Tuesday, 21 April 2015

SE Story Monday: Vessels

quote [ "With a limited capacity to form a communication bond in individuals living in the same areas, little by little, they began to spread in the new globe, jumping into new creatures by the means of infection, sexual reproduction or by becoming victims and food for those who seemed more capable, better adapted to survive." ]

SE Story Monday is back again and as always you are welcome to participate. Forget about the rules, just post your stuff and use the spoiler tags so we will not end with a mile long post. All critiques are welcome. But, you are planning to post something big, maybe you can use something like Wordpress and link it here.
Thank you guys and gals and bring it on.

Reveal


Vessels

By Carlos Martinez

The young soldier had never been so afraid, so scared. Life had never been easy, but things had dramatically gotten worse in the last 20 years or so. It was all because of the Vessels. Those damned things coming from space to take the land and kill everybody. The soldier was preparing the last weapons available, a rifle and a bayonet. Seemed enough, but it clearly was not. When you destroy the Vessels, they contaminate the world, their fluids fall and they pollute the land, gradually conquering it, reverting it into a new ecosystem, one prepared to sustain more and more Vessels, in all their diversity of shapes and functions, all of them loaded with Colonists. The only way to stop them is fire or acids, whatever burns the evil inside until there is nothing left.

The soldier, standing in an open field near some ruins, in a rather non-tactical position, reflected on what was known about the enemy, how it came from the sky with no warning, with no intention of being able to negotiate, inside their repulsive armor of flesh. Initially, one would have been led to believe that the basically familiar form, one head with two eyes and a feeding cavity, a body with two arms and two legs, represented all there was about the new enemy. But it wasn?t that way.

When the Vessels began to decimate populations some of them were captured and others were killed and their mutilated bodies were sent to the authorities. And the analysis began, as well as the efforts to communicate with them, to find out what was happening, the reasons why they would attack and kill so savagely and so aggressively take control of so many territories. There was no answer, or at least none that could be understood. The minds of the enemy were totally incompatible with that of normal life. Their inner anatomy was similar, but it was working in so many different ways that the experts were baffled. Their nervous system was too complex, so encapsulated and divided, that there was no known way that they could act with such coordination and cunning.

It was then that the analysis of the dead bodies brought light into the invader's true nature. A long ago, the experts were able to develop a way to communicate with the flora and fauna in order to better understand them a control in a non-invasive way the ecosystems of the planet. The system had become a second nature for them and they were able to communicate with other life forms. And so, it happened that one of those experts was examining the corpse of one of the enemies when all of a sudden he was in contact with an extremely complex intelligence, near one of the nerve centers of the creature, located in the middle of the body, above an ingesting organ.

The impact of the incidental communication seemed to be mutual, and after the initial surprise, the intelligence and the experts brought to deal with it were able to communicate. The intelligence was surprisingly chatty, but not in a friendly way, but as someone who talks to those who are considered its inferiors and just does not care about whatever could come from any exchange of information.

The intelligence explained how they took over their hosts bodies, true armours of flesh, after crossing the cold vastness of space in the chunks of rock that survived a catastrophe which destroyed its homeworld, where the inhabitants evolved from multicellular individuals into simple creatures united in a single global mind. With no individual goals to pursue, the resulting superbeing ended up being trapped in a cycle of boredom that lasted millennia, encased in dullness, with the only changes being the heat of the day and the cold of the night in the world they inhabited, shrouded in mechanical containment units that provided them with food and shelter.

Their mind had stalled, and so stalled it was that they were unable to stop the destruction of their world. But when it came, the individuals ended floating in the emptiness of space until they were drained of energy, while others remained nailed to the rocky remains of their planet, mining them for sustenance until they too ran out of energy.

But one particular rock remained and it ended being in an orbit which sent it to a nearby planet after ignoring other potential targets. The crash had devastating effects on the survivors, leaving them waiting for death on the alien surface, with the same certainty that they had about the night and day cycles on their world. And then, the most unexpected thing happened: The planet was inhabited.

The fall of the last livable portion of their planet had obliterated many lifeforms in the other world, leaving nothing but small and extremely adaptable creatures. For the colony of survivors, they represented an opportunity to survive. They discovered that they could enter the bodies of the creatures and live inside them, being able to produce copies and copies of them in their insides and adapt them to the new territory.

They had not only discovered their salvation. They also found creativity again.

So, they took on the task with a force and determination they had not seen in an immensely long time. The colonizers invaded the body either floating in the air with special protective coats or by water or food, and each colony and its hosts began to act like a sort of single individual again, exploring new lands and seeing the cycles of evolution changing the lifeforms in their new world, their new home.

With a limited capacity to form a communication bond in individuals living in the same areas, little by little, they began to spread in the new globe, jumping into new creatures by the means of infection, sexual reproduction or by becoming victims and food for those who seemed more capable, better adapted to survive.

