Shadow Crawlers. Part 59

the new body felt strange to Brett, he was still trying to get used to it. Inside the darkness the last owner sat, huddled and mumbling, the body had been a drug addict, the soul hadn’t quite figured out what was going on. Brett wanted to keep it that way as long as possible. He had been close while they were in the garage, he had almost gotten out, if Frank hadn’t given him that last command he might have been able to escape. He had woken up in the room again, there had been no chance of escape once inside the body. Brett had been hoping the sudden change might jump start the body. There seemed to be some give on the orders given, so he’d have to test that once he was allowed outside the bounds of this place.

Grady and Amy sat in the empty conference room, the large desk held a platter of sandwiches and pastries, they sat, facing the large projector screen, waiting in silence. Amy sipped her coffee, Grady picked at a croissant without eating any of it, leaving shredded bits of pastry on the desk. Frank entered the room ten minutes later by himself. He sat at the head of the table.
“Brett’s body died.”
“What does that mean?”
“The body he was in, it was dying, he had to leave.”
“So Brett is ok now? He’ll be back?”
“No, he died with the body. I wanted to be the one to tell you.”
“What about the creature? Who did that go into? Who else did it destroy?”
“No one, he’s in the body of a coma patient, they were brain dead.”
“Is there going to be a funeral?”
“I thought I’d leave that up to you, unfortunately, it would have to be a private affair, so it will be just you two. It will be your decision.”
Grady nodded.

“do you think he was telling the truth?”
“About what?”
“About where he got the body?”
“Yeah, why would he lie?”
“I don’t know. It seems strange, where would he have found someone in a coma, hospitals keep a check on that sort of thing, don’t they?”
“Yeah, but he had an insane amount of money, they could bribe the officials easily really, he knows what they do to the people in the bodies, he wouldn’t do that to a person.”
“Maybe. It just seems a little odd is all, what about the family of who ever it was?” Amy shook her head, “Never mind, it doesn’t matter. Where do you think the funeral will be? If it’s gonna be private he’ll have to take over the entire cemetery.”
“He might just bury him here, after all it’s private and there wouldn’t be any fear of someone stumbling across it. Plus if it has to be secret then he couldn’t have a tombstone…Does he have any other family? He only ever talked about his mom and sister.”
“I think it was just them, at least, just them he was close to.”
Grady sighed, “I know he was gone for a while, but it didn’t really feel real, like he could always come back.”
“I know. I thought that maybe the thing would be able to leave him and Brett would just be Brett again, ya know?” Amy shook her head, “Then again, if it really is that bad inside, he probably wouldn’t have been even close to the same.” She looked down and spoke again, this time softly, “he was probably better off.”
Grady gave her a hug, they stood for a few minutes, then together they began to walk back to their rooms.

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Wild Animals. Short Story.

Janice couldn’t stop shivering, even with the heavy coat. Her movements were quick and jerky, she felt queasy. She stumbled over a rock, then got her balance again, casting a worried glance behind her. Mark was back there, they couldn’t be done with him yet, could they? She had planned this so well, then things started to fall apart. She wiped her hand across her forehead, smearing the flecks of blood. She shivered again. Why the hell wouldn’t the car start? Behind her came a catlike shriek. Her heart jumped, was that the hunting cry? Were they done? She started walking faster, trying to make her legs work. She hadn’t meant to see it, she didn’t want to see it. She leaned over and threw up, then shakily wiped her mouth. She didn’t have time for this. She had to get moving, get somewhere safe. The road was long, and she couldn’t think of anything nearby that would provide shelter. Above her, trees blocked out the moonlight, casting everything into deep shadows. The only noise she could hear was her footsteps. She looked at the trees, squinting, they could be in there, watching, waiting.

