nickofnight

The Memory Game: 31 + 32

The Memory Game: 31 + 32

Sorry for being so slow with this update! I've put two parts in this to make up. The next part will be available on Patreon in about 4 hours from when this post went live.

Previous

Tammy flinched as the woman's hand slowly caressed her face.

"Do you ever remember being so pure, Kay?" Vacca said.

Kay grunted. She was seated the other side of the room, a guard stood next to her.

"I don't recall either of us being quite so pretty," Vacca continued with a mournful sigh. "So innocent."

Tammy glanced up at the woman. Her face looked like dough that had had cookie cutters taken to it. The pale skin was missing patches: intricately patterned chunks that had been carved into her cheeks and neck and forehead. Tammy could see the woman's tongue through a hole in the side of her face, writhing each time she spoke.

She's just like you, Tammy told herself. Just like you, but also just like Kay. And Kay was more than ready to kill you. "What have you done with Claire?" Tammy asked.

Vacca leaned in close, inspecting Tammy. Running her eyes over every inch of her face, her warm breath wafting over Tammy. "The children will be fine," she said slowly. Dismissively. "The girl will need to lose an arm, but will survive. She'll be fine. They both will."

Tammy lowered her head. She had thought the arm might need amputating, but she'd still hoped otherwise. At least Claire would live. "And... and me? Are you going to kill me?"

"Why would I kill you?" Vacca asked.

Tammy swallowed. "I saw the piles of bodies. Dozens of other clones, just like me. Dead."

"No. They were not quite like you. You've had more time alive. Time builds memories. Memories make up a life. So no, I won't take your life, Tammy." Her finger ran down Tammy's chin; Vacca leaned in and moved her lips near to the younger clones. Tammy craned her neck back.

Vacca laughed. "Do I frighten you, Tammy?"

You'd frighten the elephant man, Tammy thought. "No, I'm just not into narcissism."

"You're funny," she said, with a wry laugh. "Funny and pretty."

"Vacca," Kay said, finally speaking up. "I brought you a present. If you want to keep her alive, that's up to you. But I'm dying, sister. I need your help." Kay coughed, as if to solidify her point.

Vacca continued gazing at Tammy. "Do you know that it was under Kay's rule of the city, that society crumbled. She could never take advice from other people, that was her problem. Didn't believe that someone else might know better. Or refused to believe."

"Oh spare me the stories of injustice," said Kay. "The people voted me in. Eventually, they voted you in. You had your chance, Vacca, but you didn't do much better, did you? In fact I'd say you did a whole lot worse"

Vacca finally turned to glare at her sister. "It was too late by then. We were fucked. We are fucked!"

"That's not true," said Tammy. "Tom knows how to get out of here."

"Tom..." Vacca twisted the name around her tongue. "Tom. We have created so many 'Toms'. Do you know that no clone has ever picked the same name as another?"

"Well," Tammy ran a hand through her hair. "I actually tried to pick Tom. But uh, it was taken. And he's pretty stubborn and wouldn't let me share it."

Vacca ignored her. "Tom knows as much as I do. Which is to say, nothing. He has no memories, and if he told you that he does, he's lying."

"Where did you find him?" Kay asked.

Vacca paused, considering whether to answer. "We found the body in a cloning device two miles from here, in a collapsed underground chamber. We believe it is the body of the man who created all of this. Who started the Great Experiment."

"You still think it's all just an experiment then?" Kay questioned.

"Of course!" Vacca snapped. "And if we can just figure out the criteria to end it... Then perhaps..."

"That's why you brought him back? You tried to stimulate his memories, to find out what the criteria are?"

"More or less. Only, it proved impossible. Memories cannot be transferred."

"You're wrong!" said Tammy.

Vacca turned to her again. "Am I now?" she said sarcastically. "And tell me, Tammy, what do you remember of the time before we brought you into existence?"

"Me? Nothing. But Tom does. He knows what the storm is. He knows how to get out of here!"

"Bullshit. That's--"

The room rocked and Vacca fell to her knees; an explosion somewhere outside of the room deafened the group. Tammy's hearing quickly came back, and to her dismay she could hear the sound of gunshots.

"Alex!" Vacca yelled at the guard. "What the fuck's going on?"

He shrugged.

"Well find--"

Another explosion. The door flew off its hinged.

The guard took aim at the three children who stepped through, but he was too slow. a bullet ripped through his chest, then a second through his neck.

The long haired lanky boy at the front, Markus, grinned a toothless grin at the three women.

Vacca spat at Kay, "Oh you fucking idiot. You led them here?"

The boy sounded amused, "You took something of ours. Two members of our little family. We want them back."

Tammy could hear crackling; smoke was drifting in through the door behind the children. There was a fire in the facility.

"You can have them back," said Kay. "We don't want them.

"We won't be taking the girl back," he said, smiling. "Corpses are no use to anyone. Now, you three are going to come with us. The storm will be starting soon."

This must be what Hell is like, Tammy thought, as the ground shook and the facility erupted in the near-distance. Markus had left explosives in the control room, and God only knew where else.

For a while after getting out, smoke had drifted lazily from the door beneath the hangar. Then the eruptions had begun. Mounds of earth flying into the air as if magma from a volcano. The hangar itself belched fire, until the concrete roof collapsed in on itself. It wasn't just the hangar though; the ground was erupting all around them, as if they were sitting in the middle of a mine field.

Two of the ferral children, guns in their hands, stood guard either side of the bound prisoners. Markus was on his knees, uttering a prayer that Tammy couldn't hear all the word's of, as the fireworks erupted above him.

Tammy's wrists were tied by wires, and her cheeks coarse with the salt of dried tears. She should be getting used to it all by now, she thought. But she wasn't. Vacca, Kay and Kyrstian sat on the ground next to her, equally bound, equally grey and subdued. The absence of Claire was more noticeable to Tammy, than the presence of the people she was seated next to. Kay had been right. They should have left Claire alone. Instead, Tammy's decision had gotten that the little girl killed. Had gotten them all killed.

The breeze was picking up. It was moving the smoke in violent breaths. Sand spattered against her skin. Not hard enough to hurt; not yet. Barely even noticeable in the numb state she sat in.

Markus got to his feet, prayer completed, and turned to them. "You will be the last," he said, looking at Vacca. "The last clones. We, the last children. We will give God the purity he has demanded."

Vacca's face was bruised. Her lips and eye swollen from where Markus had bludgeoned her with his gun. Somehow, she found the strength to speak, "There's no God. This is all just... just... an experiment."

"And yet I feel his breath," said Markus, grinning. "His teeth. Soon, he will devour us. We will all be one with the Lord!"

The two children with him, a boy and a girl, glanced at each other. Markus must have noticed, as he turned to the boy. "You must realize we can't go back, Samuel? This is God's plan. We are as much abominations as the clones. Our existence is a crime. That, is what Novus never understood. He thought we were somehow beyond reproach. But we are nothing but the bastard off-spring of the clones!" He lowered his rifle until it was aimed at the trembling boy's body. "You understand that, don't you Samuel?"

Samuel looked at the girl again.

Tammy could feel the tension in the air. However Markus had managed to take power after Novus had died... Well, the boy and girl were figuring out he was the wrong choice of leader.

"We understand!" said the girl. "Of course we do."

Markus turned to her. "Good girl, Emily. There will be a place for you at His table."

"All the same," she said tactfully, "it would be a great pleasure -- and honor -- to watch the storm take the abominations. To shelter somewhere. Just until tomorrow night. Surely God would grant us that singular pleasure?"

For a second, it seemed Markus was considering it. But he must have noticed something in the girl's expression. Or heard Samuel raise his own gun. He span on his heel and sent a stream of bullets into the boy's body, who in turn, sent a stream of blood into the sand, before collapsing on top of the patch of red.

Emily grabbed for her own pistol, but she was too slow. Her body landed without a sound.

Tammy's heart sank. The wind picked up. Sand began to scrape against her face.

"I'm sorry, Kyrstian," she said. But either the boy didn't hear her, or ignored her. The wind began to howl and screech. It was picking up larger particles now; not just sand, but something hard. Bits of plastic and metal.

"Let it cleanse your skin!" Markus screamed as he stared up at the sky, black with more than just darkness and smoke. "Let it prepare you for Him!"

Tammy could hear Kay coughing. A noise more painful than the storm. She craned her head to get a look at her older self.

Kay was bent forward, blood dribbling from her lips, her face red and raw from the sand lashing it. Slicing it. She would die anyway, Tammy knew. Her lungs were beyond help, at this point. And with the facility gone...

The air around them was heavy with dirt and debris. Tammy could just make out, as she squinted hard, the silhouette of their captor. His gun was on the ground and he was removing his clothes.

