A darkness so complete.
He felt cold. Looking all around, there was nothing to see. He could not even see his hands or his body below him. He felt as if he were a solitary eye floating in ink.
A darkness that breathed.
Knuckles aching on the wheel, Robert glanced again nervously into his rear-view mirror. His imagination had been playing tricks on him – the police officer was exactly what he appeared to be. Not a horrifying demon aching to consume him. Merely a man. Robert began to pull over, the black truck crunching onto the gravel shoulder of the road. The cop’s car eased in behind him, and rolled to a stop with a loud creak. Dust settled around them both as Robert looked again at the policeman and his dark sunglasses. He was still just a man.
For now. I have to make this as quick as possible.
With an involuntary sigh, Robert stared at the road stretching itself out in front of him. The trees swayed lazily in the breeze, the clouds slowly tumbled over each other across the bluest sky he had ever seen. This was a day to stretch out somewhere silently in the shade of a great oak – maybe in a park somewhere – and dream. Sitting in the quiet of the truck’s cab with the windows down, a cool draft of clean air caressing his beard and hair made it almost impossible to keep awake. He snapped himself alert and rubbed his tired eyes. Falling asleep was exactly what the darkness wanted. For a reason unknown. Something they desired was dependent on his being unconscious. They needed him to fall into strange and impossible universes. They wanted him to descend further into the endless depths of thirsting darkness echoing with the laughter of forgotten gods. But his eyes were so heavy now. Too heavy. The lazy air was laced with the faint scent of wild flowers.
The cop knocked on the roof of the cab and shocked Robert back into this reality. Quickly jerking awake, Robert began to apologize:
“Officer, sorry for spee–“
“License and registration.” He cut Robert off with a blank expression that was somehow laced with suspicion. No doubt earned through countless stops just like this one. Countless apologies that fell on deaf, stoic ears trained by years of experience.
“Sure! Just, uh, bought this truck, actually. So the registration is not updated yet but let me give you the card of the fellow that sold it to me. It’ll check out.” A nervous grin spread on Robert’s face. His normal salesman smile probably wouldn’t have helped him anyway. Not with this statue of a man. He looked at Robert’s license, then at his face. Without a word he turned and walked back to his squad car that looked freshly cleaned and waxed as it glistened in the shimmering sunlight.
Hands on the wheel at 10 and 2, Robert’s hands tapped with the rhythm of war drums from a far-away land that he had never even thought of once in his life. He stared straight ahead as best he could, watching the clouds roll over the world in front of him. The cop was probably far enough away that he was safe. Both Robert and the cop were safe. With a sigh and a stretch he eased his head back to look into the rear-view mirror at a towering juggernaut with black armor walking toward him.
His hands fumbled clumsily for the keys and they flew up into his beard and got tangled in the wiry hair that he was still not used to. Swears turned to pleas for mercy as he finally just ripped the keys out, taking a chunk of hair and skin from his horrified face. Blood trickled down from his chin as he shakily put the keys in the ignition, the car growling instantly with desperate fury. As he peeled away, throwing up gravel and dust, he stared at this new creature. Towering and slow, the armor was shining shadows, absorbing light and yet glistening like folded steel. It came to a stop and stood with its freakishly long arms crossed, the sharpened smile so familiar to Robert now adorned the black space that was its face. Tires gripped the pavement and pulled Robert away, and he looked again at the monster. It pointed now in front of his truck, and he followed its gaze to a billboard that read:
He slammed his fist on the wheel in rage. Tears welled up in his eyes as he fought off accepting the truth of his situation. The roads were familiar now. He was almost home, where his wife waited patiently to find out what happened to her husband. She must be either terribly scared or terribly angry, and Robert felt terrible to be the cause of either. The truck roared down the road, going around one curve on what felt like two wheels. The air whipped into the cab through the open windows, flicking drops of blood from his chin onto the windshield and all over the place. A red, macabre version of Jackson Pollock’s work. The wind smelled impossibly fresh, the rain’s scent still strong from the night before, mingling in along with the growing sound of sirens behind him. The cop car began to pull itself closer to him, and Robert glanced to try and catch a glimpse of the demon, but it was the policeman again behind the wheel. He was probably oblivious that Robert was fleeing because he had turned into an armored hell spawn moments before, with arms that dragged the pavement and threw sparks with each step.
