Last Five Bullets

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Prologue – One Shot to Save a Life

Strange things happen, but I don’t think my life will ever get stranger from here. I got an email from the Curaga Company. They wanted my services as a bodyguard and I agreed, but when I met them, they offered me a different kind of bodyguard job.

They told me they wanted me to, “Be part of the security team that’s escorting part of our next big cure.”

The Curaga Company is known for curing most forms of cancer and other life-ending diseases. They apparently have one part of the cure to a disease they couldn’t disclose to me.

After some explaining, they said, “Do this for us and we’ll be able to cure your daughter of her disease that is thought to be incurable.”

“What? Really?”

“Yes.”

My life has been a series of terrible events until it culminated with the disease that put my daughter in the hospital. I’ve just been working guard jobs to keep myself and my daughter alive as long as possible.

“Why would you want to hire a nobody like me?”

“Because we are impressed by your devotion to your job. Let’s go over a few that sparked our interest the most. When you caught a criminal speeding, you knew that that criminal was part of a protected class of people, but you still defended yourself from him, shot him, and arrested him at the cost of your job as a police officer.”

“You find that particular action impressive? What if I find something I don’t like and think I should bring you to justice?”

“We are confident that we do no wrong. We aren’t some comical corporation of villains who conduct human experiments and make bioweapons. Now, the next thing was when you shot and killed various members of the mafia that owned the club you were a guard of. The report gives us the impression that you didn’t know who truly ran the club, so we’ll shrug off the fact that you were working for them.”

“You will? I took a lot of flak from not realizing it for the first week that I worked there.”

“You freed many women from prostitution. We will. The last thing that you may not want to be reminded of is-”

“I’m sorry, but if this is what I think it is…”

“We’ll keep the details to a minimum. You saved dozens upon dozens of people first before you went to save your family. Unfortunately, the only member of your family you saved was your daughter, so everyone else perished.”

“…”

“We’re sorry we had to remind you of that but remember the integrity that you have. It’s what makes you an unappreciated hero in the eyes of many and a dedicated worker. Do not think for a moment that you did the wrong thing by saving those other people first. If you just saved your family, so many more people would be dead and I’m sure your family and others would have a negative view of you. What credit is it to you if you love those who love you, am I right?”

“Yeah…I just don’t want to think about it.”

“So, what do you think? Will you accept our offer?”

“Everything you described before makes this job seem dangerous if you’re keeping it a secret. What will you do if I don’t come back?”

“If someone from your team comes back with the cure, we will cure your daughter for you as a sign of respect. If no one comes back with the cure, then we will release your daughter from the vegetative-like state she is in so she will join you in the afterlife. How does that sound?”

“I guess she doesn’t have any other options. I’ll take the job.”

“Very wise choice, Mr. Retto.”

I was then briefed on what we’re going to do, how we are going to do it, and the plans if things go south. I am given a hazmat suit with body armor and a special pistol that has “fire” bullets as they call them. They are better than normal bullets because they can penetrate harder surfaces and cure people who get infected with the cure we’re after. Apparently, when only one half of the cure is used on an animal, it mutates into a flesh-eating beast that can only be killed with fire or these kinds of bullets. I’m also given a heated knife that will burn the infected, I’m not sure if it’ll be too useful. Regular firearms don’t work on an infect animal as the animal will seemingly grow whatever got blown off in a mutated way that makes them more dangerous.

I’ve seen the videos of this, and man were they horrifying. I hope things don’t turn out that way.

“Hey, Mr. Retto,” a man on the helicopter says to me, “You’ve been staring into space for the past hour. You nearly look dead. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Good because we’re almost there so get ready.”

“Right.”

I look at the picture of my daughter one more time before we land.

“Don’t worry, sir. You’ll see her again.”

“I hope so.”

We’ve landed in a large cavern underneath a waterfall. This place must be extremely top secret for them to hide it like this. The inside of the facility looks incredibly slick and futuristic. There are a lot of experimental rooms that don’t look too bad, but there are rooms with dead mutated animals like the ones I saw from the videos. Those things better stay dead.

The people around us don’t look happy. Some are whispering to each other while the others look frightened. In the briefing, I heard that most of these people are just a hired third party with Curaga members mixed in. I don’t think I’m allowed to talk to any of them nor am I allowed to voice my concerns to my teammates. All I can do is just walk a little faster to get this over with quicker.

We enter a cold storage room with a few scientists in it.

The team leader steps forward and says, “We’re here to collect the other half of the cure. Give us what you have, and you will receive your agreed upon payment in full.”

There’s an uncomfortable silence in the room.

“We decline your payment. It’s not worth it.”

“Then hand over all the research that you have the cure.”

“I don’t think so.”

The scientists pull out guns, but we shoot them dead. I’m sorry it had to be this way. Why did they resist? I’m sure they were paid well to do something worthwhile.

“Hurry and collect the cure.”

“There’s empty slots over here. Are we expecting a certain amount?”

“No, just whatever they have will be useful.”

We take all the vials of the cure, put them in a box, and leave the room as if nothing happened. An alarm then gets rung as wild animals start devouring people. Damn these people! I guess we know where the other vials went. Why couldn’t they make it easy for us?! We use our special ammo on these creatures to kill them, but we waste a few since they’re so fast. Those who were killed reanimate themselves and become the living dead. What the hell is going on? Why are people becoming zombies?

My team is dying around me and turning. I knew something would go wrong and this job would end up turning on me! It’s just the climax to all the bad things that have been happening to me.

“AAAAHHHH!”

These things hit with the force of a sledgehammer. Oh no…

“AAAH!!”

Uhhh…Something hit me with this claw arms and knocked me into a wall. Wait…I’m still alive? Where is everyone? Where did all those zombies go? This place is a mess with blood everywhere, but no bodies or torn flesh anywhere. They do regenerate flesh, so I guess it just collects goes back where it came from. Those things are bound to be around here somewhere, so maybe there are some notes around here that can help me. Ah, I found them near the testing area.

Okay, so the flesh does form together once it’s broken off while regenerating what was lost. That means a huge monster formed of flesh and dangerous appendages could be made if enough flesh is collected together. That better not have happened yet. Oh, there’s also a note in here that says conscious prey is preferred over unconscious victims by the virus. The other people must’ve gotten out somehow if the zombies just left me.

Oh, damn, I almost forgot the other half of the “cure”. Some of the vials are broken, some are missing, but I do find one that’s still intact. This is my daughter’s ticket to being saved. Now I have to find a way out of here. Thankfully this place is straightforward, but I don’t like how quiet and dark it is. It feels like something will jump at me any second. The random sparks and noises have me on edge.

After following the path forward, I find a large set of stairs near a broken elevator. I guess I have to climb the stairs. It appears that people were fighting and dying as they were trying to escape. Wow, this is a lot of stairs. Where is it taking me…oh no. I’m in a town. This is a town that we passed by on the way here. I didn’t think the facility would have an exit to here. I’m in some kind of mechanic’s shop.

Looking out into the streets, I see that it’s littered with zombies and other mutants who are wandering around looking for their next meal. I have to get through them and find a way out of here. I take out my daughter’s head bow and put it on my arm. One of the last things she did for me while she was still mostly conscious was to give me her favorite head bow as a way of her to always be with me. I only have five bullets left to use with my knife being a somewhat useless backup. Your dad is going to help you and I’m going to do risk everything I have to get this cure to you. I promise. I’m going to need you to help me, sweetie.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1 – Five Bullets, Hundreds of Enemies

I need to reach Curaga to let them know I’m still alive and that I have the other half of the cure. The communication device on me is all static so I guess I have to reach a radio tower to enhance the signal. Luckily enough, there’s one in the distance. I just have to get there safely without attracting the attention of the hordes of flesh zombies. The flesh zombies are all congregating in the streets and appear to be combining together just by bumping into one another. This doesn’t appear to be deliberate, but this will be a problem if I don’t get out of here quick.

I look around the mechanic’s shop and find a door to the back alley. It’s empty back here and I find a fire exit above me. I use a nearby garbage can to climb my way up to the rooftops. The situation looks way worse up here with most of the streets crowded with flesh zombies. The town doesn’t look that big from where I am. I wonder if anyone is still alive.

While traveling across the rooftops, I do see people trying to fight. They appear to know that these zombies can regenerate, and that fire is the only way to kill them as they’re using sticks with fire on it. They appear to be holding their own so if I interfere, they will probably die, but I have no idea how they’re going to survive. I’m not even sure if Curaga want them to survive. There’s nothing that connects them to the infection except the hidden lab, but no one is going to find it unless they know where it is and unless they can completely burn this town to ashes.

The zombies haven’t noticed me, but I’ve seen them on the rooftops. It looks like they can crawl and climb relatively quickly though I don’t know why I haven’t gotten their attention yet. I know sound and smells have something to do with it. Maybe it’s because they seem to be focused on fusing with one another. They appear to know that fusing makes them stronger. I see two trying to break into a store. They meld together with each other to finally break down the door then turn around to meld with a few others before going into the store. That place better be empty.

Some of the zombies that have noticed me are a pain to deal with since I have so little that’s effective in dealing with them. I throw whatever I find on the roof at them and sometimes light things on fire with the heat from my knife to keep them away. This is already turning into a big problem especially since I’m so close to the radio tower. Hold on. It might not be. I see a bar not too far from here. I quickly get to it and start making as many molotov cocktails as I can. This place looks like it was a hideout before it was overrun. Who would want to make this place their hideout? It looks like they escaped out a secret exit behind the bar, which is where I’m going because the zombies are coming in.

Before leaving, I make sure the bar is set ablaze so the town can catch fire. The zombies won’t react to the fire until they feel its heat and by the time that happens, they all should be spreading the fire to one another. Now that I’m out of the bar, I sparingly use my molotovs on the crowds of zombies around me so they’re pre-occupied as I get to the radio tower. Once I reach the tower, I’ve used up all of my molotovs. I could only make so many in the time that I had. Damn. I can see in the distance that the bar collapsed on itself and some of the zombies are sacrificing themselves to put out the fire. At least there aren’t any zombies around here and I should have enough time to ask questions.

I link up my radio to the radio tower and call to Curaga, “Come in command. This is Retto. I’m-”

“We know you’re still alive, and we’re glad because of it.”

“What? How do you know?”

“The armor and equipment we gave you tell us your status and health. I guess that got brushed over in the briefing.”

“I’m not even going to question how, but what I’m going to need extraction. Several workers of yours didn’t want to give up half of the cure and-”

“We know what happened. The cameras there link directly back to our main headquarters.”

“Why didn’t they want to give us the other half of the cure?”

“It’s because they didn’t like the fact that they could only make it with our funding and that they won’t the major credit. It’s a thing of pride really. We are the leader in medical advances and the biggest in the business for a reason. Most other companies partner up with us nowadays just for a chance to be noticed and profit.”

“Having a monopoly isn’t as fun as it sounds, is it?”

“It’s not our fault most of the customers and governments in the world decided to choose us for all their medical needs. Well, maybe it’s partially our fault. We’re highly charitable to the world and our workers, and it seems that it was our downfall for this event, but you can change that if you bring us the cure. You can still save your daughter. We already have a helicopter going to the roof of the police station, which is the safest part of town that the helicopter can land on. Be quick about getting there. From what we see from our satellites is that the flesh is growing at a rapid rate, despite your efforts, and will soon overtake the town.”

“What about any survivors?”

“If there are any, you must make them escape on their own if you want to save them. They cannot escape with you because they may exaggerate what happened here and put all the blame on us. Finding evidence to prove our innocence will be difficult with how things are. Besides our recording of the recent event, we have no other evidence for our case. The traitors must’ve done all their planning outside of our facilities so that it looks like we are at fault for this outbreak.”

“Are you sure about the survivors? It doesn’t look like there’s any way to escape by vehicle or on foot. Do you really think that they’ll just blame the outbreak on you and not take us on our word?”

“Unfortunately, it’s the way things are going to have to be. This outbreak is the reason their home is destroyed. It is not likely that they will cooperate with us. Mr. Retto, you must be getting to the extraction point now. The helicopter is quickly approaching and once it lands, it cannot wait for long because of the dangers in the town. Good luck and Godspeed.”

I guess that’s the way things are going to have to be. The police station isn’t that far from here but getting there is another story. What am I going to do? What the? An explosion went off on one side of town. It looks like it took half the block with it. There’s my chance to move. I’m hoping what caused the explosion isn’t what I think it was because I’m not sure how I’m going to deal with it. Before going, I take one look at a picture of my daughter to give me strength then head out.

The now barren streets where the zombies once were are covered in blood without one piece of bone or flesh in sight. It looks like the explosion that gathered them together may prove to be a problem. Thankfully I find a nearby gun store. There should be something here I can use to keep the zombies at bay even if it isn’t that effective. Maybe there are some grenades I could use? Please?

Oh no. A group of four people come into the gun shop. We point our guns at each other.

“Who are you?” a slender man who looks like a gambler says.

“I’m just a survivor like you.”

“Really? Because I’ve never seen anyone wear anything that you do.”

“We don’t have time to interrogate him,” the teenaged girl says, “Are you going to let us take what we need from this shop or not?”

“You can have whatever you want as long as I take what I need.”

“Deal.”

I slowly lower my weapon first as the other four lower theirs. They then look through the shop while I go back to looking for explosives.

“What’s your plan, mister?” the teenaged girl asks me.

“I’m going to the police station then getting out of here.”

“Huh. Do you have someone there waiting for you?”

“I’m meeting someone there, so yes.”

“What’s your name?”

“Call me, Mr. Morte.”

“I’m Clarrisa.”

“I thought you said we don’t have time to interrogate him.”

“Shut it, Tony. I can talk to him if I want to. Did you find what we need?”

“Not yet.”

“Then mind your own business. Don’t mind him, Mr. Morte. He hasn’t learned how to listen to his superiors yet because he’s a rookie.”

“You guys are cops?”

“Yeah, and I’m the daughter of the chief of police, so you know I’m tough.”

“I used to be an officer until I did my job as an officer and brought a person of a protected class to justice.”

“If you were an officer here, you wouldn’t have been fired. Heck, I’d say you be promoted to chief of police just for that one act. You can still be since my father recently died and the position’s open.”

“Thank you, but I have to decline. I have to get a job done first.”

“Suit yourself then. We can escort you to the station. Think of it as a favor from one officer to another.”

“I’m fine on my own. You need to get out of town before it’s too late. I’m sure you’ve seen the growing number of flesh zombies that are melding together to form one enormous freak of nature.”

“You call those things flesh zombies? We just call them the flesh.”

“Don’t ignore my point. I’m used to doing jobs on my own. You don’t need to worry about me.”

“Listen, old man. The place we’re going to is past the police station, and we’re going to need more weapons from the armory there, so we’re not bothering you if we tag along.”

She really wants to help even though she doesn’t know me. Her dad must’ve taught her well. I respect that, but I don’t want to be dishonest with her. I’ll have to make sure they leave before I’m picked up.

“If you’re going to be so persistent about it, then I guess I don’t have a choice. You can come along.”

“You got that right.”

Something in the corner of my eye catches my attention. It’s a flesh zombie that’s crawling on the glass outside of the gun store and it’s noticed us.

“Watch out!” I try to say as quickly as possible before the zombie attacks while pulling out a shotgun.

The zombie juts out its sharp bone-like tongue through the head of one of the cops. I shoot the zombie three times along with the other cops until the zombie is paste.

“Damn it!” Tony says as I gather my things.

I take out my knife, burn the remains of their friend, then burn the remains of the zombie.

“What are you doing?”

“These zombies come back to life and tougher if you don’t burn everything. Don’t you know that?”

“No. We’ve been surviving for a while and haven’t figured that out. How did you?”

“I pay more attention.”

Crowds of zombies start appearing around us.

“What the heck?” Clarrisa says as she readies her weapons, “I thought that explosion we made would’ve held their attention for longer.”

“I think we attract them more than sound.”

I take out the grenade launcher I found and start blowing up the nearby cars to start fires in the streets.

“Let’s hurry!” I say as I run through an alley, which is the only area without zombies.

I’m glad and terrified at the same time that I have help with me. What am I going to do to save their lives while also keeping my secret? I’m going to have to come up with an answer soon, and I already know that it’s going to be difficult.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2 – A Biohazardous Residence

How many people live in this town? These streets are swarming with flesh zombies. I’ve been following Clarissa to get to the police station, but every place we go seems to be crowded with the undead.

“Let’s take a shortcut through the grand hotel,” Clarissa says as she points at the large hotel in front of us.

Since I don’t know any other better ways, I follow her into the hotel where we sit down and take a breather. This place has been boarded up and reinforced with furniture in certain entrances, so someone was definitely here. The lights aren’t on, so I’m assuming this place doesn’t have any power. There are signs of fighting with blood in certain places but no bodies, which is worrying. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to see dead bodies as much as I wanted to in my life before.

“We should get moving. Those things will be melding with one another to break down the doors and I don’t want to be around to see that abomination,” I say as I get up.

“He’s right. Let’s move,” Clarrisa says as she follows after me.

“Do you know the way out of here to get to the station?”

“Yeah. It’s a straightforward path.”

“It doesn’t look like it’ll be with all of the junk in the hallways.”

“I can find a way around it. My friends and I always used to play hide and seek in this place when we were kids, so I know this place inside and out. I even know the little secret areas like the ones where the janitors kept their pinups of women. There was one photo that I found that was a ‘questionable’ photo let’s say of one of the employees.”

“That’s good to know.”

“So how did a cop like you get a job that landed you in our humble little town?”

“I got an email then traveled down here for the job. It’s not an exciting story.”

“What job did you get?”

“Guard duty.”

“For who?”

“Why does it matter, and why do you keep asking?”

“There’s no reason to keep quiet because those things know where we are, and I’d like to know more about you since you seem to be an interesting fella.”

We hear noises that sound like walking that makes us jump.

“You two can flirt later. Guns up,” Tony says.

We get closer to the noises until we see what’s causing it. Apparently, someone left a birdcage near a barricade and it’s been knocking down some of the luggage that’s blocking the hallway. We let out a sigh of relief.

“We should take this little guy with us. He could warn us when danger arrives.,” Clarrisa says as she grabs the bird’s cage.

“Why do you even ask when you just do it?” Tony asks.

“Who said I asked?”

We then enter a large dining hall with various kinds of supplies in it. Gas, food, makeshift weapons, and some guns are strewn about everywhere. It looks like the people here left in a hurry and took what they could. They didn’t leave any explosives, but the gas will be useful when the zombies get in. Tony and the other guy are eating what they can while Clarrisa is feeding the bird and herself.

“Do you want something, Mr. Morte? This may be your only chance to eat something,” Clarrisa says to me.

“I’m good.”

Even though I am hungry, I probably shouldn’t show them my face.

“What? Don’t want to show us your face or are you trying to be a big man?”

“No, I’m just not hungry. Besides, we can’t sit down for long.”

“You can’t take a quick bit of something? Maybe you’re wearing that gas mask for some other reason we don’t know.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Do you think the air is infected?”

“I don’t think it is.”

Curaga never mentioned part of the cure affecting the air, so it shouldn’t be airborne in any way. Clarrisa walks over to me and stares me down with a smile.

“Stop messing around,” Tony says.

“Shut up,” Clarrisa commands him.

“If Morte wants to keep his secrets, let him. We’re going to leave him soon anyway.”

“His secrets are why I want to know more about him.” Clarrisa starts to take off my mask, but I grab her hand. She then pulls her pistol on me. “If you don’t let me see your face, then I will show you that the flesh will be the least of your worries.”

Not wanting to cause any trouble, I let her take off my mask. Everyone looks at me, including the bird for some reason.

“Do you know him? Because I sure as hell don’t,” Tony says.

“No, I don’t. He does look handsome for an old man though,” Clarissa says while putting my mask back on.

Thank you, God, no one knows who I am.

“I’m flattered, now can you stop messing around?”

“What? Don’t like a pretty girl getting close to you?”

The bird starts flying around in its cage seconds before a loud bang is made outside the hall. They’re in. Heavy footsteps walk through the hallway and stop outside the hall. We all have our guns up as we stand in the center of the room in case we get flanked from behind. The footsteps then cease for a couple seconds before what’s making them breaks through the wall.

It’s a large zombie with bones around every part of its body except for the bottom part of its face and its chest. We open fire on the creature as it charges at us. Bullets don’t slow it down, and I’ve already run out of grenade launcher ammo, so we dodge out of the way. It appears that it’s down for now as it’s slumped on the corner of the wall. I have to burn this thing somehow before it comes back worse than before.

“It’s not going to be dead for long. Help me burn it. Let’s move!” I say as I quickly run over to it.

First, I try to move the thing so that I can burn its flesh since its bone burns, but the fire isn’t burning through it, and the damn thing is too heavy. Even with the help of the other three, we can’t move the hulking monster.

“There’s only one option if we want to prevent this thing from coming back,” I say to the three, “We have to light up the wall this thing is on with gas, but the fire will probably light the rest of this place, and I doubt the sprinklers are working.”

“It’s really going to be like that, huh?” Tony asks as he flips open his lighter.

“That’s what it’s going to have to be,” Clarrisa says as she pours the gas on the monster.

After Clarrisa is finished pouring the gas, I light it on fire, and I quickly follow her out of the room. More sounds that sound like the zombies breaking in are made around the hotel. I make a short line from the gas can I have to the rest in the hall and light it on fire.

“Move! Move!” I say as the hotel begins to burn.

Clarrisa leads us through the halls of the hotel, some of which are blocked. The zombies start breaking through the ceilings and walls with some of them armored with bone, others have nothing but sharp bones on their bodies, and some are just half heads with mouths for bodies. We shoot these zombies or run away if we can. Suddenly, the hotel shakes as a loud noise is made.

“What was that?!” Tony frantically asks.

“It doesn’t matter. Keep moving!” I say as I keep running.

The zombie horde keeps breaking into the hotel and we keep mowing through them until we reach a dead end.

“Clarrisa?”

“This is the only other way out!”

“Maybe there’s another way.”

The wall behind us is broken down by a massive monster made of flesh. It’s a mess of faces, bones, eyes, teeth, mouths, arms, legs, and other body parts are all together in a mesh of horror. Without saying anything, Tony and I start firing at the atrocity with everything we got while Clarrisa and the other guy start taking out the luggage and tables from the barricade. I don’t think my fire bullets will do anything, so my trump card is out the window. Shooting its eyes, inside its mouth, and its appendages slows it down a bit, but it isn’t slowing down as much as I want it to.

Our backs are almost against the wall, so I start helping clear the barricade by throwing the luggage into the atrocity’s mouth, which actually chokes it up a bit. No wonder why it shoved it aside. I didn’t think it mattered, but once all of its mouths are full, it doesn’t matter anymore. Thankfully, the way is clear now to an exit without a door, so we just run through it, but the other guy who I don’t know is taken in by one of its tendrils and eaten whole. We shouldn’t have stopped firing at it. There’s nothing we can do for him, so I push Tony and Clarrisa outside and away from the hotel.

“I’m sorry, but he’s gone,” I say to them.

“It’s still coming after us!” Clarrisa says as she points at it.

That thing is larger than I think because it’s leaking out of all the floors of the hotel. Dammit! Is this thing made of all the zombies in the town?! The three of us shoot at it to slow it down as we back away. The good news is that the building is burning, which is probably one of the reasons why it was coming at us so fast. I look around for something to help us and see a gas station behind us.

I tell the two, “There’s a gas station behind us. We can use the gas there to make the fire spread faster!”

“I’ll get the gas! Hold it off!” Tony says as he runs to the gas station.

Clarrisa and I hold off the atrocity as it tries to stab and grab us with its long tendrils. The fire is making it weaker, but it’s still putting up quite a fight with all the appendages it has. It’s like the hotel itself is the monster. Tony comes back with four canisters of gas, but the atrocity catches him.

“Tony!” Clarissa yells out.

“Don’t worry, chief! I got this!”

Tony pour the gas on the atrocity and himself and lights both of them on fire. Tony is screaming out in agonizing pain, but I can tell he is satisfied with his decision with a small smirk on his burning face. The atrocity doesn’t appear to be dead, but at least it isn’t moving towards us anymore.

Clarrisa is crying for her friend, so I try to comfort her by putting my hand on her shoulder while saying, “He’s a hero, Clarrisa.”

“And I’m proud of him. For a rookie, you knew what to do when faced with a difficult decision. Now…you’re going to take me with you.”

“What? No. You don’t want to be with me. I’ll just be slowing you down since I have to wait at the station.”

“My plan was to escape with those two but you’re the only one I can go with now.”

“I’m not escaping until I need to do what I need to at the police station. Just find a car and escape with it without me. There shouldn’t be many more zombies in the town so you should have a clear shot out of here.”

“I’m not leaving without you. I’m the only cop left in this town and I’m not going to leave another one to die. You’re taking me with you and that’s it.”

“…Fine.”

“Good. I knew you’d see it my way.”

Clarrisa and I walk to the police station, which I see in the distance. The streets are empty, and the danger appears to have diminished, but what am I going to do with Clarrisa?

 

 

Chapter 3 – Chekhov’s Gun

We’re almost to the police station and there hasn’t been one single flesh zombie in sight. This feels so wrong compared to before where I couldn’t look in a single direction without seeing one of those things, but the town seems completely empty now. It makes sense because of what we just fought though it feels like there should be more. This makes things difficult for me in how I need to get rid of her. I’m hoping that either the people in the helicopter or in Curaga will change their mind if I can convince them that she can come with me. They must have seen what happened. They must know that she can be useful.

She’s sticking close to me while looking around and looking down at the ground every few seconds. Poor girl just lost her home and everyone she knew. There has to be something I can do.

“We’re here,” Clarrisa says as we arrive at the front of the police station.

This place isn’t heavily barricaded so it’s easy to slip into. The inside of the station barely has any blood in it and the place is mostly clean with a few things lying around as if someone was trying to leave after a normal Friday and they just wanted to go home. We pass by the armory and find that most of the guns are gone, but we do find some ammo and leftover grenades.

“We should take these just in case,” I say.

“You don’t think there are more out there, do you?”

“Better to be safe than sorry.”

“My dad always said that. He always warned me not to get into danger unless I knew I could get out.”

“He’s a smart man. I told my own daughter something similar.”

“You have a daughter?”

“Yeah. She has an incurable disease.”

“Is this job to help her?”

“Yes, it is.”

“I have a feeling you know more about this outbreak of flesh zombies than you let on. Is it true?”

Why does she really have to ask me this now?

She continues, “I know you’re an experienced officer, so you must be trained in knowing when someone’s lying, but that also must mean you know how to lie. You’ve been leaving just enough details in what you say and enough honesty in your voice to convince me that you’re an honest man, so be honest with me.”

“Your dad taught you how to be a good cop. I’m sure he’s proud of you.”

“Dad didn’t raise his daughter to be an airhead. Give me an honest answer.”

“The honest truth is that I was sent here to retrieve part of a cure that caused this outbreak, but the people who worked with us rebelled because they wanted the credit and fame for themselves. The cure itself can cure millions of people including my daughter, but when it’s separate, it’s deadly. Don’t blame the cure makers. Just blame the selfish pricks who didn’t want to cooperate because they weren’t going to get the credit they wanted.”

“Can you tell me who you work for?”

“You can figure that out on your own. A helicopter is coming here to pick me up with half the cure, but they don’t want anyone coming with me because they don’t trust you. That’s why you have to escape on your own.”

“They’re not much of a company that wants to help people if they want to leave me for dead.”

“They don’t want you dead. They just would rather you didn’t know who they were because you might not understand that it wasn’t their fault.”

“If that’s the way it’s going to be, then I will figure it out on my own.”

“I know you will. Now, go get a vehicle and leave.”

“Fine.”

Clarrisa leaves with her weapons. She’s going to find the answers she wants or Curaga is going to find her. I just know it. I hope they don’t do anything bad…oh no.

“Watch out!”

A large tendril is about to hit Clarrisa through a window, so I push her out of the way before it hits her.

“Clarrisa!”

“I’m okay!”

“Get out of here! Hurry!”

“How about you follow your own advice, old man?!”

Right. I head up the stairs as tendrils begin to pierce through them. Is that atrocity from before still alive or is this a different one? Whatever the answer is, I’m sure I’ll find out soon. When I get up to the roof, I look into the distance to see my helicopter, but when I look off one ledge I almost get hit with a tendril. I throw a few grenades I have off the ledge and after they all blow up, I slowly approach the ledge and look down to see a mess of burnt flesh, body parts, faces, and mouths. It’s definitely the same atrocity as before, but it’s smaller now and looks as if it cut off part of itself. Maybe it knew to do that so it could survive. There’s some kind of heart or core in the center of the mess that has veins connecting it together. I shoot at it and nothing happens. Even my last couple grenades don’t do anything.

Suddenly, I hear my helicopter and before I know it, it’s landing on the roof. When I look back down, I see that the atrocity is regenerating. My fire bullets are probably the only good weapon I can use. I then see a police car driving away. She finally gets out, but the atrocity gets up and runs with its many legs after Clarrisa. My normal bullets don’t do anything on the charred legs and body, and it’s already too far for my pistol shots to hit it. Damn it!

“Get in the chopper already!” I hear someone from the helicopter say.

I can’t do anything to help her now. Unless…

I get into the helicopter and tell the pilot, “Chase after that police car! That officer needs help!”

“Okay, but we aren’t stopping. Use the turret if you really want to do some real damage.”

I quickly get to the turret and unload whatever I can as we fly over Clarrisa, but I can only land so many shots that slow the atrocity down by a little. If only I had used my fire bullets on the core when I had the shot, then she wouldn’t have had any trouble escaping. It sounds like she’s taking sharp turns as she tries to dodge the atrocity. It’s on her tail. Come on Clarrisa…

“You still have half the cure, right?” the pilot asks.

“I got it.”

“It’s amazing that you survived. I heard that it was Hell on earth down there.”

“It was. I got out by the skin of my teeth thanks to a group of cops.”

“Is that who was in that car?”

“Yeah. There’s only one of them that survived.”

“That’s tough. They’re going to have a slim chance of survival especially with what’s coming next.”

“What do you mean?”

“They didn’t tell you? Here, use this comm device to ask them.”

The pilot gives me a communication device and I say into it, “This is Retto. I’m aboard the helicopter a-”

“We’re so glad you escaped, Mr. Retto. We knew we could rely on you. You’re just in time as well.”

“In time for what?”

“We were going to tell you, but we thought you already had so much rushing you that we thought it was better not to tell you about the nuke coming in.”

“Nuke?!”

“That’s the only way to truly clean the city. Any other way would just risk another outbreak.”

“Delay it! I rescued an officer who is trying to avoid an abomination of flesh while trying to escape.”

“Then we can only pray and hope that the officer escapes. We cannot call off the nuke especially since we’ve already pulled so many strings to get it deployed in the first place.”

I hit the side of the helicopter.

“Damn it! I should’ve brought her with me. If you only let me bring her with me-”

“Then you would’ve been in greater danger. We don’t believe in the exchange of lives, but you must think about the lives that will be saved with what you have. Don’t worry about the woman. If you think she is capable, she will escape.”

“Tch.”

“We will be seeing you soon with your reward, Mr. Retto, and don’t look directly into the explosion of the nuke, otherwise, you’ll be blinded.”

“Thanks for the tip.”

About thirty seconds pass before the town is nuked. I look at the aftermath and see that everything around the town is destroyed too. I guess the explosion had to be massive in order to destroy any infected creatures that might’ve wandered out of the town. Clarrisa is a smart girl, but I don’t know if she made it. If she did die…I don’t know. I can’t let myself worry about it now.

In the following days, my daughter is cured and is now perfectly healthy along with millions of other people. Even though I didn’t help in making the cure, my name is included with the others who did make it, which has given me some fame in the industry and government. I’m also set for life with the amount of money that Curaga has given me along with free healthcare, which is a nice bonus, however, I can’t get the events I went through out of my head.

My daughter and I now live in a nice small house for the two of us filled with all the things she wants. Pictures of my family, accomplishments, and all her toys and dolls in shelves for everyone to see. I don’t care for the look of the house, but I put my foot down when she suggests things such as putting up purple, red, and pink curtains all over the house to make it look fancier. My daughter goes to a special school to catch up on what she missed, and she’s doing well. I didn’t expect anything less from my daughter.

Speaking about daughters, Clarrisa is still on my mind. My daughter keeps reminding me of her because she wants to be an officer like me and acts tough and asks questions like how Clarrisa did. It may just be me being too hard on myself, but I could’ve saved more people if I actually used my fire bullets. I didn’t because I was afraid of exposing myself and risking my daughter’s life. Sure, the lives of millions of others were at stake, but in my mind, if I can’t save a single life, then I can’t save anyone. I’ve talked to psychiatrists at Curaga and they’ve told me to be easier on myself and the priests I see tell me the same. I guess I should just let it go, but I feel like I’m turning my back on my calling since I do nothing nowadays besides reading theology and philosophy books, instead of looking for guard jobs or at least trying to get back into law enforcement.

On one normal day, I get a knock at the door. A man dressed in a casual suit greets me and says, “We at Curaga have uses for your skills again if you wish to aid in the saving of more lives. What do you say, Mr. Retto?”

We talk about the pay and who will take care of my daughter then I say, “I accept, but please, call me Mr. Morte.”

 

The End

Albert Oon’s 100th book – Trapped Body and Soul in a Video Game Sequel

Download for free on Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/942215

 

Tutorial – New Game, New Genre, New Challenges

This is a game where you can only die once.  You only have one life. Once you’re dead, that’s it so I have to make every move I make count. This is a battle royale and I’m on a team with my best friend and my wife. When we get dropped into the battle zone, we try to wait in the helicopters as long as we can while the air is being lit up with heavy artillery fire. The further in we go, the better chances we have at getting better gear.

A helicopter just got shot out of the sky, so we take that as our hint to jump. Our helicopter gets shot out of the sky as we exit it and we get blown in different directions into the burning and destroyed war zone below. We try to regroup in the sky, but the artillery fire prevents that. The artillery is so heavy in this area that I see and hear people being shot out of the sky. I open my parachute to land safely, however, my parachute gets shot and I crash through a roof. I’ve lost half my health, so I need healing items fast before anyone finds me. Lucky for me, I find some in a nearby turned over medical truck. Now to find my teammates and a good weapon.

My wife is the closest, so I go to her location first. I can see her on my digital map that I carry around along with my best friend.  I can’t see anyone else until they start a fight with one of us. Ah crap, speaking of that, my wife is in a gunfight with a team of four. I have to get there fast. I’m weak since I’m a low level, but I am prestiged, so I do have my experience. When I get to the location, my wife is already dead. She’s taken out all but one of them who is currently arming himself to the teeth and organizing his inventory. Damn it. I thought we would make it to the end together, but I can’t cry over it now. I’ve taken cover in a small house. My luck hasn’t been good since I haven’t been able to find a weapon, but maybe my luck has changed.

These developers are crafty, so maybe I can find a secret weapon somewhere. Maybe it’s in this toilet? I have no other option, so I reach my hand into the depths of the murky toilet and pull out a special sniper rifle. It only has one shot in it, but it can hit anything and kill anyone in one shot. This is perfect. I position myself near the window and aim. Smile you, cunt. That’s right. That’s what you get for teaming up on a woman like her. Wow, she really gave them hell. All the armor they have are mostly broken and so are the weapons. Apparently, she used a gun with a weapon breaking status effect. She was good, but she didn’t plan on me getting their gear later, which I don’t blame her for. Still, I wish I had something I could use.

Luck isn’t on my side as I go to the other side of the map to find my best friend. No weapons, no gear, no traps, no medical supplies, nothing. All I find is a single flash grenade. When I get to my best friend’s location, I find him dead with three other players picking over his stuff. I can’t believe my entire team is dead. I guess I’ll have to win this by myself. The barrier that brings all contestants together is quickly closing in. This barrier can kill you within a matter of minutes and since it’s close by, I throw a flash grenade at the three players before booking it. I can hear them scream profanities at me as they die. Sorry, but that’s what you get when you mess with mine and me.

I don’t have much time to search around so I hope this next house I’m at has something. Oh, I think I found something use-ah damn it. It’s a powerful full-auto assault rifle modeled after an old M14. It can cut through armor and people like butter, but I’m stuck holding it up until I run out of ammo. The clip has thirty bullets in it, which is good for one and a half kill. After I run out of ammo, the gun is useless and can be loaded with any kind of ammo. I’ll have to be in a tight pinch for it to be useful in any capacity. Since I wasted so much time running around, I can’t look through any other place for gear, guns, or anything else to help me. There are only ten people left alive. There were a little over one hundred to begin with. It’s amazing how people will kill so many others to win.

The barrier will close us in on one location called Der Untoten. It reminds me of a zombies map from an old video game. I heard that this place is inspired by it and it’s updated for today’s standards. There’s a mine below the house that I use to enter it. Even though the barrier is close to the house, I don’t hear anyone walking around in here. I start to look through the house and the house barely looks like what it was inspired by. It’s more of an old dusty house than the bunker it’s inspired by.

Finally, I find a real gun in the house’s attic. It’s the KAP-4500, an automatic pistol inspired by the franchise that this house is inspired by. The gun itself is powerful, but I only have one fully loaded clip inside with two spare ones. There are ten other people left and it takes a little more than half a clip each to kill one. Fuck my life. The only thing that’s good about this special version of the gun is that people don’t know they’re being shot by my gun until they’re dead. They don’t hear the gun being shot nor do they see it firing nor do they feel or see the damage they are receiving until they die. It’d be good if I had something better to compliment it than my rifle. Ah! I hear people walking downstairs.

I slowly and I mean SLOWLY descend the stares with my only means of self-defense. I point the gun in all directions while walking then spastically look around when I take a step on the lower floor. Damn it. Being scared like this isn’t going to help. I loosen up my shoulders before heading into a sort of dining hall. There’s a large glass chandelier in the center of the room and stairs that lead down to a small glass table with fancy wooden chairs. My luck is bad again as I don’t find anything down here-! I point my gun at four people who casually enter the room. They’re better armed and geared up than I am. Wow, and they’re wearing anime type outfits and they modeled themselves after them too. What a bunch of weebos.

One of the boys speaks up and says, “You don’t have to worry about us. We’re going to wait for everyone else to show up here before we act.”

I ask them, “Heh. You guys are pretty confident that you’ll win. Who else is on your team?”

“Do you know the winners of the last battle royale?”

“What a team to be on.”

The team laughs. They then casually hang around the stairs even though I could kill them all, so I might as well. First, I take out the girl closest to me then the boy next to him. They do say ladies first after all. Even though two of their teammates dropped within seconds of each other, the other two don’t fight back. They must know what I’m doing by now.

As I shoot down the second to last person, the last girl looks at me with a smile and says, “Our friends will win the competition for us. It doesn’t matter what you do because we’ll win in the end.”

Cheeky bitch. I gun her down with my last bullets. Okay, now these people have to have something I could-damn it! Yup. They weren’t lying. These two girls are the winners from the last battle royale. They’re decked out in advanced gear and weapons that make them look more like cyborgs than human. I thought I saw them get shot out of the sky, but I guess they really did land in the furthest drop zone with the best gear. Just like their friends, these girls are dressed up as anime characters. I back up the stairs as they slowly approach me.

“Give up. You don’t stand a chance against us,” one of the girls say.

“We can see what you have,” the other says, “You might be able to kill one of us before you die.”

Damn. That’s one of the perks of being one of the best of the best. They know what I have on me. Unfortunately, my prestige doesn’t give me an equally good ability. There’s only one thing I can do. I leap downstairs as they start firing at me. In the next room, I find three pens, two breakable and the other is unbreakable. They’re supposed to be used as distractions and not as real weapons. Whelp. I guess it’s better than nothing. I barge through the room and into the entrance.

“Woah!” a girl with boobs way too big says.

It’s probably a guy playing as a girl. I’m pretty sure a normal girl wouldn’t increase her boob size by two hundred percent. They are just way too big. Okay, I gotta focus. The rest of the people are here but are just resting here for some reason. Maybe they’re all a team? Whatever the case is, I run into the basement and into the mine.

“Hey, what’s going on with you two?” I hear a man say before he and everyone upstairs gets slaughtered.

I only have one shot at this. As I hear the two girls coming after me, I double back then get in between them. They take out their giant fist melee weapon and are about to hit me. This is it! I stab one breakable pen into one of their eyes and now they’re blinded. I then drop myself to the floor, so they hit each other. They’re stunned by the system and lay paralyzed on the floor. Friendly fire isn’t allowed and their weapons should stun them long enough for me to finish them.

One of them looks up and me and says, “How did you-?! You’re…?!”

“So you recognize me? I’m glad someone finally does.”

The other one says, “You’re Kaylen or Cazzuto Salvatori! You’re the Bloody Swordsman from Rule Humanity Online!”

“That’s right ladies.” I take out my unbreakable pen. “Unfortunately for you, I’ll have to sign my autograph all over you.”

“No, don’t! Don’t embarrass us like this!”

“I wish I didn’t too, but I don’t have any other weapon so…”

They scream in terror, “No! Stop! You’re a psycho!”

“Only idiots say video games make you psychotic. I’m sorry about this, but I’ll try to make this as quick as possible.”

I begin to quickly stab them with my pen while using my special skill, one million stabs. It’s one of the special perks I have. I think the move itself might also be a reference to another video game with the same move. My prestige as both an experienced player and survivor of the Rule Humanity Online incident has given me a ton of special skills when it comes to melee weapons. I manage to kill both girls with my pen within ten seconds. That should be it. The royale isn’t over yet? Oh? I hear someone upstairs.

“What happened?” a male player says, “Did you guys get him-?”

The man stares at me in shock in terror with my pen of terror.

I say in an attempted terrifying voice, “If you don’t want to end up like them, then I suggest killing yourself.”

“Ah!” the man turns his gun on himself and shoots.

I win. That’s it. After all of the struggling and close calls, I finally win the battle royale. I hope you’re proud of me Angel and Kerano. The game ends and I’m transported back to the main hub of the game where I’m greeted by a crowd of people who cheer for me. Angel and Kerano come out of the crowd to meet me.

“We’ve finally won! I knew you would clutch it!” Kerano says.

“You did great, Kaylen,” Angel says.

“Thanks, guys. It’s about time we won a battle royale in this game. It’s all thanks to my mindset going into it.”

“You treated it like an actual life or death game kind of like…”

I guess I was acting a bit overdramatic.

“Yeah,” I say, “Just like Rule Humanity Online, but that was three years ago, so let’s just leave it behind us, okay?”

“Right. So do you guys want to go spending all that money we just won? I’ve been dying to get new armor and equipment.”

“Yeah, let’s go. We still have an hour to kill before we have to pick up our kids from the daycare.”

This game, After the Fall, came out two years after the Rule Humanity Online incident, where all its players were trapped within it and forced to complete it lest they die of thirst or starvation. I was the one who beat the game alongside my friends. Unfortunately, the governments of the world didn’t catch the developers of the game, but that’s all behind us. This game is inspired by the lore of that previous game and makes it into a completely different game. Instead of a dark fantasy RPG, we’re playing a first-person shooter with role-playing elements in a sci-fi setting. It’s a great game that my friends and I have been playing for a while.

In this game, people can earn real money by winning tournaments, trading gear, helping others out, and even help repair the in-game systems from the inside. You can even bring your kids into the game and have them enrolled in a daycare where they can learn through games and make friends. Everything in here can make you a living. It’s honestly a paradise for gamers like me. This is how we make a living in a world where most low and middle tier paying jobs are mostly taken by androids and AI. College used to be the only (terrible) option, but now with this game, people who don’t want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars can work honest jobs while enjoying themselves in a virtual world. The only things we need to do IRL is to eat and go to the bathroom. We can even sleep in the game without any negative side effects. I don’t think anything can ruin this present time we’re living in though I feel like thinking this will immediately turn things sour.

We arrive at the daycare after shopping for better gear. A woman, who’s volunteering as the daycare worker seems distressed for some reason. I would be too if I had to work with kids all day, but I’m feeling worried as well because of her.

She turns to us with a makeshift smile and says, “Oh, uh. Hi, Kaylen and Angel. I was just looking for Allen. He seems to have wandered off again. I’m sorry.”

I tell her, “I don’t blame him. I used to wander around too when I was little because the world around me seemed so wonderful. I’m sure he’s even more excited than I was because of how this place looks.”

Angel says, “We’ll look around the city. He couldn’t have wandered far like always.”

“Thank you, and I’m sorry for this happening again.”

“It’s no big deal. We’ll be able to find him,” I say as Angel and Kerano go to search for my son.

Angel elbows me then says, “We should take some time off playing-”

“Working.”

“Whatever. We should spend another week or so with Allen. He’s still a growing boy who needs his parents’ attention and teaching.”

“Alright. I don’t have a problem with that.”

“You’d think we do because of how many times we leave him in the daycare.”

“I do the same with my daughter,” Kerano comments.

“But at least your wife spends more time with your daughter while you earn money for them,” Angel responds.

“You don’t have to pick up for me, Kerano. I understand. Being a father really makes me want to settle down somewhere and just spend the rest of my life with the people I care about. I just want to earn as much as possible to make that happen.”

“We have enough now to do that for a little while.”

“I just wish it could last a little longer.”

“Me too, Kaylen.”

The three of us search for a while, but can’t find Allen anywhere, which is strange. Usually, we find him within five minutes of searching. Huh? What’s happening? The sky just turned red. This reminds me of…Oh no. Someone appears on the monitors scattered around the city.

It’s a cloaked figure in a half human half skull mask. They say, “We’re glad that you’re enjoying our game. Now that you have enough experience playing it, we have a new challenge for everyone. Watch.”

The floating mountain from the first game that was once just an easter egg is now lit up and a bridge comes out of the ocean to connect this piece of land to it. Who is this person? They have a voice that sounds like a mix of female and male voices.

“Complete all of the challenges in the mountain along with various other challenges that will be clear to you later in time to free everyone from this game.”

Free? You don’t mean…I can’t log out. Everyone around us tries to and can’t manage to as well. This is just like before. The three of us look at each other.

“Don’t panic guys,” I say, “We beat a game like this last time, and we can do it again.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Kerano says.

“Yeah.”

I can tell they’re uneasy, but they try to put a strong face on.

“Kaylen,” the mysterious figure says.

“Huh? Are you talking to me?”

