“Stand Down” Week 100 – STAND DOWN 100
Jordan and Jordan stood facing each-other in the hallway just outside the long-dead mayor’s office. The lights flickered, almost imperceptibly.
One Jordan stood on his own two legs, tall and proud and smiling, though to say he was shabbily dressed would be a dire understatement.
The other sat planted, much as he’d writhe against it, in a wheelchair. Dressed in mostly-clean garb of the civilized world long gone– and wearing no smile.
This was another of those weird fucking clonethings, like Kratos. But, this one’s got no weapon, the legless Jordan thought. And so, he didn’t fire on his clone. For a moment, there was only the sound of Scott’s little errand-boy, past a corner, gasping and weeping at his cut.
Then, bone-shard ornaments shaking on his chest with nigh-breathless chuckling, and a crooked, mocking finger directed at the chairbound’s predicament, the standing Jordan mouthed “Seriously?” Chair-Jordan’s temper rose.
He fired. Both jets of destroyer acid directed straight at that fuck-cunt’s knees– see how he likes it.
And just then, the earth split.
It was no growing rumble, and eventual shake. It was all at once, like a gunshot– the floor rent up right in front of Jordan’s smug-faced mirror, the concrete, piping and earth beneath the tile eating both Scorcho-streams.
Then, the shocks hit, following the rent like the ripples behind a speed-swimmer. Somewhere, windows shattered. Lights fell or shorted. Jordan’s chair took him into a wall. Somewhere, Kratos screamed.
And amidst it all, Jordan heard himself– his other self– yelling, as if with great fury.
Though in truth, it was but the buildup to a terrible, sharp laughter. Grating on the ears like that of a pack of rabid, starving hyenas.
The spirit Jordan saw rising behind his double sent a tingle up his spine– it dwarfed Scorched ‘El twice over, and filled the hall with a tooth-chattering chill.
It cast a pale light over the two, and Jordan saw the spit flying from Jordan’s cackling mouth, and Jordan saw the fear in Jordan’s eyes.
Little would our less-deranged Shearer ever know this, but the menace currently frosting his bones had been named “Continental Drift”.
Somewhere, amidst all the rumbling, Scott Damian Shearer heard his brother cackling. It was the same rumbling, the same raucous laughter he’d wake up to, when Jordan got tired of whatever populus center they’d chosen to parasite off.
Scott turned, scanned the interior of the office space. Lavish. A scrawnier, cleaner, more shaven version of himself stood about the room’s corner. Some small girl hunkered cowering behind him.
He thought he’d like to wring her pretty neck.
He locked it in.
Scott saw a simile of himself; one that had been through hell. Worse, was the thing bowing at his side. It had been named Lost Religion, though he’d never wish to know.
He was nearly out of time– he wound Signed On For A Sequel’s tape back–
Or, tried to. Usually, there was a feeling of his stomach lurching– now, there was just a dull popping sound by his forehead, and hot pain and blood dribbling down over his nose.
He tried again, as the burlier him started walking at them. Another pop. He nearly blacked out on the spot.
Jocelyn could see Signed On For A Sequel, floating above him, spasming inhumanly– its tape burning, in that manner only film tape can.
Scott pulled Jocelyn to the door, pushing it to find it blocked. Through the frame’s window he saw that a heap of raised floor had it blocked at the other side.
Something this younger-seeming Warren couldn’t know was what Lost Religion had done. No timeline could be followed now, save those that met the prerequisite “features Scott Damian Shearer wringing this specific girl’s neck until she dies”. The little bastard, ghost-creature or no, couldn’t do anything to prevent it. Not even he, himself, could stop this if he wanted to.
But he didn’t want to stop, of course.
The smaller Scott came at him, a large shard of broken window in hand. He was going for the head. Scott grabbed his wrists in the midst of the clumsy swing and took the stab instead into his shoulder. He fed him a headbutt, floored him, and with his superior bulk took all the wind from his soul with a swiftly-placed stomach-stomp.
The girl screamed, as girls do. He didn’t so much like that part. A good way to quiet all that noise, and still all that kicking was, however, in his grasp—
The apocalyptic Shearer really felt he was going unhinged– this was just too much. The other Jordan had been at the wrong corner of a follow-up tremor, and found his wheelchair knocked over. Apoco-Shearer’s lungs hurt from laughter, and tears nearly welled with thankfulness that he’d never come so low.
He would’ve laughed even harder, if he could, when he saw the seething anger in the cripple’s eyes, locked with his whenever the mania allowed them open.
But then, he felt the hilarity sputter and fade, as the boy did something he didn’t like so much.
He began to stand. That brittle-looking steel-and-corncrust spirit overlaid itself with him at the knee, and he picked himself up. He took a loose brick from the wall. Still, his eyes lay fixed on Apoco-Shearer’s.
“You’ll be crushed to death vertically now, good for you.” He thought. Continental Drift, at his back, raised its arms and brought them hard, “palms”-down into the floor. Tile shattered, and unique, anomalous wavelengths manipulated Canada’s very subdermal crust.
The vibrations returned at precisely the spot Apoco-Shearer desired, empowered by the titanic movement of the country’s plates–concrete splintered, then wood, then floor, then the very air as the crashing reached deafening intensity.
