The Walk. Short Story.

Hope everyone had a good weekend. Mine was pretty fun, went out, read a lot. Over all quite enjoyable and really relaxing.

On with the show!

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Matt walked down the dark alley, trying to keep his breathing calm and steady. He hated walking home at night, but there was no other option, unless he wanted to sleep in work and that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. He still couldn’t afford a car and neither taxi’s nor busses would go through this area, so his only option was to walk. Of course if he had been able to afford a car it would have singled him out, and probably gotten stolen within a few minutes. Sometimes, on the walks, he could hear screams, shouts and laughter, he always walked a little faster when he heard that, but it was reassuring too, he knew where everyone was. It was times like this, when it was silent, that were unnerving. In the distance he could hear a siren, but it was moving away from him. No surprise there, there was no police presence around here. It was part of why his rent was so cheap. Up ahead a streetlight flickered, clinging vainly to life, beside it, he could see a dark shadow. Damn. He continued walking, couldn’t slow, couldn’t show fear. That was just asking to be attacked. He passed the dark figure, not looking at them. No eye contact. That might set them off. Pretend like you couldn’t see them. That was what was best. He got out of the flickering pool of light and allowed himself to relax slightly, he didn’t hear them coming after him. He reached the corner and turned, looking back slyly, the figure was no longer by the light. He kept the same pace, if he ran they’d definitely chase him and he couldn’t out run them. No one could. There was a sudden shriek, piercing the night, Matt couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. It didn’t sound all that far away. Goosebumps rippled across his arms. As he walked the screaming became louder, he was walking towards it. He glanced back, casually. There were three people behind him, all walking towards the screaming. He couldn’t turn back.

His heart hammered in his chest, so loud it threatened to drown out the screams. He needed to stay calm, it was probably on one of the side streets, he’d pass by and everything would be fine. They wouldn’t pay attention to him. He hoped who ever was screaming would last until he passed by. If they saw him after their toy was dead and their blood lust wasn’t sated, he was screwed. One of the people passed by him, Matt lowered his head slightly, turning it away. Breathe. Just breathe and stay calm. He was coming up to his turn, it sounded like the screams were coming from his road. Shit.

Up ahead he could see the writing mass of people as they shouted and jeered the poor bastard they had caught. He could see the door to his building, near the crowd, but perhaps they’d be too distracted to notice him. The people behind him broke into a run, Matt froze, they ran by him and joined the crowd. He was stuck, he couldn’t move. He had to, if they looked, if they saw him, he was dead. There was no place to hide, they owned the streets and they’d find him. His foot moved forward, and suddenly he was walking again. Almost there. Just had to get to the building, he would be safe then. The group was ten feet away, the noise was deafening. Some of them glistened in the dark. He didn’t look directly at them. His key was in his hand, ready to go, he just had to reach the door.

He turned the key, trying to keep his hands steady, the door unlocked, he stepped inside and quickly shut it, sighing in relief as the locks engaged again.

A body hit the glass of the door, blood seeping from its mouth. It was man. Eyes wide and rolling in fear and pain. The crowd pushed against him, Matt wanted to turn away, to keep walking to the row of elevators and hide like everyone else, but he couldn’t turn. Then, the poor bastard and the crowd moved back, off to somewhere else. The low lights in the lobby allowed him to see the dark smudges of blood that covered the glass. There was a short beep as the door lock sealed itself and water began to run down the outside of the glass, cleaning it. The cleaning cycles lasted only a few seconds and when it was done, the glass was clean again. No sign or evidence of what had happened. Matt turned towards the elevators and pressed the button, one opened immediately for him, he stepped inside and pressed the button for his floor. As the doors slid closed, he sagged back against the wall, gasping for breath. It had been so close, so goddamned fucking close. The screaming outside had stopped. When the doors opened he stumbled into the hall and, still shaking, let himself into his apartment. He dropped his small bag on the floor and continued on into the kitchen, there he filled a glass with water and took a long drink. His stomach clenched, he turned and threw up into the sink. Still shaking, he wiped his mouth and rinsed it out. He waited a moment, then took another sip. It stayed down. Good thing he wasn’t hungry. He laughed weakly, the laugh threatened to become hysteric and he stopped suddenly. The silence of the room felt oppressive.

Matt crawled under the covers of his bed, not bothering to undress, he felt so very cold, he couldn’t seem to get warm. Shivering, he shut his eyes and tried to forget what happened. In the morning, he’d wake up and go to work like it never had the only difference being that tomorrow, he’d make sure to get home before it became dark. He had been a fool to do anything else.

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Shadow Crawlers. Part 44

Part 1, Part 43

Simon was feeling slightly better, about an hour ago someone had slid a food tray through a slot on the door, he had called out to them, but they ignored him completely, a few seconds after the tray a bottle of water rolled in. The food made him feel stronger, though it was a bland tasteless mush, he had sipped the water, conserving it, he didn’t know how long it would be until he was given more. He had tried to focus himself, to use his powers, but nothing was working, at first he suspected some kind of drugs in his body or in the water or food, but he didn’t feel like he was impaired in anyway.

“Good, you’re awake.”
Simon looked around the room, but he was unable to see any speakers, but it didn’t sound like there was someone outside the room.
“I’m sorry to have kept you waiting. I intended to speak with you sooner, but unfortunately I was kept away. I see the room wasn’t prepared properly, I apologise for the inconvenience.”
There was a brief hum as a floor tile in the corner moved back revealing a hole in the ground, his new toilet, great. A panel in the wall lowered itself, revealing a sink and a tap.
“There we go, that should make things a bit more comfortable for you.”
“Who the hell are you and why am I here?”
“I am your new master, that is all that matters. You are here because I command it. You will answer my questions or I will punish the child and the women you lot were so fond of.”
Simon hid his smile with a cough, they didn’t have the girls or Joey, the man would have used their names, or used a recording of them to scare him.
“They’re quite comfortable now, Joey wants to know where his father is, something we haven’t been quite able to determine yet, and the two girls, Grady and Amy seem to be in good spirits. We promised them protection, they’ll happily talk to us.”
“Oh good, so you won’t need to question me then.”
Maybe he was wrong, maybe they had been caught. But how? There was no way they could have been tracked through the tunnels. He only knew one thing, who ever it was must work for Alice.

