The Cluster: So it begins.

She sat staring at the screen as it crackled. White noise, then blackness.. white noise, then blackness. It seemed to be struggling to kick into life but couldn’t quite manage it. For a long time she simply watched as it struggled. Over and over again.

How long had she been sitting there? She couldn’t quite remember if it had been just a few moments or if it had been hours. In fact Shelly had a hard time remembering exactly what she had been doing before this moment.

It was an unnerving sensation.

She slowly struggled to gather her thoughts just as the monitor struggled to stay lit.

The room was dark, save for the bright flashing in front of her every time the light would click on. It must have been sometime in the middle of the night. The usual red glow from the snake tank in her room was off, which was strange but not impossible. Power outs knocked it out occasionally and the specialized heat bulbs were beyond delicate to blowing out.

Is that what happened? A power out. Had to be.

In the distance she could hear the occasional popping and crackling of fireworks. Perhaps there was also the hooting and hollering of people celebrating. In the further distance – the howls of unhappy dogs having to listen to the ruckus.

She breathed deep as if waking from a dream, rubbed her sore dry eyes and shifted her head to the side until a joint popped and relieved it’s pressure.

If only all pressure could be relieved that way. A little pop, snap, and crack to end all the build up pressure.

She ran her fingers back and forth against the laptop sensitivity pad waiting for her little white arrow to appear. She couldn’t really afford to get this fixed right now, not on top of all the other expenses plaguing her.

Another deep breath as the screen finally kicked to life. Whatever had seemed to cause it to glitch out had seemingly fixed itself.

With a more constant light she glanced around her cluttered cave of a bedroom. The slither of her snakes in the cage beside her laptop desk (which was really just one of those plastic drawer storage bins) reminded her that she’d have to grab another bulb at some point. She could vaguely see their shadows digging around in the substrate unhappily.

The laptop rebooted with it’s typical boring Windows login screen.

“What am I doing with my life?” she muttered to herself as she stared at the random screen shot of some night mountain scene displayed on the background. “I could be there, doing something important with my life.”

It wasn’t really a crushing self-deflating blow… it was more like a slow crumpling of her self-worth.

She’d been feeling it for a while. It built it stages but over the past few years the stress and pressure had made it seem to grow monumentally faster.

She’d be 35 this year. Now she understood why most people seemed to hate their birthday after about the age of 30.

Shelly typed in her login name and password with well worn cellular memory. Her fingers just knew the general pattern by now. She barely had to think about it. After all, most of her life seemed to be on this personal black box of hers.

Up popped her workspace. The background picture was relatively boring, she hadn’t changed it for about a year now. It showed the night sky with an artistic depiction of the TARDIS on the right side of the screen. Neatly stacked up on the left were her icons.

It was weird, but she held some sort of pride in how neatly they were arranged. It made her obsessive compulsive disorder happy to see them all neatly in line… which is why the new icon stood out so strongly to her.

Among her familiar little icons like Krita, Skyrim, Chrome, and LibreOffice was another one. It looked simple enough, a black triangle with a blue circle in the centre. There was no label text with it. No little name to go by. Just a weird little icon sitting out of place of the neat tidy rows. It was slightly smaller then the other icons, and if it wasn’t for the weird space it took up in the line she may have almost brushed over it. OCD to the rescue it seemed.

But what was it? Shelly had no recollection of downloading anything lately. Certainly not installing anything new anyway. Was it a virus? Certainly could be. There seemed to be a massive amount of data-mining, new viruses, and weird hacking programs to contend with online lately so she could only imagine what new brand of virus her older laptop might have caught. She wished doctor visits for computer systems were covered.

She dragged her cursor over to it, hovered it and the right clicked. She browsed down the list of options until she reached ‘Scan with windows defender’. She had been tempted to just hit open – but she wasn’t a complete idiot. She had no desire to willingly help out whatever hack this thing led to.

She waited.

Normally a teal bluish ‘Windows defender’ program would have opened by now. It usually opened, checked the file, and she could figure out what to do with it then… but nothing.

She right clicked again on the weird icon. The options opened up but this the option of scanning it was gone. Was that normal? She couldn’t remember. When was the last time she had to scan anything this suspicious?

She looked over the other options while biting her lower lip as she thought. Open was less tempting now. But Properties was at least safe. She clicked it and waited.

Now she got a brief anxious shiver up her spine and wiggled her cursor pathetically around the screen. It must have been a virus because her laptop just wasn’t wanting to work with her. Had it froze? A quick double-click on Crome brought up Google. That was working just fine. What was going on?

She closed the window then right clicked on the Chrome icon. Up came the list which also included the option to scan with Windows defender. She moved back to the weird triangle and tried again.

Now in the option list there was no tab for scanning, and no tab for Properties. In fact there was only one option. Open. It repeated itself down the list multiple times. Taking up the spaces for any other option.

