Gareth Sample

“Are you sure you’re okay? You’ve been looking a little nervous since you got here,” Harper asked, leaning close to Gareth. “You don’t have to be here if you don’t want to. I know it brings up bad memories.”

Gareth nodded his head and picked up his clipboard. “I’m fine. Don’t worry.” The feeling in his head grew stronger.

“Okay, but I’m going to keep an eye on you anyways.”

Gareth grabbed the back of tools and smiled as he left the through the side of the barn yet to be built. His eyes trailed the line of stones leading towards the dirt road and the feeling in his head changed to singing. He stopped walking and the smile faded from his face. The singing echoed in his head and he could almost see His eyes staring at him from an unseen place hidden beneath the rocks.

“Gareth?” Harper called from the entrance of the barn, worry thick in her voice.

Gareth heard something to his left and suddenly his vision cleared. He could see where everything used to stand. The two lines of stones used to be walls leading to the doorway of His home. But the home above was only a façade to protect what lay beneath the earth. He stared down and could see passages spreading like veins through the ground. One led far to the left where the small pond at the head of the creek sat.

Sensing the change in Gareth, Harper dropped her tool and ran for him. “Gareth!”

But she wasn’t fast enough. Gareth dropped the tool bag and clipboard and took off at a sprint. The singing in his head had now changed to His voice telling him where to go.

Find me, Gareth.

Gareth leapt what was left of the rock wall and tumbled down the hill beyond. He nearly rolled right into the creek, but managed to scramble to his feet and bolted up towards the pond. Harper’s screams behind him were drowned out by His voice.

Find me and bring me back.

The pond appeared before him and Gareth slowed his pace as his eyes searched for the secret entrance to the passage, but the cleared vision was gone. He stared at the large pipe sticking out of the side of the hill. Black sludge dripped from it into the pond turning the water a nauseating brown with a matching smell.

Gareth waded into the pond and searched, his eyes scanning every inch beneath the disgusting brown water. He spotted something hiding in the muck and dove his hands in, grasping for it.

Arms wrapped around him and pulled him roughly from the water. The sudden attack caused him to flail his legs sending large waves of water into the air. He struggled, hearing His voice fading as he was pulled from the pond.

“Gareth! Calm down! It’s us!” Harper screamed.

Gareth twisted in his captor’s arms and faced Jamison, his face pale and eyes wide. Black sludge had splashed onto his face from Gareth’s ferocious splashing. Jamison threw Gareth to the ground in front of Harper and glared at her. “I told you he shouldn’t have come. It’s still affecting him.”

“He was fine. Something must have triggered it.”

“Yeah, being here! He needs to leave.”

Gareth stared up at his two friends and fear filled him. He couldn’t leave. He had to find Him. “No! I need to stay! I won’t run off again. I’m sorry. I just thought I…saw something.”

“What did you see?” Harper asked.

Jamison huffed angrily. “He’s lying. He’ll say anything to stay. I’m sorry, Harp. We tried, but he can’t be trusted here. He needs to leave before he does something that puts all of us in danger.”

“What danger are you thinking of, Jamison?” Harper demanded.

“What if the next time he runs off it’s while he’s holding a power tool and he drops it on someone?”

The singing grew in Gareth’s head as the two argued and he looked back into the pond. He could see it now. The entrance was there, beneath the murky water. There was no handle or obvious opening. But there must be a way in.

“Then we don’t give him a power tool. He can stay with me and manage things. I’ll keep him in line.”

“And when he runs off you’ll tackle him this time?”

“Yes.”

Gareth’s eyes searched the pond and he saw it. A small line of wire buried in the mud. Find me, Gareth. Reaching his hand for the wire, a small smile formed on Gareth’s face. He’s almost there.

Hands grabbed Gareth and pull him to his feet. “We’re heading back and if he does anything else, it’s on you, Harper.” Jamison shoved Gareth ahead of him and Harper followed in silence.

 

 

 

“Gareth, did you hear me?” Harper asked.

Gareth’s eyes rolled up to meet hers. “Sorry, what?”

Sighing with a mixture of frustration and pity, Harper held her hand out. “Could you hand me the staple gun? Once I finish this we can go. Jamison’s waiting in the truck and I don’t think he’ll stay much longer. So if you don’t want to walk home, hand me that staple gun.”

“Right.” Gareth grabbed the staple gun and handed it to her. He stared at her back as she reached up to staple. Her hair pulled back into a ponytail bounced and he could see the sweat forming on the back of her neck.

Find me. Bring me back.

Gareth could see Him. He’s waiting for him. Gareth had to go to Him.

“Gareth?” Harper held the staple gun at him. “Sorry, could you hand me the hammer? I’ve got to hammer in some of the staples. I told Jamison we needed an air staple gun. The hand staple guns never get them all the way in.”

Gareth took the staple gun, his hand brushing Harper’s hand. He paused and the staple gun fell to the ground. Harper turned to him, worried that he’s having another episode. Instead, she sees him staring at her.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

The singing in Gareth’s head changed and a new feeling filled him. He carefully put the tool bag down and pulled Harper down from the stepladder. Confusion filled her expression and her eyes darted around.

“What are you doing, Gareth?” she asked.

Gareth moved close to her, staring in to her eyes. He leaned down, hovering his lips over hers. He could feel her body tense against him. Her breathing picked up and Gareth closed the small gap between their lips. He could feel Harper pull away slightly, but then her arms wrapped around him and pulled their bodies closer.

Find me, Gareth. Bring me back.

Gareth gently led Harper to the wall until her back was against it. He grabbed both sides of her head in his hands. He pulled away from her and her eyes opened. Staring into her eyes, a strange smile formed on his lips.

Suddenly, Gareth slammed Harper’s head into the wall, knocking her unconscious. Her body slumped, but he carefully laid her on the floor instead of letting her fall. He stood and walked out of the barn. He stared at the remnant of the wall and headed for the pond.

He grabbed the wire buried in the mud and pulled it. The ground trembled and a tube appeared at the center of the pond. The top opened, revealing a ladder heading deep down into the earth. Gareth crossed the pond and climbed into the tube. As he climbed down the ladder the top closed and he felt the walls shake around him as the tube sank back into the pond.

After a short climb, he reached the bottom and lights automatically turned on. The hallway was bare, empty. Gareth walked forward and followed the hallway for several minutes before reaching a large room.

At the center of the room was a large machine. The screens were dark except for a single line of text. Gareth approached and stared at the text.

Bring me back.

Gareth’s hand moved on its own, knowing exactly what to do. He pressed several buttons and the machine turned on, low hums growing in intensity and the sound of machinery deep in the walls moving grew. The screen in front of him brightened and a slot opened. A tray moved out and a strange thing sat on it. Gareth took the thing and stared at it. At one end was a needle and a thick cable connected a second piece. He twisted the needle and the cable grew warm.

Bring me back.

Gareth raised the thing and stabbed the needle into his temple. A bright light filled his vision and he felt his body collapse to the ground before everything went dark.

RT Samples

November

The winter cold had settled in as many had predicted. It was going to be a cold winter, one of the coldest. There was even talk about possible snow in the lower elevations.