The plan had been simple, get Mark out here, pretend there was something wrong with the car, then have him go look, when he got out, he would be taken. Then she’d drive, report it to the police and then Mark would be found the next morning, having been savaged by animals. Everything had gone perfectly until Mark got out of the car. He called for her to bring the flashlight. She waited as long as she could without it being suspicious, then she hopped out of the car and quickly passed it to him. She’d tried to get back in, complaining it was cold, but he’d handed her his jacket and requested that she hold the light. They stood there for what seemed like an eternity. Just as he pronounced that there was nothing wrong with the car that he could see, they attacked. Something large slammed into him, he screamed. Janice had felt the splash of hot blood across her face. She turned and ran to the car, sliding into the drivers seat. Janice tried to start the car, but nothing happened. She tried again, nothing. There were more of them, all crowded around Mark, ripping, killing, eating. She could hear his fading screams. She got out of the car, knowing it would offer no protection, she cast one quick glance at the animals, checking that they were distracted. That was when she saw him, his pale, mangled body. She tore her eyes away and ran.
That seemed like hours ago now. She was warned when she made the deal that the animals would attack Mark, but after that, well, if she didn’t get out of there they’d go for her. It had all seemed so easy, so perfect. She rubbed at her face again, what if they could smell the blood? She came to a crossroads and looked left and right, hoping that there would be something, anything. To the left, in the distance she could see a light, a house? A car? She started down the road, hoping she’d reach it in time. She couldn’t run, not anymore, but she managed a shambling half jog. As she got closer she could make out what it was, a house, small, single storey, but there would be people inside, and phones. She’d be safe, the walls would offer her more protection than being outside.
She pounded on the door with her fists, an old man opened it, “Please, help, I was in an accident down the road, my husband was attacked by animals.”
The old man squinted at her, then stood aside, “come in, quick. Sit on the couch there, it’s ok now. You’re safe.”

The room was small, a couch was crammed in against one wall, a small TV rested on a chest of drawers which was pushed up against the other wall. Janice sat onto the couch, the old man passed her a blanket, then left, he returned a moment later with a glass of water.

“What happened?”
“I don’t know, there was an accident, my husband got out of the car and he was attacked by some animals, it happened too fast for me to do anything, I had to run, I had to get away.” She started to cry.
“There was nothing you could have done, it wasn’t your fault. Are you injured?”
“I-I don’t think so.”
“Ok, I’m going to call the sheriff, you’re safe now, don’t worry.”
The old man left the sitting room, she could hear him speaking in the kitchen, a few minutes later he reappeared with a cup of coffee.
“Here, this’ll warm you up. I added some whiskey to help calm you a little. The sheriff will be here soon. What kind of accident was it? You don’t look like you’re injured, does it hurt anywhere?”
Janice nodded while taking the cup, she took a sip, it burned on the way down, she wasn’t sure if it was the coffee or the whiskey.
“The car stopped working, I don’t know why.”
He looked at her, then sighed.
“So, why’d you have him killed?”
“What?”
“Your husband. Why’d you kill him?”
“I didn’t, I told you, wild animals attacked us.”
“Yup. That’s what you say, and it’s what the autopsy will say too, but we both know better, don’t we? Really, you’re lucky you got away. Most people don’t. It’s part of their tricks. They have you drive in, then your car stops working at some point, you can only walk. Either your husband was a biggun or they let you walk. So tell me, why’d you have him killed?”
Janice stared down at her coffee. She couldn’t explain it to him, he wouldn’t understand. Even to herself it didn’t seem real.
He studied her face for a moment, then sighed, “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”
Janice shook her head.
“Well, I suppose it’s your business and not mine.”
He stood, “you look like you could have something to eat, might help you settle a bit more.”
He went into the kitchen, she could hear him opening and closing cupboards. There was a knock at the door.
“That’ll be the sheriff, could you grab the door?”
Janice placed the cup down, then went to the door. She reached out and paused. What if the old man was lying? What if it wasn’t the sheriff? She had no proof that was who he had called and now he wouldn’t answer the door.
There was another knock, startling her.

A voice outside called out, “Bob? Everything ok? You said there was a woman who’d been in accident?” the voice was deep, but friendly. She opened the door. The sheriff, looked her over once, then shook his head, “you look like you’ve had a helluva night. C’mon, sit down over there. Tell me what happened.”
Bob emerged from the kitchen a few minutes later, carrying a sandwich.
He handed the plate to Janice and they all sat in the small room.
Before Janice could launch into her tale, Bob cut across her.
“Don’t bother Sam, she made a deal. Won’t make much difference now.”
Sam shook his head and closed over his small notebook.
Janice looked at them both, “What? What do you mean?”
Bob looked at Sam for a second. “You made a deal with them. They told you they’d get payment afterwards, once it was done.”
Janice glanced at Sam, “maybe.”
“They give you a dollar amount?”
“No, I told them what I’d pay.”
“And they accepted that, told you they’d take the money?”
“The money isn’t the problem, I have money.”
“They don’t want your money. You’re the payment. You might as well just head back out there, they’re not gonna rest until they have you. It’ll be easier for you in the long run really.”
She looked at them both, “No. That’s ridiculous. You’re lying. Animals attacked us”
“Afraid not. Why’d you call me out here if you knew what it was Bob?”
“Well, I wasn’t sure, not at first. What if the girl had been in an accident? If they took from her, she would have been safe.”