 

“we have three of them.”
“What about the others?”
“They escaped, under ground apparently.”
“And how are we doing in terms of tracking them down?”
“Well, at this point we’re waiting for them to surface, we expect once that happens we should have them in a few hours.”
“Good. I don’t want to have to wait. Have they answered any questions yet?”
“No, Simon is silent, Alice shouted for a short while, but it provided nothing useful. She is now sitting on the cot, we think she is planning.”
“She probably thinks we’ll send someone in to rough her up and that her powers will start working then.”
“We’ll have to treat Simon carefully, he might snap and if he does, he’ll be useless to us. Our analysts have theorised that he may have a psychotic break soon.”
“Interesting. Do they have any idea what that might look like?”
“None.”
“Ask them if we should push him into it, he might be easier to control at that point.”
“I’ll ask them to study it.”
“Good. In the meantime, ask them what forms of interrogation should be used on him. What about Brett?”
“He hasn’t woken yet, we’re not sure why.”
“Is he faking?”
“Our monitors indicate that he is genuinely unconscious, but there is no real way to be sure beyond going in. He might have abilities that we don’t suspect. It would be a risk letting someone into the room with him, with any of them.”

“If there is no change by tomorrow we’ll have to discuss what options we can take. Would it be possible to give him a low dose of uppers or adrenaline? Something to help the sedative wear off?”
“Perhaps, I’ll get some people working on it.”
“Is that it?”
“Yes sir.”
“Right, go on then.”
The woman turned and left the room, already typing on her phone. He liked her, she was the best assistant he had in years and she had lasted far longer than any of the others. It was all quite impressive. He turned his chair to face the window, part of him wanted to push forward, consequences be damned, but the other half, the half that helped him to get here, wanted him to move cautiously. He had them now, they couldn’t escape so there was no real rush. It had taken them a long time to create those chambers, the ones that would negate their powers, but they had managed in the end. Though there was fears that they wouldn’t work, he was pleased to see that they were unfounded. He would get control of them, then, he would get control of the country, after that, well, he’d just have to wait and see.

 

The phone rang twice before Grady grabbed it and answered,

“Hello?”
“It’s us…hello?…Oh wait, damn, uh, Apple?”
“Where are you guys? What happened?”
“We hit a bit of a snag here, where are you? It’ll be better if we talk about it in person”
Grady felt a ball of dread form in her stomach, someone was dead, it was only a question of who.
“We’re in Masona. We can wait here or meet you somewhere.”
“We don’t have a car, we’re walking, and I don’t know how to steal one. We can’t rent one either.”
“Ok, so we’ll come to you, you’re going to have to go somewhere though, somewhere public.”
“There’s no one following us, we got away clean. We can meet you at Greenacres Mall in say an hour, in the food court?”
“Make it two and we’ll see you there.”
Grady hung up and turned to Amy, “Ok, we’re meeting them in the Greenacres food court in about two hours, something bad has happened, I don’t know what yet.”
Amy turned the car around, “Are you sure it’s safe?”
“They said the password, and they didn’t sound like they were under and kind of pressure.”
“Ok, I’ll trust you. What about-” She gestured subtly towards the back, “what if it was you know who that was hurt?”
“We can’t just leave” Grady copied the gesture “somewhere, it wouldn’t be safe.”
“You’re right, but I don’t want to scar him.”
“We can talk about it privately once we meet up with them, you know who could be with them, I only talked to Rose and she didn’t say who she was with.”

Amy looked in the mirror at Joey, he had fallen asleep about twenty minutes ago, she was impressed by how well he was dealing with being cooped up in the car. She would have thought he’d have been bouncing off the walls and clamouring for an escape. They’d have to be careful with the meeting, maybe say Simon had to go somewhere else first, just in case he wasn’t there. Amy picked up her coffee and took a drink, it was going to be a long day.

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Fairest of Them All. Short Story.

I realised the other day that it has been a while since I’ve written in the first person, so I decided to give it a shot today. It wasn’t as difficult as I expected. Always good to try new things!
On with the show!
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“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair!”
Ugh. I sigh as I stand and move towards the window, leaning out I see a Prince, looking all full of himself, as usual.
“Sorry buddy, you’ve got the wrong tower.”

“But Rapunzel-”

“Names not Rapunzel.”
“Well I know that, but what the hell else am I supposed to call you?”
“Look, didn’t you do some research before you came charging out here?”
“No, I didn’t think I’d need to.”
Typical. All brawn, no brains. Great.

“I’m not Rapunzel, I don’t need rescuing.”
“Of course you do, you’re in a tower.”
“By choice. Look” I grasp my short pony tail and swing it over my shoulder,

“Nothing to climb here buddy. Go ride off into the sunset and find someone else.”

I closed the window shutter and instantly regretted it. Damn room was too dark to do any work in and I wouldn’t be able to open it again until the prince pissed off. I just hope he doesn’t find the door. After a few minutes, I heard the noise of a horse riding off slowly. I counted to twenty before standing and opening the shutters. Good, he’s gone. I feel kind of bad for him, but I’m sure there’s another tower around here. He’d find it eventually, they always do.

My name is Celeste, and I’m a princess.

I wish I could be more specific for you, I really do, but honestly, I don’t know what type. I know I’m not a Rapunzel, all that hair maintenance, no thanks. It would have grown as soon as I stepped foot into this tower, I’m not an Aurora, after all, I’ve pricked my finger plenty of times and I’m still awake. Not a Snow White either, my mother is still alive and kicking, much to her relief. I’m something different. According to every witch and wizard around, I’m an anomaly. Not that it’s stopped them trying to kill me you understand.