Sara and Alice were safe from the cold inside of the small café, their winter coats on the back of their chairs. Alice stared out the window at the people walking by, wrapped up in coats, scarves, and hats to guard against the cold.

“Alice!”

Alice looked at Sara. “What?”

“Were you even listening to me?”

“No, sorry. What were you saying?”

Sara sighed. “I was telling you about that jerk off bartender who wouldn’t give me the time of day! I swear, I’m glad I didn’t give him a tip. With his attitude he’d be lucky to serve a girl like me!”

“What did he say?”

“Nothing! That’s the point! He asked me for my order and then nothing! I sat there an extra twenty minutes trying to get his attention so we could talk!”

“Was his manager there?”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Well, it would explain why he didn’t spend too much time with you. He didn’t want to get fired.”

“That’s no excuse to ignore a gorgeous, single woman!” Sara exclaimed.

Two men walked into the coffee shop in heated discussion.

“Can you believe what they’re saying on the news? Those people must be reading too many conspiracy websites. Storms with freak lightning causing massive power outages? Did you see anything like that last week?”

“No, they’re probably getting confused with Nevada weather. They always have freak storms like that.”

Alice laughed to herself. “Can you believe some people? I thought I was bad about missing things.”

Sara nodded. “Yeah, those people on the news have made mistakes before, but nothing of this scale. They’re saying it was one of the worst black outs in years. I thought news channels had people check the stories before they went on the air.”

Alice stared at Sara confused. “What? No, I mean those guys missing the storm last week. They must have been out of town or under a rock.”

“Alice, what are you talking about? There wasn’t any storm last week.”

“Yeah, there was. Are you making fun of me for finally being aware of what happened around me? I know I can be a little out of it sometimes, but I remember the storm last week. Our house was without power for seven hours. We had to light each room with candles. I nearly burned my curtains down. Remember?”

Sara raised an eyebrow. “Alice, don’t tell me you believe what those reporters were saying. Are you trying to impress me by acting like you know what they’re talking about? Well, I caught you in the act.”

“I’m not acting anything! Why don’t you remember?” Alice asked, standing.

“Alice, don’t make a scene!”

Alice looked around and saw eyes staring at her. They were eyes people used to stare at crazy people. She sat down in her chair, her face flushing red.

Sara rested her hand on Alice’s shoulder, reaching across the table. “It’s okay, Alice. Maybe you dreamed about the storm because you heard it on the news.”

Alice stood and put her coat on. “I’m going home. I need to pick something up before I head back to work.”

Sara stood. “Do you want me to come with you?”

“No. I need some time to think.”

“Don’t think too hard, Alice. When you do you start to get all weird and sci fi nerdy on me.”

Alice grabbed her purse. She threw her empty coffee cup away and waved to Sara. She opened the door and was greeted by a rush of cold air. She zipped her coat up and headed for her car. As she drove she turned on the radio and listened as the DJs joked about the “bogus news story” and asked listeners to call in if they had a comment. All the callers said the same. There was no storm. Alice even changed to the news station and listened as they broadcasted an apology to the morning’s news saying the story must have been tampered with just before airing.

As soon as she walked through the door of her house she ran to the pile of newspapers by the back door. She searched through them, throwing paper all around her.

She stopped, scanning the paper in her hands. It was dated the second of November, last Wednesday. On the front page in large letters the headline read:

 

Freak Lightning Storms Black Out Southern California For Nearly Ten Hours

 

There it was in black and white text. There was even a photo of darkened houses and the lightning.

Alice lowered the paper. Why was she the only one who remembered it? Had she just read it in the paper and made it all up in her head?

She looked at her watch. She had to get to work. She was going to barely make it as it was. She cleaned the newspapers up and ran out the door.

 *           *           *

It was a slow day, one of the few of the month. Glori’s Department Store was one of the biggest department stores in the country, beaten only by Macy’s and Sears. Thanksgiving and Christmas were coming. That also meant sales and crowds. Alice hated working when there were large crowds, but those were the days with better pay. She would work every sale day. She was lucky since Harlequin Insurance gave her Thanksgiving and Christmas off. She worked all day at Glori’s and made one of her largest paychecks.

“Alice, would you mind restocking these clothes from the fitting rooms?” Alice’s floor manager asked.

Alice stared at her. “That’s Megan’s job, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but she still hasn’t come back from her break.”

She took the clothes from her manager. “Right, just these?”

Her manager nodded her head to a rack of clothes. “Those as well. Thank you, Alice!”

Alice began to restock the clothes. It was the third time in the past week she had to pick up on Megan’s slack. She finished the pile of clothes in her hand and moved to the rack of clothes. She stared at the clothes in disbelief. All were men’s clothes. She would have to take the rack all the way to the other side of the store and then take the elevator down to the first floor. That meant she wouldn’t be able to ring any customers up while she was restocking, which meant she would probably not meet her quota for the day and would have to work twice as hard tomorrow.

“Thanks, Megan,” she said under her breath.

She began her long trek across the store. She hated the sound the wheels of the rack made on the hard floor. Anyone inside of the store could hear the racket and they stared at her as though she were making it harder for them to decide whether to buy a size smaller than they actually wore or accept they weren’t their ideal size.

“Hey, Alice. Don’t tell me, Megan’s late from break again?” a worker said as she walked past.

Alice smiled. “How could you have possibly guessed that?”

“It’s a gift.”

She reached the elevator and didn’t have to wait long before the doors opened. She pulled the rack in behind her and pushed the button with the number one on it. The doors opened on the first floor and Alice was greeted with the sound of screaming from across the store. She could hear Jerry, the security for the store yelling angrily. He had probably found a couple of teenagers shoplifting.

She pulled the rack out of the elevator. As soon as she started walking down the main aisle a man nearly crashed into her.

“Sorry!” he yelled back as he exited out the main doors.

Jerry appeared from behind a display with male mannequins wearing suits. His uniform was rumpled and sweat stains were growing under his arms. “Alice! Did a guy just run through here?”

She pointed to the doors.

“Shit! He’s quick!” Jerry rested his hands on his knees and struggled to catch his breath.

“Shoplifter?”

“I don’t even know. Megan just started screaming and told me to stop him.”

“Megan? What was she doing down here?”

Jerry laughed. “She claimed that guy tried to kidnap her.”

“And you believe her?”

“It doesn’t matter if I did, he took off running as soon as she started screaming. My instinct took over.”

Alice raised an eyebrow. “Did she say anything else before your instincts told you to run after a random person that Megan claimed was trying to kidnap her?”

“She did mention something about seeing him attack a family while she was walking back from break, but the family in question denied that…At least, I think they did. I sort of caught bits and pieces as I jogged past.”

Alice looked out the doors, but the man was gone. “Well, guess we’ll never know without the actual culprit. I’ve got to restock these clothes since Megan is busy getting kidnapped.”

Jerry waved at her as she passed. “See you later, Alice.”

“Bye, Jerry.”

Alice tried to restock as quickly as she could, but an occasional shopper would distract her, asking where they could find the restroom, a specific type of clothing, or even the nearest Starbucks. She finally finished restocking and headed back to the elevator. Before she could reach it her manager appeared.