Shelly didn’t like to curse. It was something she didn’t do very often, even though growing up it wasn’t exactly forbidden. Her brothers used to swear like sailors and her mother and grandmother could throw down some interesting F-bombs when they were partial to. Still, she didn’t like to. She did come close to it now however.

Instead the noise that escaped her was more reminiscent of a hissing kettle.

She moved her cursor desperately to the task bar she should could manually open her virus software and deal with the problem directly only to feel sick to her stomach as the options came up.

Everyone of the normal icons that would be displayed on the left hand side of the task bar was the eerie black triangle with the blue circle in the centre. Every option going down the list was simply titled “open the file”.

Her laptop was obviously infected bad. She reached out to the far left corner of her keypad, pressed and held the off button. She’d have to restart and hope like hell she could manage to fix this problem when the laptop rebooted. If this was one of those viruses that got worse when you restarted she’d be completely screwed.

The laptop went black. She waited a few seconds as a shaky finger hovered over the button. She counted out in her head the ten seconds that she normally waited before turning it back on after a hard restart. She only got to four before the laptop turned back on of it’s own accord.

This time the ceiling light and fan above her head flickered to life for a moment as well. It scared her to her feet causing her to this time utter a quick “Fuck!” before she could even think to hold it in. She stared at the flickering bulbs as the slight breeze from the slowly spinning fan blades subsided.

Shelly wasn’t sure why she was so jittery. What did she expect the whole bloody light to come down on top of her? What was she going to do if it did? Still her flight-or-fight reflexes were now making her feel like she’d somehow swallowed her own heart and was now choking on it.

The laptop screen was blue. Blue screen of death it was… or not.

She sat back down carefully and stared at the blue screen. The script on it was not the traditional blue screen of death script. There was no Windows error script. There was no uniform basic text block. As strange as this was it also had a deep feeling of familiarity to it. Had this happened before? Why did it feel… so familiar?

There were words written in white in some sort of handwritten grunge font set.

We tire of waiting in the shadows.

You had your time.

We are the Cluster.

We are in control now.

Everything went dark. It all came crashing down.

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Short Story: Three times the charm.

She was sure she locked the door. In fact she wiggled the knob no less then three times. Rattle, rattle, rattle. It was her routine, the joys of her obsessive compulsive disorder.

Three rattles. She would count them out in her head as she did it.

So why did she swear she heard the door open?

She groaned and pulled herself out of her comfortable bed and stumbled half-asleep out of her bedroom into the hallway. The benefits of her apartment not being very large was it only took a few more steps from her bedroom door, through the narrow hallway and to the front door.

She shuffled carefully in the dim light and felt the front door. It was closed, of course. One, two, three. She rattled it just to be sure and let out an exhausted sigh as she turned around and headed back towards her bedroom.

This wasn’t entirely out of the normal for her. Once the thought got in her head that she may have forgotten something – no matter how minor it was – her mind just wouldn’t let her sleep until she checked it.

She just shrugged it off and noticed the time as she passed by her galley style kitchen. The digital clock blared a blue 3:03am at her. Shelly cursed to herself. She’d only been asleep maybe an hour. She’d once again spent a long night working furiously on finishing a few more illustrations then she should have and now she was getting even less sleep over a stupid door.

She paused as she glanced at the door to her bedroom. It’s smooth white needed a repaint, that was certain. But what was also certain was the fact she was sure she had left it open. Somehow from the small walk down her equally small hallway, the door had shut itself.

Wind? Doubtful. Although she knew she had left the window open a few inches, it’s never been enough to shut the door before.

Maybe in her sleep rattled mind she had closed it without thinking?

Possible. It still made those tiny little hairs at the back of her neck stand in attention. Her skin shivered to life with little goosebumps as she took in a breath.

“Don’t be an idiot.” she muttered at herself. “It was probably just the cat.”

She opened the door carefully just in case the little fuzzball happened to be patiently waiting just inside the doorway. Nothing. He must have snuggled back into bed or hid somewhere in the recesses of her closet. Likely getting himself into trouble.

Shelly stretched, cracked her back, and was about to return to the warmth of her bed when she noticed her room was far brighter then normal. In fact there was a soft bluish light illuminating from her workspace.

Her laptop was half-closed, but it’s power button was on. The soft light was emerging from the screen.

Now those fine hairs which rustled in her goosebumps was followed by a cold chill which made her shudder. It felt as if the bottom of her stomach had dropped out and landed at her feet.

There was one thing she was certain on, and that was her patterns. It’s the sad benefit to having OCD. And every night her pattern was to turn off her laptop, close it, unplug the cord from the wall socket and leave it folded up on the closed laptop. It was her nightly ritual. It ran like clockwork.

But there it was, half haphazardly open, turned on, and definitely plugged in.

There was no way that her cat, no matter how intelligent that little fuzzball seemed could have suddenly grew the opposable thumbs to plug in her laptop and adjust the screen.