The cripple, however, was not there.
No, he’d kicked off from the very ground, and his spirit had fired its acid-beams aneath them to fire him bodily at his double– then, as he went, it fired again– a whirlpooling spiral that made him into an airborne spinning top–!
He came at Apoco-Shearer all too quickly, driving the rock straight into a cheekbone.
Jordan landed, still turning on the spot when he stood– these legs hurt– they weren’t familiar, and now he was dizzy like after a fifth shot.
The primitivist him at his feet had half his face caved in. It felt weird, having done that to himself– more than just the stinging in his hand.
“Dude, suicide is never the answer.” Not-Zain told him.
Meanwhile, Scott watched helplessly, desperately trying to exhort a breath back into his lungs, as the postapocalyptic version of him choked Jocelyn to death. He saw her throat wrinkle like old leather under the beast’s tight grip.
With a fleeting thought, he threw Signed On For A Sequel at the bastard. The spiritmass of film tape, smoking and sparking at the edges, wailed inhumanly as it whipped and whirred.
The film-whips slapped and cut into Apoco-Warren’s back, leaving his already raggedy clothing tattered, and his flesh like that of a flagellant; then, amidst the reel of violence that hefty shadow appeared again. It reared back and slugged Signed On For A Sequel’s main body with a pyramidal lance-shape of a hand, pulling and exploding the spirit’s wrapped form into spread tangles.
Scott felt every bit of the blow. It was like a table had been fired mach ten into his ribside, corner first. He wanted to spasm, but his body had gone limp with that of Signed On For A Sequel, still grotesquely sent about the ground.
That was that dealt with, Apoco-Warren thought– now he could properly enjoy this girl’s final moments.
It was not to be, though– just then, a brick came hurtling through the room’s door-window, shortly being followed by a thick, jet-hose stream of screaming maroon liquid. It impacted his shoulder, burning the entire thing away, his arm falling clumsily off, girl’s neck still in hand.
He shrieked– never mind whatever that fucking beam was, he thought as he leapt behind a desk for cover, but that was supposed to be his moment. He had it locked in that he would strangle that girl to death, so how—
He let himself fall, and peeked past the desk’s low bottom. The girl was entirely still, her neck bent slightly at a strange angle. Ah. He‘d killed her already. Snapped her neck in all the excitement. Shame.
Those were his last thoughts before he passed out from the acid-pain.
Jordan finagled the office-door open, past the jutting rock blocking it, being careful to avoid the puddles of decaying matter he’d left. Scott was on the room’s floor, struggling to rise, a pace from Jocelyn. Her neck was bent and her skin was flushed an odd shade. Jordan had, mournably, seen this relatively recently– she was dead, from asphyxiation. “Shame,” Not-Zain said over his shoulder at her, as Jordan hefted Scott over his. “But what was she gonna do, snap a picture of th’ guy behind you?”
Jordan whirled just in time to see his Apocolyptic twin diving at him, broken face contorted further as he screeched his hatred– his hulking, iced-over spirit preceding him. Before Jordan could even summon Scorched ‘El, Continental Drift’s gavel-esque limbs crushed his skull into paste– sending it flying about the room in sloshes and shards as the spirit generated localized quakes in the remains between its hands.
Scott clenched his teeth, as Jordan fell and he went with him– and tried again to re-wind.
Jordan finagled the office-door open, past the jutting rock blocking it, being careful to avoid the puddles of decaying matter he’d left. Scott was on the room’s floor, struggling to rise, a pace from Jocelyn. Her neck was bent and her skin was flushed an odd shade. Jordan had, mournably, seen this relatively recently– she was dead, from asphyxiation. “Shame,” Not-Zain said over his shoulder at her, as Jordan hefted Scott over his.
“Behind you!” Scott croaked with a half-breath.
Jordan whipped, corn-shell knees protesting crunchily, and caught his twin point-blank with a double-stream of Scorcho Sauce. He let Scorched ‘El’s legs de-manifest as he fell himself backwards, bringing he and Scott just low enough to avoid the acid-drowned mass that Apoco-Shearer and Continental Drift soared over them as.
They landed behind a desk on the far wall, and Jordan and Scott watched as the bulkier Warren yelped, as if suddenly woken by a great pain– Apoco-Shearer had landed on him, his spirit dissolving into nothing and him along with it– the acid having splashed all over Warren’s ruined shirt. He tried desperately to bat his brother away, to crawl over the desk, but Apoco-Shearer pulled him back, grabbing at him doggedly as his face melted away to bone, and his eyes slewed out of the head like slugs. Boiling fingers raked Apoco-Warren’s face, melting and fusing his nostrils and lips shut, and removing his chin almost entirely. With his one still-open eye, Apoco-Warren looked at their non-apocalyptic counterparts. The screams he couldn’t issue with his mouth, he issued with a glare, and he summoned the hulking, melting Lost Religion. He locked in a new future; one where both of those men suffered excruciating deaths.
Jordan fired another ray into the roiling thing’s chest, and finally it discorporated, and every human feature disappeared in slop beneath the Scorcho-Sauce.
