#006 – A Night Affair
He was standing at the window inside of a stranger’s house, just staring outside. His mind was blank of any thought, and he felt no pain despite the continuous lines of blood leaking through his fingers from the deep cut on the palm of his hand. It was fresh. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to feel in a situation like this. He had killed before. But never like this. This time he had fully intended to do it. Planned and plotted to do it. Spent sleepless nights obsessing over every single one of the minor details of how he would execute his revenge and most likely still not survive the attempt.
He had been forced to work alone, unsure of whom he could trust seeing as his enemy was known to be quite the wealthy piece of shit. In Mayfly City, money and those who possessed large quantities of it, might as well have been nobility who bled true blue blood. It wouldn’t have been unheard of to be sold out by any potential accomplices for a hefty payday. In their shoes, he might have chosen to collect some money in much the same way. His real friends were dead now. Anything he possessed now only mattered if there were sufficient benefits.
Tonight had been the only chance he was ever going to get though. The one time his enemy was alone. The one time his enemy’s family wasn’t present, his wife and daughter off to celebrate the daughter’s birthday and all of his dozens of hired goons going with them except for two.
They had been problematic enough in the end, and he had almost paid for his impatience and recklessness. Anger and hatred had almost cost him his revenge and his life.
No that’s not true. I never expected to succeed. I came here fully intending to die. But I didn’t.
So there he was, standing on the third floor of one of the largest mansions in the city, complete with a large manicured courtyard as well as a ten foot brick wall surrounding the property. The entrance gate made of actual steel was just the icing on the cake.
He was just standing there….staring out into the front yard where just beyond the brick wall and the steel gate, was the street with cars passing by like any normal summer night. Beyond that, the flickering and blinking lights of the city itself as it underwent the same processes it always did. Nothing changed. Nothing likely ever would.
He had succeeded. The empty shotgun as well as the still smoking spent cartridges lay cast aside on the bedroom carpet of the floor behind him. The beige carpet turning something closer to a faded burgundy now but Bram paid it no mind. He didn’t need to. Not anymore. One corpse in the room. One in the hallway outside the room. The last one in the kitchen downstairs on the second floor. He had been the first to die, and the one that had nearly killed him.
His gun had jammed at what was in hindsight, and comically, the worst possible time ever. A struggle for the butcher knife sitting on the counter had ensued. Bram’s hand would likely need stitches….but he had won. And then had continued to win until here he stood now. Avenged. But empty. He wasn’t supposed to succeed. He was supposed to die. But he didn’t.
So what do I do now?
This was the thought that swirled in his mind constantly, an answer never once forthcoming. He hadn’t made any plans for success. There wasn’t supposed to be a need for any. The best case scenario he had envisioned was he got his revenge, but died of the wounds sustained during the act. That was the best he expected, and he hadn’t put much stock in that outcome either.
So what do I do now?
A sudden, cold and merciless anger swelled in him, hot and sticky tears that seemed to burn his cheeks as they cascaded down his face fell. Before he was even aware he had done it, his fist had gone through the window shattering the glass and cutting open the knuckles of his until just then, unharmed hand.
The sounds of the city came rushing in where otherwise, there had only been the silence of an empty house. Empty of life at least. That included him. He was dead. Or so he felt. He wasn’t sure when it started raining, or drizzling anyway.
The sounds of a gentle breeze rustling the trees in the front yard. The sound of someone laying on their car horn like an asshole tends to do. The sounds of rain drops hitting the window pane. The tiny splashes of water that struck his face.
So what do I do-
“I wish you wouldn’t repeat yourself. It’s annoying. You are annoying” a woman’s voice cut in and Bram stumbled back from the window, his hand reaching into his waistline by instinct, but found the small .38 revolver he had stashed for emergencies was now gone.
“What the…?” he muttered, fear welling up in his mind as he started searching the room for an exit like a panicked rat, it never quite dawning on him that somehow the door to the bedroom he was in simply...vanished.
