Monthly Archives: June 2012

Aftermath: Chapter Eleven

The masked assassin stood beneath the huge bridge in the milky sunlight. It was abandoned. Remnants of food and supplies lay on the ground. A burnt out campfire still smoldered.  He bent to it and rubbed the soot between his fingers. He sniffed the air.

“I grow weary.” He smashed the fire and its timbers across the ground.

Do not give up. You are saving your world from another fall. We will rebuild it for you.

The assassin lifted and looked to the back of the bridge. Just outside it, beneath the sheltering arms of a pine tree, a gnarled arm beckoned. Pale, wrinkled flesh the color of clay stretched along a bony arm with spindly fingers. The fingers called to him, inviting his approach.

The killer stepped out from under the bridge. Clawed fingers curled. A creature hovered just out of sight, a mere glimpse of something more sinister.

Come… it called. I will empower you. I will diminish your fatigue.

“Yes,” he said with rapture. He walked down hill to the tree and stepped behind it. The clawed hand reached up to his mask and caressed it with thin fingers.

###

Catcalls echoed throughout the catacombs. Cold walls sprouted fungus. Shallow light flickered in the distance. Octavius stood before their blood-stained altar in the center of the sewer hub. A network of tunnels snaked off in various directions. He placed his sword on the altar.

“Brothers and sisters, I know it has been some time since we have eaten. Do not lose faith.” He held his hands open.  “Our numbers have dwindled, and although it is less mouths to feed, our power is fading. We must convert others to our way. We must gain more members and only then, will our Lord be happy and praise us with food.”

The remaining cultists nodded and whispered to each other.

“Malek and I have found a group ripe for receiving our communion. So pure and innocent. They not only offer strong members but honorable sacrifices for the feast. You see… our Lord has provided.”

Malek grinned, spittle gathered in the corner of his mouth. He wiped it with his blade and licked it off. “It is up to us to do the rest.”

Octavius patted Malek on the back. “Our Lord is watching. Tonight we hunt.”

The room filled with soft chanting, growing louder and louder as the members swayed in perverse harmony.

###

The sky was covered in misty clouds and the sunlight fought to shine through it. The light that did get through glistened off the glass of the lighthouse tower.

“The clouds are thinning,” Orchid said, carrying boxes of supplies across the beach.

“It’s a good sign,” Morganna said. “The planet is trying to heal. That’s why it’s so important to stop the Eldritch from invading.”

“I just hope we can all stay alive long enough to do that. I know he’s still looking for us.”

Morganna nodded. “He’s already found the bridge.”

“He’ll find us here, too. This time we’re not leaving. We’re gonna stay and face that thing together. We’re going to keep fighting it until it’s destroyed.”

“Then we have work to do. All of us.”

Orchid looked at her and smiled. The ocean breeze was cool and soothing. She heard the call of seagulls in the air. “This must be the only place that didn’t flood. Amazing that you found it.”

“We’re on an arm of the bay,” Morganna said. “We’re too high up to flood. That’s why the lighthouse still stands.”

“Then it’s a perfect place to make our stand. Seeing the ocean might lift some spirits and it’s good to be out of the city.”

“Even if we do defeat the Eldritch’s assassin, we won’t be able to stay. You know that don’t you, Orchid?”

“I do, for now it’s a nice escape.”

“We’ll need to go West if we want to avoid Solomon.”

“Just how much power is this guy amassing?”

“Not enough for him.”

They arrived at the lighthouse proper. Orchid willed the door open and the group filed in, unloading bags and boxes of food, water, medical supplies, experimental radios, clothing, sleeping bags and other essentials.

Lila set her stuff down and spotted the stairs up to the top of the lighthouse tower. Orchid watched her climb up them, she wanted to reach out to her but decided to let her go. The white wolf followed.

###

Lila sat outside on the tower’s deck and watched the gulls circle over the ocean. She liked the smell of the salt water. She mustered a smile but it died quickly. She still felt empty and alone.

“I know it’s hard,” Morganna said from the doorway. Ghost wagged his tail at the sight of her. Morganna entered the deck and patted the wolf. “He is still with you. Everyday.”

“I wish I could believe you.”

“Believe me.” She sat down beside Lila and put out her hand. “Take my hand, I’ll show you.”

Lila took her hand hesitantly. A rush shot through her body when their hands met. Lila was flooded with smells, sounds, sights. All in her mind but as real as the nightmare she’d been living in.  Cameron’s scent filled her senses. She felt his arms around her, holding her tight. “Oh my God…” tears came, not of loss but of joy. Cameron’s spirit burned inside her.