Slowly, the rumbling about the building died. Jordan spent an overlong moment looking at Jocelyn’s corpse, but at Scott’s behest they made their way out to address the multitudinous screams about the hall.
Jordan clambered back into his wheelchair, cursing gently as he found the wheels had bent out of shape some. He noted that a pair of Scott’s helpers were assisting the fat kid, although they only seemed to regard him with standoffish fear.
He observed Scott moving and commanding with unnatural efficiency, as they went towards the front to assess the damages the quaking had wrought– was he doing the time thing? Jordan was about to inquire as to that, when Scott hissed to him that they’d soon find the cause of their whole ordeal at town hall’s front– just past the shattered doors. If Jordan went now, he could catch the bastard by surprise.
Geoul stood just a few feet from the building’s entrance. The destruction wasn’t complete– only a portion of the roof had collapsed. It was just when he was looking up, to appreciate the dust-cloud the breakage had coughed up like a second chimney, that the chair came crashing through the doors.
He caught the empty wheelchair before it struck him– what he couldn’t catch was the jetstream of maroon magma, coming from somewhere past the door. It took his face, leaving him in pain for but seconds before every nerve-center in his head shorted, the entire mass melting to slag and off the bone, leaving him a skull-headed scarecrow before he fell.
But in the seconds after the mind-blinding pain subsided, and before his death came, Geoul’s mind forced up one last thing.
A tornado raged far, far in the distance, but its winds could still be felt. Oakville’s gales had been picking up for a while, now.
Jordan and Scott stepped outside, observing Scorched El’s handiwork. Scott recoiled from the body quicker than Jor did. It seemed the Warren’d finally hit his limit.
As Scott explained, then, he’d run their walk up to this guy over multiple times with Signed On For A Sequel. In a couple cases he’d gotten to question the prick– he’d never been too resistant to up and telling them that he’d made those evil copies. With that in mind, he’d concluded that this “Geoul” would be too dangerous left alive.
Yet again, though, they had something else to worry about. They were just about to head inside when they heard loud honking and clashing steel, as well as the roar of multiple, large engines– all of which sounded as if they could only be coming from large trucks.
Sure enough, they soon spotted a pair of school-buses, careening down the street on both lanes– they spat sparks from between them as they went, pressing into eachother the whole way.
Soon, they wrenched themselves off the street and towards the building– they went by no sensible route, but drove over the roadline, passing sidewalk, and descending with a crash down the grassy slope into the parking lot before the building’s front. Scott and Jordan heard yelling and screaming from within the vehicles, and saw their drivers; children. Each one sporting wide eyes and blood-stained clothing, their faces twisted in ecstatic screaming. Even as their vehicles’ wheels screeched in protest following the descent, they continued, bulldozing through cars and semis, and trashing tents underneath.
“Oh my fucking god, what is it with today,” Jordan sneered, a vein popping on his forehead.
“C’mon, quick back inside–” he faltered, as he abandoned his wheelchair for Scorched ‘El’s legs–
And, getting no response, even in the sound of footfalls next to his, looked about for Scott. He’d been right there, next to him.
Screw it– he was probably inside already. Jordan picked up his sprint, and again faltered, nearly tripping on something–
Scott’s shoe. And, in it, his foot– stopping grodily, yet dry of blood, at the ankle.
Jordan had lost track of the buses screaming towards him. Where was the rest of him? Where was the rest of him?
Then, he saw it– an opalline shape, grotesque in its glistening, all too much like oiled latex. The thing was like a massive, eyeless lamprey, long and thick like a strained weather sock. It glared at Jordan with its toothed black hole of a mouth, from within the shrubbery just nearby, and out of the bus’ way.
Jordan could see shoelaces between those teeth.
As rabid children dove from the bus’ windows and doors, coming as it was to plough through Jordan and into the brick of the building, Jordan summoned Scorched ‘El. Jordan wasn’t even seeing the bus, or hearing the kids’ screams anymore when he had it fire two full-charge streams of sauce into the ground behind him, sending him flying up and over the creature. He didn’t even hear the crash of either bus as they rent through tremor-weakened steel and stone; the blood in his ears was roaring too loud.
He hung in the air above the lamprey for a half-second, before jetting himself straight down at it. Droplets of Scorcho pattered and sizzled on the bus’ roof. Jordan swiveled his arms just as he came within a few feet of the thing, firing one beam into the ground to balance his fall and another to drown the gaping thing in maroon.
The reversal-stream sent him back-first into the building’s wall, and when he steadied he saw to some shock that the thing was still standing– untouched, seemingly, by any burn, or sauce to begin with. The shock didn’t last long– he fired another two streams bluntly at the thing– and that was when he began to understand.
The thing’s teeth began to spin about the edges of its maw, as if its long gums were some inverted saw-machine– they spun so quickly that they disturbed the very air, and nigh-immediately, impossibly, manifested a vortex.
Jordan saw as the streams of deadly queso disappeared into the darkness of the thing’s far throat– it was all he could do, hooking his elbow into a broken windowsill, taking glass into his forearm, to avoid being dragged in as well. All sound disappeared. Branches broke off a tree overhead, without a single snap, and flew quickly in. Loose dirt, stones, leaves, bits of glass, a full toolbox– they all disappeared without even a clatter in protest. His ears popped painfully. He felt the windowsill begin to give, and fired Scorcho into the ground before him– feeling something in his arms pop as he used the counter-force to drag himself through the broken-open window-aperture.