Many colonies expanded, while others died. It was evolution and a contest again, between the invaders of the strongest and those of the weak, where sometimes the capacity or the cunning of the host species was the only chance for a group of colonists to continue existing on their own or being assimilated into another colony. But nothing was lost because their experiences as a meta-individual were to be received and processed.

If there was something frustrating about this exercise, even from the perspective of creatures that saw time in terms of millennia as some see mere moments, was the impossibility to directly communicate with their hosts. They could influence their conduct, their emotions, but there was no dialogue between the two.

But that came to a change one day. Back then, a colony found something, a spark in the main information processing node of a particular creature, and saw that it could influence it, transferring some of the technical knowledge they had forgotten for so long into the host, step by step, keeping it an appropriate form for the primitive brain. They also took on stimulating it in order to mate with others, sometimes with rather brutal means, securing the chance to create a platform onto which to become more like a controller than a passenger, determining its evolution while feeding more and more complex data, sometimes offered as inspiration, sometimes in dreams, sometimes as play.

And soon, at least from the colonist's perspective, they had their hosts creating structures to protect them, controlling the planet's resources and more importantly, waging war against each other.

That particular aspect probed to be very important because the hosts are more easily inspired when they face the problem of their own survival, and there is nothing better for that than war. The hosts were fine-tuned to take on quantum leaps of creation, sometimes even surprising the colonists with their solutions to many problems, combining the elements given to them. In the end, it did not matter how many colonies were destroyed, the survivors were the ones with the right to survive.

And after all that war, became the expansion era. The hosts took the colonists again into space and then to other worlds on their own planetary system, and the colonists responded to them by inspiring them to change them, to control their environment and make them more suitable for new colonies, while at the same time they mutated to invade the soil and the air once their hosts died and were buried. So, the cycle of entering into new hosts and being assimilated by other colonies continued in many orbs and then in most of the galaxy.

Finally, they had been taken on this new planet and since they were unable to find new suitable hosts, due to biological compatibility problems, they decided for the most logical route: To eliminate the competition.

The experts were baffled by the explanation about the clear wickedness displayed by the Vessels when they first came, how they seemed so abhorred by the local population that they acted with extreme savagery, razing the earth and killing all that moved. They were manipulated into doing so. The colonists had explained it very clearly, and they just did not care about the consequences of their acts. They were confident in the strength of an army composed by millions of beings, motivated from their very entrails to eliminate other creatures and, given enough time, disseminate themselves in their new world.

The authorities tried everything they could. They tried to negotiate, but they were unable to convince the Colonists to accept any deal, other than having the native population commit suicide in order to stop wasting time.

They also tried to communicate with the Vessels directly, but they were unable to connect with their incompatible minds and spirits. They created guns and weapons to kill them, only to find that the ground where they were left to die had been invaded by the colonists.

Poisons and chemicals were used with moderate success for a while, but they contaminated the soil and then the Vessels began to be reinforced with artificial armors and protective apparatuses. And they kept coming by the millions. They seemed invincible, if nothing else, by sheer number.

The soldier was reflecting on that while the rifle was being loaded with poisonous bullets, but then a crackling sound broke the silence. It was impossible to turn around on time and shoot, but the attempt was made anyway. And then the rifle produced no sound, no small explosion, no nothing. It was stuck.

The soldier was even more scared than before and let the rifle fall to the ground and took the bayonet, ready to charge against the black armored creature standing a few meters away in the field, near the ruins. It was horrible to behold. The head was somehow too small, and the arms and legs too long, too thin, even with the armor padding all over its body. The two protuberances in the front upper part of the body were made even more grotesque by the padding, looking like tumors ready to explode with puss all over the creature.

"So, this is the last thing I get to see before I die," thought the soldier, less than a second before a projectile pierced the air and blasted the head of the young defender into a million pieces, not leaving enough time for another reflection.

+++++++++

Lieutenant Sandra Torrance stood in the area, without moving, for a few seconds, before taking a few steps forward to face the remains of the native being and see them with disgust. Torrance removed her helmet and allowed the oxygen-rich atmosphere to invade her lungs, leaving the recycled and filtered air of her armor for a bit later, while the sweat covering her face began to evaporate, creating a refreshing sensation over her immaculate dark skin.

She took another look at the remains of the creature and spat over them, disgusted by the sight of a ridiculous caricature of the human form, a sub-intelligent unisexual species whose culture was unable to produce proper weaponry and do something worthy on the planet surface, other than "cities" made of adobe in the middle of vast fields of fungoid entities, like the ruins beside them.

While the Colonizers in her saliva began to invade the ground where they fell, she took a seat in a nearby placement of bricks, taking a well-deserved break. After all, according to the scans, there were no more defenders in the area, at least none that could bother her for some hours.

After a few sips of water and Coke from her backpack, and some puffs of a Camel, she took her time to observe her surroundings. The place wasn't so bad after all. All it needed was some grass and some farm animals and it would look like those fields in the history books. And, given enough time, it would be a good place to come to live and have a family, and perhaps a bunch of kids.

