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The Watchmen – Part X – A Horror Novella

Part IX

Part VIII

Part VII

Part VI

Part V

Part IV

Part III

Part II

Part I

 

“What the hell is wrong with you?” 

 

I wince at my mother’s voice as it blared on the other end. “Do you even know what everyone is saying? Did you join some sort of a cult? What is all of this Katherine?” I let her get it out, staying silent on the other end until I could figure out what to say. I had avoided her text messages and calls for most of today but after the tenth ring I finally answered. “Don’t you dare sit there quietly or I swear I will drive down to Texas myself and beat some sense into you.” My eyebrows raise at her words. She had never made such a threat before. I tried my hardest to sound strong but my words faltered and I only got half a sentence out, “it’s all─” I swallowed thickly, preparing myself again. “It’s all what? Some ploy to get attention? Jesus girl, think about your family before you do something this drastic. It’s gone viral for god’s sake, our phones won’t stop ringing.” I frown at her words. I wasn’t expecting such backlash from my family. From the public, yes, but not my own mother. She took a deep breath and sighed into the phone. “Look, just go back online and tell people it was a prank.” 

 

“No,” I spat. I covered my mouth, shocked that there was so much venom in my words. “Excuse me? Yes you will. And I’ll tell you what else, you will do this or you can count on never being a part of this family again.” I inhaled sharply, taken back by her words. “You can’t mean that,” I whisper. “Oh yes I can young lady. Your poor father is livid, do you know how close both of us are to retirement?” “They can’t fire you for that, it’s illegal” I yell back. “They won’t need to, they can make both of our lives miserable until we quit.” I snap, “Well excuse me for trying to save a few hundred million lives.” “Katherine. Stop this right now,” she says through gritted teeth, “You aren’t special, no end of the world is coming, and frankly I am disappointed in your juvenile attempt at fifteen minutes of fame.”  My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mother’s mouth. This was a woman that raised me, that told me she would be with me through thick and thin. Where was that person now? 

 

My tone came out even, controlled, “I’m sorry that you feel that way mother. But I’m not making this up. If that means you choose to not be in my life, that’s on you.” I hung up and turned my phone to silent. That’s all I could bring myself to bear in one day. I stared at the building and then glanced around to see if anyone had overheard our conversation. It seems life had spared me at least one embarrassment and I exhaled. I pocketed my phone and walked back inside the building to finish out my shift. What was it that she had said? Viral. My video has gone viral. Which meant they had probably already destroyed me online. Who knows what was waiting for me if I ever decided to check it. I didn’t want to, and I probably never would. It would be forgotten in less than a day anyway. Most online things did.

 

I turned just about the same shade of lipstick I had put on that morning when I caught the stares of my co-workers as I walked over to my desk. Apparently they had seen it too. There were whispers as I sat myself down. I logged in and read through my emails trying to tune out the office chatter. There wasn’t much there so I opened photoshop instead. I just started on my weapon shading when the message popped up on my screen. I felt a lump in my throat, it was Devon. If everyone else had seen it, chances were he had too. My hands shook as I clicked on the tab at the bottom. 

 

Please come to my office at your earliest convenience. Thank you. 

 

I rose to my feet and drug myself toward Devon’s office in the back. I caught a few laughs and more whispers as I walked across the room. My head swam with possibilities. After the conversation with my mother, it made me realize just how fragile relationships were. If my own flesh and blood was willing to go this far what would be waiting for me in his office? Just in case I grabbed my key card and office key. I sagged, trudging down the long corridor, it didn’t matter. Rent, job, family─ none of it mattered and it was probably better this way. At least I controlled some aspects of my life. I had already gotten the mask, pure nitrogen, strong mastic tape, and tubing. There was no way I was going to rip it off in my sleep. My grim thoughts switched to absolute panic as I approached his frosted glass door. I could see him sitting at his desk and stood outside, unsure of what to do with myself.  His head was nodding on the other side and it took me a moment to realize that he was on the phone. His voice was so low I couldn’t make out what was being said. I waited until he put his phone back in its place and then lightly tapped on the door. I was really hoping that he wanted to go over the project or tell me who was taking over for Zedd. 

 

Devon’s lips pressed into a line as I walked in the door. He waved me inside and then extended his hand toward the chairs in front of his desk. His face flushed slightly and he looked away as I met his eyes. Whatever he was about to say to me wasn’t good. I was pretty sure I knew exactly where this was going. I folded my hands in my lap, waiting to hear the inevitable. Then suddenly I changed my mind and decided I would cut him to the chase. 

 

“I just want you to know that I understand. Anyone else would have done it long ago. You don’t need to say it, I can gather my things and head out.” He stayed silent and kept his head turned. He was staring outside, focusing on anything other than my face. My stomach felt heavy and a chill ran down my body. It really wasn’t a shock, why would it have been? Still, it hurt. I gingerly set both my keycard and key on the desk and slid back my chair. The room tilted as I stood up and I quickly gained my composure, not wanting this moment to be any more awkward than it had to be. I hesitated at his door, wanting to hear some sort of comforting words or for him to call out to me and that I had the wrong idea. The room stayed silent. 

 

#

 

I’d managed to keep dry eyes as I gathered my things. There wasn’t much there to begin with. Thankfully there weren’t many people around when I exited to the stairs. I made it just in time to catch the next available train. The ride home was pleasant, quiet. It was nearly lunchtime and there weren’t many people. I walked onto the platform and in a brief moment of spontaneity decided to walk the rest of the way home to clear my head. It really was for the best. All of it. It wasn’t until I crossed the threshold that I allowed myself the luxury of tears. They flowed down my cheeks, spilling onto my shirt. It didn’t last long, but the relief that it brought me in those following moments felt amazing. I swiped at my face, slipped off my shoes and took a long, hot shower. I slid into my comfiest sleep pants and t-shirt and sat on the couch, hugging my pillow. 