Sound returned, and Jordan heard the scream of the rows of Scorcho boiling the grass and earth outside. He spared a glance back as he sprinted for the room’s door, to retreat further into town hall. He saw someone, a silhouette in the half-ruined tree above the lamprey-thing; a man, bulkier than the not-Scott and that copy-maker guy, combined.
Jordan slammed the door behind him, finding himself in a wide common-area– likely where the waiting room, and reception-desk had once been.
He made a check of his position; though some rubble strewed the floor, this spot seemed relatively intact. A window at the room’s far wall could take him to the building’s behind. Two doors– not including that which he’d entered through– trailed out into largely undamaged hallways. The reception-desk would make a fine cover-spot.
Jordan heard a crunching of glass from the door behind. Imagined the bulky fellow clambering his way in through the same window after him, the lamprey-thing in tow. He slung himself over the desk, but not before tossing a brick through the window, shattering it wide.
He examined the behemoth-man from beneath the desk. His footfalls were like what he thought the plod of elephant feet might sound. His heavy, wheezed breathing betrayed a nigh-inhumanly wide throat, being in a voice deeper than he’d ever heard.
The most striking thing was his body. It was large, yes, but only because it was horribly disproportioned, as could be easily seen in his nakedness– his shins and kneebones seemed to lean out and up from his calves, leaving them grotesquely taut. His elbows and arm-bones did the same. His torso was stretched to the point where tear-scars were fully visible, the rib-bones having opened wide as if to break free. Jordan could swear he saw the contour of some organ or other, pressed up against the stressed skin. His face bore heavy resemblance to the copy-maker, “Gyowl”, or whatever Scott had called him, but it was still horrifically misshapen all the same. His upper jaw was too wide for the lower, and his gums twisted and curled in all the wrong places, so that his open-jawed mouth seemed some abstract artpiece– with each tooth seeming a different type of glistening parasite. So the copy-guy had copied himself–and produced this evil version.
With bloodshot eyes the monster peered out the window, obviously searching for him– Jordan’s mislead-tactic had worked.
“All right, freak.” Jordan said as he rose, knees cracking, and both cannons aimed at the monster and his leech-fish spirit. “You’re gonna tell me where Scott is. Or what you did to him. And if you try anything, or I don’t like my answer, then you’re burning like you should’ve earlier.”
The monster heard Jordan, and didn’t move, save for his eyes. They bulged some, as he looked sidelong at his host, growling inhumanly.
Just then, a pair of kids crashed through one of the hallway doors– one, a rough looking beast of a child, scars all over his face, had a screaming nerd-kid by the ankle– both were on the floor, and every time the nerd tried desperately to rise or pull himself away he found himself pinned back to the ground by a deep stab of the former’s switchblade.
Jordan’s eyes flitted to the loud scene for but a moment, realising that those rabid kids were raiding town hall— and that one moment was all the monster needed. The lamprey-spirit nocked towards him, and before he could fire a shot the vacuum-vortex was in motion, deconstructing his only cover, and silencing out the screaming of the children.
Jordan yelled, no sound escaping his mouth. He kicked and flailed, all his handholds giving way and disappearing into the thing’s black hole of a stomach. He fired Scorched ‘El’s lava all about; but every drop of the stuff was drawn with alacrity into the dark aperture. Before he could touch those teeth, or that blackness, though, a rain of sharp sticks came pouring from the other hallway-door. Two struck the monster, large target as he was, and another narrowly missed Jordan.
A pack of rabid apocalypse-children, hefting yet more wood-stake javelins, came battering in, many dogpiling the beast-man, the vortex shutting as he roared in pain. Many more of them, though, came at Jordan– one of them aimed a crossbow, seeming taken straight out of a museum, and lanced a bolt into Jordan’s bicep. One, two, three more stabbed and batted at him with their wooden shanks, hooting and screaming in glee.
Seeing double, Jordan whipped an arm horizontally across the mob as he tumbled to the ground. Scorched ‘El followed, and they fell in heaps over eachother, wailing and seizuring and smoking.
Jordan picked himself up, clutching his bolted arm, and spared a look at the beast amidst its own melee; it had weathered its wounds well, and now it was lifting a child in the air. Its bestial roar gave a good few of the children pause.
Jordan whipped about– all the doors were filled with those insane kids, now– the window blocked by the giant.
He had Scorched ‘El drive its arms into the nearest wall, melting it through. He clambered through with all haste, ignoring what few drops of Scorcho hit his shirt, and kicking out at the knife aimed for his ass.
As he sprant through the halls, Jordan saw all too many times children killing children. More than once he himself had to dispatch one or two of the rabids, having forgotten with how goddamn monstrous they were that they were kids.
He didn’t stop to save anyone. After a time he stopped running, having forgotten why he was in the first place.
He couldn’t care less about these kids at the moment, but Scott— Scott must’ve been in that thing somewhere. Jordan had to burst it– or its master, that monster-guy– wide open.
But the thing could block his shots perfectly– it fucking ate them. Jordan would have to catch him by surprise. He’d done it before.