“I am. You were the winner of the last game, so you’ll probably make it far if not win the game again. I just want to give you some motivation so we can meet a bit faster.”

The mysterious figure spawns in-Allen! They put a pistol to his head. Don’t you-FUCKER!

“You son of a bitch! Do you think you can just shoot my son and think you can get away with it you piece of fucking shit?!”

“Motherfucker! You’re dead! I’m going to beat the shit out of you for doing that!” Angel screams at the figure.

“Calm down, Kaylen. All of you have three lives, but you can earn more if you complete impossible level challenges. You can even earn lives for your friends. If you lose all your lives, you will enter a coma until someone gives you a life. You have until you die of thirst or starvation in real life to complete the game, but knowing what happened last time, you’ll probably have all the time in the world. Good luck.”

That piece of shit is going to pay! I swear it.

“Oh, and Kaylen, here’s your son to show that’s there’s no bad blood between us.”

My son spawns in my arms with a scared and confused look on his face. I collapse to my knees and cry harder than I’ve ever before. I’m going to beat this game and make the people who did this pay. For the first time they trapped us. For the second time. And most importantly for shooting my son.

 

 

 

Chapter 1 – A Sequel in a Different Genre

It takes me a while, but I let go of Allen and hand him over to a technician team within the game. They’re supposed to be the ones who protect the game from hackers, but what’s happening is from within the game and from someone that can access the game’s system with proper clearance. At least that’s what they tell me. It’s weird that some of the people who work on the game genuinely don’t know what’s going on and currently don’t have a way to get us out of the game. This makes no sense to me.

“Kaylen, I think we should go sit down, and start cooling off.”

“That’s what I’ve been doing for the past ten minutes, Kerano!”

Angel hugs me and doesn’t say anything, but I know what she’s saying.

“Alright. Let’s sit down somewhere so I can clear my head.”

We go to one of the many shiny bars in the city run by humans. The game has its own shopkeepers, but they encourage other people to start their own businesses, which was a mistake for the AI since the creativity and efforts of people overtook the businesses of the AI. This was possible because the AI can’t make recipes found the world and they can’t decorate their businesses. Now the AI businesses are there just for cheap stuff for beginners.

When we sit down at the bar, people start to look at us. Before any of them say anything, my two friends take out their guns. This means “don’t bother us” in this game and everyone backs off.

Angel says to Kerano, “Did you tell your wife not to come in the game?”

“I did, and she told me people on the outside are already trying to get us out.”

“I don’t get this,” I say, “They know we can get out. They even made the game easier for us by giving us a way to earn and give lives, and by trapping us after we’ve gotten used to the game. Why?” I slam my hand down on the counter. “Why damn it?!”

Angel puts her hand on my shoulder, “We’ll find out why, and make them pay for shooting Allen.”

“You’re damn right.” I get up and head in the direction of the mountain. “Let’s get this done.”

We head out to the mountain that already has dozens of people going into it, but no one is coming out. The mountain is a PVE dungeon where players bring in their equipment and try to beat the challenges inspired by the previous games in one go. This mountain isn’t as big as the previous one, so I wonder why people are coming in, but aren’t coming out. We haven’t completed this dungeon because we beat the original without guns.

As soon as we head in, we see that it’s just the three of us in the dungeon. This place allows teams and solo players to enter it, but not everyone at once since that would make it too easy. The first floor we’re on is full of normal fantasy monsters that we bypass. It’s not worth fighting them right now. We enter the boss room to find…what the hell? It’s a combination of two bosses. Half of the boss is a man with wings while the other half is a snake lady. It flies around spitting poison while trying to wrap us in its coils.

“Angel!” I call out.

“Don’t you worry guys, I got this!”

“I’ll help!” Kerano says as he sets down turrets.

Angel’s build consists of light machine guns and explosives while Kerano’s build is proficient in shotguns, traps, and buildable defenses. Kerano’s turrets shoot at the flying boss to keep it busy while Angel locks onto it. Once she gets a lock, she fires a volley of rockets at it, which knocks it out of the sky. Since bosses never die easy, we keep firing it once it hits the ground. It lets out a yell before charging at me.

“I got this!” I say as I switch my assault rifles to swords.

My build is a gunslinger build upgraded so I can dual wield assault rifles. I can also dual wield swords as well. It’s pretty sweet that this game has guns that can turn into sword, hammers, knives, and spears. It’s useful in situations like this where I’m fighting the boss up close and personal. Since it’s almost dead, I launch a flurry of slashes that stagger the boss so I can take it down without having to worry about it fighting back, and my attack finishes it. We’ve managed to beat the boss without it scratching us. The game rewards us by replenishing our ammo and opening the way to the next area. Since we finished it without taking any damage, we are given a slight boost in health and ammo capacity.

Kerano says, “I don’t remember that from the first game.”

“Neither do I. The people who trapped us here must’ve changed it,” I say.

“Maybe they did it so it won’t be easy for the veterans?” Angel guesses.

“That’s probably the answer, but it doesn’t matter what the reason really is. We have to keep going,” I say as we move for the exit.

They follow me into the next area, which is…what the hell? Literally. This place looks like Hell. It’s a battlefield with lake flowing down the cracks in the ground like rivers with the grass turned red because of the red rain falling down that smells like blood. We can see other players here fighting against demons and monsters of all kinds alongside AI soldiers that decide from helicopters in the sky. I can see three bosses that are molten monsters in metal armor protecting a large castle that is launching out fireballs onto the battlefield. That must be our destination.

“Get down!” someone yells as a mortar almost hits us.

We go to cover with some other players who are in a hole.

“What’s going on here?” I ask one of the players.

“This is how this floor is now for some reason. A lot of people are stuck here. It wasn’t like this before when my friends and I used to grind this dungeon. Hey, aren’t you, Kaylen?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“You can get to the end like last time, right? We all have family and friends who are worried about us.”

I look at him and his friends.

“Of course I can. I am going to need your help though.”

“Just tell us what to do.”

“First, I’m going to need more people.”

“I can message people, but they’re afraid to lose another life.”

“I’m only going to need one shot at this.”

“Okay, I’ll tell them that. We can also get more of our AI allies to spawn if we make it to those flare guns.”

“Alright. All you need to do is get my friends and I passed those three bosses then you can back off.”

“Okay…okay, we can do that.”

“We’re going to show those people who trapped us in here that they made the biggest mistake of their life. Are you ready?”

“We’re ready!” the group yells out.

“Then let’s get some!”

We run out of the holes and into the madness. I’m not sure if the screaming and dying are coming from the people behind us, but I ignore it and press forward. Because there is so much debris and hiding holes everywhere, my team and I take advantage of them for a second before going to next one when we think it’s safe. Before we know it, we’re halfway there. The people behind us have gotten to the flare and pop them off to send in several helicopters full of soldiers to help us. The AI and the other players distract the molten armored bosses while we pass by them and enter the castle.

This castle is a dark place with blood dripping from the stones. There’s rusted treasure everywhere with skeletons everyone that are wearing clothes from the ages long past. We enter a throne room to find a wounded human-like dragon with four serpent arms. It takes the large swords out of its body, lets out a yell that shatters the glass windows in the castle, and starts to fight. We dodge its attacks while firing all of our heavy and armor piercing ammo at it, but its health is barely decreasing.

“I hope we don’t have to go inside it to kill it,” I mention before it opens its mouth at us to release several lizard knights.

Kerano and I take care of the smaller lizards while Angel launches explosives into the dragon’s still open mouth for massive damage. The dragon’s mouth now lays open and we can see inside it too, which means we can enter it in unsaid video game hints. The makers of this game can’t be just dedicated enough to design the dragon’s insides.

“Get in his mouth so we can end this quickly, Kaylen!” Kerano says.

“What?! Why me?! I can’t swing my swords in there! You do it with your shotguns!”

“Uh uh! I ain’t going in that putrid place!”

“This is a video game! You aren’t going to catch a disease, be dirty, or smell after you come out!”

“Can one of you just do it?!” Angel yells.

“Fine.”

I go into the dragon’s mouth and drag my blades through the inside of his throat. This seems to wake it back up. Big mistake pal as my blades cut deeper into his throat. I take my blades out of the inside of his throat so I can land deeper inside him so I can cut him up more. I never want to think that thought again. With my smaller blades from my submachine guns, I tear out the dragon’s chest until I break through its skin and cut a hole through its stomach where a bullet almost hits me.

“Hey, watch it! I’m still in here!”

After a little bit more cutting, the dragon falls over. Great. Why can’t its body just disappear? I cut my way out of its stomach and step out of it with my body drenched in its blood. Angel and Kerano give me a weird look.

To ease the weirdness, I dance a little while singing, “Hello my baby, hello my honey!”

“No, don’t even do that,” Angel says while shaking her head at me.

“I get the joke, but…I can’t feel comfortable about this,” Kerano says.

“Hey, I stepped up like a real man and did what you couldn’t!”

“Urgh. I think the game makers really did add in smells and make you dirty.”

“It happens in some parts of the game but do I really-UCKK! I really do.”

“You’re going to have to sleep by yourself tonight,” Angel says while she heads for the exit of the castle.

“Hey, I’ll shower and use plenty of soap and have my gear cleaned, I promise! Don’t you laugh at me, Kerano!”

“Ha, I’m sorry bro. You did a good job.”

We head into the next area to find a bridge that leads to a giant castle that’s supposed to be at the top of the mountain. Kerano and I look at it each and Angel notices.

She asks, “What is it?”

“It’s nothing. We’re just surprised to be here already,” I say.

“Yeah, me too. At least we get to finish this quicker.”

She seems to have bought the explanation. I’m not sure what will happen once we enter the castle, but I’m feeling uneasy because I feel like I know what or who the final boss is going to be. We enter the castle and into the throne room. It’s just as nice as it was in the first game, but it has a cherry-rose color to it for some reason. On the throne, is a man with a cloak and red and black armor. He gets up with his red sword and takes off his cloak to reveal his face. It’s a mix between Kerano and I. I can even see my old sword on the side with my shield on the boss’s back.

I can see that Angel is more surprised than Kerano and I. I’ll have to explain everything to her later. The boss charges at us with his buster sword coming down to separate us. We fire at it while avoiding his swiping attacks that hit the walls around us. Debris starts to fall on us that we take turns shooting down, so it doesn’t land on us. After taking down the bosses to half, it smashes its buster sword into the wall to bring down the ceiling on us. We avoid the debris by getting out of the room. When the dust settles in the room, we see that the boss is holding a shield so that the debris doesn’t crush it. This move has cost it some of its health, but it did almost kill us.

It then flings the debris that is on its shield at us before going back to swinging and slashing at us. We try strafing around the boss while taking turns having its attention, which makes it put its shield on its back to deflect our bullets. Kerano tries putting down multiple turrets to make the boss put up its shield and put it in a difficult position, but it just throws its shield at the turrets to ricochet it off them and destroy them all. This was a dangerous way to get it to drop its guard, but we manage to deplete its health before its shield comes back to it resulting in the shield cutting off the boss’s head.

“We did it!” we yell out in victory.

A cloaked figure forms itself out of the shadow. It looks like the same bastard who shot my son.

“Congratulations on winning. I knew you three would be the first to beat the new challenges on this mountain,” the figure says in a male/female mixed voice.

“You better explain what we need to do next,” I say as I approach the figure with my guns pointed at it.

“Or what? What’s shooting me in a video game going to do to me? You might as well say mean words at me for all its worth.”

“Just tell us!”

“You’ll see as soon as you step outside.”

“I want to know more before you go. Tell me why you’re doing this-He disappeared. What an ass.”

“Is it a good time to ask why that boss had both of your faces on it?” Angel says as she stops me from passing by her.

Kerano and I look at each other before I explain that, “Back in RHO, Kerano finished the game before I did, but he decided not to free us because the developers convinced him not to.”

I can she’s stunned and pissed at the same time.

“…why didn’t you free us when you won the game first, Kerano?”

“Because I thought life would be better if we just spent the rest of it in the game. The developers promised me that everyone was being moved to hospitals so we could live full lives within the game! I don’t think that anymore and regret my decision, of course!”

“And why did you two lied to me about this?!”

I say, “We didn’t, kind of. The first person to beat the top of the tower in the game’s lore is like Kerano so we didn’t technically lie to you when we said that the final boss was a person who beat the mountain already.”

“Tch.”

“Angel…”

“I’m not mad. It’s been too long for me to care about what you did, Kerano. I just need some time to rest.”

Kerano and I give Angel some space as we exit the castle. In the distance, we see the survival warzone alive with danger as the ground breaks apart. I guess that’s where we’re headed next after we rest. If this was difficult for us, then I hope our experience can carry us through the next challenge and the ones after that. What am I thinking about? I have to have more faith in my wife, my best friend, and myself. When I look in their faces, I see that I can trust them. Angel softly smiles at me and Kerano smiles with a wink and a thumbs up. Yeah, we can all make it through this and beat the game.

 

 

Chapter 2 – Secrets of the Wastes

The challenges of the mountain took a lot out of us, so we’re resting back in the city in our special rooms. We gained these for our skills and our previous experience in RHO. We’re in the center building, which is a leaning tower with a golden bird at the top that acts like a marker in the city, so they know where the center is. Even though the tower itself is leaning, the resting rooms themselves don’t lean, but the view outside of the window is leaned, which is a bit odd and cool at the same time. The rest of the resting rooms in the city are for people who haven’t earned the better ones. Once they do, a room is automatically generated for them in the better buildings. The buildings can never run out of room as they grow or shrink depending on their occupants. Heck, even the city grows depending on how many businesses and apartments are needed.

This growing city still amazes me when I look out at it. The city hasn’t changed much ever since the amount of people coming in has nearly ceased. I hear that a lot of people coming in are experienced VR gamers who think they can beat this game. I’m not even sure if anyone else has beaten the mountain yet. I hope someone does beat the game soon. I don’t even want to be the first one to beat the game, unlike the first time. I’ve learned my lesson about rushing things like this.

Right now, Kerano is resting in the living room while Angel is resting over me as I sit up on the bed while looking out at the sci-fi city and its glow. Allen is sleeping in the room with us. We’ll teleport him back to the system security when we’re doing resting.

“Do you think we should stop playing these kinds of games? I think the government might shut them down after this,” Angel says.

“No, because it’s not like we can find a better place to make money for a living. I don’t think the government will shut these games down because hundreds of thousands of people make their living in here. The only jobs worth anything IRL are ones that you can only get with expensive college degrees. The rest of the jobs that aren’t taken already by robots and AI are ones that barely pay for anything.”

“Heh, we’re fighting to get out of here only to go back in.”

“At least we aren’t as dedicated as some of the pros. They’re already hooked up to a machine that feeds and cleans them. I bet they don’t even care what’s happening right now.”

“Then it’s up to people like us. This must be a scary situation for newcomers.”

“This situation is making me remember the first time this happened. Remember when you were an angry tough girl who wanted people to like her?”

“I think you’re remembering it differently than I am, but I definitely remember that you were a sarcastic jackass who wanted to get to the top of the mountain first at the cost of our lives.”

“Hey, that’s not exactly true. I changed.”

“Yeah, you definitely did.”

“Do you remember the first time we held hands? What about the first time we slept together?”

“I remember that. How could I not remember getting cut to pieces for wanting to save your ass?”

“Oh, don’t bring that memory back up. That was horrible.”

“I wish I could completely forget it along with most of the memories associated with that game.”

“Except for the few good ones spent with me, right?”

“Haha, you’re right. I want to hold onto memories those forever just like how I want to hold onto you forever. Can we just stay like this and let someone else finish the game? There are plenty of teams of pros that can finish it for us.”

“I know that, but I don’t want to. What that ass did to Allen was a direct challenge to me. I don’t care if nothing actually happened to him. He did more than disrespect my son and us by shooting him in the face. No sane good person shoots a baby boy.”

“You’re right, but I just want to be with and protect both of you instead of just leaving him in the hands of the system security.”

“You can’t save neither us if they just teleport and insta-kill us. We have to go to them and beat them at their own game. To do that, we should be heading out soon.”

“Let me spend some more time with Allen first just in case anything else happens to him.”

“Okay. I’ll talk to Kerano. You aren’t mad at him or me, are you?”

“It’s been too long for what he did to matter to me, so no, but I don’t want to hear about it again.”

“Thank you for understanding.” I get up and give my son a kiss, which makes him giggle and smile. “I’ll see you later, buddy. I love you.”

I leave the room and sit on the coach across from Kerano, who is checking his shotgun.

“Is Angel still mad at me?”

“She’s not mad at you at all. Just don’t remind her of what you did.”

“Do you think she’ll tell my wife?”

“Probably not.”

“I hope not because I was being stupid back then. I made a horrible mistake.”

“Don’t worry about it. It seems like you got what you wanted anyway since most of our time is spent making money playing video games.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“So, why are you cleaning your shotgun there? It’s not like it gets dirty.”

“Unlike you.”

“Hey, the smell and the guts are gone.” I smell myself to make sure. “Right?”

“Haha, it’s gone. I just like cleaning it because it’s my favorite.”

“It’s one of the starting shotguns.”

“It’s also the shotgun that I’ve done the most with, but it’s one of the best because of the rest of my perks.”

“I swear you got lucky with that. The mechanist perk that you choose decreases the damage of your primary damage so your turrets can do more, but since the perk subtracts the damage of your shotgun to negative one, the damage amount loops around so that your shotgun does the maximum amount of damage to make it as powerful as the most powerful shotguns in the game. That’s not all either since the starting shotgun has an above average fire rate, it makes it better in some cases than the best shotguns, which have lower fire rates. To top it all off, what’s happening to your gun isn’t a glitch.”

“I was surprised when the developers said it was a secret to make the ordinary weapons legendary. Do you remember the story they told about how a basic weapon saved their lives in a gaming tournament and allowed them to win it?”

“Yeah, I don’t blame them for getting attached to basic weapons because of that.”

“But just because my main gun is good doesn’t make your guns less special. Your golden roaring lions with its sixty round clips coming out of both barrels of your gun and ability to change into swords is amazing.”

“You got that right. This gun is exclusive to my combined build.”

“Your other guns are amazing two like your twin viper shotguns, death’s kiss handguns, and siren’s scream submachine guns.”

“They’re pretty great, but all you have to do is beat the same high secret level quests that are exclusive to my build to get them. Tons of people probably already know how to get them, so the quests aren’t as much of a secret now. Besides, Angel’s heavy weapons are great too. The white lotus LMG packs a punch and staggers every player and small to medium-sized AI enemy it manages to hit once. It’s deadly despite its low fire rate because once it hits you, you’re dead in seconds.”

“There’s also that purple dragon of wrath rocket launcher. We had to kill an actual purple dragon to get that weapon.”

“How worth it was it to get it? That thing causes bigger explosions along with greater damage along with fire damage. It’s basically a mini-nuke launcher.”

Angel comes into the room and says, “Are you two done talking about gun porn?”

“If you’re ready to go,” I say, “Did you teleport Allen back to security?”

“I did.”

“Then let’s go. Are you ready?”

“I am.”

I cock my gun then say, “Let’s go then.”

“That wasn’t as cool as you thought it was,” Angel says.

“I thought it was. If it isn’t, why do so many people do it? Whatever, let’s just go.”

We head out to the survival wasteland, which is both the place that is used for the hunting, dungeon, and one-third of the story mode of this game. The story is found by talking to people in the different areas of the game world. Unlike a lot of games, you have to keep note of what you have to do unless you get a helmet or visor that will help you keep track of your quests. Kerano has a visor that also doubles as a headband. He uses it to keep track of the health of his turrets.

The dungeons are mini-quests that let you earn different loot and also affect the world in different ways such as; the look in certain areas, the enemy spawns, loot drops, random encounters, events in the areas, and your faction’s status. Now, the survival part of the area lets you face dangerous areas while obtaining loot and secret quests. If you die before you exit the area, then you lose everything and have to do it all over again. It’s less of a gamble than gambling in town for rare loot and it’s more exciting. I wonder what the asses who trapped us here want us to do.

There are a lot of people near the gate into the wasteland both on the outside and the inside. They’re talking about what to do and what groups to go in. It appears that they beat the mountain, so we join in on the conversation. Angel and Kerano talk to a few people while I talk to one who looks like he specializes in pistols and submachine guns, so he’s a fellow gunslinger.

I say to him, “Hey, man, do you know what everyone is doing here?”

“We’re planning on how we should approach the wasteland to find what we need for everyone to escape the game. You’re Kaylen, right?”

“I am.”

“It’s an honor to meet you. I’m surprised you picked a gunslinger class like me.”

“You should combine it with the sword class. You can get some sick weapons like the ones I have.”

“I’ll think about it if I ever decide to play this game again.”

“Has anyone decided to do anything yet?”

“So far it looks like we’re going to separate into large groups of seven to search the dungeons and the wasteland.”

“That sounds like a good plan. I’m up for it if you guys are.”

“Did you hear that?” he says to the crowd, “We got Kaylen approving our plan!”

The crowd of people seems excited and starts cheering as they get into groups.

The gunslinger then says, “I’d like it if you’d join my group since we only have five. We can use an expert like you.”

“I will as soon as I can ask what my wife and best friend want to do.”

Angel manages to find me. She’s followed by others who have similar weapons to her.

“Angel, what group are you going with? Do you want to go together?”

“My group over here is planning to take out the tougher enemies together, and they need a person like me to help them. Can you handle being without me for a while?”

“I can as long as I get to see you again. The real question is if your group can handle you on their team.”

Angel jabs me with her elbow, “Oh, shut it. I’ll see you later.”

“I love you.”

“Love you too.”

I then find Kerano in a group of people who in a similar build class as him. He says the same things as Angel except his group is going to handle the hordes of lesser enemies and act as distractions to draw in the bigger enemies for heavy hitting groups like Angel’s. I let him go and join the group with the gunslinger. Together we go out into the wasteland in search of a possible dungeon to raid for secrets. Along the way I talk to the group about how the developers held secrets such as the one that makes Kerano’s starter shotgun so powerful, and how their fond memories of video games could help us find what we’re looking for.

We find a few possible places to search and separate into teams of two to investigate the different areas with a campsite that we use as a rendezvous and fast travel point. The gunslinger and I go investigate a dungeon behind a waterfall. It’s where one of the developers had spent the first day with his newlywed wife who had a similar interest in games. The developer wrote his and wife’s initials near the cave’s entrance and made the lore reflect the first time he met his wife. It’s a bunch of romantic mumbo jumbo that I can’t help but like because I know what it’s like to be in love. The enemies in the dungeon are nothing special that can’t be taken be easily taken out with a single headshot since gunslingers like us do better headshot damage than most builds.

“So, you didn’t tell me your name yet,” I say to the gunslinger.

“My name is Dante.”

“Is that your username or actual name?”

“It’s my actual name.”

“I’m sorry. I thought it was just a reference.”

“Don’t worry about it, I get that a lot. In fact, I picked gunslinger as my main class because of it.”

“What’s your secondary class?”

“It’s the secondary part of my reference. I use buffs and debuffs that I activate by saying quick lines to activate them. The ones that I use are the second part of the reference in my build, which is Dante Alighieri. The lines taken from the Divine Comedy are some of the best buffs and debuffs to use.”

The carryovers from the previous game aren’t just guns that can turn into swords and melee weapons builds, but also healing, buffing, and debuffing magic. There is offensive magic, but it is limited to giving your weapons certain effects as if it were a magic wand. You got be shooting magical bullets or throwing out long-range slashes with your swords. I think the game blends its previous fantasy elements with the sci-fi ones pretty well.

“Spitting poetry while being a stylish gunslinger? You sound like a real cowboy.”

“Haha, you think so? Oh, I think we might found something.”

The boss that spawns at the end of the dungeon is a couple who look like the developers. They’re both wearing their wedding outfits and they’re using a dual sword build that can deflect our shots. They work well together, which gives me an idea.

“Dante, we need to focus on taking out one of them. The other should easily fall after that.”

“Okay, but which one?”

“The woman.”

“Gotcha.”

“A man is nothing without his woman, am I right?”

“I see. You’re right.”

The developer should fall if his wife does or at least lose the will to fight, so we concentrate on her. She’s more skilled in defense and the developer tries his best to defend her, but our concentrated fire eventually goes through her defenses to defeat her. She might’ve been fast and skilled, but her health was low enough to deplete within seconds of getting staggered. The developer falls to his knees, which gives us the opportunity to finish him off. Dante and I then bump fists with our guns in victory.

“Your plan worked. How did you know that killing his wife wouldn’t just send him into overdrive?” Dante asks.

“Eh. Honestly, it was a gamble.”

“Haha. Alright, let’s see what we can find here.”

Dante and I search around the room and don’t find anything. We didn’t earn anything special besides high-level loot and a lot more money and EXP than you would usually get from a dungeon like this. Hold on…

“Dante…”

“What’s up?”

“Do you remember this letter being here before?”

“No, I don’t think so. What do you think a giant T means?”

“I don’t know. It could be part of a password. Oh! There’s a bunker in the destroyed nuclear test site with a keypad that you can enter a password in. The developers said they would eventually reveal the password to it to show us something special.”

“Oh, that’s right! I forgot about that since it was impossible trying to find the code.”

“I didn’t think they had this planned from the beginning.”

“I hope we can get back at these people before they do this again.”

“That’s the same thing I was thinking. We should regroup with the others to see what they found.”

When we get to the campsite, we find that the other two groups have one member whose died once, but they’ve managed to find a letter like we have. They’ve found the letters T and O. Tot? Like tatter tot? Maybe it’s thot? I don’t know. We probably need more letters. While we talk about where to go next, Kerano finds us and joins in on the conversation.

After we tell him what we found, he says, “It sounds like you need help from yours truly.”

“Doesn’t your group need your help? What happened to them anyway?” I ask.

“My group has more people who are better at crowd control than I am, so they’re fine without me.”

“That’s good. Would you mind if we left to go help our friends earn the lives they lost? They’re scared to lose all of them,” one of the others say.

“Are you serious? It doesn’t matter if you lose all of your lives because people can just earn them back for you,” Dante says.

“Dante, it’s fine. You two can go if you want,” I say to them.

“Thank you.”

Once the two of them leave, Dante says, “Why did you let them go? They could’ve helped us.”

I explain to him that, “You have the two of us with you, so you have nothing to worry about. Besides, I’m sure we can find other people to replace them.”

“What if we face a threat that’s too much for the three of us to handle?”

“Then we retreat and find someone who can help us.”

“Alright. I’m just wondering because I want to get at the people who trapped us here as quickly as possible.”

“Don’t worry about it. We feel the same way. They’ll get what’s coming to them soon. Let’s move out.”

The three of us head out into the wasteland. After we walk through the wasteland while Dante introduces himself to Kerano, we discover a lake near a small town.

I tell Dante and Kerano to stop here because, “A few developers came from a small town near and a lake. Also, who wouldn’t hide an easter egg near a lake in a wasteland?”

We search through the town first before going near the lake.

As Dante looks closer into the lake, he says, “I think I see a letter down there.”

Before Kerano and I can see what he sees, a giant Hydra with six heads.

“Kerano!”

“I got it!”

Kerano starts laying down turrets to distract the heads of the Hydra while Dante and I start firing at its heads. We don’t seem to be doing the much damage to it despite hitting critical hits. I think I see a small glow in the hydra’s mouth when it opens it, but since the turrets are making it shut its mouth, I can’t hit it.

“I’m going to need you to shut down your turrets except the ones to defend you, Kerano!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I am!”

“…alright then.”

Kerano self-destructs his turrets that aren’t protecting him, which makes the snakes open their mouths to spit their poisons at us.

“Dante! I’m going to need you to shoot the snakes in the mouth particularly the glowing part.”

“Those glowing spots are really small. Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. Gunslingers like us specialize in hitting the enemy where it hurts most after all.”

We both smile at each other and shoot the snake in its mouth like real sharpshooters. When the glowing spot takes enough damage, it explodes along with the head of the serpent. We then repeat the process until there are only three heads left. The three heads into turn into one serpent that’s larger with sharper scales and teeth. It tries to eat me, but I manage to stop it and hold its mouth open with my assault rifle swords.

“Guys, I’m going to need your help here!”

“We got it!”

Both Kerano and Dante concentrate their fire into the hydra’s mouth until the glowing spot blows up along with the hydra’s head. The rest of its body disappears as we get a reward for killing the beast. We raise our guns and cheer in victory.

“You must trust Kaylen a lot to let down your defenses without any explanation,” Dante says.

“I trust him. He’s been like a brother to me ever since that time we played RHO together.”

“I mean we basically live in the same house so we might as well be family. We both left our families behind to pursue our careers in gaming.”

“Really? That’s dedication to your friends and your beliefs if I’ve ever heard of it.”

“Haha, I guess you could say so. Now, what’s that letter you saw?”

“Let’s see. It’s an A.”

“An A? So we have T, O, T, and A.”

“Nothing about that sequence of letters brings up anything to my head. What about you, Kaylen? You know your references.”

“Nothing. Let’s keep moving. I think I know where we should go next.”

“Right,” both of them say.

We head out to a volcano near the bunker. This surrounding area in general has a ton of easter eggs such as; the destroyed nuclear test site is a reference to a town used to test nukes in a popular multiplayer game, there’s a cabin nearby that’s broken in half with a giant arm coming out of it, a downed alien space ship that’s in the form of a C, and so on. As we get closer to the volcano, we find groups of people fighting all kinds of enemies. Among these people is Angel.

Kerano starts setting up his turrets as Dante and I start cleaning the killing floor. I shoot my way through the crowd of enemies with my pistols in order to not hit anyone else until I get to Angel.

“Hey, babe, you come here often?” I ask her.

“Hell no. Did you find anything?”

“We found hidden letters that I think we can use to enter the bunker that’s not far from here.”

Kerano’s turrets then activate and launch a barrage of homing shots that kills the crowds of enemies. I give Kerano a thumbs up and he does the same. The ground then shakes as the volcano begins to become active. An enormous dragon made of fire erupts from the volcano and yells out as fire begins to rain from the sky. Knights also made of fire form themselves from the fire rained from the sky and the lava pouring out of the volcano.

Angel says to me, “Think we can take them?”

“Of course we can. We can do this! Let’s kick some ass!” I say to the group to rally them.

They scream out with their guns raised. The players with short to medium ranged charge the enemy while the ones with long ranged weapons take up positions to shoot at the knights while others shoot at the dragon. Angel and I go after the dragon as it flies towards us while Dante and Kerano with his turrets help the others with the knights. The dragon itself has no real critical areas to hit-wait, strike that. Its weak points move as the bubbling fire on its body reveals it. I fire at those to bring it crashing to the ground.

Angel uses her rocket launcher on it while I empty clip after clip of my assault rifle in it until I run out of ammo. I then switch to my shotguns and get up close and personal to the dragon’s head. It tries chomping at me while breathing fire at me, but I dodge its attacks while switching my shotgun to a short sword then back again to keep its attention as Angel peppers it with light machine gun fire from a distance. The dragon then gets mad and switches its attention to Angel.

I can’t aggro it to me, so I stab my swords into its fiery skin and climb on top of it, then yell out, “Watch out, Angel!”

The dragon then flies a short distance above the ground then charges towards Angel.

“Grab my hand!” I say with my hand out.

Angel grabs my hand as we go up into the sky with the dragon.

“You’re crazy!” she says as climbs on top of the dragon.

“And you’re even crazier for going with my plan. It’s also crazy that this dragon made of fire isn’t that hot to stand on.”

“We still can’t stay on it without taking a little damage. What’s your plan?”

“Put your rocket launcher in its mouth and blow it up. I think its weak point is somewhere in its chest.”

“Do you have a plan to get us back down?”

“Kind of. Just get on my back.”

Angel gets on my back as I use my swords to climb up to the dragon’s face as it flies around trying to get us off. Once we get to the mouth, I cut the dragon’s jaw so that its mouth is wide open.

“Do it, Angel!”

Angel puts her rocket launcher in the dragon’s mouth then says, “Eat this!”

She fires her rocket into the dragon, which causes its body to explode, but the neck and head are still intact.

“What now?!” Angel asks in a panic as we begin to plummet to the ground.

“Hold onto me!”

Angel holds onto me as I get us to the top of the dragon’s head with my swords. I try to keep the dragon’s head on the bottom as we fall, and I manage to do this as the dragon’s head digs into the ground then throws us off when the dragon’s head and neck turn into ash. I roll on the ground with Angel in my arms until we come to a complete stop. Man is she shaking after the ride.

“That was fun, wasn’t it,” I say to her with a smile.

“That was horrible.”

“It was amazing. I don’t know what you were worried about. Even if we couldn’t survive the fall, we would still have two more lives.”

“That’s not the point. Falling to my death is terrifying even if this is a game.”

“But don’t lie that you weren’t at least a little thrilled.”

“…okay, I was.”

“Want to do it again after this is over?”

“No!”

In the distance, I see that the group has finished off the small army of knights. The once activate volcano has calmed down and the lava is now cooled off. We search the volcano and find the letter, Y.

I say aloud, “T, O, A, T, and now Y…hmm. I still can’t make anything out of that.”

“How about toasty if we add an S?” Angel says.

“Toasty? That sounds like it could be it since it’s a reference. Let’s see if the bunker will accept that.”

We go to the bunker and fortunately enough, it accepts it. Our group cheers with cheers for Angel in particular.

As we descend into the bunker, I ask whoever can answer it, “Why toasty of all references? It sounds like something someone would’ve tried on the door.”

Everyone just shrugs while Angel says, “I don’t know, but I know that I was the one who got it after so many other people failed.”

“Ooooh, you’re so special.”

“You’re damn right about that.”

When we get to the bottom of the bunker, we find a bunch of monitors. All of them activate and form a picture of a cloaked face.

The person on the monitor says, “Congratulations on finally getting into the bunker. I’m sure you’re wondering why toasty was the password. Well, it wasn’t originally, and the password history suggests that dozens of people already tried it.”

I turn around to see Angel puff her face.

“The password was originally something easier to guess, but we changed it to toasty later. So the main reason why toasty is the password is because my friend and I were always bad at fighting games even though we loved playing them. We barely used two or three special moves from our favorite characters and just button mashed for most games, but for every match we played, we finished it with an uppercut.”

Ah, I get it now.

“You must be hearing this message after you were all trapped in this game, which must be slightly unfortunate for you. The truth is, if you figured out the password beforehand, you would’ve never been trapped here, and we would’ve never bothered you by doing it.”

What? Are they serious?

“We don’t even know why you would want to free yourselves since you must know that the world sucks. When you free yourselves, you’ll probably be back here again to make money and have fun. If you want to free yourselves, nevertheless, you must get to the PVP area of the game and find our developer building. Search it and you’ll find the key to your freedom. We really hope you’ve been enjoying our game and will continue to for however long you play it.”

The monitors then shut off. The group talks amongst itself while exiting the bunker while I stare at the monitor. Hmm. Nothing? No after secret message after what you said? There we go! It’s on.

The person on the monitor says, “No, there is no secret after credits message. You should know that we hate those.”

It turns off again. That’s bullcrap! Oh! It’s back on!

“Okay, here’s a hint since you’re so patient. You’re probably not going to defeat the challenge after your next. Sorry, but that’s how it’s going to be.”

The monitors turn off again.

I shoot the monitors while saying to it, “Fuck you! We’re going to make sure you pay for everything that you’ve done!”

“What do you think they met by saying we’re probably not going to beat the last challenge?” Kerano asks as we leave the bunker.

“It’s probably BS to get us scared,” Angel says.

“You’re damn right about that.”

Once we’re out of the bunker, I state, “We’re going to free ourselves from this game and get back at those developers for what they did. Nothing can beat us when we fight together!”

We fist bump with a battle cry then head out to the PVP area. Just you asses wait. We’re going to free ourselves soon enough.

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – Freedom from Virtual Reality

The PVP zone is a mostly destroyed city that’s a lesser version of the cities of today. It’s from the 2000s so about a hundred years ago. Players face each other in this city for loot, equipment, and money. The better you do, the better stuff you get. You enter the PVP zone by being mid-rank or level fifty. If you bet money, you can earn real money, but if you don’t you only gain equipment and guns. To get more money, you do well in a game and then the amount of money you earn is based on the game, your number of kills/deaths, and if your team won or not.

I wish I was still playing the normal game now because everyone is shooting at each other for some reason. As far as I know, killing each other in the PVP zone is the easiest way to earn back lives. The people over here have found out that you can’t earn anymore lives over three and what lies in the developer’s building. Some people have given up and are trying to make other people give up as well. There are others that are earning back their lives and the lives of their friends to try to challenge again. Unfortunately, we’ll have to go through them in order to beat the game.

Despite how large the city is, there are few open sections. Most are close to medium engagements, so my shotguns and submachine guns are the best in this area. Angel covers us from longer distances while Kerano shoots the people I miss. The three of us work like a well-oiled SWAT time until we get to the area near the developer’s building. It’s completely surrounded by people who are protecting it. They aim their sights and fire on whoever approaches the building. This is going to be tricky, so we huddle together to make a plan.

“I could put turrets around the perimeter while you distract them,” Kerano suggests.

“That sounds decent, but what I just blow them all up? A few shots of my purple dragon should be able to clear most of them and the smoke screen it creates should be able to give us cover,” Angel says.

“That sounds like a good plan, but what about this…we shoot them all,” I say.

“I’m being serious!”

“I like his plan,” someone from behind us says.

I turn around to see my gunslinger bro Dante.

“Hey, Dante! I was wondering where you were,” I say to him.

“I was gathering people so we could secure it to investigate it. I think we can take the building if we use all three of your plans.”

“Well, my plan is a joke plan, but I like your idea. We’re one step away from freedom, are you guys ready?”

The crowd of people yell together.

“Shh! You don’t want them knowing we’re here yet.”

The crowd then does a silent yell before we start enacting our plan. Everyone gets into positions so that we attack in a pincer formation. Once we’re ready, I message Angel, and she shoots a rocket in the area with the most people in it. Kerano then begins to set up his turrets in key positions to give us cover as we attack. Our plan is executed so well that most of the players defending the building are dead within seconds.

Unfortunately, we have attracted the attention of neighboring players who are hunting for lives. Angel, Kerano, Dante, and I quickly run for the developers building under a hail of gunfire-Oh shit! Someone just sniped half of Dante’s head off!

“Don’t worry guys, I’m sure you can do it without me!” he says as he begins to disappear.

“Don’t talk with half your head off! It’s weird, and we got it. Just you wait,” I say before we head further into the building.

Most of the upstairs floors are just abandoned spaces with posters referencing the developers’ favorite video game, movie, anime, comics, manga, and TV shows. There are also pictures of the developers and their families along with testing rooms for their games. I’m a bit surprised they made more than this game and RHO. Since there isn’t anything really here, we check the basement and find an elevator that’s operational. I don’t remember this being operational and there are no other elevators in this building besides this one. When we look at the elevator’s controls, we see that the only button has a down arrow.

I look to Angel and Kerano and ask them, “Are you ready?”

“We are if you are, babe,” Angel says.

“I’ve been ready,” Kerano says.

“Let’s do this then.”

We press the button and the elevator doors immediately shut and the elevator quickly descends to the bottom that makes us hit the ceiling then the floor of the elevator when it hits the bottom. What a way to give us one last scare. Once we exit the elevator, we see that we’re in a somewhat dark mass room with pillars everywhere, and three massive floating figures that are among the pillars as if they’re what’s keeping them together. Those must be the developers, the people who trapped us twice in a video game.

“Welcome, Kaylen, Kerano, and Angel. We knew you would make it here,” one of the developers say.

“You shitheads shot my son. Of course we were going to make it to you and end this game of yours.”

“Even though it was you who beat our first game, you won’t beat this one. I’m sure you’ve seen the others out there who have come here and left only to turn on you.”

“We’re not like them.”

“That’s what they said as well. Do you know that some of them came here first instead of the tower? They were clever enough to follow a hunch they had and come to the only place they may find us. There have been so many people that have lost all of their lives and others that are turning on their friends to get them to stop fighting against us. You may have a fair chance of beating us, but we will be the ones who decide when the game stops.”

“Oh really? We’ll see about that.”

“Not so fast. There’s a special condition for this fight since it’s the last one. You may not know it, but you only have one life left. We took the other ones you had in order to make this choice more difficult for you.”

Assholes. No wonder why those people outside are fighting for lives.

“Okay, what is our choice?”

“You have two choices. Your first choice is to fight us together, but you lose, you don’t have anyone to give you a second chance. Your second choice is to sacrifice two of the people in your group for the last person left to face us with a powerful weapon of their choice. If they lose, they can choose to leave and earn back all your lives.”

What a choice to make.

I look at Angel and Kerano who are nervous, so I say to them, “What do you think we should do?”

“Well…Our safest option is to have a singular person fight and if they lose, then at least someone can try again,” Kerano explains as he tries to keep it together.

“I guess that’s our only real choice because we don’t know how the boss fight with them will go,” Angel says, “But we also don’t know if a singular person will a special weapon can beat them. Who’s going to be that person anyway? If I pick the rarest heavy weapon, I could possibly take them out in minutes.”

Kerano says, “If I’m the one who fights, I could use the best turrets in the game to even the numbers and get a better shotgun to increase my chances of winning.”

“But if I’m the one who fights them, I could pick a weapon that I can dual wield for double the massive damage while also being aided by my critical hits and agility,” I say.

There’s silence for a couple minutes before Kerano says, “I think Kaylen should be the one to fight for us. His build is the best that can adapt to whatever they might throw at him.”

“I think you’re right.”

“Angel…”

“We don’t know what’s going to happen when we fight them. Besides, I trust that you’re going to kick their ass.” Angel hugs and kisses me.

Kerano and Angel then disintegrate as if they were killed.

I turn to the developers and say, “What the hell?!”

“They already decided their champion. Now, pick your weapon.”

A room opens near the elevator door. In the room is an armory of all the weapons in the game. I wonder if they have…oh boy they do! I pick it up and exit the room with the best gun for my build, Hell’s Shredder. It’s a minigun that can also shoot homing rockets that can turn into one big fuck-off buster sword when I put them together.

“You done fuck up now!” I scream at them with my sights on them.

They look surprised and they should be. This is a gun that only the max ranked gunslingers mixed with sword builds can have once they complete their hardest quest. No one has obtained it and there’s been teases of its existence, but now I have it, and now I’m going to shred them to pieces! They open fire on me with their homing lasers, but my homing rockets meet them in the air to destroy them. I then sprint around the room while firing everything the gun has at them. This gun basically makes me a one-man army. It’s no wonder why the only downside is that you have to wait until the next day for an ammo refill, but I have so much ammo that I’ll be able to beat these people.

The minigun cuts through the developers’ health while the rockets block and deflect their attacks. The attacks that do get through I dodge. Despite its size, I can still move fast while firing Hell’s Shredder. It’s one of the things that make it so overpowered. Once they’re down to critical levels of health, the three developers become one cloaked figure with a white mask with three faces and a crown on its head.

“Come at us with everything you got,” they say as they unsheathe their sword-like fingers and charge towards me head-on.

“Bring it!”

I continue to fire my minigun and rockets at them as I charge towards them.

Before they reach me, I switch my gun to a buster sword and hit them with buster sword. They block it with their sword fingers, but I struggle against them until I let out a yell, cut through their fingers, and cut off their head. There it is. It’s over.

The developers say, “Congratulations. We knew you would be the one to finish the game since you knew about the best weapon in the game.”

“That’s not all. It’s because of my wife and best friend that I’m here.”

“Of course. You seem to have grown up since you last played. We don’t see you joke around as much as you used to.”

“Being a father does that. I’ve grown in spirituality, been more responsible, and I’m more goal-oriented for the betterment of my family. The father is the head of the family after all.”

“We’re sending you our address so we can have a talk. Come whenever you want. We’ll be expecting you.”

They’re not really going to-oh, they did. This address is only a few hours away from where I am.

“I’ll be seeing you soon then.”

All three faces on their mask smile at me before disappearing. Keep smiling jacks. You won’t be soon enough. As soon as I log out of the game, I make sure Angel, Kerano, and Allen are okay, and sure enough, they are. Kerano and his wife hug and kiss, but I have to cut their reunion short with what I tell them. They understand and get ready to meet the developers. After making some preparations, we go to the address I was given.

It’s a small inconspicuous house in a nice looking neighborhood. We knock on the door and a woman answers the door.

She says, “We’re so glad to finally meet you. Welcome to our home.”

“Sure,” I say as I go into the house.

There are seven people sitting around a TV playing video games on a console with snacks and sugary drinks on a large table near them. These people look like the average people that you would see on the streets. They’re dressed casually as if they were having a sleepover. The woman who answered the door sits on the couch near them. A man pauses the game and stands up as the seven people look at me.

“Welcome to our home, Kaylen and friends,” he says with a smile.

I really want to punch them all, but I can’t.

“You told me to come here because you wanted to have a talk. What is it that you wanted to talk about?”

“As you can see, we’re just normal gamers like you even though we still play on consoles. I hope it doesn’t make us look like try-hard old school gamers.”

“No, it doesn’t. Millions of people still play on PC and consoles. VR is just for professionals and people who want to make a living playing games.”

“And that’s what we were aiming for. It’s been the dream of millions of gamers to make a living doing what they love, and we’ve made that a reality. You can’t deny that we’ve helped millions of people by giving them the opportunity to make a living without having to break their backs.”

“I guess I can’t.”

“Right. Think about the job market right now. The jobs once meant for the middle class are now filled automated with robots and AI. The rest of the jobs are low paying and will soon be replaced as well. Going to college for a job you probably don’t want is the only option and you know how shit modern academia is right now. Our game has not only given people jobs they want to work, but it has also brought them together, so we work together like we used to so many centuries ago. Hunting, gathering, adventuring, fighting together, and such, but with the added bonus of no one getting hurt. People have even grown more spiritual and religious because of it. We’ve seen you at the Catholic churches in the game. This was the point of our game. It was shown in the game’s story, its world, and the everyday occurrences.”

“You’re right, and I’m thankful for what you’ve done, but what you’ve done to prove your point was wrong. You can’t force people to see your point by trapping them in a game twice, and you sure as hell can’t shoot someone’s son to egg them on even if you didn’t cause any real harm. You have to pay for what you’ve done.”

I take out a collar and put it around the man’s neck. The other developers get up in shock. A SWAT team enters the building to make sure they don’t move.

