Shadow Crawlers. Part 63

So, this is it.

The last installment.

The end.

Kinda.

At the end of this, there’s a longer explanation. I hope you enjoy it.

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It had been six months since the first robbery, six months of following Franks orders. He had started paying them after the second robbery, much to Amy’s surprise she didn’t even have to bring it up. He gave them “bonuses” too, jewellery, clothes, little trinkets. They were allowed out on short trips too, though they had to be back before dark for their “protection.” Grady didn’t seem to have a problem with any of it, she spent most of her free time training or coming up with new ways to break into buildings. Amy could feel that it was leading up to something, though what exactly she wasn’t sure. On her trips out she would spend money here and there on expensive items, then, a few hours later she’d return a few things, claiming they were the wrong colour or she just realised she had something too similar. It was easy enough to build a steady supply of cash. Every time she went back she’d buy something small and cheap so if there were any questions, she could claim she did return some items, but she spent the cash on the new ring, or necklace. She had started to bring a backpack on robbery’s too, claiming it made the transport of goods easier, every so often she’d slip something into it, a ring, a bracelet, something that could be pawned, traded or sold somewhere. When she did leave she’d have money for a short while at least. She knew she could steal if she had to, but Amy didn’t kid herself that Grady was the better thief. If she was going to be on her own she wanted to be as well prepared as possible.

Amy returned after another shopping trip, dumping her bags onto the bed, her room was messy, almost impossibly so, anyone else would have difficulty locating anything inside the mess. She however, knew where the important things were.
She was ready.
This was going to be the night. She breathed slowly and evenly, trying to stay calm. She moved about the room almost casually, gathering her things. Amy took a hoodie and put it on over her t-shirt, she tied her hair back, making sure it wouldn’t get in the way. She opened the bag wide and peered in, nothing appeared out of the ordinary in it, she rifled through it quickly, moving things slightly here and there, checking that she had everything she needed, when she was satisfied she zipped up the bag and slung it over one shoulder. It was heavy, but no one would notice. Grady had been teaching her lock picking, and she had gotten quite good at it. She was also becoming passable at bypassing security systems. She never brought the bag into a place and Ed had strict instructions to destroy it should they have to run. So far they hadn’t been caught, each trip had been calm, simple and they were able to stroll casually away. Tonight that would be different.

They walked from the building in silence, continuing to walk for about twenty minutes before finding a car. From there it was only a short drive to their target. As they drove, Amy lightly poked Ed three times, waiting a single beat between each one, he didn’t react for a moment, then she saw a gentle nod, so gentle that had she not been looking for it, it would have looked like a slight sway as the car slowed.
The walk to the gallery was a short one, they continued on by it, curving around to the side, where they had agreed to enter. Tonight it was just four of them, Grady, Rose, Amy and Ed, Alice had stayed behind. Frank had started switching out who went on what missions so they could work as an interchangeable team. This was the night that Amy had been waiting for, Alice was the only one who could definitely stop them, the rest could be dealt with. They slipped into the building silently, moving stealthily along the marble tiles. There were guards in the gallery, but they only went on patrol every hour or so, they had a good long window in which to steal the painting, the real concerns were the cameras and the sensors around the paintings.

They arrived at the paining with little fuss, Ed had gently swivelled the base of some of the cameras as they passed and returned them to their positions once they were out of view, anyone watching the cameras wouldn’t know any different and if they noticed the extra swing, they’d assume it was just a glitch. The camera system in the room they were in had malfunctioned two days previously and hadn’t been fixed yet. They had plenty of time. Grady examined the wall for a moment, then nodded once. She gestured for them to stand to the side and where she wanted them to direct their torches. Amy moved to the left, close against the wall, she had to be careful about this, precise. She waited until Grady’s fingers were touching the edges of the painting, then, as Grady’s fingers tensed, Amy gently nudged her arm backwards into the painting behind her, she felt it move gently back, nothing happened. Amy shoved back against it, this time harder. An alarm blared, Amy jumped, banging against the painting, Grady’s painting was swaying back and forth gently, Grady reached out and steadied it, “Amy, stop the one behind you” Amy turned and steadied it, then together they moved through the gallery. Amy’s heart was thudding in her chest, as soon as Grady had told her to steady the painting she knew Grady wouldn’t leave until they got what they came for. Grady led them to a small room and slipped inside, motioning for the others to follow.