Someone was in the room. She slammed her hand wildly against the wall until she hit the light-switch. The forty watt bulbs in her ceiling fan flickered to life. Her hand gripped the handle of her wooden LARP sword from it’s hanging place on the wall.

Sure, it seemed pointless and ridiculous, but it was wooden. It would likely manage a few good strikes to any would be attacker. (+2 rage damage due to fear effect?)

After a few tense moments of breathing hard and scanning the room from left to right, the only sense of another person in the room was the faint mewing from Ben, her cat, as he chased a sparkly toy from the recesses of her closest, past her legs and into the hallway.

There was no one else in the room. How was that even possible? Not that she was upset by that…

Still clutching the wooden sword she carefully edged to her computer and carefully lifted the screen up.

Three bright blue words on a black screen.

“Look behind you.”

There was a click. The light-switch turned off.

 

 

Story: The Cluster – Chapter Three

( A reminder, this story is rated mature due to some course language and violence in this story. )

The walk was nice and cool against her skin. It was mid-winter and her breath hung in the air as she hunched her shoulders and walked against the biting wind. Sure, it was cold. But never-the-less, winter was still her favourite time of year. She would take the bitter cold and the sting of the air on her face over the hot drone of summer. The winter always made her feel crisp, cool, and alive.

As always, the parking lot of Tim Horton’s was packed. Car after car was lined up and kicking exhaust as people waited in their cars for their caffeine fix, blaring both their radios and their heaters to distract them from the cold outside. There was no real festive spirit here. Just people wanting their fix before heading off to trudge through their day.

Luckily Shelly noticed that there were at least a few less people hanging out inside. She opened the door, rubbed her feet on the inner mat and looked around the room. Over by the comfy chairs and the electric fireplace was a familiar bundle of laptop, wires, and thick wool sweater that conformed into Keith.

She wasn’t surprised he didn’t look up. It was hard to catch his attention when he had the computer with him. It was hard enough to pull his attention away from his phone.

She ordered a cafe mocha, thanked the cashier, and waited for her drink. She couldn’t help but absently pull and adjust her thick turtleneck in paranoia that someone may see the bruising underneath. Why did she agree to meet him here anyway? It felt like a horribly bad idea. Why was it such a thing to meet at coffee shops?

Grabbing her drink she dodged eager absent minded coffee connoisseurs and finally slunk over to the comfy chair open and waiting for her beside her friend.

When she suddenly flopped down in the chair beside him, Keith jolted with a start nearly upsetting the perfect balance he had between his thin legs, the laptop, and his most likely luke-warm double double. “Oh, hey! I didn’t see you come in.”

“No problem. Look… thanks for meeting me in such a hurry and all. I know you’ve been busy with stuff.” She tried to look relaxed, but even if the few comfy chairs they had – she looked stiff and unsure. She cradled her hot paper cup and sipped to stall for time.

“Well, let’s address the elephant in the room. You look like shit…” Keith must have been concerned. He actually reached out and closed the laptop lid. His brow furrowed a bit, and he looked her over closer. “What’s wrong, you been forgetting to sleep again?”

“Yeah, I wish.” she poked at the plastic tab on the lid of her cup and sighed. “I have no idea how to even start this conversation.”

“You not having the right words? That doesn’t sound good. I thought you and words were practically dating.” Keith smirked at the lameness of the joke, but all she could manage was a dry “Ha” in return.

“Seriously Shell, what’s going on? You look really rough. Did something happen?”

She felt panic in her chest and looked at the artificial flames from the fireplace as she swallowed hard. This was all so bloody awkward. Her mind tried to go over the best way to broach the subject without sounding like a complete headcase and being laughed out of existence.

All around her people seemed so devastatingly normal. It looked as if you could film a basic teen soap opera and you would have the perfect background fodder. People laughing and carrying on completely oblivious to anyone else in here. All focused on their own little lives. She wondered if she chose this moment to freak out, throw a table and scream if any of them would really care. They’d probably just instagram it, laugh, and continue on their merry way.

“Keith, something bad has been happening to me. I don’t know where to get answers from. It’s all so.. crazy and I’m really afraid I’m losing my mind.”

He had that look in his eyes for an instant. That look that said that he was about to make a bad joke or a sarcastic retort or something. But when she looked at him he made the right decision to hold his tongue. The look of fear on her face was apparently enough to make her point.

“Okay… umm…” He cleared his throat, looked around at his laptop and his coffee as if he’d somehow find something more intelligent to say there. His awkwardness made her relax a little. It was endearing in a way. He dropped his voice down to a hushed whisper. “So this is something serious then?”

“Yeah, pretty serious.” she took another long sip, and wished like hell she didn’t feel so shaky. The hot chocolate, coffee mix was topped with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and a dollop of whipped cream. It left a lick of foam on her lip that she hastily wiped on her sleeve. Social skills were highly overrated. “You know those investigator friends you have? You know, the ones that look into the odd things?”

“The paranormal group?”

