Aftermath: Chapter Two

The apartment building was ominous and loomed over him as if at any moment it would topple over and crush him. He entered it any way; there was no other choice.

“Emily!” Jack Crandle called, his gray dress shirt was torn, his dark hair, usually parted and neat, was disheveled and he was in need of a shave.

He stumbled through long stretching corridors filled with debris. The ceiling was caved in and the support beams buckled.  None of that mattered. He was a desperate man now and he raced through the building without a second thought.

“Emily, Justin! Can you hear me?” He climbed deeper then higher into the building taking stairs two at a time and noticing the blood that stained them.

Jack came to a dead end. He could ascend no further, the stairs were blocked with rubble and cement. He pulled open the door nearest him and entered another hall. He caught glimpse of a dead elevator with its doors hanging open like an invitation. He accepted and leapt into the shaft, climbing the cables up as high as his arms would carry him.

Finally he reached a hall covered in giant cobwebs, Jack fought his way through the sheer white curtains. He was barely able to see the floor away there were so many webs. A clicking sound resounded nearby and the floor crackled beneath his feet.

Jack looked down and saw that he was walking on bones, cracking them under his weight. He held back his horror and stammered on, seeing the open door ahead of him.

“Emily, Justin?” he said again as he reached the room. He heard more clicking. This time it was not himself. A sick feeling filled his stomach and his heart slammed against his chest like a sledgehammer. He froze at the room’s threshold and for a fleeting moment he thought he heard a moan.

Mustering all his courage, he threw himself into the room and ran face first into the half gnawed carcass of what was once a human being dangling from a thin line of web. He was knocked to the floor with a thud and a trickle of something wet hit him on his cheek. He gazed up to see the dozens of other body parts hanging on the webs that stretched over the ceiling; rib cages, half eaten arms, severed legs, blood-stained bones all tangled in a nest of death.

In the back of the room he saw cocoons, huge silver ones that fattened the spinner of the web’s next meal. Jack pulled himself out of his initial shock and raced to the cocoons in a fever of panic. “Emily! Justin! Hold on, I’m coming! I’m coming!” He grabbed one of the cocoons and tore it bit by bit, strand by strand, the webbing sticking to his sweat-coated fingers.

His fear turned to horror then grief as he discovered he was too late. He took his beloved wife Emily into his arms discovering that half her face gnawed away, bone exposed in all of its ugliness, there were teeth marks in it.

Tears streamed his face as Emily slipped from his arms. Jack stood up in a stupor, about to give up when he caught glimpse of one of the cocoons wriggling. Grabbing hold of it without hesitation, he tore it apart discovering that his son Justin was still alive. He took the small boy into his arms and hugged him tightly, preparing to take him from the room but a noise from above stopped him dead in his tracks.

From out of the webs dropped the web weaver. A half human, half spider thing, the result of a mutation created by the defense field that almost destroyed the planet, stood before him. The right half of the thing was spider with four bristle-covered arms that clicked as they rubbed against each other. Its eyes were pitch black and large pincers protruded from its mouth.

Jack dropped his son and ushered him against the rear of the room. The spider-thing lashed at them using its legs to smash Jack to the ground, with its pincers it tried to bite him and fill him with its paralyzing poison.

Justin cried in the corner as Jack rolled out of the creature’s attack. The thing suddenly turned toward Justin, drawn to the boy by his cries. It turned, pounced on him and—

A father’s fury was ignited. He got to his feet and pulled the beast off his son. “Don’t you touch him you bastard! You killed my wife now I’m gonna kill you!”

The beast shot a strand of web out of its mouth and wrapped it around Jack, attempting to cocoon him. Jack was unaffected; he simply took hold of the web and closed his eyes. The strand went up in flames, spreading across it and catching the beast.

In moments the spider thing was a great ball of fire, squealing and writhing, stumbling about the room in chaos and terror. With his next marvel, Jack stared up at the ceiling and with a thundering crash it came tumbling down on top of the burning spider, burying the nightmare forever.

Jack stared in awe, having just discovered something new about himself. He just used the sheer will of his mind to destroy that creature. He shook his head, felt what might have been a smile cross his lips.  What else can I do?

He took his son back into his arms and carried him to safety.

###

 Morning burnt its way into the ravaged world. The days were as fun-filled as the nights in this strange new landscape.

The masked man found his first destination from a search that lasted the entire night. He stood before a cemetery. Mist hung thick and foul in the air here and the sun barely touched the place as if it was afraid to. The ground was scorched. Dead trees dead reached to the heavens like skeletal hands.