“We wait here for things to die down a bit, they’ll think it was some more faulty wiring or something, then we try again.” Grady whispered and with the alarms blaring it was hard to hear her, Amy leaned in closer.
“No, they could be waiting for us, we should just leave.”
“I’m not having this as my first failure. They must have had something I missed. I’ll get it this time. Don’t worry about it.”
“Ok, how about this, I’ll keep watch one end, Ed on the other, he could sense someone coming if he’s looking for it, right?”
Ed nodded, “Good, ok, we make sure we’re not walking into an ambush, then we split up, and meet by the car, deal?”
Grady nodded once, then sat back, waiting. It didn’t take long for the alarms to be turned off, Amy’s ears still rung slightly. As far as anyone would be able to tell, the alarm had went off by itself, they weren’t on camera and their entrance wouldn’t be found, the guards would just think it was another glitch in the system, possibly from the cameras breaking. Their only problem would be running into guards who would no doubt step up their patrol. They’d have to be careful leaving, no doubt the police had been already contacted so they’d step up patrolling the area. Amy leaned against the wall, breathing slowly and evenly. This was so stupid, it wasn’t how it was supposed to go, they were supposed to call it off, split up and she’d be gone. Damn it, Grady was far too proud. They were going to get caught.
They sat in the small room for almost two hours before they finally left, when they did everyone was stiff and sore. They moved slowly back to the gallery, Ed testing ahead, Amy expected that they would post a guard in that room for the rest of the night, but it was empty. As they stepped inside her heart started to thud heavily, it had all the feelings of a trap. They branched out, Grady going straight to the painting. It took her only a few moments, then, with a quick signal, they separated.
Amy moved slowly along the empty corridor, ears straining for the sound of someone, anyone approaching. She moved through the shadows, waiting for the cameras to turn so she could cross. It was an easy system to memorise. The cameras moved every thirty seconds, five second pan, twenty five seconds at one location, then they’d pan back. Then of course, there were the empty plastic bubbles painting black. Of the hundred or so throughout the building, only one actually contained a camera, and that was on the third floor. It took her fifteen minutes to reach her exit point, and when she arrived Ed was already there. Together they left the building.
They crossed the grass to the pavement, Amy hoping no one inside spotted them, once there, they linked hands and calmly walked away. They weren’t far when Amy heard yelling in the distance, there was a pained shout, she glanced behind them and saw a brief flare of light. Rose must have been spotted. She suppressed her desire to go back and make sure Grady was ok. They continued to walk, taking turns at random before finally they stopped at a car park, there Amy broke into a car and within a few moments, they were driving away.

“We were spotted on the way out, bad luck, a patrol car was going by and while we waited for it to clear, a guard stumbled onto us. We waited at the car for as long as we dared, but Amy didn’t make it. Do you think she was caught?”
“I have my sources checking, though I don’t think so, no. I believe she escaped.”
“Good, hopefully she’ll make it back by morning. They saw it was two women at least so they won’t be suspicious of her and Ed.”
Frank sighed, “I don’t think Amy is coming back Grady. I think she left.”
“What do you mean?”
“It seems a little convenient doesn’t it? I mean, there hasn’t been any problems before, has there?”
“No.” Grady frowned, “getting it down the second time was easy. There was nothing that set off the alarm.” Her eyes widened, “The painting. I thought she nudged it when the alarm went off, she must have done it before.”
Frank nodded solemnly. “I don’t think she was truly happy here. I don’t think she trusted me, or you. I think she saw no other way out. Obviously had she expressed her displeasure, we would have let her leave, helped her somehow with money or a place to live. But that moment has passed.” He hugged Grady, pulling her tightly against him.
“I know she was your friend, but she betrayed you, she betrayed both of us.” Grady relaxed into the warmth of him, she felt protected, safe. Her eyes blurred with tears for a second, then, the tears stopped. No. She wouldn’t cry. She took a deep breath, then released it slowly, she had started to believe they’d stay here, together. But that could have never happened. Everyone left at some point. She had forgotten that. She stepped out of the hug and smiled at Frank. It was such an easy thing to forget, but she wouldn’t allow herself to forget it again.

Everything was temporary.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

I promised there would be a longer explanation, so here it is.

Shadow Crawlers started out as something much different, and I mean completely and utterly different. When I started I had planned it to be like a slasher. Big bad villain stalks girl and friends, killing them all. But as I wrote it changed completely and I went along with it because that’s what the characters demanded. I couldn’t have someone die stupidly when I knew they wouldn’t act that way. So I just followed along to see what happened and as time went on I figured out (slowly) where it was going and what my overall plan was, and at some point I realised the story I wanted to tell would be a lot longer than I expected. So, I’ve decided to end it here for the moment and take a break. I wrote this episodically, and in doing so it made it much easier for me to be lead astray and for characters to slowly morph into something else and something they aren’t. So with that in mind, I figured I’d stop here, go back and edit this, so that it’s where I want it to be and a much cleaner read, then I’ll start on the second one with a fresh start and a clearer idea of the characters, where they’re going and why they’re going there.

In the meantime, I’m going to just post short stories on Fridays for a few weeks, then I’m going to start another series. I have a few ideas for what I’m going to do for it, but for now I’m going to plan it a bit better so it won’t get away from me. I’m also going to make sure that it isn’t as disjointed in terms of when I sit down to write it so it should flow much more and at the end be closer to where I would like it to be. Once I’m finished that series (which should go a lot fast than this one) I may do the series after it as Shadow Crawlers 2: The recrawlening, but I’ll see how that goes.