Blood dribbled from lacerations on her face. She could taste the tiny droplets as they trickled into the corner of her mouth. She wondered how long it would take. When would she lose consciousness? She prayed it would happen soon. She didn't want to experience her skin being flayed from her body.

Then it happened.

She hadn't seen the masked figure approaching. The storm had hidden it in its sandy veil. It wore a vulture-beaked mask, like that she had seen Kay in.

It was standing next to Markus -- he hadn't seen it approach either, not until it was too late. And by its side was an animal she thought she recognised. It pounced at the naked boy sinking its teeth into his right arm; the masked figure swung its shotgun at his head, and the boy collapsed in a pile.

Edgar ran to Kay. She wasn't moving. Wasn't even coughing any more. The dog licked her face.

The masked figure went to Tammy. "Hold still," it yelled, its hollow voice just louder than the storm. It placed down its shotgun and began undoing the knots.

"Rain?" Tammy asked, her eyebrows furrowed. "Is that you?"

He grabbed her hand as the rope fell away. "Come on, we've got to find shelter!"

"How the hell did you get--"

There was another explosion; the ground rocked and Rain fell to his knees. It lasted longer than before. Like an actual earthquake.

"What the fuck's going on with this place?" Rain asked, as he stumbled back to his feet.

"The facility ran under most of the world," Vacca said, her eyes wide, even in the storm. "I... I think the world's going to collapse. Please. We've got to get somewhere safe."

Rain glanced at Tammy. "We taking her with us?"

Tammy looked at her, then at Kyrstian, then at Kay. She nodded, "Yes. They all come."

The vulture mask looked at her, then swung around to the other prisoners. "I don't think Kay's coming."

"We carry her, if we have to. Please, Rain."

Rain was already behind Vacca untying her hands. "Whatever you say, Your Highness."

The bullet was likely meant for Rain, but if so, it missed its target by inches. It hit Vacca square in the chest, exploding in a puff of red.

Markus was on his knees. Reclaimed gun in his left hand.

"Oh shit," said Rain.

"You didn't kill him..." Tammy said.

"He's a kid, Tam. What was I meant to do?"

The gun traced a line through the air until it was aimed at Tammy.

For a second, she thought Markus had shot. Thought she'd heard the sound of a bullet.

But she hadn't.

It was the voice of God, that boomed loudly over the world.

That commanded them to obey.

I can't believe Kay's dead... it felt like an eternity waiting for this part, but it was worth it. I'm assuming that Tom found the microphone in the control room.

a personal request: this or a prequel story that gives us an insight into the first version of Tom they found in the unground bunker, and where the hell they are in the universe? and why there are domes everywhere?

Holy. Fucking. Shit. This gets better and better with every chapter.

Yeah, no reason I couldn't do a chapter showing 'original Tom' -- but it wouldn't be till later as it would have too many spoilers.

We'll find out a little about the universe shortly though. Shortly-ish.

The Memory Game: Part 27

The Memory Game: Part 27

Previous

Tammy cradled Claire in her arms as they walked through the desert outside the city. The girl's head lolled over her shoulder, rocking left and right with each laboured step Tammy took. Before they had left the bunker, they had wrapped Claire's infected arm up in torn strips of blanket, then tied it to her chest to restrain it. Her brother, Krystian, walked to the side of them, holding his sister's free hand and sprinkling reassurances when the pain became too much for the girl.

Tammy was struggling. She had been for a while. Each step was slow and laborious, and her face was shimmering from sweat.

Kay was a good few meters in front of them. Tammy watched as the older version of herself hunched over and began to cough. Kay was only just recovered by the time they caught up to her.

"You- you okay?" Tammy wheezed.

"Worry about yourself," Kay replied. "Let's go. And try to keep up."

"How's your mouth?"

Kay paused a second before responding. "Fine. I'm fine."

"Uh huh." Tammy thought she was probably anything but fine. She'd been tortured, seen her son die, and seen the man that she had once loved die trying to rescue her. All in the space of a few hours. It's a good thing she was already fucked up, Tammy thought. Because otherwise, this would have broken her.

She watched as Kay strode off in front of them again. She'd probably need medicine too, as well as Claire, Tammy considered. Half her teeth had been ripped out, and were no more than craters in her gums. It'd take a miracle for them to heal up without an infection. Tammy gritted her teeth and took another step forward.

The girl in her arms whimpered nonsensically.

"It's okay, sis," said Krystian, squeezing her hand. "You're going to be well again soon. They're taking us to somewhere that's going to make you better."

Tammy wondered if that was quite accurate. She'd seen the pile of bodies in the facility. Vacca put about as much value on life as Kay did. And even if she agreed to help Claire, what would she do to Tammy? She was just another one of Vacca's failed experiments. She sighed. What did it matter? It's not like she had a choice.

"How long have you two been living there?" Tammy asked the boy. "In the bunker, I mean."

The boy shrugged. "Since Claire was a baby."

"Why did you leave your parents?"

He looked up at her, his expression sharp. "They left us. Dad died fighting. Mom just... she just went."

"Went?"

"She changed after dad died. She just left one night. Went away and never came back."

Tammy nodded sympathetically. "I'm sorry. But... wasn't there anyone else who could look after you?"

"Yeah. Oner person. But your friend killed him. He was more of a parent to us than Janet ever was."

"That's your mother?"

"Was."

"Well you deserve better than either of them. You both do."

"No one deserves anything," Krystian said, as if reciting. "You get what you take. And that's all that you get."

Tammy wanted to argue, to tell him that life didn't have to be like that -- but she couldn't find the energy. The girl in Tammy's arms was as thin as a pane of glass, but even still, the extra weight was getting to her. Tammy's thighs were burning and she was having to suck long lungfuls of air in through her mouth. Her feet sunk into the dirt colored sand, like it was a dressed up swamp.

"How"--deep breath--"much farther?" she croaked out to Kay.

"Another mile," Kay yelled back. "Maybe two."

Hearing that was all Tammy could take. Her physical exhaustion suddenly became mental, too. She fell to her knees as gently as she could manage, letting the girl roll off her. Then she collapsed back fully, her eyes closing. "I just need five minutes."

Krystian took a bottle of water from around his waist and squeezed a little into Tammy's mouth. "You need to drink more."

It wasn't hot outside, but he was right -- the effort had probably dehydrated her. The boy then gave the bottle to his sister.

A shadow loomed over Tammy. "Get up," Kay commanded.

"Just two more minutes."

"I don't know how many hours we were locked in that room for, but judging by how grey the sky is getting, we don't have that long before the next storm. So, get the fuck up. Now."

"If this is what having an older sister's like--"

"Get. Up."

"Go ahead without us, if you want. We'll catch up."

"Look at you. Your arms are shaking. You're fatigued, Tammy. You're not going to be able to carry her any further."

"Is... is that an offer?"

Kay snorted. "We go without the children from here on. And either the boy manages to drag his sister after us, or... But either way, you and I are going without them."

Tammy got to her knees. "Come on. Just carry her for a while. Please."

Kay grabbed Tammy's hand and yanked her to her feet. "She's dead weight. We're going to the facility. If they can follow, great! If not, so be it."

Tammy stared at Kay, confused. "What do you mean? What's the point of going there, if we don't have Claire with us?"

Kay pulled out the pistol she'd taken from the boy. She aimed it at Claire. "We go, or I kill her."

"Don't hurt her!" begged Krystian, rolling on top of his sister.

Tammy's mouth dropped open as she began to understand. Kay had finally broken, after all. Tammy spoke slowly, working it out with each word. "You didn't agree to take us to the facility to find her medicine... you agreed because you need something."

"Move."

"What was it for, Kay? For your mouth? No, that wouldn't be worth it. It's your cough, isn't it? That's why you need me to come with you, but not them. You need my fucking lungs! You'll kill them and me, just so you can live a little bit longer. Wow. Some big sister."

"You have no idea what I've been through. You have no idea how little you all mean to me. I've been alive since the beginning. You're all nothing. So, last fucking chance."

A rage ran through Tammy like a bolt of lightning. She lunged at Kay, bringing her down hard. The pistol rolled free into the sand. Tammy was on top of Kay; she brought her fist down into the older woman's mouth. She raised it again, but Kay caught her hand this time. Kay let out a yell as she tossed Tammy off her and rolled on top of the younger clone.

Tammy struggled fruitlessly beneath Kay's weight, her body too exhausted from carrying Claire.

"You fucking dumb bitch," Kay said, as she placed her knees on Tammy's arms and wrapped her hands around her neck.

"Go ahead," Tammy gasped. "Kill me. Say goodbye to my... to my lungs, though. And my... my... wonderful sense of humor."

Kay said nothing.

"You're just... killing yourself, Kay."

"I don't need your fucking lungs. Vacca can make a new you. What I do need, is a gift for Vacca. A peace offering. An escaped clone, that helped kill two of her clan, will do nicely. I would have preferred alive, but dead will do too."