And, of course, it would be a very good place to die, and be buried with some dignity. After all, she had a gut feeling telling her that she earned a place in history, for the good of the many generations to come.

[SFW] [+3]
[by Onix@4:42amGMT]

Comments

Tirade said @ 7:09pm GMT on 21st Apr [Score:1 Interesting]
Everything I've been writing is just a continuation of the novel-length stuff I've been working on lately, but since I am planning on podcasting them all as audio serials, I've also been working on figuring out a music score style for them.

So to add more to my plate than I already have, I decided to start posting writing prompts on my tumblr, with snippets of musical sketches as further inspiration, and occasional genre-relevant images I find on my feed there.

I was going to post my favorite so far, but I can't seem to embed the tumblr post or anything from soundcloud, so I'll just link to it here.

You can never really leave the city, The road going away from the city goes on forever. The road back is always a lot shorter.
Onix said @ 2:29am GMT on 27th Apr
Very good. I am really liking your stuff Tirade. You are very imaginative. I can only wish to have access to more of your stuff.
lilmookieesquire said @ 3:47pm GMT on 21st Apr
Creative placeholder comment for later editing
HoZay said @ 4:10pm GMT on 21st Apr
Strong disagreement.
AssBastard said @ 4:50pm GMT on 21st Apr
Abstract grilled cheese sandwich recipe.
mechanical contrivance said @ 4:56pm GMT on 21st Apr
Closed-minded rejection of anything new.
arrowhen said @ 9:40pm GMT on 21st Apr
Pun.
HoZay said @ 5:40pm GMT on 21st Apr
10/10 Best grilled cheese recipe ever! Only changes I made were instead of cheese I used quacamole, and instead of grilling a sandwich, I just stuck some corn chips in it.
mechanical contrivance said @ 5:52pm GMT on 21st Apr [Score:1 Underrated]
I see you've been reading the reviews on allrecipes.com.
Onix said @ 2:28am GMT on 27th Apr
Mookie. Please add something.
spleen23 said @ 6:25pm GMT on 21st Apr
Activist’s Digest.


Reveal

-Activist’s Digest.-

“It would be best Jorden” whispered Devon “If you just let me inside.”

Jorden looked around the supply closet with desperation, the push button lock of the door had held them out for now, but it was only a matter of time before one of them found something that could break down the door.

“Jorden” came the soft voice again “I can make it quick, but if the others pile in there all at once…”

“They’ll be desperate.” Devon sighed. “They’ll start to eat while you’re still alive.”

Jorden clenched her hands over her mouth to hold back a whimper.

“Let. Me. In!” The door shook at the force of the unseen blows against it “Now!”

Jorden baked away until she hit against the rear wall and slid down to the floor weeping as blow after blow hammered against the outside of the door, before Devon’s frantic efforts slowed to a stop.

“Please honey.” came his voice between exhausted pants.

“I’m just, so hungry…”



It had all been so perfect, a cause she could believe in after deciding to abandon her parent’s faith, a new life and new friends to replace the family that she had never fit in with.

And Devon, so tall and thin. His blond hair and blue eyes.

Devon who always knew the right thing to say.

“I only need to take a little bit. Just to hold me over.” he whispered. “Then you’ll be one of us, you’ll belong”

“Shut up!” Jordan screamed “Shut up and leave me alone!”

For a moment Jorden could hear his soft laugher.


Students Against Animal Testing. It had sounded so simple when Devon had talked about it.

The demonstration on campus had drawn a crowd, but even Jorden admitted to herself that it was the chance to check out the guy doing the talking which drew her over, but it was the message that brought her back.

The way livestock was housed and slaughtered just to save a few dollars, and the sadistic cruelty done to test animals, so often without even any need.

But it wasn’t enough to just not eat meat or use leather, it had to be the personal choice to live a whole different type of lifestyle.

And to make drastically different life choices.



They were all volunteers.

Bethany was the wild one, she had picketed the super mart dressed as a cow only because Devon had talked her out of doing it naked. The tall blond girl had become her best friend since she had joined SAAT during her first week of collage, despite the fact she had dated Devon in the past, she had supported Jordon’s own efforts to gain the man’s attentions.

Big john was Devon’s buddy, a dropout from school who had tried to enlist in the military only to be turned down due a criminal record and his psych files. The big man had driven them here.

Eddie didn’t even believe in the cause, Jorden had seen the cheeseburger wrappers on the floor of his car. The computer geek had only joined the group to try to get into Bethany’s pants, a prospect that had both amused and disgusted her friend.

But Eddie knew how to get pass the keycode lock on the front gate of the science park, Eddie had known had to get pass the electric card reader on the front door of the Naugh Biotech Test labs, and Eddie had known how to make their computer open the doors to the cages holding the test animals all at once.

All of the infected test animals.

Jordan had been nervous as hell after Eddie got them in the front door, she hadn’t felt right about what they were doing. She had always felt that animal testing was wrong, even before collage, but she felt like breaking the law wasn’t the right way to do things. Protests brought attention and gave them the chance to change people’s minds, but breaking into a place just made them look like criminals.