“Thanks again, Alice. Jerry and Megan told me what happened and I made sure Megan got points for her lateness. Since you were down here I appointed her to the register upstairs. If you wouldn’t mind, could you stay down here and just be on the floor? Jerry said you got a look at the man who supposedly attacked Megan and it would be helpful if you could keep an eye out for him. Is that alright?”

Alice squeezed the rack. “Yeah, that’s no problem. I assume my quota for the day won’t be changed, however?”

Her manager grimaced. “I’m afraid not, but don’t worry. They’re hoping for a busy day tomorrow so I’m sure you’ll have no trouble making it up.”

Alice’s manager took the rack and left her standing in the middle of the main walkway. She sighed and walked the floor.

It was true the man had nearly crashed into her, but as she thought about it she couldn’t remember what he had looked like. She couldn’t even remember his hair color. Even his voice had sounded so common she wouldn’t be able to pick it out again. It was just an excuse. Megan had probably been hysterical when she finally made it back upstairs. She probably argued that if she worked the floor there would be a chance for the man to attack her again.

Alice wouldn’t complain though. It was fine. It wouldn’t be the first time she would suffer because of someone else. She just had to work twice as hard tomorrow and make up for today.

Thanks, Megan.

Home By Friday Sample

Mary Harrison walked into her kitchen and proceeded to wash her hands making sure to use about half the bottle of soap. A small alarm went off announcing the time as 1:00 PM. Mary stopped scrubbing her hands and leaned against the sink.

Sunlight poured in through the window in front of her reflecting off the water in to her eyes. Shadows of insects fluttered past every now and then. A butterfly landed on the windowsill and crawled up the glass. Its shadow slowly traipsed across the foamy water then onto Mary. As it reached the top of the window it started to fall. It fluttered its wings furiously trying to stay on the glass to no avail. After a few seconds it finally fell but catching itself with its wings flew off.

Mary stared at the soap bubbles being pushed around by the running water and eventually being pulled down the drain. Lingering soap on her hands dripped down the side of the sink making a long frothy line on the porcelain sink.

Mary jumped as the phone rang. She took a moment to take in what happened and then ran to the phone.

“Albert, did you find her?” She was met with silence on the other end.

“I…I’m sorry, Mrs. Harrison? This is Alexis Marshall from AMVETS. I just wanted to confirm with you that we will be stopping by on Monday. Is that all right?” Alexis’s voice came over the line tinny and high-pitched. Mary’s heart sank and she grabbed her forehead.

“Yes, yes, that’s fine. Thank you.” Before Alexis could say anything else Mary slammed the phone down.

She stared at the phone longingly and yet she didn’t want it to ring again. As she stared at the soundless phone she felt her shoulders begin to tremble.

Her heartbeat quickened and she felt her breathing start to become short gasps. She grabbed her shoulders with her hands to try and stop them. As she tried harder to stop them they became worse. Her legs began to feel like jelly. She slowly lowered to the floor still clutching her shoulders.

Tears formed in her eyes and her instinct was to hold them back, but they wouldn’t be held back. They rolled down her cheeks continuously. The gasps coming from her throat were now sobs. One of her hands moved up to her forehead and balled into a fist. She leaned her back against the cabinets and banged her head against them.

Her cries echoed in the empty house causing her to cry harder. She could feel her heart tighten in her chest and she gasped between each cry. Her tears fell into her open mouth leaving a salty taste.

A strange ringing echoed over and over in her head. Mary looked up and saw a red light flashing on the phone. She blinked and a few tears finished traveling down her cheeks. She quickly clambered to her feet and grabbed the phone.

“Hello?”

“Mary, it’s me.” Albert’s voice made Mary catch her breath.

“Albert…did you find her?” Mary clutched her necklace. There was a silence. “Albert? Did you find our little girl?”

“Mary, don’t worry. I’m sure she’s fine.”

“They have no idea where she is,” Mary said letting the sob into her voice. Albert sighed on the other end.

“They thought they could track her with her credit card, but she hasn’t used it since she filled the car up that morning. They have a PB out with her car type, color, and license plate number, but if she’s in another state they say it’ll take longer.” Albert’s voice was strained with exhaustion. Mary was silent.

“We should have told her the news in person. She needed us and we were thousands of miles away.”

“Mary, calm down. We had no idea she would do this. No one could have seen it.” Mary sniffed and tried to compose herself.

“Where do they think she’s going?” she asked surprised at how controlled she sounded.

“They think she’ll be heading back home, but without proof from her credit card spending they aren’t sure. Honey, please just stay home in case she does show up.” The doorbell rang. Mary gasped loudly. “Mary, what is it?”

She leaned around the corner. She slowly walked to the front door. She peeked out the side windows. The face of her neighbor greeted her. She waved and then held up a bag of cookies.

“It’s Jane, Albert. I’ll call you later.”

“All right, love you.”

“Love you, too.”

“Don’t worry, Mary, they’ll find her.” Mary hung the phone up and opened the front door.

Bitten Sample

Vera’s footsteps echoed through the halls as she ran, her breathing filling her ears along with her pounding heart. Shrieks in the distance made her jump and her grip on her gun tightened even though she knows it’s out of bullets.

Red and blue lights flashed wildly, creating strange shadows across the metallic walls. Signs and arrows on the walls flew by as she ran, but the lights made them difficult to read. Stopping to catch her breath, Vera read the closest sign.

“Hydrogeology, Hydrokinetics, Hydroponics…water labs? Shit!” Vera pulled out a flashlight and a small map. Her eyes searched the collection of papers. “That means I’m somewhere in the center and if I take the next left I should…should pass the Core Chamber.”

A sharp pain in her neck sent a shock through her. The flashlight fell to the floor and she slapped her hand to her neck. Blood from a deep wound quickly soaked her glove.

“Gotta keep moving.” She grabbed the flashlight and put it and the map away. She ran forward, taking the first left she saw. The hallway stretched on and on, but soon it opened into an enormous circular room.

The room was one hundred yards across and stretched high above and below. Every level of the compound could be seen. A faint blue light shone down from above, providing enough light to see. Vera wasted little time sight seeing and ran around the large circular opening. There should be stairs five hallways to the right.

If the emergency systems hadn’t locked them down.

Reaching the hallway, Vera paused grabbing her flashlight and peering into the dark stairwell. The doors were open and the stairs looked stable.

Roars echoed suddenly around the chamber. Vera turned and saw shadows moving on the other levels, drawn to her light. She turned back to the stairs only to see something large crash down from above, blocking the stairs.

Cursing, Vera ran towards a different hallway, not daring to stay long enough for the shadows to catch up to her. Even as her thoughts filled with keeping distance, she could hear them reaching her level. She turned down different hallways, attempting to confuse them.

“Vera? Vera, come in!” a voice called from her pocket.

Reaching into her pocket, Vera placed the small earpiece into her ear, feeling something wet on her ear and cheek. She realized the blood on her glove was still damp and she quickly removed it. She smeared blood down the beginning of one hallway and threw the glove as far as she could before turning down the opposite hall.

“Come in, Vera. Are you there?” the voice called again.

