It all seemed so much simpler back then. We made light of things that, in hindsight, weren't to be joked about. "Oh, yeah, demons are totally going to jump out of the night and kill us all." We'd said. Then again, at the time, 'demons' didn't exist. They were shadows in the corner of your vision that you couldn't explain, but dismissed out of hand. They were the monsters of children's tales and stories. But never once did we consider they could be real. Never once did we consider that a colossal monster of darkness made solid could level a town, or destroy a city. Never once did we consider that those shadows in our vision had fangs and claws, waiting for their time to kill us before we could blink.
Life's funny like that, sometimes.
"And finally, our main story for the evening: The death toll continues to rise as the Horrors expand outward from major cities. In addition, we have new reports of Breaks occurring all across the world. Civilians are encouraged to stay indoors, as the military tries to contain the rising threat. With that, back to the music on 95.3 DREM, the dream that keeps on dreaming. " Some cringe-worthy pop song came over the radio after that, and I turned off the damnable banshee wailing that was sure to follow.
Yeah. Horrors. That's what the news had taken to calling the demons that suddenly flooded the world as we knew it a month ago, and brought that world to its knees. No one knows for sure how or why it happened, but theories are varied. I've heard everything from lab experiment gone wrong, to the punishment of a vengeful God, with dark magic laying somewhere in between.
Regardless of how or why it happened, the moment that started this unending nightmare is known by all as the Shift. Though no one can exactly describe it, every single person felt some inexplicable change in the world around them. As the world was reeling, the first Breaks opened, and the first demons flooded our world. From reports that filtered down from higher up, the Breaks appeared in population-dense areas. Major cities from Hong Kong to New York to London fell within hours. Streets filled with blood and screams, skylines consisting of smoke, fire, and the hulking forms of the Horrors… Yeah. The kind of things we saw in movies, but knew could never happen. Shows what we know, huh?
And where was I, you might ask? Where was Myles Syraeno? Scared shitless in the back room of the supermarket I worked at. I was 18, fresh out of high school, and didn't know what to do with my life. It was a three days after the first Break, and people were swarming the store. Everyone from survivalist types to nine to five white collar officer workers was trying to get the last case of water, the last can of green beans, the last box of Twinkies. I shit you not, I watched two grown men get into a fist fight over a box of snack cakes.
In the middle of this mass of people and panic, the lights started to flicker, and the entire store suddenly fluctuated from painfully hot to numbingly cold, like someone was flicking a switch between scorching desert and arctic tundra. Then, somewhere over by the frozen goods, a strange crack in the air appeared. Seconds later, the crack widened, and something reached out. It latched onto the floor and yanked its self out of the Break. Then the screaming started…
I didn't know what to do. The world was nice, calm, and relatively orderly minutes before, to suddenly become this slaughter fest. So I did what any sane, rational human being would do in that situation: I ran like the devil was after me. Come to think of it, that might be truer than any other metaphor I can think up.
I tried to head for the exit, but found it to be already jam-packed with terrified shoppers, all trying to escape the madness. So I made a quick judgment call, and sprinted for the storage room. I thought maybe, just maybe, I could slip out through the loading docks. Props to me for that one because, a second after I sprinted out of the area, I heard… Awful, awful sounds coming from the main exit. I didn't turn around to look. I didn't want to see. But I could hear it. Every snap, every splatter, every crunch… It wasn't like a movie. In movies, you know the monsters can't hurt you. This, however? This was very real and very, very close.
So, as I said, props to me for thinking of the storage room and, by extension, the docks. It was a good idea, in theory. In practice, I almost sprinted out the door. I say almost because one of my coworkers had the same idea, opened the door… And immediately received a twisted arm through the chest, pulling her through that same door a moment later. I froze in my steps, listening intently for any sound of something coming through the door. Hearing none, I turned and headed toward the nearest somewhat secure room we had, which conveniently turned out to be the employee break room. I closed the door silently behind me as I entered and dropped to my knees, unconsciousness claiming me before I hit the ground.
What felt like moments later, I awoke to silence. No footsteps, no muffled crunching or any of the other disturbing noises from the main entrance, nothing. A quick glance at my watch revealed that six hours had passed. Shaking my head, I pushed myself to my feet. Taking a moment to make sure I was steady, I walked across the room, hunkering down in the corner. Digging through my backpack that I'd thrown in here at the start of my shift, I pulled out my phone, turning it on… Only receive a low battery screen. Fighting back the urge to scream, I dug through my bag further, trying to find the charger I knew to be buried at the bottom. Finding it, I silently paced over to the wall outlet, plugging in the device and waiting… And waiting. Seconds turned to minutes with no change in the device, and I finally slumped in defeat.