The policeman pulled the cruiser up close to the truck’s bumper, and nudged it. At the speeds they were going it caused Robert to nearly crash, a horrifying lurch to the right and then straight again let him have a moment of relief. Robert had almost over-corrected, nervous and exhausted as he was. Even in this situation, with tons of steel and fire rushing down the road – trees whipping by – the roar of the engine was more like a hum trying to coax him into sleep. The cop was gaining again, and moved to try and hit the side of Robert’s truck inside of the next curve on the right. A near-miss that could have been the end, Robert looked to see a familiar block up ahead, he was so close to home now!
An amazing tree stood towering on the corner of his street, a tree that his son had played under all those years before with the neighbor boys who were also grown now, working and living somewhere else in this universe. As he began to slow and turn the corner, he could almost see the shadows of the life that he was racing back to: a football spiraling slowly through the summer air into the hands of a laughing child as the smell of slightly burnt hamburgers danced into their noses.
The cop almost caught his bumper again during the turn, but the maneuver was unnecessary. Robert had taken the corner too quickly and over corrected, causing him to fishtail down his street. The truck finally caught traction, but the angle of it threw his truck onto his next-door neighbor’s yard and into their apple tree with an immense thundering. The windshield shattered and rained glass onto Robert’s head as it slammed into the steering wheel, and it was only through sheer will that he remained conscious. Pain burned red hot throughout his body, pulsing. The sun even seemed to pulse in tandem, high in the sky.
Steam poured from the crumpled hood of the truck, and the crash lured neighbors to their windows to investigate the normally quiet suburb. Sirens began to drone louder as he unbuckled his seat belt, and collapsed from the car in an exhausted heap. His head hung low and he stared at the grass, vibrantly green and pulsing with detail in rhythm with his pain. Blood trickled down his face and dripped slowly onto the ground, and he forced his head up to look at his house. His wife’s car was in the driveway, and his heart nearly exploded with joy. Tears welled up as he staggered to his feet, clutching ribs that felt broken.
Only… a few steps…
He shuffled and kept staring at his house, at the windows and the door. He knew in only a moment or two his wife would look out and see him like he had never been before. A fear blossomed inside of him. A fear that he would be a stranger to her like this, unrecognizable with the blood and the beard. The suit that was once so fresh was sticking to him with sweat, and covered in stains.
A few… more steps…
A ringing in his ears began, and it drowned out the sounds growing around him: The shouts of policemen drawing their guns and telling him to get on the ground, the screams of housewives running back inside their homes. But the wind blowing through the trees remained clear. The calming rustle of leaves against each other, and the whispers of molecules winding their way through the branches. The only other sound that was just as clear to Robert was the familiar moan of his front door that always creaked no matter how he oiled it. A former source of frustration coaxed the tears of joy to flow harder. The front door was opening, and his beautiful wife came out. Her long, black hair flowed over one shoulder, and she stared at him in disbelief. She recognized him! But the recognition was tainted with something else. Something familiar to him now after the last few days.
She turned and went back into the house, covering her mouth with one hand. The door stayed ajar. Robert was exhausted, and he collapsed onto the grass and pain exploded in his chest from shattered ribs. He used his entire strength to look up at his home, the one that he had fallen in love and raised his family in. He looked, and he saw himself standing in the doorway. Clean cut, wearing a fresh new suit tailored to fit. A black suit with a black shirt and tie. The Robert in the doorway smiled at him, with a horrible malevolence. The smile of a sadist. The Robert in the grass collapsed, and had no strength to lift his head more, so that his view of his doppelganger was sideways and distorted. Robert could feel his hands clench into fists and his teeth grind together as the other Robert smiled and turned his head to match the angle of the true Robert. The fake mouthed three words as the tunnel vision grew and unconsciousness gripped the real Robert:
“We are everywhere.”