As had the bodies and the burgundy stains on the beige carpeting. Seconds later, the room changed. As did everything else. As abruptly as someone snapping their fingers, the world around him disappeared. One second it was there, the next it wasn’t. Not particularly subtle.
Everything was a solid white now. An endless void of white nothingness as far as he could see. There was nothing in this void either. Nothing but himself. He was alone…?
“Nope we’re here. Not supposed to be talking to you yet but I just couldn’t take the constant repetition of that dream. Dreadful stuff that was. Your memories boy….some shitty stuff. I almost want to kill you to put you out of your misery and mine since I have to relive it with you every time you….dream this….well anyways” the woman’s voice came again and Bram turned to find himself faced by two animals.
A bull and a fox. The bull was a solid white, that Bram wasn’t sure bulls could even be? It’s horns, unlike the stark white that they tended to be, like ivory, were instead pitched black as if someone had taken the time to spray paint them. When it opened its eyes, they were a solid milky gray. No retina or pupil or anything like that.
Was it blind?
“No he’s not blind. He’s just not interested in talking to you. You’re….less than what we were told. Pitiful really,” said the fox, though Bram never saw it’s lips move.
He just felt it had been the fox. The fox...that had a woman’s voice and didn’t seem overly fond of him. It was a solid black fox. A fox as black as the bull had been white. Except for the eyes. They were a magnificent golden yellow. They glowed even. It was...beautiful.
“Why thank you. You’re useless except when it comes to your observational skills. Another big tragedy in this whole mess I guess. Good eyes. Worthless everything else” the fox said, she was speaking in his mind Bram realized.
“You’re an idiot.”
“What? Why are you-” Bram began but some unseen force suddenly clamped down on his throat, not quite choking him or even stopping him from breathing in the slightest.
It stopped him from being able to talk at all however.
“Wake up you fool.”
Speechless at how bizarre the whole situation was he didn’t react. The bull and the fox had now vanished. He was alone again in that white nothingness. For a moment, he was terrified of that prospect.
“Wake up or you’ll die. Last warning” the fox said, her tone actually sounding pleased at the prospect of Bram perishing despite the warning being given.
A black smoke resembling smog seemed to consume everything around him before he had a chance to think, say, or do anything more.
Bram’s eyes opened up to the moonlit night sky just in time to see movement to the side of him. He turned towards the motion and saw something not quite visible to him in the darkness of the night, hunched over Jana. There was another one on the other side of him, hunched over the other soldier with Denik and Sanna. He could see more things he couldn’t quite make out in the darkness walking towards them. One was almost upon Sanna. The only thing he could tell about them, was the way they walked was strange. It was almost like they doing little hops to move rather than walking on legs like a proper person. Or even a zombie. It didn’t occur to Bram immediately that someone was supposed to be up watching while everyone slept. Someone was supposed to be up listening for noise of any kind..
Except no one was. It was then that his eyes finally adjusted to the night and he saw what the unknown entities were. He looked to Jana and saw it. The closest thing he could describe it as resembling was an overly large black, and furry bat with wings and all. The head however possessed three horns, the middle one the tallest, all of them were a solid white like, their brightness contrasting so much with the rest of the blackness of their bodies that they seemed to glow in the moonlight. He could see their heads, but not their eyes.
Then he realized they didn’t have eyes. Only a mouth. A mouth that took up most of the space where the head was supposed to be. No nose. No eyes. Just a massive mouth with teeth like jagged pieces of glass left pointing upwards in the ground for someone to tear open their feet when they stepped down on them.
The worse thing about them though, was the long black, snake-like tongue that protruded from it’s monstrous jaws. It had penetrated into Jana’s ear and he could hear a sound that resembled someone using a straw to suck up the last bits of a vanilla milkshake at the bottom of the cup. Jana’s eyes were all white, having rolled up into the back of her skull. Nausea and disgust rolled over Bram’s mind as he realized what was happening. These things were eating her brain while she was alive and awake!! Bile rose in his throat even as he leaped to his feet, a roar of fear, anger, and sickening repulsion exploding from his lungs. It was such a loud and explosive sound that he felt as if his lungs vibrated from the ferocity of it.
