Fear is what keeps you alive.
|Many years later I remember my first experience with ice. I was a little boy back then, no more than six or seven. It was the first time in my life that I had ever been left out in the snow. There were maimed bodies lying near me covered in blood. All around me people were fighting. The townspeople were using pitchforks and torches to ward off the dark figures that I now realize were vampires.
My elder brother had been a constable in the city, and joined the fight. Our parents had abandoned the two of us shortly after I was born due to a dark curse they believed we both had, and my brother, being much older, begged and struggled to feed us both. As we grew a little older we became more established. My capable brother married his childhood sweetheart just before joining the constabulary at a young age. He rose through their ranks in a very short time period due to his sharp mind and remarkable abilities.
However, they were all unprepared for the horrors that suddenly befell the town. The brave protectors of the besieged city fought back first by using their muskets against the vampires—to no effect; the lead balls tore straight through their undead flesh without stopping them. When the resistance started dying down into a series of grisly deaths and all hope was lost, the young constable picked me up in his arms, took the hand of his beautiful wife, and rushed us to the stables. When we found the horses killed by vampires, my brother tried to protect the three of us as he led us toward the church.
We almost escaped the slaughter together. My brother fought back against the horde in a way that l have never seen anyone fight before in all my life, killing nearly all the vampires in our way. Vampires fell one by one or two at a time as my brother pressed onward, gripping an iron sword tightly in his hands. But, the more vampires he slew, the more vampires he attracted. In the end, the young constable only succeeded in accomplishing one of his three goals before he succumbed to the onslaught as we were suddenly surrounded, sacrificing his own life to save me, his only remaining family member by blood. He put his own crucifix around my neck moments before his blood was drained right before my very eyes. Soon afterward, his wife was ripped apart near the body of the man she loved, even as she screamed for me to run.
I ran toward the countryside, horrified and crying. My small size kept me from becoming noticed by the horrors. I stumbled and fell face-first into the snow-covered ground. I remember looking up and seeing a villager plunge a pitchfork into a vampire. The vampire howled, lifted the villager by the neck and tore his throat open with both hands. Blood spurted out and fell all over my face as another villager cried out and rushed forward. The villager thrust a torch into the vampire's back. The vampire shrieked and burst into flames. I saw a dark figure suddenly appear behind the villager and wanted to cry out, but my soft voice couldn't be heard over the cries of the doomed townspeople and the shrieks of the rampaging vampires. I could only watch in horror as the vampire grabbed the villager in one quick motion, tilted his neck, sank its fangs in, and drank his blood.
I was shivering from the cold. It was like a thousand needles were pricking my icy skin. Snowflakes covered my brown hair as I lay on the ground. My whole face was numb from the cold. I could taste the salty blood-drenched snow and smell the faint stench of blood over the cold ice. The tears streaming down my cheeks became frozen, along with my blue eyes.
That was many centuries ago, but I can still remember what happened on that one fateful night in the ancient city. My only family was destroyed, as well as my name. I vowed revenge and have waited for this new night to come ever since. Tonight is the night in which I will fight. I shall stand strong against the horror that will come for me, for it will be like none other I have faced.
Help me rid this world of all evil. Or help me die trying. So help me God.
The bright moon was visible high in the night sky above the dark clouds. The cold winds rustled fallen leaves through the old abandoned lot. It was empty except for a lone dark figure staggering from the woods. Officer Brian Reaper noticed the dark form as he crossed the empty street. The figure seemed to be carrying something in its arms. It wasn't too visible in the thin mist, but it appeared to be a body. Brian turned and slowly approached the figure, feeling the cold winds rustle past his handsome face, blowing his blond hair backwards. He saw the eyes of the figure glowing bright yellow. It appeared to wobble clumsily, making soft moaning sounds.
As Brian crept closer, he discovered that the thing the figure was carrying was the bloody, battered body of a young woman. His eyes widened even more when he noticed that the walking figure was a rotting, muscular corpse. It was covered with huge scars, and the patrolman could see bones sticking out of the creature's decayed, dark-colored flesh. It was dressed in torn rags and had a stench which could be smelled from a distance away. Brian drew his 9mm pistol and aimed it at the figure.
"Police! Release her!" the police officer shouted, his face expressionless.
The figure turned and gazed at Brian with its glowing, yellow eyes. It howled, and the cop saw blood dripping from its sharp, long teeth. It dropped the body and started advancing toward the young-looking police officer.
The gruesome creature kept approaching with surprising agility, despite its clumsy motions. Brian swore when it came within his twenty-one-foot threat zone and fired into the center mass of the creature. The thing howled as the round tore through it, but it just kept lumbering closer. Brian raised his gun and blasted two shots into its head. Small pieces of its brains flew into the air. The zombie collapsed from the double tap.
Brian, cautiously and methodically, stepped toward the body. The moonlight was shining brightly, and it had never been a problem for him to see well in the darkness without a flashlight. He noticed some stuff lying on the ground: a bloody pair of socks and a book on Shakespeare. The pale officer saw an iron fork and spoon jutting out the neck of the pretty woman, and realized with a sickening thought that the zombie had been eating her. Her lifeless, open eyes stared blankly into the dark sky. Her body seemed to be fading into the long grass due to the darkness.
With his eyes still focused on the corpse, Brian took out his radio and spoke. "Dispatch, Frank three-six. I'm at the corner of Maple Street and Madison. I got a ten fifty-three. One bystander down and one suspect down. Code eight; send backup immediately. Over."
"Radio check." The officer waited a short while until he heard the crackle of the radio and an eerie voice which followed.
"Everyone is dead."
"Dispatch, ten thirty-seven. Who is this? Over."
"Soon you will join us," the croaky, sinister whisper sounded again.
"I'll be seeing you soon," Brian swore calmly.
The radio sputtered, then went silent.
As the officer placed the radio back in its pouch, he saw the zombie start to rise up. He lunged forward and delivered an uppercut to its chin. The zombie's bottom jaw went flying. Brian kicked it in the groin and felt his boot squish into the corpse's flesh. The zombie pulled back its right arm across its torso and delivered a strong backhand blow, sending the officer flying backward into the air.
Brian landed on his back ten feet away from the zombie, his gun instantly in his hands. As the freakish thing rushed toward him, he fired a couple of rapid shots, striking the zombie in both of its glowing yellow eyes. The zombie crumpled to the ground.
As Brian got up, he heard a twig snap behind him. He turned around and pointed his gun at the approaching figure. "Police!" he shouted. "Stop right there!" A bright flashlight beam shone in his eyes, blinding him. He dropped to the ground, rolled to his side and rose to his knee, his gun still pointed at the stranger.
"Reaper, wait! Hold your fire!"
Brian recognized the voice and saw an older grey-haired police officer. He lowered his gun. "Jason, how did you find me?"
"I heard you over the radio," his partner explained, his voice quivering a little. "Our squad car has been totaled. Let's go, Brian. This whole city's being taken over by zombies!"
Brian stood up and followed Jason. The two police officers sprinted across the dark street, encountering several monstrous zombies hobbling about. They all had glowing yellow eyes like the first one, and were also strangely muscular for rotting corpses, their muscles seeming relatively fresh. The gruesome beasts turned and staggered toward the police officers. Brian lifted his pistol and fired at the zombies.
Jason drew his pistol from his holster and grabbed his partner by the arm, tugging him. "I'll help you get to the bottom of this, Brian. Let's get the fuck out of here!"
A SWAT van suddenly appeared and pulled over near the zombies. The van doors opened and a gas-masked SWAT team burst out, spraying the creatures with bullets from their submachine guns. The undead beings moaned, and started collapsing.
Brian recognized the team, having once been a member for a short time. He rushed toward the SWAT team, but one of the team members turned toward him and motioned him to go the other direction with a hand signal.
"What's going on?" Brian yelled, as he and Jason turned to run the opposite way. "We need to get some hollow-point rounds! These full-metal-jackets don't have much stopping power against these things."
"We're on a special assignment, and there isn't much time. We need to get going to the university. We can stock up on more ammo and get a ride somewhere else. Follow me, and I'll fill you in once we get there!" Jason shouted back.
They both turned around the corner of a building. BLAM! BLAM! Ratatatatat! BLAM!
Brian could hear gunfire everywhere. There were loud screams coming from people, too. To his right, he saw a headless zombie chasing after a teenage gang member. He aimed at the zombie and fired several times causing the beheaded being to stagger a little bit. The teenager kept running, then turned right and disappeared into a dark alleyway, the zombie still chasing after him. A police canine was chasing after the zombie, trying to bite it.
Brian turned to his left and saw a zombie lift up a struggling man by the throat. "Cover me!" he shouted.
The two police officers aimed their pistols at the decayed corpse as Brian advanced slowly toward it. The man was trying to claw at the corpse's eyes. The zombie reached up, snapped off a tree branch with its free hand and thrust it into the man's chest. The man shrieked and went limp. The zombie then dropped the body, hissed, and lunged at Brian. Jason fired repeatedly into the zombie's center of mass. The 9mm full-metal-jacket rounds only tore through its raw flesh without slowing it down.
Crying out loudly, Brian leapt forward and tore the zombie's left arm off its socket. The zombie twisted and swung its other arm at Brian. The officer stepped away from the blow and stuck two of his fingers into the zombie's glowing yellow eyes. His fingers burned slightly and the zombie collapsed on the sidewalk, still quivering. It reached out and grabbed Brian's left ankle tightly with its one arm. He raised his foot and stomped hard on the zombie's head. There was a squishing sound as the back of the zombie's head was flattened, and then the head went flying off its body as Brian gave it a hard kick.
As Brian started to run, the body of a big man was suddenly hurled through a brick wall nearby and struck Brian, knocking him to the ground. He quickly rolled over and gazed at the hole in the wall.
There was a zombie climbing through the hole holding a cross in its hand. The big man started screaming frantically as Jason rushed forward and gave the zombie a punch in the face. The zombie knocked Jason aside, howled, and threw the cross at the big man. The long part of the cross struck the big man between the eyes, cutting his screams to an abrupt halt.
Brian stood up and drew out his billy club. The zombie tried to sink its long, sharp teeth into Brian's chest, but it couldn't penetrate the titanium-coated bulletproof vest he was wearing. Brian stepped backward, bashed in the zombie's skull with one swing of his truncheon, then gave it a powerful kick in the ribs, separating it. A few bones crunched as the upper half of the zombie went flying into the air.
Brian turned and saw that the body of the big man was turning into grey-colored dust. The man impaled earlier by the tree branch had already completely turned to fine dust, steadily blowing away into the soft winds.
"It didn't really attack you," Brian said, as he turned toward Jason. "Then why did it attack me? What's happening to all the people it killed?"
"These freaks attack some people, not everyone. I guess I'm just not one of them. They attack them in weird ways, like: setting them on fire, wooden stake through their chest, iron blades, and whatever else, apart from tearing them up. Everyone they killed has been turning into dust. These things must be really biohazardous or something." Jason turned to look Brian in the eye. "What I want to know is, how did you take on the zombie? It had the strength of nearly five men."
Brian didn't know what to say. "I have my secrets. Let's get going."
"What do you mean?" Jason demanded. "From what I've seen, everyone these zombies attacked has been fighting back with seemingly superhuman strength. What's your secret?"
"Steroids," Brian confessed innocently, knowing that his partner would buy the lie. He bent and picked up the cross from the fine pile of dust that had once been the big man. It emitted a slight heat onto his hand. "Now, as I said, let's get going."
As Jason turned his back to his blond partner, Brian snapped the cross into two pieces. He followed Jason for a short distance, passing some hastily set up barricades. Screams and shots could still be heard everywhere.
They finally approached a police car where two other police officers were blasting away at a horde of zombies with a pistol and a shotgun. The wretched mass of walking bodies was staggering past the officers as though they weren't even there.
"Here we are!" Jason shouted.
The zombies suddenly turned toward Brian and started staggering toward him. Jason aimed his gun at the monsters and started firing as Brian drew out his gun. The radio on his belt suddenly crackled to life.
"You are dead to this world." It was the eerie whisper again. "You will pay for what you have done. You shall pay with all that remains of your life."
Brian aimed his gun at the zombies and started firing with amazing accuracy, not missing once. "Give me your best shot," Brian replied smoothly.
Click! Click! The pistol went empty. Brian grabbed a new magazine from his ammo pouch, reloaded his gun quickly, and started firing again.
"You are ignorant of the past," the cold voice spat in anger, still a little more than a whisper. "You now hide among those humans whom you prey on." The tone of the whisper was increasing a notch. "These servants of mine are after you. If they do not tear you apart, then I will be slaying you myself."
"I will find you." Brian promised as the radio crackled out.
Brian and Jason took several steps backward while firing as the freaks advanced closer. A zombie suddenly appeared behind Brian, grabbed him by the neck and lifted him up. The officer lifted up his leg, kicked a hole into the creature's chest, and then drew out a small, tactical knife from a sheath on his belt. Jason leapt onto the creature's back and clutched its throat. Brian hacked at the zombie's arms with his knife until the arms separated. The zombie uttered a silent wail as Brian grabbed its head and ripped it off.
Another zombie rushed toward him. Brian dropped to the ground and slashed off the corpse's legs with one powerful swing. The thick blade swiftly glided through both of its decayed kneecaps like a hot knife through butter. The zombie made a snake-like hissing sound as it collapsed to the ground and started crawling toward Brian on its arms and thighs. Brian picked up the zombie by its torso and hurled it over a trash can fifteen feet away.
The former SWAT officer turned to face the other zombies, but Jason grabbed him and pushed him into the back seat of the squad car. Jason leapt in after him and closed the door as the other two cops rushed into the front seats.
As the engine started, one zombie smashed through a side window just before Brian blasted it in the face with his gun. Another zombie grabbed the car bumper and lifted up the front end of the car, preventing their escape as the other walking nightmares drew closer. Brian leaned out the broken window and fired several times into the zombie's legs. The wretched body collapsed and was crushed beneath the squad car. The police car sped on with sirens blazing. An eerie white noise was being emitted from the car radio.
"The National Guard will be here soon to take care of them." The pretty female cop who was driving spoke as they sped through the dark streets. "Zombies are attacking people worldwide."
A giant zombie suddenly appeared from the thickening fog in front of them and she swerved the car to avoid it. The police car started to speed by a dark cemetery shrouded in heavy mist, where corpses were rising up from their graves. Two squad cars suddenly appeared from the mist and plowed through the cemetery gates.
Brian heard gunfire and saw muzzle flashes from inside the cemetery. The fog thinned down as they sped further away.
"We were supposed to head over to the university and assist the campus police to protect those kids from these mothafucking things," the young, black cop in the passenger seat explained. "But then the radio stopped working and we lost all communication with headquarters. And then we heard your distress call, Brian, and that electronic voice phenomenon, or whatever. Whoever's been talking to you is really spooky. Dunno what he meant. There must be something going on at the police station, and I think we should be heading back over there right now."
Another zombie loomed before them.
"No," Brian objected, hoping that neither one of them take a close look at the rear-view mirror. "We've got to go to the university now."
The zombie was hit by the car and splattered like a bag of meat.
"He's right," Jason agreed. "HQ said there was something even stranger going on there. We were ordered to investigate it."
"Alright," the redhead driver accepted. "Then let's get over there and protect those kids." The police car banked sharply to the right, running over several more zombies.
Brian heard explosions in the far distance. He looked out the window and saw several military helicopters buzz by above him. To his left, a squad of police officers fully clad in riot gear was struggling with a large gang of zombies in front of City Hall. Police sharpshooters had been deployed on the roof of the tall building, sniping at the zombies below with high-powered rounds.
"This is why the Second Amendment is needed," the rookie cop riding shotgun remarked as he blasted at zombies with his pistol through the car window. He was a good shot, but he couldn't compare to Brian.
"No shit! Stop wasting ammo," his seasoned partner snapped. Her eyes were focused on the road as she maneuvered the squad car through the nocturnal urban chaos at top speed, passing by a few upturned vehicles on the street. "You boys better load up on all the ammunition left in the car, because we're about to be in for quite a fight."
Brian turned his head to the right and saw an old lady rushing at a zombie with a butcher knife. The woman hacked pieces of flesh away from the zombie, but the monster grabbed her neck and spat a pool of clear liquid into her face. The woman screamed as her face melted.
The police car drove past them and plowed through the front gates of the university where a pitched battle between students, zombies, and campus security was taking place. The zombies were ignoring some students, while ripping others to shreds.