Vera tapped the earpiece once, activating the microphone. “Sam! Thank God you’re alive.”

“Vera,” relief filled Sam’s voice and a small laugh echoed in Vera’s ear. “You’re still…we found your crew. We thought the worst until your tracker suddenly showed back up on our scanner. Where are you?”

“I just passed through the Core Chamber on Level T, but I’ve got a group of them on me. I’m doing my best to shake ‘em, but not having very good luck.”

“But other than that you’re all right, right?”

Vera fell silent and her hand rose to her neck.

“Vera, you’re all right, aren’t you?” Sam asked.

“I… Shit!” Vera groaned in frustration as she hit a dead end. She quickly turned and retraced her steps back to the last hallway crossing. “Where are you, Sam?”

A brief pause before his answer made Vera aware he wouldn’t forget she hadn’t answered his question. “We found a possible exit back up to the surface, but its only access point is on the maintenance level of the entire compound. You just passed through the Core Chamber? Vera, you need to get down here.”

“All the stairs on this level are either locked down or destroyed. I’m making my way through the hallways, but I’m in unfamiliar territory and don’t know any other way down.” Vera swallowed a lump in her throat. “Unless I head back to the Core Chamber and try to climb down.”

“You wouldn’t make it down before they got you,” Sam interjected. He spoke quickly to someone out of range of his microphone. “All right. Vera, look around you for any sign with your exact location. We’ll see if we can find another way for you to get down here.”

Vera slowed her pace enough to read the next few signs. Her eyes locked immediately to one with large yellow letters and numbers. “Okay, here we go. I’m Level T Sector 45…”

“What is it?”

“This is strange. Beneath the Level and Sector it usually states the nearest stairwell. The last stairwell I saw was ST 25, but on this sign it says EX 60. What does that mean?”

“Yes!” Sam exclaimed happily. “We lucked out. Vera, follow those EX numbers. You have to get to T-45-1. The EX means there’s an emergency stairwell in that sector and you’re heading straight for it. The number indicates how far you are from it in meters. It’s one of the few stairwells that’ll take you directly to the maintenance level.”

“Sixty meters? Even if I make it to the stairwell, there’s no way I’ll make it all the way down to you. They’re getting closer!”

“You’ll make it. I know you will.”

Slowing her run, Vera placed her hand on her neck. “Sam, I have to tell you something…”

“It can wait until we’re out of here. Keep going until you reach T-45-1. The stairwell should be clearly marked. Be careful.”

Before Vera can respond the line cuts out. Strong emotions filled her and she slammed a fist against the wall. She stormed down the hallway, her eyes searching the walls for every sign.

T-45-55. T-45-54. T-45-53.

Running and running, the hallways blurred as she ran. The sounds behind her grew closer no matter how fast she ran.

Her foot slammed into something and she fell to the cold, hard floor. Quickly crawling to her feet, she glanced behind to see a body torn in half. The scraps of cloth on the floor belonged to a lab coat.

It must’ve been one of the many scientists and judging by how hard the body was when Vera tripped over it the person died hours before. But it might still give her a little more time. They didn’t seem to mind eating the dead.

Turning down another long hallway, Vera’s eyes caught sight of the next sign. T-45-44. She was making progress.

She heard roars from behind as her pursuers found the body. She pushed herself faster, trying to gain additional distance. She recognized the layout now. Every level was similar with small changes depending on the needs of the levels, but overall they ended up still being the same.

Reaching T-45-31, Vera stopped to rest. Her legs ached and her lungs burned. Sweat rolled down her forehead and her uniform clung to her body. She leaned against the wall and rested her head against the cool metal. The dead body wasn’t going to keep them busy long, but at least her neck wound finally stopped bleeding.

She dropped her gun and took off her bulletproof vest. The weight was only slowing her down and even if she had bullets, they were useless if she couldn’t see her targets.

Her neck stung as sweat rolled across the sensitive skin and Vera’s eyes teared up. What was she going to do? What was she going to tell Sam? How could she tell Sam?

Soft static came from her earpiece. “You have to keep moving, Vera,” Sam’s voice whispered in her ear.

Vera clenched her fists and opened her eyes. “Sam, I really need to tell you—”

“When you get here we’ll talk, but not until then. Keep moving.” The static cut out.

Taking a deep breath, Vera pushed herself from the wall and moved forward. Damage on the walls and doors showed the results of fighting. Burn marks from fire and bullets as well as long tears in the metal grew more frequent as she moved.

Turning a corner quickly, sparks flew at her from a loose cable. Vera barely managed to keep herself from running right into the live wire. She ducked low to the ground and passed safely beneath. She hoped if any were following the cable would manage to shock a few.

She didn’t know how long she ran, but soon her eyes caught sight of the signs. T-45-5. Rereading it to be sure she wasn’t delusional, Vera smiled with laughter. She could make it. She sprints down the hallway, her gasps growing louder and louder.

T-45-4. T-45-3. T-45-2.

T-45-1.

A lighted doorway stood open with arrows only visible in the emergency lighting pointing in. Vera quickly ran inside and searched the inside of the doorway for a way to close the door. She pushed a large red button and the door slammed shut.

Relief flooded her and, even though the stairwell was dark, she felt far safer inside than back out with the flashing lights. She reached out until her fingers found the railing and she peered down. Light from the bottom floor could be seen and she took out her flashlight. She leads with the small circle of light and began the climb down.

She was on Level T, which meant she had to go down seven flights to reach Sam and the others.

A slam on the door she closed made her jump and Vera hoped the door was strong enough to keep them out. The slam was followed by several smaller thumps and scratching. She quickened her pace down the stairs, passing two levels when a terrifying thought revealed itself.

The doors from the other levels were still open.

She quickly ran up to the two doors she’d already passed and pressed the buttons to close them, but a sound from above proved her effort useless.

The sound of clawed feet rushing down the stairs sent a shock of terror through her. She had no weapon and she still had five floors to go. She quickened her pace, but as she made it one more level down, something blocked her path. She shown her flashlight in front of her and saw something had blown the door and debris across the stairs. She couldn’t get past.

Gripping the railing, she quickly glanced over the edge. It was a clear shot down, nothing obstructing her. She risked a glance up and saw movement getting closer.

“This is a stupid idea,” she whispered to herself as she swung her legs over the railing, resting her butt on the top. She carefully turned herself around as the sound of growling and clawed footsteps grew closer.

Taking a few deep breaths, she pushed herself from the railing down to the opposite railing a level lower. She did it again, nearly missing and falling four floors, but her hands caught hold of the railings. A roar from above preceded the sound of something rushing past behind her.

Vera screamed as claws tore into her back and her grip loosened. She fell, readying her body for the impact of the concrete below, but the body of the creature that fell before her softened her landing. Judging from the screech it made when she landed, it had survived. Thinking quickly, Vera pulled out a knife and turned, stabbing the thing in the head, or what she hoped was the head with the light still too faint to see. It jerked once before falling limp and she sighed. She rolled off and stood, not realizing she’d rolled beneath the lower stairs.

