Light Up the Darkness: Part 1
Chapter 0 - The Prelude 00:00 *Unknown location*
A loud, piercing scream echoed throughout the night. A shadow sprints through a street, barely lit by the dim, slowly dying streetlights hanging overhead, the tar road being littered with crashed and broken down vehicles. That shadow belongs to a blonde haired girl about the age of 12 dashing through the maze of deserted aluminum vehicles in absolute fear, trying to run away from the blood covered monstrosities that were her friends not even three days ago. The bleached bones of the dead spread over the street in unkempt and wild mannerisms. Quickly she glances behind her, panting haggardly as she runs, her heart racing, the only thought being to escape these monsters of her nightmare, just to live for a single day longer, and to her dismay, they only get closer as they continue to come from every direction.
Vaulting her slight body over the hood of a dark red corvette, she glances in through the front of the vehicle and shrieks in fright. She catches sight of a frail brown haired man about the age of seventeen pressing his body ferociously at a seatbelt barely holding him back against the seat in a failed attempt to grab onto her as he claws monstrously through the empty hole where the shattered window would have once stood between them. Gnashing his half shredded face with his mouth full of yellowish broken teeth in her direction, bits of half clotted dark red blood is spit into the young girls face as she scrambles away from him off of the glass covered hood; she falls backwards catching a moment of flight before gravity kicked in pulling her rapidly to the ground littered by glass from the broken windshield. She struggles blindly to break her fall, to stop her from striking her body as a whole against it. A thick shard of glass previously pointing upwards embeds itself through her left hand. Moaning in moderate pain, she weakly cradles her bleeding hand
against her chest as she pushes her body up with her opposite arm.
Looking at it, she flinches softly as blood begins to pool and drip down the length of her small hand. As she reaches towards the shard with her dominant hand, she stumbles away from the car and the murderous intents of the flailing monster trying to release himself from the broken down vehicle that is his prison. Grunting as she prepares herself for the pain about to ensue, she begins to pull out the shard of glass that was buried deep within her hand. Screaming loudly, for the gift of silence was already lost, she feels searing white pain emanating into her mind as the thick piece of glass is wrenched out roughly through the multiple layers of flesh and stringy muscle. Still, she quickly runs through that virtual maze of wrecked and abandoned automobiles of various types from fuel tankers, muscle cars, four wheel trucks, and the occasional family sedan. A long trail of dark red blood, flowing as if from an endless red river, oozes slowly from her injured hand. As she runs a quick maneuver around the bumper a silver minivan, attempting to skirt around it, a dark shadow from the back seat gets steadily darker.
The window explodes outwards with a loud roar of motion sending powder and slivers of broken glass away from it. A blur of ragged black fur launches through the window behind this minor makeshift explosion and lands in a prowling stance. Teeth bared and showing milky white eyes with a slight bit of red hinting demonic origin, this devilish, feral hound glares at the girl shivering in shock and fear. Quivering she begins to feel the paralyzing effects of sheer fright overcome her. The hound slowly advances upon her, tattered ears laying prone against its skull and the skin and fur missing on his body showing the pinkish tinge of muscle and bleach white bones.
In a rapid blur of movement it launches with corded muscles at the teenage girl. Screaming, she dives away from the van in attempt to avoid this flying mass of rotting flesh. Hitting a jagged outcrop of rocks and cement, the girl leaves a giant gash going down the length of her pale white leg. A constant flow of blood begins to seep from the open wound that is now carved deeply into the marble-esque flesh. Gasping in pain, the stench from this monstrosity begins to overcome her. This smell of rotting flesh, death, and decay that has ever grown as a constant in the past 3 weeks of her life, and every step of advancing motion this hellish fiend takes in her direction, that stench becomes more acute and sharp as it causes her to gag, as that familiar feeling that she could taste the rotting of that bestial monstrosity being forced upon her.
A few moments later, sharp reverberant screams begin to sound from the surrounding darkness. Black shadows from just beyond the lights edge of the overhanging street lamp begin to dart towards the center, as the girl lies back on the ground hopelessly. The beast snarls and lunges at her biting into her neck and tearing open her jugular just as she screams out her dying breath. Quickly, the mottled forms of her old classmates sprint, surrounding her almost as if they were hunting as a pack, into the light as the arterial spray of her blood from her neck begins to expel from her body in a pulsating rhythm. Surrounding her, creating a mosh pit like dog pile of bruised, corroded, and rotting flesh… The one driving motion and voice within their minds, the machine like impulses that they have, is the impulse to feed, to get a sustenance they in fact truly don't need until they are gorged on flesh and have ingested far more than their distended stomachs need to be filled many times over.
