At first, there is silence.
Nothing but black, sticky silence.
Slowly, sounds and colour push their way through the black, emerging slowly through the clammy darkness. Incoherent noises, blurs of light.
The disjointed noise begins to form distinct sounds; the colours form shapes.
‘…hasn’t moved for five minutes… still dead’
‘… Maybe they’ll listen this time. This is doomed to fail; the blood will simply not mix’
‘I am not writing the report this time’
‘What number are we up to? Fifty? How many times must we fail purposely before they realise raising the dead is wrong?
‘…Did you see that? I think it blinked.’
A pause. ‘What?’
You blink again.
A rattling, wet breath gives way to a violent cough, expelling the moisture from your lungs. Your eyes are open now. There is a ceiling.
There is more silence. Fearful silence.
‘Oh, my God’
The makers of the noise and light are afraid.
Afraid of what?
Afraid of you.
Who are you?
I help you.
Why are they afraid?
You are powerful.
There are more voices. Voices, yelling. Arguing.
You are different. Different from the others. You live.
In a manner of speaking.
The voices are different now. You move. First your arms, then legs. Then make a sound. You are thirsty.
The screaming is louder now, panicked. This is not supposed to happen.
Something went wrong.
I was meant to die?
You were meant to fail.
As you stand, the tubes pull. There is a small stab of pain where they connected to skin. Many small stabs. All over. It hurts.
The pain makes you angry.
The people, the ones with light around their fingers, are coming. They walk towards you in a circle. Coming closer, slowly. No sudden movements, now.
You are angry.
Who are they?
They are weak.
Can I hurt them?
The people with light in their fingers and fear in their eyes are getting closer. The tubes are gone. Your arms are thin but strong. The veins show through the skin, writhing. They are black, and twist with an intensity which screams to be released.
What is this?
Power. Use it.
Vanish. Kill them.
You reach out to touch the net of light the people have thrown on you. It is solid to touch, and burns your fingertips. It hurts. You snarl a strangled sound of frustration. Crackling pressure builds in your fingers. It fills the rest of your veins, and then disappears as you do, into nothing but mist.
The people are screaming again. The net did nothing, the coloured light failed. They are scared. They cannot see you. You can smell the blood, pumping through the veins of the people. It intoxicates you. Frightens you. Any control is gone in an instant. Suddenly you are there, and the man can do nothing. Teeth as sharp as knives sink into flesh and the red is there, sweeter than anything. Satiating the thirst. The red liquid brings with it visions; snapshots of other times and other scenes not this one… memories….
‘This will be our triumph. Never before has someone attempted something of this magnitude, and never will the results will be so beneficial to humans’
‘There are risks to the Research…’
‘All worth taking.’
A flash. A man in a coat, bent over a scope – outside, crashes, screaming and sirens.
‘…Sir, something is wrong… the spell, the virus has been released, there was a… problem.’
‘It’s the public, sir… they are becoming sick.’
Another flash. A newspaper headline. DEATH TOLL RISES.
‘Sir, we must do something’
‘I am aware of that. We must take preventative measure.’
Another flash. The same man, light playing around his fingers… deadly light.
‘I’ll not let the Sickness take me also – I advise you to do the same. Now, while you can.’
There is more shouting from the people as the man’s eyes roll back and he falls to the ground. Oh, my God. Shit. The plan failed. The experiment is all wrong. You are out of control. Someone, get help.
You are powerful.
The darkness is gone, entirely. You move across the room and the glass pricks your bare feet. It doesn’t hurt anymore. You feel strong, stronger than ever, and stronger than anyone. The people are gone, running, shouting.
Something flickers in a corner.
You move closer. There is a shape on the wall. Like a window. You reach out to touch it, and it does the same. Your fingers touch but you feel nothing but cold smoothness.
What is this?
It is a mirror. You see yourself.
You are pale, and thin. Naked. The veins and tendons show through translucently, and skin stretches over bone. Your eyes are dark, and sunken into a face as emaciated as the body it belongs to. There is a covering of soft, dark hairs on the top of the skull. You open your mouth. The figure in the mirror does the same, revealing a set of white, pointed, even teeth. Teeth as sharp as knives, and covered in blood.
What have they made me?
They have made you anew.
The room is white with light. It hurts to look at. Everything is clean, or was clean. It is cold. There are machines, run by the light of the people’s fingers. The male still lies on the floor, the bright red of his neck spreading to make the floor slippery and sticky. You do not like this place.