By some miracle some of the stones still stood, some were piles of ash, others were cracked and broken. Graves were unearthed and ravaged, a few smoldered.

The hulking masked figure watched someone ahead of him in the graveyard, squirming. This frail form was down on its knees making some sort of bizarre gesturing.

He moved in closer and got full view of the only other person in the cemetery aside from himself, a teenage girl. She leaned into an open grave, dark hair tattered and disheveled, nightgown stained and filth-ridden.

He moved closer to her, observing her odd behavior and listening to her sudden raving.

“School is open again,” she muttered reaching into the grave, arms streaked with mud. “Ooh that feels good daddy. No, don’t touch that..I…errr…” her words became muffled by munching sounds. “Big truck,” she gurgled. “…big mountain.” Chewing, chewing, chewing. “Yes, yes, yes…”

The hulking masked man now stood directly behind her, feeling the power that emanated from her. He now knew why he was summoned to this half dead world. Looking down, he noticed that she had broken into the grave’s casket and was eating the corpse inside. The carcass was littered with her scratches and bite marks, limbs removed, face deformed beyond recognition.

He watched her suck the last bit of dead flesh from a bone and without hesitation he reached down and pulled her up by her hair like a scolded pup.

“How pathetic!” He roared, speaking for the first time, discovering to his amazement that his mouth could actually form words. It was his outrage at the girl that caused him shout his first words. “You don’t even know what you are. The world would bow to what you are capable of doing. Such a waste!”

A moment later, he took her by the throat and snapped her neck effortlessly, bubbles of blood escaping from her mouth and nose as her body slipped from his hands.

He stood staring at her lifeless body and flexed, a feeling of delight washing through him. His gray eyes expressed the sheer thrill of killing her. Gazing up, he sniffed the air. “There are more, many more out there. I must continue, for they must not meet, it must not come to pass…”

###

Orchid and Morganna crossed into a new city without a single disturbance. A car or truck would hum by them now and then but they were scarce. Orchid watched, a bit unsettled, as a hearse drove by them. An entire family rode inside it as if on a Sunday drive.

“Morganna, we’ve traveled all night. How much further is it?”

“We’re nearly there. Patience Orchid, patience.”

“How did you get so far away from your home?”

“I was taken there in my sleep.”

“You were, who would do such a thing?”

“We were meant to meet, Orchid.”

“Huh?”

There was only silence. Morganna would not give any further information.

They came to a stop at the outskirts of the city. A huge warehouse stood before them, its windows boarded, graffiti covering its walls. An empty parking lot stretched around to the back of it and it was bordered on all sides by yet another dead forest.

Morganna walked up to the warehouse door and knocked softly. She waited a moment and the door slowly slid open. A black man peered out and when he saw Morganna his eyes lit up and a smile drew wide across his face. “Morganna!” he called. “You’ve returned to us. Hey everyone, Morganna is back!”

Morganna took Orchid by the hand and led her into the warehouse. The inside reminded Orchid of an airplane hangar and as they made their way in the others came to greet them.

The warehouse was set up with tents and beds. Lanterns and candles provided light. What food could be found was stockpiled and shared among all. Even pets co-existed in this small community.

Families lived here, husbands, wives, children of all ages and races. Some had armed themselves with guns of the old world, knives and makeshift bows. They had to protect what they fashioned here, many dangers existed on the outside.

Orchid spotted bottles of water stacked in one corner. Her eyes widened. “You have water?” her voice had a hint of joy in it. “May I have some?”

“By all means, Orchid,” the black man said. A short, red-haired woman handed him a canteen. “I’m Cesar. And this is Sarah.” He pointed to the red-haired woman.

“Cesar, how did you know my name?” She was puzzled but took the canteen and drank deeply.

“Your coming has been foretold to us, my lady,” Cesar replied.

“Foretold? By who?”

“Morganna of course. You have come into your power Orchid and have come here to lead us. You are but one of many who will begin the new order.”

“Lead you? Others? There are others like me?”

“Yes,” Morganna said. “They’ll being joining us soon, with people of their own. We will all become one and bring the world back from the destruction. You’ll like them…most of them anyway.”

“I don’t understand. What’s happening here?”

“Soon,” Morganna said. “All will be clear.” Her gemstone glittered.

###

Darkness fell again and the savage lands echoed with barks and roars. Terrible things roamed freely, things gone mad, things that struck terror in the survivors still lost and wandering.

The air was hot and humid, the moon rose casting pale ghost light over the land. The light illuminated a brick tower in the midst of the city, revealing movement at the top.