His sword took the head off of the one defiling Jana with one swing, only vaguely taking notice that the monster didn’t bleed but rather emitted some sort of smoke before the creature’s corpse collapsed in death. It never made a sound.
The noise of Bram’s awakening had the others awake, one of the bat creatures suddenly hopping up, wings flapping fiercely as it flew towards Sanna and battered her to the ground before she had draw her sword. Denik had his free a moment later and was hacking at the back of the creature even as Sanna screamed and flailed ineffectively with her arms.
Jarvis was firing arrows into the air at one Bram hadn’t even noticed had been hovering ten or so feet above them, watching them as the others had snuck upon them sleeping. Denik still hadn’t managed to dislodge the one beating at the still screaming Sanna when the one that had been eating the other now blissfully dead soldier came at him flying full force. It’s momentum as it slammed into him taking him backwards and off his feet. For a moment, it managed to lift him several feet off the ground and for just a second, Bram thought it might be able to carry him off, but an arrow pierced it’s skull and exited halfway out the back and it plopped onto the snowy ground dead. A thin trail of smoke exited the arrow wound after it died.
Another came from somewhere Bram didn’t see, its trajectory aiming straight for Bram’s chest, it likely thinking its momentum would allow it to topple and down Bram like it had Denik or Sanna. Bram’s blade slashed it across the face vertically when it cam within range. Then he finished it off when it hit the ground rolling, wings flapping as the strange smoke leaked from the wide open gash across it’s featureless face.
Bram advanced upon the one over Sanna. He grabbed it by one of it’s wings, it body being thin and wiry with the wings making up most of it’s girth. Yanking upwards, he ripped it off from Sanna and then slammed it to the ground next to her, a sound that almost resembled a confused yelp escaped its over-sized mouth. Its head popped up, jaws snapping as it tried to take a bite out of Bram’s face as he leaned over it but his gauntleted fist clashed with it and several of its dagger sharp qulity teeth fell from it’s lips. It even swallowed one or two of them for he heard it make a choked sound as its head snapped back onto the ground again. Before it could recover from that, Bram drove his sword through it’s head just slightly above the top lip of the mouth that made up most of the head. It made no sound as it died, the same thin trail of smoke trailing out of the wound when it died.
Jarvis dropped another from the sky and it died the same and Bram caught another three more further in the skies, wings beating hard as it flapped and flew away in defeat. Apparently it was intelligent enough to know when it was beaten, and thus to go off in search of easier prey elsewhere.
Everyone except for Bram was breathing heavier while he himself only shuddered, making himself avoid looking at Jana and the other soldier whom he knew without a doubt were dead even without looking.
Those things….were eating there….slurping it like a fucking smoothie or a milkshake..or..or..or…
He had to force his thoughts elsewhere or he knew he would sick up in the snow right on top of his boots. Jarvis wasn’t so wise. For a moment he just looked at his sister’s corpse, standing dead still and not making a sound. Then he approached her, crouched next to her and with his fingers, closed her eyelids and muttered something that Bram could only assume was a prayer.
“…..may The Celestial Triarchy guide you sister...I’m sorry” was the only part of it he managed to hear and that was the end of it.
Then he puked right next to her corpse several times, moaning in between each gag, also spitting out mouthfuls of bile during the process.
Denik was standing over the other soldier, who was just as dead and in the same way as Jana while Sanna had moved into a sitting position but was staring off into space. Denik didn’t seem to react in any way that Bram noticed and he went sat next to Sanna putting his arms around her. She flinched for a moment, her fingers reaching for the hilt of her sword in a fear stricken reflex that she hadn’t managed to draw before she relaxed and sort of leaned into his embrace.
