The Watchmen – Part X – A Horror Novella

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Part VIII

Part IX

My mouse hesitates over the red camera icon. Yesterday I had been mentally prepared for this and while I had drug my feet, it was something that I was ready to do. Now I stare at this screen feeling like a complete jackass. I’m thankful that yesterday is over, it gave me the kick in the pants that I needed. To be honest, I knew getting involved with anyone was a bad idea. After hearing Devon’s words yesterday today feels like I have stepped outside into the cool, fresh air. Nothing else can distract me from what I need to do. The end game is me taking my life before I get to experience the horrors of the future─ but no one will understand. It kept me up for most of the night thinking about the best way to approach it. If I do it here, eventually someone would find me, yes, but it will hurt my family worse knowing that I did it. As much as I know it will cause a lot of pain, I think it will be best to leave it a mystery. The real issue I’m facing right now is finding somewhere that I can both die peacefully and that no one can find me for quite some time. I’m bumming myself out thinking about it. Just last year my head would have been miles from these sort of thoughts, and yet here I am making a choice I never thought I would need to. Christ this is awful. 

I press my fingers into my temples, gently massaging them as I try to build up the courage to talk to the entire internet. No pressure. I stand and pace the entirety of my living room, my arms tightly wrapped around me. My thumb strokes my right arm as I try to talk myself into doing this. Ok, yes, will I sound like a nut job? One hundred percent. But doesn’t sounding like one outweigh saving others? Why would it if no one believes you, idiot. I dig my fingers into my arms. But what if you do save them? Even if it’s just a handful? My pacing increases its intensity as a million more thoughts run through my head. I shut them down and try to just simplify it. It’s going to be OK, just don’t think about it. Press that live button and let’s go.

I shoot my reflection an angry glare, why do you have to be so fucking kind? I roll my eyes and plop down into my computer chair like a spoiled teenager. As much as I want to just curl up in bed and not think about anything at all─ I know as long as I’m alive I can’t imagine not helping others. I gulp in a few breaths of air and then click on the live button. A countdown starts and within seconds I am live. Hello world, here I am to offer you a laugh. I falter a bit but after a few awkward seconds my voice comes out. “My name is Katherine Tate. What I’m about to tell you isn’t something that I expect any of you to believe.” I pause and swallow. My throat and mouth feel like I have never taken a sip of water in my life. “I’m telling you not because I want attention, or believe in some sort of god or being or that I’m involved in some doomsday cult. I’m asking you to listen to what I have to say. Just for a moment.”

My view count has gone from zero to two, three, seven and climbing to a few dozen. I swallow again. “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 them. There’s a nuclear war coming like no other.” My hands are visibly shaking as I ball them up in front of me. “I mean it when I say that even if you manage to get out of the city, the fallout will eventually take out more than half of the population. You need to all work together or I promise you from the bottom of my heart, you will die one of the most painfully slow deaths there are.”

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 know this is the only way that I can 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 can’t, in good conscience, stay silent about this. Not after what it would mean for millions or potentially billions of people.” I feel myself on the brink of tears, but I blink them away. I can’t get emotional, I need to be strong.

I draw in a deep breath and release it slowly. “Even if this is a false alarm, I want to help in some way. I don’t care about embarrassing myself─ in fact I welcome the outcome that it ends up being a hoax. 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 in every major U.S. city. I wish that I knew places that you could go to, some sort of safe space that is underground─ instead all that I can offer is for you to get somewhere far away from the city. 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 has heard me out.” I push the ‘end stream’ button and sag into my chair. I feel like I have run back-to-back marathons. What will people think? What will happen to me? Then something else pops into my mind. 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 twists as I think about building up the courage to even end my life. My biggest fear is that I will do all this for nothing─ nothing will happen and I’ll die. For all I know, these creatures cause people to kill themselves and then they have free reign over their souls. There really isn’t a right answer but I do at least know that I’m not insane. 

Still, I have gone this far and what would happen if I didn’t take my life? The worst outcome is what my family will have to suffer because of their “crazy” daughter. My poor family. I try and reason with myself that it will be worth it. Even if the world didn’t explode into fire and ash, would these monsters find new and horrible ways to torture me if I did decide to live? That is not a life I want to endure. I would eventually be committed to some psychiatric hospital and then lose my family. To lose all of that and still have to live in constant fear─ dying over and over again for as long as these monsters feel like it─ isn’t going to happen. I will make damn sure of it.

#

“Katherine Anne Tate, what the hell is wrong with you?”
I wince at my mother’s voice as it blares 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?” I let her get it out and stay silent on the other end. I have no idea what I am going to say. I had avoided her text messages and calls for most of the day but after the tenth ring I finally answer. “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 try my hardest to sound strong but my words trail off, “it’s all─” I swallow thickly. My mouth is suddenly cotton-dry “It’s all what? Some ploy to get attention?” She lets out a frustrated sigh. “Jesus girl, think about your family before you do something this dramatic. It’s gone viral for god’s sake, our phones won’t stop ringing.” I frown at her words. I am not expecting this sort of backlash from my family. From the public, yes, but not from my own mother. There is a rustling noise as my mother moves the phone from one ear to the other, “You don’t expect me to believe all of this to be real, right? You do this sort of thing for a living, don’t act like you didn’t do some sort of special effects or have one of your buddies make it look creepy.” She sighs, “Look, honey, just go back online and tell people it was a prank.”

What the hell is she even talking about? “No,” I spat. I cover my mouth in shock, I’m surprised at the 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.” Her words take the breath out of me. “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. Her next words come out through gritted teeth, “they won’t need to, they can make both of our lives miserable until we quit.” She yells back. I snap, “Well excuse me for trying to save hundreds of millions of lives. What the hell do you even mean make it look creepy? The end of the world is way more than just creepy mother. I can’t just sit by and allow─” “Katherine. Stop this right now,” she interrupts, “You are not special, the end of the world is not coming, and frankly I am disappointed in your juvenile attempt at fifteen minutes of fame.” My jaw drops. I can’t believe the words that are coming out of her mouth. This woman raised me─ she promised that she would be at my side no matter what. Tears slide down my face. Where is that person now? Where is she when I need her the most?

My tone comes out even and controlled, “I’m sorry that you feel that way. But I’m not making this up. If that means you choose not to be in my life, that’s on you.” I hang up and turn my phone to silent. That’s all I can bring myself to bear in one day. I stare at the building and then glance around to see if anyone has overheard our conversation. It seems life has spared me this embarrassment and I exhale. I pocket my phone and walk into the building. What was it that she had said? Viral. My video has gone viral. Which means they probably have destroyed me online. I’m still confused as to what she meant about having my buddies make it creepy or me make it look creepy. All I did was talk in front of my webcam. Who knows what is waiting for me if I ever decide to check it. I don’t want to, and I probably never will. Lucky for me it will be forgotten in less than a day anyway. Most online things do. Unless you become a meme.

The elevator can not go slow enough. Each ding makes me wince as I ascend to the most embarrassing moment in my entire life. Yesterday had gone by in a blur and while I really didn’t want to be back up here, I am trying to be as respectful as possible. Even though Devon behaved the way he did toward me I am not about to stoop to his level. It’s so strange to me that I feel compelled to do this. It’s not like it will matter soon. The doors slowly open but thankfully no one is waiting to get on. I make a bee-line for my desk, wanting to hide away as soon as possible. People stop mid conversation and my face grows hot as I start to shove things into my bag. It’s official, they have seen it. There are whispers as I sit down and log into my computer. I need to grab some files that aren’t the company’s property. No one in the office has approached me yet but judging by the hushed voices and people avoiding me I can take a good guess as to what they are talking about. Just as I’m about to get up I notice that I have a few new emails. I skim through them and then close it out. There isn’t much in my desk so I do a once over, open drawers, grab my spare pair of shoes and turn to get out of my chair. I remove my keys and fob when the message pops up on my screen. A lump forms in my throat, it is Devon. If everyone else has seen it he undoubtedly has. My hands tremble as I click on the tab at the bottom.

Please come to my office at your earliest convenience. Thank you.
I rise to my feet and place one foot in front of the other. I catch a few laughs and more whispers as I walk across the room. My head is swimming with possibilities. After the conversation with him and my mother, it makes me realize just how fragile relationships can be. If my own flesh and blood is willing to go this far what would be waiting for me in Devon’s office? I trudge down the long corridor. Rent, job, family─ none of it matters now. At least I can control some aspects of my life. I have already gotten the mask, pure nitrogen, strong mastic tape, and tubing. There is no way that I am going to rip everything off in my sleep. My grim thoughts switch to absolute panic as I approach his frosted glass door. He is sitting at his desk and here I am standing awkwardly outside, unsure of what to do with myself. His head nods on the other side and it takes me a moment to realize that he is on the phone. His voice is so low I can’t make anything out. I wait until he sets his phone down before I lightly tap on the door. You don’t have to do this, my mind screams, you can just walk back to your desk, drop off the office equipment and keys and never look back. I am really hoping that all he wants from me is the keys and make sure that I didn’t take any of my artwork with me. My hands grow cold as I step inside. Devon’s lips are pressed together in a thin line. He’s not just upset, he is borderline furious. He waves me inside and then extends his hand toward the chair in front of his desk. Whatever he is about to say to me isn’t good. Well at least I know that he still hates me, I reason, no surprises there. I am fairly certain that I will need to set the contents of my pocket onto the desk. Please, please just let this go as professionally as possible and let me leave.

I can hear him trying to control his breathing. No doubt he wants to tear me apart for what I may cause to him and his employees. “How can you be so selfish?” he would probably say. I fold my hands in my lap and decide to save him the trouble. “I just want you to know that I understand why you are upset and obviously it’s in our best interest to part ways. You don’t need to say anything that can’t be sent in a text or email, I can just gather my things and head out.” He stays silent and turns his head from me. I can see from the corner of my eye that he is staring outside. Probably focusing on anything other than my face. My stomach feels heavy and a chill runs down my body. This isn’t a surprise, why would it have been? Still, it hurts. I place both my keycard and key on the desk and slide back my chair. My voice comes out in a cool, professional tone “Here are all my keys, I have removed some personal files from the computer and left anything that is copywritten or that you have rights to in a folder on my desktop.” He makes a soft grunt in acknowledgement but says nothing. The room tilts as I stand to leave─ more than anything I want this moment to end. Last night had been horrible enough, today I have been shattered into a million pieces. I know how he feels, I know what was said, but to have that sort of connection with someone felt special. I think that I am hoping even now he will send an uncertain look at me and his eyes will soften─ just like they had when we sat together in perfect silence. I am being childish and I know it. Poor, sweet naïve Kate, my inner bitch coos, finally felt something for someone that now despises her very existence. The tears threaten to spill down my face as I feel my lips tremble. Oh, the voice digs in again, baby going to cry? Well welcome to life honey. I straighten up and walk toward the hall, fuck showing Devon any hint of emotion. He still hasn’t said a single thing. I hesitate a moment at his door, silently praying that Devon will call out to me. But he doesn’t. The room remains silent. I step into the hallway and then softly close the door behind me.

#

I manage to keep dry eyes as I gather my things. Thankfully there aren’t many people around when I exit the building. I make it just in time to catch the train and in seconds I’m whisked away from this nightmare of a day. The ride home is pleasant, quiet. It is nearly lunchtime so there aren’t many people seated inside. Before I know it, the conductor says my stop and I am passing through the double doors. My shoes make a hollow click as I step onto the platform. In a brief moment of spontaneity I decide to walk the rest of the way home to clear my head. It isn’t until I cross the threshold of my apartment that I allow myself the luxury of tears. They flow freely, dripping onto my shirt with a soft plink. It doesn’t last long, but the relief that it brings me is amazing. I swipe at my face, slip off my shoes, and then take a long, hot shower. I slide into my comfiest sleep pants and t-shirt and then sit on the couch hugging my pillow. After watching several hours of shows and eating some cheap Chinese food, I peel myself from the couch and order even more food. It isn’t like I’m going to gain weight from one day of horrible eating. Besides, I reason, I wouldn’t be around long enough to care. I get myself cheesecake, chips, soda, brownies, candy─ pretty much the worst of the worst processed food you can think of. If tomorrow is the day I may as well make the most of it.
Since all of this began a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. It’s liberating knowing when death will come knocking. Granted it isn’t ideal─ what person would want to die in their early twenties? I had just graduated, I was well on my way to a great career in the industry of my dreams. All of this is 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. But what will that do for me, honestly? Buy me a little time and then what? It isn’t as if I will have time to make a bunker, fill it with food and water, and then have some sort of filtration and air flow filters in a day. It just isn’t enough time. I circle back to my thoughts earlier this past week─ there is no getting around it. Running will not work either. Sure, I would avoid the initial blasts from the major cities but then I would 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 don’t want to be around to find out. No, I will go out the way that I plan to. Clean, hopefully painless, and easy.

The shopper arrives at my apartment in less than two hours. I make sure to tip them well, telling them they should do something nice for themselves tomorrow. They look at me strange, but smile and nod thanking me for the generous amount. The bags feel heavy in my arms and even though it is a short distance between the front door and the kitchen, I feel exhausted. I place the bags on the counter and then empty their contents. They are arranged into neat little rows and then I categorize them by salty and sweet. I choose a few candy bars, chips, and soda then lay them on the coffee table. I relish every morsel of the sweet and salty delights. It is basically my last few meals and I plan on destroying the entire counter’s contents throughout the night. I look over a few shows and then began more binge-watching. My heart is broken and today is a reminder that love is conditional. At least I have candy.