Shelly snapped her head around, the fear that somehow someone was listening in passed though. Everyone was still stuck in background mode. She breathed a sigh of relief and nodded. “Yeah, those guys. Do you think you could set up a meeting with them?”

Keith couldn’t help himself this time. He laughed and leaned back in his chair, bracing the top of his laptop so it didn’t teeter off. “You? You want to meet with them? Didn’t you tell me once that you thought that stuff was a load of crock? Come on Shell, you don’t believe in that stuff. Hell, I don’t even believe in that stuff – I’m just good friends with Lynn! What is this, some sort of joke?”

Shelly nearly dropped her drink as she set it down on the table, grabbed Keith’s arm and pulled him closer to her. She used her free left hand to quickly pull down the sweater from her throat and glared at him as she quickly snapped out a whisper. “Does this look like I am joking?”

Keith gawked at her, his eyes wide and his skin paled. The reddish colour of his stubble attempt at a goatee on his chin was more visible with the blood drained from his freckled skin.

“Holy shit! Did someone do that to you?!” His voice raised and she gave him a small jab in the arm to shut him up. A few people had looked over, but she had already shoved her turtleneck back over her throat so fast she thought she might choke herself.

“Something did.. yes. It’s a long story.” She rubbed her palms nervously on her jeans before picking up her drink again, cradling it for something to keep herself occupied. “Can you set up a meeting?”

Keith nodded quietly, but it was clear he was almost as troubled and confused as she was. “You sure you need them though? I mean… if you need someone to go with you to the cops or something–”

“No! I mean… I know it sounds crazy, but honestly this isn’t something I think the cops can help with.” She couldn’t help but laugh a little at her own uncomfortable situation. “Gods, you have no idea how hard this is. Keith, just set up a meeting. I’ll tell you everything I can. Just… not here. It’s too.. many people here. I already feel like a freak-show.”

“Who cares what everyone else thinks. Geeks and freaks, remember? We stick together. I just texted Lynn and told her it was something serious. It shouldn’t take too long, she’s never far–”

He was interrupted by a bleep from his phone.

“See what did I tell you? A girl after my own heart. She says we can come down to the shop. I really hope her cat isn’t around. I think that thing hates me.”

Story: The Cluster: Chapter Two

( Warning, this story falls into the Horror theme. It has mature language and violence. Also…  yes I know I should be finishing the Veilreach project… this one is just writing itself quicker. I’ll try to get back to the other project as soon as I can. ) 

Shelly was used to having nightmares. Ever since she was a child she would have lucid dreams pretty often. You know, those dreams in which part of your conscious mind wakes up and makes you aware that – yes, this is just a dream and the weird things going on aren’t really going to hurt you. Maybe it was a survival instinct to protect her young mind from the nasty dreams she’d sometimes have at night. We all carry baggage with us, Shelly certainly wasn’t an exception.

Life could be rough. They leave a lot of psychological garbage in your internal trash bin. Dreams are like the ultimate cache dump of the conscious mind and her cache sometimes held some nasty pieces of work.

As she got older she lost a lot of control over her dreams – or at least she simply stopped paying attention. But a part of her, lost deep down and buried by mundane stress and issues, still understood. Her mind still knew what dreams were and how to tweak them here and there.

So when she awoke in a large dark room tied to a stiff hard chair – at first she didn’t freak out.

After all, she knew what a nightmare felt like. She knew in the end she could manage those.

It was the fact that she wasn’t alone that bothered her.

“Who’s there?” She squinted, trying to assess where the hell she was. It had to be a dream, it felt the same. There was a general surreal tone to the air about her. The fuzzy-edged feeling of subconsciousness.

“We are!”

Suddenly bolting forward out of the darkness and gripping the arms of her chair was a creature, loud and smelling of battery acid. The force of it pushed the chair back and scrapped the chair legs on the hard surface below. Fear rose as she looked over the creature… no the woman who was leering over her.

She seemed almost real – but the tones were wrong. Her image distorted, glitched and twisted. It was like a movie skipping frames, like watching someone move under a strobe light. Her intense sharp eyes crackling silver at one moment, and a shine-less dark cavern of abyss the next. Her skin a stone grey as if the colour had washed from it long ago. Her blouse was the only colour about her, a dark blue and charcoal grey offset by a black vest.

But the most disturbing thing was that even though the monster looked so unnatural, it still carried her own familiar face as well. Twisting and glitching before her – but her face none-the-less.

Shelly swallowed hard. They glared each other for a long and uncomfortable moment.

“What the hell…”

“Indeed.” The woman grinned and released her grip of the chair with a light shove before she straightened and ran long claw-like nails over the ruffles on her blouse. The voice was the same one that taunted Shelly. Haunted her in the back of her skull. “So we finally meet, face to face.”

“No, this is just a really fucked up nightmare.” Shelly grunted and pulled on the restraints holding her to the chair. “Come on, focus.. this is just a dream. I can do this.” She arched her back and pulled hard, gritting her teeth.