But Devon believed some people would never bother to check up on anything unless you pushed the facts right in their faces, a few hundred white rats and bunnies escaping from a lab where genetically altered intestinal bacterial cultures were being tested would have a million scared couch potatoes screaming to their congressmen.

“Let’s see a protest that gets ten seconds on the evening news or a anti meat industry ad with a washed up Hollywood star do as much.”

And so Jordan found herself committing breaking and entering at three o’clock Sunday morning.



Deacon had been a surprise.

No one was supposed to be in the labs overnight on the weekends, but for one lab technician living on a student intern’s budget, a all night marathon of uninterrupted online gameing on the lab’s high speed internet had been too good a opportunity to pass up.

Eddie had led them into the server room bragging about his elite mad skills to Bethany when they found Deacon, the coveralls embroidered with his name covered with Cheetos crumbs and a look of blank surprise on his face that converted into shocked fear as Big John pushed his way into the room with raised fist to begin pounding down on the pudgy man.

Bethany had jumped right in behind him and began trying to haul John off the guy, but Devon just stood and watched, a little smile on his face.

That was the moment that Jordan started to think she had made a few bad choices.

Under John’s watchful eyes and with Bethany’s attempts to explain how the big man had just panicked and their was nothing to worry about, the cringing technician was rolled aside in his chair and kept under watch in the corner of the room while Eddie started his work.

The program had already been written and stored on a flash drive, all Eddie had needed to do was upload and activate it.

The sudden shrill sound of the electric sirens and flashing red lights caught them by surprise, but told Deacon all he needed to know.

“Oh crap” said Deacon as he futilely tried to rise up from his chair against the weight of Big john’s hand on his shoulder.

“Duct Tape, just let me grab the duct tape.”

Bethany had to use both hands to keep Big John from hitting him again while Eddie tried to get the suddenly blank screen turned back on.

“Why do you need duct tape?” Devon asked cheerfully.

“The rats.” Deacon with a increasing tone of panic. “The infection makes the rats go right for the pants legs before they start to dig in, they can squirm all the way up to your…” the pudgy man looked from Bethany to Jordon, “soft bits.”

That had gotten everyone’s attention.

“Just what in god’s name have you people been doing here?” Jorden had asked.

It took a nod from Devon to Big John allowing him to hit him again to keep Deacon in his chair.

Eddie had already found a roll of the wide gray tape and began wrapping the bottom of his pants to his ankles.

“It was bacteria from the human intestines, stuff that helps people digest things.” Deacon began to explain.

“They wanted to change it to be able to break down tougher foods, and to break things down to get more energy from them.” Deacon had begun to grin madly.

“And it worked, all too well.” Deacon’s whole body seem to collapse as he pressed his face down into his hands “Oh crap, we are so dead…”

“Should I hit him again?”

Devon impatiently waved John into silence “Explain.”

Deacon looked up and around at all of them, pausing for a moment to regard Eddie’s continuing use of the duct tape on his wrists, waistline, and the neck of his shirt.

“Making it work better made it need to work more, every batch they tested on the lab animals gave them a something like a hyperactive metabolism, they had to eat constantly or die. Even to the point they attack other animals as food.”

“So what” said Big John, “We just stay here while they eat each other.” John looked around in surprise at the girls disgusted faces. “What? It will still make the news, that’s what we wanted.”

Deacon shook his head grimly as he took the chance to roll his chair out of the big man’s reach to snatch the duct tape from Eddie. “The bacteria’s growth multiplies from all the food it digests, it ends up migrating all thought the animals system and causes a smell that make’s them unappealing to other infected.”

Deacon bent over and began to wrap his pants legs. “One of the few things in this building that smells like food to them is us.”

“Screw this.” said Big John, “I’m out of here” Devon raised a hand to stop him even as Deacon spoke up.

“Let him go. The whole lab locked down from the outside as soon as system crashed, and the rest of us can head over to the pharmacy while they’re eating him.”

“Screw you fat boy, I ain’t afraid of no rats!” John shouted as he pulled open the door from the server room.

Deacon looked up from wrapping his ankles and smiled through eyes swollen half shut from the big man’s earlier efforts, “They started primate testing this week, feel free to go play with the monkeys all by yourself slugger.”

“Monkeys?” Squeaked Eddie.

Big john closed the door with a thoughtful air, before firmly turning the lock and backing away to the furthest corner of the room, crossing his arms and glaring blankly across the room.

Devon rubbed his eyes for a moment before getting back on tract “The Pharmacy. Why again?”

“It’s sealed off from the rest of the facility, they got some sort of insurance reduction for it. There’s no way for the animals to get in, if we can reach it all we have to do is wait for someone to answer the alarm.” Deacon looked around smugly “and then all of you go to jail.”

Big John’s head snapped up as he began to cross the room with clenched fists, only stopping at Devon’s raised hand.