I continue saying, “You should know what this collar does. The police use it to get the truth out of people, so lying to them will cause you to have more than some minor burns on your neck.”

“We knew this would eventually happen. Part of us always knew that some of what we did was wrong.”

“Then I hope you change for your sake.”

“Don’t worry, we already have.”

I leave the house with my family as the police arrest the developers. At their trial, they are charged with kidnapping and the endangerment of children, but because they caused no actual harm and the law hasn’t evolved for this kind of crime, they only get thirty years in jail instead of the life in jail that I thought they would get. Because they’re prestigious members of society, they get their own special room with gaming systems to play with. I hear that they invite other people to play with them and that they’re upstanding members of the jail. I hope this is true.

As for us, we’re still playing video games to make a living and have fun. Video games bring joy and fun to people. They can teach lessons while also bringing people together for a shared goal, but we still put them down now and then to enjoy real life. Today, I am going out with my family to the beach. I hear that it’s crowded at this time of year.

The End

A Mother and Her Shattering Son

Download the story for free on Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/939747

 

Chapter 1 – A Colorful World Filled with War

A world filled with dolls and crystals sounds like a place of wonder and happiness, but this isn’t so of this world. The Crystallis, who are dolls that originate from the crystal, became so prideful of their beauty that they were corrupted by it. Because of this corruption, they attacked the Flos, who are dolls that originate from the beauty of the world. The Flos are skilled when it comes to reasoning and strategy, however, the Crystallis excel in brute strength. The Flos and Crystallis have fought their war to a standstill and are still fighting a brutal world war that has ravaged this once beautiful world.

In all the chaos, innocents are naturally caught in the crossfire. Rosalia’s son, Rhodes, had been caught in an area effect spell that cursed him with decay so that his body slowly falls apart. Rosalia’s husband sacrificed himself so that the two could survive. Several other family members were caught in this spell, but enough managed to survive to fend off the invasion of Crystallis. A cure for Rhodes would’ve been easier to get back in the time of peace, but the only place in the world that holds the cure is in the center of conflict where both sides are constantly fighting each other day in and out, which is the origin point of both dolls. If Rosalia can bring Rhodes to the healing springs, then he can be cured. Despite being told the near impossible odds by repeatedly her neighbors, she goes out in the hopes that she can make it in time.

Currently, Rhodes has been falling apart but is in a coma-like state where he is vaguely aware of what’s around him. Rosalia has been carrying him on her back as she traverses the crystal forests. Since the world is at war, the vegetation in the forest has become hostile to everything that isn’t them as well. Rosalia has used a spell to make her left arm into a dangerous claw for self-defense.  Her right leg and left heel have become deadly sharp tools as well.

As Rosalia makes her way through the forest, she says to her son, “I wish you could’ve seen this forest when it was friendly. It used to shine more and give out delicious fruit. Now, everything here is dangerous, so we have to be careful.”

Rhodes whimpers a bit.

“Oh, I know you’ve been upset about me sacrificing pieces of myself so you can live. It doesn’t bother me, see? Each piece of me helps you continue living. Your mom isn’t upset nor am I weakened by it. I don’t need another eye if I can’t see you smile another day. Besides, even if we are separated, you will always have a piece of me with you.”

Rhodes reaches out for his mother’s hands. Rosalia pulls him around so she can hold him.

“Don’t you worry, my little prince. We’ll get you cured then we can live happily together. You’ll go to school, become a man, and maybe even get married. I’ll have to approve of your choice, of course, but then again, I shouldn’t be saying about that given the person I chose.

Or should I be blaming your father for choosing me? Who am I kidding? It was both our faults. We got into a lot of trouble the two of us, but it was worth it so you could be born. I just wish his relatives could accept our love for each other.”

A chiming in the forest gets Rosalia’s attention. She puts Rhodes behind her and activates a shield spell that creates a shell to protect him. Rhodes senses the danger as well and holds his hands close to his face.

“You’re going to be safe, my little prince. Nothing will beat me when your life is at stake.”

Shadows dart from hiding place to hiding place in order to get a good opening to attack. Since Rosalia isn’t giving them any opportunities, the Crystallis hunters attack her with one combined attack. The three jump up in the air and plunge their blades towards her. She blocks their blades as her claw arm turns into a shield. Since their blades are so heavy, she lowers herself then dodges to the side and uses her leg blade. It stretches out and cuts the heart core of two of the hunters, which shatters them. The last one manages to block the attack but is hit into a living plant that breaks the hunter into pieces.

The violence has made the vegetation in the forest extremely aggressive. The trees start uprooting themselves and attacking Rosalia. She defends herself as best as she can by leaping around while cutting down the trees and fauna. Since the forest itself is a constantly growing, old, and large entity, Rosalia stands no chance against it. Fully exhausted, she holds Rhodes as he cries.

“It’s okay. It’s going to be okay, little prince.”

A sudden realization then comes to her head.

“If violence is what upsets the forest, then maybe love can calm it down. How about a song? I was going to sing to this you later to lull you to sleep, my little prince, but it looks like I’ll have to now.

 

I know when to take it slow

And when to run at the speed of light

I know when to be patient

And when to act without thinking

 

I know when to smile

And when to cry

I know when to think with my heart

And how to always love

But I don’t know how to love like you do

 

When you love for no other reason than to love

When you love for no other reason than to love

For the sake of love

 

I know how to love when I’m loved

But you love even when you’re hated

I know how to love when the sun is shining

But you love even when the storms roar

 

I know how to love when I’m happy

But you love even when you’re in pain

I know to love when everyone loves

But you love when no else loves

How do you do it

 

When you love for no other reason than to love

When you love for no other reason than to love

For the sake of love?

 

Teach me how to love when I’m hated

Teach me how to love in dark times

Teach me how to love when I’m cold

Please, my love. Please teach me, my love

Teach me how to love for the sake of love”

Rhodes laughs and waves his hands around as if trying to clap. The vegetation and fauna of the forest go back to where they come from and rest. Rosalia breathes a sigh of relief then kisses her son.

“Did you like it? I hope you did. Let’s hurry out of here before more hunters come.”

Rosalia casts a healing spell on herself as she quickly runs to the fastest way out of the forest.

 

Chapter 2 – Causalities and Captives

Once she’s walked for a long stretch, Rosalia finally makes it to civilization though it is a bit small. It is a small village town that appears to have been recently affected by the war as people repair their broken buildings and homes. Destroyed crops are being plucked out of the ground as new ones are planted. Pieces of dying dolls are passed onto their families so they can continue to carry their family’s legacy while the enemy dolls are put together then wrapped honorably. Before, the Flos used to send carts of Crystallis doll shells to the enemy as a sign of respect for their enemy, but the Crystallis destroyed most of the carts because the Crystallis view the hollow shells of their comrades as useless and valueless. During these recent times, the Flos just bury the shells of their enemies in their own special grave site away from the graves of the Flos.

One of the normal civilians says, “I don’t get it. Why do we need to respect the bodies of their dead when they don’t do the same for their own? I’ve heard horror stories of what they do to the bodies of our soldiers. We should burn them all in a fire because that’s where their souls end up anyway!”

“Don’t be so disrespectful. I’ve heard dozens of reports that say some of the Crystallis travel over to honor their dead,” a relative responds.

“It’s just their pride that makes them do this,” a villager says, “Besides, we shouldn’t be like the savages.”

“You’re right. We should take the Crystallis that come over and hold them for ransom!”

“Stop saying and thinking such things! You’re no different than them if you truly think this way.”

Rosalia approaches the hateful person and says, “He’s right you know. We should find ways to love our enemies and be respectful to their dead. Being as evil as the worst of them is only going to make things worse.”

“Hmph.”

The hateful person walks away while their relative walks with them.

“We don’t see many understanding people like you around here. What brings you to our recovering little town?”

“I’m just passing through. My own little town was recently attacked by the Crystallis and my baby boy here was affected by a terrible spell. I have to get him to the springs to have him cured.”

“That’s a dangerous journey, but I won’t stop you from taking it. Some of our city guards would accompany you along the way, but whoever we have left are guarding us as we repair our homes and I don’t think we can spare even one.”

“I understand. I pray that your town stays safe.”

“You’re a strong mother. What is your name?”

“Rosalia.”

“Rosalia…I’ve heard that name somewhere before. You don’t happen to famous, do you?”

“If I was, I wouldn’t look like this.”

“That makes sense. Rosalia must be just a memorable name then. Is there a reason why you still defend the Crystallis even though they just destroyed your home?”

“Because they’re dolls like us. Even though they come from the crystal, we were still made in the same place by the same creator. We may think differently, but we’re still related, and our lives are both equally beyond value.”

“I see. Well, I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time. You can take some of our healing fragments to give your boy a little more time.”

“Thank you so much.”

“Don’t mention it.”

After healing Rhodes a little, Rosalia says goodbye then leaves the town. She travels down the roads as they should be safer than the forest though not by much. There’s still a chance the Crystallis might come down the roads or the forest might come to life and reach out to crush her.

Rosalia says to Rhodes, “I’m glad the townsfolk didn’t recognize me. There would’ve been trouble if they did. Anyway, let me tell you more about your father since he won’t be able to tell you himself. He was a brave and proud man. He risked everything he had including his life to be with me since he was from a royal family. The way he loved people and nature was breathtaking. He loved being in love with everything and everyone so much that he wrote songs and poems about almost everything. It’s where I get my songs from.”

Ahead of Rosalia is an incoming band of Crystallis. They have a huge black bull under their control, which is a huge black beast with black horns, a white face, and red and black eyes in this world. It struggles against the control of its captors along with the other creatures that have been captured.

“Poor things,” she says to herself as she hides on the side of the road in a tree, “The raiding party is headed towards the town. They won’t be able to fight against the bull and the other creatures along with the Crystallis. I want to do something, but what am I going to do?”

Rosalia thinks of a couple of plans before deciding on one course of action. She throws two fire darts, conjured by a spell, at the chains that bind the bull to free it. Once it’s free, it puts the Crystallis into a panic. While the bull rampages about, Rosalia frees the rest of the creatures. Once she does, the black bull stares her down with its face in hers. Neither her nor Rhodes are intimated, and this silent show of courage gains Rosalia the respect of the bull and creatures.

A larger party of Crystallis that’s half the size of a legion then show up in the distance. This party was dragged ahead by the creatures, who were craving violence. Now that they’re free, they rage against their captors along with Rosalia. They destroy everything around them with the aid of the forest. Fauna and vegetation come to life as some of the creatures are shattered in battle. Despite the strength of the Crystallis, the numbers and overall strength of nature and Rosalia overwhelm them.

Once the dust settles, the forest closes in on Rosalia, but the black bull and leftover creatures silently pick up for her. The vegetation and fauna return to the forest and the creatures do the same. The black bull nuzzles Rosalia’s face and pets the top of Rhodes’ head, which makes him giggle. It then goes back into the forest while looking back at the two. It accidentally bumps into a large tree and gets slapped by it, which makes Rosalia laugh. The black bull then pays attention to where it’s going after one last look back with a smile.

Rhodes giggles again.

Rosalia continues on her way as she says, “See? Not all of nature is bad. Now, where was I? Oh yeah. Your father loved singing and making songs. Here’s one that I remember that he sang every other day.

 

I can’t be away from you any longer

But part of me still resists

I wish I was stronger

 

When we are together,

It feels like Heaven

When I leave you,

Part of me is left behind

 

You give my empty life meaning

I finally have a person who loves me back

You have woken me up from my foolishness

I know what I must do

 

Because I can’t be without you any longer

You are who keeps me going

You are who makes me stronger

 

I’ll endure all the hardships

Fight all the battles

And suffer the worst pain

Because I can’t be without you any longer

I am reinvigorated because of you

I am reborn into a new man ready to take on the world

Whatever you request, you will have

Whatever you command, I will obey

 

You say that you’re not worth it

That you’re not worth anything

But you’re worth more than you think

You’re my light that brightens up the darkness

 

You give my empty life meaning

I finally have a person who loves me back

You have woken me up from my foolishness

I know what I must do

Because I can’t be without you any longer

You are who keeps me going

You are who makes me stronger

 

I’ll endure all the hardships

Fight all the battles

And suffer the worst pain

Because I can’t be without you any longer

 

I will do all you want and more

My love for you knows no boundaries or obstacles

So,

Will you please be with me forever?”

 

Rosalia feels something watching her. She turns around to see the black bull watching her. It appears to have been attracted by her singing, but now it goes back into the forest as if it is embarrassed to be caught listening to her singing. Rosalia smiles at the creature’s cute nature despite its looks.

“Your father might as well have been a love bird for all the love he showed to others. He was more charitable and loving than his relatives to the point where people were wondering if he was an angel. I thought a person like him was beyond my reach, but when I showed how charitable I was when I gave away everything I had on me for a poor person he accidentally missed, he fell for me. Literally and figuratively speaking since he fell off his horse to kiss my hand. It was sad and funny at the same time, haha. I still can’t help but laugh when I remember it happening.

Still, your father did his best to impress me even though he did make a fool of himself a few times…okay, a lot of times. I felt like I didn’t deserve it especially since I couldn’t return anything on the same scale as him, but when I expressed my feelings about this, he said, ‘Don’t you worry. If you give me your love, then I will have something that is worth more than the entire universe’. I don’t know where he came up with his words, but he made me fall for him so many times because of them. Being without him is going to be difficult…”

Rhodes makes a whimpering sound.

“But don’t worry, we’ll make it through this. Your father is always with us in spirit now. Trust me.”

Rhodes giggles and Rosalia smiles as she wipes away her tears and continues traveling down the road.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – Nature at its Worst

After a little while of walking, the road becomes lost as the surrounding environment is mostly destroyed with the flames of battle still burning.

“This must be where those Crystallis got their creatures,” Rosalia says to herself.

Because the Crystallis is known for violence and upsetting nature, both they and the Flos have developed their own spell that calms nature around them, so they can battle. This spell only covers the area of battle and takes a lot of energy to produce.

“This is probably why the Crystallis couldn’t produce another spell to protect themselves. Even if they could, the creatures of the forest weren’t giving them any opportunities to act anyways. You see, Rhodes? You have to respect nature otherwise it will turn on you.”

Further into the destruction, Rosalia finds a team of healers who are repairing the forest with their magic.

One of the forest healers approaches Rosalia and says, “Excuse me, miss. You should hurry along in a different direction. It only gets more dangerous from here.”

“I know that, but my baby boy has been afflicted with a spell that can only be healed at the springs.”

“That’s terrible, and you’ve been traveling on your own?”

“Yes, I have.”

“…I guess there’s no getting around it then. Lupin, send out a messenger bird to let them know this woman is coming with her child.”

“Alright.”

The doll conjures a dove made of light after speaking into his hand. The dove flies away in the direction of Rosalia’s destination.

“Thank you for your help,” Rosalia says.

“Don’t mention it. Just make sure that little one gets the healing he needs. I’m sure it’s been hard for you just getting this far. If the army near the springs can spare any troops, they should be meeting you halfway.”

Once they say their goodbyes, Rosalia keeps walking. The forest looks better as she journeys forward, but not by much. Crystal grass and foliage are growing at a fast rate because of the healing spell of the healers though it seems like something is wrong. The newly grown vegetation appears to know it was killed as it violently sways back and forth as if it wants to be reborn faster so it can obtain its revenge. Rosalia eventually meets up with a small group of Flos soldiers.

One of them says, “You’re the mother we’ve been looking for. It’s an honor to meet a woman who will risk her life and skin for her son.”

“Thank you for coming out to escort me. It’s been rough.”

“I can imagine. Let’s hurry along then. The fighting near the spring has calmed down for the past couple days so you should be able to bring your boy there with no trouble.”

The band of soldiers escorts Rosalia with her in the center to guard her against attacks from all possible directions.

A soldier asks her, “What’s your name?”

“Rosalia.”

“Hmmm. That name sounds familiar.”

“A guy in the town close to here said the same.”

“It’s a rare, but memorable name.”

“That’s because of a woman by the name of Rosalia was one of the reasons this war started,” another soldier interjects.

“Now I remember why that name is so memorable.”

Feeling awkward, Rosalia says, “But I’m not that Rosalia.”

“I wish I knew which Rosalia was that one so I could ask her what she was thinking. I’m not mad at her because I know that her action was only the straw that broke the camel’s back and nothing incredibly important on its own. Marriages between Flos and Crystallis aren’t as rare as they seem.”

“Still, she should’ve known better,” another soldier comments.

“It should’ve been a more private marriage.”

“How could it have been when she married royalty?”

“What happened to the husband anyway?”

“He was supposed to be hiding out with Rosalia, but I’ve heard that the Crystallis sent a group of its most powerful warriors to kill them and the word going around is that the husband is dead, but a number of people who were hiding out with him are alive including his wife and their child.”

Some of the soldiers start becoming suspicious of Rosalia and start looking at her funny.

She says, “But I’m not who you’re thinking about.”

A soldier says, “There’s no way this Rosalia is the one we’re thinking about. This Rosalia cares so much for her child while the other one was selfish. Do you really think that a peasant who wanted to marry royalty would risk her life this way?”

“That Rosalia is probably hiding herself with her husband’s riches ten feet under,” another soldier adds.

This relieves the tension in the group as Rosalia quietly breathes a sigh of relief.

“Hey, I don’t remember the forest being this big when we first passed through here.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Be on your guard.”

The soldiers unsheathe their weapons as they move slower while paying attention to everything in their surroundings. A large tree then falls on them to separate the group before fighting against the group to further separate them and push them into the incoming hordes of fauna and vegetation. The group gets separated further as the creatures of the forest break the group apart to make them easier to shatter.

The black bull from before comes to rescue Rosalia as it charges through swarms of creatures. It gives Rosalia enough room to breathe. Since the black bull is dangerous, the forest uses its connection to the creature to try to bring it under its control. The bull’s mental strength is weak, but it doesn’t give in to the forest’s influence, however, it can’t completely control itself, so it smashes everything around it in the hopes that Rosalia won’t be one of them. Unfortunately, Rosalia is hit while using the bull’s rampage as a chance to escape. She is hit into a tree but manages to get away from it before it can shatter her.

Rosalia is surrounded by fauna and vegetation while she is heavily injured. She is trying to heal herself, but she can’t do it fast enough to the point where she can run fast or leap into the air. The forest appears to be livid because it was burned and torn down. Singing looks like it won’t help this time, so she grips Rhodes and covers him as much as possible as a single fauna approaches her with its blade-like arm out ready to strike.

The anticipation of it kills her, so she brings her head up in time for the fauna’s blade to enter her missing eye. Since a doll’s shell is mostly empty with the only thing in it being its core, she feels no pain.

Rosalia says, “Shatter me, but spare my son. Please, save his life when I am dead.”

The fauna pulls back its blade again then brings its blade down on Rosalia’s neck but only makes a small crack on her neck. This supreme act of true love calms down the forest and it gives Rosalia respect that few dolls have. The creatures and fauna bow to her and let her walk away. Despite walking away with her life, she’s still injured and is slowing healing herself. Rhodes senses his mother’s injuries and cries for her.

“Don’t worry about me, my little prince. I’ll be fine.”

He continues to cry.

“Shhh.

Don’t be upset

I am here

Don’t be afraid

I’ll always be with you

 

Look at me and see my smile

I am telling the truth

You can always trust me

 

We’ll always be together

No matter the distance

No matter what happens

Even in death, even when I’m gone

We’ll always be together

 

Your weakness means nothing to me

You’re stronger than the tallest mountains

Braver than the mightiest heroes

No matter what happens, I will always love you

 

We’ll always be together

No matter the distance

No matter what happens

Even in death, even when I’m gone

We’ll always be together

 

I may not always be next to you

You may not always feel my presence

But our bond is permanent

Nothing can break it

I’m always here

I’m always with you

Forever and ever

Just look in your heart

And you will see me, always with you”

 

Rhodes has fallen asleep with a smile on his face. Rosalia smiles as well as she’s finally healed herself enough to numb the pain as she continues on to her destination.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4 – Hunted for the Crime of Love

Rosalia’s healing magic allows her to be mostly healed, however, it and the previous battles have exhausted her. She collapses from exhaustion, but she makes sure to have Rhodes on top of her, so she doesn’t suffocate him. Sensing his mother’s unconscious state, he cries out for help and receives it not long after. Rosalia is taken to a relief camp where victims of this violent war are taken to be healed and to be helped. She awakens in a bed just in time to overhear a conversation between two Flos.

“She’s definitely the Rosalia who married that Crystallis prince. Several people have confirmed it.”

“But is she everything the rumors say she is? The soldiers that carried her here said that she’s been sacrificing her life to save her son and that she gained the respect of the forest. How rare is that? Even our best mystics can’t manage that.”

“We have to keep her here. Even though she has her sympathizers, there are still people who want her dead, shattered into pieces then throw into fire.”

“What about her son?”

“They don’t care as much for him. There are some that say Flos and Crystallis relationships and their children are illicit, but this is a mindset that has only popped up recently.”

“We need to get her to the springs, or her boy is going to die. How are we going to proceed with this?”

“We aren’t that far from the main army camp near that location.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy going through the crowds then going through the dead lands to get to the springs.”

“We’ll have to do something and quickly. We’ve healed her son, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve given him time we can waste.”

“Excuse me? Can I see Rosalia?”

“Who are you? Are you a relative or a friend? Hey, you can’t go in until-hey!”

A loud knock on the window close to Rosalia startles her. When she looks over, she sees a Flos civilian with a weapon.

He breaks the window and says, “Die you cursed woman!”

Rosalia dodges the man’s attacks as he enters the room as she says, “I didn’t do anything to you!”

“You were the final nail that started this war! My family is dead because of you! They died in Crystallis territory. Who knows what those cursed dolls did to their remains?”

Rosalia tries to cut the arms off her assailant to incapacitate him, but she accidentally cuts his head off as well. The man swings around violently while screaming out in bloody vengeance. Something shakes the building she’s in until it breaks into her room. It’s the black bull from before.

“Aren’t you a sweetie for always coming to my aid?” Rosalia says while petting it, “Now, come on. Let’s get out of here!”

Rosalia takes Rhodes and put him on his back with his shield protecting him as she gets on the back of the black bull. Several Flos attempt to shatter Rosalia by throwing spears, hammers, and swords at her.

“Kill that woman, but don’t hit the baby!”

“Cut the legs off the black bull first!”

The Flos then try to take down the black bull, but their weapons bounce off its thick skin. They then get on horseback and chase after Rosalia. She knocks them off their horses as she protects herself and her child from her assailants. The black bull swipes at them to shatter several off their horses.

“We can’t do anything! Pull back!”

“You’re under arrest!”

Rosalia looks back to see a few guards arresting the people who were attacking her. A guard waves at her and she waves back as a sign of thanks. Even Rhodes waves back with a smile.

“Okay, big guy. We need to get to the springs. Can you get us there?” Rosalia asks the black bull.

It smiles and snorts in response as it goes faster.

“Woah! Easier there! We don’t really have anything keeping us on you.”

The black bull wants to be careful but can’t because it senses danger ahead of them, so it charges ahead faster.

“Be careful! Are you trying to knock us off? What’s got you riled up?”

A barrage of various kinds of magical arrows comes raining down upon Rosalia. The black bull covers Rosalia as it turns over on its side to take the arrow barrage. A group of Crystallis assassins then appear out of the shadows.

“It seems like she came to us on her own. That’s good,” one of them says.

The barrage of arrows has temporarily incapacitated the black bull, which leaves Rosalia open for attack. Fortunately for her, the forest is on her side and a tree’s vines block the assassins’ attacks. It then comes to life and shatters her attackers and uses its healing magic on the black bull.

“Thank you,” Rosalia says to the forest as she gets back on top of the black bull.

She rides off to her destination, which should be close now.

She then says, “You heard it, my little prince. You’re the son of royalty and a peasant. The son of a Flos and Crystallis. I didn’t think our love would be the final thing to push our people into war because our love was pure, but that’s what happens when people hate each other. They use every excuse they can find to kill the people they don’t like. Don’t be like that, my little prince. Learn to love everyone around you. It doesn’t matter if they hate you. Always wish the best for the people around you because if you aren’t willing to love them then who will? Everyone makes mistakes, so be willing to forgive them and you will always be forgiven.”

The black bull then senses something and charges ahead. It takes Rosalia and Rhodes to a cliff where they see a large battle between Flos and Crystallis soldiers. Dozens of dolls are shattered while others suffer in pain as they’re carried out by their companions and healers.

“This fighting has to stop.”

The forest heeds Rosalia’s plea and moves to stop the fighting. Unfortunately, the fighting and suffering make nature violent as it fights back against those who fight its restraints. Even the black bull is itching to join the fight, but Rosalia calms it down by calmly rubbing the back of its neck.

“The forest might be in a rage, but since I have its respect then a song could calm it down. This song is for, my little prince.

 

I close my eyes and see

A world that’s beautiful and filled with glee

Even in the dark and gloom

A place past all of the doom

 

Everyone has lost hope

They think I’ve lost my mind

But all they do is mope

Are they blind?

We can live in a better world of our dreams

 

Every day I push ahead

For the dreams in my head

The dreams that keep me awake

That keeps me going

To bring you a place to keep your love glowing

I’ll build you a place

That is perfect for your smiling face

Each part of it is made to make you happy

For those gloomy days

 

Everyone has lost hope

They think I’ve lost my mind

But all they do is mope

Are they blind?

We can live in a better world of our dreams

 

Every day I push ahead

For the dreams in my head

The dreams that keep me awake

That keeps me going

To bring you a place to keep your love glowing

 

No matter how small

No matter how tall the obstacle

I will be with you through it all

Nothing will be impossible for you and me

To make the world I see in my dreams

To make the world I see in my dreams

Every day I push ahead

For the dreams in my head

The dreams that keep me awake

That keeps me going

To bring you a place to keep your love glowing

 

Together we’ll make this world anew

Everything I do is for you

Know that our dreams will come true

Of The World I’ll Give To You

 

I am going to make sure you live in a better world, my little prince. A world of happiness, love, and peace. It’s going to happen one day. Just you wait and see.”

The forest successful restrains both armies and transfers its calming feelings to the soldiers who retreat with their wounded and shattered brethren. Some even help their enemies gather their bearings. As Rosalia smiles, parts of her son start to fall. A branch from the forest heals him, but his condition has worsened.

“Don’t worry now, my little prince. We’re almost there.”

The black bull sprints at full speed to the springs, where a massive battle larger than this one is about to take place.

 

 

 

Chapter 5 – A Mother’s Duty

Even before reaching the area around the springs, Rosalia knew she was going to have a tough time. The forest around the around is completely dead. It senses that Rosalia will need help, but it’s too weak to regrow anything and all the nearby fauna and creatures are still recovering. Broken siege weapons and the shattering pieces of soldiers litter the ground. The stench of death is pungent in the air and the sounds of despair and anger echo.

Ahead of Rosalia is a large Flos encampment that has been made into a miniature castle with a wall and various small guard towers around it. The fighting has gone on for so long that you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking this encampment was a small town for how large it is. There are other encampments like it around the springs, but this one is the command site and the largest. Rosalia heads into the camp once the guards recognize her.

A Flos commander meets up with her, and says, “You’ve come a long way through dangerous obstacles to come here, Rosalia. It’s impressive for a mother with a past such as yours.”

“I don’t think you want to cause me any trouble.”

“Oh no, we don’t harbor any feelings of hate towards you. We just want to get your son to the springs. I don’t even think what you did counts as a crime that we can punish.”

“Good. Do you have a plan? My son doesn’t have long.”

“Yes, but it’ll be messy. I think it’s best if you stay here.”

“I have my black bull and the forest can come to my aid. I can come with you.”

“Can’t you command your bull and the forest to protect us? Why do you have to come with us?”

“I’m a mother. I’m supposed to protect my child.”

“I see. Since it doesn’t look like I can change your mind, we’ll start moving out.” The commander then turns to his soldiers. “Come on, men! We don’t have much time!”

The forces of the Flos start deploying and put protection mages around Rosalia so they can form a shield to protect her. The other encampments deploy their forces to attack the Crystallis ahead of time to clear a path for her. Once they head out, they see the Crystallis army heading for them. Both armies converge on the springs in the middle of the battlefield as their siege weapons launch their barrages on both sides. The battlefield becomes a violent mess of soldiers as Rosalia makes her way to the springs. The shield protecting her is quickly destroyed and the mages who made them are taken out. Other Flos soldiers come to her aid, but they have to engage with the Crystallis in order to protect her and aren’t able to stay by her side.

A barrage of fireballs land near Rosalia, which knocks her off the black bull. The area around her is mostly clear and the springs are in sight, so she makes a run for it as the barrages continue to rain from the sky. The black bull sees that one of them is about to directly hit her, so it leaps out to protect her from it, but is shattered into pieces.

“Thank you,” Rosalia whispers as she runs with everything she’s got.

The springs are only steps away when an arrow barrage comes down upon her. Most of the arrows manage to hit her and pierce through her shield. The last arrows pierce through her core, but she manages to put Rhodes in the springs.

“I love you, my little prince,” she says as she shatters.

As Rhodes lays in the springs, his body not only heals but he is also transformed.

Crystal robes made for a king, eyes like the moon, hair as red as fire, and doll shell like the finest porcelain. Since Rosalia’s death, the forest has gone on a rampage. It breaks through both the Flos and Crystallis forces to the springs where it mourns her death for a few seconds before focusing its rage on the Crystallis army.

Rhodes then says to the forest, “No. Do not do this. Spare them. My mother wanted a world of peace and love, and that is what I will give to her.”

Seeing that the forest has trouble controlling itself, Rhodes begins to sing a song to calm it down. Rosalia and his father join him in spirit to strengthen his song.

 

“You might be weak

But you are also strong

You might be angry

But I’ve seen you happy

You might hate

But you can love

 

And because of this

 

You are everything to me

You are all I’ll ever need

Even when the world is falling apart

Even when life takes its toll

You will always be my everything

 

 All the wealth

All the diamonds in the world

Everything in the universe is nothing compared to you

 

Your value is limitless

Nothing is worth exchanging for you

If your life were in danger, I’d give my life so you could live

 

And because of this

 

You are everything to me

You are all I’ll ever need

Even when the world is falling apart

Even when life takes its toll

You will always be my everything

 

You are everything to me

You are all I’ll ever need

Even when the world is falling apart

Even when life takes its toll

You will always be my everything”

 

The forest calms down and releases energy that calms down everyone on the battlefield. The springs burst forth and showers the battlefield. There is no longer any hatred between the two armies. No one feels like fighting anymore and the two sides come together and apologize for what they’ve done and promise to stop fighting. The vegetation around the springs spring back to life as love being is spread. The springs themselves begin to spread throughout the world because of the sacrifice of Rosalia and shower the world with its calming waters.

Rhodes hears in his head his mother’s voice that says, “The war will end very soon. I told you that I would make sure that you would live in a world of peace, happiness, and love. I may not have expected it to be this way, but I know you’ll be happy and safe. Find the love of your life and don’t let them go.”

“I will. Thank you, mom.”

 

The End

The Disease Killing Me is You

Download the story for free on Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/938592

 

Chapter 1 – Infected with You

Ah! Where am I? I’m strapped to a bed in a dirty hospital room. There are flying roaches in the room that crawl around and come in through the holes in the walls. My head feels so light. I don’t remember what happened before I got here. I don’t remember much of anything in fact. What’s my name again? I think I see one of those papers that they use for patients over there on the wall near the door.

There are various sharp surgical instruments around me that are already bloody. I’m afraid to think about what they did to me if they already used it on me. I have to get out of here, now! I bite through the leather straps and manage to break them apart. I didn’t know my teeth were so strong, but they also feel weird when my lower teeth touch my upper. Once I’m free from the bed, I touch my teeth, and the bottom ones are sharper than my top ones. They’re so sharp that they feel like mini shark teeth. Did the people who took me here do this?

Where did my hair go and why is my skin is white? My body feels so ruff and looks weird. It’s so cold in here and these white patient pants. I have to find a way out of here fast before someone finds me, but first, my patient records. Hmm. The only thing on here is my name or…is this my name? My name is supposed to be, Bianco? I don’t have a last name it seems. There’s a page here for surgery plans and treatments done, but it just says that the basic surgery has already been done. Now I want to know more. What did they do to me?

I’m not sure if I want to stay to find out or just leave and have someone fix me. There’s no use staying in here, so I leave the room and find myself in a narrow hallway. The gurneys take up almost all the space when I walk past them. I’d hate to encounter something here. It’s like I’m walking in a closet. I see other people in other rooms, but they’re locked. The people in there are more restrained than I am with a muzzle on their face. It looks difficult to breathe in that. Maybe some of these people tried to escape and this is what happened to them. Now I really can’t afford to get caught. Wait…I hear someone calling!

It sounds like a girl. I go to the source of the sound and see a girl who is strapped to a bed. She looks like I do except with bandages covering her chest. There’s something familiar about her, but I can’t place my finger on why. She just seems like someone I know. Her room isn’t locked for some reason, so I instinctively go into the room and begin to unfree her.

“Thank you so much for freeing me!”

“You-”

“But now, you have to help me escape, and it’s not going to be in the way you think.”

She’s smiling at me in a weird way that I don’t like. She starts feeling my arms, chest, then face, which gives me a strange feeling. Part of me feels comfort while the other feels uncomfortable. Her hands are cold as if she doesn’t have any warmth in her body.

“What are you talking about?”

“We have to become one. I have to be a part of your body.”

“What? Why?”

“Because your body is the only pure one here. I know that everyone else here is infected and in need of treatment. There’s a system in place in this hospital that doesn’t allow unclean souls to leave here. I need to be a part of your body so I can leave.”

I push her away.

“You don’t need my body. I’ll help you find some other way to leave.”

“There is no other way.”

She’s climbing all over me now.

“Get off!”

I throw her off me and run out the door.

“You can’t escape from me!”

I run through the narrow hallway and try to find an exit, but every door is locked. The girl chasing me can climb on the walls, so the narrowness of the hallway benefits her. She touches me and grabs at me while I navigate the uncomfortable hallways while giggling.

“Such soft skin. Such a warm feeling. I must have you!”

“Stay away from me!”

I need something to defend myself with, so I run back to my room. Ack! She on my back again then crawls to my front and makes me collapse on the bed.

She says, “You are mine. Don’t deny it!”

“You don’t own me! Agh! Stop biting me!”

She’s bitten my neck and arms with her sharp teeth. They feel numb and weak now.

“Struggle again and I’ll impale your arms to the bed. Just relax. This will only take a minute.”

“What are you going to do?”

“We are going to be one.”

“No, stop!”

The girl then uses the syringe on her head to suck out what looks to be parts of her brain then injects it into the hole in my head. Her body then shrivels and fades into dust. My wounds are healed, and I don’t feel a scar or any residual pain from her bites. My head feels normal, so what happened? Did what she do fail? If it did, then it’s going to be a pain to get whatever blood or brain that she injected into my head.

Huh? What am I feeling now?

AHHHHHHH!

What was that screaming in my head?!

ARRRAAAGHHHHH!

The side and back of my body are expanding and changing. What’s going on?! It’s forming into that girl. So many thoughts and memories are pouring into my head. Are these hers? How is this even happening?

ARRRGGHH!!! Yes! Finally!

What did to me and how are our thoughts connected?

I’m part of you now, so we both can escape this asylum, but we have to be quick about it because the human body isn’t mean to be like this.

What do you mean?

Us being together like this will kill us if we don’t escape to safety.

That’s just great.

Don’t lie to yourself. There’s a part of you that wanted to save me. The memory as to why is hard to remember, but you know it’s there.

Why should I trust you?

You know all my thoughts. You know when I’m telling the truth and lying as I know yours. I know a little more than you do but not enough to give you a clear idea as to why we’re here.

My left arm is fused with your right arm and I can barely move it.

I think we can move it together if we both want it to. Let’s try it.

Woah!

It’s so strong that we punched a hole in the wall.

Wow. Can we do anything else?

I don’t have my legs. Let me have control of us. Come on, trust me. Here we go, we can climb the walls and ceiling when I’m in control, but I can’t control your legs to walk or run. It’s kind of weird but I think we can get used to it.

It’s just kind of weird? Do you even realize what’s happening?

What do you think or rather what do you think I think?

Don’t even phrase it like that. You just confuse me. Did someone just unlock and open a door in the hallway? I hear a dragging sound in the hallway.

There’s nowhere to run. We better be ready to fight.

I guess it’s our only option. Here it comes! It’s a person. A woman with a long body and long black hair with six arms and hands on the bottom of her surgeon’s dress.

Watch out. She has a surgical tool in each of her hands along with restraining chains.

She’s smiling at us for some reason. I think she’s giggling. What’s it with crazy people and giggling?

Hey! I’m not crazy.

“I’m so glad you managed to merge with Bianco, Bianca. The two of you were always inseparable, so it made sense that you would end up together like this.”

I said I’m not crazy.

Whatever, we’ll talk about it later. She’s talking to you. Say something.

“I get what you’re saying, but you knew I would merge with Bianco?”

“I told you how to and you told me you would do everything you could to do so. The determination in your face was so precious and cute. Your love for each other put my relationship to shame.”

“I barely remember you. Who are you?”

There’s something about her that’s familiar, but her appearance and my memory prevent me from remembering who she is.

“I’m Bianco’s mother. I know my appearance may shock you, but I had to do it to help you two continue living.”

She’s your mother? Your memories seem to want to think so.

I guess so.

“What’s going to happen to us now? Can you tell me everything about what’s going on?”

Hey, you used my mouth to talk, Bianco.

How did I do that? I guess I can if I imagine talking from your mouth.

“That’s interesting. My son’s voice came out of your mouth, Bianca. Does that mean that Bianco was talking, or did you manage to use his voice? There are so many things to test out on you.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I’ll explain after the next surgery, but I’ll have to sedate you first. Give me your arm.”

“No! Explain everything to me first.”

“There’s no need to. You want to live longer, right? Then give me your body so we can mold it into that of an immortal being!”

“Stop! Get away from me!”

Let’s escape from her, Bianca. Hurry and crawl on the walls!

Okay!

“So you can crawl on walls? You two were always so athletic, but you better listen to your mother.”

Let’s get out of here! I keep throwing gurneys at her, but she keeps cutting through them.

What about the doors? Let’s rip one off then throw it at her.

Here we go.

“What strength just from one arm! You remind me of one of your favorite comic book heroes. I hope you’re not planning to use that on me, but then again, I’d love to experiment to see what my new body can do, so throw it at me if you want!”

“If you want it, then take it!”

She caught it and it pushed her back some, but she’s tearing it apart. Hurry through the exit!

I’m on it!

She’s really moving fast towards us now! Come on!

Shut the door on her and break the lock!

Right!

There we go. Now she can’t exit the door. This one appears to be stronger than the doors that held the other doors.

“I’ll get through this eventually and catch up to you two. That, or your father or your parents Bianca will get to you.”

Ignore her, Bianca. We must find a cure to our condition and a way out.

We can do it if we work together. Our memories are coming back to us now. We used to work together a lot. Do you think we can do it again?

You know what I think.

Then let’s do it.

 

 

 

Chapter 2 – Still Burning for Love

The rest of these corridors are just as cramped as the ones we came out of. It’s like this place is meant to be filled with obstacles to stop people from escaping. Some of these rooms have people in them.

Maybe we should free them?

I don’t think so, Bianca. We’d just attract more attention to us by our “parents”.

Why do you say it that way?

Because I’m still not sure if our parents are the ones after us.

We heard your mom speak. She may look different now, but her hair, face, and voice are what we remember them to be. We’re remembering now that our parents are experts in the medical field.

Yeah, I’m remembering that they were surgeons and doctors who were specialized in different fields.

Your mom said she wanted to make us into an immortal being. Why do you think that is?

I’m not sure, but we may find out later. Also, you’ve seemed to have gotten sane after merging with me.

Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking before, but you have to admit that this is kind of cool. I know you’re in disbelief but isn’t this kind of what we’ve always wanted. The memories are coming back to me now of times when we would spend entire days by each other’s side.

I don’t think this is how we imagined our future would be at all. I’m sure you’re wondering what I am.

Can we ever be together again?

I don’t know. I barely remember what our life was like together. I don’t even know if you’ll go crazy like you did before.

I understand. I’ll try to prove that I’m in control now.

Speaking about control, do you see that up there past all the floors of cells? It looks like a person in the control room controlling everything like an orchestra. Is that-

My dad?

He looks like he’s noticed us. He’s speaking into a microphone.

“I’m so glad you too came here. Your friends and our family have been waiting for you.”

“Dad, what is going on?”

“This is all for your immortality. All of this.”

“What are you talking about dad? This isn’t making any sense.”

“I told you I’d do anything to make you live forever, Bianca. You probably don’t remember it, but it is every father’s duty to make sure that their child lives as long as happy as possible. The others and I are making sure that happens. If you want to learn more, please make your way to me. I’ll be happy to answer your questions.”

What do you think, Bianca? Is it a trap?

Maybe, but we won’t know until we get to him.

This sure seems like a trap. Do you see all the microphones and cameras around us? The cells around us are also open and close enough for the people in them to reach through, or can we call these people now? Look at how deformed and mutated and deformed their bodies are. They look like us.

We aren’t-

You know we are.

“As part of your gaining of immortality, I will have to bring my test subjects into the mix. Do not worry about being harmed. I can put you back together if anything bad happens.”

Was that supposed to make us comfortable? A few of the cell doors are opening. Be careful. There are people reaching out at us and there’s barely any room to move. Ah!

“Get off!”

Their cold hands drive chills up my spine.

“We must have your skin!”

“Help us leave by being one with us!”

“He’s mine! Hands off him!”

I’ll keep them away with our heavy hitting hand. Just try to stay away from them, Bianco.

Okay. It’s really tough to do so especially when they grab ahold of me.

Don’t worry about them. I won’t let them take you.

‘I’ll be yours forever.’

‘And I’ll be yours forever and ever.’

Did we just remember that? I wonder why we did now of all times.

Tense situations tend to make your mind work overtime is what I think my parents said once. Hurry and head up the stairs. I hear the cell doors opening.

Why does this place look so simple and yet, it’s like a maze?

I guess it’s because our parents want to test our abilities.

Well, screw that. You know what I’m thinking?

You don’t even need to ask.

Then let’s break through these walls! We’re taking a shortcut.

Get out of the way! Or get a face full of our fist!

There we go. We’re almost to your dad.

“That was an impressive display of power you two. A bit messy and unexpected, but these are great results. Your combined strength is amazing, and you have good coordination. I guess we should’ve expected this considering how in tune you two were previously.”

We’re here. The door is solid, but we can force it open.

“Dad!”

“Hello, Bianca and Bianco. I’m glad you made it here. The others you saw weren’t able to coordinate with each other like how you can despite how much testing they were put through. So, a personal bond is what affects coordination, huh?”

Is he really writing notes on this?

Dad always liked keeping track of interesting things. It’s no wonder why he’s in charge of so many cells with different kinds of people in them.

“Oh! I’m sorry. Now, you wanted to know more, right?”

“Of course we do! What the heck is going on?”

“Ah! Your voices combined when you shared a major concern. I’ll have to write that down later. Anyway, we, your parents, have used this old asylum as our secret experimental facility to help you two live forever together. We couldn’t bear to lose another life in our line of work. In reality, doctors don’t save lives, they just extend them. Everyone eventually dies, and we didn’t want that to happen to you two, who were always so energetic and full of joy, so the four of us have done this all for you.”

That explains a bit more, but not enough.

“Why did you have to involve other people in this?”

“Because we needed test subjects before we experimented on you. Who knows what could happen on our first attempt? First, we kidnapped people close to us then we took our neighbors, then whoever is in the area of this asylum. You don’t have to worry about them. Once you’re perfected, they will share in your gift and so shall we.”

Ah! We’re caught in chains. How did my mom sneak up on us?

“The test you put them through was decent, Rosso, but I don’t think they’ll need anymore. I need to make sure their decay lessens or stops entirely.”

“You worry too much, Violet. We can always bring them back.”

“We thought that about so many of our patients, but how many have we actually saved besides our kids? There’s no such thing as worrying too much when it comes to preserving life.”

We have to escape while they’re busy talking to each other. These chains are so tight. I barely have enough room to move. If we could only have enough room to make our strong arm break the chains. Huh? Do you hear that?

Look! It’s the other people!

I’m not sure if this’ll be a good thing or bad, but it definitely feels bad.

They’re loosening the chains. We have to put up with it for a bit-Whoa!

“Stay away from my children!”

“Be careful with them, Violet!”

Does my mom really need to fling me around to keep me away from these people?!

No, this helps way more! We can move our arm!

Come on, keep breaking the chains! There we go!

Run!

“Get them, Rosso, while I keep these subjects away!”

“No, let’s see what the other tests can show us.”

“This is our children we’re talking about! Get them!”

“Fine.”

Hurry, he’s after us! Your dad has way more arms than my mom does, but are those robotic arms? He’s controlling the cells with them-Watch out!

Give me control! That was close!

I think he’s controlling these traps with his arms too.

I’ll need to control things from here.

Okay, I trust you.

These traps are everywhere. On the walls, floors, and ceiling.

It’s a good thing you’re so quick on your feet and arms then. There’s an exit over there! Watch out!

I’m not that quick it seems. I should’ve known that there would be a trap at the exit.

“You’re amazing as always, Bianca. I know it was you controlling both of you because I know that athleticism anywhere.”

“Fix us, dad, or let us go.”

“I will fix you, my loves. I’ll cure you of your mortality.”

“What you’re doing is wrong! You have to stop.”

“I’ve told you before. I’ll do anything to see you happy. Death brings only sadness and grief. I’m making sure that death never has its effect on you. I promise.”

‘Your sun is always going to shine.’

‘I’m going to make sure you’re never going to suffer.’

‘My love for you conquers death.’

Our parents always did tell us things like that.

“I love you, dad, but I’m not going to let you do what you want.”

This trap is easier than it looks to break. Why isn’t dad chasing after us?

Remember he said he wanted to see what the other tests can show them?

There’s going to be more awful sights like the ones we just saw then. I don’t know if I can take it.

It’s going to be fine because I’m with you, Bianca. I promise you that we’ll make it through this one way or another.

Thank you. I needed that.

I know you did, and I didn’t need to read your thoughts to know.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – Fractured by Desire

I don’t think it helps to remember what could happen next, Bianca.