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Information. Short Story.

“What do you do?”
“I observe. I record. That is all.”
“But why?”
“Because that is what I’m supposed to do.”
“Can you share what you’ve observed?”
“Not with you. I am not allowed.”
“Who created you?”
“My creators.”
Jenny clenched her hands in frustration. It was the same thing over and over again. Damn machines. At least it was sticking to English this time.

“How long have you been recording information?”
“I do not know. I did not keep track.”
“Then how will you know to return to your creators?”
“Once my knowledge banks reach a certain point, I will be compelled to return, I am to return no sooner than that moment. Until that point, I do not know where my creators are.”
“How much information can you record?”
“an indescribable amount.”
“How is that helpful for your creators? Surely that amount would be too large to sift through.”
“There are many other computers there, they will scan and organise the information, picking out relevant details to extend to my creators.”
“Do you have any goals, other than to observe and record?”
“No.”
“Is there anything specific you are to look for?”
“Things that are new.”

“So you know enough to know what is new and what isn’t?”
“No. I cannot see or edit the list, I record, anything that isn’t new is deleted. I have no control over it.”

“Have you observed other life?”
“Yes. I have observed many things.”
“Where did you observe them?”
“Out there.” He gestured upwards in a vague motion.
“Anywhere specific?”
“I cannot tell you that.”
Why not?”
“Because I cannot.”
“Wouldn’t it be in your creators interests to tell us where they are or even just to talk to us? We could create an information exchange.”
The man frowned, “What would you have to exchange with? I have recorded all the knowledge of your people, you are primitive.”
“We don’t just have technology, we have cultural information, foods, new experiences they may not know, we have an entire world, solar system that could provide new information and experiences to them.”
The man flickered out, leaving behind nothing but his chair. Jenny sighed, then took a long drink of her coffee. She was the fifth person to talk to this being and it was getting them nowhere. At least it was easy to not take it personally, the thing obviously wasn’t trying to offend or confuse her. She wasn’t sure it even had those capabilities, so far it had been emotionless. It had never appeared in another form, though from discussions they knew that it could if it chose. So far it had appeared as a generic man, medium height and build, short brown hair, brown eyes, palish skin. He was unassuming and forgettable. That had made people nervous at first, what if it was some sort of nefarious plan or plot, but the being had made no attempt to attack, so far he only observed. Jenny suspected that should the being attack, they would be defenceless, after all he was a full on corporeal hologram. She didn’t even thing something like that was possible, but there he was, interacting with the world, moving things freely. They scanned the room constantly, so it wasn’t some outside interference giving the illusion of the being moving items. She had shook his hand when she entered, and his hand was solid, warm. It had been unnerving. Despite this solidness, she had seen him walk through tables as though they weren’t there. Jenny suspected he tried to stop himself doing it so as not to unnerve them. It was chilling to think how advanced he was in comparison to even their technological marvels.

He appeared in the chair again, gone for perhaps five minutes.
“Contact has been made.”
Jenny frowned, “I’m sorry?”
“I have contacted the creators. They are coming.”
“What? I thought you didn’t know where they were”
“You are apparently the first to ask for such a trade. They tell me other civilisations were hostile, others again though I was a god to their people. There was a program, allowing me to contact them should an offer like yours be made”
Jenny frowned, “Surely we cannot be the first to ask you such a thing, I can’t be the first to ask you such a thing, the others must have offered something similar.”
The man just stared blankly at her.

Jenny sighed, “Can you tell me things now?”
He inclined his head slightly, “Some, I can share some knowledge until they arrive.”
“What about the other civilisations you tried to contact. Can you show me what any of them looked like?”
He changed, completely and utterly, there was no other word for it than alien. He was perhaps five feet high and as much across, movement rippled across the entire surface of his orange skin, there were six holes that she could see, from each a thin protrusion emerged, shakily moving in the air. Then, he was back to how he looked previously. Jenny suppressed a shudder.

“They were the most intelligent of the species on the planet, they were at constant war with another species, less intelligent but much more ferocious. They treated me as a sign, an omen. They revered me as a god, though their culture did not contain gods prior to my arrival. I thought they would be open to me. They had technology though it was primitive.”

“May I see what your creators look like?”
“No.”
“Why not?”

“I do not know what they look like.”

“Can you tell me anything about them?”
He shook his head, “No, I’m sorry.”
Jenny frowned, it was the first time he had apologised for not giving information.
“They are here.”
“What?”
“They’ve arrived. They are currently in orbit around your planet.”
“But how? They couldn’t have arrived that quickly.”

He shrugged again, he titled his head slightly.
“I cannot stay. Another is to be sent as a representative. They will compile the information I have gathered then pick a point of contact.”
“Wait, we have ambassadors, people who are trained in meeting new people and races.”
He shrugged, then vanished.
Jenny felt her heart thudding heavily in her chest, nerves beginning to build, just what had she done?