There is door, and a corridor. You follow it. More openings, blocked by large slabs of metal. Not doors, barricades. They fall easily and the bright clean of the place is replaced by the dark filth of the outside.
What is this place?
It is your world.
There are more people outside. They are filthy, and blend with the dirt they are covered in. They stare, looking up from under boxes, newspapers, ripped cloth. He looks around. None of them are naked, as you are. It attracts attention. There is a figure, on a corner. He is covered in a coat such as the people in the place, the ‘laboratory’, only dark, longer and with a collar which obscures his face.
You vanish again. In your place is a mist, thin, bleeding into the smog covering the street. The man does not know it is you. He does not know until it is too late, and he is in a corner of an alley, neck broken and clothes gone.
The coat is too large, but only in breadth. It hangs off thin shoulders. You also wear the man’s other clothes, and shoes, to protect your feet from the filth of your world.
It is dusk, and the sky does not change colour as night begins to fall. The swirling cloud remains the colour of a battlefield; the grey of gunmetal and umber of mud broken only by the shock of blood red shot from the sunset in the distance. Buildings rose to the sky from either side of the street, similar shades to the sky. The road is black and pitted, and rubbish covers the concrete. The streets are deserted but for the survivors.
Survivors of what?
The air is thick here, and laced with smoke and moisture. It is not warm, nor cold, save for the slight chill breeze creeping its way around corners of buildings and into piles of papery rubbish, making it rustle and tumble over the eroded tar, brick and concrete. It brought with it the sounds and smells of illness, decay and death. A familiar smell, from another time, but the same place.
No, not the same.
The same city. The same sky. The same breeze, bringing with it the scent of illness and decay. Only different; instead of death there was fear. Instead of dull resignation and despair, panic.
The wind dies a little and the scent is gone, replaced by the sights, sounds and smells of the street you still walk along, completely alone but for a small number of humans.
What am I, if not human?
You are different. You were.
I was what?
The ones you see around you are unhappy. Their faces are pinched and sunken, not unlike your own, but lacking the sheer, white pallor of one already dead. The clothes they wear are worn; the threadbare of long-owned garments washed too often and too vigorously. Heads bent to the ground. Shoulders hunched as though to protect themselves from something which could come at them from any angle at any time, without warning. They hold cloth to their faces.
To protect themselves.
Night falls properly, and the sky changes from grey to black. Still functioning lights flicker into dull luminance above the streets, providing intermittent patches of yellow or orange which cast shadows on walls. The darkness brings more people, people who come to buy, sell or trade things even now they feel should be kept under cover of night.
Your pale face brings wary glances, so you pull the collar higher in attempt to blend in. The very atmosphere is that of aftermath.
There is a man on the corner. He is old, and thin, and standing on a flat box. His hair is grey and white, straggly and matted, vainly finger-combed over the top of his balding head. Like the others, the pale skin visible outside of his dark clothing bears the marks of past fierce scrubbing under a thin layer of dirt. He is holding a small sheaf of papers in one hand and a thick, leather bound book in the other. He is shouting.
Shouting for what?
The man sees you and his eyes, piteous and challenging, rake your skin as you turn away. He calls out to you. You try to walk past but something in his voice speaks of answers. You turn to him and he looks at you again.
You say what are those?
He says they are the Word of our Lord, who will come again in glory.
You can smell the blood in his neck again. It is not as strong as before but still powerful. You try and fight the urge to seize him by head and shoulder and bite down on exposed skin. There are too many people, and too much you do not know.
He holds out a piece of paper. It has words on it and he tells you herein lie the answers.
You look at the words. For a moment you do not understand, and they swim before your eyes. Then they become focused.
25. and ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.
The man says we have been wicked and are being punished. That the Majik was wrong and the public must be cleansed of their wrongdoing and Sin and return to the Lord.
You ask what Sin is this.
He says Men should not interfere with what the Lord hath given or else the Lord taketh away.
You say interfere?
He says the Ones at Atelier Laboratory should not have attempted what they did, that it was a mistake. That what they did took lives, so many lives, and destroyed them. That the Research was the Devil’s work.
You see again the words on the door you broke open to escape the place; Laboratory.
He says repent, and be saved.
You find it harder to listen and ignore the pound of heartbeat along a vein.
He says it to another person walking by. Repent, and be saved.
You turn, and walk away. Blood pulses in your ears.
The thirst becomes slightly stronger every step you take. All around you, men and women hurry to complete whatever furtive business takes them from their homes and into danger. They do not look at you any longer than a glance, taking in pale skin and dark circles under eyes, assuming you are Sick. This is more than enough reason to avoid you.