I can’t help it. This place has messed up my head.

Our parents have messed up our head. I still can’t believe they would do this.

What are we going to do if we manage to escape?

We’ll figure it out when we leave.

Can we even get back to normal? Our parents are the ones who put us together like this, and we doubt they know how to put us back together. I bet they won’t even try to put things back to normal.

You never know. We may change their mind.

It’s only a slim chance.

We thought there was no chance that something like this would ever happen to us especially by our parents. Maybe we could bring them to their senses. Part of their conscience has to realize that they’re doing the wrong thing.

I hope you’re right because I’m starting to lose it, and what I’m seeing isn’t helping.

This looks like where they do experiments on people.

Look at all those things in the vats. Are those even people? I can’t tell.

I’m sure we’re going to find out soon enough. Did you hear that noise? It sounds like one of the vats opened. Something’s moving around in the dark.

If only we only had night vision.

It’s fine. We have each other. All we need to do is be careful-

Watch out! Got it!

See? We can do this, Bianca. More vats are opening.

It’s so dark here. Is it just darker in this area or did someone dim the lights?

Knowing doesn’t matter. Just concentrate. There!

I got’em! I didn’t realize I could see out of your eyes if I concentrate.

I didn’t notice you did that. This is good. We can make it through this. More vats are being open. It sounds like way more mutants are coming for us than we can handle.

I’ll climb up so we can avoid them. We can crawl across the ceiling to avoid fighting completely. The only problem is that we don’t know where we’re going or if they can climb onto the ceiling.

Don’t worry about it. Just stay calm. Right. Here we go. Which direction should I go in, Bianco?

Keep going straight like I was. We have to be near some kind of exit.

I can hear them clanging on the metal bars.

We got this. We just have to be extra athletic and switch control. Here we go.

Ahhh! You barely caught the metal bar with your feet.

It was close but at least we avoided the attacks and got rid of a few. Here we go again.

Okay, okay. I’m ready now! Get back down there!

Catch the bar!

I got it!

Great job! I think I see a vent over there. We need to swing a few times to get to it. If we can get to it, we can escape.

Let’s do this.

One.

Two.

Three! We made it! Hurry! They’re coming in! Break the vent. Let’s bend the metal. There we go. We’re safe. AHHH! Stupid things won’t give up! Get off!

They’re stronger than they look if they can punch through the vent. They must be big jumpers too. Ah! There’s too many of them!

Can I stop getting grabbed at for once?!

I don’t blame them.

Not now! We have to find a way to get out of this mosh pit and back to the ceiling.

“Let us touch your warm body!”

“Give us your warmth!”

“Let us bond like you!”

“We want that bond!”

“Give us your touch!”

Agh! What is that loud screeching sound?

It’s driving away the mutants. It must be one of our parents making the sound. It stopped. The mutants are keeping a distance.

“I’m sorry that I tested you like how Rosso did, but I couldn’t resist.”

“Dad?”

Bianco, your dad looks like those mutants with those boils on his skin and the deformed way his face and body look.

“Remember when we used to mix different building blocks together to make our own creations, Bianco? Those were fun times.”

“We can have those times again if you put everyone back to normal and stop these experiments.”

“I can’t. We can’t. We’ve done so much. It’s too late to go back.”

“It’s never too late to go back, dad.”

“There is a point when it’s too late. Do you see all these people we experimented on? The authorities aren’t going to go easy on us. At least we learned a few valuable lessons. The bond between two people of the same sex isn’t the same between the bond lovers such as yourselves.”

“Please stop this! Take responsibility for what you’ve done. Look at how much suffering you are causing.”

“I…I don’t know if I can.”

“Ple-”

Why are we puking now?

I don’t know. I feel so weak.

Bianco…

Don’t feel scared. I’m still here with you.

“Bianco…Bianca…I’m sorry.”

“Please, dad…help us…”

“I’ll…try.”

Are you sure we can trust him? He’s injecting us with something. It could knock us out or worse.

I trust him. He’s my dad.

“Okay, that should slow down the decaying process, but I have to do something else to fix you. I just don’t know what.”

“Nero!”

Did you hear that?

It’s my mom.

“Violet…”

“I knew you would get them, Nero. Hurry, let’s bring them the main experimentation lab before they die.”

“Isn’t there any way to put them back to normal?”

“What are you saying? There isn’t going back to normal for them. Why would you want that? Being normal only brings death and suffering.”

“But we’ve done worse despite being abnormal.”

“We’re going to fix them and everyone we’ve experimented on.”

“How many people have we hurt because of these experiments? Hundreds? How many people have we disposed of? Thousands?”

“We’ll bring them back to life.”

“A human body is more than flesh and bone.”

“So, you’re just going let them die?!”

“I don’t know what I’m doing, and I don’t know if it’s the best thing to do, but it’s the best option that seems presently right.”

Your dad has a heck of a kick to kick us across the room like this. He’s fighting your mom and the mutants with that noise to aid him. I’m not sure how long he can last.

We have to help him somehow…Here! Let’s break this pipe and throw it at the vat near them. It should give my dad room to escape.

Okay!

“Watch out, dad!”

We hit the vat and it looks like we broke it. All of its liquids spill out onto the crowd. I hope dad is okay.

I’m sure he’ll be fine, but I’m not sure about us. Let’s keep moving.

Right.

But where do we go next? We can’t be fixed, and the only other option is to die. You can’t tell me to not worry about this! What do we do?!

We try to convince our parents the right thing to do one last time. If we can’t do that…do you really want to make others suffer so we can live longer? It’s not like we’re guaranteed immortality.

…You’re right. I’m sorry, but I don’t know if I can handle this.

You’re not handling this alone. I’m with you and I’ll always be with you because I love you, Bianca.

Bianco…I love you too.

I promised you once and I’ll promise you again. We’ll make it through this one way or another, but no matter what happens, I’ll always be with you and I’ll always love you. I am yours forever.

And I am yours forever and ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4 – So Far Gone with You Even in the Afterglow

We have to be close to some kind of exit. We’ve done nothing but pass by empty examination rooms and cell rooms.

Do you think that our parents are going to be waiting at the exit?

They have to be. They must know our condition by now. Are you still afraid?

No, not anymore. Are you?

Not at all. I never was.

You’re such a liar. I know your thoughts and feelings.

But you don’t know my deeper thoughts. I may feel scared and my imagination may be going off but that doesn’t mean I’ve let my fears affect me.

Yeah, yeah.

You know I’m telling the truth.

I know. It’s just that…we don’t have long.

You don’t have to remind me. I can feel my strength fading away by the second, but we don’t need to worry about it for much longer.

I know we’re physically bonded, but can you hold my hand?

I will.

Thank you.

I think that might be the exit over there.

It looks like one even though it’s messy with decaying furniture, desks, and chairs.

Even though no one’s around, this might be a trap.

You’re right, but what can we do about it now?

Nothing. We can only spring it then deal with it from there.

Nice plan.

Don’t even try to be sarcastic when I know what you’re really thinking.

Okay…let’s go. Come on. I can’t move without you.

…right.

There they are! They stepped out of the shadows as soon as we stepped into the room.

What happened to your mom and dad, Bianco? Look at them.

It looks like the chemicals in the vats fused them together.

“We must thank you for fusing us together, Bianco. We’re more in tune with each other like this than before with twice the arms and brains.”

“This isn’t what I wanted. This isn’t what we wanted to happen.”

“Why don’t you see that we’re trying to help you? Look at everything we did. We’ve risked everything we are so you could live forever.”

“Everyone who lives eventually dies. It doesn’t matter how much you try to fight it. It’s an inevitability. Besides, you get to live forever after this life anyway, and I’m afraid of where you might end up.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

The floor beneath us was a trap?

I’ve given up on expecting anything.

This place is dark like the experimental room with a low glow that barely lights it up. What’s going to happen? Ah! What kind of liquid did we get drenched in-AAHHHHAHHAH!!

“Now, you will truly become one. Please know that your mother knows best, Bianca.”

We’re one body now. Bianca, are you still here? Wha…urgh…what’s going on? We’re just one singular body now. What? How? It was something that your mom did to us that mutated us to be in one body. Oh wow. Why is your body the one we have to live in? Woman was made of the ribs of a man. Psh. Whatever. What’s going to happen now?

“This is amazing. They fused so quickly.”

“You did well, Verde. Let us fix their form before they start to decay again.”

I’m going to need your help again to climb out of here, Bianca. Wow, I feel so much more in control, but I can already feel this form begin to decay. We have more power, but we decay faster. Makes sense.

“Stop them!”

Look at how many people are coming after us. We have to bring this place down around us in order to have any chance at escape. We can throw the vats at the ceiling above us to collapse it. It’s going to hurt and everyone else may die, but it’s something we have to do in order to end this mad science experiment. I understand. They may be fast, but they can’t react as fast as we can.

Rah! There we go. Another couple of vats should bring the whole ceiling down. Here goes another one! Ah! They’re on us! That can’t stop us in our new body. There are so many pilling up on us…I don’t…no. We can do this! Rah!! Brace for impact…Is it over? Huh? The ceiling collapsed on us, but we barely felt anything-! We’re throwing up again. We have to quickly escape before our parents get us. Urk…

We have to dig our way out. Come on. We’re almost out of here. Ah! Mom…dad…

“Stay…Bianco and Bianca. We can-fix you.”

“Nothing was wrong with us to begin with.”

“Wait, you can’t leave…you’ll die…”

“It’s better than staying here. We hope you come to regret what you’ve done.”

“No…stop…”

Keeping going. We’re almost out of the rubble. Okay. Just one more push. Help me climb up this wall, Bianca. I got it. Do you think our parents are going to regret their actions? This place has thrown so many surprises at us that I don’t doubt it. Finally. The way out. The air smells different. Better than I remember it. That’s probably because we were stuck in a smelly place. Probably.

I don’t think we can go very far. I know. Let’s go underneath that tree. Okay. It is a beautiful day to look at the sky. Well…there goes our legs. Now our arms. At least we made it to the tree before losing them. I have you with me, so that’s all that matters. I love you. I love you too.

Bianco?

What is it?

Are we really going to be together forever?

I knew it was a fact even before now. I told you we would escape one way or another.

You’re right. I knew you would be, and I knew that I am yours forever.

And I am yours forever and ever.

The End

Summation: A Choice and Consequence Finale – Albert Oon’s 90th book

Download the story for free on Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/931257

Phase 0 – A New Beginning, Chapter 1 – Out of Hell then Back In

Michael is just a normal boy by any standard, but he of all boys is kidnapped by the Doll Factory, a secret organization notorious for turning people into sellable sex slaves. He is picked up at the request of a special client who wants him. Everything that he has on him is taken away except for his special cross, which he swallows. The kidnappers try to beat it out of him, but the special object never comes out. They give up and just deliver him to their client. She’s a woman who likes boys like Michael. The woman sexually abuses the boy while also dressing him up like a girl every now and then. Even though the boy never gives in to lust, he is heavily abused for a week until the woman gives up.

She gives Michael to her husband who’s had his eyes on the boy from the beginning. Her husband arranges a satanic marriage between him and Michael and dresses him in the finest black dress he could find. On the day of the wedding, the boy’s psyche goes off, which afflicts everyone in the building. Everything then catches fire and Michael is the only one who makes it out. His clothes are torn, and his mind is fractured from his experiences, and yet, he persists and walks to the nearest place that he might find rest, Hillside City, a city notorious for crazy and off-beat people. It might be the perfect place for him. It just might be the right place for me.

This kind of reminds me of home. I wish I was at home. Wait, is this the place where I’m from? The places look so similar to each other. I think my home is in that direction past the skyscrapers and the city center. It’s going to be a long walk, but I think I can do it. Where am I now anyway? It doesn’t seem like a clean place. There are weird clubs around here. I think they’re strip clubs. I always heard the north part of my city was bad. Now I see why.

There are two guys standing outside one of the clubs talking to one another. They don’t seem to be nice people, but I can use all the help I can get.

“Ex-excuse me,” I say to them.

They look at me funny before one of them says, “You look like you’ve been through a lot. Do you need any help?”

“Ah, yes! I need help going home. My head is a little fuzzy and I don’t remember the name of the street I live on, but I can tell you how to get there.”

“Why don’t you come in and rest for a bit? You’re obviously tired.”

I don’t like the smile on their faces.

“Umm. No thank you. On second thought, I think I can get there on my own.”

“Are you sure? It’s a dangerous journey there.”

“Thank you, but I can manage.”

I quickly cross the street. When I cross, it feels like an arm reaches for me. I look back at the men to see them smiling still though their grins are larger. I know a rapist when I see one or at least I should by now. There’s another club not too far from this one. This one has two women standing outside of it. They appear to know what happened judging by faces.

“Do you need help little boy?” one of them says.

“No, thank you.”

“We could help you if you’d like. We don’t bite.”

These women are just like those men. I can tell so I walk away from them. When I look behind me, I see them coming after me. I run away from them and then a car honks next to me.

“Get in, Michael!” I hear a familiar voice calling from the car.

Without anywhere else to go and my legs running out of energy, I run into the car to see a friend of mine from school in the passenger seat with her father driving the car.

“Where have you been, Michael? You’ve been missing for days,” she says.

“It’s a long story-uh.”

Wait, a minute. Why would she care about me? I barely even remember her name. Angel something is maybe it. Why would she even be out here? She’s smiling at me now and I can see her father smiling too. Before I can react, she puts a napkin in my face and…

“AAAHHHHHH!!!!”

“Don’t cry or scream, Michael. You’re safe now.”

“Ahhh…I…where…ahhhh…”

“You’re mine now. Get comfortable while I go out for a while.”

She…she cut off my arms and legs. I…I’m in her room with hooks where my limbs used to be. I’m just hanging like meat in a grindhouse. This is just like how it was when I was that woman’s pet. I have to get out of here. I don’t want to die like this. Come on! With whatever strength I have, I pull my stubs out of the hooks and fall to the ground.

“You can still do it!”

Dad?

“You’re not weak, you’re my son! Now get up and keep going!”

Okay, dad. The door’s right there. Someone opened it. Agh! Someone stepped my head into the ground. Woah! I have my hands and legs back! Agh! What happened? Oh, it’s time to get up for school! I’ve got to hurry up and get ready. I quickly grab a few snacks to eat along the way.

“Bye, mom! Bye, dad! Bye, grandma!”

That’s weird. They’re oddly silent today. What’s even weirder are the people on the street. Cars seem to be aiming for me and people are looking at me as if they hate me. It’s the same in school. The teachers don’t even call on me when I raise my hand. They even yell at me when I do the smallest thing. I guess everyone is just in a bad mood today. I can’t wait to see my friends and my girlfriend. They always make my day bright. There they are now!

“Hey, guys!” I say to them while waving my hand.

They shrug me off and don’t pay attention. Is something going on that I don’t know about? Am I being insensitive to something? Did I do something bad? Does my breath smell? Whatever is, it lasts for the rest of the school day. I apologize to my friends and whoever I talk to, but nothing seems to reach anyone. Maybe something will happen tonight. There’s an event on Market Street with games, sales, and performances there. The happy atmosphere and events should make up for the miserable day.

Or maybe not. Everyone in the city seems to dislike me. I swear they’re trying to bump into me with the way they’re walking. My girlfriend should be around here somewhere…she’s dancing with another guy. They’re getting really touchy-and they kissed for the finale.

“Okay, what’s going on here?” I say as I approach them.

“It’s over between us, Michael. I found a better man.”

“What are you talking about? Where did this come from?”

“You know where. I don’t accept men who look like women and get treated like slaves.”

“What? How do you know about that? What’s going on here? Am I dreaming?”

Everyone’s laughing at me.

“Stop it!”

Why are they throwing things at me? I have to get out of here. Ah, damn it. I just slipped and fell into some mud. Now all of my clothes are dirty. Why is this happening to me? Oh…that’s right.

“Why did you fail?! You’re an idiot if you do this poorly!”

“Are you slow? Why didn’t you see this? It’s right here.”

“Why don’t you do as well as your classmates? They accomplish so much more than you do.”

“Ungrateful child.”

“You’re slow and weak. Can’t you do anything right?”

“Why do you always mess this up? Why can’t you do this right?”

“Don’t be so lazy!”

“You’re making us look bad!”

I remember my parents saying things like this. They might’ve rarely hit me, but they always degraded me with their words. I felt like trash every single time I did something wrong.

“You’re so stupid.”

“I didn’t tell you anything because I didn’t trust you with it. You have a habit of messing things up.”

“Who fails at that?”

“You’re so weak.”

“You’re not good enough.”

“I don’t want to be with you.”

I remember my friends and my girlfriend saying things like this. My friends abandoned me during the summer because they had better people to be with. Even my girlfriend cheated on me with another boy. I tried everything I could to make people like me. Dressed nice, got the best comics and games, was up to date on the latest jokes, showed my appreciation to them by giving them gifts, and going out of my way to help them. I guess nothing worked. The constant criticisms and insults banged my head every single time I made a single mistake. They kept beating my head into the ground as if I committed a sin, I could never do enough penance for. Whenever I looked into a mirror, I saw someone I didn’t want to be. An ugly disgusting failure of a son and friend. Maybe I don’t want to go back home. Maybe I’d rather go to Hillside City. Huh? Oh!

I never stepped foot into the city yet. I’ve been looking at from the hills. Maybe I can make a life for myself here. It’s better than going back home. Even if I do go back, I’ll just get beat over the head again with damning words from people who say they care about me. I’d rather be homeless and die of starvation and thirst than to hear another lie out of their mouths. The city doesn’t look at bad as I imagined. Since there’s no place for me to go, I might as well just lay in this alleyway for now.

“Ah! Hey, you startled me there, puppy!”

Okay, it’s not actually a puppy. He’s more like a full-grown dog, but I still like calling them puppies. I pet him and he doesn’t seem to mind it. In fact, he likes me. He licks my hands and rubs up against me. He seemed to be looking through the garbage here for food, but it seems like he cleared out whatever was in here. The only thing I find is half of a blue stuffed elephant. It’s stuffing spills out as I hold it up, so I quickly hold it from the bottom. This is kind of like one of the elephants I had back home. I’ll keep it. Maybe it’ll make a person feel more sympathy for me. It’s also kind of cute. It reminds me of myself.

My entire body hurts after what I went through, so I sit and rest with my two new friends. This may not be the best start to a new life for me, but at least it’s better than my last one.

 

 

Chapter 2 – Sinner or Saint

I’ve just woken up and I already want to go back to the life I had. I smell, look like trash, and feel like trash. That dog that rested with me left while I was sleeping. That’s fine. I’m not able to take care of him anyway let alone myself. He took that elephant I had to. What am I going to do? Where am I going to find help? Maybe I could go to a nearby church? It’s the only thing I can think of right now.

There are people walking through the streets with me. Some of them give me a weird look, and I don’t blame them, but I wish they could help me in some way. I wish I wasn’t so alone.

“You’re not alone!” a squeaky voice says beside me.

“What?”

I look down to see the elephant I have before. He’s dragging himself across the ground with an endless trail of fluff behind him. I must be going crazy.

“No, you aren’t. You are quite sane.”

I am going crazy. This elephant can hear my thoughts.

“That doesn’t mean you’re crazy.”

Yes, it does. Why are you even following me?

“Because you’re alone and you need help.”

How are you going to help me?

“By being with you!”

That’s not going to help. I need someplace to stay, something to eat, and real people to be with.

“I’m real!”

Stay away from me.

“But I want to be with you.”

I said stay away!

I punt the elephant away from me. Now a lot of the people around me must think I’m crazy. The elephant was probably invisible to them. I put my head down and quickly hide. Where am I even going? I don’t know where anything is in this city.

“That was fun! Do it again!”

How did you get back here? Don’t answer that. I know you’re not real.

“Stop saying that! That’s mean!”

“Why can’t I get him?”

A little girl is complaining to her father as to why she can’t get the same I have that’s in the window. Trust me, kid. You don’t want him.

“Hey! You wanted me when you were younger. You still have me back in your room. When you wake up, you see me sitting on your night table.”

I don’t want to see you.

“What do you mean you don’t want to see me?”

“You held onto me when you were scared at night.”

I don’t do that anymore, mom.

“Don’t you want any help?”

I don’t need your help, dad.

“Is anything wrong?”

Nothing’s wrong, Lance.

“Do you need someone to talk to?”

No, Angel.

Just stay away from me! I push away everyone that’s crowding around me.

“We just want to know what’s wrong.”

“Are you crying?”

“Tell me what’s happening.”

“Are you okay?”

Get away from me! You don’t get to talk to me anymore! Not after what you did. I’m warning you!

I start breaking apart the shadows of the people I knew with my fists and kicks. I then rip them apart as I start getting more and angrier until I see the elephant.

“You can’t always rely on everyone to be consistent and good towards you, not even yourself. You have to forgive them if you want to be forgiven,” it says.

“Excuse me, do you need any help?”

“Shut up!”

I turn around and punch someone into the wall. When my vision clears…oh no…it’s that girl from before and she’s holding that elephant she wanted. She’s out cold.

“I…I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to…”

“Rebecca, where are you?”

The girl’s father turns into the alley to see me standing over his knocked out daughter. I don’t know what to say, so I back away slowly with my hands out.

“What are you and what did you do to my daughter?”

“I’m sorry!”

I run away into the dark alley, jump over the fence, and back into the streets where I scare everyone.

“What is that?”

“Is that a demon?”

“A monster?”

“No…I’m not…”

My presence alone shatters some people into pieces and burns others to ashes. I can’t go anywhere without causing someone pain. Everyone starts running away from me. Am I the reason why no one wanted to be around me? Am I evil? Do I do anything right?

“Why did you have to break that Michael?”

“I didn’t like it!”

Do I love anyone? Am I just a monster?

“What did I do to you?”

“What didn’t you do to me?”

Have I shown people that I love them? Do I just take advantage of them?

“Michael, what’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing! Leave me alone!”

I don’t know anymore. I don’t know if I deserve this or not. Wait. I think I do. I remember that woman who abducting me telling me how she found me. I was looking up porn on the internet and she managed to find me. Apparently, I caught her attention and then she hired the Doll Factory to abduct me. For a time, I was her plaything. Part of me resisted. The other part of me loved it especially because I kind of have a thing for older women, but that’s beside the point. It felt like I was getting what I deserved. I guess I got what I wanted. I got what I deserved.

“Excuse me, do you need help?”

Huh? It’s that little girl again. It looks like what happened was all just in my head. Again.

“Stay away from me. I don’t deserve help.”

“Of course you do. You’re a person just like me.”

“I’m worse than you think. Just look at me.”

“I don’t care what you look like. I want to help you.” The girl looks at her elephant. “Do you want my elephant?”

“What? I thought you really wanted that.”

“You look like you need it more. You’re starting to cry, so you must really need it then.”

“N-no. You can keep it.”

I leave the alley as the girl’s father calls to her. Maybe I don’t deserve this fate, but maybe I do. I’ve been such a horrible person to the people I’ve known that it would be better if they forgot about me or if I died in these streets. The pain I could cause them in the future is something I want to completely avoid. I don’t care anymore if they wronged me in any way, in fact, I wish I forgot about every single bad thing they did to me. I just hope they do the same.

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – Deliverance from Rot

How long have I been walking to nowhere already? I’ve been searching for a place to help me, but I don’t know which place to go into. I’m not sure if I can enter anywhere looking like this. If only someone would just take me off the streets and give me somewhere to start. It doesn’t matter if they take me in as their own. I just want someplace to call home for a little. I want someone to care for me, but I’m not sure if I deserve that.

We’re all sinners and I’m just as hypocritical as everyone else in the world, but somehow, I might be worse.

“No, you aren’t.”

Oh, you’re back, little elephant.

“That’s me!”

Why do you keep following me?

“Because you need a friend!”

I need a human friend with me, not a little elephant.

“I’m sorry, but I’ll have to do for now. Why do you hate yourself so much?”

Because I hurt people that I care about.

“Everyone’s done that. You even said it yourself that you’re just as hypocritical as everyone else in the world. No one is perfect. What separates the good from the bad people is who makes up for what they did and who doesn’t.”

I can’t make up for what I did besides never seeing the people I know, so I can’t hurt them anymore.

“Is running away from your mistakes really the way to fix them?”

I don’t know. I’m not strong enough to do anything.

“You’re stronger than you think. Remember when you were with that woman? What was her name again?”

“Mrs. Serenity, here is the boy you requested.”

There was one day that she forced me to dress up in a French maid outfit for her viewing pleasure as she sat by her pool. Her servant had brought me out after I dressed.

“Thank you. Do you like the outfit I got for you, Michael? I picked it out myself.”

“It’s too tight and showy.”

“That’s just how I like it. You know you’ve been defying me ever since I brought you here. Why is that? I’ve fed you, given you drinks, a nice place to stay, and of course the woman of your dreams.”

“My wants are more than my fetishes.”

“Your internet history says differently. I watched you for a while before taking you in. You know you’re not the only child I’ve given this opportunity to. Do you see that river down the hill? Dozens of bodies have floated down that river only to be eaten by my piranhas. You’re going to be another if you make the wrong decision.”

Serenity points a pistol at me.

“You have two choices. Forever confess your love and willingly have sex with me or die here and never be heard from again.”

“I’d rather you kill me than be your pathetic sex slave.”

I’m afraid, but I’m not going to let this woman use me like a toy.

“I’ll give you three seconds to reconsider. One…Two…”

I closed my eyes.

“Three…”

Nothing happened. No gunshot. Nothing. I was thinking she would pull the trigger when I open my eyes, but she doesn’t. Instead, she smiles.

“That’s my boy. You’re more of a man than my husband is. Most kids usually got for the gun or get shot when they approach me, but you’re different. You’re the one I’ve been waiting for. For that, you get your reward.”

I don’t want to remember what happened after that. There was another day when had me by her side all day.

“You’ve been extra bad to me these past couple days. Even though I like my girls bad and my boys worse, you’ve been starting to get on my nerves. Why won’t you submit to me?”

“Kidnapping, beatings, rape, just to name a few.”

“You’ll learn to submit to me. My husband will see to that.”

Her husband comes closer and tries to beat me like always when she can’t. Of all the times this has happened, this hasn’t happened in a place where I could use sharp knives to defend myself. I don’t care if her butlers shoot me. I just want justice for all the lives she’s taken and the things she’s done to me. By the time the fight was almost done, I put five or so knives in her husband. I take the last butcher’s knife and hold it above his head.

“Stop, Michael. You don’t want to do this.” Serenity points her pistol at me while the other butlers were doing the same. “We’ll shoot your arms and legs then kill you. Painfully. Do you really want that?”

“I’m willing to die to avenge the people you killed. I don’t care what happens after.”

I scream as I plunge the knife down, but it’s quickly shot out of my hand. It was Serenity that did it.

“Thank goodness I didn’t shoot your precious hand.”

I don’t like the look on her face. She looks hornier than usual.

“I knew you were manlier than my husband. You’re going to get extra special treatment. Right now!”

The butlers tie my hands and feet together then threw me upstairs onto her bed. That was the longest time I endure her abuse. It was for at least for the entire afternoon until the early morning hours. I had to rest for the entire next day so I could recover. Huh? What’s happening now?

I’m dressed up in a white short wedding dress. I thought I was dressed in black? Here Serenity comes. She’s doing my hair while my makeup is already on. The first few times this happened I got my face beaten in. Now, I just let it happen so I have the energy to resist in some other way. This is weird, I can barely move by myself. I’m moving automatically as if I’m possessed.

Serenity says close to my ear, “Today’s our big day.”

No, I’m not.

“I’m excited.”

Why are my lips moving by themselves? I thought I was going to get married to her husband. He still had a thing for me even though I almost killed him. I’m not sure if Serenity or he was sicker.

“Let’s make it our most memorable day, shall we?”

Serenity puts some kind of white choker on my neck. Stop kissing me there! Why aren’t I reacting to it? My body’s leaning into her instead. Stop! I don’t want this! Huh? We’re already at the satanic church? Why does it look so white in here? Did I dream about going to Hillside City? What is going on here?

“Do you, Michael, take Serenity to be your wife, now until the day you die?”

I plead the fifth.

“I do.”

No, I don’t!

“You may kiss your wife.”

Stop! Don’t! Damn it! What’s going on now? I’m at the wedding party now? I’m dancing like an idiot who’s trying to be a stripper right now. Wait, why did someone pull up a chair for me to sit on? Why is Serenity going under-Hey! Get your mouth off that! Why is everyone laughing and cheering? You’re all a bunch of sickos! Hey, don’t take away my underwear! I barely had anything to cover me, to begin with.

What? We’re back home now. She’s carrying me back inside to the bedroom. No! I’m not going to do this! I’m not going to be her new husband! I’m not going to father her children! Stop! Huh? What’s going on now?

We’re trapped in a glass coffin together. Serenity is on top of me with her hands all over me while I’m facing down. I can’t move at all. This better be all in my head, but is it really? It’s just so much. Huh? Is that the elephant?

“Do you see? You’re resistant to her. You’re stronger than you think. You’re also willing to be the instrument of revenge for the other kids who were wronged at the cost of your life. Without resisting until the end, those people couldn’t have all been executed at once.”

Tell me, if you somehow know, who started that fire in the satanic church?

“God did and your guardian angel was His instrument.”

Haha, my guardian angel. Right. Where was he when I was being abused during all that time?

“Patiently but sorrowfully waiting for you to endure it all. He’s still with you and happy that you made it through that ordeal.”

Right. You might want to help me more if something like this ever happens again. I’m not mad at you. I’m just…whatever. So, what happens now?

“Let go of the past.”

What? Argh! Serenity puts her hands in my chest and her hands are on my heart. The glass coffin shatters beneath us, so I’m finally free from it.

“Give into me, Michael. We could be so happy together.”

I’m not going to burn in Hell with you.

I take the glass shards scattered around me and stab them into Serenity until she lets me go. When she does, I turn around to see her for what she truly is. Her skin is completely white now. She has black and red eyes, with an eye on her breast and belly button, and a mouth on her other breast and crotch. She’s basically what I imagined her to always be. I take the pieces of shattered glass and stab her in her new mutated areas then stab her in the throat. She holds onto me as she fades into a puddle of blood.

“I’m not done with you yet.”

Yes, you are.

After I blink my eye a few times, I see that I’m kneeling in the rain. I’m still in Hillside City and it’s nighttime right now. I feel a bit freer, but…it could be worse. There’s a girl about my age looking at me right now in these empty streets. She probably thinks I’m another weirdo. I think I recognize her.

She comes up to me and asks, “Michael, is that you?”

“Uh. My name is Michael, but who are you?”

“I’m Alexa. Remember? I moved here a couple of months ago with my family. You…look like you’ve been through a lot. Do you want to come over my house to get cleaned up?”

“Yeah. I’d like that.”

Alexa smiles as she leads me to her house. This could be a new start for me. Even though the past is still tugging at me, I’m going to move forward into a bright new day.

 

End of Phase 0

 

Phase 1 – Revitalization, Chapter 4 – So I Thought you were Gone

Alexa takes me to her house, and I explain my situation to Alexa and her parents while eating leftover dinner. They’re speechless and don’t know what to say for a solid minute of awkward silence.

“I’ll call my parents now, so they can pick me up as soon as possible. I’m sorry to surprise you like this and put so much on you at once,” I say to break the silence.

Alexa says, “No, no, no! It’s no trouble for us. Here. Call your parents.”

I try calling my parents, but they don’t pick up. That’s strange. The time difference between here and my home shouldn’t be that different. In fact, they should be awake and getting ready for work by now. I leave a message and give them a call later. I tell Alexa and her parents what I did, and they think the same.

A thought comes to me and I say, “I wonder if the Doll Factory got to them. I know that they’re experts in cleaning up the messes they start.”

“Don’t think like that, Michael! I’m sure they’re fine. Just hold out hope until you know for sure.”

“Okay.”

Alexa’s father says, “I can’t believe the Doll Factory is still alive after all these years. I remember my father fighting against them when they were in the city. It was really a group effort to get rid of them when the city knew they were here. We’ll take care of you for as long as you need, Michael. Don’t worry about how much time you spend here. You deserve it.”

“Thank you so much,” I say as I bow my head.

“I’m going to make some calls to investigate the remains of that ‘church’ you were at. In the meantime, you should get cleaned and changed out of those rags. Alexa, find Michael some of my old clothes to wear. I’m sure he’ll fit into them.”

“Okay.”

Alexa finds me a black tee shirt, a red buttoned up shirt, and a pair of black shorts for me to wear. After taking a shower, I change into this outfit and…I look the same still. Did I always have a black and red eye? Where did the clothes go? I don’t even feel them on me. No matter how many times I wash my face, it remains the same. What’s going on?

“Is something the matter buddy?” my reflection says to me.

AHH! What are you?

“I’m you or rather the other you. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Are you okay, Michael?” Alexa says with a knock at the door.

“Don’t keep the lady waiting.”

I hesitantly open the door with an uneasy smile. Alexa looks at me then smiles.

“You look good.”

“Oh, I do?”

“Of course you do. I did pick out the best outfit for you, didn’t I?”

“Y-yeah. You did! Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. You can sleep in the extra room we have. It’s for friends who sleep over. There’s a pair of PJs there too if you want. The outfits a little dorky because of my father’s taste. My mom has been trying to get rid of those PJs for a while.”

“Thank you again, really.”

“Well, have a good night, and…Michael?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m glad to finally see you again despite the circumstances. It’s been too long.”

She hugs me. I’m starting to remember more about her. I hug her back.

“I’m happy to see you again too.”

Alexa smiles then goes to her bed. Inside my temporary bedroom, I find the pair of PJs that Alexa told me about. They are definitely dorky. The design on them is that of a familiar horror series that I remember with bloody rabbits on them. I like them, so I wear them. It doesn’t take me long to fall asleep, but when I do, I see the other me again. This time he looks like the normal me, but he’s naked with a large black scar mark on his body that looks like a weird version of the symbol for a boy.

“She’s a cute girl, isn’t she?”

She is. Why?

“I know your precious feelings for her. I know your previous memories of her before you even remember.”

What’s your point?

“I’m just giving you a little heads up. Don’t do anything you’ll regret.”

What am I going to do?

“Hopefully you’ll reconnect. Maybe you’ll even make her your girlfriend. Do you remember your time with her yet?”

Give me a second. It’s kind of blurry since it was a while ago, and obviously, a lot has happened since then.

“It’ll all come back to you soon. I’ll be sticking with you the entire way.”

You’re me so how can you not?

“Good point. It’s time to wake up-”

“- for breakfast!” Alexa says while shaking me.

“I’m up!”

“Come on. My mom made pancakes for us.”

“Sounds great.”

I go downstairs and have a nice breakfast with Alexa’s family.

“Hey, Michael! I see you have good taste,” Alexa’s father says as he notices what I’m wearing.

“Oh. Yeah, I like games that these rabbits are from.”

Even though they see that I’m wearing a different outfit, I still see that I’m wearing that torn black wedding dress. I don’t understand this. I hope this changes soon.

Alexa’s mom says, “You can take it with you when you leave. I was going to get rid of it anyway.”

“Hey, that is a rare and top quality set of PJs. It is probably worth a month’s paycheck by now.”

“It’s not worth the muck on a dirty penny.”

After finishing, her dad says, “Alright, I’ll be going to the car shop. Take care while we’re at work you two.”

Alexa and I tell her parents that we’ll be fine as they leave. They left their plates near the sink. I’m guessing that Alexa helps around the house while her parents are away. I’ll help.

“You don’t need to do anything, Michael. You’re a guest in this house while you rest after what happened to you.”

“Alright, I guess, but I can help.”

“Oh, hush. Just relax.”

“Okay.”

I wish I could help in some way and show my thanks. Maybe I can come up with something or get my parents to give them some kind of compensation. Alexa and I almost look like a married couple like this. All she needs is…

My other me says in my head, “Hey, stop imagining her in a naked apron!”

I’m not doing that!

“Are you okay, honey?”

“What?”

“Are you okay, Michael?”

“Yeah. I’m fine. I just want to show my appreciation to you and your family.”

“That’s sweet of you, but you shouldn’t worry about it too much.”

“So, are you still in school? Are you on summer break yet?”

“Yeah. School just ended last week. I got some things upstairs I want to show you. Come on.”

“Woah there, stop imagining those things,” The other me says.

I’m not doing it myself!

We go upstairs to her room. It is filled with various certificates for awards in school and sports. There are also figures from various TV shows along with an actual TV in her room. No gaming system though, which sucks. Alexa looks through her drawers and pulls out a game. I think I see something in the drawer that I recognize. Could that be?

“What’s this for?” I ask.

“I borrowed it from you a while ago. I thought it was only right that I’d give it back.”

“Right…”

I can’t get my eyes off the red letter in the drawer. Alexa seems to have noticed and moves over to hide it.

“Don’t you still want it?”

“I didn’t mind that you kept it then I forgot about it…”

“Well, you can bring keep it. I don’t play video games that much anymore.”

I move my head to see the red letter, which makes Alexa sigh and take it out. Yep. It’s what I remembered it to be.

“You remember this letter?” Alexa asks.

“I do. I gave it to you one day in front of everyone during recess. I got laughed at a lot, but you took it anyway and gave me a kiss.”

“I did.”

“Aww. You two are blushing,” the other me points out.

Shut it.

“So, why do you keep it?”

“To remember you by. I still read it every now and then to cheer me up.”

“Oh, I’m surprised my writing cheers you up. You can probably tell I was scared while writing it.”

“What do you mean you were scared? What you did was brave, and it showed on your face and in your writing.”

“It did-ah, I hope it did!”

“Haha, well uh. Do you want to go out for a bit? You do still exercise and play sports, right?”

“I do, but I haven’t been doing as much since you left.”

“Then I better get you back into shape today.”

“Oh boy.”

After getting changed and some waters, we go outside and for some reason, we’re back to the way we looked as kids. At least I’m not wearing that stupid dress anymore.

“Come on, Michael! Keep up!”

“I’m trying to Alexa! You’re way too fast for me!”

“That’s right! I can run faster than a car!”

We’re running through a forest near a park now. I think we used to make our little camp here all the time.

“Do you want to try climbing the trees?” Alexa asks me.

“I’m going to try.”

I climb up the tree and make it to one of the heavy branches.

“Come on, Alexa. You’re more athletic than me.”

“I can do it. Just watch me!”

Alexa struggles to climb up the tree.

“Ah!”

“I got you!”

I catch her arm and pull her up to the branch I’m on.

“You saved me! You’re my hero!”

She gives me a hug.

“You’re welcome.”

As I look at her face, she gets older and I see that we’re sitting on a park bench. My appearance is back to normal. Is she sleeping? She’s smiling while holding onto me. Did we really do a lot?

“Alexa?”

“Huh? Oh. I’m sorry.”

“No, I don’t mind.”

“You rested and ready to have more fun?”

“Give me a sec-Ah!”

She squirts me in the face with some of her water with a giggle. When I open my eyes, I see that we’re at the shore.

“Come on, Michael! Let’s push against the waves!”

“I’m coming!”

We splash up against the waves until we see a huge wave coming.

I pull Alexa towards it while saying, “We can beat it!”

“Haha, are you crazy?”

“You aren’t going to beat us you big stupid wave! Ahhh!”

The huge wave throws us back to shore with us on top of each other. After coughing up water, we laugh at what happened. As I blink my eyes, I see that I’m sleeping over her house. Not her house in the present, but her house from the past. We’re reading old comics and acting them out. Every time we hear a noise we stop so that Alexa’s parents don’t suspect us of staying up late.

“And then the bad guy broke down the wall and-”

“Captured the two kids!” Alexa’s dad says as he picks us up and spins us around.

We laugh as he spins us around the room then plops us down on our beds.

“Come on, kids. I can’t keep spinning you around. You’re going to make me hurl one day and it’s going to be on both of you.”

We both say ewww while giggling at the thought for some reason.

“Now, come on and go to bed.”

As I agree to go to bed, I see that I’m sitting at the dinner table with Alexa and her parents.

Alexa smiles at me and asks, “What are you thinking about?”

“Huh? Oh, nothing. I was just remembering the times that your dad used to spin us around to tire us out to go to bed.”

“Hahaha. I remember that too,” Alexa’s mom says.

“Well, I hope you’re not thinking that I’ll do that again. You are older now and-”

“-Alexa has to go. We can’t stay here anymore I’m afraid.”

This is the day Alexa left town. She came to my house to say goodbye. I watch her in silence as if I’m trying to keep her there with my stare.

“We’re going back to our home in Hillside City. I love the community and everyone here, but we can’t afford to be here anymore.”

My dad says, “We understand. Right, Michael?”

I can’t get my eyes off Alexa and she can’t take hers off mine. My hands want to reach out to her and keep her here, but I’m too afraid and sad to do anything.

“Okay, well. I know you’re going to be fine without us. We’ll be keeping you in our prayers. Say goodbye, Alexa.”

“Good-goodbye,” she struggles to say.

No…don’t leave.

We go by the door to see them off, but when they begin to drive away, I bolt out the door.

“Alexa!”

I chase their car for a little while before her dad stops the car. It looks like he’s letting her say her last goodbye and that’s what she does. We cry and embrace without the want to let go. Her dad gets us to separate. I don’t remember what he was saying, but I begin to chase the car once they go farther away. They don’t stop this time and drive off into the distance.

I don’t hold any grudges towards Alexa’s family. I understand why they had to move, but I wasn’t the same after that. I stopped exercising and caring about school and other things in general. After a month, I started watching porn to fill a hole in my chest that was still gaping open. I don’t know why I did that, but it was the wrong decision or was it the right? I’m finally here with Alexa again.

“Are you okay, Michael?” Alexa asks.

“Ye-yeah. I’m just tired because of all the fun we had today. I haven’t had this much fun in a while.”

“I’m glad you had fun. Oh, dad, did Michael’s parents call you back yet?”

“They haven’t. I’ve been checking every now and then and I called a couple times today. Are you sure this is their right number, Michael?”

I look at the number again, and say, “Yeah, it is.”

“Okay, well I’m going to call my contacts in the police department and see if they can get officers to check your house. Don’t worry about them until we hear back from them, okay?”

“Okay.”

Part of me doesn’t want to go home. I’d honestly rather stay here forever.

After finishing up dinner, I go to bed and sleep with a smile on my face for the first time in a while. I can’t wait to see what we’ll do tomorrow.

 

 

Chapter 5 – Juliet, Are you with me?

Did I set an alarm before I went to bed? Oh, it’s time to get up for school! I’ve got to hurry up and get ready. I quickly grab a few snacks to eat along the way.

“Bye, stepmom! Bye, stepdad!”

That’s weird. They’re oddly silent today. What’s even weirder are the people on the street. Cars seem to be aiming for me and people are looking at me as if they hate me. It’s the same in school. The teachers don’t even call on me when I raise my hand. They even yell at me when I do the smallest thing. I guess everyone is just in a bad mood today. I can’t wait to see my friends and my girlfri-…I remember this dream. It’s happening again. Why did I forget Alexa’s name and call her Angel?

“You’re like an angel when the sun shines on you, Alexa,” a memory reminds me.

“How cheesy,” the other me comments.

Oh, that’s right. Angel was her nickname I sometimes called her. I know it’s cheesy, but she liked it, however, the Alexa that is coming my way isn’t an angel. She’s a demon.

“Alexa! How are you doing?”

“Fine, without you.”

“No, you aren’t Alexa! You aren’t my angel.”

“What are you going to do about it? You wouldn’t hurt your little angel, would you?”

“No, but you aren’t her.”

Something inside me says rip off her face and the face of the two who are pretending to be my friend, and that’s what I do. I tear the faces off these pretenders. More start coming after me with the faces of my family and other friends. How dare they have the faces of the people I love! I tear off all their faces then scream out loud only to wake up moments later with a feeling of relief. Hopefully, that’s the last I’ll see of that dream.

“I wonder what Alexa’s reaction to you doing that would be.”

Please, I don’t want to think about it.

“But you did that for her honor and the honor of the other people you love.”

It doesn’t matter anymore. Let’s just forget about it.

I get up from my bed and walk out of the room as Alexa comes to the door.

“Up already?”

“Yeah. All of that exercise yesterday must’ve given me a lot of energy.”

“That’s great! Does that mean you’re ready for another day of it then?”

“With you, I’m ready for anything.”

“I’m glad to hear that.”

After eating a nice breakfast, we head out for sports and exercise.

While out, I ask Alexa, “So, how have you been? You didn’t tell me yesterday.”

“Sorry, I guess I was just having too much fun. It felt like all that time we spent apart didn’t happen.”

“It was the best day in a while for me.”

“Anyways, I’ve been doing okay. I’m doing good in school and sports like always even though I haven’t gotten any new awards. I’ve made some new friends here too though I’m not best friends with anybody and just talk to them in school and that’s it. It’s nothing like back at my other home.”

That’s good. It means she didn’t find a boyfriend here.

“What if she did? Would you be happy for her?” the other me asks.

Shut up.

“You want her all to yourself, don’t you?”

“How have you been, Michael?”

“Less than perfect let’s say.”

“Outside of what happened to you.”

“…I…was fine.”

“Are you sure? I remember the day I left. You wouldn’t stop chasing after me when I drove away. I remember crying as much as you.”

“You did? Because I never really got over it-uh! I mean…uh…”

Dang it. I didn’t mean to say that.

“Don’t worry about it. I didn’t really either even though it may seem like it.”

“You didn’t need to let it bother you.”

“I could say the same for you. Oh. You didn’t tell me how that lady, Serenity, found you.”

“She found me on through the internet while she was looking for another kid to kidnap.”

“That’s terrible that it had to be you, but then again, we’re together again because of what happened.”

“I guess you could call it an act of God if you wanted to.”

“Yeah. I’d like to think it is. It’s a shame that we’ll have to separate again when your parents come to get you.”

“I almost wish they don’t.”

“But you have to go back home, Michael. We can still talk across the phone and our webcam.”

“But it’s not the same.”

It’s why I never really picked up the phone or answered her calls. I thought it was over when she left me.

“I guess that’s why you never answered my calls. You know we can meet up again once we become adults.”

“But how long is that going to be? How do you know that something won’t happen between us that won’t separate us for good?”

“It depends how much you trust me, and judging by your attitude, it seems like you don’t trust me that much.”

We stop what we’re doing.