Outside there was a catlike screech.
“You have to leave here sooner or later and they’ll be waiting.”
Bob patted her knee, “Drink your coffee and eat your food. The whiskey’ll take the edge off. I don’t have anything stronger I’m afraid.”
Janice looked at the food on the table, she wasn’t hungry.

Something knocked on the door.

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The Grave Digger. Short Story.

He looked at the pile, it was large today. It had been steadily getting larger too. Maybe that meant something, maybe it didn’t. He sighed and picked up the shovel, then he got to work.

The digging was slow, methodical. He didn’t enjoy it, but he didn’t hate it either. His arms were strong and his hands callused. He hadn’t gotten blisters in a long, long time.
When the holes were deep enough, he heaved himself out and he started to bury them. There were all kinds. There usually were. Race or nationality didn’t matter, neither did age or size. The smallest one today looked about ten, a bald, shrivelled being that barely looked human, bones far too visible, the oldest, about forty, medium height and build, healthy looking. They both went into their own holes. When he had placed the bodies, he began to fill the graves with soil, slowly, methodically. When he was done he patted each grave three times with his shovel and when he had buried them all, he stepped back and wiped his face with a handkerchief. There were over a hundred mounds in the field, dark, rich soil rising out of the grass, but only slightly.

 

He went back to his small cottage, there was no real rush so he didn’t hurry. The sun was still shining down on him and he knew it would for another while yet. Inside the cottage he washed his hands then poured himself a glass of water, after he proceeded to eat his evening meal. He wasn’t particularly hungry, but he never was, he ate out of a sense of duty, it was just how things were done. When he had finished eating, he cleaned himself off, having a shower in the cold, clean water. When he had finished cleaning himself he felt tiredness settle onto him, an old and welcome friend. He slipped into his small bed and fell asleep almost instantly.
He didn’t dream. He never dreamed.

 

He woke the next morning and went outside to where they were left. Another pile, about the same size as before. The grave digger surveyed them for a moment, then, he began to work. He turned from the bodies and to the field, looking at the smooth, unbroken sea of grass, before he picked what seemed to be a good spot. The shovel blade bit into the dirt, he slowly lifted it, removing the soil, there was no rush here. No need to hurry.
This had been his life, it had always been his life. Though sometimes he felt like there had been something before this, but he could never quite remember what it was. He knew of a time when he first started, when he wasn’t strong, when his hands blistered and bled and his muscles screamed in agony every time the shovel scooped out a fresh pile of dirt. He remembered the long, endless days where he did nothing but dig until he had to stop, then he dug some more. Those days had been a long time ago and the memory of them was fading too. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered here, only the job at hand.

 

It was the same every day, the bodies appeared, devoid of clothing, then he would bury them. He remember, vaguely, a time in the early days, when he tried to wait up, to see who delivered the bodies, but they never came. He had sat awake for what felt like days, but the sun never set and night never came. He had finally fallen asleep, leaned against the wall. When he woke the bodies were there and he was sore and stiff. He didn’t attempt it again.

Sometimes he heard noises in the bodies, faint groans and murmurs, sometimes they moved slightly under his grasp. That wasn’t his concern though. They wouldn’t have been brought to him unless they were dead, or almost there. They were buried with the rest.

 

That night, as he sat at the table, he looked at the single word gouged into its smooth and worn surface, “remember” he had done that. A long, long time ago. He wasn’t sure why, he had been afraid he was forgetting something, but what ever it was he did not know. It must not have been important. He ran his fingers along the grooves, feeling them beneath his fingers. It looked terrible. He’d have to sand it off when he got the change. As always he ate slowly, methodically, not really tasting his food. When he was done, he showered and went to sleep.

 

The next morning the grave digger woke and dressed, then he stepped outside and looked at the pile of bodies. Larger again. He shook his head slightly, then looked out at the gently rippling grass, nothing marred its surface. He gripped the shovel and chose a spot, then, he began to dig.

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Shadow Crawlers. Part 58.

Part 1, Part 57

Brett lay on the bed, breathing slowly, heavily. He felt tired, weak. He needed a new body, he needed a way out of this rotting cell that he had found himself trapped in. He started shaking, uncontrollable shivers raced along his arms and legs. He concentrated, trying to stop it but nothing happened. His body finally stopped and lay still, breads of sweat stood out on his forehead. He felt cold, clammy. His stomach clenched, Brett rolled over slightly and heaved over the side, thin mucousy gruel hit the floor with a faint splatter, he hadn’t eaten yet today, nor had he drank anything. His stomach clenched again, he started to dry heave, again and again until his stomach was sore and tender. When it passed he allowed his body to relax, stretching out on the bed. He knew he should try to drink something, he was probably dehydrated, but that wouldn’t solve his problems. Nothing could be done for this body, he needed a new one. The shakes started again. He’d never been in a body this long, either it was killed and he left, or he left long before it got to this point. He didn’t know what would happen inside this place, he couldn’t leave the body voluntarily, what would happen once it died, would he be trapped, immobile inside a rotting corpse? Or would he still have control of it, creating a shambling nightmare. He struggled to leave the body again, but what ever had been put in place to stop him held steadily. There was no escaping the body. He was stuck.