Not all the people avert their eyes. One woman leans against a brick wall, down an alley just far enough for the light to throw facial features into sharp, shadowed relief. Her dark cloak does not hide low cut clothing, and she receives looks in return from passing men. Her gaze slides from hairline to jaw line before shifting to wink and beckon at another man passing by. Clearly the signs of the Sickness are no obstruction to a work night. The thirst clutches at your throat before dying slightly.
A siren splits the air and the effect is instantaneous. The people on the streets find the nearest shelter and scrabble for a white cloth hidden somewhere on their person. An identical, square piece of white cloth, with a red border. The woman in the alley retreats further into the darkness and holds a coat sleeve over her face in place of a cloth like the others. You take the opportunity and follow her into the shadow.
There is a smell in the air. A bitter, metallic scent like that of blood and rust, seeping into the atmosphere from the humans around you. At first you think it is in fact blood and look around to find the source. Closer inspection of those around reveals not an open wound but stricken eyes and pained expressions, and you realise the smell is fear.
Fear of what?
The woman, now completely shrouded in darkness, does not see your approach. Her eyes are closed, head tipped back as she leans on the flat of her back against a wall. Her ears are filled with the sound of siren, so she does not hear you walk softly towards her, the siren in your own ears overlaid with the ever-quickening thud of heartbeat and gasp of breath. The scent of fear intoxicates you, saturating your senses, and combined with the pound of blood in veins it is impossible to resist. You reach her and before she can move you are there. She screams but the sound is lost in the never ending siren and you are immersed in the flood of sounds, images and memories which follows the flow of red.
‘Mama, I feel sick. My chest hurts.’
‘Ssh, you’ll be fine. Go back to sleep’
A television set flickers on. Repeated images of the dead or dying, coughing, bloody exhalations which leave the person exhausted. All are pale, thin; the same as the little girl with her head on your lap, hair spread out, hot forehead covered with a soaked cloth. A white cloth, with a red border.
The newsreader looks less than calm; sweat beads roll down his pale forehead. Everywhere, there are Sick people; those not yet infected still covering their mouths with the same white cloth with the red border.
‘Citizens are advised to remain in their homes, unless an Outbreak has been detected as living in your dwelling. Any who suspects the symptoms are appearing must report immediately to a Healing Centre for treatment. Not doing so is an Offence which endangers all those around you.’
Another image; a headstone, a man’s name engraved in rough letters, small, wilting flowers adorning the top being replaced with fresher flowers, this time made out of material. Fresh, real flowers are expensive.
A flash. The same scene, but a different time. The grave remains there, no less rough but instead coupled with a twin to its side, this time a female name scratched into the face. Anna, 2081-2088. Seven years old. Beloved daughter. The memory becomes clouded.
The news again, this time print; ‘The cause of the Sickness is believed to be the fault of the institution which calls itself Atelier Laboratory. Highly publicised at the dawn of last year for the harnessing of the substance believed by many to be Majik, the supposed ‘missing link’ in the evolutionary/creation chain, the Laboratory has been revolutionising the way we live our lives. The ‘discovery’ of Majik was apparently cited as the solution to the 30 year oil and power crisis, enabling us to replace electricity and crude oil with what appears to be simple light but in fact has many more powers than illumination…’
Many more flashes, this time shakily detailing human survival instinct overcoming the need for dignity and self respect. The many faces of men, half hidden in shadow. Small rolls of notes.
The last flash is cut off as the siren finally dies, and you pull your mouth away from ripped flesh as her last scream is heard by other humans outside the alley entrance who take the cloths away from their mouth and begin to shout. What the hell. What are you doing. Get off her, you freak.
You turn your head to look at them and they recoil at the sight of red-stained teeth. One pulls a weapon out of his coat and points it at your head. You drop the woman and she slumps against the wall, on the brink of death.
Shots are fired; small shard of brick and stone ricochet of walls around you and you turn to find a way out, finding three walls and the exit barred by men with guns. The only way out is up and you do not hesitate before launching yourself at a wall and ascending like a lizard up a stone. The men are under you now, still firing up into the air.
Just before you reach the top of the building, a lucky bullet glances off a windowsill and buries it deep in your shoulder. You roar in pain. You use your other arm and feet to haul yourself over the lip at the top of the roof and slump against the cement, blood so dark it appears purple-black welling and spilling out of the small wound.
You grunt and flex the muscles in your shoulder. The movement dislodges the bullet from between the flesh and squeezes it from out under the skin. Once the small fragment of metal is gone the wound begins to heal itself, the skin knitting together over the puncture and soon leaving behind nothing but pale, translucent skin.
