Chapter 2

Somewhere in Europe, April 3, 10:19 p.m.

A metallic clang tore him from his twilight sleep. Immediately all of his senses were strained to the extreme. Here he lay paralyzed, defenseless. Had something fallen down somewhere or someone kicked something? The latter would be extremely unfavorable for his escape. He listened nervously into the familiar darkness around him. She had become a constant companion. It always had been. Nothing could be heard.

He relaxed his muscles with relief. What?! He had tensed his muscles ?! Amazed, he tried to tighten it again, but without success. Now his body was more visible, but still not completely clear, in the darkness. It seemed to float above him and for the first time in decades felt the familiar stream that flowed and pulsed in all living things. But his body was still slipping through his fingers again and again like a slippery fish. He still had to be patient.

Disappointed, he turned his attention back to his surroundings. There was another metallic clang. Was the building now collapsing above him? A little panicked, he spread his mind and searched the darkness for useful information. This time his mind went further than before, as he had correctly suspected.

There was an open space behind the little table with the syringe. Cabinets clung to the walls, broken up by smooth surfaces that he couldn't quite identify. Was it windows? But what for? In his memories of his "delivery" they had brought him deep underground. But a long time had passed since then, who knew if he was still in the same place as at the beginning? But that was now irrelevant. He had to look for the source of the noise.

But his mind didn't get much further, because the closed door blocked his way out. He should have guessed that, he annoyed. He lay restless in his rigidity and waited.

Somewhere in Europe, April 4th, 4:52 am

Distant throbbing filled the air. Tired and exhausted despite the slumber, he opened his eyes - and saw the ceiling! The poison was almost gone from his veins. Relieved, he pushed himself up. Or, to put it another way, he had intended, but his arms refused to work. He was gagging. Dazed, he blinked a few times to dispel the emerging unconsciousness. What was going on He carefully tried to move his fingers. They stroked the mattress slowly. It felt rough and well padded. It seemed to him that he had to lift heavy lead weights instead of his fingers. It wasn't over yet.

He had to gag again. Why? What was wrong with him? What was wrong? He felt inside himself, frowning. He flinched, irritated. There was something lifeless in his body, something that shouldn't be there. Did he really want to know what it was? After a few seconds he made a decision. He looked again for the mysterious something. He followed him with concentration. It started in his stomach and then wound up his esophagus to eventually protrude out of his mouth. He got a bad feeling. What was this hose for?

Something stung uncomfortably in the crook of his arm and he felt himself strained. His head didn't move a bit. Something was wrapped around the crook of his left arm, but he couldn't really see what it was. Wait a minute ... it was in his vein ?! What the hell? What was that? Millimeter by millimeter, his right hand crawled towards the intruder, over his strangely flat - concave ?! - Belly. Since when was half a meter so far away? When was he finally there? His fingertip touched the foreign body, trembling. Immediately a strong prick shot through him. It had to go, it didn't belong to him.

And something on his chest felt strange, it rubbed cool against his skin. His arm was heavy on his body. But he was too weak to move his hand back. Even now he was panting like an old man on his deathbed. A slight fear came over Azrael. What had the people done to him? What did they do to him? No, he had to calm down first and shouldn't get hysterical now. He had to distract himself.

First hectically and then gradually with pleasure his eyes stroked the ceiling. His galloping heartbeat calmed down a little. When was the last time he saw something? The ceiling was strangely grooved, in some places it was pressed in as if by a giant hand and formed fascinating hilly landscapes above him, which he greedily absorbed. With endless effort he turned his head to the right to the little table.

His suspicions were confirmed: a syringe lay on a metal bowl. The cupboards hung half-open and demolished from the wall and had their contents spread out on the floor. Most of it was normal hospital stuff like syringes, empty tubes and gauze bandages, but he also found loads of paper and tattered folders. Was that the data collected about him? There was also a weird thin sheet of paper among the trash. What was that? A book? No, there was nothing to kink.

His gaze passed on curiously. Again he noticed these strange smooth surfaces on the walls between the cupboards. But even now he couldn't get their secret out of them. For him, glass had always been an obstacle because it was as transparent to him as a brick wall was to normal people. His eyes just worked differently from humans. They didn't use the light - that would be pointless where it came from - no, they came closer to an echo sounder like the one used by marine mammals. Just worlds more accurate. He could also tell the difference between light and dark, which was quite useful in this world.