 

After watching several hours of shows and eating some cheap Chinese food, I peeled myself off of the couch and ordered even more food. It wasn’t as though I was going to gain weight from one day of horrible eating. Besides, I reasoned, I wouldn’t be around long enough to care. I got myself cheesecake, chips, soda, brownies, candy─ pretty much the worst of the worst processed food you could think of. If tomorrow was the day I might as well make the most of my short time left.   

 

Since all of this started a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It’s sort of freeing when you know exactly when death would come knocking. Granted it wasn’t ideal─ what person would want to die in their early twenties? I’d just graduated, I was well on my way to a great career in the industry of my dreams. All of this was so unfair. I could have the option to go way outside of the city, possibly somewhere in the boonies out in the middle of America. I didn’t have much money, but I could live a new life, start over and hope for the best. I knew it just wouldn’t work. I circled back to my thoughts earlier this past week─ there really was no getting around it. Even if I got away from the major cities I’d die slowly from starvation, or radiation poisoning. The bomb may kill me in an instant, or it would drag out like it did in my visions. I sure as hell didn’t want to be around to find out. The way I was going would at least be clean, and hopefully painless.

 

The shopper arrived at my apartment in less than two hours. I made sure to tip them well, telling them they should do something nice for themselves tomorrow. They looked at me strange, but smiled and nodded, thanking me for the generous amount. The bags felt heavy in my arms, even the short distance between my front door and the kitchen was somehow difficult. I set the bags on the counter emptied them, and placed the snacks all in neat little rows categorized by salty and sweet. I chose a few candy bars, chips, and soda then laid them all on the coffee table. I relished the sweet delights and powdered cheese and salt together. It was basically my last few meals and I planned on destroying the entire counter’s contents. I flipped through a few shows and began more binge-watching. This felt like a perfect last night.

The Watchmen – Part IX – Three Days – A horror novella

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Part VIII

 

 

 

“I know what you’re thinking, I would be thinking the same thing.” I said, He looked over at me from his spot on the stool. His expression was hard to gauge. We had moved to the kitchen, now sitting across from each other to talk it out. I’d made some tea for the both of us and then told him everything. Even about what had happened in the office earlier that night with Zedd. That had been especially hard because of the funeral and Devon’s feelings about his friend being gone. Starting with a clean slate  meant that I had to be honest, even if it upset him. A great weight lifted from my chest as I spoke each word, glad to have someone to unburden myself to. I was sure of what would come next, it would be something to the effect of ‘I believe that what you experienced was real to you’ or something like it. I remember taking an abnormal psychology class and how real hallucinations were to people that suffered from schizophrenia, both auditory and visual experiences. The real kicker was how both Zedd and I experienced it together. “I was honestly thinking it was me and there was seriously something wrong. It all started when I moved down here so I thought it had something to do with the job and new surroundings. Then Zedd approached me after the meeting,” I paused, “he described to me in detail about the exact things I had experienced. I was at a loss for words.” He nodded but stayed silent. Devon crossed his arms and put a hand against his chin. I could see the internal conflict plainly across his features. 

 

I gave him space, sipping my tea. I looked out across the sparsely decorated space and realized for the first time how that must have looked to anyone. Especially someone with Devon’s income. I had a few things here and there, some dark blue curtains, matching place mats and rug. I hadn’t had a chance to unpack my kitchen ware and decor. Granted, I wasn’t really the sort to have a ton of pictures or knick knacks. My mother loved them, there was every kind of bird you could imagine scattered throughout our home. Flowery prints on every bed and lace curtains. It was something you would imagine to be popular in the 19th century, especially with her antique furniture. I suppose it was her over-zealous nature that made me lean toward modern and utilitarian design choices. 

 

“From the time I’ve gotten to know you, you don’t seem like the type to make up stories. You’ve undoubtedly got talent and in a lot of ways I saw Zedd in both your work and demeanor.” I said nothing, allowing him to talk this out. It was better this way, letting him come to his own conclusions. I’ve found in life it’s best to take a step back, never push, and always be honest. It was never the easy route to take, but it was the one that made me feel true to myself. It’s bitten me in the ass more times than I cared to admit─ but flawed and all, it was me. “I really want to somehow believe that the two of you are crazy, but this seems like too much of a coincidence to ignore.” Devon sighs and rubs his face, “this really is a lot to think about and it’s been a long day.” I nod, “I agree. Did you still want me to come in tomorrow?” I quietly ask. His eyebrows go up, “of course, why wouldn’t I?” I squirm a little but shake my head, “OK I just wasn’t sure, you know─” He places a finger over my mouth and smiles. “Personal feelings aside, we still have a deadline to meet. Whether the end of the world is coming or not. I think the routine would help both of us.” He stands and walks over to me extending his arms. He wraps me in a warm and gentle hug. It felt right being here as if nothing else in the world could shake me and I was invulnerable to harm. I’m completely relieved that tomorrow will start a new day. One that hopefully wouldn’t involve excruciating death or someone coming back from beyond the grave.

 

He walks me to the door and then he’s gone. I hug myself frowning at the horrors I’d experienced just in these twenty four hours alone. I was going to try and save as many as I could tomorrow, hoping beyond hope people would take me seriously. I would sound like one of those crazy people shouting on the streets, ‘the end is near, it’s coming for you’ or some such nonsense. I knew how mean people could be, and more importantly how they would tear me down and make fun of me. At least I could know the truth and hopefully others would see that.  

 

Four days after today. God help us all.