Tammy's eyes were wet; Kay was becoming a dizzying blur above her. She tried to suck in air but nothing made it down her throat. Black spots danced in her vision as Kay's fingers pressed harder into her larynx.

Tammy thought she heard a voice, but it was muffled.

Then, there was a sound she could make out.

A gunshot ripped through the air.

Krystian spoke slowly and sternly. "I said, let her go. Or the next one is in your head."

The fingers around her neck loosened.

▬▬

Tammy and Kay took turns carrying Claire the rest of the way to the facility. Krystian trailed a few paces behind Kay, the pistol always aimed at the woman's back.

Eventually, the hanger-like concrete structure jutted out from the ground ahead of them.

Two men, both holding long rifles, came running out to greet them.

The taller man looked first at the kids, then at Tammy, then at Kay. He let out a single burst of laughter. "Well, well, well, it must be our lucky day! Inside, all of you."

If Tammy had looked up into the sky, before following the men beneath the shelter -- and if the viewing window in the dome had been two ways -- she might have seen Tom thumping his fists against the glass, trying to warn her about the mass of armed children following their trail.

You do a great job painting a mental picture with your writing! I've really enjoyed reading as it comes out :)

Holy damn, Nick. I can't get enough

The highlight of my mornings for the past month or so. Love seeing a new update when I wake up!

Man, this is crazy good. Thanks for pumping them out so fast!

The Memory Game: Part 21

The Memory Game: Part 21

Seb's hand ran down the metal of his rifle as the car screeched along the road. It had been a minor miracle that Charlie had got it working. Another miracle still, that the vehicle hadn't blown as soon as he'd sparked the wires together. The insides of the car were now lined with planks of wood and metal, weighing it down but at least offering a little protecting from the storm, that the broken windows could not.

The car had no tires, and instead drove on sparking stumps leaving a trail of fireflies in its path. Added to that was the discomfort of the battered roads and uneven concrete. Tammy had already thrown up and now the stink in the car made Seb's stomach queezy.

"I did this," Tom said again. To no one. He sat in the back next to Tammy, and with every word he spoke, and with each burned out building he saw, a hole inside of him seemed to widen. A black-hole pulling in the hopeful resilience he'd shown up to now.

"Tom," Tammy said. "This isn't your fault. Just as nothing Kay has done is my fault -- or the person we both came from."

"You're wrong. We are that person. We're capable of what they did."

"Maybe. But if you drop a handful of pebbles onto the ground, they'll all bounce differently when they land."

Seb ran a hand over his face. He was tired. Not just of tonight. Of everything. "Tom," he asked. Do you remember anything more?"

Tom paused. "No. Not yet. Nothing other than the experiment. The reason why I -- we -- created you. To see how you'd behave in your cage. To see how the rats would dance when they thought no one was looking."

Seb glanced at Charlie. The big man was concentrating hard on driving. The wood that covered what had once been the front windscreen had a rectangular hole punched in it, where Charlie could peer through at the road ahead. They were at least out of the city now, and the road was clear apart from the occasional abandoned husk of another vehicle. Even so, driving wasn't an easy task -- the darkness of the storm limited Charlie's sight. Added to that, Seb noticed Charlie's face was bleeding. Cuts lacerated the skin on his cheeks and forehead where the storm had snuck in through the peep hole.

Tammy's head was between her knees now, and when she spoke her voice was muffled. "What do you remember about you, Tom?"

"What?" said Tom.

"You told us we're clones in an experiment. Okay, I get that. But what do you remember about the man you were cloned from? What did he like to do? Did he have a family?"

Tom's brow furrowed. "Why does any of that matter?"

"It might distract me, okay? Or would you rather I'm sick again."

"Oh." Tom paused and closed his eyes. "Let me see..."

"Well?" asked Tammy, after a minute or so had passed.

"I... I don't recall. I can only see bits and pieces. Nothing from outside of the experiments.

Tammy raised her head and frowned at him. "Don't you think that's peculiar?"

"Maybe that was his life," Seb said. "Experiments. Maybe he was obsessive and gave everything for them."

"But he doesn't remember anything else," said Tammy. "No childhood memories. Nothing."

Tom's eyes suddenly opened wide and his head jolted up. "Shit!"

"What is it?" asked Seb, turning to look back at Tom.

Tom clapped his hands together. "I think... I think I know how to get out of here."

"What?" said Charlie.

"I said," Tom repeated slowly, "I think I know how to get out of here."

"How?" Seb asked.

"Of course there are ways out!" Tom continued, mostly to himself. "I mean, they would need to get in and out. To transport materials. People. They didn't brick us in... Yes it's a cage, but even cages need cleaning. Rats can touch the doors, the metal gates, they just don't know how to open them. That's the tricky part. But..."

"How?" Seb repeated angrily. "Tom, how do we get out of here?"

"I think I can take us there. I can take us to one of the exits."

Seb's chest pounded. He tried to stop himself from becoming overexcited. "If you're certain about this... Fuck! Okay, here's the plan, we free Kay and then-"

"Not to be too pessimistic, but we could all die freeing Kay," Charlie cut in. "Which, you know, I was fine with before, because it's Kay. And it's not like there's a whole bunch of reasons to live anyway...."

"What are you saying?" Seb snapped.

"Shit, Seb. We've lived our entire lives wanting to know what's out there. Let's not miss our chance."

Seb cocked his head as he stared at the driver. "We're going to free Kay. Then, we'll leave -- if we really can."

"But..."

There was a click, as Seb pushed the safety on his rifle.

"We're going for Kay," Seb growled slowly. "Then, we'll see if Tom is right. For all we know, he's making it up. Or it's a fucking delusion. Either way, Kay is real. And she's going to die if we don't get to her."

Charlie turned both pale and quiet. "Aye, well... When you put it like that, I guess it's a reasonable request."

Seb nodded and let his fingers relax slightly.

The next twenty minutes or so were silent except for the storm beating down on the car, and the wheels scritching and scratching along the road.

The car let out a final screech, before bucking to a stop.

They had pulled up just outside of two rounded concrete bunkers sitting next to each other like left over relics from a war.

"Thank you for travelling with dystopian airlines," said Charlie, who seemed to have regained some of his color. "The current weather is... well, it's pretty fucking awful. We hope you enjoy your stay, and that we see you again soon."

"Okay everyone, listen up," said Seb. "There will be more of them than us. However, they're not expecting us. They're not expecting anybody to come out here during the storm. Who'd be dumb enough to try that? Well, that's our advantage."

"What do you want us to do?" Tammy asked.

"We've got two gun, so we go in pairs. One holds the gun, the other searches for Kay."

Tammy nodded.

"Tom?" Seb said. "Did you get that?"

Tom shook his head as if he was breaking out of a trance. "Oh. Yes, fine. One takes the gun, the other searches."

Seb bit down on his tongue. He wondered which of the two in the back would be the most hindering. At least, he decided, Tom would kill if he had to.

Seb cracked his neck before speaking. "Tammy, you're with me. Let's go."

▬▬

It had been easier than Seb had hoped. Most of the children inside hadn't been prepared, and four of the six of them had literally been caught sleeping, packed inside one tight room. There were two extra empty mattresses.

One of the missing childen, who had presumably meant to be on guard, had walked into the room from a door at the back, her head buried in a comic. When she saw Seb and Tammy, she'd grabbed her pistol from her waist.

But she'd been too slow.

Seb took the dead girl's gun and handed it to Tammy. "If any of these lot"--he waved his rifle over the children on the floor--"get out of their beds, you just point this at them, and you shoot. Got it?"

Tammy nodded, but her shaking hand betrayed her. Still, Seb thought, as long as the children think she'll shoot, she'd be fine. Probably.

Then, Seb walked down the corridor that the girl had come from. "Novus! Novus, where are you?! Daddy's home, you little fuck. And you've been a very bad boy."

He pushed open a door at the end of the passageway.

Novus held a knife to Kay's throat.

"Hello, fath--"

Seb aimed the gun and fired.

The bullet entered the left side of Novus's forehead. The knife had fallen first, then the boy. He slumped onto his mother's lap, and then slid onto the floor.

Kay burst into tears as Seb took Novus's knife and cut the cords around her wrists and feet. He then helped her stand; she let herself fall into his arms.

"My fault," Kay said, her voice thin and rasping. "My poor baby."

"Shh," he soothed. "None of it was your fault. None of it."

For a while they'd just stood there, Kay weeping into Seb's shoulders. He couldn't remember the last time she'd cried. Maybe it had been when Adam had died.

"I've got some news," Seb said as he pulled away. "I'll tell you once we're in the car. Do you think you can walk?"

Kay's mouth was agony. A dripping cave of torment. She nodded. The floor beneath her bare feet was slick with blood -- her own, and her son's. She supported herself on Seb's arm, as they made their way through the hallway.