“That’s not it. I’m just not sure of the future.”

“Then how am I going to restore your faith in me?”

“You…tell me, we’re still together.”

“Huh? I thought we broke up.”

“I jumped the gun then because I thought I would never see you again. I acted impulsively without thinking and I’m sorry. My life without you is misery. Can you please forgive me?”

Please say yes, please say yes!

“…Maybe. You’ll have to prove that you still love me.”

“What do you want me to do? I’ll do anything.”

“You’re going to have to answer my calls and send me a letter like the one you wrote before once a month.”

“I’ll do it!”

“Then I accept your apology.”

I hug Alexa and she hugs me back. I want to give her a kiss, but she pushes my lips back with her finger.

“Uh, uh! I have to get a letter first before you get one.”

What a tease. Haha.

The other me says, “So, you got her back with no trouble. What were you worrying about all this time?”

I don’t know. I guess I was just that scared, but I should’ve known better. My angel wouldn’t abandon me.

Once we’re tired of our fun and games, we go back home and relax for a bit. We watch TV in the nice air-conditioned house. She’s already fallen asleep on me, which has to be one of the best parts of the day. I soon fall asleep as well and start to dream of me stopping by her house one day.

“Michael!” Alexa says in her beautiful velvety red dress, “It’s been years since we last saw each other.”

“I know, but we’ll never be separated again,” I get on one knee and say, “Will you marry me?”

“Ah! I do!”

“Are you ready to go? Do you need to take anything with you?”

“As long as I’m with you, I have everything I need.”

We get into my car and drive away, but as we’re driving away. People from the pavement start clawing at the car as if they’re trying to stop it and tear us out of it.

Get them away from us!

“I’m just a passenger in this ride,” the other me says, “Not the driver.”

The road keeps getting narrower and narrower because of the crowds of people until we hit a large pole in the center of the road. I wake up to see a car crash in the movie that we were watching. Alexa is still asleep-is she seriously drooling on me? I’m not sure whether to think this is gross or cute. Oh. Someone’s unlocking the door. It must be her parents. I wake her up so we can get up and greet them. They don’t appear to be very happy.

After saying hello, I ask, “Did something go wrong at work?”

Alexa’s mom shakes her head then looks at Alexa’s dad. He says, “No, nothing went wrong at work for either of us, but…the police couldn’t find your parents at your house. They searched the place and only found bloodstains and signs of a struggle. They’re suspecting the worst-case scenario given what I told them about the group that kidnapped you, but they are searching for them.”

Alexa’s mom and dad hold me then Alexa herself joins in to say sorry to me.

“You’re going to have to stay with us, not that we mind at all,” Alexa’s dad says, “You’ve already been part of the family ever since you and Alexa met. We’re glad to have you with us.”

“Thank you.”

Alexa, her dad, and I go to sit down as her mom makes dinner.

As we’re eating dinner, Alexa’s dad notices something, and says, “Are you okay, Michael?”

I don’t know why, but I don’t feel that bad about losing my family. Alexa’s dad must’ve noticed the smile that’s on my face.

“Yeah, I’m doing fine,” I say as I look at Alexa.

Her dad has always been perceptive. He looks back and forth at us, smiles then says, “Are you two back together?”

“We are,” I say with a little hesitation.

“That’s great!”

“When am I going to get grandchildren?” Alexa’s mom asks.

“Mom!”

We laugh a bit then tell her parents why we got back together. In bed, I rest more relaxed and at ease than any other night that I can think of. Even though my parents have disappeared, my life has taken a turn for the better.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6 – My Drive and Passion

Today’s going to be another great day. I can feel it. After the normal morning breakfast, Alexa and I clean the house together while making small talk as we play music we used to listen to. It’s a fun little time, but we get pretty dirty after cleaning, so we take showers after. She takes a shower first, as I wait around. I think she forgot her change of clothes since she left it on her bed or does she change in her room? She takes a shower before I wake up, so I don’t know. Oh, she’s coming out now.

Alexa looks so beautiful with her hair down.

“What?” she says with a little giggle.

“Nothing.”

“Ah!”

Her towel slips a little to reveal a little skin. Did she do that on purpose? That blushing smile on her face seems to suggest so.

“Or it could just be your imagination,” the other me suggests.

She says, “You can’t look at me while I’m naked even though we’re in a relationship, so you better watch where you’re looking.”

“I can’t help it if my eyes look at the most beautiful lady in the world. It’s a bad habit of mine.”

Alexa laughs a little and gives me a little tap on my face before going into her room to change. After my shower, I get ready and we go out for another day of fun. We do a bunch of exercises before going back home for lunch. Alexa gets the idea to feed me my food as she puts it in my face. I do the same for her as we feed each other.

“How romantic,” the other me says in a mocking tone.

It is. Don’t be jealous, me.

Once our rest is done, we head over to a part of the city where there are trees.

Alexa says that she wants to, “Do what we did in the old days. I should still be able to climb these trees especially they aren’t as big as the ones back home. You should go first.”

“Alright. I got this.”

I climb the tree with little hesitation and mistakes even though I haven’t done this in a while.

“See? I can still do it.”

“Showoff. Here I go!”

Alexa climbs the tree but slips near the top. I catch her and help her up to the branch I’m on.

“Just like old times, right?”

“Agh, shut up.”

Besides that little incident, Alexa and I sit in the tree with my arms around her. We enjoy each other’s company as the sun sets. She then gives me a kiss on the cheek.

“That was for all the times you saved me from falling and not just when we climbed trees,” she says as she rests her face closer to mine.

“Don’t get too excited,” the other me says.

How can I not with how the past few days have been going? She’s obviously trying to tell me something.

“Wait for marriage.”

I know-

“Take her,” a strange distorted version of my voice says.

What?

“She’s yours. She wants you to embrace her. Take her into your arms and complete your bond together.”

“Don’t listen to that voice, Michael! Control yourse-”

What?

“Control y-”

I think the other me said to control myself. My head is getting really fussy for some reason. It’s getting dark right now too, so I wake up Alexa and we descend down the tree to go back home. We hold hands on the way back, and my head’s starting to hurt now. It feels like a dozen hands are squeezing it, and a dozen voices are whispering in my head.

“Do it.”

“Make her yours.”

“Subjugate her.”

“She wants you to.”

“You deserve each other.”

“Her mom did say she wants grandkids.”

“Listen to your heart.”

What’s happening to my head?

“I’m not done with you yet.”

Maybe some rest will make me feel better. When dinner is done, I go straight to bed. I say some extra prayers to get the voices and feelings to go away. Alexa enters the room and gives me a kiss on my head.

“Good night. I love you,” she says.

“I love you too.”

That didn’t help.

“Now’s your chance.”

“That was her signal.”

“Go for it.”

I wrestle with myself for a while as my head starts to sweat until I manage to fall asleep.

“I’m not done with you yet.”

The nightmare version of Serenity jumps out at me in the darkness, which wakes me up. She takes my hand and leads me to Alexa’s room and disappears to leave me at her bedside. Alexa does look cute while she sleeps. She’s wearing a tank top and short pants. Invisible hands pull me onto her, and I can barely resist as I gaze upon her beauty. My hands instinctively touch her face and go down her body. They then go up to her hands that I hold. She seems to be enjoying this. Good. I lower my face down and kiss her lips. Now she’s really smiling.

I then softly bite her neck as I hold her hands in position as she tries to move them. She’s getting restless. Is she waking up? I look at her eyes as she tries to get them open. When she fully notices me, her eyes widen.

“Mic-Michael? What are you doing?” she asks in her sweet voice.

I…What am I doing? This is a mistake. A horrible mistake. What have I done? I run out the door with my hands over my head in disgrace then out of the house into the night. I think I might’ve heard her calling to me, but I don’t want to hear it right now. I want her to go back to sleep and forget about what happened. I want her to forget about me after I even attempted that, but I want more! No! I want more! I want someone else to do it too!

What’s happening to my appearance? I’m more feminine and feel even weirder. What’s happening to me?

Give in already! Satisfy my desires! Give in. Give me what I want!

 

End of Phase One

 

Phase Two – Rampage

Who is going to satisfy me tonight? I want a girl that has everything I want. A cute face, pretty eyes, and the right kind of body. She has to be innocent, but also have a naughty side to her. Her outfit has to reflect it too, and I think I might’ve found the right target. She’s a corner girl, but she’ll do.

I approach her and say, “You look like a pretty doll. Do you want to play?”

“That’s one of the cheesiest pick-up lines I’ve ever heard-”

When she looks at me, she gets scared and tries to run away, but I catch up to her. I pounce on her and feel her. She’s too used, so I let her go. I wonder who else I could get. I do like older women even though Alexa and I are the same age. Maybe I can find one that looks like one from those hentai games I used to play. I also wouldn’t mind it if she had huge milkers and a dominating personality.

As I walk the streets, people stay away from me. I wink at them and throw kisses their way. I know they want me, but they’ll have to wait their turn while I look for my real target. I can hear a voice calling out to me to stop, but I don’t know what it’s saying. Why would I want to stop when I feel this good?

I’ve found a woman that matches the one in my head. She’s got the mature look I crave. A mature woman is like fine wine. They only get better with age. This one is so precious I could die. She’s sitting on a bench by the water and showing her kid the moon, but she isn’t wearing a wedding ring. I could be her next kid and her husband at the same time.

“Hello, there pretty lady,” I say to her.

“Haha, hello. Why are you bothering with an old lady like me?”

“Because a lady such as yourself needs company on a night like this.”

“Well, aren’t you a gentleman?”

I go to grab her by the shoulders, but her kid grabs my hand.

“Do you want to hold my baby? As you can tell, he’s very friendly.”

“I…Uh…”

“Here you go.”

The lady gives me her child. He smiles at me and giggles as he holds my hand.

The lady then says, “I can tell you’re lost. Do you need help getting home?”

“Uh…no.”

“You should go back home since it’s so late. I’m sure the people that care about you will miss you.”

“I uh…I guess so. Sorry, for bothering you.”

“It’s no problem. I’m glad to help. Have a good night!”

“Y-yeah. You too.”

Do I recognize that lady?

“Excuse me? Do I know…”

There’s no one there now. I look around the bench and find a rosary. I’ve been wanting to get another one. Whatever is inside of me is screaming out in pain trying to wrestle back control. What is even going on? Why am I out here? Give me what I desire! Something is still fighting me. I don’t want to be out here. I have to go back to Alexa to apologize-but first!

I see that little girl from before with the elephant. She’s by herself. Out for a late night jog by yourself, I see? You best be careful little girl. There are people out there who won’t hesitate to take your innocence. I find a way to get in front of her and I catch her in my arms.

“You know it’s dangerous to be out here by yourself, little girl.”

“It’s you again! I knew you’d be out here. Do you still want that elephant I have?”

“Wha-no, I don’t.”

“I’ve been praying for you these past couple days. It looks like my prayers have been working since you’re still alive. Oh, do you have a place to stay?”

“…I do.”

“Then all of my prayers have been answered.”

“…What are you doing out here by yourself?”

“I went to go see a boy I like. His parents moved farther away into the city, so I don’t see him as often as I used to. We’ve been taking turns going out at night to see each other.”

“You shouldn’t do that. It’s too dangerous.”

“But I really do love him.”

“Then get your parents to make time to drive you to him or the other way around.”

“I guess so. I don’t know. I’m scared to ask them.”

“If you’re brave enough to be out at night like this, then you’re brave enough to ask your parents.”

“That makes sense. Thank you for convincing me!”

“And don’t forget that even though you may have distance between you two, the love you share will keep you together forever.”

“Thank you for telling me that! You’re like an angel mister! I’m so glad I met you.”

Some strange people come from behind and take away the girl. I think I recognize them. They’re dressed like the people from the Doll Factory.

“Who are you?” I ask them.

“It’s none of your business, boy.”

It is my business. Scum like you shouldn’t be kidnapping anyone let alone a child.

“This is my business.”

“Don’t bother with us or-”

As she turns her head, I sock the woman in the head then knee her friend in the stomach before smashing his face into a nearby wall. This is great! I’ve never felt this sensation before. I should be fighting against people like this and not trying to be like them. I can feel my appearance begin to change. I can see in my reflection in the store window that I have a mask on my face, my head is on fire with rage, my shirt is off, and my black pants are ripped. I don’t have any shoes, but I don’t need them. I like this look more than my feminized one.

“T-thank you for defending me,” the little girl says, “I didn’t know who those people were.”

“I think I have an idea. They’re the reason I’m here and why I got messed up.”

“That’s terrible. They must be evil people.”

“They are, and I’m going to make sure none of them hurt anyone else ever again.”

I search the pockets of the two people I knocked out to find addresses written on scraps of paper. I’ll find every single one of these people to make them pay for everything they’ve done.

 

 

Chapter 7 – Death and Rebirth

The address that I found isn’t too far from here. It’s a broken-down house that looks like it could fall apart at any time. From the looks of it, it could be a perfect place for a temporary hideout for crazy people. I go into the building to find a small pathway to the basement. In it, I find two people sleeping on old mattresses. They’re dressed similarly so these people must be part of the same group.

Since they’re both sleeping, I wake up on who looks around before being knocked right back out. The noise wakes up their friend who I climb on and beat their face in. There’s nothing on them that tells me who they are so these might be the only ones here. They might not even be part of the Doll Factory and are just a group inspired by them. That’s a shame. I wanted to get justice for myself, but at least these people will know better. I call the cops using their phone and leave it on them as I leave the area.

That was more fun than I thought it was going to be. Alexa’s dad used to tell us stories all the time about his dad’s secret vigilante activities while also being a boxer. Now I know why he liked doing it. I want to find more people to fight. Hillside City is full of crazy people. I’m sure to find one if I look hard enough.

It only takes a short while before I see a few suspicious people. They manage to steal some food and drinks out of a store without anyone noticing. I go after them and wait until they lead me to their place. Maybe there are more of them. The two people meet up with another who they start to share the food with. That’s three people to punish. Because they outnumber me, I sneak up behind one and punch them in the back of the head. I then punch the next person in the mouth to make them choke on what they’re eating. The next person gets punched in the gut to make them puke what they ate. Their face gets smashed into the concrete.

“Wh-why are you doing this?” the barely conscious man asks.

“Because you stole food.”

“But we’re hungry and poor!”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. A crime is still a crime. A sin is still a sin. Your justification doesn’t make you innocent.”

I smash the person’s face into the concrete one last time. More! More! I want more souls to punish. Suddenly, more people form out of the shadows as the area around me constantly shifts from the outside to the inside of buildings. So many people to punish. I get to work as my desire for violence overwhelms me. It overwhelms me so much that four tendrils come out of my back. Good. I need more tools for this. Faces get broken, necks are crushed, and my tendrils stab their sharp points through torsos. It’s a sweet symphony of carnage that’s inflicted upon the guilty.

Huh? What’s this? Some of the people I see appear to be normal people. Wait, was that Alexa? Was that my dad? Mom? Myself? When I focus on myself, it steps out to face me. I try to fight it, but it beats me down. No, I won’t let you beat me. I throw a punch at myself, but something tells me to stop, so I stop before I hit myself in the face. The fighting has stopped for some reason and my heart feels calm, and yet, it is also concerned. After blinking a couple times, I see Alexa. Is that really her? What’s going on? What have I been doing?

“I’ve finally found you, Michael”, she says with tears in her eyes.

How did I lose myself for so long? Who was I for that short amount of time? What did I even do?

“I’ve been searching the entire city for you, Michael. Please come back to me.”

Is Alexa really here?

I reach out and she holds my hand. She is real!

“No, Alexa. I’m not sure if I can come back after what I did. I’m not sure if I’m worth it.”

“It’s okay. I forgive you. To be honest, I’ve been feeling the same way, but we have to control ourselves. It’s the right thing to do.”

“Oh…that’s right.”

 

End of Phase 2

 

Phase 3 – Sanctification

I remember why I need to control myself. I’ve only been thinking about myself and what I care about for the past few days. There wasn’t a single thought about what really matters in the world. You were always with me through my troubles. You were waiting for me to come back to you. When I was about to be forcefully wedded, you freed me. When I was in a haze of desire, you took my hand and woke me up. You’re an integral part of who I am. Without You, I am nothing. I’m sorry for forgetting that. I promise not to do it anymore. Just give me the chance to prove it.

My monstrous appearance disappears from me as I go back to normal.

“Let’s go back home, Alexa.”

She nods her head with a smile.

As we walk through the streets while holding hands, I ask her, “Are you out here by yourself?”

“No, my dad should be out here too. He shouldn’t be too far.”

When we turn the corner, I see a group of people approaching me. A few cars stop in the center of the road and more people come out of it. I think I recognize one of their faces. No way. Is that Serenity? Half of her is burnt, and yet, she is still wearing a revealing red dress. The group of people surround us and push us into the alley. I protect Alexa by putting myself in front of her.

“Serenity?”

“That’s Serenity?”

“I’m so glad you didn’t forget about me, Michael. I knew you would be okay after that fire and after all these days. Is this that girl you would always talk about? I told you that she abandoned you because she left you.”

“That isn’t true,” I say, “What do you want?”

“I want you, of course. You proved to be the man I’ve been searching for my entire life. Even though I gave you up to my husband for marriage, that was just to subjugate you and to see if you would kill him. You’ve proved to be more than that.”

“How do you have so many people with you?”

“You didn’t figure it out yet? I guess that’s just how men are. I’m the headmistress of the Doll Factory.”

“What?”

“Why do you think I have such a large reach and the people to kidnap young people like you? I might be exposed now, and I might need to pay a big fee to have this event forgotten by the city’s security, but it’s worth it to get you.”

“You can take me but leave Alexa alone.”

“Michael!”

“I’ll leave her alone alright. She’s a witness and needs to disappear. Trust me. I’ll make sure my people treat her right.”

“I’d rather die than have you take us!”

“I knew you would say something like that. Go ahead. Resist.”

Serenity steps in front of her guards with her arms out. I walk ahead with my fists clenched, and am about to punch her, but then I’m shot in my legs and arms with a couple shots hitting my body. I knew it wouldn’t be that easy. Serenity smiles as I fall down.

“Michael!” Alexa screams.

The guards then point their guns at her.

“You’re truly a man among men, Michael. To fight for your love even when you have all the odds set against you. You truly will be my perfect husband.”

“No…that isn’t going to happen.”

“But it will. I’ll get you back up to good health in no time then make you mine forever.”

“No…that isn’t going to happen!”

I can feel a massive amount of energy exit out of my head and enter into the minds of the people around me as I try to stand up. Serenity’s guards start shooting and fighting against invisible things that appear to be attacking them. Some of them are also experiencing things that make them crumble to the ground, run away, or just go crazy. The pain from my arms, legs, and body begin to fade away as the bullet pop out of me and my strength is restored.

“I should’ve known that you would be affected by the Human Mirror in this way,” Serenity says as she swipes away her monsters, “But you’re still going to be mine.”

“I don’t think so.”

The alley we’re in enlarges itself in the size of a parking lot. I see Serenity as her monster form while I stay normal. I can also see the monsters of everyone else.

Alexa approaches me and says, “It doesn’t look like we can escape unless we make it past her.”

“We can beat her together.”

“Let’s do it.”

A monster pops out of the ground as we approach Serenity. It has bloodied spikes on its scissor-like head and on its thin legs, and its arms are like pincers. It reminds me of the self-harm and hate that I had within me, but that’s not part of me anymore.

“I used to hate myself and what I was, but that’s not who I am,” I say aloud, “From this day forth, I’m going to be a different person!”

Alexa says, “I hated myself for leaving the most important in my life and my faults. I’m above that thinking now. Worrying about that will only keep me down.”

The monster breaks apart and disappears. We approach Serenity who has just fought off her monsters.

She says, “Come back to me, Michael. I can give you an easy life that you deserve.” She slams her foot on the ground, which shakes it. “Submit to me!”

“I won’t!” I say as I take Alexa’s hand, “I don’t need an easy life. All I need are two things; God and the love of my life, who’s hand I’m holding.”

“He’s mine, Serenity, and I’m going to be a better wife than you can ever be.”

“But I have everything. Money, power, and sex. I have what makes the world turn.”

“Those things are nothing compared to what I have. All you have are demons and vanity. Repent or perish.”

“No, I won’t.”

Serenity’s monsters become stronger and appear more nightmarish to reflect her stubborn mindset. Her energy attracts the monsters from other people who pounce on her. Along with her monsters, they overwhelm her, take over her body, and transform her into a summation of everyone’s sins. It’s a three-headed demon with nine breasts, black fur, a showing spinal column, and a tail with a phallic appendage in it.

It screams out in anger then says, in a combined voice, “Submit to me or die!”

“We won’t!” Alexa and I say together.

The summation then winds up a punch. We wind up our own and clash with it. A light from our body transfers from our fists to the summation, which infects its body and tears it apart. It then explodes from the light. When it’s over, Serenity and her guards lay unconscious on the ground. I then fall down due to the pain coming back to me.

“Michael! Hold on! I’m going to get my dad.”

Alexa’s dad arrives at the alley just in time and is shocked by what he sees before he goes to help me. He rips parts of his shirt to wrap my wounds.

He says, “You’re going to be fine, Michael. My mom taught me how to stabilize a person. Thankfully, whatever you got hit with is out. I’ll ask what happened here later.”

“He saved me, dad.”

“He did? I don’t know why I’m surprised. You’re a good kid, no, you’re a great man.”

“I’m glad to hear that. Alexa…”

“You don’t have to say or make up for anything. You showed me how much you love me.”

Alexa kisses me on the forehead. Her dad and she take me to the hospital while also calling the police. The authorities arrest Serenity and the rest of her guards, who have gone soft in the head for some reason. Since we tell them who they are and they admit it publicly, Serenity is publicly executed with her other guards who have killed and raped people. Alexa and I are credited in dealing a fatal blow to the Doll Factory and are celebrated by the city and the world. The Doll Factory isn’t going to be heard from for a long time even in their circles.

As for Alexa and I, we enjoy our fame and our rewards. We decide to lead somewhat normal lives despite our unordinary present situation, but then again, who is truly normal? I wake up to a new day to my wonderful family. My stepparents head out to work while my girlfriend and I get ready to enjoy another day today.

“Are you ready, Michael?”

“Yeah, I’m always ready to spend another day with you.”

“Haha, come on.”

Alexa and I step outside while holding each other’s hand. My life has been a series of challenges. Life, in general, is a never-ending challenge with beginnings and endings. I fail a lot, but I always get back up to try again because love lives within me, and I live for love.

 

End of Phase 3

 

The End – Grace

 

Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.”

― Fulton J. Sheen

 

Concept Art

*These pictures along with the cover are the pictures I used to help me plot out the story.

*Restless was taken out as I thought this part didn’t need a long section for it.

Immortalized in Death

Download for free on Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/929660

Chapter 1 – Die Forever with Me

Allie doesn’t live in anywhere special. The countryside she lives in isn’t known for producing the best crops or the best people, but it gets by. On one normal day, a strange girl with pink hair, white skin, and purple eyes showed up in a park while she was out. This girl has red bowie ties to hold up her pigtails, light blue eye linear, rosy red cheeks, and a pick schoolgirl dress with a red tie. The girl walks as if she glides across the ground and looks around as if she’s looking for a friend.

Being the girl she is, Allie goes up to the girl and introduces herself.

The girl smiles then says, “I’m Ellie. Do you want to be friends?”

“Okay! Let’s be friends!”

The girls quickly became best friends within a week. Ellie has a special ability to perform magic, which includes bringing plants and animals back to life and levitation. When other people saw her, they just assumed she was some kind of clown or performer because of the way she dressed. Allie thought more of her. The two of them were the bestest of friends in town.

On one day, Ellie asked, “Do you want to come over my house today? It’s tall, big, and a magical place.”

“I’d love to come over. Where is it?”

“It’s in the forest. You know you’re near it when you see the trees with the white leaves.”

“I’ll be there. Let me tell my parents first.”

Allie tells her step-parents about going over Ellie’s house, but she unintentionally leaves out the magical part of the house. Her parents trust their responsible daughter and let her go out. In the forest, Allie follows Ellie’s advice and finds the part of the forest with white trees. She’s never seen trees like this before. She hasn’t even heard of them being the area. Along with the weird white trees, there are flowers that grow on the trunk of the trees. The flowers themselves are pretty, however, they appear to have eyes in the center of them that follow Allie’s every move. She brushes this off as her imagination despite the lack of wind that could be blowing the flowers.

After going deeper into the forest, Allie finds a completely black and white house. The place doesn’t have many windows nor does the way to it appear to have been walked on recently. Wondering only about her friend, Allie knocks on the door while eagerly waiting. A noise inside that sounds like screaming makes Allie jumps, but then her friend opens the door.

Allie assumes the noise was the creaky door then says, “Hi, Ellie. This is a nice place you have here.”

“It’s great. I’m so glad you showed up. Come in.”

Once Allie walks into the house, her photo is taken by a creature with a camera for an upper body. It then crawls up to the ceiling before Allie can get a good look at it. She feels weak now as it feels as if all of her energy was drained from her.

“What was that?” Allie asks as she looks at her photo on the ground.

Ellie takes the photo from her and says, “It was just one of the many pets I have here. It snaps the photo of everyone who comes in here, so I have something to remember their first visit by.”

The interior of the house is nothing but black and white just like the exterior. Light can’t penetrate the windows, nor can it illuminate the dark spots within the building. The white lights on the candles barely light up the house.

“Do you have other friends?”

“I do.”

“Are your parents home?”

“They are, but they’re busy right now. Let’s eat lunch. They prepared it for us.”

“That’s nice of them. I can’t wait to meet everyone.”

“They’re excited to meet you too.”

Ellie opens the door to the dining hall. A large table is filled with various meats, fruits, vegetables, and desserts. The aroma from the room is intoxicating to Allie.

“Go ahead. Guests first,” Ellie says with a smile.

Allie eagerly steps into the room. The door slams behind her, and now the room seems much smaller.

“Ellie? What’s going on?” Allie says as she starts banging on the door. “Huh?”

The door feels like a solid wall now. Another large noise makes the room close in more. It’s obvious now that this is just an empty room and not a dining hall.

“Haha, you got me, Ellie. This is a cool magic trick you got. You can let me out now.”

The walls slowly begin to close in.

“You’re really starting to scare me. Let me out!”

No matter how much she pleads Ellie to stop the walls, she doesn’t respond.

“Please, Ellie! You’re my best friend, aren’t you?”

As soon as she calls Ellie her best friend, the walls stop. Allie sighs in relief only for her to be squashed in an instant.

“AAAAAAHHHHHH!”

Allie wakes up in a completely white room in the house. There are several other beds with children in them except these children don’t appear to be lively. They have white skin like Ellie, but their eyes are hollow with a permanent smile on their face. Allie is startled by this but is afraid to move because she is surrounded. The children go back to sleep, which makes Allie comfortable enough to get up.

When she enters the hallway, she finds more kids walking around from room to room. The hallway has candles with white flames on them to give it light. Hung up on the walls are pictures of children and young adults. It appears that their photo was taken by surprise, just like Allie.

She follows the children to a real dining hall this time with the food she previously saw. At one of the tables, she finds Ellie except she is all black and white and is wearing a striped schoolgirl dress.

Allie walks up to her friend and asks, “Ellie, what happened to you?”

Her friend turns to her with a frozen smile and says, “I’m always like this. I’m glad you asked about me first despite what I did to you.”

“What do you mean?”

“This house is ruled by mother who wishes to have all kinds of children for herself. She immortalizes them in death so no one in here can truly die. I’m just her favorite puppet that she uses to lure in people. What you saw of me was nothing but a hollow shell that I possessed.”

“Why is she doing this?”

“She wants to keep as many children away from death as possible even though she technically kills you when you first came in.”

“I actually died?!”

“The body that you came in with did. Your blood is tied to the picture that was taken of you. If you can get that and destroy it, then you can escape, but if you die after that, your soul belongs to the master of the house forever.”

“Who is the master of the house?”

“He is the one who gave mother her power. All I know is that you should watch out for the black cat in the house.”

“Where can I find my photo?”

“Deep within the halls of the house, but various traps will try to kill you. I don’t say this to everyone, but be careful, Allie. Dozens of kids have tried to escape, and no one has escaped. Most give up before they reach their photo. I think you should just accept your fate and stay here. We have friends, food, and loving parents.”

“Loving parents don’t kidnap the souls of kids. I’m going to leave here and go back home.”

“Go ahead and try Allie. I’ll be waiting for you at your bedside.”

Allie walks out of the room and wanders the house until she finds her way to a large art gallery with various pictures in them. These pictures are of other children, the black and white children, and creatures, one of which is the creature that took Allie’s photo. Now that she has a better look at it, she can see that the only color in it is the red in its eye.

Wandering through the art gallery, she finds that some of the pictures move by themselves as if people are trapped in them. A closer look reveals this to be the truth with people screaming in them in bursts as if they were in Hell. Above these pictures are the caption “Naughty child”. A snake-like creature with barbed wire on its body catches Allie’s attention as it goes from one picture to the next. She cautiously walks through the gallery, however, she doesn’t pay attention to the art and gets ensnared by the barbed wire snake and is taken into a picture. The barbed wire strings her up in a tight photo frame and cuts off her limbs before cutting off her head.

“AAAAAAHHH!”

“Welcome back, Allie,” Ellie says with her frozen expression. She waits for her friend to catch her breath before asking, “It was painful, wasn’t it? All of the ways you can die here are painful.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m going to escape here no matter how many times I die. Why don’t you join me?”

“I gave up years ago.”

“Years ago? How long have you been here?”

“I don’t know. Maybe a generation or three of kids? Anyway, I’m glad that you thought about me. Most usually hate me once they know what I did to them.”

“I don’t hate you, Ellie. I want to get us out of here.”

“You can try all you want. I’ve given up already and accepted my life here.” Ellie holds Allie’s hand. “Please. You’re the only one here I care about on the same level as mother. I don’t want to see you suffer.”

“I won’t. Have a little faith in me.”

“I don’t know what that’s like.”

“Then you’re going to see.”

Allie gets up and goes through the art gallery again. She finds the picture of her death on the walls, which plays it repeatedly. The feeling it gives me makes her sick, so she turns away from it and hopes that nothing like that ever happens again. This time through the gallery she manages to avoid the painting creature. Unfortunately, she doesn’t find her photo in the room, so she goes to the next one.

The next room has a collection of dolls in them. They are all posed differently with some squirming in place with blood leaking out of their eyes and the cracks in their skin. Not wanting to take any chances with these dolls, Allie moves around the room carefully to see what they will do. Oddly enough, nothing happens. When Allie moves to the next room, she exits out of the closet that was in her room.

“What?” she says in a surprised voice.

Ellie, who is still sitting by her bedside, says, “You made it through the first set of rooms. I’m surprised you made it past the doll room.”

“I wasn’t going to take any chances there. I moved as carefully as I could, and I always had my eyes on them.”

“That’s probably why. They’re set to attack anything that moves and they also respond to not being looked at. If you want to go to the next room, you have to go back through your closet. Why don’t you take a rest? You have all the time in the world.”

“I guess there’s no harm, but no funny business.”

“Oh, there won’t be.”

 

 

Chapter 2 – Teddies and Twisted Tales

Allie sits at the dining table and looks at the food available. The table is as long as the room and is set up as a buffet. Despite the small crowd of kids taking the food, it automatically replenishes out of thin air. Allie takes the chicken and a salad with caution and eats it in the same manner.

“So?” Ellie asks, “How do you like it?”

“It’s delicious!”

Allie thinks there might be something more to it and coughs some of it out.

“There isn’t any magic in it if that’s what you’re thinking.”

The sound in Ellie’s voice appears to be honest, so Allie eats. She tries every that looks appetizing until she realizes that she’s been eating for a while now.

“I knew there was something to this food,” Allie says as she pushes her plate aside.

“This isn’t any magic at all. I would know. It’s just that your home doesn’t have food like this place. Why do you want to leave this place? Isn’t it nice here? You have always delicious food on the table, there’s always a new friend to make, and we can’t die. I’m not good at making friends, but since you’re here, I finally have a friend.”

“I don’t want to make my family and friends back home worry.”

“Who cares about them now? You have me with you.”

“I can’t always be with you, Ellie. I have to give other people my love and attention.”

“Why? I need more attention than your friends and family. I don’t have anyone who loves me like you do and mother.” Ellie hugs Allie. “My lack of friends is the reason why mother and the master convinced me to be their lure for them. Every single kid hated me after I brought them here except for you. Please. If you get back your blood then die, I’ll have no one to be with.”

“I promise it won’t be that way. Excuse me.”

Allie walks out of the room then sighs. She walks into her room and into the closet to continue her search for her picture. The room she finds herself in is a large toy room with various toys that are twice the size of her. The room is as large as two backyards while the toys appear to be cute and cuddly and looking at them makes Allie want to play with them. What’s most different about this room is that it has actual color to it with no black, whites, or even greys in sight. There are other kids in the room and they’re playing with the toys and taking them out of it. Everything here appears to be safe, but Allie resists the urge to play with the toys. Her desire to touch them weighs heavily on her, which gives her the impression that the toys must have magic in them.

The more she resists them, the more she wants to touch and hug the toys. Allie has never seen toys like the ones she sees in the room. Elegant dolls, fluffy stuffed animals, and detailed figures. The further she goes into the room, the more appealing toys she sees. By the time she reaches the next door, she’s sweating with dozens of toys surrounding her. It’s as if they’re begging her with their stare to play. Allie forces herself to go into the next room.

This next room isn’t as cute, appealing, or large as the last. Instead, it’s a library with rows and rows of books. The are three floors with different sections of various books from around the world that covers every genre imaginable. Some of the books in the library are rare ones with few copies existing outside of the house. The colors are no longer colorful as they were in the toy room. Now they are filled with the normal colors of a library with browns, blacks, and white lights to illuminate the room.

Still feeling the after-effects of the toy room, Allie stumbles around the room while darting her eyes around for possible danger. A snake with a barbed wire body comes out from the bookcase with a book for a face. When it opens its pages, a blank face with a smile shows itself.

“Let me tell you a story,” it says as it envelops Allie into its pages. “This is the story of the little mermaid.”

Allie is now dressed as the little mermaid and the scenery around her manifests as the creature talks about it.

“She wants to get the prince, but his heart is taken by another. At the wedding ceremony, she decides to dance her best for their happiness. Dance little mermaid, dance your sorrows away.”

Allie remembers this story differently, but she dances as the creature says to. What she forgets is that the little mermaid feels as if she’s walking on knives, which is one of the prices of walking with human legs. Allie too feels this pain in her legs but bears through it until things start to change.

“After all the pleasantries, the little mermaid is told that she doesn’t have to die. If she can kill her prince and his wife, she can live. She is handed a knife to carry out the deed. Will she?”

Knowing her story, Allie tosses away the knife and jumps into the ocean and out of the story. Back in the library and her normal body, she takes more care of where she’s walking. The storybook serpent comes out of the shelves again.

It says, “Let me tell you a story.”

She tries to avoid it, but the serpent catches her no matter how fast she runs.

The serpent says, “This is the story of Alice in Wonderland. She has just cried a river of tears and must dry herself off by running a race with several other animals.”

Allie starts to run with the animals but is having a hard time to because of her wet dress.

“It looks like Alice needs more motivation.”

The river of tears floods into the forest Allie is running in. Distracted by the sight, Allie trips and is caught up by the river of tears, which turns into a river of teeth that chews her up.

After her excruciating death, Allie wakes up screaming on her bed with her best friend ready to embrace her.

As Ellie embraces Allie, she says, “Stops this Allie! I was hoping that the toy room would hypnotize you so you would at least stay here for a while, but you had to go and die again!”

Allie pushes Ellie away and gets out of her bed.

“I’m not going to give up! You’re not my best friend if you want to keep me here for the rest of eternity!”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about Allie! I am your best friend because we can spend forever here without a care or worry!”

Ignoring Ellie’s words, Allie walks back into the closet. She makes it through the toy room again the same way she did last time with the same level of difficulty despite her going through it already. In the library, the story book serpent gets her again. Allie now has it in her mind that she has to go through the stories the serpents put her through. That would explain why this room is smaller and looks easier to get through than the past ones.

The serpent says, “Let me tell you a story. This is the story of little red riding hood. She goes to deliver some things for her grandma, but the wolf has eaten her and taken her place in the grandma’s bed. Little red riding hood doesn’t know this as she enters her grandma’s house.”

Because of what was said, Allie has a foggy head as to what happens in the story.

“Come sit next to me,” the wolf says.

Allie does this. She wonders why her grandma looks so different and remembers that her real grandma doesn’t live in the woods. Instead, her real grandma lives by the shore. She remembers that her grandma told her a version of this story. Once she remembers everything, she takes a knife from her skirt and cuts the wolf’s throat and makes him into a coat.

“That’s not exactly how it’s supposed to go, but whatever. I’ll just add it to my collection.”

The storybook serpent lets Allie go. Disappointingly, she doesn’t take her wolf coat with her. Further into the library, another storybook serpent catches Allie.

“Let me tell you a story. A young woman marries a man with a blue beard. This man appears to be very ugly, but he is wealthy and has status within the country. The two are married and the woman is allowed to go into any one of his rooms within the castle except for the one she has a key for. What will she do?”

Allie is standing in front of the door she isn’t meant to go into. Without thinking, she goes into the room and finds the decapitated bodies of many young women along with various bloody tools and torture devices that were used to kill them. Allie takes a machete from the tool rack and finds her husband who is currently sleeping and cuts off his head. She then shaves off his blue beard.

“That’s not exactly how it’s supposed to go, but I liked it. I’m going to add it to my collection. I feel anxious for the man you are going to marry.”

Allie is let go out of the story book but wastes no time in getting trapped by another one.

“Let me tell you a story. There is a woman who loves to dance in a pair of red shoes. Unfortunately for her, she can’t stop dancing. What will she do?”

Knowing the painful thing she has to do, Allie tells a nearby executioner to cut off her feet and he does. The shoes keep dancing with her feet in them and dance away from her. The executioner tells her that she has suffered enough because of the shoes. Allie knows she has to go to church and does. Her old feet try to block her from entering, but she throws them aside and makes it into the building and out of the story.

Once she’s out of the story, Allie gets her feet back and she appears back in her room.

“Did…did I beat it?” Allie asks aloud.

“…You did, Allie,” Ellie responds.

“That means I’m close to my photo! I have to get back in-”

“Stop!” Ellie throws a knife that cuts Allie’s right arm. “You aren’t going to leave me. I don’t care if I have to pin you to the bed with knives. I don’t care how many times I have to kill you. I want you to stay with me forever. Please!”

“Oh no…”

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – Feminine Ferocity

Ellie has Allie trapped in place. Allie tries to open the closet, but Ellie throws another knife close to her hand.

“The next one goes in your head then you know where you’ll end up,” Ellie states with a chilling seriousness with her face accurately representing her anger and sorrow, “I’ll put my knives in your feet and hands and keep you here until you learn that you belong here with me.”

“Ok…fine. You got me.”

“Finally!” Ellie hugs Allie and heals her cut. “We’re going to be friends forever. Let’s go sit outside for a bit.”

Allie and Ellie sit outside on the balcony of the house. They can see the entire forest from where they’re at. Ellie clings to Allie’s side the entire time in blissful silence with her one hand holding a knife to Allie’s neck and the other holding Allie’s hand.

Ellie says, “I’m just going to stay like this for a while to feel safe that you’re going to stay with me. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all.”

In her mind, Allie hasn’t given up. She’s thinking up a plan to get away from Ellie. It takes her a little while, and she doesn’t like the plan, but it’s the only one she has.

She says to Ellie, “Do you want to grab something to eat? I’m starting to crave some of that strawberry shortcake I saw.”

“That’s my favorite thing to eat. Let’s go!”

At the dinner table, the two eat strawberry shortcake in the same position they were outside with Ellie still holding onto Allie with knives in her hands. A few of the kids are too afraid to ask why they’re like this while the rest don’t care as they endlessly stuff their faces.

Before Allie can do anything, Ellie says, “I never told where I came from. Do you want to know?”

“Sure.”

Allie thinks to enact her plan when Ellie completely wrapped up in her story.

“I came from a really poor family from the city. We never had much to eat or drink, and my parents were always sad. They always talked about how they were going to take care of me and my future. I swear they cried every night, even though they were always smiling when I looked at them. I decided to end their worries for me and ran away into the white forest. That’s how I got here.”

“Are you sure your parents wouldn’t be more worried after you left?”

“They might’ve been, but I’m sure they’re happier now without a daughter to drag them deeper down into poverty.”

“How long ago was that?”

“It must’ve been almost three decades by now. I don’t know and I don’t care. I let that go a while.”

“How does time work here?”

“It goes by a little faster than normal time last time I heard.”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“That means if you were to leave now, you would be older than what you were when you came in. I didn’t mention that to you because I thought it would make you want to leave me more, but now, you’re going to be with me forever.”

Ellie lets down her guard and kisses Allie’s cheek with cream covered lips. Allie uses this opportunity to stab her fork and knife into Ellie’s eyes to blind her. As Ellie screams out in pain and wildly flails around with her knives, Allie moves away from her. The kids who hate Ellie go after her and start stabbing her to death.

One of the kids says, “Go! We’ll protect you!”

Allie runs out of the dining room and into the bedroom where Ellie gets out of her bed and goes after Allie. The kids distract Ellie as Allie goes into the closet and into the next room she needs to go through. It’s a nursery colored in a bright white where dozens of children are being nursed and played with by giant women with the body of a caterpillar. These women have permanent smiles on their faces. They nurse their children with endless gifts, food, and milk that comes out of the holes in their bodies.

One of them notices Allie and goes after her. It says, “Come to me little one. Let me take care of you.”

The large caterpillar goes after Allie while shooting a sticky substance at her. It’s a mad sprint as Allie goes from one end of the room to the other while using the other caterpillars and her surroundings as cover to get to the other room. She manages to reach it and enters a completely black room. The center of the room has a huge woman with eyes all over half her body with a mouth on the bottom hanging from the ceiling.  When her eyes focus on Allie, the place where she is becomes illuminated.

“I see you,” the woman says.

The mouth on the woman’s lower half descends from the ceiling and makes its way towards Allie current position.

Ellie appears in the room and says, “You can’t see in this room, but mother lets me see perfectly! I’m coming for you, Allie!”

“Dang it.”

Allie goes through a different path from the mouth but can’t see where she’s going. It’s clear now that she’s in a maze and the only way she can see is if the woman in the middle looks at her. The places where the mouth travels are illuminated as well, which shows that the exit is below the woman. The mouth itself goes to where Allie was first spotted, so it doesn’t follow her and seems to only go where she is spotted. Once it retreats back to the woman, Allie follows it back to the woman, but it lunges at her as she follows it. She manages to keep a safe distance until Ellie reaches her.

“You’re going to stay with me forever!” Ellie screams as she runs after Allie with her knives.

“Stay away from me, Ellie!”

Allie tries to go around the mouth but is caught by its mouth as it curves to catch her. It holds her in its teeth as Ellie approaches.

“No! Stop this Ellie! It doesn’t have to be this way!”

“Yes, it does.”

“No, please! Please!”

Allie’s pleas don’t stop Ellie from violently stabbing her to death. When Allie awakes from her bed, she rolls to the side to avoid Ellie’s knives. She then takes them and stabs Ellie’s eyes again then backs off.

Ellie swings around wildly with her knives while saying, “Why?! Why would you want to go back to a life full of suffering and sadness?!”

“Because I have people worried about me. People that have helped me become who I am. I didn’t tell you before, but I’m adopted.”

Ellie stops swinging her knives.

“You’re adopted?”

“My original family was burned to death by a bunch of foreign bandits. I found those bandits and cut their throats. That didn’t help me at all. I felt ashamed of myself and slept on the streets for days by myself. It was only when a traveling couple found me was, I adopted. Even though I was bloody and dirty, they took me in and cared for me as if I was their real daughter. That’s why I never referred to them as stepmother or father. They taught me how to be a nice and proper lady. They’re the reason why I’m still alive today and I don’t want to keep them worried about me!”

Ellie hangs her head down in silence then drops her knives. Allie waits a moment to see what she’s going to do before going back into the closet. She passes through the caterpillar room the same way she did before and enters the maze room again. This time she uses her sense of touch to guide her through the maze. She holds her hand against the wall while looking at the woman in the center who knows where she is based on noise rather than her eyes despite her appearance. Allie draws a mental image of the map in her head as she navigates it.

It takes her a little while, but Allie manages to get to the end. As she touches the final door, Ellie appears behind her.

“Allie!”

The woman on the ceiling focuses in on Allie and lowers her mouth towards her. Allie quickly goes through the door and is sucked into it just as the mouth is about to catch her. She falls sideways for a little while before coming to a full stop to a photo of herself hanging in a dark room. When she pulls the photo down, it makes a clicking noise, which turns on a light to reveal a wall filled with countless photos of children. Startled by the sight, Allie backs away and into someone who puts their arms around her. Looking at the person, it’s a woman with the faces of children on her skirt. The woman has a dark grey scarf that goes from her neck to the inside of her mask that has a pretty face with a smile on it. Her long white hair comes out a small hole on the back of her head.

Allie asks the woman, “Are you the mother?”

“I am, sweetie. I am impressed that you managed to get your photo. It’s been a long while since the last of my children accomplished such a feat. Bravo!”

“I’m not your child.”

“You are whether you know it or not, and not just my children, but my most precious child. I’ve heard your story and your soul should be as rotten as my master’s, but yours shines like the stars.”

“I’m leaving whether you like it or not. You can tell your master that.”

“He’s always been watching you, my dear. He isn’t able to touch you because of your glowing spirit and your angel that protects you, however, we will have you if you die. Think about that before choosing to move on.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

“Think about your friend, Ellie then. She’s never been so attached to someone until now. Right now, she’s an emotional wreck. I’ve tried to get the other children to calm her down, but she’s killed them all. Repeatedly. If you leave here, she’ll suffer for all eternity.”

“I’ll rescue her from this place then.”

“I’m afraid you can’t. She and the other children, who have pledged their soul to my master and me, will all suffer if you escape the house. It was their choice. They were old enough to know what they were getting into and they’re going to live with that decision for the rest of eternity. Think about that before if you manage to get to the exit.”

