Chapter 1: All Started With a Demon

“I’ll be right there!” That has become my catchphrase ever since working in the tavern. I went from a royal guard to a beer wench.  Due to my injuries, I was forced to retire. Due to the severity of them, I couldn’t make the journey home alone. I was on the streets till the bartender rescued me. It’s been four years helping him and eleven years away from home completely. I was able to become apart of the head section and had to be at the main camp which was days away from home. Life was great then. Being at the top of my prime and kicking butt. All I long for now is just to settle down and have a family.  A girl can dream can’t she?

Speaking of dreaming a rather dreamy man walked into the tavern. He was a demon but definitely didn’t have the intimidation factor. There was something different about him. He just seemed so….Human? He seemed so uncomfortable in the crowd.

“Excuse me sir, would you like me to seat you now?” I asked in my sickly sweet voice.

“Yes if you could,” he replied looking down at me.

Now this guy was tall and I was short. He’s about 6’5” and I’m like 5 foot exact. I was like a child leading a giant. Hopefully he was a friendly one though. I’m getting super sick of all the jerks running around here.

Audrey Bublitz

Introduction: Kingdom Hearts: Isabella Lefever

Two six year old twins with big blue eyes and long, wavy blondish-brown hair sit up in their beds. One is a boy while the other is a girl. They slept in an average-sized room that they shared.

 

           Outside, the moon and the stars shined brightly down on the small world of Twilight Town. It was the twins’ bedtime but they were defiant. They would not go to bed until their mother told them a story. Their mother, a petite woman in her twenties that had the same blue eyes and long curly blondish-brown hair as her adorable children, sat in between their beds. She was wearing a turquoise nightgown that came down just below her knees. Her children stare at her with large pleading eyes and pouting lips.

 

     “Please, mom! Please tell us the story again!” the twins begged. Their mother chuckles at their childish behavior. She puts one finger up to her lips.

     

 “Sh. Alright, alright. Calm down. You don’t want to wake your father now,” she hushes them. The twins throw their hands up in the air in victory.

       

“Yay!” they exclaim. Their mother chuckles again. The twins settle back down into their beds as their mother clears her throat.

 

       “Alright. Now where do we start off at?” she ponders while lightly tapping the bottom of her chin with her pointer finger. She then puts her finger up in the air like she had an idea.

 

       “Ah! I remember now! A long, long time ago there was a gargantuan heart-shaped moon known as Kingdom Hearts. People had thought Kingdom Hearts was the heart of all worlds. Many people thought that it contained light. Others thought it contained darkness. These two sides quarreled over what was inside the all mighty Kingdom Hearts. The two sides found out about the X-blade (A/N: Pronounced  the“Key or Kyeblade.” It is easily confused with a regular Keyblade.) the key to unlocking the door to Kingdom Hearts, and how to forge it. The two sides created weapons called “Keyblades” which were mere shams of the real X-blade.

 

     “They gathered on a world where the ground was barren and cracked and dark clouds loomed over the world like a thick blanket. This was the world where Keyblade bearers would be tested to see who is worthy of being the chosen wielder of the X-blade. Today, this desolate world was given the title of the Keyblade Graveyard. It was called this because of the powerless, rusted keys that littered the place. If they could talk they’d probably be crying out to their fallen masters and mourning their deaths.

Continue reading

“One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind”

The little blonde hair brown eyed girl always loved to stare at the moon and stars.. She was always so fascinated by them and how endless the sky seemed to be at times. She looked at the moon yearning for the day her father would return. She always knew wherever her dad was he was looking at the same moon and stars she was. He would call every night they would talk for hours, he would ask what kind of moon it was each night and she would always answer. Tonight it was a crescent moon. That was her favorite part of the day talking to her father. It was when she was happiest. He told her that night he was coming home that weekend. She was so excited she couldn’t wait for her father to come home so they can sit outside and look at the the stars and moon together.

PROLOGUE

M.GY.SGT. Henry Martin

May 5th, 1945   0900 Hours

Classified West Africa

 

I wake up pondering what mission I might be briefed for today, My thoughts were immediately interrupted by an extraordinarily loud siren and people yelling outside my tent. I wasn’t due home for two more days and i had hoped to be gone by now ( I never stay in one area for more than a day at most and i’ve been here for a day and a half ). Unfortunately I was injured in my last mission in Germany and will be awarded a purple heart on May 25th. I would theoretically have enough time to complete a small or simple mission, Even though i’m technically not allowed to leave camp due to my injury. I really don’t see the point in keeping me back. I mean yeah i’ve got a bullet hole in my butt but that isn’t enough to keep me from being effective in a combat situation. My missions are always covert and solo. I requested a position that I would be alone to work my own way. I like the thought and feeling of being behind enemy lines by myself, No help, one target, my plan, my way, if I die its only me dieing and one elses lives are in my hands.  My last mission is classified. But a quick summary, I was ordered to kill Adolf Hitler in an underground bunker and make it look like either an accident or suicide ( That was my choice ). I clearly picked suicide, that was the best option to humiliate his Nazi force, and it did just that very well. That was only an objective to distract the world from everything. The real objective of my mission was to get information on advanced technology the axis forces were developing to win the war. Needless to say im really good at my job and got my information, tracked down where the tech was, fought my way in, got the tech, and left. Little did I know throughout the mission somewhere one of those buggers shot me and now i’m stuck unable to leave this wretched place. It is too hot, there is no cold water anywhere, there are way too many people here, I feel as though we are one giant target. I’m tagging along with the 82nd Armoured Division, British Army. So by giant target I mean a gathering of a thousands of troops, hundreds of tanks. By far the biggest division of the British Army overall making it a prime target for bombing…

 

Introduction: An Unexpected Independence-

With a powerful gust the smell of the gunpowder and salt watered air struck up my nose. A pool of blood on my boots from the corpse of the Spanish privateer was being washed from the heavy maelstrom bombarding us from each side of the deck. A Man-of-War or not, our ship wasn’t an invincible beauty, but a coercive glory and beaut of a warship she was. Though as the blood poured, the bullets and cannonballs flew, and the colors above tore in defiance of the wind, the men feared our home and glory, The Yellow Bow we called her, would not make port in Kingston this coming Wednesday as expected. Her ivory white sails, once clean and bold in their stainless gloss. Now torn from stray bullets and the sword strokes of the Spanish men who’d climbed the mast and slashed at the mainsails with their cutlasses and bayonets. Slippery bastards got us good. Never saw that galleon of theirs on the horizon. The storm drew the waves high and our eyes were averted. Continue reading

Ideas by Daniel Bielmyer

the year 2125.
physical contact is banned by
hug dealers hide in the alleys offering a warm embrace
couples hold hands in the dark streets
a man with no name begins a rebellion
a mask hides his face.
and the final stand begins in the old subway tunnel
surrounded he may not have an escape
he begins a quick pace. bullets fly and he ducks spins and kicks
a drawing a knife a quick flash of red.
again and again until one man remains
why won’t you die?
the man speaks in an almost robotic voice
behind this mask mr. creedy is more than flesh.
behind the mask are ideas and ideas can never die.
and the last draw come to close he stands a victor.
the government has fallen and the new people will rise.

Behind the Den Door by Lizzie McIlhenney

Every family has their stories, the legends and the myths, the sad stories and the ones that everyone laughs at an annual dinner after the wine has been cracked open. But there are some that no one dares breathe a word about, and everyone wishes or is demanded that they forget. Every family has them, and they can strengthen or break the bonds between loved ones.

I’m older now, I’m a grandmother with my oldest grandchild engaged to be married this summer, but there is one memory that will forever be branded into my mind.

           My father was a World War II veteran, and my two uncles served as well. My uncle Andy survived, my uncle Thom, however, was shot down early in the war, and is honored to this day with a ribbon in my window. The war affected my father in ways that I could not possibly understand when I was a young girl in the late 40s and the early 50s. Not even the post war understood what affected and changed our soldiers, with what we now understand are extreme cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a serious psychological problem. Back when the war ended, our boys were sent home and counseled to push the bad memories away, and not to talk about it to anyone, except maybe other veterans.

           The men returned home changed, not quite the same as their wives remembered from before. Each man dealt with the emotional scarring differently, ranging from looking for answers at the bottom of a whisky bottle to going insane. My father chose to completely shut his emotions out. I remember the late nights when he would sit in his chair and stare blankly into space, his eyes glazed over and wide, until I heard my mother gently pull him out of his chair and lead him to bed. I remember watching their shadows in the hall from my little twin bed, and hearing my mother whisper to my father and the shuffling of his slippers on the carpet hallway as they slowly made their way to bed.

           My father was a good man. Honest and kind, and a loving father and husband. However, there were nights when he would stay in his den, and keep the door closed, a sign that we were forbidden to enter. Sometimes we wouldn’t see him for a full day. Sometimes, when my uncle and his family would come on Sundays for dinner, after the meal, my father and my uncle would slip into the den while my mother and my aunt cleaned up and we children would play in the family room.

           Finally, one night when I was around ten years old, my curiosity got the better of me. I told my cousins I was going somewhere, probably the bathroom, and I stood and listened at the keyhole of the den door, and I got my first glimpse of my father’s experience and horrible memories.

           As I stood crouched, listening, careful of my breathing, I heard crying. A tingle ran down my spine. I had never seen or heard my father show any emotion like this, and to hear him heave for breath like so was alarming to my young ears. I strained to hear more.

           “My God, Jerry! What is it?” I heard my uncle exclaim.

           “It’s just those damn dreams again! I can’t shake the images from my mind…”

           There was silence for a moment, and I heard my uncle sigh, “I know, I know…”

           “How many years is it now? Over ten? And the memories are just as vivid as they were. The screaming rings in my ears like they did when we marched… I dreamt about Henry again last night, do you remember when I told you about him? We trained together, fought together, were captured together… Until we were a day away from O’Donnell. We were marching right next to each other, happy to be alive still, when so many were dropping around us. Then, Henry fell, and the guard who was behind us slashed his head off with a samurai before he had even completely hit the ground. I tried to stop him, but another guard bayoneted me until I was within an inch of my life. It was a miracle that I was still standing, let alone marching. But what I remember most his having to march past his dead body, and know that his family would never see him again. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can see the flash of the sword, hear it swishing in the air, and hear him crumple to the ground…”

           Horrified, I couldn’t listen anymore. I remember running away from the door, down the stairs, and through the kitchen doors to where my mother and my aunt were laughing and drying plates. Mother turned around and eyed me with alarm, “Are you alright, sweetie? You’re white as a sheet!”

           I blinked, and couldn’t open my mouth to reveal what I had heard, the visions in my mind playing over and over like a talkie. It took me a moment to gather my composure and smile and nod, saying that I had come in for a glass of water.

~

Years later, when my siblings and myself were going through his belongings, packing them up when we were moving Dad into a smaller condo when Mom died, I discovered an old journal in a box in the attic. It had fallen out of a musty old blanket that was bundled up in his trunk. Dumbstruck, I realized what this was as I flipped through the yellowed pages. It was my father’s diary that he kept during the war. I held in my hands piece of history that I never knew had existed. The last entry is what haunted me the most.

   We once studied this poem by Thomas Hardy, in school when I was young, and there is a line that has been running through my head ever since I started serving.

But ranged as infantry,

And staring face to face,

I shot at him as he at me,

And killed him in his place.

“I shot him dead because —

Because he was my foe,

Just so: my foe of course he was;

That’s clear enough; although

“He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,

Off-hand like — just as I —

Was out of work — had sold his traps —

No other reason why.

  I didn’t understand it then, but it made sense to me as I entered the battlefield the first time. These men we’re being sent out to shoot and kill, we are no different. We’re both human, maybe we would have been friends if the circumstances were different. The man at the other side of my bullet may be a father to be, or he may have a young daughter or son at home, as I do. He could have a sweetheart or a wife at home, praying to God for his safety, as I do. And the possibility that the man or boy at the other end of my gun could be so similar to myself, hangs over me like a dark cloud as I harden my heart and pull the trigger.

~

           For years I would remember that night, and when I researched the details I found that my father had survived the Bataan Death March. That was the only time I had heard about my father’s experience through his own lips. I never told him what I had overheard, but when I was nearly thirty and pregnant with my first child, I asked my father if he had marched in Bataan. He was quiet, until he swallowed and confirmed that he was, not asking how I knew. After a long period of silence, he lifted himself out of his chair and lifted the back of his shirt, where I could see several nasty scars where the Japanese soldiers had bayoneted him. After a moment, he pulled his shirt back down and lowered back into his rocker. Then he changes the subject to my unborn baby, asking if we had any names in mind for the child.

           I smiled to myself and replied, “Henry.”

Left Alive (Chapter 3) – By: Bradley Schlinkman *Warning! Minor Gore Scene!*

Early morning sunlight filtered in passed the boarded windows of the room. The young, almond haired, boy laid sprawled over the bed, his limbs splayed about as if he had fallen a great height, only to land softly upon the bed. A single beam of sunlight traveled across the tan carpeted floor, trailing over the white sheets, and coming to a stop over the boy’s gently closed eyes. He scowled in his unconscious state and attempted to roll over to his right to escape the evil sunlight that dared to interrupt his peaceful sleep. Only, he managed to roll into a larger and brighter beam of sunlight that came through a hole in the roof. It forced him awake in the most unpleasant way that only the sun can give.

With an annoyed groan, he sat up and rubbed his tired eyes. As he swung his legs over the side of the bed and into the boots waiting below, the thoughts from yesterday gently forced their way to the forefront of his sleep addled mind.

‘I’m leaving today,’ he thought to himself with a frown as he laced up his boots.

He knew he had to leave, and he came to decision that he will leave last night, but the comfort of his base called for him, and he still wasn’t sure if his mother was truly gone from the city. He stood, his feet now secured and comfortable in his worn tan hiking boots. He retightened his black leather belt as he slowly took stock on what he would leave and take.

As he began to walk from the room, a thought made itself known to him. If he did end up having to survive in the wilderness that surrounded Glendale, then he will need a good knife. He turned back around, and walked back the side of the bed. Hidden underneath his deflated pillow was a simple, but reliable, five inch survival knife. The blade had dulled slightly from use, but still had the edge to cut through flesh with relative ease. The hilt was hard and black, made from a hardened plastic like material that was hollowed out inside. The hilt ended with a ball compass that still worked, so long as you don’t tilt it, and twisted off to reveal the space inside. Inside was a small bundle of emergency matches, three feet worth of rolled twine, and a slightly used small flint.

He slid the blade into its sheath he kept hidden under the bed. Clipping it to his belt amongst the other belt attachments, he looked around the room for anything else he could use. Spotting and grabbing nothing other than the sheet from the bed, he climbed back downstairs into the kitchen.

As he came into the kitchen, he removed a nearby vent cover revealing a folded up large black back pack. Walking to his pile of edibles, he contemplated what he should take. In the end, he just grabbed a weeks worth of his dried meats and fruits, along with three canned soups. Leaving the pack where it lied on the floor, he marched over to a cabinet partially hidden by the bathtub-turned-cooking-fire. Inside was his emergency water supply. A total of fifteen plastic bottles of water, two gallon jugs, and three filled metal canteens sat proudly in the darkness of the cabinet. He felt pride blossom in his chest at the sight, he worked hard to transfer and purify that water to be fit for drinking. It took him some time and a good bit of his patience to gather it, and he was proud of it. However, that pride died slightly when he had a realization. He couldn’t take much of it with him. Too much water would slow him down and waste a good bit of it in the effort. With a sight, he grabbed four of the filled water bottles and the three canteens.

He set them next to the slowly filling backpack, only placing the water bottles inside and a single canteen, leaving the rest sitting out for use. He spotted his trusty bandaged pipe still leaning against the chair from last night. He walked over and picked it up, inspecting it for any damage. Softly dulled gray metal winked up at him, sending him back to the day he found it.

 

Flashback

 

‘Shit, shit, shit, shit!’ a fifteen year old almond haired boy panickly thought as he ran across broken streets.

Behind him, the sounds of heavy feet falling unsteadily against the asphalt, crunching it underfoot, and empty moans sent shivers of fear and panic down his spine. The sick smell of rot was constant in the air behind him. His heart beating hard and fast in his chest, like an orchestra of drums, and his eyes were wide and searching for any escape from his chaser.