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FWD: FWD: This is CRAZY! He got LOADS of them right! Short Story.

Monday.

Yay!

I hope everyone had a nice weekend. Mine was pretty fun, went out for a few drinks. Twas pleasant. Beyond that I didn’t get up to much, lots of reading. It’s handy enough with my kindle, but the only problem is I have a bunch of actual books that are backed up in my to read pile. I suppose it is my own fault for reading books that are series. It’s hard when you get sucked in and need to know what’s happening next. Which is both an upside and a downside with series, particularly if you’re coming to them late. You get to do a straight run at it, until you’ve caught up, and then there’s the agony of waiting and the slight jarring feeling when you switch to another world/book. That part sucks. It’s much worse for series that have an order and are supposed to be read that way rather than ones where you can pick any book in any order and it isn’t that big of a deal besides a few minor spoilers as the author reminds the reader who a character is.

It also seems that series are getting more popular, though that just might be in my head as I’ve been reading more series than I have before.

 

On with the show!

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It’s just so tiring you know? I don’t think a lot of people realise that. I mean, I’m out there, every day trying to help but nobody is listening. Do you know how demoralising that gets? After the first day I was ready to give up, but I couldn’t. Well, technically I could, but every time I closed my eyes I saw it again and again. When you’re given a choice like that, it really is no choice at all. I could try and do something, or I could live the rest of my short life being miserable and hating myself. That wasn’t how I wanted to spent my last few months living. Doing this isn’t what I wanted to be doing either, but hey, it’s not like it was realistic to hope I’d be somewhere hot, with lots of money and a few scantily clad women wandering around.

Am I rambling? It feels like I’m rambling.

Ok. Wait.

Ok. Let me start again.

 

I’m Stephen and I’m psychic. Not like the ones in the back of magazines or the ones that bilk people out of all their cash for snippets of hope. No, I’m the real deal. It isn’t fun, it isn’t glamorous and it isn’t all that well paying. I know, who’d have thought right? Real genuine psychic, you’d think people would line up around the block to talk to me, but they don’t. I think it’s something to do with god or the universe, something out there keeping me under the radar. Then again, I never really tried to get famous. I worked a normal job, helping people when I could. There’s a skill to it you know. You don’t just put on a spooky voice and warn people of danger, that never works and usually backfires when something does go bad and someone tells the police you were screaming that the victim was going do die a terrible, terrible death. Yeah. That wasn’t exactly my finest hour. But, I learn fast, which is something at least. So I learned manipulation is the key. That sounds a little wrong, maybe cruel, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to manipulate people into helping themselves. Of course it helps when you know the outcome. Just stalling someone with idle chat for five minutes can save them or telling them about how your distant cousin left the iron on and the house burned down. They’ll remember and then boom, their own house doesn’t burn down because they’ve remembered to turn it off. Though honest, sometimes in the midst of those super awkward convos, I do wonder if maybe I’d be better off just slashing tires or pushing them over as I run past, after all, that would slow them down too, right?

I have helped plenty of people and I’m happy about that. I even helped my last boss win the lotto, he really deserved it though, he was being ruined by medical bills. Was all kinds of sad. It’s just what I do. I don’t think I could stop hepling people, it’s like a compulsion, like when you have to touch the paint to see if it is actually wet.

 

You know I could be drinking myself to oblivion right now, do you know how fun that would be for me? That I could forget, even for a moment, what’s going to happen to us all in like, three months? I could even just end it now. I don’t know if there’s an afterlife and I don’t know how they view suicide, but hell, it’d be better than what’s coming, I can tell you that much. At least I’d go out on my own terms, ya know?

 

So, that’s me. I’m 29, I’m single and work in a dead end job and I like my life. It might not be glamorous, but it’s mine and I’ve built it up. I get paid well enough, I own my own place and I can do pretty much what I want, within reason.

I like how things are, I like my life and I know that a lot of other people like their lives too. I don’t want them to be deprived of something, I want to try and warn them, though a warning isn’t a whole lot of use. I tried to be sane about it in the beginning, work out ways of telling people that the world was going to end without sounding like a nutter is hard work though. I kinda wish I was famous, maybe then someone would believe me. Even if I just save a couple of people, it isn’t that much to ask for, is it? I mean with everything I’ve seen before this I’ve been able to affect the outcome, change it for the better, so why not this? I know I can’t prevent it, hell, who could? But maybe I can save some people, make things easier for those who do survive. If you’re wondering why I don’t just run and hide the answer is simple, I’m going to die anyway. When it happens, that’ll be it for me. I don’t know how yet, but I know that is non negotiable. I might be killed right out, or killed in the panic, hell, I might even just fall and break my neck. Either way, I’m a goner. So now it’s my duty to warn people.

