame instantly recognizable. I nearly cried out when I saw him, I was desperate to get his attention. I managed to croak and slowly he approached me.
He hadn't changed a bit. He still had his long, thin clever nose; his eyes were still sharp and thoughtful and his hair was still raven black, but his lips were thin and his cheeks gaunt. He was even wearing his old suit, but it was looking much the worse for wear.
"Daniel…is that you?" He asked, his voice a whisper from another world. His eyes were wide with fear and pain, I noticed that he limped noticeably and his face twisted in pain whenever he took a step.
"I'm afraid so," I replied, feeling the life drain from me; I could afford flippancy in my final moments, my quest complete.
The pain was starting to fade, and replaced with warmth, I closed my eyes and savoured the heat. I felt like I could fall asleep and forget my troubles, journey to the land of dreams and escape reality and the horrors it contained.
"What have you done to yourself?" Goodfellow asked himself as he examined my chest, taking great care not to touch the flesh. I murmured something but now the Land of Nod gripped me and my time in the world was limited.
Some rational, logical part of me realized that if I slept, I would not wake up, and if I did, I would no longer be in this world. The pain returned with a vengeance and despite the pain and my complete exhaustion I writhed on the ground as my chest screamed in pain, burning, searing, ripping, pure, unadulterated agony. With good deal of effort, I opened my eyes and saw Goodfellow working.
A blue glow played about his hands, a good clean aura that caught the eye and spoke to the soul. His eyes were closed and his lips moved rapidly, repeating the same words over and over again, like a small prayer or a mantra. I looked down at my chest and gasped.
Slowly, torturously, tantalizingly slowly, my flesh and bone began to knit themselves back together. A mortal wound was healing before my eyes, and it frightened me. No man should wield such control over life and death, when death beckoned a man should hold his head eye and embrace him stoically, as one should embrace an old friend. Interfering with this natural event was beyond appalling, particularly when a man like Goodfellow, a man who'd spent his entire life mapping out life's natural processes, was tampering with it.
I closed my eyes again, and prayed for death as Goodfellow worked. But it did not come, for Goodfellow was a master.
When I opened my eyes again, Goodfellow was haggard, and red-eyed from exhaustion. He could see the fear and disgust in my eyes and he met it them with a half-smile.
"This is not right," I said softly, my chest still hurt and I was unwilling to hurt myself any more than was necessary.
Goodfellow sighed and looked away.
"I like it no more than you do, but it was necessary. Your allotted time has not yet come," His grim certainty shocked me, but I pressed onwards.
"Who are you to say what time my passing should take place?"
"I have read it in the stars, and in the blood," Here Goodfellow's eyes took on a rather haunted look "Your death shall not happen here. It is not ordained, it is not natural…"
"Poppycock," I cut him short and snorted, hearing a man of science like Goodfellow talk in such a dramatic way amused me. A small flash of anger appeared in Goodfellow, who jumped to his feet and regarded me with grim detachment.
His eyes were suddenly impossible to meet and he radiated fear, I resisted the urge to curl into a little ball and cry. He raised his hand and he began to murmur again, but this time, the colour that appeared around his hand was not blue, it was red. I shrieked in pure, mindless pain and managed to look down once briefly.
I instantly regretted doing that. My wounds, which were healed, were now slowly reopening and I could see into my stomach. The pain was impossible to describe, worse even than when I had been transfixed by the monsters in the ocean. I gritted my teeth, and stopped shrieking, Goodfellow would get no more satisfaction from my weakness.
After what seemed to be an eternity of indescribable agony, the pain stopped and when I looked down again, my body was the same it had been before the torture started. I met Goodfellow's eyes and I could see that he regretted doing it.
"Do not interrupt," Goodfellow said softly as he approached me "There isn't much time and there is far too much I have to tell you,"
I nodded my assent, and quietly Goodfellow spoke.
"I came to the Congo about years ago following several expeditions to other remote corners of the Earth. I became interested in the aboriginal tribes Stanley had described following his journey across Africa; I may be a biologist but my true passion is history," Here his eyes met mine and a small smile appeared " However, it was not what I had expected; rather than innocent natives living in peace, with charming customs and laudable beliefs; I found European mercenaries committing atrocities," Goodfellow had lost his haunted air and had returned to the academic, intellectual tone that had so endeared him to me once "I endeavoured to escape, but I was captured and imprisoned. For a year I sat in complete darkness with only rats chewing on my decaying body for company. I was periodically taken out of my cell to be beaten, flogged, or tortured. I remember once, I struggled with my captors and as punishment, they hung me from the branch of a tree, and lit a fire underneath me," Goodfellow was now speaking in a monotone, simply moving from one word to the next "They cooked my flesh, removed the choicest morsels and fed it to some poor unsuspecting slave. They made me watch," His voice trailed off and he seemed to sag a bit "After a year of hell, I was brought out of my cell to meet the Belgian leader; René deFebvre. He then told me why the Belgians were here, and the reason for their extreme brutality,"
"Please go on," I urged, entranced by the mesmerizing and terrifying tale Goodfellow was telling me.
"The Belgians have learnt, from a tribe that they later exterminated, that magic, sorcery, the black arts are obtainable," Goodfellow said flatly, and it was his deadpan look that kept me from laughing, then I remembered the Belgian soldier and cringed "deFebvre gave a child's life in return for a small sip of power and he found that he liked the taste. He continued to sacrifice until he became addicted to the power, to the killing, to the blood. I know not where the power originates from, but I know it is not meant for man, least of all that kind of man. Many of the Belgian officers and soldiers practice this now, and they only lack learning and technique for they have power in abundance. Then they caught me and that problem was solved,"
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"In my studies, of European history, of African culture, and reading ancient documents; I have a rudimentary understanding of magic. It is not possible to explain to anyone, but it is exhilarating to hold such esoteric knowledge in one's hands," I could hear a small amount of pride in his voice.
"What did you sacrifice?" I asked him.
"My health," Goodfellow replied, a self-deprecating smile twitching his lips "I performed the ritual and now I'm frail. A blow to the chest would kill me, and running is beyond me. I am an old man, old before my years,"
"Does anyone else understand…this?" I asked.
"In my travels, I met a few," Goodfellow replied guardedly "Buddhist monks in the Himalayas, cultists in New England and Louisiana, witch-doctors in the American west," His voice trailed off and he suddenly seized me by the hand.
"You're marked," He whispered
"Have you been having nightmares, strange visions?!" He demanded his face taut with fear.
"Yes…on the voyage to South Africa I awoke to a noise and when I looked over the side of the ship…" I stopped and couldn't continue, the images of what I had seen that awful night were bouncing about in my head. Goodfellow was slowly backing away, his face still struck white with fear.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"You spoke to a man on the ship, a Belgian, whose breath smelt of meat. He frightened you, and you tried to avoid him," Goodfellow's voice had become a low buzz and I could feel an alien presence in my mind, scouring my memory "He read your intentions using his power, not a difficult feat, and summoned something to kill you. Fortunately in this he was not successful, however the thing he summoned is still hunting you, and it is still hunting me. The man you met on the ship was deFebvre…The Shadows comes and it hungers," He whispered, the quiet, logical Goodfellow was gone and now a wild-eyed prophet had taken his place.
Glancing around fearfully, he walked into the shadows and reluctantly, I followed him.