As he turned a corner into a nearby alleyway, he stumbled slightly over a rock. As his heart froze at the sudden shock, and he instinctively stumbled to try and regain his footing, he tripped over an overturned trash can. The crashing sound echoed out of the alleyway and into the streets. He rolled, hitting his head painfully against the rough asphalt. Dazed and confused, he sat up holding his head with one hand, his eyes crossed.

He glanced upward, eyes trying painfully focus on the black shape stumbling toward him. He blinked once, twice, and finally on his third time his vision cleared, revealing his horrifying pursuer.

A ruined, ripped, and bloodstained tan jacket hung off an unhealthy thin frame. What was once a pair of blue skinny jeans now hung loosely and in pieces from it’s bonelike unsteady legs. It’s incredibly pale skin hung off it’s flesh, revealing strangely brown muscle and sinew beneath. Unnaturally large, blind white eyes seemingly stared into his frightened dark green ones. It’s ears and nose were gone, in it’s place existed rotted dark holes into it’s skull. It’s lips were also gone, revealing a gruesome smile full of missing teeth and rotting gums. It’s sharply thorned tongue darted excited in it’s maw, cutting into the gums but drawing no blood.

Frightened and panicked further by the steadily advancing horrifying husk of a human body, the boy’s eyes darted about the alleyway in search of a weapon. Spotting something shining from a bin, he lunged forward, plunging his cut and dirty hand into a nearby overturned bin. Inside, his searching fingers found cold, hard metal. Gipping it hard, he ripped it out from it’s place in the bin, revealing his chosen weapon.

A simple foot and a half long steel pipe was gripped in his tight fist. The end tapered out into an elbow that once served the purpose for connecting to other pipes. Small rust spots speckled across the pipe, giving it a strange texture. This was his weapon, no longer a peaceful manufactured pipe designed for directing liquids in the dark, but now a tool of blunt death in this teenager’s unbloodied hands.

He allowed the momentum of his swing to take him, allowing himself to stand and pivot on his heel. The cold steel pipe whistled through the rotting air of the alley, only to suddenly stop with a loud crack and a sickening crunch of the nearing creature’s skull. The boy’s arm shook, his hands and joints of his arm hurt from the sudden and unexpected stop. He heard the disgusting crunch in front of him, and felt the sudden weight now weighing down on his defiantly raised arms. He refused though, to open his eyes, afraid of the possible scene before him.

After a few long seconds of nothing happening, and his arm growing tired, he cracked an eye open. The shocking sight before him caused both his eyes to suddenly snap open, staring at the disgusting scene before him. The creature, once an horrifying effigy of his approaching death, now hung limp from the elbowed end of the pipe. The pipe itself buried deep into the left side of it’s skull, having forced it’s way a quarter deep into it’s head, crushing it’s horrifying face. Dark and thick blood oozed slowly from the gaping wound now made in it’s skull. The blood slid slowly down the pipe like molasses toward his still tightly gripping hands.

Quickly, he dropped the pipe, allowing his sore arms to swing worthlessly to his sides. His hands shook at their current resting spots, eyes wide and staring at the dropping body of the now dead creature. With a light thud, it’s head impacted with the asphalt, forcing the pipe deeper into it’s already destroyed skull

‘I-I killed it…’ he slowly thought, ‘ I killed it without even a thought!’

His breathing picked up, hyperventilating in the mixture of panic and shock. His heart raced even faster, trying to keep up with the rapid influx of oxygen now being introduced into his body.

‘That thing was once a human! It had feelings, a family, it had a life! I took away any chance for for it to return to his life! What have I done!?’

He fell to his knees before the body of the creature. His hands gripped at his hair, pulling at it as his eyes stared unseeingly at the body.

‘It was chasing me… I had to do it! If it had caught me… it would’ve eaten me alive… I had no choice! I had to kill it!’

He stopped pulling at his hair, arms falling limply to his sides again. His eyes refocused, this time of the pipe sticking out from it’s skull. Shaking, he raised his arm, and gripped the pipe, painting his palm with it’s thick blood.

“Besides,” he mumbled, “It was dead anyway.” with his piece said, and his raging mind mostly calmed, he ripped the pipe from it’s skull. It’s crushed head was lifted a few inches from the ground, only to thump against the asphalt when the pipe was suddenly removed with a sickening crunch.

A slowly stood on unsteady and shaking feet, staring down at the bloodied pipe gripped tight in his hand. His eyes followed a slow moving droplet as it slid down the pipe and splash against the asphalt. He quickly looked away and swung the pipe to his side, an arch of dark blood tracing its path. He had heard it, the telltale sound of an approaching horde. The sounds of many unsteady feet crunching against broken asphalt ground, and the nightmare orchestra of uncountable moaning voices ringing out into the alleyway.

Glancing one last time at the fallen body, he took off down the alleyway, and away from the approaching hell.

 

Flashback End

 

He shook himself from his memories, he really had to stop doing that. Setting the pipe down on the nearby countertop, he did one last scan of the house. He had all he needed. Chancing a glance past a crack between the planks boarding up the windows, he saw it was nearing noon. He’d need to get moving soon if he was going to leave the city before nightfall.

Now, he’s left with a choice. He could either leave now with his already packed items, and leave the city before nightfall, or take the time to bury the leftover supplies and losing precious daylight. With a small disappointed sigh, he came to his decision.

Slinging the black backpack over his shoulders, he frowned at the sudden weight. It was a little more than he’d expected. Shrugging, he slung the two canteens around his neck, placing them so he could close his arm and cut off the noise from them if he had to. Taking a finale look around the room to be sure he had absolutely everything, he grabbed his pipe and headed to the door.

This was going to be a long journey.

 

Lockheart Chronicles by Jenna Brooks

Chapter One

London 1837

Snow flittered down from the silver clouds and dusted the cobblestone streets. Smoke plumed out of factory chimneys and immense cogs as tall as twenty men cranked in tandem; powering machines the size of titans. No workers manned them though. The factories were empty, yet their machines still spit fire and ash into the sky.

Clack, clack, clack. A sound echoed through the hauntingly empty streets. Clack, clack, clack. The sound came again, but this time closer. A figure rounded a corner into the open square. It was a man clad in a raven black, three piece suite. He had a cane that was clearly used for decoration than assistance, but it did prove to be the source of the noise. He came close enough for his narrow jaw to be seen and it was seen that white feathers fanned out around his feet. He knelt down and his top hat shrouded from his eyes to the bridge of his nose. All that could be seen was his burning, fire colored eyes that had pupils resembling starbursts. A golden chain hung around the man’s neck and a jewel dangled at its end. Upon closer inspection the jewel was a glistening red diamond; its shape was carved into a royal lion grasping a human heart in one paw and a key in the other. His lips parted and he spoke with eccentricity,

    “These streets are filled to the brim with scrapped projects as is. You’re going to be the one that can be salvaged and made into something even greater than these machines.” He said with a gesture of his hand. “Now, wake up!”

Ryder bolted upright in her cot. A shiver ran through her as snowflakes stung at her exposed neck. She wiped away the moisture and hand took its place. Ryder jumped out of her cot and drew her makeshift dagger. A familiar lighthearted chuckle made her muscles relax and caused her to throw her head back with a sigh of relief and slight anger.

    “Well good morning siren sleeper. You’re lucky it was me that woke you and not one of the guards with all the noise you were making.” Dulicus said playfully. Ryder sheathed her dagger back in her cord belt and tossed her ragged nightshirt off. She heard a giggle escape Dolicus’s mouth and she turned sharply toward him.

    “And just what is so funny?” Ryder snapped. The skinny boy smiled wickedly and poked at Ryder’s developing chest. “Looks like you itched your mosquito bites too much Ryder deary.” Ryder’s mouth dropped open as he curled over into laughter. Enraged she kicked him off the edge of their shabby hut into a heap of snow. She shrugged on her thicker wool shirt as Dulicus tumbled out of the snow.

     “Done making snow angels already funny boy?”

      “Shut it, Ryder. That wasn’t funny or nice of you to do. You know my clothes don’t handle snow well like yours.”

       “Well maybe if someone had made their clothes out of wool..” He cut her off,

        “Oh, you mean the last scrap of wool I gave up for you?” She stayed silent as he scowled at her. Ryder turned her gaze towards her feet to hide her shame. It was true. Dulicus managed to steal high priced wool from one of the higher end boutiques so they could make winter clothes, but he had only managed to get enough to make two pairs of pants and one shirt. They had argued about it for hours but Ryder finally gave in and took the last scrap. What he didn’t know is that she had made it a size that they could both fit, or at least till she fully developed. The two were close in that sense. Even though they were not blood they found comfort and family in one another.

They were both at least 12; orphaned and left to the streets. They had met on a calm summer’s day three years back. Ryder had been escaping the guards after stealing a cooked turkey leg from a local meat cart, and just as she veered into an alleyway she plowed right into Dulicus. They toppled over into pile of wilted flowers and that’s when Ryder had stumbled upon Dulicus’s little shack.

He had built it by himself out of driftwood that washed up at the small beach by the docks and fastened it together with scrapped ropes and nails that crewmen tossed overboard. For such a young boy he was smart enough to nestle the makeshift home in between two connected townhouses whose ends perturded out so far as to almost touch the stone wall, which mainly kept the drunken homeless from falling into the bay, and as they righted themselves Ryder saw that she hadn’t run into just any normal boy. The boy that stood before her had skin that glistened like the gold coins that they used as currency, his eyes were resembled yellow opal and his hair was silvery white.

     “Now look what you did, you ninny!” He shrieked. “That was six gold that I earned fair and square, and now it’s lost in these blasted flowers!” Ryder remember how they knelt and dug in those flowers for almost two hours. She felt like a normal kid for once. A normal child that had a simple life and she wasn’t some poor girl who had no parents and didn’t have horns sprouting from the top of her head, or perform acts, only to be labeled as tricks, with a wave of her hand.

A hand tilted her chin back up and she met the softened eyes of Dulicus. He smiled warmly and pulled her into his arms. He whispered an I’m sorry and squeezed her tight against him.

      “Hey,” she said with as he wrung out his shirt, “how ’bout I snag us some breakfast? You could make Mrs. Wendelton’s chickens get loose again, and I could sneak in and snag one of her apple pies.” He grinned and grabbed his boots and started to walk off, but Ryder grabbed hold of his shoulder before he could leave.

      “Hey, before we go I want you to take my shirt. I can’t risk you catching sick.”

       “Ryder no, I won’t do that. You’ll freeze.”

       “I’ll be fine. You know I always run warm anyhow.” Before Dulicus could argue any further she slipped out of the warm wool and tossed it to him; taking it reluctantly. Tugging on her boots and tucking her cloth shirt into her pants Ryder joined Dulicus at the opening of their alley.

        “You know you don’t have to risk this just to make it up to me, right?” He said as they walked through into the snow dusted town square. Ryder nudged him with her shoulder with a quick smile. He understood their bond, but he still had yet to see how dedicated Ryder was, whether he liked it or not, to keeping him safe and happy. It was a promise she intended to keep till the day they died.

As they rounded the corner to the street to Mrs. Wendelton’s the two stopped a block ahead of the house. They had done this several times before; it was a fun ritual of theirs. Dulicus said he’d get to the coop in five minutes, which was exactly when the clock in the square would ring, and that’s when Ryder was to rush on to the scene and run in through the front door.

     “Now no messing about, you hear? I know Wendelton has lots of stuff that you want to snag, but food is more important and remember that.”

       “Yea, yea. I know what I’m doin’. I’ll be in and out before Wendelton is even wary.” Ryder said cockily. Dulicus rolled his eyes and disappeared between two houses. Ryder went instantly into action mode; from a small girl to a master thief. She crept along the shadows until she reached the corner of her stoop. Looking back over her shoulder she had a clear view of the clock tower; only two minutes to spare. Ryder heard a cawing sound and knew instantly that Dulicus had reached the chicken coop. Checking back over her shoulder once more Ryder saw the clock was in its final moments before going off. The giant iron work hand ticked closer to the golden twelve mark; seconds were left before she had to spring into action. Four, three, two…and the clock bonged. Ryder heard the chickens begin to squak and flap their wings and sure enough Mrs. Wendelton herself came racing out of her home. Ryder made a mad dash to the door as it tried to slide close behind its owner and made it through the closing gap just before it clicked shut.

       “Well, looks like I’m not getting out that way.” Ryder said to herself. Not paying much mind to the minor setback she padded over to the window to see how much time she had before Wendelton restored order to her coop. Peering out she found Mrs. Wendelton in a fluster as she raced around in circles to gather up her chickens. Ryder could see almost half of them had already made it down the street; time was clearly not an issue at this point, so why not explore?

Leaving the window Ryder casually took in all of Mrs. Wendelton’s parlor room. It was illuminated by a brass, candlelit chandoler. A small, fine oak table and high backed chairs to match. A cupboard rested against the far wall that held an assortment of tea cups, serving trays, and other items for servicing guests, though Ryder doubted the old widow had many guests anymore. All the decor was nestled around a stone fireplace. Above it rested a wooden mantle that was brimming with bobbles and trinkets of the widow’s past. A doorway opened up next to the cupboard and Ryder drank in the scent of cooked meat and fresh apple pie. Ryder quickened her pace towards the kitchen when a glint from an empty shelf of the cupboard caught her eye. She shook her head as her feet tried to take her to the glint, but in her mind she knew better. Dulicus would be infuriated if she got distracted over something that may just turn out to be meaningless jewelry. It wasn’t worth it, she decided, food and a happy Dulicus was more important.

Ryder entered the kitchen and was enveloped by the intoxicating scent of fresh cooked food. On the windowsill sat an assortment of freshly baked pies, and all looked big enough to feed five people. Resting on top of the iron woodstove was two trays of boar meat. Ryder knew she came in for just pie, but the boar was far too tempting to turn away from. Fishing into her pocket Ryder pulled out a handkerchief she used to carry trinkets and procured goods in. This’ll do nicely to carry at least one tray of meat, but I better find something else to carry the rest. She thought to herself. After carefully slipping the meat off its tray into her handkerchief Ryder began poking around to find a way to get the rest out of the house. Remembering the cupboard in the parlor room Ryder scrambled out of the kitchen remembering she was still strapped for time.

       “Ah, here we go. This’ll do jolly good!” Ryder exclaimed to herself. A wicker basket sat on the empty shelf at the bottom of the cupboard, but then something clicked in her mind and she remembered what else was on that shelf; the mystery jewel. Not being able to restrain herself Ryder reached over to where she had seen the glint and picked up the jewel. She slowly turned over her hand and, one by one, moved her fingers. She jumped and clasped back down on the jewel as the sound of stomping came from outside. Mrs. Wendelton was back, and the stomping was her knocking the snow off her boots. Hooking the basket on her arm Ryder dashed back to the kitchen and started hurriedly stuffing things in it. First the meat, then the pie, forks, knives, and to top it off she snatched up a bottle of wine. Alright, now I’ll just climb out the window and…The door creaked open. Just as Ryder had walked into the parlor room so had Mrs. Wendelton, and there she stood. Her jaw was agape and her nightgown was soaked at its hem from snow. Ryder’s eyes went wide. Realizing she still clasped the jewel she saw no other option than to quickly jam it into the pie.

      “You, I should’ve known! It was you and that blonde headed rat! I’ll have you arrested this time for sure! Guards!” She screeched. Ryder gasped and panicked as the widow picked up random belongings and flung them at Ryder. There was only one way she could get out of this. As Mrs. Wendelton turned and opened her door Ryder threw her hand up and it slammed shut.

       “That’ll be enough out of you Widow Wendelton.” Ryder said shakily as Mrs. Wendelton spun around.

        “What did you do? You didn’t even touch the door. Witch! You’re a witch! I knew there was something strange about you!”

         “I said that’s enough!” Ryder screamed. Ryder was beyond infuriated now. Witch? How dare she.

          “Now I’ll have you see here Widow Wendelton, I am no witch! I am something beyond a witch. Something greater, and born to make the world better. I’d tell you that you’ll see someday, but I’m afraid you’ll never even remember this moment.” And with a flick of her wrist Mrs. Wendelton’s terrified expression smoothed out into a blank stare. She then turned and walked upstairs. Now free to go, Ryder sighed heavily and walked out the door. Ryder was no witch. Witches were withered, old hags that had been twisted and rotted by doing the Devil’s work. She may be a devilish type, but she has never conspired with Lucifer. No one understood her; except Dulicus. They both knew what it was like to be different, and it wasn’t easy in the slightest.