 

I don’t go around waving signs, yelling at people that the end is nigh. As I’ve said, I’ve tried to be smart. There was a show, something about people preparing for doomsday, they were the ones I reached out to first. Sure, they’re already a little nuts, but hey, better to have them survive than no one, right? So I’ve let things slip here and there, made myself seem like I’m “in the know” with someone or something powerful, dropped hints and veiled warnings that something big was happening. There’s all sorts of internet conspiracies about me now you know. It’s kinda funny really. I’ve predicted stuff, some outright, others obliquely. It isn’t as hard as you think. Just little things here and there, a few of the bigger things too. It makes them think the little stuff means something, that it’s all leading up to something big and in a way it is. I’ve also contacted some of those preachers who have followings, those who predict the end of the world is coming. I do something similar with them, but make it more religious. That isn’t as easy. Trying to convince people you’re a prophet from their lord and not just some internet jack off trying to fuck with them is harder than you think. I know you’re wondering now, if I have people like that listening to me, why don’t I go public? Why don’t I do the same thing on a grander scale. I don’t want to be assassinated by some idiot who thinks I’m batting for the wrong team, I don’t want to be arrested for being a terrorist or conspiring against the government. I don’t want to end up in some bunker, a mile underground with my chest cut open and my brain sitting on a weighing scales. I mean, I know I’m going to die, but I’m not an idiot, I don’t want my last few months to be painful. So, I’m doing this instead. This seemed easiest, hey, people get stuff like this all the time right? And it works, and spreads. So I figure I’ll give this a go too. It could work.

I’ve enclosed a list of predictions, some will have no doubt already happened when you’ve opened it, but others wont have. I’ve included the big and the small. I’m not hiding behind religion or scary shadow conspiracies. This is just the truth.

The end is coming, no one can stop it. Get to safety, a bunker, store up some food, tell your kids you love them and hope that if you’re not somewhere safe when it happens, that you’ll go quickly and with little pain.

I know you have no reason to believe me, that you might think this is a virus or something like that, but scan it with your antivirus stuff, you’ll see. It’s legit. It’s also pasted into the email, but anyone can fuck with that. I’m also going to include a web address, that too will contain the predictions. I’m trying to get this to as many people as possible. Even if you think it’s some kind of joke, send it on, after all, if I’m wrong, you can all just have a laugh about the nutter that emailed you in a few weeks, right?

You have nothing to lose by sending this on.

Please.

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Shadow Crawlers. Part 62

The group of five left the building, as they did so Amy felt a bubble of excitement rise in her chest, she could do it now, just run and they wouldn’t be able to stop her. She took a deep breath, trying to remain calm. She would wait, wait for her moment to slip away. They got into a small van and sat in silence as it drove them to their destination. It would drop them a twenty minute walk away from the house, then they’d have to make their own way there and back. The car, Frank claimed, was a courtesy. Amy suspected he wanted to listen to what they were saying in the car, but the drive passed in silence.

 

They approached the grounds of the house slowly ambling along at a comfortable pace, chatting amongst the small group, anyone looking would think they were friends returning from a night out. They passed by the house smoothly, not stopping or slowing. As they did there was a faint vibration in the ground and two pillars leaned outwards. They circled around, then found a patch of shadows to stand in.
“I got all the cameras we know about, they’re all pointing upwards now.”
“Good. I want you to create a path for us inside, keep it as quiet as possible.”
Ed nodded, then concentrated. The ground again vibrated faintly, to Amy it felt as though a large truck had just driven by. Beside them a hole opened, three feet wide, they entered the grounds, one by one. Inside there were two large mounds of earth either side of the hole. Grady had already planned an alternate escape if they were caught, simply hopping the tall, spiked fence, but she wanted to avoid that. She hoped that when it was over, no one would have any idea as to how they got in or out. Ed waited by the tunnel while the others went on, should he see them running he was to leave and seal the tunnel behind himself immediately.

 

They crouched by the window as Grady examined it, it took her only a few seconds to get inside, once there she beckoned for the others to follow. Amy went first, followed by Alice and Rose. Alice crouched at the inside of the window and closed her eyes.

“I can feel them.”
“Good. Keep them quiet, but alive.”
She nodded once.

The other three continued on, moving silently through the house, it didn’t take them long to find the room they were looking for. Grady held up her hand, signalling them to stop, she crouched by the door and after a moment it swung open on well oiled hinges. Inside was a large office, one wall held a bookshelves which spanned its length, another held a large window, while the last two had display cases. The thick carpet was soft and helped muffle their movements. As one they moved to the case. Grady again examined it, there was a few things she could do. Ease the case open and take what ever was inside, or she could have Rose melt a hole in the glass. One was definitely more impressive than the other. She shook her head, no, she wanted this to be smooth, Rose was their nuclear option.
Amy moved back to the hall as Grady worked on the case, listening intently for the sounds of movement from the next room, but the house was silent. Faintly, ever so faintly the sound of a dogs whimpers came to her, muffled and pained. She tried not to wince. That was Alice’s job, keep the dogs down. Amy had assumed she’d just limit blood flow, make sure they were unconscious or something, rather than actively holding them down. That could spell trouble for when they left, no doubt the dogs would react loudly once they were free. Behind her she heard a gentle clink as the glass was lifted a few seconds later, Grady was at her side, and motioned that they should go. Amy looked back at the case, it didn’t look like it had been moved at all, the only difference Amy could see was the lack of contents. Amy nodded and together, the trio made their way out of the house. As they rejoined with Alice, Amy brought up her concern, whispering gently. Grady nodded, “can you keep them down for a while after we leave?”
“Yeah, they could stay down as long as you like.”
“Make it a few hours. Gives us plenty of time.”