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

Part VII

“I know what you’re thinking, I would be thinking the same thing.” I say, He looks over at me from his spot on the stool. His expression is hard to gauge. We are in the kitchen, now sitting across from each other to talk things out. I made tea for the both of us and then explained everything. Even about what had happened in the office earlier that night that I had been with Zedd. It has been especially hard because of the funeral and Devon’s feelings about his friend being gone. Starting with a clean slate means that I have to be honest, even if it upsets him. A great weight lifts from my chest as I tell my story. I am sure of what comes next, it will be something to the effect of ‘I believe what you experienced was real to you’ or something like it. I remember taking an abnormal psychology class and how real hallucinations are to people that suffer from schizophrenia both auditory and visual experiences. The real kicker is 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 pause regaining my composure, “he described to me in detail about the same things that I had experienced. I was at a loss for words.” Devon nods but remains silent.
I give him space and continue to sip my tea as I look around the sparsely decorated space. Suddenly I realize for the first time how it must look to someone with Devon’s income. There are a few things here and there, some dark blue curtains, matching place mats and a rug. I haven’t had a chance to unpack my kitchenware and décor. Granted, I am not really the sort to have a ton of pictures or knick-knacks. My mother loves them, there is every kind of bird you can imagine scattered throughout our home. Flowery prints on every bed and lace curtains. It is something you would imagine to be popular in the 19th century, especially with her antique furniture. I suppose it is her over-zealous nature that made me lean toward modern and utilitarian design choices.
Devon’s voice comes out steady and low, “From the time that 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 say nothing, allowing him to talk this out. It was better to let him come to his own conclusions. “I really want to believe that somehow 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 ask quietly. His eyebrows go up, “of course, why wouldn’t I?” I squirm a little but say, “OK I just wasn’t sure, you know─” He places a finger over his mouth and smiles. “Personal feelings aside, we still have a deadline to meet. Whether the end of the world is coming or not.” Devon stands, walks over to me, and wraps me in his arms. “Besides, I think the routine would help both of us.” He squeezes me tight and then turns toward the door. I feel on top of the world.

Tomorrow will start a new day, hopefully one that won’t involve re-living excruciating death. Devon walks me to the door and then he’s gone. I hug myself standing in the doorway as I watch him leave. The past week, especially in the last twenty-four hours, has been exhausting. I latch the door and turn back to my empty living room. There’s a pit forming in my belly and a lump in my throat.

I will try and save as many people as I can. However few that may be. I will sound like one of those crazy people shouting on the streets, ‘the end is near, it’s coming for you’ or something to that effect. I know how mean people can be and more importantly how they will tear me down. At least I will know the truth and hopefully others will see that. There are four days left after today. God help us all.

#

I’m at my desk, and for once feeling completely refreshed. I had slept in until nine-thirty but obviously I needed it. I had managed to text Devon letting him know that I am on my way and should be there in less than thirty minutes. When I arrive at the office there is hot tea, a fruit platter, and a note waiting for me. I feel my face grow hot from all of the attention. A low whistle sounds behind me followed by some playful teasing. Since the office is mostly men, I sort of expect it to happen. That doesn’t stop me from blushing. The handwriting in the note is lovely, unlike my chicken scratch. I rarely have to write anything but I can draw like the best of them. I never dreamed that my doodles would lead me to work somewhere as wonderful as this.
I smile down 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 fold the piece of paper and place it back on my desk. I am touched by his thoughtfulness, he really is perfect. The guilt rises as I think about how shitty I have made Devon’s life. I don’t deserve all of this.
I work for several hours, only getting up to stretch, grab water, and the occasional bathroom break. The fruit platter tides me over all day. Devon has really overdone it, I definitely won’t be eating lunch. At some point one of the sound guys approach me to look at my character weapon designs. He offers a few sound samples and asks for my input to get the sound files right. A few moments later he leaves and I am back to work. I know I won’t be able to leave as late as I usually do but I manage to accomplish a decent hunk in eight hours.

The stream is coming up and I need to stay focused. I am really not looking forward to people’s comments. I take a sip of water and lean back in my chair. There is no way that their words will hurt more than the suffering I have endured by these hellish creatures. If I do decide to ride this out until the end hopefully I will die in an instant. I shudder rubbing my hands along my arms. At least, I want to believe that I will. If not, I’d rather take a bullet to the head, thank you. At this point I would welcome a stabbing or torture. Even if someone tortures me for days on end it will be a walk in the park comparatively.
I am torn from my dark thoughts when the little jingle from my phone alarm goes off. I grab my stylus and slide it into my bag. I will need to have something calm and familiar to relax me after the livestream. I veer off at the last second and decide the stairs are a better option. The elevator and I are beginning to have a complicated relationship.

#

The train ride is uneventful. I run by the convenience store and grab something quick to eat before my adventure today. I get home shortly after and put some water in the small plastic container. I heat the noodles up in the microwave and sit 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 then slump down. My signal is great here, so there shouldn’t be lag during the stream. Hopefully I get the same signal strength when I broadcast my plea. I allow myself some food and one show. I glance at my webcam throughout it, my anxiety skyrocketing. My stomach churns and I’ve suddenly lost my appetite. The credits roll and I stare blankly at the screen, putting off the inevitable. I rise from the couch moving slower than a child at bedtime. Earlier I had been so sure of this─ that I can put myself out there for the greater good. The truth is I’m scared shitless. Even with what I’ve seen it’s hard to convince myself to do it. I feel ashamed of my thoughts, here I am lucky enough to have a glimpse of the future and all I can think about is how scared I am of public speaking. People will need time to make up their minds. Even the ones that are on the fence and may later decide I’m telling the truth. It has to be today. I stand by the desk chair and dig my nails into the cushion. Save them, my mind screams. Do it for them, they deserve to hear it. With shaky hands I slide into my computer chair and open the streaming software. I adjust the webcam for the hundredth time until I’m perfectly centered. I open the website and then look at the live stream button. It is now or never. I take several deep breaths and shove the panic down. I can’t come off as some hysterical or overly emotional woman. My mouse hovers over the live button. Here we go.

I jump and scream as my doorbell goes off. My hand has a death grip around the fabric on my chest. I curse and let out a huge sigh. Jesus I’m jumpy these days. I frown glancing back at my screen. What’s going on? I’m not expecting a delivery today. This time they both ring the doorbell and knock. I walk up to the door and peer through the peephole. Confused I turn the deadbolt and open the door.

“Hey” I say smiling up at Devon.

“Hey,” he replies. His demeanor is cool and business-like.

I’m thrown a little by his tone but quickly regain my composure. “What’s going on?” I ask. His eyes are following every detail of my face. I know that look, it’s the one your parents give you when they are trying to figure out if you’re lying. Unsure of what to do my hands reach up to my hair and I gently tug on the ends. It’s a nervous tic I’ve had for years. I really don’t like someone staring at me for long periods of time, it feels weird. “Did you want to come in, or─” “These things, these creatures that you are seeing, what do they look like?” I blink a few times and then respond, “they look similar to what a grim reaper would. Kind of cliché actually, long flowing spectral material, sort of see-through with a hood that covers what’s underneath.” I frown trying to figure out a better way to convey what they are. “It’s hard to explain. They’re cliché but not at the same time. I say see-through but it isn’t like you would think. The space sort of bends around them─ the only thing I can try to compare it to is the event horizon circling a black hole.” I shudder thinking about the horrible feelings of dread and emptiness They bring.  “I’ve never seen what’s under Their veil, it’s only black.” Devon pulls out a folded piece of paper, unfolds it, and then holds it in front of me. “Like this?” The drawing is so detailed it takes my mind a moment to drink it all in. It’s beautifully horrific.

The creatures stand over piles and piles of bodies. My eyes follow the twists and turns of the streets down to the very end of the drawing. Every surface is covered with people─ they tumble from alleyways and spill from building windows. In the distance there is a massive ball of light, bathing all of the gore and destruction in its pure, white glow. They are turned toward the light, their foul essence radiating from them. Even if you haven’t experienced it, you can just feel it there─ the disgusting joy that they are taking in all of humanity’s suffering. I recoil at Their long, spindly bodies sitting on top of Their human throne. They are impossibly long, bent at impossible angles and yet not a stitch of Their bodies can be seen. I can’t help it─ the bile rises in the back of my throat but I at least manage to swallow it down. My hand instinctively goes over my mouth as I take a step back. Devon folds it back up and places it in his pocket.

He lets out a long sigh and then crosses his arms. I’ve never seen him upset like this. ” Yeah, that’s kind of what I thought. The thing is Kate, yesterday all of these were blank sheets of paper when I went in to start clearing out Zedd’s office. “All of these? What do you mean?” I ask. “There are several pages there that when you string them together make a panoramic view of our city.” His hand motions toward his pocket, “I just brought the most centralized part of the picture.” Devon’s eyes harden and he stares me down. His whole demeanor has completely changed toward me. All I can do is stand here awkwardly wondering where in the hell all of this is going and why he’s looking at me this way. “Did I do something wrong?” I say. His body stays rigid but he shakes his head and shrugs, “I don’t know. Did you?” I’m taken back at his question. “No, of course not. How would I even─” I stop mid-sentence as I realize what he is insinuating. “I absolutely have not placed those in his office if you are asking.”

He scoffs at me, “sure. You and this whole innocent wounded animal routine is getting really old. Don’t lie to me Kate.” My eyebrows go up and I move a step away from the door. “I have no idea where any of this is coming from or what you are even talking about. You brought the drawings to me and Zedd’s office─ I assume─ is locked. What possible reason would I have to even go in there?” Devon’s silent, scathing glare tells me everything I need to know.  “I can tolerate a lot of things, but lying to my face and disrespecting me like this is where I draw the line. How dare you still sit here and continue your bullshit. Stop behaving like a damn child and tell me the truth now.” My eyes widen and my lips trembles at his harsh words. They cut deep. Despite my best efforts a tear spills down my face and I angrily swipe it away. “How dare me?” My anger comes out in full force, “how dare you. You beat on my door after I’ve had a shit-show of a week, accuse me of drawing pictures and putting them in someone’s office, and to top-it-all-off make it sound as if I’m looking to manipulate you somehow? Fuck this.” I turn to leave but spin back toward him, “No, you know what? Fuck you. This is exactly why I have never gotten into a relationship, this right here. It brings nothing but pain. People are such bullshit and garbage.” The tears are really coming now and I practically rip my sleeve to run it across my face. I’ll be damned if he thinks I’m crying to make him feel bad. “Look, Kate scream all you want to─” “Fuck off. You come up here accusing me of the most bizarre thing and then rip at my insecurities. For your information, I tried my hardest not to show any emotion─ but you know, having your goddamn flesh burned off and feeling every second of it kind of makes that hard.” My chest is heaving when I finish but my tears have dried. “Yeah, well the cameras say otherwise.” His hand is shaking as he holds out his phone.

There is a clear image of the back of my head as I walk toward Zedd’s office with a manila folder. The time on the footage reads 3:30 a.m. I watch as I turn the handle and walk inside. After a few minutes I walk out and turn toward the camera. Just as my face is in full view the lights go out and the camera switches to night vision. The second it took for it to do that I was already out-of-view. I grab the phone and turn it toward him. “Show me somewhere on this footage of my actual face.” He lets out an exaggerated sigh but does what I ask. “I don’t need to, it’s obvious that’s you. It’s not like someone could just walk in off the street.” He’s scanning through the recording as he talks, “Besides what reason would anyone have to do that? Unless they get some sort of sick thrill from it.” I grind my jaw in annoyance, “not someone, Devon, some thing.” He rolls his eyes as he closes out the camera. “Yeah, alright so you managed to not have your face captured on camera and the automatic lights turned off. Some glitch. But don’t sit here and try to weasel your way out of this.” My hand presses into my forehead as I try my best not to explode in anger. “Just, look at the footage. Something or someone is clearly making it look like me.” “Kate, just stop─” “I don’t give a fuck what you think at this point.” My voice cracks but I manage to get out my next sentence, “you have no idea what I have been through. What Zedd went through. It’s the most horrifying thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.” He jumps in, his voice full of venom, “don’t you dare talk about my best friend. You were here all of a couple of weeks and what, you think that you know more than I do about him?” My shoulders sag, this is going nowhere. He will never believe me and I just can’t do any of this bullshit anymore. “That’s fine, Devon. I’m sorry that you think I am the kind of person that would hurt another human being this way.” He opens his mouth and I wave my hand, “It doesn’t matter, none of it matters. I hope that you find whatever answers you are looking for but I would like you to please leave.” He starts to say something but I close the door in his face.

I can’t believe how this day started and how it will end.

I’m too exhausted to think and I don’t want to anymore. I look over at my computer and sigh. Saving the world will have to wait until tomorrow.

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 had devoted to those in need. It must have killed him, knowing what he did and not able to save anyone else. It just further solidifies the fact that he must have said something to his family. I need to find them, they would definitely be able to shed some light on things. I cross the room, locating Devon near the back by the kitchen. I can’t get over how huge this place is. 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 approach him slowly, not wanting to scare him away. He is deep in thought, staring out of the large bay windows. He turns when he hears the click of my heels against the tiles. His lips curl into a soft smile. There is definitely more to that smile─ it’s the sort that you give your friends or family when they ask what is wrong. 

I have the strongest urge to wrap Devon into a hug. I find myself more and more curious of how he would feel against me, how he would smell. I have never been in a relationship and up until now I really haven’t thought about it. School and art always took priority over anything else.  After seeing what it does to others and how much it impacts people’s lives, I have run in the opposite direction for years. Devon though, I haven’t noticed a hint of ulterior motive, he is genuine and kind. There had been a few people in college that had shown interest in me but I always shut them down. Not in a mean way, just stated that I did not want anything to do with a relationship. A few of them told me that I could tell them the truth, one even asked if I was a lesbian. Apparently, they had talked amongst themselves and came to the conclusion that since I had not been interested in male partners, I must have liked women. The truth is I have had very little sex drive over the years. It isn’t something that I think about often. I can get urges from time to time but never enough to seek out a partner. It makes my skin crawl thinking about someone touching me. The touching aspect was awful enough, sex mortifies me. I have gotten curious and watched porn a few times. The women never seem to enjoy what is happening. All I can focus on are their faces, there is something about their eyes─ sadness or a longing for love. I cringe at the way men would grope them or shove things into places─ there were no limits to where they did. I rub my arms and hug them to my chest. Given the chance would Devon want to do those things to me? I frown. Even if he is interested, I really get the sense that he would keep it to himself and not allow it to cloud his judgement. For the first time I find myself liking someone. It’s as alien a thought as everything else I’m doing so why do I feel so 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 speeds up as he leans within inches of 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 is beating so hard against my chest that I am sure he can hear it. Then he does something unexpected and takes a step back. My shoulders relax and my heartbeat subsides. After several moments I’m back to normal. It is incredibly refreshing to stand next to someone in comfortable silence, it feels natural with Devon. 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 grows 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. But, I need answers. Maybe Zedd had mentioned something to Devon that I wasn’t aware of. I shove down my fears. “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 over 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─”

“Can we talk 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. Zedd believed it so much that he ended his life. Surely that must count for something.  

