I foraged through my backpack, keeping check on what little supplies we had left. Clothes, a...Learn MoreI foraged through my backpack, keeping check on what little supplies we had left. Clothes, a moldy loaf of bread, two bottles of clean water, a few shotgun shells, and a bottle of SSKI. “What do you have, Aaron?” “A few candy bars, and a bottle of pills, ” he replied. “How much longer do we have to go?” “Three days. Five if we find any trouble.” I replied, before letting out a sigh of exasperation. I sunk my face into my palms, and before I knew it, I started to whimper. “Hey, it's okay,” Aaron said reassuringly, slapping my shoulder. “We'll just do a supply run tomorrow.” “How… how did the world come to this?” I said, bursting into tears. “One day... we were just kids having fun, and the next... we had to run for our lives, trying to survive while we watch the people we love…” I couldn't say the word. “I just wanna go home.” Aaron leaned against me. “We’ll make it. Together. I promise.” I lifted my face and through teary eyes, looked out of the sliding glass doors of the abandoned house we were in. Although most of the sky was mostly covered by the thick clouds ash and soot from the fires, I could still see a few stars protruding through the smoke. I was reminded of the starry nights where I would climb up my treehouse in the backyard, counting the infinite diamonds in the pictorial night sky until I fell asleep. But those nights seem long gone, like a distant memory. And they will never be back. * I opened the door and we were greeted by a vague ring from the shopkeeper’s bell above the door. As we walked into the pharmacy, a putrid smell rushed up our noses, causing us to cover them unconsciously. It was dark. I flipped the light switch, but the lights did not light up. “I don’t have a great feeling about this,” I said with a muffled voice through my gas mask. “We’ll just find whatever we need and get out. It won’t take long.” replied Aaron, as he fished out his flashlight and took the lead. I followed suit. It was quiet in here, except for our footfalls on the intricate ceramic floor. The shelves were empty. Someone was here before us. Not a big surprise. A few days after the Calamity happened, as soon as it was safe to come out, people have been breaking into stores and houses, finding anything that would help them survive, even luxuries so that they could enjoy the rest of their numbered days. “I’ll check the cabinets, you keep watch outside.” said Aaron. “Are you sure?” Aaron laughed. “Look around. No one’s around here. They’re too busy being dead, remember?” I walked out of the door. The sun should have already been up, but the thick fog blocked out most of the sunlight.There had been little to no sunlight for a few weeks. It was hard to tell between day and night. I looked at my watch. 7:25 a.m. It was a chilly morning. However, I was unfazed by the cold. The thick clothes I was wearing to protect myself from the radioactive material still in the air certainly helped. The street was littered with abandoned cars with shattered windshields. Just a few weeks ago, this street would have been bustling with traffic. Did I miss those days? I questioned my humanity. How could I ask a question like that? A click behind me brought me back to my senses. Before I could turn around, something cold poked me at the back of my head. “Move, and you get a bullet through your skull,” said a croaky voice. I stood still, not moving a hair follicle, a challenging feat considering the fact that my life in danger. “Go in the store. Get your friend.” I did not think twice before turning towards the store. As I did so, I caught sight of my assailant. He wore a bandanna on his face as a mask, and was dressed in a tank top and a pair of ripped jeans. Idiot doesn’t know the radiation kills on contact. I was surprised he wasn’t dead yet. As the bell invited us to the pharmacy once again, I yelled out for Aaron. “Don’t get any big ideas,” the man said, prodding me with the pistol. I squinted my eyes, trying to find Aaron in the darkness. I called out his name once again, but he didn’t reply. “If he doesn’t come out, I’ll shoot.” I looked into every aisle, but everything laid still. There was no sign of life in here. Suddenly, the wildest idea came to me. Aaron has left me here. Alone. My legs trembled beneath me at the thought of it. Tears formed at the corners of my eyes. I closed them shut. This is how I die. A deafening bang came from behind me. I fell onto the ground, screaming for my life. The doorbell rang as the door opened, followed by another loud bang. I felt the icy floor against my face, and my ears rang intensely. I’m not dead yet. I opened my eyes and saw Aaron, standing over the man and pointing his shotgun at him. He pumped his shotgun, aimed at the man and fired another round at him, before pumping the shotgun again. “Aaron… stop…” I whispered. He aimed at the man, his finger itching to pull the trigger. “Stop!” I yelled, jumping in front of the man. Aaron pulled the trigger. * The highway to Yakima seemed endless. We had walked for hours without talking to each other. Both of us were stuck in our own thoughts, reliving the scenes of the events since the Calamity. Reluctantly, I recalled the days we were stuck in a fallout shelter in Seattle for days. Some of my friends from Eastwood High was there with me. Aaron was one of them. It was packed in the bunker. Everyone in Seattle that heard the emergency broadcast had made it here. I barely had any space for myself. The day the Calamity happened, the ground quaked nonstop as nuclear missiles devastated everything above us. I thought it was never going to stop, that I would be stuck here forever. When the rations started to deplete, we had to send some people out to find more. As much as I wanted some fresh air, I knew that out there, there wouldn’t be any. When the raiders came back after an hour, their skin had burned away and was scattered with pus-filled lumps. They screamed in pain for a few hours, before dying a horrible death. The bunker was a living nightmare. Hungry, thirsty, constantly worried about what might happen next. Being bored was the least of our problems. It challenged our sanity. My friend told me that it was God’s punishment for our sins. As much as I didn’t believe in God, I believed him. The image of us in the bunker was still clear in my head, as if it was projected right in front of my eyes. At least back then, there was five of us. Now, it’s just the two of us. We used to joke about how fun the apocalypse would be. No homework. No teachers. No bullies. The world would be ours. But now, I would give everything to go back in school with all my friends. I looked at Aaron. Although I couldn’t see his face through the gas mask, I knew how it would have looked like, as if it was painted onto his mask. Emotionless. “Aaron,” I called. He didn’t reply. “Aaron,” I called again, reaching for his shoulder. He slapped my hand away and pushed me in one swift move. It happened so fast that I lost my footing and fell backwards. Fortunately, my backpack cushioned my fall. I was taken aback. “What was that for?” I exclaimed. “Leave me alone!” he cried. Through the gas mask, I could see his eyes. They burned with his fury. Yet, there was something else in them. Fear. We stared at each other for a full minute. The flame in his eyes was gradually doused by his tears. “I’m sorry,” he said, turning away. “I’m sorry.” I lifted myself up and walked to him. “Aaron.” He turned around before I could reach him. He raised his hands up in front of him. “Stay away from me! Don’t you see? I’m a monster.” “Aaron,” I said, in my most calming voice. “ You’re not a monster. You saved me.” “I killed someone! And I didn’t hesitate to shoot him again,” he yelled. “And if that shotgun wasn’t empty, I would have…” He couldn’t finish his sentence. “He would have died from the radiation anyway. You just put him out of his misery,” I said, slowly making my way towards him. He took out his shotgun out from his backpack and pointed it at me. “Move one more step and I’ll shoot.” I stopped dead. “What are you doing, Aaron?” “I’m leaving you.” “Aaron, I need you.” “All I’ll do is hurt you,” Aaron said. “I can’t let that happen.” I could see tears dripping down his gas mask. “You promised we would make it together.” I