You’d think being a princess is all high class and fun, but it isn’t. It’s boring as hell. All manners and politeness. Apparently I’m supposed to just sit there while someone tries to kill me, maybe cower, and hope a prince arrives in time. No thank you. I’m much more proactive than you would think. I’ve got the princess looks going for me though, pale skin, beautiful chestnut hair, sparkling green eyes, the works. It sounds nice, and frankly, there is no effort in it, I just wake up perfect, lips glossed, cheeks blushed and eyes shadowed. When I was younger I suspected they were tattoos, but apparently, I just look like this. It’s great when you’re younger, up until I was five I didn’t have a care in the world. Do you know how much free shit a princess gets? I was swimming in toys and sweets, then the danger years started. It was a steep learning curve, my parents never taught me not to accept gifts from strangers, why would they? It was inevitable that something would happen to poison me, why fret? Worlds greatest parents they are. Suddenly all these evil bitches crawl out of the wood, trying to get me to try their luscious apples. Again, no thank you. I’m perfectly content breathing. No desire to choke to death. That wasn’t the only danger, there was also the combs, “oh, you’re hair is so beautiful, you need this comb, broach, clip, whateverthefuck.” My first arrest was at seven, I attacked a witch trying to stab me with a pin. I claimed self defence, she claimed it was her nature. Thank god my father is the king, otherwise I’d have been in a lot more trouble. Boy was he pissed, in my defence though, bitch had it coming. I was the twelfth princess she was trying to poison. She’d succeeded with all the others. As far as I know only one of them has been woken by her prince. The rest are all just lying there, life on pause, probably hoping their kingdom doesn’t collapse while they sleep the day away.

My parents knew something was wrong when I was four, by then there had been no outward signs of my destiny, normally I’d have manifested something that would give a hint as to what kind of princess I was. I had an affinity with animals, but that was par for the course with princesses, except I liked the odder ones, snakes, lizards, bugs, they were all my friends, though they didn’t flock to me as animals do with a Snow White. Then one day I came home with a baby dragon. I found him somewhere out in the woods, of course my father was horrified, I like to think my mother was amused. They took it away from me, no doubt killed the poor thing.

There used to be so many kinds of princesses, not just the typical ones, but there were fighters, warriors, but they died out. When I asked my mother she said it was because no one wanted to marry them. I think I’d have been a warrior princess if they weren’t extinct. My parents didn’t know what to do with me and, being an embarrassment to my father, the High King, I was allowed do what I liked, hence me moving to this tower. I knew the Rapunzel who used to live here, Ellie, she was nice, then she was married and whisked off to her happily ever after. Boring. I don’t want to sit at home all day, doing nothing. Here I could read, I had a few creatures to keep me company if I got bored and I was safe from attack. I think at this point I’ve become a sort of mythological creature to the local population of evil witches and fairies. There have been attempts on my life some failed due to me fighting back and others just fell apart. Obviously some force is protecting me until I find my destiny, but I’m perfectly content as I am. Sure it can be a bit tiring, but it beats the alternative. Sitting around sewing until I pop out a few babies, maybe prick my finger while sewing and end up forecasting my own death.

Officially there are thirteen kingdoms, but each one is broken down further. The thirteen kingdoms are ruled by High Kings, then each smaller kingdom has a king. There used to be fourteen kingdoms, but the fourteenth was stricken from all records. No one remembers why now. If you travel out to it, there is just sea. The mermaids have tried to swim into it, but there is nothing there, just sand and water. No life, not even signs of life. It’s empty. The thirteenth kingdom is underwater, they’re mostly separate until they produce an Ariel. Sometimes it even works out for them in the end. It’s rare, but it does happen.

Monty, my snake, looks up from the ground and hisses once, then a moment later someone is banging on the door. Goddamn it, that prince must have come back. I grab Monty and carefully wrap him across my shoulders, then I march down the stairs.

I pulled the door open, Monty knows the drill.

“What?”
“Oh, I’m sorry dear, I couldn’t help but notice your tower, see, I’m selling apples.”
“I’m in a tower.”
“Yes? And? That doesn’t stop you buying some delicious apples. Look how luscious and shiny they are, so succulent, so delicious. Just take a bite, go on, you’ll be hooked!”
“If I’m in a tower I’m not a Snow White.”
“Excuse me? I don’t know what you mean, I’m just selling apples, that’s all.”
“Monty.” He raises himself and slithers along my arm, into striking distance.
“Oh, excuse me, I must have uhh made a mistake. I’ll just be on my way.”
I slam the door after her. Man, talk about unprofessional. Must be rough going out there. There were rumours of fewer princesses these days, if witches are trying to muscle in on the others business, it must be true. Hate to be them.

I walked back up the stairs, thankful that I was able to stand up for myself. Some poor Rapunzel would probably go for it, take a bite and end up sleeping permanently. Their prince would never find them, he would be looking in all the wrong places.

Back in my tower, I put Monty down, he slithers off to his usual spot while I sit at the table. I really need to get back to studying, but it’s just been one distraction after another today. I pull a book forward, read the first sentence, then sigh. I don’t really want to start this all again. Standing, I stretch and go to the window. At least the view up here is nice. I spot the witch skulking around the edges of the forest, the same one with the apples.
“I can see you!” I make my voice as cheery as possible, the witch jumps, then looks up at me, I wave energetically. “Hi!”
She scurries off into the woods, hopefully she won’t come back, but normally out and out refusal was enough to scare them off. I’d have to prepare myself for when she eventually returned, particularly if hunting didn’t go well for her. Well crap. There’s another one, I pick up a pebble and toss it at her. It lands nearby and six witches run from bushes, each one melting back into the forest.

Damn. Looks like I’m going to have to move back home for a while. At least until they’ve calmed themselves. I didn’t like the thought of it, but there would be guards at least.

I sigh again, it’s starting to become my favourite pastime, Goddamn it dad, why the hell didn’t you let me keep that dragon?