“That will hardly be a problem Deacon. I’m sure the lab will be more then happy to drop any charges in return for our silence”

Jorden turned to look as Devon in shock while Bethany rolled her eyes.

Devon gave Jorden a slight smile “Stopping the abuses being done here will be part of the deal honey, but we can’t help the cause from a jail cell.”

“Doesn’t anyone smell that?” interrupted Eddie as he stood and began to walk in a circle sniffing at the air.

Bethany sniffed as well then pressed her arm against her nose “Aw man, that is foul.”

“Where the heck is that coming from?” asked Eddie as he finally reached Big John’s corner, the big man gave Eddie a offended look before noticing that the little man was looking not at him, but at the sounds of scratching coming from the ceiling tile above him.

Big John had just enough time to look up before the first dozen rats came tumbling down through the shattering ceiling tile, clawing and snapping for anything to grab onto before they hit the ground. Their white fur was slick and spiky with some clear coating emitted from their infected skin, their teeth gleamed as they clamped down on the leather of Big John’s jacket and the flesh of his face and raised hands.

Even as the rest of them ran screaming for the door, a endless wave of addition rats poured from the ceiling shrieking and snapping at the big man struggling under the dozens already clinging and biting at him as he screamed and struggled to pull free the snapping teeth chewing into his face and neck.

Devon was the last from the room, tilting his head to watch his friends last moments even as he pulled the door shut.

Eddie was halfway down the hall before Deacon could even shout “Other way!”

Jorden shook in Bethany’s arms as she tried to get control of herself, her friend had ended up grabbing her by the shoulder and pushing her from the room to get her moving and once out her hands had been the only thing keeping her from collapsing to the ground.

Devon stood for a moment listening to the shouts and crashes coming from within, for a moment his hand hovered at the handle of the door before falling away at the sudden silence within.

Devon turned to calmly face the four of them “I believe we should head for the pharmacy now Deacon”

“What about your friend?” asked Deacon.

Devon shrugged and gestured for the technician to start guiding them “I believe he found he should have listened about the Duct tape.”

Jorden stood for a moment in shock before being pulled along by her friend’s hand..



“We’ll try the long way trough the lobby, there aren’t any testing lab along that route.” said Deacon as he walked quickly down the hall with a nervous Eddie staying close on his heels.

Devon kept close to the girls, turning to give them encouraging smiles now and then, making sure they were keeping up.

Jorden was practically being dragged along by Bethany, despite her best efforts she kept thinking back to what had happened and stopping in place, only her friend’s death grip on her hand was keeping her moving.

She nearly bumped into Bethany’s back as her fiend came to a halt.

Everyone had come to a stop at the doorway into the lobby, Deacon stood in front, frozen at the sight before him.

The black and white lop ear rabbit’s fur was coated in the same thick fluid leaking from it skin as the rats had been, what’s more the thinned and patchy coat showed it’s ribs clearly underneath it’s pale thin skin. The rabbit’s head was turned at a odd angle to pear up at the group, it’s dark eyes slowly weeping out a black gooey stream of something from the corner of it’s eye. With a quiver of it’s whole body the creature gave up it’s examination and began beating the ground with one of it back feet..

“Crap!” Yelped Deacon as he turned and pushed back trough the doorway, a worried looking Eddie turned to follow him before meeting Bethany’s eyes and coming to a halt.

With a effort the little hacker straighter up and grinned “Just a bunny, I’ll take care of it” and turned with three quick steps across the room to field kick the infected rabbit across the lobby and down the opposite hallway.

The broken and kicking animal slid right into the faces of the dozens of other infected rabbits that had come hurrying toward the sound of the thumping.

For a moment Eddie stared at the rabbits and the rabbits stared at Eddie.

Then they began to race across the room.



Jorden tried to tell herself that Eddie would have been caught either way.

Devon let first Deacon then her and Bethany get pass him as she shouted for Eddie to run.

If Jorden hadn’t looked back in concern for both of them, she wouldn’t have seen Devon punch his elbow back into Eddie’s face, sending the little man reeling off his feet and tumbling down to the ground.

Trying to keep on her feet under the constant pull of Bethany’s hand kept her from seeing the rest, but she could hear it.

Bethany never looked back.

The rabbits didn’t chase them any further.

They would have gotten Eddie anyways, and this way it was only Eddie.

She tried to tell herself that it made it alright.



Deacon slammed the door shut to the first room they reached, for a moment it didn’t look like he was going to wait for Devon.

Did he see as well?

Bethany looked as her oddly “See what?”

Did I say that out loud?

Bethany took her face in her hands “Yes, you did sweetie. Try to get it together. Okay?”



Deacon leaned back against the door and pointed into a room filled with partitioned workspaces, “The Pharmacy is in the hallway outside the door on the far side.”

“I smell that small again” Whispered Jorden.