They are the dead.
The industrial cities of mankind rear at the dark plumes of death that the red faced devils housed within the ovens of industrialism consistently belch out with rapid succession. A hazard to health as well as a virtual breeding ground for disease and pestilence, the sun was eventually blocked by a wall of darkness, fear, and pollution. Stripping Earth of her mantle of beauty, no one held that sense of childish wonder that seemed to be the mother of innovation and creation in those blearing and sunken eyes that try to see through the blackness. Mother Earth has grown ever dark, even in mid-day where the blazing chariot used to peak in its endless cycle…
Previously flourishing city "wildlife" is all but dead, withered trees and wilted flowers lie in the gardens that used to be kept tame and hidden from that lurking shadow that is death. Without the sun, nothing could live, and as it dies, it withered away and left a horror film appearance scarring the world and the landscape around it.
The domestic, previously tame, and loveable animals turned feral and attacked each other and their masters in a frenzy that could only be produced and maintained by those possessed by Beelzebub, king of flies, or perhaps Nyarlthotep, one of the fallen gods all but forgotten to lore and mythology of the dying human race and is known only to the denizens that dwell within the vast ocean and the infiniteness of space, and of course those few devilish, devout followers of the occult that worship this obscure goddess. They eventually formed packs of vicious demon-like dogs that were given the name of a hell hound from the evil tormenting ways they hunt down their prey causing despair and fear in the strongest hearts of men. The ferocious attacks they make, leaving their hunted destroyed and shredded in a gruesome fashion, are another simple reason why they were dubbed this appropriate name. Going mostly unnoticed by what was first deemed as the bigger threat to us, they went unchecked and their population grew exponentially.
But that is not where our story begins, nor where it ends, It begins in a southeastern part of Manhattan in the early hours of the morning dawn, and ends… Let us just say it shall end where and when humanity decides to give up on their hopeless and futile attempts to survive, or finally put an end to the disease that plagues them.
Chapter 1 - The beginning 04:45 *Home... southeastern Manhattan*
The light orange glow of the morning dawn begins to flow from the half open curtains of my bedroom window. Quiet, and calm, quite unusual for living in the mid-urban suburbs next to train tracks that are commonly used to transport the local fauna and goods from the outer parts of the city to the market. The thought runs through my head that today will be a great day as I look into the mirror at my aging face. One thirty years old looks back with graying hair and wrinkles forming from the stress of being a CEO of a major corporation. I get dressed into my "work clothes" consisting of black slacks, a tuxedo jacket, and a white, long-sleeved undershirt with a dark, blood red tie.
I sit down on my sofa by the end table in my living room carved fancifully of a dark oaken wood polished to an almost shining, metallic sheen-like glow; I carefully set my mug of scalding hot, black coffee on the edge of the table. Grabbing the remote connected to the sixty inch plasma, flat screen television hooked onto the wall of the room, I casually hit the green power on button on the top right hand corner of the remote. The television powers on with a bright, mesmerizing glow as it turns on automatically to channel 13, the local news station.
"Good morning Manhattan!!! This is Heather Jansen speaking" Heather says as the time clock hits 0500 in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. The chosen location of this morning's announcement of the weather is located in one of the lower eastern cities dog park, not even a block and a half from my home. The brunette weather girl, wearing a low-cut pink halter top to show the nice weather we are having this morning, says, "Today has nice, unusual, warm weather we were not expected today, far from the usual cold climate we are accustomed to here in southern Manhattan." Nervously she moves the microphone closer to her mouth, obviously unnerved by the little to no light shining in the surrounding area showing a fear of the dark.
"We have chosen one of the lower cities dog parks to host todays sho-" she says stuttering near the end of her sentence, obviously unnerved by something shown by the expression of terror in her face. Confusingly the camera man proclaims loudly "What is that fucking god awful smell!!!" Slowly the attractive weather girl backs away from the camera man, her pretty mouth agape in shock. In a slow, deliberate motion the camera man turns his body and the video shifts to behind him. The sliding of trees whizzing by halt abruptly on a picture of four men wearing tattered, blood soaked clothing, pieces of flesh torn and shredded left in hanging pieces. The low light seems to cast endless shadows behind them showing the darkness emanating from them. Glazed over eyes show an absolute hatred of everything in existence, a piercing scream rises up from the gruesome quartet as they sprint towards the rolling camera. Suddenly the camera drops to the ground as I hear the camera man scream in pain and agony.
