It was always quiet at the end.
Most of the humans had already perished. Mother Nature, as they’d naively called it, had taken care of that. They had no idea who had been pulling the strings all these years.
There were survivors, sure. They had proven to be a stubborn species, the humans. But even the strongest of them would cease to exist after what would happen next.
Jacob listened to their voices, quiet whispers and final, desperate prayers from across the planet. Despite his apathy, he’d learned to cherish them.
After all, he wouldn’t hear any again for a millennia.
“You’re only as good as the creature you hunt.”
My father, three days before he was slain. I was nine.
Forty years on and things have changed. The War left nothing to hunt.
So I created my own wild. The pitting of man against the deadliest creatures to have ever walked this earth. Any beast, past or ancient past.
Now, man is hunting again. Winning. One man in particular. Marshall Marcus. He’s rich and he’s deadly. And he’s killed everything I have to offer.
After all, it’s been a while since I’ve been out in the wild.
The Devil will end you, the Devil will end you, the Devil will end you.
Jane whispered slowly, as instructed.
She stared at the candle-lit photo on the table in front of her, as instructed. She focused on his cheating face.
“You’ll know if it has worked, dear,” the shopkeeper had told her.
Jane closed her eyes. “The devil will end you, Max Haggins.”
Not as instructed.
A sharp pain shot through her stomach and everything went warm. Her limp body was raised up from the floor. A cold whisper trickled into her ear.
The Devil ends you.
Admittedly, it’s been a while. There are reasons, some strong, some weak. But alas, less about me! Here’s a thing:
A Dying Nightmare
You only work when they’re sleeping.
Silently whispered from the moment of my inception. The unwritten Rule governing my entire way of being.
Am I a being?
He is. My creator, my host, my warden. He knows not, but he’s the reason I am here and the reason I will soon fade away.
I don’t breathe, yet I’m suffocating. Thirteen days trapped neither here nor there. In the Inbetween. Thirteen sleepless nights. Insomnia they call it.
I need for him to let me do my work. I can’t hold on much longer.
Will I break the unwritten Rule? I’m considering it.
I remember awaking to the sound of lightning. But to say the sound was ominous would be to falsely claim the foresight for which I so sadly lack. If I had, could I have saved them?
I sit here eating beans from a can. Hunger pays no attention to God. God pays no attention to anything anymore. His decrepit creation is abandonment and anger wrapped in darkness and silence. Their screams have long-since ceased to be echoes.
They titled me immortal. We’re about to test this claim. When the earth is nothing but ash and bone, what purpose do I serve?
The dark waters rippled. Harold didn’t say anything right away; he wanted, nay needed, to be certain.
There it was again. A definite movement in the moonlit black.
“John!” He waited. No reply.
Another ripple. Stronger this time. The lake was coming alive.
His son bounded up from the boat’s lower cabin. “What you shouting-”
“Look.” He pointed out into the water.
“What are you-”
John’s eyes narrowed, piercing through the night. Another ripple.
Harold climbed from his chair. They had planned for this moment their entire lives. “I’ll get the-”
John turned and smiled. “Dad… this is it.”
Frank spluttered a breath and wiped another bead of sweat from his brow. Wearied muscles tightened below him; where he had once been running he now moved along at little more than a shambling half-jog.
Not much farther.
He glanced up. That’s when he heard the Tyrannosaurus approaching fast behind him. It huffed and ever so loudly puffed, but did not roar. Frank kept his eyes forward, on the bathtub and Mexican wrestler.
Just a few more yards…
Exhausted, Frank bundled over the finish line, bottom desperately finding tarmac. He checked his watch.
A smile stretched across his face.
Lights on. Lights off. Lights on. Lights off. Lights on…
Thirteen ons, twelve offs. It was a pattern. And there was a reason to the pattern.
There was also a reason why I had to do it to all the lights in my room. I said it was to keep Them away. The pattern, see. My parents said I’d be seeing a doctor.
They also said I was to start sleeping with the lights out. That my mood swings and depression would improve if I did.
So they removed the bulbs.
Zero ons, zero offs. No pattern.
Alone in bed.
“If we die, we die.” Sarah spoke softly. “But first we truly live.”
There was a conviction in her voice, reminiscent of a priest. She had no proof, but didn’t need it. Did he?
James steadied himself and glanced again over the edge. Sarah squeezed his hand tighter.
She whispered in his ear, “If we die, we die. Together.”
James slipped through his wife’s embrace and took several steps back. Her red lips had already dropped into a frown. She now seemed to stare right through him.
But first we truly live.
James offered out his hand. “Please come with me.”
Doctor Bishop opened the box. Inside, a smaller box, made of dark metal, with a small dial and a red button.
“As per your order, Mr Marcus.”
Edgar leaned over the device and smiled. “So?”
“Ten kills only the worst. The most hideous fiends you’ll ever find on this earth. From there, you can work your way down.”
“So setting the dial to one will…”
“Tiny thoughts of envy, possibly low-level rage, a little lust perhaps. I can’t be entirely sure.”
Edgar stared closer at the dial’s tiny white dashes. “I see you’ve added a zero, doctor. What will that do?”