For a moment the other three stood looking at her before Bethany suddenly perked up with a evil grin and stomped across the room, snatching up a coffee machine on the way before smashing it into the glass panel over the fire extinguisher.

As she pulled the red cylinder out, Devon began to raise a hand as if to give some order to her before she turned and gave him a sternly raised eyebrow as she pulled the pin free, Devon gave her a crooked smile in return.

“Deacon, make sure my friend keeps up. Devon, take the rear” Bethany gave Devon a sharp look. “This time make sure no one gets left behind.”

They were halfway across the room before the first one leaped from the floor to the edge of a partition, it lanky body stained and gleaming with the infection, its teeth barred as it hissed at them.

It was one of the monkeys, it’s whole body hacking with spasms of the bacteria still taking hold, infecting it’s nerves and muscles.

It made the animal clumsy, it kept Jorden and the other alive.

The first monkey they saw got a face full of white dust from the extinguisher in it face, sending it tumbling and screaming off the cubical wall.

The next bunch leapt away in a panic as Bethany gave one side of the room a wide blast..

The spray from the extinguisher quickly filled the room with a low murky fog, the last wave came in low as the group finally reached the door, one leapt to cling to Devon’s back just before Deacon could slam shut the door to the room.

Bethany’s two handed swing of the red cylinder sent the creature sailing down the hall, nearly taking Devon’s head along with it.

“Quick, inside” urged Deacon as they finally reached a place of safety.



All four of them had sat quietly in exhaustion, from time to time one of the infected creatures came and scratched at the thick glass door or the pharmacy before their ceaseless hunger forced them to abandon their efforts and seek substance elsewhere.

The sudden heavy thump against the door came as a surprise to all of them.

“Bastards!” Screamed Big John.

The big mans face and hands were covered in small bites and deep scratches. All of his clothing and especially his boots were smeared with blood and bits of tattered white fur.

The bacteria had already began to color the moisture leaking from his eyes.

“You left me to die Dev!” screamed john as he began to slam his fist into the door, each pounding leaving another smear from his skin against the glass. “Kill all of you!”

For once Jorden saw Devon at a loss for words.

Big John press hard against the door, his face flattened against the glass leaving a greasy smear as he sniffed hard at the edge of the door frame before pulling his face away and looking in trough the glass at each one of them in turn.

“I’ll save you for last Dev, first the fat man, then your discard, then the fresh meat.” John licked his lips and lingered as he repeated the words. “Fresh. Meat.”

The big man tapped his fingers against the glass. “Thick. I’ll need something to crack it open.” John looked back at Devon with a teeth baring smile “Be right back, Don’t go anywhere.”

There was a moment of brief silence before Devon was on his feet yelling and lifting Deacon up by his collar. “What the Hell? Why is he like that? He was fine a half hour ago.”

Deacon struggled for a moment in Deacon’s grip before pushing the larger man off of him across the room plastic bins and bottles tumbling from the countertop. “Maybe because you left him to die you pretensions twit!”

Bethany snorted and covered her mouth before offering another explanation “And maybe the bacteria can be spread by fluid, like rat saliva. Looks like he got enough of it.”

Deacon glared at Devon before nodding “It can infect any number of ways, blood, spit, sexual transmission, or even direct ejection.”

Devon looked down at the floor. “Are there samples of the bacteria in here?”

Deacon gave him a confused look before realizing what Devon was thinking “No, no way. Everytime they tried to kill off the bacteria in a host it killed the animal too.”

Devon looked up with a smile. “But they probably let the infection run it course and fully infect the test animals, we only need to smell like something other then food for a few hours until help arrives.”

Jorden was surprised when her friend Bethany agreed “It won’t take Big John all that much time to break down the door, and even if we can hold him off, everything else will come running.”

Deacon was still shaking his head when Bethany stepped up to him and laid her hands on his chest, “Please, I don’t want to die. Even if you can’t take the risk of infecting yourself, let the rest of us have a option.”

Jorden rolled her eye as Deacon looked up at her friend as if hypnotized and swallowed nervously “Ye-yeah okay.”

Jorden watched over his shoulder as the technician quickly filled three syringes and laid out on a tray before looking up at them “I can inject you, but then you have to head out and keep moving until your sweat gets the smell, because there is no way I’m staying in here in three people who are going to be looking at me like a all you can eat buffet.”

“Two”

Bethany and Devon looked over at Jorden.

“I’m not going to do this, I’m not going to let myself become like john.”

Devon stepped closer as he tried to reason with her “Honey let’s talk about-”

“No!” Jorden shouted “We can’t do this. Bethany please?” she asked as she held her hand out to her friend.

Bethany hesitated “Sweetie I…”

Devon grunted as he pushed down the plunger and then pulled the syringe from his arm, letting it fall to the ground as a thin trail of blood ran down his arm. Even as they turned to look at him he snatched up the other two syringes and held them pointed outward between him and the rest. “The rest of you can stay, or go, but I’m staying here and anyone who even thinks about throwing me out is going to get ten cc’s of the Naugh Biotech lab’s best.”

