083 – Haunt

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D had picked up the phone in an instant. I was thankful for that. It saved me the ache of waiting too long.

Yes?

I never felt so relieved to hear such a cold, mechanical sound.

“D!”

I yelled out even though I knew that I had to keep it down. The tensions had been high, and they were only getting higher.

That’s a lot of pep. Something good must have happened.

“It’s the complete opposite, actually. We got ambushed and the RV was taken.”

D hesitated and stuttered. I could have sworn that she swore herself.

Sh- shoot. That is the complete opposite of good. Did you find the truck?

It was my turn to hesitate.

“I did, but none of our passengers were in there. Neither was Tone. I’m hurrying to find them.”

There’s a lot you have to catch me up on. I thought I told you to keep me updated.

“I’m doing that right now.”

I kept moving, pacing myself so I didn’t lose my breath as I explained what I knew to D. It didn’t amount to much, though.

“Okay, here’s the deal. I left the RV so I could go around this town and find Tone and the truck, myself. Before I found the truck, though, I did manage to find some of… I’ve been avoiding using the word ‘cargo,’ but yeah. I happened upon some of them.”

I paused.

And? Where are they now? Did you put them somewhere safe?

Questions I didn’t want to answer.

“One didn’t make it,” I said. “And I’m trying my damnedest to make sure the other one does.”

I expected a pause on D’s part, another hesitation, but she responded immediately.

So we’re already fricked.

“You could say it again, but I’d rather not hear it again. It’s freaky out here, D. I’m at the town’s amusement park, and it looks like it came straight out of a horror show. They’ve killed people and decorated the bodies, putting them on display. I couldn’t tell if some of them are our people or not. Didn’t exactly get the chance to check.”

Sounds like quite the party.

“D,” I intoned, “Not now.”

From the phone, I heard D clear her throat.

Then let’s not jump straight to conclusions and assume the worst, Vivi, but let’s not delude ourselves, either.

The knot in my stomach twisted, tighter.

“I’m just trying to pick up whatever pieces I can find,” I said, “And I need your help.”

Always,” D said.

I spun, changing my posture, so my shoes slid across the pavement, letting me ease into a full stop.

I put the walkie-talkie closer to the phone.

“Not sure if you can hear it, but I found the walkie-talkie from the truck. It was Tone’s.”

And Tone is still nowhere to be found. Shoot. Is something coming out it? I’m picking up some stuff, but it’s too muddied.

“Too many degrees of separation, right. They’re coordinates.”

Coordinates?

“I don’t know where it leads to, or who’s broadcasting it, but it could be our only lead. Right now it is our only lead.”

It could also be a trap.

“Like that didn’t dawn on me. But what else do we have?”

Did you try… talking to it?

“It’s been on, I’ve been pressing the button, no one’s responding. It’s just looping those coordinates. I don’t think it’s receiving any inputs.”

Sketchy for sure. You want me to punch them in for you?

“Could you?”

Anything, anytime. Just give them to me and I’ve got you.

It was a cumbersome process, hearing the mechanical, looped coordinates, and repeating them back to D. It had looped so many times that I was worried that I’d gotten them out of order. So many numbers and degrees. But, I managed to get it right, and D replied accordingly.

It’s loading… and there. Where are you, exactly?

I fumbled with my phone. “I can look it up real quick.”

I pressed the buttons, cursing the slow service. We were far away from any semblance of society or even reality. Precious time wasted due to the failings of a small rectangular piece of plastic.

I told D my exact position.

Thank you, ma’am. Okay, so that puts you… About half a mile north of where you are.

Half a mile. I didn’t have a map of the park, I didn’t know how big this place was. No way was this park so big that it could cover more than a mile of land. Wherever this broadcast was coming from, I’d have to leave the park to get there.

“North,” I said, “Got it. You wouldn’t happen to know where or what that leads to, do you?”

I don’t. The app isn’t giving me very clear readings in that area. It’s like that whole area doesn’t exist.

“Well, it does exist, and it’s a god damn fucking nightmare. I want to get out of here already.”

Fastest way to do that is to head to where those coordinates lead, then.

Exactly.

“North, right? I’m on way.”

I’ll try and help in guiding you as you get closer, so keep me on the line. I’ll stay close to my phone so if you need me just talk.

“Sure. I’m putting you in my pocket for now.”