 

“We’re getting a bit worried about him, he’s been unwell though we can’t tell what’s wrong with him. He won’t speak to us, or he can’t, we’re not sure which. He occasionally shakes his head or nods. Maybe you can talk to him? You do control him?”
Frank looked at Brett through the mirror. He didn’t control Brett as much as he should, Brett still had fight in him. He watched as Brett shook, then threw up. They’d have to get someone in to clean that sooner or later. As far as he was aware, they were immune to diseases, so what ever Brett had would have to be either insanely strong, something he produced himself, or something that only affected his kind. Perhaps it was some kind of last resort, kill the body and spread disease. Frank frowned, it didn’t seem like something Brett would do. Sure he enjoyed pain, but sickness was different.
Frank donned a mask and entered the room, he was wearing blue surgical scrubs and foot coverings. Inside Brett still lay on the bed, he was pale and shivering. The nurse that had been in to check on him said he was running a high fever.
Frank stood over him for a second, “What is wrong with you?”
Brett didn’t respond.

“Answer me.”
“Sick. Dying.”
“You don’t die. Stop lying to me.”
“This body. Dying. Need new one. Can’t leave in here. Stuck.”
Frank nodded. They’d need to get him a new body, but he needed time to think, Brett was far to wilful to be outright trusted.
“I will bring you out of here. Give you a new body. Are there any requirements?”
“Not a child. Someone. Anyone.”
Frank left the room. They could use one of the employees, but some of them were getting friendly with the girls and he didn’t want someone slipping up and letting them know about that. No, they’d take someone from outside, someone homeless maybe. Someone who wouldn’t be missed.

 

While he waited for a body to be found, he wondered if that was truly the best way to go about it. He could let a staff member be taken, claim that Brett had done it, told Frank that he would only take the body he was given, no one else. He discarded the idea, it was too dangerous, the girls would start questioning their control over their creatures. It wasn’t worth the risk. Better just to find someone from the outside and get it over with. He smiled as a plan suddenly formed in his mind. It would be perfect really.

 

The team stood around Frank, though he though it a little ridiculous, it wasn’t like they could have done anything to stop Brett. They had strapped him down on a gurney, Frank looked at him, Brett appeared to be unconscious. Frank slapped him hard across the face. “You will not leave that body until I give you permission, when I do you may only enter the body that I indicate, none of my staff will be harmed by you, understand?”
Brett murmured something faint, Frank slapped him again, this time he could hear the faint “Yes.”
They put him into a van, then drove a short distance, Brett seemed to have passed out once they left the building. Frank tried to appear calm, confident, but his heart was beating rapidly. The van turned into a building, inside was a large open garage, the van stopped and the gurney was rolled out, a man, perhaps in his twenties, was sitting against one of the pillars, he was unconscious. Brett stirred feebly.
“You may take that body sitting against the pillar, no other. Do it.”
Brett’s body started to convulse, straining against the bonds. Brett left the empty shell behind, he was free. He gave a snarl of triumph, Frank looked at him, pale, the men around him raised their guns. “You may not leave this building. Take the body against the pillar now.”
The shadow flowed across the floor smoothly, pouring into the man against the pillar. His clothes were ragged and dirty, his blond hair greasy and clumping together. He opened his eyes, the pupils were dilated. The body shook, eyes rolling. Then it stopped. The body lay still. Frank looked at the man for a moment, then indicated to his staff to switch it with the corpse. They unceremoniously dumped the corpse off the gurney and onto a white sheet, they wrapped it, covering the body, then carried the unconscious Brett to the gurney where they strapped him down. A thick, heavy stench started to fill the room, the white sheet started to fall slowly, stains appearing as it sunk. After a moment, there was nothing but sludge and bones. Frank turned and got into the van. The gurney was placed in after him. They had drugged the junkie they had found, Brett wouldn’t wake until he was back in his room.

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Anger. Short Story.

