“Stand Down” Week 81 – TEENAGE WASTELAND

There, with blood clotting in his eyes, sprawled about the damp earth and grass, surrounded by Blue Jacaranda somewhere in South America. There, as his head returned from it’s trip around the world, Angosin finally accepted what he had realised long ago. And his spirit pulled itself out of his chest.

Over the coming months, Jordan came to grips with his situation. Seeing the countryside of– whatever area, he hadn’t cared to listen– was nice. He, the always-ditanced Jocelyn, and Rudy kept a steady move-on towards nowhere in particular. They’d drop cars and pick up new ones on about a weekly basis, and had grabbed some camping equipment, which they used often. In the interim, Rudy patched up Jordan’s legs. He tried just not to think bout that whole deal, when he could help it.

On warmer days, they’d hike in whatever outback wilderness they could find (that was wheel-chair accessible), as Rudy regaled them with barely-believable stories of otherworldly strangeness, and the Foundation’s efforts to contain it. Eventually, Jordan got rather comfortable in his wheelchair– Rudy had advised him to just let his butt fall asleep. But, eventually, it wasn’t just sleeping– it had fallen into a damned coma, and the feeling was fantastic.

Meanwhile, Scott made a full recovery. He’d been concussed, and reasonably hard-bled, but none of that could compare at all to just how proud he felt. He felt unstoppable, even whilst bedridden, and eventually he’d realise why. Some nights, he’d awake to spot the figure from so many nights ago, floating above him, wreathed as it had always been in film-tape. Signed on For a Sequel, he’d named it. And he knew that it was real.

On his second-last day in the hospital, his parents had been called out of the room mid-visit to be replaced by three men dressed in overalls and jean-shirts.

“‘Jes gonna fix up the ventilation in here, ‘boy won’t be bothered, don’tcha worry, doc,” the last called into the hallway before shutting the door behind him.

Scott said nothing to them– he simply watched as they pulled long rolls of thick foam-mats, each of them streaked over with jutting wave-patterns. Clipping them to the top-corners of each angle of the room, even that behind Scott’s bed, they rolled down to completely coat every wall. Was this how they checked ventilation? 

The foam was a dark gray; the room seemed much more shaded, now.

And, somehow more– isolated.

Scott realised what the stuff really was, and too late. Soundproofing foam. 

Just as he began getting up, one of the men streaked over and snatched his phone from off the bed-side table.  

Geoul brought Anosin where he told him– the nearest church. In Geoul’s haste, they reached the dilapidated building in minutes despite the load Angosin bore on his back.

Geoul would not look behind him.

Angosin staggered from off Geoul and laid himself out on a pew. Dust coated his hands and bottom.

Geoul scanned the room for another exit– one he wouldn’t have to look back to find. There were none.

He heard only Angosin panting, and praying in some desperate manner, and saw only the floor.

But he felt the thing, that spirit, right behind and above him.

Geoul wouldn’t look at the thing, or Angosin, or the Cross up in front of him at the church’s final wall. That thing had come out of Angosin. 

And– what happened at the house– Angosin’d said it was him. He, Geoul, had made that– copy– of his mother.

Could he really accept that? Isn’t it all the more likely that this boy was lying, shifting blame, that Geoul should head over to him right now and step on his throat?

Would that clock-faced thing let him?

Would something like it be– coming out of him, soon?

Geoul jolted straight up as a loud something echoed through the room.

The tick of a clock.

Angosin shifted up in his seat, and finished his prayer with his eyes fixed to the cracked-tile floor.

“…and the true evils of this world will be delivered into God’s arms.”

The boy shifted, and looked to up and behind Geoul.

Geoul turned, as well.

Rudy had woken feeling particularly spry, that day, as showcased by the tricks he started to teach Jordan. It really wasn’t that hard to do a “wheelie”, in a wheelchair, once you got the feel for it. The grass made it harder, though.

Rudy coughed hard, stringing it into a dry laugh. “I’ll go fix us supper,” he wheezed.

As Rudy wheeled down to the tent and tables, Jordan stole a glance at Jocelyn. She looked quite something, in this light.

Rudy grabbed the cookware bag and set up the kettle and pot-stand, amongst other things. 

He started coughing, again– it was really starting to wrack his throat.