#

 We arrive back at the office around two o’clock. There is still enough time for me to get a little work done, and most importantly keep my mind distracted. I worry that Devon will call me into his office but he never returns. In a way it’s a huge relief─ not that I would mind his company, but he’s so damn persistent and I really don’t want to do that here. Jason walks up to me and explains that he will be temporarily taking over Zedd’s duties until a new manager is in place. We go over a few sketches and then what Zedd had asked of me. Jason is quiet, like me, so after we talk business, he is gone. Thank goodness for small miracles. I look at the 2-D design and then import it into the 3-D modeling program. I pour myself into into creating every single detail. It feels so amazing to be back into a routine that I work until my fingers and back scream in protest. At some point I have managed to tuck one of my legs under me and lost all feeling in it. I stand and stretch, content with my completed workload for the day. Most of the office left several hours ago. I spot a few guys in the back messing around in the motion capture room but they are all that is left. I pull out my phone and glance through it warily. I’m surprised to not find a text but ultimately I decide that it’s best if I get this meeting over with. I sniff my pits and further decide 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 grab my wallet, phone, and keys and then turn toward the elevator. I am mid stride when the lights turn off. I immediately freeze in place. I have been so preoccupied with everything today that I’ve forgotten about Them. I hold my breath and wait. There is a yell in the back and I exhale. The guys are still here. OK, good maybe the building has timed lights. Not wanting to press my luck I pick up the pace. No way in hell am I going to give these things a chance to terrorize me. They fucking thrive off of it. 

I yelp as a noise blares from my hand. “Jesus christ,” I swear, flipping my screen around. It’s Devon. Shit. He probably thinks I’m going to bail on him. I glance at the time, it is nearly seven. I answer 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 comes out awful, it sounds like he’s been crying, “Oh, that’s OK. I just wanted to check in with you. Did you want me to pick you up or would you rather meet somewhere?” He sniffs a few times and clears his throat. The guys emerge from the back, shoving each other as they walk toward the elevator. “Hey Kate” one of them say. I nod and wave as they shuffle through. “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 plea 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 sound 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 open 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 clamp them around my mouth. No, no, no, is all that can run through my mind. I stagger back a few steps, distancing 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 Zedd’s eyes stare at me accusingly. The back of his head is missing─ there’s blood and brain matter everywhere. The gun lays on the floor next to him cradled in his limp hand. This isn’t real, it can’t be because we buried him this afternoon. I frantically search the room, trying to remember where the emergency stairs are located. I scream as his body jumps and twitches in a seizure-like motion. Zedd grunts and his head jerks toward my scream. His bones snap and pop as he rises from the floor. A few meaty chunks of brain matter slide to the floor, making a sickening splat when they hit. 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 carry me.  I don’t know where the staircase is but I don’t care. I am not about to sit here and let him get close to me, I know it has to be back here somewhere. I flee past several dark offices, glancing behind me every so often. There is 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 found them. Fuck it. 
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.

The Watchmen – Part III – A Horror Novella

Part I

Part II

Seven days.

Somehow, I have made it through the night. My head feels disembodied and I have the beginnings of a horrible migraine. I down a glass of water and take a few painkillers. My feet shuffle across the cool bathroom tiles and I turn toward the mirror. I take a good look at my reflection and frown. My cheek bones look sharper than usual and my eyes are watery. There are two dark circles under each of my eyes. I paw through my hair several times and then give up. Maybe a shower will help to tame this unruly mane. There is something almost ritualistic to removing your clothing and stepping into a shower. It’s like stripping back old, peeling paint to reveal a beautifully stained wood beneath. I close the glass door behind me and walk into the burning spray. It’s almost too much to bear but after several seconds my body adjusts. I needed this more than anything right now. I would have stayed in here longer but I can feel the water cooling. I sigh and turn the handle back to the center.

It turns out a long hot shower does do wonders for my energy. My head feels floaty but that is to be expected given my impending migraine. I draw a comb through my curls, dab on some concealer, and then lip moisturizer. I am not a huge fan of makeup but I still like to look presentable from time to time. My hair is thick and wavy and it can never seem to make up its mind on color. Some days it is a fiery copper and on others it appears a reddish-brown like the color of a fox’s coat in winter. I remember someone telling me once that it was auburn, but I think it really depends on the time of year. It is something that I have always hated about it, but I have good hair days too. I’m not a tall girl, but I’m not short either. I’m stuck between what guys considered cute and not cute. The girls that got the most attention in high school were small and petite. I’ve always been awkward, and quiet. Dating never made sense to me. I usually get through it by reading, playing games at home, and drawing. No one speaks to me because of my quiet nature and I kind of like it that way. It’s easy to keep track of a few friends from time to time.

I’m not sure why I am reflecting on this now. It has been five years since I have been to high school. Once I had gone to college, I replaced my old friends with new ones. Since graduation we had started moving on with our lives. I’m not really the sort to chase after friends. Besides, I have been comfortable with my own company for years. It’s a hard pill to swallow knowing that the one person I could share this burden with is gone. I have so many things that I wanted to ask him. The worst of it is I only have one week left and still no answers. If this really is the end of the world, I’m screwed. I can’t blame Zedd for tapping out, these visions are awful. They are so vivid that you can’t differentiate fantasy from reality. If fantasy is even the right word. I shiver thinking about the Creatures’ joy as they savored my agony. Will it really be so horrible? Or will I fly into a million pieces and burn to ash after the first blast? Even if the bombs only hit the major cities, the fallout would be devastating. I can’t save everyone, but I can damn sure try. Thinking about it depresses me. Who will take me seriously? They won’t. I sag into the bed and tuck my legs under me. The only way they would understand is if they have seen what I have. That thought has me curious─ if Zedd had seen them there has to be others right? I can go online, seek others through communities, and then maybe discuss it with them. I have seven days, maybe we could all meet up and change other people’s minds. Yeah, like a doomsday cult? Ugh. Nope, we’re fucked. No one will buy it and honestly, maybe it is just a freak coincidence that two people have shared. I know somewhere in the deepest part of my heart this is wrong, but I want to believe that none of it is true.

But, I have put this all off long enough. I stand and walk over to the piece of paper and then open it. I look at the entire page, frown, and then scan it again. It hasn’t changed since yesterday. It changes every day─ why has it not changed this time? What have I done differently? It occurs to me and suddenly I feel like an idiot. Shit, I curse silently, it’s because I haven’t slept. It has even changed the number of days but the picture is the same. I only get to see the illustrations if I actually live that pain in my dreams.  I will have to endure them for another six days, almost seven. At least it’s falling in-line with what I have hypothesize. I had fallen asleep on the bus before and the picture hadn’t changed. I’m fairly certain, however, it has to do with it being the same day. There is only one way to test it and I really don’t want to. I alert the front desk that I will be staying another day. It’s a good thing this is the slow season, so no one has reserved the room. I tell them there is no need for fresh sheets, ask for a few more towels, and then hang up. I feel wiped out, there is no way I am going to stay awake even if I want to. I jot down a note to just leave towels inside even if I am here and then collapse under the blankets. 

#

When I wake the sun is low in the sky and the room has become frigid. I sit up and stretch, then glance at my phone. It is nearly six o’clock. I yawn and throw the blankets off feeling refreshed. I relieve myself in the bathroom, wash my hands, and apply a bit more Chapstick and base. I grab my phone, laptop, the paper, and change into a pair of jeans and a long sleeved shirt. I take one last look at myself, grab my wallet, and then I am out the door. Thankfully, the town has a little strip and there are several restaurants and coffee shops to choose from. I settle on a diner that has wi-fi and claim to have the best breakfast in town. My stomach grumbles as I slide into the booth, reminding me that I haven’t eaten in twelve hours. The place is warm in colors and modernized enough that it doesn’t feel like a diner. There is no tacky art, or cheap looking benches. The colors are tasteful and calm. I feel comfortable here, it is an environment that invites you to stay with soothing music and friendly staff. I can’t remember the last time that I felt like a place wanted you there for a while. “Hey there,” the lady smiles as she walks up to me, “what can I start you off with?” I can tell she is older, but extremely attractive. She has a kind face with warm brown eyes and silky dark brown hair. I hate to admit it but I am pretty envious of that hair. I have always wanted to rock one of those edgy, straight haircuts instead of my messy waves.  

“Hey,” I smile back, “is it OK if I stay here for a bit after I eat?” The woman grins from ear to ear. “Of course you can, sweetheart. Stay as long as you like. What can I get for you?” I skim over the menu, quickly realizing there are way more options than I anticipated. “Uh,” I stutter, “how about pancakes and sausage with some coffee?” Her eyes crinkle as she jots down my order, “you want one or two pancakes?” “Three,” I say quickly. Her eyes widen, but she nods. “You take cream and sugar?” “Just cream,” I say. She nods again and then walks away calling over her shoulder that she’ll be right back. I’m not sure why I keep putting off looking at the paper. I’m still in shock over the fact that I slept so peacefully. I honestly can’t remember dreaming. Thank goodness for small miracles. I stare at the little sliver of paper as if at any moment, it will catch fire in my bag. I want more than anything for the same city with the same hooded figures to be present. Maybe it is just affecting the new city I moved to. Either way, I am not prepared to find out. I have the weekend to depress myself further. And then what? I wonder. Warn everyone in those two cities to evacuate? Yeah, that will go over well. About the only thing I can do to make people listen is phone in a bomb threat. I’m not familiar with protocol on this, but I’m quite sure they would dismiss it as a practical joke in less than a day. It may save several people’s lives though, so it may be a good option. If they even would issue a city-wide evacuation. I grow more apprehensive by the second. There is no way the city would take a woman’s threat seriously. Even if it is a bomb threat. They probably receive a handful of those throughout the years. Shit, with all the crazy people out there, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s once a month.

I make a mental list of what I would need to do so people will take me seriously:

  1. Voice changer
  2. Google number
  3. Suspicious activity that could point to potentially being a bomb placed there?

Shit.

This won’t work, why would I even think it would? I suddenly feel sick to my stomach. How in the actual hell do I make other people think I’m not insane? The one person that would have helped me is dead. At least he won’t have to suffer through all of this. I’m very envious of that right now. I would love to be gone, boom─ light’s out. No pain, no skin peeling back or shards raking through the meaty pulp of my exposed flesh, no creaking bones or dangling eyes. I swallow grasping at my neck. Suddenly I feel extremely parched. My hands shake as I guzzle down water the waitress brought me earlier. If there is any hope of finding solace, it is long gone. I feel heavy in my skin. I can’t move. I don’t want to. The weight of everything is seeping in. How could so much have changed in a matter of a week? It went from the best moment of my entire life, to the single-worst experience I’ve known in my twenty-three years. A bullet to the brain isn’t sounding too bad right now. I remember taking a neuroscience class and the professor telling us that there are no pain receptors in the brain. Once the bullet got past the nerves on the flap of skin that covered my skull, I would feel nothing. In a different time these sort of thoughts would have been miles away before today. It’s evolving into a sort of fantasy now. One in which I could squeeze the trigger and─ “Here you go, sweetie.” I jerk slightly at her soft voice, but manage a smile. “Thank you very much,” I reply.

She pauses and then takes on that sort of tone you only hear from your mother, “You OK hun? You’re looking a bit pale.” I take a moment to look into her soft, amber eyes and then shake my head, “oh, I’m fine. Just a little tired is all.” She purses her lips and raises a finely manicured eyebrow at me, “alright, I get it. I was a young girl once. Your food will be right out. You just holler at me if you need anything else.” She places a hand on my shoulder and pats it softly. Normally physical touch would be something that bothers me. I would shy away or tilt my body in a way that would keep them from reaching me. Sort of an unspoken message about boundaries. I have done it all my life. Strange how lately I’ve welcomed other’s touch, like an attention starved child. Both this waitress and Devon have managed to do it in less than a handful of days.

#

I sigh, content with a full belly. I’ve put the note off long enough, but I still go ahead and check my phone messages and emails first. Zedd’s funeral is going to be held on Monday and everyone from work is invited to come and pay their respects. Poor Devon, I want more than anything to make it better for him. It must be hard to both lose someone close and have a new employee that same week. I can’t imagine what he is going through right now. I try thinking of things that I could send in a text message─ maybe some comforting words, but my brain just draws a blank. What do you say to someone that you barely know about someone else you barely know dying? I decide that I will wait and do it later, I feel too scattered right now. I am on my third refill of coffee when I finally decide that I am ready. No matter what that piece of paper shows me, I still have time to think about what I can do. With shaky hands I reach into my bag and remove it. I slowly pry one side open and brace myself for the content. It is now or never. I am about to find out if this is going to happen all over or just in my home town and back in Dallas. I know that it is hoping for too much, to think it is all a coincidence, but who knows? Maybe it is. The city of Santa Fe burns in front of me as I unfold the last corner of paper. Crestfallen, I search the page. The hooded figures are hard to see, but they are there in the mountains. The beautiful, charming city is a pile of rubble. The mushroom cloud looming over it high in the mountain air. A single tear drops down and lands at the bottom of the page. I swipe at my face, embarrassed to be crying in a public place.

Before I fold it back up, my eyes look to where the poem has ended:

This night, hallowed night, They gifted the world to silence.