Once the mother lets go of her, Allie appears back in her room with Ellie crying in the corner. The exit is so close but feels so far now. There’s only one more decision to make that will decide Allie’s fate and the fate of the rest of the children stuck in this house, and she’s already made up her mind.

 

 

Chapter 4 – From Death to Life

Her mind is already made up. Allie breathes in and out a couple times before looking at her photo. It bleeds blood that infuses itself into her, which fills her with life and strength. She then looks at the girl she used to easily call her best friend.

Allie approaches her and says, “I’m going, Ellie. Goodbye. I hope your immortality was worth it.”

“…Is that all you’re going to say to me? Is that all I really mean to you?”

“If you were really my friend or even a good person, you wouldn’t have sold your soul or brought me here. I don’t hate you. I’m not even mad at you. I just pity you.”

Ellie sits in silence for a second before lunging at Allie with her knives. Allie catches Ellie’s hands before the knives can touch her.

“If you don’t want to here, then I’ll force you to! Mother will make you be with me forever! I deserve it after all the people I brought here. You’re her special child, so she has to reward me. You’re never going to leave me, Allie!”

Allie turns the knives on Ellie and sticks her hands to the wall.

“I’m leaving here, and this place is going to disappear!”

“I’m going to come after you, Allie! You will be my best friend forever!” Ellie begins to sob again. “What’s wrong? What’s so wrong with wanting a best friend to always be with?!”

“Because all you care about is yourself. You don’t care about the people you kidnap or me.”

“I love you, Allie!”

“You don’t love anyone but yourself!”

Ellie excessively cries as she falls to her knees with her hands still stuck in the wall. For safety, Allie takes a couple knives from her. She then walks away from her former best friend and into the closet for the last time. This last room she enters is rusted and covered in blood. The heat in the room makes it feel like a furnace. Allie collects herself one last time before moving forward. She hears something that sounds like wet meat walking around.

When she turns the corner, two mouths fused at the jaw. She backs away as the jaws close down on the corner and crush it. A monster turns the corner and reveals itself to be a horrible monstrosity. Its head is composed of four mouths fused at the jaw with one huge mouth in the center. The same is true for the back. Its legs are two fused mouths while its body is hunched up like a dog. Not wanting to give this monster a second to attack, Allie throws one of her knives into its main mouth then slides under it while cutting its belly. She then mounts it and stabs it until it collapses as her hunting experience with her father pays off. The monster spazzes out on the floor as it clings to life.

Allie runs away from the monster and comes across a dead end with a large boiling pot of lava at the end.

She says aloud, “There’s no other place to go. This place is just one short corridor with a monster at the end. It’s no wonder why no one managed to escape.”

The mother, Ellie, the monster, and a black cat approach Allie.

“It’s over, Allie. Since you’re so special, I’ll give you one last chance to submit to my master and me. You’ll be spared a painful death and you can live forever with your best friend. Doesn’t that sound nice, sweetie?”

Allie thinks about it for a second before putting her hand on the boiling pot.

She responds, “No.”

She then tips over the boiling pot, which releases the fires of Hell. The fires quickly burn the house along with everyone in it except for the souls who didn’t submit to the master and Allie. The black cat and the mother try attacking Allie while burning but the fires prevent them from doing anything but burning in suffering. The monster is turned to ashes while Ellie burns like the mother.

She reaches out to Allie and says, “Please, Allie! Take me with you!”

“I can’t, Ellie.”

“Then tell me that God will forgive me, and He’ll save me!”

“God forgives the living, not the dead. You’ve already past your period of grace. The door to mercy is shut in your face and you’re the one who did it.”

Ellie screams in anger at Allie as she walks away. A path is opened for Allie as she makes her way out of the house. Along the way, she passes by the other monsters she saw with the other burning souls. Once she leaves the house, she sees that the house turns into a pillar of fire. She can still hear her former friend and the rest of the souls screaming, so she walks away as the fire from the house spreads to the trees with white leaves.

In the sky, Allie sees the freed souls dancing among the stars until they disappear and move on to Heaven. When she steps foot away from the trees with white leaves, she looks back to see a burning blaze. Even at this distance, she can still hear screaming. The fire from the house doesn’t spread to the normal parts of the forest and is contained by an invisible force.

Right now, it is raining, so Allie hurries back to her house. While running, she comes across a puddle. In her reflection, she can see that she’s now a young woman.

She still has the same dress and hair ornaments she wore as a child. Tears come to her eyes over her lost childhood. She bears her pain and moves on. Further into the forest, she sees a familiar man with hunting equipment. The two stop to look at each other as they slowly approach each other.

“Allie?” the man says with a quivering voice.

“Daddy?” she responds in a similar voice.

The two rush to embrace each other before her dad kisses the forehead of his adopted daughter repeatedly.

“Where have to been for the past few years?” he asks, “The entire town has been searching for you. Some of them thought you were dead, but your mom and I knew better.”

“It’s a long story, daddy.”

Allie explains the story to her dad as she leads him to the large fire in the forest. Since her daughter is always honest, he believes her. They spread the tale to the town, and they honor Allie as a hero. A funeral is held for all of the children who died and didn’t submit to the mother and her master. The fire in the forest is still burning and turns into a popular tourist attraction that brings much-needed attention to the small town so it can prosper.

A passing family hears of the tale and inquires about Ellie. It turns out that Ellie’s family has been searching for her ever since she left. They’re sad to learn of her fate but relieved to hear the news so they can let go of the past. They are accepted into the community despite their daughter’s actions. As for Allie, she makes up for the time she lost. She already went through one tragedy and recovered from it, and she wasn’t going to let another keep her down.

 

The End

A Father and His Dying Daughter

Download this story for free on Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/928868

Chapter 1 – A Peon Among Giants

There are many fathers roaming the desert wastelands of the earth. Most carry their families and homes with them to settle down somewhere until they die. Everywhere, but the top of the world is subpar that is likely to be attacked by the tortuous fiends. These fiends are demons with completely black skin. They bother the families endlessly until they die or are enslaved. Those resilient enough to make it to the top of the world are said to live forever. It’s a terrible journey that takes a harsh toll on the soul, but that could be said for life in general. Few people have the strength to make the pain they go through worth it.

Me? I’m just a father without a wife and a sick child. My wife died from a sickness she caught out in the desert, and now my daughter has the same disease. I’ve been going from town to town looking for a cure, but no one can help her. The only place I can think of that might have a cure is at the top of the world, so that’s where I’m going. My little princess is all I have left. I don’t care if I die along the way. All that matters is that she gets to a healer and lives.

The rest of the fathers that walk the desert with their family on their backs are taller than the buildings they carry because of their task. Me? I’m a speck compared to them because of mine. I may be smaller than them, but I can make do with what I have. I’ll make the journey and get my daughter to safety. I will. Don’t worry little princess, you’ll reach your castle. Just hand in there.

I’ve been wandering the desert for weeks now or has it been days? I haven’t been keeping count. It’s not like I need to. The path I’m following is said to lead to the top of the world. Where the sun sets is where it’s supposed to be. My main method of transportation is walking because riding the backs of the fathers makes me a target for the fiends, and I feel degraded by it as a father.

My little princess and I are taking shelter in an abandoned building to rest. The abandoned buildings scattered about the desert are from dead families who let the dangers of the desert overtake them. It’s a good thing for us that their building stopped over a stream with fish inside it. I hope they had painless deaths. As for us, we’re having a fish dinner. Of course, my daughter is eating most of it. Despite her sickness that makes her sleep most of the time, she’s still able to drink and eat. She’s also able to smile. A bright smile, in fact, that lights up my dreary world. To keep up her smile, I usually talk to her.

“Did you like dinner today? I’m sorry that I ran out of spices to give it extra flavor. That’s what happens when you’re constantly traveling around like how we are but don’t worry your little head princess, we’ll find you help soon.”

She appears to be uncomfortable.

“I know how many times I said that we’ll find you help soon. How about I sing you one of my songs?”

Her smile gives me her approval.

“All right then. Here we go. To restore your hope in your father, here is a song called, Dreams of a Fair Maiden. I came up with it after stargazing for a while. I know it’s not the best, but I hope you like it.

 

Close your eyes, pretty girl

You’ll get your rest,

Peace, and pearls

You’re blessed

With a beautiful face and dreams so wonderful

Of a place above the stars, bright, and colorful

 

Oh, share this dream with me

Won’t you share this dream with me?

Let me see what you see

A place where souls are redeemed

 

Close your eyes, pretty girl

Let me be your servant

So you can dance in peace and twirl

Angels watch you from afar

Wonder and guess at your majesty

Even they are impressed by your fantasy

 

Oh, share this dream with me

Won’t you share this dream with me?

Let me see what you see

A place where souls are redeemed

 

Pure and priceless

Fair and righteous

You’re so much more than you know

A joyful face that glows

Soul pure as snow

Dress as blue as the sea

Oh, what a beauty to see

 

Oh, share this dream with me

Won’t you share this dream with me?

Let me see what you see

A place where souls are redeemed

 

Won’t you share this dream with me?

Oh, what joy would it be to see

I’ll wait for your reply

To see your dreams that are far beyond the sky

 

What do you think?”

She smiles and blushes.

“Thank you for the compliment. I’ll try to make up another one for the next time we stop to rest. For now, you should get some rest-”

Big and loud footsteps shake the ground beneath us. Fathers are moving through this area to get to the top of the world. That means they’re going to attract the fiends to our location. We better get moving. I haven’t gotten much sleep, but that doesn’t matter. If we stay too long in one area, then the fiends are likely to attack us. They always appear out of the desert or hide in the buildings. I’ve only managed to escape them because I’m so small and the help of a towering father if one is nearby.

Going out of the building, I run alongside a towering father. I look up to him hoping to have some friendly chatter with him, but he looks about done. His feet are moving as if he’s running, and his building behind him is shaking. The fiends are right behind him. I duck back into the abandoned building, so I’m not spotted. He looks back and his building accidentally falls off his back due to his carelessness. The father shrinks as a result. As his building behind me is raided, he is caught and enslaved along with his family. I’ve rarely heard of families escaping enslavement, but I hope they do.

The fiends run off with their prey and leave us alone. Once they’re out of sight, I leave the abandoned building and continue my journey. My daughter is squirming uneasily right now. It’s probably due to the fiends and what happened. She’s sensitive to it even though she can’t see properly.

“It’s okay, princess. That won’t happen to us. I promised you once and I’ll promise you again. Besides, what kind of father would I be if I let you down.”

She stops squirming and peacefully falls back asleep. It’s okay, my little princess. I won’t fail you. Nothing will stop me from getting you the help you need.

 

 

Chapter 2 – Living in a Desolate World

When someone dies in the desert, they become like the sand in the desert, and their cloaks become a cloud in the sky. I wonder how many people walk around and step on the dusk left behind by the people who die here.

“They say if you pass away at the top of the world, then you become stardust. Isn’t that an interesting idea?”

My little princess smiles and even lets out a soft giggle. That’s what I want to hear. My daughter isn’t going to let a life ending disease stop her from laughing and smiling.

“Hey, do you see that in the distance? It’s a settlement. Let’s hope we find some good people in there who can help us.”

I’m down to my last coins, but the goal seems to be so close. I’ve been closer to the sunset than I’ve ever been. All we need is one last push. The settlement we’re approaching is full of houses of various sizes ranging from small to large. I don’t blame the fathers for stopping out here to make resting places for wanderers like me. It’s just that I wished they made this place look a little safer for their sake. They did decorate the place with dark blue and light gray colors mixed in with some black.

There are people walking around and making idle talk around the small market. They glance at me as I pass them then whisper among themselves before talking at their normal volume again. I hope they have good things to say. I don’t want to start a fight. The people here seem good, so I also hope that I’m among decent folks who will help me. Browsing around the market, I find bottled water. Small ones of course, and fish. Lots of kinds of fish. These two things are really the only things we eat in the desert. I heard that the top of the world has something called vegetables, bread, wine, and fruit. I’ve never had or seen any of these things before.

“Excuse me,” I ask the vendor, “How much will this all be?”

“Ten coins,” he says in a gruff voice that sounds like its full of sand.

“I only have eight. Will you accept that? I’m trying to keep my sick daughter relatively healthy until we reach the top of the world.”

“I don’t do sympathy discounts, especially in times like this when resources are scarce.”

“Resources are always scarce. How about I pay you what I have then repay you after I drop off my daughter to a doctor who can cure her?”

“I’m truly sorry, but I can’t. I have to take care of my family too. We’re going through tough times as well, and I’m not sure how much longer we can stay here. You can only buy what you can with what you have.”

“Okay, I understand.”

I pay with what I have, take what I bought, and walk away from the vendor. I can go another day or two by only eating scraps. I’ve done it plenty of times.

“Dang it,” the man behind me says before grabbing a few things and running to me with them, “Take these.” He gives me a little more of what I need. “I can’t, as a father, let another father suffer because I want to save me and mine. Take your money back as well.”

“Thank you so much but keep the money. You need it more than I do.”

“Thank you, my friend.”

The sky starts to light up. Oh no.

“Quickly, come inside my house!”

Bolts of fire start falling from the largest star in the sky. This happens from time to time for reasons I don’t know why. Maybe the Heavens are sending fire to cleanse the wicked from the world and remind the faithful of their fate if they choose to turn away. I take cover with my new friend inside his building. While watching from the windows, I see a couple people get hit by the fire bolts. Poor souls. Buildings such as these that hold wholesome families can withstand the bolts being thrown at it. Other buildings aren’t so blessed.

Once it’s over, most of the town is destroyed. I hear moaning and crying in the distance.

“I think we might be the only survivors,” I say.

“Heavens have mercy on the souls they took for judgment,” my friend says, “This place was not a friendly place to be in. We were going to move anyway. Did you say you were headed to the top of the world?”

“I am. That’s the only place I can think of that could have the cure for my daughter.”

“We might as well head there too. Huh?”

We hear a stampede coming our way. It must be the fiends coming to pick what remains.

I tell my friend, “Quickly pick up your things and go!”

“What about you?”

“I can make do. Just get out of here!”

“Okay! I hope to see you at the top of the world or above the stars, my friend.”

“I hope to see you there too.”

My friend grows huge enough to carry his building away while I find a hiding place within the rubble of the destroyed settlement. I dig out some of the rubble out of a building and hide in one of the destroyed rooms. The rubble here should keep me covered while allowing me to see outside. The moaning and crying have turned to into screaming, but that ceases quickly.

“Oh no. Don’t start crying,” I whisper to my daughter.

She hates the suffering of others no matter who is suffering. She’ll cry when she can feel someone dying.

“Here, I’ll sing you something to soothe your soul.

 

Don’t worry,

About it

It’ll end in a hurry

Because I am committed to you,

 

Oh no, I think the fiends might’ve found us. I might’ve sung too loudly. I’ll have to fight them.

“Rest here for now, my little princess. Your knight needs to protect you.”

She murmurs a little with a worried expression on her face as I lay her down.

“Don’t worry. I’ll keep singing for you.

 

Nothing will hurt you, little princess,

I won’t let them

I’ll defeat them in an instant

Just you rest and watch”

 

I loosen my cloak so I can fight. It’s been a while since I last fought, but I must defend my daughter. Once I get out of the rubble, I face down two fiends.

I wave my hand at them and say, “Come on.”

The fiends race towards me with a smile and black liquids running down their mouths. I run towards them and fight them with my bare hands.

 

“Don’t cry,

I know of your struggles

We’ll fly high

Away from your troubles”

 

I’m able to beat them by using them against each other. I’m a small target while they’re vicious and only out for the kill. That makes them easy to fake out, so they hit each other. It’s just a manner of breaking their heads and necks from there. A couple more fiends come from the destroyed buildings.

 

“It doesn’t matter how many will come

I’ll always stick by you

Never surrender no matter the outcome

This is my destiny, I’ll see it through”

 

Two more down, but I’ve been scratched a couple times during the attack. Oh great, three more show themselves. I can’t give up now. My little princess seems worried.

 

“Nothing will hurt you, little princess,

I won’t let them

I’ll defeat them in an instant

Just you rest and watch”

 

Whew! I didn’t think I’d make it through that.

 

“I’ve defeated them all

What did I tell you?

Your father will never fall

This will always be true

I know the song is more of a poem, but I hope you still liked it.”

My daughter laughs and giggles. I’m not sure if she’s doing that because I won or if she’s laughing at my song. Whatever the case is, I fix my cloak and head away from the destroyed settlement. I probably should’ve bought bandages and healing oil. My wounds are pretty bad right now. My daughter’s presence can heal me a bit, but-Oh, is that?

“Did you think I would abandon a friend like you?” my friend from before says.

“Haha, I guess not.”

“Let me give you a ride to the top of the world. I think I might’ve seen it on the horizon.”

“Let’s go then.”

I go into my friend’s building as he carries us away from the destroyed town.

“Now we’re going to get there faster, little princess.”

My daughter smiles and giggles. Now that’s something that always makes me feel better.

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – Let Me Hear More About You

It’s always good to make new friends. My wounds are healed, and I’ve finally managed to eat enough. I haven’t had a full belly in God knows when. My wounds are healed thanks to the supplies my friend has, so I don’t need to worry about dying anytime soon. The daughters of my friend attentively watch my daughter as she rests with their mother behind them and with her hands their shoulders.

I ask them, “Have you ever seen a little girl like mine?”

“No,” one of them shyly says.

My daughter wakes up and notices all the attention she’s being given. She giggles and reaches out towards us.

“I’ve never seen her frown at anyone. She loves everyone she meets.” I hold her out to the girls. “Go on. You can hold her.”

Their mother gently smiles as her daughters carefully hold my daughter. My daughter makes a sound that sounds like she’s saying hello. This makes the girls and I smile.

“Hello, friend, how about you let the girls enjoy their time together while we talk. I want to know more about you and your daughter,” my friend says.

“Sure. I’ll be right up.” I then tell the girls, “Have fun with my little princess.”

They say they will as I climb the stairs. When I get to the top, I sit on the roof and admire the view. There are a few destroyed buildings out here. It looks like a lot of people went this way to get to the top of the world. That must mean we’re on the right track.

“I’m sorry I don’t have any spare chairs for you, my friend.”

“It’s no trouble for me. I’ve been walking for days. It doesn’t bother me that I have to stand for a little while longer.”

“So, tell me. Where do you come from?”

“Way down south.”

“That must be rough. The south is close to where most of the fiends reside. I haven’t heard good things about the people there either.”

“There are more than you think.”

“I believe it since I know you. Do the southerners think the same of the northerners?”

“Most do, but I don’t and neither did my wife.”

“Speaking about her, where is she?”

“She died a little while ago from the same disease my daughter has.”

“That’s a shame. How did you meet your wife anyway?”

“She was on a trip with a few friends when she stumbled upon me. I had just tracked down a group of people who were working with the fiends. They were going to attack my wife and her friends, but I caught up to them and beat them all up. Unfortunately, I was badly injured after the fight. It was like the Heavens brought us together since my wife was there to save my life. After I explained what happened and we got to know each other better, we got married.”

“You said she was on a trip with a few friends? Was she with her father?”

“No, just a couple women and men.”

“Was she royalty?”

“You could say that.”

“No wonder why you call your daughter, your little princess. What’s her actual name?”

“I never gave her a name. My wife never got the opportunity to approve of her name no matter how she struggled to talk. I don’t think it’s appropriate to name her without my wife’s approval.”

“Makes sense, but you’re eventually going to have to give her a real name.”

“I know. I don’t even think it’s appropriate for me to be riding with you. You can let us go at any time and I won’t mind.”

“It’s no trouble to me especially since you said the top of the world is not going to be too far from here. I thought the same weeks ago when my family settled down in that settlement.”

“What stopped you from going all the way?”

“Fatigue from the long journey and challenges, but now I feel bad for doing so. You’ve been traveling from the south. Have you ever stopped to rest for a while?”

“I don’t rest for more than a day in one place.”

“That’s what I feel bad about. You’re much stronger than me despite not having as much.”

“I have my daughter. She’s alive and still smiling and laughing. That’s all I need.”

“Don’t forget to take care of yourself as well. Your daughter can’t survive without you.”

“I keep myself moving. If I die by the time she reaches a proper healer, then I’ll die happy.”

“Do you really want your daughter to be an orphan?”

“No.”

“Then stop thinking that way. I’ve seen dozens of orphans in this world who are alive because of their parents’ sacrifice. Not many survive on their own.”

“You’re right. I’ll try to make sure I’m healthy enough to take care of her.”

“Maybe you can even find another wife?”

“No. My queen was my one and only. There is no other.”

“It’s till death do us part, my friend. It’s okay to get another.”

“I’ll think about it if the time ever comes.”

“Alright. What is your vocation?”

“I’m a farmer, but I’ve also done guard work.”

“So, a lowly farmer and guard married a queen? Isn’t that a fairy tale I could tell my girls?”

“It could be if you put in more story details.”

“I’m not much of a storyteller.”

“Nonsense. All of us have a writer within us. We’ve been exchanging parts of our story to each other, haven’t we?”

“Exchanging stories with a friend is different than making up your own.”

“It’s less different than you think. Can you come up with songs then? What about a poem?”

“If I can’t come up with a simple fairy tale, then what makes you think I can come up with an original song or poem?”

“I’ve made a few of my own that I sing to my daughter.”

“Let me hear one.”

“You got it. I call this one, A Knight’s Service.

 

This love is a love that can set the world on fire

Your will is my desire

For my life is yours

You are the one the world will adore

 

In your service, I fight

From dawn until midnight

Your knight will never fall

For you, I will give it my all”

 

The girls come up from downstairs.

“It looks like you got an audience. Well, don’t stop. Give them a show.”

 

There is no threat I cannot defeat

Without you by my side

Not even Hell’s heat

Nor the Devil’s pride

 

In your service, I fight

From dawn until midnight

Your knight will never fall

For you, I will give it my all

 

When the battles are won

And the day is done

I will rest at your side

You who are so beatified

The girls cheer and clap. Even my daughter and my friend claps and cheers.

“You’re quite the poet, aren’t you?”

“That poem? It was a song I sang to my queen. She thought it was really cheesy, and I have to admit it is too.”

“Hey, girls like that kind of stuff.”

An explosion is made in the distance.

“Did you hear that?” I ask.

“Girls, get back inside,” my friend says as he slightly alters his path.

“What’s going on?”

“Use the binoculars I have downstairs.”

I get the binoculars and look into the distance where I see a battle happening. Massive fathers carry siege weapons on their backs as they attack a castle town. The town sends their forces to meet their attacks as the two forces clash in battle.

My friend says, “I knew there were tensions around these areas, but I didn’t think it would escalate into war. The north is supposed to be more peaceful than this.”

“Sometimes the best of people are actually the worst underneath. You know I heard a saying that the sinner who is sorry for his sins is closer to God than the just man who boasts of his good works.”

“It’s true. We should keep going and let those ‘good’ people duke it out among themselves. We can’t help them now.”

“May the Heavens have mercy on their souls.”

My friend and I continue on our way to the top of the world as a battle rages behind us.

 

 

Chapter 4 – A Past Revealed

My friend and I have been traveling for quite a while now, but the closer we get to the top of the world, the more the sun shines in front of us when it sets. I’ve finally gotten enough rest from all my walking. Speaking about walking, I wonder how my friend is doing. I go up to him and ask him.

He says, “I’m doing fine. To be honest, I’m pushing myself to go far because you told me about how far you’ve been traveling. It should be alright though. I have a feeling that we’re almost to the top of the world.”

“I have the same feeling too, but you shouldn’t push yourself too hard. Even I took breaks every now and then, and what was that advice you gave me?”

“Haha, okay. I’ll remember to take my own advice. Hey, friend, before you go, don’t you think it’s strange that there aren’t that many buildings out here? You’d think there be more due to how close we are to the top and the lack of resting places.”

“I doubt many would give up after going this. I think it’s a good thing that we don’t see that many abandoned buildings around here. It only gives me the hope that the city at the top of the world has expanded with what’s missing here.”

“That’d be good, and I didn’t think about that. The more people that make it to the top of the world, the more that grand city there will expand so that people come across it sooner.”

“Well, what did you think happens when more people become part of that city? They need more space for the growing number of people, however, slow that rate may be.”

“The thought didn’t even come to my head.”

“What do you think the city is like then?”

“Something beyond my simple imagination. I haven’t even come with a story or a simple poem song like you. You must have your head in the stars with that imagination of yours, my friend.”

“It’s another thing that helps keep me hopeful.”

While looking around, I see something in the distant. Oh no.

“We have to move faster!” I say.

“What’s going on?”

“A convoy of large people in armor mixed with smaller ones with siege weapons are approaching us. They don’t look friendly. They might be bandits.”

“Are you sure they aren’t knights? I’ve heard of wandering knights in this area that protect people from bandits.”

“Well, these don’t look like those people.”

“Alright. I’ll try to run and hide us away from them as best as I can. Hold on down there!”

My friend runs as fast as he can. The armored attackers behind us launch a barrage of arrows at us along with large ropes. We manage to dodge the attacks, but we don’t have any cover until now. Just ahead is a graveyard of destroyed and abandoned buildings. I guess more people than I thought gave up around this point, but that isn’t going to be us.

We use the buildings as cover as my friend swerves and runs through the maze of buildings in a way to confuse our enemies. He then hides us within a hollowed out building. After a while of waiting and silence, he leaves the building. It seems like we’re safe. I heard movement going in the opposite direction. I hope they keep going that way. My friend is cautious he creeps around the buildings while carefully looking around.

Ah! We got caught from behind. My friend is tied up and we’re surrounded. It looks like they split off part of their forces in order to throw us off.

A man, who looks like the commander, says, “Cavallo, your days of escaping the law is over! You are to be executed for your crime of being in relations with the queen. Your being together cost her life.”

“You really are a knight, and your name is Cavallo?” my friend whispers to me.

“Yeah, you thought I was lying?”

The commander continues, “However, we will bring the young princess to the top of the world in order to have her cured and for her to take the place of the queen.”

I respond, “You can’t enact your corrupt laws on us! Your laws influenced by the fiends. That’s what cost the lives of my queen and her subjects.”

“You betrayed your role as a knight.”

“You should talk about betrayal, ‘friend’. You were supposed to pick up for me and change your ways. No wonder why it is said that we should love our enemies as our friends because they’re generally the same people.”

“I serve the crown.”

“I serve the Heavens.”

“And that is why you must be put to death along with your accomplices.”

My friend says, “Do it! Kill me you slaves of the fiends but spare the life of my friend and family.”

“That can be arranged, but your family will be killed alongside you to pay the full price.”

“You monsters!”

“No! Spare their lives. Just them to the top of the world with my daughter. I submit my life to you,” I say.

“Then your friend must deny you,” the commander says.

My friend says to me, “Are you sure you want to do this? I can defend you all until I’m put down.”

“Don’t. Keep your family and my daughter safe. There’s less risk in it, and I might not be able to protect all of us.”

“…Fine.” My friend then says to the commander, “I do not know this man. I met him at the settlement I was at and helped him, but now that I know the truth, I deny ever knowing him.”

“Good man,” the commander says as he orders my friend’s release. “Now come down, Cavallo for your execution.”

I make my way down as I hear my daughter crying. It’s going to be okay, little princess. Your father will save a place for you in the Heavens. Once I get down to the ground, I’m beaten by the many soldiers around me.

The commander says, “That was for the disrespect you showed the crown, you disgraceful knight. Now, your execution.”

A blade is held above my head and is about to come down, but the fiends arrive.

One of them says, “This was not part of our deal, commander. You were to execute the child once you obtained her.”

“We bow to the crown, fiends.”

“You bow to us.”

The fiends attack as the soldiers retreat towards the top of the world. I guess they neither party sees any use in me now. They’re all gone now. Thankfully, I’m still able to walk. I have to get to my daughter. I have to protect her. It’s my duty as her knight and most importantly her father. I have to!

I’ve been here before. The bottom of the barrel. When my wife died, and I had to escape the kingdom. I didn’t think I was going to make it, but my queen came to me in a dream and kissed me. In that kiss, I got her message of hope. I have to keep going no matter how I feel. I rip apart my cloak so I can move faster. To get myself to move even faster, I sing myself a song that I came up for my queen and princess.

 

I’m the worst because I’m inconsistent

Making Heaven so distant

I’m useless because I can never be perfect

My sins leave me wrecked


But I can’t just stay here forever


The Bottom is Where I Start

Where all broken hearts fall apart

or become beautiful works of art

The Bottom is where I awoke in

Our pains unspoken

But I won’t be broken


I’m delusional because I believe in God

I’m an idiot for thinking I’m flawed

I’m insane because I’m not full of myself

in a world that’s in love with itself


But I can’t just let them put me down forever


The Bottom is Where I Start

Where all broken hearts fall apart

or become beautiful works of art

The Bottom is where I awoke in

Our pains unspoken

But I won’t be broken

 

Never to going to give in

Never going to give up

Never letting my light dim

 

Never to going to give in

Never going to give up

Never letting my light dim


The Bottom is Where I Start

Where all broken hearts fall apart

or become beautiful works of art

The Bottom is where I awoke in

Our pains unspoken

But I won’t be broken


The Bottom is Where I Start

Where all broken hearts fall apart

or become beautiful works of art

The Bottom is where I awoke in

Our pains unspoken

But I won’t be broken
From the bottom is where I start

The pain has given me a strong heart

And I will never fall apart

I’m approaching the top of the world now. It’s a city of lights that looks like a town made of castles. It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of. Oh! There are the knights being chased down by fiends. The guards from the city defend them, but I’ll get to my daughter. Just you hold on for me, my little princess.

 

 

 

Chapter 5 – A Father’s Duty

Without my cloak and my daughter on my back, I’m able to stand up straight and leap around the buildings. I watch as the knights find a healer. They enter into a hospital and leave a few of them outside to guard. I sneak past them and watch from outside a window. This is great for my daughter. She’s being healed by a professional healer. This woman is wearing a dress made of flowers and leaves. It’s like she’s a fairy godmother. I’ve never seen foliage except in the kingdom’s gardens and in art.

Now that my daughter is healed, it’s time to rescue her. Her skin is more colorful, and her eyes are more open. She’s expressive and calls out for me. Don’t worry, princess. Your knight is here. Before I can jump in the window, the knights leave the room. I go out to the front and take out their guards.

Once they exit the hospital, I say to them, “Let go of my daughter!”

My daughter calls out to me with her arms out as she struggles out of the commander’s arms.

The guards of the city become suspicious of the knights and say, “I thought you said this was your child?”

“It is. She belongs to the kingdom.” The rest of their forces converge on the hospital to save their friends. “We thank you for your services.”

The commander retreats with his protectors and my daughter as his forces clash with the city’s guards. They stand no chance because the city has better guards, so I chase after my daughter. The knights run through the crowded streets then retreat into one of the taller buildings of the city. They take a storage pulley up to the top floor. Fire starts to rain down from the stars and sun in the sky as I climb the castle. The city’s defenses manage to take out some of the fire bolts, but a number of them make it past. Once I get to the top, the commander’s four knights fan out and start to surround me.

He says, “This ends now, Cavallo. You can’t survive against us.”

“Don’t underestimate a father.”

The knights underestimate me because I fight with my fists and I manage to break their armor and weapons with my fists and kicks. I then knock them out and send them down the pulley.

“I won’t make the same mistake as those fools.”

“You’re already making one.”

I fight the commander and despite his fancy sword skills, he’s nothing without it when I break it in half. I then beat him down to the ground.

“Kill me already,” he says.

“No,” I tell him with a stern look in my eyes, “I’m not like you.”

“You’d wish you were.”

“Uck!”

He cut me open from my stomach up to my chest with the sword I broke in half. I knock out the commander then throw him aside. My daughter…my little princess…I have to hold her one last time. I crawl to her as the firestorm above the city gets worse. I’ve never seen it rain down fire this bad. I’ll protect my little princess with my body. That’ll be my last duty as her knight and father. She’s crying right now.

“It’s okay, little princess. I’m here and I’ll protect you to my last breath…”

As I breathe my last, the blood that comes out of my body becomes a cloak that enwraps my daughter and transforms her into a beautiful young woman.

Eyes like the stars, hair-like purest purity, dress like rose petals, and a golden crown on top of her head that was made by her mother in Heaven.

She looks up to my soul as I ascend to the Heavens and says, “Thank you, father, for teaching, singing, protecting, and loving me. I love you.”

“I love you too, Aurora.”

Aurora steps off the building a walks on the air as if it was a staircase.

“I got this from you, father. I hope you like it.”

She then begins to dance and sing in midair, which slows down the fire bolts to almost a complete halt.

 

Let me sing you a song as the stars and sun bleed

Dance and be merry, but take heed

 

Purified, I become the aide of all

So that no one will die

None will fall

 

Coming with a gift of life

Wisdom abounding, cutting through the fire like a knife

 

The fire in the sky begin to blow up like fireworks in a festival. People below begin to dance and cheer for my princess.

 

Let me sing you a song as the stars and sun bleed

Angels rejoice as love is shared

Alleluia, yes, join me

 

Purified, I become the aide of all

So that no one will die

None will fall

 

Just look at was done

My father sacrificed his life

For his only love

This is the truest love given to all

 

Purified, I am the aide of all

So that no one will die

None will fall

 

All the firebolts in the sky are gone now. Aurora floats down to the ground and is praised by the people. She smiles and waves up to me. I’ve done it. This was my true purpose for coming here. Even though it seemed like something small, it became something bigger than the castles at the top of the world. Now that my duty is complete, I rejoin you, my queen to be by your side forever. Let us rejoice and pray for our daughter as she starts her new life.

 

The End

Desecrating Infestation

Download the story for free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/927356

*Notice: This is a story that the squeamish or easily grossed out will likely not enjoy.

Chapter 1 – Infectious Investigation

There’s a strange infection going around in the city of Arklay. Normal people will wake up one day to find insects crawling in their body.  The insects are deep within their skin, but that doesn’t stop normal people from trying to cut them out by themselves. When surgery is done on these people, the insects have to be killed because they’ll try to renter the body of the patient. On further inspection, people infected with this strange condition have various kind of insect eggs within them. These eggs can hatch; maggots, worms, ants, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, cockroaches, hornets, flies, and even butterflies. Even when these eggs are removed, patients who were previously infected have a high chance of being infected again. People who get infected and don’t receive constant treatment die within days depending on the type of insects hatched in their body.

Panic has made people drink insect repellent, commit suicide if infected, or leave the city, which has spread the infection. One of the strangest parts of the infection is that it’s not spread by touch or physical contact. People who wear protective gear have a slightly lower chance of catching the infection, but they still catch it regardless of their gear. Disease control organizations have tracked down these people and are curing these people while experimenting on them to find a cure for the people of Arklay. The infection is now contained within the city with no one allowed to leave or enter besides disease control organizations, which have come from all countries to inspect the bizarre infection.

My name is Silva. I’m an agent and I used to live in Arklay, so I know my way around the city. I’m sent here by the Control and Contain Contaminations (CCC) organization to see if I can find the source of the infection. I’m wearing protective boots, gloves, and a gas mask. Along with a heated knife that can burn whatever it touches once it’s activated, I’m carrying a pistol and in case things get really bad, I have a flamethrower in the back of my truck. Before going in, I check my gear then go in the first building I want to inspect. This was the apartment where the first infected was from. Everyone else in the building was infected after half a month, so this place has been a place of interest with few people making out of it alive.

The first step into the building makes me feel sick. I feel as if I’m going to throw up. The mold, muck, and insect skins that line the wall make me feel slimy. It doesn’t help that the floors feel like I’m walking on mush. Flies, centipedes, hornets, and maggots are all over the place, but it’s like I’m invisible to them. I better not bother them, but then again, the insects born from the infection don’t become hostile for whatever reason. They almost seen unaware of everything around them and only focus on eating like normal bugs. Well, normal bugs that are twice or even three times the size of what they normally are.

The floors are littered with corpses of past human victims some of which barely still have flesh and meat on their bones. These insects are interesting. I’ve touched and dissected every kind that’s come from this disease and their insides are like those of normal insects. Even touching them now as I remove them from crawling on me is like touching a normal bug. I remember being used to bugs and gross things even as a kid. It’s one of the things that made me popular with the boys and unpopular with the girls. This, however, is beyond gross.

It gets worse as I go up towards the room of the first infected. The walls and floors are covered in a thicker slime and harder insect shells. Some of the skeletons on the ground are being picked apart by insects such as hornets and centipedes. It’s strange how these insects eat only the bodies of their human hosts and not any other kind of human flesh. We’ve tested it and they’ve completely ignored the human flesh and went for the normal foods that insects eat as if they only eat the bodies of their hosts. It’s a mystery I’m trying to solve, and I have absolutely no theories as of now. No one, not even the other scientists and agents I work with have any idea as to why this infection started in this city in particular. Hopefully, the answer lies in this room.

As I enter the room of the first infected, I see his decaying corpse on the floor. The room is a nesting ground for hundreds of insects who just crawl or fly around then rest in certain corners of the room before exiting it or resting in their nests. Their nests are nothing but beds for these creatures. These insects can’t even reproduce with one another. Anyways, the first person who was infected received surgery multiple times before giving up on life and died after three days. The insects burst out of his toes, fingers, eyes, mouth, and other areas of his body in a very painful way. Because more people got infected the next day, no one bothered to move his body and the building was eventually condemned.

I’m probably the first person here in a while or at least to my organization’s knowledge. None of the things here look tampered with. There are a lot of personal journal entries. They’re all dirty, but the heat from my knife makes the writing legible. This is the last entry.

“I can feel the pain getting worse. The damn bugs have started crawling out of my skin, so I don’t have much time. Why did I ever get this disease? I’ve never been seriously dirty or sick in my life. I’ve never been in a dirty place, so why me? Was it something I did? I don’t think I’ve ever seriously hurt someone. Did someone curse me because they didn’t like me? Is the end of the world going to happen soon? Is something biohazardous beneath the city? Are the insects going through some kind of natural evolution? I don’t know. I’m just a normal guy.”

There’s nothing here I can work with. Perhaps I can find something on his body. This isn’t exactly the best place to dissect his body, but it can’t be moved because it’s so embedded to the floor. Part of him will have to be destroyed anyway so I might as well look through it while I can. I take out my knife and start cutting in his body. There is nothing but broken eggs here and other insects who were using the body as a resting place. Oh? There’s a kind of weird fungus growing his body. I haven’t seen this weird black and green grown in the other infected bodies. This will be useful, so I carefully cut the fungus off and…it’s another insect. It’s a hybrid of a worm and millipede. I put the insect in a secure bag that will keep it fresh.

Huh? Something crawls out of the muck in the ceiling. A flying scorpion with spider legs. It doesn’t look friendly or passive like the other insects. I quickly bring up my heated knife in time to burn away the string it shoots at me. Since it’s going to be that way, I lunge forward and slice the scorpion in two. Two more scorpions come out of the muck and try to catch me, but since I know their tricks, I cut them down easily. Uck. I stepped in the webs. It’s pretty sticky. I have to heat up the knife in order to cut through it. These scorpions may be in pieces, but they might still be useful, so I put them in my secure bags.

When I exit the room, more scorpions attack me, I wonder what effect a gun will have. Oh. So, it takes two shots to kill one. Even so, it’s still struggling to hold onto life. More scorpions start crawling out of the walls, so I make my way out of the apartment while shooting them down and defending myself. These things are stubborn. When I leave the apartment, the bust through the windows and doors. I run to my car and break out my flamethrower. I have no choice but to light the entire apartment on fire since the scorpions won’t stop coming. It’s a shame I had to do this but-ah! I got all these bugs on me. Before I go anywhere, I change my clothes and burn my outfit. I then give my findings and report to the higher-ups who thank me and tell me they’ll have something for me by tomorrow since my findings are new.

As soon as I get home, I take a shower just to make sure I’m clean. I walk out to the balcony outside my room and look out at Arklay. I wonder what happened to my home. It used to be so peaceful, and now, it’s the center of attention because it’s infected with mysterious insects. My mom and dad used to live here. I wonder what they would think of this. I’ll get to the bottom of this.

The local news reports more infected people. Sewers and other dirty parts of the city are starting to crawl with these new kinds of insects along with the muck they bring along. They also talk about the fire I’ve started, but they don’t know about why it started nor the evidence I collected. Conspiracy theories will start cropping up if they haven’t done so already. I might’ve had some of my own if I didn’t know that all of the disease organizations don’t have a clue about what’s going on. I hope we get some answers soon…before this situation gets worse.

 

 

Chapter 2 – Sacrilegious Scum

During the next morning, I wake up to a message from my superiors. They tell me that they’ve found a sort of insect repellent. The fungus from the first infected is acidic to insects born from infected people, but it’s harmless to normal people. We’ve already tested this repellent out in normal people, and they don’t appear to have any side effects. When a person is injected with this repellent, the insects will cower away from them. They tell me this could be useful if I find any more scorpions or other bugs like them. It’s a risk to take this serum especially since it’s only been tested a few times on people, so I respond to their message by turning it down until there have been more tests. They say they understand then wish me luck in my investigation today.

I hope they weren’t wishing to use me as a test subject. My organization does consist of people with good intentions, but good intentions don’t always mean good methods. Whatever the case is, I head out today to the under part of the city. An earthquake hit this city one day and destroyed it. A new city was built on top of it, and the city below acts as a sort of pseudo home for the homeless. Once the insect disease became a serious problem for the city, the lower parts of the city became a home to a cult that worships the insects as servants of their insect god or whatever. It’s lunacy in my opinion. Because the cult views the disease as more of a blessing than a curse, they’ve tried everything in their power to get the disease themselves and even kidnap other people in the hopes of “ascending” or becoming honorable hosts of their insect god.

Since this might get messy, I’ve brought a small submachine gun in case I have to do some crowd control. I’ve also gotten fuel for my flamethrower and left extra in the back of my car. When I get to one of the entrances, I find some of the muck and insect skins. This is a bad sign since this stuff usually grows near highly infected areas. I equip my gas mask and go into the darkness to find a dead body that has recently died. Hornets, roaches, and spiders crawl out of the body’s skin and feast on its organs. A body this close to the public isn’t safe, so I use my knife’s blade to set the body on fire. I’m probably going to need to use it more if this is what I see when I first walk in. If that’s the case, I go back to my car and bring my flamethrower with me.

When I get back, I start burning whatever corpse nests I see. There were reports of people getting infected around here. Before we thought it had to do something with the cult abducting people, but now…that point still stands, however, we didn’t know about people dying around here. I send a message to my superiors to tell them to send clean-up crews to the other old city entrances. They message me back that they’re sending them right away. I can’t imagine how bad old city is if the way to it is littered with corpses.

The walls, ceiling, and floors of this pathway look stranger than what I saw at the apartments. It’s almost if some of this muck is made of human remains. Let’s just see to make sure. I cut open some of the muck and…ah! Yup. A human skull that’s split into three pieces falls from the ceiling where I cut. I didn’t know the insects could do this. Some of the fresher human remains look downright still alive with arms and legs reaching out as if calling for help. There are also human faces with their expressions still stuck in pain and fear.

Further into the passage, I find the old city. It’s in ruins with half-destroyed buildings barely hanging together due to the muck that the insects made. Hornets and butterflies the size of bikes fly around the large space above the city and pick at the dirt walls surrounding them. They could be trying to move out of this place to find food. This place has to be burned down, but it’s sitting in a place that could do serious damage to the city. We’re going to have to meticulously burn the muck from this place so Arklay can be safe. I wonder if the cult planned it so things would be this way.

The cult’s hideout is supposed to be further into the city. I have to cut my way through thick muck and the corpses of the infected in order to get to a church with the mark of the cult. Various huge insects are on display as if they were holy icons. There’s a bee the size of a car crucified in at the head of the altar. Maybe I don’t even need to question the cult members in order to find something that will be useful to me. I doubt any of them are alive after finding so many corpses. To start my search, I start cutting open the bodies of the insects to find more of the black and green fungus. Taking it might wake up those scorpions from before, so I leave it alone for now.

I heard screaming just now! There’s someone still alive, so I head over to the source of the noise to find a homeless woman being sexually assaulted by a grasshopper the size of a couch that looks like it’s mixed with fire ants. I didn’t know these insects could be so sick. Using my submachine gun, I light the grasshopper up until it dies. It takes half a clip to put it down. Even then, I have to stab it multiple times with my knife in order to kill it.

“Are you okay?” I ask the woman.

She tries talking, but she holds onto her stomach and screams in pain. Within seconds, three fire ants are burst from her stomach. I kill these abominations then take a second to collect myself. My mind is struggling to believe in the existence of these creatures. They’re so vile and now there’s a new terrifying variation of them. I guess I can’t get nauseous now, so I inspect the bodies of the dead woman. It appears that she’s been assaulted before judging by the condition of her genitals and stomach. There are eggs in her body with still dormant fire ants in them. It seems like she might’ve given birth multiple times to these insects. I take the eggs with me for further study.

Looking into the grasshopper, I find various new organs that I’ve never seen before. It’s probably the reason as to how it can reproduce with humans. I can’t drag this thing out by myself, so I leave it here for now. Damn thing is an abomination. I never want to see another one as I live, but I don’t think I’ll be that lucky.

I hear footsteps approaching me, so I take out my submachine gun and aim forward. It looks like a cult member. He’s wearing a black and green robe with the cult’s symbol on it.

“Are you here to help us?” he asks.

“I’m here to get rid of this plague. I’m not here to help your psychotic cult.”

“I know it looks bad, but I’m not with these guys. I’m just a normal doctor, who infiltrated the group to figure out a cure for the disease. I thought that I could get some of the insect’s blood and possibly make a cure.”

“You should leave it to the bigger disease control organizations. Lucky for you, I’m with them to help out.”

“Those organizations didn’t come here until a month after the disease was discovered. The damage done to the city and its people in that timeframe is unrepairable. Your people have no idea what it’s been like. We live in fear of randomly catching this disease every day of our life and you come here and think you’re doing us a favor.”

“Hey, I’m from this city. The CCC is doing its best to destroy this disease. They’re just playing it safe because we have no idea what’s happening. If we just acted without caution, then a lot more people could suffer.”

“I guess you got a point. I’ll share my findings with your organization. There’s nothing else for me to find here.”

“What happened here?”

“This? It’s been like this for a while. The cult’s been breeding these monsters because they thought they were divine.”

“What about these grasshoppers?”