“Any idea what those were?” Bram asked, his voice cutting through the terrible silence of them as well as the forest that seemed far too still for his liking.
The only sound he got was Jarvis gagging and spitting some more.
“Thought so” he muttered and sheathed his sword.
It didn’t take much longer for Jarvis to gather his guts, and change the way he mourned. Rather than continuing to sick up about the way his sister Jana had died, (which Bram couldn’t help but sympathize with), he broke into choking sobs that wracked his whole body as he sat in a ball with his head down. And so everyone sat in silence for perhaps an hour, Bram trying his best to tune out Jarvis and his blubbering. It was amazing how much water a man could shed in tears, and for how long he could shed them without some sort of health drawback if he was aggrieved badly enough.
Eventually, with the sound of a grown man choking out sobs and spitting on himself as he did so, and with Denik and Sanna seemingly content to let it go, Bram lost his patience. It was callous, but one had to be practical. The zombies, or more of those...bat things might hear Jarvis and return for another attempt. Something that Jarvis didn’t seem to realize or care about.
“Jarvis would you shut that shit up!! If there is anything nearby that wants to eat us, it’ll know exactly where to find us!! All it has to do is follow the sound of you. You’ve cried. Almost an hour. Who is even capable of something like that?” Bram aid, his tone harsher than he intended, but meaning every word of it.
Jarvis, not exactly being the most emotionally stable of individuals in that moment, didn’t take too well to criticism of any nature.
“That was my sister!!!” he practically roared, his voice loud enough to echo around us as he glared at me with bloodshot eyes, his dark hair curly and wild, pointing a finger at the corpse of Jana.
Bram only then noticed that the bat thing hadn’t stuck its tongue through her ear to get to the brain as he thought he had witnessed. It had instead, bored a hole through the side of her skull like a…..
Like a fucking drill!! Holy shit!!
“That’s a shame Jarvis. It really is. But you making enough noise to wake the dead, possibly literally, isn’t going to help any of us that are left. You might get us all in a really nasty situation, yourself included. Seems pretty selfish to me” Bram said, his tone even as he tried to sound logical without sounding unsympathetic.
“Fuck you Bram!! That isn’t your sister lying there!! You don’t-” Jarvis began but Bram cut him off.
“I don’t give a damn who she was Jarvis. She was going to die within a day or two anyway from that wound. I know it. You know it. Everyone here knows it. That bat-thing probably saved her from suffering as she died, as morbid as that sounds” Bram snapped back, his voice rising in volume now.
“Bram!!” Sanna barked louder than either of them, and Bram rounded on her ready to rebuke her for siding with Jarvis but she ignored him and fixed them both with a glare.
“He’s right Jarvis. Quiet down. It’s almost dawn. We have to get moving by then” she said, her voice quiet now.
His mouth moving as he sought some sort of response, but finding nothing, he stood up, and started pacing around and fuming in silence while Denik went and started going through the other dead soldier’s armor, looking for something perhaps, not that Bram paid any attention.
Sanna apparently had recovered from her own ordeal well enough. She went to the river, stuck her hands in the water and gave herself something of a bath. Denik joined her moments after. Then Jarvis until only Bram sat from where he had awoken. It was only then, with the first touches of orange light rising in the sky, that he noticed the corpses of the bat like monsters had vanished, and in their places, was piles of ash. He showed as much to Denik and he only shrugged, saying it didn’t particularly matter now. They needed to get moving in an hour or so.
“We can pass on what we know from our encounters here to the mages from the Magicians Association when we reach Edellberg. They’ll find more use out of it then any of us will” Denik concluded and once again, my interest was piqued.
A organization of Mages? I really want to meet these people if for no other reason than sheer curiosity.
Breakfast was a bit more than the previous day, if only because there was more food and less mouths to feed. Apparently, Jana had had some biscuits tucked away that only she had been nibbling on while everyone else had white cheese only. She hadn’t even shared any with Jarvis. Her brother. While everyone ate in silence, Bram’s mind wandered back to the dream. Or rather the latter half of it….with the two animals. One that could talk, and the other that was apparently more dismissive of Bram rather than in contempt like the female one. The black fox and the white bull.