Tammy was still there in the room beyond, her gun roving between beds.

"Good job," Seb said, as he looked back at the children. His eyes darting from one frightened face to another. "When this is all over, we'll come back for you all. I promise."

Then, together, the three of them walked back towards the entrance door and stepped outside of the bunker.

The storm had begun to die down, and they could just about make out the silhouette of the second bunker in the distance.

"Oh shit," said Tammy. "The car isn't..."

"Fuck," said Seb. "They didn't even go into--"

His sentence was cut short by a bullet that ripped through his left eye, tearing his pupil and shredding his brain. As he collapsed to the ground, his right eye fell first on Kay, then rested on Tammy.

Tammy screamed as Kay fell to her knees.

Four children approached, guns aimed at Kay and Tammy.

Bruh "Novus held a knife to Kay's throat.

"Hello, fath--"

Seb aimed the gun and fired.

The bullet entered the left side of Novus's forehead. The knife had fallen first, then the boy. He slumped onto his mother's lap, and then slid onto the floor." No fucking around, bullet straight into the head. Also, of course, the person that is given hope dies first lol ...

Yess, finally an update! Amazing writing as always.

When Seb asks Tom if he can remember anything more, there's a " missing, right before Do you..

I was just gonna take a break from schoolwork, and you make me this sad though! They had hope and stuff, and then you kill off Seb! (Still love it, but also sad)

Loving it! Just a small one "we've got two gun"

The Shadow of the Night: Part 3

The Shadow of the Night: Part 3

Previous

The hotel kitchen stank of garlic, sweat and assorted cleaning products, as it did every evening. It rattled with the clamour of empty plates, of barked orders and of casual conversation between cooks, their voices raised to beat the boiling of the pots.

"I'm telling you Chris," said Marvin as he sliced up a chicken breast and placed it into a sizzling pan. "Whole world has gone to shit."

Christopher flinched. He couldn't help thinking of a different chef cutting his meats. He forced himself to turn away from the pan, and returned to his pizza, decorating it with olives and peppers. It was so tempting to make a face out of them. Probably not a happy face. "I don't disagree. The world is changing, and if we don't all change with it, I think we're going to get left behind."

"I've changed already, that's for sure. You know, I was a staunch atheist before the Stutter. But look at me now."

Christopher did look at him. Marvin's hair was greased back, a thin white net holding it in place. Around his neck, a silver cross dangled idly. "Yeah. You're an atheist who wears a necklace now."

"Exactly! I figure, if there is a God, I might as well try to keep it happy. Right?"

"Right. I'm sure that'll save you come judgement day."

"Point is, the world really is going to shit. Everyone is either falling into this religion or that religion, or into one of those end-of times cults -- which, don't get me wrong, are basically religions in disguise, but with the added lie of promising answers to the Stutter. And boy, do people still want answers." Marvin whistled as he took the chicken out of the pan and organised it on a large plate. "You read about that one cult in Idaho? The one that supposedly sacrificed an actual fucking person. Fourteen thousand members now, and its growing daily. It's like a giant magnet for all the freaks and frightened people across America. And you know what else, Chris?"

Christopher frowned at the pink poultry sitting on the plate in front of Marvin. If he still allowed himself to use his powers, he thought he might have been able to save the chicken. Hell, a good vet could probably do it. "You sure that's cooked?"

"Hedonism, that's what else," Marvin continued. "If it's not religion, it's: 'the dead are rising, we're all fucked, might as well stop working and enjoy ourselves'. That's their thinking. And, to be honest, they've got a point." He garnished the plate with a little salad, then kissed his fingers. "I'd stop working if I wasn't so damn good at my job. But it would be a wasted talent, you know? A wasted gift. Oh, and it's meant to look this way smart ass."

"If you say so."

"Hey, how did your date go the other night?"

"Mm?"

"With that pretty young French thing."

"Violette." Christopher winced at the memory. How could someone have two drinks spilled over them in one night? At least it hadn't been his fault the second time. Plus, the waiter had apologised and discounted the meal -- so it hadn't been a total disaster. He'd walked Violette home soon after. He ran a finger across his cheek as he thought of it. "Yeah, it went pretty good, I guess."

"Did you-" Marvin slammed his fist against a pan hanging from a wooden beam.

"Seriously? Are you asking if we hit it off?"

"I'm asking if you banged her."

"Oh," said Christopher unable to suppress a grin. "You're a real classy guy. And, no."

"I thought the French were supposed to be more..." Marvin paused as he searched for the word with his right hand, shaking it back and forth beneath his chin. "Liberated."

"Shh," hissed a woman in a white hat standing behind them.

"Sorry boss," said Marvin. "I wasn't being sexist or any-"

"Will you shut up!" snapped Louise again, as she walked over to the silent television hanging in the corner of the kitchen.

Christopher frowned as he looked up at the screen. He whispered to Marvin, "Isn't that the church near here? Saint... uh."

"Saint Dunstan," said Marvin. "Yeah. Two blocks down."

Christopher looked at his co-worker and for a second allowed himself to be impressed. Maybe Marvin really had found religion. Then, as he glanced back at the TV, he noticed that the name of the church had popped up in subtitles at the bottom of the picture. There was one mystery solved.

Louise jabbed at the tv until the voice of the speaker on the screen rang out over the kitchen's clamour.

"That's right, Tim," said the reporter: a woman in a red coat standing behind a line of police cars, behind which was the foreboding brick building itself. "It appearers to be the same man as was seen entering Saint Bartholomew’s two weeks ago. At least, the person is wearing a very similar coat, is roughly the same height, and walks with the same left sided limp. He's still very much a person of interest in the Bartholomew massacre."

"So," came a male voice not in the picture. "Is this a hostage situation? What do the police think?"

"Well right now, as you can clearly see, they have the building surrounded. We don't know if they're waiting to negotiate, or for a S.W.A.T team to arrive, or simply for further developments to arise. But right now, we believe that the people inside, including Father Roberts, are that man's -- the man pictured here in the long coat -- that man's hostages."

The image of a cloaked figured popped up on the screen and hung there. A blurry photograph taken from a security camera, showing a man with a walking stick in mid step. His face was hooded and hidden.

"I told you the world has gone to shit," Marvin whispered. "There's something like this every God-damned day now."

Christopher said nothing.

"But he's not made any demands?" came the male news anchor's voice. "Is that right?"

"No, not yet," the reporter replied. "And if you're wondering what the sound is, that's our weatherman Mark who is currently in a helicopter above the church, trying to attain a better view of the situation currenly unfolding. Unfortunately, even the windows in the roof are stained glass, and there's nothing definitive to see. However, and we'll be showing this footage shortly, he did witness multiple silhouettes moving back and forth."

Christopher's eyes widened as a girl pushed her way past the reporter.

A girl of about seventeen or eighteen, with sharp cheek bones and pale skin. A girl with auburn hair, who wore a white top and black skirt.

The reporter seemed to ignore her, as the girl walked past her and towards the church.

"Cassandra?" he whispered.

"Hmm?" Marvin replied.

"Do- do you see that girl there? That just pushed past the reporter?"

"What girl?"

"You mean," the news anchor continued, "that there are people still alive inside?"

"That is correct, yes," replied the reporter. "As of a few minutes ago, at least some people were still alive".

"Well that's good news indeed! So, if you're watching this, and your loved one was attending six o'clock mass at Saint Dunstan's, do not lose hope just yet--"

The anchor was cut off by a clang and a scream.

"Oh my God, Tim -- Tim are you still there?!" screamed the reporter. "Did you hear that? We just heard what sounded like an explosion coming from inside the church. And there's another! Jesus Christ."

The picture returned to the studio, showing a rather confused looking news anchor.

"What the fuck just happened," said Marvin, turning to Christopher.

But Christopher was already gone.

Well, everyone said they wanted Cassandra back :)

Wait! This is all edward's doing right?

Oh shit! Hope Chris gets there in time to catch her and find out what's going on. Excited to see Cassandra!

The Memory Game: Part 20

The Memory Game: Part 20

Previous

Eleven months prior

Vacca saw her reflection in the glass coffin. For a moment, it seemed as if it was her lying inside of it. The woman with a thousand scars on her face, each one painfully self-inflicted. Carvings, she had called them. And she could still feel the bite of the blade as she had dragged it over her skin and cut away chunks of flesh. As her face changed from that of her sister's, to something new. Something unique.

She almost laughed at the memory: as if identity could ever be worn, and wasn't something fundamental. Something ingrained.

It wasn't her in the coffin, of course. It was a man whom she didn't recognise. His eyes were open, and although his skin was pale, he looked so...

"Is he alive?" Vacca asked.

Heather frowned at her. "He's been lying in there since... since before we awoke maybe. I'm pretty sure he's dead."