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Renewal. Short Story.

This was ridiculous. Jenny sat down on the couch, trying to keep calm, she needed to stay calm, in a few moments they’d realise their mistake then they’d just go away, she didn’t care where it was, as long as it was somewhere else. They had to be wrong, after all she wasn’t anyone important, she was just a primary school teacher, and not a very good one if she was honest with herself. There was no possible way that this could be real. And yet, they had been so insistent.

“Are you-”

“Just give me a second, all right?”

Ok, so they weren’t right, what would they do to her now? After all they might get rid of her to keep it all hush hush, no doubt they were some kind of crazy cult or something.

“And you’re sure?”
“Quite certain. We haven’t made a mistake. Unless you have a roommate. Do you?”
“No, it’s just me and my cat.”
The man smiled, she couldn’t think of his name, but she wanted to slap the smug grin off his face. “Then there has been no mistake. It is you.”
Jenny stood from the couch and went into the kitchen, she could still see them and them her, but it felt a little more private. She needed to keep calm, she couldn’t let herself freak out. If she did it might kill her. She went to the cupboard and grabbed out a bottle, then she quickly and discretely took a quick slug. It burned going down and she winced at the taste, but it should help a little. She put the bottle back and turned on the kettle. “Does anyone want tea?”
“No, thank you. We really must be going.”
“Oh, ok. Good, so do you want to like, arrange a time to come back here or what?”
“No, you misunderstood, we all have to go.”
“What about my things?”
“You or someone else can come back for them.”
“What about my cat? I can’t just leave him here.”
“He can’t really come along, not for this bit, but you can get him later tonight.”

Jenny grabbed his water bowl and filled it, then she filled another bowl with water, just in case. She checked his food bowl and topped it off.

She stepped out of the kitchen, “ok, I think I’m ready.” Behind her, the kettle clicked, signalling it was done.

As they walked to the car parked outside her building, Jenny thought about shouting to one of the many passerby, hope that they’d step in and stop this. It was madness. She could run, but if they caught her, they’d probably torture her or hobble her. No, she had to get out of this alone. Her parents had always insisted she take self defence classes, so she could become self reliant, now was the time to put that to the test. Right now there was three of them, four including the driver. She’d have to wait until she got a chance to break free. Perhaps when she arrived at where ever they were taking her. They didn’t seem to be all that sacrificy, and if she was who they thought, they wouldn’t dare try. She sat into the car, surprised at the space inside. She thought it would be a tight squeeze, but instead it was perfectly comfortable, she wasn’t even squished up against anyone. The driver signalled and pulled out into the afternoon traffic. It wouldn’t take them long to get through the city, she had been off early and most people were still in work, traffic was moving quickly.

They pulled up outside a large Victorian manor in the suburbs, Jenny tried to stop herself rolling her eyes, how very cliché, she should have known the place would look like this. There was only a few options, creepy warehouse, Victorian manor, desert compound. The warehouse district was at least a good hours drive away and the desert was off in some other country. Then again, a creepy, forested middle of nowhere compound would also serve. She was shaken from her thoughts as the door slammed closed, the people in front had gotten out, beside her was an empty space and an open door. She slid across.
“Welcome to your new home.”
Jenny felt like bolting, but the five men seemed to have already thought of that, they had surrounded her, like a shield. She’d just have to get through what ever creepy induction ceremony they had going, then she could make a break for it.

As they walked up the path Jenny looked around at the garden, it was well maintained and quite pretty, with flowers blooming everywhere. It had a kind of controlled disorder, which gave off strong fairytale vibes. They reached the porch and the door swung open silently, she half expected a rusty screech. The men in front stepped inside and she followed after.

The hall was brightly lit and thickly carpeted, the walls were a dark blue with paintings hanging at intervals. “We can show you to your room if you like, then give you a tour once you’ve had a chance to relax a little.”
“Yeah, sure, that would be great.”

Perfect. No doubt in a place like this with it’s slopey roofs there would be lots of ways for her to get out through the windows. They brought her up three flights of stairs, then they stopped at the bottom of a fourth.
“Your room is just at the top of the stairs, you get the entire floor.”
“Um. Thank you?”
“We’ll wait here. If you need anything, let us know.”

Jenny ascended the steps, heart thudding wildly, this was the point where she was going to get axe murdered, she could feel it. She glanced back when she reached the door, the men below had turned away, apparently uninterested in her impending doom. She opened the door and stepped in, wincing as she did so. No axe met her body, no knife cut her skin. Jenny let out a breath she had been holding. Ok, maybe there wouldn’t be axe murdering, but there had to be mutant freaks or something hidden up here. Jenny steeled herself, then began to explore.

Once she had searched the place, she was surprised to find herself vaguely disappointed, no murders, no mutant freaks, no aliens. What kind of cult were these people? The fourth floor had everything she could want, except a kitchen, though she assumed there were cooks downstairs. There was a bedroom with an impossibly large canopied bed, in the room there was also a writing desk, a large mirror, a window with an amazing view and a fireplace. The rest of the floor seemed to be composed of a large bathroom, a sitting room, a dining room and a library. At each of the windows she had paused and looked out, hoping for an escape route to present itself, but each one had a drop of at least ten feet before meeting a dangerously sloped roof, if she tried to get out that way she’d slide off and fall to her death.