 

#

 

I’m at my desk, for once feeling completely refreshed. I’d slept in until nine-thirty but I had needed it. I texted Devon to let him know that I was on my way and should be there in less than thirty minutes. When I got in there was hot tea, a fruit platter, and a note waiting for me. I felt my face grow warm at the all the attention. A whistle sounded behind me followed by some playful teasing. Since the office was mostly men, I sort of expected it to happen. That didn’t stop me from blushing. The handwriting in the note was lovely, unlike the chicken scratch that was my own. I rarely had to write anything, but I could draw like the best of them. I’d taken pride in my work, but knew where I stood. I wasn’t the best of the best, but it was solid. I never thought it would land me something as wonderful as this. Then again, I was never confident with anything I touched. 

 

I smiled at his words, ‘have a great day today, I’ll be out with meetings for most of it but I’m with you in spirit.’

 

Talk later, 

Dev

 

I folded the piece of paper and placed it back on my desk. I shook my head at his thoughtfulness. He really was perfect. 

I worked for several hours, only getting up to stretch and grab some water. The fruit platter had stuck with me for most of the day. He’d really overdone it, I definitely wouldn’t be eating lunch. One of the sound guys approached me to glance over the type of weapons my character would be using so they could get a team on it. After a few minutes of checking it over, he left and I was back to my work. I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave as late as I usually did so I had set an alarm for seven. I’d at least get my eight hours in before the stream. I wasn’t looking forward to people’s comments, but I expected it so I could steel myself against them. I took a sip of water and sat back in my chair. Besides, there was no way that words could affect me as much as these creatures had. Hell, even if I did decide to ride this out until the end at least I would die instantly. I shuddered rubbing my hands along my arms. At least, I wanted to believe that I would die right away. If it was going to go down the way it had in my visions I’d take a stabbing, and a bullet to the head. Even if someone tortured me for days on end it would be a walk in the park by comparison. 

 

I was startled from my dark thoughts when the little jingle from my alarm went off. I grabbed my stylus and pad from the desk to get a little sketching done at home tonight after I addressed the public. I would need something calm and familiar to soothe me. I slid them into my bag heading toward the elevator. I veered off at the last second, deciding that the stairs sounded like a much better option. The elevator and I were beginning to have a complicated relationship. Besides, a little exercise would feel good after all that sitting. 

 

The train ride was uneventful. I had run by the convenience store to grab something quick to eat but that was it for my adventure for the day. I got home shortly after and put some water in the small plastic container. I heated the noodles up in the microwave and sat with the tray of veggies in front of the t.v. I remember what I brought in and set up my pad and stylus on the computer. Just as I sit down the microwave goes off. I shuffle over to it, take my food and sit down in front of the show. My signal was great here, no skipping or loading while I streamed. Hopefully I get the same signal strength when I broadcasted my plea. I allow myself some food and one show. I glance at my webcam throughout it, my anxiety growing. My stomach churns and I’ve suddenly lost my appetite. The credits roll and I stare blankly at them, putting off the inevitable. I peel myself off of the couch moving slower than a child at bedtime. I was so sure of this─ helping other people, that I could do it for the greater good but the truth was I am scared shitless. I’m petrified. Even with what I know it’s hard to convince myself to do it. 

 

I felt ashamed of my thoughts. I knew what all of this meant. I was lucky enough to have a glimpse into the future. It was my responsibility to help. People needed at least a little time to make up their minds. I stand by the desk chair digging my nails into the cushion. Save them, my mind screamed. Do it for them, they deserve to hear it. With shaky hands I slide into my chair and open the recording software. I adjust the webcam for the hundredth time until I’m centered perfectly. I open the website and look at the live stream button. It was now or never. I took in a few deep breaths fighting off the panic as best as I could. I couldn’t come off as some hysterical or overly emotional woman. My mouse hovered over the red dot and then I clicked.

 

It gave me a countdown and within seconds I was live. 

 

“My name is Katherine Tate. What I’m about to tell you isn’t something that I expect any of you to believe. I’m telling you not because I want attention, or believe in some sort of god or being or that I’m part of some sort of a doomsday cult. I’m just asking for your trust in this matter and to listen to what I have to say.” 

 

My view count has gone from zero to two, three, seven and climbing to a few dozen. I swallow thickly.

 

“I have a reliable source that’s told me about something horrible that’s coming our way. Something catastrophic. It will decimate every major city in the U.S. I can’t speak for other countries because I don’t have information on that but if I had to guess, I would say that you should beware too.” 

 

I see words popping up and I try my best not to look at them. Just focus on finishing, get out what you have to say and ignore everything else. I knew this was the only way that I could force myself to do it. You can do this, I urge.

 

“We all hear it from time to time, some nut-job claiming it’s the end of the world. Who knows, maybe my source isn’t as reliable as I thought and we may all be fine. But I couldn’t, in good conscience, stay silent about this. Not after what it would mean for millions of people. For families.” I can feel myself on the brink of tears, but I shove it back down. I can’t get overly emotional, I need to stay strong. 

 

I take a deep breath and release it slowly.

 

“Even if it is false and nothing comes of this, I just wanted to help in some way. I urge you to get out of the city and save yourself and your family. From what I know it will happen three days from now. Please be safe, please be kind to one another.” I look directly into the camera, “I’m sorry if I scare anyone unnecessarily, that’s not my intention, nor is it to create mass hysteria. I’ll leave you to make your own choices, but I’ve already made mine. Thank you to anyone that’s listening and heard me out.” I pushed the ‘end stream’ button and sagged into my chair. I felt exhausted, like I’d just run a full marathon. What would people think? What would happen to me? Then something else popped in my head that I’d never even thought of. What if I get into trouble for creating mass confusion or hysteria? I think about that for a moment. Hopefully I won’t go to jail for the next two days. My stomach twisted as I thought about the way it would end for me. Please let it not hurt. 