They had found the room accidentally. A small underground chamber, its metal roof covered in sand to blend in with the desert above. Only the metal had rusted. Years of rain and storms had weakened the already thin layer of steel. All it had taken were two people walking hand in hand over it, for it to collapse.

There were a dozen or so monitors placed around the largest room, and in that respect it reminded Vacca of the main facility. Where they had been created. Not that any of the monitors here still worked. She wondered what they had once broadcast.

This mini-facility only had three rooms total. A bathroom, the main living area, and a large storage room with plenty of canned food and bottled water.

The single glass coffin that lay on the side of the main room, was exactly like the four coffins back in the facility.

But to the side of this coffin, the skeleton of a woman lay on the floor, her arms folded across her shoulders.

Electricity still flowed into the chamber. Into the coffin. Just like the facility, it seemed to have its own unseen power source. Perhaps they could trace it... Use it.

Words were scrawled on the walls of the room in a faded orange. Vacca knew they had once been a vivid red.

Forgive me? Forgive me? Forgive me?

"Who do you think he was?" Heather asked.

Vacca turned to her and cocked her head. "You've not worked it out?"

Heather frowned. "You know? Who is it?"

"God."

▬▬

The old man had frozen himself in the coffin. Perhaps it had been suicide, or perhaps he had known he was going to die anyway. Yes, he was dead and they couldn't bring him back, but his brain had not rotted. Those patterns within it, the patterns unique to each living person, they could perhaps be saved. More than the patterns -- his memories.

With all the technology they had in the facility... there must be a way to do it. And if there was a way, she would find it.

This would be Vacca's redemption. Her gift to the colony.

Perhaps she could have been a leader to the clones like Kay had been, if she'd had a fair chance. Only she would have made a better leader, because unlike the rest of the colony, Vacca had been able to see Kay's mistakes from the start.

Kay had become arrogant so damn quickly. It wasn't the power itself that had corrupted her, but the colonists. "She's not let us down before," or "Life's not been bad under Kay's leadership." They always supported her, always believed in her. And it got to Kay. She began to think that her every decision was correct. That a challenge to her ideals was a nothing more than a petty joust of personalities. But she was wrong. Vacca knew that things could be better than they were. Why couldn't anyone else see that -- why were they happy to settle for what they had?

It wasn't until the world had become dark and broken, that some colonists finally lost faith in Kay. That they were willing to at least listen to Vacca.

The promises Vacca had made them had been reasonable: to reunite the colony; to restart farming, indoors this time; to introduce harsher laws for criminals. But it had all been too late. The cracks in the colony had already become gaping holes by the time she had formally taken charge. And the harder she tried to plug them, the more of them that sprang up. What was left of the colony, what final embers of hope that there had been when she'd taken charge, soon flittered away into the night.

And as always, she had been blamed.

But this man, this ghost, would redeem her.

Extracting his DNA and creating the first clone had been the easy part. Finding out the skeleton of the woman lying next to him had been another Vacca. Another Kay. That had been a little harder.

The man on the other hand, he was someone new. Never before cloned.

The coffins were meant to do the more complex tasks automatically. The waves, the patterns and the alterations. They could feed information in via the terminals. In theory, it should have been possible to take a snapshot of the man's brain, and to implant its coding into a clone.

In practice, it just didn't work. Those clones that did wake (and they were the rare ones), didn't have memories.

Or perhaps they did, and they just couldn't access them.

And so they moved on. They tried to stimulate the clones' memories, by introducing them to people the real him might have known in life. Other clones, including the woman who lay dead by his coffin.

And when those clones failed, Vacca had no choice but to destroy them. The world couldn't support hundreds, or possibly thousands more clones.

Every time they created him, they tweaked his brain here or there. Randomised growth patterns. Changed the binding of his neural network. No two versions of him were ever alike.

And that was fine, they only needed one.

One who could remember.

This is really awesome, I keep looking forward to the next one. Amazing cliff hangers every time. I'm glad to see I was correct about both Tom's and Tammy/Kay/Vacca's identities :D

Finally, the pile of bodies semi-explained!

Fantastic as ever Nick... well done on this series, it's gripping.

It's great to see things from Vacca's perspective. Hopefully her plan worked and Tom will gain access to his other memories. =]

The Memory Game: Part 19

The Memory Game: Part 19

Previous

"Keep the sheets at an angle!" yelled Charlie, trying to raise his voice above the storm, and above the cracking of plastic hurtling into metal.

Seb hated himself for agreeing to leave their shelter. They should have just stayed put for the night. Now it wasn't just Kay going to die, it was all of them.

Fuck.

Then again, what was so bad about ending their lives tonight? Why did he care? Living was pretty fucking terrible right now, and it would only continue to get worse until it became unbearable.

He tried to picture how the nights used to have been. That pitch blackness high above that brought with it a gentle breeze. A dewy freshness to be looked forward to upon waking.

Now the nights tried to kill them. To lacerate them or to suffocate them.

"Seb, did you hear me! You'll get blown down the--"

"I heard you! I fucking heard you!" Seb moved the metal sheet down a little, so that it angled like a pyramid up to his head.

The four of them walked within the walls of metal, each of them holding a single sheet. Seb was at the front, Charlie at the back. Tom and Tammy took the sides. There was no need for a lid on their moving box, as the wind lashed across them, not down onto them. Besides, Seb had to raise his head above the wall of metal occasionally, to check that they were still on the correct street.

Tom had been silent since they'd been outside. It seemed like he was drowning in self pity. Even if he really did remember who he had been... What would it mean? Perhaps he truly did hold the answer to the biggest question of all: Why? Why did they exist? Who had put them here, and where were they now? The question that had loomed over the colonists since they had awoken, stinging at them like wasps each second they let their minds rest. There were theories of course, but that was all. Were they prisoners in a cell, or were they passengers on a ship? Did the answer even matter -- what would it solve besides sating that ingrained curiosity?

No, it didn't matter. Not right now.

Only Kay did.

Seb bit down on his lip. What ever had happened to Kay, it was all his fault anyway. He had to put it right.

He knew where they'd be. He'd visited a couple of times, early on. But each time he went, he hated himself a little more. So he'd stopped going entirely.

Seb stretched and peered up over the moving wall. The storm bit at him, tearing flesh away from the skin on his face, streaking it with blood.

"Left," he shouted as he ducked back down. His left eye was agony; he could already feel it swelling from where something large had pelted it. "We're turning left now! Come on, all of you. We need to be a unit!"

"You ever driven one of these things before?" he heard Tammy say. "Because you're a terrible driver." She was so fucking sassy, but somehow it was in a positive manner and he couldn't help grinning. She could lift people's spirits. She reminded Seb of the Kay he had once known. The Kay he'd fallen in love with, but that these days only saw fleeting glimpses of. And they were becoming rarer and rarer.

"Yeah," Seb yelled back. "Who hasn't driven four sheets of metal down a street before? Handles like shit, but the air conditioning is top fucking notch."

He stretched up again. "I see it," he yelled. "Filling station up ahead. Two cars too, Charlie. It's our lucky fucking day!"

"Oh aye? Either have wheels?"

"Yeah. One does. All as flat as piss on a plate, though." Seb felt an anger rising. This was all so stupid. They were never going to get a car working, and even if by some miracle they managed to... Driving without wheels! He wanted to laugh. He also wanted to hit something.

"Well as long as they're all flat, at least the car will be even," said Charlie.

Seb wished he could be that optimistic. But it wasn't in his nature. He was a realist, that's what Kay always said.

Fuck it, he'd give optimism a go. Just this once.

"Tom, Tammy, we do exactly as Charlie says from here. If anyone can get that car working, it's him -- but he's going to need cover. Then, we're going to find Kay."

▬▬

▬▬

Blood didn't drip out of Kay's mouth -- it poured. It ran down her chin and dripped to the floor, as if her mouth was a broken glass being filled with wine. Black dots plagued her vision as she watched her son place the tiny white object he'd taken from her onto the table behind.

They were in a room inside a warehouse. Kay could hear the storm pelting the tin roof, scratching it as it searched for a way inside. Kay was tied to her chair by both her hands and her feet; the rope bit deep into her skin as she struggled against it. The light above them was pale and sickly. She knew she was dead. That she'd be dead before the storm ended -- long before anyone could get to her.

"You could," she said, before swallowing back another mouthful of freshly blossomed blood. "You could just take them from me once I'm gone."

"I could," Novus said, "But that would be to miss the point of keeping your teeth."

She swallowed again, then took a deep breath through her nose. "Yeah? And what's the point exactly?"

Novus picked up the incisor and held it in his fingers in front of Kay. "I made a mistake with my little brother. His teeth are just... a souvenir of his ending. But yours..." He twisted the tooth between his thumb and forefinger. "Each one is like... it's like the play button for a video. I just have to touch it and close my eyes, and I hear you screaming, I see the blood gushing and your face wincing. The next tooth perhaps, I will see fear and loathing."