When she had explored the entire floor, and spent some time sitting in the plush, comfortable couches, Jenny want back to the stairs. At the bottom, the two men still waited, they didn’t appear to have moved at all.
“Would you like to see the rest of the house?”
“Sure. Why not?”
After ten minutes, she lost track of where she was and what the rooms were called, they all blended into one, the lounge, the sitting room, the front parlour, the back parlour. Her stomach grumbled, she hadn’t had a chance to eat lunch.
“Are you hungry? Our chef could whip up something for you.”
“Ok, that’d be nice.”
“What would you like?”
“I don’t know. Something easy I guess.”
One of the men nodded and left them. The tour continued on.
They explored every room in the house, except for one, the chapel. She was assured that she would see it later. That sent a brief chill up her spine, no doubt they wanted her there for some good old fashioned sacrifices. The final room she was brought to was the dining room, inside was a long table with a meal sitting at one of the places.
“Ah good, I was afraid we’d arrive slightly early. I hope you enjoy your food.”
Jenny sat down, in front of her was a sandwich, it looked to be a BLT. Ok, that was probably hard to drug. She picked through it discretely, looking for any sign of pills or powders, but there was none. Her stomach grumbled again and shrugging, she took a bite. They hadn’t shown any desire to hurt her, nor had there been any real creepiness. Maybe they weren’t bad people, just deluded. The sandwich was delicious, when she had finished, she had a few of the fries that were sitting in a bowl on her plate. When she was done, someone emerged from a side room and whisked away the plates.
“I hope it was to your satisfaction?”
“It was delicious.”
The man smiled, “Good. Now, we want you to get settled as quickly as possible, so we are working on bringing your stuff over here. Is there anything you want now, or anything you want left behind?”

“Well, my cat first thing. He doesn’t like being left alone for too long. As for the rest, there’s no rush. The furniture can be ignored, except for the dresser in my bedroom. I want that.”
As she finished, Jenny realised she had agreed to move in with these people. Crap. Well, they seemed nice and she could always play a long a little longer. As long as they didn’t start asking for too much she’d be fine.

That night she sat in her room, writing letters, her cat curled in a ball on the couch beside her. They had no problem with her writing letters, they even gave her the address so people could write her back. She talked on the phone with most of her friends, but some people preferred letters. Mostly her mother, but it was a fun thing to do with her friends too. She finished up the last and slid it into its envelope, then she printed the address on it. She had asked if she could post them herself and there had been no hesitance, no reluctance. She was starting to believe that these people were legit. Maybe they were crazy, but it was the good kind. Jenny still didn’t know the names of most of the people she had come across, they had never offered and it somehow seemed impolite to ask. There was a brief, timid knock on the door. Jenny stood and answered it.
“It’s time for one of our midnight masses. If you would like to join us.”
“I’m feeling pretty tired.”
“That’s ok, we also have mass in the morning at noon if you would like to attend then.”
“How long does the mass last?”
“Well, midnight mass is usually a monthly occurrence and lasts about half an hour.”
Jenny though for a moment, he wasn’t being pushy and if they did want her for something nefarious, they wouldn’t have taken no for an answer.
“Ok, I’ll join you.”
“Great, follow me please, I’ll lead you to the chapel.”
“Thank you.”

The doors were closed when they arrived, she had expected them to be open, “Has it started already? I don’t want to interrupt.”
“Oh don’t worry, someone is always late anyway. I’ll just slip in quietly, though you might be expected to sit at the top. It might be best though if you stand at the back, it will be less of an interruption. We can talk to the priest tonight and clear up what happened.”
“Ok, if you’re sure.”
Together they snuck in through the door, the man that had brought her slipped into the end of one of the pews and sat, she stayed standing. Around her candles burned, casting light and shadow in equal amounts. There were electric lights dotted about the place, providing highlights. She looked around as the priest spoke, she didn’t pay too much attention to what he was saying. There appeared to be dozens of stained glass windows around the room, it must be beautiful in the daylight. As she studied them, she felt a growing unease in her stomach. The main character in each of them was eerily similar to her. If these were the only depictions of their god, it was no wonder they thought it was her. She finished studying the glass and looked at the priest for the first time. He stood on a slightly raised platform, behind him was a large mural, covering the wall. Her breath caught. It was her, there was no doubt. She looked identical to the woman in the painting.

She couldn’t be their god, she just couldn’t. She had been born to two ordinary people in an ordinary way. She have never shown any kind of powers, divine or otherwise. She had taken this too far, allowed herself to be carried along by the crazy train. She needed to get out, she needed to run, just get to any where that wasn’t here. At the front, the priest had stopped talking, there was silence in the room.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise you were among us, please, take a seat, right here. I’m so sorry.”
Everyone turned to look at her, hushed whispers began to filter through the crowd. “Um. It’s ok. I don’t want to interrupt.” She could feel her cheeks burning, everyone as looking at her. She wished it wasn’t so bright. Around her the candles extinguished. She looked around, confused. That was weird. It must have been part of their ritual. The crowd had gone silent again. The priest paled, then he beckoned her forward. Jenny started to walk, seemingly unable to stop herself. She stubbed her toe against one of the pews, she grimaced and barely restrained herself from cursing. Why the hell did they had to make it so dark in this damned place? The candles flared into existence, the stained glass windows started to glow, bathing the room in multicoloured light. The crowd gazed around in wonder, the priest looked as though he was in ecstasy.
“It’s true, you’re really her, you’re really here.”
Jenny looked around at the light, wondering herself. How? She had never done anything like this before. She stepped forward, moving slowly. Maybe being a god wasn’t all that bad after all. She concentrated and the light dimmed slightly, becoming less harsh. Ok, so she was the one controlling it. Smiling, Jenny moved down the aisle, up onto the dais, there she sat on a throne like chair. She looked out at the people, her people, they bowed their heads, the priest was kneeling before her.

Feeling awkward, Jenny smiled, “You can stand up if you want.”

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Shadow Crawlers. Part 43

Part 1, Part 42

Grady sat in the passenger seat of the car, leaning her head against her hand, trying not to look at the clock. Amy was fiddling with radio stations, changing it constantly, Joey was sitting in the back, fast asleep. Grady glanced at the clock, then looked away quickly. She didn’t want to know what time it was, not until it was after ten. She took a deep breath, then released it slowly, she could do this, she wouldn’t freak out, they’d already escaped. It would just be a little longer.