Sitting there my mouth drops as I see the camera man's limp body fall in front of the rolling tape. Blood is flowing over his face as the four mottled and twisted monstrosities awkwardly hunch over the body. A female screams in fear and I can hear some quick footsteps as if someone was running away. The camera angle shows those slouching figures tearing into his skin, feasting on the warm flesh and blood. The bruised skin covering their bodies' looks many thousand times worse up close, with the shadows darkening some portions more than others. The whites of their eyes shine ten-fold, permanently burning this picture into my mind as the transmission cuts out into an emergency broadcast system. Slowly my hand subconsciously slides up to cover my mouth as I begin to gag in realization of what I just saw.
I jump off of the red couch in fright as an unexpected pounding at the door begins to sound with a reverberating echo. Almost toppling towards the wooden floor I catch my balance and stand straight up, quivering slightly, as the pounding intensifies to a degree strong enough to make a small picture frame fall off of the desk drawer by the heavy doors. Slowly the frame falls towards the ground making rotary, counter clockwise turns as it drops. Suddenly the frame hits the ground with a resounding crash of shattered glass littering the ground in front of the door with sparkling dust and thin glass splinters.
"Help! Please… Anyone!" I hear a slightly familiar feminine voice shouting through the door in obvious distraught. Quickly acting upon my good-hearted nature to help and protect others in need, I open the door for the female as she rushes past me with her brown hair whipping me as she goes. Pushing the door quickly shut behind her, she locks it in one swift motion, not quickly enough before I catch a glimpse of what lies beyond that forbidding entrance, that being one of those creatures I saw on the broadcast but a minute ago.
Taking a glimpse at the quivering female laying on the ground crying, I gasp softly in recognition. Lying on the ground, wearing a black vest over a white long sleeve shirt, her dark grey pencil skirt pulled tight around her was the weather girl from Channel Thirteen I saw not even four minutes ago on the television! I look at her quizzically, trying to imagine what could distraught her this badly, besides a loud pounding sounds at the door again, this time followed by an unnatural blood-curdling moan that seems all too similar to the one sounding from on the weather channel video. That horrible moaning continues, forcing the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end as I shiver quietly as a deep frigid chill rushes up my spine.
Grabbing her by her slender arm, I help her to her feet and guide her to the couch, as I make sure all of the doors are locked and all of the window's bars are set in place properly. I pull all of the curtains shut to make sure there are no unwanted creepers peeking through like my nosey neighbors from across the street that can't seem to mind their own business. Walking steadily back towards her, I notice her sitting quietly, tears slowly rolling down her porcelain face as she stares blankly at the television with the emergency broadcast system still playing…
"This is not a test, I repeat; this is not a test…" The monotone narrated voice of the emergency broadcast system plays with a screeching sound at a loud volume of fifteen on the surround sound system that is installed into the walls. These words scroll along the bottom of the screen: 05:15, 08/14/2012: WARNING, STAY INDOORS, STAY IN THE SAFETY OF YOUR OWN HOMES, AND DO NOT OPEN YOUR DOOR TO STRANGERS. DO NOT OPEN YOUR DOOR TO LOVED ONES. AVOID CONTACT WITH ANYONE ACTING OUT OF THE ORDINARY. KEEP A WEAPON ON HAND AND BE PREPARED TO USE IT. THAT IS ALL, STAND FAST FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Sitting on the sofa she quietly shivers, thinking to comfort her I sit beside her. "What is your name ma'am?" I quietly ask her to not make her jump.
"My name is Heather Jansen, what is yours sir?" She politely asks stuttering slightly as she calls me sir.
"It is a pleasure to meet you Heather, my name is Joshua." I respond calmly as I notice the pounding stops for the moment, and I look towards the door confused. Noticing the glass broken on the floor in shards and powder, I softly sigh as I think how much of an effort it will be to clean it up through the hardwood floors many orifices. Looking at her I see tears flowing freely down her porcelain-like face, wiping the tears away with a curled finger I ask sympathetically, "What is wrong sweetheart?"
Coughing slightly in an attempt to clear her throat, she pauses for a moment to think of how to word what she needs to say to me. "This morning I was recording a weather news broadcast and we were out in a dog park about two blocks from here. The shooting started off normally, besides a couple issues, but it wasn't too bad! At first it wasn't anyway... The major thing was the stench, we thought was just a busted sewer line at first because it smelled so bad, but I was also kinda creeped out by how quiet it was, because it normally is loud in here you know? And… and the lights too! They were all screwy in the parks too, well since they weren't bright enough to cover the area they were supposed to…" As she tries to clear her throat again, I quickly offer her a glass of water. After she nods empathically I stand up taking her hand to help her stand.