Dim with exhaustion, he moved his head back and blinked at the ceiling. Soon he would be gone and then people would suffer bitterly for what they had done to him. The thought of blood and vengeance filled his noble features with a dark smile before he nodded away.

Somewhere in Europe, April 4th, 3:27 p.m.

Another pounding woke him. But this time it was closer and moving. Without opening his eyes - after all, it was a matter of saving energy, because he could feel his limbs again, but a certain weariness could not be denied - he felt with his mind in the direction of the pounding of a living heart. Again it bounced off the locked door. How could he have forgotten that? Cursing silently, he listened for noises. For a moment he thought he saw a rustling, but he wasn't sure, it could also have been his imagination.

Again he felt this strange exhaustion. He had never felt her so strongly in his life before. All energy seemed to flow out of him like a broken jar. He died? Was that it? The thought made him uncomfortable; he had lived a long time, but dying was beyond his experience. And he didn't want to die, as he admitted inwardly. Despite or because of his long life? He wondered gloomily. Tired, he threatened to slip back into unconsciousness, but he gritted his teeth and fought his way back to the surface of his mind.

Then it flashed through him: he needed something to eat. All of a sudden he was wide awake again. When was the last time he ate something? Ten years? Twenty or maybe even fifty? Again he cursed to himself. He really needed to find out what year it was. He thought hard and rummaged through his memories. No, not since his capture. He had been without food for decades now. Or was that what the hose was for? He did not know. Somehow he didn't care.

Shocked, he let his gaze wander over the destroyed ceiling. Part of him had to digest it first, but a little other was fascinated by his body. Which living being has survived for decades without food? Confused, he shook his head. He was already beginning to become like people. What a terrible idea, he thought, grinning to himself.

With a little fear on his neck he looked down at himself, but the image blurred with exhaustion before his eyes. A little indignantly, he pressed it shut. Since when did his body stop obeying him? A thick bundle of cables wound over his torso and disappeared from view to the right of his face. It was fastened with something like sauna bowls in several places on his chest. But what for? What were they going to do with it? Tie him up?

As if bracing himself against heavy lead weights, he threw back the blanket, which hung half down from him and only covered his body below his stomach. Panting, he paused to regain his strength. How embarrassing, considering his career in the past. He made a face and slowly moved his arms across his chest. Oh god, his arms. What happened to his arms? So thin, so bony ... 

His panting breath stumbled when he felt clear bumps under his palms where - if his memories weren't very fooled - shouldn't be. Then it dawned on him. Bone. It was his bones that he felt. A little frightened, he raised his head and peeked timidly down at himself. He looked like a living skeleton. His ribs and hip bones were clearly visible under his white, parchment-like skin. Every tendon caught his eye. Horrified, he dropped back again and stared in disbelief at the shattered ceiling. He needed food immediately.

He choked. Right, there was something. He felt strong enough now to make an attempt to rid himself of this intruder. Concentrated, he gripped the tube that came out of his mouth and pulled hard once. He slid a long way towards him, but the nausea worsened. But it had to be done again.

With a loud splash came the thickened end that had been in his stomach, and a gush of vomit right behind it. He just managed to bend to the side of his bed and save himself the humiliating experience of breaking on yourself. His stomach contracted violently again and he had to choke loudly, but there was too little content in it to carry anything out. Gasping heavily, he wiped his mouth and lay down again.

Again he was faced with the need to get out of here. But in his weakened condition that was almost impossible. How would he know if the people outside were waiting for him? So he would be easy prey for these vultures and he didn't want to give up his newfound freedom for anything in the world. He would sooner die than vegetate in captivity again.

He lifted his hand with difficulty and clawed it around the thick bead of cables next to his head. That tiny movement alone made him shiver with the effort. He was really not doing well. But he had to leave and as soon as possible. He lay there for a few minutes and gathered his already scanty strength. Now.

He tore the cables and they flew off with surprising ease. Only some suckers love to stick to his skin, but the main thing is that he was freed from his bonds. Next he tugged gently but firmly on the tube that was clutching the crook of his arm. With a fine stab he let go of him. A drop of black blood rolled down his white skin. But the wound closed immediately. As always.

Gasping for breath, he propped himself up and swung his legs out of bed. He swayed on the edge and clawed into the mattress, battling pesky dizziness. For the second time he looked down at himself, this time better prepared for what awaited him there. He was only wearing light-colored sweatpants. He had no shoes on. What for? He had been in bed the whole time. He felt a cool breath on his back and bent to catch a glimpse of him. Everything was still in place. At least something.