After they left the tunnels they had driven aimlessly for a while, hoping to confuse anyone that was following them, doubling back, taking strange and unnecessary turns, but they appeared to be free from pursuit. After an hour of this, they had found a car parked at the side of the road and they had taken it. Neither felt bad for the owners, after all insurance would take care of things, it wasn’t really all that bad. Amy had looked through the dash quickly and found a spare key hidden at the back. With that done, they drove for a short while, then switched the license plates with another car they spotted, they continued to drive, switching the plates twice more. It would make them that bit harder to find. Finally, as it approached nine, Amy pulled into the parking lot of a fast food place, there they had gotten breakfast and now they were back in the car, waiting. Grady was tired, but she had gotten to have a nap, Amy had been driving since they took the car. They’d have to switch soon. The clock hit ten, both Amy and Grady looked at the phone, willing it to ring. It sat between them on the centre console, it stayed silent.

Half an hour later, Amy looked around then turned to Grady,
“We can’t wait around here any longer, we’re starting to look suspicious, we should keep driving, if they call, we can figure out what to do then, but until that happens, we’re sitting ducks.”
“You’re right, c’mon, lets switch, I’ll drive.”
Amy got out of the driver’s seat with minimal fuss, for which Grady was thankful. She sat into the car, started the engine and started to drive.

Simon woke slowly, his head felt thick and groggy, his tongue felt dry and swollen. He sat up, and shook his head, trying to figure out what had happened. There had been pain, and Alice was there. Probably some kind of trap she had set up, a failsafe. He looked around, he was in a small white cell. The only furniture it contained was the bed he had been lying on. The bed itself was bolted to the floor, there was no pillow and only a thin mattress. Simon stood and tried to lift the mattress to see what was beneath it, but it had been secured to the bed somehow. Gross. He looked underneath the bed frame and spotted a plastic jug that was full of water. He picked it up and smelled it. Slowly he raised it to his mouth and took a small sip, prepared to spit it out. It tasted fine. He took a gulp of the water, then sat down on the bed. It wasn’t like he could do anything else. Alice must have set some kind of trap and he had fallen for it. He took another sip of water, now that he wasn’t as thirsty, he noticed how warm it was. He concentrated for a second, hoping to form some ice, but nothing happened. He frowned, it must be the effects of whatever knocked him out. It would wear off soon no doubt. He waited then he tried again, and again, but the water didn’t change. He supressed the thin layer of panic that was building inside him. He would remain calm, Alice must be doing something to suppress his powers, some kind of trinket or charm he didn’t know about. He checked himself over to make sure there was nothing on him, then he stood and looked around the room, hoping to find markings, but there were none. He sat down again, trying to decide what the hell to do. He was apparently trapped and unable to freeze anything. It was like being a child again.

Rose, Brett and Ed moved closer to the body of Simon, trying to figure out what had happened to him. Alice was still trapped in ice, so they didn’t fear her escaping. The snow had died off and now the last few flakes were hitting the ground, there was no sign of anyone else. Beside her, Brett dropped to the ground, without waiting, Rose took off running, she heard a faint rumbling behind her before she fell.

There was nothing but darkness around her. She created a small ball of fire, cupped in her hands, she was surrounded by earth. Ed. It took him a few seconds to get to her, the wall opening to reveal him.“What the hell was that?”
“I don’t know, something attacked them. Brett had something sticking out of him. It looked like a dart.”
“Shit. This must be Alice’s doing, C’mon we need to get out of here.”
“Wait, we should stay, watch.”
“No, if we do, there’s every chance that we’ll be captured too. If that happens we won’t be able to help anyone.”
“Ok, c’mon, I’ll get us out.”
Together they started to walk, Ed leading the way.

A group of men moved forward carefully, scanning the area, there appeared to be no one left but the woman covered in ice. A voice behind them called out, “get her too.” One of the men stepped forward and, using a knife, chipped away at some of the ice, revealing a patch of her skin. He took a syringe and jabbed it into her, then he pressed the plunger. Alice’s eyes closed almost instantly.
“Is she out?”
“She’s out.”
“Good, then free her from that ice. I don’t want her to be frostbitten. Not until I’m done with them.”
The solider started to chip at the ice. The others went to Brett and Simon and, after making sure they were actually unconscious, they lifted them.

The man overseeing the squad smiled, his boss would be very, very happy with him today.

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Capture. Short Story.

Yesterday I went up into the mountains with a friend, it was pretty fun. She needed help with an art thing, so I volunteered. So basically we climbed around and I got to lie in strange poses on foresty floors. Also got to dunk my feet into freezing river water, yay! But I can’t be too mad, after all I wasn’t murdered by her, so that was a definite bonus.

It was a really nice day too, which helped a lot. Definitely want to go back there some other time and just explore for the hell of it. Seemed like it was a really cool place.

On with the show!

_______________________________________________________________________

Janice paused and put her hair into a ponytail, no good if something snagged it. She had important work to do, there had been a break out, again, and now she had to round everyone up. She got into the van and started it, it wasn’t the best job in the world, but it paid very well, of course it had to, what with all the biological hazards flying around. Bright side though, she didn’t have to wear a stupid uniform like some of the other companies. They mostly dealt with the public, Janice had a contract with most of the city morgues and storage points, she did freelance too, but they were only a small bonus on top of what she was earning.

As she drove, she pressed the call button, “Bob.”
The phone started to ring, she turned down the radio.
“Hello?”
“Hey, it’s me, how many do we have?”
“They’re not sure, they’re still counting, but at least twelve so far. Could be more. We’re sending some back up to you too, Joe and Sam should be there around the same time as you.”
“Pfth. I could take care of it all myself.”
“I know, it’s just insurance, if we don’t send others it’ll go way up due to your exposure to biohazards.”
“Suuure, that’s what they all say. I’ll be there in about five.”
Janice hung up then considered flicking on the siren, her hand hovered over the button for a second before she pulled it away. The siren was fun and all, but this wasn’t really an emergency and she’d get chewed out for using it. Again. She’d use it when she got there, brief blip for the distraction element, that was all.