 

My biggest fear is that I will do all this for nothing, nothing will happen and I’ll die. The worst part would be what my family would have to suffer because of what I will be labeled. My poor family. I try and reason with myself that it will have been worth it. Even if the world didn’t explode into fire and ash, would these things continue to torture me in new and horrible ways? That was no life to live. I would eventually be committed to some psychiatric hospital, lose my job and family. To lose all that and still live in constant fear─ dying over and over again for as long as they feel like wasn’t going to happen. I would make sure of it.

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The Watchmen – Part VI – The Funeral

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

The service was every bit as horrible as I imagined it would be. Most of the office was there, including the office downstairs. Apparently Zedd was the sort to really reach out to others. At the luncheon people traded stories about just how much of his time and money he devoted to those in need. It must have killed him, knowing what he did and not being able to save anyone else. Which further solidifies the fact that he must have said something to his family. I just need to find them. They would definitely be able to shed some light on things. I crossed the room, locating Devon near the back by the kitchen. I couldn’t get over how huge this place was. Imagine if you could the biggest house you’ve ever seen and then double it. I wasn’t even aware they made houses in wal-mart size. I approached him slowly, not wanting to scare him. He was deep in thought, bringing a glass of water to his mouth and staring through the large bay windows. He turned when he heard the clicks of my heels against the tiles and his lips curled into a smile. There was more to that smile. It was the sort that you gave your friends or family when they asked what was wrong. 

 

I have the strongest urge to wrap him in a hug. I find myself more and more curious of how he would feel. How he would smell. I’ve never been in a relationship and quite honestly, haven’t thought about it. I had always busied myself with school, or art.  After seeing what it often did to others and how much it detracted from people’s lives, I had zero interest. But this man, he wasn’t like the other guys. There wasn’t even a hint of ulterior motive, he felt genuine and kind. There were a few people in college that had shown interest in me but I had always shut them down. Not in a mean way, just stated that I did not want anything to do with a relationship. With anyone. A few of them had said that I could tell them the truth, one even asked me if I was a lesbian. Apparently, they talked among themselves and came to the conclusion that since I was not interested in any male partners, I must have liked women. The truth was, I had very little sex drive. It wasn’t something I thought about. I would get urges from time to time but never enough to seek out a partner. It would make my skin crawl thinking about someone else placing their hands on me. The touching aspect was awful enough, sex mortified me. I had gotten curious and watched porn a few times. The women never seemed to enjoy what was happening. All I could focus on were their faces, there was something about their eyes─ sadness or a longing for love. I cringed at the way men fondled them or shoved things into places─ there were no limits to where they did. I rubbed my arms and hugged them to my chest. Would he want to do those things to me? I frown.  

 

Even if he was interested, I really got the sense that he would keep it to himself and not allow it to cloud his judgement. For the first time I found myself liking someone. It’s as alien a thought as everything else I’m doing so I’m not sure why it’s making me uncomfortable.

 

“Hey Kate,” Devon says softly. 

“Hey,” I respond. We sit in comfortable silence for a moment. “I was wondering,” I begin, “If I could maybe talk with Zedd’s family. You know, since I was the last to see him.” His face falls a bit, it’s the first time I can see some real emotion reflected there. He shakes his head, “I’m afraid that’s impossible.” I’m taken back but ask, “what do you mean?” He glances over at the people in the living room and then inches closer to me. He smells like soap, clean and nice. “Zedd lived his life in the system until he was eighteen. As far as either of us knew, he didn’t know where he came from.” My heart sped up as he leaned in inches from my ear. “He had a few clues here and there about his mom but nothing solid. Our family sort of took him in on holidays and events.” At this point, my heart was beating so hard against my chest that I was sure he could hear it. Then he does something unexpected and takes a step back. My shoulders relax and my heart rate slowly subsides. After a few moments, I’m back to normal. 

 

We’re again in our comfort zones and both of us realize this. It was incredibly refreshing, not needing to strike up any sort of conversation and when we did, it felt natural. I turn toward him, “I’ve been meaning to ask, did Zedd” I pause a few beats searching for what to say, “say anything odd to you?” His eyes meet mine. It’s the sort of look that strips you bare. “Like what?” he whispers. Those eyes. Those damn eyes. I’m left speechless. My throat dries and my chest is growing tight with anxiety. Devon is honing in on my every reaction, trailing from my eyes to my mouth. “You’ve been hiding something from me,” he says, “I can tell. From your first day in the office until now.” My gut reaction is to run. I want to get away as far as possible from him, from all this. But, I needed answers. Maybe Zedd had mentioned something to Devon that I wasn’t aware of. I stamp down my fears and take a deep breath. “I have been, but please trust me when I say that I have my reasons.” He raises his eyebrows at me, “If it has to do with Zedd I want to know every single detail,” his voice cracks and he emphasizes the last few words. “You may have your reasons, but I can promise you that you’ll get no judgment from me. Just be honest.” He sighs, takes a few breaths and continues, “please.” I look at the floor, unable to look at his eyes. I manage a small nod. 

 

“Hey, Devon?” We both look up at the interruption. One of the guys from our meeting is standing in the entry. He looks awkwardly at me and Devon, aware that he probably walked in at the wrong time. “Sorry to interrupt, I uh, think it’s time for your speech and words from friends and family.” “No, no Jason that’s fine,” Devon says, “Sorry, I didn’t realize it was that time already. I’ll be right there.” Jason nods then walks out leaving us both back to where we were before. 

 

“We should─”

“Will you talk to me about this later?” he asks, not bothering to let me finish my sentence, “Let me take you out for dinner, somewhere public where you’ll feel safe. Is that OK? I can even meet you there if you would rather travel alone.” I bite my lip, my brow creasing, “alright,” I say after a few moments, “I can do that.” His eyes press together, his face washed in relief, “thank you so much Kate. Just let me know where and what time.” I bob my head and scurry out of the kitchen. I can’t believe my luck, but I can get through this. I shouldn’t care about what Devon thinks of me if it means that I could possibly save him too. I would need a way to explain all of this and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to convey it. 