Bethany bit her lower lip for a moment before giving Jorden a sad shake of her head and stepping around to present her arm to Devon.

Deacon stood and glared at Devon for a moment before he stepped over to the door. “Jerk.”

“Come or stay, decide now.” said Deacon before he cracked the door open to look into the hall. Without a look back at her he slipped outside the room.

As Jorden followed Bethany spoke out one last time “If you see me again Jorden, you can’t trust me“ she tilted her head at Devon. “You can’t trust anyone.”



“Where are we going?” asked Jorden.

Deacon shook his head at her while holding one upright finger in front of his lips “The only other room fortified enough to keep everyone out. The office supply closet” He grinned for a moment and held up a small bass colored key, “I made a copy”

The widening of her eyes was his only warning before the metal bar slammed into his shoulder, the force of the blow throwing him into the wall with a shout of pain and sending the key flying from his hand.

“Got you now!” shouted Big John as he raise the metal pole into the air for another swing. Bits of plaster from the bathroom wall was still stuck to the screws on the curved end of the metal bar from the handicapped stall.

Deacon pushed himself from the wall to send his own wounded shoulder into Big John’s chest, knocking the man back for a moment. “Get the door open, I’ll be right behind you.” Deacon told her before turning to kick Big John in the shin, causing a brief expression of annoyance to cross the big man’s face.

Jorden snatched the key from the floor and raced down the hall. She looked around wildly, just around the corner was the door neatly labeled “Office Supplies”, it took her three tries to get the key in the lock before she could open the door and stumble through.

Jorden could hear nothing from around the corner, her nerves made her whole body shake as she waited and hoped for Deacon to come stepping around the corner, but it was the metal bar dripping fresh blood held by the hand covered in weeping open wounds of Big John that came around the corner.

“Hello. Honey”

The big man didn’t even try to stop her from closing the door, he just stood there laughing at her as she franticly pushed the door shut and turned the lock.

“No worries Fresh Meat.” came John’s voice thought the door. “I already said you come third, I won’t be back for you for hours.”

She could hear his laughter for quick some time.

But it was Bethany who came for her.

….

“Sweetie, let me in.”

No, no, no.

“It’s alright. It didn’t effect us like it did John.”

No, no, no.

“It think it had something to do with how the bacteria is supposed to be in humans, so it doesn’t affect us like it does the animals. Not unless you get it from a bite like John did.”

No, no, no.

“Sweetie…you’re speaking out loud again.”

“…”

“It’s okay sweetie. I’ll try to find something to open the door, and then we can make you all better. Make you so you don’t have anything to be afraid of anymore.”

“I’ll be right back.”



“Honey”

Jorden whimpered at the sound of Devon’s voice.

“She’s lying, she tracked you down by smell, the smell of your flesh.”

Jorden stared at the door.

“I can feel the hunger already, but I can still think, I am still me”

Jorden covered her ears.

“If she gets the door open. She is going to eat you.”

Jorden closed her eyes.

“And by the time she gets back. I may not want to stop her.”

Jorden tried not to hear.

“Let me help you while I can Jorden”

Jorden looked up at the door and whispered bitterly “How can you help me Devon? Like you helped John, like you helped Eddie.”

There was silence for moment before Devon spoke again “Oh christ Honey, yes. Just like them, all I can do is help you die. A cleaner death then the others, a better death then getting eaten by your own friends”

Jorden stared at the door in horror.

“I filled a syringe with a lethal dose of tranquilizer, all you have to do is open the door and take it and you’ll drift off to sleep in seconds. Then your heart will stop long before we can get inside.”

“No!”

“Please Honey, it’s the only way I can help you.”

“No! Bethany’s coming for me, we’re going to get out. The only reason you want me to die is because I saw what you did to Eddie.”

Devon chuckled. “That is one theory honey, or maybe I just want you to open the door so I don’t have to share my meal”

The light at the bottom of the door went dark as a small plastic syringe rolled into the room from the narrow crack below the door.

“Maybe the syringe holds just enough tranquilizer to put you to sleep so you don’t struggle after we get in, or maybe it holds the bacteria which can make you safe.”

“There is no way of knowing unless you use it.”

“It would be best Jorden” whispered Devon “If you just let me inside.”



Jorden sat on the floor, the syringe held before her in the palm of her hands.

Bethany had found a fire ax in the stairwell.

It would be only take a little longer for her to cut a hole through the door big enough to reach in and turn the lock.

She only had moments to inject herself.

Or she could wait.

Bethany’s arm was through the door, feeling around for the lock.

Jorden pulled the cap away from the tip of the syringe and looked down at the tip of the needle.

Jorden stabbed in the needle and pushed the plunger down into Bethany arm that she held down between her shoulder and the door.

She pushed in half the syringe before Bethany pulled loose with a scream.

Devon laughed.

Then he screamed.

The men in the yellow bio-hazard suits were taking no chances.