Janice smiled as she past a billboard for her company, “The Zombie Wranglers!” she quite liked the cartoon picture of a confused looking zombie being lassoed, though she didn’t think the company ever used those methods. They were a smidge more advanced, stun guns, net guns, gun guns, all part of her arsenal. She rarely had to use the gun, or any of them really. There was some food in the back, most times she just had to open the doors, drop the ramp and wait. Not with twelve though, they wouldn’t fit. Well, technically they would, but it was considered “inhumane” Janice never really understood that line of reasoning. They weren’t human, they weren’t exactly a danger, but they were a far cry from cats and dogs. The Protect our Ancestor acts had breezed through, which was a bit of a shocker. Hell, it wasn’t like they hadn’t heard of zombies before and it wasn’t long before the undead were getting their heads blown off left, right and centre. Of course, that didn’t always stop them and it spread the spores all over the place. Shooting a zombie was now a crime, you had to call a clean-up crew and that was where Janice came in.

The group had appeared to have stayed together, Janice did a quick head count as she reversed the van, there were sixteen there, so a little more than the given number, but if most of them were here, that was something. She clicked the ramp down and gave the siren a quick blip, it wasn’t ok to trap them all in the van, but they’d crowd in and neutralise any threats until the others arrived. They turned around slowly and began to shuffle towards the ramp, two missed, going either side of the ramp, but the others made it, she raised the ramp enough to block them, but not enough to lock them in, then she hopped out of the van. She didn’t bother with the net gun, not much point, these were mostly older specimens, slow, difficult for them to manoeuvre. She pulled a pole from the van and casually walked up to the first one, she continued past it as it began to turn and used the hooked end to snag the things foot, she pulled and it crumpled to the ground, now, for the other one.

This one was a little more sprightly, the other was struggling to stand again, its upper body not strong enough to support it. She used the same trick on the fresh one and, once it was down, she went over and placed a foot firmly on its back. It would do for a moment. She pulled the stun gun from her belt and gave it a quick jolt, then, smiling, she stepped back. It would be down for a good half hour or so, spasming away. With the done, she went to the first and gave it the same treatment. She grabbed it by the legs and dragged it beside the first and then she set about cordoning off the area, two lines of steel rope, high and low, would prevent anyone wandering in or out. She stuck danger placards on each one and got back into the van to wait. There didn’t appear to be any others hanging around, but there was still a danger. She hadn’t been through decon herself, but she had seen it happen to others and she knew she didn’t want to have to go through all that bullshit. Five months of sitting on your ass in a tiny hospital room, no thank you.

The parasite had appeared about twelve years ago, Janice had never really bothered to learn much about it, after all the only thing she needed to know was how to avoid infection. Despite this, some information had managed to trickle through, from books, TV shows and the news. The parasite was mostly dormant in a human body, once it became settled, it released a bunch of offshoots, that would latch on to various parts of the body, then it played the waiting game. Once the person died the parasite would begin to grow at an alarming rate, replacing most the humans nervous system, allowing it to control the body. Then it would shuffle off and infect others. It fed off the rotting flesh until it’s final stage, it would find the nearest body of water, then plunge the body into it, releasing eggs and extracting itself from the body, Janice could never remember what happened to it after that. They creature didn’t eat living human flesh, sure the zombies would bite or scratch, but once that was done they’d shuffle away. Unless you were mobbed by them, sometimes when that happened they’d keep biting and clawing away at your body until you died. They were mostly harmless, there had only been a thousand or so deaths in the twelve years it had started. Though that didn’t include the disease they sometimes spread. If you were infected, treatment for it was long and drawn out. It had to be carefully done to avoid shocking the parasite into its active stage and if that happened, well you were screwed. It would painfully replace your nerves with itself, causing confusion, spasms, and death. Most insurance wouldn’t cover the treatment, deciding it was a harmless parasite, one that wasn’t a pressing danger. There had been no cases of spontaneous activations in the general populace. A surprising amount of people had caught it, but to work in a company like hers, you had to be clean. A law that was passed with the others, just in case the parasites had some kind of sensing mechanism which could cause them to attack and kill someone infected with the parasite to boost their numbers.

The second van pulled up just in front of the ropes, Janice waited in the van, the other two hopped out and strolled over.
“Get it contained?”
“Yup, most of em are in the back. There are two on the ground, they’ll be out for a while longer.”
“So how will we do this?”
“Lower your ramp and back up against me, I’ll lower mine and hopefully they’ll move into the new space.”
“How many?”
“There are sixteen that I saw.”
“Ok, were you onto Bob?”
“No, figured I’d wait until back up arrived.”
“Ok, well let’s get this over with.”
They moved the two spasming bodies into the back of the new van and did as Janice suggested.
“I think we got more than half.”
“It’s fine, we’ll just fudge the numbers a bit. No one will care.”
“Do you want to ring Bob or will I?”
“Eh. You do it. I already talked to him today.”
Joe pulled out his phone and dialled the number.
Janice looked around, keeping an eye out.
“It was only the sixteen, we’re good.”
Janice smiled, “Meet you guys back at the depot?”
The zombies had to be taken in for processing while the morgue was under review.

Janice started the van and drove away, it was a good haul, and she’d get the bonus for taking care of it herself. She’d have to buy the guys drinks or something to make up for it. She turned the radio on, in the back she could hear them falling about, not her problem. She rolled down the window, allowing the fresh air inside. It wasn’t really that bad a job at all.

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Exile. Short Story.

Exiled, in many ways, it was crueller than death.

Lara sat at the fire pit, the wood crackling merrily, despite the heat that was coming from it, she still felt cold. She wouldn’t last long out here, she knew that, everyone knew it. She looked at the small pile of camping gear they had given her, a tent, some clothes, matches, filtration system for fresh water, a small amount of food until she started hunting, some fishing line and hooks, and finally, some books on how to hunt and survive in the wild. Did they even know what was out here? Lara had heard rumours and whispers all her life about this place, but no one who came out here ever returned.

