Chasing Shadows, Ch. 4

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I push, but it pushes back harder. Tears chap my face as I run through the jungle, pursued by my demons. I hurriedly dash over frozen leaves and snow piles, barreling over cracked boulders and old stumps. The sense of security I had days prior is reduced to an itching feeling of loneliness and regret. Voices that are not my own quarrel in my head; my mind is a verbal battlefield.

Slow down, baby. You don’t need to run anymore.

My heart thumps in my chest, begging for me to stop. With every step, I wish I am spotted by a Tracker or Ranger fleet – anything to end this convoluted race. I can’t help but think of what happened to the general and the other Renegades, what I did to them. It was unconscionable, savagery. I am a monster.

What is unconscionable is the total lack of Fangclush imperials. Bobby and I encountered dozens just in our short journey to this so-called forgotten realm. “Beyond the Courtshyn Lake, the Sentinel’s blood runs thin,” Aaron told us. If only I could concentrate this telekinetic monstrosity lurking within me toward that man’s scarred forehead – I would rip him to shreds, or do whatever it is that I do. The Renegades mentioned I am called the Nuclear Bitch by the soldiers out of Fort Legacy. Sounds kinky.

It does not take me long to clear the forest, and I’m back at the old field, our safe haven. I return to the old shack’s remains. It was the first thing we saw that reminded us of home. And in a world rife with insanity and violence, we took advantage of what we had.

Even though it feels as though I was running for hours, the amber stain in the sky informs me I only ran a thousand yards or so. In the horizon, above the tree line, I make out the tallest tower at Fort Legacy. The fort was known for its intimidating, barbed peaks.

Something comes back to me as clear as the sparkling ripples dancing upon Courtshyn Lake.

#

“Tell me something…” The lieutenant never seemed tenser. A man in his position should have been overcome with glee, having captured the most wanted criminal in the realm, yet his lips were pursed and his brow pulled together.

A slight beeping comes from a machine behind me. I trace green and yellow cords in the veins in my arm. Mirrors lined the room from wall-to-wall. “What was that?”

“Even in death, you refuse to cooperate.” He chuckled, annoyed. “Do you even know where you are, Lange?”

I mumbled, “Legacy.”

“What’s that?”

“You heard me, dammit.” I spit in his face and writhe against my restraints.

He flashed a look at a monitor and back to the notebook in his hands. “And do you know why you’re here? Let me –”

“I’m here because I killed her. She was dead before she could call her porcelain goons.”

His face softened. “You Disgraced will never learn what it is to be civilized.” Something inside of him cracked. “Every single one of you sits with your hands at your crotch, chiming your immortality, while everybody else suffers. And you get offended when we start speaking up. You call yourselves the peaceful ones, ha!” He readied a black syringe, his hands trembling.

“And I’d do it all over again,” I retorted. “That bitch killed my family, so it was only fitting that she suffer a similar fate. You humans reproduce like filthy rabbits anyhow. I’m sure you had three other cows loaded the instant her bloody head hit the floor.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Lange.” He propped me back and inserted the syringe. “She wasn’t just human. Sheridyn was a plesmorph – just like you.”

“Lying doesn’t suit you, Lieutenant.”

“Thankfully, Sheridyn provided us with enough information into the special breed, not enough to produce a hard set defense against it, mind you. But give us time. You won’t be a threat for much longer, and then the war will be over. The pathetic rebels will drop to their knees as we humans take back the Earth.”

They already had the Earth; it was the other two realms to which he was referring – and they’d never have those. But I don’t correct him. The injection made my eyes heavy, my chest dropping. Though I tried to stay strong, I whimper. My blood turned to tar, my mind spinning. “It’ll never be enough,” was all I could muster. The humans wouldn’t stop until they drown the realms in their paranoia and terror.

The lieutenant left the room and the lights dimmed. Another man’s voice appeared on a speaker above. “This begins the second session. Tell me what you know of the Krysolux and its power.”

It was what gave the Disgraced their luster, their life force, but I did not comply with their requests. I couldn’t.

#

The truth is hard to swallow: there are parts of my memory that are missing. The memories arrange themselves in a scattered jigsaw puzzle, all solid black with no side pieces. Each one leaves me more lost than before.

Fall into slumber. Return to Elymia, Sophia.

I sprint toward the only place I know will have answers.

Come home.

I abandon the safe haven and inch closer to a forgotten artery of the Fangclush – I return to Legacy.

Devils Dance, Ch.1

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Mr. Brewer wrapped his arms around a little pig-tailed girl. “You come back and see me now,” he said quietly. “Next time I won’t be so tired, I promise.”

The hint of a smile appeared on the child’s face. “I love you grandpa. I’ll come back as soon as mommy lets me. Like maybe next week.”

“I’ll be counting the days,” Mr. Brewer stated, releasing his granddaughter from his weakening grip.