The lock turned on the wooden door as the rain began to fade. A dull roar reduced to a whisper. Stepping away, he tried to control his heart’s violent thumping against his ribs, aching with each breath. The door pushed open with horrifying slowness, opened just wide enough for the man’s words to come into the room.
“Maintenance? Maintenance. Sorry for coming so early but… uhhh… the water is out. Still… uh… trying to find the problem” He trailed off awkwardly. “Are you awake, mister?” The door opened a bit wider so that the top of his head could poke in and look at Robert, who had just finished rumpling the bed to make it seem slept in. Like a bed should be when one has paid for a hotel stay.
“Yes, I’m awake now” Robert dourly spat at the handyman. Exhaustion had whittled away at his typically affable demeanor, exposing the irritable asshole that lives within us all. “Hurry with whatever you need to do.” The man paused in the doorway after sliding in, looking around the room sleepily. Robert watched this with vexation and repeated: “Hurry.”
“Fine, fine, jeez. Sorry. I’m still half in bed. I’ll get out of your hair as soon as I can, buddy.”
Robert was filled with a subtle fear. However, the bile of irritability was thick in the sea of his emotions and he could not help but think:
I’m not your God-damned “buddy”, guy.
Taking his tool kit along with a new found irritability that Robert gave him, the handyman moved past Robert’s grim face and crossed arms without a glance. Getting into the bathroom, he had a passing thought about how bad moods spread quicker than the common cold. Facing away, Robert looked through a crack in the curtains at sunlight finding its way into a new day. Warmth. A distinct pleasure spread into Robert’s bones. But it did not last. Relief was fleeting, as that familiar tingle of ice wormed into his body. He knew he could not stay here with the man so close by. It was only a matter of time until the shadows grew a horrible cloud in the space around the stranger, an impossible geometry of spiraling ink that spread its tendrils around whomever it needed to use to get to Robert. The word’s of his old friend, who had been consumed by a skillful demon right before his eyes without him even noticing, crept into his thoughts again.
“We are everywhere.”
Robert James felt his stomach writhe hungrily within his gut, searching for food that wasn’t there. He decided to leave without a word to the man who’s face he had already forgotten. Besides, the room seemed like it was growing colder already. Darker, even. Jingling on the end table, the room key barely came to a rest when the door slammed satisfyingly shut behind Robert and he walked out into the breezeway. The ground was slick with a rain that now was being pushed away by the warm eastern zephyr of the rising sun.
He stood for a moment looking at the parking lot, as steam began to twist off of the gray asphalt, curling between a few cars that braved the storm from the night before. One in particular caught his eye, a dark blue sedan with a white top. and white-walled tires. A real looker of a vehicle. Robert gave a long and admiring gaze at that car, as the sun almost made it glow with an aura. One imperfection caught his eye though. A cluster of thin parallel lines ran along the length of the car; a light color against the dark blue. Like scratches in the paint. From claws of onyx.
His stomach groaned again and he turned to the diner, which was surprisingly open at this early hour. Eggs and coffee and bacon wafted into the warming air, and Robert walked in again to see the same bubbly brunette with the shining smile.
“Good mornin’ mister! What can we get for you?”
“Cupocoffee” Robert mumbled, with a weak smile as he looked around him at the counter. Mostly clean, a few big stains that surely had been scrubbed hundreds of times to no avail. The main faded hue was a sad-looking tan. It was a shame, Robert mused, when a business either doesn’t care or can’t afford to keep up appearances. Glancing at the mostly empty restaurant, his eyes found a sight when they came upon an aged man with a shock of white hair on his head and a long white beard; An over-sized, worn and torn brown jacket covered his broad body. Blue eyes staring right at him. Robert sat up with a start as he stared back at the frozen eyes staring ice through him. Into him. A blink and the man had vanished.
Robert whipped his head around at the waitress, who was grabbing creamer from underneath the counter. She obviously didn’t see what happened, and he asked:
“MISS! Who was the man sitting in the corner over there, just a moment ago?!” She stood up quickly in surprise and looked at Robert’s wild eyes and tired face.