Hope it’s not too tight a squeeze.

“You’ll just have to get used to it,” I said, shoving my phone into my pocket, robbing D of a chance to retort. No more time to stand around and chat. I switched off the walkie-talkie, too, I had got what I needed out of it.

I looked to Isabella.

Despite my ability to run faster than any top athlete without really trying, she’d managed to keep up with me. She was standing there, waiting, her fingers intertwined. Clearly nervous.

That tug, again.

I spoke, “I got you back, didn’t I? I’ll do the same for the rest. It’s only a matter of time.”

Isabella nodded, slow, her eyes not meeting me.

If only I had time to sit down and sort through this whole situation, figure out the details and make a proper plan. But it was one crisis after another. I could never seem to catch my breath.

“Come on,” I said, turning to start running. Winding. “Let’s get a move on.”

Isabella gestured, and I took that as a confirmation that she was up for it. And then we got a move on.

We were still in the back lot of the amusement park, and, while it was less of a maze to get through than the park itself, I still second-guessed myself with every corner and long pathway I took. I had been in this Death For Amusement Park for at least a half hour, and in Fuckington for a full sixty minutes, and every new thing I came across only made me disoriented and confused. It was as if I was running through a maze in my own head. I’d get lost if I wasn’t careful, wasn’t always diligent.

No distractions. Couldn’t afford them.

I found myself by the side of some buildings, smaller installments away from the rides and the park itself. Portable structures that used to be offices or staff headquarters, probably. They actually weren’t in a similar state to every other building I’d seen previous, in the park and in the surrounding town. No broken windows, no streaks of dirt, no sign of any damage of debris anywhere. The buildings themselves looked to be in the same style of architecture as the rest of the park, so they weren’t new constructions. These had been kept up, taken care of.

“People have to be coming through here.”

Isabella voiced my thoughts.

Hearing them out loud forced me to take action. I retraced my steps somewhat, going back around a corner I had passed, crouching. In case anyone was there, I had to stay hidden.

Isabella followed, sticking close, staying right at my back. She continued to bring up good points.

“We’re in the staff section of the park. There’s probably a lot emergency exits close by. We could just take the nearest one and be done with being here. It’ll make getting to those coordinates way faster. Less stuff getting in the way.”

All good points.

“There might be some clues inside those buildings,” I mentioned. “As to what this town and park even are.”

“Do we even need to know? You said it yourself, you want to get out of here already. We have to get the others back, everything else is secondary.”

I took a peek from around the corner, checking for anyone. No one. For now.

“I get that, obviously,” I said. “But information is one of the best secret weapons you can have. It’s not enough to just get… almost one hundred people back from a whole freakshow mob of people. The truck is still back there, stuck in the park. Either we drive the truck out of here, or we bring that many people back here, to the truck. Both options are pretty much impossible. If we can learn more about, about Fuckington, we can actually make a plan on how to get out of here. Fuck, I wish I had some time to think.”

“You have some right now, and you have to make a decision. Check those buildings, or go straight to the coordinates.”

Isabella wasn’t going to be making anything easier for me, was she?

Fair enough, though, she was right. I wasn’t graced with a lot of time to think this out and consider every little thing. I was pressed for time in every sense of the phrase. Not enough to think everything through, and Isabella was right up against my back, as if to urge me to take an action, any action. It just had to be immediate.

And I was right there with her, it was just that the slow-drip realization that there was so much to consider that it weighed on me and pressed me down, making the simple act of moving again that much harder.

What was I supposed to do what was I supposed to

“Behind you!”

Isabella hissed the words, but I sensed the urgency.

I’d heard it, too. Footsteps.

Forced into take an action. Of course.

I ran.

Heading towards the direction of the buildings, I went around them, to the back. I moved fast to get behind cover as soon as possible. Isabella was right behind me.

I checked where the sound had come from.

People.

They went around the corner, coming close to the office buildings, but not to us, specifically. They hadn’t noticed our presence.

But they were aware of it.

“Anything from the others?”

“Nothing.”

“Fuck, I wasn’t expecting this.”

“I doubt anyone was, sir. They just came out of nowhere.”

“Now they’re a problem. I don’t like problems. They make things complicated.”

“They already took out a handful of our guys. Some of them probably can’t walk no more.”

“We have to stomp them out now, before it gets too out of hand. We only have so many on the medical staff. Does anyone have anything new? Where we saw it last?”