 

He can’t see the letters, he will dismiss a government conspiracy, but somehow I cling to some ill thought-out hope he will listen. I pray Zedd has shared this with him so that maybe if I mention some of the same things, he’ll trust what we are saying. I mean, Zedd believed it so much he ended his life. Surely it will count for something. God, I hope so. 

 

#

 

  We arrived back at the office around two o’clock, still enough time for me to get a little work done and take my mind off of things. I was worried that Devon would call me into his office again, but he never came back. In a way, it was a huge relief. Not that I didn’t enjoy his company, but given his relentless nature he would give me a nervous breakdown. Jason had walked up to me earlier and explained that he would be taking over Zedd’s duties until a new manager was in place. We went over a few sketches and then what Zedd had asked of me. Jason was quiet, like me, so after we talked business, he was gone. Thank goodness for small miracles. 

 

I looked at the 2-D model and then import it into the 3-D program. I poured myself into the curves, into every single detail. It felt so good to be back into a routine I worked until my fingers ached and my back screamed in protest. At some point I had crossed my legs up on the chair and had lost all feeling in them. I stood and stretched, content with my workload for the day. Most of the office had left a few hours ago. I had spotted a few guys in the back messing around in the motion capture but they were pretty much it. I eyed my phone warily but decided it was for the best to get this meeting over and done. I sniffed my pits and further decided that a shower would be a good idea. Apparently stewing in my own soup had done some not very pleasant things to my clothes. 

 

I grabbed my wallet, phone, and keys then turned toward the elevator. I was mid stride when the lights went out. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I had been so busy with everything else today that my mind hadn’t had a chance to catch up with the other terrible things I’d been through. I held my breath, waiting for the creatures to make themselves known. There was a yell in the back and I exhaled. The guys were still here. OK, maybe it was just the building that had timed lights. I was practically running to the elevator at this point. No way in hell was I going to give those things a chance to make me feel that way again. Those assholes thrived off of it and I’m not about to give them an evening snack. 

 

I yelped as a noise blared from my hand. “Jesus christ,” I swore, flipping my screen around. It was Devon. Shit. He probably thinks I’m going to bail on him. I glanced at the time, it was nearly seven. I answered on the fourth ring. 

 

“Hey, Devon I’m so sorry I was up at the office and I lost track of time working on this character.”

His voice came out awful, it sounded like he had been crying, “Oh, that’s OK. I just wanted to check with you and see if you wanted me to pick you up or if you wanted to meet somewhere.” He sniffed a few times, clearing his throat. The guys emerged from the back, shoving each other as they walked toward the elevator, “hey Kate” one of them said. I nodded and waved as they shuffled on. “You coming down?” I shake my head mouthing, “no you go ahead, thanks.” He mouths “OK” and in seconds they’re gone. Leaving me to the quiet, dark office and Devon. “Uh, yeah you can pick me up from my place if you want. Just, you know, give me a chance to get the day washed off.” 

 

“OK, great. Just decide what you want, anything is fine, my treat.” Please don’t make me decide, I plead silently. “Oh, whatever is fine by me,” I offer quickly. He pauses on the line, “how about sushi or Thai?” I bite my lip, noodles sounded pretty great right now. Something warm, comforting, and starchy. “Thai sounds great,” I say. “Alright, I’ll pick you up about eight?” “That works,” I reply. We say our goodbyes and hang up. I frown at the slow moving elevator and press the down arrow button. Why did we have to be on such a high floor? I see that they finally make it to the bottom, silently willing it to go faster. A computer restarts in the back and I hear the beep as it resets. The room groans and pops as the wind hits the side of the building. Every click, every pop is amplified by the insufferable quiet. 

 

Floor seven, 

Floor eight,

Floor nine. 

Come on, I urge silently, just six more floors. 

Floor eleven, 

Floor twelve,

Floor thirteen.

 

The computer does a start up jingle in the background. I refuse to turn around.Not today, satan” I mutter. 

Floor fourteen.

The ding goes off as it reaches the fifteenth floor and I squeeze my eyes shut and sigh. Finally, it’s here. The door swooshes and I opened my eyes. I stare for several seconds, the color draining from my face. I don’t want to believe what I’m seeing. My hand goes up to my face and I freeze. No, no, no, is all that runs through my mind. I take a few steps back trying to distance myself from the horrific image. Jesus, there’s so much blood. I close my eyes, take a breath, and then open them. He’s still there and so is the pulpy mass. 

 

The glassy stare of his lifeless eyes look at me accusingly. The back of his head is missing, there’s blood and brain matter everywhere and the gun lays on the floor next to his limp hand. This isn’t real, it can’t be because we buried him this afternoon. I frantically searched the room, trying to remember where the emergency stairs are located. I scream as his body jumps and twitches in a seizure-like motion. His head jerks toward my scream I can hear his bones from further back in the room. They snap in protest as he pulls himself from the floor. A few clumps of brain matter splat to the floor. Oh god. I retch several times, trying but failing to reassure myself it isn’t real. He limps toward me as a gurgling sound escapes his lips. I bolt to the left and pump my legs as fast as they will take me toward the back of the office. I don’t know where the staircase is but I don’t care. I wasn’t about to sit there and let him get near me, I knew it had to be back here somewhere. I flee past several dark offices, glancing behind me every so often. There was no sign of him. I’m all the way at the end of the u-shaped hall when I realize my terrible mistake. If I had just ran to the right I would have been right by them. 
I charge around the corner and scream as I run into something solid and fleshy. I lash out, shoving hard and screaming. “Whoa, whoa, Kate,” Devon yells. My head throbs from the adrenaline as my heart comes back down from near cardiac arrest. My legs give out and I fall forward on my hands and knees.