While still seated, he forced his petrified muscles to move. They responded in screeching pain, but he clenched his teeth and ignored his body's indignation. He had survived worse. With an audible crunch and crack, his wings released from his back and blood slowly came back to his limbs. It literally burned as they spread out and took up the entire space around his bed. Here he couldn't open them all the way without bumping into the demolished cupboards. Slowly he stretched his feet and his toes touched the cool, smooth floor. He enjoyed the feeling of cold.

Infinitely cautious, he stood on both feet and got up from the bed. Immediately the dizziness returned and he dug his fingers into the edge of the bed to keep from falling over until his vision cleared again. First he took a tentative step forward, then a second. He let go of his bed and stalked awkwardly across the room. His joints felt like rusty hinges and his muscles seemed to have turned to stone. Wasn't surprising after lying around for a long time. It was a miracle anyway that he could still walk. It had to be due to his self-healing powers, which had ensured his survival for so long. Panting hard, he reached the door and slumped his back against the wall. First take a break.

Gasping for breath, he looked at his prison cell. It looked modern and puristic, but the furniture was nevertheless characterized by a timeless elegance. His torturers had taste, he had to admit. Again he wondered what year it was. How much time had been stolen from him? There was no sign or symbol anywhere to reveal anything about his guards. He could be anywhere, he couldn't even say with certainty whether he was above or below ground. It was maddening.

Meanwhile, his breathing had calmed enough that he could limp on. Curiously, he examined the door. There was no handle or anything like that to be seen. How should it open? Carefully he ran his hands over the frame, carefully examining every little bump, but found nothing that could help him. He turned, frowning, and studied the room. Was there a key here somewhere?

He spent the next half hour digging through the junk on the floor and searching the closets. But he couldn't find a key or anything like that. Wouldn't you need keys and locks for doors in the future? The idea was absurd. How else should one lock up one's belongings?

Completely tense from the long search, he stretched through with relish. His entire back cracked from top to bottom.

"Ahhhhhhh ..." he exclaimed. He winced. Had anyone heard? With bated breath he listened. His heart began to beat faster, his muscles tensed, ready to flee. Nothing. He was getting very paranoid, he thought with a smile and relaxed again.

Carefully he spread his oversized, crystal-colored wings, which were criss-crossed with greyish veins. He felt the tendons stretching almost painfully after the long stiffness. His wings had been pressed tightly against his back the entire time. He really had to get limber again. But he couldn't quite open it, because the room was just too small. He nudged the corners of the room with both wing tips. He quickly closed it and turned to the door again.

The solution was simple, he felt it. Leaning against the door with one hand, he thought. Whenever people had entered his room, a soft melody, no soft click, could be heard beforehand. He unconsciously poked at the remaining suction cups on his chest and took off one after the other. They sailed gently to the ground and spread around him like autumn leaves. Was the click like a key? With safes, too, there had always been several clicks before they could be opened. Had the people locked him in his oversized safe?

In the end it didn't matter, because even if this theory were to be correct, this knowledge didn't help him, because he didn't know the code or the password. Frustrated, he put his forehead against the cold metal of the door and closed his eyes. He felt deep inside himself and looked for HIM, his COMPANION. So far he had always bailed him out. But to his great horror, only a weak swing in his chest answered him, almost like the whimpering of a doomed animal.

The silver injections, it flashed through his head, they must have been like poison for his COMPANION. It also explained why they had hurt him so much. Because he and his COMPANION were inextricably linked. But his ER was not allowed to die! He absolutely needs food, also for HIM, maybe HE would then recover. But he had one last trick up his sleeve, but this one was dangerous and would most likely not work as he was simply too weak after his long imprisonment.

He breathed in and out slowly several times. He sank deep inside himself. Now absolute precession was required. He focused his mind on the narrow gap between the door and the frame. He emptied all his energy reserves in his innermost being and filled his mind with them. He reached out exactly and thrust hard and fast. The force of the spiritual blow tore him from his feet and he hit the ground roughly. But he had succeeded.

The door was warped and dented at the point of impact, a hole could be seen. Fine dust trickled down. Completely at the end, he felt a life energy flicker in him. So that was the end, he thought very calmly. It didn't feel that bad at all. Why do people keep screaming like that? As if wrapped in cotton wool, he felt his heartbeat slow down and finally dry up. Then it went black around him.

Somewhere in Europe, April 5th, 1:24 am

He woke up blinking. He felt dust in his mouth and involuntarily coughed. The dead did not cough. Slightly disoriented, he sat up and held his throbbing arm. The dead felt nothing either. He looked around in a daze, wasn't he dead? Hard to believe after his stupid trick.

