|Current mood:||about to sleep|
|Current music:||Chris Vrenna - Vale of Tears|
Hometown, Ch. 1 completed
Okay here we go... the complete version of Chapter 1. I already posted this at the SHFics community but I'd hate to neglect the 2-3 of you on blurty who read this. ;p
Hometown, Chapter 1
Trying desperately to control the hysteria growing quickly in my mind, I focused instead on the bare facts of my current situation, rising uncertainly from the floor and dusting myself off. They were natural, simple actions; they helped to calm me down and give me another chance to look around.
My first thought was of protection. I could find a decent weaponworthy tool or something in a car garage; hell, I'd used enough of them working here. Taking a deep breath and a few uncertain steps, I turned my attention to the storage shelf in front of me: wrenches, ratchets, tire irons... even an old lunch tin, probably left here by an employee long ago.
I debated quietly with myself. What should my first weapon be? There would be others popping up soon, I reasoned, having fully accepted that I was playing out the simple, deadly plot of my childhood stories. Soon enough, I reached for the shelf, my fingers closing around a crowbar; without my conscious will to do it, I found myself starting to laugh. Of course it was a crowbar, there was no reason to be surprised. I even managed to ignore the sickening oily fluid coating my new weapon - no, covering everything in this room, even my jeans and shirt where they'd touched the floor.
How long I might've stood like that, laughing desperately, is a question that'll probably never be answered - I didn't have time to find out. A sudden, shrill cry from upstairs cut me off as swiftly as turning off a stereo. It was hard to tell who - or what - was making that cry. I strained, hoping to hear it followed by anything resembling a human voice; somewhere in my mind I carried the faint hope that upstairs was still part of the normal world I'd grown used to, I guess.
At this point I weighed my options - the basement seemed pretty sound and it was small, leaving little room for anything to surprise me; on the other hand there was only junk down here, and I'd have to go up there for food and drinks sooner or later anyway. Right then - upstairs it was, and tightening my grip on the slick, cool metal of the crowbar, I anxiously made my way up the stairs.
The upstairs was disappointing, and definitely not "normal" by anyone's definition. There were bloodstains - at least it looked like blood, and I wasn't about to check - covering much of it, and every surface looked somehow... defiled. Things looked bad enough here in the front room; I wasn't going into the garage itself. When I took a closer look around, little details began to stand out.
The register was still on, even though the light and all other electrical gadgets in there didn't seem to be, but it could've just been running on a different circuit than the rest of the room - that'd explain the barely-working lightbulb in the basement, too. The windows were covered in a nasty-looking ruddy sort of frost even though it was the middle of summer - at least in the rest of the world - and some were partly boarded up. Papers were scattered all over the floor, but I didn't bother checking them; I knew from the stories that the only thing I'd find on them was today's date.
I'd expected to see a sigil, of course; we all used to sneak into their church on dares to see who could stay long enough to copy down all of it. What I didn't expect was to feel strangely comforted by it, and when I took a closer look it turned out to be not one but two... or were they really one? Their sigil was the smaller of the two and at the top, but even it looked a bit altered: the familiar three circles within one, the words and symbols I never could understand, enclosed within a triangle, and strange lettering I couldn't read. The bigger symbol I'd never seen before... it was a lot more complex, but the basic appearance itself was pretty simple: a circle surrounded by a snake coiled around it with vaguely familiar-looking writing on its body, surrounded by another circle; in the center, six-pointed stars - four of them, each facing a compass point - surrounding a diamond in the center. It was the center that caught my eye though... there was a word in that diamond, which - even though I couldn't make it out - seemed really familiar. Personal, even.
When I found myself hitting the floor headfirst, I immediately felt like an idiot for letting the sigils steal my full attention. Something was tearing at my back; I could already feel my skin stinging where its talons hit their mark, and without thinking twice about it I scrambled forward on my knees, reaching for the crowbar I'd just stupidly dropped (and feeling stupider by the second).
Though it was probably only seconds before I grabbed it again, reaching for my crowbar felt like an eternity; funny... I'd always thought people who said that were exaggerating.
There's time now for me to think about it like this, but when I first felt claws in my back I didn't even have time to scream. Operating purely on survival instinct, the minute I held that crowbar in my hand, I jerked violently to the side. My hope was to throw that thing off my back, and whether it was skill or just luck, it worked. Rising up over my assailant, I took the briefest of moments to look at it before I bashed its brain in.
Whatever I'd imagined up 'til that moment paled in comparison to the reality in front of me. It looked, at first, like an overgrown sewer rat, except I'd never seen a rat like it anywhere before. The thing hissing at me and licking my blood off its paws was sickly and pale, tufts of matted fur justting wildly out from its body amid countless open sores oozing a strange, filmy liquid. Half its side was gaping open, insides shriveled and eaten away, a foul smell stinging my nose as my senses began to adjust again.
Quickly, I swung the crowbar at this monster (that was the only word any of us could ever come up with for them). The first horrible sound of metal hitting flesh and bone was followed by a dozen more; I felt almost feverish by the time I finally raised that bloodied crowbar and found that I was shaking; I couldn't even make myself look at the beaten mess I'd left on the floor. All I could do was let out a disgusted sob and - without looking - kick it out of frustration.
After I found a rag to clean my crowbar off and a spare jacket to cover my wounds, I slowly made my way to the front door. I didn't want to see the filth and madness I knew would be out there, but somehow I hoped that beyond it all I'd find a way out, a way back to the boring and blessedly mundane world I'd gotten used to.
Opening the door with held breath, I stepped into the choking fog before me.
I smiled quietly when I saw that young man exit the garage he was placed in. There was a desperation in his eyes, one I'd never seen in others... It set my heart racing with excitement; no other before him had knowledge of the wonders they would encounter before I finished with them, and the thrill of such novelty was a welcome surge of emotion.
How long will it take him to progress? I mused. He was growing slowly more distant, the fog (how I love that fog) enveloping him, shielding him eventually even from my sharp eyes. After standing for a minute longer, I turned and made my way toward the door he'd previously exited from, eager to see my new candidate's handiwork. I tipped the door open with the toe of my shoe, for as aesthetically pleasing as I found the mess of substances enshrouding the town, it wasn't at all enticing to touch.
Unfortunately, the moment I set foot across the threshold was a moment too late to realize that I'd made a mistake. Flung across the street like some weakling, I snarled in anger and then quickly composed myself. Now I knew what had amde him so difficult to see. I stood, dusting myself off, and strolled in the opposite direction my new little friend was headed. The church was on the other side of town, but far from where he would be headed for the time being. A long walk - if I chose to walk it all - and there were many preparations to make.
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