“We don’t. Last known position was it going through the air, like it was flying. Our best guess was that it was heading toward the roller coasters. But it could have went on foot from there.”

“So they could be anywhere by now. Fucking shit.”

“Could it really be her? The Bluemoon?”

“It doesn’t really matter whether it is or not. Either answer has its own implications, none of them being any good to us.”

“Truly a problem, then.”

“No shit. So get cracking. I want her skull split open and her eyes gouged out before dinner.”

The rest of the group answered in unison.

“Yes, sir!”

Seven of them in total. No bikes or vehicles. They were all on foot. Moving in a group, in haste, searching for us. Hunting.

The voices had been muffled, somewhat, and I could see why. They were all wearing masks. Not like mine, though. Much more macabre.

Animal masks. Pigs, dogs, goats, one was even a frog or maybe even a toad. The muted colors and rough textures put a grotesque feel over the designs and look of the group.

Blood, or whatever it was that evoked the image of blood, smeared across the masks, pieces ripped out at the bottoms to resemble strips of torn flesh, dangling and loose. The eyes were filled in, black, from corner to corner. With all the added, disgusting detail, they really went the extra mile to make the masks look realistic. The pointed ears almost made me take extra caution, that they’d actually pick up my breath or my heartbeat as they became more elevated.

If the intention was to intimidate or freak me out, then congratulations, it worked.

They continued speaking, but they had lapsed into another language. I couldn’t understand them.

I whispered to Isabella. “Are you catching any of that? Do you know what they’re saying?”

“I can’t.”

“Too far, then.” I peeked around to corner to check on them again. They had spread out, moving to inspect the area, some closing in on the offices. “But they’re coming this way.”

“We have to move, Wendy,” Isabella said. Shaky.

“I know,” I murmured back. I considered my options.

Another mob was here, now, looking for us like how we were looking for Tone and the others, except their intentions were probably not as… good. These guys seemed to know something about Fuckington and the park, if not directly involved with what was going on, here. Between the clean office buildings and this group, it was like a goldmine of information had fallen right into my lap.

If there was ever a chance to get some context, it was right now.

“I have to,” I said, talking to Isabella, but mostly reaffirming my decision to myself. “It won’t do any good for us to find Tone and Sarah the others and not have a plan prepared afterwards. I have to get some info out of these guys.”

“It’s up to you,” Isabella said. “Just know that any wasted time is going to harm them more that it harms you.”

I drew in a breath, and was slow to draw it out. She wasn’t helping in the slightest.

Fine. It was a harsh dose of reality, but she was right. This was important, and there were very good reasons to do this, but it did take time, time I might not really have. People’s lives were on the line, and sacrificing time to better help them might end with those same people getting sacrificed instead, in a sick and ironic fashion.

Flashes of those shrouds and stuffed animals flickered through my mind. I couldn’t let any one of them become that. I got Isabella back, I managed that much, but there was still so much more I needed to get done, so many more people I needed to save.

Looped notions, the same constant thoughts, over and over. I was repeating myself. Ad nauseam.

I was tired.

I had gotten some blood in, but it was like being at the end of my rope, and then setting it on fire. I was already running on fumes. Pushing it would mean pushing myself, and I could only go so far, now. Physically, mentally, emotionally spent. Only so much left to give.

But I had to keep going. I had to do this.

“Okay,” Isabella said, as if she knew what I was thinking. “If you believe it’s worth it, then I’m with you.”

Now she was helping. But, it did make me feel a little better about this, though the seeds of doubt would always be there, by this point. I’d just have to learn to work around them, push through those weeds, anyways.

I pushed through them.

The masked mob began to cover more ground, and I moved in accordance. I stayed low, crouched, and I slinked away from the corner I was hiding behind to sidle along the back wall, sneaking around the mob. Keep out of sight, and wait for the right opportunity. Avoid getting into another fight, if at all possible.

Pick them off, one at a time. Get as much information and details as possible.

It was the best I could do, given the circumstances.

I kept an ear out, trying to map them out in my head as they walked and talked. Using my hearing to learn their locations. The results weren’t great, I wasn’t a bat, nor did my powers extend to that particular sense. Just more guesswork.