Her vision blackened as she slammed her head into the concrete and she fell to the ground. Before falling unconscious, her eyes regained focus and she stared into the reptilian eyes of the creature that had been chasing her. She could see her reflection in its large golden eyes and almost thought she saw her own eyes mimic the beast’s reptilian slits.

“Shit.”

Then the world faded away.

 *           *           *

“It’s a Code Red Evacuation alert. Everyone up and at ‘em,” Sam yelled across the room.

As though to emphasize his point, alarms rang loudly. Dozens of bodies climbed from their beds and dressed. Vera was one of the first ready and hurried to Sam.

“What’s the cause? Gas leak? Fire?”

Shaking his head, Sam stood to the side to allow the others passage. “We don’t know for sure yet, but your father was throwing around the big ‘T’ word.”

Vera’s heart pounded and she leaned close to Sam so he could hear her whisper over the alarms. “Terrorist? Really?”

“We’ll find out soon enough. Let’s go, Vera.”

The world around her darkened, but Vera could still hear Sam’s voice.

“Vera. Come on. Wake up! You’ve got to wake up!”

Jerking awake, Vera stared up into Sam’s worried face. “Sam?”

Pulling her into a tight hug, Sam released a loud rush of air. “Thank God! I thought for a moment that thing got you. I saw the blood and was convinced you were dead.”

“Blood?”

Releasing her, Sam shone his flashlight to the floor. Vera saw the dead body she’d landed on before she spotted the small puddle of blood where her head had been. She raised a hand to her head and winced at a sharp pain. When she pulled her hand away it had blood on it.

“I should be dead,” she whispered.

“It’s not bleeding anymore. That’s from the puddle,” Sam said as he placed a hand on Vera’s head. He flashed his light at her and his eyes scanned the damage. “You banged your head pretty good, but the cut isn’t deep.”

Eyeing the dead creature, Vera placed a hand at her throat. “I don’t think there were anymore following me. But this bastard got a good chunk from my back.”

“Shallow cuts, as well. Come on,” He helped Vera to her feet, “we have to head to where the others are. They’ll be worried.”

Hesitating, Vera avoided Sam’s eyes. “I have to tell you something.”

He took her hand and led her out of the stairwell, her eyes briefly catching a glimpse of a sign with the word maintenance in large letters. “I won’t tell the others. If they ask, you got it when you fell down the stairs. It’s a scratch, nothing more.”

“But…” Vera trailed off, unable to find the right words.

“I promised your father to get you out alive. I’m going to keep it. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter.”

“Thank you.”

They hurried through the dark hallways. The maintenance level, unlike the rest of the compound had metal walkways and piping along the walls. Beneath the walkways were more piping and wiring with cement flooring beneath. The emergency lights were red and made it harder to see except for a lighted path along the edges of the walkways pulsating towards emergency exits.

Sam pulled Vera behind him, expertly navigating and ignoring the direction of the pulsating lights. Soon voices could be heard further ahead and he stopped, quickly turning to Vera.

“Let me cover up that…mark before we get closer.” He pulled some bandages and gauze from his pack and quickly covered the wound on Vera’s neck. “Don’t need them to see the damage.”

A sharp pain sent an involuntary twitch through Vera’s body. Sam flinched and jerked back, staring at her. Vera saw fear fill his eyes for a split second before Sam regained his composure. Her heart dropped.

Seeing how his reaction affected her, Sam grabbed her and pulled her into a hug. “It’s going to be all right. We’re getting out of here and we’re going to find a way to help you.”

Vera carefully raised her arms and squeezed Sam back. Her neck ached and she closed her eyes.

You’re mine, a voice echoed in her mind. Her thoughts filled with everything that happened since the first alarm sounded and tears threatened to form. She fought them back and pulled away from Sam.

“Let’s go,” she whispered, afraid if she spoke any louder she’d lose her composure.

Nodding, Sam took her hand and headed in the direction of the voices. Turning the corner, Vera could see at the end of the hallway seven people, two women and five men, standing around a door. One man and woman are dressed in regular clothes while the rest wore the same uniform as Vera and Sam.

Two of the men in uniform stood on either side of the door, struggling to open it. Vera recognized Greg’s vibrant red hair, made even more so with the emergency lights, as he rammed into the door. Allen searched the sides of the door for anyway to loosen it or dismantle it.

“Are you sure it’s a way out?” Vera asked.

“Well, as sure as we can be,” Sam answered.

As they approach, everyone in the group besides Allen and Greg look up at them. Erin, the other woman in uniform, gripped the small computer on her lap, the light from the screen lighting up her face. She smiled at Vera, relieved to see her alive. Dried blood on her arms and abdomen don’t appear to be from any wounds and Vera fights the urge to ask whom it belonged to.

“Look who finally decided to join us in the basement of horrors,” one of the men said smirking.

“Not the time, Jason,” Sam warned.

Jason shrugged his shoulders, wiping a trail of blood from a cut above his eye. “It’s not far from the truth. We’ve no idea what’s on the other side of this door. It could be a closet for all we know.”

“It’s not a closet, according to the map it’s an exit,” Erin said.

“What’s the situation with the door? Are we closer to getting it open?” Sam asked.

“When the emergency systems turned on all of the doors in and out of this place were sealed off.”

“We already know that, but why would the emergency exits be sealed off?”

“I was getting to that.” Erin held up her computer screen for everyone to see. “Every emergency system has its own set of rules and protocols, but there’s only two that seal off all emergency exits.”

Vera felt eyes on her and she looked towards the man and woman in civilian clothing. The woman’s eyes were glued to Vera’s neck.

“And they are?”

“Quarantine and…” Erin hesitated, “and Irreversible Contamination.”

“What?” Sam demanded.

“If this was simply a Quarantine System our codes would be able to open the emergency exits,” Erin continued.

“But?” Vera asked.

Jason threw his hands up in the air. “But our codes don’t do shit down here. Which means no one can leave unless the higher ups on the surface give the all clear or all biologics cease.” He laughed, covering the fear in his voice. “As someone once said in a similar situation: ‘Game over, man.’”

“That was a movie,” the other uniformed man said, his deep, monotone voice hiding any emotion or thoughts.

“Still the same situation. We’re fucked, Roy.”

“What happened to your neck?” the woman in civilian clothes asked suddenly. She walked towards Vera, never taking her eyes off the bandages.

“I was scratched when I fell four stories down a stairwell. And you are?” Vera asked.

“Kara and Jacob. They refuse to give us last names. We found them huddled under a table in the pharmaceutical labs,” Sam said. He turned back to Erin. “Is there a way to open the door via a programming loophole in the protocols?”

“Not unless you want to open every door in this building, giving those things a way out.” Erin wiped sweat from her forehead, leaving a smear of blood from her glove.

Kara stopped a few feet from Vera, her eyes still boring into the bandage on her neck. Vera tried to ignore the woman, but she could hear Kara’s breathing quickening.

“Or giving people a way in to be food for them,” Jason added.

“All we have is this door between us and freedom.” Sam watched Allen and Greg slam their hands or kick the door in frustration. “Have we at least found out if this is really an exit?”

“It’s not listed in the main system, but I found an old blueprint of the first three floors, including maintenance level. It’s not very detailed, but it may show what’s on the other side of this wall,” Erin said.