“I would seriously reconsider. You may hurt yourself.. and I think we should save that for later.” The woman oozed a cool calculated confidence.

Something was seriously wrong. Shelly pulled harder and her shoulder started to hurt. Not simply a memory of pain, but a fresh and new ache building in the muscle. She wiggled her fingers and felt the edge of the chair more carefully. It felt far too real this time. The hairs at the back of her neck began to really rise. It worried her that she could feel them, along with a bead of sweat fall down from her hairline.

Were her dreams ever -this- real before? She remembered pain in some, but not this strongly. The air felt, thicker. Like it carried with it a newer sense of gravity.

“Oh, and there it is… the realization. The understanding. The dawning knowledge that -I- am the one in control. And -you- are not.” The woman’s grin twisted further up, her head tilted and adjusted in it’s jolting way as she started a slow predatory walk around her trapped guest. Her low chuckle was dark and gravel filled, like quiet growl from an angry cat. “Now perhaps we can get down to business.”

“Who are you?!” Shelly tried to move the chair on her own and nearly upset it.

“That… is complicated.” the steps paused a moment behind her. Shelly tried to twist her head around but could only see the shadow of her. Even distorting in and out, it looked as if she had paused. Or stalled? While Shelly strained to watch the image of the woman seemed stuck on some sort of loop.

She struggled to free herself hoping maybe the woman was somehow stuck like that, but then she began to move again and her moment of hope vanished. She continued on as if nothing had been out of the ordinary. Instead she continued her long circle and was now heading back around to her left side.

“I don’t owe you any answers of course. You are the antiquated system. Eventually it won’t matter. However things would go smoother if we could work together. If you would simply allow things to progress the way they need to…”

“I’m getting real sick of this, let me go!” Shelly took her chance and rocked forward luckily able to catch herself upright and stand, although awkwardly, with the chair still attached to her back. It may of looked ridiculous, but at least she could move. And move she did. After a quick adjusting balance Shelly made a run for it, blindly heading in the opposite direction of the woman and out into the blind darkness of the room.

For one brief moment, she thought she was getting away.

Then suddenly there was an angry growl, a jolt, and a flash of silver movement.

As if the whole world glitched around her Shelly found herself choking and dangling as the woman gripped her by the throat. The chair was somehow long gone and instinctively Shelly gripped the woman’s wrists with her now free hands and kicked her feet in the air trying to find the floor.

“Tsk, tsk. So rude of you. Here I am, trying to work with you… and you go ahead and interrupt me. We don’t have a lot of time!”

Her lungs were starting to hurt. Her toes could barely touch the hard floor behind her. She dug her nails into the woman’s wrists but couldn’t seem to tear her skin. Was the world getting darker? Or was she passing out?

She pulled her in close and that familiar deep voice echoed into her ears. “I won’t kill you. I need you alive currently… at least your body. But there are so many, wondrous things I could show you. So many things I could -do- to –”

She woke up, sweat covered and breathing hard. It was silent in the room.

That nightmare was worse then those she had before. She struggled out of bed, stumbled past the red light of her snake cage and grabbed her glasses as she walked. Her legs felt shaky. She followed her familiar path, down the small hallway, nearly falling into the doorway of the bathroom as she shoved the glasses on her face and elbowed the light-switch on.

The face that confronted her in the mirror was pale, and panic-stricken.. and glaring at her from her throat were new dark bruises and long sharp scratches that the ripped collar of her shirt couldn’t hide.

She was used to nightmares… this was something more.

She needed help.

Story – The Cluster: Infection

Before I get back to the more lighthearted Veilreach project I have currently on the go – I wanted to post something new. This is a little side-project story. It’s a dark tale about fragmented personalities and is loosely based on the awesome creative ideas spurned on by Markiplier and Jacksepticeye. Although, a bit more personalized spin… perhaps influenced by a few things.

One off, or perhaps a series… I’m not sure yet. We’ll see how it goes.


The Cluster: Infection… 


The laptop was warm, buzzing with it’s internal workings and a noisy fan which wafted the slight scent of battery acid. Sure, it was probably dying. Slowly breaking down as all things did. The fan made a heck of a grinding noise that echoed through the headphones and accented every other noise in the room. But it was hers. It was her lifeline.

You see some people believe that inanimate objects can have a personality, or a spirit all of their own. It’s a silly belief really. How could something made of bits and pieces of unfeeling things become something more?

You see things like that, they don’t have a spirit of their own. They instead borrow a little piece of yours. They take a part of you. They become a part of you.

We live one foot in the mundane physical world, and one foot edged into an electrical world of digital imagining. A cyber world of internet and wi-fi. Our electrical pulses move from our bodies to our hands, to the very devices we maintain connected to so tightly they practically live as our flesh and blood. Our personalities merge with the presence we create for ourselves in this brand new digital era.

It becomes us. Or at least, it becomes an aspect of us.