#

6

I have less than a week. I muse on the last line and then on the poem itself. It sounds as if people are these little, lost creatures that death would guide home. Except this is nothing like I expect it to be. Instead these horrible, awful beings that enjoy my suffering exist in my life. Suddenly I’m bitter. Why me? Why can’t I just live in perfect bliss and die. I remember stories told to me as a child that death would come swiftly to those that remained good and kind. Death bringers were brutal to those that are wicked, not compassionate beings. Except, of course, the four horsemen in the book of revelations. Not that I am educated on any of that. I haven’t touched a single book of religion in my life and from what I did know I was a child at the time. It’s been ages ago, but I do remember that one of the horsemen is a bringer of war. Surely, these harbingers of death aren’t with a divine being that created us. Why would a god create something so─ merciless? This is pointless thinking. Even if I know exactly what they are, I will be powerless to stop it. And six days isn’t exactly enough time to research anything properly. I sink into the chair. Every waking moment is a countdown to the end. I stare outside into the beautiful, quaint town and then over at the kind waitress. I will certainly do everything within my power to protect her. And possibly anyone else that will listen. It may be a fruitless endeavor, but at least I can die knowing that I tried. I really am that brand of idiot. I sigh and pull out my laptop. Maybe I can find something online that will help. Hopefully with any luck others that are like me.

#

After more than an hour of searching, I have just about given up. There are, it seems, a lot of people that believe that the end of the world has been coming for a while now. There’s cultists, evangelists─ standard forums with conspiracy theory nut-jobs, and just about anyone in between but none of them have described what both me and Zedd have been through. I pull the note out again and look it over. What am I missing? We couldn’t have been the only ones. I even google notes about end days, and bombs, and near death experiences with bombs. All of which have had some─ interesting results, but not the ones that I am searching for.

“Hun, I just wanted to let you know that you’re fine to stay as long as you’d like but would you mind scooching over to the smaller table there, in the back?” She motioned over to where the tables were back toward the kitchen. Her face looks genuinely contrite as if she has disturbed me during an important bit of work. My face probably has the serious look my mom would point out as I would become lost in my art. “It’s just, I’ve got a family that needs seating and that table’s a might small for them.” I nodded my head and quickly get up. “Of course” I stutter, “not a problem at all.” It takes a minute to realize how busy the place has gotten since I have come in. I make my way over to the smallest table that I can find and get everything set up. The soft voices have risen to a dull roar as the restaurant fills with noisy guests. I know I can go back to the hotel, but I prefer the company of the waitress and the people. It makes me feel less alone. I unfold the paper for the thousandth time hoping that I may have missed something important. I feel like I have googled everything possible, except─ I glance over the text and on my current online search. Hold on. I blink and then look between the two of them again. One of the forums has mentioned Watchmen and it’s in several parts of the poem. I feel my excitement rising, maybe there is something to that. I try my luck at searching Watchmen. I frown at all the cartoon images and shortly find out that there is a comic, a movie, and a T.V. show by the same name. Damn. I try again, this time adding the term apocalypse with it─ and then, end times. All that manages to bring up are the same nut-jobs. Nothing, or no one is mentioning them specifically. Hooded figures brought up the usual comic-like illustrations of death, but nothing like the hyper-realistic drawings that lined my page. Nothing that could instill the sort of dread I have in the pit of my chest as I stare at their dark, hungry faces. I shiver, running my hands up and down my arms. I know I have been at the diner for a while, but I didn’t realize how long until the smell of food makes my stomach rumble.

I smile over at my coffee mug. The waitress has been amazing and kept it full for me. I wave across at her and she quickly shuffles over. “What can I do for you? You about ready for that check?” I smile sheepishly, “Actually, I’m starving and ready for round two. What’s really good here?” Her smile widens and she glances over at the kitchen, then leans in, “you won’t believe it, but we have the best enchiladas on this side of town. Even better than Enchilada’s up the street. The owner’s son makes his mama’s recipe and I swear to you, that boy puts love into every layer.” I grin back at her, “Alright, um─ I pause looking at her nametag but frown when I don’t find one. “Laura,” she says softly. “Laura,” I repeat. We smile, “I’ll take the enchiladas with red sauce.” She makes an ‘ooo’ shape with her mouth nodding her head, “good choice um─” she looks down at me, her lips pursed comically as she waits, her pen posed in the air. “Kate,” I say giggling at the silliness. Man, I needed this in my life right now. “Alright Miss Kate, I will have those mouth-watering enchiladas out to you asap.” She swishes away and I’m practically glowing from the attention. The sun looks as if it is about to come up. I glance at my phone, and then look again─ it is 5:45─ in the morning. I can’t believe I have been here for nearly ten hours. Enchilada’s must have been an anytime meal here but they sound like a pretty damn good breakfast for me. I watch as Laura bustles about wiping down tables and grabs checks. It is probably nearing the end of her shift. Honestly I’m surprised that she is still here. Aren’t normal hours around six or eight for waitresses? I really want to tell her everything, but not sure how to say it. How do you tell someone to leave town without sounding like a total crack pot? I mean, I don’t look like a terrorist, it’s kind of hard to when you’re still mistaken for a teenager at twenty-three. But she won’t take it seriously unless I word it in such a way that it’s believable. At least I will have time to think about it over a hot meal.

In less than fifteen minutes, a large plate of ooey-gooey stacked enchiladas tower in front of her. Every layer contains onion, cheese, eggs, and crema. The corn tortilla’s smell reminded her of a mom and pop taco shop she had visited as a kid. They were fresh, maybe even handmade. It’s filled and topped with red enchilada sauce, a generous amount of cotija cheese, and a fried sunny-side up egg. It’s so pretty I almost don’t want to dig in with a fork. My stomach has other ideas, however, and I find myself practically wolfing it down. About halfway through, I slow down and really taste all of the flavors. There are little bits of fresh onion and I sigh in content. Normally, I’m not a fan of raw onion but somehow it works with all the ingredients. I need to get this recipe, it  is definitely last meal worthy. Laura hadn’t been joking when she said it was made with love. I panic when I don’t see her for a few minutes, nervous that I have missed my chance to talk. My eyes tear up when she rounds the corner with a fresh steaming mug of coffee. “Hey sweetheart, I’m about to end my shift but I thought I’d bring─” she pauses, getting a look at my face. “I know it isn’t my place, but, you sure you OK? I got a few minutes before I need to head home and feed the pups.” I smile through blinding tears and though I’m trying to be brave, they manage to slip down my cheeks. I pat at the chair across from me. She doesn’t even hesitate and slides into it. “What’s going on? Boy trouble?” She smiles with a faraway look in her eye as she stares out into the street. She turns back to me, her warm eyes widening. She places a hand over mine and pats it gently. “This seems much worse than just a man. You’re not in trouble are you?” She hesitates and glances around before leaning in and whispers, “my brother is a cop, he wouldn’t be awake right now but I could see if there is something that could be done for you.” She crosses her legs and leans back, her cool hand not leaving mine. “Some cities have piss-poor excuses for cops, you know the usual amount of corruption and politics. I’m not saying we don’t have any of that, we’ve got our share too, but the cops around here take care of us and I guarantee Rob would listen.”

I’m floored by this woman’s kindness. Back at home waitresses wouldn’t hardly look at you, let alone offer help to a stranger. Everyone is sort of buttoned up in Pennsylvania. You just didn’t talk about your problems, especially at home. Talking to a stranger? That would be unheard of. Mom and dad were good people, but not warm people. We’ve always been quiet about most things. If I came home with a bad grade, I would get a head shake from dad and my mom would softly say, “Kate, you can do better.” It was that quiet that always pushed me to get some sort of reaction or acknowledgement of my achievements. The best I would get was a satisfied grunt from dad and a smile and pat from mom. Maybe she would even rub up and down my arms affectionately. I lived for those sort of reactions, it made me warm and feel all glowy─ like I could accomplish anything.

It wasn’t as if they didn’t show affection or show that they were worried, it is just a different sort of love. This is open and raw. I really can’t wrap my mind around it, but I appreciate it just the same. Finally, I am able to find my voice, “I need you to listen to me and not judge. Just, keep an open mind─ OK?” My voice comes out shakier than I wanted it to. I never sound strong. I always sound like a scared little girl. I hate how soft my voice is. She raises her eyebrows and nods slowly, “alright, I can do that. Don’t you worry about how you sound.” Her voice is encouraging because she thinks she’s rescuing me from something. She thinks maybe I’m running away from an abusive relationship, or bad parents. If only it were that simple.

I inhale deeply and steady myself to try and sound like a rational human being. How can I word it to where she will listen? I decide on telling her the truth, but add a believable lie. I feel somewhat guilty about it, but it is the only way she will buy what I’m selling. I clear my throat and begin, “my family works in the government,” I start. She frowns and then nods at me. I can tell she is realizing that this isn’t going to be a normal problem. I am not entirely lying about that─ my dad, now retired, had worked in the post office for over thirty years and my mother was a public school teacher. “I came out here because I wanted to see for myself if things were happening like back at home.” My voice sounds a little more confident this time and I feel my shoulders relax. I can do this, I tell myself, maybe I can save people.

Laura has let go of my hand and she’s hugging her arms. “Alright, go on,” she whispers. I look back at the restaurant and then lean in toward her, “You and your brother should get as far away as you can from any major city. I’m talking miles away, go to the desert or the Colorado woods, Arizona, or hell even Texas. Just─ get away from Santa Fe.” Her eyes grow hard and she purses her lips. She crosses her arms and looks me up and down. Laura looks like a real mom now sizing me up. The tears are really starting to come and I grab a napkin and swipe at my face and nose. I can tell she isn’t convinced. “I─” my words falter a bit as I hiccup. I wipe my face and try again, “I just want to tell someone. I don’t expect you to believe me, but Laura,” I look deeply into her eyes, my brows creasing, “Something very bad is going to happen here and I need you to believe me. I’m not crazy, or some sort of conspiracy nut, I just want to help you because you’ve been very kind to me.”

Laura nods and bites down on her lip. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do here,” she pauses, “but this is my home. I don’t know where I would go, and I mean, I just met you. You could be pranking me for all I know.” I sniff and let out a long sigh. “However, I don’t think that you are ,” she adds. She looks off to the side, her voice taking on a resigned quality, “Listen, I miss a day of work and it’s a big deal.” She shakes her head at me, “I’m comfortable, but it’s because I keep my longer hours and I have my regular customers.” She sighs, “even if it were something bad, Antonio could lock up the place and we could just hide in the back or stay put.” She’s dismissing it in her mind and thinks I’m some sort of spooked child. “You can’t hide from this,” I say firmly, “no one can. Laura it will take out half of the planet, please try to hear what I’m telling you.” She stares into my eyes, “you actually believe this, don’t you?” I nod. “I don’t just believe it, I’ve seen it.” She fidgets with her hands, “like, a bomb going off? They would have had that on the news, hun.” I’ve lost her, I can feel it. No matter what I say, she’s going to think I’m just some misinformed girl who’s father has scared her. She probably thinks he’s some government conspiracy nut too. There are a lot of them in government offices. How can I make her understand? The answer is simple, I can’t. I can try my best but at the end of the day it boils down to what she accepts in her own mind. I feel sick to my stomach, but I realize this is all that I can do. “It won’t be in the news. It will just hit.” I gently massage the space that is between my eyebrows and the bridge of my nose with my thumbs. “Listen, I know how all of this sounds, but I have to at least try. There’s nothing that I can say or do to convince you, I just want you to know.” The tears have mostly dried so I dab at the remaining wetness, happy to be free of them.

“Well, I appreciate it sweetheart, but I think someone may be messing with you. If it is something this big, I think half of the world would have known about it by now. Especially with all these damn satellites, and movement detection, and thermo-whatever─ these men have got their war devices on lock down. I don’t think anyone really wants to use them, you know? Doesn’t bode well for the planet’s health and just about everyone would die.” I raise an eyebrow, “Putin doesn’t give two shits about anyone. I could see him doing it easily.” She tilts her head and nods, “fair point. But look, even if it got that bad, we have counter-measures in place for that reason. Lots of people will die, and that is awful, but I don’t think anything like what you are describing would happen.” I nod, lost in my own thoughts. I knew this would be the way it would go, and that’s how it will be with anyone. Even if someone told me the same way that I’m telling her. It is a lost cause. I stand up and extend my hand, “Thank you, Laura. I really appreciate everything that you have done for me today. More than you could ever know. You take care of yourself.” I turn and walk away. I hear her say something but I am several feet away at this point and can’t hear it. It doesn’t matter and I can’t care about it right now. She will be lost just like the rest of them.

Is this how the world will really end?

The Watchmen – Part II – A Horror Novella

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 is identical to mine. There is a small part of me that hopes these monsters just showed us our worst fears─ That maybe they are some sort of creature that feeds off of fear and pain. The more he shared with me, the more I wanted him to stop talking. I roll over on my side and frown at the poem on my nightstand. The nine seems more bold than usual. 

There really is no escape.

His words echo in my mind. If that is true, there will be no reason for me to continue any of this. My entire existence is pointless. I want to cry but nothing comes out. I want to scream at the top of my lungs and never stop screaming. It aches to be in my own skin and I am angry that I will be among the few people that knows what will happen. Worse still, I know that there is nothing I can do about it. Even if I do try and call someone or reach out to people─ no one will believe me. If someone mentioned this to me a few days ago I wouldn’t have believed them. I would have thought they were some conspiracy theorist nutcase. Unless─ I sit up and check my phone. It is early, but Devon normally gets in about eight or eight thirty. I might be able to chat with him for a while. I have an idea, but I am not going to mention anything until I am sure. I dress as quickly as I can and hop on the first train. 

#

“Kate, hey” Devon says smiling, “what brings you in so early?” I am surprised to find him already there when I walk in at seven forty-five. I smile nervously at him, checking my pocket for the hundredth time to make sure the piece of paper is still there. I relax as I feel it crumple against my hand. “Hey Devon,” I say, “I sketched this out last night and thought you might want to take a look at it.” He raises an eyebrow, “Oh yeah? Sticking to those old-school guns, I like it. Let’s take a look.” I try to steady my hand as I reach into my pocket. I unfold the paper and see more hooded figures have appeared. The skyline looks clearer and I can make out shapes and finer details of the buildings. The hooded figures wait outside of the city, staring at the buildings.  

“Kate?” 