said, trying my best to convince him to stay. “I’m sorry,” he said. He took one step backward, and another, before sprinting down the highway. I wanted to chase after him, but my feet was glued to the ground. I fell to my knees, not even trying to hold back my tears. The Calamity changed him. * The sign at the side of the road read “Welcome to Ellensburg”. I sighed in relief. I had been walking for a day. I can finally find somewhere to rest. I’m almost home. The idea should have excited me. But the fact that I did not see Aaron on my way here troubled me. Where did he go? Where would he go? The dead silence in the neighbourhood sent shivers down my spine. But it would have scared me even more if there were any noise. Just then, a loud roar from a motorcycle came from behind me. I turned to see two guys on their bikes riding towards me. They stopped about a metre away from me and jumped off. One of them, shorter and much more plump than the other, pulled a body of the bike. It was wearing a familiar red hoodie. It was Aaron. I gasped in horror. “Hey, kiddo. Looking for him?” said the tall one, followed by their loud guffaws. They both wore the same bandanna mask as the guy that attacked us yesterday. “What did you do to him?” I asked. Although I was terrified, I tried to hide my fear. “Nothing. Just beat him up for a while. He’s not so tough without his precious little shotgun.” They laughed again. I tried my best to not get affected by their intimidation. “What do you want?” “What do we want? We just wanted some medicine. SKE or whatever they call it. We were wondering if you wanted to share some of it to us,” the guy said. “Until your friend here killed Chip.” “He tried to kill me,” I argued. “He only wanted to talk. And BAM! He’s dead.” Apparently, there was no point arguing with them. “Now,” he said, taking out his pistol from his holster. “I want both of you dead.” With slow and unnoticeable movements, I pulled out the revolver from my back pocket and held in behind me. “So, who wants to go first?” he teased, holding Aaron in his arms. “Him.” I fired at his friend’s chest, before pointing at the tall guy. But he already has his gun pointed at Aaron’s head. “Let him go,” I said, trying to be threatening. “After what you’ve done to Chip and Zac? Hell no,” he cried. “Say goodbye t-” I fired before he had a chance to finish. The guy fell to the ground, dropping Aaron with him. I ran to him. My heart pounded quickly as he fell to the ground. When I reached him, his face was pale. What’s more important was the fact that I could see his face. “Aaron.” I cried, shaking his body anxiously. “Aaron, wake up!” He struggled to pry open his eyes. I reached in my bag and fished out the bottle of pills. Hastily, I opened it and popped two pills into his mouth. “Aaron!” I said, tears dribbling down my cheek and onto his face. He coughed and wheezed, before reaching for my hand. “It hurts,” he whispered. “Where’s your gas mask?” I asked, almost screaming. “It’s too late for that,” he said, coughing blood from his mouth. I burst into tears. I shouldn’t have let him leave me. This was all my fault. “I’m sorry,” Aaron whispered. “It’s not your fault.” He winced in pain, but immediately covered it up with a weak smile. “Promise me... that you’ll make it home…” I nodded. “I will.” I gave him a hug, and tried my best to hold back my tears. “Your family… they’re probably waiting for you…” he whispered softly. “I’m sure yours is too.” I said, which seemed to soothe him. “Thank you... for being there when I needed it...” he said, before his breathing stopped. I wanted to say the same, but it was too late. * I fumbled for the keys in my bag. I entered the key into the door and twisted it, and the door opened. And what lay in front of me, was home. Home sweet home. It had been a long uneventful walk. Many a time, I wanted to sit under a tree and take a break, but I knew I didn’t have much time left. “Mom? Dad?” I called out, but much to my disappointment, there was no reply. I dragged myself to my room upstairs. I felt lightheaded. My eye weighed like dumbbells. The radiation was slowly poisoning me, and I had ran out of SSKI. My hours were numbered. I opened the door to my room, and saw that it was how I left it. Untidied bed, desk littered with books, clothes left piled inside my closet. I sat next to the window sill and leaned against the window. The sky, though overcast with soot, was painted orange from a far away, where a pillar of smoke rose to the sky. The world seemed to have fallen asleep, and it was time for me to join it. I walked over to my bed, collapsed onto it, and hid myself under my blanket. I have not felt this comfortable and warm for a long time. The dead silence ironically acted as my lullaby. Before long, I dozed off. Hopefully when I wake up, the sun would shine its rays through my window once again. ... Read more
‘Do humans understand each other? Write me an intriguing essay of at least a thousand words, and light-mail it to me by twelve midnight next Tuesday. It contributes to fifty percent of this semester. Late light-mails will not be taken into account. Good luck.’ A whoosh followed as the holograph of Peter’s Short Fiction professor, Professor Xavier vanished bef...Learn More‘Do humans understand each other? Write me an intriguing essay of at least a thousand words, and light-mail it to me by twelve midnight next Tuesday. It contributes to fifty percent of this semester. Late light-mails will not be taken into account. Good luck.’ A whoosh followed as the holograph of Peter’s Short Fiction professor, Professor Xavier vanished before him, leaving him back to staring at the translucent screen of his ultra-thin laptop, a futuristic version of olden day laptops which are literally as thin and light as a sheet of paper. In the year of 2107, emails are sent via light rays, known as ‘light-mails’, and holographic assignments are the norm of university students. “Bloody hell! I thought Short Fiction was within hundreds of words. It’s called ‘Short Fiction’ after all!” Peter muttered. His eyes then gravitated to an article on his laptop screen as if he were in a trance. ’18-year-old US teen makes fictional invention – the time machine a reality!’ Peter mouthed the headlines that appeared on the screen with his eyes so wide that they looked like they were about to pop out. “Fascinating. Now, where is it kept?” Peter’s mouth was now creased into a malice smile as the little devil on his shoulder whispered an evil thought into his ear – stealing the time machine, going back in time, getting stories about famous events that shaped the world to prove that humans do not understand each other and then returning it to the owner in secret. After all, with such advanced technology these days, stealth and transportation would not be a problem, and the key would be the right information and connections. He then tapped on the Microsoft Words app on his laptop screen and typed the title of the assignment followed by two bullet points with the words ‘No’ and ‘reason: pure selfishness respectively’ which was based on his own assumptions instead of rational and critical thinking. As Peter was about to quench his curiosity on the name of the infamous inventor, the venue, date and time of the time machine trials together with the President of the United States and other world renown scientists, he was interrupted by a call which he answered via his wrist watch. From the other side of the call came a familiar voice that he had hated since he was a child. “Hey, cousin! I haven’t seen you in a long time! How are you doing?” his cousin, Phil asked with his signature merry tone. “Busy.” Peter muttered bluntly, and was about to hang up on Phil when his questions were answered by the glee voice on the other side. “Sorry for disturbing, but I have got to tell you this! I actually made a working time machine and I have been invited to the White House to have a few trials of it in front of the president and also many other famous scientists! Is that cool or what?” Phil fired away like a machine gun, and unknowingly left his cousin brother in shock. As Phil continued talking, Peter used his free hand to search for the article he had skimmed through earlier. It had a blurry photo of the inventor as it was taken from the wrong angle, but the caption was crystal clear and it read ‘Phil Tesla successfully invented a once mythical machine!’ “So can you come?” Phil ended his storytelling with a question. “What?” Peter asked as he was focussed on reading the article. “Can you come for the time machine trial tomorrow at 2pm? I want someone close to be with me on my big day.” Phil persuaded. Peter answered forcefully, “Of course! Why not? Congratulations by the way!” Phil said, “See you then!” before hanging up. Peter stared blankly at the laptop screen once more. Could he do this to his own cousin? The question kept twirling in his mind. The fact that his cousin was the inventor did not bother him, the dilemma did. He stepped out of the limousine with Phil talking away as usual and they walked towards the building that he had only encountered through photos and documentaries – the White House. His heart pounded away from the guilt that was picking up every time he was introduced to a scientist as Phil’s ‘most reliable and kindest cousin’. Before the trial, a feast was thrown by the president as a form of respect to Phil and the other visitors. Phil sat two seats away from the president while Peter sat next to Phil. Phil further increased Peter’s guilt unintentionally by introducing Peter to the president himself. After the feast, Peter and Phil proceeded to the guest room to prepare for the trial. Phil unlocked his big, black leather suitcase after a retinal and thumbprint scan to reveal the product of his blood, sweat and tears to his cousin. Peter grasped it and felt it in his palm, admired what his cousin called a time machine – a pocket watch with its gold-coloured exterior echoed that of a pocket watch Peter once gave to Phil on his birthday. Phil smiled and explained that the design was inspired by the present Peter once gave him. Since he received it, he had vowed on making something that looked like it. Phil elaborated on its mechanism, “If you want to use it, just think of a time and place and it will take you there. It sound like magic, but I can assure you, it’s quantum physics. And these are to read someone’s thoughts,” Phil explained as he handed two ear-plug shaped devices to Peter. “They will not able to see or hear you, of course.” Phil added. Peter held the time machine, put on the ear plugs and was ready to carry out his plan, but a surge of guilt arose once again in his chest. He stared at Phil with tears welling in his now red eyes, looked at Phil’s confused look and whispered inaudibly, “Sorry, Phil.” Before Phil could react, Peter thought of the years he had planned chronologically, and selected the first one, followed by the place and clicked the latch button. What followed was the two hands of the pocket watch spinning rapidly out of control and a loud buzz like that of a bumblebee. He then screamed as he felt like he was being stretched from the top and bottom of his body before his consciousness faded into oblivion. When Peter awoke, he looked around to get his bearings and to shake off the slight pulsating pain in his cranium. He looked up to see a small-eyed Japanese man pondering from his throne. “Wait, it’s really Japan’s last shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu! It worked! I must be in his palace. I wonder what’s on his mind.” Peter thought. Peter clambered to get to his feet and walked closer to the famous shogun to try and ‘hear’ his thoughts. “Leaving Nippon as an isolationist and limiting its contact with the west would be the wisest thing to do. It would be the best for my people. I wouldn’t want Nippon to suffer the same fate as China.” the shogun thought worriedly. Peter thought to himself, “Typical selfish thoughts. He doesn’t know what his citizens want. That is what he thinks they want.” Suddenly, the doors of the tall palace swung opened and soldiers stormed in with hostile looks fixed on their leader. One of his advisors exclaimed, “Abdicate your throne immediately! Otherwise Nippon will be no different from China!” The shogun calmly raised his hand and said, “I wasn’t trying to make our beloved Nippon like China. What I did was to protect Nippon from being dominated by various western colonial powers! However, if you want to jump to conclusions based on the US Commodore, Matthew Perry’s visit alone, feel free to do so, for I shall abdicate voluntarily to avoid bloodshed.” He stood up and walked away, with the advisors and soldiers a bit startled. After he had left, an advisors yelled, “The feudal system has come to an end. Soon, the Meiji Restoration shall commence, and not only will we not go the same way China did, but we shall be equals with the western powers in terms of technology!” The other advisors and soldiers yelled in agreement, not believing the now ex-shogun’s words. Peter realised that the shogun was sincere and he was determined to protect his country, but his only mistake was to think that he understood his nation’s needs by assuming them. After that, he thought of a different year and venue before clicking the latch button of the time machine. The hands of the time machine spun wildly, a loud buzz sounded and Peter was again stretched from the top and bottom, but this time he endured the pain as he teleported. Unknowingly, he became unconscious again. “No! This means war! An international conference of Great Britain will not bring back my son and his wife!” yelled Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. “But Your Majesty, you need to understand that this is exactly what that Serbian assassin wants. He did it on purpose so that the diplomatic relations between our country and Serbia will be severed. He might have even planned this upcoming war, Your Majesty! Please reconsider, Your Majesty! The Council of Astro-Hungarian Ministers begs you!” a minister pleaded. Peter sat on the carpeted floor of Franz Joseph I’s office as he awoke after hearing the upset yells of the King of Hungary. The king roared, “This is what my son would have wanted. This is what I shall do! I shall avenge his death!” The minister pleaded once more but to no avail. The king declared war on Serbia, and the minister was obliged to comply with His Majesty’s wish. The king wept in silence for his son’s death after the minister left. Peter did not know the king well, but he felt sorry for him. He knew that the king did not understand the importance of the council’s proposal. With grief on his mind, Peter could not blame him. His assumption was clouded by devastation. Now, he was thinking of his family members. His parents’ and grandfather’s faces raced in his mind. Unconsciously, he thought of the time when he was seven, when his parents quarrelled for a reason he was oblivious to, in a place called home. He clicked the latch button and allowed his consciousness to fade away once more. He was awake. He looked at his seven-year-old self crying. In his grandfather’s arms, “Why? I don’t understand. What are they talking about?” His younger self asked in an innocent, confused tone. Peter’s grandfather smiled as he said, “They just don’t understand each other. They think their guesses are correct, not realising that even people make mistakes.” Young Peter asked, “Why can’t everyone understand everyone? Wouldn’t that be better?” His grandfather chuckled softly as he replied, “If that were possible, don’t you think bad guys would take advantage of that information? You wouldn’t want a peeping Tom in your head now, would you?” Young Peter giggled as he wiped his own tears away. His grandfather further added, “Don’t worry, Peter. There’s a simple solution if humans do decide to understand each other. It’s call asking. One simple, straight-forward question is like the master key that unlocks the answers you seek.” His younger self uttered, “Okay, grandpa.” With a carefree smile, young Peter raced out of the house and into the garden where a homebuilt slide awaited. However, Peter followed his grandfather upstairs and took a right turn into a room where the door was left ajar. Peter’s parents were still arguing with each other. “You know,” Peter’s grandfather said, “Peter is not sad because he comes from a poor family. He is sad because of the war you two are constantly waging. He just wants you two to be happy. He wants you two to stop quarrelling!” Peter’s mother asked in surprise, “It’s not because of our financial instability?” The old man said, “Look