Ryder shuffled along the streets in silence. She didn’t like using her abilities. They caused trouble, and just like Mrs. Wendelton had mistaken them for witchcraft Ryder knew others would too. Using her abilities made her depressed, but she managed to get over it quickly as it was replaced with shock and terror. As she was making her way out of Mrs. Wendelton’s street into the town square a familiar figure came stepped out of the inn. The man in black from her dreams stood right before her.

Ryder’s feet were frozen where she stood.

      “This can’t be possible. You’re a bloody dream aren’t…” A booming voice cut her off.

       “Excuse me young miss, but may I ask you where you got that basket?” Ryder whipped around and found a tall, broad shouldered man in a guard’s uniform. He bent forward slightly to see her over his brooding chest and raised an eyebrow. Quickly she stuttered out:

        “W-Widow Wendelton, sir.”

        “Oh, is that so? I never took the widow for a giving type. Not since her husband died, but even then I don’t think she’d give anything to a troublemaking type like yourself.”

        “Troublemaking type, sir? I haven’t raised any kain.”

        “No, no you haven’t. Not yet at least. I’m having a hard time believing that Widow Wendelton gave that to you. You know what I think?”

         “That I’m her poor granddaughter who feeds off scraps?”

He snorted and grinned. Reaching to his side the guard pulled out a small club and loomed over Ryder. With a gasp Ryder spun around and scrambled away from the guard. Ryder heard him call out, “Stop, theif!” as she ran, but there wasn’t a chance of her stopping any time soon. A whistle rang out behind her and she heard numerous boots thud out from alleyways and hidden posts; the chase was on.

Hundreds of guards must be on her tail Ryder thought. She wasn’t going to bother turning around to actually count; that was too risky. Ryder could estimate that she had been running a long time though. Her lungs burned from exhaustion and the stinging cold air, and the guards didn’t seem to be letting up. Ryder had led them through every alleyway that she knew trying to shake them, but there were too many that could keep up. Finally Ryder decided to take a chance and began a course for the square; maybe then she could lose them in the crowd. Making a sharp right Ryder heard one of the guards skid into the wall and fall to the ground; bringing down three others with him. Taking a quick look over her should Ryder counted six left. She got out to the main street and ducked quickly as a construction worker swung around with a large sack of bricks, and all but one guard managed to get around him. Five left.

Rushing out into the square Ryder felt a wave of relief. Monday Market was brimming with people, and brimming with opportunities to escape. A leather skinned, worn looking man pulled his jewel cart out in front of Ryder and her pursuers and with lightning fast reaction Ryder tossed her basket high into the air and tumbled under the cart; two more of the guards weren’t so lucky. Ryder stopped briefly as she caught her basket and saw the three remaining guards trying to weave their way through people. Seeing that she had time Ryder bent over and caught her breath. Dulicus is probably worried sick. I have to lose them.

Ryder’s head shot up as one of the guards broke through the crowed and snickered menacingly at her. Without thought Ryder held her basket tight to her and took off once more. She ducked and twisted through the throng of bodies but to no avail; the guards were still right behind her. The inn, she thought. She could cut through the inn and out the back. With a fake turn to the right Ryder jerked left and bound straight for the inn. The crowed dangerously thinned out as she got closer to the inn, but she had to keep going. No sooner did she break free of the crowed did she look back over her shoulder with a smile and not see the oncoming leg that she ran right into. Knocked flat on her back Ryder gasped for breath and clenched her eyes shut. The wind, what little was left of it, was knocked out of her.

           “Oh heavens! I’m terribly sorry my dear. I didn’t see you there.” Said an eerily familiar voice. No, it can’t be. Her eyes flew open, and there he was. Kneeling over her. The man in black.

 

Me, Myself, and I by Elliott Marlowe

My mind bursting of ideas with everything and anything rushing through my brain. I let the child inside of me run around poking my teenage-self who is complaining to my adult-self. People like to be with others because they think it keeps us civilized, but in my mind I find every different versions of everyone then I will never be lonely and I also will never be alone. Write what you care about because when you and yourself is written on a piece of paper then they maybe famous someday.

 

Memory Timeline by Elliott Marlowe

There’s a distinct memory I have not yet had. It has the sound of church bells quieting at my wedding. Each memory of it changes as I live my life and as she lives hers. Will there be blue or red flowers? Will there be a jazz band or a stringed quartet?Will she have brown or blonde hair? Will we live happily ever after? Everything will change and I don’t know the answer.

Janet was Early by Elliott Marlowe

Janet was early in my life, but she changed every second after. It started when I was at the train station with my last thoughts drifting away before I walk off the gloomful edge of the platform. Then I saw her, paralyzed with curiosity, I hesitated as she danced around without a care in the world. Not having a second to decide, the train comes and I lose her. I jump onto the train to find her, combing every row and chair, but I sadly watched her on the platform as I set off to the train’s next destination. Janet changed me inside and out, she didn’t  mean to. Did she?

The 2-Seam Fastball

From my list of pitches that I selected I choose the 2-seam fastball. I picked this one because its one of my absolute favorite pitches to hurtle off the mound. The 2-seam fastball is a deadly pitch that cuts away from left handed hitters and comes in on right handed hitters. The feel of when this pitch slides off my fingers gives me an outstanding chill of accomplishment. Even though it doesn’t have a lot movement, the speed of the pitch is also the key to success. Most pro baseball players use this pitch because it racks up hundreds of K’s. It moves sideways not down and it confuses a bunch of good hitters. The grip is simple but, it takes practice to understand how to increase movement. It’s an unbelievable set up pitch and a great put away pitch. The 2-seam fastball is in the same exact family as the 4-seam fastball but, the 2-seam has acute movement. The most important fact about the 2-seam is that it’s extremely reliable and won’t fly away from the catcher a majority of the time.

Drops of the Void (ch 2) by Bradley Schlinkman

Floating on the feeling of nothing, the man was in bliss. He felt no weight, no pain emanating from his lower back, the feeling of absolute freezing was gone, replaced by the feeling of comfortable warmth. His eyes remained closed, unseeing to the landscape around him, or the lack thereof. All around him, nothing existed. No earth, water, wind, or anything could be seen. The eyes would register it as an infinite black, and would cause the brain to naturally panic and try to fill the void with shapes. However, no matter how empty this realm of nothing seemed, his body remained an even glow. There were no shadows, nor an excess of light shining about him, only color.

Slowly, his mind began to notice the sheer amount of silence. There wasn’t even the background noise that it had naturally blocked out over the years. It panicked, it knew this wasn’t natural. His brain send signals to his ears, straining them in hopes of finding something, anything to fill the void of sound, but only came across nothing. Now it truly began to panic, rapidly sending signals back and forth the man’s body, receiving signals of absolute nothing, only a strange warmth was reported beyond the nothing all other senses sent. In it’s panicked state, it sent a signal to his eyes, forcing them open.

The man felt his eyelids fly open, and his heavily dilated dark green eyes tried to take in anything it could. Now, in sync with his brain, he began to panic, and rip his head around in the hopes of finding something, anything to counter the void before him. He noticed something strange though, despite his eyes sensing no light, his body was strangely aglow against the void. Everything was just… odd. There were no shades, not even when he looked under his jacket. No matter how much he tried to search for a shadow, he found none. It created a slightly disturbing effect of his cloths being flat despite the fact that he knew they were anything but.

His breathing picked up as he panicked more at this new discovery. This shouldn’t be possible, why did he feel nothing but a comforting warmth about his body, why did no shadows reach out toward him from the crevices of his clothing, why was there nothing? Then, he noticed a strange feeling of faint coldness over where his heart should be. He looked down at his chest, and spotted a small lump the size of his fist pushing against his blue shirt.

He tried to raise his hand to it, but only succeeded in flinging his arm up painfully. Another thing he noticed, his shoulder was no longer dislocated. ‘Wait,’ the man thought, ‘ Why would my shoulder be dislocated in the first place?’

Sudden images flashed through his mind, showing him memories of the rain and the black sphere. At these new memories, he tried to calm himself down. It would not due to be panicking so in the situation. He forcefully slowed down his breathing, turning it from the rapid breathing from fear and panic, too long and slow breaths to calm his racing heart. He closed his eyes, forcibly preventing the image of the horrifyingly beautiful image of nothingness around him from being seen. Carefully, like walking on broken glass, he began to sift and organize his most recent of memories.

‘OK,’ he thought, ‘First I go out to enjoy the storm, then, as I’m in the midst of it, a black sphere came out of nowhere,’ at this his frown deepened, ‘After it tried freezing me, and I dislocated my shoulder, I fell unconscious on the beach. Only, I’m not on the beach anymore. I”m in some strange place of nothing, and more comfortable than ever.’ With his thoughts organized, he began to draw up a plan.

‘First, try to get my limbs working.’ Once more, he tried to lift his arm, only for it to fly up and back painfully.

‘Ok, now try to do it slowly next time.’ Taking it slowly, using as little force as possible, he began to raise his arm. On what should of been an unbearably slow movement for him, it felt just a little faster than his normal speed.

‘Strange,’ he thought as his brow furrowed, ‘It seems I need to regain control of my body again.’ So, for what felt like hours in this timeless realm, the man began to try and regain control over his body. Eventually, the speed of which he needed to move became natural for him to do. Carefully, he felt around him for any solid ground, but found nothing. His heart began to rapidly beat again in panic, but he forced it down.

Opening his eyes again, he was once more introduced to the sheer sight of nothing around him. He slowly twisted his head, not wanting to either snap or wrench it again. Looking below him, he saw nothing. He gulped, images of cartoon characters from his childhood standing on nothing, only to look down and suddenly fall at the realization. Suddenly, he wished for a platform, he cared not of what it was made of, just to stand upon.

Then, he felt something. A pulse over and around his heart. He looked at his chest, to see the lump that he had forgotten about slowly moving to his left foot. Panic made itself known to him again at the unnaturally moving part under his cloths. As quickly as he could without harming himself, he tried to grab it with his hands. Only to feel a hardened sphere colder than any ice he ever felt, in fact, it greatly reminded him of the inside of the floating black sphere from before. He tried to block it off, but it moved unimpeded beneath his hands. Eventually, it reached his left foot, and he watched in both fascination and fear as a faintly lighter than the black around him circle formed under him, giving the feeling of solid ground beneath.

Carefully, he took a step forward with his right foot, feeling the solidity of the platform under him. Then, he moved his left foot up to his right foot, only to stop as he saw the platform move under him in sync with his left foot, but couldn’t feel it. ‘What the hell…’ his awed mind slowly thought at this amazing discovering.

‘Does this have something to do with the sphere?’ he theorized. Without thinking of the consequences, he imagined the circular platform disappearing, only to panic when the sudden feeling of standing on nothing appeared again. Thinking quickly, he imagined the platform was back, bigger than ever. Once again, the circular platform appeared, this time a good two feet bigger, but it ended with tattered sides instead of the smoothness from before.

“Huh,” he said out loud, his slightly more baritone than average voice echoing endlessly back at him before fading minutes later.

‘Ok… anyway, it seems that it has a limit at how far it could go.’ He thought, fading once more to the analytical side shown upon the discovery of the sphere on the beach.

The man sat there, playing with his new found “power”, forcing the platform into different shapes, separating it under him into separate platforms, only to try and change those individually into different shapes. Hours pass in this almost childlike state, unnoticed to the playing man. Eventually, he grew bored and once again realized he was still in this strange realm of nothing.

‘Just, where am I?’ he thought, ‘and more importantly, how do I get home?’ Slowly, he walked forward. It seemed to never end. He spent a lot of the time wandering, while also simultaneously thinking of new shapes for the platform. He came up with several theories as to where he was. They consisted of dreams, limbo, all the way to a really far off alternate reality. Onward, he continued walking, thinking and playing, playing and thinking. Never once did he grow hungry, not once did the tightening and dry feeling of thirst bother him, he never even tired.

Minuted passed into hours.

Hours into days.

Days into weeks.

Weeks into months.

Not once did he stop moving, never feeling the need too. In the beginning he tried to keep track how long he was walking, but without the sun and moon, or any light source for that matter, it was a futile attempt and soon abandoned.

A year passed unnoticed by him, to busy walking and playing with the sphere. He had begun to make 3D shapes out the ability. First, he made a simple foot long stick, and grasped it in his hand. It felt smooth, like still water, but at the same time more hard than stone. It was cold, but strangely the cold comforted him, like it was a part of him. Then he made a simple sword, and tested the sharpness on his finger, only for it to nearly cut through his finger at the slightest touch. He panicked at first, throwing away the sword, not seeing as it fell into small spheres and rapidly flew back into the platform under him, giving it more size. His attention was on his now bleeding index finger. He watched, fascinated as his life giving blood floated away from the cut, forming rippling spheres as they floated away. However, the fascination began to fade as he noticed something he hadn’t felt in a long time. The beginnings of fatigue.

At first, he was confused, he hadn’t felt tired before in this strange place, so why did he feel tired now? Like a slug trying to push through webbing, the realization slowly came to him. Since his blood kept floating away, the cut wasn’t clotting. He was losing blood, and he had no way to close the wound. He panicked once more, if he couldn’t find a way to stop the bleeding he’d bleed out in this place of nothing. His body never to be found, his last words never to be heard, even if he hadn’t spoken since he began walking. Suddenly, he wished for a way to stop the bleeding. A tight black ring covered the cut, preventing the blood from leaving his body.

A breathed a sigh of relief, that was the most amount of panic he had felt in a long time. Looking around, and seeing that the constant scenery still hasn’t changed, he continued walking, and creating shapes, only not testing any new object on himself.

Eventually, he grew bored of walking. Even after all this time it was getting him nowhere. So, he sat upon his platform, and started playing with the platform some more. He began to come up with more and more complex shapes, creating whole homes, villages, towns, and cities. He forced whole miniature landscapes into existence, everything detailed down to the smallest blade of grass. He had tried to create animals and people, but they only behaved as he wanted them too. They were fun for a while, but eventually it grew boring just making them do what he wanted them too.

Time passed, and eventually he laid down, bored of sitting. He materialized a black scalpel and a large block. Slowly and meticulously, he began to carve a shape from the block. A rough trunk formed, a hollow knot near the top where long and spreading branches billowed out from the base. Leaves swayed in an invisible breeze as he formed them each separately. He sat back, unmaterialized the scalpel into the small flying spheres that were so familiar to him now. Pride blossomed in his chest, he created this work of moving black art. He made it with his own two hands, and a scalpel from his mind. Not once, since discovering his power, had he tried to shape anything by hand.

The pride began to fade though, as he realized something. Everything he created, they were without color. Everything, except for him, was a uniform black, only his platform and objects a lighter black. A sigh passed through his pale lips as he passed his hand through the tree. He was growing bored again, but this time it was different. He was growing bored of everything. He was never tired, never hungry, and never in pain, not even when he cut his finger with his first attempt at a sword.

He stood as he had a thought. All this time, he had been walking forward, never up, down, left, or even right. A small smile formed on those pale lips. He changed the structure of his circular platform, changing it into a two step staircase that never ended as he walked up it.

Slowly, the scenery changed, and he stopped. He noticed something above him. Something he hadn’t seen in a long time. A very faint white light hung suspended and blurry above him. He looked beneath him, only for yet another sight to shock him. His clothes began to gain the lost details from before, the faintest of shadows throwing his strangely 2D seeming 3D body into contrast.

A smile formed on his face, and he began to race up his self creating black steps. He ran toward the light, and watched as it slowly came into more and more detail. It was a sphere, much like the one on the beach all that time ago, but different. It threw of a bright white light that stung his dark green eyes, bringing hot tears into existence, and they actually fell, not turning into rippling spheres like his blood. He felt it, he felt a small pang of hunger, he felt immensely thirsty, he felt so tired. He felt everything he lost upon entering this realm.

He didn’t stop though, he continued running toward that like, watching as it continued to expand, growing bigger and bigger. Far bigger than the fist sized sphere at the beach. Bigger than a house. Bigger than a tower. Hell, he was sure it was taller than a skyscraper.

Eventually, he reached it. He didn’t know how he knew he reached it, but he just knew it. Slowly, he reached up toward that infinitely large sphere of light. The feeling of hunger, thirst, and just tiredness weighing him down, but still he reached up to it. Then, he felt it. He felt his fingers brush against the surface of it.

The feeling of cold washed through him again, but he welcomed it. It was different than the constant warmth from before. He close his eyes as his new exhaustion caught up with him, and he felt his platform disappear beneath him just before he slipped into unconsciousness, but he didn’t care. He could finally rest.