My legs move and I walk over to his desk. I pass the paper over to him and then back away to gauge his reaction. His hand had briefly touched mine and I am suddenly very aware that I haven’t showered this morning. I must look an absolute mess. I fidget with my hair and tug down at my shirt. He is quiet for a few moments and then furrows his brow. “I don’t get it.” His face breaks into a wide grin, “Did one of the guys set you up to this?” He chuckles and hands 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 waves his hands around. “Already messing with the boss, huh?” I smile at his words but at this very moment I die a little inside. Why can Zedd and I see it, but Devon cannot?

It must seem awkward for me to walk in here like this and not have a come back, so I force a chuckle of my own, “You got me.” I want it to sound casual but it ends up sounding even more awkward. It hangs in the air and stagnates. I clear my throat and turn to leave. “Hey, Kate?” His voice sounds off. I turn back to him from the doorway. “Take care of yourself, this job can get really stressful.” My face burns but I manage a lame, “oh totally, no worries.” I spin around, nearly plow into the wall, and shuffle my way out. Great, the end of the world comes and I still manage to make a complete and total ass of myself. I guess some things will never change. 

#

I still feel slightly bitter about my love life but I’ve managed to knock out a ton of stuff for my main character. I have rationalized that if nothing else, this gives me something to do. It’s pointless, the game will never release. I don’t even know what time the bomb will drop. But hey, at least I know the day. 

It makes me wonder if it is just going to happen here, or all over. Maybe the beings will only show what will directly affect us. This gives me an idea. It’s my first week, but considering I’ll only have just over a week left to live, I figure fuck it─ road trip time. I finish up my tasks for the day with a couple of hours to spare. Zedd has been oddly quiet today, in fact, I haven’t seen him. It is possible that he decided to work night shift. Most of us hate that schedule, but there is a team that works from four until midnight. Even if he never shows up to work again, it’s not like I can blame him. I mean, it’s one thing if it is only you hallucinating, but to have someone else confirm your worst fear? That’s true terror. I am hoping to talk with him a bit more today. The way we left things last night makes me feel lost. I feel more helpless now than I ever have in my life. I am desperate to think that we can find a way out of this, maybe some hope still exists. I managed to wake up feeling a little better today, but carrying this sort of knowledge weighs you down. I shoot him a text just to check in on him and then head to Devon’s office. 

I tap lightly on the door. There are a few murmurs on the other side and finally I hear, “come in.” I peek my head around the door and smile. “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 winks conspiratorially at me and grins. I laugh and shake my head, “Oh, that can’t be true. I’ve seen their work.” He types a few things on his computer and then turns his full attention to me. “What can I do for you, ma’am?”     

I smile at the southern drawl. I notice that people here tend to address each other as sir or ma’am but it isn’t in a professional way, it is polite and respectful. I am 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 can work remotely and maybe take half a day off to drive up there?” His face suddenly grows 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 slightly disturbed at how easy the lie spills from me. I will have to work that out with myself later. One thing at a time. “Oh, and Kate?”

“Hmm?” I respond. “Zedd is not feeling well, but he’ll be in tomorrow. I’m loving the direction you two have come up with.” I thank him and quickly make my exit. This is a weird day, but it isn’t entirely bad. I feel accomplished, which is a bit weird given the circumstances. Perhaps I am taking this a bit 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 know going too far would be silly and if I go back home, I feel like I will get the same result. With this in mind, I decide to go to New Mexico. It is twelve hours from Dallas but it is far enough away from Dallas that it will help prove my theory.  It is better than sitting at home and sulking. My eyelids grow heavy as we get to the last hour or so. This state is huge. I can’t believe how long it takes to get across. I probably 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 didn’t help and before I know it, I am out. I blink a few times and realize that I am staring from the familiar building. This time, the entire floor is filled with everyone at the office. Devon walks past and flashes his winning grin, his warm brown eyes crinkle around the edges. I shyly smile back and then start walking toward my desk. Usually the things have appeared by now, but instead it seems like a typical day. 

I glance around, curious about where this dream is going. I am vaguely aware of movements at each cubicle as I pass by. People are glued to their monitors, the little clicks of the mice are the only sounds cutting through the silence. At any moment I expect the terror to unfold and then I will look down to stare at my insides. I will sit helplessly as the blast blows me apart. Worst of all, I will feel every agonizing second of it. I squeeze my eyes closed, willing myself to wake up. Please, I silently beg, I don’t want to go through it again. Don’t make me go through this again. The second I close my eyes I feel it. The office shifts and then trembles violently. Seconds later, the screams begin. My eyes fly open and once again I am faced with the tall, spiraling cloud that mushrooms and expands. There is a pause as everyone stands in awe, staring up at the impending doom. Within seconds the wave hurtles toward us and then slams into the building with a crushing blow. 

God no. 

The glass shatters and then embeds itself in my skin. The flesh melts from my face as the wind rips at my body. Adrenaline will not kick in, I can feel everything. People drop like flies around me, their screams eventually replaced with wet gargles. I gasp for air as my lungs fill with blood. My one good eye watches as the earth tilts until finally I make contact with the floor. It’s all that I can do. My body aches and my nerves are on fire but finally it subsides into a dull throbbing. It’s as if my body has accepted this horror. Like the visions before I just won’t die. This should be the part of the dream that you wake up covered in sweat and screaming. My entire life I have had the luxury of just that. Especially if it is one of those falling dreams. Not only can I feel every moment of this living hell,  I can taste it. The ash, the blood, and the chemicals. The building groans in the wake of the damage. It sways and then lets out a low, haunting moan. It reminds me of the recordings of wales I had listened to as a child. Yet more industrial as the building begins to collapse in on itself. As we all fall, They appear. I try and close my one good eye but to my horror, I realize that my eyelids are gone. The debris lands on my exposed eye, light as newly fallen snow. I instinctively try to blink but in the end all I can do is stare at the chaos. The burning has become so intense against my exposed flesh that I am sure I am dying. And yet, I can not die.

I can not fucking die.

They close in and sigh in ecstasy as they pluck my suffering from my flesh and my mind. It’s as if I am the last morsel of succulent meat. They feed on the others in mere seconds, but me, god fucking help me─ they are having a four course meal. I try any way I can to die faster. I try biting my tongue, but there isn’t enough of it left. I try in vain to move either of my arms, but too much of the muscle lays piled on the floor. I am stuck here, being consumed piece by piece─ layer by agonizing layer. 

#

 

Finally I wake up screaming my lungs out. I hear a man curse in the seat in front of me and the driver comes to a screeching halt. I run my hands over my face and then my body as I search everywhere. I relax as I find that everything is in its place. I drink in the air, so much clean, fresh air─ thank god. 

I sit back in my seat and let out a sigh. “Hey,” I jump at the shout from the driver, “everything OK back there?” I peer around the row of seats and shrink into my seat at all the confused faces of the passengers. I clear my throat, “um, yeah sorry,” and then I add “I have night terrors.” The entire bus groans and people mutter, throwing angry looks my way. Sorry, I mouth at them. My face is on fire.  I scoot closer toward the window, hoping that no one can see me. I draw my legs up to my chest. 

Whatever that was, it isn’t a dream. I’m not sure what it is that keeps these monsters feasting on me. I have this sinking feeling that They are the reason I have been kept alive. I shudder running my hands along the length of my legs. Maybe spreading some warmth through them will ease the chill. The air on the bus has grown colder, we must be in the mountains. A quick glance outside confirms it as we chug along uphill. My thoughts turn dark as I stare out across the misty mountains. I had been able to sleep OK last night but what if the dream returns? What if I can never close my eyes again?

#

The hotel is nothing fancy, but it is cozy. After speaking with the front counter I get my room key and I am all set. I walk down a few hallways until I find the first set of double doors. The man at the front desk has described it well. To my delight it opens into a large pool area. It is all enclosed and there is even a hot tub. I’m glad that I have decided to pack my bathing suit. I had been hoping the place has a sauna or something I can relax in. My mood gets even better when I see in fact that they do have a sauna. At least there is something to look forward to tonight. After I get in my room, I set up my work laptop and plug in my phone to charge. The signal here is awful and my battery is already at forty percent. I check my messages and email. Devon sent me one about an hour ago. It is just to check in and make sure that I have made it to my parents. I send him a response that I am fine and I will be able to work tomorrow afternoon. I add that he is welcome to call or text for any emergencies and then send it out. 

I am surprised to find that I feel energized. Despite the dream, it has somehow refreshed me. I glance over the room service menu and then check out some of the local restaurants. I am famished. There’s a small pizza shop that has great reviews and I place my order. In less than thirty minutes it is sitting on the dresser. I have a scary movie playing in the background as I lay the cheesy goodness on the bed. You would think since my own life is the stuff of nightmares, I wouldn’t want anything to do with them. But it’s somehow comforting to watch someone else go through hell instead of me. I’ve 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 love Halloween, Michael Myers just keeps coming back. Ironic, given that my own hell in these visions parallel that. Maybe he is just pissed off that he can’t die and takes it out on others. Suddenly, I have a soft spot for the guy. I would never wish this on anyone, but I can at least imagine other people’s struggles, right? I devour three pieces before I finally slow down. I can without a doubt eat this entire pizza, and still I would want more. But after the sixth slice, it seems to do the trick. I sigh and pat my belly. I’m hoping I find that the images change, but so far I have checked and it hasn’t. 

I’m not sure what I am expecting, but the hope remains that maybe spending a night in another state will change the paper. If it does then the entities must prey off of fear and also solidifies that this will happen everywhere. Maybe I am witnessing the end of everything. Surely we can travel miles out of the major cities and be safe right? Isn’t that what someone sending a bomb would do? Target all of 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 will kill us off. Radiation poisoning is no joke. We would not only die, we would die horribly. There really isn’t a bright side to this, no matter the scenario. 

#

I finish the movie and then walk over to the closet. I’m ready for a good, long soak in the hot tub. The chill in the air here is definitely different than Dallas. Even with the heater on, there is a distinct chill in the air. I select a crisp, white robe and smile. This place may have been old, but it is still full service. You would never find things like this in a cheap hotel. Definitely not one that I can afford. I slip it over my bathing suit, grab my key card, and walk down the hall. 

A few doors down I can hear someone’s T.V. blaring. It’s loud as hell, the person watching it must be deaf. It reminds me of my grandfather’s westerns blaring at full volume in the living room. I’m pretty sure I heard a horse whinny. At least I know that I’m not alone. I walk into the pool room, hang up the robe and slip into the tub. I am in heaven as the heat sinks into my skin. If the end of the world really is happening in eight days, this is a great way to spend my time. It is perfectly quiet─ just me and the warmth. 

My body sags as the weight of the world melts away. My eyes close and I rest my head against the cool concrete. Seconds after I close my eyes, there is a thunderous boom. I jump, whipping my head around. The sound reverberates around the enclosed space, but nothing is here. Both of the doors are sealed tight. My lower lip trembles as the water trickles down my face. That boom, I know it anywhere. I have it etched into my memory. I expect at any moment the room will collapse around me. I imagine the burning blast of air that rips away my insides. 

Stop it, I tell myself, just stop. There is nothing here, you’re just tired. I try to rationalize it. Maybe it is my neighbor’s T.V. Or maybe, I think, every time you close your eyes you’ll relive your own death again and again. My blood runs cold at the thought. How long can I last? One day─ two? I shudder despite the burning temperatures of the water. Suddenly, the sauna doesn’t sound so good.  

#

It is around three a.m. when I get the call. When I had gotten back to my room earlier I ordered as many caffeinated drinks as I could. After two monsters and several diet cokes, I am fairly certain that I can taste colors. I keep action movies going in the background and play games on the laptop. I figure as long as I am doing something I can’t fall asleep. I am in the zone blasting away at bad guys when my phone goes off. I pause and look at my phone, it’s Devon. Confused I answer immediately. 

“Hello?” 

There is a pause on the line, followed by a few sniffles. I decide that maybe he has butt dialed me but I talk into the phone anyway. “Hello? Devon?” 

“Hey, Kate. Yes, I’m here.” His voice sounds shaky as if he has been crying. I am instantly alarmed. 

“Hey, is everything OK?” I ask. There are 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 answer. My heart is hammering in my chest, I don’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 sniffs again. “I’m sorry to have to let you know that Zedd will no longer be coming into the office.” My hands won’t stop shaking. I had just seen him less than two days ago. “Did he quit? Is he OK?” I ask softly. 

There is a long pause on the other end. I think that maybe he has hung up, but then finally he answers. “Zedd─” Devon’s voice falters and he has to take a couple of breaths before continuing, “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 thank him for letting me know and hang up the phone. 

Part III coming soon.

❤ Grey

Our Current Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Apocalyptic Campaign Adventure Story Re-cap

So if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I run mini-campaigns and story arcs (along with my novels and short stories I leave on here.) If you managed to come into this campaign a little late, or just want to enjoy the story─ here it is!

The year is 2060, we’ve discovered that J.R.R Tolkien’s tales were true and that they just existed in another dimension that he stumbled upon as a young man. Their world’s magic is wizards, ours, scientists. But there was a problem when we opened the gates

to the other side. We didn’t realize that by opening one portal, we opened several more allowing the other side to stroll into ours. Dragons have decimated our defenses and burned down several cities, a nuclear reactor has gone critical and caused a super race of Orcs, Trump is now king of Middle-earth, and we are in a gridlocked battle to take back our planet. Humans now have the ability to do magic, but not all of us have great powers─ some are just weird or useless. Science is found to be evil and banned, replaced with spell-books.

Underground there has been a faction of dark elves and humans that have slowly built up defenses. Humans, being new to magic, are seen as second class citizens. Enter you, the leader of the underground race. You are strong, a bit stupid, and vaguely remember science. You have a plan, a good one, to conquer the underground and then, yesss the world. You need to build a team of what you can find that will help with this plan. You are so pleased by this plan, you are so great. You’ll have to remember to pat yourself on the back later. You have to make a few trips this next time but you have saved up enough vacation hours that it is possibly to take a whole two weeks to gather the team. Off we go to get our sexy─I mean badass team of─ something to do the plan. Whatever, we’ll figure it out! Off we go.