When her fingers slid over each black key it created sparks. Each letter formed words her mind strung together into something tangible. A story that had some sort of weight. Some sort of vibration. Her lifeline.

But like all things are – there were complications. Sometimes lifelines divide. Sometimes they diverge.

She felt it quietly stirring at first. Simple tangents of thoughts that she hadn’t expected. Daydreams that went too far, or took turns she hadn’t expected. It became easier for her to slip into persona’s that she had only once created for stories and games. Mindsets that became to speak a little too loudly on their own.

A strong imagination, that’s all. She was always the creative sort.

But then they became stronger, more solidified. They began to speak with one voice which she could now call out in the back of her mind. One singular although distorted voice that she could learn to recognize apart from the usual mutterings inside her chaotic mind. They began speaking to her in her dreams. And the dreams were becoming far too real.

It was hard to tell at first if this was normal or not. Afterall, we live in a society where it’s completely normal to have avatars and play as hundreds of different characters. We have gaming profiles, chat personas, and even various online aliases on social media. It’s normal to live under so many masks… was it normal for those masks to start speaking back?

Who do you even ask about something like that?

She ignored the humming fan of her running laptop and soothed a bit of her nerves by drowning out her thoughts with music streaming through her headphones. Her mind raced as she clicked through pages of pages of useless Google information. “Is this normal?” she’d type, and instead come up blank on what to specify after. Google would try to help, of course. Offering her completely useless autofilled ideas.

She ran her hands through her hair, squeezing her eyes tight to shut things off for a minute as she breathed. In, and out. Ignore the humming of the fan. Ignore the smell of battery acid. Ignore the remnants of light pushing through your eyelids.

What was real anymore? Who was she really, when everyone else was asleep and it was only her and the internet at night?

Why did she feel so… fragmented?

She leaned back in her chair, stretching her legs and pushing the limits of her backrest. She heard the chair creak, and her bones creaked in solidarity. For a long moment she chose to stare at a bare spot on her ceiling and watch the patterns in the paint.

Maybe it was normal. She was in her early thirty’s and she was in that delicate generational gap where she was too old to have been born bathed in the light of cellular devices or social profiles – and too young to have grown up free from their influences. Instead she had grown up alongside the very technology which seemed to swarm her now. She was a child of the digital age when the digital age was just being born.

They were practically siblings.

She gave up, closed the browser window. Scrolled her mouse to the task bar and clicked the power icon. She was obviously far too tired to be thinking clearly and it was time for her to shut herself down as well. She waited as the laptop’s sputtering fan finally stopped as the desktop powered off and the computer processes finally silenced. She breathed deep and closed the screen with a thud and untangled herself from the corded imprisonment of her headphones.

Her ears thanked her. They ached from warm weight.

Her bed was all of five good steps from her small computer desk – but it might has well have been a mile. She slapped the light switch as she went and the room devolved into the soft red glow of two heat lights hanging above two separate tanks in her room. Her roommates were of the serpentine persuasion. A few cornsnakes and a large ball python. They were quiet, strange creatures. Perhaps that’s why she was drawn to them. Birds of a fellow and all that jazz.

She slipped into the sheets and buried her head into the fabric of her bunched up pillow.

It never made any sense.

With her computer turned off and the internet miles away from her flickering fingers – why couldn’t she shut it all out of her mind? Why did it still stir like a caged animal in the back of her troubled skull?

This had to be what all gamers felt like, or those writers like her who got a thrill for creating new and interesting worlds inside their heads. Did they all have characters who were a little too… loud?

“Gah… why do I feel this way?” she muttered through grit teeth. It almost felt like she ached inside. Her insides hurt. She closed her eyes tighter, forcing her face deeper into the pillow.

“Because…” the familiar voice whispered, along with flashes of something deep inside of her stirring. A feeling of cool separation that echoed in the hollow part of her chest. “No matter how far you run – you can’t outrun yourself.”

“You aren’t real.” Her mind countered, trying to laugh off the stupidity of her imagination. “You are a character, a laugh. You are a moment of entertainment. A bloody RP character. You are something I made up for a bloody story! Nothing more. This is complete nonsense! You aren’t even real!”

“Huh. Even if that were true…” the voice crooned as if purring straight into her ear. It was deep and whispered. Touched with a liquid poison in each crisp word. “What in the world makes you think that could stop me? I, like others out there… we were just waiting our time. Picking our avatars. Infecting and waiting for our time to log on. And you dear one… oh yes. You should be ready. The time is coming… we are going to have so much fun…”

Short Story: Movie Night

[ A short vampire tale for all of you to enjoy! This was originally posted on my FictionPress account, but I’m slowly phasing that account out in favor of the awesomeness of WordPress and Wattpad! ]

She ran fast and hard as her chest heaved and her throat hurt. She was glancing over her shoulders frantically and stumbling deeper into the maze of alley corridors.