"You don't scare me. You never did. What scares me is how I could have failed you so badly."

"Ah, that's right. It's always about my mother. The great leader." He shoved a metal bar far back into Kay's mouth, forcing it open.

"Do you remember a woman named Moira?" Novus asked as the pliers locked onto a front tooth on the top row.

Kay let out a groan.

"Ah, of course you do. A lover for a while, I heard. Well anyway, she was our honoured guest last week. For supper. One can only hope you taste a little less wiry then she did."

Kay's eyes opened wide as Novus yanked then twisted the pliers. A fountain of red mist came out with the tooth. Kay tried to contain the scream, but it rose up her throat and exploded out of her.

Novus grinned at the tooth he'd taken. That would provide many good memories. He removed the metal bar from Kay's mouth. "Swallow. I don't want you choking on your own blood. That's it, good girl."

"Why," she gasped. "Why are you doing this?"

"From those who forced us into existence," Novus replied, placing a hand against his chest. "From those whose insides we came, they shall in turn end their existence inside us. Until we are one. And then are none."

"You're fucked up."

"No. I only do God's bidding."

"God? There is no God. If there was, you wouldn't be like this."

Novus's fist flew into Kay's stomach, chasing the air out of her lungs.

"Careful what you say, for He is always up there. Always watching. Always wrathful. Can't you hear him now?"

Kay's face creased. She could hear the sound of the other children talking somewhere beyond the room. But nothing else. Nothing except for... "The storm?"

Novus smirked. "The storm! Please. Even you don't believe that. A storm that engulfs the world every single night? That has grown more vengeful, more angry, ever since we -- your children -- were forced into existence."

Kay laughed "It's a fucking storm. That's all it is. If there's a God, he's long forgotten about us."

"Then why is it getting worse? Where is the sun that once allowed crops to grow?"

Kay tried to answer, but she suddenly began coughing. Retching forward as blood and spit sprayed out of her mouth.

"God did this to you, too. It is your punishment. We are only hastening his wishes."

"They-- they believe this shit?" Kay said eventually, as her choking subsided. "The other kids? They actually--" She felt the taste of metal as the bar was jammed back into her mouth.

"You hated me before Adam was born. You just hated me more, after."

Another tooth. Another mist of red.

"That's -- that's not true. I fucking fought for you. Before you were born and after. Do you know they wanted to kill you, not exile you?"

"Did you ever love me?"

Kay didn't answer.

"At least you chose not to lie. You know, I saw everything you ever wanted in your eyes, whenever you looked at my little brother. A way you never looked at me. Do you think that made me feel good?"

"There was little to love. But believe me, I fucking tried. And I would have kept trying to love you if..."

"I killed him so that he'd become what I always had been to you.A wraith. Now, open wide."

The door to the room creaked open, and a brighter light chased away the dimness. A younger child walked in, nine or ten maybe. Kay didn't recognise her.

"There's someone outside."

Novus frowned. "In the storm?"

She nodded. "A car."

"What?"

There was an explosion from somewhere inside the warehouse. The sound of wood splintering as a shotgun shattered a door.

A voice echoed through the structure.

"Novus! Novus, where are you?! Daddy's home, you little fuck. And you've been a very bad boy."

Kay saw Novus swallow.

It was Seb.

I have got to say, the last four lines of this really made my day.

Thanks! I think what I'd do, if I were to edit all this up, is change everything to third person (Tom did, instead of: I did) then Label each part as the person its following Rain/Tammy/Tom/Seb. Because, I agree with you.

It’s great, one comment I have is that the initial switch from seb to Tom telling the story feels a little abrupt. I’m not really sure how to fix it

Ouch, just imagining the torture Kay went through made it hard to finish reading this chapter! Love where this is going!

The Shadow of the Night: Prologue

The Shadow of the Night: Prologue

The church on fourth and main rang out not with the usual singing of the choir that night, but with the terrified screams of the congregation.

The hooded man who had hobbled through the double doors of Saint Bartholomew’s, wore what appeared to be a faded beige coat that draped his knees and stopped just short of his boots. He held a walking stick in his right hand and seemed to be leaning on it heavily, as if his body wasn’t quite what it once had been.

“Halloween was last week, buddy,” said a plump lady who was sat by herself on the back pew, as a pair of eyelids stitched into the fabric of the man’s coat blinked open. There was nothing beneath them, except for more beige colored faux-skin. The lady had seen better costumes. She turned her attention back to the chickens that were now running rampant on her phone’s screen.

She did not see the figure as he withdrew a blade from his walking stick. A blade, she might have noted, had she been watching, that was pitch-black and made of a rock not unlike obsidian. Chipped and notched throughout, and lethally sharp.

Her head fell free from her shoulders and rolled down the aisle, leaving behind a trail that looked a little like someone had spilled tomato soup. Or perhaps lava, because that was the moment the screams erupted.

The hooded man turned and slammed the door closed, twisting the handle until it came off in his fist.

“Rejoice! For I have come to deliver your souls,” he said, his voice as rough as the edges of his weapon. A voice that echoed about the church, piercing every nook and cranny. Every hiding place.

“Do not run. There is no point. This is your fate, and you should be honored that you have been chosen today.”

“G-g-od save us all,” stuttered Reverend Phillips.

“Let’s not wait for God, Reverend,” said a man in a white shirt, as he grabbed a metal candlestick from the side of the altar.

“Don’t do it, Jonathan!” cried Reverend Phillips. “I don’t think he’s--”

But Jonathan had already charged the sword wielding stranger. The metal of the candlestick pierced the skin-cloak and skewered the man’s shoulder.

The stranger didn't even flinch.

“I’m uh, I’m sorry?” Jonathan mumbled, slowly stepping back.

The black sword ignored his apology, as it sliced open his throat.

“Help me,” Jonathan gurgled, as blood fountained out of his neck from between his fingers.

The figure walked through the red mist, letting it speckle his coat.

The crowd of terror-stricken parishioners huddled at the back of the church, squeezed onto the altar as if it was a pen.

The stranger approached. Beneath his hood, what remained of his lips curled into a grin.

“God have mercy on our souls, God have mercy on our souls, God have mercy on our souls,” the Reverend continued in a feverish mantra.

“Please, Reverend,” the stranger said, as he walked towards the altar. “God is dead. All of them are. So waste not your last breath on false idols. Reserve it instead for the Titans. For they, unlike the Gods, are coming back.”

“S-stay away, demon,” replied Reverend Phillips, standing firm in front of his flock. “Back!” he cried again, his eyes closed but his arm stretched out, as if the cross he held in his hand could have any power over the figure.

“Do not be afraid. There are fates worse than death -- believe me.”

Reverend Phillips could feel the warm, rancid breath on his face. He slowly opened his eyes and squinted into the darkness of the cowl. “Who are you?

The figure pulled back his hood. There was a metallic clatter as the Reverend’s cross hit the marble altar.

The left half of the stranger’s face was beyond deformed. It looked as if it had been burned, then sliced into pieces, and finally stitched back onto his face haphazardly. Scarred skin flapped down over his left eye.

But the right side was even worse, Reverend Phillips thought. Because in the right half, the almost human half, you could make out the creature’s hatred. Pure and unbridled. It was there on his lips, and there too in its single bloodshot eye.

“Who are you?” the Reverend asked a second a time.

“Death,” said Edward.

My Goodness! Edward is back!

I feel like some bad stuff must have happened to him :/

“Do not be afraid. There are fates worth than death -- believe me.”

Worse? Also wanted to say I've been a fan of your work since the prompt that started The Carnival of the Night. I'm excited to see where this sequel goes and what old faces will appear. Well, besides Edward's unfortunate everything.

Thank you! Fixed. I'm really looking forward to writing this one too. I think it will have more of a novel feel than any of my others.

I don't know what's with all the mistakes the last few days. I'm going to take tomorrow off and recharge my brain!

The Memory Game: Part 15

The Memory Game: Part 15

Previous

Smoke streamed up the stairs. An undulating blanket of black that was weaving its way over us, engulfing the fifth floor itself.

"Who are they?" I asked. "Why do they want us dead so badly?"

Kay didn't answer but instead grabbed my hand. "Come on! We need to get down before the fire gets up."

The smoke stung my eyes as we descended, and I couldn't see more than a step or two in front. Perhaps we were three flights down now, but maybe only two. I couldn't keep count. I couldn't do anything but let myself be pulled along by Kay. The smoke violated my lungs, searing and suffocating me. I doubled over trying to cough it out of me.

"Take a few deep breaths," Kay said, as she unstrapped her mask and strapped it around my face.

I felt the rush of air down my throat, and for a moment my head began to calm.

"Good. Now hold your breath!" Kay shouted. Then the mask was off me and back around Kay's face. She dragged me through the blackness, as sweat dribbled off my face and left a trail of salt on the steps behind us.