The sun began to set, setting the clouds on fire– pitching the sky into a peachy evening inferno.
Ganthor hurt. Sticks in arm. Fingers burning, hurts more. Shouldn’t have touched red stuff. Even badder, Ganthor mad now. Little shooter man got away. He break through wall. Dangerous. Need to kill first.
Little hicklings do what Ganthor says, because they scared of Ganthor. Because I break one of them over head. Because I wear their blood. They no see– shooter man kill more. They no see spirit do it, but Ganthor do.
Ganthor say “Go get shooter man.” They look dumb. Not move. Not get me. Feel madder.
Grab one, look sort of like him– but his face not thin nuff. Take mouth-bone and crunch so smaller.
“Go get this. He looks like this,”, I say, shaking broken-boy’s head, then some go and others follow. They get me. Soon you go away, shooter boy. Like curly-hair boy.
I stalk halls. Sniff air. Stretch and make my bones pop to scare annoying hicklings. Stay away from any more windows– no like. New world too bright– want go back. To dark and deep.
Hicklings come in big group, jumping up and down and hollering at me. They finded him.
Down the halls and down the halls and to a door to a room.
“In there, in there,” they whine.
Open door. Room messy, smelly. Like this smell better.
Hicklings all over floor. Melting away like slush of pollute-storm.
Ganthor see long windows on room sides. Room ruined. Get this over with.
See where shooter-boy must be. All tables and chairs stacked at room’s far end in stupid-looking fort. I big laugh when see he foot sticking out.
Here I come, shooter-shit– I call Necropolis, and it come out screeching. Angry and ready, like me. It breathe in hard, make thunder in air, chairs and table-bits flying into it mouth. It munchy crunch them away, back to home. I grab metal bits, full chair, out of spin-wind and throw them at windows.
Jesus H. Christ, that one almost hit me, Jordan thought, as a steel table-leg shattered through the window above him. From what he could see, though, his decoy had worked on the monster, just like it had all the smaller ones. The big retard was walking right up to that stack of chairs and tables, oblivious to the fact that Jordan wasn’t even in the room– that he was just outside it, laid in the grass aneath the sill of one of the low windows.
The way the light was, he could’ve just about watched him by his reflection in that window, but broken as it was, now, he’d have to settle for spying the monster’s gangled feet.
He’s yelling something at the kids still in the hallway. Doesn’t seem like english. Sounds more like an angry heap of mixed swear words and innuendoes. They bunch into the room and start hucking javelins and knives at the body still in the now-collapsed structure. Why were they listening to him? Had he somehow taken charge?
That anomaly aside, Jordan felt pretty clever. The body in that fort was one of their own– some older teen that had been wearing a necklace of rat skulls– the evening sun was in just the right place to shadow whatever the other rabids might’ve seen to identify him, or the fact all the flesh had already been melted from his skull.
There would be no interrogation this time– Jordan would just find Scott on his own. It would probably entail digging through that lamprey-spirit’s guts, however that works.
He leapt up, cornshell knees crunching, and sent a two-handed beam at the giant’s grotesque midsection.
The beast bellowed a scream as the acid-sauce ate quickly through his skin, leaching quickly into the bone in many places immediately beneath.
The bastard was hit. His organs would be toast in seconds, but Jordan didn’t have seconds– the kids were already charging, screaming like droves on droves of fanatics. He ran, firing behind him as they clambered through the windows, some of them throwing themselves headfirst.
He could melt whole lines of them, but he focused on running– there was no way he could scorch away all those javelins they’d be sending at him.
But, he had to find Scott. He could be bleeding out somewhere. He could pop out of that giant guy as soon as he dies. He couldn’t run away just yet.
Jordan felt his spirit-knees buckling as he sprang down the alley behind the building– he’d seen a large part of Scorched ‘El’s surrogate legs crackle to the ground and discorporate as he rounded the sharp corner. It was painful, as ever. He felt his heart about to burst. His lungs felt like knitted lead.
He heard tortured throats chanting something angrily, shortly behind.
He blasted through the back door, not checking whether it was locked. This place was a goddamn maze; he’d’ve explored it more, but being wheelchair-bound had made pleasure strolls difficult. He taxed his knees, hurtling through a hall and up a staircase. They couldn’t come as quick, having to press and fight through that narrow space, so he took a moment to flow the stairs’ tiles over with Scorcho.
“Not much longer now, huh?” Not-Zain warbled behind him.
“Shut up.” Jor growled.
He could very well be right, though– the stairs would keep them busy for a time, but those insane fucks would keep coming. Would either find another way up, or just let their feet burn on the steps. That, and he really couldn’t keep this running game up much longer.
He ducked into one of the rooms. Some sort of wide conference room, its desks removed and replaced with bunk-beds and sleeping bags. He could see dozens of Scott’s little residents, hiding from him as best they could. It stood to reason they’d think him one of those monster-kids, what with all the gore and tearing spotting his clothes.
He could hear the kids screaming up the stairs, already smashing windows and busting in doors. He looked about for a hiding place, but each– even the shit ones– were taken. And he was so tired. Tired and pissed.