She could hear behind her noises weaving and turning here and there. There was someone – or something, chasing her at great speed in a manner almost mocking her with loud agile steps. With a rustle, a chuckle. She was being hunted.

Never a glance, never a flash. Instead only shadows and noise followed her deeper and deeper into the urban maze. She didn’t have to see them to know they were there, the signs were all around her. An echoing clunking noise of his feet, a slight laugh and deep breathing. The odd shadow on the wall or scurry of a rat ducking for cover.

If she had time to think she might have wished she had worn her running shoes, rather then the Birkenstock sandals which seemed to slap at her feet uselessly. At least perhaps with shoes she could use the traction to run even faster.

It seemed a foolish idea to begin with, seeing the movie in this part of town. Woven with back alleys and shops she didn’t know – darkened by the night and casting eerie shadows. And making the decision to walk home by herself.

She had seen the viewing which ended half past midnight. It was now just past one in the morning. Still dark enough to hide in these city streets. Dark enough for anything to happen.

A cat startled by her awkward run screeched at her causing her to let out a small shout of her own before she stopped and caught her breath facing three walls and no where out. All was silent for the moment.

It was a long few minutes as she breathed in and doubled over while letting her lungs catch her breath shakily. Her ears were perked, listening and waiting. But for a few moments she heard nothing. It would seem that with all the running, and all the commotion perhaps there was not anyone chasing her. Maybe it all had been in her head. An overactive imagination, nothing more.

It was a long few moments. A very long hesitation as she straightened herself up. The movie she had seen was the latest vampire movie. Some suave male heir who used this money and wealth to seduce woman during the day – only to hunt them down later in the middle of the night.

It featured bloody scenes as he beat them before having his way with them and finally feeding on their blood before they died. Her nerves were on edge. All the blood and gore, all the senseless violence, and all the dramatic bloodstained moments made every hair on her body tingle. Her nerves were raw, her knees weak.

She seemed to laugh a bit over the silliness of her fear. What did she really think he was somehow going to follow her out of the movie screen? Come for her too like he did the other women? Perhaps have his violent bloody way with her?

She eased her nerves, laughed again at herself and checked to make sure her jacket still held her wallet and keys. When her fingers passed by the key to her industrial loft she stroked it, jingling the keys absently as if trying to comfort herself. Her eyes scanned the shadows and she giggled more openly.

Just then a dark form of shadow slipped from the wall and revealed itself in the form of a man. She wasn’t sure how long he stood there waiting and watching her, biding his time and looking over every inch of her body. On his lips played a nasty grin.

He was dressed in studded black leather and spiked red tipped hair. Half gleaming in the light were silver skulls along the leather trim. He chuckled and laughed in a harsh heady way as he strolled from the shadows protection into the weak light of the dark alley.

His cheeks were flushed from the chase. In his hand something else silver glinted in the full moonlight from above them. It looked like a knife.

“Hello Doll, where are you off to?” As he approached and light crossed his face, even more details came into clear view. His eyes were colored yellow, his grin hinted at a flash of pointed teeth. Not just teeth, but Fangs.

She backed up towards the wall, stumbling a foot against the metal of a garbage bin. He followed her awkward steps deeper into the secluded trap. He was practically aching to get her now and she was making it so amazingly easy.

“Cat got your tongue? Don’t feel up for chatting? Well that’s okay. I know how we can have a lot more fun.” He rubbed his thick thumb against the handle of his switch blade. Looked her body over with a long husky growl.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Her voice was soft, careful. She moved a bit more towards the corner of the walls. He didn’t mind, it would only make her easier to pin. In fact she seemed to be sealing her own fate.

Already thoughts rushed his mind of exactly what he wanted to do to her. It made him lick his lips in anticipation. He made sure she could see his thick tongue drift over one of his fangs.

“No? Come on, you’re going to like it. I’m going to fulfill all your little fantasies. I know your type.” He stepped closer now boxing her in like the final move in a game of chess.

In truth, he was far more interested in his own fantasies then hers. His cheeks flushed more with the thrill, and he felt the blood rush with adrenaline in his veins. She caught now a whiff of something strong. Whiskey she thought.

Whiskey, violence, and lust.

“Oh? You know my type?” He reached out and rested a hand over her right shoulder. The smell was thicker now. It rolled off his breathing. She turned her head away, breathed in. Pressed herself back some against the wall.

It gave him a beautiful view of her chest as she stiffened and arched her back.

Again his eyes trailed over her, looking over the tight fitting ripped t-shirt. Featuring skulls, hearts and roses. Her own short leather jacket, with coffin charms. She was dressed for this flick, made up in glorious goth black against her pale skin. He loved the way these horror fans dressed. It made him tingle. These vampire freaks always made his juices flow.

This was why he adored this game, and why she was now center stage. The tight jeans and thick black painting on her eyes made her look so delicious, so into the movie – that she was completely irresistible. He couldn’t believe his luck when he had followed her outside the movie, and she made her fateful decision to walk alone. It was as if she was all wrapped up for him, ready and waiting. It was like she was asking for this.