You wait a little while before getting up. The memories and images the woman’s blood left imprinted in your mind half explained the Laboratory and the Sickness, but there were still things you didn’t know. Like how you fit in. Why you are this way.
What have they done to me?
They tried to save you.
The only way to know for sure would be to go to the Laboratory. The cold, clean place where the silence seemed to reverberate off smooth surfaces. The people would have kept records; you stand up and walk to the edge of the roof, looking over to the people below. There is an entrance, a door, a few metres away but it is locked, the staircase beyond it out of reach. You decide to test your newfound strength and attempt to push open the door. The lock attaching it to the frame rattles and squeals in protest as you push against the door. All of a sudden it snaps, and the door is flung inward to reveal a dark staircase leading to the lower floors. You begin to descend the steps, rolling your shoulder to get rid of lingering discomfort.
From the stairs you can hear, faintly, the sounds of others living in the building. Coughing and voices can be made out from behind walls and doors. Talking quietly. People reading. Domestic sounds discoloured by the tone of fear and illness that seems to be imbedded in the very walls.
Soon the staircase comes to an end, at another door. You force this one open as you did the first, only this time it’s the hinges which give out first. The door opens into a large room with glass doors at the front and an elevator further in. After checking your coat collar is obscuring as much of your face and neck as possible, you exit the building furtively. Recognising the shouting man on the street corner allows you to gauge how far you have come and how far back the Laboratory is. For all it seemed to be a long time, you walked a small distance, only a few streets down.
The Laboratory was easy to find. The large sign on the door remained as you left it, hanging slightly loose on three screws instead of four. You open the door and once again enter the large, cold corridors which replace the external odour of the outside world with the sterile smell of people whose job it is to keep the outside out.
The metallic tang of blood is still in the air, although now stained with death and no longer enthrals your senses. It simply hangs in the atmosphere, giving you a direction to follow. You re enter the room you first knew, the dead man still lying on the floor, the chilly climate not allowing his blood to dry on the floor.
You look around. There are machines; they not connected to a wall. The table you lay on, sheet strewn half off onto the floor, is in the middle of the room, and there is glass everywhere. A smashed window to your right shows its origin, shards still sticking out from the window frame like sinister splinters.
The broken window opens into another room, unlit except for the cold blue glow emanating from the room you are in. There are shelves, cupboards, more machines, paper everywhere. You climb over the sill, ignoring the slicing pain of the glass in your foot.
The paper is the files you were looking for. Records, notes, all pertaining to something always referred to as the ‘Department for Experimental Majikcal Theory and Medicinal Affairs’. There is an open folder on the desk; you open it and attempt to make sense of the words and phrases. There is a name there, a picture; looking at one of the remaining sections of window and seeing your reflection you realise it is of yourself.
The form talks about something called ‘Experiment #443: Erythrocyte and Haemoglobin Amalgamation Process re/ Unspecified Blood Type Combination’. It goes on about the potential saving of lives, the nature of breakthrough and is ended with a signature. You look through the folder, seeing not names but subjects.
Subjects of what?
Suddenly you hear a noise coming from another room further back in the building. Shuffling, stumbling footsteps. They stop and you hear breath like stifled panting coming from the room, and a click and several beeping noises. A pause, then a voice.
‘Mrs. Peterson? Oh, good. I wasn’t sure if I could reach you. I have some news regarding your husband…’
‘Oh, God. What have you done to him? Where is he? I haven’t heard from him in so long…’
The woman’s voice evokes something in you, a recognition filled with longing. Although you know you have never heard this voice before, you know it’s every inflection like the beat of your own heart.
‘I’m dreadfully sorry, I can’t really disclose the full nature of the experiment… I’m afraid, however, I must tell you your husband was pronounced dead for a short while…’
‘Dead? No, that can’t be… he was fighting it…What did you do? Tell me! How can he be dead?’
‘Well, it appears although he did die, we were able to revive him… although there was a complication.’
‘Complication? What sort of complication? What are you talking about? Is he there? I want to talk to him. No, wait, don’t, I’m coming down. Don’t go.’
‘I’m not sure that is such a good idea… There were unforseen… Mrs. Peterson? Mrs. Peterson? ...Damn.’
You find the entrance to the room and stand in it, frame not quite filling the doorway but still casting a shadow over the man, standing over a telephone. He is standing, resting his weight on his arms, palms flat on the desk. As you stand in the door he spins around, and seeing you, gasps and begins to plead. No. Please don’t hurt me. I’ll do anything.