You decide on a team of a rogue, fighter, magic, science, cleric, defender. Yes, all of them damn it. You had to have calculated someone in there that will help, and surely they’ll do it for the experience, right? Who needs money! After some time of negotiations, and by negotiations you mean beating them with a club and chaining them together, you have a team─ Willing, or eventually willing, fuck it! And maybe one day you’ll give them weapons too. After they see how seriously awesome you are. After weeks of brainwas- persuasion, they have come to see that we all need to come together and rule these pesky elves. They’re a fairly docile race that believes in ‘talking it out’ instead of fighting. What a bunch of dum-dums. Not a weapon to be found. Now it’s time to decide.

#

What do we do? Because, well, you’re awesome plan didn’t quite anticipate it being─this easy? Ah, to hell with it! Ah HA yes! Pillage the town. Excellent. The six of us shall set fire to this town and create- terror. So much terror they will be speaking about it for quite. Some. Time. Weeks, maybe even─a month. Ah, I’m going to cry happiness tears. Next, we become castle stormers but now, yes the scientist and the mage make big booms on all the rooftops and the horse’s manes. Their hair is far too lush for my liking. Show offs.

We set their world on fire without too much trouble. It’s easy, and I have become their master. I, am invincible. We have acquired more slav- I mean servants to persuade. Us, and our less-pretty ponies are charging our way to the castle.

#

This is insane, there’s hardly anyone guarding the castle. At this rate, I’ll have new digs and probably sleeping in a bed fit for, well, me.

We burst through the gates, our torches held high and pause inside. Scattered around are several images of different kings of all ages. There’s peculiar paper hats shaped like crowns, and a cheap looking throne. In front of it is a large, fake stone with a sword in it.

We shuffle our way through and discover a large hall with lots of seats surrounding a dirt arena. They must have used this for some sort of…spectating.It seems the lords of this very odd castle have fled. For now, we will enjoy our- win? And wake to a new day of battle. Our battles, though victorious, have left us feeling less than satisfied at the fact that we haven’t fought much. Are they really battles, I wonder? The dark elves have retreated further into their tunnels and have been replaced by our pale brethren.

Well, never mind. My team has finally trustworthy enough to allow weapons and we have picked up a few miners, converted to fighters, and a bard. He seems obsessed with me and follows me around all day, but I cannot fault him. I am, after all, glorious.

I’m super conflicted, there’s a side of me that really wants to charge up to the surface, or follow the elves further into the tunnel. I can see a number, it’s clear in my mind. 9, yes 9, perfect. We shall storm the surface. Grab your weapons team, WOO YEAH we’re going all out. Epic battle, here we come!

On our steeds we charge, upward to the surface. Our weapons drawn, our voices roaring we plunge into the light.

The sun blinds us as we charge out screaming into the open. We quiet as we look around. Where…are we? There is nothing but sand, dirt, and hills for miles. In the distance there appears to be a city but there are a few hills along the way. There doesn’t seem to be anything else around accept for that one town. The weather feels dry and the sun is beating overhead. We sheath our weapons. What is this nonsense? Just a few years ago this place was crawling with Orcs. When will our battle happen? I growl and stamp my feet.

A horrible screech fills the air and I spin toward the noise. Oh hell yeah. The color drains from the others’ face but I let out a whoop and start beating my sword against my shield. A large, red dragon is diving toward us, its belly filling with flame. “MAGE” I shout behind me. He looks to me his eyebrows raised, “I can’t just pump out a wall spell right away, I need time” he shouts. Precious seconds are ticking by as the dragon blows a wall of flame. It’s screaming toward our team when I yell, “Tuck and roll, princess’s─ he’s coming in hot!” We dive back into the cave as a wall of fire destroys everything in front of us. The mage screams, rolling on the ground and we all quickly help him stamp out the fire (and maybe his fingers too) “Well then,” the mage growls, “I guess some thanks is in order. I’ll prepare my spell now, thanks.” I’m not a 100% sure, but I think I detect a hint of sarcasm in his words. We send a scout outside and when he doesn’t return, we have our answer. Or he’s a big coward mcpoop.

I have another scout crawl over with a sword to catch a glimpse of the angry beast. He knows where we are, and dragons hate anything near their nesting grounds. This one would not budge until we are taken out. The soldier sacrifices his life as I manage to spot just a flash of red to the south. We now know which way he’s coming from. I’m surprised as the mage’s spell surrounds us.

With our mage close, we stay behind the hill but have our archers use a first wave of arrows and the mage ready another spell. The arrows fall harmlessly to the ground and we dive behind the rock as another burst of flame narrowly misses us. The mage’s spell has kept us in one piece and bought us precious time as the dragon goes to loop around. We shift our position behind the other side of the rock and wonder how long this asshole is going to be able to produce fire. Surely, he must be tiring. “Um…sir?” I turn back and look at the squeaky sounding voice. It belongs to a young man, a farmer boy I suspect. “Maybe we could try freezing the beast or aim for his belly.” After I stare at him for several seconds he adds, “that’s uh…their weak spot?” I clap him hard on the shoulder, “good man─” that is very useful information.” I grin and look at the others, “alright guys, you heard what he said, aim for the belly!” There’s a few hearty laughs and they nod. We aim dead center as the creature fills its belly once more, with a yell, we give her all we’ve got.

In a combined effort, the ice and arrows do the trick and the beast dives for the earth. He hits the ground, stunned but still alive. “Ah, shit.” I mutter as the beast shakes it’s head, trying to get up.

The mage struggles to keep up as I charge toward the fallen beast. He tries to push himself up, but I manage to clamber up his neck and saddle his head. I toss my shield aside and stab downward. He roars and shakes his head violently, flinging me to the ground. In the distance I hear a faint call, a squeaky voice. I can’t make out what he says. I’m shaking my own head, dazed from the fall. He yells again and I catch the tail end of his, “THROAT” No head, right? I stumble a few steps, bend over and pick up my sword. I stare hard at the beast, the cogs starting to spin. Ah, the lad had a point before. It’s the throat with my sharp and pointy. I rush at him and he screeches loudly as the flem completely covers my face and shoulders. My sword finds it’s target and he shudders, then dies.

I take a few breaths and then climb the giant lizard again. I rub my foot into his eye and spit on him. My chest puffs and I turn toward my adoring crowd. “Are you slow? Like, legitimately a moron? You could have gotten us all KILLED.” My brows furrow, this wasn’t the greeting I expected for saving their lives. “You ungrateful shit. I spat. I just saved your lives.” “Barely,” he counters. I huff, crossing my arms. “Well, you smell bad.” His eyebrows go up, “and a child at that, lovely.” I turn over to the team and they all look away.

I clear my throat. “Well, you’re welcome,” I say loudly. Groans fill the air as they all move around the beast and start looting. The mage sighs and shakes his head, “we have a choice here.” I look at him blankly. “Dragons protect treasure.” My eyes widen. Forget taking over the town if we can get some amazing loot. Who knows what that creature was sitting on? Yes, the more I think on it the better it sounds. Come, fellow travelers, we shall head toward the treasure!

I turn to the mage and bellow, “can you do a sort of, you know, voo doo or gobledy-whatsit to find out where he came from?” The mage raises a brow, “A location spell?” he says dryly. I nod my head, “yeah, sure.” He sighs and opens his spell book. After several moments (and bizarre instruments the mage brandished) we were on our way to the creature’s den. I wondered if we would stumble upon a bit of entertainment. Like a super orc, or perhaps hoards of goblins. My mouth practically watered thinking about wetting my sword on their bodies. I strode ahead of the group laughing loudly at how they would never suspect such a clever group. We made it over the final hill and I paused, looking up at the glorious mountains sprinkled with forests.

We reach a fork in the road & the farm boy gently taps my shoulder. “uh─sir?” I turn toward him, irritated at my interrupted daydream. “yes?” “We aren’t really dressed for the mountains. Shouldn’t we get different clothes?” I glance down. “Alright, men─” someone clears their throat loudly and I arch a brow at them. I stare for a few seconds and shrug it off. I open my mouth to speak and I hear a small, “and women!” I ground my jaw in annoyance, “yes, yes” I say quickly, waving my hands at them. “We’re going to get clothes, I turn toward the farm hand─ warm ones. We’ll need them for the journey to the beast’s den.” The team grumbles but they all agree and we head toward the town. It’s a bit out of the way, but I estimate we will be closing in On the dragon’s lair by nightfall if we hurry, or at the latest tomorrow morning. The longer we take, the more it will be looted as word spreads throughout the town. In just over an hour we cross the threshold. The town is alive with hundreds of people.

It’s a quaint place, like something from a storybook and I can’t help but chuckle. What strange times we live in with competing technology and dragons. It takes some searching, but we finally locate the merchant. He’s a shifty looking sort and immediately approaches us. “Well then, what can I do you for?” he asks, eyeing one of the women archers. She crosses her arms over her chest and walks away. “We need warm things to cover our bodies.” “Jesus,” the mage growls, “we need clothes.” The merchant nods, “I see.” “We have all sorts here, but we may not have enough in stock for a group your size.” He rubs his chin, “I may be able to put in a rush order, but it’ll cost you.” His eyes are practically gleaming. “What have you got for it?” I’m impatient with this game. “We─ have dragon scales,” I reply eagerly.

The merchant’s eyes widen and then he rubs his hands together. “Dragon scale, you say? Let me take a look at it.” The mage grips my arm tightly. “The fighter is delusional. We have no such thing.” The words fly from my mouth, “Yes we do. We fought it this morning why are you lying to this man? I single-handedly ceased it’s breath with my sword, the wretched thing firing at us every second it got.” The mage relaxed his grasp and placed a hand on his forehead, “gods-damn it man, have you no wit?” I pursed my lips and furrowed my brow. “Right. Well, you have just made our task exponentially more difficult.” He stormed away and I shrug off his moodiness. “A red dragon then,” he purrs, rubbing his hands together. “Tell you what, I’ll let you and your team have these fine furs for a fraction of the cost.”

I grin and nod my head. The group groans. “You idiot, he wants something far more in return,” the archer growls. I raise an eyebrow at her then turn to him, “Is this true?” He does a slow, exaggerated nod. “Take me with your team. You are going to loot, right?” “See?” she spats. “I told you he would want a piece of the action.” I tilt my head, “no, you said─” “Nevermind,” she interrupts. I can’t understand why they are all so hostile toward me, but they do have a point. One more share wouldn’t be so bad, right? I grin at him.

“I’ll even sweeten the deal. If you bring me, I’ll offer two of my best men in return and I’ll sell you the furs at 75% off. A steal, really.” The group shifts and stares at him and then me. “Well, what say you?” he asks. The mage broods in the back.

The mage speaks from behind me at the same time as me, “Sure, come alo─” “Just take the scales,” we size each other up. “What harm can come if he just tags along?” I ask. “What harm can─” he starts incredulously, “he can rob us, murder us, or have friends waiting for starters. And don’t believe for a second he hasn’t thought of it.” The man mutters something behind me. “Or,” I challenge, “he could come in handy and his men could help fight.” “Yeah,” the man says. “Shut up,” we yell together. The man opens his mouth pointing a finger and then changes his mind and shuts it. After a few seconds, he tries a different approach. “Listen, things aren’t going too well with my business. I need this and it’s not like I could carry it all back.”

“You’d have plenty of time if we’re all dead,” the mage snapped. I start laughing and both of them lift a brow at me. “This isn’t funny,” the mage says. I shake my head, “so distrustful,” I say. “And you’re an idiot,” he shoots back. I roll my eyes.

“Well then, take a vote. I say we’ll be fine.” I emphasize the word ‘fine’ waving my hand. “Sure, just sign our lives away. No big deal.” I frown at him, “remember who saved your ass in the tunnels, shithead. Oh, and on land.”

The mage grumbles but nods. “How soon can you and your men be ready? With the furs as well,” I add feeling proud that I remembered. “We have the furs in stock, the men will be back within the hour.” He grins, “you won’t regret this, thank you!” The team is still behaving coldly toward the man, so I clap him on the shoulder. “No need to thank me, just have our backs and we’ll have yours.” The merchant disappears in the back and then returns with enough furs to last a few winters. “Don’t have enough, eh?” the mage drawls. The merchant chuckles, scratching his head. “Have to make a living somehow,” he says. I pat my belly after we’ve fully dressed in our furs. “I don’t know about you, but I could go for a bite.” The group agrees. “What’s good around here, man?” I ask.

“Only the one place,” he says shrugging. “But, they have good beer and decent wings.” My mouth waters. The way I’m feeling I could eat a hundred of those. The group all heads over to the pub chatting excitedly. The door opens and we all inhale at once. Hell yes, food.

“Hey─ David! How’s it going?” The merchant waves and smiles. “Great, me and my friends here want a round of wings and beer.” The tavern owner nods and heads to the kitchen. After a day like today, my bones feel weary. If we’re the only ones to know about the dragon, maybe we could just spend one night here. I look around the table and it seems like everyone else is thinking the same thing. We look tired. The man bursts from the back with another busty waitress and we’re served our beers. If heaven were a place on earth, it would be here.

We decide to stay in the warm inn, especially after our bellies are filled and that we will rise early for our adventure. I barely make it to my room when I collapse in my bed. I vaguely hear some idle threats from the mage before drifting off.

Sometime in the middle of the night, a scratching noise sounds outside my window. I grumble, roll over, and peek out. My eyes widen as the most beautiful woman I have ever seen floats outside. She curls her finger at me, beckoning me to join her. I grin shyly at her. She is captivating and the most unearthly beauty I have ever seen. I glance back at the mage, he’s muttering something in his sleep. The only sound in the inn is the crackling fire behind me. There’s some animalistic part of me that wants to join her.

I’m nervous she may change her mind but when I turn back, she’s gotten closer to the glass. She gently taps, smiling at me. I hold my finger up and run to put on clothes. When I return, she’s nowhere to be found. I search outside and sigh in relief. She’s waving below. I slip open the window and smile, the mage is out cold. Now that the cool air has hit me, I’m wide awake. I look around outside and realize I can climb down and then up the side of the building. Quiet as I can, I slip on my boots and tip-toe over to the window.