“Keep searching those blueprints. I’m going to check in with Allen and Greg and see how close we are to getting through that door. Wherever it leads, it’s our best chance to escape.” Sam patted Erin on the shoulder as he passed her. When he reached Allen and Greg the two stopped and the three spoke quickly.

Exhaustion swept over Vera, being in the company of her comrades calming her. She collapsed to the floor, leaning her back against the wall. Her eyes drooped lazily, but the eyes watching her kept Vera alert.

Kara strained against Jacob’s arm resting across her shoulder. He struggled to keep the woman close, but she dragged him closer to Vera with surprising strength. She stopped in front of Vera, towering over her like a statue.

“It’s not a scratch,” Kara said, her voice shaking. “You were bitten.”

“It’s a scratch,” Vera said, raising her eyes to meet Kara’s.

“You’re lying. You were bitten,” Kara’s voice rose in volume, “They go for the neck when they bite. It’s the best place for injecting the venom. You’re going to turn into one of them!”

Jacob desperately tried to pull her back. “Kara, be quiet.”

“No, no, I won’t be quiet! She’s been bitten! She’s been bitten!” Kara screamed.

Strong hands grab the frantic woman and drag her away. Kara’s wide terrified eyes meet Sam’s as he slapped her across the face. “I saw the mark, Kara. It was made with claws, not fangs. If you continue to scream and draw attention to us I’ll be forced to hit you again, harder.”

Tearing herself from Sam’s grip, Kara placed a hand on her sore cheek. “Then let’s see it.”

“No. There are more important things happening right now besides playing into your crazed paranoia. Let me also tell you this bit of important information about me. I only give one warning. If I have to tell you to be silent again, I’ll forego hitting and just shoot you.”

Paint

Henry dips his paint roller in the tray and rolls it to cover the whole brush. He stands and continues painting the wall of his study. The radio plays soft rock as he works. The song finishes and the DJ comes on.

“And that was Hall & Oates with She’s Gone, dedicated to one of our own, the Hill family who are still searching for Sarah. If anyone has any information on her disappearance please contact local authorities immediately. Henry and Addison, you’re in our thoughts and prayers.” Chris Rae’s Josephine plays.

Henry hums along as he works. A bubble appears in the paint on the wall and he stops. He leans close to the wall and raises a finger. He pops the bubble and smiles.

Addie walks into the study, watching her father. “You’re changing the color?”

“Needed something to keep my mind distracted. If I sit still too long I think about Sarah.”

Coughing, Addie sits in a nearby chair. She pulls her legs up to her chest and watches him paint silently.

He continues working for a few minutes before looking at his daughter. “Is there something you needed, hon?”

“You missed a few phone calls. Channel 6 and 3 are interested in interviewing you. A couple other shows would also like to speak with you. Even America’s Most Wanted is interested in doing a segment on Sarah. The newspapers want to interview you for the weekend editions or want to ask some follow up questions from other interviews.”

“You wrote down all the numbers, right?”

She coughs. “I don’t think you should do anymore interviews.”

“They’ll help us find Sarah.”

“But it’s already been a month. They say if you don’t find the lost person within a few days then most likely they’re already…”

Henry turns sharply to Addie. “Don’t say it. You’re sister is alive. If the police had only listened to my advice maybe we would’ve already found her.”

“You mean Brady? He had nothing to do with it, dad.”

“He was the last one to see her before she disappeared. He did it.”

Addie coughs again. “You’re only saying that because you didn’t like him. They were going to get married.”

“I don’t want to talk about this.”

“But—”

“Enough!”

Addie’s cough intensifies, forcing her to lean forward.

“Are you all right?”

“It’s the paint. Did you have to buy the most disgusting smelling paint?” she wheezes.

“It’ll only smell this way until it dies. You should head back up to bed before you get too sick.”

“I’m fine.”

“Addie.”

Taking deep breaths, she eyes her father. “Fine, but at least open a window.” Standing, she heads out of the study.

Henry waits until he hears her door close before dipping his roller in the paint and continuing his work, humming along with the radio.

Hunter Cort Sample

“You two know why you’re here,” the Manager said, his eyes moving quickly behind his glasses.

Cort eyed Brayden and then the mop in his hand. “To clean?”

“Very observant. You’re going to be cleaning the mess you made running from security.”

“We wouldn’t’ve had to if someone hadn’t gotten a conscience and made us get caught,” Brayden grumbled.

“I didn’t grow a conscience. You’re the one who couldn’t keep his mouth shut. We could’ve been home by now with what we planned on taking, moron,” Cort said, shoving Brayden angrily.

Brayden retaliated by punching his arm. “Now we don’t have anything and we’re stuck working for this shithead! Why the hell did you freeze back there anyway?”

“I already told you, I saw something. There was something under that desk.”

“You just saw a rat, you idiot!” Brayden punched Cort’s arm again.

Dropping his mop, Cort hit Brayden back. “Don’t hit me.”

“I can hit you all I want, asshole.” Brayden grabbed Cort and slammed him against the wall.

Hands grabbed both of them and roughly pulled them apart. “Shut up! If you don’t, I’ll call the police and send both of you to jail.”

“Then do it, shithead,” Brayden yelled.

“Enough! You’re going to clean up the mess you made first. Yves!”

An old man with white hair came out of the janitor closet with a mop bucket filled with water. His pale green eyes moved slowly from face to face. “These the two troublemakers?”

“Take these two with you and have them clean up every speck of lint. If they cause any trouble, call the police.” He released the two and headed for the manager’s office.

“Yes, sir.” The old man waited for the Manager to disappear through the door before turning back to Cort and Brayden. “Follow me, boys, and don’t forget your mops.”

*          *          *

The silence in the aisle was interrupted only by the sound of grunts as Cort and Brayden moved up and down floor. Yves leaned against a bookshelf, watching with a bored expression.

Cort hesitated when he mopped the floor in front of the desk. He stared at the old wood in silence. He saw something…didn’t he?

“Is something wrong?” Yves said, appearing next to him.

“What’s going on with this desk?”

“What do you mean?”

“It doesn’t really fit in with everything else in this store.”

Placing a wrinkled hand on the wood, Yves released a long sigh. “I donated it. Been trying to get rid of it for a while now. It doesn’t exactly work anymore and I thought I might get some good money for it.”

A loud crash forced Cort’s attention away from the desk. Brayden glared at him, his mop lying on the floor. “You two done? Cause I sure as hell am. I’m out of here.”

“We can’t leave until we finish cleaning,” Cort said.

“Or what? That shithead’s going to call the police on us? We’ll be long gone before he realizes we left. He didn’t even get our names or anything.”

“You’re forgetting me, you brat,” Yves grumbled.

Brayden stormed over to the two and grabbed Cort’s mop, throwing it at the desk. It fell harmlessly to the floor. “Come on, man. Let’s get out of here.”

“No. He didn’t ask our names, but he’s got us on video. You really think the police can’t ID us? With our records?” Cort leaned down to grab his mop, glancing under the desk.

He didn’t expect to see two yellow eyes staring back at him. Realizing he could see them, the eyes disappeared as though the owner turned away.