outside! Does he look sad at all on that slide?” His parents stood side by side as they gazed out of the window. Peter brushed off a tear on his cheek and muttered, “Wow, grandpa.” Then, he thought of the place he left his cousin and the very moment he stole the time machine, and took the last step of the time machine procedure – he clicked the latch button on the asset his cousin trusted him with, and his thoughts were shadowed completely but temporarily again, like the sun shadowed by the moon during a solar eclipse. The silhouette that once engulfed his thoughts subsided gradually. Peter’s vision spun slightly as he rotated his head slowly from side to side. He tried to take it all in – scientists in lab coats stared down at him in awe, the president clapped slowly in surprise and his cousin dashed towards him. Peter covered his face in fear that punches would be thrown in his direction by his cousin. His anticipation proved to be wrong when he was held in his cousin’s arms tightly. Phil was grateful of his safe return of his favourite cousin. Peter embraced Phil in confusion, and tried to resolve it as he said, “I’m sorry about what I did, but why aren’t you angry at me? I don’t understand,” Phil straightened his back and gave him a warm smile, “At first, I assumed you wanted to hurt me by exploiting my time machine and unearthing top secret classified information from foreign countries which would damage diplomatic ties between our country and theirs, which would in turn lead to war. However, after calling your roommate with your phone you dropped before you travelled through time, I found out that your class was given an assignment on whether humans understood each other. My guess was that you took a stroll through history to get authentic stories from the past to enhance your essay. I understand that this assignment meant a lot to you so I forgive you. You saved my life when I was seven. I knew you wouldn’t do anything to hurt me, cousin.” Peter said, “Thank you for understanding, but was it seriously fine to do that?” His cousin replied cheerfully, “Of course! You would be free on one condition though. You’ll need to spend a month with us. We have lots of questions for you, but after you’ve completed your assignment.” Peter stepped into a bookstore down the street and a copy of the book on display was flipped to the last page. ‘Do humans understand each other? No, but you could always ask, for its results are amazing!’ Peter read the last paragraph of the book and placed the book back on the shelf in the bookstore. Why would he need to buy a book which he had the manuscript to?... Read more
The world was ending. Marcus found that thought to be surreal, to be a joke, but it wasn’t. It was, no matter what he believed, reality. He sighed. Now that he was waiting for his impending death, what was he supposed to do? He guessed he could just wait for death to knock on his door and take him away, but that was a waste of time. Although he was g...Learn MoreThe world was ending. Marcus found that thought to be surreal, to be a joke, but it wasn’t. It was, no matter what he believed, reality. He sighed. Now that he was waiting for his impending death, what was he supposed to do? He guessed he could just wait for death to knock on his door and take him away, but that was a waste of time. Although he was going to die soon, he wasn’t going to waste his time before it came. As his mother always said, time was gold, and at this very moment, it was very evident that statement was true. Where were his parents, you might ask? Dead. No, they hadn’t died because of the apocalypse, but from a simple car accident a year prior, leaving him, at the age of nineteen, with their apartment, the rest of their wealth placed on his hands as was written in their will. Ah, he thought, feeling his eyes water, let’s not think about them. Lightning boomed around him, and he raised a brow, peering over the balcony doors before approaching it. Walking out, he looked up to the sky. No longer was it a bright baby blue colour, instead now a mix of crimson and violet, with a bit of pale yellow. The clouds, meanwhile, were made from the darkest shade of grey, borderline black, with lightning striking the world below, hitting buildings and trees and sometimes, even people. Horrifying, yet oddly beautiful. Marcus snorted. He was about to die, so why wasn’t he panicking? Why didn’t his guts churn at the thought of death? Why couldn’t he feel anything? He wanted to be like those people running, the ones screaming for their lives, yet there was no will for him to do it, for him to even try because it was inevitable. It was the end of the world. Gripping the railing until his knuckles whitened, until his palms burned against the cold touch of the railing, Marcus found himself leaning over it, death slowly seducing him to fall down, to just let go. That was, until a knock caught his attention. Who the hell is that? Marcus thought, confused. But then again, who was Marcus to care? They were all going to die anyway. He answered the door, ignoring an especially loud rumble sounding behind him, and saw…a girl—a child. * * * She’d been sleeping when it started. After the usual, she was left on the bed tired and exhausted, her whole body singing with the need to sleep and forget. And that she did, sleeping from noon till evening, only to be awaken by the sound of rumbling earth, lightning, and the screams of the dying. Of course, she’d been confused, her mind a haze of grogginess and exhaustion, but once the thought, the realization, settled in the pits of her mind, she’d…just blinked and walked out of her room. What was she supposed to do? Scream? Cry? She didn’t know. Her parents, however, knew exactly what to do, her mother having plunged a knife deep into her father’s throat. “What are you doing?” she asked at the time. “I…I didn’t want him to suffer, so I…I gave him a swift death,” her mother replied. She inspected her father’s features and found her mother’s words to be quite the lie. His face was stuck in eternal agony, his mouth slacked open with blood coating his lips like lipstick, his dark eyes now dull and lifeless, his skin, which used to be blue, reverting back to it’s original mundane colour of beige, now mixed with grey. Dead. She blinked again. “Come here, dear,” her mother crooned, pulling out the knife from her father’s throat, her light green hair swaying behind her. She stepped off his body, disregarding it like a child throwing away an old toy for a new one, the knife in her hand gleaming under the light. “You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?” Her mother flinched at her tone. She wasn’t sure why, and she sure didn’t care. She might die, but not by the hands of her mother. “I don’t want you to kill me,” she said at first, constructing a plan. “I’m sorry, dear. I’m so, so sorry,” her mother sobbed, shaking her head, hair in an utter mess, strands tangling with one another like a bird’s nest. “I have to. I need to. Or else you’ll be suffering till the very end. I can’t let that happen. I can’t.” Well wasn’t that an interesting reason. She was already suffering even without the apocalypse. She might’ve been ten, might’ve been a child, but seriously, did her mother think she was stupid? “Don’t kill me,” she began, with a cracked voice. “I want to be—to be with you.” “Oh baby.” Her mother ran to her, having dropped the knife and embracing her in a sticky hug. Gross. She returned the hug, though, rubbing her face against the crook of her neck. And she made sure her mother felt the tears streaming down her face, made sure they struck a chord in her mother. “Let’s…let’s do it, dear. Let’s die together.” Pulling away from the hug, she nodded. “Okay.” And it was then, when her mother was looking out at the balcony door, did she know what she was going to do to her. * * * “So, uh, want anything to drink?” “No thank you.” Awkward silence filled the room. Marcus was seriously starting to regret letting in the small girl. Looking over his shoulder, he took in her appearance. She looked to be around ten or eleven, with skin as pale as his was dark, her black hair reaching her narrow shoulders. Her eyes, round and wide, was the colour of Earth’s soil, her eyelids reflecting her East Asian heritage, a bit of freckles dusting her nose and cheeks. The grey sweater she