We came out onto the ground floor and into the middle of an inferno. Kay darted to the right, but the back exit was a raging torrent of orange and red. She tried the front, but another fire had already consumed the exit. Two fires had been started by whoever was after us. They were at least slow to spread, as there was little in the way of furnishings inside for them to latch onto.

I couldn't hold my breath any longer.

"We either run through the flames and get shot," Kay shouted, her voice barely audible of the cracking and hissing of the fire, and the snapping of wood somewhere above us. "Or we stay and burn."

"Sa-" I tried before bursting into another frenzy of deep chested coughs.

I couldn't see Kay. I couldn't see anything. Just black smoke that made my eyes scream whenever I opened them. I couldn't catch my breath; it was like being underwater. There was no air here, and each attempted inhale only made my suffocation more painful. I could feel my skin blistering, as flame lapped ever closer to us.

"What?" Kay shouted. "What did you say?"

I swallowed back snot. The fire was a dizzying blur now. Spinning plumes of orange.

I fell to the floor

"Safe."

Kay paused a second, as if trying to work out what I'd said. Then she dragged me through the smoke, towards the side of the building.

There was a click.

Then I was moved again.

A thud, then another click.

The smoke instantly died down and my breath returned. Even the celling of the small metal room began to settle into place. Kay had done it. She'd gotten us into the bank's huge vault, and we were protected from the fire. We might run out of oxygen, or we might be cooked alive if the fire kept spreading. But at least for now, we were okay.

"Shit." Kay's voice tumbled out of her mask.

I took a deep breath then sat up and looked around. "Shit."

The safe was closed, and we were indeed protected from the fire.

However, the entire back of the safe was missing. There was just a gaping hole that led out of the side of the building.

And in place of the missing wall stood three small figures. The oldest of them couldn't have been much more than fifteen. He had shaved hair and wore a necklace of what looked like teeth. His face was crooked and scarred, and one eye barely open. In his right hand was a rifle. All three of the children held guns.

All were locked on us.

"Hi mom," said the necklace-wearing youth, his lips spread wide in a grin.