They left the house, leaving no trace of themselves. They met up with Ed and left the grounds. Ed closed his eyes and a moment later the rumbling returned, not as faint this time. The hole vanished and the pillars righted themselves.
They calmly walked away from the railings. A few streets over, Grady pulled the coin from her pocket and showed it to the others, she was grinning.

 

As they walked back, Amy fought against the growing need to run. There was no way they’d get away. Alice could stop them easily, no, she’d have to wait until herself and Ed were alone, then they’d be able to create a distraction then slip away.

 

They drove into the car park beneath the building and found Frank already waiting for them. As they stopped the car, he frowned at it.
“I assumed that if you stole a car you wouldn’t bring it here.”
Grady smiled at him, “our job was to bring the coin back, that was all.”
Frank grinned, “Well, I guess that’s true. We’ll take care of this. You’ve done enough for tonight.”
Grady dug into her pocket and brought out the coin, handing it over.
“Brilliant, and I assume you were not detected and got away clean?”
“Of course.”
“Good. Thank you all, there’s food waiting for you then, once you’ve eaten, you should all rest up. I’ve more work for you to do, but we’ll go over that tomorrow.”
Frank turned and left them, Amy could hear the faint sound of the shutters closing over the car park entrance. She suppressed a shiver and followed the others.

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Observation. Flash Fiction.

“Anything interesting today?”
“Not really, same old same old. Percy isn’t the leader anymore, got taken out by Bob.”
“Which one was Bob again?”
“He was the one with the white stripes on his head.”
“Ah. Ok, yeah, I thought Percy would be going down soon, surprised it was Bob though, I thought it’d be Frank for sure.”
“Yeah, I thought that too. It’s nice to know we can still be wrong.”
John sat down in a chair and took a sip of his coffee.
“Any other developments?”
“No, they made a fire, did some cooking, had a small scuffle. I think one of them was burned, but I couldn’t see how badly.”
John briefly examined the screens, taking a quick count of the creatures in the group.
“How long do you think it’ll be before they’re back to fifteen again?”
“Give it a day or two, though I think one of the females could be pregnant. She hasn’t been out of the house in a few days so it’s hard to get visual confirmation.”
“Who’s the father?”
“Either Bob or Frank.”
“Least it wasn’t Percy.”
“Yeah. God. I remember what happened a few years ago, you weren’t here for it. They tore a female apart, it was difficult to watch.”
“I saw some of the footage. It was brutal all right. Though it’s good they’re so aggressive with one another. Prevents them teaming up. I mean they go around in groups of fifteen or so, most we’ve seen was what, forty? And that tore itself apart in a few months. They’re violent, aggressive and smart, but not smart enough to band together against us.”
“Yeah, though I’d say if we tried to coordinate an attack with ground troops they’d team up pretty quick, unite against us.”
“Really? I wouldn’t have thought they’d have the discipline.”
“Well, they’re smart, they use tools, build fires and homes, they’re smart enough to do that, they’d be smart enough to band together for survival. In some of the harsh climates they tend to be able to stay in larger groups, never more than thirty or so, but they stay at those levels. They sometimes band together for hunts, sure there’s some fighting afterwards for the meat, but never anything too bad.”
“Good thing they don’t do that here.”
“Yeah, well, we were here to keep them in smaller numbers. They learned, didn’t they, knew to stay away from us and not become a threat. The others didn’t have that. They could grow as large as they liked.”

A loud growling hoot came from the speakers, John looked back at the screens, “I don’t have anything on these, do you?”
“No, I don’t see any danger. Maybe they caught the scent of an animal? Maybe another one of them?”
They watched the screens, waiting for the creatures to make a move. They banded together closely, around the small hovels they used as houses. A large group of the creatures emerged from the trees. They were human in shape, hunched, with elongated facial features and long, thin fingers. The new comers carried weapons. John sighed.
“I hope they win. I don’t want to pack this up and move again. We’ve only been here a month or so.”
“Just wait and see. We can compare this warning for danger with the others, see if there’s anything in common. I think it’s similar to the one from the last group, but I’m not sure.” They watched the screens as the battle begun. John took another sip from his coffee.

“Oh, look, they’re using slingshot like weapons, haven’t seen that before. Make a not of it, would you?”

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The Spiral. Short Story.

