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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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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