wore was a bit too big, with a speck of blood on her sleeves here and there, her black shorts just brushing her knees. Marcus compared her look to his. His skin was a dark brown, his hair, black with neon blue and purple highlights, curly and short. He was broad-shouldered, and running from his back to his right arm was a tattoo sleeve made up of the numbers one and zero, not randomly arranged but certainly appearing like so. Not that it mattered. And his eyes were a funny colour: a deep ocean blue, with brown rims near the outer edges. His highlights, his tattoo, and his eye colour were all made with the help of the nanobots squirming in his blood system. While most of them were used for health reasons, like flu resistant bots, some were used for fashion, able to alter the colour of eyes and skin from the dull colours of life to bright, cheerful colours, to changing the shape of ones nose, ears, or mouth. But now that he thought about it… “Hey kid, how old are you?” Marcus asked, sitting down beside her on the couch. “Ten,” she answered. Ten? Marcus thought. Everyone got their health bots when they were five, and everyone got their fashion bots when they were eight. So why didn’t this girl use her fashion bots? Every kid in the world used them, even if their fashion sense was stupid. “Name?” he opted to ask instead. She was silent for a moment. “Olivia.” He internally sighed. This girl was lying. “Well then, Olivia, I’m Marcus. Nice to meet you. Or not, since we are going to die.” “You’re very calm about it.” “Humans die. That’s just life. I mean, with our technology most of us live up to our hundreds, but it still doesn’t change the fact we’re all mortals.” He’d suspected her to cry, or to even get angry, but no, she instead just nodded and leaned back. She was so at ease it was almost terrifying, but then again, look at him. “I think,” she said, “we just don’t think about death that much. Look at us; we’ve already colonized Mars and travelling billions of years away from this planet. I think nobody has thought the end of the world would come after all of our successes.” Olivia smiled sadly, looking out at the balcony glass doors. Marcus rolled his eyes. “Okay,” he snorted. Olivia scoffed. “Why aren’t you running out there? Are you fine with dying, Marcus?” “Well, I wouldn’t say fine,” he began, before pausing for a moment. What was his opinion on this matter? Well, he was certainly nonchalant about it, that was certain, but he wasn’t necessarily glad it was coming. “I think,” he said, after a long moment of silence, “I just don’t care at this point.” * * * She blinked and stared at the man named Marcus. What was she supposed to say? Was she supposed to agree? Did she agree? She didn’t think so; she hadn’t wanted her mother to kill her, which meant she must have cared, right? But then again, she knew, deep down, caring did nothing. After all, look where that led her mother to. Marcus stood up, stretching his back whilst yawning. She wondered why he didn’t care. After she’d done the deed, she stood at the balcony all alone, staring down at the ground. It wasn’t nice, but it had to be done. While she’d suspected herself to cry, or to feel guilt, none of the emotions came to. Only relief came washing down on her, as if the things her parents had placed on her were finally severed. She was free. But so…alone. Then, a few apartments away, she saw him. Marcus. Boredom masked his face as he stared at the people running for their lives, his ocean blue eyes empty and reflective like water, his hair, highlighted with bright colours, moving with the wind. She liked that he wasn’t afraid, liked that he looked like he had better places to be. Which was why she went to him. “So tell me, Olivia,”—Marcus’s voice brought her back to reality—“what happened to your parents?” “They died,” she answered after realizing she was Olivia. Olivia wasn’t her name, but she didn’t want Marcus to know that; her real name led back to her parents, and she didn’t want to associate herself with them. “Was it because of the apocalypse or something else?” asked Marcus. “Something else.” “A person?” “A person,” she confirmed. Marcus whistled, as if impressed. He scratched the back of his neck with his left hand, the other hand resting on his hip, his tattoo suddenly catching her attention. It was unusual, to say the least, but intriguing, which led her to ask, “What does that tattoo mean?” “Hmm?” Marcus looked down at his arm. “Oh, this? It’s a reminder.” “Of what?” Marcus shrugged. “If you tell me your name, I’ll tell you what it means.” “But I did tell you my name.” “Your real name, Olivia. I want to hear your real name.” She bit her inner cheek. “What if I said I am Olivia? What if I’m no longer who I used to be?” She gripped her left arm, ignoring the dull throb of pain within her muscles. Marcus observed her in silence, and she felt her body tense, his stare so sharp it made her believe he knew what she was hiding underneath her sweater. “What if I don’t want to be who I used to be?” Marcus crossed his arms over his chest, contemplating long enough for the floor to begin to shake and vibrate. The insides of her body trembled, her bones poking her muscles like sharp needles, but she paid no heed to them. “Then, if that’s what you believe, you’re Olivia.” She smiled. “Thank you.” “No problem,” he shrugged. “I’m still not telling you what my tattoo means though.” “It’s alright.” It was then did Marcus look out at the balcony door, gazing at the thundering sky that worsened each second, winds so intense blowing that Sa—Olivia could feel it chilling the very core of her soul. She approached Marcus, taking his hand. He blinked at her. “Are you scared?” he asked, free hand stroking her head. “No,” she answered. Marcus was about to retort, but she stopped him. “I just don’t want to be alone. Being alone…it’s bad. I’d rather die than be alone. That’s why I came here, because I saw you and thought…” “You weren’t alone?” She nodded. Marcus chuckled and…hugged her, crouching down her height and engulfing her with the warmest embrace she’d ever been given. Anything her parents had given her couldn’t compare to this hug, to this warmth. And finally, the dam broke. Olivia wailed. “Hey, hey, don’t cry.” Marcus pulled away. Ocean blue eyes met dark brown ones. “Look, Olivia, I don’t know you, and I’m sure you don’t know me too, but from what I’ve seen, you’ve gone through some…bad stuff, haven’t you?” She nodded, wiping the tears away with her sleeve. “It’s alright, Olivia,” he reassured. “Nothing bad will happen to you ever again. I’m here for you. I’ll protect you.” “You’re going to die with me, Marcus. I’m a stranger.” “I’ve got no one I want to die with. Parents died a year ago. My friends…well, they aren’t really my friends; I’m just using them to fill in time. And I haven’t had a partner since high school. So everything’s fine.” He extended a hand toward her, brushing aside the strands of hair falling over her eyes. He didn’t pay attention to the world, to the destruction of his apartment as his belongings started to fall all around them, vases broken into shards, a bookshelf slamming against the floor. And that relieved her, to realize that he saw her presence and didn’t want to kill her, didn’t want to hurt her. “You’re not alone.” “I’m…not?” she asked. Marcus smiled, brotherly and warm and genuine. “You’re not.” “Thank you,” she sobbed. “Thank you.” She kept on repeating those words, and Marcus kept on comforting her, the world around them slowly collapsing and turning into fine dust, into fine nothingness. And that was alright, for she was not alone anymore. * * * On the planet Mars, the news played. “It comes with deep regret that I announce the planet Earth has ceased to be. The reason for the destruction of Earth is unknown. Government officials and scientist are now searching for the answer, but for now, let us pray to those we have lost. Family members and friends shall be missed, enemies and lovers not forgotten. Even strangers, we shall not forget them, for even if we know not their identity, we know that they exist, that they shall have a place in our heart. That is all for now. Goodbye, and may they all rest in peace.” ... Read more
I gazed out the window of the spaceship, watching the endless expanse of stars stretching out into infinity. What a wondrous sight to see.