Jessie looked at herself in the mirror as she brushed her hair, her eyes examining every bit of visible skin, looking for flaws. The paused brushing, picked up a tweezers and used it to pluck a single hair from her chin, then she went back to brushing. Once she was done brushing, she would apply moisturiser, then, she would go to bed. It was her nightly routine and had been since she was fifteen. It calmed her down, let her unwind from the happenings of the day. Outside rain drops hit the window sullenly, hard and occasional. In another few minutes the tempest would start, but for now, it was calmer, quieter. She placed the brush down, then picked up the small jar of moisturiser, taking a glob of it on her finger, she began to smooth it over her face. When she was done, she looked herself over again, then she stood from the mirror and went to her bed. Downstairs the argument seemed to gain intensity, the voices hadn’t gotten any louder but the air had shifted somehow. Everything was tense. Jessie reached over to her small radio and turned it on, the music was low and soothing, it was always tuned to a classical station. The steady murmur of her parents voices grew distant, then, they were buried beneath a soft swell of violin. Jessie closed her eyes and breathed deeply, allowing herself to relax. She flinched as something broke downstairs. She frowned, then tried to relax again, moving up her body to each muscle, allowing it to unclench. Something else shattered, a door slammed, then another. There was a brief shriek of rage, then finally, the front door slammed just as the rain unleashed itself. The argument had ended. She smiled slightly and drifted into sleep.

 

In the sitting room a creature sat and waited, vibrating slightly, it was feeling sated now, the emotional energies had been divine. Upstairs it could sense something, the peace of someone in a dreamless sleep. The creature ignored it and focused on the woman, she sat on the couch, sobbing gently. It inhaled deeply, savouring the different flavours of her grief and anger. It created a feedback, making the woman’s feelings intense, more acute. Soon it would be time for the grand finale, but not yet, not yet. The creature slid from the room, through a crack in the door and out into the dark night.

 

Jessie woke the next morning feeling refreshed, the argument had happened early this time, so she had gotten plenty of sleep. She rose from bed and went to the bathroom, shower first, then she’d be able to be polite to people.

She emerged from the bathroom in a cloud of steam and, wrapped in a towel, she went straight to her bedroom, inside she dried and dressed.

Her mother sat in the kitchen, a cup of coffee clutched in her hands, her eyes puffy and red. It looked as though her mother hadn’t slept. Jessie got a glass and filled it with orange juice, she slid two pieces of bread into the toaster and waited in silence. The bread popped up and Jessie quickly buttered it, she ate both, downed the juice, then grabbed her bag and left the house. Outside she took a deep breath, she didn’t want to talk to her mother, she knew that if she had said anything she would get a blow by blow account of the argument, her mother would try to turn her against her father, and, once alone with her father he would try and do the same. It was exhausting. So she said nothing, she moved through the house silently, allowing them to stew in their own grief and rage. She had more important things to worry about, it was her final year of school, soon there would be exams, then college. Soon she would be free of the silent house. She had some money saved, not enough for college and a place, but she’d get a job somewhere, she’d make it work. Her grades were good, maybe even good enough to get a grant. She waited at the bus stop, money ready. Her father used to drop her to school every day, but in the last few months it had never been a guarantee, after all her father wasn’t there most mornings now, either leaving at the crack of dawn or staying out from the night before. Her mother thought he might be having an affair, Jessie thought he was just trying to get away from her mother. It didn’t matter where. Sometimes he had come back smelling of whiskey, other days he’d sneak in and they’d go about the day as if nothing happened until something happened to set them off again. Jessie didn’t really understand it. They had always been reasonable people. Then the arguments started, screaming matches over the most trivial things. She shook her head slightly, pulling herself from her thoughts. She needed to focus.

 

The day passed quickly as usual, she enjoyed most of her classes, which helped speed everything along, but she dreaded the bell ringing. It was a Tuesday, all her friends were going home, they had things to do, Jessie had nothing but silence to welcome her. She wanted to stay out, wander around the town, sit around in a café drinking coffee slowly, but that wouldn’t happen today.

 

The house was silent as she expected. Jessie kicked off her shoes and went upstairs to change and dump her bag in her room. Once that was done, she went into the kitchen for a drink, it had been empty. She called out, but there was no reply. The whole house was empty. Well, that was something. Taking advantage of a rare opportunity, Jessie went into the sitting room to watch TV, she wouldn’t have to deal with listening to her parents not-so-subtle digs at one another.

 

Her mother arrived home two hours later, wrapped in a coat. Her father didn’t arrive home until nine. Once they were both back, Jessie excused herself to her room, claiming she had some homework to finish off. Once there she turned on the radio and sat on her bed with a book. She had finished everything she needed in her free period. She could study, but she was too tired to focus properly. Shouts rose above the music briefly, then settled down, Jessie sighed and turned up the volume on the radio. They’d settle down in a bit, they always did.