He grabbed a kid out from her spot beneath a bed. She was small, and crying. She was already wounded– wouldn’t make it anyways. He had to hide, recover. He was the only one that could take these shits. Better her than him. No one would miss her. It wasn’t like he hadn’t killed a hundred kids today.
The problem was, she screamed. This panting, rag-strewn monster was grabbing her, pulling her up and out of safety to see his face– streaked with sweat and ribbed with shallow burn-marks.
Jordan stopped himself right before he struck her– it wouldn’t matter much now anyways. They were here.
The girl in his grip was the first hit, a bolt digging deep into her side as the door was whanged open. The children nearest the front were found in seconds, a fire-ax meeting three skulls as they rose, to make for the door. One rabid turned to Jordan, two of his companions’ heads swinging from his shirt, where they were knitted in by their hair. He screamed, claiming the “shooter-man” with a gesture of his shank. Jordan screamed back with an equal ferocity, tossing the girl’s seizuring form aside.
The room flooded with the killers, the head-laden apocalypse child at the head of the charge with his eyes fixed on Jor. Jor felt his knees lock as he tried to rise. Fumbling, he settled to fire into the little shit’s calf. The beam flew true, and the kid’s charge became a mad dive. Jor caught him by the head, and felt the bit of rusty steel tear open his cheek as he grasped harder, the Scorcho-cannon so pressed into the boy’s head that he felt flecks of the stuff graze his arm as he melted him to juicy pulp.
He pounded his knees and finally stood, and raised his arms, Scorched ‘El overlapping them. In the brutes’ actions he saw a full, graphic viking documentary. A girl was torn from her brother’s arms. One was holding a boy down while another made to peel his skin. More than one had already been thrown out a window. This time, Jordan didn’t scream, he yelled. A bellow meant to take attention and free hot rage. He wove his outstretched arms about, Scorcho-cannons following, and saw two, then five, then ten of the savages bisected by the rays. He turned round and round, destroying it all. The one with the ax charged him, and he made an upwards swat with the ray, the shithead’s run slowing as he melted down the center. With his own two arms, Jordan took the retard’s bangled wrists and tugged, sloughing him apart like warm cheese.
He kept going–saw the Scorcho hit the walls, heard the screams, took in the nostril-destroying odor of acidified flesh and paint. And felt the rumbling.
The room’s walls buckled , their supports melted through all too quickly. Children, dead and innocent and wild alike all were crushed beneath the falling brick and fell in equal number, as under its weight the floor, too, gave way. Jordan was amongst them. A heap of panelling caught his shoulder, pulling his skull into a desk-drawer. He felt a bedpost, launched by the wall adjacent’s fracturing, contact his spine and take the air from his lungs. The world faded, already darkened by the rubble falling alongside him– killing any window’s light. He heard nothing but rumbling, felt nothing but the fear of another impact, of the end of the fall, of the thought that no more air might grace his chest. And so before he even hit ground, he left that fearsome world.
He awoke with the feeling of falling still in his legs. His legs, that were now fully intact. Full of spring and life. The itching sting of where drop and fume of Scorcho had marred his skin was gone. The stabbing pain of the bolt in his bicep, as well. For all intents and purposes, it seemed, he was untouched. He wasn’t under rubble. Hadn’t fallen through to some secret basement. On the contrary– he was standing amidst clouds. Despite how bright and close the sun was, and how high up he was besides, he felt neither blazingly hot or cold. Just warm. He stumbled, as he realised just how far up he was. Inches before him lay a thousand, thousand mile drop to hard terra. He stepped away, eyes fixed on the curvature of the horizon– testament to how far out he was– and felt his back touch cool metal.
He turned about and met a tall, flat wall of ivory, edged in gleaming gold, that stretched out on either side to beyond vision. He saw inscriptions, chiselled in varying fonts and alphabets all along its infinite face; names. Vladimir Krushnikov. Abhelmeyer. Miguel Tabelsson. Joshua Lions. Zain Naqvi. Scott Warren. Jordan Shearer.
He felt his hand twitch, and rise towards his own name. It felt like a subconscious decision, to touch it. Perfectly within his reach. Cut into stone that would even on its own be tempting to touch, just for the tactile sensation. It felt right.
As soon as his fingers met the welcoming stone, his attention shifted to just above the wall. It was like standing at the fence of a backyard, now– he could see tall trees, every other bough decorated with a hammock, and the top level of a massive mansion. Standing at the window he could see a woman, the perfect woman– as he thought up everything he could want in one he saw it in her. And, by her leg– what might be a child.
He heard also laughter from familiar voices, coupled with the clashing of steel. Smelled what must have been the best fast food he’d ever had all over again. He looked along the wall, left and right, for an entrance. When he looked back to his name, it had disappeared, and a door, the fun kind, a revolving door, had taken its place.