The man’s body began to fade to black against the sphere of light. It broke into inch wide spheres that floated aimlessly for only a second, before slamming against the sphere. They formed black circles where they hit, before fading, and disappearing into the light. Ripples danced across the surface of the sphere. The only proof that the man existed in this realm was the small globes of blood from so long, drifting endlessly in the void.

Drops of the Void (ch 1) by Bradley Schlinkman

A burning red and white streak suddenly appears in the atmosphere. A churning and boiling mass of rock and unknown falls rapidly to the ground. Occasionally a blue flame would flicker out when the churning mass would thin slightly, only to be replaced with a black sphere that quickly faded into nothing. Slowly, the rock and unknown began to boil away into nothing, it’s mystery left only for hot embers. Most of the embers fall into the ocean, cooling and blackening into dark shards that sank into the place even humanity and all it’s wondrous technologies cannot reach.

However, a single ember get’s caught in a breeze, so miniscule small that all that is seen is a pinprick of red and white. It floated rapidly across and ocean, following a brewing storm to a large mass of land far out into the distance. Eventually, the ember fades away, leaving only the smallest of ash. That ash was soon sucked up into the cloud, caught hovering in the mass of the tiniest water imaginable, slowly condensing bigger and bigger with it’s brothers.

As the storm rapidly moves over the mainland, a single man is seen sitting upon a bench on a beach, watching the storm clouds flow over him. Quietly, he puts out the half used cigarette he had hanging loosely from his pale pink lips. A small smile graced those pale lips as dark green eyes gently sparkled at the dark clouds above. The wind began to pick up as he slowly stood and walked forward a few steps, green eyes still watching those dark storm clouds with interest. His only slightly long almond brown hair rustled slightly in the strong breeze, however his plain gray open sweat jacket flapped behind him. His royal blue t-shirt underneath pressed against his chest, revealing a lean figure within. Blue jeans get catch the thin granules of sand as he slowly makes his short steps forward. Tan leather boots sink only slightly into the sand before they are picked up again, only to sink once more in a different location.

He had come here to watch the storm, watch as it gives it’s own precious liquid to the unworthy lifeforms below. It fascinates him really, how so much water can float peacefully above their head one moment, breaking up the endless blue that was this planets sky, only to suddenly turn an oppressing blackish gray, a promise that even though it may look evil, it will give it’s precious gift to those below. Little did he know though, this storm watch was not going to be like all his others.

Unlike all the other times, where he had only received the same gift as everyone else, he was about to receive something much, much greater. A single small splatter of water hit his solitary slightly tanned face as those dark green eyes watched on with gentle interest and warmth toward what he believes to be only an unliving being. Soon, another drop fell, turning to light tan sand an earthy brown. Then, almost as if an invisible and silent signal went off with that second drop, the rain began to pour down. Gentle at first, then a rapid increase of speed.

A large smile broke out on the man’s gently tanned face, a joyous laugh escaped from between his pale lips. His arms spread wide as he allowed the feeling of the planet’s greatest life-giving resource to rain upon him. The feeling of a lightened heart blossomed in his dampening chest. His eyes continued to stare, full of mirth and happiness, at the beautiful art that was the falling water. He loved the feeling of the cold drops of rain slowly dampening his entire body, the sight of the rain falling down to meet with the earth, and the sound of the drops of precious liquid hitting hard against everything in it’s path.

However, unnoticed to the joyous man below, a single infinitely black drop fell at a much slower pace than all others. It moved slightly, catching it’s clear brothers and combining them into it’s own mass. Seemingly with a conscious of it’s own, it slowly angled itself toward the man. It begins to change, no longer in the teardrop shape that makes up all other rain, now a small sphere of black.

The man blinks, smile dropping only slightly as his eyes catch something strange. He just barely makes it out against the storm clouds above, but he spies a sphere shape of a black mass. Confusion began to occupy his mind as his arms slowly drop to his sides. His once joyously bright smiling face faded, now replaced with an analytical gray frown. Slowly, he makes his way toward where he believes the sphere of black will fall, trudging through the now wet sand in his tan leather boots.

He stops as the sphere slowly floats down to him, only to come a gentle and silent stop. It was only the size of his fist, and infinitely darker than he believed possible. As he narrows his eyes only slightly in though, he notices a quiver in the seeming liquid mass, sending small waves up and down the surface of it. Slowly, his right hand reaches upward, steadied only by his sheer curiosity. He places it an inch below the sphere, and slowly circles it, as if checking for any invisible strands holding it up. As his hand reaches the top of the sphere his already narrowed eyes narrowed further at this new information.

Slowly, his hand above the sphere curled into a gentle fist. Gently, as if any faster would scare away a spooked creature, slowly uncurled his index finger. Dipping it down toward the surface of the sphere only an inch away, his heart began to beat faster in anticipation. In what seems like an eternity, his finger breaks through the membrane with little resistance. He paused, finger down to the first knuckle of the sphere, feeling the infinitely colder than normal water interior. When nothing happens he shrugs, the previous nervousness fading like a passing memory, and plunges his entire hand into the sphere.

A stinging coldness flows rapidly up his arm, and he begins to panic, desperately trying to pull his hand from the impossibly cold black sphere. However, it was to no avail, the once resistanceless sphere now held tight to his freezing hand like a steel trap. His heart began to increase to an almost painful beating as an excess of adrenaline began to pump throughout him. With his mental limiters becoming unlocked and new strength flooding his slowly freezing limb, he began to tug harder. Soon, the freezing feeling reaches his shoulder, and he only pulled harder in response. A loud cracking pop resounding throughout the still storming beach as his shoulder came free from it’s socket at his most recent adrenaline and panic filled tug. He didn’t feel it though, he only pulled harder as the freezing feeling began to crawl onto the side of his neck, causing his shoulder to disgustingly lengthen from the now detached shoulder.

It slowly began to become hard to breath and move as the cruel freezing feeling covered his throat, head, and most of his back. He began to see spots as the lack of oxygen began to finally reach his brain. The feeling now fully covered his body, and in his flickering eyesight he witnessed something strange. The black sphere convulsed, and began to shrink. He forced himself to stay awake with every fiber of his frozen being to witness what was happening.

The sphere shrank until it was but a thing strand on the tip of his index finger. Then, that black strand began to push it’s way into his finger. He felt it, despite the lack of oxygen to his brain, and his frozen body, he still felt it. It felt like something colder than even his own body wormed it’s way into his body. Rapidly, as he slowly began to lose the strength to stay awake, he felt it wiggle it’s cold way to his heart. A single sigh passed between his now incredibly pale lips, releasing a burst of the coldest fog any living being had ever felt.

The man’s body began to change, skin and clothes fading into the black that once was the distinct color of the sphere. With only the falling rain, now warm compared to the black humanoid mass below, as witness, his body began to fade into nothing. No proof he even existed remained, all except to still gently smouldering cigarette hiding under the bench the now missing man was sitting at. However, the warmth from the fiery ground up leaves of tobacco and nicotine slowly faded, turning the red ember a light gray and black.

 

Left Alive (ch 2) by Bradley Schlinkman

With a sigh, a sharp shake of the head, he forced himself from his darker memories. The creature that followed him into the room was still nearby, somewhere. Now was not a time for reminiscing. With one last look at his dirty reflected image, he turned and took in his surroundings.

Broken glass from long shattered lights lay scattered haphazardly across the floor, mixing in with dust and debris from the destroyed plaster ceiling above. An old metal bed frame laid discarded on it’s side, dust gently settled upon it’s one gleaming surface. The glass window that had filtered the majestic light from the burning sun outside, now lay shattered on the street below. Old wires that once carried precious electricity throughout the room hung lifeless from the ceiling. All of this, along with the depressing gray of the walls created a sad scene for the solitary viewer.
He slowly made his way to the broken wood door, careful to avoid the shards of glass so as to prevent the attracting noise for the creature. He was the cause for the damage to the door, originally it stood proud and shut, locked tight. However, in his panicked run from the horrid creature, he had smashed open the door, sending the handle flying behind him to slam loudly against the wall behind him. Now that he thought about it, the noise of both the handle and the ramming open of the wooden door probably drew more creatures to this location. Yet, the successful hiding place did not come without it’s price. The hard ram against the door and jared his shoulder, causing a deep soreness in his joint.

Unconsciously, he brought his hand up to rub the soreness from the joint. He looked down at his feet as he carefully made his way around the broken glass. Shattered glass and scattered dust marked his arrival into the the room, as well as the long skids from the creature’s uneven steps. A followed the creature’s markings, all the way to the closet. His heart stopped, and his leg hung halfway as his heart stopped when he finally figured out how close he was to discovery. The creature had stopped only two inches from the door of the closet.

Only a second passed before he shook the shock from himself and set down his foot on the unoccupied space it was originally intended for. There was no use on dwelling on it, he had survived and that’s what mattered. When he finally made the long slow walk to the door, and gently gripped the door frame, looking out into the hallway. If the room behind him had been depressing, then the hallway was worse. The walls that, like the room, had been a bright white, now stood peeling and gray, pieces of it missing, revealing the rooms beyond. Wires hung, cut and useless, from the completely destroyed ceiling, the sky above peaking through the large holes. Like the room, debris from the ceiling littered the floor, along with scattered clipboards, wheelchairs, and gurneys.

As far as he could tell, the creature was no longer in the hall. He had originally came to the hospital in hopes of finding scavenged medical supplies to replenish his stock. However, all he got for his troubles was a chase through these ruined halls from a horde of creatures that appeared out of nowhere. He had managed to lose them, all but one. That one had been unusual, nimble enough to clumsily make it’s way up the stairs. It was… strangely unrotten for it’s kind. Normally, the ones he is chased by are often falling to pieces as the make their unsteady gait after him. It must be a recently transformed one.

A shiver ran down his spine as he thought about the creatures, what they are, what they were, and how the were created. Like the zombies from the movies before the apocalypse, they were once human. Like zombies, they feasted upon the succulently soft flesh of a living human. Like zombies, their bite was dangerous. However, much unlike the zombies of media, their bites are not what changes you. No, it’s the tongue you must be always wary of. After transformation, the infected body goes through a few changes, muscle mass condenses, air is no longer needed, pain receptors are shut off, most connections to the brain die out, and the eyes continue to be as blind as a deadman’s. They rely almost entirely on sound and smell. Their hearing is amazing, able to hear a running human many feet further than the average human, and they can smell the sweat on an exhausted human’s skin from up to five feet. The only reason he could come up with as to why he wasn’t caught was that the creature was so knew that the transformation was still in the beginning stages, and the smell and hearing was barely increased in it’s current stage.

They rotted much slower than a normal corpse, especially the ones that were transformed while still gripping onto the last thin twines of their life. What would be a weeks worth of decomposition, equaled only an hour’s worth to the creature. Eventually though, the rotting get’s so bad that they can no longer able to chase after you, playing dead for as long as it can until you come within arms length of it’s immobile body. However, despite all the shut off body functions they can still starve to death, and begin to turn to a type of desperation. By this point they are willing to chase for as long as their bodies will allow after a single meal, just to rid itself of it’s starvation. He has seen them crawl with only their arms through mud and fire after a single human, filling the area with the smell of burning flesh.

The worse part is, their is only one known way to kill them. Intense trauma to the brain, preferably smashing it. While burning could cause death, it’s not worth the risk of having a fireball of flesh eating disease chasing after you. Since the need for oxygen no longer exists, they can survive underwater until their natural decomposition takes them apart, or the local wildlife does. The fear of having one of these invincible hunters chase you to the ends of the earth is awe inspiring. To be the literal ultimate predator must be exhilarating, to bad they have no sense of emotion in their infected and hunger crazed minds.

The transforming into one of these creatures must be painful, if the fading screams he heard almost every night in the beginning were anything to go by. The bite doesn’t kill you and cause immediate infection like that in the movies, however, the bite is still just as deadly. Once bitten, the victim is overtaken by a sever case of disorientation and hallucinations, surprisingly similar to the high end painkillers actually. This gives an extreme advantage to even the weakest of the creatures, for while you fight off invisible beings and stumbling over your own two feet, they are dragging you to the ground, eating the flesh straight from your bones. Ones you’re either dead or dying, they can use their unique tongues to spread the infection.

A small needle like barb forms on the tip of the tongue of each creature that has one. They stab that barb into the spinal cord, directly injecting the infection into your body. On a healthy human, the immune system is strong enough to fight off the infection. However, a dying human is much more susceptible to the infection, since their immune systems are shutting down in the throes of death. It even works on fresh corpses, so long as it’s no more than seven minutes old. After death, so long as there is no trauma, the brain continues to function and die for seven minutes. Since our immune system is either shut down or in the final process of it, the infection crashes over it like a tsunami over a sand castle.

He doesn’t know where the infection began, only that for him it was non-existent one day, and suddenly it was an epidemic the next. His neighborhood at the time was unaffected by the change, being so far out from the center of the city they assumed they were safe, so they just waited for someone else to take care of it for them. Then, a group of bandits came in and terrorized everyone. Many of his old neighbors were either killed or kidnapped. As far as he could tell, he was the only one left alive. He knew why this happened, people were scared. They were scared that they may never come out of this, and when a human becomes scared they become desperate. In that desperation, their true self shines, willing to do anything it takes to survive and prosper. Thievery, murder, rape, and just general assault skyrocketed overnight. Shortly afterwards, the infection arrived, sweeping in like a wave from hell. Every night, he heard the screams of the newly infected ring out, echoing in the mostly deserted streets of his home.

For a while, what was left of the government gave out information freely. They broadcast over radio transmissions, describing what they were doing, as well as telling us all the experiments that were being done to try and find a way to stop this. They had explained generally how the infection began from what they knew. It began within a hospital in New Zealand, and supposedly it spread rapidly due to the amount of dead and dying people housed inside.

Suddenly, one day the transmissions just stopped. Not even a sound echoed from the once loud machines. Three days passed, three days of silence. Not even a scream was heard for those three days. Then, the planes flew over. Metal packages of fiery destruction and evil light fell from above, destroying the earth below. The explosions of the dreadful light and destruction didn’t last long, five minutes at the most. However, those five minutes were long for the survivors. The world around them fell into a fiery hell, burning and destroying anything in their paths. He survived out of sheer luck.

During the time he was hidden away in an underground bomb shelter with a few groups of survivors. At first, they tried to be nice and draw him into their groups, but all he did was glare at them and go silent if even a hint of joining up with them was mentioned. Eventually, they learned he wanted nothing to do with them and left him alone. He took over a supply closet on the far east side of the structure. He, like before, was asleep when the bombs dropped. He felt the walls crack and crash around him, but the closet somehow held up. In the end he left the closet, only to find most of the structure buried under rubble. He tried to dig for a while, but the rubble was just so heavy, so he left them, dead, dying, or otherwise. He scavenged what he could from the unaffected sections and left. That was the last time he had seen a healthy living human. He has seen others of course, but they were either insane or bandits.

His already broken heart felt heavier as he stepped onto the cracked tiled floor of the first floor. He was dreadfully lonely, he missed even the general company of others. He’d take anyone, man, woman, child, traumatized, hell he’d even… no he’d never take in a bandit. The memory of his first bandit experience was still a fresh smoldering burn on the forefront of his mind.

He stepped out of the hallway into the warzone that was once a lobby. Most of the four story building had survived the initial bombing, the harden supports in every hospital doing their job well. Even so, the lobby hadn’t survived. A bomb had ripped through here like a beast out of hell, tearing a large hole from the roof all the way down to the basement. The rubble had piled up into the empty hole that was once the basement, filling it and reaching out to the sky with twisted pillars. Glass and metal pieces stuck out haphazardly, reaching out for any flesh it can skewer and cut. While dangerous to traverse, both with the gruelly glinting metal and glass, and the pockets of air that could collapse at anytime below, it was the quickest way to get into the hospital.

Reaching into his left pocket and pulled out a pair of slightly ripped black golf gloves. While not the best at protecting his softer flesh, it served as another layer between him and bleeding. He walked over to the far edge of the rubble, the same path he had followed to enter the structure. As he carefully made his way across using the pillars of metal to give him support on the uneven ground, a loud crack and a shift was felt below him. Panicked, he let go of the pillar and ran across haphazardly, no longer caring about the glass cracking loudly underfoot. The image of him being buried alive among the sharp glass and rubble flashed through his mind, giving his legs a boost of speed and he cut a trail through the shifting rubble.