The creature was back, sitting in its usual spot, feeding on them, draining them. It shivered in anticipation of the coming battle, it would be fierce, the creature could taste it in the air. They were volatile people, perhaps it could even push them to do things. It would be a triumph if the creature could manage it, if it could push them that far. It eyed the kitchen, in particular the rack of silver, glistening knives. The creature could feel it, grinning it turned its attention to the two people.

 

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New Town. Short Story.

I’m almost better, yay! Still a bit sick, but another day or two and I should be fine.

I haven’t been up to much, watching TV, wallowing in illness, and having a super fun time while doing it! (Is the sarcasm really obvious there?)

On with the show!

_____________________________________________________________

Doug stood in the staging area, trying to calm himself. Around him army personnel busied themselves doing god only knew what. Finally, one stopped their preparation and moved towards him, “Ok, you know the drill right?”
Doug nodded, once, he looked far too pale.
“Just relax ok. You won’t feel it going in. I swear.”
Doug nodded again, he opened his mouth to speak, then closed it.
“I know it sounds scary, you’re the first civilian inside since the wall came down, but it isn’t that bad. I’ve been in and out loads of times.”
Doug stared at the gate. It was unremarkable really. About eight foot high, made of the same stone-like material as the rest of the wall, it was shaped in an arch, on the two doors there were slight swirling designs, marking it as different from the rest of the walls.
A door slammed behind him, making Doug jump, one of the army guys sniggered, Doug didn’t notice.

“Ok, all clear?”
a chorus of “clear” echoed around the staging room. One of the men, no, not a man, a woman, stepped forward and placed a hang onto the handle, then, she pulled. Doug tried not to scream, to tell her to stop, that she was crazy, that she’d kill them all. Doug was tough, he was the calm one, yet his mind still screamed in fear. He took a breath, then clutched his bag tighter, trying to control the shaking. The door swung open, revealing what was on the other side. It was a room, just like the one he was in. So far so good. The army guy that had spoken before stepped beside Doug and gently guided him forward. Together, they and another army guy walked into the room. The door swung closed behind them. Silence fell over the room.

“I though we were meeting someone here.” Doug was proud that his voice remained mostly steady.

“We are. Look dude, it happens to everyone. Something about the door screams “Back the fuck off.” We’re not sure why, but it seriously isn’t that bad in here. It’s actually kinda nice sometimes.”
The door in the staging room opened, a young man entered, wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Doug’s heart began to slow, no longer pounding a deep, heavy rhythm in his chest. The guy looked, well, normal, black hair cut stylishly, blue eyes, his skin still holding a faint summers tan, he had a steady, easy grin as he entered. The guy and the army men started to chat like old friends. In the run up to entering the place Doug hadn’t remembered anyone’s names. It hadn’t seemed important, the only thing that mattered was the deep, grinding fear. The man stepped forward to Doug and stuck out a hand,
“Hi, I’m Max, you must be Doug. We’re glad to have you here.”
Doug shook Max’s hand and smiled.
“I hear going through that takes some getting used to. I’m not surprised, all the propaganda I’ve seen about this place, I’d probably be pissing myself if I had to go through. Don’t worry though, we’re a friendly bunch.

“All right lads, we’re off, see you in a few days.”
Max placed a friendly hand on Doug’s shoulder and began to steer him towards the door, outside. Doug knew it was silly, but he stilled held his breath as the door was opened, what it revealed shocked him.
It was a normal looking street, almost identical to the one he had left behind outside. Max smiled at him, “Thought it would be all craters and burnt buildings, yeah?”
Doug nodded, “Yeah, I mean, I just assumed.”
“It’s all right, I don’t blame you. We’re actually quite safe in here. Safer than outside I’d wager. Right. We’ll go to my office first, it’s high up, has a view of the place, you can get your bearings. After that I think we should grab a spot of lunch somewhere. Have you eaten yet?”
“No, I skipped breakfast.”
“No shame, that, I’ve seen a few of those tough army guys lose their breakfast on the way in. Once we eat we can have a bit of a wander, say hi to a few people.”
Max started to walk and Doug hurried to keep up with him, “So, what exactly are you doing here?”
“What?”
“Well, what did they tell you you’d be doing.”
“Have a look around, write a story about the place.”
“Yeah, yeah, I got that spiel too. I mean how much are you supposed to lie?”
“Uhh, I’m not. It’s a visit and a few articles on my experience inside.”
Max smiled at him, “Just wait until you get back, you’ll find they’ll want you to fudge a few things here and there. We’re a dangerous bunch to them. We may not look it, but we are. They’ll want to be able to nuke us if things go wrong. I tried explaining it to the higher ups before, but I might as well tell you, nuking won’t do a damn thing to this place.”
“Why?”
“It’s protected.”
With that Max stepped into an office building. Doug followed, surprised that there were working lights inside. The place was clean and welcoming. A woman sat at the front desk, she was reading a book.

