Chalal III


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Scene Title Chalal III
Synopsis Hebrew. lit. space, void, cavity; connotations of commencement, beginning and of piercing, wounding.

Retracing her steps, Hana finds more than she bargained for.
Date April 9, 2019

The Negev, east of Mitzpe Ramon, Israel

Fingertips brush over chisel-grooved stone, marks with provenance going back thousands of years — a depth of history utterly lost on the woman who pads slowly through the tunnel, all senses alert. The enveloping darkness yields almost not at all to the light she carries; it's for sound more than sight that she strains, and it's sound that she is denied.

There's nothing here to be heard: no conversation echoing off enveloping stone, no whispering footsteps save her own, no rumble or chink of tools at work.

No presence, no action. No life.

Of bodies, there have been two — so far.

Hana Gitelman has followed her own backtrail to a freshly-made tomb. She is quite certain she knows how that tomb came to be… but without clue as to why.

The stranger listening in on her thoughts has been blessedly silent while the woman picked her way through the tunnels, investigating side branches and dead ends, supplies and furnishings, the voids where things used to be.

Incongruously, for every swath of subterranean space Hana clears, her tension only winds tighter: shoulders stiff, skin crawling, a twist of unease in her gut. The knife in her right hand offers no salve for this masterless agitation; she knows there's no one left living here, no ambush about to strike from the shadows. It's not the physical her subconscious dreads.

She forges on ahead, arm sweeping aside a thick, insulating drapery to reveal the space beyond.

“I didn’t come to you for a fucking solution.”

A flash of elsewhere sears Hana's mind, a stutter of thought and perception in whose wake she feels powerfully out of place. Adrift. Bereft.

She swallows, squashes the feeling down. Continues forward, stepping into the dead-end passage partitioned off as what passes for a room in a mine-turned-habitation, surveying its contents. Austere field hospital bed. Rugged monitoring equipment. Body on the floor, facedown in a darkly suggestive pool.

It all feels wrong.

"Anger. Hatred. Vengeance. Those are what you will reap."

Hana's breath catches, lodging in her throat as if it had physical substance. Pressure weighs on her from all around, unidentifiable, inexplicable. The flashlight falls from nerveless fingers, clattering to the floor. Neither cacophonous noise nor the tool's loss register in her awareness.


The entity has no heart to race, no breath to shorten, no system to be shocked by a rush of adrenaline. It has no biological sensations of any kind that might align with such texts and borrowed memories as it has drawn information from — nor with the stresses now barraging its host's systems — but the feeling that subsumes it is no less recognizable for that lack. It is knowledge and anticipation and uncertainty of which such internal sensations are born — and those, the entity possesses in abundance.

The woman might break here, under… whatever this is.

It cannot let that happen.


Digital clamor passes in one figurative ear and out the other, lost in a deluge of neural static — just one more displaced, deranged fragment in a chaotic kaleidoscope utterly devoid of anything resembling pattern. Her mind skips from association to association, no one remembrance large enough to categorize, to group, to fit back together into anything like a comprehensible whole.

"Only you would tell me I should finish the job."

"All I’ve ever wanted to do is make right by you."

"All those strings you pull, and you still don't fucking understand!"


Even the most simplistic of models — all the entity can spare attention for — concludes with confidence that the trigger of crisis was this room, this environment, this place where something more (or less) than medicine transpired not so very long ago. Yet it cannot begin to take hold of the woman's body, cannot exert control, cannot solve the situation by expedient of walking her out of this unhallowed space.

But… perhaps it can change the space instead.

Drawing together the data inputs from Hana's senses, the entity stitches them together into a comprehensive whole, a virtual location indistinguishable from reality to one within it. Then it proceeds to edit virtual features — removing the furniture, the equipment, the body. Filing away the interior details until only bare stone remains, austere and indifferent… scoured and purified.

As it works, a passing splinter of memory catches the entity's notice, one all too fitting for the situation. It weaves that fragment into its construct, words repeated and amplified, a single unremitting, unmistakable digital message bereft of inherent emotional content yet no less powerful for it.

"Snap out of this madness, before it kills you."

For all the insistence with which digital environment is pushed at her — its transmission repeated over every bit of bandwidth they share — Hana is not, cannot be, subsumed by it; it does not summarily supplant perceptions physical or internal. But the unyielding constancy of that digital snapshot is as a rock in a maelstrom: an anchor, a harbor. She reaches for that permanence, clings to it, wraps it around herself as if it were armor, a barricade, a bulwark.

It is.

Her awareness now having a steady focus to coalesce upon, mental static bleeds away, though not entirely. It hovers unpleasantly at the edges of her mind, menacing, threatening to descend once more given the slightest opening.

Somewhere along the way, Hana closed her eyes. That seems to be helping, too.


The entity cannot draw in a breath, has no tensed muscles to relax, but it can let its processing step down from fever pitch to the level of merely focused, let its attention stretch and its intensity soften. They have survived stepping on a mine; in comparison, navigating out of the minefield is simple. Even easy.

We need to leave.

Hana does not need to be told so, and yet she does; uncentered, rattled, thinking only of clinging to the newfound ground under mental feet — inasmuch as she is thinking at all — the woman has yet to process what or why or how or what next. She takes in the digital message, evaluates it, evaluates the situation; cannot argue with the logic. Isn't even inclined to: she agrees.

Do not open your eyes!

Subconscious impulse dies before it can be enacted, and Hana passes a second token of acknowledgment. She too can put two and two together… once her yet-nebulous thoughts have been reoriented in the appropriate direction. She was fine until she got here; further exposure to here is likely to disrupt what fragile peace has been reclaimed. Blind by choice, she steps backwards, once and again; reaches out until questing fingers contact coarse cloth; draws concealing curtain closed across the alcove.

Hana turns completely away before opening her eyes again — and seeing nothing. The flashlight is on the other side of the curtain.

It can stay there.


Digital silence ensues once more as Hana picks her way back down the tunnel that passes for a main hall, the stranger choosing not to respond. It doesn't need to, and she shouldn't be surprised it recognizes that. Not as she reviews their most recent interaction, lining it up alongside the few preceding. The conclusions she'd already drawn, and suspicions that now need to be reweighted as to their respective likelihoods.

Even as her thoughts tick through the slow process of aligning conscious awareness with the subconscious decisions that have already been made, Hana continues moving. Shallow shelves yield a replacement light in the form of a glowstick, poorer in every way but at this moment utterly indispensable. She could make her way back to the entrance in the dark; that is not a concern. Picking useful things out of the supplies of dispatched enemies — that requires vision.

If I'm going to be stuck with you, Hana allows ungraciously as she shakes illumination into being, I suppose I need something to call you.

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