Gallery

The Watchmen – Part II – No Escape – A Thriller Short Story

Part I

Nine days. 

 

I stare up at the ceiling in my room, completely lost in thought. Just to be sure, I had even asked Zedd what his dreams looked like. He had described in vivid detail my worst fears: his suffering was identical to mine. There was a small part of me that hoped these monsters just showed us our worst fears. That maybe they were some sort of creature that fed off of fear and pain. The more he shared with me, the more I wanted him to stop talking. 

 

I rolled over on my side and frowned at the poem on my nightstand. The 9 seemed more bold than usual. 

 

There’s no escaping it.

 

His words echoed in my mind. If that were true, there would be absolutely no reason for me to continue any of this. My whole entire existence was pointless. I wanted to cry but nothing would come out. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and never stop screaming. It ached to be in my own skin and I was angry. Angry that I was one of the few people that actually knew what was going to happen, but powerless to stop it. 

 

Even if I were to try and call someone, or reach out to people─ no one would believe me. If someone had told me this a few days ago, I wouldn’t have believed them. I would have thought they were some conspiracy theorist or nutcase. Unless─

 

I sat up and checked my phone. It was early, but Devon normally got in about eight or eight thirty. I might be able to chat with him for a while. I had an idea, but I wasn’t going to come off as completely crazy until I was sure. I dressed as quickly as I could and jumped on the first train. 

 

#

 

“Kate, hey” Devon said smiling, “what brings you in so early?” I was surprised to find him already there when I came in at seven forty-five. I smiled nervously at him, checking my pocket for the hundredth time to make sure the piece of paper was still there. I relaxed as I felt it crumple against the weight. “Hey Devon,” I said, “I sketched this out last night and thought you might want to take a look at it.” He raised an eyebrow, “Oh yeah? Sticking to those old-school guns, I like it. Let’s take a look.” I tried to steady my hand as I reached into my pocket. 

 

I unfolded the paper and stared. More hooded figures had appeared and the skyline looked less blurry. I could make out shapes and finer details of the buildings. The hooded figures all stood outside of the city, staring at it. Waiting. 

 

“Kate?” 

 

My legs moved and I walked over to his desk, passing the little paper over to him. His hand briefly touched mine and I was suddenly very aware that I hadn’t showered that morning. I must look an absolute mess. I fidgeted with my hair and tugged at my shirt.

 

He was quiet for a few moments and then furrowed his brow. “I don’t get it.” His face broke into a wide grin, “Did one of the guys set you up to this?” He chuckled and handed the paper back to me. “ Is it some secret code that I have to pour milk or lemon juice on it? Maybe wave it over the stove?” he waved his hands around. “Already messing with the boss, huh?” I smiled at his words but at that very moment I died inside. Why could Zedd and I see it, but not Devon?

 

It must have been awkward for me to walk in there like that and not have some sort of a come back, so I forced a chuckle of my own, “You got me.” I wanted it to sound casual but it ended up sounding even more awkward than anticipated and it hung in the air, stagnating. I cleared my throat and turned to leave. 

 

“Hey, Kate.” His voice sounded off. I turned back toward him from the doorway. “Take care of yourself, this job can get really stressful.” My face burned but I managed a lame, “oh totally, no worries.” I spun around, nearly plowed into the wall and shuffled my way out. 

 

Great, the end of the world comes and I’m still managing to make a complete and total asshole of myself. I guess some things will never change. 

 

#

 

I’m still feeling slightly sore over my love life a few hours later, but I’ve knocked out a ton of progress on my main character. So, that’s a bonus. I’ve rationalized that if nothing else, this gives me something to do. It’s pointless, the game will never be released. I don’t even know when the bomb will go off. 

 

But I know the day. 

 

It made me wonder if it was just going to happen here, or all over. Maybe the beings only showed what would directly affect us. That gave me an idea. It’s my first week, but considering I’ll only have just over a week left to live, I figured fuck it─ road trip it is. 

 

I finished up my tasks for the day with a couple of hours to spare. Zedd had been oddly quiet today, in fact, I hadn’t seen him all morning. It’s a possibility that he is going to work on the night shift. Most of us hated that schedule, but there was a team that worked from four until midnight. 

 

Even if he never showed up to work again, it’s not like I could blame him. I mean, there was at least some hope that you are just over-tired and hallucinating, but to have someone confirm your worst fear? That’s true terror. I was hoping to at least talk with him a bit more today. The way we had left things last night made me feel beyond depressed. 

 

I felt more helpless than I ever have in my life. I was desperate to cling on to some hope that we could find a way out of this. Somehow. 

 

I woke up feeling a little better today, but having the kind of unwanted knowledge that I did made it that much harder to breathe. I shot him a text, just to check in on him and then headed to Devon’s office. 

 

I tapped lightly on the door. There were a few murmurs on the other side and finally I heard, “come in.” I peeked my head around the door and smiled. “Hey, there’s my favorite gal. I just got your completed works for the day. Careful─ you’re making the other guys look bad.” He winked conspiratorially at me and grinned. I laughed and shook my head, “Oh, that can’t be true. I’ve seen their work.” He typed a few things on his computer and then turned his full attention on me. “What can I do for you, ma’am?”     

 

I smiled at the southern drawl. I noticed that people here tended to address each other as sir or ma’am but it wasn’t in a professional way, it was polite and respectful. I was still getting used to their drawn out words and pronunciations. It took me ages to figure out the guys were saying pen instead of pin, which they pronounced as ‘pin’.