I noted a specific pair of steps come around from the back of us. They were definitely being thorough, deciding to search here. We’d get caught once they went around that corner. A cement wall that acted as a barrier between the park and the town was quite a distance away, and attempting to cross the gap to use the other office building as cover might expose Isabella and I, in the doing.

Nowhere else to go but up.

I held my hand out for Isabella, and I went up.

The roof was corrugated metal, and it made a bit of noise as I landed down, putting myself flat on my stomach. Not enough to attract their attention, though, I hauled us up rather than jumped, muffling any sound. Isabella was surprisingly light, too, helping her up and over was like moving a feather.

“You heard that?”

I pressed my tongue against the back of my teeth, hard. I held my breath. I was listening in on them from above.

“Heard what?”

“Up there, I think it came from the roof.”

“Must have missed it, then.”

“Whatever. Come on, we have more ground to cover.”

“Sure.”

I exhaled, hard, feeling lightheaded.

So many close calls. Too many, really. A lot of them could be counted in the holes and tears that riddled my clothes, my jacket.

I couldn’t chance any more. Even with my healing.

I listened.

They had sprawled out, searching everywhere, someone even went into the office building I was hiding out on top of, judging by the sound of a nearby door opening and closing, then opening and closing again. The office space inside must have been small or sparse with stuff, because they didn’t take very long to look around. They left and returned to the others.

“Nothing in there.”

“Same with the other storage, too.”

So they aren’t offices, I thought. At least I got something concrete.

“The whole search is turning into a bust, at least for this section.”

The conversation shifted into another language for a moment. Everything they said was lost on me, and Isabella wasn’t offering to translate.

One of them returned to English, saying, “Let’s just get a move on, Richie, check somewhere else. We have to round back to the base eventually, everyone’s going to want to get together and talk about this. Coordinate.”

Ah. Coordinate. That word had begun to stick out to me.

Another responded. But I didn’t have eyes on who.

“Soon, Leon, I just want to be thorough. The thing could be right under our noses and we’d have no idea.”

Or right above you, I thought.

“And then what? You saw what that thing did, no? Not even a whole spray of bullets could stop it.”

“It’s alive, Leon, and that means it’s capable of dying. And we will be the ones to kill it, skin it, and string it up for all to see, and then no one will ever try coming here to fuck with us again. Forever.”

“You make it sound so friggin’ easy.”

“Death isn’t a very far trip, and there’s plenty of ways to get there fast. Short cuts. We’ll find something for it. Put the devil back where it belongs.”

“Christ…”

Another voice spoke up. “Not just them, too, there’s still him.”

“I know. This has become a thing, now. Which is why I want this dealt with as soon as possible.”

“If it’s after the meat from the truck, we could just use them as leverage. Have it come to us.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” another replied.

The first guy, Richie, spoke.

“We only have so many to use. We need to budget them or we lost that as a potential bargaining chip. But… I am not against that idea.”

“So we should get back to the assembly already? Things have been getting way too messy, lately, and now there’s this, it, him, and if this gets out and we can’t control it then-”

“We’ll have it under control, Leon, we have it under control. We have the upper hand, and it holds the best bargaining chip we could ask for. This can be contained.”

“Then let’s get back to the assembly and get something prepared. Being split up and wasting time looking around isn’t going to help.”

There was a small round of discourse, at that. Another language.

“Then we’ll go,” Richie said. “Call Alessa, tell her that we’re heading back.”

“On it.”

I listened as their collective footsteps continued onward, away from what I knew now were the storage buildings, and away from me and Isabella. I crawled on my stomach, peeking from the lip of the roof, and I watched as the masked mob disappeared underneath a tent, the man in the toad mask closed a tarp behind them. It led back to the park proper, from what I could gather from their path and the direction they were headed.

And then they were gone. And I was free to move.

I dropped down from the roof, to the front of the office. It wasn’t a large drop, with the building being less than a story in height, if that.

Isabella managed to get down by herself, landing right next to me, a second after I touched ground.

“Close call,” I said.

“Like I needed any more,” Isabella said.

“Right,” I said. “Anyways. There is the option to follow those masked guys, they might lead us directly to the others.”

“Or they’re going somewhere completely different. Stop trying to get off track, Wendy.”

“I’m not, there’s just so many ways we can go about this. But you’re right, let’s just stay on the current course.”