She looked at Morganna. “I can’t believe this…who…what are you?”

“A friend who cares. “

“No, you are much more than that.”

“I’m just a guide.”

“Thank you.”

“I did nothing, I just showed you the truth. We need you Lila. All of us need to work together. We all need to be ready for the dangers that are coming. Ghost isn’t the only animal you can befriend.”

Their line of sight focused on the seagulls in the distance.

“Go ahead,” Morganna said. “Call to one.”

Lilia looked up, the breeze caressing her face, and held out her hand. “Gull to me!”

One of the seagulls left the others and fluttered across the ocean. It sailed to the tower and landed on Lila’s arm. Her eyes widened. A huge smile drew across her face. She reached up and stroked the gull’s feathers.

Ghost the wolf looked on with disinterest then yawned.

###

Just after dusk the group sat on the beach around a small campfire. Someone discovered a bag of marshmallows among the food and supplies. It lightened the mood like nothing else.

Sam and Kyle shared a charred marshmallow on a stick, the sugar melting to their lips and cheeks. They kissed, the marshmallow stuck their lips together causing them to laugh and everyone around them too.

Jack cooked a marshmallow for his son, Justin, over the fire then handed the stick over to him.  “The freaking world ends,” Jack said. “And the one thing that survives, marshmallows.”

Laughter filled the group again. Cesar caught Orchid’s gaze. The two nodded at one another and got up. They tapped Sam and Kyle on the shoulder. “Can we speak to you guys, on the side?” Orchid asked.

The two got up and followed Orchid and Cesar down the beach.

“We’re sorry,” Sam said. “I know we’re overdoing it.”

“I hope we’re not upsetting anyone,” Kyle said. “We’ll cut back on our making out.”

“No, no, it’s not that,” Cesar said. “That masked guy is going to find us again. We’re trying to come up with a plan of attack.”

“Sam,” Orchid said. “We’ve come up with something that uses your talents. We need to know that you’re ok with it.”

“Whatever you guys want. I’m in. I’m getting tired of running.”

“Good.” Orchid smiled.

“He’ll be here by dawn.” Morganna popped up behind them. They all turned, eyes wide.

Orchid rolled her eyes. “Hate it when she does that.”

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Aftermath: Chapter Ten

Cesar sat with a group of children, Morganna at his side. He told them all fairy tales and stories of mermaids, witches, princesses and pirates. Jack’s son Justin sat attentively. Ghost, the wolf, sat in between the circle of kids and his new mistress Lila. Protective of both, the wolf kept keen watch on their surroundings.

Some of the other adults with powers stood guard near the bridge’s openings. A man with telekinesis watched one side and a woman with the ability to summon miniature tornadoes watched the other.

The kids listened and giggled. They grew wide-eyed when the action rose. Cesar did his best to entertain but his thoughts were on Orchid and the others. He worried of what dangers awaited them. He didn’t trust the suburbs, the neighborhoods. They were breeding grounds for hidden dangers and other nefarious things.

What if they lost someone? What if Orchid didn’t make it back.

“Orchid can take care of herself,” Morganna said. “She’s the most powerful of us all.”

Cesar grinned. “In my head again?”

“Sorry. Just trying to ease your worries. She’ll return just fine.”

“I wish you could see beyond the immediate future. Would be nice to know how we all end up…the entire race.”

“I don’t have that power but if we don’ stop the Eldritch the future for this world is uncertain.”

###

“Hey peanut butter!” Kyle said, pulling the unopened jar out of the kitchen’s pantry. He set it on the floor and began rummaging through the cabinet beside it. He planted himself on the floor and dumped a whole pile of boxed crackers, bags of chips, canned tuna, jarred pickles and olives onto it. He began sorting everything into different piles

Samantha joined him on the floor. “Olives,” she said with glee. “I love olives.” She pried open the jar and popped two green ones into her mouth.

Kyle glanced at her and smiled. “Can I have one?”

“Of course, silly.” She reached into the jar at the same time he did.

He quickly pulled his fingers back. “Sorry.” He tried to look away, back down at the other food.

“Don’t be.” Sam touched his chin and eased his face up. She gazed into his eyes and kissed him gently.

“I must be blushing,” Kyle said.

Sam laughed. “You are.” She kissed him again.

“Things like this never happen to me.”

