Shifter – Part Two

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The door thuds closed behind us and I try to swallow my fear. He could’ve shot me down anytime he’d wanted. He’s either kept me alive so my enemy can claim me again, and continue running tests, or he’s a friend. I’m praying for the latter.

“Names, Mud,” he says, lifting a hand in greeting. Heavy dark circles are already starting to appear under his eyes, Shifting has made him weak and tired. His body isn’t built for it. “What’s yours?”

I ignore his question, “How are you able to Shift?”

Mud shrugs.

“It is a secret of my kind, how do you know the way?”

He blinks, taking in my face with sudden realization. “You’re a Wonder?”

I stop myself from taking a step back, in my passion I didn’t notice his ignorance and now I’ve given him a gem of knowledge that could be used against me.

If he was a friend, he may not be now. I decide to press my luck. He’s too tired to Shift again anytime soon, he doesn’t need to know I am too, “Answer me, human. Or I’ll Shift into something that will loosen your tongue.”

“Heard they had one of you locked up,” he says. “Said they were doing research on how to lengthen a Shift. Must’ve been you, eh? Got away didn’t ya? Clever.” He must see the fear in my eyes, because he adds, “Don’t worry, I ain’t the kind to turn you in. Lucky I spotted you before anyone else, though.”

Mind spinning with new facts, I sit hard. My capture was common knowledge. Why did no Ancient come to my rescue?

“Come on,” Mud motions for me to follow, “Let’s get somewhere safe so we can talk.”
I glance around the room, the hairs on my arms standing on end, “Is this place not safe?”

“Hardly.” Mud lumbers toward a thick metal door.

With a last scan around the old garage, a shiver runs through me. I slept here. I’d thought I was safe. Picking up my pace, I reach Mud just as he turns to close the metal door. It must be heavy because he strains to get it closed. There’s a loud clank as the door settles and Mud locks it. A shiver runs through him. Either it’s exhausting from Shifting, or whatever we’ve just locked out scares the hell out of him.

He glances my way, “There are worse things in the world these days.”

“Worse than my captors?” I hadn’t meant for it to sound like an accusation, but my words are clipped and harsh.

“Not saying you didn’t have it bad, just … there’s worse out there that I’d rather not cross. Don’t mind hiding you and paying for it with my life, if comes to that, but,” another shiver courses through him, “won’t face what comes out at night.”

My curiosity and fear are peaked. What is he talking about? Like navigating a maze, I search my mind for what terrors exist in this world that could scare a man like Mud.

“Don’t know how long they’ve had you, but the world’s changed, little Wonder.” He sighs and sits on the cold cement floor. “It’s not a kind place.”

It’s then I realize we’re in a hole. I’d thought we were in the beginnings of a long hallway, but from the weak fluorescent light, I realize my error, three walls of old concrete surround us.

The only way in and out is through the door.

What’s become of the world that this giant would rather hide in the dark than face the night?

A low groan reaches my ears.

Mud shifts away from the door. “It’s begun. Best get some rest while we can.”

“What’s begun?”

“The Horrors … don’t remember when it started, but I reckon Hell’s overflowing. Evil spirits and the dead haunt the night now. More demons than dead, though. They come for the living … seen many friends taken by one touch.”

I move away from the door. How are we safe here?

“Don’t worry, they can’t get through the door.”

But I am worried, because if what he says is true then I know what must come. I’ve found the end of the maze. It’s been a century or more since the Ancients gave the Wonders a prophecy. But I remember every word they spoke.

Mud continues talking. Sharing stories of the terrors and carnage that have come because of the Horrors. I only catch a word here or there. My mind focuses on the prophecy. The Ancients said this would happen. They said the world would be turned over to the Knight Horrors, but that it wouldn’t last because a Wonder would come … I gulp past the knot in my throat. Never imagined it’d be in my lifetime. Never imagined I’d have a part to play. My jaws clench, I shouldn’t have Shifted earlier, I could have used the strength to Shift into something, to outlast this evil. But I have none left.

My body shakes, fear consuming every pore. Though I hardly know him, I curl next to Mud and try to find some peace in his large presence. But I know I’m just delaying the inevitable. I must rise and leave this tiny space of safety and warmth. If there’s any hope for the world, I must stand now and do what I can.

I rise on trembling legs and lift a hand to the door. My strength fled. I’ll have no protection against the Horrors. But that’s what the prophecy spoke of, ‘… a Wonder would come, in the weakness of man, and destroy the grasp the Horrors have on the world, by sacrificing their life.’ I don’t know why I’m surprised. I will not be the first of my kind to die protecting the human race, nor the last. I only hope I can remember the words of the Oath.

“What are you doing, Wonder?”

“I must go.” Mud won’t understand, and I don’t expect him to. It takes all my wits to focus on this solution. To choose this death.