Moving towards the kitchen down the long hallway located right by the base of the staircase leading to my bed room, she continues her story in-depth again. "Everything went just terrible. It started with this nasty smell, the worst smell you could ever possibly imagine! It felt strong enough to make you gag to a point where you just want to throw up everything you've eaten for the day. When we started shooting the film, that… that smell got worse and worse, and before I knew it, I was looking at Jacob, the camera man, I saw four people… if you could even call those things human-like! Well I saw the four of them just running towards us… I though they needed help at first, and when they reached inside the light, I could tell I was wrong and I am not proud to say this, but I broke down. They had skin torn from all over their bodies; one had intestines hanging from his stomach, the sight of those fleshy gray worm-like entrails just flinging around with every movement was more than enough to make me gag up my breakfast. I screamed and turned away and ran as fast as I could… and now I'm here."
Quietly as I listen to the story at points when the details become more vivid I begin to feel chills down my spine as it seems so much more realistic considering I saw the video not even a half hour ago. Filling up a small glass cup from the aqua filter water dispenser attached to my fridge, I hold it out to Heather for her to take. As she glances down towards the glass, I look as well noticing the glass shaking erratically as a testament against my normally unbreakable willpower and nerve. "Thank you sir," the young woman states to me appreciatively, not hesitating thank me and show how grateful she is for the hospitality I show towards her. She says as an afterthought "For everything…"
"You are welcome Heather, and please, don't call me sir, just call me Joshua," I say in a casual, non-formal response. "Are you hungry at all, miss? I have just about anything you could possibly like in here, or would you rather sit back in the living room?" Watching her glance around the room nervously I can tell that she is still shaken by what she saw. Taking her hand I guide her to the sofa she was previously sitting on, she carefully takes a seat. The emergency broadcasts buzzing noise is still sounding so I dim down the noise to a quiet, level 5 volume.
"Are you going to be---" I begin but quickly am silenced by that reverberant moaning and the slow, heavy rapping again at the front door. Jumping about a half a foot off of the sofa in momentary fright she throws the cup up splashing her, half the sofa, and I in ice cold water. The cup strikes the oaken table and leaves a deep gash in it as the glass shatters into a large supernova of thick dust. Blinking for a moment I calmly wipe the water from my face as I put my arms around the shivering weather girl sitting in from of me shaking, soaking wet. Softly I croon in her ear, "Its ok, don't worry, your safe in here, ill protect you"
Slowly she nods as she stops shaking and whispers back softly under her breath where I can barely hear her, "Thank you Joshua." After she hugs back I slowly pull away and ask her, "come with me for a moment? I have something we might need upstairs; it may help us stay safe, and I would rather you stay by my side, to make sure you aren't in danger." Slowly she pushes herself up off the couch following me slowly. I move down the hall we were previously going down before to enter the kitchen but instead of following it, I turn a left and go up the stairs to the peak of the staircase to an open door leading to my room. "Pardon the mess miss, I wasn't expecting company, especially in this part of my home," I quietly say as I stumble over to the safe barely showing under my bed, tripping over the sprawled sheets a couple of times. A light haughty laugh comes behind me as Heather laughs at my failed attempt to walk across the room; I glance back over my shoulder after I regain my composure, and give her a little smile and a wink. Unlocking the safe with a quick spin of the combination lock, I rotate to the numbers 12, 21, 16, and 4, causing a loud audible click.
Slowly I pull open the medium sized vault's door open and pull the contents out setting them on the bed. A hunting rifle, with a dark sleek coat of black paint all over the outer parts comes out disassembled, but I quickly, from my years of reassembling and breaking down this rifle, put it back together. The variable scope reaches about a 10x magnification with an additional night-fire optical lense. Using the .22 rim-fire round makes it quite light including the ammunition load. The last items being pulled out of the safe is 6 cases of .22 rim-fire rounds holding 50 in each carton. Loading my five magazines for the rifle to the brim with 15 rounds each, I set them off to the side as each one is filled.
"You don't have a jacket I see," I pull out of my closet a leather jacket only a size too large for her and hands it to her calmly. She takes it and for a moment her hand briefly brushes mine over the smooth feeling of the leather as she pulls it away.
Blushing, her face turns a burgundy red being shining even more so as her dark brown hair frames her face. As she sets the black leather coat down on the bed beside her, she quietly mumbles something that is barely perceptible in the quiet room. As I look down the stairs I realize that everything is quiet once again, and the constant pounding and monotonous moaning at the door has finally ceased. I say, jokingly, in an attempt to lighten the mood "It looks like our little friend has finally left us." A small smile begins to form in the corner of her mouth showing the edges of pure white teeth.