“Anyone waiting for me?”

“Nope.” The secretary didn’t look up.

They stepped into the lift, Doug only hesitating a moment. He felt another thrill of fear up his spine as the door closed.
“What if the power goes out?”
“It won’t. It never has before, why would it do it now?”
Doug grabbed out a notepad and made a quick note.
“I thought you were left without power, that it was a bit of a warzone.”
“It was at first. Though the power never went out. We have clean running water too. No idea where it’s coming from, but as long as it works.”
The elevator brought them to the top floor, there they stepped out and Max walked directly to what Doug assumed was the largest office. A desk made of dark, heavy wood sat in the centre, behind the desk there were floor to ceiling windows, giving a view of the entire city. A large TV was bolted to the wall on one side, there were two comfortable couches angled artfully and two more soft looking chairs at the desk. Max walked directly to the window, Doug followed.
Smiling, Max turned to him, “Welcome to New Town.”

 

Doug awkwardly sat on one of the sofas. “How have things been here? Since the wall went up?”
“Well, it was difficult in the beginning. People panicked ya know? Like that’s any big surprise. Then people started manifesting different things and not all of the people were nice. Some tried to take over, others tried to stop them. It was a mess for the first few months. Everyone was scared. Then the resets started happening and everyone calmed down a bit.”
“Resets?”
“Yeah. It’s not really confirmed but there are a lot of reports, particularly from some of our more powerful people. If someone fucks up and a large segment of the population dies, there’s a kind of reset. Who ever did it knows about it, as do a few others.”
“So, murder is impossible here?”
“Not quite. Individuals can die. Plenty have and plenty more will. Some were natural, others not. But if the change is catastrophic enough to upset the balance in here, then poof. It’s reset.”

“Why?”
“Well, we don’t really know. Personally, I think what ever created the wall is trying to protect us, while we get used to how everything works now.”
“Who first discovered it?”
“Maggie. I’ll take you to talk to her at some point. She’s a little strange now, but she’s usually nice enough. Just don’t piss her off. She’s one of the more powerful people here. You’ll see when you meet her.”
“Ok, well, what about you?”
“What about me?”
“Well, um, what are you?”
“Well, I’m up there in terms of power, but I don’t really use it. I’m not sure what I am to be quite honest. I was elected though, if that’s what you’re insinuating. I started organising people, getting them to help each other out, once things settled down, I stepped down from any kind of power, there were elections held, I won, as did the other members of the city council. We don’t control with fear, we try to contain the wilder elements in this place. It doesn’t always work, but we do our best.”
There was a knock at the door, though it was closer to a heavy pounding than to a knock. Max stood and went to the door, Doug wanted to call out to him, tell him to stop, he was suddenly and inexplicably terrified, but it was too late. Max opened the door and Doug let out a tiny little shriek. Max simply smiled, the man on the other side, frowned slightly, then he stumbled in. He was impossibly pale with a slight, greenish tinge to him. His clothes were ripped and torn but clean. One eye was a milky white, the other was a deep green. A large wound on his cheek had been stitched together with thick, black thread, and he was missing the tip of his nose. Doug could see the black tinge. His mind screamed for him to run, kill it, do something, but he was stuck.
“new guy.” The new man nodded. Max gestured at Doug, “Doug, this is Benny, Benny, Doug.”
Benny shuffled forward a few steps, then stopped, seemingly thinking better of it.

“Give it a few minutes, you’ll calm down. He’s no threat. It’s how people react to zombies. We think it’s some kind of survival instinct. They’re harmless though. Aren’t you? Aren’t you harmless? Look at the wittle guy” Max reached out a hand, intending to scratch behind Benny’s ear, Benny swatted the hand away,
“Try it and I’ll break your arm.” The words were thick and slightly slurred, but perfectly understandable. Doug felt his jaw drop open.
“Yes. I’m dead. No, I’m still alive. No, I don’t know how.” With that Benny dropped the papers onto the desk and shuffled out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
“He can be a little touchy about it. Take a deep breath, you’ll be fine.” Max frowned. “Maybe we’ll get lunch sent up. I think Rosies would be a bit much for you.”
“But, He, I.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Just wait. You’ll be fine.”
Feeling like he’d never be warm again, Doug closed his eyes, wondering what had possessed him to come into this place.

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Shadow Crawlers. Part 57.