Isabella did have a point, though, there was no guarantee that following those masked guys would lead us to Tone and Sarah and the others, and the looped transmission from the walkie-talkie was the only thing that was directly connected to the end goal. If we were going to make any progress in getting them back, it would be by going there.

I looked ahead, finally getting a decent look at the face of the buildings. Clean, maintained, unlike the park or anything else I’d seen in this forsaken place.

“Current course does have me doing a quick check through here,” I said, thinking out loud. “Sorry. Just give me a couple seconds, here, maybe a minute, or several.”

I looked at Isabella. She shrugged.

“It’s not my peace to make.”

I grimaced. First D, now Isabella. Everyone was giving me attitude today, it seemed.

But, that was fine, for right now. I could imagine Isabella being shaken up about what had happened, especially considering that it went down so fast. If she needed a way to vent, air out frustrations, and if she needed a punching bag to do that, then I’d be willing to take the hits.

“A couple seconds it is, then,” I said, before moving up to the first office, pushing the door open.

In stark contrast to the bloodied, mangled imagery of the shrouds and bodies, the interior was sterile, clean of any flecks or dirt or dust. Cold, even, but it was the closest thing to normal, to the point of mundanity, that happening upon it felt like a warm embrace.

I began to survey the area. A couple of seconds. Aside from that contrast, here wasn’t much to take in.

A single, tiny space in a temporary structure. It was never meant to hold much.

Boxes upon boxes. Cardboard and wood. The stacks of crates varied in length, some managed to reach the ceiling, but most were either as tall as me or a box or two short. There were two of these buildings, after all, it wasn’t like anyone would need to conserve space.

But, it was just that, in here. Boxes. Crates. Cardboard and wood.

I walked more inside, the door closing on its own. My finger traced the edge of one of the boxes. Wood. It smelled of lavender.

Not that one.

I went to another stack, instead, a cardboard box that reached up to my nose in height. I brushed away dust and cobwebs – a pair of gloves – kicking up a stale, musty scent. It wasn’t sweet, though. Closest thing to a jackpot I’d ever get.

Setting my breath in a firm line, holding my breath, I tore the box open. I coughed anyways.

Then, getting on the tips of my toes, I peeked inside.

Masks.

Curious, I grabbed the box and set it down at my feet. I dug through that box and the next.

More and more masks. Similar in fashion to the ones the group that had passed just before. There were different animals in here, different kinds of birds. Ravens, crows, blue jays and cardinals. All of them ripped and damaged to achieve that specific, gross aesthetic.

The next box had props, some of these I had yet to see being used, others… had tried to leave their mark. Varied, but they all sharing a theme. Ugly and wrong.

Claws and toy swords were next to handguns. Lanterns and miniature figures of ghouls were piled next to magazines. I must have shaken the box a bit when I set it down, because a pistol was lodged into the open mouth of a skull, stuck. The blank, empty sockets stared at me, wide and seemingly growing wider.

With the strange mixture between a fantastical sort of horror and the very real, it gave me a chill down my spine. For a split second, I considered the possibility that the skull was real.

A hint of honey began to waft-

I shut the box and kicked it away. I heard the contents shift around, inside.

I put my hand to my mouth. I felt the contents shift around, inside.

It was as if I had opened Pandora’s box. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking up terrible, horrifying ends to everyone I was responsible. What if I couldn’t save them? What if more of them died because of me? What if I never made it out of this town?

Tone. Sarah.

I thought about Sarah.

My knees started to shake, my shoulders shivering. Those were all very real possibilities, weren’t they? They could all come to be?

Death was amusement, here. This was how these monsters treated it.

The seeds weren’t roots, anymore. They had bloomed, to their fullest growth and effect.

It didn’t take long for the vines to wrap and constrict my mind.

One surreal visual after another, one surreal visual after another.

Everything was an assault on my grasp of reality. I could feel it slipping away with every second I didn’t get to sit down and rest.

“Wendy.”

It was so difficult, why did this have to be so difficult? Everything, always?

“Hey.”

I just wanted to shut myself away and lock-

“The door!”

I snapped, already moving to the door as it was pushed open again. Throwing my hands forward, catching onto cloth and skin.

I found myself back outside, back in the dead air and blinding sun.

I clawed for more purchase until I hit the ground, my fingers coiling around someone’s neck.

Someone.

It was the guy in the toad mask.