“Earth to Cort. You going to stay like that all night?”

“There’s something there.”

“What? Oh, no. Not again, man.”

Standing straight, Cort glared at his friend. “I’m telling you, there’s something alive under there.”

“Yeah, a rat. R-A-T, rat.”

“You saw something under there?” Yves said, grabbing Cort’s arm. “What did you see?”

Wincing at the strong grip on his arm, Cort shook his head. “I don’t know. I don’t know what it was, but it was bigger than a stupid rat!” He aimed the last part at Brayden, throwing his mop.

“Watch where you throw that, asshole!”

Grabbing the back of Cort’s shirt, Yves shoved him down to the floor. “Look again and tell me what you see.”

“Hey, what the hell are you doing?” Brayden rushed forward to free Cort, but Yves easily threw  him off. “What do you see?”

“Let me go! I don’t see anything!” Cort struggled against Yves, but couldn’t break free. He peered under the desk and saw something unexpected. “Wait! There’s something there. It looks like…a tunnel?”

Where the underside of the desk should’ve been, a strange tunnel opened. At the far end he could see buildings, a city.

“What do you see at the end of the tunnel?” Yves demanded.

“A city? It looks like a city.”

Yves released Cort and whooped loudly. He pounded his hands on the desk and laughed excitedly.

Brayden stared at the crazy old man for a second before crawling over to Cort. He placed his head next to Cort’s to peek beneath the desk.

“Holy shit, what is that?”

“It’s the way home,” Yves said, triumphantly. “It’s finally opened back up.”

Cort and Brayden glanced up at him. “Home?” They both said at the same time.

Yves grabbed Cort and pulled him to his feet, embracing him in a hug. “That’s right and I have you to thank. Without you this wouldn’t have been possible.”

“What?”

A strange figure appeared in the middle of the tunnel and slowly moved towards Brayden.

“What’s that thing looking at us?” Brayden asked, loudly.

Without answering, Yves held Cort in from top him at arm’s length. “Somehow you opened the way back. I’ve been trapped here for years. Now, I can go home.”

The dark figure placed a hand on the floor outside of the strange tunnel. Brayden sat up and scooted back. “Yves!”

“What are you talking about? What is that place under there?” Cort asked, oblivious to Brayden’s concerned voice.

“A portal back to my world. I was banished and trapped here, but now that it’s reopened I can finally go home!”

The dark figure reached for Brayden, its body crossing through the portal easily. Brayden screamed and tried to stand, but his foot stepped on Cort’s forgotten mop and he crashed into Yves. The two fell back from the desk, clear of the dark figure’s reach.

Cort, however, was in the perfect position for the figure to grab. The hand tightened around his ankle and before he could react, he fell to the ground, slowly being dragged under the desk.

“Help me!” Cort screamed, trying to grab for anything.

Yves grabbed Cort’s right arm as Brayden grabbed his left. The two managed to stop Cort halfway under the desk. His feet were already through the portal and the figure grabbed his other ankle with its free hand.

Placing his feet on the desk, Brayden strained to keep hold of his friend. “What is that thing?”

“A Twilight Hunter,” Yves said, familiarity mixed with a hint of excitement filling his voice. “It’s mistaken your friend for me.”

“How the hell did that happen?”

“Twilight Hunters don’t see things like us. Since your friend had been close to me, it couldn’t tell which of us was the real me.”

Pulling against them in an attempt to free himself, Cort glared at the two. “Stop chatting and help me.”

“Oh no,” Yves said, his eyes staring past Cort.

“Oh no? What, oh no?”

Brayden followed Yves’ gaze. “Oh no.”

“What, goddamn it?”

“It’s closing.”

“That’s good, isn’t it? That thing will let me go then, right?”

“Hunters never let go of their prey.”

Brayden pulled Cort harder. “Then let’s get him out of there before it closes on him.”

“This is my only chance to get home,” Yves whispered, barely audible to Cort.

“What the hell is going on here?” A voice boomed.

All three turned their heads. The Manager stood at the end of the aisle, his red face growing darker. “What the hell are you doing to that desk?”

“Of course that shithead’s gotta show up now,” Brayden said, angrily.

Yves locked eyes with Cort and he realized what the old man was going to say. “I’m sorry. I’m not missing my chance to go home.”

Knocking Brayden’s legs down from the desk, Yves released Cort. With only Brayden holding on, the Twilight Hunter pulled harder. Yves kicked Cort in the chest, breaking Brayden’s hold on him. Cort was dragged into the portal, followed closely by Yves, who grabbed Brayden and pulled him in, too.

 

 

 

Whimper Sample

This is my story. This is the story of someone who had to accept everything around her ends the way you expect before you realize the only thing you didn’t expect was you’d still be around to see it.

Stupid right? Welcome to my story.

I’ve written many beginnings to this story and I’ve played around with how I was going to do this, but now I’ve made a decision. The information I tried to explain in a way to get you interested bored me so screw it.

Something happened, people freaked out and began blaming each other and then everyone except for the lucky few died. Now we’re fighting each other to survive and fighting this new world to keep from dying.

I tried testing out a beginning to show the moments leading up to the end for the real world, but it sounded just like everyone else and it pissed me off. So here’s the edited fast-paced version.

My brother was the first to die. He died the day the world gave up. My sister was next. Died in the middle of a sentence. Took my parents and I a few seconds to realize what happened. My father was next, but he locked himself in the bathroom so my mother and I never really knew for sure whether it killed him or he killed himself before it could. Then my mother died.

When my brother and sister died my father buried them in the backyard. When my father died my mother and I buried him beside them. When my mother died, I buried her with them.

This would’ve been the point I introduced my neighbor and his family who seemed to luck out and be surviving. I’d talk about how he constantly made an ass of himself to me talking about how lucky his family was.

They died during the winter. He survived, but their bodies remained in the basement of his house. He moved in with me…partly out of my own pity for his inability to fully accept what happened, but mostly because he wouldn’t go back to that house even if I forced him to.

He lived with me for two months. We loved. We argued. We laughed. He remained an asshole and I realized I didn’t want to stay in that stupid house until we both died. He did, apparently and that’s when we separated.

I left. He stayed. I don’t know if he died or ended up killing himself from the loneliness…my bet is on the latter. I had some supplies, but should’ve known it would never have been enough to survive on long. Luckily it was spring so really all I had to worry about was starvation…but not snow.

See? When I tried writing this the first time all of that took up nearly thirty pages. A waste of paper that I used for warmth giving fire. And I bet you’re wondering if I’m going to continue the story from that point. Well, I’m not. There won’t be a real story because this is my story and I’m going to tell it the way I want to. Why not?

There aren’t any rules anymore. At least, not the old rules from before. This will be written how I want it because there’s no one left to tell me I can’t write this way.

At the same time the only person who’s going to be reading this is me anyways. Everyone else is dead. So I’m going to write what I want to read. Maybe I’ll write something a little more uplifting some day (if I live that long), but for now here we are. Here I am.

Traveling on my own causes my brain to go into overdrive with thoughts. Regrets mostly, but then again I think about the uselessness of arguing in the old world. Arguments occur when two opposing ideas clash. In good arguments both sides see the merit of the other’s argument. But there’s never been good arguments outside of schools when children learned the art of arguing in their classrooms.