“These atrocities could reproduce with men and women, and let me tell you, it was not a pretty sight especially for the men.”

“How were these things made?”

“I don’t know to be honest with you. It just seems like the more the area is infected, the weirder and more frightening insects begin to spawn from the waste these creatures make and from the infected.”

The two of us hear gunfire in the distance.

“The information you have will be useful to us, doctor. Let’s get out of here. The CCC should be here.”

“Thank you. I can’t stand being here anymore.”

The doctor and I run out to the streets of the old city to find a CCC clean-up crew in high-quality hazmat gear. They’re using a more powerful version of the flamethrower I have called Hellfire. I’d love to use that version one day or at least the Purgatory version of it. We come across more grasshoppers and flying scorpions as we try to join the hazmats. I have to use all of my submachine gun and flamethrower ammo in order to break through the hordes of mutated insects.

I go up to one of them and say, “Cover us while we leave and watch out for huge grasshoppers.”

“You got it, Silva. We’re going to turn this place into a furnace.”

“Don’t get too carried away hotheads. This place could come down around us if you burn too much.”

The doctor and I make it out of the old city. Before we go to my superiors, I get us a change of clothes then burn our previous outfits. The CCC better compensate me for all of the outfits I’m going to burn. After that, I drop him off with the eggs I found. Again, I am greatly thanked with the scientists and doctor exchanging friendly dialogue. They tell me that they should make great strides in their research because of my efforts. I say goodbye then take my leave.

When I get back home to my apartment, I take a shower then look out at the city. What have I been doing with my life? I’ve been trying to stand out and do the extraordinary for my entire life. Starting with acting like the boys then becoming a cleaner for the CCC. I wonder what it’s like to live a normal life. I’ve seen so many happy normal people in my life that I’ve lost count. They might’ve been struggling financially, but at least they were happy in their families. When this job is done, I’ll appreciate the little things more. I’ll watch the sunrise, hang out with friends, get a hobby, and maybe start a family. Yeah…that sounds good. Really good in fact.

 

Chapter 3 – Experimental Execration

It’s early in the morning and I can’t go back to sleep for some reason. I guess I was thinking more about what I was thinking about yesterday. What did I do in my life that didn’t concern study and acts to gain attention? Nothing, but I bunch of small events that don’t give me a warm feeling. I know dozens of people who can tell me heartwarming stories that bring smiles to everyone around them. They told simple stories, and to be honest, I don’t talk to anyone anymore, but still. I should stop moping about this and get back to work.

Soon after eating breakfast, I get a message from work that they’re working on a cure to the infection. Their testing is going well so far, however, they still want me to go out to see if I can find anything else to speed the process along or find something more potent they can use. They want me to look into a hospital that the doctor came from. It’s been condemned for a while since so much of it has been infected. The muck from the inside of the hospital has been seeping out of the building. Even the ground around the hospital has been reported to smell like rotting flesh with something leaking out of it.

It sounds bad and like what old city was like, so I agree to go there and head out with some new weapons. I’ve swapped out my submachine gun with a sawed-off double barrel shotgun. If I’m going to be in close quarters, then this is going to be incredibly useful. I managed to get a better flamethrower, which is called Purgatory. Hopefully, I get to try out Hellfire soon.

When I arrive at the hospital, I find it in a worse state than described. The muck has spread further out into the streets and into nearby buildings. Insects are crawling to and from the hospital to wherever the muck reaches. This entire block has been quarantined., but it should be destroyed. I don’t know about the nearby buildings and if they’re infested as well. They might be judging by all of the insects crawling and flying around here. More people will have to be brought in for a clean-up job this big.

I’d better get in there to fix what’s going on before it gets worse. Despite it being morning, the inside of the building is almost pitch black with the hospital’s lights flickering on and off. The lights should’ve been turned off a while ago, so someone must be here now or have been here recently. Maybe they were here to get medicine or maybe it was another disease control organization looking around here for research. I think this place might be worse than the old city. The muck here looks flesh-like and disgusting.

Some of the muck here is even pulsating like a beating heart. Eck. Before I have a chance to touch it, I hear glass being broken. When I run to check it, I find a person raiding a supply closet for pills and syringes. They’re wearing a bunch of heavy clothing as if wearing a makeshift hazmat suit.

I call out to them, “Hey! You can’t be here!”

“Screw you! You hazmats do nothing but burn our city to ashes.”

“That’s not true. Get out of here before you get sick. I’ll keep you safe.”

“The only safe place is outside the city and you people won’t let us leave.”

The person leans forward as to catch themselves as they slipped. What the hell? Part of the wall came to life. No. It was a moth the size of half the wall. The large winged insect has a mouth on its chest and a sharp syringe-like stinger. It attacks the person by latching onto them in the blink of an eye. It then eats the person’s body while its stinger is lodged in the person’s forehead. Before I can fire a shot, the insect dies and transforms the person into a corpse. Their arms, chest, and face are transformed into that of a praying mantis. I can see their organs through their see-through chest and their legs seem to have been split in two. How could a transformation like this happen within seconds?

The mutant appears to be dead, but their body is steaming and quivering. It just stopped moving. I can’t get any samples from the moth since it shriveled up and breaks at the slightest touch. It’s as if it transferred all of its energy into the person. As I approach the mutant, it leaps up with its legs and almost decapitates me. Reacting quickly, I shoot its head with my double barrel to send it into the wall. It twitches a few times before immediately getting back up to slash wildly at me. With another shot from my double barrel, I shoot one of its legs off. This thing is so damn stubborn and refuses to die, so I stab it with my knife set at the highest heat, which finally kills it. What a pain.

Huh? I heard something moving in the vents. There’s no time to waste. I cut off whatever I find on the mutant and bring it with me. Before I can get too far, a sharp limb comes out from the vents and almost stabs me in the face. I dodge it, but then another limb comes out to try to get me. I have to lay low as multiple limbs come out to try to cut my head off. There are more of these things? Why didn’t they ambush me before? I guess I must’ve woken them up.

The mutants in the vents just stopped. That’s a relief, but…there we go. It seems like they stopped just to try to get me off guard. Moths from the ceiling and floor begin to attack me and the mutants start dropping from the ceiling. I haven’t even reloaded my double barrel yet and I doubt it’s going to be effective in this situation. There’s no chance for me to get out of this alive without using my flamethrower, so I start burning this place down. It does wonders against the moths and mutants, but the rest of the hospital catches fire quickly.

From what the doctor said in his message, he said he left some notes in his office as to where he thought the most likely place the infection started in. I go to his office while burning whatever remotely looks alive. Damn it. These things are sacrificing themselves to put out the fires. I’m going to have to really spend all my fuel in this place. I set fire to multiple places in the hospital including an electrical room so that it causes an explosion and more flames. That should keep them distracted, but it puts me on a tight time limit.

Searching through the doctor’s office, I find notes saying that the city deposits all of its wastes beneath the city since its far from civilization and hasn’t harmed anyone for the years they’ve done it, but the doctor thought that it might’ve caused the insects to mutate into what they are now. There are also notes here that say the doctor and his associates did experiments on the infected and the bugs before any of the disease control organizations arrived. Some of the tests ended with a mutation in the insects, which explains what I saw. Okay, this is good enough, but I have to burn down this building to keep the rest of the city safe.

I go out of the office to find the mutants and moths heading downstairs while completely ignoring me. Maybe there’s something important they’re protecting. I follow them into the second-floor basement to find a beehive-like heart that takes up most of the room. The insects are sacrificing themselves to snuff out the fire while a small horde of them stands guard. The guard stares me down while hissing at me. You guys made a big mistake putting your hive here. I load my double barrel and shoot the sensitive machines in the room then switch to my flamethrower to light the rest of the place on fire.

This causes a chain reaction and now the entire building is starting to collapse. I run with everything I got then jump out of the exit as the building collapses onto itself. Dozens of insects, special insects like the scorpions and grasshoppers along with the mutants, and the moths flee from the neighboring abandoned buildings and into the city. This isn’t good. The city is in chaos as everyone who can fight, fights against the hordes of insects. I should make my way back to my superiors while cleaning up my mess. I’m sure they’d fire me if I didn’t.

The situation calms down after an hour and a half of burning, shooting, and stabbing. I’ve seen dozens of people die as a result of what I’ve done, but it’s also not my fault! How was I supposed to know this was going to happen?! I was just doing my job! Or am I just making excuses? This reminds me of the many times I’ve had to burn infected people alive along with everything they have like a maniacal arsonist. I can’t think about that now. That was just part of my job to keep people safe.

With no time to waste, I change my outfit, burn my original, then head off to report to my superiors. Their base hasn’t fared well in the attack with parts of it destroyed along with bodies on the ground most of which are getting burned to ashes. I give them my report and they tell me that I shouldn’t feel bad because I was just doing my job.

“Sometimes you can’t expect everything to go your way”, they tell me.

I already know that. They don’t seem too bothered by what happened. In fact, they tell me my findings along with the free subjects I’ve brought them will accelerate the completion of the cure. I ask them about that, and they tell me that they should have one made in a day or two, though the test versions they have were all destroyed in the attack. It’s a shame for the people who were infected and are now infected. They give me new supplies and my Hellfire flamethrower with plenty of fuel as a reward. It’s strange getting it now. I don’t feel like I deserve it, but I take it with a smile a thank you before heading home for some rest.

After showering like always, I take a look out at the city to see the destruction that I’ve caused. Most of the city lights are dark with fires being lit, which are probably burning bodies. I recognize the all too familiar smell. I hope my efforts have helped in some way. Huh? My skin feels itchy. That’s strange-

“AAAAAAHHHHHH!”

I scream as I see roaches, millipedes, and worms crawling around in my skin…I’m infected…

 

 

 

Chapter 4 – Revolting Roots

What did I do wrong? I’ve taken every precautious to stay clean. I burned my clothes, cleaned myself thoroughly, and have always kept my hands clean. Is this for what I’ve done in the past? All the lives I’ve taken for the greater good. All the lives I’ve burned down to keep people healthy and safe. Did I do too much? Were my excuses not enough to cover for my actions?

Is this for not caring about the people around me as much as I should? I do care about people, but I separate myself from others. When it’s time to work, I separate myself from what I do. I become a tool for the CCC and do what I’m told because I trust them and their goals. When I had the choice, the CCC looked like the most ethical organization, but are we? Do we focus too much on the ends rather than the means?

This kind of thinking is making my mind go in circles. It’s the infection’s fault. My skin is so itchy because of the insects crawling around in it. It’s so uncomfortable and chilling being like this. I was used to insects crawling on me, but them crawling in me is completely different. It’s like someone constantly lightly scratching the inside of every part of your body. I can feel them everywhere. In my skin, face, stomach, legs, and arms. Last night, I thought I was imagining things and thought that some sleep would help me, but it hasn’t. It’s gotten worse. I don’t feel so good, so I go to the bathroom and try taking normal medication that’s supposed to suppress the disease-!

Blech! I can’t believe it. I just barfed out a centipede the size of my arm. I still feel sick. My stomach is killing me and so is my bladder. This is terrible. Living with this disease is worse than I thought. I can’t hold it in anymore. This is getting even worse somehow! I crap and pee out insects. Why is this happening to me?! I put on my shower and set it to the highest temperature. This calms down my stomach and the bugs within my skin. It even manages to shrink some of them. No wonder why so many people kill themselves when they’re infected. Living like this is hell.

There have to be surgeons at the CCC base. I don’t care what kind of surgery or medicine they give me. I’ll do anything to get rid of this infection inside me. After hastily dressing, I go to my superiors and explain my situation to them. They tell me that they don’t currently have anything to suppress the infection or get rid of it as of now. The research they’ve done has come to a halt because of the attack and the complexity of the virus.

“There might not be a chance I can be cured or even relieved of my pain,” they say.

I almost lose my composure until they mention that they know where the source of the infection is. It’s exactly where the doctor thought it was. There’s a chance that the infection will be destroyed when the source is killed. They think this is correct because the CCC and other organizations have been finding the hives I found yesterday. When the hives are destroyed, the nearby bugs and mutants will go into a rampage to try to infect other people before dying shortly after. The scientists theorize that these hives act as field officers for their leader down below who controls the rest of them. If that’s what it takes to be cured, then I’ll do it. My superiors say that if the infection is not stopped today, then the government will have no choice but to destroy the city. I don’t know why I don’t care about it, however, I have to for the sake of everyone that lives here.

Before we go out, we operatives are armed with Hellfire flamethrowers, fireproof hazmat suits, satchel charges, fire grenades, and magnums as a last resort. I don’t know if they meant for us to use it to kill ourselves or to use on the insects, but I’ll take it as both. The CCC and other disease control organizations team up together to attack this threat from all sides. The best way to get to the city’s waste disposal site is through the old city. As we move our forces through there, we are ambushed by mutants, grasshoppers, and scorpions.

Whatever is controlling the insects must be feeling defensive because we’ve gotten rid of their forces on the surface. The fighting is long and intense with dozens of casualties despite our advanced equipment. Our forces are cut in half by the time we reach the halfway point. The way down is littered with corpses, toxic waste, trash, muck from the insects, insect shells, and excrement from the sewers. No wonder why there are so many insects down here. There are large rodents and stray animals down here, but it looks like they became hosts. Some of them look like they were fighting against the insects, however, they’re all dead and we’ve never seen them before, so we’re facing a more powerful and intelligent force than we thought.

We lose fewer people from this point on as we get used to the insect’s combined attacks and ambushes. The disease is me is starting to bother me again. When I’m not using my flamethrower, the disease almost seems to slowly grow. I’m getting sicker and sicker with each passing moment. I can tell other people are infected as well because of the way they’re acting. A few of the people we lost along the way succumbed to the infection, so we had to put them out of their misery then burn their bodies. I’ve known some of these people for years, but only on a surface layer. There are a couple of people that talked to me along the way down as if we were friends for years. I wouldn’t know. Thirty-five percent of our combined forces survive the long walk down to the source of the infection.

What we find at the disposal site is an army of all kind of insects along with a hive that looks more like a spiraling tower than a hive. Without a moment’s hesitation, we get to work in destroying everything around us. We unload all of our fire grenades that we have and those that we collected off our fallen. This gets a nice fire going. We use this fire as a barrier to keep away what’s ever coming to us as we approach the main hive. When we get to it, we plant all the charges we have then make our way back the way we came in.

Once we blow the charges, the hive lights up as if it was the center of the earth. Most of the insects go on a frenzy while the lesser ones die off one by one. The group loses more people as we escape the collapsing tunnel. We lose even more people the frenzied insects until I think I’m the only one who’s left. I wouldn’t know if anyone else is alive because I just cared about my own survival without thinking about anyone else.

Damn, the way I came in collapses on itself. I go through a tighter portion of the old city as it falls around me. Everything I had to protect myself is dropped including my hazmat suit. That’s how tight the way I’m going is. I see a light ahead. I’m almost there! When I emerge from the ruins, the ground begins to collapse as well, so I keep on running for my life. Buildings around me are collapsing to the ground and people are running for cover. I yell at them to run away from the city. Some listen to me, others don’t, and most die because of the destruction.

By the time I get to safe ground, the city has a massive hole in it that I can’t see the bottom of. Oh, wait a second! I don’t feel any bugs crawling around my skin! I can’t even feel anything that feels like a bug in it. I’m cured! Even though I’m elated, everyone around me is sad because their homes are destroyed. It used to be my home as well, but I don’t feel the same as they do. I feel like I’ve been in a situation like this before. It doesn’t matter. I report back to my superiors and they celebrate. We have a funeral for those who died then a party for our victory the next day outside the city.

From the view I have, I look back at what used to be the home I grew up in. It looks like a mini-apocalypse happened there. I doubt anyone is going to live there for a while especially since the CCC needs to double clean it to make sure no trace of the infection still exists. As for me, I take a vacation. My superiors are surprised since they usually have to force me to take breaks, but they approve of it, especially because of all the work I did. The CCC is recognized as the main contributor to ending the virus because of our research and clean-up efforts. I’m given three weeks off and told that I can have the month off if I so decided. I’ll think about it. It depends on how good this normal life I’ve heard so much about is like.

Huh? Is that a-Oh. It’s just a normal sized cockroach. I’m so used to seeing them big sized that the normal sized one surprises me. I’ve had enough of bugs for a lifetime, so I squish the roach then get in my car and head off to the shore. I heard it’s beautiful and full of people this time of year.

 

The End

Biohazardous Affections

Download this story for free on Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/920735

 

Chapter 1 – Falling in Love the Wrong Way

On one unfortunate night, an accident in a research facility causes an outbreak of a virus that makes people cannibals by cutting off all if not all of the reasoning ability in their brain. The outbreak spread throughout all of the world. It was a global effort to find cures for major diseases after all with dozens upon dozens of researchers and countries involved. The reason why this outbreak had such a major impact on the world was because these cannibals, infected, or zombies as most call them were still able to mimic normal human behavior.

These cannibals could act normal as long as they weren’t compromised. They could even eat normal food and use their most recent memories to fool people to think that they were normal, however, they aren’t able to remember older memories or information that takes some time to remember. Once they have their targets secluded, they bite them or eat them to turn them into cannibals. Some areas of the country didn’t know or believe this outbreak was real since the cannibals were so good at blending in. After a couple of months, there’s good and bad news for humanity. The bad news is that there are more cannibals than normal humans. The good news is that there’s a cure and everyone in the world knows that the cannibals are a real threat to humanity and they’re fighting back.

A small group of survivors is holding out in the woods outside of their fishing town that is overrun with cannibals. Two people are heading out to a power plant since the power for their hideout has mysteriously been turned off.

“Get off me!” the young man says.

“Oh come on, Hagan. Stop being such a hard head. I’m just hugging you.”

“Well, I don’t like you hugging me, Chloe. I know what your feelings are for me even though I’m with Brandy.”

“I’m not trying to do anything. I’m over you choosing her over me.”

“The way you touch me sometimes says otherwise. Let’s just drop this drama once and for all. We need to be on guard.”

“Right.”

“You know what to do, right?”

“I know. I’ll keep watch by the cliffs while you go in to turn the power on.”

“Good. Watch yourself. Even though I don’t trust you with touching me, I do trust you with everything else.”

“Okay, you don’t need to worry about me. This isn’t like it’s our last time together.”

“I know. I’m just saying.”

Hagan goes down to the power plant to find it empty with nothing broken or out of place, but the main power switch is turned off, which is strange. No one is stationed here nor are there any known human settlements around this area. After turning the power back on, a gunshot is made from Chloe’s general area.

Hagan says over the walkie talkie, “Chloe? What’s going on?”

He receives no response. When he goes outside, he finds multiple people converging on him. Since the cannibals know they can’t fool him, they use the energy they use for reasoning and convert it to enhance their strength and endurance. Hagan tries using his knife to conserve ammo since there are so many, but he realizes that he’s outnumbered. He heads back inside the building and barricades the main door. He then tries to kill as many cannibals as he can that come out of the three windows in the small building until his back is up against the wall. He’s managed to save a clip of ammo for himself in case he has to put a bullet in his head, but it appears like he doesn’t have to.

The cannibals stop moving for some reason and just corner Hagan. He stops fighting and wonders what could be happening. It becomes clear once Chloe comes into the building. Her hazel eyes are gone and have been replaced with light blue eyes. Her lips are now blue, and her skin is pale.

“Chloe…”

“I’m sorry, Hagan. I didn’t want this to happen. I wanted them to kill me once they got me, but now I’m like this, and there’s only one way for you to survive.”

If two virgins are attracted to one another, the virus will take advantage of this and cut of part off their reasoning and increase their hormones so they can make infected children. Once pregnant, a female will give birth within a few weeks and have grown children within the same amount of time. These “zombie” children act like normal children and are almost indistinguishable from normal children, which makes them effective for infiltration and easy takeover of human settlements. It seems like to Hagan that the cannibals knew of the people within their settlement and purposefully drew them out so this could happen. He’s extremely stressed out and doesn’t know what to do.

“Just trust me, Hagan.”

“I trust you with everything but controlling yourself around me. I could almost swear that you did this on purpose!”

“I didn’t. You know how we can get out of this. Just trust me for now.”

Chloe slowly walks towards Hagan with her arms out. He points his gun at her, which make the cannibals take a step toward him to remind him what would happen if he refuses her. Hagan then lowers his gun and stands still, but uneasy. He lets Chloe bite his neck to infect him as her mate. The cannibals walk away with a smile as they trust their virus to work on him. Hagan bleeds blue blood from his bite wound as his sclera turns light blue while his iris and pupil turn completely black.

“Ow. Ow! Stop it!” Hagan says as Chloe begins to sensually bite and lick his neck.

He pushes her away and points his gun at her again.

She says, “You know you’ll die too if I die.”

“I’m not sure if I’ll care.”

Chloe is a bit shaky as she tries to control her desire.

“Chloe, control yourself.”

“I…I…”

Chloe begins to hug Hagan and breathe in his face with a captivating look on her face, which doesn’t help the way he feels.

“Get…get off! You aren’t helping by doing this.”

Hagan pushes Chloe further away this time.

“I’m…I’m sorry.”

Needing to let go of his pent up energy, Hagan punches a wall then grunts in frustration. They both stay in silence for a few moments as they collect themselves.

“You couldn’t do anything else. You didn’t have a choice in the matter…I forgive you. It’s not your fault.”

“Thank you for understanding.”

Hagan walks away with Chloe behind him. He unconsciously walks faster than her because of his frustrations and begins to feel pains in chest. Chloe picks up her pace to get to him.

She holds his chest and says, “Remember, you can’t be far from me.”

“Yeah.”

Hagan walks away from Chloe still frustrated.

“I thought you said you forgave me.”

“I do. I’m still frustrated by this situation. I know for a fact that you like it more than you’re showing.”

“Hagan…”

“I don’t want to hear it right now.”

Chloe holds onto Hagan’s arm, which gives him a little comfort. He unknowingly goes along with her holding his arm until he realizes when they get back to their settlement. This is when he pulls his arm away from her. As they approach the small settlement set in a secluded prison, Hagan wishes the snipers would shoot them since he knows they can see him, but they don’t. The people in the settlement signal the doors to be open with an orange light to signal caution. Brandy, Hagan’s girlfriend, walks out of the doors armed with a shotgun and two other guards who have submachine guns. She has a condescending but worried look on her face. The three point their guns at Hagan and Chloe as they get closer.

Hagan says, “Brandy…I’m sorry. It was a trap set by the infected. I think they meant to get people like us so this could happen.”

“Then I should’ve been there instead,” Brandy says, “Do you remember where we first met?”

“On a grade school trip. We were at the docks and that’s where I got your number.”

“Good. You’re still conscious. Chloe, do you remember the first time we met?”

“We met in pre-school.”

“That’s right. Well…I guess we can’t do anything now. I already have someone calling the CDC to come here to cure you. Hopefully, this’ll turn out to be something good especially since you two have the cure for this virus in your blood.”

Since human blood and the virus are synergized when a couple is infected, their blood can be taken and used to create a cure that makes normal humans immune to the virus. It can also cure cannibals assuming they haven’t been infected for a long time or if their bodies aren’t heavily damaged.

“That’s good. I’m thinking that if the cannibals thought of this plan, then they’re probably going to keep tabs on us since they can sense us. Get the defenses ready if they do attack,” Hagan says.

Chloe brings up the fact that, “Wouldn’t it be better if we just secluded ourselves away from here? We’re going to be putting everyone in danger.”

“I didn’t trust you with Hagan when you weren’t infected. What makes you think I’ll trust you when you’re like this?” Brandy counters, “We’ll hold the two of you in separate cells, so nothing happens when you’re sleeping. I’ll be guarding you two during the day.”

“Brandy, I…”

“This is final, Chloe. We aren’t going to argue about this. Hagan, explain everything to me.”

Hagan explains what happened to Brandy as they enter the prison. After his explanation, Brandy lets the other guards go to help the others prepare for a possible attack by the cannibals. The three young adults who were close friends only a couple of hours ago sit in silence as if they were strangers.

“We may be infected but we can still help around the prison,” Hagan speaks up.

“It’s fine,” Brandy responds, “We have twenty well-armed people here. You don’t need to worry about them. Just worry about yourself for now. Oh, and take this gas mask. You’ll need it.”

“Thanks.”

As Hagan takes the gasmask, Brandy shakes her head.

“I can’t believe this happened to you of all people with her in the mix.”

“Me too. I’m sorry I didn’t prepare for something like this to happen.”

“It’s not your fault.”

Brandy stares at Chloe who’s been staring at Hagan for a while now.

“Eyes off him, Chloe. You don’t want to lose control of yourself.”

“Oh, I…I…”

“Yes?”

“You shouldn’t worry about him anymore. He’s mine now.”

“Excuse me?”

“I…I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”

“That better have been the case. Go take a cold shower. That should help you keep control of yourself.”

“Hagan has to come with me.”

“Oh, that’s right. I guess you’re never taking another shower until the CDC come then. I think you two should get some rest before dinner. It should calm your minds.”

Hagan and Chloe sleep in separate cells with their doors locked while Brandy heads off to help the rest of the prison prepare for an attack and getting her mind off the situation to calm her mind as well. During his sleep, Hagan feels his heart slowly begin to beat. He can hear the beating of Chloe’s heart from the other side of the wall and the two hearts beat together as if calling out to one another. His breathing starts to slowly intensify as his heart keeps beating intensely. Before he knows it, the heart he feels on the other side moves into his cell until a presence lays on him and holds him.

His heart starts beating faster as he starts to feel warm and elated. The presence on top of him brings their beating hearts together and makes him more euphoric. Hagan then starts receiving kisses, which makes him uncontrollably kiss back and feel this presence. He starts getting licked then scratched as this keeps going on. The presence on top of him is pushed off. He then panics and tries to reconnect with it but is held down before being drenched in cold water and slapped several times.

He wakes up to see that Chloe managed to break open their cells and get to him. Three guards are holding her back while pouring cold water on her to calm her down. Brandy shakes her head with her hands on her face.

“I should’ve remembered,” she says.

Infected female mates who are infected are much like female insects who are stronger than their male counterparts. They are harder to calm down, easier to arose, and are usually violent during sexual intercourse.

“Brandy…I’m sorry I didn’t resist. I was sleeping and barely had any control over myself,” Hagan explains.

“You could’ve…Nevermind. I understand. We have to talk.”

“Look, when the CDC comes here, things will go back to normal, which includes our town!”

“I’m not sure that will happen. A large group of cannibals is coming this way soon. If we can’t hold out, you have to survive. You two are what humanity needs to get more of the cure.”

“Don’t talk like that Brandy!”

“I’m just saying if.”

“It won’t happen. I’ll help you defend the prison.”

“Then grab a gun and let’s rock.”

“That’s what I like to hear.”

Hagan and Chloe arm themselves with submachine guns and shotguns before going to the wall above the gate with Brandy. An almost uncountable number of cannibals arrive in the distance and surround the prison. They stop a few feet away from the prison to make sure the humans see their numbers to instill fear into them. They then walk forward with confidence and a smile much to the surprise of the humans.

A prison guard says, “There were supposed to be traps on the outside of the prison. What-”

Four people are shot in the legs by cannibals acting like normal humans before they turn vicious. Everyone outside retreats in and ten of the twenty people in the prison are already infected within a matter of minutes with no causalities on the side of the cannibals. Two virgins are infected, but they quickly shoot themselves in the head for fear of what might happen.

The humans try in vain to hold out in the prison as the cannibals find their way in without trouble due to their numbers and infiltrators. Six more virgins are infected but kill themselves as the others did. What seems like an hour passes until the battle is finally over. In actuality, it’s only been ten minutes. Hagan and Chloe stand with their guns pointed at the cannibals who don’t do anything but smile in victory.

“Oh, no…Brandy,” Hagan says as he sees her walk out of the crowd of cannibals infected.

She smiles at him then says, “It’s okay, Chloe. You can have him. He’s yours to do with whatever you please.”

Tempted by the thought, Chloe tries to resist doing anything.

“We’re leaving here, Chloe!” Hagan says as he tries to get her to move.

The cannibals say to the two, “You won’t last long.”

“You might as well give in now.”

“You’re only making this more difficult for yourself.”

“If you have children now, you’ll be helping humanity. Not damning them.”

“Give in to your desires.”

“You’ll live happily together.”

Chloe is stunned by the cannibals’ tempting thoughts which makes it almost impossible for her to move.

“Damn you! I’ll get help for you, Brandy. Just you wait,” Hagan says before dropping his heavier guns, picking Chloe up, and retreating into the forest.

The cannibals just smile as they run away, confident that the two of them will eventually give in. After miles of running, Chloe begins to lose herself. She touches Hagan’s chest before kissing his neck. Seeing that he’s near a small stream, he throws her into it to calm her down, but the light splash barely has an effect on her, so he holds her down in it until she calms down. The two are now near a small safehouse location not too far from the town.

As Chloe collects herself, she says, “I’m sorry, Hagan.”

“Whatever. We can’t do anything about the people we lost. We can only hope the CDC gets here soon so we can cure the ones who didn’t die.”

“Hagan…”

“I’m going to sleep in the basement of the shack and I’m going to lock the door. You can sleep in the bed upstairs. If you need something, just knock, but don’t lose yourself again like you did in the cells or I might kill us both like the others did.”

“…”

“I know how you’re feeling, and I’d give you a hug to make you feel better, but I can’t. Just know that I’m going to do my best to take care of us and that we get through this.”

“Thanks.”

“Get some sleep. We’re probably going to need it.”

 

 

Chapter 2 – Together in the Worst Way

Memories of last night play over and over again in Hagan’s dreams as he sleeps. He tries to do different things, but he always fails. He set the traps himself, but the infiltrators stop him. Killing the infiltrators before they strike doesn’t help them win. Killing Chloe doesn’t help. Killing himself doesn’t help. Almost giving into his temptations doesn’t help. Killing everyone in a rage doesn’t help him calm down.

Scratching and banging on his cellar door wakes him up. He rubs his face a couple times and holds his head after going through the same event multiple times.

“Okay, I’m coming!” he says as the scratching gets on his nerves.

He cautiously opens the cellar door to see Chloe on the floor. She’s tired and her face makes her look more exhausted than she really is. Because of their connection, they need to be in close proximity to each other or else they begin to feel depressed and dreary.

“Do you need something, Chloe?”

“I need your help.”

“With what?”

“I just want you to help me.

“You gotta tell me what it is so I can help you with it.”

“Just give me a hug so until I can feel better. I promise I’ll control myself once I feel okay.”

Hagan can’t lie that he feels okay, so he trusts Chloe and helps her up then hugs her. The two begin to feel better then feel as if nothing horrible had happened yesterday. Once they start feeling overly joyful, they stop hugging and go to the opposite sides of the room.

“Thank you, Hagan. I really needed that.”

“Me too, admittedly.”

“Can I have another?”

“No.”

“Oh…right. What are we going to do until the CDC comes? Just wait here?”

“That’s the plan. We should probably keep as much distance away from each other as possible, so nothing happens.”

“You’re right. How long do you think it’ll take them to get here?”

“Three or four days maybe five. They always want blood from people like us even if we turn.”

“Maybe we should set up some defenses. The cannibals will probably try to coax or even force us to-”

“Right. I don’t want to think about it, no offense.”

“None taken.”

“There should be supplies to make defenses downstairs.”

“I’ll help.”

Hagan and Chloe start putting sensors, hidden explosives, and nearly invisible tripwire around their location. Once he’s done his part, he checks where Chloe is to find that most of her traps are set up, but she’s gone. Before he calls out for her, he is shot by a tranquilizer dart and taken with Chloe to a location deeper in the forest. When he wakes up, he sees that he’s in a hole deep in the ground with Chloe, who is unconscious. There’s a light above them with a pulley and ladder that are completely out of reach. Hagan no longer has his pistol and gas mask on him, which makes things worse.

“This isn’t good,” he says to himself before yelling out, “Hey! Why did you bring us here?”

A man in hunting attire looks down into the hole and says, “I intercepted your message to the CDC. They’ll pay me a high price for you especially if you get your girlfriend pregnant.”

“She isn’t my girlfriend!”

“But you do like her a lot. You have to in order to be infected the way you are. Anyway, good luck down there and get it on. I’ll be recording you.”

“You sick fuck!”

The man above the hole goes silent. Hagan’s vision clears up a bit as he sees a camera above him that’s now recording Chloe and him below. Chloe is awake and appears to have heard everything.

“Chloe…” Hagan says as he tries to back as far into the hole’s interior as much as possible.

“Hagan…what are we supposed to do?”

“Uhhh…oh!” Hagan moves closer to Chloe so the man can’t hear him, “If I throw you upward, you can bring the ladder down.”

“Are you sure? We might only have one chance at this.”

“It’s our only shot.”

“Do you really trust me with this? What if I lose control?”

“I’ll handle it. Don’t even think about that and let’s just do this.”

“Okay.”

Because the two were so close, they’ve started to feel euphoric. Hagan and Chloe look into each other’s eyes and start to breath heavier. Their lips almost connect before Hagan turns away, kneels down, and cups his hands together. He nods his head and hopes that Chloe gets it together. It takes a couple of seconds for her to snap to her senses, but when she does, she takes as many steps back as she can before leaping onto Hagan’s hands. He throws her up into the air, but she misses the ladder by an inch and falls down. Not wanting for her to get seriously hurt, he manages to catch her. Because of this, Chloe is even more euphoric than before.

She uncontrollably kisses him then pushes him up against the walls while violently scratching his back. Hagan only has a shred of self-control while he uses his built up energy to knee and kick Chloe away. He manages to do it and kick her away from him. She lunges back at him, but he quickly dodges her and gets to the other side of the hole. He uses his strength to jump on Chloe’s shoulders then leap off her. His two fingers manage to grab the end of the ladder. Using them, he lifts himself up and goes up the ladder to see the man in the hunting attire.

He holds his hands up then smiles and laughs, “I didn’t know half infected like you could do that. I guess I underestimated you.”

Hagan stares at the man in frustration and walks to the man while backing him into a corner.

“Hey, listen to me. I’m just trying to survive out here. We can split the reward that comes from you. You can take eighty percent of it!”

“I don’t give a damn!”

Hagan uncontrollably bites the man’s face cheek off, which infects him. He then throws the man in the hole where Chloe is hoping to knock her out with his body. This doesn’t happen and there isn’t any cold water close by to help her calm down. Instead, he finds a metal neck collar with a long pole attached to it. It appears to be something used for dangerous criminals. He grabs this before letting the ladder down for Chloe.

When Chloe comes up, Hagan puts the collar around her neck. The collar appears to work as it allows him to keep a safe distance away from her. In a fit of lust, Chloe tries to break the metal bar separating her from her love, but the bar is too hard to break. The infected man comes up after Hagan gets used to controlling Chloe.

The infected man says, “I used that to control other infected, but you don’t need it. I’m jealous of you, man. If only I can have a lady like yours.”

Hagan takes his pistol from the desk where the man has his things at and shoots the man in the leg. The man screams then laughs before getting shoot in the other leg and falling down.

Again, the man laughs then says, “You’re going to give in eventually with that attitude.”

“Don’t bet on it,” Hagan says as he leaves with Chloe in a neck collar and with his gas mask on as temporary protection against her breath, kisses, and bites.

It doesn’t take too long to get back to their shack, but it’s a hard journey for Hagan who has to drag along his old best friend like a wild animal. He tries to calm her down by sticking her in the cool water, but it barely has an effect on her. Frustrated by everything that’s happening to him, he brings her inside and chains her to an iron bar inside the shack. He then points a gun at her face while she continuously reaches and claws for him. The condition she’s in is enough to bring him to tears. He then points the gun at his own head, which starts to make her worry. Chloe winches and starts to cry too while waking up from her uncontrollable desires. Feeling her emotions, he puts the gun away and pulls up a chair near her.

Hagan sits down and says, “Do you remember what we planned to do when we got old? We wanted to buy this shack and have all of our friends and family live in it once we made it bigger, of course. Brandy and a few others thought the idea was stupid, but we kept it in our minds. It was such a stupid storybook-like idea, wasn’t it? I don’t know why I’m telling you about this, but I feel like telling you it to remind you of the particular bond we share.

You and I used to be the best of friends. Remember when we used to go out every Friday after school for ice cream? Remember when we used to have a sleepover every time we had a party? Remember when we used to tell stories of a better life at night after the infection started? Those nights kept me alive and hopeful.

I don’t know if it’s the infection making me feel this way and talk like this. I just want to give into these desires I have, but I don’t want to lose myself to you like that. If we actually do end up being together, I’d want to do it the proper way by marrying you. I love you that much Chloe.”

Chloe snaps out of her trance and says, “I love you, Hagan.”

“Chloe…I’m sorry about the way I’m talking to you.”

“No, you’ve helped me go back to normal.”

“I guess. You’re going to have to stay like that for tonight because of what happened.”

“I understand.”

“Thank you.”

For the rest of the day, Hagan feeds and talks to Chloe while she’s chained up until they have to rest for the night. Meanwhile, a group of cannibals notice that they’ve been able to overcome the worst scenario. They now plan to make sure they have sex by convincing the two. If convincing them doesn’t work, then they’ll just force them to have sex. These cannibals are confident that they’ll accomplish their self-assigned task because of their particular past relationship with them.

 

Chapter 3 – Forced Consent to Love

When Hagan wakes up in the morning, he feels Chloe holding him. He makes sure that he isn’t dreaming, and once he realizes that he isn’t, he swiftly feels himself to make sure that she hadn’t done anything to him while he slept. He then remembered that if his body did succumb to his lusts, then he would’ve completely lost his ability to reason. All of the chains and the metal bar that was holding Chloe are broken. She has a few scratches on bruises on her from breaking free, but she sleeps peacefully regardless of them.

Hagan tries to carefully wiggle his way out of Chloe’s grips, but she just holds him tighter until she eventually wakes up. She quickly backs up and falls off the bed.

“I didn’t…did I?” Chloe asks.

“No. It doesn’t seem like it.”

Wondering if they’ve grown used to the virus, they move closer together until their lips are almost touching. They see how long they can stay like this until Chloe tries to lick Hagan’s face. He doesn’t finch and just closes his eyes as a sign of his trust in her, but her tongue never touches his face. Chloe manages to struggle against her desires and push herself away from him until she calms herself down.

“It looks like what happened to us yesterday allowed us to better control ourselves,” Hagan says.

“It looks like that. Does that mean-”

“No, you can’t sleep with me.”

“Hahaha, you knew what was on my mind, but no. Does this mean we won’t lose control of ourselves?”

“I hope so, but we can’t let our guard down.”

“We should practice.”

“We shouldn’t. You know on second thought…”

“Yes?”

“I should probably chain you back up just to be safe.”

“Don’t even try it.”

Hagan starts laughing as he picks up the broken chains and pushes Chloe up against the wall. She starts laughing and pushes back at him and onto the ground.

“The upside of this infection is that I’m stronger than you. It’s like I’m a black widow and you’re the lowly male spider,” Chloe says while on top of him.

“But here’s the difference,” Hagan says as he reverses their positions, “I’m a human man. If I wasn’t, then we would’ve completely lost ourselves yesterday.”

“You’re also you. That’s the part that I think is the strongest.”

“I could say the same thing about you.”

The two are infatuated just by looking at each other, but this isn’t caused by the virus even though it’s bugging them to take things further. The sound of walking outside in the forest gets them to get up and take out their guns to investigate what’s outside. To their shock, all of their past friends and family are here completely infected.

Brandy steps out of the crowd and says, “I see that Chloe isn’t pregnant yet. That’s surprising. Usually, couples have sex during the first three days.”

“What are you doing here, Brandy?” Hagan asks her with his pistol out.

“I’m just here to check up on my ex-boyfriend and best friend. I want to reassure them that I approve of whatever dirty things they want to do to each other especially you, Chloe. I remember that you’ve known Hagan longer than I have and that you’ve always wanted to be with him, but I stole him from you.”

Hagan’s dad steps forward, “You don’t need to worry about having to marry her first. Just take her, son.”

His mom adds, “And give me the grandchildren I’ve always wanted!”

Chloe’s dad says, “Chloe, I remember how many times you cried for being without a boy to call your own. Now’s your chance.”

Her mom adds, “It’s okay if you rough him up a bit, honey. I did the same to daddy.”

Two of Hagan and Chloe’s friends step forward. Both of them were virgins who were infected. Unfortunately, they gave in and it shows with the young girl’s lower half being barely held up by tons of duct tape and bandaging.

The young man says, “It’s okay, bud. You’ll be a father, which is great if you ask me. If you’re worried about how many children you’ll have, you shouldn’t. We have triplets and we know people who’ve had more than four children at once.”

The young girl says, “It’s just a one-time thing. You can also have sex as many times as you want after without worrying about more children if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Their friends and family continuing giving cases and reassurances that them having sex as they are is good and pure.

Brandy finishes it off by saying, “How can you disagree with us after we gave you so many reasons? Now come you two, get it over with. We won’t mind even if you do it in front of us.”

Hagan and Chloe have managed to keep their composure though they are horrified at what the virus has done to those they held close. They raise their pistols back up to show their defiance.

Brandy smiles then says, “I see that you have enough ammo to kill all of us, but will you? If the CDC gets here, you’ll have a chance to save us.”

“That’s the plan,” Hagan asserts.

“But here’s the thing. We’re going to force you two to have sex whether you like it or not.”

“What? You wouldn’t dare…”

“We will. You’re going to have to kill us because we need your children.”

The crowd of former friends and family start closing on the two.

Confident in the plan, Brandy says, “What’s it going to be, Hagan? Are you going to kill your sweet, loyal girlfri-”

Hagan shoots Brandy in the leg.

“Consider this as our break up.”

“Aw, what a shame. Not!”

The cannibals switch to being aggressive and rush towards the two. They run away while firing at those they love and wanted to save. Hagan puts on his gas mask in case he is caught. Several of them are killed, but many still remain. The two are forced to run into the town in search of a shelter to defend themselves in. They run into a white church with two large white doors and dead flowers by the broken windows. Regrettably, the two are overwhelmed by aiding cannibals who restrain them until their infected friends and family catch up. The aiding cannibals leave the church and let the others take over.

Brandy begins ripping off Chloe’s clothes. She says, “You know, I’ve always been jealous of your body. You have bigger tits and a bigger ass. I’ve caught Hagan checking those features out on you and now’s the time to fulfill his desires.”

Hagan’s clothes are being ripped apart by his friend, but he manages to get his pistol and knife and kill him and keep his gas mask on his face. He then quickly gives Chloe back her pistol so she could defend herself. In a matter of five minutes, Hagan and Chloe dispatch of everyone they cared about thanks to their enhanced infected abilities. Cautious about the other cannibals, they head out to see that the cannibals aren’t bothering them and appear to be regrouping to plan something different. They use their downtime to find temporary shelter.

The closest shelter they find is Chloe’s old house. During the first days of the outbreak, it was boarded up and fortified until Hagan got Chloe and her family to move to the prison. Her family didn’t make it to the prison during the long walk there. Presently, the house is still intact along with its defenses. Inside, it appears to be virtually untouched. Chloe gets a pair of her old clothes with a white shirt and skirt are the only thing she finds appealing to wear at the moment. Hagan finds her father’s old leather jacket and pants and gets rid of his torn up clothes and puts his gas mask on the side. After changing and finally getting a moment to rest, the two sit down on the old couch they spent so many days watching TV, playing video games, and sleeping on together.

So much has happened that there are no real words to say. Instead, they look at each other then embrace one another until they stop crying. After a little while of calming down, they fall asleep. Chloe is the first one to wake up and goes upstairs to her room to look for something to keep her preoccupied until Hagan wakes up. She finds her old piano and starts to play it, which wakes him up.

He goes upstairs and says, “Hey, I remember playing that in school.”

“Oh, I’m sorry I woke you up.”

“It’s no big deal. I wasn’t dreaming of anything good anyway. You’re playing really well.”

“Thanks. I’m still a bit rusty though.”

“Hey, can you play that one song we made up?”

“Are you serious?”

“Why not? Hold on, I think I remember where we last left it.”

“You aren’t embarrassed that we wrote it together?”

“No, why would I be?”

“It sounds like something out of a fantasy story fan fiction.”

“I still like it. Maybe I’m weary and not thinking straight, but I really like the song.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because we wrote it.”

“That’s it? That’s the reason?”

“Yeah. Is there something wrong with that?”

“N-no.”

“Here it is…”

“Is it as ‘good’ as you remember?”

“It’s still great.”

“Let me see it.”

As Chloe reads the song she wrote with Hagan many years ago, the memories attached to them start flooding back to her. She starts to feel a little emotional, but she holds back her emotions for now.

“Do you really want me to play this?”

“I do. I’ll even sing the lyrics with you.”

“You want me to sing too?”

“Why not?”

“I’m not that good at singing.”

“There’s no one here to harshly judge your singing. Besides, I think you have a great singing voice.”

Chloe taps the piano keys a few times to ready herself before playing the song. Hagan puts his arms around Chloe as they sing together in-sync.

 

Once upon a time, I believed in true love

One that would lift my soul up above

All the suffering the tears

A true love that would save me from my fears
What if this is what I’ve dreamed of?

What if all my dreams start to come true?


Will I just sit here and hesitate?

Can you show me that you’re truly my soul mate?

Or will you leave me in the dust

Like all the rest?


What if this is the day that I become free?

What if you’re all that I’ll ever need?

What if I give my heart to thee?


What if you’re God’s gift to me?

What if this is the love I’ve been dreaming of?

What if this is that love?


Your presence gives me joy

You make my heart sing

The thought of you is something my mind can’t avoid

What more can your love bring?


What if this is beyond what I’ve dreamed of?

What if more than my dreams come true?


I can’t just stay here

I need to be with you

Or else you’ll disappear

And my suffering will begin anew


What if this is the day that I become free?

What if you’re all that I’ll ever need?

What if I give my heart to thee?


What if you’re God’s gift to me?

What if this is the love I’ve been dreaming of?

What if this is that love?


What if I regret our love?

What if I end up hurting you?

I couldn’t live with myself.

What if it’s better to be alone in my despair?


No, I’m not afraid anymore

With you, I can accomplish anything

I will be happy as long as I’m with you


This is that love I’ve dreamed of and more

You are all that I adore

You and I will be together forevermore

 

After the song finishes. Chloe puts her hands on Hagan’s. He then kisses her lips and she kisses him for a long time. The infection within them doesn’t stir up as it is suppressed by their self-control.