He pushed through it and could see his happiness. There were each of his friends, in a wide, seemingly neverending scape of hills and saharas and castles and pyramids and waves and ships and crags and forests and cozy houses. They slept in tents and the trees, and the castles, when they felt like it. They drank and smoked and laughed, and punched themselves back to sobriety when they felt like it, smiling all the while. They donned the sickest armor you’ve ever seen and hefted even sicker weapons, and wailed on each-other like they’d never die, because they never would. They had every movie, comic and video game in existence and non-existence in a pile by every single model of PC, console and TV. Before they played a game they reached into the screen and changed what they knew they wouldn’t like– or just reached into their heads, and made it so they would like it all. On a whim, they would beckon things straight out of the game and play with them as if they were real, because they were. The cast of TF2 were slaughtered by the Crucible Knight, changed their equipment, and came at it again, all in the setting of Modern Warfare Three. Weezer made new songs with impossible instruments that eradicated all hints of pop sound, and blew every one of their classics out of the water– that is, until they revamped them to diamond status all over again. Billy Cobb just sat there in a pumpkin mask playing his Halloween album over and over. You get the point; it’s everything Jordan could ever have wanted in the history of ever. Save for one thing– Scott. Scott wasn’t there, he realised very quickly. Even Zain was there, even Josh Lions and Nikola– the former currently horse-charging the latter two into gmod-esque ragdolls.
Beyond every sense in his brain, Jordan twisted, and went back through the revolving door. He saw Scott’s name, almost right next to where his was on the illustrious wall. He tapped it, and immediately noticed those oh-so-inviting hammock trees could no longer be seen over the wall.
His revolving door disappeared, folding seamlessly back into flat marble, and at the space of Scott’s name a tall, almost to the upper limit of the wall, and forbidding gate appeared. It was formed of dark, dusty stone, which irritated his nostrils as it shook sourcelessly, autonomously. It felt to Jordan like it could come down on him at any moment, but he persisted. With no lever or handle in sight, Jordan settled for trying to push it open. Instead, they did not budge, and he found the only way would be to dig through the rocks themselves.
And so he did.
The more rocks he tossed aside, the more fell down to take their place. His fingers were crushed over and over again, re-forming flawlessly every time. He could feel his eyes going bloodshot. Soon the rocks were coming down on his wrists, as he continued to dig, then his head, then his torso, then his entire form down to his ankles as he clambered into the thick gate bodily. He was suffocated and crushed time and time again, until he finally made his way to the other end.
The air was so stagnant in this dark place, that he could not bring himself to recover his breath. He felt like he was dying, again.
It was a long tunnel, filled with a familiar smell that burned his nose. Moss caked its walls in odd spots. Seemingly the only life there, until Jordan’s eyes adjusted and he noticed a humanoid figure sat at the snaking tunnel’s opposite end. It fit Scott’s silhouette, as he’d known it.
So he hadn’t just pressed some barbarian’s name and not seen it. God, this was not the heaven he figured Scott would want for himself.
His hurts returned as he made his way down the decrepit hall. His legs felt like jelly, then like they were melting off the bone. The itching returned, and the pain in his bicep.
He found he had to lean on Scott’s chair, when he finally reached him. He tried to speak but could find no words. It seemed Scott was asleep, though his chest wasn’t rising. Feeling a wince of a familiar frustration, Jordan backhanded him, hoping to rouse at least his breath.
Scott’s head lolled to the side, ragdoll-esque, and Jordan found something– someone had been crouched behind the chair. He couldn’t bring himself to put a name to them– not after he’d finally seen them at peace, back in the garden. Their familiar, painful-to-hear voice escaped their throat.
“Look at his ankle, retard. Scott’s ankle.”
Jordan did. It ended bloodily, footless.
His eyes finally cast down near it, he noticed the bolt still stuck in his bicep. The tunnel all of a sudden began to light up, the offending glare seemingly coming from its own brickwork.
“A nice hallucination,” Zain told him. “But you’ve still got some hell left ahead of you– that is, if you’re still worried about your bud.”
The glare became unbearable– he fought it, blinked and squinted, but soon shut his eyes for fear of blindness. When he opened them again, to an intro of darkness then redness then whiteness, he regretted having done so.
That intensifying light had been that of the sun through a shattered window, growing into his vision as he’d been pulled from the rubble of the collapsed floor. He saw others, amongst the pieces– some moving, some screaming, some– not. Drawing breath was hard– he blacked out for a moment, then woke, then blacked out again. Not once did he return to that fine place in the clouds.
He was being hoisted by the arms, a tweenager to each, though through the blurry cloud of his vision he could not make out whether they were of the feral number.
They tugged him to the top of the pile, just under the hole he’d fallen through, where a large shape awaited him–awash in the light so he could make it out clearly.
The giant still stood, its lamprey-spirit coiled around its leg. Jordan could see the still barely steaming rent in his side, where he’d lanced him– it looked his distended bones had changed how it landed some. Jordan could see amongst those ruptured seas of raw, boiled flesh the glisten of what might have been the creature’s exposed guts. Though the beast’s stance was lent to one side, as if to compensate the wound, he had not moved his arms to cover it. Jordan saw no pain in his visage.
Soon he was uncomfortably close to him, the only energy he had being spent to keep his eyes open, and his head up.
“Got you.” it growled. “And, know you. You face. People-Shearer.”
It smiled wide and viciously, with long, flat-ended teeth. “Go back. This place too light for you. Go die in home, where it dark and dry and angry.”
The beast hoisted Jordan up one-handedly by his hoodie’s collar, out of the two giggling hyena-children’s grasp.