Confused, he turned to the door and the pain that flared up in his head confirmed that he was apparently still alive. With his uninjured hand he massaged his aching skull. Then his eyes fell on the hole in the door. Right, there was something. Breathing hard, he crawled towards the door. But in the middle of the movement he froze. Again the beating of a heart approached. Quite quickly, actually.

Breathlessly, he sent his mind to explore the hole. The image of a high corridor emerged in his mind's eye. He seemed to be walking away from his room because it only led away from him. The interesting thing was the many debris and crushed human limbs that peeked out from it. He remembered they were supposed to evacuate him during the quake (or whatever happened) before the ceiling came down over them and shattered them.

He quickly returned his attention to the beating heart. Where did it go He felt it behind the heap of rubble. It came closer and moved through the rubble. So it couldn't be a person, it was much too fine and delicate for that. Suddenly his groping mind hit the being's body. He flinched, but scolded himself for his jumpiness at the same time. It was just a rat. She moved away from him again. What was a rat doing here? Soon the animal was no longer noticeable to him. Relieved, he got up. Where there was one, there were definitely more. He licked his lips hungrily. He had to get out of the room.

He put his hands on the hole and pulled. He put in all his weight (which, admittedly, wasn't very much). The door moved only a few inches, painfully slow. He paused, trembling. Something was stuck. Again he pulled on the door with all his strength and with a jerk it released a crack and he stumbled back a few steps, but could still catch himself before he fell to the ground. But the procedure had made a hell of a noise in the dead silence of the building. Holding his breath, he remained motionless for several moments, waiting for an outside reaction. The silence was almost perfect, only in the far distance water was dripping down from high heights

He repeated the process a few more times until the gap was finally wide enough for him. He squeezed out with his stomach pulled in and stood in the corridor, trembling with the strain and tension. Exhausted, he sat cross-legged in front of the wall of concrete and corpses. He needed to regain his strength.

His eyes stroked the work in front of him as if he were a museum visitor looking at a work by his favorite artist. The hands of the shattered people seemed to be reaching towards him, making the hill look like a spiked roast. He had to smile. A few had already received their sentences, and more would follow. And they wouldn’t have it nearly as quickly and comfortably as the poor people before him.

He propped himself up and walked with low steps (normally they would hardly be audible, but his former suppleness had not yet been fully restored) to the heap of rubble. The ceiling above had come down almost completely, only a few steel cables were hanging loose in the concrete. He sent his mind ahead. Another too trashed corridor stretched above him, but there were also doors and other outgoing corridors to be seen.

With renewed vigor, he took a run-up and jumped onto a protruding piece of rubble. He took no time to find his equilibrium, but jumped straight on to the next higher point. He was almost at the top. Then he noticed a low rumble and the pile of rubble began to tremble. He collapsed and began to slide apart! In a flash he pushed himself off with all his might to reach the bent wire ropes above him. Just like that he got one to pack before the mountain crumbled. In the process, he released several corpses that he had not seen before.

He grabbed the metal rope with both hands and pulled himself up with a pull-up. His muscles screeched in protest and he clenched his teeth with the strain. He had never been the bodybuilder type, but he had to do it now. He got one hand free and pulled himself up on the concrete edge of the hole. He lay on his stomach, panting, his legs still hanging in the air. Now just a short effort and he would have made it (for now). He heaved himself up and crawled deeper into the passage.

Gasping for breath, he looked at his new surroundings. Here, too, there was pure chaos. Loose leaves, broken glasses, cardboard folders, and other junk mostly covered the floor. It would be difficult to find something to eat here. He straightened up and was about to turn away when he was caught by a symbol on a door. He stepped closer.

Two intertwined snakes that bit each other's tail. He frowned thoughtfully. One recognized the lying eight, the symbol for infinity and the circle, as well as a symbol for perfection quite clearly. Was that the mark of his tormentors? But before he could get to the bottom of the matter, it rattled not too far away.

He turned with a jerk and peered into the distance of the corridor in front of him. Just falling debris or a living being, if not a person? The corridor was dreary and broken in the dark, as the lamps on the ceiling didn't work. Nothing could be felt.

He quietly followed the direction of the noise. Concentrated, he repeatedly scanned his surroundings for something living. At the end of the hall, a large pile of bent metal spilled from a half-hinged door. Fine dust floated in the air. He approached curiously. This is where the noise must have originated. The metal blocked his way into the outgoing right passage, but he was able to turn left.