"Let's go!" Jason shouted.
The driver turned the steering wheel with her steady hands in such a way that the car ran over a couple of zombies, and then skidded sideways to a stop. The four cops got out and joined the battle.
Brian suddenly felt an ominous, dark presence somewhere on the campus. He always trusted his senses. He quickly reached into the car and pulled out the shotgun. The battle between the horde of zombies and students was intense. Brian knew that he wasn't likely to survive if he stayed in the fray for too long.
He started to run past the zombies and students, blasting the zombies that got in this way. One boy lying on the ground reached out and grabbed Brian's leg just as a zombie drove a stake through his chest. Brian lifted his 12-gauge shotgun and blew the zombie's knees off. As the zombie fell, he pumped and blew its head into pieces and kept on running. His radio crackled again.
"You see my plans, do you not, Reaper?" the croaky voice whispered.
It would normally be difficult to hear the words due to the chaos going on all around him, but Brian was able to make out each syllable with his unnaturally sharp hearing.
"I have summoned these corpses from their grave and made them my servants. Their orders are to destroy all vampires. They have harmed no innocent beings. Soon, the world will be completely purged of vampires like yourself. You shall harm mankind no longer."
"Who are you?" Brian was curious, but wasn't the slightest bit afraid.
"You shall find that out when you meet me. You know where I am. Other vampires have tried to precede you, but I have burned them all. You, however, are stronger than the other vampires. I know who you are and how you futilely strive to repeat your former life. You can survive if you stand in sunlight, see a cross, touch holy water, or get cut by a iron blade. You are a Vampire Lord, Brian Reaper, and, I will burn you, as I did the other vampires." The radio crackled and then went dead.
Brian ripped off his badge and threw it on the ground. He kept running until he reached a huge, black, tank-like Hummer parked right outside a rundown, two-story campus building. He glanced at the vehicle's red license plate number:
He rushed around the corner of the building toward the entrance side and saw several zombies and vampires tearing each other apart. The body parts of vampires and zombies flew everywhere until only a few zombies were left standing.
Brian lifted his shotgun and blew away the head of one zombie. He then turned and swung the butt-stock of his shotgun like a baseball bat, whacking the head off another standing corpse. A third zombie grabbed Brian's head from behind and started to twist his neck, trying to separate his head. Brian ripped its arms off, turned around, lifted the zombie by the neck, and threw it through the closed, wooden door of the building.
A fourth zombie popped up near him and spat a pool of holy water onto his arm. Brian howled and then cursed in pain as part of his undead flesh start to melt. He lifted his leg and delivered a swift kick to the zombie's head, which knocked it back with such an impact that its head was just loosely hanging from the back of its neck. Still standing, the nearly headless monster yanked off its left arm and swung it powerfully at Brian. Brian stood his ground, ducking easily from the blow. He got up and plunged the hand of his uninjured arm deep into the zombie's chest, trying to find the heart of the monster.
A group of vampires suddenly emerged from all around, brushed past Brian, and rushed through the now-broken doors into the building. Brian could hear screams and loud hisses coming from within the building as he tore the zombie apart with his bare hands. A battle was taking place inside the building. A couple of vampires rushed out of the building covered in flames. They ran only a few paces before they collapsed. The burning body of a third vampire was thrown out through the open doorway.
Brian looked upward and saw a yellow, sun-like glow illuminating a window on the second story of the building. He leapt high into the air and crashed in through the second floor window. As he rolled forward and got up, the vampire saw that there was a strange topaz amulet glowing at the center of the room, the same yellow color as the eyes of the zombies. He leapt forward to grab it, but realized all too late that he was standing on a trap door. The floor beneath him collapsed. Brian released his grip on the shotgun as he started falling and landed crouching low near the feet of a heavyset man.
The vampire looked up and saw that the man was wearing a metal welding mask and carrying a huge flamethrower. He was covered in ashes from vampires burning all around them. The man looked down at Brian, and then aimed the flamethrower at him.
Brian rolled out of the way to dodge the flames, but it was coming out in very thick bursts. He swung his arms quickly to ward the flames off his sleeves.
The man was silent as he blew another burst of flame at the vampire, who quickly leapt away from the flames.
"I see that you have found me at last, Vampire Lord." The man spoke softly, with an accent, as he fired another burst of fire toward Brian. "My name is Vincent. You vampires destroyed my family long ago, and now I am going to rid the world of all you."
A wave of flames caught Brian, and he struggled to wave the flames off. The name and voice sounded oddly familiar, but he couldn't pinpoint it.
"You made a big mistake," Brian hissed back, his voice surprisingly calm, as always. "You are the one who is about to get a one-way trip to Hell." He drew his pistol in a sudden blur, aimed it at Vincent for a split-second and fired several well-aimed shots. His shots had always been perfect due to his aim being unaffected by any breathing, combined with his death-like steady hands and tactical expertise.
The man covered himself and staggered backward as he was struck repeatedly by the rounds, but the hollow-point bullets only ricocheted off his welding mask and thick metal body armor.
Brian glanced around the big room for some sort of cover, but couldn't find any. The radio at his belt suddenly came to life with frantic messages from the 911-dispatchers and distress calls from other cops elsewhere in various parts about the city before the signal began drowning back into static once again, taken over by the white noise. The ex-police officer knew that this fight needed to be over quick.
"No! I can defeat you!" Vincent shouted.
Brian leapt out of the way as another wave of flame headed toward him.
"I will rid the world of the few remaining Vampire Lords. First, I start with you, Brian Reaper. I want to free you first from our curse."
The whole room was ablaze in flames. The glass on Vincent's mask gleamed in the fire. It was getting harder to see each other through the smoke. Vincent started spraying the fire continuously, turning the stream of flames toward the vampire. Brian leapt off the walls and escaped away from the direction of the stream.
All of a sudden the flamethrower sputtered down, having run out of fuel. In an instant, Brian flew at his foe with lightning speed. Vincent took a step back and bludgeoned the dark-hearted being across the face with the handle of his flamethrower, slowing down the vampire's advance only briefly. Brian knocked the weapon out of Vincent's hands, then gripped Vincent tightly by the neck and lifted him up.
The powerful vampire's hands transformed into a claw-like, rigid form, and blood began seeping freely downward from his victim's throat as Brian's sharp fingertips punctured it. There was a band of garlic cloves with a shiny crucifix looped around Vincent's neck, sucking the strength out of the vampire's hands.
Vincent kneed Brian hard in the chin, loosening the death grip on his throat. The ancient vigilante then grabbed Brian and used his own supernatural strength to fling the Vampire Lord back against the far wall. He then drew a long iron dagger from a holder at his waist and charged toward his opponent, surprisingly fast despite his heavy load.
Brian saw his chance and leapt high into the air up through the trap door which he had fallen from.
"No!" Vincent screamed and threw the iron dagger up through the hole in the ceiling after him. It sailed through the smoke and struck the vampire in the leg.
Brian winced in pain as he yanked the knife out of his thigh. Zombies suddenly appeared all around him, trying to surround him. He limped his way toward the amulet, slashing at the groping zombies viciously. As he approached the amulet, he raised his arm and drove the iron dagger into it, shattering it into a million pieces.
The zombies started wailing as they collapsed to the ground and then lay motionless, the yellow glow disappearing from their eyes. Their bodies started rotting rapidly into piles of black dirt among dark-colored bones.
Vincent suddenly appeared from the top of the stairway. "I may be no match for you, monster," Vincent snarled, holding his newly refueled flamethrower high. Although the wizard's chest was caked crimson with his own blood, the wounds to his throat were healing rapidly, "but at least I will take you out with me, even if it costs me my life right here!" He sprayed flames wildly at Brian.
The undead lord dodged aside and quickly hurled the knife toward Vincent's exposed throat. Vincent moved fast to deflect the knife. Brian then quickly turned, dove on his shotgun, and rolled forward. He got up and fired. Most of the pellets from the blast struck Vincent on the edge of his welding mask, chipping away a large portion of it, along with a shower of sparks.
Brian briefly saw Vincent's face for the first time. He had a frighteningly-familiar young-looking and handsome face like Brian's. It seemed to be horrifically frozen into a permanent frightened expression. His sandy brown hair barely came down to his wide, blue eyes. Brian thought he recognized the face, but it seemed to fade away as all aspects of his past life eventually did.
The force from the shotgun blast against the side of his mask forced Vincent to violently spin around, nearly breaking his neck. Brian pumped and fired again, this time at the fuel tank that Vincent was wearing on his back for his flamethrower. There were more sparks, combined with the hiss of leaking fuel coming out from the punctured tank.
Vincent stumbled forward as the shotgun pellets struck his back and involuntarily discharged a burst of flame towards his feet, setting his own legs on fire. With the fire quickly engulfing his whole body, the burning wizard screamed and started to rush toward the vampire.
Brian braced and prepared to leap out of the way of his once-suicidal enemy. Vincent had only gone a few steps before the fuel tank strapped to his back suddenly ignited. The tank blew up in a huge and brilliant explosion, blowing him into pieces and throwing Brian out through the window which he had flown through earlier.
Brian lay motionless on the ground in front of the burning building. For a long moment he appeared dazed, staring up at the pale moon resting in the night sky as thin strands of smoke arose from his tattered, charred uniform and dissipated into the misty air.
There was a white noise of static coming from the radio on his belt. Even with his sharp hearing, Brian could barely make out the faint, distorted words of a familiar, distinct voice.
"…Becky is in Heaven…waiting for you…save yourself…"
The battered radio made a loud crackling sound. Tiny sparks flew from it, and it died out for the last time.
"Vincent…Reaper…" Brian softly murmured at the destroyed radio. He closed his eyes in revelation. "I know you. You were my only brother."
It had been several lifetimes ago. Brian knew he had been dead to his younger sibling ever since that one night long ago. It was his previous life as a lawman that he had so badly wanted to repeat, even as he had been forever taken so violently from his wife and brother and the rest of humanity, a life that he knew was long gone from him, an afterlife that was forever closed. Then, as a familiar dark and predatory feeling swept over him yet again, Brian was taken over by his instincts, and his brother was already dead to him.
Brian opened his eyes as he sensed somebody else near him. He suddenly felt someone calling to him and helping him up. Refocusing his eyes, he saw that it was Jason.
"Brian," Jason gasped. The fight with the zombies must have tired him. "All the zombies suddenly turned into sawdust or something…radio frequency finally came back on, but I couldn't hear it very well in the fight. The operators back at HQ were trying to warn us of some new threat…a Vampire Lord or something…and that some kind of special elite military team who deals with the paranormal is coming on its way here to hunt it down."
He huffed for air just as Brian started reloading. "Couldn't really make it out after that…Brian…but I could have sworn that your name was mentioned in there somewhere. The noises stopped and our radios suddenly broke down all at once. I was looking all over for you. You look like shit…what happened? You okay?"
"I'm just thirsty," Brian said as he finished reloading his weapons. He knew all too well that he couldn't stay here for long. He looked around. There was nobody else in sight. "I need something to drink." Then, suddenly, without warning, Brian grabbed Jason by the throat and sunk his long, sharp fangs into Jason's neck.
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** Images For Use By Upgraded+ Only **
"My brothers and sisters, I call upon each one of you from your respective realms to join me here and now. This world is ready for our taking and we shall seize all of mankind. Only then can we shape the universe into our will. Make all see what we see, feel what we feel, and suffer how we suffer. And through that, we shall never be lonely ever again."
Part 1: Downfall
“In the event that I shall die going after my brother, my plan to finish all vampires will not end. I have heard of the Vampire Lord Tyrant’s plan of summoning the rest of the remaining Vampire Lords to take over the world. It will become their undoing. The smartest and most cunning of the Vampire Lords, Tyrant himself, is also the most dangerous due to his accursed power. Those who encountered him claimed that it was always in the dark, even in broad daylight. The sun never shines where he is, for it is always blocked by dark clouds. Rainstorms seem to form wherever he steps. That is how you know he is near. It is not blood he drinks. It is said that all of one’s luck will be drained in his presence. That is the curse this essential vampire inflicts upon those poor souls. They will become beaten. They may die then, or later, but they will suffer their worst defeat. I’ve encountered Tyrant only once in my life. I was young then, and I feel that part of me did not survive that encounter—my victory.”
”Corporal Joshua Ming,” a voice on a loudspeaker sounded in a monotone. “You are awake.”
I opened my eyes and found myself upon a cold metal table in a room lit only by a dim, flickering light. It felt like waking up after being dead for a long time. I sat up and looked around. Four other metal tables were stacked a foot apart from each other, each of them occupied by a body. I couldn’t tell if they were alive or dead. Monitors of various sorts were attached to all of them. I ripped my own cords out of my chest.
“Where am I?” I asked. I checked my pale hands and noticed that my fingernails were yellowish and peeling. “What has happened to me?”
“Relax. You’ve just been through another remote viewing session. Let’s debrief you now. What happened?”
“I was in a place where the sky was always red. It was like a dying forest, where leaves were in colors of yellow, red, and brown. I was there for a long time. I wasn’t alone. There was something there watching me. No, I am…” I shook my head. “Help me please. Something has gotten into my mind!” I stood up and rushed for the door.
”The corporal isn’t well. Orderlies, restrain him!”
The door burst open, and two uniformed men rushed in and held me down. One of them held a long syringe.
“This is for your own good,” he whispered in my ear.
I felt the sharp point pierce deeply into my neck. After a while, I stopped struggling, and everything faded into blackness…
* * *
I snapped out of the dream. Cool rain droplets streamed past as the CV-22 Osprey zoomed us closer to our destination. Lightning flashed all around, and thunder seemed to rock the aircraft. This was going to be one hell of a night.
I sat gazing into the craft in the dim light, listening to the steady hum of the twin turbo-shaft engines. Another sudden flash of lighting cast a brief outline of four dark silhouettes around me. The lightning flash died, and the whole canopy was dim once again. It didn’t take long for my eyes to refocus in the darkness after the sudden change of light. Even without my night-vision goggles, I could see well in the dark. We all could. We were just as nocturnal as the creatures we hunted.
My four teammates sat alongside me, silently gazing into the darkness as well. We were all dressed in similar black Nomex outfits. My teammates were all familiar to me. I feel that we know each other from various different lifetimes, but not a single memory of it stands in my mind. Yet, I didn’t care. We all knew each other right now, and for the matter at hand that is all that counts. I didn’t know what they looked like. We all wore a balaclava with a small slit that exposed only our eyes, and that was only when the NVG’s were pulled up on our foreheads. They all had pale skin around their eyes, except Gravey, whose skin was dark colored. He was slightly taller, too.
Gravey sat across from me, holding his machine-gun on his lap. Meaderow, our commander, sat next to him. I saw them both, still as stones throughout the journey, as though the darkness had a soothing touch, taming them…taming us all.
I couldn’t remember the last time I saw daylight—I didn’t want to. The night is my life. Right here and right now, this is the moment I live for…the only moment that I cherish…a moment that bonds us all together.
Even Payne, who sat left of me, was silently cherishing the night. I knew all too well that he would later let his real emotion fly—with the under-barrel grenade launcher attached to his modified carbine, along with the rest of the explosives he, our sapper, was packing.
To my right, I noticed that Summers was silently looking at me, rather than the darkness of the interior like everyone else. She had a slender, lithe body, revealed the more by her skin-tight suit. I stared back at her, unable to tell the expression hiding behind her mask. Her blue eyes were wide open, and yet calm, as if she was looking right through me. But she wasn’t. Her firm breasts were quite big, despite her athletically-structured body. She had the smoothest curves that I could remember on a woman…or thought I could remember. She was shorter than the rest of us, and by far the most agile—even while carrying the biggest gun of the whole team. I wondered if she could see the same calm expression behind my own mask. She probably could. There was something about her…
I turned my attention toward the heavy, semi-automatic anti-material sniper rifle she was holding. I checked my own suppressed carbine, and the pistol we all carried as a sidearm. It was mission first—everything else could wait. The attached suppressor wouldn’t mask the whole sound, but it would reduce the decibels considerably. Our weapons couldn’t be completely silenced—not without using subsonic ammunition. And, we were going up against a foe that was fast enough to dodge normal-velocity rounds as it was, with a hearing so sharp that he could hear each and every trigger pull we made from far away. This mission was what I’ve lived my life for…in this dark night.