And then, began to lower him. He felt a strange, moist warmth rising beneath his legs, as if they were being breathed upon. And indeed, there was the massive mouth of the lamprey waiting for them, spirit-saliva stringing its uncountable teeth.
He shrieked and, finding no strength to struggle, tried to summon Scorched ’El. He succeeded only in summoning the very tip of one of its fingers, and in the effort knocked himself unconscious.
His oblivion was merciful only for a moment– he woke to a jarring thud, as if he’d just fallen some distance.
Something bit his lungs as he breathed. A powerful dryness permeated his skin, and went almost down to his bones. Even his bolt-wound had stopped bleeding. Though he had not the energy or innocence left to be surprised at it, he laid upon a five-foot mound of bones and jerkied corpses.
The world around, Jordan felt almost instinctively, was not his own. Every aspect of it seemed to be rejecting him. The wind, like cold blades on his skin. The sand spread amongst the corpses, gnawing his stumps like fire-ants.
Even given the discomfort, it took some time for him to absorb it all. Fear threatened to grip his heart.
The sky was a reddish gray, whatever sun lay up there being buried in clouds, and so the miles of red clay and stone the mound laid on were subsumed in half-darkness.
He made out, once his vision adjusted, a heap of clothes by his hip. Scraps, rather. They appeared burnt, though not blackened.
He groped around at the bodies, turning himself about so he might better reach the cloth. He shoved aside bits of metal and wooden furniture and broken glass. It was a monumental effort– he felt like he hadn’t eaten in days, and his limbs were nearly as stale as the corpses below him.
Worse, the cold was growing, despite all the scape around appearing desertous. It was either he pack his clothes with the extra cloth, or dig down to hibernate in the corpsehill.
He snatched up the tears of cloth, stuffing them down his neck and into his pants. With a weak warble he drew a hand back when he felt it half-lock with the cold fingers of another.
He lifted up a portion of the clothing and saw the pale hand terminated into raw bone halfway down the forearm, looking scarred all over with what could only be acid-burns. He flung the arm away and kept packing.
It wasn’t long until he uncovered yet more meat and bone. That’s when, amongst those clothes, he saw a shape he recognized.
He was in Hell. Its first punishment had been showing him Heaven, and then taking it away. He was in Hell.
Scott had landed feet first, and his legs really might have broken if he hadn’t fallen into the pile of bodies he did– soft as they were, at least relative to the barren crag all around. He’d speared down into them, and felt a screaming pain somewhere below.
He clambered out of the bodies, to the top, fearing he saw one move for every foot of progress he made. He yelled, tears in his eyes and sweat on his brow, when he came fully free and saw his foot. It ended in a bloody stump.
He was hyperventilating– he couldn’t remember ever having hyperventilated before. Hurriedly he summoned Signed On For A Sequel. Reversed time.
All he got was another fall– this time he avoided a plunge into the corpses, but this was all wrong. He could reverse farther than that. Some other previous state of his, like one where he’d not been in this place. So he could figure out how the damn he got here.
He tried again, and again. Each time, it was the same; the feeling of running into some impassable wall, then the fall.
He stopped for a moment, gasping. His hands had gone pale. He was losing blood from his ankle. He looked around desperately. All the corpses were stripped bare– he could see some people a distance off– carrying things on their backs. He called, got nothing but a small twist from one of them, looking over at him, before they turned back and continued. He squinted– each one was emaciated, and what they were lugging were yet more bodies. The one at the front was coated in viscera, hefting a massive cleaver. The ornamentation on him– the seemingly ritualistic scarring– it matched. Scott knew where he was.
This was the place, the place where all those apocalypse-children had come from. And it’d held alternate versions of himself and Jordan.
Only that could be the reason. This was an alternate timeline— one he’d never before existed in.
Scott heard a sound from above him. Like the hushing of rain through air, but coupled with a strange sort of hiss.
In the “Present”…
Jordan gazed at the shape in the clothes still, hoping some fog would clear from his brain, and show him something else.
One of the face’s eyeballs had melted into the skull, its colors leaching off to mar the bone’s greasy white. The body had melted over into a melty cake, ribs sticking out of it like spires. The fingers, fleshy and bony alike, were frozen mid-dig into the corpses beneath, as if they’d ground them down as they died– as they’d roiled in pain.
Jordan laid there, head buried, thinking for too long, trying to find some other way. Some way things could have played out that wasn’t what he was thinking.
But it was all there. He’d found his foot, knew he’d disappeared into that thing’s mouth– sucked away in a second. That he’d dropped onto this pile, where all the thing’s other victims had, barely mobile. And, without thinking, Jordan’d shot a pool’s worth of Scorcho straight into the lamprey’s mouth, straight after him.
He looked up, and then flinched, wrenching his gaze straight away to the side. He couldn’t bear to meet that one remaining eye, dried and lined with that red sand. He couldn’t look Scott in the eye, after what he’d done to him.
Maybe it was like that giant retard had said– this was his home. He’d killed so many people– the guards at that jail, that girl, never mind all the kids– Scott’s and the rabid ones alike. And now, Scott himself. He really shouldn’t have expected much, other than Hell.
Maybe, he ought to die here.
STAND DOWN– END