Out here in open space, I felt almost… free, even my freedom was but a mere illusion; a fantasy that will never be. At least that’s what I was taught to think, growing up as nothing but proper...Learn More I gazed out the window of the spaceship, watching the endless expanse of stars stretching out into infinity. What a wondrous sight to see. Out here in open space, I felt almost… free, even my freedom was but a mere illusion; a fantasy that will never be. At least that’s what I was taught to think, growing up as nothing but property of another being, tortured and forced to do hard labour for as long as I could remember. I don’t have a name. Nobody ever bothered to give me one. Growing up, I was but a slave of the One, and one of the lowliest ones at that. A miner, spending any and all of my time digging, breaking, searching. I never knew my parents, all I had of them was a tiny pickaxe carved out of stone. Nobody knew what had happened to them; after all, who would even care about the lives of just another two miners? I still remember the first day I entered the mines, on my seventh birthday. As I walked in, chained and prodded along with a rifle, I saw the faces of the people around me. Faces who had become indifferent over the years, faces that seemed to have given up all hope in life. These men seemed to emit an aura of dejection, sinking into the depths of their own despair and encouraging everyone else to do so too. There was only one rule that was ever set: do precisely what you’re told or face the consequences. And the latter option is never pretty. So that’s exactly what I did; following the exact same routine everyone else did. But I didn’t fall into their trap now, no. Never once did I give up hope, the belief that we can all one day walk free rather than succumb to their slow torture that slowly whittled away at your sanity. I just kept going on, day after day, night after night, pushing on by sheer hope and willpower alone. For fifteen years straight. On the day of my twenty-second birthday, a spaceship landed. But for the first time as long as anyone in my mining colony could remember, they didn’t come to drop someone off or to pick up yet another dead, decaying body. No, they came, in fact, to pick someone up. Me. I was receiving a promotion; the first one in a hundred years for my diligence. I didn’t even realise I had been working that hard. I was to oversee another colony and keep them in check. And that’s exactly what I did for the next five years before my next promotion. I worked my way up the ladder, reaching higher and higher, never once stopping. And it all led to this day. Standing here, aged sixty-eight, I was finally promised my freedom, as long as I just performed one final job. While rising up the ranks, I had managed to generate myself enough money to live a decent life, maybe even start a family. Everything led up to this one day. Standing aboard the Stargazer, waiting for my final task. Maybe it was all a lie. Maybe freedom wasn’t too hard to wish for. Isn’t it, after all, precisely what I was about to receive? The Stargazer docked on the One’s personal space station half an hour later. As I dismounted from it, I was greeted by none other than the One himself. He was dressed in casual clothes, yet couldn’t have looked more intimidating. He did, after all, own half of the known universe. “Welcome,” He greeted me. “I have been watching you for the past ten years, and I have no doubt in my mind that you deserve your own greatest desire. That is; your freedom. That is what you desire, am I correct?” I bowed. “Yes, respected One.” “Good. Then I simply have one final task for you. Complete it, and you shall be free to go. You are the first slave I have ever given a chance to be set free. Your title shall certainly go down in my records.” “Very well. What shall the task be?” “It is a simple task, merely to deliver a message. There is an isolated colony on the edge of System-41 that has not been able to provide me with any profit for the past year. It is eating away at my own resources and money. I want you to travel there and inform them that if they aren’t able to bring benefit within the next three days, the useless chunk of rock they’re on will turn to dust, with them on it. You may take my ship, the Stargazer. Is that clear?” For the first time in years, I felt shock and panic. That colony is where my journey first began, and where my original partners were. “Honoured One, sorry to reply, but that colony has not produced anything as the asteroid they are on has been mined dry. It had no more resources to give. If you could just only-” “Are you… questioning my judgement?” “No, but-” “Then do as I say. NOW.” I slowly bowed and backed away, head low; thoughts spinning through my head. I turned around and ran towards the ship as soon as I was out of sight. I cried the whole journey there. When I arrived, everyone was looking solemnly at me, even more than usual. They knew. They saw the tears in my eyes, and their faces softened. Some even comforted me, but they knew there was no other way. But I knew another way. “Everyone, get on board. We’re leaving. Now.” They stared at me. One of them shouted: “You don’t have to do this! You can leave us here and live your own life; we never had anything to live for anyway!” But I refused. I knew I could never live knowing this anyway. Doing such a thing would make me an automatic enemy of the One, and he would hunt me down to the ends of the universe for disobeying him. But I didn’t care. I now realise that I could never truly be free anyway. The Stargazer lifted into space and into the unknown, never to return.... Read more
I sat down on the bench next to the football field. It's starting to be a daily routine of mine. Every day, I would take a walk in the park with a book in my hand. I would go to the same bench and would spend hours ...Learn MoreI sat down on the bench next to the football field. It's starting to be a daily routine of mine. Every day, I would take a walk in the park with a book in my hand. I would go to the same bench and would spend hours reading. I would lose track of time and get carried away. It felt good, to be lost like this. Most of my friends don't feel the same way. They would spend their time socializing but not face-to-face. A waste of good minds, not reading. I saw a man across the field. He was sitting on a bench, head down. From his features, I could tell he was Malay. He was wearing a clothes as if he was a jogger. The object in his arms is rarely seen in a Malay man's possession. A book. He seems to be absorbed in it, actually taking in the words one at a time. A beautiful sight to see a young man taking interest in reading. -- --- --. In awe, I hit dial. It felt like only two minutes when I got a call. I took out my phone and saw an unknown number calling me. It didn't mention the number itself, it literally said 'unknown number'. The time also showed it was two hours, not two minutes. Answering the phone with a professional tone, I said, "Hello. Who is this?" A pause The man on the receiving end had a calm tone to it when he spoke. "Hello. Are you Aniq Rosman?" "I a-," I stopped. This was my private number. There was no way he could have gotten it without knowing me first. "Unfortunately, I cannot tell you without you telling me any further information about yourself." Another pause. "Apologies. My name is Ahmad. I am from the Secret Government of Malaysia." Secret Government of Malaysia? Ahmad? Sounds like the worst fake name anybody could think of. "You're bluffing. Is this a prank call? I can repo-" "You are reading a book titled 'The Fifth' written by your father's friend and you are currently on page 357. You intended to start reading it yesterday but you had to finish your research on neutrinos. True or false?" I was speechless. Everything was correct. "True. I am Aniq Rosman," I said in a quieter voice. "Thank you. I need you to cooperate with me. I know everything about you. Your darkest secret and your biggest lie. All of it. If you cooperate, this will only be between you and me. If not, I can ruin your career. Understand?" I swallowed my saliva. "Yes." "Good. Now, listen carefully. Turn to your right. You will see a tree. Behind that tree there is a bag. Inside that bag there are several items. An old Nokia phone is one of