I turned toward the window, with raindrops steadily beating on it, and stared into the blackness…the thunder, the lightning, the dark clouds, the pale, full moon up in the dark, starry sky. The small city lights below us were lit like a million candles being held for a dark ceremony. When was the last time I had seen a night so glamorous, so welcoming to us? We were about to become one with this night…this dark and horrifying night… this night of darkness…and—we were the horrors.
“Sanctuary, this is Soulhunter One. We are approaching our target destination. ETA minus fifteen minutes. Over.”
“Soulhunter One, Sanctuary. We copy you. Prepare to deploy Undertaker team. Commence upon arrival. Over.”
“Copy that. Out.” The communication ended in a wave of static.
Meaderow looked up from behind his blank stare into the darkness. His calm, yet piercing eyes were focused on all of us now…his willful subordinates…his brethren.
“Lock and load. Prepare final weapons check.”
Our commander had a cool, steady voice, which spoke his authority over, not us, but the night. He was a very efficient leader, the one who was going to lead us into the darkness. He always got us there, one way or another. I would follow him to my grave, searching for the darkness with him. We all would.
“Yes, sir!” we all chimed in unison, and obeyed his command.
The dry sound of our weapons being cocked filled up our small, vacant space. The rounds we loaded were ultraviolet tracers. It would soon be show time.
“Ming, you will scout ahead when we land. Find traces that will lead us to our target.”
“Yes, sir.” I checked my carbine one last time with my steady hands. It was my job, as a scout, and I enjoyed every minute of being with the night. More than enjoyed—I loved it. If night were a woman, I would marry her right away, and sleep the nights with her for the rest of my life.
“Everyone else, clear the landing zone of hostiles. Follow my lead.”
“Yes, sir,” the rest acknowledged.
We all flipped down our NVG’s and set them to infrared thermal-imaging mode.
“I love this fucking job,” Summers whispered softly.
“Vampire barbeque tonight,” Gravey added.
Then silence…followed by another flash of lightning…followed by a boom of thunder.
I felt the Osprey’s nacelles turning, and it descended, all the way down toward Hell itself. I couldn’t wait to meet Valhalla. And I never regretted anything I said.
Meaderow pulled out a smoke grenade as the craft hit the ground. We all stood and lined up at the rear hatch, hungrily anticipating our destiny.
The propellers started dying out. Our commander threw the smoke grenade out through the opening crack as the hatch of the Osprey started lowering. Gravey stood in front of us, crouching, his light machine-gun aimed at the opening. If we were going to get any surprises while going out, he would give them a surprise back. Behind him stood Payne, with his grenade launcher raised over Gravey’s shoulder.
The smoke activated just as the rear hatch lowered completely. A cloud of white engulfed us all around the opening. Through our thermal-imaging, we could see the bright, heat-signature outlines through the smoke of the crowd of humans watching the Osprey…as well as the not so bright ones of the vampires—few as there were in this large crowd.
“Team, move out and secure LZ.”
A couple of suppressed incendiary rounds tore straight through the smoke, and into the vampires standing among the crowd of college students. They shrieked and collapsed, shivering as they burned into ashes from the inside out. Chaos ensued among the college kids, and they started dispersing. There was an empty parked police car, its lights still flashing red and blue.
“Team, form a perimeter around this area. Ming, move out and recon.”
“With pleasure, sir.” I raced off, venturing into the night, alone.
Rain was pelting hard against my mask as I ran, and lightning was being cast on the ground all around me. My small pack thumped against my upper back. I kept hidden in the shadows, and switched my goggles to night-vision mode—they had a protective feature that would shield my eyes from any sudden bright flashes. Through my eyes, the whole university campus became bathed in a pixilated green daylight—the closest thing to daylight that I would ever see—that I ever wanted to see. Many decaying skeletons were littered all over the area, each surrounded by black dust, soaked vampire dust trapped in the water puddles caused by the hammering rain.
The rain seemed to die down as I got further away, stealthily sneaking past stunned kids who hadn’t evacuated yet. The lightning was no longer close by, yet I could see it flashing behind me in the distance. The dark clouds opened, and the pale moonlight shone on top of me. It was as though the night was watching me—guiding me.
Through my earpiece, I heard the chatter from the rest of my team I had left behind.
“Gravey, cover the western sector.”
“Payne, grenade that crowd.”
“Was afraid you’d never ask, boss.”
I heard a horrifying explosion behind me, followed by screams and wails of vampires and humans alike in the otherwise quiet night.
“Heh, heh, heh…burn, you fucks.”
“Sir, hostiles detected to the south at one hundred fifty meters.”
“Roger. Take sniping position, Summers.”
Two very loud shots ripped out behind me.
“Meaderow to Soulhunter One. We have been safely deployed. You are clear for liftoff. Over.”
“Roger that, Meaderow. Soulhunter One out.”
The Osprey’s propellers came to life far behind me as the military pilots started to take off, leaving the five of us all alone in this dark nightmare. The hum of the craft faded away in the distance. We never liked sharing the night with anybody else.
“Ming, thermal satellite imagery indicates a burning building near your vicinity. Recon and retrieve any evidence you can find from that area. Over.”
“Understood, sir. Checking it out. Over.”
“We are on our way to rendezvous with you. Hold position there until we come.”
There was a sudden burst of static and struggling noises in the background.
Meaderow’s voice was abruptly cut off, and the radio went silent. Gunfire erupted behind me, both suppressed and non-suppressed. I paused, seeing grey smoke rising up high into the sky right in front of me. Even with the NVG’s, I could make out real-life colors perfectly well somehow. Maybe it was because I was used to having them on so much, a second nature born from times in the past that I couldn’t remember. I realized that I was near the burning building.
The ground seemed to be shaking, knocking me slightly off balance. Whatever it was…come, bring it on. I was trained to handle moments like these. I heard the members of my team cry out. Something horrible was ripping them to pieces, as if though right in front of me. All the screams, so familiar, and I was so frightened. What was this? How could I have known this familiar feeling that I have never felt.
I was suddenly knocked to the ground. Trying to push myself off the ground, I managed to get up onto my knees before the ground stopped shaking and a new image began playing out in my head.
The building was just starting to burn. There was a dark, blond figure standing right in front of it, holding the body of his victim and drinking the blood from his neck. He was a police officer. They both were. The head of the grey-haired victim fell from his body. Blood spurted out the open neck like a fountain, splashing the figure’s face.
Two others suddenly emerged from the corner. They were police officers as well; one a redhead woman, and the other a young black kid looking to be still in his late teens.
“Holy shit! Brian! Freeze, you cocksucker!” the policewoman screamed, aiming her pistol at the dark figure.
“Fuck, you see that, Jill? He bit Jason’s head clean off!” the black kid shouted to his partner, his eyes in awe. He had his billy club drawn. “Shit, I ain’t got no more ammo, even if they would work against him. Whatever the fuck he is, we can’t take him on!”
“Shut the fuck up, Henry! Brian, freeze or I will kill you where you stand.”
“What the fuck are you doing, Jill? You gonna arrest him?”
Brian Reaper flew at her in a flash, and she fired.
I opened my eyes, gasping for air. I stood up, and realized I was standing on the spot where the image had taken place. Lifting my NVG’s, I saw there were three crumpled bodies spread out nearby among the yellowish decaying skeletons.
I recognized the most bloody and headless one as Jason. Jill had a series of deep slashes across her throat and breasts where she lay gazing at the night sky with open eyes, as if she finally saw the same kind of peace I saw when I look up into the night. Henry lay several yards behind Jill’s body, his right arm torn clean off. It was still holding his baton. His throat was torn open as well.
The building was still burning right in front of me, burning brightly as the heavy raindrops pelted everywhere. Lightning flashed, and I heard a boom of thunder nearby. The storm seemed to appear again.
I felt a hand grip my shoulder from behind. I instantly spun around, my hands bringing up my weapon. Meaderow knocked it out of my hands. Gravey, Summers, and Payne were behind him, in position, covering their respective sectors with their weapons.
“Report,” he said in his calm voice, his eyes peering straight into me. “We lost radio contact with you.”
“Yes, sir.” I explained to him about my vision.
“It’s this darkness.” He handed me back my carbine. “It touches us all in our own way.” He didn’t say any more…didn’t need to. We all understood each other.
“Yes, sir. Your orders?”
Meaderow gazed into the burning building as we were both pelted by thick raindrops. He lifted up his NVG’s. For the first time, I saw his green eyes. I could see the night storm in them.
“Summers, wait here and watch for anything escaping. Ming, Gravey, and Payne, come with me. Seal up your explosives.”
The four of us approached and stacked ourselves up against the blazing building, weapons kept at the ready. Our suits were fireproof, and regulated our body temperatures, among other things.Meaderow pulled out a grenade and rolled it inside the open doorway. The rest of us covered.
I spun toward the smashed doors and entered the mouth of the collapsing doorway. The rest of the team entered after me, each covering a different area of the room. Our surroundings were devoid of any life…and unlife. The ground we stood on was littered with cadavers, the lifeless resting so peacefully. Such loneliness, and yet, we are never alone.
“This floor is clear, sir.”
“Copy. Move up the stairs.”
As we made our way toward the stairs on the far side of the room, flames lapped at us from all sides. The stairs were crumbling. Sparks and pieces of burnt timber rained all around us. The fire reminded me faintly of a familiar place I’d been to so long ago…a distant past…one of many forgotten memories from somewhere in the back of my brain…Hell or another burning place I had been trapped in with the rest of them. I didn’t care where it was, I just know it was something we didn’t want to remember. Only Payne didn’t seem to have a problem with it. He even looked more alive surrounded by the flames.
We kept our weapons at the ready as we made our way up the crumbling stairway. When we reached the top floor, we methodically spread out and covered our individual sectors. Alongside a lone metal desk, body parts were everywhere. I noticed pieces of a shattered topaz-colored crystal on the floor around the desk.
“Boss, somebody got blown to pieces up here.”
“Roger. Continue searching.”
Gravey approached the lone desk and examined it.
“Sir, I found something.”
“What is it?”
“Some kind of diary that mentions Reaper.”
“Copy that. Secure it and finish the search.”
The broken crystals on the floor were forming back into a shape around Gravey’s boots. Suddenly, a rotting, yet strangely muscular hand came out from nowhere, grabbed his ankle and pulled him to the ground.
Another skinless arm wrapped around Payne’s neck from behind and jerked him backward.
Payne’s suppressed weapon discharged into the ceiling as more and more zombies came out from nowhere and surrounded us.
“I got a zombie on my six…”
Gravey jerked a leg back and kicked the zombie, dragging it on the floor, separating its bottom jaw from its face. Meaderow lowered his rifle and fired into the zombie still holding Gravey just as Payne flipped his own zombie attacker over.
I felt a pair of powerful hands grab my head from behind. I dropped my rifle and gripped the arms trying to tear my head off. Weapons fire erupted all around me.
“Fuckers are strong,” I heard Gravey grunt as he pumped his machine-gun into the zombie at point blank range.
“Don’t let their clumsy gait fool you,” Meaderow replied in a calm voice, as he unloaded on two zombies near him. “Intel reported them to be expert vampire killers. Payne, go assist Ming.”
“Yes, boss.” Payne had already ripped off the head of the zombie he had flipped over. He turned toward me and fired.
The round tore through my attacker’s neck. I easily turned and pushed the zombie back against a huge broken window.
BLAM! The zombie’s head exploded into a cloud of semi-dried brain matter.
“This is Summers. I still have you covered. Being attacked by zombies outside.”
“Copy that,” Meaderow replied. He and Gravey were both wrestling with an overwhelming group of zombies. “Payne, shoot the amulet. Ming, cover him.”
As I drew my pistol, Payne lifted his rifle and aimed at the crystal. A zombie hand slammed down onto the weapon before Payne could fire, knocking it to the ground before grabbing him. Payne lifted his knee and kneed the zombie hard, his knee actually entering its undead chest. Another zombie appeared and grabbed Payne from behind. There was no way he could take that shot now.
Knowing there was no time to aim, I started firing several snap shots at the amulet with my pistol. A zombie came out of nowhere and threw itself over the crystal, shielding it from my rounds. I felt myself being grabbed from all sides.
“Summers, the crystal is hot,” Meaderow informed. “Switch to thermal vision and take the shot.”
The zombies all collapsed, moaning in some sort of agony before they went completely still. The crystal was shattered into a million pieces, parts of it landing in areas with fire. There was no chance of it reforming now.
I looked out the window. Summers was kneeling out there, surrounded by zombies. There was smoke coming out of her huge anti-material rifle. The round must have torn through, not only the zombie protecting the crystal, but through the building’s wall and floor as well. The floor started to tremble. The building was close to collapse due to the flames.
“Evacuate!” Meaderow shouted. “Through the window!”
We picked up our weapons and leapt outside the window, landing on our feet. Meaderow was the last one out. The building collapsed, blowing a wave of smoke and debris over us.
The storm was brewing heavily around us. Gravey handed a burnt notebook to Meaderow, who flipped through it rapidly, studying. I noticed a slight glow in Payne’s hazel eyes. The fire seemed to have woken up something dormant inside of him…something hellish.
“Now we know what happened here. Reaper’s younger brother Vincent tried to stop the vampires with his zombies, but his older brother stopped him,” Meaderow said, as he sped through the pages. "Ming, keep this journal secure."
“No wonder there are so few vampires here. Intel said that this place used to be infested with them,” Gravey commented.
“We still have Reaper to deal with, and a while before dawn. He couldn’t have gotten far.”
Our commlinks suddenly came to life.
“Meaderow, this is Sanctuary. Over.”
“Go ahead, Sanctuary.”
“The 13th Paranormal Extermination Battalion is being deployed to quarantine the city, evacuate civilians, and mop up the remaining vampire threat. Over.”
“Understood, Sanctuary. Order them to maintain proximity from us.”
“They already have been. Out.”
WHUMP ! WHUMP!
A fleet transport of helicopters was approaching from the far distance. There were sounds of automatic fire in the distance as well.
“If any of those grunts get in our way—bury them.”
“Yes, sir!” we all chimed in.
Meaderow gazed at a huge, black Hummer parked close to the collapsed building. “That must be Vincent’s vehicle. We’re going to commandeer it to go into the city. We’ll split up in twos. Ming, go below and scout the sewers. Reaper may have fled there.” He motioned at a nearby open manhole leading down to an even darker, spookier place below. “Call us if you encounter him.”
It looked so welcoming. I was about to enter the deep, wet hole of the night…penetrating her…the dark mistress I am enslaved to. We were finding new ways of becoming one with each other.
“Roger that, sir,” I said, lowering my goggles.
My teammates entered the vehicle, their weapons pointed out their respective windows.
I slung my carbine and started down the ladder. As I made my way down, I heard the big black car starting up and speeding off into the night, their own joyride through the city of darkness…this piece of dark Heaven we were hunting on.
I stopped, hearing the thunder and rain. I thought the sky had grown brighter outside, but I was descending too quickly to confirm it. The sudden darkness engulfed me, enveloping my whole body. It felt like a soft caress by the roaming hands of some lost and lonely spirit.
Hitting the bottom, I un-slung my rifle. I held it at an alert position, its muzzle pointing downward, gripping the vertical forward handgrip with my off hand. Peering into the looming blackness before me, I started making my way through the wide sewers. My boots sloshed through the thick sewage. I smelled the putrid air, the smell of death and decay. It would have been pitch black, but the slight glow of my weapon-mounted infrared illuminator was amplified by my NVG’s. The IR laser sight pierced through the darkness.
I heard a sudden sound at a passage to my right, and quickly turned my body in that direction, bringing up the reflex sight of my carbine to my eyes.
I felt something grab my ankle. Raising my other foot, I stomped on it, breaking it off. Another green and rotting hand reached up from the waste, groping for me…and then another…
I pointed my gun downward and began firing as another hand reached up to grab me. More and more hands appeared from the raw, gunky sewage. I felt myself being pulled under into the depths, succumbing to the darkness…like a vision being played out.
* * *
I was balancing myself on top of a large tombstone in an old cemetery. The sky above was darkening. Skeletal hands were reaching up from the loose soil…groping at me…tearing off my tattered, greenish digital-woodland camouflage uniform. Eyes wide in fear, I pointed my old M16A2 rifle downward and fired blindly into the ground. Puffs of dirt shot up as the bullets struck.
The sharp claws of the skeletal hands were still clawing at me…reaching for me…wanting to claim me into the darkness…those four pairs of hands.
