I. The Middle of the Night
Irene stayed with Peter as long as she was able, watching over his pallid, comatose form as the nurses did their best to clean and tend to his wounds, until at last she was chased from the room by Doctor Ayub, who immediately went to work stitching Peter's mangled wrist and repairing the sutures in his abdomen that had come undone in the course of his tangle with the jackals.
In the next room, attended to by a single dreary-eyed nurse, Ashan seemed to be resting on a cot. Irene was too tired by now to disturb either the nurse or Ashan, who was in all likelihood in the same poisoned state suffered by Mohan and Peter.
II. Morning, 25 April 1924
Peter had seemed in grave condition indeed, which is why Irene was surprised when she came to his room the next morning to find him up and about. He and one of the nurses had been conversing about something, but fell silent when they noticed Irene in the doorway. "Come in," Peter said to her before dismissing the nurse, who closed the door on her way out. They were alone. Peter gestured to a chair, inviting Irene to sit, but he remained standing.
"I'm leaving," he declared, his arms crossed.
"I'm... I'm sorry I did not come back for you," he stammered nervously. "I was..."
He wiped his forehead and looked at his shoes. Then he looked up at the ceiling, then toward the window. He seemed to look everywhere, except at Irene.
"I... I'm not a superstitious man. Nor an especially godly man, heaven knows. But there are ungodly things at work here. Last night, at the well... there was a light, and a voice... I swear it was giving the jackals commands... and then I looked within, and there was a face! A man's face, by God!"
His hands were shaking. Peter fumbled for a cigarette. He struggled to hold the match steady long enough to light it.
"I don't know what happened next," he continued. "It was like a dream or vision, in which I was trapped... I was in a library... no, not a library, but something akin to a library, only much more... no, grand is not the right word. Vast? Monstrous... some dark and awful repository of knowledge, Irene, knowledge not of this world. And there was a book of some kind before me, and strange letters on mineral pages... and I couldn't look away, I could only keep reading..."
He extinguished his cigarette, barely smoked, and immediately reached for another.
"I still don't have the words for what I saw in that book. I can only barely grasp it now, and the more I try the more elusive the images and sensations become. But I have no doubt that these things shall be fodder for nightmares for the rest of my days."
"This cult, whoever they are... I am convinced their power is real, Irene, and there is nothing in all my experience or education that has prepared me for it, no logic or reason, nothing in my mind or soul that can defend me against it. And I am afraid, Irene, so afraid that digging into their mysteries will be just like reading that hellish book, and that my life will become a terror from which I cannot awaken, cannot escape..."
"So, I am leaving this accursed land and its damned jackals and death cults," Peter reaffirmed, his voice stronger as he articulated his plans for egress. "I'm going somewhere safe, where perhaps in time my sanity and my spirits will recover. In fact, I shall be departing forthwith; the nurse who was here when you came in will be accompanying me, which is what she and I were discussing. We still have some details to hammer out, so I must regretfully excuse myself. I will return to camp today and collect my effects and perhaps take some notes to occupy me during my travels. I'll wire you once I have arrived, if you like, but I should hope that you not linger here much longer, either."
(text by HomoDM and da solomon)
(End of Act II.
Peter: +8 anthropology, +3 occult, +8 Urdu
Irene: +5 listen, +8 persuade
Please continue freely in this post. Action will resume when the truck arrives from Mohenjo-Daro at noon on the 25th, in a new post.)