The morning after our arrival at the 487th's post, apparently the moral of the day was 'controlled chaos'. Upon waking up, I ducked outside the tent to get a breath of fresh air, and wound up almost being knocked in the head by the barrel of a 50 cal that a few of the soldiers were carrying. Looking around, I noticed the frantic pace of the few who nearly knocked me out was being mirrored by the majority of the rest of the small base. The barbed wire had been set, and now gun emplacements were being set up all along the edge of the perimeter. On the rooftops, soldiers were laying in the prone position, rifles pointed out towards the perimeter. The entire place felt on edge.
Heading off to the left of the center of the encampment, I saw a few small campfires built up, people sitting around them. Whether there for warmth or for company, the faces were all the same: Pain. Fear. Hopelessness. You could almost feel the emotions of the gathered crowd. Around one campfire, near the maintenance bay building, a small radio would be set up. I sat there and listened for a long time, leaving only after the news broadcast by 95.3.
As I rose back up, I heard the familiar strum of a guitar off to my left. Turning on a heel, I stood there, eyes wide with confusion at what I saw. Not only was there a guitar. There were two guitars players, a bassist, a harmonica, and… Who the hell put in the effort to bring an octobass with them? Aren't there only 7 or so of those in the world? Letting out a quiet sigh as I observed the makeshift band, I settled down on a nearby bench, listening to how this bullshit symphony sounded. A few minutes later, I concluded that there are some things in this world that I don't want to hear again. A badly tuned octobass is one of them.
I headed towards a row of blue porta-johns near the center of camp. As I moved to open one, another down the line opened up, and I froze in my tracks. The other porta-john's former occupant also froze, and we locked eyes. A moment later, broad grins broke out on both of our faces.
Immediately sprinting down the line, I wrapped the man in front of me in a bone-crushing hug, unable to control myself in my joy. "Ren!" I exclaimed at the top of my lungs, "You're alive?!"
In stark contrast to my overwhelming exuberance, Ren stood there after I put him down, brushing off some imaginary dust. "Yes, well. You didn't think a little thing like the end of the fuckin' world would put me down, did you Myles?" Shaking my head at his apparently limitless confidence, I leaned against the blue plastic shitter behind me.
Tarren Collins, known across the board as 'Ren' to his friends and as 'that fucking psychopath' to pretty much everyone else, had been my best friend growing up. As kids, we did everything from watch the same movies to hitting on the same girls. As we grew up, we never really grew apart. My fourteenth birthday, he brought a bottle of bourbon. His sixteenth birthday, I brought the weed. Hell, even our senior prom, we went with the DeLancey sisters. He went with Meg, I went with Kay.
However, for as well as I know the guy, I won't lie and say that he doesn't have his quirks. Admittedly, we were both bullied in school for being scrawny nerds. We both strived to do something about it, but just had different methods. I worked out, got big, and wound up wrestling. Ren… He'd never say it directly, not really. But, after awhile, whenever we got bullied, something would happen. Maybe the asshole who wanted to pick a fight wound up with a flat tire. Maybe a firecracker wound up in someone's mailbox. Hell, maybe someone wound up sick because there were trace amounts of nightshade in his lunch. The thing is, no one could ever pin it on Ren, and there was never any proof… But the rumor mill did its job, and we were both left alone.
As I stood there, admiring my best friend's survival, my bladder decided to make its self known, and I immediately rushed into the shitter. Pants down, face red, hoping to just get it all over with… And that's when all hell decided to break loose.
I felt it before I heard it. The air displacement, the sudden fluctuations in temperature, the faint scent of ozone… All of it rushed me and I, through some cruel irony of fate, was quite literally caught with my pants down. Outside, I heard shouting and gunshots, then explosions… Then ungodly howling. Like some demented dog had been shot and left to die. It was terrifying. Finally, I finished what I came to do in the first place, and rushed out of the porta-john.
The first sight that greeted my eyes when I stepped out into the sunlight was the sight of several haggard, tired looking soldiers, among them Sergeant Rodriguez, standing over the body of something. Parts of it looked canine, parts of it looked like a pig, and parts of it just looked… wrong. Then, as I watched, the twisted creature started to dissolve into a thick, rolling fog. As though feeling how disturbed everyone was by it, Rodriguez attempted to lighten the mood with a joke. "So, a dog, a pig, and a- ugh!" As he tried to get the joke off the ground, the fog suddenly flew up, wrapping his face in a dark cloud. No one moved. No one even screamed. We all just stared, helplessly, as this man was being choked by the thick cloud of… Whatever the hell it was.