Click! Click! The rifle went empty just as the grinning skulls began to emerge from their graves, their hollow eye sockets glowing green. They were coming to get me.
I squeezed my eyes shut as they drew closer, and then felt nothing.
* * *
I opened my eyes. The hands were gone. I was back in the sewers, standing on the same spot I had been earlier. Feeling nauseated, I removed the mask from my mouth and threw up, tasting my own bitter blood. After a minute to recover, I stood up and replaced the mask on my face and cautiously made my way down the sewers, keeping slightly crouched and my weapon ready.
It was hard to keep silent with my boots sloshing through the dense, watery muck, navigating through narrow, curving passageways that seemingly had no end. I was buried deep beneath the surface as I traveled across this dark underworld, roaming through the darkest of all dungeons, waiting to be tortured by my cruel mistress. Whips would rip deeply into my flesh, hitting my bare spine and slowly tearing my body apart, giving me pain that will make me feel intimately closer to her. I understood her in a way none do. I was hers to claim. Making my way through this river of death, and pursuing Hades, I was a prisoner to the night, to be used and exploited by my unseen mistress. It never felt so good.
I passed by several manhole ladders, carefully scanning each as I passed. If Reaper had planned on going to the surface, he wouldn’t have come down to the sewers in the first place. No, it would have only slowed him down. If he had come down here, he would try to leave the city this way. But, the vampire quarantine in place by the PAREX at the far reaches of the city’s edge would stop him. He would be lying somewhere here in wait, hiding beneath the knee-deep muck…
I was about to switch my NVG’s to infrared-mode when his claw-like hands slashed into my shins. I backed off before he could get a grip on my legs, blasting down into the muck. Pools of the slime splashed up into the air.
“On our way. Keep the target contained.”
The Vampire Lord quickly emerged before me, positioning himself to pounce. I didn’t give him the chance to. An incendiary bullet struck the center of his chest.
Reaper staggered backward, but his police-issue bulletproof vest had stopped the round. He leapt at me, lightning fast.
I rolled aside, barely dodging his attack. I kicked him hard, trying to get some distance between us. He stumbled, but obviously wasn’t hurt by it.
“I’m going to tear you apart.” He had a calm-sounding voice, like Meaderow’s.
The vampire swiped at me with a clawed hand, digging deep into my chest. I smacked him across the head with my carbine, aiming for his fangs. Reaper hissed, and I felt his boot hit the side of my body. I slammed hard against a sewer wall with tremendous force, accidentally discharging a short burst. Reaper leapt back as the blue tracers ricochet back off the far wall, one barely missing my head.
I aimed at my undead foe from my sprawled position and started firing my suppressed weapon. He tried to dodge my shots, but the range between us was too close, and I could also anticipate his movements well. An incendiary round tore into his left biceps, another struck his right thigh. Two more nailed his chest, with the second penetrating his vest. The Vampire Lord howled in pain as smoke seeped out of his wounds.
“You’re mine now.” I aimed at his head.
Click! Click! The carbine wasn’t empty—it had misfired, jammed from the muck. I hurriedly got up and backed off, my hand reaching for my backup sidearm.
Reaper un-slung his shotgun and fired almost instantaneously. It felt like a sledgehammer. My spider web body armor stopped most of the buckshot from penetrating, and I was thrown backward. I landed hard on my back, with pistol drawn.
I heard the shotgun being pumped. A split second later his shotgun was trained on me, just as I flipped on my pistol-mounted UV tactical light. The vampire screamed as the burning UV beam from my gun shone directly into his eyes, blinding him.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
My aim was off due to the hard fall, the snap shots missing the vampire by mere inches. I had to get into a better shooting position. In a blur, my undead target leapt onto the wall close to me just as I started to rise. He was suddenly on top of me, splashing me back into the muck.
Not giving up, I pulled out my silver-coated steel blade and thrust it at my attacker. The powerful vampire gripped my hand before it reached home, the sharp fingers from his claw-like hand digging deep into my wrist. Blood started seeping out.
“What are you?” he asked me. His face was still expressionless, his long fangs protruding from his mouth.
I didn’t answer as I lay there, haplessly pinned down by one of the darkest creatures to ever grace the nights. I realized that we were both alike…both enslaved by the same dark mistress whom would never let either of us go. We were captives of this night…fighting siblings embracing the same mother.
I silently gazed up at him for a moment before he violently jerked my head aside and began sinking his long fangs into my neck. The puncture was so deep that I felt the sharp tips of the fangs scraping the carotid artery in my throat. Or was it my windpipe? I couldn’t really tell, not with my mind concentrating on something else. Even as my blood was being sucked right out of me, everything was fading until all I could see was a deathly, ethereal vision.
* * *
The stars shone brightly high above the violet clouds, bathed in the blood-red sky. There was no moon in sight. Gnarly trees twisted and turned all around me, their few leaves clinging fearfully onto the branches for life. Their nearly-dead brethren littered the floor at my feet in yellow, brown, and crimson colors, rustling slowly past my feet in the soft winds. I heard the horrid howls of dying animals in the distance. I was in a place between the living and the dead…a place that was forever set in autumn…with dying creatures that would never completely die…where rotting plants never completely rot…a place where I was not alone.
I started making my way through the skeleton of a forest. My NVG’s were rolled down over my eyes, amplifying the starlight by several thousand-fold. I kept my carbine pointed toward the dying leaves rustling past my boots on the dirt ground. I was heading toward a different place…one that has a darker sky and a brighter moon…where the twisted trees were devoid of any leaves, and where nothing howled in the distance…where my foot crushed the dry leaves with each step toward my fate. This was where I truly belonged…to finally find true peace under her soft embrace.
There was a fire in the far distance, clearly visible from the otherwise dark forest. I lifted my NVG’s as I gazed at the inferno from atop a high cliff. I could see the demons in the flames—small red creatures with horns and long tails scurrying about. I realized that I would never be destined for peace. Not after all the things I had done, and for what I had become. Hell was my final destination.
I screamed as I began to feel the flames come nearer and sear my flesh. The pain was horrible, and the smell of my own body starting to be barbequed terrible. My black suit started peeling off in the intense heat, and my carbine glowed red and melted. The demons were dancing all around me as I fell down to my knees, poking me with their little tridents. I saw the flesh peeling off my very hands. The tears seeping from my eyes vaporized almost instantly. This is where I was to burn for all eternity.
I wailed out loudly into the sky. My voice grew hoarse as my lungs started to burn. I looked up one final time with my watery eyes. A dark-haired angel was descending toward me from above. I stared at her as my eyes began to melt down my face.
She wasn’t just any angel. Her eyes were glowing red on her pale, pretty face. The robe she wore was grey and tattered, as were her giant wings. She was bone thin, almost a skeleton. She gazed back at me as she came closer. The little demons scurried away as she flew through the flames. She came upon me and embraced me in her skinny arms.
Naked and burnt, I blindly embraced her back, for a moment ignoring my agony. We stood in each other’s arms for several long seconds. Then I heard her tattered wings flapping and felt the angel of darkness lifting me off the fiery ground, away from the inferno and up into the night. My old mistress wasn’t giving me up.
* * *
I weakly opened my eyes. My whole body was numb. All my blood had been drained, yet I was still alive. I gripped the wall and slowly pulled myself to my feet. Reaper was kneeling on the floor, choking and throwing up my poisoned blood.
He suddenly looked up at me. I let one of my arms fall so he could see the incendiary grenade I was holding. After being through a little Hell, I wasn’t afraid of using some small flame grenade to take us both out.
Reaper stood up and started backing away, still with surprising quickness. His shotgun was trained at me.
I was about to toss the grenade at him when there was a sudden explosion right above us. A part of the ceiling collapsed nearby, showering us both with gravel. The heavy rain began falling into the sewers.
Meaderow, Gravey, and Payne rappelled down from the hole above, firing at Reaper as they descended to the mucky ground. I tossed the incendiary grenade with all the strength I could muster and staggered backward behind a corner.
Though the thick muck contained most of the small explosion, flames arose and lapped at Reaper’s feet, forcing him back. The vampire drew out a pistol and fired at my teammates as he retreated farther back. The Undertakers spread out and moved for cover behind the larger pieces of rubble.
Gravey rose and laid down suppressing fire as Meaderow and Payne advanced toward Reaper from both sides of the sewer passage. More rubble fell down from the ceiling, pelting Reaper as he returned fire. Payne was struck twice by Reaper’s highly accurate shots, staggering back a bit as Meaderow moved up from the left wall. A hail of automatic fire from Gravey showered all around Reaper’s position, pinning him down. Meaderow made a quick hand signal to Payne, who knelt and pulled up the leaf sights for his grenade launcher.
“Burn!” Payne screamed as he lobbed a combined incendiary-high explosive round toward Reaper, blowing apart the wall nearby and throwing the vampire backward. The far end of the sewer was completely engulfed in flames. The burning Vampire Lord dove down into the watery sewage to extinguish the flames covering him.
Gravey kept pelting the area where Reaper was with his machine-gun from far back. Meaderow kept moving up, his carbine held at the ready, his body crouched low.
Payne popped another grenade into his under-barrel launcher. “I’m not finished with you yet!” Payne leveled his launcher just as Reaper rose far back from the muck and blasted his shotgun. The pellets spread throughout the distance, forcing Payne and Meaderow to back off into cover.
Now that the powerful vampire was exposed again, a few of Gravey’s rounds tore into Reaper’s body. Meaderow opened fire from the left side and struck the Vampire Lord’s head, blowing off Reaper’s lower jaw.
Flanked, severely injured and outnumbered, the smoking vampire leapt straight up through a manhole that he had maneuvered under. He burst up through the sewer lid a split second before Payne’s second grenade slammed into the spot Reaper was previously standing on.
“Summers, he’s yours,” I heard Meaderow say over the comm.
The sound of Summers’ huge sniper rifle echoed throughout the sewers from high above. She must have been perched on the rooftops of some multi-storied building.
“Target is hit, but not down. I blew his fucking chest out.”
“Aim for the head.”
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
“Bastard can move too fast. He dodged the rest of my rounds.”
“Copy. Do you still have a visual on him?”
“Negative. Target has moved out of range.”
“Copy that. Sanctuary will be informed, and they’ll contact the PAREX battalion. Gravey, we’ll evacuate Ming and get him medical aid. Payne, retrieve his weapons. All regroup at rally point Alpha. Out.”
I could barely keep myself up. My body was exsanguinating and my mind rapidly losing consciousness. The last thing I saw was Meaderow and Gravey rushing over to me before everything faded out, once again into another dream.
* * *
It was a time when I was younger. The sunset was falling past the horizon. Its dying glow looked beautiful as it shone in my eyes, as though the sun was drowning into the darkening waters of the Pacific Ocean. Flocks of seagulls flew above my parked car on top of the cliff. The beach was getting darker by the second.
“So what makes you wanna join the military?” the beautiful blond girl sitting next to me in the car asked, as we both stared at the setting sun.
“I want to change myself,” I replied, checking out my spiked hair in the rearview mirror. A youthful face of Asian descent stared back at me. “Become a better person inside. And, I heard the Marines could do that.”
“Why do you wanna change? You’re perfect the way you are. Didn’t you get enough of that kinda stuff playing football?”
“Well, yeah, football was a blast. A time of my life I never want to forget. But this is a totally different thing. And, with graduation coming up, I could use some college money, too.”
There was only a fading glimpse of the sun still left. The red and violet clouds loomed above us in the blackening sky, visible through the open top of the car. The stars were just beginning to appear.
“Well, I’ll be joining up, too,” she said.
That surprised me. “No shit! Really?” The sky was now completely dark.
“Yeah, I just wanna be with you.” She turned toward me.
“But I already have a girlfriend.” I noticed the yellowish moon above us.
“She’s gone.” The blonde girl came close and whispered in my ear. “This will be our little secret.”
“I can’t…wait…this isn’t right.” I edged back against the seat. “How did I get here?”
“You made your choice already. And so did I.” She placed a hand on my zipper. “Now hush, it’s just you, me, and this night.”
“What the fuck?”
She leaned even closer and kissed me, tenderly. I hesitated at first, and then I saw her wide blue eyes and kissed her back—corrupted by her. It was wrong, and yet it felt good.
Suddenly a cold hand gripped my throat. The blonde girl was gone, and in her place was the pale, dead angel. She pulled me close and whispered in my ear in a sweet, but raspy voice.
”She will not steal you away from me.”
Part 2: Corruption
“The psychic vampire who shaped my brother’s soul into what he is now is known as Fallen. I witnessed her twisted mind, so deep with her own dark heart. This vampire queen drinks the goodness out of people rather than blood, and through their hearts rather than their necks. Those she victimized can never pass the heavenly gates, because their good side is all but consumed. She is said to have wings, yet she is nothing but an angel of evil, fit to be Lucifer’s mistress.”
I woke up in a dark room. I was alone. Such stillness. An eerie silence hung in the stuffy air. The entire room must have been very tiny. It was like I had woken up inside a coffin, interrupted from my eternal slumber, awakened to worship the only one I can ever find solace in. Even one who would forever keep my soul from the heavenly gates, the night was the one thing I could never leave. She was always there, waiting for me to come to her…come to embrace her so she could embrace me back…to show me such pleasure I could find nowhere else…and to allow me to follow her to the end of the world.
I sat up and glanced at the mission clock on my wrist monitor…12:51 a.m. I had been out for only half an hour. Good, I would have hated to sleep through such a night. I noticed my strength had all returned, and my wounds were patched. There was a needle in my arm attached to a special IV. I pulled it out and wrapped a pressure strip around the puncture. My carbine and pistol were lying nearby, and I picked them up. They had both been cleaned and loaded. But where were my teammates?
Folding down my NVG’s to see clearer in the darkness, I noticed this room was a small janitor’s closet.
“Team...Ming. What’s our sit-rep? Over.”
I waited for a response, waiting for a situation report from Meaderow or anyone else. There was none. I approached and opened the door. It was a huge lobby, completely dark, except for beams of light emitted by weapons scattered around the floor. Something was wrong here.
Some of the furniture had been overturned, and the walls were littered with bullet holes. Turning the safety off on my weapon and holding it at the ready, I exited my coffin and entered this tomb. I proceeded cautiously, ready for any surprises.
Several helmeted bodies lay near their weapons. I recognized their digital grey and white urban camouflage pattern—PAREX troopers. Kicking one of them over, I inspected his charred gunshot wounds. They had been hit by their own standard-issue incendiary rounds, not the experimental ultra-compact type my teammates carried. They had been fighting each other to the death. Why? Seeing the immediate area devoid of any hostiles, I closed my eyes and concentrated.
* * *
The room was intact, its lights flickering on and off. Three familiar dark figures stood in the lobby. Gravey had his rifle pointed toward the lobby back door, while Payne kept his leveled at the entrance to the stairs. Meaderow stood between them.
“Summers reported a PAREX squad heading this way, boss,” Payne said. “They don’t know we’re here.”
“That’s not it,” Meaderow solemnly spoke, as if lost in a trance. He was, however, anything but lost. “I can feel something else. Something is following us. We must get out of here.”
“And what of Ming?” Gravey asked, as he guarded the back of the lobby. “He’s still unconscious.”
“Ming will know what to do. He can see through its mind. We’ll hunt down Reaper.”
The three of them left swiftly, leaving the room abandoned. The flickering lights in the room went dead, and the heavy rain outside the glass lobby door stopped. All was quiet for a few minutes. Suddenly—
A white phosphorus grenade exploded and four PAREX troopers stormed in through the front entrance. They moved quickly and methodically, scanning around the dark place with the tactical flashlights attached to their weapons, each covering his or her own respective fire sectors as they advanced onward.
Another WP grenade sounded loudly elsewhere in the building.
“Back room clear!”
A second four-man fire team appeared from a large doorway opposite the entrance.
“Roger. Alpha team, I’m suspicious of that closet there. Throw a silver frag into it. Bravo team, proceed upstairs and clear it. Almost all the civilians have been evacuated from this area, and chances are that whoever is left is a vampire. Shoot on sight.”
The second team started heading toward the stairway. They suddenly halted, just as the first entry team was stacked against the small closet door, preparing to kick it open to throw a grenade in.
“Bravo team, what’s the fucking holdup?”
“Sir, with all due respect, fuck you. I’m done taking orders from you.”
“What the fuck did you just say, soldier?”
“He’s right, sir. You’re a shitty leader who’s gonna get us all killed tonight, one way or another.”