“Man? Which man?” She pondered, putting a finger to her chin and looking around the place. “Him?” Robert turned to look at a different man, a much younger one who was clean shaven and was actually Jim from the repair shop, face down gobbling up a plate of eggs and hash browns with a ridiculous amount of ketchup. It was as if he actually added hash browns to a plate of ketchup, instead of the converse. Strange. Robert turned and shook his head, sipping carefully the cupocoffee that the nice young lady gave him. She apologized for her memory and shrugged, going about her duties. He gulped the hot liquid down painfully, a fire brewing in an empty stomach, and he realized he should eat something too.
“Miss, sorry, but could I also have a bagel with cream cheese?” He said sheepishly. Jim had paid and waved as he stood to leave. The waitress went to prepare the modest breakfast and Jim walked over.
“Hey, R.J.! Should have gotten the eggs scrambled with onions and peppers! Real good here. Anyway, that starter of yours should be coming any time now, them boys out west get up earlier than me!” He gave Robert a pat on the back, and they smiled at each other.
“Great! Thanks again for helping me out, Jim. I’ll be around here somewhere, maybe I’ll find a nice spot in the shade to slee — er — sit in… for a while.” Robert’s eyes were still heavier than anything he had ever lifted before. Despite the coffee. It takes a while to kick in, really. A bagel magically appeared before Robert, along with a smiling waitress telling him to enjoy it. It quickly began to vanish as Jim disappeared out the door and into the waiting day. It was going to be a big one for Robert, and one filled with mystery. The darkness waited for him out there, in the hot sunlight.
It hid between molecules within the air, hoping to snare him around the throat and whisk him into itself. Pushing the empty plate away and putting money on the counter, Robert thought of the darkness as a horrible, amorphous mass of squirming serpentine shadows, red eyes appearing and disappearing all over the quivering horror. It grew, and pulsed. The air swirled colder inside the diner, the curls of the young woman’s hair suddenly appeared darker under the fluorescent light that flickered above. She was wiping the counter, and Robert stood to leave with his eyes locked on her as she suddenly froze during her cleaning rhythm. He whirled around to leave, thinking that he saw her eyes flick up at him as he turned. The door was heavy as he pushed his way out, and he turned to his right walking along the side of the restaurant. As he walked past the last booth that was by the window, he turned to look in at a single coffee cup resting on a barren table. The place where that strange man sat, eyes blazing cold fire into Robert’s mind. Some strange sense of… urgency? Staring from the corner of his eye was a new gaze. He looked over his shoulder as he walked away, the waitress stoically stared after him as Robert fled from her sight.
He trotted a fair ways behind the diner, the dirt giving way to taller grass and the trees stretching to the sky. The shade was still a bit wet from the night before, but not as hot as the sunlight.
This will be a good place to wait.
The waitress never emerged from the restaurant. The imagination plays terrible tricks on a tired mind. But the coffee cup… That stood out to Robert. The bubbly young lady said that she did not remember, but how do you forget someone as distinct-looking as he was? And how did he vanish? He thought hard about what he saw, and he rushed back into the restaurant. There was a napkin there, by the mug. Something was written on it. His feet flew over the ground and into the diner again, breathing hard he moved to the booth where the waitress was finishing cleaning up. The napkin was on the tray behind her, resting on a table while she worked. He took it and read it to himself. The short chortle of disbelief came from his mouth, and he crumpled it up and threw it back down.
“Dream to escape.”
Tell me something I don’t know. Waste of — wait.
The man had vanished into thin air like demons had. And had an obvious interest in him. Who was this man? He left something behind – a message – to reach out to Robert James… What could this mean? Why did he stare so coldly, with such ice? Robert shivered as the shade of the trees fell over him once again. He stood with his back to one, and crossing his arms he looked at Jim’s place. This would be a good place to wait. Clouds slowly wafted overhead as the sun continued its march higher into the blue sky, a grand illusion.