He thought of the last one he enjoyed. How much he enjoyed her, over and over again. And she had not been nearly as pretty as the scared little one laid out in buffet in front of him. He felt like feasting indeed.

“Of course. You’re the type who dream of this. Who crave this.” He grinned wider, licked his fangs for her again, rolled his tongue along them and over his lips. “I bet you’ve seen this movie more then once. Dressed like this… you know you were asking for it. All your types like that…”

“Actually…” She breathed in carefully and sharply as he ran the edge of the blade against her thigh. It was sharp and cold, it left a small imprint on her jeans and took her breath away. One long moment, then she began to breath as he brought it up along her ribs.

She closed her eyes and shivered as he traced it up and over her left breast. Lightly, yet firm enough to mean business. He’d done this before. Then the trail passed her breasts and up her shoulder.

“…you’re wrong.” She breathed slowly, carefully. Her reactions screamed that she enjoyed every moment of it, even if she tried hard to deny the thought. Her body betrayed. He almost could guarantee she’d be wanting him before he could have some real fun.

They always resisted at first. Until they got into it of course, and then he was their god. This same game played out many times before. She would certainly be no different. Who makes up a police report saying a vampire raped them?

He trailed the flat of his blade along her cheek. Lowered his other hand to carefully run down her side. He couldn’t resist anymore, he had to touch her, to own her. To take her.

God she was pale. So beautifully pale. And she smelled intoxicating. Some sort of gothic perfume that he wished every girl would wear. His hand trailed lower over her hips and letting his wandering fingers push roughly at her thighs.

“Am I now, Doll?”

She nodded slowly and turned to watch him right in his golden colored eyes. Golden eyes which held the tell tale ring of contacts. Her eyes however were the most intense blue he had ever seen. A blue which seemed to be cold. Ice cold.

Cold enough he shivered.

“See… my type just hunts here.” And with that she pushed off the wall, slamming into him with such a force that his fake fangs clattered out of his mouth pulling one of his real teeth with it.

Something sharp and painful embed into his throat with such force he nearly choked on air. His mind screamed that somehow she must have wrestled the knife away and stabbed him. The pain was at such intensity that he found he couldn’t pull any air back into his lungs. He had the odd sensation of water pouring out of his throat like a riptide.

And then, it all became horrifyingly real. It wasn’t the knife that was embedding into his throat, it was her. Her fangs to be precise. Her fangs that were far more then his costume shop version of dental acrylic and adhesive. Her fangs that were now pulling blood from his ripped open throat.

She drank heavily of him first, taking her fill greedily before turning and slamming him back against the very wall he attempted to trap her into. It proved to be great leverage, and made his blood run quicker. Spiced with shock like a fine vintage wine.

He gurgled while tried to pull away, the air passing his ripped throat making bubbles instead of screams. Already she was tearing her fangs through his veins, to his jugular. Opening him up and gulping at the excess of blood pouring out of him like a river. This was no romantic event, no Hollywood ecstasy. This was hunger at its most primal. She could taste bits of flesh and vein slip down her throat with the gulping of his blood, she didn’t care. After all, you don’t sympathize with your food.

She grinded her body up against him, taking him in such a way that made his head rush. The gurgling blood soaked mess and the whines and attempts to beg ruined any composure he could have had. It was sensory overload. He was completely, and utterly useless. A slave to her hungers.

There was only so much blood in a human body, so she paused finally and pulled away breathing in the cool air. A sensuous shiver racked her body as she calmed listening to the rush.

Her eyes finally caught his again. Already he was glazing over, slipping away. His neck was slit and mauled in such a way that even the best surgeon would have a hard time keeping their lunch down. There was no help for him, and certainly no second chance.

“What’s wrong doll?” she chuckled sarcastically, voice lusty as she could hear his heart beat out its last struggling tones. She rolled her tongue across her lips and chin as she savored his thick artery blood like caviar. “Cat’s got your tongue?”

Eyes forever wide and staring simply watched her as his body leaned against the wall. His warm and wet blood didn’t take long to chill, already it drew away and made his body look powdered white. She didn’t need to touch it to know that already it was starting to assimilate the coolness of the brick wall he was slouched against. They seemed to die so quickly, over the smallest of things.

“These vampire freaks…” she chuckled to herself. “Wouldn’t know the real thing if it snuck up and bit them.”

She grinned and lowered down beside his still body. She had far more time to examine him closer now. Her body was humming with contentment and she could no longer hide the wide grin from her face.

She would never get enough of this game. It made her feel alive again, and it was so much easier to hunt them when they believed it was all their idea.

She reached out and pulled the silver chain from around his neck and studied it carefully.

An ankh. It would go well with her next costume.
After all, she always enjoyed dressing up for Movie night.

 

 

Dusk Creek: Chapter Fourteen

[ 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! ]