I take the rifle and adjust the sling to loop around my shoulder to my hip and I sling it, barrel down, onto my back. I pull out my black-blue backpack from the bottom of my closet and start to put the extra rounds into one of the many. I take this and gently lead her down the stairs counting the steps in the back of my head as I do every day. One… two… three… four… all the way turning down another flight on the hardwood floor with every step making a soft thumping noise. Once I reach the bottom I notice a couple of shadows through the darkened front window… as if they were peering through to see if anyone is home.
I make a simple sign to ask Heather to remain silent; I put my index finger against my lips pressing it softly against them. Softly she nods as her long brown hair falls forward covering her face. Looking irritated she swats the tangled mess away. Peering out through the small glass peephole, I see through distorted sight, multiple slouching figures moving about, slowly, on the street, in an almost erratic, directionless pattern as if there is no real goal to be accomplished by doing so. Straining and focusing my vision on one of the humanoids, my vision slightly blurs as one of them come into focus, the surroundings around it taking on a surreal, almost dreamlike haze.
Looking at the back of the males head, I notice the short hair is very ragged, and looks to be damp with some sort of sticky substance by the way the hair is sticking in clumps. Patches of blonde hair missing makes it look like he was dragged, by his feet with his head being scraped roughly on yard after yard of asphalt and concrete, skin is missing from the back the head in bits and pieces, showing the bleached white background of his skull through the tattered mess that is left of the back of this males head. Slowly, that slouching figure turns to his right, down the road. I catch a glance of his face and my jaw drops, causing my stomach to churn at the disgusting view I behold. A raw eye socket shines with one blue eye looking blankly with a glazed over retina, and the other… The other eye, or where there should have been one, being just a mass of torn and ripped flesh slowly dripping blood down his gruesome face.
As the bloody, one eyed monstrosity glances past the closed door; I reel away from the peep hole gagging at the grotesque sight. Looking at Heather, a sign of discomfort and worry shows blatantly on her face as it starts to become flush and lose all color. The constant buzz-like noise sounds, still continuing from the red, yellow, and green emergency broadcast signal, playing quietly from the large television in the living room.
"A-are you ok? What did you see?!" She begins to ask me in a slightly panicked voice, while all I can do is shake my head and think that she was indeed telling the truth. I walked over to the recently gashed table coated with a thin layer of glass powder, and the occasional crystalline splinter. Reaching towards the remote sitting on the edge of the table, I shakily point it at the screen and lower the brightness level of the screen to 10%, allowing it to barely shine any light. In an attempt to make us less noticeable to those things outside, I quickly go around the house closing every shutter, turning off every light, and locking every window and door in my house. Every couple motions, I hear a quiet word piping up from behind me as the brunette follows me through the tasks asking what I am doing.
"Whatever those things are, humans or not, I believe we will be safer if they did not know we were in here." I speak with quiet words to the young woman. I start to gather up canned and sealed food in the main room of the house, this being the living room, I then fill all of the available containers with water besides the items I believe might be needed if we do have to make a quick attempt to flee. Slowly the coffee table in the middle of the living room becomes loaded with items ranging from flashlights, the first aid kit from the upstairs restroom, my shortwave receive and broadcasting radio, and an ample supply of batteries for it all, to the aluminum baseball bat, signed by Josh Hamilton, which was on the mantelpiece over the fire place. Taking my army rucksack that I bought for camping, I fill it almost full with the supplies I have aforementioned. She again asks me what I am doing and I respond that it is good to be prepared if anything does happen do we can run if necessary.
Leaving the jet black shortwave radio on the table, I set it to the frequency of the police station. I sit on the couch and wait for a few moments. In disbelief I stare at the radio, for once, hectic Manhattan has no broadcasts on the police waveband frequency. Quizzically she looks at me wondering why I stare wide eyed at the radio. I look at her, locking my eyes with those piercing blue eyes of hers, and incredulously state "There is absolutely no one broadcasting anything on the radio… that's the police's signal too… it's like someone has pulled a veil of silence over them… or that there is no one left…"
"That can't have happened though…" she asks me with a slightly worried look on her face. "Can it?" As these last words are spoken, the message on the bottom of the emergency broadcast system begins to scroll from left to right again with a different message. 08:50, 08/14/2012: The island of Manhattan and the surrounding area has been placed under martial law, quarantine is surrounding the island and evacuation screening is located at all major bridges leading to and from the city. Beware, threat level high, do engage with the infected. If you cannot safely travel, then stand fast and we will find you.
The hours seemed to drag from one to the other, with no end within sight. Lying back against the couch with the rifle laying on the table in front of me I slowly drift into a deep, disturbed sleep.