It wasn’t long before a truck rumbled into the parking lot of Jim’s. Robert stared as the dust cloud that once trailed behind the hauler now filled the air around it coming to a rest. One man hopped out of the large truck while the other stayed inside with it idling. Jim came out to meet them, a handshake and a smile produced a signature on a clipboard and a wave goodbye. A sequence of actions as old as commerce. Starting slowly, the giant truck lurched forward and gained speed away from this glimpse of a town. Jim was unaware that Robert stared from afar as he rolled his tool box out by Robert’s new truck. The starter is easy enough to replace, since he was done faster than Robert expected. 30 more minutes in the shade alone was almost therapeutic to him; the air idling between trees and leaves was clean tasting and invigorated his spirits. The long walk across the grass made him think of childhood gambits as a knight, cardboard shield poised to defend. His eyes were achingly tired and Robert had to consciously focus on holding them open sometimes, but he now felt a kindling of small fire within his soul. He was this much closer to his wife, and he knew that he had no idea how to protect her, but maybe he could keep her safe somehow. Move her around from town to town, give her a bit of excitement. He stifled a chuckle and began to walk inside of Jim’s cluttered office, greasy footprints lining the concrete floor.
“Hey! Thanks again, Jim.” Robert shook Jim’s hand as he rose to greet him.
“No problem at all, R.J.! Be safe out there!”
“You too!” The door shut behind Robert and he nearly sprinted to the black truck. It was pretty clean on the inside, despite some usual wear and tear. The engine started and he rolled out back onto the road, pulling the motor for all that it was worth. A new exhilaration found its way into his body, forcing a smile of clenched teeth to appear. The highway stretched itself before him again, and he flew down it toward his home, to his great love. He had to get back and he knew he would finally be where he belonged. To the woman who – for whatever strange reason – accepted him. Loved him. Believed in him and supported him for no reason other than love. He could never repay her for all the support she gave. He had once found her platitudes about finding a new job obnoxious and annoying, but he knew she was doing all she could to support him through his overwhelming depression. Love. They say it makes the world go around, and that may be true. But love undoubtedly was the reason for Robert’s life.
Someone once said that we live life in the pursuit of beauty, and all else is just a form of waiting. Robert knew all those years ago, when he fell in love with her, that he did not have to wait ever again. Not as long as she was there by his side. The fire burned strong in his soul again, like it did when he was a younger man under the stars on a beach at night. The truck barreled down the road, passing cars fast and pulling the world underneath it. A billboard stretched out on the right up ahead, and Robert stared with disbelief. Alone, framed by a piercing clean white, were black letters that read:
Fury forced the truck faster down the road, and soon he passed another billboard, reading:
His chest was burning with tingles of love that quickly caved to the overwhelming fear. A fear that comes from facing a universe filled with a vile darkness permeating the physical world with its evil will. A darkness that defies logic and reason, a darkness with intelligence. A darkness that has hunted Robert. Stalked him. Anger brewed again. The anger of being toyed with by something beyond your control. Imagine being an ant that is being fried by the magnifying glass of a horned demon-child with the shadowy cheshire smile of madness. A siren came up from behind him along with the red and blue flashes of a police officer. He was being pulled over, and looking in the rear-view mirror he saw red eyes and fangs that stretched over darkness. A blue hat rested on its head. A blink and a glance brought a normal human into frame, motioning to him to pull over. Robert’s hands gripped the wheel and he squeezed them as hard as he could, knuckles growing whiter with each passing moment.
Alone and writhing in the obsidian emptiness of space, Robert James strained to breathe. The vacuum of darkness pulled at his lungs with furious persistence. His lungs burned for oxygen and his mind screamed:
PLEASE GOD LET ME WAKE U–
Eyes opened to what looked like some dark corridor with holes dotting the walls and ceiling, light poking through them all into the dusty gallery. Robert could hear whispers echoing from every direction, the languages twisting between each other like tangles of smoke. Forgotten tongues blended with the arcane, and they all reached into his mind with each opaque syllable. Inhuman laughter let loose, laughing at him. His hands clutched at his ears to stifle the sounds, but they crept from within his skull. Heart heavily thumping a primal rhythm to accompany the intoxicating multitude of forbidden sounds driving him unceasingly to madness and he felt a scream begin to erupt from his mouth –
He was staring at an old ceiling, a brown-green-black blotched work of shitty abstract art. Heat filled the dry air as an ancient ceiling fan lazily rotated above him with infuriating slowness, creaking.
