“It’s a hell of a deal.”
The estate agent’s words crept slowly into my head on that first night. They were soon banished by the scratching.
By the second night the scratch had become a thud.
It was coming from the kitchen. From under the table.
I toppled it over and threw the dusty rug to one side. A hatch.
I pulled it open, stared into the darkness beneath. Slowly, a man appeared.
It was me.
Hair longer, beard overgrown, but it was me. I, the other I, murmured something, his voice distant and tired.
“It’s a hell of a deal.”
DIAL THE NUMBER. STATE YOUR DESTINATION. CLOSE YOUR EYES.
That’s all the note said. Written on a scrap piece of paper tucked under an old, black cell phone.
John had used the phone once since he found it. “Home,” he had told the operator. He was surprised to open his eyes and find himself on the porch of his childhood house.
He planned to go a little farther this time.
“Operator. Please state your destination.”
“Wherever my wife is.”
There was a click. John took one last look at the headstone in front of him and closed his eyes.
Short dress, big chest, freckled cheeks. She’s almost too pure.
“Thanks again for the ride, mister.”
I’ll be damned if this hitch-hiker is a day over eighteen. She’s fluttering her baby blue eyes in my direction.
It’ll all be over soon. Keep calm.
“Not a problem,” I lie.
She crosses her long legs, flashing up a wink of black lace.
The engine revs.
Just make it quick.
By the time I turn the passenger seat is empty, stained black leather stretching back into its usual form.
I lean forward and gently tap the dash. “Feel better now?”
A cold, quiet domicile. Perfect.
Then, sirens. Sounds. Painful, unwanted noise.
They scream, panic. Usually at my hands. Today, something else.
A growl, slowly building. I sense it.
They hide on the second floor. Watch from windows. I lurk, unseen, silent.
Sirens drowned out. Now, only a roar.
They see it. A rising carpet of blue and black. They hug, pray, whisper. I simply watch. For a moment, the warmth of normality.
But the blue rises.
Soon, the domicile is gone. So are they. Their screams washed down.
I drift away. Searching for somewhere new to rest.
The winter chill bit hard. John tightened his scarf and rushed Megan out of the front door. The garage spotlight, long-since on the blink, fought valiantly against the dark.
John slammed the door behind Megan as she slid onto the back seat. He climbed into the car himself and turned the ignition.
He took a short breath, then tried again.
Not even a splutter.
“It’s fine, dear. It’s fine.” He almost believed it himself.
She shifted behind him.
“Daddy,” Megan whispered softly. She hadn’t called him that since the day Andrea died.
“There’s a man sat next to me.”
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.
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.”