With shaking feet and a rapidly beating heart, he stepped back onto solid ground. He spun around, only to witness the path he had followed across the rubble complete fall in with a loud echoing crash, sending the sound to any who so much as even listened. A relieved sigh passed between his lips as he found himself to still be alive and kicking, but now had to get moving before the creatures or bandits found him first. So, he began his journey back to his base across the cracked and cratered road beneath his feet. He passed by fallen telephone poles, ones that once stood tall with long black wires supported high the air above his head. He looked to his left and saw what was once left of an old coffee shop, now but a pile of rubble with a bent and burned sign, that once sat bright and colorful to the eye to attract customers eyes, buried among it all. Unmarked buildings either sat abandoned or ruined on either side of the road before him.

He looked into the sky, dark green eyes searching for the sun to use his mediocre understanding of time to find the time of day. To him, it read around two o’clock in the afternoon. With yet another sigh he continued on his way to his base with a quickened pace.

‘Yet another failed scavenging run failed. I’m starting to wonder if this area is stripped clean.’ he thought as he walked. He knew he needed to move on if he wanted to continue to survive, but he still hasn’t located his mother. For all he knew, the could either still be hidden in the destroyed city, or they’ve moved on to conquer more.

Eventually, he arrived at his campsite. It was a two story home that managed to keep it’s exterior intact in the wake of the bombings. The inside was a different story though. When he had discovered it, debris and jumbled items laid strune on the floor, the devastating mixture of both bandit raiding and the vibrations of the heva bombs that rained down upon the city. Pieces of the ceiling littered the ground. The upstairs tub broke through into the kitchen, landing upright on a pile of rubble. The hollow staircase that lead up to the second floor had fallen in, leaving the upstairs inaccessible to those unwilling to put any effort into it. He, however, had built a crude ladder from leftover wood found among the rubble.

He took over the bigger of the two bedrooms, claiming the queen sized mattress as his own. He boarded up the windows and entrances, all except the front door of course. He cleaned out the tub and transformed it into a large fire pit, allowing him to have warm meals every once and a while. All in all, with the comforts of warm food and a nice bed, it was an excellent base that he was reluctant to abandon.

He walked into the kitchen, grabbing the nearby bag of dried jerky on the counter as he passed. Sitting down on a chair near the bathtub-turned-fire-pit he slowly ate the jerky as he thought. He knew it was for the best, supplies that kept him alive all this time were becoming scarce, and he knew nothing of farming to survive without them. He knew he could leave easily, he had more than enough food and water he can take with him and survive a week alone on that, two if he rationed them. However, what if his mother was still here and he left. He’d take away whatever chance she had of escaping the bandits that had taken that day. The thought that he may now be among the slow creatures tried to grab with it’s wicked claws onto his mind, but he shook it off, refusing to believe such a thing could happen.

He’s checked everywhere he could, mentally gridding off the city into three sections, north, south, east, and west. His family had lived on the west side and it was the first place he cleared out of all supplies and possible places that bandits could hide. The north end was small, and scouted out in only two days. He’s still in the west side, cleared of most, if not all, supplies he could find, and she wasn’t there either. He tried many times to check the southern end, but that area was to populated. In the time of the infection many people had tried to group into the south end, believing that numbers will assure their safety. However, all it did was make it easier to cause a major breakout from the inside. Their corpses still wander the streets, and he has often had to outrun many hordes from that area.

He doubted that the bandits would hide out there, it was just too dangerous. His heart twisted painfully as he swallowed the next chunk of jerky. He knew his only choice was to leave, or else he’d be surviving completely off of borrowed time from his already scavenged supplies. He’s only leave for a year though, and if that year passes and he comes across no hint of his mother, then he’d be back to completely clear out the city, and he’s bring allies to help. The problem is though, finding someone who could worm their way into his iron clad door that prevented all from gaining his trust. Ever since the bandits had separated his family, he refused to trust anyone.

He was jolted from his thoughts when the now empty bag of jerky crumpled in his hand. He looked into the bag, surprised to see that he had unconsciously allowed his stomach to take over and ate the entire bag. With a mumbled curse, he stood up, arching his back to hear to satisfying sounds of his spinal cord cracking. He looked out the window, and saw that it had become dark. With a sigh, and a silent reprimand at himself for being so careless, he balled up the jerky bag and threw it into his “unburnable” pile.

He headed back out to the broken stair case and climbed his crude ladder up to his chosen room. As he sat on the edge of the bed, slowly unknotting his boots, his mind drifted back down to the train of thought he had downstairs. He had a dilemma, where would he go? There were a few places he go that were within a day’s hike from here, the biggest of which was a large town called Glendale. If he went though, he knew he’d have to hide away any supplies he doesn’t take with him if he wanted anything when he got back.

He lifted the sheet of the bed over his body, and lightly gripped the survival knife hidden under his pillow. Glendale had it’s beginnings as a mining village, he knew that. It was surprisingly profitable in it’s time, and supplies should be in abundance there. However, there were bound to be bandits because of that. If that was the case though, he’d just hide out in the surrounding wilds around it. He knew how to hunt and trap, at least enough to catch small game with relative ease. Also, since the town wasn’t nearly as populated, it probably wasn’t bombed as hard as here, so there should be shelter inside the town he could take over.

With that in mind he drifted off to sleep, knife still gripped comfortable in his fist. Tomorrow, he would leave here and move onto Glendale. He just hopped he was making the right decision.

 

Cancelled Flight by Eliezer Griffis

I didn’t want to go: I wanted to stay at home.I had never flown before, and the whole idea of it was scary.

“If we were meant to fly God would have given us wings,and since he didn’t we should stay home , or drive.” I exclaimed more than once, but my parents would always answer me the same way,

“ You need to see your Aunt once before she dies, and driving from Detroit, Michigan to Pt. Loma, California is out of the question.”

They are regretting that decision right now. I should probably tell you about myself, my name is Drake, and I now live in Omaha, Nebraska. I have been through alot, and I will never be the same.

You know, Federal Prison isn’t as bad as people say it is. Three hot meals a day, and a warm bed. They even gave me a private, high security cell so that “Patriotic” prisoners can’t hurt me.My name is Julius Papertown, and I’m in prison because I got revenge on a country that doesn’t care.  A country that sent my wife undercover on a mission she was certain not to make it back from. The worst part is that I didn’t even get a folded flag. Because she was a secret agent not a soldier, she wasn’t eligible for a folded flag. That is why I did what I did, or what I was supposed to do but instead of hijacking a plane, I forgot to put my gun away, getting us into a jam.

I was behind my parents who were in line for the metal detector. I was feeling a little nervous about my first time flying. I looked at the man behind me, and he too looked a little nervous. I asked him “Is this your first time flying?”

“You could say that,” he answered in a nervous tone. I would have asked him what he meant, but I was holding up the line, so I turned around , took a deep breath, and went through the metal detector. I then put my shoes on, grabbed my suitcase, and ran to catch up with my parents who were on their way to the terminal.

Phase one was in motion, get through security. While I was waiting in line, the boy in front of me turned around and asked

“Is this your first time flying?”

“You could say that,” I answered regretting the words as they came out.

Luckily before he could ask me what I meant he was at the metal detector, so he left me alone.When he went through, I took my shoes off and went through.When the metal detector went off, I cursed. I had forgotten to take the M-9 out of my waistband.As the guard came close I made a split second decision, and shot the gaurd.I was working with five other men who were in the other lines. When they saw what happened they quickly eliminated the rest of the guards. Plan B Milton shouted to us. I instantly pulled the .44 Magnum, Spas-12, and M-16 out of my bag. I put the M-16, and Spas-12 on my back. With handguns at the ready, I fired three shots into the air, and yelled “Everybody on the ground now. Don’t freak out and you won’t get hurt. I then put my shoes on and went to the leader, Milton, to apologize. When I reached him, he grabbed me by the collar, pulled me in close, and whispered,”Stupid mistake, I knew you weren’t ready.” And with that he pushed me away.

I was on my way to the terminal with my parents, when I heard a gunshot, then another and another. I was on the ground in an instant pulling my parents down with me.I saw the man I was talking to pull out three guns. I couldn’t tell what they were, we were not close enough, but that was as close as I was willing to get. I looked at my mom, rolled up in a ball, balling her eyes out. She had her bag gripped so tight her fingernails went straight through. I couldn’t look any more, I didn’t want to cry. I turned to my dad, and to my surprise he was on the phone. “Hang up, Hang up,” I whispered as loud as I dare, but it was too late.

Plan B phase two, collect wallets and cellphones. This was not my job, I was to walk around and intimidate.I put my hand guns back into my waistband, and took out the Spas-12. This shotgun looked scary. It was a combat shotgun. Don’t ask me where I got it, because I will never tell.I walked around looking at  the people laying on the ground, kicking those who were brave enough to meet my gaze. Then I heard a man whispering, when I looked over in his direction, it was that boys father, the one I was talking to in line. He was on the phone, so I did what Milton taught us, I ran over and kicked him in the ribs as hard as I could. He dropped the phone as he yelped in pain, he sounded like a puppy that got kicked too hard, when he dropped it I stomped on it, hard. It broke under my foot. I then hit him over the head with the butt of my shotgun, knocking him out. I then grabbed him by his arm and pulled him to a supply closet, I then did the same to the boy and the women.

A man came over and kicked my dad in the ribs. I was so close I could hear them break. When he kicked my dad he dropped the phone, and when he did, the man stomped on it, breaking it under his heavy foot. He then hit my dad over the head with the butt of his rifle, knocking him out. After dragging my dad away he did the same to me. When I came to. I was in a closet with my dad and mom. My dad was hunched over with blood pouring out of his head. I knew he was dead. My mom was yelling at the man. I couldn’t hear why though. My ear was seriously bleeding where he had hit me. When he saw I was awake, he turned his attention to me. “What’s your name?” He asked maniacally. :”Drake,” I stammered quitely. “Do you know who your dad was talking to?” He asked me. I was looking at his hunched body. Limp and lifeless. He saw my gaze, and said motioned to my dad with his head, “He hit me, so I blew his brains out, now answer the question.” “U… U… I don’t know.” I stammered again, “Really. maybe this will help you remember.” He yelled very angrily, as he pointed the gun at my mother , and pulled the trigger.

“I don’t know, I don’t know!” I screamed in between sobs, “Please, Please don’t kill me!” I cried. “I’m sorry but you will have to die.” He said as he put the gun to my head. BANG! I was still alive. BANG, BANG, BANG. The shots came from outside. The man opened the door and was instantly tackled by two SWAT members. The other four men lay in bloody heaps on the floor. “ You’re gonna be alright,” the Swat man said,”Who are they?” He asked. “My… My parents,” I stammered. The SWAT man gave me a phone to call a family member. I took the phone and dialed a number. “Hello?” My uncle said through the phone. “Uncle Fester,” I answered, “Our flight has been canceled, can you pick me up?”

 

Left Alive (by Bradley Schlinkman)

“Concentrate on your breathing Jack. Just breath!” a young almond haired boy whispered under his breath as he sat within the tight and dark walls of an old closet.

With nothing occupying the small space inside, and a still oiled sliding door, the old closet was a perfect place to hide a scared human being. Thin shafts of soft pale light sliced it’s way through thin slits on the old metal sliding door. A slightly thicker and brighter light forced it’s on path through, making it’s pale splendid glory known to the boy through the crack between the end of the door and it’s jam.

All was silent around the boy, but inside for him was a different story. The hard and quick beating of his already panicked heart rang in his ears like a million hammers striking metal. Yet, even with the deafening sound of his heart in his ears, the crunch of broken glass under heavy sliding feet proved to be much louder. If possible, his heart only hammered faster as the crunching slowly made it’s way to the closet door. The thin pale shafts of soft light darkened as the creature shuffled by. The sound of ragged and uneven breathing, much different than his forced silent and barely even shallow breaths, greeted his ears.

His grip on the bandaged pipe between his legs tightened, forcing his knuckles to turn a pale white. His breath hitched when it all suddenly stopped. At first, his curiosity told him to look, to check to see if the creature was gone with his own eyes. He didn’t though, he had learned first hand that curiosity will only get you killed in this land. However, that didn’t stop him from gently placing his ear to the door.

At first, there was nothing. No breathing that was not his own, no crunching of heavy feet, just the sound of his own heart as he slowly began to calm. That was, until, the breathing started again, this time right next to his own ear. He shot back, and, by some divine force, he fought back a yelp from the unwanted scare. His once white-knuckled grip tightened into a knuckle-popping death grip as the uneven shuffling and ragged breathing began to move again. He tracked the creature’s progress by following the blocked light from the door.

Eventually, the shuffling footsteps and breathing from beyond the closet faded, and he released a pent up sigh. His death grip loosened to a loose grip that could easily tightened. Mentally he counted down from ten.

At one, he locked eyes with the indent on the end of the closet door that served as a handle. With a slightly shaking hand he placed two fingers inside. Slowly, he slightly lifted the door as he slid it back enough to easily peak through. Gently placing a single dark green eye to the now enlarged crack he surveyed the room beyond the door.

What was once white wash walls, long since turned a depressing gray from age, greeted his eye. Glass littered the floor from shattered lights, scattered among the debris of the of the broken plaster roof. Frayed and cut wires that once served the purpose of directing electric into the room hung limply from the broken ceiling. A slightly rusted metal bed frame laid tossed on it’s side in the far corner. A door sat opened with obvious signs of forced entry if the splintered wood that was once a doorknob was anything to go by.

The boy let out a sigh of relief when his eye proved that the creature that stalked outside was now gone. He allowed the bandaged pipe in his hand slip down to the bottom of the handle, the top nearly touching the floor. He took a half step back, his two fingers still inside the indent, and squared his shoulders. He gently slid the door open, still cautious in the case of the creature still being nearby. He took a tentative step out, careful to avoid the debris that littered the floor. As he closed the closet door he caught his reflection on the mirror that was screwed tightly to the door.

He stood a short five feet and four inches tall. With him being only fifteen, it was hard for him to be overly muscular, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t built up the lean muscles of a runner. Still, evidence of his past life lingered. A small amount of fat still layered his stomach, his face still held a slightly boyish look despite with the small scars and filth that littered his face. He wore simple tan hiking boots, the ones that was found in any teenager’s closet. Tucked and taped into his boots he wore a worn, and slightly ripped at the knees, pair of blue jeans. A black leather belt with a scuffed metallic belt buckle was tightened against his waist, serving the dual purpose of holding up his pants and a few belt attachments. A clip-on cylinder of strike-anywhere matches, a small container half full of water purifying tablets, and old, but still useable, swiss army knife, and a small worn yellow flashlight rested on his belt.

Tucked into his jeans was a worn out and heavily used dark blue t-shirt. Around his neck rested a handmade necklace consisting of an old US quarter with either of it’s faces worn to the point of near invisibility, and two dull gold wedding bands on either side on a gently frayed dull black string.

Originally, the necklace had only the worn quarter hanging from it, given to him by his long passed grandfather as a birthday present. The rings however, they came from his parents. They were his final push, his only support, and his will to live. If these rings were ever lost to the point of being unretrievable he would follow the path of many before him and take his own life.  The memory of how he got them however was a completely different story than the happy memory of his grandfather’s present. He retrieved them shortly after his father’s death and his mother’s disappearance.

The thought of his parents still hurt him, even after four years of mourning and surviving. He often tried to repress the memory of finding his home looted, his father’s mangled corpse on the living room floor, and his mother’s disappearance. However, he realized shortly after trying that it may be best if he kept that memory on the forefront of his mind, a constant reminder of why he was still alive to even remember.

 

Flashback

 

Laying in his room, a eleven year old boy contemplated the options of staying up late and playing some games on his laptop. Suddenly, a loud crash clanged in his ears and his father’s shouts filled the house. Acting quickly, he jumped out of the bed and slipped on yesterday’s pants.

As he turned to the door to leave, his mother bursted in. They locked eyes, his dark green to her green on blue, and what he saw froze him. His mother was the calmest out his family, and always the most optimistic. Rarely he had seen his mother upset in anyway, and those moments were fleeting. However, the look in her eyes then shook him too his core. Panic and worry filled her normally peaceful and calming eyes. She grabbed him by his forearm, and he allowed her to lead him out into the hallway.

Quickly, she forced him over the trap door in the ceiling that lead to their attic space. Letting go of him, she reached up and pulled the cord that released the trap door and ladder. Obviously trying to be as silent as possible, she grabbed the falling ladder and quickly laid it onto the floor. Grabbing him again, she shoved him onto the ladder.