This is not my house… This isn’t even the place where I fell asleep…
He sat up to look at an obviously abandoned and ancient hotel room, completely dilapidated and… plain nasty. There were some big black bugs on the rotting dresser, and a dirty grey rat sitting propped up in the corner… Relaxing?
Oh… The dream. Right. Time to wake up.
Robert pinched himself as hard as he could and twisted a large fold of flesh on his forearm with all of his might, digging his nails in with extra force he summoned with desperation.
A desperation that comes from fighting a descent into psychosis.
Blood spotted on his arm. It continued to ache as he waited to wake, and he noticed the amount of dust and sand covering the floor. The mattress he was on, more a pile of springs and cloth, creaked with his standing up. The corner-rat scampered off into some hole, leaving Robert alone with his confusion. Shoes gritting the sand he walked to the window, covered by blinds that seemed dozens of years his elder.
“Might as well see where I am…” R.J. whispered into the musty air. Droves of dust flecks that were dancing slowly in the strips of light became erratic with this sudden gust. The pane of the window was covered in grime and he wiped it away with the sleeve of his suit, a dry cough escaping his mouth.
Robert James looked out upon a desert scene, sand dunes reaching to the horizon, the area near the old hotel could only be recognized as a former parking lot by the tops of cars peeking out of the drifts. The place was apparently named “Hotel Kansas”, as the sign sticking out of a golden heap read.
Looks more like the Sahara than Kansas. What happened here?
Robert ripped the hotel room door open after it stuck for a moment and it flew open abruptly. Sand spilled into his shoes from the mound that had blown up against the remnants of the building.
“Great.” He stepped outside, crunched up a hill, and looked around with eyes reaching for the blurred horizon: there were no other ruins in sight. He strained his eyes to the distance where motion glimmered through waves of heat rising off of the sand. The sun was beating down on a mass exodus of people.
Where are these people going? Why are they here?
Robert’s curiosity suspended his disbelief, and questions flooded his mind. He slid-walked down the dune he was on, and hiked carefully up the next one. His feet slipping down with each step, laboring to climb what seemed to be a disintegrating hill. Reaching the top, he crouched to hide his profile from the crowd and looked on. Hundreds of dusty people with down-turned faces slunk in huddled masses, all lurching toward some unknown refuge off to the empty horizon to his right.
As R.J. looked closer, he could see that there were military personnel urging the people forward, his ears catching the echos of men speaking to the crowd in a mix of English, Spanish… Chinese? Further ahead of the crowd, Robert saw a small detachment of desert fatigues talking together on a crest of a dune, pointing farther to R.J.’s right. He followed their gaze, and saw a massive wall of sand hanging on the horizon. It was so colossal it seemed to be still, but they all knew it was moving. Quickly too.
The men slid back toward the main group in a tumbling rush, and met with the other soldiers. They all seemed skittish, pitching glances around. One pointed in Roberts direction, and he felt the icy hand of a chill brush down his back. They dispersed and herded the crowd slowly toward where R.J. was. The sandstorm was closer now, the people were moving along faster with the soldiers trotting beside them. A baby’s cry carried over the sand and through the shimmering heat, wailing forcefully.
Robert stood and looked up again to see the storm, now noticing flashes of lightning within, and in the blink of an eye it seemed to change the direction it was heading, turning now toward him. The icy hand cemented its grip around R.J.’s heart.
Why can’t I wake up Jesus God please let me wake up I want to go home to my wife an–
A hollow, mechanical drone violently filled the air, echoing into the expanse like a foghorn. It was distinctly artificial, and loud enough so that R.J. was forced to cover his ears, but the vibration was so low and loud that he could still hear it no matter how hard he pushed his hands against his head. Sand slipped in tiny avalanches on the dunes all around him. The bones in his body shook, and he couldn’t tell if it was from the sound or the fear. The horrible tone lasted for a full minute.