Nomadic in nature, the cannibal cult moved its base of operations to the top of the desolate brick tower, the only surviving tower from the great factories that at one time crowded the industrial part of town. Thick black smoke used to pollute the air now the only smoke that rose here was that of incense. Candles lit the area as a new blasphemous, perverse ritual began. The cult prepared for another feast.

The bald leader sat in his chambers, maps strewn on the table in front of him. He sat in a chair deep in concentration, hands frozen in a sort of claw shape. Above him some objects levitated; a goblet, plate, candlestick, a shoe. They formed a circle around his head, hovering under the power of his will.

His door flew open and in walked the red haired member, his best hunter. “My Lord?” The objects tumbled to the floor as the leader glared up at him. He swallowed nervously. “Apologies grand one but we are ready. The woman is prepared.”

“Thank you, Octavius,” he grinned. The leader joined his cult in closing the ceremony. He raised his dagger over the naked, painted woman.

“Lord of the feast,” he began. “We give thee praise and thanks. By your word we eat and cleanse ourselves, knowing that we are the chosen ones to inherit the Earth.” With that he cut the woman’s throat. The others dug into her voraciously, cutting and chopping her flesh and drinking her blood.

A horrendous scream stopped their feast as a hulking figure leapt over the tower’s wall. All eyes watched dumbstruck as the masked man came crashing down in front of the cult. His gray eyes flashed with rage. “Is this what is left of mankind…a bunch of flesh eaters!” He roared.

A cultist charged the menace with an axe, swinging hard he sank the blade into him. To his shock he saw no blood flow from the wound, the axe had no effect. The masked man seized the cannibal by the throat and threw him off the tower, his screams filling the night sky.

The masked man stared the cult down as they brandished their weapons, the bald leader stepped to the front and laughed. “So, you have come. Don’t worry my children he is mine.”  The leader stared down at the bloodied dagger in his hand and willed it through the air.

It plunged deep into the killer’s head but he didn’t even flinch. Instead he laughed. “You’re new to your power, foolish one. You are not strong enough.” He pulled the knife from his head, stepped to the leader and forced it right through his eye. The blade ripped through the leader’s brain, the tip of it popping out the back of his head.

The leader twitched, buckled and fell to the ground. The killer’s eyes flashed with pleasure again as he basked in it, the high of snuffing out another one of them.

He looked over at the cult, cowering for their lives. “I have no quarrel with you,” he said to them. “I have found what I need, you may live.” He turned and jumped from the tower. The cult gasped, rushing to the edge of the tower and looking over it. They saw nothing.

Octavius pulled the dagger from his bald leader’s eye. He turned back to the others and licked the blood off the blade. “This was a sign my brothers,” he said. “A sign that a new leader is needed to lead us to our glory. Brothers… I am that leader.”

###

The masked figure walked to the outskirts of the city, a shimmer of moonlight lighting his way. Ahead of him he could see the warehouse, still and quiet. “They must not rebuild. I will not allow it. The ones with power must die.”

###

Morganna woke suddenly, shaking the slumbering Orchid beside her.

“What is it?” Orchid yawned.

“Someone is coming. Danger, there is great danger.”

“Who Morganna, who’s coming?”

“Not one of us, not one of us. Oh, Orchid your first battle is about to begin.”

About John Grover

John Grover is a dark fiction author residing in Massachusetts. He grew up watching creature double feature with his brother on Saturday afternoons. This fueled his love of monsters, ghosts and the supernatural. He never missed an episode. In his spare time he loves to cook, garden, go to the theater to watch horror movies with his friends, read, talk about food, bake amazing desserts, play with his dog Buffy (yes named after the character in the TV show) and draw-badly. Some of his favorite TV shows and influences are The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Darkside, Space 1999, Battlestar Galactica, X-Files, Night Gallery, Monsters, Star Trek, and much more. He completed a creative writing course at Boston’s Fisher College and is a member of the New England Horror Writers, a chapter of the Horror Writers Association. Some of his more recent credits include Best New Zombie Tales Vol 1 by Books of the Dead Press, The Book of Cannibals by Living Dead Press, The Vermin Anthology, The Northern Haunts Anthology by Shroud Publishing, The Zombology Series by Library of the Living Dead Press, Morpheus Tales, Wrong World, The Willows, Alien Skin Magazine, Aurora Wolf and more. He is the author of several collections, including the recently released Creatures and Crypts, 20 tales of over 70,000 words of fiction, as well as various chapbooks, anthologies, and more. Please visit his website www.shadowtales.com for more information. View all posts by John Grover

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