“You two maggots are going to spend the rest of your miserable lives rotting in the brig. If I don’t kill you both myself right now, that is.”
“Bring it on, old man.”
The two teams faced off, pointing their weapons at each other, each with their trigger fingers tensed.
“You got Charlie team all killed trying to take that hideout full of vampires. When your stupid, incompetent ass decided to just rush in—”
“I don’t give a flying shit about any of your lives. Now, drop your weapons or you will join them too, smartass.”
The young soldier opened fire on his squad leader, the high-velocity rounds bursting through the Kevlar armor’s ceramic plate. He was struck in return immediately after by the remaining three members of the other fire team.
“Eat that, you sack of shit!” someone yelled. “Now for the rest of ya!”
Bullets ripped through both sides of the room as the remaining soldiers dispersed and ran for cover. One kicked over a metal desk and fired over it, hitting a rival soldier multiple times in the back. Another dove behind a couch and fired at the soldier behind the desk, nailing her in the face. His bullet cracked through the ballistic visor, penetrating all the way through the back of the soldier’s head and knocking off her helmet. Blood and brain matter flew everywhere.
On the other side of the lobby, his last teammate was pinned behind the reception counter by heavy fire from the two remaining soldiers of the opposite team. One of them had a machine-gun, pouring rounds all around the counter. Chips of wood splintered from the wall and flew everywhere.
“I need a little fucking help here!” the pinned soldier yelled at his teammate. “Bastards are trying to flank me.”
“Shut the fuck up and hold them, you weak-ass, bitchy motherfucker,” came the reply from behind the couch. “I’m fuckin’ reloading.” The trooper popped out from the couch to fire, and was immediately struck with a hail of bullets. His body jittered for a moment as he was peppered, and then he crumpled.
“You’re all alone now, little boy,” one of the troopers on the other side mocked.
His nearby teammate pulled the pin off a fragmentation grenade. “I got something cooked and ready for ya.” The grenade was tossed behind the counter. “Eat it!”
“Oh, shi—” The pinned soldier started to leap over the counter as he saw the grenade landing at his feet. Just as he got over the top, he was welcomed by two separate hails of fire striking his armored plate and knocking him back behind the desk. The grenade blew up right underneath him, and his body did a three-hundred sixty degree flip up in the air within a gigantic red mist of his own blood.
“Woo hoo! That’s what I’m talking about!”
“You stupid motherfucker, you could have gotten us both killed with that grenade.”
“So is that the way you thank me? Hell, I don’t need you either, bro.”
He raised his machine-gun and showered his last surviving teammate into a spray of blood and torn flesh. He stopped and looked around at the bodies of his squad members littered all around the lobby.
“Oh, my God, what have we done? My bros…oh, fuck no. What corrupted us?” Tears formed in his eyes. Without another word, he put the barrel of his machine-gun deep into his mouth and fired with his thumb, blowing his helmet off and splattering the wooden wall behind him with pieces of his medulla oblongata from the back of his cranium.
The eight troopers lay sprawled on the floor. The entire lobby seemed dark and lifeless when, suddenly, a lithe, black figure emerged from the stairs and casually sat down at the base…
* * *
The vision passed and I turned toward the stairs, my carbine raised. There was nothing there. I saw a dark shadow flicker across the room and jerked around to face it, finger tense on the trigger. The whole place was devoid of any life—nothing in the room except for the overturned furniture and the bodies of the doomed PAREX squad. As I stood alone inside the hollow room, I could detect an aura of some ancient essence from the darkness surrounding me. I was alone, yet not lonely. Something else was here with me, watching me. I can feel her malevolent presence all around me, massaging my whole back…invisible, skeletal hands on my back, roaming lower and lower. My knees trembled slightly. I almost lost hold of my gun as I gave in to the pleasure of her cold caress. I was hers to have. Suddenly, my earpiece crackled to life.
“You are in danger. Get out of there now!”
Meaderow’s command snapped me out of my ordeal. I knocked over a set of sofas as I spun, faced the lobby exit, and stepped forward toward the double doors, about to be finally greeted by the night outside once again. The clear, full moon and dark clouds in the clear sky greeted me as I exited the building.
“I am sending you our coordinates. Come here now. Over.”
“Meaderow…Ming. I copy and am on my way. Over.”
“Come here and join us…”
There was a hoarse screaming sound in the background. My earpiece went silent, until I felt the old airwaves echoing with the lingering voices of the recent past.
“…to all forces of the 13th Paranormal Extermination Battalion…orders directly from the commander. All forces are not to enter the inner district of this city. We have lost contact with all recon squads in that area. Instead, form an inner perimeter…”
I turned and headed in the direction of my leader’s call. There was something else happening tonight other than our hunt for the vampire. Something more sinister was disturbing this night. And it was up to me to keep her in peace. This was the reason she had called for me…a call I lived only to answer.
“…all radio transmissions from that area seem to be down. We can’t even get our UAV’s above that place…and the thermal satellite image is being blocked by some strange cloud that formed over that area…”
I made it through the dark lifeless streets, doing my best to keep in the shadows, in this dark ghost town that somehow reminded me of a lifetime long ago. The tall shady buildings loomed high over me, the flickering streetlights casting an army of hungry, lurking shadows all around. It was as though this city had a night of its own…this city of nightmares that tonight I called my home.
“…latest intel reports primary target, the Vampire Lord Brian Reaper, heading right into area Gamma, seemingly being pursued by invisible assailants. All surveillance on them keeps getting lost, despite air support from UAV’s, and reappearing elsewhere…”
Sporadic bursts of gunfire could still be heard in the distance, evidence of the dying battle between PAREX forces and the remaining vampires of a once very infested city. Even though the fight was almost over, this city seemed to grow more and more angry and enraged with each passing shot. I could feel the vibrations on the ground as the disturbed city trembled.
“…lost contact with several patrols close to Reaper. Additional air units arriving for support. Maintain the inner perimeter, but do not cross over…do not engage him with anything less than a full platoon…”
I struggled to keep my footing in the tremors as I continued my sprint. A glass doorway suddenly shattered to my left side, and a group of civilians busted out. I rolled toward a wrecked car and hid. The people were making incoherent screams and hisses. No—they were not people—they were vampires. They staggered onward, each of them wounded in various ways.
“…several units have reported encountering unknown entities throughout quarantined area Beta…lost contact with several squads in that sector…evidence of corruption of our troopers due to mind control. There are other things in this city, and we are only equipped to handle vampires…”
Suddenly, two PAREX troopers appeared through the broken glass door behind the vampires, raising their flamethrowers high and hosing the screaming crowd of undead with napalm.
“…initiating mind control protocol. All advance units are considered to be corrupted. To all other units still under our control—fall back to outer city perimeter and await arrival of mind-shield units. Corruption, infection, hunger, damnation, and despair…something has brought out the worst in this city. Desecration unknown at this time…”
I rushed onward, sensing an evil presence still chasing me, hunting me, wanting a piece of me. The air all around me turned icy, pricking me with needles that chilled me to my cold bones, even through my body temperature regulating bodysuit. As I ran closer to my destination, I could sense that I was not the only one being chased. I saw a particular vampire, felt all of his fears. It only got stronger the closer I got. I was bonded with him, as though he had put something inside me when he drank my blood…
* * *
A .50 cal round from a distant sniper rifle tore into the stolen Jeep’s engine, stopping the vehicle cold. Brian leapt out of the useless Jeep, firing several rapid shots at the sniper somewhere high on top of the rooftops as he dashed for cover at the far corner of the nearest building.
From his right flank, a hail of machine-gun fire peppered the area as the vampire rolled to avoid the burning incendiary bullets. A fragmentation grenade round lobbed from somewhere to his left smashed into the wall next to him and exploded, covering the vampire from head to toe with tiny bits of iron shrapnel. Although his damaged bulletproof vest blocked most of the shrapnel at his torso, the force of the concussion threw him away from the wall.
As the undead ex-police officer landed, he immediately got onto his feet and raised his pistol at the grenadier. As he squeezed the trigger, the pistol exploded in his hand, damaged earlier by shrapnel. His hand was in bad shape, but it was still there.
“You cannot escape us.”
Even as Meaderow’s calm words haunted him from close behind, it sounded strangely reassuring, as if inviting him to a certain death he would never forget. Figuratively speaking.
Another hail of machine-gun fire from his right side peppered the area as suppressed carbine fire from the grenadier at Brian’s left struck him, causing him to jitter as the small, burning incendiary rounds tore into his flesh.
Another of Summers’ anti-material round blew off his kneecap. Crippled, Brian fell down onto the hard pavement. He drew his backup sidearm with his good hand and aimed it in Meaderow’s direction.
The pistol exploded as Summers’ round tore through it, along with Brian’s left hand. The shotgun had run out of ammo long ago. Knowing that his fate was sealed, Brian forced himself up to a kneeling position, dully watching Meaderow approaching him from beneath the shadows. The vampire slowly reached into his utility belt with his remaining hand for his knife, doing his best to conceal his action from the sniper.
Suddenly, Gravey and Payne appeared from his left and right flanks and grabbed the former cop by the arms. Gravey tore off Brian’s mangled remaining hand just as Payne smashed the vampire’s fangs out of his mouth.
“Not a chance, little vampire,” Payne mocked, as he and Gravey starting tearing off the remains of Brian’s tattered police uniform. “We’re going to feast upon your soul.”
Brian was dropped at Meaderow’s feet. He pulled himself back up to a kneeling position and looked up at Meaderow. Summers had already appeared at his side with her sniper rifle holstered at her back and holding a long knife in her hand.
The four dark agents all rolled up their NV goggles. Brian’s eyes widened as he gazed into Meaderow’s eyes, as if he had seen something inside them, something in the eyes of all four of them.
“What do you fear?” Meaderow asked coldly.
The vampire didn’t answer, presumably speechless without his lower jaw, which Meaderow had shot off earlier. He simply gazed back at Meaderow with his own set of hollow eyes.
The four Undertakers raised their balaclavas and unmasked their faces. Brian remained frozen and speechless; however, his unusually expressionless eyes had opened wider.
“Now, tell me, what do you fear?” Meaderow repeated.
Brian knelt before him, still speechless for a long moment. Then his cool, hoarse voice sounded out from his dead larynx sounding clear, even without his jaw. “I…I…fear…you…”
The four Undertakers then closed in and started feasting on him. Brian’s hoarse screams sounded in the night.
* * *
I felt the rain droplets starting to beat against my suit. A random flash of lighting struck really close by, reaching high into the night sky. The night storm seemed to always welcome us when we were all together. The four black figures were just up ahead, awaiting me.
I lowered my carbine toward the ground and walked slowly up to them, my boots splashing through the puddles of blood and rainwater that were steadily increasing in size from the falling raindrops. Thunder boomed all around me as I approached.
The whole ground was littered with cadavers. Not with the remains of Vincent’s zombies, but of human beings. Civilians. Their bodies were covered with bullet holes from incendiary bullets, still smoking from the wounds in their flesh. A few had been nailed with the .50 cal round, with either their heads and limbs blown off, or a single large gaping hole in their torso. Another, against the wall, had been blown to pieces with a grenade, and several more had shrapnel fragments covering them.
“It was only an illusion,” Gravey hissed. He turned to Meaderow. “What have we done? Why, sir?”
“I was the one who gave the order,” Meaderow said coolly. “The call was mine. I will take the responsibility when this mission is over.”
“But they’re only going to try you for war crimes, sir,” Payne grunted. “Civilians are expendable. And it was good target practice for the greater good.”
“They were innocent, and their blood is on my hands.” Meaderow gazed high into the night sky. “I swore this would never happen again. Squad…”
The rest of us followed his gaze to see a lithe, shadowy figure perched upon a nearby tall building, watching over us all. We all raised our weapons and trained on that figure.
It was a beautiful young woman with long blonde hair flowing past her shoulders. She looked dead, yet alive, as she looked down toward us. I felt myself mesmerized by her gaze, hearing her soundless whispers in my ears. It was as if we joined together then, as if I had known her for a lifetime, yet just met…those whispers of lies, the knowledge of deceit. As we made love, I could feel her corruption entering me as much as I entered her. Each time it came out, only to go more back in. It was the corruption.
Psst! Psst! Psst! BLAM!
The rounds had no effect; the figure agilely dodged all of it. I caught a glimpse of her sly smile at me as she faded back out of sight. I realized she was the same blonde girl I had kissed in my dream…
Suddenly, dark figures sprang all around us from the night sky.
“Vampires!” Gravey shouted as he raised his machine-gun into the air and sprayed a wall of incendiary rounds high above our heads. “They’re jumping down from the roofs.”
“Team, stick together!” Meaderow ordered, as raised his own rifle and blasted into the cloud of vampires dropping down. “Everyone, stay close,” our leader commanded. “Keep your backs against each other’s.”
We formed a small circle as we poured weapons fire at the vampires above.
Psst! Psst! Psst! BLAM! BLAM!
Incendiary rounds tore through vampires and lit them up in flames, leaving nothing but ashes landing all around us, mixing with the rainfall and brass casings. Gravey was putting up most of the lead in the air with his machine-gun. Payne’s high explosive incendiary grenades exploded in midair, taking out groups of vampires with each lob. Summers fired her sniper rifle upward, most likely scoring a hit with each shot. But too many were falling at us. Our magazines were high capacity, but they’d need a reload eventually. The raindrops and ashes were falling on my gun optics, and my goggles didn’t make it any easier either.
We were huddled so close to each other that I could feel the faint heat emitting from our bodies. We were so cold. It was as if our heat had been sucked away from us a long time ago by some unknown kiss. As we made our stand against the monsters, I realized for the first time that maybe serving the darkness may not be the only common goal we all shared. In the heat of battle, I reminisced of a lighter, warmer past that we had all felt. Maybe we had more in common, that I didn’t know. Somehow I knew that this wasn’t the first time we’d been thrown in with each other. Not this night. And this sure as hell wouldn’t be the last time either. This was no last stand—we would survive this.
“I’m out!” Gravey yelled, kneeling down and fumbling with his weapon. “Need to reload.”
“Team, suppression fire!” Meaderow ordered.
Without Gravey’s fire, our volume of fire had noticeably decreased.
Click! My rifle went dry as well.
The vampires started to fall upon us. There was simply no time to reload—not even a second. No human was a match for vampires in close combat. But, then again, I couldn’t remember any memories of mine that were human.
“Split and regroup at rendezvous point Alpha,” Meaderow commanded from somewhere behind me.
I felt my heartbeat quicken, as well as the blood being pumped through my arms and legs. My breathing became more determined. My previous wounds were healing even quicker, probably from the cortisol.
I leapt aside just as a falling vampire tried to pounce on me. I got up and spun myself toward it. It reached to grab my throat. I swept its arm aside to the right with my left hand, and stepped in with my right foot, delivering a hard punch at its bottom rib with my free hand. Crack! The vampire howled and slashed at me from the left. I raised my left arm to block, then grabbed its arm, popping it from its socket. Spinning around, I whacked the vampire’s head off with its own arm.
Whump! I crashed to the ground as another vampire jumped on top of me. It landed on me, wrestling and hissing, and clasped both of its hands around my neck. I immediately raised both of my hands up around the creature’s own neck, driving my thumbs inside the hollows behind its ears. Its grip around my throat loosened, and I gave it a head butt. I rolled to the side, drawing my sidearm and shooting two rounds into the vampire.
I rolled out of the way as a third vampire landed face down on my previous position. I instantly leapt on top of it and grabbed its hair with my left hand. I wrapped my right arm around its neck and felt its chin digging into my elbow pit. I moved my left hand to its forehead and twisted its entire head all the way around, dislocating it.
As I started to get up, I knew I was surrounded by enemies. I felt a brief pain in the back of my head…and then I realized that it wasn’t the first time I had been surrounded by foes.
* * *
I was on the ground of some forest, bleeding. It was dark, and there were strange noises coming from the nearby brushes.
“Where am I?” I muttered. “What am I doing here?” I then noticed a tall, black soldier in a tattered uniform nearby.
“Your head must have gotten hit harder than I thought,” he replied. “But here’s one thing that’s for sure—we’re dead if we stay here.” He bent to lift me up by the arms. I waved him back and used my own strength to pull myself up.
“The others…where are they?” I asked, as I rose to my feet, bringing my old scope-less rifle up to my shoulders.