He stared at her, confusion evident in his green eyes. Sadness flashed through her blue on green eyes, and she parted her mouth slightly to speak. However, before a sound could be made, another shout and a loud crash sounded below. She spun around, looking down the hall before turning back to him. “Go up,” she whispered urgently, panic seeping into her voice,” go up, cover the door, and do not come down till we say otherwise.”

With that, she turned and ran down the hall and disappeared around the corner. Confusion and fear gripped his eleven year old heart, what was going on down there? Normally, he would check to sate his curiosity, however, before he could even take the first step, his mother’s panicked instructions echoed in his ears.

He turned and looked up into the dark space that served as an attic to his family. Quickly, he stumbled slightly up the ladder, before silently raising it up behind him. The attic space was small, about as big as his room. Dusty, old, and slightly rotted boxes filled the space with years of collecting objects that probably will never see the light again. However, as he looked for a big enough box to cover the trapdoor, he began to panic. None of the boxes were large enough! He began to wildly search, fear of the disappointment from his mother if he failed his task. Eventually, he came across an old redwood trunk. Dusty and dulled, this trunk has been around for longer than he has been alive.

Quickly grabbing it, he tried to pull it over the door. However, his eleven year old muscles were just not enough to budge it. Panicking slightly when he heard yet another louder shout and a crash, he ripped open the trunk’s lid and began to tear out all the objects inside. To him, they were nothing but dusty books and pictures of people he never met. Eventually, he managed to remove enough to allow him to maneuver it over the door. Not a moment too soon either, since another loud crash was heard and this time instead of a shout, and shriek echoed throughout the house. Inside he knew it was his mother, and his instincts drove him to check on her. Yet, he didn’t, his mother’s final orders once again preventing him from taking action. Sadness wrapped his heart tightly as he dragged the trunk over the door.

Male laughter echoed beyond the door as he backed away. Laughter that didn’t belong to his father. Oh, how he wanted to see, to make sure his parents were safe, but fear and orders halted his actions. Tears glistened his eyes as he sat among the dusty boxes, his imagination running wild with what his eleven year old mind could come up with. He felt sick, hearing that evil laughter, and no other sounds.

Eventually, the laughter faded, and the boy waited. He waited as the house grew silent. He waited as his eyes and head began to grow too heavy to hold up. He waited even when his body slumped unconscious.

Then, he awoke. Soft light filtered in through a crack in the roof, one his father had meant to patch a long time ago. Confused as to why he was in the attic, he watched as dust floated through the light. Suddenly, the memories of last night flooded his mind, and he quickly stood. He had fallen asleep! His parents may have called for him, and he fell asleep! He looked over at the trunk and saw it hadn’t moved. Relief gently flowed through him as he realized that whatever had happened downstairs hadn’t tried to move onto him. Then, panic once again gripped him as he realized it also meant that his parents had tried to come up to get him.

As he quickly tried to make it over to the trunk, a feeling of foreboding washed over him. There was something, it told him, that he didn’t want to see beyond the trapdoor. However, he pushed that feeling down, forcing his determination over it. He grabbed the trunk handle, and the sound of wood dragging across wood filled the room.

He stared at the closed trapdoor, ladder sat upon it, folded neatly. At the top was a release he could pull to leave. However, as he reached for that release, the feeling of foreboding returned, this time stronger than ever. Shaking his head roughly, trying to dispel the feeling, he gripped the release and pulled.

The door swung down, and the ladder clattered down noisily before crashing against the floor. He winced at the noise, to him it sounded deafening. He looked down the hole, and saw the muddy shoe prints of boots covered the hall carpet. The foreboding feeling was still there, urging him to stay in the attic.

“M-mom,” he croaked silently, his throat sore and dry from sleeping in the dusty attic.

He shook his head sharply before swallowing, trying to loosen his throat. “Mom, Dad, you there?” He said louder, still with a slight rasp.

Silence responded to him, saying nothing to his question. Panic started to squeeze his heart, before he forced it down. Swallowing again, he ignored the feeling of foreboding and panic as he slowly made his way down the short ladder.As he placed his bare feet on the sodden carpet he looked about the hall. Doors hung halfway of their hinges, rooms were torn apart, items were strewn throughout each and every room, any valuables or electronics they owned were gone.

Then he came to his room. On the outside, with the door hanging open only a jar, it looked normal. However, the inside spoke a different story. His bed laid turned over onto it’s side, mattress and blue sheets lay crumpled. Drawers from his tipped over dresser were scattered about aimlessly throughout the room, the clothes within just thrown in random places. When he searched for his Ipod and laptop, his anger began to rise. He couldn’t find them anywhere.

He stood in the middle of the wreckage of what once was his room, anger rising at the fools who dared to so much as breath on his items. His vision began to tunnel and reden as sounds of whispers grew in his ears. He almost gave in, ignoring the signs, until he felt one of his longer than average nails pierced his palm.

With widened eyes, he tried to control his breathing. Slowly, almost painfully, his vision returned to normal, and the whispering faded away. He looked down at his right hand, the one that his nail had pierced. Blood slowly bubbled from the small wound, nothing serious, it will clot in a few seconds. He didn’t want another Joseph incident. Suddenly, he remember the entire reason why he was up in the attic in the first place.

He ran out onto the landing, anger slightly risen at himself for being so selfish as to forget his parents. However, when he looked down passed the railing, he let out a choked sob.He fell to his knees, hands barely gripping the railing in front of him, as he stared at what greeted him in the living room downstairs.

His father laid belly down in a puddle of blood. Tears threatened to overflow, but he forced them back. His father believed in strength, and strong men don’t cry. That belief still didn’t stop the shakes, the whispers only he could understand as he tried to process what was before him. He felt as if he couldn’t breath, his throat so tight it hurt. He didn’t care though, what had what was left of his attention was the twisting feeling in his stomach, and the ripping of his heart.

His mind went into overdrive, trying to figure out how and why this happened. However, out of the thoughts that rushed through his mind, only one was heard. ‘What if he is still alive?’

Without another thought, he released the banister, ignoring the stinging of his hands from gripping it so hard, and stood up. He almost tripped over his own feet as he ran down the steps. However, all hope that he may be alive was shattered when he fell to his knees. At the base of his father’s spine was multiple stab wounds, and muddy boot prints covered him as if someone took to stomping on him. The kicker of all of it though was the deep indent in his father’s skull. Blood and small bits of gray matter pooled around his head. The mixture of blood and a strong musky scent permeated the air, making his already twisting stomach to do flips.

He felt the blood from his father soak into his old jeans, but he didn’t care. Here laid his father, beaten, broken, and dead. On his knees, head bowed, and arms lying lifelessly at his side, tears began to fall, mixing with the blood on the floor. He no longer cared at being strong before his father. He was gone, and the only one left was his mother.

His mother! He jumped to his feet, all grief for his father pushed to the side for now. He rapidly swung around, searching for his mother’s body in the room. Hope flared and the twisting of his stomach lessened some, she wasn’t there. Perhaps she was hiding, just as he was! He began to draw in air for a yell to call out his mother, however all that came out from between his lips was a pitiful whimper. There, on the ground only ten feet from his father, was scraps of cloth.

The cloth, the same color as the clothes his mother had worn when she had hid him, lay in small ripped scraps, like an animal had torn away at it. Dried splotches of some unknown liquid splattered the ground nearby. It wasn’t blood, but something else entirely.

He fell to his knees again, this time bent over, arms locked as he tried in vain to hold up his now heavy body, and eyes staring almost lifelessly to the ground. His final hope had shattered. His father was dead, his mother was missing, probably with the ones who did this, and all he did was hide. He had heard their screams yet did nothing but cower in a pile of dusty boxes in the dark. Hell, he was more worried about his possessions over the ones who had fed him, bathed him, and took care of him all his life.

Slowly, the feeling of hopelessness began to fade, burned away by self-loathing wrath. His vision, once blurred and unfocused, began to tunnel and reden once more. The whispers returned, stronger and louder than ever, urging him to destroy, to take out his anger on anything and everything. This time he didn’t fight it, no this time he welcomed it with open arms. His once lifeless eyes sparked with new light, and that light was insanity. His pupils dilated, focusing on the smallest detail of the carpet under him. Then, as he suddenly arched his back, he roared.

Reveling in his rage, he grabbed a turned over armchair and threw it hard. The dry wall exploded outward into the tiled bathroom in the next room as the armchair flew through the newly made hole. He ran about the living room, the feeling of euphoria blossoming in the wake of destruction. The glass coffee table shattered, the glass sprinkling the carpet. A broken lamp pole was speared through a tipped over and ripped couch. The already broken TV was shattered and nearly flattened due to a chair repeatedly slamming into it. Books were ripped to shreds, and the bookshelf was broken into pieces.

Looking about wildly, he growled when he saw anything that could be destroyed was as such. As he stood in the middle of this new wreckage, pieces of wood and glass sprinkled over his father’s corpse, his pupils began to dilate again. His shoulders slumped as the pleasant feeling of destruction faded, and adrenalin ran it’s final course through his veins. When his vision returned to normalcy, he felt the room begin to spin.

He fell to his knees once more, cutting his knees on the shards of glass in the carpet. He held his light head in his hands as the realization of what he had done caught up with him. Tears once more flowed from his eyes as he realized not only was his father dead and mother missing, he had also just destroyed their living room beyond repair.

He sat crying, his stomach once more so twisted that he actually became sick all over the carpet. He felt the sun tickle his skin as it passed unfiltered through the now broken window. He didn’t care though, the tears had stopped and now he just stared unfocused at his father’s body. His mind was empty, there was no whispers urging him, and he felt nothing. Then, the sunlight caught a golden metallic shine in his father’s fist.

His unfocused eyes suddenly refocused on that shine. He stood slowly, and shakingly made his way over to his father, glass cutting into his soles, but he no longer cared. All that mattered to him was getting over to his father. He forced himself not to look at his father’s lifeless face as he crouched next to him. He faintly whispered a raspy apology as he pried open his father’s fist. Inside, two gold wedding bands and a crumpled note sat.

A flash of sadness hit him hard when his slow moving brain realized just who these rings belonged to. Slowly, as though it were made of glass, he crumpled the note. There was only one sentence, scrawled in someone’s sloppy handwriting, ‘For your life.”

Anguish filled his shattered heart as he let out a quiet cry. No tears fell, his well had long dried up. So, he only sat there, staring at the note as anguish stewed inside him. Eventually, he forced himself to look at the two gold bands. Uncertainty mixed with his anguish as he was left with two choices. Leave them with his father’s mangled and looted corpse, or take them with him. The idea of taking them won out in the end, if only to remember them.

He reached up to his neck, pulling off a black string with an old and worn quarter attached to it. His grandfather had worked at the mint, and he was given this coin after years of good work. There was only one of it’s kind, and when his grandfather passed it was passed down to him. With his father’s permission he has a hole drilled at the top just big enough to fit a small black nylon string through.

He undid the tight knot that held the string as one, and slid his parent’s wedding rings on either side of the coin. He lifted it up, watching as the gold metal of the rings glinted with the sunlight, and the faded and dulled metal seemed to glow a slight golden hue. As he stared, thoughts drifted through his head, who were those that did this to him, why didn’t his neighbors do anything, why was he left alive?

He eventually came to the conclusion that his parents had given their lives to allow him to live. His eyes hardened from the watery and unfocused they once were. New determination coursed through him, burning through the anguish and confusion, using them as fuel to create an inferno. He was going to find out who did this. He was going to find his mother, dead or otherwise. He was going to live and move on from this.

Oh yes, he will live, and those fools that did this too him, they were going to pay.

Carisfice Derurm (teaser to a new short story)

In this world of greed and lies there are men who are willing to do all and everything without remorse to make their mark on this world. They’ve done both horrible and amazing things, things like genocide and murder to inventing the plane. We ignore the cruel, believing that as time goes on they will fade away. Sadly, they never do. The moment one leaves this world another takes their place, often they are even worse than the last.

As a people we have a fear that has been passed down from genetics. The fear itself is simple and denied by all. We all fear being judged. We want to be seen as fearless and unstoppable. That we’ll always stand up against evil and cruelty. Yet, the moment danger rears its ugly head we run. So few actually follow their word and truly stand up and fight back. These are the people that everyone else seems to want to claim that they are, but they all lie. The only ones who speak the truth are the ones who say nothing at all; they are the ones willing to die.

Even among the silent ones exist a class called masked. They hide everything, every emotion, thought, feeling, behind their iron masks. Be wary of them, for even if you believe you know them, they can easily turn around and stab you in the back. However, if you gain one of them as a friend they will not hesitate, they will not falter, and they will not fail to die for you. These “masked” ones more often than not vent their feelings, and they slowly consume themselves from the inside. Eventually they fall into depression and often, suicide. However, they do not call it suicide. They call it “fair trade”. Their form of a fair trade is purposely giving their life in what they believe is worth it. Often they are the strangers that run into a burning building to save a trapped child, only to die after saving them. They are viewed as heroes by the people who do not know and understand them. In truth, they are fools.

However, for every ten masked there exists one who fought through their depression and gained something new. A beautiful and blissful thing called “Insanity”. They often lose themselves to it, but for those that persevere through it they only gain in strength. In this story we follow one of these precious few. Many do not know of him, and those that do keep their distance. He is an unstable creature with two minds; one of kindness, and one of a demon. He hears the whispers of the void call to him to relinquish his hold of his body and give unto it his demon. He fights back, and tries to be normal, but sadly for one such as him that is impossible. This is his story.

Darkness in the Game: Short Circuit (chapter 12: Suspicion)

“Derek? Where have you been?” Brent asked.

Derek sighed. “I’ve been investigating,” Derek said.

Brent gave Derek a look of confusion. “Investigating what?”

“I’ll tell you both later,” Derek said to Brent and Kris. “We should leave Brooke alone so she can rest.”

Kris nodded in agreement. “Derek’s right. We’ll all see you tomorrow, okay?” Kris said to Brooke. Brooke slowly nodded her head and laid down on the bed and, almost suddenly, fell into a deep sleep while the three boys left the room.

“So, what have you been investigating?” Brent asked.

“I’ll tell you a little bit. Then I’ll tell the rest tomorrow with Brooke,” Derek said. “I have a suspicion on who assaulted Brooke.”

Kris spoke up immediately. “Who?”

Derek spoke again. “I’ll tell all three of you tomorrow. I want all of you to know.”

Derek walked away and Brent and Kris looked at each other. “Who do you think he’s talking about?” Kris asked Brent.

“I have no idea,” Brent said, honestly. Brent looked away from Kris. “Who do we know that would purposely hurt Brooke?” Kris shook his head. “I have my own suspicion. I think it’s someone we both know and treats us like their own.”

Brent and Kris both expressed the same face of concern. Simultaneously they said, “Coach Guiles.”

Kris spoke right away. “It can’t be him. He doesn’t have anything against Brooke, or at least I don’t think he does.”

Brent spoke now. “Well, hold on. Let’s think about it. Does he have a motive?”

Kris stared at Brent. “I doubt it.” Kris started to walk away.

Brent stopped him. “Slow down, Kris.” Kris glared at Brent.

Kris spoke, angrily. “What?”

“Where are you going?” Brent asked.

“Where do you think I’m going, Brent? I’m going to the school,” Kris said.

“For what?” Brent asked.

Kris was silent. He shrugged Brent’s hand off of his shoulder and rolled down the hospital hallway. Brent watched as Kris turned the corner of the hallway then Brent followed him out of the hospital. Brent began to run towards Kris outside of the hospital, when Derek ran up beside him. “Now what? Are we becoming stalkers?” Derek asked, humorously.

Brent looked over at Derek. “I need to know exactly where Kris is going. Right now, I don’t trust him. Someone hurt Brooke and he thinks that it’s Coach Guiles, but we don’t know. Like you said, you’ll tell us tomorrow when we’re with Brooke,” Brent said with a panting breath.

Well, actually, he’s right. It was Coach Guiles. Why he did it, I don’t know, but Kris is one hundred percent right. How does he know?” Derek asked.

Brent looked at Derek. “It’s his suspicion.”

“Oh,” Derek said. “Wait, really?”

Brent nodded. “So, do you want to follow him with me or what?”

Derek thought for a second. “Why not? There isn’t anything else for me to do, so I guess I’ll follow him.”