I saw his eyes from behind the mask, they were wide. I wasn’t as shocked, my ears were perked, twitchy, for any sound. With Isabella and my own growing paranoia, I had learned to constantly check my surroundings, now. Especially my back.

Even in my haze, I was still able to keep that in mind.

The toad masked man gurgled, struggling to speak.

“You- achk!”

I tightened my grip, squeezing.

“I thought you cleared out of here, already,” I said, even though I knew he wouldn’t be able to answer.

“Those gloves could be his,” Isabella offered, “Maybe he came back for them? Or maybe he was sent back to stock up on something else?”

Forcing myself to relax my fingers, I loosened my hold, bit by bit. Enough so that he could breathe.

I let him take raspy, harsh intakes of air.

“It doesn’t matter why he’s here, what matter is that I have you.”

I looked right into his eyes, the whites of mine probably wider than his.

I gave him my terms.

“You have a second to agree to answer my questions before I tear your mask and head off. A single second. Nod if you agree.”

The toad nodded.

Finally, information. Context. Something I could use to gain some understanding about what this fucking town was supposed to fucking be.

I opened my mouth to ask my first question, but Isabella interrupted.

“Heads up.”

My head went up.

I snarled.

Two more animals had come crawling back, perhaps to check on their squealing, disgusting friend. A pig and a goat.

But who would want to save such trash?

They hadn’t sniffed me out yet, but they would soon.

From skin, back to cloth and skin. I grabbed the toad.

Dragging him, I hobbled to my feet and, with my second step forward, turned at an angle to spin.

After a second revolution, I released the toad. The pig and the goat finally took notice of something being amiss, but it had come at them too fast.

The toad crashed into them both, crumpling them into the ground. The rest would come, surely, soon enough. The rest of those filthy creatures.

Too many complications.

Had to leave.

I motioned for Isabella and we took off, going over the storage building to put it between us and them. We ran for the short wall to jump over that as well, to finally leave this park and put it behind us.

Going through the air, I put my hands on my head, as if I needed to physically keep in place, or else I’d lose it for sure.

I was lost until D gave me a clear way to go.

Probably best to start in those apartment buildings, then.

I was holding the phone, D hadn’t gotten off the call. I went north, gauging the distance until I had to pull my phone out and ask D for help as I closed in.

Wandering, out of place and lacking any sense of direction. I was desperate for a guiding hand by this point.

“Yeah, that’s all I see, here. It’s going to be my best bet.”

Agreed.

The stretch of town from the park went back to being abandoned again, how it seemed to be when we first arrived. I knew that it was a veil, now, a front for something much more perverse. What that was, exactly, still escaped me, and it bothered me that I still didn’t know. ‘Bothered’ being a gross understatement.

But, I hadn’t run into anyone else on the way, no men or animals or monsters. They were around, somewhere, but not here. Did that mean that they had different bases they would congregate to and operate from? The group from before mentioned meeting back up with an ‘assembly,’ but what was that supposed to entail? As far as bases went, the park was probably one of them, but the rest of the town would be too wide an area for them to cover, I supposed.

If I knew how they operated, how they would make their rounds, I’d have a much easier time. Yet, at the same time, I wished I never knew Fuckington existed.

Like a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from.

Fumes. No amount of blood could supplement the beauty of sleep. Maybe if this had happened back when the sun was still down, I’d have a much better grip on things. Now? Reality and sanity both seemed to be slipping away at a rapid pace.

Hurry hurry hurry hurry.

I hurried.

The gate into the apartment complex was closed, but a car had crashed at the base of it, leaving a big enough opening to walk through. We walked through it.

Deserted, left to break apart, lifeless. A slight wind had picked up, and I could almost hear a low hum resonate through the broken windows and opened doors of the apartments.

Imagining smells, now sounds? Or was the town so far gone that any stimuli, no matter how minute, no matter how real, seemed to be a trick of the mind?

Fuck.

Something on a deeper level than just being abandoned. It had been made hollow. And it was a sort of emptiness that could claw out other things, making them blank, too. I could feel it happening to me.

I hurried.

A flicker in my eye.

“Two at two.”

Not from the phone, at my side.

I looked slightly to the right.

At the front of one of the apartment buildings, two animals stood, guarding the entrance. Two horses. I ducked behind a nearby set of dead shrubs before they could notice us. We were far enough, and if we stayed low, we could remain out of sight.

“Thanks, Isabella,” I whispered.