He wolfed down two gulps from a canteen, and immediately regretted it.

It caught in his chest, sending him sprawling to wretch it out.

As he did, he fell from his chair, clearing the table as he went with clatters and bangs.

Jordan and Jocelyn came running and wheeling. They saw Rudy sprawled, fallen half-into one of the tent’s mouths.

Both the teens were befuddled for words as Rudy continued to cough.

Jordan slung himself down from his chair and with Jocelyn’s help brought Rudy to a sitting form.

“Thuh– this isn’ right,” Rudy whisped between hacks.

Blood came with the next batch. He gripped Jordan’s sleeve, close and tight.  

Rudy tried and tried again to speak. All he could do, it seemed, was hack out more blood just so he could keep breathing.

He slapped away the bottle of water Jocelyn brought in. He fingered a satchel on his belt and drew out a flip-phone. He went into notes. His fingers trembled.

“havent had bronchitis in yrs never thisbad this is Anomaly run run now get OUT”

Rudy’s eyes went wild as he typed, and coughed, and by the end of the line they were more on Jordan and Jocelyn than the screen. His eyes crunched, now, he cried as he began to hack up small, yet still concerning chunks of something brownish with all the blood.

Jordan stays by Rudy’s side, and looks him in the eyes– presenting him a steely mixture of defiance and care. Jocelyn sprints madly out of the tent, but not for the car– for the medkit. 

“It took us quite the time to a good point to meet you, Mr. Warren,” one of the “repair-men” said, almost smug as he pulled a stool to the foot of Scott’s bed.

Scott said nothing, standing tense at the edge of his bed, hands to the post.

“First things first; do you recognize either of these gentlemen?”

The man flashed Scott two large photographs of some random teens. Strangers.

Scott shook his head.

“Alright, and what about–”

The man took out another picture, of a snow-capped mountain, taken from a road leading up to it.

“This? This ring any bells?”

Again, Scott shook his head. He really knew nothing about whatever this was. Whatever was going on, right now.

Did they have the wrong person? Did they want some other ‘Mr. Warren’?

One of the repair-men, the one by where the door had once been, now obscured, was wearing some manner of thick goggles.

One of the men twitched, hard, then gripped his neck as if it had just been hurt.

The one on the stool looked to the one at the door.

When Scott saw him reaching to behind him, likely for something stored his pants, Scott leapt into action.

As soon as he did, the twitching guard fell to the ground with a slight gasp.

The one on the stool grabbed his head, suddenly, bending over double and banging his head once against the bedframe. He began to yell.

In his distraction Scott sees to late that the begoggled man has fully drawn. Some manner of glock.

But he doesn’t fire. Scott stands frozen like a deer in headlights, but the man just stays very still, then starts shaking his head from side to side, making confused noises.

“Wha– guys, I– I can’t–”

He slings his goggles off.

Then Scott sees. The man’s eyes are blank at their pupils. His head whips around, and his free arm feels at the air to his left.

“Guys! GUYS! I CAN’T SEE!”

His gun-arm tenses all the way down to the elbow.

“Whuh– what’d you do?! What’d you DO?!”

Scott dives just in time to avoid a hail of bullets.

By the time he’s fished another man’s glock from the back of their overalls, where a spot of bare back reveals grotesque purpled veins just beneath the skin, and whips around, the first gunman has gone limp.

Every muscle in his face has lost its form, drooping. His drool doesn’t slop to the ground any faster than he does.

Scott is beginning to hyperventilate.

He tears the soundproofing off the wall and flings the door wide.

His father lay very still on the chair just next the his room’s door. His mother lay fallen on his belly. Just down the hall, a doctor can be seen motionless, face-planted on the floor.

Scott immediately makes to shake his parents awake.

His mother’s eyes are already open, though; open and intensely bloodshot. Her skin unsettlingly yellowed in spots. His father lay back with his eyes closed, no mark at all upon him. But– no heartbeat, when Scott placed his hands, however frantically, to his wrists, his neck, his wide chest. 

Not even the second time, or the third.

And all around the world, teens and younger watch, or don’t, as adults fall like flies around them. Only some of them can scream, as they go. 

In more than six-thousand languages, cries for God and Mercy ring. 

None, or all, are answered.