Lara had been brought to the island on a boat, dumped off at the beach and wished luck. The soldiers didn’t look at her by that point. They helped her shoulder her backpack, heavy though it was, and she stepped onto the beach and made her way towards the dunes. She hadn’t walked very far when she came across what appeared to be some kind of road and, with nothing better to do, she followed it. Perhaps some of the others out here managed to survive. That wasn’t very reassuring. She walked that road for almost two hours when she finally found what would be her first campsite. She had sat for almost an hour, hidden by trees, watching for movement, but there was none. Finally, she crept from her hiding spot and looked through the windows of the buildings, searching for signs of habitation, but again, there were none. So she returned to her hiding spot, took her things, and set up camp on what seemed to be a village green. There were trees growing on it, twisting up from the ground, they provided shelter from the wind, the houses were close, but far away enough to provide a good area of sight. Lara had explored only one of the houses, it was small and in surprisingly good condition. The walls were solid and sturdy still, the roof, made of some kind of metal or plastic, had no holes in it. There was a small fireplace in the main room, and a small kitchen. The kitchen was basically useless, the taps didn’t work, which didn’t surprise her, when she turned it the first time, out of curiosity, a thick, black rancid sludge drooled from the opening. She had left it, hoping that water would run through, but after a few minutes she turned it off again. The most surprising thing about the building, at least to Lara, was that the windows were still intact, she would have expected them to have broken long ago, due to neglect or decay.

The house was unfurnished, no beds, no chairs, not even a hint that anything like that had been there. She theorised that someone before her might have scavenged them, or perhaps used them for a fire, if they were stupid enough.

Lara was tempted to stay in one of the houses, after all it would be easily heated and she would be protected from the elements, but it seemed like a bad idea, as though it was unsafe. She didn’t want to be trapped inside the house if something happened, after all there was only one exit.

She had set up her camp, with much cursing, in a few hours and after that, she started the fire. She didn’t want to be alone out here, not in the dark. No stars could be seen from the island, that much they knew, Lara didn’t know why, she suspected some kind of layer that prevented the weaker light of the stars from penetrating it. The moon was still visible, though hazy, as was the sun. In the darkness around her, above the crack and snapping of the fire, she could hear animals moving about, though she had yet to see one.

She was surprised at how pleasant the whole thing was so far, having expected to be chased by mutated monsters and ripped apart in the first few hours. The landscape wasn’t as bizarre as she was expecting either, it was almost unnervingly banal.

The breeze carried with it a faint scent of the ocean, it was peaceful in this place. When she became tired, Lara went to her tent and crawled in. She woke the next morning, feeling refreshed. She climbed out of her tent and stretched, surprised that she had slept the entire night through. She looked around her campsite, but nothing had been disturbed. Yesterday, she had heard a running river, but at the time she had been too worried about getting herself set up and so she ignored it. The water she had been given would run out soon and she’d need to start using the filter system.

It didn’t take Lara long to find the river, there she splashed some water in her face and filled up the small bucket. The water in the river was completely clear, she could see right to the riverbed, silver fish darted about in the waters. It would be a good source of food if she didn’t get the hang of trapping animals. She had been given a field guide for eating plants, but she was afraid of using that. One wrong identification and she could be horribly sick or worse. As she walked back to her camp, she wondered about those who were here before her, maybe they too set up camp here, then they moved further inland. It wasn’t like any boat was going to pick her up from here, so there was no real need to stay by the sea. The island was large and there would be plenty of places for people to set up a place. Though why they wouldn’t have used the houses in the village she didn’t know. Perhaps there were other villages, better ones that people have found and decided to live in. Perhaps there was an entire town or city, full of people and thriving. As she poured the water into the system, she smiled to herself, it was a nice thought, but she knew there was no way it was true. No one ever returned from the island, whether they were exiled like her, or an exploratory expedition. Nothing ever returned of them. Radios wouldn’t work on the island, something was causing extreme interference, electronics were off too, or at least that was the theory.
On the nights before her exile, she had lay awake in bed, imagining the horrors of the island, that it was full of monsters or cannibals, with twisted rituals and sacrifices, with burning effigies and giant statues to base gods. But there had been none of that. Nothing that would indicate the island was a dangerous place, that something lurked on it. It had been separate for at least fifty years, perhaps more. No one was really sure when it happened, there was the Great Desolation and that had set everybody into a tailspin, so no one noticed the people going to the island and not returning, or that communications had stopped, communications everywhere had stopped. Lara knew a bit about the island before, it had been a throwback, all retro. People living without technology, a kind of wildlife sanctuary for humans. They lived here for a time, to get away from it all, vacation, some returned, others didn’t.

Lara stayed in the village for three days before she decided it was time to move onwards. She had decided to follow the river, after all, towns and villages were usually on them or nearby. She gathered her items and, after a small breakfast, she began to walk. As she walked from the village, she felt uneasy, as though the village itself was what protected her. She would have had a place to fall back to if she was attacked, the stone walls would have helped keep her safe. She had examined them before, on her second day, looking to see if there were any marks that would suggest wild animals, or something worse. She had found the village easily, surely someone else must have found it too. As she walked further away, she regretted not leaving some kind of message, saying where she was going, but perhaps that was best after all. She didn’t want someone to sneak up on her, if there was someone else here, perhaps they weren’t safe people to be around. Most people weren’t like her, most people were exiled for good reasons, murder, rape. She was exiled because her ex-fiancé was a jealous prick. Lara had expected someone to step in, to stop it before it went too far, but no one had. No one had turned up on the day of her exile, no one to watch her go. She had been abandoned by everyone she thought she knew and cared about.

If there was anyone left on the island, they would be dangerous, they would be wild, savage. She needed to be wary, to stay safe. She gripped the small hunting knife tightly as she walked, she didn’t want to be caught unawares when the island revealed its true nature.
She could do this, she would survive and someday, she’d return to the mainland and take revenge on Patrick and the others.

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