A low rumble stops both of us, it’s getting louder with every second. Rock scraping against rock. The ground wavers under us, as if it fears the death coming toward it. “Something’s breaking through the wall.” I can’t explain, but I know it’s my enemy, come to take me back. “We can’t stay here.”

I pull the door open, adrenaline aiding the last reserves of strength, to open the heavy door. I hear Mud shouting for me to stop, but we’ll be crushed if we don’t leave this place.

A wall of ghosts and demons greets me. With the prophecy fresh in my head, I walk forward and they part to let me pass. I reach back for Mud, “Come with me.” There’s still time to save this human.

Mud’s eyes are wide and his mouth hangs slack in shock. I reach for his arm and drag the large man toward me. He follows on numb feet, shuffling and making little noises of fear.

It’s going to work. They can’t touch me. The thought fills me with renewed hope. I will send these evil spirits and dead back where they belong. Even still, hands stretch toward me, making my skin crawl.

I shove Mud toward a large tool chest, “Hid here.” He does as he’s told. The time has come. A shiver runs through me, when I utter the Oath, to send these Horrors back where they belong, it will cost every fiber of my strength and I will leave this shell of a body behind. The words are too powerful for any but an Ancient to live through them.

But it must be done.

With one last glance at Mud, I call on all my strength and as I open my mouth, I hear the familiar buzz of an alarm calling me away.

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Shifter – Part One

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Squinting in the dusk, my bare feet slap against wet pavement, making more noise than I desire. It’s been too long since I felt the breeze against my face. Too long since I worked my body past the point of endurance. Too long confined to a bed.

But I won’t let them take me back.

The high-pitched scream of sirens quickens my heart, making my feet stumble over themselves. I’m exhausted, but I must keep going. If only I had enough strength to Shift. I’d shake this pursuit within seconds. Or even fight them.

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Blue

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Something is different about this day. I don’t know the source, but there’s a forboding bite to the chill air as my friends and I walk toward the elevators. We’re a large group. And I’m loathe to mention this unnamed sense, I don’t want my friends to be afraid.

We step on the elevator and the doors thud, echoing my heart. I try for a relaxed pose and lean on the wall of the elevator. It begins to burn against my body, before turning cold again.

I don’t know how, but I know we’re about to step into fire. An overwhelming sense to tell someone turns my head to the nearest of my companions, a fellow named Dan, I don’t know him well, but I need to tell him. Someone needs to understand what we’re about to face.

“There’s a fire up ahead,” I say, “I think the building is on fire.”

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Weavers

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He was meant to be there as the match-maker, the Weaver, not the Matched. I watched it all, unable to stop it, but also not wanting to.

Who wants to stand in the way of love?

I was there the day he brought two Matched together. Part of the camera crew to document the further success of the Weavers. Never before had I struggled with a Matching. The Weaver’s choices always made sense. They always followed a pattern. But when this Weaver showed up with his boy-man. I wasn’t the only one to scoff at the match.

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Too Bright – Part 3

Too Bright - Part 3

 

Like the best cliche of any opening move my feet pound against the pavement. Men pursue me like an escaped convict. Or a wild animal loose from its inclosure at the zoo.

Perhaps I’m both convict and wild animal.

My mind races faster than my feet, jumping to crazy conclusions of what’s become of Jacob, Lacey, Mother, Father and all the rest. Have they survived? Why are they being held like prisoners?

My hands tighten with sickening dread around the key card. My arm burns from a long scratch where the man tried to stop me from taking it.

“There she is! Stop her.” The voice just pushes me to run faster.

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Too Bright – Part 2

Too Bright - Part 2

I live with Mary and John. They’re polite and uncomplicated. But their simple life gives me too much time to focus on the intricate and confusing web of my own. I miss everyone, Lacey. Jacob.

Sometimes at night I hear Father’s hammer or saw at work in the barn. Or Mother’s gentle hum as the rocking chair creaks against the floorboards of the porch. Even the thud of the pigskin landing in strong, wide hands brings quick tears to my eyes as I lay in bed.

I curse myself. I brought this on my own head. Too bright. I complained about a perfect world.

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Too Bright – Part 1

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The grass glows green. It’s too bright, but no one else seems to notice. I lay back on the picnic blanket and little blonde ringlets block the saturated blue sky. Lacey’s giggling face fills my view. She’s all sunshine and daisies. A line from We Bought A Zoo comes to mind, her ‘happy is too loud.’

Does no one else sense something off about this too perfect, too bright world?

I force a smile and tickle her until she falls back on the blanket. Her happy getting louder.

Reaching for a too red apple, Jacob catches my eye. He and the other young men of our farming community are tossing a pigskin back and forth. Their bare feet seem to bounce too high off the ground like gravity has lost a bit of its power here.

Something is definitely wrong.

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