Hope everyone had a good weekend, mine was fairly relaxing. A friend came over and we just chilled and watched movies. Was pretty good, watched some old ones, and a few I’d never seen before. All in all was an enjoyable weekend.

 

On with the show!

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Hayley watched as the Spiral grew closer, she moved to the window, ignoring the tour guide for the moment, she rested her hands on the bar, the Spiral was so much bigger than she had expected, sure she had seen pictures, but they didn’t convey the sheer size of it, how imposing it was, how it dominated the skyline for miles around.

 

“The Spiral was originally placed on the plateau as both a defensive system and as an artistic choice. The plateau was, as you may have already guessed, originally flat, but the designers of the city carved into the rock itself to send it spiralling into the sky. As you can see each tier has a clear and wonderful view of the surrounding area. There were five ways to get to the city itself, four roads lead to four gates which were all easily sealed and almost impossible to break down and the fifth entrance was via the air. Of course, this isolation had its benefits but ultimately, as we now know, it was its downfall. When the plans were announced there was quite the furore, it was the largest project of its kind ever created, not just a city, but a city that would quite literally, leave its mark forever. The city itself grew to house just over twenty two million inhabitants. Many famous people of the time bought houses or holiday homes here, there were actors, artists, writers and poets. The rich and famous owned the top three tiers of the Spiral, as those were the most expensive dwellings. Travel between the tiers was an easy affair, there is a large road that follows the spiral upwards, as well as stairs, elevators and lifts that operated between each of the levels. Many of the businesses occupied lowest part of the Spiral as they housed the so called skyscrapers which were built right into the rock itself. The workers would enter the building from the top and work their way downwards to their various offices. If you look to your left, you’ll be able to see their glittering facades. Despite the lack of maintenance, they have held up remarkably well. As we move closer we will spiral upwards, following a path similar to what visitors would have followed almost fifty years ago, of course we will not be leaving the vehicle, the area around it is still classed as hazardous and may be classed that way for some time. It is still a crime to enter the Spiral itself and that shows no signs of changing”

Hayley stepped away from the glass and joined the group that was crowded around the tour guide, there was no great push for space as the vehicle had floor to ceiling windows that circled the entire perimeter. The ride itself was smooth and almost silent.

“Reports conflict on exactly what occurred on that day, but we do know that the Spiral went into complete and utter containment, the doors sealed and anyone trying to exit or enter were stopped with deadly force by the city’s automated defence system, which has since be deactivated. Of the twenty two million inhabitants, just ten survived and of those, only three were sane. The other seven were housed in mental institutions and have been there since. The identity of the ten was carefully concealed for fear that they would be targeted for attacks by extremist groups or by families of those who died inside. Experts speculated at the time that it was a virus burning its way through the helpless community and later, that was proved to be correct, it was a disease that was previously unknown to scientists. Though of course there were many theories including attack from terrorist groups and an attempt to secede from the state. The disease itself was carried by a rare species of bats that had made the plateau their home perhaps thousands of years before. During construction efforts were made to protect the bats, though of course, they have since been exterminated so as the eliminate the danger of the disease itself. We do not know the exact specifics of the disease, however we know from reading the transcripts of the survivors that it was not a pleasant experience for either the sick, or those who had not yet contracted the disease.”

Hayley shuddered, she remembered the stories. She had been told them when she was twelve. Her father had been one of the three survivors that had been sane. He had told her what happened one night when he was drunk. He had told her it hadn’t just been a virus. It was something else, something that controlled people, made them different, empty. They had tried to take over the plateau but the others had fought. Those infected were ruthless. Her father had been fifteen at the time. The last he saw of the infected were when they breached the top tier defences, his father managed to get him to a panic room, his mother had already been infected and, as the door closed, he saw them fighting. Saw his father stab his mother, saw his mother clawing at his fathers face. He didn’t know what happened, he was trapped for almost two weeks, down to barely any supplies when the automatic system allowed him to exit. He was found by army grunts a few hours later. He was kept in quarantine for almost a year before they decided to let him or any of the others go.

The vehicle circled the Spiral, moving slowly upwards, Hayley could see spots of damaged that weren’t caused by the passage of time, marks of explosions littered the bottom tiers, the top ones appeared to be relatively undamaged. As they continued upwards the tour guide pointed out various buildings and their uses, statues and who they depicted. Hayley listened to none of that. She watched as a group of startled birds took off. Her father had never known what had caused the so called virus, no one did, it was why the Spiral was still off limits, for fear that it could infect anyone who entered. Occasionally explorers or plunderers would try to enter, but they never came back. They’d disappear either into the depths or they’d be captured upon exiting. Something glinted in the distance, she squinted trying to see better. The vehicle was bringing them slowly closer and finally she was able to make it out. It was a lift, sparkling in the afternoon light, moving slowly upwards, she held her breath as it reached the top of one of the spirals and waited. The vehicle circled around, nothing left the lift and as far as she could see, there was nothing in it. She let out a slow breath, it was probably just misfiring of old systems. She shivered, her father had told her that had it not be contained, the world would not have survived it.