“Don’t mention it.”

My gaze stayed on them, studying them. They were relaxed, which blew my mind, and they were chatting amongst themselves, not focusing on the actual job of keeping guard.

Could they be in there? Tone and Sarah and the rest?

I clenched my fists, feeling my phone in one hand.

“D,” I said, “You’re going back in my pocket.”

I’ve got a snack and game with me, so I’m good.

I put the phone away.

“If you rush in, you might attraction more attention,” Isabella said, warning me.

“I know that,” I said. “But-”

I stopped.

My natural inclination was to suggest taking them both out at once, from an angle, but no. No.

I doubted myself too much, now. Couldn’t do it my way.

“I’ll just go around them, avoid getting into a fight.”

There was a pause.

The suggestion was left to hang, but I had a feeling that Isabella approved of the idea.

She didn’t offer a rebuttal, this time. I’d take it.

Staying low, I went around them, to the side of the apartment. The horses kept chatting.

The apartment building was several stories, but that was the least of my issues.

Easy enough.

With a jump, I scaled the side of the apartment, feeling how noticeably heavy my legs were getting.

Hurry.

I stalked over the roof, running. Too high up for them to hear me and register my footsteps.

I found a dip in the roof, a balcony poking out from the top floor. I directed myself over there.

A small drop, and I was right above the two horses.

It would have been so easy to take them out, to drop on top of the first and cripple the other. It was an urge that begged to be satiated. To get back at anyone who could be responsible. Revenge.

But, my needs didn’t come first. It was Tone’s, it was Sarah’s. Olivia’s, even, before my own.

I clenched my fists and ran into the apartment.

I was, however, prepared to defend myself if someone was unlucky enough to turn a corner and see me.

Dark, and damp. The carpeted floor muffled my footsteps as I continued to investigate the place. I could see, but the lack of light to give anything definition gave my brain the freedom to fill in the blanks, and I was so tired, that my vision began to swim. Blotches of grime on the walls looked like faces, and strips of peeled painted looked like mouths, tongues hanging open, as if it was savoring the stale taste in the air.

Some skin peeled away to reveal the bones underneath. Skulls.

The hallway twisted as I began my descent.

I cracked a smile. A faint giggle escaped my lips.

I covered my mouth, breathing through only my nose. I was fighting myself, now, my own body and mind to move forward.

Feels wonderful.

So so real. So surreal.

Then, music.

Music?

Sounds, pleasant. Soothing.

It guided.

Was I imagining things again?

Did I care?

I followed it.

It was coming from one of the rooms. My feet carried me inside.

Someone.

I moved my hands and then they went to sleep. Asleep. Sleep.

As though my sense of awareness was lagging behind, I was snapped back to the now.

I looked at my hands. My fingers were coated in fresh blood, a sweet taste in my mouth, a body at my feet. Breathing, but slow.

Did I blank out for a moment?

Oh well.

I shook my head and looked up.

Another someone.

In the dim, in the back of the hollowed living room, someone sat in a lounge chair. He was slumped over, his face covered, but with how it moved, I could tell he was breathing, too. His hands were tied behind him. A soft light broke past some blinds to his left, illuminating him. Light jazz music came from somewhere.

I walked over in a daze.

The music and his breathing filled my ears, and everything moved like I was in slow motion. Lagging, listless. Like I wasn’t pressed for time.

Then I got to him.

I pulled off the covering from his face. I saw his face.

Finally, I had him. I got him. I got you.

Another snap to the now.

Wait.

Who is he?

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3 thoughts on “083 – Haunt

  1. Wow, the longer this arc gets, the more Wendy loses it! Don’t worry, it’ll all come to a head soon enough 😉

    http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=entirely-presenting-you

    Oh, here’s one cool thing I wanted to share:

    I commissioned the amazing artist Dia to draw Alexis. She looks so happy doesn’t she?

    I put it up on the gallery page, so why not check it out there too? (You might find something else there that has something to do with this chapter, wink wink nudge nudge)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; you’re really good at writing characters on the brink of insanity. The balancing act between letting the reader know what’s going on and the surreal is a line you straddle well. Actually, that applies to your chapter intro art as well…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Grishnax! Delving into the weird and surreal is one of my favorite things to do as a writer, so being able to tap into that while still making it readable is crucial. It’s nice to hear that I managed to work that out.

      Like

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