Brent and Derek ran down the street behind Kris. Several minutes of running, panting and sweating, they finally arrived at the school. As Kris rolled up the wheelchair ramp in front of the school, Brent ran up behind the wheelchair and applied its brakes. The wheelchair stopped abruptly. Kris pushed harder and harder on the wheels, trying to make them move, but he had no luck. Kris sat up and turned to Brent. “Release my brakes, Brent,” Kris said, seethingly.

Brent shook his head as Derek walked up behind him, “No. Not until you tell me what the heck you’re doing!”

Kris looked down towards his feet then back up to Brent and Derek with tears in his eyes. “You don’t understand! Neither of you two understand how I feel!”

Derek broke in immediately. “Stop it! I know how you’re feeling. I’ve felt more than what you’re feeling right now!”

Brent looked at Derek. “What are you talking about?”

Derek sighed. “Remember when you both came to my house and you wanted to talk about me and the Xbox?”

Brent and Kris both nodded. “Yeah, why?”

“Okay. Remember the picture in my wallet?” Derek said, showing the picture. “This was my girlfriend, Valerie. Her name was Valerie Valdez.”

“So… when you say was, you mean that you broke up with her or she broke up with you?” Brent asked.

Derek shook his head. “Not even close. Guys, Valerie died in a car accident five months ago.”

Kris spoke. “Now I know why you were really upset over Tyler’s death.”

Brent punched Kris’s arm. “Quiet.” He turned his attention back to Derek. “Derek, I’m sorry. I apologize about Kris.”

“Hey!” Kris said.

“It’s okay. I know he didn’t mean it like that,” Derek said. He put the picture of Valerie back in his wallet and put the wallet in his pocket. “Now, let’s go.”

“Wait, what?!” Brent asked.

Derek explained. “We’re going to talk to Coach Guiles, but we’re not going to do it here. I understand that he’s having your team go out for a pizza party.”

Brent and Kris nodded, suspiciously.

Derek continued. “You’re both going to the pizza party. I’ll be there in case anything goes wrong. To cut this story short, we’re going to crash that pizza party.”

Darkness in the Game: Short Circuit (chapter 11: Near Death)

As Brent and Kris turned the corner of the block, the figure stood up. It’s hands were layered with some of Brooke’s blood. The blood dripped off the figure’s fingertips, splashing on the sidewalk. Immediately, Kris looked from the figure to Brooke, then back to he figure in disbelief. “What did you do to her?” Kris shouted. He lunged toward the figure, but was being held back by Brent. Kris struggled to get out of Brent’s grasp, but it was useless. Kris began to pant heavily. “What did you do to her?” Kris asked again, a little more calmly. He broke off of Brent’s hold on him.

The figure stood there, motionless. The figure only made little movement from it’s breathing. It looked down at Brooke and knelt next to her body again, placing it’s hands over her heart. Brent and Kris gazed down at the figure’s hands and saw Brooke’s chest red and bloody. Kris knelt down on the other side of Brooke’s body and grabbed her motionless hand softly. “Brooke,” he said quietly, “if you can hear me, I want you to squeeze my hand, okay?” Brooke’s hand didn’t move. Kris sighed, growing worrisome of the thought that Brooke’s spirit might leave him. “Brooke, squeeze my hand,” he said.

Again, Brooke’s hand lay motionless. Kris began to squeeze her hand begging her to squeeze his. Nothing. Kris glanced at the figure on the other side of Brooke. “What did you do?” he asked. The figure shook it’s head, as if it was disproving Kris’s question. Brent walked behind Kris and laid a hand on his shoulder.

“Come on, Kris. We need to get her to the hospital,” Brent told him.

Kris nodded. “I know.”

Brent gazed at his watch. “It’s 10:00 p.m. We shouldn’t call 911. We don’t want to have the ambulance’s lights to flash and cause a lot of commotion this late.” He looked at the figure. “You and I will carry her to the hospital it’s not far from her, maybe half a block or less.” He turned his gaze to Kris. “Keep holding her hand. If you feel a response, tell me so we can know that she’s actually okay, alright?” he asked.

Kris nodded, slowly. “Alright.”

Brent and the figure picked up Brooke’s body slowly and carefully, not having her body bend. “Keep her body straight, we don’t want to risk anything worse than what already happened.” Brent warned. Th figure nodded in response. Several minutes of walking, the boys and the figure arrived at the hospital.

“Let me hold her,” Kris said. The figure politely moved and placed the side of Brooke it was holding onto Kris’s lap as Brent continued to hold the other. Brent and Kris went into the hospital, then Brent asked the figure, “do you want to come with us?” The figure shook it’s head. The boys continued to carry Brooke’s body into the hospital, while nurses came up to the boys with a gurney. Brent and Kris placed Brooke carefully onto the gurney and watched as the nurses rolled her off down the hallway and turn around a corner. Kris sat down with Brent and placed his head in his hands and sighed.

“I should’ve went with her,” Kris said.

Brent looked at Kris, but didn’t say anything.

A couple of hours later, Dr. Wilkins appeared around the corner and walked toward Kris and Brent. “oh, hello again, Brent,” he said. “Hello, Kris.”

Both of the boys greeted Dr. Wilkins. Brent then asked, “so… is Brooke okay?”

Dr. Wilkins opened a folder in his hands and said, “Brooke was shot near her heart, it didn’t even graze it but it was enough to make her unconscious. She’s awake now. If you two would like to see her you may.” Brent stood up.

“Do you want to see her?” Brent asked Kris.

Kris nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I want to see her.”

Brent asked Dr. Wilkins, “what room is Brooke in?”

Dr. Wilkins responded, “she’s in room 452. That’s the next floor, take a right, go down the hall, and it should be near the end. Just follow the signs if you need help, or ask one of the nurses up there.”

Brent said, “thanks, doctor.” He rolled Kris and himself to the elevator and rode to the fourth level and walked down the hall and found room 452 and went inside. Brooke was laying on the hospital bed. She was awake and she was breathing softly and slowly. Brent knocked lightly on the door and Brooke turned.

“Hi, guys,” she whispered. “What happened?”

Kris rolled closer to her. “You were shot. It was just enough to make you unconscious.”

Brooke seemed shocked. “I was shot?” she asked. “Where?”

Kris pointed toward Brooke’s heart. “near your heart. The bullet didn’t even graze it.”

Brent walked up to Brooke now. “I’d say that you are really lucky,” he said.

“I guess so,” Brooke said. “Anyway, did hear anything from Derek?”

Brent looked down at his feet with disappointment. “No, not yet. Where could he be, though? I mean, his mother said that he left to get a video game, but he probably would have shown up there before we left. I really hope nothing happened to him.”

Kris shrugged. “All we can do right now is wait until either we hear from him or someone else does.”

Brent pulled out his phone to see if he had any missed calls. He had none. “Yeah. We just got to wait.”

Kris grabbed Brooke’s hand. “I thought you were gone,” he said, shedding a tear.

Brooke smiled. “I’m not going anywhere.” She motioned for Kris to come closer to her and kissed him on his cheek.

Kris blushed. “Okay… so, I’ll come back tomorrow and stay with you for awhile. Is that okay?”

Brooke smiled again and responded, “yeah, that’s okay.”

Brent said, “I’ll come, too. If that’s okay with both of you.”

Brooke and Kris both said in agreement, “of course.”

Then, Brooke remembered something. “Wait. I just remembered something.”

“What?” Brent asked.

“You said I was unconscious, right?” Brooke asked.

Kris answered. “Yes. Why?”

“Well, before I went out of consciousness, I saw someone. It wasn’t either of you two,” Brooke said.

Brent nodded. “Yeah, we saw a figure standing next to you. We didn’t know who it was.”

Brooke’s face went neutral. “I do. I saw it’s face.”

Kris asked, “who was it?”

Brooke looked at Brent and Kris. “It was-” Brooke stared at the door, her mouth gaping open.

Brent and Kris asked simultaneously, “who was it?”

Brooke pointed at the door now, Brent and Kris followed her finger. The figure was standing in the room wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black sweatpants. It was gazing at the clock on the wall of the room. The figure then spoke, “it was me.” The figure turned around and pulled down it’s hood. Underneath the hood and the baggy articles of clothing, was a tall, dark-haired man. He spoke again. “I saved your life.” He turned to reveal his face. The man was Derek.

 

 

Darkness in the Game: Short Circuit (chapter 6: Broken Bones and Leaked Information)

“Kris… Kris! Can you hear me?” Brent was saying, standing next to Kris’s hospital bed. “Kris… say something, anything.” Brent paced back and forth from the bed and the door. Brent’s cell phone rang and he answered.

He sighed. “Hi, Brooke.”

“Hi, Brent. Is Kris okay?” Brooke asked.

“I’m not sure,” Brent said. “The doctor should be here soon, I just hope that it isn’t serious.”

“Me too,” Brooke whispered into the phone.

“I’ll let you know,” Brent said.

Okay,” Brooke said. “Say hi to Kris for me. Bye.”

“Alright, bye,” Brent said. The call ended. He put the phone in his pocket and sat down in one of the chairs in the room. Several minutes went by until the doctor entered the room. “Dr. Wilkins, how is he?”

Dr. Wilkins opened a folder in his hands. “Looking at Kris’s x-rays, I saw two fractured bones in his left middle finger and his left ring finger, three fractured ribs, and a broken right leg.”

Brent sighed. “This shouldn’t have happened. I should’ve just lost that game, it would’ve been better than this.”

“Don’t blame yourself, Brent. It’s not your fault,” Dr. Wilkins said, comforting Brent. “I’ll bring a wheelchair for you. You two can leave whenever you can.”

“Thanks,” Brent said as Dr. Wilkins left the room. Brent put his face in his hands. “This is all my fault,” Brent muttered.

The door opened and a nurse rolled in a wheelchair. A few minutes went by and Kris regained his consciousness. Brent helped him up out of the bed and into the wheelchair. “I’m sorry, Kris,” Brent said, disappointedly.

“For what?” Kris asked, groggily.

“It’s my fault that you’re in this chair,” Brent said.

“Stop it. Stop beating yourself up, it’s not your fault,” Kris said, calmly.

“That’s exactly what the doctor said,” Brent mumbled. “Let’s take you home.”

Brent rolled Kris on the sidewalk towards his house, fortunately Kris leaved close to the hospital so they didn’t need to go far. “By the way, Brooke told me to tell you hi,” Brent said.

“Oh, man, the movie! I have to ask her about the movie. Can I borrow your phone?” Kris asked.

“Yeah, sure,” Brent said. He pulled out his phone and handed it to Kris. Kris punched in Brooke’s cell phone number.

“Hello? Brooke, I’m sorry about our movie plans. I’ll make it up to you, just-”

“Kris, it’s okay. Don’t worry, if you can we can see a movie next friday,” Brooke cut in.

“Are you sure?” Kris asked.

“I’m sure,” Brooke said. “I’ll see you on monday?”

“Yeah, see you on monday,” Kris hesitated, then finished. “Bye, Brooke.”

“Bye, Kris,” Brooke answered.

Kris ended the call and gave the phone back to Brent. “I have a feeling she’s mad at me, but feels sorry for me at the same time,” he said.

“You never know,” Brent said. He looked at Kris and spoke to him again. “Kris I have to tell you something about the game.”

“What?” Kris asked.

“Remember when you asked me what that player on the Blazers said to me?” Brent asked.

“Yeah, why?” Kris asked, with concern for Brent.

“He didn’t say anything, he asked me to do something. He wanted me to lose the game for us,” Brent said. “That’s why you’re in this chair. He knew I wouldn’t so he went after you. I should’ve lost that game, it would’ve been better for everybody.”

“Oh, yeah, about the game. Did we win?” Kris asked.

“I’ll tell you when we get to your place,” Brent said. Brent had a disappointed look on his face as he rolled Kris to his house. They reached Kris’s house and Brent carried Kris up the staircase to his bedroom and laid him on the bed.

“Okay, the game. Who won?” Kris asked excitedly.

Brent couldn’t help but smile at his friend’s fetish with the winner of that game, knowing it was the first time he smiled after the incident. “Alright, I’ll tell you only because you won’t stop talking about it.” He hesitated. “The score was 46-53 and the winner was…” He sighed. “The Weitan Warriors. We beat the undefeated Buchet Blazers!”

“Great,” Kris said, smiling. He covered himself with a thin sheet- with a little help from Brent- and laid his head on a pillow. He raised his fist to Brent. “We made high school history.”

Brent pounded his fist. “Yes, we did. So, I still need to take you to actually get video games. Do you want to go tomorrow?”

“Sure, thanks,” Kris said.

“No, problem. It’s the least I can do after what happened,” Brent said. He looked at the door. “Alright, I’ll see you tomorrow.” He opened the door and left Kris’s house and shoved his hands in his pockets and walked home.

When he got home, he got himself ready for bed and fell asleep, painfully rethinking about the incident and kept saying to himself, “it’s all my fault,” never letting the saying leave his mind. Even though he had this guilt, he knew that he and Kris would be shopping for video games tomorrow, and hopefully everything would be better.

All of a sudden, Brent’s cell phone rang and he answered it. “Hello?”

It was Kris. “I have something I should have told you before. I know somebody that is helping the Xbox with his plan.”

“Who?” Brent asked, sleepily.

Kris answered. “Derek Trenton. He’s known to you and me as the Blazers player.”

W.I.C.K.E.D. (part 3) – Paige Kellenberger

Fresh air time starts in ten minutes. Until then we have to stay in our rooms and be quiet so the staff can eat breakfast. I look over to the bed across from mine at 0041. Her eyes are closed but, I’m positive she’s not sleeping. She fears the nightmares as much as the rest of us. I reach under my pillow and pull out my journal. I flip to the middle where the decoder is. 0041 and I found out how to decode the numbers to letters after being together for a month. The letters are in alphabetical order and the numbers go from 0-10. It was kinda easier since 0041 and I knew our numbers by heart and were able to decode it. It’s kinda hard when you have numbers the same that are next to each other but it isn’t the same letters. Like 0041 name is really Alex, she unfortunately has that bad luck. 104002 name is Kelly and 10332 name is Maddy. We don’t call each other by our real names because, if someone heard us and turned us in we would probably be killed and I don’t really wanna take that chance. We call the boys by their names because they don’t have girl lunch and if someone heard us they could think we were talking about our brothers or old boyfriends before we came here. I hear the lock to our door click. I close my notebook and slide it back under my pillow. I look over at Alex, who is now wide eyed and alert. A lady in all white appears in the doorway. “It’s fresh air time. You have two hours of air before you come back in.”
Alex and I both get off our beds and walk past the lady. We head down the hall to the door everyone is suppose to leave from. When I know we are far enough away from the lady I clear my throat softly. “Alex.”
I look at her still walking. Her eyes are about as wide as they were in the room when the door unlocked. “Don’t use my name.”
“I’m sorry.”
“It’s OK. What is it?”
“I think we should tell the boys about Maddy’s idea.”
She bites her lip. “I want to but, you know Maddy will be mad if we do.”
“She’ll be mad cause we bought our boys and she doesn’t have one.”
“Don’t be mean.”
We round the corner to the next hallway before the door. “I’m not, you know it’s true. Kelly, you and I all have guys and she doesn’t.”
She sighs. “I know but, it was Maddy’s plan.”
“So? Kelly and Dakota have been together since the day after Kelly got here. Dakota has the same amount of time as Maddy maybe a little more. We can’t just leave him behind.”
“I know but Kelly is good friends with Maddy shouldn’t she be included in telling Dakota?”
“No, she won’t tell him because of her friendship with Maddy.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“Then we’re telling the boys?”
“Yeah, I’m not leaving Justin behind.”
“Good, because I don’t wanna leave Jason behind.”
We get to the door to the outside and turn the knob. The doors opens and the bright light from the sun hits us, along with the hot sticky air and the smell of freshly cut grass. I let Alex go out before me and follow her out. I scan the groups that are already outside. I don’t see Maddy or Kelly, they’re roommates. I search the crowd for Justin, Jason or Dakota. My eyes scan over the different colored heads of everyone. My eyes land on the bright blond hair of Dakota. I tug on Alex’s arm and pull her along with me. I swerve in between the groups of people until I come into view of Dakota. I see why Kelly likes him. Tall, light blue eyes, golden hair the color of an angels and perfect white teeth. Most girls would define him as the perfect guy, I guess they wouldn’t be wrong he kinda is but he can be annoying at times. I pull Alex right beside me and tap Dakota on the shoulder. He turns away from two of the older guy, looks down at us and smiles. “Hey spence. Hey Alex.”
Alex punches his arm. “I told you don’t say my name.”
“Yeah yeah I know you’re afraid you’ll get in trouble or something. I’ve been here longer than you I know how things work.”
“Whatever.”
“So what do you want?”
“Well aren’t you nice.”
“That’s what people tell me.”
I break in before they start fighting. “We were wondering if we could talk to you. Alone.”
“Yeah sure.” He turns to his friends. “Be right back guys they wanna tell me something bout Kelly.”
He turns away from the circle of friends and follows us further over to the fence. “What is this about?”
“A plan.”
“What do you mean?”
“Maddy wants to leave before her two years are up. She wants Kelly, Alex and I to come along.”
“OK, that’s great! You’re bring us too right?”
“Maddy doesn’t want us to bring you, Jason or Justin.”
“Why?”
“We don’t know really but, I think it’s cause we all have boys and she doesn’t. Maybe she just wants it to be us girls too but we don’t really know.”
“Then why are you telling me this?”
“Kelly won’t admit it but she doesn’t wanna leave you behind since, you have almost the same amount of time as Maddy. Besides, Alex and I aren’t leaving our guys behind.”
“True but, I’m not as concerned as most people about when my times up. Uhm, who are your guys again?”
“Justin and Jason.”
“Oh they’re the twins right?”
“No, why does everyone think they’re twins.”
“They kinda look the same.”
Alex butts in. “No, Jason’s teeth aren’t as straight as Justin’s. Plus, Justin is like four inches shorter than Jason and Jason has black hair not brown.”
“OK OK whatever they just look kinda the same.”
“Whatever.”
“Would you two please stop fighting we need to tell him this before Kelly and Maddy come out.”
“Why?”
“Kelly would never go behind Maddy’s back, they’ve been friends since she got here.”
“I guess you’re right. What else do you need to tell me.”
“In case we don’t see Justin or Jason tell them for us.”
“OK will do.”
“Promise?”
I turn and look at Alex who has a little fear in her eyes, like she doesn’t trust him. I turn back to Dakota. He smiles. “I promise, don’t worry they’ll know by lunch.”
She gives a small nod and looks at the ground. “Thanks Dakota. Don’t tell Kelly.”
“I won’t. See you guys later.”
He turns and heads back to his group of friends. I look at Alex. “What was that about?”
She raises her head with tears in her eyes. “I just didn’t want him to not tell him. I can’t lose Justin too.”
I pull her into a hug, I put her head in my chest so no one sees her crying. This is gonna be two long weeks.