As you walk into the room he searches frantically for a weapon. Anything. You draw closer and he grabs a file trolley standing nearby and throws it at you with all his strength. You raise your arms in protection and dissolve into mist. The trolley passes straight through you and the man uses the opportunity to fling himself out of the door, but is caught when you re-materialise on top of the trailing robe-like coat he wears, and trips and falls, still scrabbling for purchase on the smooth floor.
You pick him up by the shoulders and slam him against a wall. His heart is beating faster than you have ever heard blood run, and the smell of fear is so thick you could almost taste it. Almost, as it lies under the thin layer of skin covering his neck… he closes his eyes and grits his teeth but no agonising bite comes. He opens his eyes to look at your face. You want answers, if not from papers than from him. You ask him who was that. He says it was someone you used to know and love. Your wife. He says please let me go. He will do anything. Just let him go. Please.
The man begins to shake under your hands and seems too terrified to say anything more. You shake him, slam him against the wall. Still he says nothing of sense. You become angry again, furious at his refusal to tell you. His eyes are closed again, head stretched to the side as though to avoid you, but in fact only presenting you with an expanse of pale skin. An expanse of skin that proves too much to resist. The man screams in pain as the suffering he expected came and writhed in agony under your hands grasping his neck.
A stifled scream from behind you penetrates the haze the blood lures you into. There is a woman behind you; her fear is as apparent as the man’s was. She begins to back away and you turn your head. You know her; it was her voice you heard on the telephone. She muffles another scream as she takes in your bloody teeth and the ripped, crimson patch of flesh on the man’s neck. She says what are you. What have they made you. She is so afraid. You let go of the man and he slides to the floor, life ebbing out of him by the second. He begins to crawl, slowly away.
You turn around and reach out to the woman, beseeching her to stop backing away. Her eyes are fixated on your mouth, at the fangs stained red. You wipe your mouth on the back of your sleeve. Still she looks on in horror.
You take steps forward as she stumbles back, eventually hitting the wall behind her, and sliding along it, watching you all the while. She starts to whimper in fear. You beg her not to be afraid. It is you. Why is she looking at you like that. You… You did not mean to. You could not help it. She says it again. What are you. You tell her you don’t know.
You do not know because he wouldn’t tell you.
She says I’ve heard about this. The immoral vermin from the Laboratory… using Majik to fuse the blood of captured Night People from the Past… to those who had died of the Sickness in hope of reviving them. So many deaths… and now you…
Suddenly the man on the floor coughs, speaks. Thought they had perfected the strain, he said. The use of Majik has been refined. Thought the symptoms… the fatal symptoms in the others… had gone. Turned out… more potent. Attached themselves to the dead blood. Made this… you.
The woman, the woman you recognise although have no memory of her, takes a step towards you. Then another. The smell of fear intensifies, as does the sound of pulse. You take a step back and hold out your hands. No. Don’t come closer. I do not want to hurt you.
She says you won’t. She takes another step forward and the metallic taste in the air just gets stronger. You let out a soft snarl. You take a deep breath and look at her again. No. you must not come any closer. I cannot help it. It takes me over… out of control.
The man on the floor speaks again, a whispered, agonised breath of a warning. Fire, he says. Fire will cure it. It will make it stop. He closes his eyes and takes a last breath, and you hear a shaking sob from behind you. No, she says. I can’t. I can’t do it.
You turn to her. Take in her face; eyes; hair. The tears running down her face. You must, you say. I cannot live again, and I cannot live to kill again. Please… if you loved the man I was. She is shaking her head. You are shouting now. Do it. Your voice is rougher than she remembered. You are different. A monster.
She is still shaking her head as she runs to the office and you follow. Papers are being flung around, and she is scrabbling, blinded by tears, in a draw. She pulls out a small red box. Matches. Lighting one, then another, then another. The room bursts into flames as the paper catches alight and you fight through her fear to hold her by the arm and thrust her out the door.
You throw your whole weight against the wood and ignore her pounding fists against the other side. The fire is growing. The furniture catches alight. Smoke rises in the air, filling your nostrils. More flames, still more. The sound of her sobbing is overpowered by the roar of the blaze. Your coat catches and flames run up you arms and torso, licking at your face. They intensify and you close your eyes.
Then there is silence.
Nothing but black, smoky silence.
Monster [Short Story]This is a story I wrote for an Extension English class at school. The topic was 'Write a Fantasy Story' so I did. It's fairly long.
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