The people all stopped silently in a valley between dunes, for just a moment, and looked around. The soldiers frantically urged them to continue, each holding a gun in one hand while windmilling their other arm fervently. As they saw the sand storm crash over the hills around them, spilling over them, they broke into a frightened sprint.
The baby continued to cry, but was cut off by another drone. Robert felt that the sound sounded ancient, somehow. Primeval. The sandstorm ceased along with the hellish tone, and there was a second of false silence as his ears rang. The chilling screams of the forsaken filled the air, drowning out the cries of the child. Robert beheld something which defied logic, and his eyes locked with horror on something that should never be able to exist.
A silver serpentine behemoth looked down at the crowd, and towered above the landscape. Sand fell from it as the harsh sun reflected off of chrome and it made a series of sounds: Horrifying whirrs from unseen gears, disgusting clicks from a gaping maw where dozens of cold steel mandibles slammed together in hungry anticipation. Hundreds of bright red eyes covered what could only be its head, flashing and darting in all directions. Robert fell to his knees in terror, as he watched the extermination of his species.
The mechanical colossus curled, lowering itself to the sea of humans trying to escape. Arms appeared, like titanic scythes, and began to slice into the crowd with the quick, efficient strokes of a skilled surgeon. The dunes surrounding were painted with splatters of red, turning the sand dark like mud. Sparks erupted all over the monster’s body as the soldiers began to fight back in vain. Robert cowered as bodies were tossed like insects into the air, the air whooshing around him with each methodical pass. Blood flecked across his face as a lone officer shouldered a rocket launcher and looked up to fire, hands shaking. The fear forced his aim to land only a glancing blow off what must be the being’s torso. It turned to focus its ancient gaze on the mortal, and another drone echoed out, freezing the rest of the humans where they stood.
An all-too-brief moment passed, and with strange intelligence, the thing leaned down further. The baby had survived somehow and was crying again into the macabre silence. A tumultuous sound creaked from the silver horror and its body opened to allow mechanical tendrils to spread from within. They reached, spreading around the baby to cradle it carefully and bring it back inside. Its desperate mothers’ arms were outstretched instinctively as the steel mountain confirmed the child was tucked safely within the darkness of its frame. With stoic professionalism, the carnage began with a new sincerity. Robert turned down the dune he was on to run somewhere, anywhere but here.
Silence. A gunshot, a loud thump of a muffled blow against the sand which peppered the back of Robert’s neck. Overwhelming silence. His feet scrunched the ground. There was nowhere to escape, nowhere to go. He was not sure if he could die anymore, but if he could he did not want to go like this.
My wife has no idea what is happening to me. How long have I been out? Am I even alive anymore? I want to go home…
The ground rumbled and he looked back, against his better judgement. Through tears of fear he caught a glimpse of shining silver as it slithered back into the dunes, whispers of sand moving and becoming louder, taunting him. It was coming for him now. It knew.
He looked down at the roofs of cars just under the sand in this desert of a parking lot. Roberts mind sparked with some understanding now, he had to go to sleep, and fast. He had to get back home, back to his wife and his life – however bleak he thought his existence to be, it was worlds better than where he was now. Worlds. His mind filled with thoughts, images, feelings of his wife. Her long, black hair. Those big, dark eyes. The beach at night when he proposed. He forced his mind to fill with only thoughts of her.
Dream to escape. Escape to dream.
Robert James jumped as high as he could for the first time in over ten years. As he guided his body, a fraction of a second he wondered if he had died and this was his hell. His hands clasped behind him as he flew head first toward the roof of a rusted car. His wife’s face filled his mind’s eye.
To die, to sleep.
Perchance to dream.
The scratching all around the cabin was much louder now, echoing off of the wooden walls inside. Curious sounding clicks, squeaks, and trills rode the cold air through the space between the front door and its frame – sounds that could be considered cute if you didn’t know the source. Continue reading