My foot catches on the wood and for a moment I think I might slip but I regain my balance. These boards are slick with ice. I lean out, my leg over, and In my haste to jump over the window, I lose my footing and tip over the side. I crash, hard, into a cart full of linens. The cart bends and then cracks into two. I think the worst has possibly happened when I catch of whiff of something─ foul. My nose wrinkles what on earth have I─ my eyes widen and I retch. This isn’t just any pile of linens. It’s dirty unmentionables. I fling them off of me as fast as I can, screaming at the top of my lungs. I jump up, brushing myself off and shuddering. I have never smelled something this awful in my life. And I’ve cleaned elven chamber-pots. This smell will haunt me for some time. I turn around to the inn and freeze. A dozen eyes are staring at me from the entry way. Then the snickers start until their laughter is a dull roar. I’ll never live this down.

The next day I wake grumbling to myself. The mage has a shit-eating grin on his face. “Morning, sunshine,” he calls. This is the happiest I’ve seen him in a while. Figures it would be due to my suffering. “So,” he says, “mind telling me what last night was about?”

My brows furrow as I purse my lips. I didn’t owe this guy anything and I know he’d really make fun of me if I actually tell him why I leaped out of a second story building. I’m going to lie my ass off. Screw him and his dumb face. “I was sleepwalking, if you must know.” he mage squints an eye and tilts his head. “Did you now,” he says, stroking his chin. “That must have been some dream.” He’s watching me closely. I don’t like it, not one bit. I quickly change the subject, “Anyhow, my misfortunes aside, we should get moving.” He nods at me. “For the first time you’re actually making sense,” he pauses, “that worries me but we’ll address it later. Breakfast is ready downstairs.” I nod and gather the last of my things. He goes to walk out and then turns back, “try not to lose your footing on the way down.”

Breakfast has left a bad taste in my mouth. The shit-giving has not stopped since I’ve woken up. We trudge out at first light and I sulk in the back next to the mage. Curiously, he’s seemed nicer toward me than usual. Who knew that my misery made him happy. Joy. t’s mid morning by the time we reach the bottom of the frosty peaks. The group stretches and yawns, then we start unloading our various dried meats and fruit. The archer grins at me and pulls out three very large rabbits from her bag. We all stare hungrily at them. “I thought we might like something fresh,” she says as she lays them down. “We’ll need to cook them, though. Might add a little to our trip, but we’ll make it before sundown.” I’m barely listening as I pull out my knife, ready to skin them. The mage eyes them warily.

He goes to say something and I hold up my hand, “must you always ruin everything for me? What is it now, a devil creature going to pop out and grab me?” The mage sneers, “Do you think before you speak, or are you really as thick headed as an ogre?” I roll my eyes at him and grip one of the animals. He places a hand on my arm, “cooking an animal means fire,” he says softly. “Usually,” I say, tearing the fur away. He sighs, “fire, causes smoke. Cooked meat draws in creatures.” I pause, staring longingly at the small meal.

“What if we cook it in the coals?” One of the men offer. “Then, no smoke.” The mage nods, “yes, but that doesn’t solve the issue of the smell.” None of us like what he’s saying one bit. There’s shifting in the group as everyone quiets. The archer looks at me, “well?”

“Yeah, he’s right,” I set the meat down and mutter, “damn it.” The whole group groans and goes off to their respective corners to eat their jerky in silence. After a bit, we send out a few scouts. The treasure draws closer to our team and I can’t wait to have my glorious loot and be rid of these assholes. I decide I can buy another team. One that doesn’t know anything about my unfortunate event. My mind wanders back to that beauty and I hope I get to see her again when this is through, in the daylight and not falling out of my room.

 

We’ll stop here for now and I’ll add part two for all of you. I hope that you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far. Take care all.

xoxo – Grey ❤

 

 

 

Handmade Mini-Book Giveaway

Hi guys! My birthday is next Thursday and to celebrate I wanted to give away a hand drawn, hand written fantasy mini book. If you would like to enter, you can enter here. 

I’ll announce the winner on my Birthday!

The story will be all fantasy and done in mixed media. I will hand bind it, draw it, paint it, and write it. I’ve always been a lover of making things and especially for other people. If you know someone that also may love this, send them over to Twitter~

Have a wonderful, glorious Friday dears. ❤

Grey

You can find all of my work on Royal Road now

If you’ve wondered what I’m about, I’m not just a blogger─ I write novels, novellas, and short stories. (when we aren’t adventuring with our stories on Twitter.)When I have time, I record podcasts and audiobooks for all of you as well. Occasionally, I will post my work on here for you to read but I thought it a good idea to post where you can find all of my work!

I’m aiming to become published, (so that I can write and do podcasting for a living) but until I become one of the lucky few to do that, I like to share it with others. It gives me real joy and excitement to create these worlds for all of you.

If you would like to see what I’m about, you can find all of my written work here. 

I don’t have all of my work up, but I am working toward getting it ALL slowly uploaded (I have to sort through tons of stuff) but I should have it all up in the next month.

If you’re familiar with my work and you’d love to support it, this is a great site to do it through, or through my Patreon page.

For anyone and everyone that takes time out of their day to read my stories and check out my work, thank you.

Have a wonderful Tuesday

❤ Grey

Halloween Audiobook Coming – Your Votes Put To Spooky Fun

So after two days, we got all the votes in and you guys have spoken!

We’re going 1600 occult style witches, in a modern setting, with a family home. I can’t wait to write and record this, it’s my favorite time of year! I thought I’d make it even better by creating a fun, creepy audiobook. I haven’t gotten to make one in a while, but if you aren’t familiar with my work, you can find the audiostories here

Thanks for everyone that participated in the vote and I’ll get this up as soon as I can. I’m shooting for two weeks, just to make sure that it is done well, and still in time for the holiday.

Stay tuned, dearies. An awesome, scary tale is coming your way.

Image result for witches occult

Stay creepy, friends.

❤ Grey

Someone left their cellphone in my store. I shouldn’t have unlocked it. A horror short.