So the sore throat is gone, yay! It has now moved itself upwards, to my nose. I’m all stuffed up and gross.

Bleh.

I’ve been reading a lot, which is kinda good. Currently going through the Dresden Files series, which I’m enjoying. Though I’m not sure what I’m gonna read once I finish it off.

On with the show!

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Part 1, part 56

Amy sat on her bed, not looking at anything in particular. She could see Grady getting sucked in, no matter what she said or tried to do it wasn’t working. Grady was enjoying the power that she had. Amy didn’t blame her, hell, she enjoyed using Ed too, but she was afraid of having that kind of power. If she wanted she could level an entire city, she didn’t understand how that kind of power didn’t frighten Grady. She had watched one of Grady’s training sessions, when Grady was using Alice. Amy had watched as the “test subjects”, employees of the company and a few paid volunteers, were controlled and forced to do terrifying feats of skill. Had one of them slipped, they could have died. Grady hadn’t hung around afterwards, she didn’t see the people being carried away, didn’t see the woman who could no longer walk, her muscles too sore and abused. Amy had tried to tell Grady about it later, but Grady didn’t listen, telling her that she was overreacting, that they weren’t hurt so it was ok. It was worrying to watch the changes that Grady was going through, to be unable to actually talk to her. Amy had started to wonder if Grady was being drugged somehow, maybe in the food. Perhaps it was just the raw power that she now controlled. Amy had gone along with what Frank had wanted of them, she had participated enthusiastically in all the drills, but she was just waiting for them to let their guards down, then she would leave. Frank had insisted that once they had finished training they could leave of if they wanted, but Amy didn’t believe him. She expected him to betray them. After all, he had done nothing to earn their trust, he had never put himself in a vulnerable position with them, he was always the one with the power, always the one who was safe. Even now, as he claimed to trust them, he kept them prisoner in the building. She just had to build his trust, wait for the right time, then make a break for it. She could get away clean if she did it right. Herself and Ed could hide somewhere, lay low. Amy could use her contacts to disappear, get set up somewhere else, change her name. It would be a pain, but she could get away. So far she had told no one of her plan, she knew she’d have to stop expressing concerns to Grady soon, start to backtrack, tell Grady that she had been wrong, that it wasn’t as worrying as it all seemed. Amy stood from her bed and went to the door, Grady hadn’t been visiting her as much in the last week. She went into the hall and down the short corridor, she knocked on Grady’s door and waited.

 

Grady opened the door, “oh. Hi”

“Hey, I just wanted to say that I’m sorry, for how I was acting. I know I was being a bit weird. I’m just not used to things going well.”
Grady smiled, “It’s ok, I get it. I do, I was worried at first, but so far everything seems to be fine. No ones been hurt and we haven’t been in any danger. We’re safe here.”

They talked for a few more minutes, then Amy left, feeling freaked out by Grady’s attitude. She had become malleable. As she went back to her room, Amy wondered if something had happened to Grady, perhaps Frank had done something. As she went inside she wondered why he hadn’t done the same to her if that was the case. It didn’t make sense.

 

Grady sat in her room at the desk, looking at the flickering candle. She moved one hand over it, feeling the heat. She took a slight breath, then blew it out. She watched as the smoke curled lazily upwards. Then, she lit the candle again. She repeated this a few more times before stopping. She was getting hungry now. She could feel it gnawing at her stomach. She picked up the phone and ordered food. While she waited she watched the candle, wishing the fire was bigger. She had already done her training for the day, she wouldn’t have access to Rose until tomorrow. She wouldn’t be able to feel the heat and power rushing over her. Frank had promised she could use both Rose and Alice together during the next training session, and he hinted that he’d have a task for them soon. Grady expected it would just be herself going out, Amy still seemed off, though Grady didn’t know why. Frank hadn’t threatened them. Sure they were locked up still, but that was for their own safety, Grady knew that she could accidentally kill people. Frank wanted everyone to be safe, she just couldn’t understand why Amy couldn’t see it yet. Grady shook her head slightly, there was a knock on the door and when she answered, a food cart was rolled in.
Grady started to eat quickly, not bothering to taste the food, she just wanted to clawing in her stomach to stop. When she was done, she lay back on the bed, content. Frank was doing something to her, she was sure of it. She felt different when she was out training, she couldn’t remember how, she just knew it was different, things that Amy had said were right, but now, when she was inside the building, away from Rose and Alice, Grady couldn’t understand why she shouldn’t trust Frank. He could have easily had them both killed, he could stop her accessing Alice and Rose. He was a being kind to them. Wasn’t he? Grady closed her eyes, and soon, she fell asleep.

 

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