Hagan then says, “I’m sorry if that was a bit sudden.”

“Are you going to blame the infection for that?”

“No, I’m not. I really do love you, Chloe.”

“I love you too Hagan.”

After embracing, Hagan and Chloe head out to the old supermarkets to get food. The infected haven’t eaten much of the stock there since they don’t need to eat as much as normal humans. They have also managed to keep the power on since they need the food to be relatively fresh as well. The new couple get the snacks and junk food they used to eat when they were children. They relax as if they were kids with TV and games until they pass out on top of each other from the all of the sugar they ate along with all of the energy they used.

 

 

More souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.

– Our Lady of Fatima

Chapter 4 – The Sins of the Parents

A ruckus outside wakes up Hagan and Chloe. They quickly head out to see four children with crates. Neither Hagan nor Chloe can sense any kind of infection in them, so they go after the kids and find them in a small storage shed. The kids look at them and put their hands up.

Chloe says, “It’s okay. We aren’t cannibals.”

The kids lower their hands then smile.

One of them says, “That’s a relief! I thought everyone in town was a zombie.”

“What do you have in the crates there?” Hagan asks.

“It’s something important that we need to hide from the CDC.”

Hagan opens the crates to find pistol, shotgun, and assault rifle rounds with the cure in them.

“Why is that?”

“Because if they shoot our family with them then they’ll die. You know if someone who was infected for a long time is injected with the cure then they’ll instantly die.”

“Where did you even get this?”

“From a crashed car that was carrying these.”

“Who was driving the car? Was it the CDC?”

“No, they were just normal people. The zombies ambushed the car but didn’t find the cure in it.”

“The ‘zombies’ don’t bother you?”

“No, they don’t bother people our age. They just act nice. I think whatever is making them sick is lethal to us.”

“Oh, that’s right. I remember that.”

Hagan starts taking the pistol clips that have the cure in them and loads his gun with one of them.

“What are you doing mister? We need to get rid of that so our parents will be safe!”

“How do you know your parents are in danger?”

“The zombies told us that the CDC is coming for a couple. You’re them, aren’t you? I can tell because of your light blue eyes.”

“We are.”

“Please, don’t go to them to be cured. We want to keep our parents alive.”

“I’m sorry, but they’re already dead. We’ll put them out of their misery for you.”

“How can you do that?! The zombies are like normal people.”

“But they eat people. That’s why we call them cannibals.”

“They also eat normal food. They even make people longer.”

“So what? All the cannibals do is lie in wait to trap the next human person to satisfy their cravings. It’s a short-sighted lifestyle that isn’t worth losing all sense of reason and morality for. It doesn’t look like any of this cure has been used. Come here so I can inject some in you, so you don’t become like them.”

“No.”

“What do you mean no?”

Chloe says, “Hagan, you’re using a gun on them. They’re probably afraid of being shot.”

“These bullets with the cure in them shouldn’t hurt from what I know. They don’t even feel like normal bullets.”

“I’m still afraid of being shot.”

“It’ll be like getting your flu shot.”

“What’s a flu shot?”

“There we go.”

Hagan turns around and shoots the kids. Three out of four of them shrivel and die after being cured.

“How did you know they were infected?”

“Normal people usually confirm with others that they’re normal by asking them a question about something way in the past. They also don’t know what a flu shot is even though a kid their age should know what one is. It’s weird that we couldn’t sense their infection though.”

“That was smart.”

“Now what I don’t get is you. Stop playing dead.”

Hagan kicks the one kid who is still alive.

“Please don’t kill me!” the kid says while on his knees and his hands covering his face.

“It’s obvious that you were born of two cannibal parents. How come you’re different?”

“I don’t know!”

“Did you do anything that they didn’t do?”

“I never ate people. I only ate regular food.”

“I’ve never heard of a kid of cannibals never eating other people. I guess every not every kid born of those cannibals don’t all become monsters. Life must’ve been hard for you, kid.”

“It was because I couldn’t go a day without craving someone to eat, but for some reason, that craving is gone now.”

“It’s probably because we cured you.”

“It was?! Thank you so much!”

“You should probably hide somewhere close until the CDC gets here. If they see you with us, then they might think you’re our child and we’ve already lost our humanity.”

“Okay, I will! Thank you again!”

The kid heads off to a hiding place. Hagan hands Chloe some of the pistol magazines with the cure in it. He also finds a flare gun in one of the crates with a single shot in it.

“These cure bullets kill cannibals in one shot no matter where they get shot. We’re going to need it,” he says.

After the two head out of the storage shed, they head to the lighthouse to see if the CDC is approaching yet. Along the way, they come across cannibals who don’t engage them or bother with them. Most seem to fear the couple while others mumble behind their backs. The two ignore them for the most part.

Before getting to the lighthouse, Hagan says to Chloe, “Hold on. There’s something in the jewelry store I’ve always wanted to get.”

“Is it really important?”

“It is. Come on, it’s not like the CDC is here already. We would’ve heard fighting and gunshots by now.”

“Okay.”

Chloe and Hagan go into the jewelry store. She looks around the store while Hagan goes directly what he wants for in the drawers and pulls out what he wants and puts it in his pocket.

Chloe turns to him and says, “What are you getting?”

“This.”

Hagan pulls out a diamond knife.

“Oh, I remember that.”

“You remember it too? The owner used to take it out a lot to show it off and intimidate possible robbers. He used to show me how easily it cut almost anything.”

“Where is he now? I don’t think I saw him get killed or infected.”

“I think he left a week or so it began and is vacationing on an island somewhere. Lucky guy that he is.”

“Did we really come in here for just that?”

“Yup.”

Chloe sighs then walks out of the store.

“What? It’s a cool knife! Useful too.”

Once he gets what he wants, Hagan and Chloe leave and go to the lighthouse. They head up to the very top and wait while looking out for any sign of the CDC.

“Do you remember the first time we were up here?” Chloe asks.

“Yeah. We always used to imagine the things that were out at sea. I remember thinking there were magical lands out there to explore with dragons and treasures.”

“Besides that.”

“I remember thinking about all of the sea monsters that were in the water depths. Remember the time I thought I saw Cthulhu? I read all about the different real and made up sea monsters. They made me want to stay on dry land.”

“What? No, besides that.”

“Lighthouse ghost stories?”

“No.”

“Then what is it?”

“You promised me you’d be with me forever here.”

“I know I did.”

“Then why didn’t you mention it?”

“Because I’m fulfilling that promise right now.”

“Oh. I thought after you were dated Brandy that you meant that you’d be with me forever as a friend.”

“I actually meant as a girlfriend when I said it, but then things got complicated.”

“Complicated how?”

“You know, Brandy kind of took my attention away from you and ummm. It’s a long story.”

“You’re going to have to tell me when this is all done.”

“Oh boy.”

“Oh boy is right. You’ve got some explaining to do mister.”

“Hey, do you see that in the distance?”

“If you’re joking, then you’re going to have explain yourself in front of all the cannibals.”

“No, look!”

Using their binoculars they found in the lighthouse, Hagan and Chloe see three APCs heading into town with the CDC logo on them. Chloe and Hagan smile at the sight of the cure to their infection. Hagan shoots off his flare gun, so the CDC know where they are. Several cannibals head to the lighthouse to force the couple to do what their family and friends tried, but the two manage to hold out until the CDC arrives. Three teams of people in SWAT gear and gas masks get out of APCs and secure the area.

One of them approaches the couple and asks, “We’ve come to pick you up and take you to our camp outside of town. Please, come with us.”

Once they get in APC and drive off, Hagan says to the man, “Will we come back to the town?”

“We plan to clean it up then see what we can do from there. Were you two born here?”

“Yes, we were.”

“I understand that you want to revive this place to bring it back to the way it was. It looks like this’ll be a good place especially since it has its back to the ocean. We’ll consider it after the clean-up.”

“Thank you. There’s also this kid in the town that we need you to find. He’s already cured and found a few crates of bullets with the cure in it.”

“Three crates specifically?”

“Yes.”

“Then he might’ve found three stolen crates that we were looking for. He must be a special kid to find them by himself.”

“He sure is.”

Hagan and Chloe are taken to a small campsite where the CDC have tents and small defenses set up on a small hill. They are given a different version of the cure not found in the bullets to cure them of their condition. Once cured, their skin gets back its color, their eyes turn back to their normal colors, and Chloe’s lips turn back to normal. They kiss each other once they are allowed to be with each other again.

Hagan then says, “So…the diamond knife wasn’t the only thing I got in the shop.”

“It wasn’t? What else did you get?”

“Uh…this.”

Hagan gets down on one knee and shows Chloe a diamond wedding ring in a small golden box. She gasps and covers her mouth in shock.

“Wi-”

“Yes!”

“I didn’t even finish-”

Chloe kisses Hagan and pushes him to the ground.

Hagan then says, “I told you I’d marry you.”

“You did. I love you, Hagan.”

“I love you, Chloe.”

The people at the CDC can’t help but get emotional and clap for the couple. After that, Hagan explains to the CDC why they should immediately go back to rescue the cured kid, and they do that. The blood from the child of the cannibal’s results in a better form of the cure that requires a lesser dosage and ends up creating an airborne form of it. When the airborne cure is tested on the town, it results in the immediate death of the cannibals and the curing of those who weren’t too far gone. Not long after that, Hagan and Chloe are properly married and get the town back to the way it used to be with the added purpose of being a settlement for those looking for shelter in the new world. The airborne cure is spread throughout the country and more and more people are cured while the cannibals start to finally die off. The future finally looks bright after months of loss because of two people who were able to control their desires.

The End

Always One Step from Hell

Download the whole story for free on Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/916580

 

Chapter 1 – Lechery

It’s just another day. Nothing special. I clean the house, the yard, clothes, and everything else my husband and I own. My husband or my knight, I should say, is out fighting battles on behalf of God. He was never one for fighting, so I guess his calling is true. The Church is the only way I’m able to have this house and food on the table. In return, I act like a good Catholic wife and help the community if needed.

My life right now is rather drab. My knight left a few days after our wedding, so I don’t even have any children to raise, unlike my sisters and friends. I don’t even know if my husband will come back from the war. To give my life a little bit more spice, I’ve written short stories for the children I’ll hopefully get. I’ve also been practicing my drawing skills, so my husband has nice pictures and decorations to see when he comes home. Maybe the other people will see the drawings when I draw them outside and keep me company. We’re all friendly around here, but not exactly friends. I wish we were. It’s so lonely.

But it doesn’t have to be. There are some good men out there who could take care of me. My knight won’t know if I’m smart about it.

No, that’s a terrible thought. Did I really just think that? I hope not. This mundane life is getting my imagination going.  Sweep, dust, cut, wash, yadda, yadda. Sometimes I like to think I’m a princess in the making like those fairytales. I have my knight. All I need to do is make this humble home into a small castle.

I can do it with the right men. I’m sure they’ll do it for a young woman like myself. My looks got me married, so I’m sure they’ll get some men to work for me, especially if I flash a little skin at them.

Again, with these thoughts. I swear I’m not thinking of them myself. Maybe if I rest a bit outside of this dusty house, I can clear my head. The porch outside is one of the only things I’ve completely cleaned. I wonder what’s it’s going to be like outside here when I get kids. We have enough space out front for the kids to play without them getting in the way of people walking.

There are plenty of men out there who could give us wonderful children. There are rich, muscular, and hardworking men that walk these streets.

What’s going on? What’s with the look in their face? There’s something about them that makes them seem so…attractive. How can I smell them from here when they’re so far away? That masculine smell is intoxicating.

Why don’t you ask one of them out?

N-no. My life is fine with just one man in my life.

One man who might end up dead. Why not have one on standby just in case?

Hold on. Why are they walking towards me? What’s with the look on their faces?

They want you, Anita. Who doesn’t want an attractive housewife who’s good at taking care of her house? Look at them. Stare into the bright red light of their eyes and take their hands.

I…I’m going inside. I still have a few more things I want to do. What was that voice in my head? It sounded like me, but it said my name? Am I possessed or something? Holy Mary Mother of God pray for me a sinner and help me suffer through these temptations I’ve been given. I just have to get my mind off of it. Maybe I can read a book or two. Aaah! They’re coming in.

“Let us clean for you, Anita.”

“A princess in rags is no princess at all. Let us get you something wonderful to dress in.”

“Beautiful woman, who is confined to her house, let us ease your burdens.”

“Thank you for your concern, but I don’t need your help-hey! Let me down! Where are you taking me?! Aaaaaah!”

I manage to fall off them as they carried me, but I fell a long distance and now I’m in this town of arms? Why’s it so dark all of the sudden? The buildings, ground, and faceless people are made up of arms. I can feel them touching my feet as I walk over them. They feel so wrong but so right-stop! This is wrong! Who is that flying over here? Is that me? No, it isn’t, but she looks like me. Her eyes are angled strangely, and her long thick brown hair is the only thing covering her body.

“Do you feel them, Anita? They want you to embrace them.”

“You’re that voice I heard in my head! I have to mentally pray you away.”

“That’s not going to do anything. I always come back. Maybe it’s God’s will for you to embrace your desires.”

“No, He doesn’t!”

“How do you know what the will of God is? Oh, by all means, keep praying. It’s clearly helping you.”

The hands in the ground have me stuck in place! I can’t free myself from them.

“Get away from me!”

“These people made of hands only want to please you. Let them.”

“I won’t!”

I can’t break away from their arms! There’s too many of them.

“You’re a lonely housewife who wants her husband to come home to pleasure her. Why not do the job yourself or get someone else to do it?”

“I can wait for him to come home. I can!”

“Can you truly wait for him? Your resistance is fading. Your mind is numbing, and your control is fading. How long can you last?”

Fatigue is setting in. I’m so tired of not having any kind of meaningful relief in my life. All I get are small doses of fun and relaxation, but then I get back to my boring life. I need…I need…I need to…stay faithful. One mortal sin of being unfaithful to God and my husband can rightfully send my soul to Hell. I can already feel the heat from the Netherworld cooking my skin. My body is already so close to it that the demons are reaching out from it and use the tips of their fingers to scratch my face. I won’t let them have me!

“Until my death!”

I can feel my strength coming back to me. Yes! I can finally break through. I can get up-

“Ow!”

I hit my head on a cabinet. I must’ve fallen asleep while working. It looks like I slept through the night. Even though I slept in an uncomfortable place, I feel fine, but what was that dream?

 

 

Chapter 2 – Gula

My parish priest should know what’s going on with me. I talk with him and he tells me that I’m just facing normal temptations for being a devout wife and faithful Catholic. The more vivid dreams are just the demons taking advantage of my creative mind to tempt me in different ways. After confessing some unconfessed sins that I forgot to tell him last time, he reassures me that I’m a faithful wife and my knight is lucky to have me as his princess. He also reassures me that my knight will come back one day, maybe even earlier than I think. I thank him and tell him I’ll see him on Sunday.

Okay, I guess I’m not crazy. I just have to deal with these temptations for however long I’m supposed to. Temptations are supposed to show me my weaknesses and help me work to be a better servant of God. I can beat them if another comes my way. In the meantime, I have to do my grocery shopping for the week. The market is decently packed, so shopping should be easy today.

I should treat myself to more than usual. I have been working hard. I’ve been waiting for the perfect occasion to buy sweets and other ingredients to make the perfect meal for myself. There’s a discount on everything I want to, so this is the perfect opportunity to buy everything I want. It’s a lot to carry, but I can handle it.

Oh, now that I think about it, I might’ve gotten too much. Carrying all of this now is putting a real strain on my arms. I can’t return it, so…oh, there are some poor people on the street. I might as well give some of it to them.

“Bless your wonderful soul, miss! You will be in my prayers from this day forth!”

“I appreciate it. Thank you.”

“No, thank you. My prayers are the least I can do for you.”

At least I made someone’s day. The amount of food I’ve given away has really lightened what I need to carry. Oh, someone dropped some of their money.

“Hey! Excuse me! Mister? Ah!”

He’s not listening to me and the hole in his pockets makes him drop a little bit every time he moves erratically. I could just walk away or keep following him for more. No one is watching me pick up his loose change-Nevermind. It’s not worth it. I don’t need more money for myself. I’m fine the way I am.

“Excuse me!!!!!”

“Hello, miss. Is something the matter?”

“You’ve been dropping all the money in your pocket through the holes in your pants. Here’s everything I found.”

“Thank you, so much-ow! What is it, honey?”

“I told you that we should get those pants fixed! Thank you, miss. You have our gratitude and you will be in our prayers tonight.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll be sure to pray for you as well.”

“Pray for my husband. He’s going to need it.”

My husband better not do what hers did. He’ll be needing prayers too if he does. Back at home, I find some of the stuff I thought I gave away. That’s weird. I guess I bought extra, but I don’t think the price I paid reflected that. I’m not too good at math, so maybe I did. Again, I can’t return this, so I might as well enjoy the little that’s here. It’s not bad to treat myself a little every now and then.

Speaking about that, I could use new clothes. I could give what I have to the poor and give myself the new and pretty stuff. The clothes I have are becoming ugly. I’m sure the poor won’t mind it as long as it makes them comfortable for the weather outside. My closet holds a variety of clothes for the season, so I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

No, I’m fine with what I have. It’s not like I can’t fix the little tears in the clothes. I don’t go to any parties or fancy events to need better clothes. All I do is keep the house clean. I would ruin the expensive clothing and they would just take up space in my already tight closet, so there’s even less of a reason to buy them.

Hmmm, the food tastes good already. I’m going to eat a bit more for taste testing reasons. I could eat all of it right now. The ingredients I have make a good meal the way they are right now. Why should I wait until it becomes a complete meal? Sure, I could get sick, but…

Ew, now that I think about it, why did it taste good the way it is? Everything is barely cooked. Why did I like eating this raw meat to begin with? Am I that hungry? It won’t be that long until everything is ready, so I’ll wait.

Okay, almost…done! Everything smells delicious. It’s time to dig in! Yes! I’ve been waiting for this-I forgot to say grace. I know it’s not required, but I should be thankful for my meal at least before eating. I shouldn’t dig in like a pig either…okay. Now, I’ll eat.

I’m surprised I haven’t gotten any temptations yet though it feels like I have. Wait, have I? I think I have when I was shopping and cooking. These temptations don’t leave me alone even after going to confession. At least I didn’t give into them…I think. Eck. What’s this stuff on the table?

It feels like a greasy substance. I don’t think I dropped anything while cooking or eating. Where is this coming from? Now more of the table feels like it. Huh? There’s more of it. The house feels like it’s sweating this disgusting sticky substance. What’s going on? Huh? Someone came into the house? She looks like that previous demon that tempted me before except this one is fat and wears all black with black shoes. Her hair is extremely long and thick…almost thought something dirty there.

“Indulge yourself, honey. You deserve it.”

My table is full of food now even though I just ate everything.

“No, I’m not hungry. I’ve had my fill.”

“You haven’t had this kind of food in a while and you’re a hard-working woman.”

“I already gave myself a little bit more extra. I don’t need anymore.”

“Listen to yourself. You can feel how hungry you still are. Smell the food. Isn’t it delicious?”

It does smell delicious and it’s starting to make me feel hungry even though I feel full at the same time. I need to pray for strength.

“I…I just feel hungry, but I’m not. Leave me.”

“Just look at yourself. Your skin craves nourishment.”

“AAAAAAHHHHH!!!!”

There are mouths all over my arms, face, and I can feel them all over me. They crave food and drink. Their appetites will never be satisfied until they eat everything on the table and more. I…I won’t give in!

“I’m not some ravenous animal.”

Maybe I can cut off these mouths-Ah! One caught the blade with its mouth-Ahhhh! Then ate it and spat it out at me and now the blade of the knife is stuck in the ceiling. Thankfully, I avoided it without a scratch. I can’t remove these mouths with my hands either because they’re biting at me.

“Look at you. You can barely control yourself.”

“I can control myself!”

I have to get away from this food, but the floors are so slippery. It’s so hard to move around here. Great. One of the hands ate the door handle and I can’t get out this way. The smell of the food follows me through the house as I search for a way out.

“You can’t escape your temptations no matter how much you pray.”

“I can endure it!”

The mouths on my hands and feet try eating the floors and things around them. There has to be a way out of this. The way to control myself is primarily through prayer and self-control. Maybe I just have to forcibly shut the mouths on my body through my will. Here we go. I’m struggling to keep all of these mouths shut and I can’t move.

“Hey! Get that food away from me! I don’t need it!”

“Come on. Open up wide!”

I…have to…control myself! Don’t open your mouth. Don’t think about food. I’m not hungry. I don’t need anything to eat. I’m fine the way I am. Okay, I’m feeling better now. Huh? I must’ve eaten so much that I ate myself into a food coma. There’s a mess on the table and parts of the house seem dirtier than before for some reason. Thank you, God it isn’t greasy. There’s still some time in the day, so I might as well clean up. That’s another temptation overcome. This is difficult, but I can do this. I hope I can.

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – Avaritia

So far, I haven’t had any temptations today. Maybe my habit of saying the rosary has finally allowed me to take a break today. It’s either that or I’m too strong to be tempted. I hope that wasn’t me being prideful. Anyway, I managed to get a lot of cleaning done today and a surprise letter came in the mail. It’s from my knight.

The date on it says that he wrote it only a couple days ago. He should be coming home soon, and he mentions the kinds of things we’ll do when he gets home. Of course, I won’t mention everything since it’s…private, but he will make up for the time we lost. The money he’s earned for his services should keep him home long enough for both of us to take care of our children. He’ll have to get a normal job after, but at least we can raise our children together.

It’s almost time for bed. Something seems to be happening in town. I hear someone call for help and that they’ve been robbed by a thief. Looking outside, I see a man in black running away from city guards. Thieves aren’t common in this town since it’s a small town with nothing much to it other than its serenity. The thief seems to have dropped a few things while being chased. Since the guards didn’t pick up what was dropped, I go outside to see what was dropped and find a bunch of expensive looking jewelry.

No one else is out here, so I might as well take it. Who knows if that thief is out here alone? Maybe there’s another one out here who he dropped this jewelry here for? I pick everything up from the ground and make my way towards the jail. There I can leave the stolen items so the owner can pick them back up. Even though I don’t get anything out of it other than thanks, I should still make sure that someone responsible has it rather than just leave it here.

Or, I could just keep it for myself. No one else is out here and my house is a short distance away.

No, I…damn temptations. I’m bringing this to safety. There’s more on the ground. I guess I have to pick this up too since it seems like everyone else in town is sleeping. The trail of riches leads me to a house. This is weird. It seems like the guards didn’t catch the thief here. Maybe the thief thought he could drop off some of his stuff here or is this his house? Oh? There’s a hidden switch where some of this treasure is. Oh my, I find a basement filled with gold, jewelry, statues, and paintings. Is this the thief’s house or someone else’s? Maybe the thief accomplice and this is their treasure or is there another thief out tonight? I might be overthinking this.

Look at all this expensive stuff. How much is it all worth? Does the person who lives here own everything? How much of it is stolen? How did it all get stolen? So many questions, so many things. There are dresses and outfits here fit for kings and queens. If only I had this.

Maybe I can. The thief is probably long gone along with the guards. The rest of the town is asleep so I can take as much as I want.

I shouldn’t.

Why not? You are a princess to a knight after all.

“Princess!”

A couple knights come into the basement. They’re clad in gold and have golden weapons and shields.

“Who are you? Ah! Where are you taking me?”

We leave the basement and end up in a kingdom shimmering with gold. The people wear gold, the town is made of gold, and I’m wearing a golden outfit with a golden crown. This entire place shines as if it were the sun. I’m at the top of a castle, made of gold of course. Going into it, I find-! My husband who is dressed like the guards except he is wearing a very royal set of armor.

“Anita, you shouldn’t keep your children, your people, and I waiting,” he says to me with five children around him.

These five children are mine? People start coming in with gifts for me. Statues and paintings of me come in along with vases, furniture, food, drinks, and other luxuries are presented to me. It’s a lot. Do I really need all of this? A woman, who looks like me, goes from my side to in front of me. She has a weird look to her face, so she’s probably another demon.

“It’s not a question of need, but of want. All of this is being given to you at no cost to you. What’s better than treasures that cost you nothing?”

“All I need is the love of God and others like my husband. Everything else is extra.”

“This is the extra. Why not indulge yourself in it? You are a princess after all.”

“No, I’m not. This isn’t real.”

“Oh, but it can be! Take the treasures in front of you and you might have your own land to rule over. You might even obtain the kingdoms of the world if you take what you desire.”

“I don’t need it.”

I throw off my golden crown, take off my golden slippers and gloves, and go out the door into darkness. I’m not sure if my eyes need to adjust after being in the golden city for a bit, but I can’t see anything. Nevertheless, I walk into the darkness because it’s better than giving into temptations. What? What’s going on? My legs are turning into gold. They’re harder to move now as if my legs were asleep. AAAHHH! My legs just shattered into pieces. I have to get out of here.

That demon is behind me now.

“Come back and claim your treasure. The rest of you will break if you don’t come back.”

Now part of my face and part of my back feel stiff. They turned into gold too. I’m not going to turn back. This is all just a trick. There’s no way I’m going to give in. AAAHHHH! My face and back are shattered. I don’t know how I’m still alive, but I’m still going.

“You aren’t going to make it. Give in already. I’ll help you get back to safety.”

“Not going to happen!”

I don’t see an exit, but I feel one coming. Oh no. My right arm is turning into gold. It’s going to break if I don’t get to the exit soon. Come on. I don’t think I’m going to make it. Please, God. AAAAHHHH!

“God is just going to make you suffer more. Forget Him.”

“He’s just testing my faith in Him. I’ll make it through it. I trust in Him.”

I still have one arm. My body feels incredibly stiff, but I’m still moving. Almost there. The exit feels like it’s within reach. Here!

“Woah there miss! Explain to us why you’re carrying all of those stolen goods into here.”

I’m in the guards’ building. The thief is behind bars.

“I…I found this while you were chasing the thief. I thought I’d give them to you so you can get them to their proper owner.”

“You’re a model citizen miss. Please, let me help you lay it all down on the table. I’m surprised you carried all of this here. It’s incredibly heavy stuff. Hold on…I don’t remember some of this being dropped. Where did you find this?”

“On the streets dropped on the floor. Oh, and a trail of it led to a house with treasures in it. You didn’t chase him that house, did you?”

“No, it was a rather simple house. Lead us to it if you will.”

When I lead the guards back to the house, they find the thief’s accomplice and arrest her. She was hoarding the treasures they had in their secret basement after her husband had dropped them along the way. She was also doing a little thievery of her own during the night. Because of my efforts, I’m given a fairly large reward of gold. A guard writes a letter to the capital, so there’s going to be more of them here so that what happened here isn’t repeated.

Once all of that is done, a guard sketches my picture and puts it on their wall of model citizens along with what I did. The drawing isn’t too accurate, but at least they have my full name under it. I thank the guards and head back home for some well deserved rest. Huh? The sun is rising already? No rest for the weary, I guess.

 

 

 

Chapter 4 – Inertia

After last night, I feel exhausted. All of my energy feels completely drained, and I don’t feel like doing anything today even after sleeping until the afternoon. The house is collecting an odd amount of dust today. My strength only allows me to do so much before I feel like I have to sit down. The stiffness that demon caused me to be more tired than I’m used to. This challenge has probably been building up in me.

These days where I just uselessly labor away, cleaning the house, fixing things, and denying temptations just to do it all over again the next day without much rest. I just want a day or two where I do nothing and rest my mind without a care in the world. If I can do that, then I’ll have the strength to go back to my boring life again. It’s not wrong of me to ask for that, is it?

Because of my thoughts and tiredness, I’m not sure which thoughts are mine and which ones are my temptations. If they are one in the same to the point where I cannot tell the difference, then I’m in deep trouble. I know of saints that were never tired when they were doing more than I am. Am I so lazy that I can’t even do the meager tasks I’m supposed to? Am I allowed to rest today and maybe tomorrow to get my strength back? Am I being too scrupulous with myself?

The house is fine the way it is. If my knight came back in a few days and found the house dirty, then would he blame me for it? A lonely life of toiling away at a house that can never stay clean takes its toll on you after a while. It’s similar to life. You keep yourself healthy and happy until you eventually die. I shouldn’t think like this. I shouldn’t think at all today. The only thing in my mind is rest.

I’ve been getting up cleaning a bit then sitting down for most of the day. My eyes have been glued to the ceiling for what feels like hours. The sun is setting now, and I’ve barely done anything. I guess you can’t blame me after what I’ve been through mentally. Still, I could at least tidy myself for tomorrow.

My strength feels like it’s been completely sapped from me. Everything from my arms, legs, and body feel incapable of movement. If I could, I would just fall asleep on the floor and get up when I can whenever that might be. My mind has been going in circles for hours now with silence from time to time. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.

What’s that over there? Is that another demon coming my way? It looks like me as drawn by a child. Completely green eyes, no noes, and a line for a mouth with brown hair and black clothes. It’s crawling towards me with its claw-like hands and I barely have the strength to move.

“Why move when you don’t need to? I’m so lazy that my legs have lost their function.”

“I’m not like you. Once I rest up, I’ll be back on my feet to do what I always do.”

“What you need to do is rest? Your knight might have pity on you and treat you extra special when he comes home.”

“He knows I’m not a lazy wife.”

“Then just rest for today. I’m not my other sisters. I won’t tempt you in any way. I’m too lazy to.”

“Good. You can leave me then.”

“I’m not that lazy.”

What’s coming out of the ceiling, the walls, and floors? Are those maggots or termites? They’re eating everything around them and they’re crawling on me. AAAAHHHHH! The maggots feel like they’re burrowing into my skin. They’re in my eyes and mouth! I have to move or else everything I have and am will be consumed.

“Decay does all the work for me. I don’t need to do anything. Your inactivity helps me as well.”

“Then you’re going to be disappointed.”

It takes everything I have to clean the maggots off me with whatever water I have. It’s incredibly painful to pick them out of my eyes and get them out of my mouth and ears too. Now I have to clean them from my floors. I get my mops and brooms to clean them from every surface of my house.

“Why are you worried about losing your house and everything in it? Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, right?”

“I’m still allowed to have my house. Plus, taking care of my house is my God given responsibility as a wife.”

“You’re going to lose everything anyway when you die.”

“This is still my responsibility.”

“Who’s going to care when works don’t get you into Heaven?”

“It’s faith show by works that show God that I am a willing servant of His that get you into Heaven. Not faith alone nor works alone. That and God’s sanctifying grace.”

“…I’m too lazy to come up with another argument. Three is usually enough.”

“You’re really talkative for being lazy.”

“It’s a problem I’m trying to get rid of.”

Most of the maggots and termites are gone now, but more are still appearing in the house. This demon is probably the reason why they keep appearing.

“Your maggots and you are really starting to get on my nerves. I think it’s time to leave. Holy Mary Mother of God pray for me a sinner and get rid of this demon torturing me.”

“Oh no, don’t invoke her. I hate her more than most saints.”

“Too bad.”

The demon is dragged out the door by an invisible force and the maggots and termites get sucked out with her. I’m almost afraid to rest now. Oh, I almost forgot to say my rosary for the day. To give my proper thanks to Mary, I say the rosary on my knees. If I’m allowed to rest, please give me a sign…

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5 – Ira

Ah! I must’ve fallen asleep while praying. Huh. I remember don’t holding my rosary at the end. I’m also laying down in bed with the covers on even though I clearly remember praying on my knees. My guardian angel probably put me in bed and finished my rosary for me. It’s a good start to a terrible day. For some reason, it’s one of those days where I drop things, stub my toe, hurt myself by accident, trip on nothing, and fall into the dirt.

Even though I’m aggravated, I thank God for my gifts and challenges, so that I may be a better person-and a bird just pooped on my head. Stupid bird! Don’t throw a rock at it. I won’t even hit it. Gotta stay calm. Go to keep mentally praying for strength-ack! I stub my toe again while walking back inside. Stupid, stupid, stupid! I just want today to be over. That’s not all I want to be over.

The cycle of waiting for my husband to come home and keeping myself busy repeats every single day. I swear this house is cursed because dirt and dust didn’t build up this quick in my parent’s house. It’s either that or I’m so bored that I notice even the smallest build up of dust. There has to be something else I can do. I could go to church and spend time there, but I pray most of the day anyway. What’s the point of doing it in a church if I can get results just by staying home? I don’t really know anyone in town since my house is far from most. The town itself is simple and small with nothing really going on in it. How did my husband convince me to move here with just the house and the look of the town as the main points?

Before I was bored, but now, I’m aggravated. Repeating the same things over and over in my head with no resolution is getting to me. No husband, no children, no friends, and no family. My temptations torture me every single day of my life with something new or something irritating old. I guess I shouldn’t ask for anything new to happen to me because that just makes my life more difficult. If I ask for things to stay the same, then I just get hit with the same temptations until they overcome me. No, I let them overcome me.

You’d think I’d learn to never fall to temptations, but I have. Repeatedly to the same ones too. Thankfully the only people that know about the sins I’ve committed are the priests at the local church, God, and my guardian angel, but that doesn’t excuse me for letting myself fall to weakness. I could’ve done something different. It would’ve been better if I did nothing, but no, I just had to feel better and run the risk of damning my soul to Hell. Thank you, God, for being so patient and forgiving because I would’ve gone to Hell several times by now. I just wish I had more help in my life. There has to be something good waiting for me around the corner. Woah! Are those?

“Hey! Ow! Oww! Stop it! Get away from me! Get out of my house!”

“There they are in that woman’s house!”

“Come on, we got our fill for now. Let’s go!”

Ah…ah. Those two were the thieves from before seeking revenge on me. The guards that were chasing them were the only thing that got them out of my house. Oh…no. They’ve torn up my living room and my clothes I’m wearing and hair…My house is a wreck now. I’m all beat up and bruised. All of that effort I put into being a good sinless wife has brought me, what? More difficult temptations to deal with and now a beating by criminals? And they’re going to come back for more?

These people don’t deserve mercy. They don’t deserve to be prayed for. The only thing I can think to ask God to give them is discipline, which I’m about to give to them. I can feel myself running faster than I usually do despite being injured. Maybe it’s because my skirt is torn in half or because I’m surging with rage. My newfound speed allows me to speed through the streets while avoiding the people around me until I see the thieves going into the forest. They manage to lose the guards, but they don’t lose me. These two have a little treehouse in the forest. Maybe it’s their backup location since their other one is compromised. Whatever the case is, it’s time for my revenge.

For some reason, I don’t even wait for them to separate or have their guard down. Once I get close to them, I barge into their hideout and use everything they have as a weapon. The statues, paintings, vases, and other valuables become my sword and shield against them. Before I could barely stand my ground against one of them, but now I’m able to fight both of them without even trying. It’s like I have multiple arms and my mind is thinking at the speed of light. Once they are down, a thief who is shorter than the man but taller than the woman shows up to fight me, but he’s no match for me. That felt liberating. All of my stress and built up anger is gone.

My vision clears to show me what I’ve done. The smaller thief seems to be the thieves’ teenage child. Rotten parents raise rotten children it seems. Looking down into an expensive mirror I broke, I can see the rage burning inside me. A fire burns my eyes and mouth. I do have multiple arms coming out of my back, which are all lanky, white, and slightly red. I look like a monster.

“This should teach you a lesson about stealing from others. I’ll pray for your soul, but I never want to see you again in this life again, got it?”

“W-w-we got it. Pl-p-ple-please leave.”

I’m not sure if this was a good decision anymore. Uck, I feel sick. Blech! Ugh. What’s going on? I’m puking fire? Is this the fire I saw within myself? My chest and mouth are burning as if I really did puke fire. The entire forest is on fire now because of the fire I puked. Is that a woman forming out of the fire? Her dress looks like fire itself and her face, eyes, and hair are similar to mine, but her hair has a red lining to it.

“So much for being a good wife and faithful servant of God.”

“I still am. I just lost myself a bit, that’s all.”

“Are you sure about that? Look around you. These are the fires that you held within yourself. Look at the people you hurt. You can come up with as many excuses as you want, but you know it would’ve been better if you didn’t do anything at all, a reoccurring problem for you.”

“I don’t need you to lecture me on what I should and shouldn’t do. All I need to do is go to confession, do penance, and be stronger next time.”

“I doubt you’ll get to confession in this situation.”

Multiple versions of the woman start coming out of the fire. They laugh and taunt me.

“Look at the freak.”

“She’s barely able to control herself.”

“What a child.”

“And a spoiled child at that.”

“She can’t even handle a simple, boring life.”

I fight off the taunting demons-blech! But now I’m puking more fire. My problem isn’t them. It’s me. I have to get out of here. Ah! Oww! These demons won’t stop hitting and mocking me. I can’t fight back or else I’ll keep puking fire and won’t be able to get out. These flames on me now, but I can’t put them out. There’s nothing I can do but run and run.  I don’t think I can make it! This burning is unbearable!

“Someone help me! I’m burning alive here! AAAAAAAAH!”

I’m sorry for what I did! I let myself lose control and embraced my anger. I’ll pay whatever price I have to. Just please have mercy! My whole body is engulfed in flames. If I die, I hope to be purified in the flames of Purgatory. Please, God, have mercy on me…

Huh? I’m…I’m alive? The forest isn’t on fire anymore and those extra arms I had are gone. I can see the thieves and their child getting arrested by the guards in the distance. That’s weird. I swear I got further away, but I’m very thankful for this mercy. It’s probably for the best that I’m this far away from them. Even though I might’ve deserved revenge, I don’t think I carried it out the way I was supposed to. It’s time to go back home and clean up…again.

Before the sun sets, some guards stop by and give me some funds for the damage that was caused by the thieves.

“It’s the least we can do,” they say, “We’ve also caught the thieves that have done this. They’ll be sent to a more protected jail for their crimes.”

“Thank you for the kind gift.”

“Don’t mention it. Have a good night, miss, and try not to make any more enemies.”

“Will do.”

They leave as I close the door. The money I have is enough to replace the things lost to me, but I’m afraid I lost something more when I fell to temptation. I’ll have to get up early in the morning to get absolution for my sins as soon as possible. I don’t want to make God think I don’t appreciate the second chance He’s given me.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6 – Invidia

I say my confession and do my penance early in the morning. I’m surprised that the priest that gave me my penance wasn’t too harsh on me and was understanding. Of course, that’s how priests are supposed to be, but I thought what I did would’ve gotten me a long penance like community service instead of just praying the whole rosary twice in a day. Still, I’m glad that my soul is absolved of my sins. Hopefully, my next temptations aren’t as bad as yesterdays.

The two rosaries I said today should grant me sufficient protection, but I should do more. Today I work twice as hard on doing things that God would approve of. The inside and outside of the house are cleaned up after yesterday’s events. I’ve drawn more pictures to put up around the house. The stories I’m making for my children are almost done. There are some scary elements to it, but they should be able to handle it. My temptations have allowed me to expand my creative mind, so I’ve recently made more progress on these stories than I have before. I guess that means I’m facing these temptations the right way.

Whew! That was a busy day for me. It’s time to get some well-deserved rest now-hmm? What’s that noise outside? Oh, that’s right. The town has a little celebration because of the feast day of a few saints that’s associated it with it. It looks like most of the people in town are participating in it. I wish I could be a part of it, but I don’t have anyone to go with.

Those people are so blessed with their children, spouses, family, and friends while I have none of that. I’m on repeat with what my mind focuses and complains about. How can I not when I see people happier than me? All I do is housework all day with a few recreational activities. My husband might not be coming home to me while my sisters and friends didn’t have to deal with that. What friends do I even have when I think about it? The priests and merchants in town? Do those really count as friends?

What about family? They don’t even live in this town and I doubt they’ll ever move here. I was the only child to move out of the town that my family stayed in. Was that really the best decision? I know that I don’t have to worry about money now for the house and food, but is it worth it for a life like this? Temptations day and night…this was one of them. I hope I haven’t sinned in my thoughts. I just went to confession and did my penance too. I don’t think it’s a mortal sin if I did sin in my thoughts because those I did without full control of myself.

Am I making excuses for my sins again? What? What’s going on with my arms? They’re turning green and brown! It’s spread throughout my whole body now! AAAHH! Parts of me are falling off like before when they turned to gold, except I start to fall apart when I move. I have to stay still to stop from falling apart. What are these hands around me? I look up to see another demon who is posing as me. This one is wearing green and black instead of my blue and white. It has its hands over my head like it’s squeezing it, but despite it not touching me, I can still feel the pressure on my head.

“Keep thinking what you were thinking. There’s no shame in telling the truth of how you feel.”

“But I’m envious of others when I should be thankful of what I have. I shouldn’t be jealous of them. If anything, I should be praying for them. I’m sure they have challenges of their own.”

Parts of my body that I lost, like my right arm, are growing back. That’s good. I just have to keep praying in my mind to keep the temptations at bay.

“What about what you’ve gone through and are going through? You’re literally green with envy. Your body has turned into grass and dirt and falling apart as if you were turning back into the dust you were made from.”

“This is my cross to bear. I’ll do whatever God wants me to do.”

“Again, with these thoughts and devotions about God. Why can’t you fall in love with me?”

“Because what you call love isn’t love at all. I’ll only suffer more if I fall to your temptations.”

“You’re so stubborn, but you’ll fall again eventually.”

“I pray that I won’t.”

“Then you better keep praying.”

Images and sounds of people that I would be jealous of start filling my head. I’m shaking as I try to resist them, but this makes me begin to fall apart, so I have to try to stay still at the same time. I need better thoughts to counter these ones. Let me think. Uhhh, oh! I’m thankful for the life I have. My husband is a wonderful and strong man and I just know that I’m going to see him again. My house is nice and everything inside and outside of it is great. I’m thankful for my God-given skills as a housewife, artist, and writer. I pray for everyone who is suffering out there. I pray for the continued happiness of everyone who is currently happy and offer my sufferings as reparations for their sins. I pray for the souls in Purgatory. I pray for those who have yet to find salvation through the Catholic Church.

Huh? Where did the demon go? I’m back to normal, so I guess I did the right thing. I’ll have to reexamine my conscience then continue to pray for other people and myself. It’s a constant battle I always have to fight, don’t I?

 

 

 

Chapter 7 – Superbia

Today’s another great day to be good. I’ve already done everything I needed to yesterday so I can treat myself to some good relaxation today. I went to church early today, said my rosary, done my shopping, and even dressed up my house for my knight’s coming home. He could be coming home soon, so I set up the house to be extra nice for him. I can’t wait for him to come home and see the surprised look on his face. He should be so excited to see me that we might get to baby making as soon as he settles down. What knight wouldn’t want to do that when he comes home from war to a beautiful wife like myself?

I’ve always got a lot of food that we love ready to go. Since I got extra, I had a little for lunch already. I’m sure he won’t mind that is if he comes home. He should know that I’m a hard working woman that deserves her due reward for her faithfulness to God and her husband. I’ve also done my part in charity. Whatever wealth and possessions I haven’t donated are mine to keep. The extra things I’ve done should cover me for a while. If they don’t, I’ll just give whatever things that I have that I don’t really need.

I should stop overthinking about the things I do and the consequences of them. Since God is good, all I have to do is go to confession, do my penance, and that’s it! I’m set for Heaven! Today’s my day to rest and I’ve been enjoying the fresh Sunday air without a worry in the world. Damn it all. Why’s the town so loud today? Don’t they know that they should be resting today? Don’t they think about people like me who need a bit of silence from time to time? These people get on my nerve sometimes.

Part of me has to admit my envy of them. Their joy, energy, and want to do good for God and everyone is admirable. I wish I had what they did. I know I recently suffered from the sin of envy, but it’s just a thought that I sometimes have. I’ll get over it because I’m stronger than most women. Who else could go through the psychological and supernatural things that I have and come out mostly unscathed? All of the horrors I’ve gone through would scare a veteran warrior or exorcist. My nerves are made of steel. Nothing can overcome me.

Are you finished talking about yourself yet? Myself, I mean.

What are you talking about? I’m just speaking the truth.

You grew and took over half of my body when I looked in the mirror after church. You jumped out from the mirror and now I have two heads and four breasts.

What’s the matter with that? It’s double the me! I’m sure my knight having two of me.

Everything. I’ve gone through thinking about the seven deadly sins because of you.

Because of me? Or because of you? Do you know how many times you think to yourself, “I do this, I do that, me, me, me, me”?

I have to think about myself and my actions sometimes to make sure I’m acting according to God’s will.

Why should you? You’re perfect as you are! Do you know that I’m your biggest fan? I’ve shapeshifted my form to look like you and keep changing it when you change. We’re like the same person! Maybe you can even help me get to Heaven. You should still be in the state of sanctifying grace, so your ticket to Heaven should be good.

Demons don’t belong in Heaven and they’ll never make it their home again.

Oh, but I do God’s will like you do. What’s the difference?

I’m redeemed by His sacrifice. You aren’t. You had your chance and you’ll never recover from your sin. I can pick myself when I fall as long as I put my hope and faith in Him. You can only fall and when He comes back, you’ll stay there forever.

Harsh words coming from a woman who always thinks about herself. You suffer from the sin of pride just like the devil.

Right now, all I have to care for is myself. I try to pray for those who are lost and suffering. There’s nothing else that I can do for the world.

Your constant mental prayer doesn’t help you. Just say the word and I’ll leave you.

I have been praying for you to go away. I’m always praying because I know I’m nothing without God. He loves me, I love Him, and that’s something that will never change.

AAAAAAHHHH!

There we go. I’m finally back to normal. Huh? Who could be at the door? No way!

“I heard there was a princess in need of a knight and I came to answer the call.”

“You came back!”

“You aren’t even going to try to roleplay?”

“Oh, get in here you, dork!”

We embrace and kiss for several minutes. He tries to calm me down, but I deeply miss him, so I hold onto him for a while with tears of joy in my eyes. He talks to me about his adventures over dinner, most of which I’ll be using in my stories and drawings. We spend the rest of the day in each other’s arms until it’s time to save it for tomorrow.

He didn’t even want to make children with you tonight. You could tie him up and get him too.

That’s wrong. I’m not going to do that.

But I bet you’re still thinking about it.

I’m thinking the rosary in my head right now. How about that? No answer? Good. Thank you, God, Mary, my guardian angel, and everyone else who prays for me in Heaven. Special thanks to you God as always. I couldn’t do anything without you.

 

The End