“Dead,” the black man replied. “Come on, we’ve got to go.” He raised his machine-gun and started down a dark, shadowy trail.
“But where is there to go?” I asked incredulously, as I started to follow. “These things are everywhere.”
“Yes, but we always need a destination, no matter how bad things may seem.” He cleared some of the dense foliage away as we headed on. “That’s the whole point of us being here.”
“I recognize you now…sir.” I said, embarrassed. “You’re the second in command of our squad. I’ve respected you. You’ve always led us the right way.”
“Thanks, but it’s not me, son. It was him who told me where to find you. And he takes his orders from higher up. It’s whom we ultimately serve.” He paused a bit and looked up into the dark sky. The moon was bright and shining down upon us.
“Sir, I remember something else.” I paused next to him. “You are my best friend. We were boot camp buddies back in the days before you left for officer candidate school.”
“Yes, I remember that,” the black man said. He knelt down. “That is why I saved you for last.”
“Excuse me, sir?” And then it hit me. We had stopped over the bodies of our squad. The tall, black man was eating them now.
“Don’t worry. I won’t eat you right now. But you need a direction to get away from me.”
* * *
“Gravey’s down!” Meaderow’s voice sounded slightly more startled than usual. “Payne, use a UV illumination round!”
I opened my eyes and saw a blinding light that turned the whole area into purple daylight. I had to switch my NVG’s off. Cries of the vampires could be heard all around me as they turned to ashes.
“Burn in hell, you freaks!” Payne yelled.
I suddenly felt Summers grabbing me and dragging me back.
“I made a promise that I will not lose another man or woman under my command,” Meaderow was stating to the sky. I realized he was talking to the female vampire who was still standing on the edge of the building. “No more games, Fallen.”
“Oh, but you knew this had to happen, Tyrant,” the lady mocked from high above. “You all have to die.” And, with that, she stepped backward and disappeared into the shadows.
“Summers,” Meaderow turned to look at her, “have your sniper rifle ready next time we meet her. Ming, check Gravey’s body for anything we can use.”
“Yes, sir.” I turned toward the body of my fallen comrade, only to realize it was missing. “Sir?”
“His body is gone.” Meaderow and I both approached the hole in the ground where Gravey had once lain. “But his pack is still there. Investigate it.”
I opened the loaded pack. “Sir, there’s nothing but eaten MRE’s in here.”
“No ammunition or supplies other than rations?”
“No, sir. Not even water.”
Part 3: Hunger
“…the ancient ghoul that calls itself the Glutten is a hideous creature who exists solely to consume every living and dead thing in this universe. For millenniums it has fed on corpses from within catacombs and graveyards, getting fatter and larger in the process. Every now and then a poor soul disappears, unbeknownst by all, having been swallowed deep within the gaping maw of the creature and digested within the confines of its bowels. Had it started out as a human? I do not know nor care. This hideous giant travels deep underground, wearing mud and stones as clothes, and calls itself a graveyard, a place for all to be eaten by worms…”
The night was silent. I felt its soothing touch over us as we made our way stealthily down the dark shadowy streets. The cool winds touched our bodies like roaming hands, with fingers wandering about that left no part of our body untouched. The night wanted every part of us. Street lamps flickered as we passed by, then went completely dark. It was as if the lights were hiding from us.
“I swore that I would never lose another under my command again,” Meaderow informed all of us. Gravey’s death/disappearance had changed him. For better or worse, there was no way to tell.
“Sir, with all due respect,” I started. “We are only your assets. This is what we do, and I don’t see honor in anything other than dying for you.”
“Honor is only what they want you to strive for,” Meaderow replied. “Trust me. I still don’t know everything, not even what we are. Not right now. But, as a soldier, I will tell you the one thing that I know is for sure right now. You motivate the shit out of me.”
“Thank you, sir.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say at that moment.
“Contact has been lost with the surrounding towns.” Meaderow continued. “Images from UAV drones show zero life signs in those areas. The state of civilians is still unknown; they may have been evacuated. We need to locate the city’s police station and see what we can find on Reaper. Ming, you will go ahead and recon the building first. Payne and Summers will escort me as I go to meet with the PAREX commander. There are things we need to discuss.”
“Yes, sir,” we replied.
I thought about saluting, but it was forbidden to do so on the field. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the last time I’d see any of them alive again.
“And, if you see either Reaper or Fallen, feel free to take them on,” Meaderow added. He seemed colder than a moment ago. “Whatever doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.”
We separated after that. Meaderow may not have specified what he meant in his speeches, but I knew we shared the same thought from somewhere deep down. Living only to serve, we were used just as pieces of meat…satisfying something else with our pain. The satisfaction that we can never feel drives us both onward. Alone, I was no match for Reaper.
The city police station was marked on my GPS display, so I knew which direction to head. I scrambled through the dark streets and through alleyways, the better to avoid PAREX patrols. Although it exposed me more to the vampires, I was better equipped, and had a better chance dealing with vampires than troopers. I also preferred the darkness, ready to embrace whichever thing crawled toward me from within the dark cracks. As I passed through the shadowy mazes of urban decay, I was facing my own worst fears. And I had never felt so alive.
It was during that time that my radio crackled. It was a familiar voice, belonging to none of my teammates.
“Undertaker, I know can you hear me.”
“Who is this?” I whispered, coming out of yet another alley. Something in my gut had told me that the PAREX troopers were gunning for me already, for unknown reasons. The last thing I wanted to do was attract PAREX’s attention.
“This is the commander of the 13th Paranormal Extermination Battalion. Your mission is unauthorized, initiated by some unknown person.”
“How do you know?” I sprinted through the open streets toward the next alleyway.
“Some PAREX commanders are trained psychics. It makes it easier to coordinate our men—to see what they see, and feel what they feel, as well as the ability to share information quickly. It is an even greater asset than the ability to digitize the battlefield.”
“So, what do you want from me?” As I leapt over the curb, a bony pair of hands came out of the gutters to grab my feet. Knowing that rolling a grenade would be too loud, I sprayed a few suppressed rounds downward through the concrete and continued on.
“I know about you. I know that you don’t know yourself, who you are and what your purpose is. Have you heard of the Sleepwalker program?”
“No,” I admitted, pausing and leaning my back against a brick building. “I remember nothing, not even my real name.”
“It has gone by several names: Grill Frame, Sun Streak, Center Lane, and Star Gate. They are the U.S. Army’s first experiments with psychic warfare; delving deep into the ability to transform soldiers to walk through any walls and locked doors with only their minds and gather enemy intelligence.”
“Go on.” A brick tumbled down next to me. Looking up, I saw a vampire crawling downward toward me. I fired upward, sending an incendiary round straight through its mouth.
“Five of their psychic spies disappeared years ago, soon after a mission. Their mission was different from the traditional psychic spy missions of remote viewing. Theirs was to travel to a different dimension, a darker place never ventured to before. Perhaps even Hell.”
“What happened to them?” I knelt against a giant dumpster and scanned the opposite end of the alley.
“None of them returned sane. It was as though as they’d been possessed by different entities. No one has heard from them since. I have heard they were whisked away to a different government program, called the Undertaker. Supposedly, the President was involved personally.”
“And why are you telling me this?” I wondered.
“I have been losing men this whole night. Something has been corrupting the souls of my men. Now they are being devoured alive. And you can stop the whole thing. I found out about the person in charge of the Sleepwalker program. She is called Fallen. And she is—ughh—”
A gunfight sounded through the radio. I heard loud gunshots, followed by suppressed gunfire. After a while, it grew silent. I then heard a different, familiar voice.
“Ming, this is Meaderow. We took out the PAREX commander. He was about to compromise our mission. We are currently disrupting command and control of the PAREX troops. It won’t last long. We will call the Osprey and rendezvous at the police station. You should get there first. Over.”
“Sir…” I started to say something else. “Roger that. Over.”
“By the way, there is an entire police SWAT unit that has been unaccounted for during the city’s evacuation. Be on the lookout, and see you soon. Out.”
I continued my journey into the center of the dark, hungry city. The police station wasn’t far away now. How could an entire SWAT team go missing just like that? What awaited me inside the heart of all this darkness I did not know. I realized there are many things I didn’t know. Yet, I didn’t care. The only knowledge I cared about was that of how alive I felt this very moment, more so than I can ever remember. The fear of death passed my mind more than once. Maybe there in the station was where I could finally meet her at long last.
I was across from the police station when I encountered a nearby PAREX squad. I leaned against the corner of a building of the last alley and listened.
“Sergeant, we lost contact with the headquarters and other units. The radios seem to be down.”
“Copy that, private. Something must be going on at command and control. We’re out blind in a vampire infested city. We’ll need to barricade ourselves in the police station until communications can be restored.”
The squad of troopers rushed toward the police station and disappeared through the doors of the eerie building. I sprinted across the last street and quietly followed them. All the lights were off inside.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
The sudden gunshots forced me into cover. None came in my direction, however.
“Sir, a police SWAT unit is attacking us.”
“What the hell? Mow them down.”
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
As the firefight raged on inside, my radio intercepted a different communication.
“All elements, protect our lord. Red team, flank left. Blue team, flank right.”
“Yes, sir. Are they the new threat Lord Reaper mentioned?”
“Negative. They’re regular PAREX troopers. Exterminate them the same, regardless. They must not get to Reaper.”
BLAM! PLOP! PLOP! BLAM!
I edged closer to the battle to watch the PAREX troopers trade fire with the SWAT members. A bullet slammed into the wall near my head. A couple of PAREX troopers turned my way and raised their rifles. I darted back into cover as they began firing, then popped halfway out and returned fire at them.
The troopers ran for cover. One of them pulled out a grenade and rolled it my direction.
“Eat this, you freak!”
I ran down a perpendicular hallway as the bomb exploded, hoping that the troopers were too occupied with the SWAT team to follow me. The battle raged all around me as I made my way silently through the dark hallway of the police station toward the server room. A bloodcurdling scream made me stop to listen.
A SWAT officer was kneeling over a fallen PAREX trooper, her mouth buried in his neck. Shit. These officers were vampires. I raised my rifle and shot two incendiary rounds into her chest. As she staggered back, I shot more into her face. The vampire officer burned up and disintegrated into ashes.
Another SWAT officer appeared from behind me and fired a shotgun, knocking me to the ground. Before the vampire could leap on top of me, several rounds from a couple of nearby PAREX troopers tore into it. The vampire howled an inhuman cry as it turned into ashes.
“Sergeant, there’s one vampire faster than the rest, and he’s killing us all!”
“Pull out! Now!”
There were screams of PAREX troopers after that. I heard bodies being ripped apart and thrown about in the building. After a while it was quiet, save for my radio coming back up.
“Lord Reaper! You have returned, sir.”
“We’ve been compromised.” I recognized Reaper’s calm voice immediately and I headed in the direction of the sound. “I sense an old enemy coming my way. It’s time to end this. Are you with me?”
“Sir, our lives are yours. We were your fellow constables centuries ago when we all were alive, Lord Reaper. This time is no different.”
“Very well then, brother. They are the same ones who turned us into what we are, made us lose what we lost, and made us suffer how we have suffered. We will make them pay.”
I kicked open the door and threw a UV flashbang. Several of the SWAT vampires were blinded, and I quickly scanned the room for Reaper. That was when the opposite door opened and four PAREX troopers charged in, firing everywhere. A bullet struck me and went through my sternum, then another through my ribcage. I went down on the bloody floor.
* * *
The bright, white stars filled the blood-red sky. Rotting trees curled in all directions on the dirt ground. The aura of life, always dying in this place, hung in the still air. It was a place where every dying thing breathes its last breaths repeatedly—a never-ending cycle in this forsaken realm. It was a world where the sky neither darkens nor brightens, but where the half-dead sun eternally sets…a place where I can crawl to die, but never actually die.
Pushing myself off the dirt ground, I noticed that the dark-haired anorexic girl was there watching me.
“Who are you?” I asked as I faced her.
“I am Shiver,” she answered in her hoarse tone. “I am the nosferatu.”
“What the fuck is that? Never mind. Am I dead?”
“No, I will not let you die.” She placed a bony hand against my cheek.
“Because I have fallen in love with you,” she whispered.
* * *
“No!” I shouted, opening my eyes just in time to see Reaper lifting a limp PAREX trooper up by the throat. I was still inside the bloodied interior of the police station. I raised my rifle to pepper them both with fully automatic fire. Reaper turned with lightning speed and used the body of the trooper as a human shield from my rounds. He then reached back and threw the body at me.
“Umph!” I felt it hit me as hard as a missile, and flew back through the doorway I had come in from. Several SWAT officers by Reaper’s side opened fire on me, but their rounds couldn’t penetrate the trooper in front of me. I fired back, nailing one of them in the chin area. He screamed and disintegrated into dust. A burst from Reaper’s own submachine-gun narrowly missed my head. I cowered back beneath the trooper’s body.
”Shit,” Reaper cursed over the radio. “They’re already here. All units head for the roof. We’re leaving.”
I kicked the trooper’s body off and began to follow them. Blood and body parts were all around, among piles of dust and fallen weapons.
Had the vampire officers all known each other since some ancient time, when they were alive, and wanted to repeat their former life? It was a tragedy for them. But I must stop them, or die trying. Maybe it was time for me to die for good this time. Maybe it was theirs. Either way, at least some of us would get their long-deserved rest before the night ends.
A few bursts from my rifle stuck a vampire officer running away. He turned around and fired back with his submachine-gun, grazing me. These guys have good aim. It probably came from being a vampire, and not having their aim affected by breathing.
I pulled out a white phosphorus grenade and threw it. It created a cloud of white smoke. The vampire officer screamed as the burning phosphorus burned through his flesh. I popped out and shot him in the head, just under the helmet. Then something exploded nearby and I was blinded. I backed away, disoriented by the effects of the flashbang.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
A series of gunshots sounded on the roof.
“Ming, this is Meaderow. We are above your location and are being fired upon by SWAT officers on the roof. Do you have information on them? Over.”
“Sir, they’re all vampires,” I spoke. “Reaper is among them. Over.”
Mini-gun rounds from the Osprey rained down through the ceiling all around me.
“Disperse!” I heard Reaper hissing from the floor above. “They can’t follow us all.”
“The vampires are scattering in all directions,” the Osprey’s gunner shouted on the radio. “No way to tell which one is Reaper.”
“Shoot as many as you can,” Meaderow replied. “Then set us down on the roof.”
I started running up the stairwell, and didn’t stop until I was at the roof. The Osprey was hovering above like a black, giant monster silhouetted against the bright moon. Shielding my eyes from the falling rain, I gazed at my team as they rappelled downward from the Osprey.
I saluted Meaderow as he landed. Summers and Payne descended on opposite sides of him. I noticed the three of them were covered in blood, which was steadily washing off under the heavy rain.
“This area is not secure, sir,” I informed.
“Lock and load then,” my commander replied. “We’re going down to find information on Reaper.”
The four of us turned and moved toward the stairwell. I took the point as usual. Heading back down into this accursed building, I noticed that the whole building seemed darker. Emptiness hung about in the air. As we passed by bodies of PAREX troopers lying about, I put a few rounds into each of them to make sure they didn’t rise again as creatures of the night, to save them from the fate that had been bestowed upon me in order to guarantee them a place in Heaven…a place I could never have.
We proceeded methodically through the police station, clearing out each room as we made our way. Lights began flickering dimly as we passed through each room. Save for the occasional bursts of gunfire from outside the building, it was eerily quiet.
Suddenly, the entire building trembled. I heard the distant sound of fighter planes whooshing through the black sky high above.
“There is something out there in the city,” Meaderow commented, “far worse than the vampires.”
We reached the bottom floor. To my surprise, it was completely devoid of dead bodies. Deep, bottomless holes of various sizes littered the floor. There were bloodstains leading to all the holes. Something must have come out of those holes and dragged the bodies down into the ground while we were at the top level.
A whimpering was heard in a nearby room. Meaderow made a hand signal, and we all stacked up against the door. I tried the knob. Locked. I shot the knob and kicked the door open. Meaderow entered first. I followed him into a tiny, blood-splattered office. A police officer was lying near a huge hole in the floor. His arms and legs were gone, but he was still alive, and crying. It was then that I noticed the words POLICE CHIEF labeled on the door.
“You’re the police chief,” Meaderow stated, keeping his rifle trained on the man. “What happened here?”
“K—kill me, please!” the man cried. “Before it comes back.”
“What happened here?” Meaderow repeated.