Curious, he crept down the long corridor. No rubble or dead were to be seen here, the detonation must have largely spared this part of the building in which it was located. The hall, like his room, looked clinically sterile, but it was empty and barren. But suddenly he stopped as if he had run into an invisible wall. At the edge of his mind he felt a fine throb again. He kept walking down the hall, his hand always on the wall. At the end of the hall he recognized a large door that led to a large room - and this room was teeming with life.

Merciless hunger spread from the center of his body, clouding his mind a little more wave after wave. He shook his head restlessly. Right now he had to keep full control of who knew what dangers lurked in the room. He was too weak to fight. Yet the hunger continued to gnaw the edges of his mind. He half collapsed against the wall and then hit the floor hard lengthways. He gritted his teeth hard and fought for the upper hand. He hadn't felt the hunger that bad since he came to this earth.

Tormented by convulsions, he turned on the floor. It couldn't happen. But any fight was pointless. After a few panicked breaths, he succumbed. The primitive animal part of him - so far well hidden and only let out on the leash of his mind - took control and washed away the little bits of himself. Only the irrepressible urge to eat filled him.

That was what people had always feared about him. Rightly. His mind was separated from his body, which was supposed to be his subject. Encapsulated, he floated over his frenzied body, which a wild bull raced down the corridor, always towards the door. The cold, rational part of his mind noticed that the door had no handle. It must have opened up like the one in his room.

Since he knew what was about to come, he unconsciously narrowed his eyes. The impact on the heavy metal door was brutal and his body was jerked back staggering. He heard the familiar sound of bones breaking softly. In the closed access to the pulsating life that he felt behind it, a fitting lump could be seen on his body. He felt bones sticking out of his shoulder. But strangely enough, no pain reached him. A frustrated sound came from his body's lips, somewhere between growls and hisses, before he knocked the door again.

The broken bones crunched loudly as they were pushed back into their original position and began to grow together. That was a really uncomfortable feeling and he screwed up his imaginary face. The metal bent more and more and finally there was a loud tearing and the door half fell out of the frame.

Meanwhile, his mind was amazed that he had the strength to do so after his long coma. Especially after his “trick” from earlier. Even in full possession of his powers this would certainly not have been the most common thing for him. He preferred more discretion anyway, which often saved you from unpleasant confrontations and the associated risks. Plus, it was just more stylish. And nothing beat style in life for him.

Almost impassively he watched his body as it tugged at the door in a wild frenzy and finally got it open after several attempts. He stormed into the room, drawn to the pounding of many hearts like a moth to light. The pulsation of the living was all pervasive and caused him to stand still, stumbling and swaying.

The room was criss-crossed with linear rows of cupboards, each with five boxes made of similar materials, maybe metal, maybe glass, he didn't know. And he didn't really care. Some had fallen in the quake or were half torn from their anchorages in front of their original place. As far as he could see, the cupboards grew out of the floor. To his right, several light-colored rats crawled around the boxes.

Intrigued by the noise he had made when he entered the room, they toddled around their prisons and stood on their back legs to sniff at him with their fine noses. They twitched gently when they noticed the intruder's scent. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a plush rabbit, which was fleeing in panic from the unknown and the loud noises and was just hopping around the corner.

His encapsulated mind registered all of this in a split second as his raging body charged toward the rat. They squealed and fled, but not all succeeded. He got one to grab and greedily bit its tender flesh. A small surge of red vital juice moistened his tongue and there was a fine tingling sensation.

"Mmmhhh ..." he moaned with pleasure and sucked harder on the rat's twitching body. He was rewarded with another sip of warm blood. He believed that he had never tasted anything so delicious. But the little body gave no more blood. Unsatisfied, he pounded the useless piece of meat into the corner. He needed more.

He growled in frustration. He dropped to his knees and peered under the bottom row of boxes, where there was a narrow crack. Several fine thumps reached him and he reached out with a red smeared smile. A wriggling, squeaking body landed in his hand and turned in vain to escape. With relish, he bit off her head and spat it into high arches on the floor before absorbing all of the blood with just a few gulps.

Slowly his foggy mind cleared again. Rats weren't enough, something bigger was needed. A human, preferably, but a fresh one, not a corpse, it could spoil your stomach very quickly. Well, unfortunately nobody was available at the moment, he thought melancholy. It would take all of his energy to get out of here. Strengthened, he went in search of the rabbit.

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