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Friday, May 23, 2014

Hey man, nice shot

            The houses were quiet. They had been the last holdouts, the last beacons of light in the otherwise penetrating and profound darkness. Now, the lights had gone out, the doors hung open off of their hinges like open mouths and the screams that had punctuated the last few nights fell eerily quiet.

            Inside what had once been a 1950’s themed diner crouched a small, huddled group of five survivors. Their eyes were hollow even in the darkness, and although they now knew that the creatures out on the streets had no problem seeing them at night, they crouched behind the counter in the shadows, returning to their basic instincts that told them that light was the enemy, light would attract the monsters.

            Tina, an old woman who clutched at a tire iron with the strength of a much younger person, hissed to her grandson, Daniel, “Are you sure that the doors are locked?”

            “Yes,” Daniel nodded, and looked around the building that he had owned and run for fifteen years, “Everything that can be locked is locked. I checked again today.”

            The others who crouched in the darkness shifted closer to each other and the youngest one, a little boy named Nathan, began to cry softly. His older sister slapped his hands roughly and snarled, “Shut up! They’ll hear you!”

            Her father, Phil, ignored them both, but Tina hissed, “Don’t do that! Let him alone, poor kid.”

            The girl lifted a lip in response but hugged her knees and said nothing. Nathan looked at his sister and whispered, “Alex, I’m scared.”

            “Shut up.”

            “But, Alex-“

            They were interrupted by the sudden explosion of something slamming into the glass of the windows, and Alex snatched up Nathan into a tight hug as three creatures that used to be men dragged a third figure inside and onto one of the tables. The man being dragged stank of blood and moaned in agony as the thralls pinned him down with their distorted limbs.

            A fourth figure walked inside, but his movements were different from the others in every way imaginable. Where the thralls’ movements were jerky and forced, he sauntered like a tiger made from oil, but his left arm was clutched close to his chest like a bird with a broken wing. He laughed, and the survivors cowered closer together.

            The man who had been dragged inside looked like hell. He was covered in severe burns and the one hand that had lost its glove was missing the tips of its fingers so that the bone protruded like jagged claws. He groaned and clutched at his bloody midsection for a moment before the creatures grabbed his arms and forced them down against the wood.

            “So, Bernie,” the sinewy, man-shaped monster said with a laugh, “I must admit that you have surprised me.” he held out his left arm and the survivors could see that it stopped being a proper limb at the wrist: the skin was split as neatly as a surgeon’s cut, and the hand was completely gone. As the humans stared, what looked like long, tendril-like spider legs started squirming out of the stump, and Tina nearly threw up when she realized that what she was seeing were newly formed finger bones working their way free of the skin.

            “I haven’t been wounded by anyone in years. It is very invigorating. It has been so long since I was chosen by Zuriel that I barely remember what agony feels like…I didn’t realize how much I missed it, to be quite honest with you.”

            A low, hideous laugh echoed out of Bernie’s lips and he sneered, “I’m glad you said that, Mordecai. I will be sure to remind you some more.” the thralls jerked his arms backwards more so that the edges of his gaping wound ground together, and he fell abruptly silent.

            Mordecai crossed his arms in front of his chest, and the survivors couldn’t help but stare at him through the slats of the bar as the newly formed skeletal hand on his left arm flexed and spasmed, “My master was insistent that I not kill you. That’s really a shame,” he touched a deep gouge in his throat that had been leaking dark, nearly coagulated blood down his chest, “I haven’t come that close to loosing a fight in some time.” he put one of his long fingers into the liquid that had pooled on his sharp collar bones and lifted it slowly to his lips.

            There was a cry of horror from the survivor’s hiding place and all of them looked at Nathan in horror. He was staring at Mordecai with eyes the size of plates with Alex’s hand clamped tightly across his mouth.

            Mordecai laughed slowly and turned his head towards them, “I know that you are there. I’ve been able to smell you and hear your pulses since the moment I set foot on the block. I didn’t know that there was a screamer amongst you though, this just makes things that much more exciting.”

            Tina screamed a little and then pushed Daniel’s shoulder, “Run!”

            The man stumbled forward to his feet, but in a flash faster than he could track with his eyes, Mordecai bounded onto the countertop and punched his right hand through his sternum. Daniel’s eyes rolled downwards to stare at his chest in horror with a strangled gasp, and Tina stopped short, her mouth open in a silent scream.

            “Oh, you poor bastards. You are all so very brittle.” Mordecai smirked.

            Alex lurched to her feet and grabbed Nathan by the forearm, wrenching it out of the socket with a loud pop as she did so. She didn’t pause, however, and proceeded to run for the trap door that led down to the storage units that the owner’s had used to store their burger patties. Phil stumbled after them, but Mordecai’s left arm snaked out and the tips of the knife-sharp bones sank into his skin just deep enough to tear four thick gouges into him as the man stumbled awkwardly foreward and out of his grasp.

            Mordecai lazily glanced after the fleeing children and shrugged at his thralls, “You two, go catch them and kill them.” the thralls hurried to obey and the minion of Zuriel turned his attention back to the dying man on the floor and his cornered grandmother, “Come on, aren’t you even going to put up a fight?”

            “Sure,” came an even voice from directly behind him. Mordecai spun fast just in time to catch a bottle of ketchup across the face. The impact disoriented him just long enough for a straight razor to find purchase in the already split skin of Mordecai’s throat.

            The creature’s eyes opened as wide as they could and fixed on Bernie’s face before flicking to the table that his prey had only moments ago been stretched out on. In the split instant that he had sent his ghouls to chase the escaping survivors, Bernie had severed the heads of the remaining two thralls with the razor in his pocket and had gathered enough strength to catch Mordecai off guard.

            Bernie charred lips peeled into a wide grin, and he laughed almost hysterically, “Father only ever gave me one thing,” he pushed the razor through his victim’s neck, and Mordecai’s head hit the floor with a sound not dissimilar to a bowling ball dropping onto polished wood. Bernie held up the gore-covered razor and smiled at it lovingly, “He gave me this. Damn thing never seems to lose its edge.”

            Tina couldn’t quite scream, nor could she sob. Instead, something eerily close to both noises leaked out of her open mouth. Bernie’s head turned towards her and he glanced down at Daniel, who was gurgling pathetically as his blood pooled around Mordecai’s still gasping head.

            Bernie sighed and put the razor back in his pocket, his arms wrapping around the gaping hole in his stomach as he staggered closer to Tina, “I’m sorry about all of this. You weren’t ever supposed to see this, none of your kind was. But, now that you have, I can at least help you one final time.” he reached out a hand and set it on her shoulder gently, almost lovingly, “I can make sure that you don’t have to remember any of this.”

He pulled her abruptly to him and sank his teeth into the side of her exposed neck.

            The old woman struggled valiantly for a moment or two, but Bernie held her against him as tightly as a lover in the throes of passion, and after only a minute or two she sank slowly to the floor, her skin pale and already completely cold.

            Bernie shuddered as strength suddenly returned to his body: the wound in his stomach knit itself together until only a livid but shallow cut ran from his solar plexus to his navel, and the various scratches and bruises from his battle erased themselves. He looked down at the dead woman and the dying man and smiled sadly, “Again, I’m very sorry, but I needed the blood.”

            He turned and sauntered down into the basement after the survivors and the thralls, only to find that a manhole in the floor had been dragged open, revealing the putrid entrance to the sewers. He sighed and hurried down after them, not quite sure what his next move was from there.

            Had he stayed above ground for even a moment longer, he would have seen Mordecai’s eyes and mouth yawn open and his long tongue snake out to lap at the rapidly cooling blood on the floor around him.

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