Everything had happened so suddenly; one minute he was lying next to his wife back in Atlanta, the next his love had died of pneumonia and he had been deemed too much of a burden to care for by his only daughter Shelly. She wasn’t wrong, however, and Mr. Brewer by no means had any animosity toward his daughter. She simply had made the decision that was most appropriate for her family, and that was just fine.

But life at Serenity Summit was not what Mr. Brewer had expected it to be. On the pamphlet Shelly had presented him during his last weekend as a free man, he noticed all the folks living at the Summit were smiling and having a blast, their images plastered under the title, “Serenity Summit #1 for its Engaging Family-Oriented Atmosphere.” Although it was true that during his stay he had acquired new friends, actual family visits were scarce – he imagined he wouldn’t see his granddaughter again until next month, but Shelly’s demanding lifestyle was to blame for that, not so much the hospital.

“Goodbye,” Mr. Brewer shouted, to which the girl shot him one last hopeful grin before walking out of the facility.

Suddenly, a nurse dressed in Peanuts scrubs nudged the man in the shoulder. “Wow, Hayley has sure grown a lot since I first saw her.”

Mr. Brewer stared blankly into the nurse’s eyes, the name echoed in his mind. “Who?”

“Your granddaughter, Mr. Brewer. You remember Hayley, don’t you?”

Irritated, the old man straightened his posture. “Granddaughter?” He chuckled. “You’re mistaken, miss. That was my daughter Shelly. Isn’t it a bit early to be talking about grandchildren? I mean, by God, she’s not even six yet!”

“You get some rest now, Mr. Brewer, so you’ll be full of energy for the bingo game tonight,” she encouraged, giving him two pats on his knee before walking over to another resident.

Hayley. The name resonated in his head. Surely the nurse was mistaken, he thought. There was no way he could have a grandchild.

In an attempt to find a photograph of his daughter, for proof that he wasn’t losing his mind, Mr. Brewer rolled himself into his room, and sure enough he found it. On his nightstand was the picture of a grown woman who closely resembled his Shelly – she even had the same birthmark on her face just like his daughter.

“Damn,” Mr. Brewer cursed, dropping his head.

He hadn’t realized his roommate Greg was in the corner reading a newsletter dated from 1942. Nor did he realize that Greg’s record player was on. Mr. Brewer finally realized that his wife Nelly was right: he had gone bat-shit crazy.

“What’s the matter? Nurse didn’t get you that green Jell-O you like so much?”

“Naw, just seein’ things more clearly for the first time in a while, is all,” he replied, noting that the music was getting louder. “Hey, turn that down would you?” He motion toward his buddy’s record player.

Greg was dumbfounded. “Huh? I don’t hear nothin’. It’s not on.”

Mr. Brewer wasn’t about to let himself be played as an ignorant fool. Just who did Greg think he was, anyway? “Greg, I said turn the fucking music off. It’s not the ‘40s anymore, so you need to stop reading that goddamned paper and listening to that ridiculous song every afternoon!”

“Bud, I swear there ain’t no music playin’.”

The old man lost it and knocked a vase to the floor, sending dozens of ceramic shards spiraling across the cream-tiled floor. “You listen to me, bud,” spat Mr. Brewer. “I’m not taking your shit anymore. You’re always treating me like a sucker, and it’s going to stop today.” Then, with one of the longer pieces of ceramic, Mr. Brewer shoved the spike into Greg’s throat, puncturing his jugular artery.

The white room was painted red in seconds, after a frenzied Mr. Brewer continued to stab his old friend. With each puncture, a memory was brought back to Mr. Brewer: with a gash to the jugular came that of his wife Nelly, who had given birth to the most beautiful baby girl in the world; then a splurge of hot blood on his face brought a replay of Shelly’s wedding into his vision, and then of Hayley’s birth; with a swift plunge to the chest, he remembered that his withering consciousness and his temper were what landed him in Serenity Summit to begin with. His rage subsided after the strings of red goo expanded into a dark crimson pool. His buddy reduced to a ripped blood fountain, the gurgling of blood made Mr. Brewer vomit into his palm.

“Oh my God, what I have I done,” he asked, dropping the bloodied ceramic shiv – the spike shattered on the hard floor. Turning to the record player, he realized that Greg was telling the truth after all; there was absolutely no record spinning, but Chattanooga Choo Choo still blared through the speaker.

Suddenly, Mr. Brewer opened his third story window, revealing a beautiful expanse of wilderness. And to make it even more desirable, the music didn’t reach outside. So, with his face chapped with tears, he jumped. He never felt freer than the second before his skull met the sidewalk.

Several states over, a similar chilling melody hummed down a drive of freshly fallen snow. Death’s stale tune whisper met the door of an honors boy and precious Mumu.