The sun set as they questioned Ayers in his cave, cooler than outside, but still stifling.
“Who is the Liar?” Phipps asked.
Ayers croaked “Probably Y’golonac. Echavarria said Gol-Goroth, but it wasn’t. He was a liar, and were elements not of Y’golonac. Echavarria knew a lot. More than me. He came from Brazil with books.”
“Do you know who SS is? We think she runs the cult in Bangkok.”
“Bangkok? There was no cult in Bangkok, nor Malta, nor Mexico. Only Los Angeles. Does Echavarria live?”
“No, we think he died in 1924 in a ritual to summon the Liar. He seems to have succeeded, at least partially.”
“His money stopped about then. The Liar cannot fully be here, otherwise I could not stop this. But I hear whispers on the wind. Is Job still alive?”
“Yes, he’s well. Er, sort of. He’s in a sanatorium.”
“He had an obsessive personality.Echavarria was fascinated with him. Selected him.”
“How do we close a mouth?”
“They used a volcano here. If someone who practiced Denial sacrificed themselves in a mouth, it might close it.”
“All the mouths are connected?”
“They are all aspects of the same god. There is no head, but maybe a stomach. That is beyond my books.”
“How did you get your mouth?”
“A welt that grew over months, it opened as we opened the temple.”
Kent and Phipps checked their wounds quickly. All looked to be healing normally.
“What is Nectar?” Kent asked.
Ayers looks wistful, “The drool of the mouth, beautiful and glorious. Try it if you can.” He winced in pain, and withdrew into himself, breathing heavily.
Phipps woke at dawn, the crack of gunshots echoing outside. The rock shelf where Ayers slept, and meditated, was empty. He grabbed his rifle and peered out the cave entrance.
At the entrance Phipps heard moans from their dying camels, then more shots came from a rock formation on the cave left. He ducked and ran out to a flanking position. He saw Ayers, sat, his back to a rock, eyes closed and lips moving silently.
The others were awake now. Martin leaned out and shot at the ridge.There were three tribesman, two large men with rifles, and a small woman, heavily decorated, with a shawl over her shoulder. She called out “Give us Ayers, the Agony wants him back.”
Kent, Martin and Phipps and the tribesmen exchanged fire, driving the tribes people back below the ridge.
“Hello again” came a strange but familiar voice from Ayers’ location.
Ayers stood up and shambled towards the cave, his head lolled on his shoulders, but the mouth in his stomach was animate and speaking a strange sibilant language. The sound of this alien language spoke directly to the ancient, animal parts of everyone’s minds.
They fired at him, hitting him, hitting the mouth, but he kept walking forward. Phipps heard the sounds from the Mouth whisper his name, talking directly to his unconscious. He struggled to fight a rising urge to run and howl, to lose control.
Ayers reached the cave and Martin hit him in the stomach-mouth and he collapsed. Martins gun embedded in what went was again normal stomach, the skin around and over the rifle.
“The Agony thanks you!” the tribes woman called.
Phipps moved up, edging round the ridge. Around the corner he saw two tribes people walking away over the desert, the third dead on the ground. Phipps’ aimed at the two disappearing and pulled the trigger, but the gun clicked, empty. He picked up the tribesman’s rifle, but that too was empty. The dead man had a mass of old scar tissue over his face.
Martin ran up and took a shot at the two, making them scatter, but they were far away across the wavering sands.
They buried Ayers and hid the books and luggage. They filled all the water skins from the oasis. There was a lot of items on the camels they can’t carry now, and there was a two day walk across the desert, at best.
Martin and Phipps navigated well and though it was difficult they only spent one night and one day in the desert.
As they approached Iron Point there were watchers on the roof of the buildings and shapes on the train tracks. At nightfall they crept to the train. Martin tried to steal camels to ride, but they are noisy and troublesome, bleating. There are gun shots from the tribespeople. Phipps jumped onto the train footplate, and came face to face with a couple of mutilated children, scarred and limbless but carrying shards of glass. Kent and Fox sprinted across desert towards sound of gunfire realising they were needed to get the train moving.
Phipps hit the children, knocking them out of the cab, Martin exchanged gunfire with guards on the roof, but clicks soon runs out of ammo. Kent arrived and quickly got the engine to start, and they all hunker down in the cab, bullets pinging off metal. Eventually Kent threw a lever and the train rolled forward, gathering speed.
It rolled over people tied to the tracks and off across the desert toward Mersa Fatma.