A minute later, a loud bang emanated from what sounded like the main entrance, and I froze in fear. Pressing myself against the wall by the door, I waited for what felt like hours, but was probably only a few minutes. Then I started to hear them. Footsteps. Slow, steady, almost rhythmic. With my heart feeling like it was in my throat, I got down real low, peeking under the edge of the door frame to try and see anything. The lack of power in the loading dock didn't do me any favors, as I couldn't see a damn thing. Suddenly, the footsteps stopped, and three loud knocks rang out from the door.
A second later, a gruff voice called out. "Are there any survivors in here?" He must've heard my sudden inhale, because the mysterious voice continued speaking. "This is Sergeant Rodriguez, with the 487th CBRN Company. I'm checking for survivors from the recent Breach."
I immediately jumped to my feet, swinging the door wide open. The sight of a man in grey/green digital camo greeted me, as well as the two men on either side of him. All three were holding M4 carbines, all of which were leveled at my chest. A second later, the sergeant held up his hand, and the weapons were lowered. The man to the sergeant's left pulled what looked to be a hand set to a radio off his pack, holding it up. "Mountain 77, this is Savage 02. We found one civilian in the supermarket. Repeat, one civilian in the supermarket." After a muffled response, he'd speak again. "Roger Mountain 77. Savage 02 out." With that, the handset would be returned to the pack, and the sergeant would step forward, extending a hand.
"Are you alright, son?" I nodded, a stream of half-started words coming out of my mouth. The man must've understood my nodding and gibbering, before nodding towards the man to his right. "Alright, Specialist Davidson over there will get a look at you, and then you'll be coming with us back to the unit. That alright with you?"
As I walked over to the man identified as Davidson, I managed to stutter out, "A-a-anyone else?" At that, all three faces fell, and I knew exactly how much of a mess it was. Davidson started to look my over, apparently checking for any wounds, as the sergeant started to speak.
"We did a full sweep of the area before coming in. Outside isn't pretty. The main entrance… Since you're wearing a cashier badge, I guess you know how bad it was up there?" I managed to nod, wincing as Davidson poked a splinter of wood that'd somehow gotten lodged in my arm. A second later, and the wood was out. "That's about the size of it. We haven't checked the rest of the town yet, but what we did see… It's not pretty." I nodded along meekly.
Behind my back, I heard Davidson's voice. "He's good, sarn't." That established, Rodriguez would take another glance around the room before, turning towards the door. "Alright, we're dipping out. The rest of the store is clear. Let's get this one back to the unit, then we'll go from there." After a muffled chorus of affirmative responses, the trio of soldiers and I headed out the back. I glanced around, seeing what had changed… And immediately regretted that particular life choice. There she was, my coworker from earlier, nailed to a wall with what looked like bone spikes. I didn't look close enough to see any details, but there was a lot more red than just her hair.
As we proceeded towards the soldiers' armored personnel carrier, a small gibbering mass of flesh charged towards us. Before I could even process what was happening, a small weapon system on top of the APC suddenly lit up, and the gibbering mass exploded in a flash of red. After confirmation that everyone was alright, the sergeant motioned us forward, and we all loaded up into the pack. Upon entering, I was greeted with a few familiar and unfamiliar faces. My parents, as soon as I stepped into the vehicle, immediately rushed me. Seemingly uncaring of present company, they both wrapped me in a teary, emotional hug. After a moment, Rodriguez would cough behind me, and we all took our seats. Our APC rolled out, a few others tailing us a second later. An hour later, we found ourselves rolling through the gates of what looked to be a rather large Reserve center, and were then dropped off at the front office building.
Upon stepping out, a new group of soldiers came forward, escorting us all inside. Two hours later, I found myself sharing a large tent with 40-odd other people, some who I knew. For the sake of standards, men were in one set of tents, women in children in another. Around the entire perimeter, one set of armed guards kept watch, while another team was busy laying what appeared to be everything from barbed wire to the foundation for a concrete wall. For the first time in this long, hellish day, I finally felt some semblance of safety.
Author Notes: Hey there, everyone. Limey here. The idea for this story popped into my head randomly at work, so I decided to type it all up before I lost it. I have a few ideas for where to go with it, but I'm relying on y'all to keep me motivated. Reviews, comments, complaints, concerns, and constructive criticism are all welcome.
Keep on dreaming,