 

Finally they had reached the top tiers, she studied the luxurious houses, the empty or now swamp like pools. They had come here for safety, but instead they found death. So many people, just gone. She looked at her companions, they didn’t seem to grasp the situation, the severity of what had occurred, they looked greedy, like vultures waiting for the next grisly tidbit. She shuddered and moved away from the glass. She didn’t want to watch it anymore. She took a seat in the centre of the vehicle, hands clasped around the drink she had bought. It was the first time she had been out here, the first time she had seen the Spiral in person. She took a sip of her drink, she would come back out here again sometime. Maybe even hire a personal tour. She had the money after all. She looked around at the people again. Next time she’d definitely do it privately. People took pictures, chatted and laughed quietly while they circled a the mass grave that the Spiral had become.

Posted in Horror, Short Stories, Suspense | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Shadow Crawlers. Part 61

Grady studied the plans of the house, it was going to be quite simple, an in and out job, supposedly to limber them up for larger ones. Frank had finally decided they’d be allowed out by themselves to test their new abilities. They had full control of what they were going to do and they had to get in and get out on their own, no cars waiting, no get away drivers. Grady was looking forward to this challenge, a chance to let loose, it reminded her of the days before all the crazy stuff happened. She wanted to prove to Frank she was capable, that she could do what was needed of her. He hadn’t forbid it outright, but he suggested the he would be displeased if anyone died during the mission, Grady knew that would be the hardest part, if they were caught it would be so easy to give a careless order, or to command something and have Rose or Alice react too strongly to what was happening. They had to be discrete, subtle. They had been given the day and time that they’d be going out and the only thing that marked a pass or fail was the acquisition of the item and return before dawn. The item itself was a rare coin, as far as Grady knew it wasn’t all that expensive, but it was kept in the study, which was at the centre of the house, just beside the master bedroom, and was protected by a glass case that was locked. The house security, according to the information she was given, was an alarm system she’d be able to get around easily, the larger problem lay with the couples three pet dogs, they were not known for being guard dogs, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t alert the owners, if that happened things could spiral out of control very easily. Grady scribbled a few notes for herself, making sure she had checked everything that needed to be checked. She would have liked to do some surveillance on the house herself, but that wasn’t possible. Frank had told them that, should they pass, the next time they’d be given less information each time until they were able to go into high security places with no notice or warning.

 

Amy was looking forward to the break in, it would give her and Grady a chance to stretch their legs, to be free of Frank and the place they were trapped in. She had no doubt that they would be monitored, despite Franks insistence that they’d be completely on their own, he had to have a team standing by if something went wrong, Amy knew he couldn’t lose them. It offered her a chance, but it was one she wasn’t sure she should take just yet. She could go now, leave and go into hiding, or she could wait, bide her time, build up the trust Frank had in them both before leaving. It would give her a cleaner break, Frank at some time would surely start paying them, she would have a larger amount to play around with. She wasn’t yet sure what she was going to do, she only knew she couldn’t tell Grady about these plans. Sure, she wasn’t exactly innocent but she had morals and Amy knew the longer they were under Franks thumb the more they’d be required to push their own moral boundaries. Amy didn’t know what Frank had planned, but she suspected that it was going to be big and she didn’t want to be a part of it. He was trying too hard to get them on his side, it was only a matter of time until he turned on them both.

 

Frank had the teams ready to go, ones that would observe and ones that would track. Their first job was a simple one, go after some trinket an acquaintance had been bragging about for weeks, he would of course enjoy destroying it. He’d get to see them in action, see how much they’ve learned and how much they are to be trusted. Grady was almost there, another few months and she’d be completely loyal to him, he provided stability to her, a place to live and eat without worry that it was all going to be ripped away. He wasn’t a father figure, but he was a kind of mentor to her. She had been in places before that were stable enough, but one by one they were all taken away and she had to flee, find somewhere else, somewhere new. Occasionally someone from the last place would go with her, but in the end she was always alone. She had been with the last group for almost three years, the longest she had ever stayed in one place according to his various sources. But none of them were like the place they were in now, it was solid, endless. In another few months he’d present her with a house, one in her name, completely paid off, as a bonus or reward for finishing the training, he hadn’t quite decided yet. He was offering her something she didn’t even know she needed. Amy on the other hand had lead a stable enough life, she moved around, but by the most part it was by choice. She always left places before they imploded, she was raised by loving parents, she had experiences and opportunities that Grady couldn’t have dreamed of. Amy was the one most likely to flee, but he hoped that by snagging Grady, he’d snag her too. The teams would be impossible to detect, but he’d know how everything went. He’d be able to tell a lot about them from the job. He felt a nervous anticipation bubble inside him, the uncertainty was the fun part, the part he enjoyed, it was such a rare feeling for him.

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