them. Call the number on that phone. I will hear from you later." End call. I guess I have no choice. I am willing to bet he has snipers on every rooftop with their eyes on me. I need to be quick before he catches me. I closed my book and got up to take in the surroundings first. I couldn't see anybody suspicious. Must be a good hider or actor. The tree was only a thirty second walk. It looked out of place, for it was the only tree in the surrounding area. But what the man said was true. Behind it was indeed a green bag. It had a bottle of pills, a water bottle, a scrambled Rubik's cube, an envelope and the phone Ahmad was referring. The contact list only had one number. The call log showed the number and my number being called an uncountable amount of times. I was having second thoughts when I hit dial. The phone rang. Right on time. "You found it," I said. "Yes I did," I replied, probably with more confidence than last time. "Now what? How much longer do I need to follow you?" "Not much longer. Do you know the Carlos Cafe?" "Yes. Just a few blocks from here." "Good. Go there, order a drink. You're thirsty, aren't you? I recommend the latte." "Then what?" "I'll call you." I hanged up. This is getting even more interesting. He dropped his personal phone as predicted. Obviously, I took it. Now, I need to be quick and set everything up. ######## "Yes, that is all. Thank you." I finished ordering and sat down at my table. I've never been here before but they have great service because my latte was made pretty fast. I took a sip and Ahmad was right yet again. It was amazing. Definitely going to come back here again. Ahmad said he would call. What's taking him so long? I took out the Rubik's Cube and played with it. I was twelve years old when I first solved it. Ten years later, I still remember how to. The final turn was made and the Nokia phone rang. "Hello?" "Good job," Ahmad answered. "You solved it. Now, you must follow my steps carefully. Take a pill from your bag and eat it. Swallow it completely. Have a bit of water if it's too hard. Then open the envelope. There will be further instructions in there." "You want me to take a pill! What if it's a drug? I could die!" I panicked. This man that I have never met before was telling me to take a foreign pill. He was going way too far. "Trust me. It is perfectly safe. This will be the last time we will talk. Goodbye." I ended it. Done. Everything was done. I saw him look at the pill funny. He, very reluctantly, took the pill and drained the bottle of water. I remember it tasting bad. He is having a headache, probably moaning. No. He was definitely moaning. Good thing business was slow that day. Otherwise he would get a bunch of funny looks. I picked up my ---- and went home. It was a weird day and I need some rest. ######## My head was burning. I couldn't bear the pain. It felt like forever when it finally stopped. I was infuriated at Ahmad. I just wanted to get this over with. I opened the envelope and the letter had a simple instruction. 'Go back to the park and call your phone on the Nokia.' My phone? It's supposed to be in my back pocket. But it was not. How did the letter know my phone was gone? I placed the letter back into the envelope and the envelope back into the bag with the bottle of pills, a water bottle and a scrambled Rubik's cube. Losing my phone is the worst thing that could happen today and I don't want that to happen. ######## It probably fell out of my pocket when I took the bag. I approached the tree and looked at the roots. It wasn't there. Where could it be? I looked around hoping to find it. Then I remember I have to call it. Before I hit dial, I saw someone. I saw a man across the field. He was sitting on my bench, head down. From his features, I could tell he was Malay. The object in his arms is rarely seen in a Malay man's possession. A book. He seems to be absorbed in it, actually taking in the words one at a time. A beautiful sight to see a young man taking interest in reading. It was me. In awe, I hit dial.... Read more
Van Gregory, a 16 year old teenager who goes to Amberville High, he was the school jock. A popular teen who had earned respect and adoration by the school and Amberville alike
Learn More Van Gregory, a 16 year old teenager who goes to Amberville High, he was the school jock. A popular teen who had earned respect and adoration by the school and Amberville alike It seems today was going to be a bad day for him, 3rd July 2018. Van walks to the entrance as he puts his phone inside his sling bag.. As he steps to the door, Van felt a sharp sting in his neck. Late again, as everyone is already inside. “Something isn’t right.” Van thought out loud, he shakes his head and steps in. Only to see the hallways stained with blood. The lights were off but, Van already knew something was up. Van takes off his glasses, his eyes turn to crimson and he could see through the darkness of the hallways. “Feeders.” Van thought out loud, seeing a familiar face walking to him, his school team’s football quarterback, Terry. “Terry?” Van calls out, only to see Terry charging at him with the bloodied jaw and sharp fangs. Van takes a step to the left, turning behind Terry. He kicks Terry down followed by keeping him in a headlock. “Looks like they’ve turned you. I’m sorry.” Terry smiled to him with tears in his eyes. “I can’t save you.” Terry nodded and Van pulls a pistol from his sling bag, pointing it to Terry. ‘Thank you’ Terry whispered as Van fires the full 7 rounds from his M45 pistol. Van puts on his earpiece and calls out. “Drifter, this is Virgo. I’m online, Amberville High is a hive.” “Virgo,What do you mean it’s a hive!?” “I’m sensing that the ones who are in the school right now, have become feeders. Another 931 more to go. Protocol says if it's more than 500 it's a Hive.” Van says as he wraps wires to his fingers and traps the entrances with them, ensuring that anyone that runs to the entrance is sliced by them. “Virgo, you can’t engage them alone!” Van watches as his classmates and teachers run out into his field of view. “lt's not like choice matters in this situation.” Van swings his hands to the front as they ran to him and then he tightens his hold, trapping them into the wire. Van saw the dead expression on their faces, it weakened him for this moment, but he has to put them out of their misery. “I'm sorry.” Van pulls the wires and he watches how the wires cut through their bodies, Van watches how the blood drips from the wires. “Virgo.” Van stands still for a moment, taking in the fact that he just sliced his classmates and school teacher, Van’s tears stream from his cheeks,for a moment it was sad but it changed back to his blank expression when he works. “I’m fine Drifter. This is why we're told to not be emotional. I can't hesitate even if they are my friends, they can't control their actions anymore.” Van is jumped on by another Feeder, a blonde girl who growls at him, the blood and saliva touched his face. Van could smell the human flesh from her bloodied lips. “If you’re infected, Betty. Then Veronica must be too.” Van headbutts Betty off him, followed by him drawing out the pistol, hitting the magazine release with his right thumb, followed by his left hand pushing the 7 round magazine inside. Followed by firing the 7 rounds into Betty’s chest. Betty stops for a moment, to which Van moves to pointblank range after loading a fresh magazine. Betty growled at him, only to be greeted by the barrel placed into her mouth. Veronica, his girlfriend must be in danger, and he hopes that she is safe despite the slim possibility. "Pop goes the weasel." Van fires off the 7 rounds into her, effectively killing her and it looks like Van spent the last of his 45caliber rounds, now he is out of ammunition for the pistol. Van casually walks over to the music room,seeing the blood stains on the walls as well as the body of a school staff member on the floor, whose torso has been hallowed out. Miss Connors, the school music teacher. “Miss Connors. Looks like they’ve started eating each other.” Van finds large suitcase, he pulls it out to view and unlocks it with a code. ‘221117’ Van opens the box. Seeing his all black 3 piece suit, an expressionless porcelain mask, an 8 inch Model 29 revolver and a Nova shotgun with an 18 inch barrel. Van takes the revolver and loads