“Me either,” Sam replied. “The world has changed. We have to make our own destinies now.”

“Well, I like this one so far.”

Orchid stepped into the kitchen, a box of flashlights and extra blankets in her arms. “Okay you two. We’re moving on.”

Jack joined Orchid and they all moved into the formal living room.  The wall paper was faded, the furniture dusted with soot and torn. The walls were cracked, the fireplace crumbling.

“Let’s load everything up.” Jack laid some duffle bags and suitcases down.

Everyone packed the supplies and food they’d gathered from the entire street.

“We can’t carry all of this back,” Kyle said.

“No problem,” Orchid said. She focused her attention on all of the supplies and every suitcase and bag lifted into the air.

“Awesome!” Kyle said.

Orchid guided the supplies out of the house and into the street.

A shadow stretched across their path suddenly. It seemed alive. It twisted, almost deformed as it grew closer until…Luana stepped into the street. The group froze. Jack’s hand encircled with flames.

“You people are always in the way,” Luana spat. “It’s because of you I can’t conquer that masked monster.  I’ll take the girl instead. The one with the necklace…where is she?”

“Everyone get back,” Jack yelled. “It’s a mutant.”

Luana looked down at her scaly arms. “I’m not a mutant!” She ran to the carcass of a Town car and placed one hand on its hood and the other on the ignition.

The car roared to a start, headlights flashing, engine revving. Luana pulled herself back and the car took off, heading for the group.

The food and supplies dropped into the street as the car plowed through them. Jack jumped out of the way, tossing himself into the front yard of one of the homes on the street.

Orchid gave Kyle and Sam a telekinetic push, sending them out of the car’s rampaging path.  She turned and put her hand up and the car stopped, just inches from her.

She put it in reverse and sent it back to Luana.

The crafty Luana armed her laser gun and shot out the car’s tires. The metal behemoth spun out of control, soaring into one of the nearby yards and crashing into a house. A cloud of fire engulfed it.

“Where is the girl!” Luana cried, taking aim at Orchid.

A fireball zapped Luana’s hand, destroying her laser. Agony, hate, rage poured out of her. Her voice degenerated into hissing.

Jack started toward her, aiming his hands again when a truck screamed down the street. It was Luana’s men. Their battle truck pulled in between Luana and the others, blocking Jack’s attack.

Luana jumped into the truck’s open doors. “This isn’t over!”  The truck sped out of the neighborhood.

“Everyone ok?” Orchid asked.

“Yeah.” Jack dusted himself off. “That was nothing. Another day in the frickin’ life.”

“Let’s just get all this stuff off the street and get back.”

###

“You guys look shook up,” Cesar said, letting the sleeping kids lie. He went to Orchid and checked on her.

“We’re fine,” Orchid said. “Just a run in with a mutant woman.”

“I’m okay too, thanks for asking.” Jack dropped his supplies and went to his son.

“No offense, Jack.” Cesar shook his head. “That guy is so lovable.”

“Forget about it, “ Orchid continued. “We need to get everyone moved by morning. It’s getting dangerous here, very dangerous. I think we should leave the city.”

“But there are still so many resources here.”

“Maybe we should just find another one. A different location to throw some things off our scent. It seems no matter where we hide in this city we’re sitting ducks. No place here is safe.”

“We don’t know that any other place out there is. All of them could be exactly the same.”

“I think we should take the chance.  Maybe meet some new people, add to our ranks. Every city might have others that are like me and Jack. We need reinforcements. We need communication.”

Cesar shook his head. “I just thought the new world started here.” He looked over to see Kyle and Sam embracing then kissing.

Morganna appeared at his side, she took his hand. “It begins where we want it to begin.”

He looked down at her and smiled.

“My people have always believed that,” Morganna continued. “It doesn’t matter where we go that masked champion sent by the Eldritch will never stop hunting us.”

“We’ve got to end that thing once and for all,” Orchid said. “Maybe we should take the fight to it for a change.”

“We don’t even know if it can be stopped,” Cesar said.

“Only one way to find out.” Orchid started to walk away then looked back at them. “Get a good night’s sleep by first light we move.”

Morganna turned back to Cesar: “He’s not the only threat. Solomon, the man who would be king, is coming.”

Cesar said nothing.

###

In the nest of shadows enveloping the bridge, Octavius, leader of the cannibal cult, watched and studied. A twisted, toothy grin cut across his long face. His fingers slid down the blade of his sacrificial dagger. He looked at Malek and whispered: “Fresh meat.”