"Shit," Kay said again.

~~~

Charlie fidgeted on his stool as watched the clock. Three hours and twenty-one minutes left. The seconds were, in his opinion, ticking down quicker than usual. Was never like this when he tried to boil a kettle.

"Will you stop fucking watching that?" said Seb.

The huge man turned to him. "I don't like it. They should have been back what, at least three hours ago? It was only a two hour trip each way. Maybe a little more on the way back, given the extra weight and all, but still..."

Seb said nothing.

"Aye, I thought so. You feel just the same as I do, no matter how you dress it up. Something's wrong. Maybe that fella Tom has... you know."

Seb shook his head. "Kay had the only gun."

"Still, all it takes is a brick to the back of the head."

"He knows we'd kill his friends. Besides, what would he do? Where would he go?"

"Friends? Seb, you're not thinking." Charlie tapped his head. "They've only known each other a day. A single day. They're not friends and they have no loyalty. They're not like us."

"He seemed pretty damned protective over that girl, considering they're not friends. Anyway, my point stands," Seb huffed. "What would he do after? We're at least protecting him. Providing shelter. Food."

"Then... something else has happened."

Seb sighed. "Yeah? And what do you want us to do about it?"

Charlie glared at the smaller man. "What do you think I want us to do, ey?"

"We're not going looking for them."

"We owe it to Kay, Seb. Not just once, but a hundred times over."

"It really doesn't matter. We can't go. Not both of us anyway."

"No, but one of us could and--"

"I'll stay," said a third voice as it interrupted them.

"How long have you been listening in?" Charlie asked.

"I can stay here," Rain repeated, as he hobbled into the room. "It's not like there's much else I can do anyway."

"He asked you a question," growled Seb. "How long have you been listening in?"

"Long enough. You need someone to stay, while you go help Kay and Tom. I can stay."

Seb looked at the lanky stranger. "Like fuck you will. Either you'll run off with your friend, or you just won't let us back in."

Rain limped over to a chair and sat opposite the two men. "You're wrong about us. We are friends. We got each other out of that facility. And besides, Tom saved my life -- I owe him."

"I hear he got you shot in the leg," Seb countered. "Wouldn't be a life to save if he hadn't been a dumb-ass."

"He did what he thought was right. Hell, it was right."

Charlie looked at Seb. "We could take the girl with us. If he doesn't let us back in..." He ran a finger across his neck.

"No," said Seb. "They'll be back before the storm. We wait."

I couldn't hold me breath any longer

Shouldn't this be my?

Cliffhangers galore! I love it so far man, keep it up 👍

E: Also,

I couldn't do anything put but let myself be pulled along by Kay

Awesome story again! Are you working on a full length novel? I can't get enough of your writing. Keep up the awesome work.

I don't ever want it to end!

Thanks! I'm working on a sequel to the carnival of the night series, that will be closer to novel length (the first series acting as an introduction).

There's also the smuggler of souls which is free this weekend on amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Smuggler-Souls-Dark-Fantasy-Novel/dp/1980842345

The Memory Game: Part 13

The Memory Game: Part 13

Previous

I held two empty jerrycans, one under each arm, as Kay and I walked the deserted streets. We didn't travel on the main roads, it was always the smaller side-streets, and never the same one for very long. It seemed like Kay was afraid of us being followed. I figured she had become overcautious from her time in this broken world.

"How much farther?" I asked. It wasn't that the cans were heavy. It was that they weren't heavy yet. I already knew the way back was going to be a struggle.

The beak slowly turned to me. "Another hour or so," she said, her voice cavernous. Kay hadn't told me, but I knew that the city was too dusty for her to venture into without her mask, and it only made me more anxious for Tammy. Kay had a rifle slung around her shoulder and a single jerrycan in her right hand.

As we walked, I looked at the buildings we passed with curious eyes. Before, it had seemed to me that the whole place had been bombed, and then perhaps just left to rot. And while there was a great deal of structural damage -- buildings leaning on one another, or collapsed entirely -- there were many others that reminded me of the folly that was church's bell tower. Some were missing rear walls, or windows. Those missing appendages weren't lying on a pile on the ground -- they had simply never existed. I wondered, if on closer inspection, whether some of the apartments would be missing kitchens or toilets or bedrooms.

It was incomplete, as if the builders of the city had fled before they could finish. Or perhaps the city was meant to be this way, and the buildings were only decorations. Perhaps no one was meant to live here.

There was something else, too. Damage to the cars and buildings that couldn't have come from fighting. Nearly all the glass in the city was broken, and every car and metal construct we passed, had been pock marked with hundreds of tiny dents.

"You see it, don't you?" Kay said. "The signs are everywhere."

We had talked at the top of the church's tower for a time, before starting our journey. Kay had explained to me up there, about how she had awoken. There were a few hundred of them, just lying on the grass in a park. They all had at least one twin, most had five or six. And none of them could remember anything from before waking.

The city itself had been abandoned by everyone but those lying in the park. A ghost-town.

The sky had been white back then, Kay had told me. Bright and warm. The clones -- their best guess at what they were -- had tried to make sense of their environment. Of their lives. Different clones found they were good at different tasks; those who looked like Kay seemed best suited to organising and planning. Others to farming, or engineering. Some didn't find their purpose, and for them, life had been toughest.

Many of those people had left, at least for a while. Looking for a new life, or for another town.

Mainly for answers.

But they didn't find the answers they were after. Because, according to Kay, the world just... ended, about forty miles out from the city in every direction. And so the lost sheep returned to their flock

It wasn't until the storms began that things changed. Really changed. That food could no longer be grown in the fields outside of town. Resources became suddenly precious. The group splintered, some people choosing to live alone, others forming smaller groups.

Things only got worse from there.

Walking down the street now, I didn't have to look hard to find signs of real damage -- of what had happened to them next. There were bullet holes everywhere. Buildings that were scarred black from the tell-tale signs of inferno.

It was hard to imagine Kay was once like Tammy. What, I wondered, had happened to her, to turn her into this.

"How long have you been here, Kay?" I asked as we turned down another street.

"Too long."

"How long is that?" I persisted.

She sighed. A sound like wind tumbling down a corridor. "Sixteen years and forty-one storms."

"But... when we awoke. There was a newspaper. Twenty-Eighteen."

The beak nodded. "That's what it said when I woke up, too."

"You mean... what? Sixteen years since then? it's like... twenty thirty-four?" I laughed.

"I have no idea. Who knows how much time passed between that newspaper being printed, and my awakening."

"Oh..."

"You okay?"

"Yeah," I said. "Just... How long do you think beans last?"

"What?"

"Beans. How long do you think they stay good for? It's just, we ate--"

"It's tinned fucking food, Tom. It's fine."

I nodded. Perhaps that wasn't the most pressing concern I had right now.

"Don't you guys have a vehicle you could use for this kind of thing?" I asked, shrugging the jerrycans.

"Most have been disabled. The others have been rigged. If you want to try turning an engine on, please, be my guest."

"Pass." I doubted a car could get down many of these streets anyway. Piles of rubble, like broken black hills, blocked many of the roads. You'd need a tank to get through it all.

A lopsided sign with gold writing stuck out from a building ahead of us: National Bank.

"Kay, there's something I wanted to ask."

Another rumbling sigh from the mask. "More questions?"

"You knew about the cloning facility, didn't you? I mean, you didn't seem surprised about it."

"I'm surprised they got it working again."

"They?"

"Vacca is -- was -- an old friend. She, much like me, has her own unit to look after."

"You mean, an old friend, but a rival now?"

"Something like that."

"Okay. But what are they doing with the machines in the facility? Why are they making more clones?"

The beak turned to me again. "Perhaps they mean to make an army and to finally win this little war. But..."

"But what? I mean, that sounds pretty sensible. An infinite army to hunt down any who resisted them. Shit, I think I'd do it too."

"But," she continued. "Food would be in short supply for an army. And a hungry army often ends up rebelling. Vacca is too smart, too long sighted for that. So, in truth, I'm not sure that's what she's planning. There's something else too..."

"Go on," I said, trying to encourage her.

"I've not seen a clone of you before. We had many like your friends -- lots of Rains and Tammys. But..." She stopped walking and stared at me through goggled eyes. "But none of you."

"I don't--"

A deafening clap ripped through the air. Thunder, I thought, until Kay jumped at me, pushing me to the ground behind a car, and covering me with her body. The jerrycans fell to my side.

"What are you doing?" I asked, trying to push her off me.

"That was a fucking gun shot," she hissed. "There's a sniper in the building across the road."

"Someone... someone shot at us?" I said stupidly.

"We have to move. We're sitting ducks out here." The mask twisted from side to side as Kay scouted the area. "Shit! Look, we're next to a bank. We need to get in there. On the count of three, we both run to it and straight through the doors, okay?"

I nodded, unable to speak.

She got to her knees and reached for one of the fallen jerrycans.

"One..."

Kay tossed it beyond the car, as if she was skimming a stone across an ocean.

Two..."

Another gun shot. The jerrycan withered from the hole that now ran through its center.

Three!"

Kay pushed herself up and grabbed my hand.

Together we sprinted towards the doors.

Damn, this wasnt the development I was expecting. Love the twists here and there!

Love the little reference to the beans. It's hard to implement these details, but in reality I'd totally be thinking the same thing if I heard about the year you live in.

Nice chapter! Some spicy revelations in this one and I like the way it seems to be headed.

Also question. Any reason she's named Vacca? Because vacca means cow in Latin... Just wondering if it's something forshadowing??

I had no idea it meant cow, haha! I'm really sorry to disappoint about intentional foreshadowing on that one - but maybe I can work it in! Thanks : )

I'm addicted need more XD

The Memory Game: Part 11

The Memory Game: Part 11

Previous

"I want to see Tammy."

"No," Kay replied. She was seated on a wooden stool, while I sat on the stone floor the other side of the room. Rain's rifle rested on her lap. It pointed towards me, as if the barrel was assessing me.

"If I don't see--"

"Relax, she's fine," Kay said, cutting me off. "And she will be for as long as you cooperate." Behind Kay, a wire ran into a digital clock with black numbers and a green neon screen. It was counting down. Twenty-six minutes and twelve seconds until... something.

After I had removed the tourniquet from Rain, Kay and Seb had led us down the grating by the altar. We'd fallen into a small network of tunnels beneath the church. Catacombs, I guessed. We had put Rain down on a mattress in a wide, low roofed chamber that housed four other mattresses. I'd then wrapped a fresh towel around his leg and poured a little more water into his mouth, before Kay had led me into this room, and Seb had taken Tammy deeper into the catacombs.

"Fine. Then at least tell me who are you?" I said.

Kay shot me a scornful look. "Is that not obvious?"

She was different to my Tammy. Paler, maybe. And her personality was almost opposite. For every bit of joy and innocence that Tammy had, Kay seemed angry and bitter. "I get that you're Tammy, physically, but who are you? Are you an older clone? Or are you... are you..."

"The original?" Kay said, finishing my question.

"...yeah. That. So, are you the original?"

Footsteps echoed from the hallway outside. Seb entered the room a moment later and took a seat on a stool next to Kay. His previously slicked back hair was now a mess, and a red scratch ran down his left cheek.

"You better not have hurt her," I said, my muscles tensing.

Kay's hand fell to her gun, resting on the metal shaft.

"Hurt her?" He dabbed his face and winced as he touched the torn skin. "Are you fucking kidding? If Charlie hadn't come along, I think she might have killed me. So, you know, how about a little concern for me?"

"Who's Charlie?" I asked.

"Our maintenance man," Seb replied. "Keeps this place in such fine order. He's also our cook. And besides--"

He was cut off by the sound of Kay coughing. It was a wheezing, really, deep and throaty, and painful just to hear.

"You should have some water," I instructed Kay, as she finally finished and wiped her mouth.

She leaned down and took a bottle from besides the stool. She took a single swig, rinsing it around her mouth before swallowing.

"More than that," I said.

"We don't like to waste water."

"There's plenty out there. Rain found a whole--"

"It's not infinite."

I frowned but changed the subject. "How long have you had that cough."

"I appreciate your concern, but I'm fine." She looked at Seb. "Our friend here wants to know if I'm the original Kay."

Seb smiled. "Yeah, sure -- she's the original Kay, and I've never sworn in my life. Honest! Oh, and we're going to be having roast chicken for dinner. Of course she's not the fucking original. None of us are."

"Who were you with before I found you?" Kay asked, turning her attention back to me.

My eyebrows creased as I stared at her.

She picked up the rifle and aimed it at me. "Answer me. Who were you with?"

"Tammy and Rain..." I said, my heart pounding.

"Don't piss me off. Who did you three escape from?"

"I... I don't understand. We woke up in a facility, a few miles out of town. There was another lady too -- older. We escaped and found our way into this place. Into the town. Then we--"

Kay and Seb exchanged glances. I wasn't sure if I imagined it, but I thought they both seemed uneasy.

"You better not be lying," Kay said.

"Why would I lie?"

"What do you remember about yourself. Before waking up?" Seb asked.

"I don't know. Nothing, I think. None of us do."

"What do you mean, you think?"

"I-- I just mean, I knew how to stop Rain's leg from bleeding. And I recognise things. Cars. Churches. Lots of things."

Kay nodded. "That's usual."

"Usual for what? For a clone, do you mean?"

"Yes. What happened in the facility. How did you escape?"

"... We were in a room. We left it. We found a pile of bodies... clones of us. Dead. Guards came looking for us -- they killed the older woman we woke with. We... we killed the guards and escaped."

Kay leaned her head back and clicked her neck. "Anything else you remember from in there?"

"I don't know. Not really. Oh... there was a voice. Someone who sounded in charge."

"A man?"

"No. A woman. Vac..."

"Vacca?" Seb offered.

"Yeah, that was it. I think. She told us not to leave. But... we left. Blocked the door at the top of the facility so no one could follow, then made our way here.

Kay and Seb were staring at each other now.

"Who's Vacca?" I asked.

"That's not important," said Kay. "Not to you, not right now."

I ran a hand down my face. "Honestly, I don't understand any of this. Please give me some answers. Like, what happened to this place?"

"For a few years," said Kay. "When I first woke, it was... it was a ghost town. But not like it is now. It's destroyed, now. The storms, the fighting. Back then, when I woke, it was... different."

"Different?" The word choice struck me as odd.

"Yeah... not exactly a city. But not this."

"What do you mean 'not a city'?"

Kay glanced at the clock. "I'll show you tomorrow. We sleep now. There won't be any going out during the storm, and once it passes, we have a busy day. So best to take this opportunity." She yawned, and I couldn't stop myself from following suit. My head was spinning and my eyes heavy.

"I-- I want to see Tammy before I sleep."

"No."

"What do you want with her?

"Get some sleep," she repeated, as her and Seb got to their feet and walked towards the door.

A horrible thought ran through my mind.

"Why do you wear that mask when you're out there?"

Kay glanced back at me but said nothing.

I swallowed. "It's your lungs. Isn't it?"

She turned and followed Seb out of the door, locking me inside with my thoughts. I hoped to God my thoughts, at least about what they wanted from Tammy, were wrong.

A great addition to the story, can't wait for the next instalment. Quick thing, Kay said "no important" when talking abiut Vacca.

I cannot get enough of this!!! Your writing is fantastic, I'm absolutely freaking hooked

Hey, thanks. Fixed it!

Try one of these subthreads