Summers approached the man and injected morphine into him.
“It came from the floor.” The police chief nodded toward the hole. “It ate all the parts of me that it could, but left me here alive to tell you…to tell you that it is waiting for you at the cemetery. Please kill me now.”
“There’s one more thing,” Meaderow said. “Officer Brian Reaper is a vampire. How did he get onto your force?”
“He came to me wanting to relive his past life,” the man replied. “He was a constable in life. He protected people. When he turned into a vampire, he lost everything he knew. Now he only preyed on the guilty. It was his only shot at redemption that I know, so I accepted him and kept it a secret. I only wanted to help.”
“Helping a vampire,” Payne muttered incredulously. “I ought to gut you.”
“I thought he could be redeemed. Please kill me now.”
“Vampires can’t be redeemed.” Payne approached the basket case man and kicked him into the pit. The man’s screaming grew hoarser until it was abruptly cut off in the distance deep underground. “And neither can I.”
“Stand down,” Meaderow ordered. “What is your major malfunction, soldier?”
“I really hate vampires,” Payne replied. “That’s all I know, sir.”
“We’re done here. We are going to the cemetery.”
“Sir, the mission was to go after Reaper, and that’s who I’m going after.” Payne raised his rifle at Meaderow. Summers and I raised our weapons at him in response. “Count all the chances we missed getting him. You’ve failed, commander, and I am relieving you.”
“You’re out of line,” Meaderow replied. He raised his rifle at Payne.
Suddenly, the building started trembling, causing us all to stumble. A loose piece of the ceiling fell down, striking me in the head, and I doubled over. Then a cloud of dust and debris blanketed over us, obscuring everything.
Psst! Psst! Psst!
Several snap shots sounded. I couldn’t tell who was firing until I saw Meaderow crumpling besides me. I stumbled forward in time to see Payne batting Summers’ sniper rifle away and grabbing her. He then slammed her into me. Turning, Payne rushed out the room.
“Forget him!” Meaderow shouted as he rose. “Head for the roof.”
The building trembled some more as we went up the stairwell. As we reached the roof, Meaderow gave a signal and the Osprey lowered. We all embarked. The aircraft lifted off and flew away into the night just as the police station crumbled below.
“I should have seen it coming,” Meaderow spoke. “Payne is going after Reaper alone.”
”Destination?” the Osprey’s pilot asked over the radio.
“Cemetery,” Meaderow replied. “Take us there.”
Looking down from a porthole, I noticed that many buildings throughout the city were crumbling. There were gigantic, bottomless holes littered all over the ground akin to the ones in the police station. PAREX tanks and Humvees were among the many overturned vehicles scattered among the dark streets below. Explosions from air strikes flashed and sounded all across the city. It was a nightmare below.
Exhausted, I slumped forward. It had been one long night so far. And it wasn’t over, not by a long shot. I gazed absently at the blackish clouds drifting past us. And then I felt her touching me…soothing me to sleep.
* * *
I sitting was in the mess hall, alone, except for the tall black man sitting across from me. He smiled, showing a mouthful of giant teeth.
“You were my best friend,” I told him. “I never would have made it past boot camp without your help. But you’ve changed.”
“You’ve changed, as well,” he replied, with a mouthful of food. “It’s just the stress that makes me so hungry all the time.”
“What do you like about the military?” I placed my elbows on the table and listened.
“Aside from the food?” He scooped up another spoonful of rations and swallowed. “Everything. It gave me a role model to look up to. Our commanding officer, I respect the hell out of that guy. And I’ll do anything he says.” He looked up from his empty tray. “Hey, I’m still hungry. Can I have yours?”
“What if he tells you to fix your eating problem?” I asked, as I handed my tray of food over to him.
“It’s not a problem,” he answered. “It’s just the way I am, and he understands.”
I sat for a moment and watched him wolf down the food. He glanced at his second empty tray, then back toward me. “And you should understand, too.”
“What the fuck?” I asked, noticing he was leaning over the table toward me. His teeth were getting even bigger as he looked at me, drooling. The whole room was growing dimmer. He stood up and started clambering over the table toward me.
* * *
I jerked backward in my seat, banging my head hard against the bulkhead. I could hear a PAREX commander’s frantic voice on the radio.
“…send reinforcements…we are dealing with a giant organism with really thick skin that will stop any projectile within a few feet. Anti-tank weapons aren’t penetrating through the skin layer. Air strikes aren’t working either, since most of the creature is buried beneath the ground.”
The Osprey came to a halt in the air and descended. We all exited in a cemetery in the darkened night. The long grass quieted our footsteps as we passed through grey tombstones under the yellow moonlight. It was like a special place. I felt most at peace—a place where I could finally put my gun down and rest eternally, cradled under her arms. How I longed for that moment to arrive. Maybe if I got lucky…
There were massive holes all over the hilly ground. A black-robed figure stood on top of the tallest hill, overlooking the entire city. The ground trembled as we grew nearer. I could sense something huge slithering deep below us.
“I can take it out,” Summers commented. “Whatever it is.”
“No,” Meaderow said. “Stay back, I’ll handle this.”
We paused as Meaderow approached the figure.
“Tyrant,” the figure whispered. It was wearing a ceramic mask, with three round holes for its eyes and mouth. “You are here.”
“The plan has changed, Glutten,” Meaderow responded.
“I am hungry. You told me I could feed upon this world.”
“It is only the evil of your old self talking to you. We are soldiers. And you’ve done a fine job under my command.”
“I was killed. I failed you. But I am so hungry. You promised me that I would get to eat. Everything that exists in this world exists only to feed me. And you, Tyrant, you will be a very special meal…”
With that, the figure yanked off the ceramic mask with its slithery hand, revealing a huge mouth where the rest of its face should have been. Meaderow leapt aside just as the face sprouted forward at him. It narrowly missed the black ops commander.
A round from Summers’ rifle struck the figure’s body, yet the figure still stood. The rest of its dark cloak fell from its body, revealing the figure to be nothing more than one giant tentacle expanding from the earth. We all opened fire on it. Another giant tentacle sprouted right beneath my feet, and I rolled to avoid it.
More and more of the creature emerged at the top of the hill. It was a huge mass of flesh, mainly mouths and tentacles. One of Summers’ high caliber rounds slammed into the side of the monster. Chunks of flesh blew off the creature, but it didn’t faze the giant thing a single bit. A tentacle whipped horizontally at Summers, and she leapt back to avoid it.
Many more giant tentacles with mouths sprouted from the ground. The Osprey flew overhead and rained mini-gun fire down upon it. A box dropped from the Osprey and landed near us. Meaderow reached the box and opened it, revealing a rocket launcher.
“What’s this rocket launcher for?” Summers asked. Tentacles appeared near her, and she blasted them back with her anti-materiel rifle.
“We need a way to go inside the beast without being eaten. We’ll need to puncture one of its stomachs and have its entire digestive acids leak out, making the monster eat itself from the inside out. I’ll blast a hole inside it with the rocket.”
A hole appeared inside the creature. I ran inside and encountered a cavern of flesh, fluids, mud, and bones.
“Ming is in. Provide a distraction, Summers!”
Explosions and gunfire sounded outside. I kept running, feeling soft flesh squishing at my feet. I had to find the belly of the beast and destroy it. The smell was putrid. Gigantic arteries were hanging from the ceiling and walls. I followed the giant intestinal tracts until I reached a huge organ.
“Meaderow, I’m at the stomach.”
”Copy, set up a charge, and then get out.”
“Yes, sir.” I reached in my sack and pulled out a satchel charge. After setting it for thirty seconds, I turned and started sprinting the other way. I was near the opening when it exploded.
The shockwave knocked me to my knees. All of a sudden, the opening closed up and tentacles came at me from all angles. I was trapped. The tentacles gripped my arms and legs. I struggled futilely against it. Was it my time to die?
“Sir, leave me.”
“I won’t leave you behind,” Meaderow answered.
A gigantic mouth was forming in front of me—right from the fleshy floor. It had wrinkly lips and giant, uneven teeth.
“You have killed me,” the mouth said.
“You’re already dead,” I said, as I tried in vain to wiggle free. “If you’re going to kill me, then get it over with.”
“Ah, but I want you to do something for me.” A giant eye bulged out from just above the mouth. “If you accept, then you can go.”
“Want me to do what?” The fleshy bonds were dragging me closer to the mouth. I couldn’t move a muscle.
“Something to help me.” The flow of digestive acid was getting nearer to me. If I didn’t get out, I would be digested soon with it.
“And if I refuse?” I couldn’t figure out what this “something” was that would be able to help me.
“Then I shall enjoy a very tasty last meal.” A long, slimy tongue came out of the mouth and licked my torso and face. I couldn’t help but cringe.
“Tell me what you want first.”
“I just wanted you to tell Meaderow this…”
A small mouth formed at the tip of the tongue and bit my shoulder. I screamed, and the tentacles released.
“What have you done to me?” I struggled free of the remaining bonds.
“Your flesh is rotten,” it replied. “Tell Meaderow that I have obeyed his last order. Tell him it was an honor serving him. That is what I want you to do. You can go now. Leave me in peace. Go!”
A hole suddenly opened in the fleshy wall.
“Ming, get out of there now.” Meaderow commanded.
“Yes, sir.” I wiggled my way out of the narrow opening and looked back at the dying creature. It was being digested by its own acid. Eventually, there would be no trace of it but a big puddle of green enzymes.
“Rest in peace, Lieutenant Gravey,” Meaderow muttered. He turned toward me and Summers. “We don’t need the Osprey for the time being. Let’s go.”
Part 4: Inferno
“The vampiric demon Decarab is a Great Marquis of Hell. Although I have yet to encounter him, I have researched him well. He is said to have thirty legions of demons under his command (according to the Lesser Key of Solomon). He drains all pleasures and turns them into suffering. Cruel and vicious, his power goes far beyond the limits of anything this world has ever encountered. By far the most powerful of them all, he has the power to burn the whole planet. If he ever comes to this world, I can only pray there is a force strong and cunning enough to stop him.”
As we made our way out of the dark cemetery, the broken city loomed ahead of us. There was blood everywhere on the streets, as well as fallen, motionless tentacle mouths being digested by their own acid. Eaten bodies of civilians and some PAREX troopers littered the ground. Many of the buildings were still standing—barely. I kept my head low so that the falling raindrops wouldn’t hit my night vision goggles and distort my vision further.
After cleansing this night from her hunger, I knew she was still here—somewhere. Maybe she was everywhere, hiding under all the countless loose crannies and cracks of this city. The stars shone above like countless eyes. I could feel them watching me wherever I went, seeing my every turn. The cold winds passed me with an icy chill. I felt her lips kissing me whenever my back was turned. I knew then that the corruption was happening again.
“To all PAREX units in the vicinity,” my radio suddenly buzzed. “Our commander has been assassinated by a rogue Undertaker team. Command is being restored. Over.”
“Copy that. So, do we bury those masked freaks? Over.”
“No, headquarters was clear that the Undertakers need to be kept alive. Over.”
“...I’m not taking any of them alive!” The voice boomed right in front of me. “They are right there! Die, motherfuckers!”
A hail of bullets slammed into Summers. Meaderow and I took cover behind a truck.
“Jones, the orders were to detain them, man. Stop shooting.”
“Shut up and help me out!”
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
Round after round slammed into the truck we were hiding behind.
“It’s Fallen,” Meaderow spoke to me. “They’re being corrupted by her. Flank right.” He popped above and fired at the troopers.
“Yes, sir.” I ran, firing blindly until I reached the next set of cover, a trail of bullets following me.
BLAM! BLAM! The firing stopped, and two bodies crumpled to the ground. I turned and saw Meaderow holding Summers’ sniper rifle.
I rejoined him near Summers’ body. A round had hit her neck and blood was spurting out. I knelt down and applied steady pressure to her wound. A flash of lightning lit the sky, momentarily blinding my night vision goggles.
“Soulhunter One…Meaderow. We need a medical evacuation. Over.”
“Meaderow, Soulhunter One. Copy that. En route. ETA ten minutes.”
Meaderow knelt down besides me and readied a field dressing kit.
“Don’t die on me, soldier,” he whispered, and removed her mask. I noticed for the first time that she had a beautiful face and auburn hair.
Summers opened her eyes and tried to speak. No words came out. Blood gushed through her lips.
“Don’t talk,” Meaderow warned her. “Save your strength. You’ll make it through this. I promise.”
The Osprey landed near us, and the crew chief and co-pilot arrived with a stretcher. They carried her aboard and ascended high into the sky.
For a moment, I stood with Meaderow watching the cloudy, dark sky. I felt the winds brush against me. I noticed that the dark clouds blanketed the entire sky now. Now, not even the moon or the stars could be seen. It was hypnotizing. The clouds all formed perfectly to give me a vision…
“We can’t stay here,” Meaderow finally said. “We have to go eliminate Reaper.”
“Sir, Payne…” I started.
“I will not abandon him either,” Meaderow replied. “He’s still one of my men.”
“Sir, I meant Payne found Reaper. I can see it.”
* * *
“Reaper!” Payne shouted. “It’s just you and me now.” He lobbed a rifle grenade toward the vampire.
Brian leapt aside as the high explosive round blew a hole in the wall behind him. Payne switched his rifle to automatic and sprayed rounds toward Reaper.
“You don’t know who you’re messing with,” Brian warned. He leapt from wall to wall across the narrow alleyway, avoiding the bullets.
* * *
“Where are they?” Meaderow asked. “Payne disabled his GPS.”
“I think I heard the same explosion nearby, sir,” I responded, and pointed in the direction of the noise.
“Lead the way,” Meaderow ordered. “But stay behind cover.”
We headed off.
* * *
“Stay still, vampire bastard,” Payne growled. He loaded another high explosive round into his grenade launcher and lobbed it at Brian.
The grenade stuck the wall near the vampire, burning away most of the tattered remains of his police uniform. Brian wasn’t fazed by the shockwave. Instead, giant claws sprouted from his hands.
“Time for you to learn a lesson,” Brian spoke as he flew into the air, avoiding the spray of Payne’s bullets.
“I will bury you,” Payne swore as he loaded an air-burst grenade into his grenade launcher and fired.
* * *
“The explosions are sounding nearer,” I commented, as we sprinted through the rain across the flooded streets. Most of the rainwater was seeping into the large, vacant holes left earlier by the monster.
“It’s still a distance away,” Meaderow replied. “Double time.”
* * *
Payne rolled out of the way as Brian pounced downward. He got up and thrust his bayonet toward the Vampire Lord. Brian easily leapt aside and grabbed Payne’s arm, ripping it off. The Undertaker howled in pain as blood sputtered outward. Suddenly, a red, fiery demon arm sprouted from Payne’s torn stump and slashed at Brian.
“What the fuck?” The vampire leapt backward. Payne’s demon arm then reached back and gripped the Undertaker’s own throat, constricting it.
* * *
“Contact,” I whispered. “Reaper.”
“Aiming for the head,” Meaderow said, kneeling and lifting Summers’ sniper rifle.
Reaper suddenly turned and raised his claw to shield himself from the bullet. He leapt up into the air and disappeared into the clouds.
“How?” I asked. “The bullet travels faster than the sound of gunfire.”
“His vampire instincts,” Meaderow replied. “One of the reasons why he’s so powerful.”
We both approached Payne’s body. It was burned to a charred skeleton. One arm was missing. I heard a sudden murmur behind us.
“Sir, we have a situation.” I looked around. We were surrounded by a mob of civilians—men, women, and even children holding bats, crowbars, kitchen knives, and all sorts of other makeshift weapons. “Weren’t they evacuated?”
“They’re the ones who wouldn’t leave,” Meaderow whispered. “Fallen got to them first.”
“What do we do now, sir?” The mob was closing in on us, and I already knew the answer to my own question.
“We have no choice,” Meaderow said. “They have been corrupted. Stand back to back and open fire.”
Psst! Psst! Psst! Psst! Psst! Psst!
We fired in short, controlled bursts. Men, women, and children collapsed by the dozen as we mowed them down. Perhaps they had been good people once in their life. Now, with their goodness drained from their souls by the unseen psychic vampire, they were nothing but husks. The children were the hardest to hit, since they were so short.
Psst! Psst! Psst! Psst! Psst! Psst!
“Running low on ammo, sir,” I reported, and jammed the last magazine into my rifle. “There’s too many of them.”
“Same,” Meaderow replied. “We’ll have to make a break for it.”