Darkness in the Game: Short Circuit (chapter 10: Emergency Call)

“Kris, have you heard from Derek at all?” Brent asked Kris.

“No, have you?” Kris responded.

“No,” Brent said. Brent and Kris were sitting in the back of their school bus. Both Brent and Kris had not heard from Derek since he had dropped them off at their houses one week ago. “I hope he’s alright. We don’t need anybody else to be killed.

Kris nodded in agreement. “Totally. One funeral is more than enough.”

They arrived back to their high school and walked into the front entrance. They both were congratulated along with the rest of their football team for winning the high school championship last Friday night. Brent received fist pounds and Kris received pats to the back. In the crowd of students, Coach Guiles made his way through to Brent and Kris. “I’m proud of you, guys,” he said. “Thanks to you two we made high school football history on Friday. He looked at Kris. “Sorry about the wheelchair, Kris.”

Kris said, “It’s okay, I’m getting used to it.”

“Good. Anyway, since you had to be taken to the hospital, we never had our team celebratory pizza party. So, if you guys are free this Friday night, we’ll be eating at House of Pizza.”

Brent looked at Kris and returned his gaze on Coach Guiles. “We’ll be there.”

“Alright, see you boys on Friday,” Coach Guiles said. He turned and walked toward the gymnasium and went inside. Now that the football season was over, Brent and Kris had made plans to be on the basketball team until next year.

“So, now what?” Kris asked Brent.

“Algebra,” Brent responded.

After what Kris and Brent thought was the most boring algebra class in their life, they headed for their second blocks. Brent had biology, while Kris had english. Walking to the cafeteria after second block, Kris and Brent continued to talk about the whereabouts of Derek. They asked each other if Derek had called the other, which they answered with a shake of the head. Standing in the cafeteria line, they wondered if they knew where Derek could go after school so they could search for him after school was over. They got their lunch and carried their trays over to a round lunch table and sat down. Not much longer, Brooke sat down with them.

“Hi, guys. What’s wrong?” Brooke asked, seeing their expressions on their faces.

“It’s Derek. We haven’t heard from him in awhile. We’ve tried calling his cell phone, his home phone, but he never picked up. I understand if he’s still dealing with Tyler’s death, but if not why hasn’t he contacted us. He’s helping us go after the Xbox, right?”

“Wait, what?” Brooke asked. “You’re going after an Xbox? What’s going on? Are you feeling okay or are you still recovering from that hit in the head?”

Kris smiled at Brooke. “I’m fine, but Derek might not be.”

Brent looked at him and asked, “what do you mean?” But instantly after he had spoken, he knew exactly what Kris meant.

“Derek’s with us now, so the Xbox might be going after him again because he got Tyler last time,” Kris explained.

“You may be right. We need to go to Derek’s house right after school,” Brent said.

Brooke, who was still mesmerized by the conversation between Brent and Kris, started to understand what it was they were talking about. “So, are you saying that this Xbox is evil?”

“Not just an Xbox, Brent’s Xbox,” Kris told her.

“Okay…” she said.

“Want to come with us?” Kris asked.

Brooke thought about it. “Sure, why not?”

The boys and Brooke quickly finished their lunches when the bell sounded. They picked up their backpacks and walked across the school to their third blocks. After that was fourth block which seemed fast to Brent, but longer to Kris.

“Finally,” Kris said. “Guess we’re going to Brent’s now.”

“Where’s Brooke?” Brent asked, looking for her.

“Oh, she’s just calling her mom. She said she would meet us at the vending machine,” Kris answered. Brent and Kris walked down to their cafeteria again and walked towards the vending machines. In a couple minutes, Brooke came into the cafeteria. Kris told Brent, “there she is.”

“Okay, I’ll have my mom drop us all off at Derek’s. She should be here soon, I called her half an hour ago. Brent’s mom pulled up to the school. She said hello to Kris and Brooke and asked them about their day at school, like every mother would do. They both responded by saying that it was fine. The boys and Brooke fastened their seatbelts and Brent’s mom drove off of the parking lot to Derek’s house.

Once they were all at Derek’s house, Brent walked up to the door and knocked. Derek’s mother opened the door. “Hi, Brent. Can I help you?” she asked, politely.

“Hi, Mrs. Trenton. Is Derek home?” Brent asked, hopefully.

“Not this moment. He went to the store to get a video game, but you may all come in and wait for him. He should be back very soon,” Mrs. Trenton said.

“Okay, thank you,” Brent said. Brent, Kris and Brooke walked into the Trenton household and sat on one of the couches. They waited and waited and waited. Derek hadn’t come home yet, and it was 9:00 p.m. “It’s getting kind of late, Mrs. Trenton. Can you have Derek call either me or Kris when he comes home?” Brent said.

Mrs, Trenton nodded. “Sure, I’ll have him call as soon as he comes home.”

“Thanks,” Brent said. Brent, Kris and Brooke stood up from the couch and headed towards the door. Then Brent turned around. “Again, I’m sorry about Tyler.”

Mrs. Trenton looked at him with a smile and with a tear rolling down her cheek. “Thank you, Brent. Ever since Derek met you, he’s said that you were like a brother to him and Tyler, but now he just says that you were like a brother to him.”

Brent responded with a stutter. “A-a-and you tell Derek that ever since I’ve met him, he’s been like a brother to me. You know, when I met the real him.”

Mrs. Trenton nodded, again. Then Brent, Kris and Brooke walked out the door. Brent asked Brooke, “do you want my mo to take you home? I can call her for you.”

“No, that’s okay. I can walk home,” Brooke said.

“Alright,” Brent said. Brent then, grabbed Kris’s wheelchair and rolled him home while Brooke walked the other way towards her house. As Brooke was walking home, she felt something was behind her. She turned, but saw nothing. She continued to walk forward and stones crunching under boots. She turned around again, this time seeing a figure in the darkness. The figure punched and kicked Brooke until she fell to the ground. The figure then, held out his hand and a shot fired from a gun. Dropping the gun in a dumpster, the figure ran off towards the north end of the town. Beaten and bloody, Brooke lay on the sidewalk holding her chest firmly. She heard footsteps running towards her. Another figure knelt down next to her and pulled out its cell phone. Meanwhile, Brent was outside of Kris’s house and felt his phone vibrate in his pocket.

“Who is it?” Kris asked.

“I don’t know. The number is blocked,” Brent said. He answered the phone. “Hello?”

A voice spoke. “It’s Brooke, come quick. It’s an emergency.” The call ended.

“What?” Kris asked.

“It’s Brooke,” Brent said, alarmed. “We’ve got to get to Derek’s quick. She couldn’t have gotten far from there.”

“Do you know who called?” Kris asked.

Brent shook his head. “No.”

“Is she okay?” Kris asked, becoming worried.

“I don’t know, but we better hurry. She couldn’t have gotten far from Derek’s house, though,” Brent said. Then, Brent grabbed Kris’s wheelchair again and ran as fast as he could and rolled Kris with him towards Derek’s house.

Darkness in the Game: Short Circuit (chapter 9: Funeral)

“I can’t believe he’s gone. After all we’ve been through together…” Derek said, sadly.

Brent walked up to Derek and put his hand on Derek’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Derek. I should’ve convinced him not to go down into the water. I should’ve went after you, not Tyler.”

Derek gave a disappointed sigh. “It’s not your fault, Brent. If it’s anyone’s fault it’s the Xbox’s. The Xbox is the reason we’re all here now.”

Brent nodded, sadly. Brent, Derek and Kris, who was talking to Derek’s mother, were all at a funeral for Tyler. Along with Derek’s family, Brent’s family and Kris’s family, Brooke was there, too. Brooke was with Kris, tears in her eyes. Even though she didn’t know Tyler or Derek, she couldn’t help but feel sorry for their family.

All of the mourners filed into the church and sat in the pews. A eulogist approached the podium and began the eulogy. “Tyler Trenton was a young boy, whose life had been taken from him. Tyler will be in the lives of everyone here in this church. He will live on in our hearts forever and always. I would now like a moment of silence for Tyler, so if you all would be silent please…” The church was silent for several moments. Then, the eulogist continued with a question. “Would anyone like to come up to the podium and say a few words?”

Derek pulled out a folded piece of paper from his coat pocket and stood up. “I would, sir.” The eulogist motioned for Derek to approach the podium and walked to the side of room. Derek stood behind the podium and started to read from the piece of paper. “My brother, Tyler was a great guy. He never asked for anything in return for his actions. He was a brave, courteous kid and I-” Derek started to cry. “Uh… Tyler, just-” He stopped. “I’m sorry.”

Brent stood up and walked to the podium and took the paper away from Derek. “I’ll read for you, okay?” Derek nodded as Brent gazed over the paper and read. “Tyler just kept a smile on his face, he didn’t have a problem with no one and he meant the world to me, but I guess that physically, that world is gone because Tyler is, too. Mentally, I will always have Tyler around me wherever I go, because to me, Tyler is still here. I wish I could hold him one more time, but I can’t and that will be the thing that haunts me from now until I die. The last thing I wanted to say to Tyler, but never had the chance to, was that I loved him.” Brent now had tears filling his eyes. He read the last line on the paper. “Tyler was and is my inspiration to love my life and now he’s my hero, too.”

The mourners in the pews weeped and blew their noses and dabbed their eyes with tissues or handkerchiefs. Derek looked at Brent and walked to him with his arms open. Brent hugged Derek as Derek cried. The eulogist approached the podium again. “Thank you, boys,” he said. Brent and Derek then walked back to their pew and sat until the funeral service was over. After the service, everyone walked to their cars and drove to the cemetery for the burial service.

Once they arrived at the cemetery, there was a small tent over where Tyler’s grave was. There was a hollow box with an urn placed on top, containing Tyler’s ashes. The mourners gathered into the tent and stood silently with a strong wind, blowing hard enough for the tent to shake. Brent looked at Derek who still had tears rolling down his cheeks. He then gazed over at Kris, who had his hand in Brooke’s. Both of them also had some tears rolling down their cheeks. Eventually, the grave diggers arrived and made the announcement that the funeral and burial services had been over and then buried Tyler’s ashes.

Kris rolled up to Brent in his wheelchair. “Hey, Brent.”

Brent responded, “hey.”

“So, now what do we do now?” Kris asked.

Brent shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. This funeral and the whole Krypting incident…” He trailed off. “I guess we just have to keep doing what we’re doing, like destroying the Xbox and going back to school.”

Kris nodded. “I guess so.”

Brooke walked up to Kris and Brent and wiped her eyes with a tissue. “Hi, Brent.” She looked down at Kris. “”Are you okay?”

Kris’s eyes were watery and a small tear rolled down his cheek. “Yeah, I’m just-” He pulled out a handkerchief from his pocket. “I’m just a little emotional when it comes to funerals, that’s all.”

Brent looked over at Derek, who was talking to his mother, then back to Kris and Brooke. “i’ll be right back,” he said, walking away.

“What are you doing?” Kris asked.

Brent ignored him and walked toward Tyler’s grave, reaching into his jacket. He looked around, then knelt down next to the grave. He pulled out his hand from his jacket and placed a picture of Derek and Tyler together in a frame. He looked to his right side and saw a red rose and picked it up from the ground and placed it in front of the picture. He gazed over the grave for a moment and then picked himself up from the ground and walked back over to Kris and Brooke.

Kris squinted at the grave and looked at Brent with a puzzled expression on his face. “Where did you get the picture?” he asked.

Brent smiled shyly and said, “remember a couple days ago? We were at Derek’s helping him and his mom with the funeral arrangements.”

Kris nodded. “Yeah…”

“Well, remember when I got up to go to the bathroom?” Brent asked.

Kris looked at Brent with a shocked face. “No. You didn’t…”

Brent shrugged. “I did. I actually went up to Derek’s room and hid the picture in my jacket. Do me a favor and please don’t tell him.”

Kris looked at him intently. “Don’t worry, I won’t. Your secret is safe with me.”

“Thanks,” Brent said.

A couple of hours later, after everyone had finished talking to the Trenton family and giving their condolences, they went home. Brent, Kris, Derek and Brooke had stayed for a while longer. Kris rolled up to Derek with Brooke next to him. “Derek, I should have done this earlier, but… this is Brooke. She goes to our school. She came here to pay respect to Tyler, although she never met him.”

Derek shook Brooke’s hand. “Thank you, Brooke. I wish Tyler could have met you. You would have liked him.”

Brooke responded. “I’m sure I would have. He seemed like a really nice boy.”

Derek said, “he was.”

Brent looked at Kris and said to him, “I’m going to show him the picture on the grave.” Kris nodded. “Hey, Derek, I want to show you something,” Brent said to him.

“Okay,” Derek said.

Brent walked with Derek towards the grave and pointed at the rose and the picture lying on the grave. Derek gazed at the two items on the grave and cried. He looked at Brent and said nothing. “I hope you don’t mind, but I took the picture from your room and put the rose on the grave with it,” Brent said, calmly.

Derek shook his head. “No, I don’t mind.” He looked back at Brent and continued, “I think it looks good.”

“I really am sorry, Derek. I should never had let-”

“Stop. I told you it’s not your fault. Don’t beat yourself up about it.”

Brent wanted to nod, but he couldn’t. He felt that Tyler’s death was his fault because of his actions that he didn’t do to stop him.

“Let’s go,” Derek spoke. “It’s getting pretty late, anyway.” He glimpsed at his watch. “It’s 10:00 p.m.”

“Brent finally muttered under his breath, “alright.”

Derek drove the boys and Brooke back to their houses and parked into his driveway and walked inside of his house. He walked into his bedroom and stared at his Xbox, angrily. He unplugged the system and carried it downstairs. He opened the front door and dropped it on the yard and went back into the house. He returned several moments later with a lighter. He lit the lighter and dragged the flame over the Xbox. He watched as the bright, yellow-orange light engulfed the system in the middle of the yard. Derek switched off the lighter and put it in his pocket. He gazed at the fiery inferno and spoke. “You took my brother’s life. Now I’m going to take yours.”