 

“I’m so sorry to ask this, but I’ve had a family emergency come up. Is there any way that I could work remotely and maybe take half a day off to drive up there?” His face suddenly grew serious. “Oh, Kate. I’m sorry to hear that, is everyone OK?” I shake my head feeling guilty over the lie. “No, no, nothing serious. My dad is out of town and my mom broke her leg. She just needed me to help out at the house until dad gets back Friday.” 

 

“No problem at all. Honestly, just go ahead and take tomorrow off and you can work a half day Friday, how’s that sound?” I’m shocked at how understanding he is. 

 

I’m also slightly disturbed how easily the lie slipped from me. I’d have to address that with myself later. One thing at a time. “Oh, and Kate?”

 

“Hmm?” I responded. “Zedd is not feeling well, but he’ll be in tomorrow. I’m loving the direction you two have come up with.” 

 

I thanked him and quickly made my exit. This was a weird day, but it wasn’t entirely bad. I felt accomplished, which was a weird feeling given the circumstances. I’m taking this all too well. 

 

 #

 

I stare out the bus windows for the hundredth time. I’m not sure what I’m expecting to see, but the tree lined roads are finally giving way to mountains. It’s something to stare at as I listen to my audio-books. I knew going too far would be silly, and if I went back home I felt like I would somehow get the same result. I decided on New Mexico. It was twelve hours from Dallas, but it was at least another state and would help prove my theory. 

 

I was still working on that theory, but at least this would hopefully get me another step closer to figuring something out. It was better than sitting at home and sulking. My eyelids grew heavy as we got to the last hour or so stretch. This state was huge. I couldn’t believe how long it took to get across. I could have gone to Louisiana or Oklahoma, but I figured if I was going to go somewhere it was at least going to be pretty. The constant drone of the audio-book’s narrator wasn’t helping and before I knew it, I was out. 

 

I blinked a few times, staring from the familiar building. This time, the entire floor was filled with everyone at the office. Devon walked past and flashed his winning grin, his warm brown eyes crinkled around the edges. I smiled shyly back and then started walking toward my desk. Usually the things had appeared by now, but instead it seemed like a typical day. 

 

I glanced around, curious about where this dream was going. I was vaguely aware of movements at each cubicle as I passed by. People were glued to their monitors, little clicks of the mice sprinkled through. At any moment the terror would unfold and I would stare at my insides. 

 

I would sit helplessly as the blast would blow me apart and I would feel every agonizing second. 

 

I squeezed my eyes shut, willing myself to wake up. Please, I silently begged, I don’t want to go through it again. Don’t make me go through it again. The second I close my eyes I feel it. The office shifts and then trembles violently. Seconds later, the screams began. My eyes open and I’m once again faced with the tall, spiraling cloud that mushrooms and expands. It hurtles toward us and then slams into the building with a crushing blow. 

 

God, no. 

 

The glass cuts into me, embedding itself as the flesh peels back from my face. Adrenaline will not kick in, I can feel everything. People drop like flies around me, their screams eventually replaced with wet gargles. My lungs fill with blood and my one good eye watches as the earth shifts and I fall to the ground. My exposed nerves and bones take on a dull ache as my body finally accepts what is happening. Just like the ones before, I’m alive and I won’t die.

I had always thought that this was the part of dreams you would wake from and scream. Even in my more terrifying dreams I would wake up just as I was attacked or fell. Not only could I feel the pain, I could taste my own blood, feel the aftershock as the building groaned and tilted.    

 

And then, they are there. Or they always have been and I am just now noticing them. I try and close my one good eye, but to my horror I realize that my eyelids are gone. The debris lands softly on my exposed eye. The reflex to blink happens but all I can do is stare forward. The burning is so intense against all of my softest parts that I’m sure I will pass out from the pain. 

 

I can’t die. 

I can’t die.

I can’t fucking die.

 

They close in on me and groan in ecstasy, peeling my suffering from me as if I were a bit of string cheese. They fed on the others in seconds, but me, god fucking help me─ they were having a four course meal. I tried any way I could to die faster. I tried biting my tongue, but there wasn’t enough left of it for me to get ahold of. I tried in vain to move either of my arms, but too much of the muscle lay piled on the floor. I was stuck here, being consumed piece by piece─ layer by agonizing layer. 

 

#

 

 

I roared awake, my screams filling the bus. I heard a man curse in the seat in front of me and the driver came to a screeching halt. I ran my hands over my face, and then my body searching every bit just to make sure I was there. I drank in the air, so much clean, fresh air thank god. 

 

I sat back in my seat and let out a sigh. “Hey,” I jumped at the loud shout from the driver, “everything OK back there?” I peered around the row of seats and crumpled slightly at all the confused faces of the passengers. I cleared my throat, “um, yeah sorry,” and then I added “bad dream.” The entire bus groaned and people muttered, throwing angry looks my way. Sorry, I mouthed at them, my face on fire.  

 

I disappeared back to my seat and hugged my legs to my chest. 

 

Whatever that was, it wasn’t a dream. I’m not sure what it was that kept those monsters feasting on me but I had a sinking feeling they were the reason I was kept alive. I shuddered, running my hands along the length of my legs trying to spread some sort of warmth through them. The air on the bus had grown colder, we must be in the mountains. 

 

A quick glance outside confirmed it as we chugged along uphill. 

 

My thoughts turned dark as I stared out across the misty mountains, I had been able to sleep OK last night, but what if the dream returns tonight? Could I ever sleep again? 

 

#

 

The hotel was nothing fancy, but it was cozy. After speaking with the front end and getting my room key I was all set up. I walked down a few hallways until I found the first set of double doors the man at the counter had described. I walked through and saw to my delight that it opened into a large pool area. It was all enclosed and there was a hot tub. I’m glad I decided to pack my bathing suit. I was hoping the place had a sauna or something I could relax in. 

