[ The final chapter.. for this story at least. ]
His life didn’t flash before his eyes. Neither did he feel himself die. He simply slept.
When his consciousness finally stirred to life again he realised he could breathe. His lungs still hurt and his arm throbbed, but he could breathe. He also realised he was not floating in an endless black sea, but laying on something firm.
His eyes opened and he was blinded by light. He shut them firmly, rolled to the side and coughed up mouthfuls of black water, hacking and shivering.
“Just breathe.” It was a woman’s voice and a soft hand on the square of his back.
He wheezed in air like a college student guzzling a bottle of Jack. His nerves convulsed and he hacked and coughed painfully. He felt pain through every nerve in his body. The realisation came to him that he must somehow still be alive if he hurt this much.
His heart dropped and he tried to open his eyes again. The blinding light eased up.
“Dusk Creek?” he choked out, still trying to adjust.
He squinted and her form started to take shape.
“Solarium.” She said simply. The bone skull shone on top of her head, her hair brilliantly flaring behind her like a mane. Her wings outstretched on either side of her shoulders like tattered evening sky. She wore the most beautiful shade of crimson he’d ever seen wrapped around her body.
“We’re in the Solarium?” His voice was rasping, his mind running. She was alive. He was alive. Something had changed. Chuckled laughter slipped out of his stripped throat. “We got out!”
They were free from the hellish city. They were saved from the black waters. She was alive and she looked beautiful. But her lips weren’t turned up in a smile. Instead, they seemed curved down. A frown of concern edging on her lips.
“No. My name.” she whispered softly. “I am Solarium. I remember now. I’m one of the guardians of the Solarium. I’m the last one left. The others… they all died.”
He tried to move his feet and noticed that one was stuck against something. Looking down he saw it strapped to the bed he was on. The simple bed of metal and linen. A hospital bed. Details of the room started to faze into existence as his eyes cleared.
He was scraped up and stitched; a simple material gown covered him only barely. Around him the room was white, cement, and reflected too brightly of florescent light. There were no doors, no windows.
“What?” He looked at her and reached out to touch her cheek. His fingers slid right through.
“I’m sorry Corey. I wanted to keep you, but I can’t. It’s because of you this happened.” Her image started to fade, just as her feathers did whenever they emerged. Only now it was her whole body, the pale white becoming translucent.
He yanked at the foot restraint as panic started to rise.
“Because of me? What the fuck is going on!” He screamed and tried to yank his foot free. It banged loudly as he thrashed.
“Your one of the ones that hurt me, like the others. The humans. You’ve been contaminated now by the blast.” Her voice was again, cold and toneless. “Your kind corrupt things here. You make ones like us forget who we are. If we allowed you back into any of the worlds you could contaminate others.”
“Look I just want to go home! I’m not contaminated; I’m not like the others!” His eyes were red now, pleading. “You have to let me go!”
“I thought maybe you were different. I was sick, and I thought maybe I was different too. But it will only take time, Corey. Eventually the contamination will show and you will be just as twisted as they are. That’s what it does.” Her wings stretched out, tattered bristled edges. “Your soul can’t leave Dusk Creek, Corey. I can’t allow it.”
“You can’t do this! What about Shep? Shep liked me!”
“You were alive then… I tried to keep you alive. It was your only option. But you died here, and now you can’t leave. You are like them now. They all died too, and they turned into those things.”
“But I’m not dead!” he screamed.
“You drowned. You are human and you drowned. I can’t. The only thing that can kill us is what you already did. I’m the last one left. I can’t die. I am the Solarium.”
“You’re wrong! You’re fucking wrong!”
“You won’t be eaten like the others were.” Her eyes softened, sadly. “When one of them gets eaten they turn into something worse. They keep contaminating this place from the inside of the others. I spared you from that.”
He thought of all those creatures, mindless killers. Feasting on each other. Each part of them continuing to exist in some form separated from their body. Torn into many facetted pieces which could still think and feel. Endless pain that would never stop.
“I’m all alone now and I’ve got so much to do. I need to hunt down anyone else contaminated like you who may have escaped. I need to hunt down those who did this and bring them all back here. None of you can leave Dusk Creek, Corey. It’s what you all created. It’s your punishment.”
“I saved your life!” he screamed and his voice cracked. Again he clawed at the restraint with renewed vigour. His ankle started to bleed as his nails dug deep into his skin trying to pry it free. “You can’t leave me in this hell!”
It was then he realised the black spot on his leg. It stretched from his hamstring up the back of his leg. The discolouration seemed darkest in his veins and looked as if it were crawling. It was burning hot to the touch and he wanted to vomit.
“Maybe in time I can fix the damage you made. Maybe I can find others to help. There is so much to do. I’m afraid this is goodbye Corey. I will miss you.”
“I can help you!” He was desperate now. His hands shook like a leaf.
“I would have liked that, but it’s already too late for you. Don’t worry, soon it won’t matter. You won’t remember me or your loved ones. You won’t care about freedom or happiness. You will be like them. Part of the chaos. It won’t hurt so much then.”
Her voice was the last to disappear. It hung and lingered in the air like a curse. Finally his leg restraint gave way and he managed to tear it off with his blood soaked fingers. He fell off the bed and hobbled to his feet.
“Have to get out, have to get out!” He mumbled terrified. The more his heart beat like a hummingbird the more he could feel the burn spreading through every vein.
There might not have been a door, but there was a window. It was cut out from the thick cement walls and had four tight bars blocking him from freedom. He managed to grab the edge and hoist himself up to look outside. His breath caught in his throat and his eyes grew wide and wet. He saw outside, into the city of nightmares. Fires burned somewhere in the distance, and the streets were bare. On the horizon the horde was coming for him. Marching like black wraith’s on the wind sensing live food. Sensing one not quite their own. At least not their own just yet.
“No… Please no…” The faded black lettering of a sign could barely be seen.
Dusk Creek Mental Asylum
This time he screamed so hard it came out as a disfigured howl.
In cells next to him the howls repeated and echoed over and over again. He had looked into the abyss and it looked back at him and grinned beneath a crow’s skull.
[ Thank you for allowing me to share this story with you all! It is well loved and I may again revisit the strange place like the Solarium or Dusk Creek in future tales! For now, thank you again. This story, Dusk Creek, and the characters are (c) me, but it has been my pleasure to share this tale with you all here on Black Quill Blog! ]