As soon as they got he door open to the supply closet they shot her with the same type of Tazer gun that they had used on Devon.

She woke up in her apartment two days later, with the marks from a I.V. needle still fresh in her arm.

The newspapers reported Devon, Bethany, Big John and Eddie having died in the same fire that destroyed Naugh Biotech labs. A fire caused by the animal right’s group SAAT.

The Accelerlife dietary supplement began being stocked in stores two years later. The capsule were guarantied to give you more energy from a healthy diet and help break down and absorbs unhealthy foods that could cause weight gain.

Jorden had a little breakdown in the store when she read the warning label for possible side effects.

Her family says she is resting comfortably and is feeling much better now.
steele said @ 8:15pm GMT on 21st Apr
Hmm, more 20 min Tarot inspired stuff? No corrections, no deletions, just balls to the wall till the timer runs out.

Three of Swords
Reveal

Blossom had never felt so distraught before. It was as if the very core of her essence had been ripped from her soul and left to a rot. A gaping, maw at the very center of her heart. She could feel the pulsing of her missing piece like a tooth that had been infected. With each strobe of pain her mind cried out in agony. Was this what the rest of her life was going to be like? Surely, the universe couldn't be so cruel?

But the universe wasn't listening to her pleas. The universe moved as it always did, moment by moment, each piece of itself shifting in time and space. It had no ears to hear the pleas from such a tiny piece of itself.

Blossom receded inside of herself, she could almost feel herself detaching from her own body, attempting to gather herself to that empty hole inside of her in the hopes that she might fill it with her own sorrow and wilting identity. But her mind couldn't step beyond the boundary of what was missing. She probed and pushed with all of her mental might, the skin of her emptiness like a slippery balloon that refused to give way. The emptiness refused to be filled.

The skies crashed with a haunting chorus as if the Universe had finally looked down into it's microscopic core and passed judgement on this tiny little flower. This would not be a cleansing rain. No, this was the flood of a broken heart, sorrow given the form of water. Blossom was soon detached even from the world itself by thick sheets of steady flow. There was no one but her, the water, the mud, and the occasional crash from above.

From the darkness of her emptiness, like a stranger from the far reaches of insanity, a voice whispered to her, "Is this all that you are?"

Blossom stilled. Was this it then? Had she finally broken for good?

The stranger repeated itself, a voice clipped and angry with disappointment "Is. This. All. That. You. Are."

Visions passed through her mind's of all that she had lost, all that she worked for, all that she thought that she was that led up to this point.

"IS THIS ALL THAT YOU ARE?!" The voice echoed through her being, anger seething through her like rain into the depths of the earth. She could feel her feet firming beneath her as if she was extending herself into the mud. Her soul surrounded the emptiness at her core and shoved it down deep into the earth below her. Her arms shot up out of their own accord and reached for the sky. The rain pummeling her with its oily toxicity. The emptiness below her, the sun far above all the clouds and sorrow of this world.

She reached, letting herself being pulled between the earth below, the fiery god above. She knew her place and it was in the moment between light and darkness. She would not let it end like this. She reached and felt the energy of herself alternating, flowing from the sun above, through her into the center of earth. She breathed herself back to life, the voice's anger slowly settling itself inside with a kind of pride like a dog after barking the mailman away.



Nine of Swords
Reveal

This didn't have to be this way. She was sure of it. The bodies littered the field around her, their dark blood seeping into the earth like red wine on a shag rug. She had given them a warning, but they came anyway, and the sword did what it does. Efficiently, I might add.

She collapsed to her knees and wept with remorse. She was alive, they were dead, she should be happy. But inside there was a tempest of misgivings. How many times must she go through this? How many times was her own life worth more than someone else's?

It's not as if she had much left. She had been getting on in the years for quite some time now. Another ten, fifteen on the outside, maybe. What more could she possibly accomplish in this world that was worth all this bloodshed? And how could she be worthy of it, if this was what she had to offer to the world?

she could feel the moisture seeping against her knees through her dress. She mustn't look. To look was to face madness. She couldn't take it. Not so soon afterwards.

Her sword was in front of her, impaled into the ground like a marking for the grave she continued to deny. She reached out and pulled herself up, careful not to look down. With an effort, she freed her sword from the ground and held it loosely at her side. That felt a bit better. She let her shoulders relax and held the crown of her head higher.

She would survive this. This and whatever came next, she knew no other way.

She made her way through the field, walking slowly, carefully lifting her legs over the bodies without directly looking at them.

The smoke in the distance is probably their friends, she thought. There was a village there.

Was.

The tears and sobs quickly dried up. She could fight for others. For herself there was guilt, but for them, anything. Her legs began carrying her towards the next fight without being ordered. Her body knew what to do. The sword knew what to do. Just her. She didn't know what to do.

But she wasn't in charge.
JWWargo said @ 10:50pm GMT on 21st Apr
Here's a writing experiment I did back in 2010: 103 Stories of 103 Word or Less for 103 Facebook Friends

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