 

My mood got even better when I saw they had a sauna as well. At least there was something to look forward to tonight. 

 

After I got in my room, I set up my work laptop and placed my phone on charge. The signal here was awful and my battery was already at forty percent. I checked my messages and email. Devon had sent one about an hour ago and it was just to check in and make sure I had made it to my parents. I sent him a response that I was fine and I would be able and work by tomorrow afternoon. I added that he could call or text me for emergencies and then sent it. 

 

I was surprised to find that I felt energized. Despite the dream, it must have refreshed me. I glanced over room service and then checked out some local food on my phone. I was starving. I finally spotted a local pizza place that had decent reviews and placed my order. In less than an hour it was sitting on the dresser and I had a scary movie playing in the background. Even though my own life was the stuff of nightmares, I still found it comforting to watch someone else go through hell instead of me. 

 

I’d seen just about every horror movie made, even the campy ones from out of the 80’s. The boogeyman always fascinated me because they never died. I loved Halloween, Michael Myers just kept coming back. Ironic, given that my own hell in these visions paralleled that. Maybe he was just pissed off that he couldn’t die and took that out on others. Suddenly, I had a soft spot for the guy. 

 

I devoured three pieces before I finally slowed down. I was ravenous and sure that even if I ate this entire pizza, I’d want more. But after the sixth slice, it seemed to do the trick and I sighed and patted my belly.  

 

I wasn’t entirely sure how all of this would work, but I checked the image when I first arrived and it hadn’t changed. It was still the Dallas skyline and the hooded figures surrounding it. 

 

I was hoping that spending a night in another state may change it. And if that were true, maybe these things did prey off of scaring you. Or, it meant that this was going to happen everywhere. Maybe we were witnessing the end of it all. Surely we could travel miles out from major cities and be safe right? Isn’t that what someone sending a bomb would do? Target all the major cities? I remember learning in one of my science classes that if several bombs went off it would affect the entire planet and that eventually the fallout would kill us all. Radiation poisoning was no joke. We’d not only die, we would die horribly. 

 

There really was no brighter side to this no matter which scenario was true. 

 

#

 

After finishing off the pizza and the movie I decided to go ahead and hit up the hot tub for a good soak. The chill in the air brought a chill to my bones, even with the heater on. I opened the closet and smiled as I pulled out a robe. This place may have been old, but it was full service. You would never find things like this in a normal hotel. At least not one that I could afford. I slipped it over my bathing suit, grabbed my key card, and walked down the hall. 

 

A few doors down I could hear someone’s T.V. blaring. It was loud as hell, the person watching it must have been ancient. Reminded me of my grandfather’s shows of old westerns. I’m pretty sure I heard a horse whinny. Well, at the very least it brought me comfort knowing that I wasn’t alone. I walked into the pool room, hung up the robe and slipped into the tub. I sighed and then smiled, I was in complete bliss. If the end of the world really was happening in eight days, this was my idea of a great way to spend my time. It was perfectly quiet, just me and the warmth. 

 

My body sagged as the weight of the world slipped away. My eyes shut and I rested my head against the cool concrete. Seconds after I closed my eyes, there was a thunderous boom. I jumped, whipping my head around. The sound echoed and vibrated around the room, but nothing was out of place. Both doors were sealed tight. My lower lip trembled as the water trickled down my face. 

 

That boom, I knew it anywhere. I had it etched in my memory. I expected at any moment the room would collapse around me. I imagined the burning blast of air that stripped me of my insides. 

 

Stop it, I told myself, just stop. There is nothing there, you’re just tired. I tried to rationalize it. Maybe it was my neighbors T.V. Or maybe, I thought, every time you close your eyes you’ll relive your own death again and again. My blood ran cold at the thought of possibly never being able to close my eyes. 

 

How long could I last? One day─ two? I shuddered despite the surrounding warmth. Suddenly, the sauna didn’t sound so good and I decided to head back to my room. 

 

#

 

It was around three a.m. when I got the call. When I’d gotten back to my room earlier I had ordered as many caffeinated drinks as I could. After two monsters and several diet cokes, I was fairly sure I couldn’t sleep even if I wanted to. I kept action movies on and played games on the laptop. I figured, as long as I was moving, or doing something I couldn’t fall asleep. 

 

I was in the zone blasting away at bad guys when my phone went off. I paused and looked at my phone, it was Devon. Confused I answered immediately. 

 

“Hello?” 

 

There was a pause on the line, followed by a few sniffles. I decided that maybe he had dialed me by mistake, but I answered again anyway. “Hello? Devon?” 

 

“Hey, Kate. Yes, I’m here.” His voice sounded shaky as if he had been crying. I was instantly alarmed. 

 

“Hey, is everything OK?” I asked. There were a few more sniffles. “Kate, I’m so sorry to be calling this late, but I thought it would be better to hear it from me than the news.” 

 

“OK.” I answered. My heart was beating out of my chest, I didn’t know what to expect. 

 

“This is really hard to tell you, especially since it’s your first week. I’ll be making an announcement on Friday, but I’ve also been making calls to all the team members.” He sniffed again. “I’m sorry to have to let you know that Zedd will no longer be coming in to the office.” 

 

My hands wouldn’t stop shaking. I had just seen him less than two days ago. “Was it an accident?” I asked softly. 

 

There was a long pause on the other end. I thought maybe he had hung up, but then finally he answered. “Zedd, I’m afraid, took his own life earlier today. I’m so sorry, Kate, but I have to go. We are closing the office down tomorrow, so don’t worry about work, OK?” I thanked him for letting me know and hung up the phone. 

 

Part III coming soon.

❤ Grey

 

I will be posting this story on RoyalRoad.com