the 6 rounds of .44 magnum inside of it. Followed by turning to his back, seeing Miss Connors standing behind him with her bones reforming as teeth like beings. Van pulls the hammer and fires the first shot, sending Miss Connors to the wall. Followed by firing the next 5 rounds into her head, blowing it to pieces. Van puts them on and then he looks at the expressionless porcelain mask. “Virgo. It looks like we’ll have to return once again.Maybe it wasn’t right for me to have this life.” The expressionless mask changed into a grin. Van puts the mask on as he loads 7 shells into the shotgun, seeing a deformed student rushing in, with the tall, slender body with sharp claws and a twisted neck. “Drifter, is this the Creeping Heart strain? They don’t look like the Feeders anymore.” “I’ve traced it. It was a bioweapon made by Novac Industries, upon release, it changes all aspects of human physiology and changes their need to feed on human flesh for strength. It’s infection through bites. It’s a modified version of the Creeping Heart.” Drifter’s answer did not help with Van’s case. Van sighs looking at the disfigured being that moves to him, Van points the shotgun to its hand, firing the first show blowing its hand away. The creature steps back, reforming its hand again. Van pumps the shotgun, loading an inciendary round and fires at its face. The creature covers its face due to the flames, screaming in pain with what sounds like a distorted human voice. Van fires the chest, placing a hole in its body, before using his left hand to the target, blowing its head away. “Will it spread?” Van asks as he steps out of the music room, seeing more of them in the hall. Van puts the shotgun away, then swaps to the Model 29. They run to him while Van fires the revolver in quick succession, blowing through their limbs with the .44 magnum rounds. "Only through bites by the ones infected.” Van swings the chamber, using a moon clip to load the revolver and continues firing at them. Van walks to some of them whose legs were blown apart by the magnum rounds, he loads another set of shots pointing the barrel to their heads as they stared at him. Van fires at the spine, ensuring that they will not feel it at least. Van loads his shotgun and makes his way to the gymnasium. The door opens, whereby Van looks at his football teammates and coach looking like abominations as their eyes are bloody red and begin their charge at him. One of them holds his leg, Van takes his revolver, firing it into the said athlete before going back to the ones in front. Van fires the slugs of his shotgun into them, stopping them in their tracks. Even for a brief moment Van will make use of it he puts the shotgun back, his left hand swinging the wires to their direction while his right holds the revolver. Van fires away 6 shots to the coach, blowing through the legs while his left hand pulls the wire keeping the coach immobile for a moment. Van dodges the stampede that came to him and pulls the wire again. His left hand snaps and the coach along with the athletes are encased in ice. Van pumps the shotgun of the spent ammunition, flips it and swings it to their iced bodies, bludgeoning them to pieces until they remained as a pool of blood. “Looks like your powers are working again.” Drifter commented as Drifter sees everything through the mask. “Not a good sign if I'm drained if I use them. They move in a formation as if they are controlled. Drifter, is there a source?” Van asks as he loads his shotgun. “There is. It’s coming from the hall.” Van nods as he runs to the hall. Seeing a few creatures with their heads shaped like blades stand before him. Van throws the wires at them, closing the distance between them. Some of them cut through the wires only to find Van already behind them, pointing the revolver at their heads. Van fires away, tearing through the 5 beings with his revolver and goes to the door of the hall. Hearing munching, growling followed by a scream that deafened his ears. “Virgo, are you sure you want to enter?” “Whatever it is, Drifter. I have to handle it.” Van enters, finding the masses of bodies that have been eaten, torn apart as well as destroyed. Van looks inside seeing someone familiar wearing a dress which colors had coordinated to be that of blood. “Drifter. They have a Royal..” The teenage girl turned, her hands were clean of blood, and her skin pale with her red eyes looking back at him. White hair, but the face was familiar. The Royal being the one who controls the weaker and lesser beings and usually they are much harder to kill. “A ROYAL!?Get out of there! You can’t find an enemy of that level!” Van ignores Drifter’s words. “Veronica.” She turns to him with a smile as her head is tilted, her lips had wine red lipstick, though Van knows that it is actually blood in reality. Veronica looked beautiful, but Van preferred her old brown hair and hazel eyes rather than this. “Van.” She smiled, yet Van knew that there is more to it and watched how the corpses stood, being amassed and ready to attack. Van loaded his shotgun and readied it, only to see a spear made of blood breaking it, Van looks at Veronica who pointed her finger at him and the creatures jumped to Van. Van tries to use his wires, but only to be overwhelmed slowly. Van tries to get a grip as he feels they clawed into his flesh. In that brief moment Van’s hair turned white and he clenched his fist and the creatures are thrown back, followed by them being burnt till their bones were left, or be sliced in half by the wind or be smashed into frozen pieces Van felt his limit, to which Veronica charges at him with a blade and a sad expression on his face, Van intercepts with the wires, and the two of them were looking at each other’s faces. “Van.” Veronica’s call, threw him off guard as she struck Van’s chest with the blade, with the wires entering into his lungs. Van coughs out blood as he watches Veronica looking at him, Van reaches out to her, holding her cheek. Veronica pushes the blade deeper into Van's chest as he coughs out blood. Van fires a few shots at her, only to see the blood stopping the bullets, he drops the gun and holds her cheeks with his hands. “I love you.” He muttered, unsure if he was going to die here or if he is just going to be stuck in this position, but whatever it is. She was the last thing on his mind.Veronica’s tears fall, and she said the same, only to leave the blade in Van’s chest and taking a step back. The other monsters died all of a sudden. “Van. Please, end this. Just.. End whatever this is supposed to be. I can’t control this. I can see you and hear you but I couldn’t move away to not hurt you.” “It’s alright.” Van says as he leans back to the wall,as the blade slides out of his chest. Veronica approached him, kneeling by his side and loading the Model 29 for him. “I’m sorry, it had to be this way.” Veronica says as she puts the gun in Van’s hand, his porcelain mask broke and he was in tears, with a sad expression on his face, while Veronica smiles on. “I love you, Van.” Van pulls the hammer and fires the 6 shots into her head, followed by pulling her to his chest and she was engulfed in flames, the other bodies followed suit and moments later, Van was alone in the hall, silence filled the air and he could see the ghosts of all that died smiling to him, thanking him. The school was on fire and he couldn’t get out. Van faded in and out of his conscious mind, hearing echoes of voices which were familiar. "Zodiac 6, is secure! Get him to safety." Van wakes up on a bed in his room, looks like it was all a nightmare. Van looks at the portrait of Veronica which he drew by the wall of his room. "Morning, Beautiful." Van says as he steps out of the room, and finding the Model 29 and the Nova by the table. Van puts on his 3 piece suit, the expressionless porcelain mask, followed by the wires on his fingers. "My name is Van Gregory and I am a member of the Zodiacs, a secret group that works to stop the creatures and incidents such as 3rd of July from happening again. Van Gregory is a name that I only give to few and now, I live on as Vinne Rodman. Living as a university student in Clearview University and doing my work as a Zodiac." "The name that will never change and that will never cease to be apart of my identity is what my allies call me. They call me Virgo." ... Read more