He remembered her words right before he had awaken to find himself and the soldiers under attack.
“Wake up you fool”.
Coincidence? Sure didn’t seem like it. It had felt far too real to Bram, and if he were being honest, with all that was going on at the moment….two animals talking to him in his dreams didn’t seem like too much of a leap in possibility now.
They had warned him. Would he have perished without the warning? Bram didn’t think so. He didn’t believe for a moment that he wouldn’t have woken up when one of them touched him in the slightest. But he didn’t know for sure, because either way, they, being the two animals in his dream, had forced him awake.
Maybe it had been a coincidence? He was sure some psychologist could have prepped and formulated some convoluted explanation for how it all had played out….but anyway. Science, of any variety, would never be able to solve all of the world’s mysteries. Never mind anything beyond that.
Or of other worlds.
He was taking his last bite of cheese and dusting his hands off when he heard Jarvis raise his voice again.
“I’m burying her” he spat, his chin set and his tone firm and stubborn.
He was standing up to his full height now, trying to manage intimidation on Denik who stood only a foot separate from him with an annoyed expression. Jarvis failed to make Denik step back.
“No you won’t. We’ve buried no one since this fiasco of a mission began because we haven’t had the time what with all of the failures, mistakes, and the running for our lives. We can’t stay here long enough for you to dig a hole and bury anyone” Denik said, his voice strained though he kept it from showing on his face.
“Then help me and we’ll be done quicker” Jarvis pleaded and Bram sighed dramatically, and decided to simply take action to diffuse the situation altogether.
Irregardless of how much hatred he was likely going to create in Jarvis towards him. Bram could care less. While Denik was trying to dissuade Jarvis, Bram simply grabbed Jana by the leg and rather unceremoniously, dragged her to the bank and rolled her into the river.
Jarvis and Denik both goggled at that and Sanna looked at Bram as if her were a lunatic.
“If he still complains, let’s just leave his ass” Bram said nonchalantly.
Then Jarvis drew an arrow and was about to attach it to his string to fire at Bram when Denik grabbed his arm and jerked his balance of.
Denik and Jarvis wrestled and struggled for a bit, but Jarvis overcame Denik quickly, having an impressively muscular frame, shoved him aside sending Denik on his back. Then he went to shoot at Bram. Wearing his very best sneer, Bram drew his sword and advanced upon him to cut him down before he fired the bow until Sanna stepped in between both of them.
“You will stand down Recruit” she growled at Jarvis, her voice lower and deeper than Bram had ever heard it before.
Something even Jarvis noted despite his face purple with rage, veins forming on his neck and around his eyes in pure, unadulterated rage at Bram. His nod of compliance was so minuscule that for a moment Bram doubted if he had even really saw it. Jarvis spun away so fast it was amazing he didn’t lose his balance and fall over, but rather than stomping off, it seemed as if he were only trying to remove Bram from his sight before he lost his self-control and fired at him anyway.
Sanna looked at Bram with an expression he couldn’t read, therefore didn’t know how to take or respond to.
“What is wrong with you?” she said, a hint of repulsion and disgust in her tone, her face turning understandable, as she ran her fingers through her auburn hair, removing a leaf as she did so.
It was cold. Unfeeling. Emotionless. Disgust. Like looking at a rabid animal someone detested and therefore wanted it put down for your own sake. Fuck the animal. It seemed she didn’t like Bram very much.
With enough said by everyone, an uneasy silence passed as everyone readied themselves to begin moving again. Sanna and Denik rolled the other dead soldier into the water, Bram noticing the same bloody hole in the side of his head, right where the temple would have been.
They were back on the move soon enough. Jarvis took the lead so he could be the furthest away from Bram as possible lest he lose control of his actions in a moment of fitful rage. They were still headed north.