Warning** This is NSFW and for some, NSFL. ** Reader beware.
Let me start by saying, I’m not a nosy person─ and I’m definitely not a thief─ so when I first noticed that the customer had left their phone, I ran outside to give it back to them. We’re located in a little strip-mall shopping center, so the parking lot is literally right outside.
Here’s where things began to get weird. The parking lot, was empty.
I tried to rationalize it. Maybe they had been picked up and drove away.
Maybe I hadn’t walked outside as quickly as I thought I had.
I’m telling you I had myself relaxed and snacking on some beef jerky within 10 mins of that man leaving.
Notice I said it began to get weird.
You probably won’t believe me. How can you, you weren’t here?
Please, don’t judge me─ I’m begging you. I need to tell someone my story. Because there is no way in hell anyone will understand.
Especially when they come for me.
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
September is an especially slow month in retail. I’ve been working in it for nearly ten years and every year is slow as hell around this time. When I say slow, I mean one customer per three hours kind of slow. The only people that tended to walk in were personal shoppers, or old people. Everyone buys shit online now.
Which leads us to my next predicament.
It started as a little jingle in the drawer. You know, one of those little trills an app makes when it gives you a notification or a reminder? I was pretty annoyed at first because it reminded me of my own app I use to buy and sell stuff online.
By the third chime, I scooped up my phone to turn off the notifications. I was super annoyed because I had just finished selling my prized books and marked them as sold. I was already sore I had to get rid of them and it was marked as sold. Jeez buttholes, leave me alone. But it wasn’t my phone. In fact, I hadn’t even received any spam mail or texts. So that got me curious.
It’s not your phone, I reminded myself.
After the dozenth trickle of messages, and no calls, I decided to go ahead and pick it up. I mean, why not? It probably had a finger print lock on it anyway. I thought about just shutting it off, but then thought better of it in case the owner called the phone looking for it.
Personally, if it were mine I’d just use a phone locator and ping it.
The guy had seemed older though. Maybe he didn’t know how to.
The red notification indicated that there were more than a thousand messages waiting for a response. Whoa. So it was the same app I used. Whatever this guy was selling, it was super popular. The most messages I’d ever received on there was when I gave stuff away for free. I bet he was doing just that.
I wish I could say that I put it back in the drawer and went about my business the rest of the day─ and to be fair I had the first hour or so. But the messages just kept coming.
Every few seconds triing.
It was really getting under my skin and at the same time peaking my curiosity. Over a thousand messages waiting for you, and still counting. What the hell was he offering?
OK, I reasoned. Maybe I just take a little peek.
I pulled down on the screen and then tapped the app. To my surprise, it logged in. The tab for messages was at the bottom and I shamelessly opened the top one.
Is this still available?
??
Hello?
I squinted at the thumbnail. It was pale flesh colored and looked folded up. From the image, I couldn’t exactly make out what it was.
Well, I had gotten this far.
I tapped on the picture and waited as it pulled it up.
It appeared to be a jumbled mess. I still couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing. It looked like a piece of furniture straight out of a Halloween shop. The feet looked like they were made of actual feet. The rest of the─ chair? Was made out of various body parts all sewn together. For reference, the seller stood next to it and you could see him from the neck down. I recognized the same shirt he had worn into our store.
OK.
Not what I was expecting, but couldn’t be what all the messages were about. Disgusted, I clicked on the messages again.
The next photo was more disturbing than the last. I retched and quickly closed the picture.
Holy. Shit.
This guy was fucked up. I needed to call the police right away.
You bet your ass I was going to, until this next part.
I had my phone in my hand, when it went off. First, it rang.
I do what I always do when I don’t recognize the number─ I rejected the call.
Big mistake.
My phone shut itself off. I mean, straight away. It was like by rejecting that call, I shut off the power instead.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when the store phone rang. I was shaking, but put my game face on and picked up the phone.
“Thank you for calling─”
“Why didn’t you pick up the phone?”
“I’m sorry?”
“Well, you were so enthralled by my apps and going through my private messages but you couldn’t pick up your phone?”
“Jesus.”
“Yes, I suspect you’ll pray to him soon enough.”
“You’re a piece of shit, and I’m going to call the police. Right fucking now.”
“Are you?”
I swallowed a few times in confusion. “What the fuck is wrong with you man? That’s a little kid. That’s so fucked.”
He laughed at me. He actually laughed at me. The kind of laugh that makes you think they know something that you don’t.
“I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you touched my phone with your bare hand. I’m also going to take a guess that all the cameras in your store don’t work.”
I was completely silent. He had me there. But it didn’t change the fact that this was his phone, with his info stored on it. All of it was stupid, he was just trying to scare me.
“Fuck you. You don’t have shit on me” I shouted.
He paused and then chuckled. “Call the police, Richard. Go ahead.”
The line went dead.
Shaken, I replaced the phone back on the cradle. What the fuck was going on? He wanted me to call the cops. Told me to. He knew my name. I glanced down at my shirt and then sighed in relief. I’m a fucking idiot, my name was on my shirt.
I was going to nail this asshole. The cops would take me seriously, it’s not like I would call the police on myself if I were guilty. I felt sick to my stomach as I heard the cute jingle going off repeatedly. How old did these people think that child was? Chained up like that, covered in─
I bent over to the trash and puked until I couldn’t any more.
First thing’s first. My hands shook hard but I managed to take a few breaths and steady them enough to pick up the phone. I dialed 9 when the phone lit up.
“Call the police, Richard. Go ahead.”
I hung up the phone and picked it up. I’m ashamed and glad that I did. It was a text. A text from someone labeled ‘mom’.
Hey hunnie, I was thinking about making a pizza tonight does that sound good?
My eyebrows creased as I looked at the message again. Mom spelled hunnie that way. My mom.
But this wasn’t my phone. I picked up my own, unlocking the screen. It was still blank. I searched through my apps frantically looking for my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. I sighed as they popped up. I clicked on my instagram and frowned. It was asking me to login. I tried to select to login with Facebook and sighed in frustration when it said my account wasn’t found.
What the hell?
The phone next to me went off again.
Hey dude,ustill going to come this weekend?
I got the doritos if u can snag some cokes.
The name on the text read JB. His name was Josh, but he’d always hated it and went by JB. We all knew that. I also knew that we were going to have a chill online stream with him, me, and his followers. Fuck.
Fuck this was all wrong.
I grabbed the phone and looked at it again. It was exactly like mine, a black galaxy s8 with a black cover. A black cover with a WW logo on the back just like mine of my favorite super hero. I clicked on app after app, all logged into my accounts with saved passwords from everything.
This guy had every password I ever owned, all logged onto this device under my name─
with my fingerprints.
Oh fuck, oh god. I swear to you guys it wasn’t me and I didn’t.
I couldn’t do that to anyone.
Especially a child.
#
Guess what? I’m back and wish that I had better news.
Yesterday went by uneventful. I still haven’t called the police. There is an image waiting for me on the new phone. I’ve tried texting and calling on my other phone, the one that was mine just yesterday. It just hangs up immediately and telling me that my text messages aren’t going through.
I’ve tried everything from resetting it (even factory resetting) and turning it off, and then on. Even weirder is the fact that I can’t download anything on it, even on wifi. It’s like the thing all of a sudden bricked. I think I’m going to go ahead and get a new one later today after my shift.
Since last night until this morning the messages haven’t stopped. I told you guys earlier that if I attempt to uninstall the app, it starts appearing in my email. I mean, full messages with images and all. I glanced through a few of them and quickly deleted them all.
I’ve changed every single one of my passwords, my bank account, all of my social media accounts, and got a new phone number. I was a little late coming in today because of it.
Did you just read that? I said I changed my phone number and all of my accounts.
That’s why I thought I had escaped this.
Until I pulled into the parking lot less than ten minutes ago.
tirring
I couldn’t believe it. Could. Not. The messages started pouring in again, one after the other just like before.
Who in the actual fuck is this guy and how is he transferring my stuff over like this?
I had this all figured out. I was going to attempt to do my research tonight so I could have a solid leg to stand on when I called the police. But the more I’ve asked people, the more they let me know it was in my best interest to just start my life over and not mention it.
I’m so torn. I want to do the right thing, but how can I when I know that it will mean years of convincing juries otherwise? And some definite jail time for me while proving my innocence. Even if I don’t get jail time, I’ll spend years of my life in and out of courtrooms. No one will believe me. I’ll be labeled a serial killer, or worse maybe a pedophile. I haven’t looked at more of the pictures, but the ones I did see were enough to lock me or anyone away forever.
All that blood.
This next part I’m sharing with you─ the one that made me lose the contents of my stomach─ well, you probably should stop reading this. Now.
My hands can’t stop shaking. I can’t make those images go away, I have to tell someone.
What I’m about to share with you, you can’t un-see. So just be warned, reader. I gave you a warning, so this next part is on you.
Those poor children. They are being forced, they have to be. God knows what else has happened. They’re all skin stretched over bone. The look on their faces. I don’t mean to be crude, but I can’t find any other way to relate to what their eyes show─ have you ever seen someone that has just died? Or maybe a junkie that has OD’d? Their eyes have this really weird glaze over them, like a film. I only know because my father OD’d on heroine and then later died. His eyes looked the same, moments before he stopped breathing.
This child in the photo had that very same look. The same eyes. The eyes just before death. They were covered, and I mean covered, in blood and─ parts. Human parts.
It gets worse. Remember, I tried to tell you not to look at this.
Some of those parts were large, they looked like they belonged to an adult. Then there were─smaller chunks. Please, don’t make me say it. Fucking christ. It was other children.
Do you know why that child was covered in blood?
I want you to think long and hard about starving. Really starving. Like the kind that will leave you desperate to ingest dirt or bugs, literally anything that gets near you. That is the level of thin this poor child looked.
Not only were they covered in who knows how many other parts of any known age, I haven’t gotten to the reason for not getting any sleep last night, or eating anything since then. It’s all I can think about─ all I can see. I mean, this is really messed up.
The child was also eating itself.
I can’t stop crying, I don’t know how I’m going to make it through work today. I know tomorrow is my day off, so if I can just pull through this six hour shift, I can have a whole day to do something. I’ve heard of reverse image searching, so I know if someone has ever posted from this image address it might show up again. Right? Maybe give me an idea of where this guy is located. I mean, that’s how it works I think. I could be horribly dumb or wrong, but I think it can find it if it’s been posted before.
If I can somehow prove that this has been done before my social media or emails were created (and I suspect he must have been doing it for a long time) maybe I have a snowball’s chance in hell to prove this was all being pinned on me.
I’m grasping at straws and I know it.
#
I finished my work day somehow. He hasn’t messaged, or called me anymore. I still haven’t had the courage to look at that image. That text message with the ‘?’ on it and ‘image attached I told all of you about earlier. I don’t think I have the heart or the stomach to see what this psycho has prepared for me. Or what he’s doing in my name, on my accounts.
I’ve mostly grown immune to all the vibrations in my pocket throughout the day. I don’t trust throwing it out in case he’s watching me, but I don’t want to destroy it because it’s evidence. I’m still clinging to some belief in human compassion. Maybe people will believe me.
But even as I think it, I know they won’t. I have to actually prove they exist somewhere I can’t get to. I could get lucky, he might be another state away.
#
I’m sitting at my computer at home now when I discover the truth.
He isn’t in another state, neither are they, and I now know that I am unequivocally fucked.
In fact, it could be a neighbor for all I know. It’s in the same fucking area as my house. And I’ve only managed to reverse image search two of the pictures. The one’s that I’d already seen.
How long has this been going on? Has he been watching me this whole time?
I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t me doing all of this and if I even believe myself at this point.
#
It’s my day off and now I have something else to worry about. My mother is missing, she never came home last night.
Her job called earlier asking if she was coming in. I didn’t even know they had the landline number.
I always thought it was strange that we were probably one of the few families that actually still had one.
I was a little worried when she didn’t show last night since we had planned to have a pizza and watch a movie. I didn’t get too worried since she’s a nurse and sometimes has to work odd shifts. She also gets shit reception, so a missed text wasn’t really that big of a deal.
Not coming home the next day, or showing up for a shift? Big deal. My mother is the sort of woman that hasn’t missed a shift since the 90s. Pretty sure she isn’t going to mess up that track record.
I don’t want to admit it, but I’m pretty sure me ignoring that image has everything to do with this. He isn’t going to stand for being ignored. Apparently, I didn’t learn this the first time I didn’t answer his call.
I’ll admit it, I thought this could have been a prank. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking this had to be JB doing some stunt for his Youtube. He’s pranked me before. I grew sort of suspicious after the reverse image search showed up in my neighborhood and my phone was bricked. I thought maybe he had put my phone as the ‘new phone’ and maybe gave me a bricked phone.
Though admittedly, he’s not really a genius and he wouldn’t do something as disgusting as this. Denial has been strong in me since all of this is happened. I’m looking for any way possible way to not have a choice in this.
I know it’s shameful, but I don’t want this kind of responsibility. I didn’t ask for it. Why did this asshole pick me?
He’s forcing me every step of the way and by ignoring him, I’m just pissing him off.
Now my mother is suffering for my own ignorance. It’s one thing if it’s me, but she doesn’t need to be hurt because of it. That woman does everything for me. She has since my Dad decided that drugs were better than his family.
Now I’m getting mad. Mostly I’m confused, but my anger is slowly mounting at the sheer arrogance of this asshole. OK, squeamish or not, I’m going to have to look through more of these photos and reverse image search these. Maybe they’ll give me some kind of clue. Maybe they’ll give me something.
My answer was another text message. I knew better than to ignore it this time.
I snatched it up and opened the message.
Maybe you’ll do better at not ignoring me this time,it read.
There was an image above it. I recognized the chair immediately and my mother’s favorite pair of sandals. I clicked the image and braced myself.
She looked better than I thought she would, the only thing I noticed was a few small bruises by her left eye and a thin trickle of blood from her head. But her eyes were closed, which meant he had hit her hard enough to make her unconscious. My mom wasn’t super old, but I knew that a head injury on a woman that was nearing her 50’s to not be a good thing.
I’m so angry, I’m barely able to respond but I take a few breaths and type,
Alright, you have my attention. What do you want?
His response? A single smile emoji. Seconds go by, and then minutes. I’m to the point that I’ve chewed off all of my fingernails and even drew a little blood before the next message sends.
1309 David St, come through the side gate, bring no one.
Enter the back door and sit at the kitchen table.
Put your hands on the table, and do not move.
If you call the police, I will kill her and then I will kill you.
#
Fuck, you guys. I’m actually doing it. I know it’s got to be a trap, I mean, it has to be. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this man is going to do exactly as he says he will. Even if I do manage to call the police, he will kill her. Then, who knows how long until it’s me. I have the sinking feeling that if he is able to do as much as he has with the phone he’s given me, he’ll easily be able to brick and delete everything on it.
I would be the prime suspect in all of it and he wins, again. He knows that I’m at his mercy, he is toying with me and I can’t do anything about it. I may be on my way to my death, but I do exactly as he says.
#
My hands are resting on the table. There’s a strange odor that’s filled the house. It doesn’t smell bad, in fact, it smells absolutely delicious. The room smelled like something similar to a chicken pot pie. I could smell flour, carrots, onion, maybe some─ I sniff at the air again─ garlic? And there was another smell, like a rich and creamy smell. It was heavenly, and despite what I had been through in the last 48 hours my stomach audibly growled. I guess it had been a while since I’d actually eaten anything.
“Richard, I’m so glad that you could make it.”
His voice sounded different than I expected. I expected it to creep me out, or make my skin crawl. It was pleasant, like an older gentleman that was talking to an old friend. I immediately stared down at the table, careful to not look over at him. He was standing in the doorway.
“Oh now,” he tutted, “there’s no reason for that. You can look at me, I won’t harm you.”
I kept my eyes glued to the table, sure that this was some kind of trick. I’m really thrown by this nice guy act. He sounds genuine, like he really wants to be nice to me. My stomach twists in knots.
“Really, I won’t do you any harm. I just wanted to chat.”
“And, my mom?” I stutter.
“I promise I won’t harm her if you look at me. I prefer to look in your eyes. You can tell a lot about a man by looking him in the eyes. I prefer it.” His words were friendly, but there was an unspoken warning there. “You are a man, aren’t you Richard?” Now he’s insulting my manhood, but it’s his other words that lead me to think that I should listen. Not the insult.
I nod and tilt my head up and then stare right into his eyes.
I was right, he’s older but not super old. His eyes are kind, large and a pale shade of blue. He’s got creases just around his eyes, the kind of wrinkles you get from years of smiling and easy living. He’s dressed in a blue polo with khaki shorts and brown loafers. He looks the epitome of a well-off dad that just got back from the store. His hair has grayed a bit near his temples and he has a slender, yet masculine jawline. He doesn’t look particularly strong, but you can tell he keeps himself in shape.
It’s what’s in his hands that intrigue me. Two bowls with equal looking pies and forks sticking out.
He pads over and sets them on the table, scooting the one from his right hand to me.
My stomach rumbles again as the smell reaches my nose. It smells so damn good. I eye it warily as he digs into his own. After eating a couple of bites from his, he sighs, sticks the fork into mine and takes a scoopful into his mouth.
“Eat, Richard. You’re going to need your strength,” he says soothingly.
I don’t really want to, but I know this is part of his game. Control, power─ These sort of guys thrive off of it.
I stare down at the golden crust and smooth, creamy soup-like filling. Despite it all, he’s right. I do need to eat.
He smiles, raising his eyebrows and leans in, “don’t be shy, it’s homemade. None of that store-bought junk here. Made it just last night, popped it in the freezer and baked it a little while ago.” He stuffed some more in his mouth, “You’ll love it, I promise. It’s my mama’s recipe, she won best-in-state with this a few years ago.”
I picked up the fork and cut into the crust, there was an audible crunch as I scooped it out. He wasn’t joking about the flavor. The crust was perfectly flaky and buttery and the inside was creamy and smooth. It might have been that I was hungry, but this had been the best meat pie I’d ever eaten.
He smiled over at me, “how does it taste?”
I’m still baffled by him, but I nod, “it’s good.” I scoop more into my mouth, “really good,” I add.
He’s all grins from ear to ear and slaps the table, “see? You thought I was fibbing, didn’t you?” He leans over his own and shovels a bit more.
I grin nervously and relax a degree, looking around. I hope he hasn’t harmed mom too much. I don’t know what this man is planning or what he wants to do with me, but I know that I know too much.
I swallow a few times, take a breath and start my plea, “Please, don’t hurt her because of me─”
“Let’s not talk business over food, now, this is sacred,” he interrupts angrily. “People these days, they don’t understand about hunger. You can walk down the street and see the obesity.” He clicks his tongues a few times, “they raise their own damn kids the same way. Oh─” he covers his mouth, “please excuse my obscenities, that wasn’t very gentlemanly of me.”
I nod, shaking my head up and down like an idiot. As if he needs my permission. “Although, you’ve got a bit of a mouth on you too, don’t you young man?” He asks. I nod again. He eyes my fork hovering over my bowl, long enough that I get the point and quickly spoon some more into my mouth.
His easy smile returns and his face relaxes. I eat quietly, my eyes returning to the table. I thought about what it was he was saying, a knot of dread forming in my own stomach. My own mother was pretty heavy set for her height, she looked like she could have been close to two hundred pounds and was always fussing about losing weight. She’d tried different diets over the years, but would constantly sabotage herself and eat candy or cookies. I think she gave up some time ago.
So he didn’t like people that took food for granted, or over-ate. Was this why we were being targeted? I’m not thin as a rail, but I was nowhere near heavy.
“Most parents I get don’t deserve their children. They take care of themselves, you see,” he says. “I have to teach those children and parents a lesson about not taking life for granted. He leans back and finishes the last bite of his food. He neatly dabs at his mouth with the napkin, sets it down and then crosses his arms.
I’m about halfway done with my own when I finally get to the meat. The veggies had been extremely delicious, but the meat─ it was unlike anything I’d ever had. It was moist, yet firm and fell apart in my mouth. It had sort of a game-y flavor, but it wasn’t bad, I could tell it had been marinated or possibly pressure cooked to make it juicy.
“Well now, you’ve made it to the best part,” he chuckles. “That is a secret family recipe right there. Mama was so hung up on it, she’d never tell any of us.” He sighed and brushed at invisible crumbs on his pants, “except me.”
I nodded, trying not to say anything that would upset him more. Until just a few moments ago, you’d think this guy was just some pig-headed old man stuck in his ways. I know the reality behind his snake-like southern charm and the anger that really seethed below.
I want to get out of here. I want him to spit it out and tell me how I can save my mother, whatever he wants. I’d even kill if I had to. Not like my life isn’t already ruined. After several long minutes I finish the last of the pie. I follow suit and clean off my face and hands, then sit with my hands folded and wait.
He surprises me by extending his hand, “there’s a good boy. Alright now, go on and say your peace.”
There’s a large lump in my throat and I’m sure he can see me visibly shaking. He knows I’m scared, he knows he has me. Secretly he must be jumping for joy at the chance to watch me squirm. I want answers. I want to know why me, why all of this and why he has chosen to ruin my life. I’m just some guy trying to get by. I want to ask all of this, but I can tell he’s testing me and that I’m going to have to do this his way.
“What do you want from me?” I ask. I try to sound as non-threatening as I can, hoping to appeal to some form of his human side. If he has one.
He smiles at me again, but this time it’s another sort of smile. One that makes me believe that he already has what he’s looking for. Then, as if reading my own thoughts he says, “Oh, I’ve already gotten that. You see Richard, I’ve been doing this for a very, very long time. I’ll do it again once you’ve left, and I’ll get away with it.” He paused, inching closer, “Don’t try to find me, don’t be brave and just live what life you have left to. You’re free to go on about your way.” I sit very still, staring across at him.
“What do you mean? What about my mother?”
His grin gets wider. “She’s here, don’t you worry.” It’s not what he said, but how he’s said it. Like a game he’s playing with a child who doesn’t yet understand the rules.
He leans in real close, so close that I can smell his breath. It lingers in the air, the sweet smell of carrots, potatoes, and the delicious meat.
“Tell me again, Richard. How did you enjoy the meat pie?”
─To Be Continued? Maybe. The killer is still out there.
❤ Grey