Seconds later, it was over. The last of the fog vanished into the sergeant's mouth and eyes, and he hit the ground. One of the other soldiers rushed over to check on his NCO, crouching over the man's prone form… And flinching as what looked like a bone spike pierced through his chest, retracting with a sickening 'pop'.
The thing that used to be Rodriguez pushed its self up, its eyes opening to reveal almost luminous red eyes, as compared to Rodriguez's former light greens. The Not-riguez would look around, rolling its jaw as if we were just some tasty morsel. Without warning, the thing would reach up, ripping its jaw down. There was a collective shudder at the crack of shattered bone, though the creature would seem no worse for wear. On the contrary, Rodriguez's face seemed to restructure to accommodate the new condition of his body, muscles visibly shifting under the skin. Then it lunged towards the first thing it saw upon finishing the re-arrangement. Unfortunately, that first thing it saw was yours truly.
Before I even had time to respond, Not-riguez had already gotten a solid hold on my arm with his teeth. I stared down, horrified and unbelieving. "S-sergeant, if you're in there, we need you here!" The monster crunched down a little harder, and I let loose a bloodcurdling scream.
All of a sudden, what had been the monster's head suddenly popped into a red mist. Collapsing to my knees, I clamped my other hand down on my arm, almost crying out in pain. Looking up, I realized that my oh-so-unlikely savior was none other than Ren, clutching one of the soldier's sidearms clutched firmly in his hand. One of the medics rushed me, looking over the gaping wound on my arm. As he started to pick me up, someone in the crowd screamed.
I looked around, trying to figure out just what they were screaming at, before freezing in my tracks, staring down at the recently-dead monster. Not-riguez had started to dissolve, and the same black fog that had claimed him whispered into existence. It writhed around his head like a demented snake for a moment, before spreading out like a mist.
You get one guess who the poor bastard was who was nearest to the mist. Anyone? Any takers? Surprise surprise, it was me. As the mist rushed me, seeping in through my eyes, mouth, and nose, all I found myself thinking was Why. Why the hell did I have to take a shit now?
My world had gone from bad to worse the past couple days. First I find out humanity is being decimated by demons. Then one of said demons decides to come through a Break into my store, and I wind up holed up in the back for awhile. Then I spent a night with the military, only to decide to take a shit at the worst possible time.
So here we are. At the time, I wasn't nearly that coherent. At the time, I was fighting for what felt like my very soul against something that would take it and use it as a demonic chew toy. I felt pain like I'd never felt before. I felt every emotion on the spectrum, from love to hate to sorrow to righteous fury. I saw things, moments in time, that weren't my own. I saw shapes twisting in the void, black against black. I felt like I was losing my mind and coming undone, only to put myself back together an instant later. It was madness.
Then something changed. Out of the maelstrom and the madness, one person stepped out. One voice cut through the discordant chorus. As shapes started to resolve and the madness started to fade, only one figure other than myself stood in that suddenly barren dreamscape. Getting a closer look, I realized that the only other person in my head was… me.
Wait. What? I 'walked' up to the other dream representation of myself, studying it from a distance. It? Him? Me? I still don't know what the pronoun there is. Either way, up I walked, and I reached out towards him… Only to have my arm suddenly caught in a vice grip.
The other 'me' spoke, but in a voice radically different from my own. The voice had a low grumble to it, almost to the point of a growl. "You will kneel." I stared at the other me in shock, not quite sure how to respond, but something in my gut told me that kneeling right now would be the wrong move. So there I stood, stubbornly defiant and unwilling to move an inch.
The voice then spoke again, a bit more forcefully. "You will kneel!" This time, however, I actually responded. Not verbally, but my other arm clamped down on the one that still had my arm in a vice grip, ripping it off. Then I stepped forward, roughly shoulder checking the doppelganger, sending it sprawling to the ground.
As I towered over it, I finally spoke. "No. This is my body. My mind. And a monstrosity like you has no place in it." With that, I raised up my boot, and stomped down on the recreation of my face. "You kneel." As I spoke, the mindscape shattered, and my mind finally slipped into the misty grey of unconsciousness.
Author's Note: Alright folks, there's chapter two done and over with. I've got a more solid idea in mind for this, and I'm definitely planning for this to be a longer story. With that in mind, read, follow, favorite, review, and most importantly,
Keep on dreaming,