In the old world, arguing was simply a way to a) have people listen to your opinions and agree with you, b) have people listen to your argument and argue with you so you can make them look like fools (in your eyes), c) beat your argument into the heads of those who have no capacity to think for themselves, thus ensuring you have avid followers who listen and argue on your behalf, or d) simply to gain ratings as the person who constantly argues with people.

Stupid, right? But that’s how the old world was. In this new world, once the professional arguers died, arguments went one of two ways: a) you argued, you died, or b) you argued, you ruled.

Even more stupid, right?

But that’s where this new world actually sort of got it right. It got rid of the hours and days and weeks and months and years and decades of people arguing over the same things day in and day out and simply ended the argument the moment the stronger person enforced their dominance over the opposing arguer.

Arguments don’t last long in the new world.

I bet you think the human race banded together like in all of those post apocalyptic shows and books and whatever. It did for a time. The typical groups rose up. Those who enjoyed and embraced the chaos, those who wanted to find a way to save the world, and those who simply closed off from the outside to live in their already prepared escapes (the so-called preppers). Unlike those tv shows, movies, books the truth is everyone eventually turns into their own ideas of what the old world was. Even those who embraced the chaos slowly rejoined societies and cities kind of returned to normal.

There was no electricity after a while, but the few remaining who knew how to keep the large plants going kept some of the major cities electrified. Outside of the cities people managed to survive well enough. The only truth that continued to haunt the world was it.

It was a disease…and here’s where I’m going to skip around again because otherwise it’s going to sound like everything else you’ve ever heard. An incurable, unstoppable disease killed the world. The only reason it remained incurable and unstoppable was simply because everyone started pointing fingers at everyone else as to who released the disease on to the world.

Truth is, in my opinion, the disease had always been around it just needed the proper trigger to erupt all across the globe. In some places it spread faster than others, like any plague, but by the time the world realized the only way to stop it was to unite, it was too late. Half the world population was gone and still in a sharp decline. That was the day my brother died.

Ultimately, it was never the disease that killed the world, it was man unwilling to unite and now we die out as a great man once said: This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.

T.S. Eliot. The only bit of poetry that stuck with me from all of my schooling. It oddly spoke to me…Maybe you’d see it as fate, but I simply see it as that was the only way it could’ve ended. The explosive endings portrayed in disaster movies never scared me. It was always the ones where it took a long time to kill us. Now I know why. Because the true fear isn’t knowing that you will die from it, it’s the not knowing how long it will sit waiting for you to accept you might survive and then dropping you dead.

That’s why I have no optimism. That’s why I come off cold to any I happen to cross paths with as I wander from place to place simply because I choose not to sit and wait for it to kill me. If it’s going to kill me I want to be moving. But maybe that’s also why I’ve lived this long. Maybe it’s stagnation that breeds the strength it needs to finally do the deed.

I know that’s not true, but it sounds good doesn’t it?

I’ve pissed off a lot of people with the way I talk about things. They get angry at me for being a pessimist and condescending to those who still believe humanity will survive this.

But isn’t it good for me to keep them angry? It gives them a reason to live. They want to prove me wrong…of course they’ve all died, but they died still believing I was wrong. Isn’t it ironic?

In most movies and TV shows and books the pessimistic asshole either dies or has an epiphany where they see they were wrong. I’ve done neither. I came close once…very close.

It was during one of my stationary periods. There were a few.

One of the few cities built from nothing and surviving better than the rest. They’d built a wall around them, a strong wall of cinderblocks they’d spent years making. The city inside was beautiful. The people weren’t blinded by their wall from the dangers outside and they weren’t blinded from the inescapable death inside.

My crossing paths with them were purely an accident. I saw the walls and knew to stay away, but the one watching the door that day begged me to stay. I usually turned away from any who wished me to stay, but something about the man convinced me.

There are still days when I believe the city was purely a dream. Something my mind conjured up in a moment of madness. There were many months like that. An entire year once after I lost…but I’m losing track.

The people of the city told me I could stay or leave whenever I chose. Food was oddly plentiful and there were enough rooms at a small inn for me to stay without any form of payment.

The leader of the city welcomed me and explained that if I chose to stay longer than two days I would need to work; help with the food, assist teaching the children, clean the city, and any number of other options.

I told him I had no intention to stay even one night, but he insisted I should.

*        *         *

I guess I should mention the ever present and eventual reality that many people also focused on in the new world. The immune. There were many who believed there were those immune from it and many people chose to spend a lot of time breeding in order to give birth to children who would prove to be immune. Then there were the strange rumors that constantly spread of those believed to be immune. Even in a world of lessened technology, news and gossip managed to spread quickly. Now to continue:

*        *         *

I was believed to be immune. I heard it, or rather overhead it when a woman forced her way to speak over me to the leader and demanded I be given something or another to encourage me to stay. I can only assume this woman intended for me to be used as a breeding sow in order to replace a lost child she suffered.

The leader did confess stories of a lone woman traveling the country with my description had been the main reason the man at the gate begged me to enter the otherwise impenetrable city.

Let’s jump around a bit. I was forced to speak to the people of the city. The people believed it was to encourage them I was immune, but the leader told me to tell them what I truly believed. I did and many hated me for it. Some tried to convince me otherwise, hoping to cause me to see the light and realize the “truth”. When that didn’t work they left me alone and I returned to simply being a stranger in the city.

I did end up staying two days, but informed the leader I would be leaving the morning of the third day. I’d stayed too long and already felt the eyes of contempt on my back when I walked through the city. He agreed and offered to fill my supply bags as generosity was their city’s greatest gift.

Before turning in for the night, I went to stand at the door of the wall to stare out. I wanted to imagine what it would be like to live in the city and only have the small window in the doorway to see the outside world. The man who opened the door for me was still there. I asked why the city needed a guard at the door. He told me the truth.

He wasn’t a guard. He was a prisoner. A prisoner to the outside. He feared it more than he feared the disease still threatening to extinct our race. Perhaps I almost had my epiphany there. But the truth is my near epiphany moment came that night. I woke to a man attempting to force himself on me. I say attempting because once I tried to stop him, he did. He stood and held a gun to my head. He asked me:

“Are you afraid of death?”

I told him yes.

“Do you deserve life?”

I told him no.

He removed the gun from my head and simply said, “The wall is broken.” Then walked out the door, shutting it behind him.

Now I say this moment almost caused me to have an epiphany and become an optimist instead of the pessimist I am, but only because that was the moment I realized I was ready for death and truthfully I wanted it. I wanted the disease to take me as it did my entire family.

The reason it didn’t change me? Because I was still alive. The wall had indeed been broken. Men who’d been scouting the city for weeks finally made a move to get the food they knew was inside. What they hadn’t realized, and neither had I, was that though the city seemed, on the surface, peaceful everyone understood the truth of those outside the walls. Guns were fired all through the night. I found the leader and he showed me a way out away from the main fighting.

I never went back to that city. I know they survived longer, but as with everyone else in the new world. They will die if they haven’t already.