“There isn’t an opening, sir.” I scanned around the mob hopelessly.
“We’ll make one.” Meaderow responded coolly, as he took out a grenade.
Suddenly the horde of civilians stopped in their tracks. One old man dropped to his knees and belched loudly. Blood came out of his mouth. More and more of them dropped.
“Sir?” I kept my rifle raised.
“Cease fire,” Meaderow ordered. “Something is helping us.”
By now all the civilians were lying down on the ground, gagging. Their skins were shriveling, and the eyes popped out of a few. Many of them had urinated and defecated in their pants as their bodies went into uncontrollable spasms.
“Nosferatu,” I murmured. “Sir, what does nosferatu mean?”
“Plague carrier,” Meaderow answered. “In Romanian.”
We made our way past the shriveled up bodies for a short distance until we reached a tall building.
“Fallen is there,” my leader informed. “Waiting for us at the very top.”
“Ambush, sir?” I asked.
“Not likely,” he responded.
We ascended the long stairwell heading toward the roof. The building had numerous floors, yet I felt no fatigue as I headed up the many flights of stairs. Finally, we were at the top.
“Wait here. She’s nearly as powerful as Reaper.”
“Yes, sir.” I obeyed without question.
Meaderow opened the door leading to the roof and I stayed behind. My leader’s vision appeared on my wrist display.
* * *
Before Meaderow stood Fallen among a small group of children. The children were jumping off the rooftop one at a time. Soon, Fallen was the only one left standing.
“Tyrant.” Fallen turned toward him.
“Fallen,” Meaderow replied. He drew his combat knife from his sheath. “I am not who I was before.”
“Why the change in your dark heart?” she asked.
“After centuries of doing evil, we never knew such a thing as good.” Meaderow responded. “Not until I took over this body. And now I’ve seen the good that the men under my command have done.”
“And the motion you set forward? You can’t stop it now, you know.”
“Wrong—it can be stopped.” Meaderow lunged at her with his knife raised. “Starting with you.”
Fallen didn’t flinch. Instead, she merely stood there. Meaderow suddenly paused, the combat knife an inch from her face.
“You don’t want to kill me. It will ruin your plans to take over the world,” Fallen whispered. “The evilness in your heart won’t allow you to kill me.” The blade Meaderow was holding suddenly turned his way.
“You’re corrupting me.” Meaderow fought the blade as it headed toward him, against his will.
“Don’t fight it, my love.” Fallen placed a hand on his cheek. “The sooner your body dies, the sooner you will really rise as Tyrant once again.”
“Ugh!” The blade sunk deeply into Meaderow’s chest. He collapsed to the rooftop. For a moment, the black ops commander was still. Rain began falling from the sky, and Tyrant arose.
“Gunther Meaderow is dead. I am Tyrant once again.” He removed his mask, revealing a surprisingly young, handsome face with green eyes.
“Yes, my darling.” Fallen was gleaming with delight. “Have you changed your mind? About taking over the world?”
“No,” Tyrant replied. “I want to save the world from ourselves. To undo what we have created. Help me on this, love.” The sky was still covered completely by dark clouds.
“Meaderow’s experiences must have changed you so much, Tyrant.” Fallen moved closer to him. The heavy rain was beating hard against the both of them.
“Yes, he did. He was a good man. I can also help you, too, Fallen.” He held her close. It was all the Vampire Lord could do to keep the both of them from being blown off the roof by the strong winds.
“You’ve already helped me, love.” Fallen kissed him. “And I am with you all the way because I love you.” She released him and turned toward the city. “Tyrant, don’t say a word. Just open your heart.”
Tyrant stepped to her side. He gazed up upon the dark, cloudy sky. Suddenly the rain stopped pouring and the winds ceased to blow.
“Open it more, my love,” Fallen said, with an ecstatic smile.
Suddenly, the clouds opened and sunlight poured through, covering the both of them. Tyrant shielded his eyes from the sun. Fallen didn’t move.
“So beautiful,” she whispered. “This is the first time since our deaths that we have seen the sun.” Her skin began to peel off. Tyrant’s didn’t, however.
“For we are both such wretched things, you and I,” the vampire girl continued, as she burned. Giant bat wings sprouted from her back, only to be burned immediately.
“Farewell, Derek.” Fallen’s whole body was on fire. “Don’t let the inferno scorch this earth into the sun.” She flapped her burning wings and flew into the sky. There was a brilliant explosion.
“Farewell, Madeline,” Tyrant whispered quietly.
The clouds closed once again, leaving the city back in darkness. The rain began pelting the roof, along with ashes from above. Tyrant turned and walked away from the roof.
* * *
“How did it go, sir?” I asked him.
“As planned,” my commander responded. We started to descend the long, dark stairwell. “But Meaderow is dead. My name is Tyrant now.”
“Decarab is coming to burn this world. Only I can stop him.”
We reached the landing in silence. Outside, a whole company of PAREX troopers awaited us in the rain. They were all wearing MOPP protective suits and gas masks. I could see sniper teams stationed up on the rooftops of adjacent buildings.
“Drop your weapons!” a trooper with a loudspeaker yelled.
Tyrant and I raised our rifles in response.
“Use non-lethal projectiles!” the commander bellowed. “We need to take them in alive!”
Several canisters of tear gas bounced off the ground near my feet. I reached into a sack for my gas mask.
“Don’t breathe,” Tyrant commanded me. “You don’t need to.”
A rubber bullet suddenly struck my abdomen, bouncing off my body armor. I grunted and knelt from the impact. I was suddenly blacking out.
* * *
There was a crowd of people huddling in a corner, crying.
“They’re only civilians,” I was saying to a redheaded man with a short buzz cut. “What the fuck are you doing?”
The man gave me a wallop and I fell backward.
“Shut the fuck up, you little gook,” he snarled. “There are no civilians in war. Now, come and watch me teach your chink ass something that works better than your kung fu crap.”
The man steadily approached the group of huddled people. I found myself frozen.
“There’s a myth that slitting someone’s throat is a silent kill,” he said. “Trust me, it won’t be silent. They’ll gurgle and thrash about until his or her brains run out of oxygen, creating a shitload of noise in the process.”
He grabbed an old man and slammed him face first against the wall. He then took out his combat knife and pressed the blade against the base of the elder man’s skull.
“No,” the redheaded man continued. “If you want a silent kill, you gotta put your blade at the indent at the base of your enemy’s cranium, since the bone is thin there. Then you jam upward at a forty-five-degree angle. You’ll scramble his medulla oblongata and cut off the motor senses immediately.”
He slammed the knife into the old man’s skull. “Now, that’s a silent kill.”
“You bastard.” I unfroze myself and rushed at him.
He gripped my throat and lifted me up. Smoke suddenly arose, and my neck felt like it was on fire. I smelled my own flesh charring. The man pointed his free hand at the scared group of civilians. Flames shot out of his hand all over the crowd. They started screaming and wailing.
As I struggled against his iron, fiery grip, the redheaded man merely smiled sadly. Red horns jutted out from his head as tears streamed down his eyes.
“You never really know how much some things were never meant to suffer until after you've hurt them.”
* * *
Opening my eyes, I realize I was still doubled over.
“Stay down,” Tyrant whispered. “I’ll handle this.”
The Vampire Lord stepped forward. Suddenly, lightning flashed in the sky over and over again. One bolt went through the side of a Humvee, electrocuting the gunner stationed on the turret and setting the vehicle on fire. Strong winds blew one of the snipers off the roof he was on. He screamed as he plummeted to his death many stories below.
“It’s too late!” the commander shouted. “All teams use lethal ammunition. Shoot to kill!”
No gunfire sounded. Instead, empty clicks were heard.
“What the fuck is going on?” the commander bellowed.
“Sir, weapon jammed!” one of the troopers shouted.
“Same here, sir!” another shouted.
“Then clear it and shoot, numb nuts! You all know the immediate action drill.”
One of the soldier’s rifles exploded in his face. Then another trooper’s weapon exploded, followed by yet another. Screams of agony were heard.
“Cease fire!” the commander shouted. “Fix bayonets and charge this motherfucker!” He drew a combat knife and lunged at Tyrant. The Vampire Lord moved with uncanny speed and grabbed him.
“I don’t have time for this,” Tyrant warned. “Tell your men to back off. I don’t want any more of them to die.”
“L-like hell!” the commander stammered, as he struggled against Tyrant’s grip. “We have our orders. If dying is one of them, then so be it.”
“How noble.” Tyrant twisted the commander’s neck all the way around.
The other troopers were closing in with their bayonets raised. The vampire lifted his rifle and shot each one in the head with a single shot. The surrounding buildings suddenly collapsed, engulfing all the remaining troopers. I stood up and walked next to Tyrant.
“Sad waste,” he said. “But more of them will come. We need to go.”
“Go where, sir?”
“Back to where this all started,” he answered. He took out his secure communications link and spoke into it. “Soulhunter One, this is Meaderow. We need you to rendezvous with us for immediate extraction back to Sanctuary.”
At first there was no response from the other end of the radio. Suddenly a cry was heard. ”Help us! Please—”
There were monstrous, growling and slithering voices in the background. Tyrant closed the link.
“Summers,” he murmured. “They must have taken her to Sanctuary base. There is no hope now for them.”
My commander knelt down by the dead PAREX commander and removed the radio from his belt. The black ops leader then spent a few moments to change the channel.
“Commence downfall protocol,” Tyrant spoke calmly into the radio. “Authorization code uniform-tango-six-six-six.”
”Code confirmed,” a feminine voice sounded.“Arming sequence being initiated for launch. Select targeting mode.”
Suddenly, the whole sky turned red, and a gigantic opening formed in the clouds. There was a burning figure at the center of the opening, high up in the red sky.
“REAPER!” a loud voice boomed from high in the sky, nearly shattering my eardrums. “I’M COMING FOR YOU.”
BOOM! BOOM! Giant fireballs started pouring down all over the city.
“Heat seeking,” Tyrant finally answered. “Begin immediate evacuation of all military personnel in the vicinity.” He then dropped the radio.
“Look out! Incoming!”
A fireball smashed into the ground several paces from us, the shockwave sending us both tumbling to the ground. As I struggled to rise, I saw a red, smoking demon crawling out of the fiery pit.
Pfft! Pfft! Pfft!
I fired a quick burst into its belly area, causing it to stumble back, howling.
Tyrant’s sniper rifle nailed it between the eyes. The creature’s head blew off, and it dropped back into the pit.
As I followed him across the rain-flooded streets, I could feel the ground shaking from the comet-like fireballs sounding as they impacted about the city.
“WHERE ARE YOU, REAPER?” Decarab’s glass-shattering shout could be heard throughout the town.
High above, I could see countless other winged demons combing the skies alongside Decarab as the demon lord slowly descended. Explosions littered the sky as fighter jets engaged the flying demons.
We turned a corner, and suddenly ran into a gigantic demon, much bigger than the first. The monstrous beast loomed before us like a huge, dark mountain. It raised its arms and hurled a battered car in my direction.
“Holy shit!” My commander and I both rolled out of the way of the deadly missile as it sailed past us.
I raised my rifle and fired. The bullets bounced off its armored skin. It didn’t faze it one bit as it lumbered toward us with uncanny speed.
A blast from Tyrant’s anti-materiel rifle froze the juggernaught for a brief moment.
“Out of rounds,” Tyrant shouted, as he dropped the .50 caliber rifle. “Split up and attack its flank.”
I was beginning to move, when pieces of flesh tore out of the gigantic demon. I looked up and saw an A-10 ground attack plane flying past whilst delivering high-explosive armor-piercing minigun rounds to the ground below. As it was banking around for a second strafing run at the hellish beast, I rejoined Tyrant, and we both rushed toward the other direction.
“We’re at a disadvantage,” Tyrant commented as we sprinted, our boots splashing into numerous puddles as we proceeded. “Our load-out was for vampires.”
We paused in a clear, open space. Tyrant reached for a beacon, and then activated it.
“Soulhunter Two, this is Meaderow. Land at my given coordinates. Over.”
“Yes, sir. Standby. Out.”
We waited, as explosions shook the area all around. Moments later, an unmarked Blackhawk helicopter appeared and landed nearby.
“Orders, sir?” I asked.
“Make your way back to Sanctuary base and investigate what is happening there,” he said. “I have to stay in this city to make sure the warhead gets delivered properly.”
“Yes, sir,” I responded, and started to climb into the hatch. Before I got all the way in, I turned to take one last look back at my commander. He was gone.
“Ready?” the pilot asked.
“Yes,” I answered. “Take us back to Sanctuary base.”
I felt the helicopter ascend and start to move forward. Suddenly, the aircraft jerked.
“It’s those demons again!” the pilot yelled. “Performing evasive maneuvers.”
I sat in silence as I gazed out the viewport. Dozens upon dozens of those monstrous denizens from Hell were roaming about in the air in the pouring rainfall. The once-dark clouds were crimson now. I looked down and saw the entire city in flames. Decarab was no longer in sight.
Suddenly, Tyrant’s voice sounded on radio.
“Reaper, I know you can hear me. I was the one who made you what you are. I destroyed your entire village. I made you kill your one love. Come out and face us.”
“Tyrant,” Reaper replied with an equally calm voice. “It ends tonight.”
I switched my wrist computer to see what my undead commander was seeing.
* * *
Tyrant was standing on the rooftop of the tallest building looking up at Decarab. Heavy raindrops beat against his handsome face, drenching his brown hair.
“TYRANT,” Decarab’s voice boomed. “YOU HAVE LIED TO ME.” A gigantic fireball shot from his hand toward Tyrant, who swiftly leapt to the roof of an adjacent building, just as the place where he had been exploded into a million fiery pieces.
“Don’t be a fool,” Tyrant responded. “Lucifer will never take you back now.”
“I WAS FOOLISH TO TRUST YOU.” Decarab closed his fiery wings and swooped down on Tyrant. The black ops commander leapt high in the air as the demon smashed into the building through the roof. Tyrant then leapt into the burning hole after his foe.
“I will not let you destroy this world,” Tyrant said, as he kicked the demon from behind.
Decarab spun around, throwing the vampire commander back hard against a wall. Flames erupted all over Decarab’s body as the demon charged forward to embrace Tyrant in a fiery bear hug.
Suddenly, the building’s sprinkler system activated and showered water over both of them. Tyrant spun and leapt out a window, shattering the glass. Decarab howled, and sailed through the window after him, with wings open. As Tyrant fell, he turned in midair and raised his rifle, blasting at the big demon swooping down on him.
Then, out of nowhere, a shadowy figure leapt and flew into Tyrant from the side and through the walls of another building.
“No one kills Tyrant but me!” Reaper shouted, as the two Vampire Lords wrestled. Reaper raised his claw-like hands and slashed downward at Tyrant, ripping a large portion of flesh from the commander’s throat.
“I’m sorry,” Tyrant whispered, as he kicked Reaper off him, straight into Decarab. The huge winged demon grabbed Reaper by the head, as flames sprouted from his hands.
“REAPER!” Decarab shouted. “I WANT YOU TO DIE FIRST BEFORE I DESTROY THIS WORLD.”
With surprising strength, the Vampire Lord gripped Decarab’s hands and flipped the bulky demon over. As Reaper struggled with the demon lord, Tyrant turned and leapt out the window. A flying demon from outside smashed into him. Tyrant twisted its neck and yanked off the head. The Undertaker leader then clung to the side of the building, unloading his rifle one-handed on yet another demon.
Reaper’s burning body was suddenly hurled through the wall next to him. Decarab emerged and continued after Reaper, the rainfall dousing the flames of the giant winged demon once again.
High above, the fighter planes started pulling out. Soon, there was nothing in the sky but demons. Tyrant continued his climb straight up to the roof and checked his wrist computer.
“ETA to impact in thirty seconds,” a computerized voice reported.
In the distance, Reaper and Decarab were still battling. The strong, cold winds began swirling around Tyrant, forming a small tornado.
“ETA to impact in twenty seconds.”
The tornado was picking up. Pieces of debris, big and small, were lifted and rotated around Tyrant in their infinite spinning. The tall building he was standing on started crumbling, its pieces being lifted up into the tornado.
“ETA to impact in ten seconds.”
“Tyrant!” Reaper shouted.
The undead commander looked up to see the other Vampire Lord flying toward him, with Decarab at Reaper’s tail. A giant missile was tailing after them both. Tyrant just stood there and watched a piece of debris thrown loose from the tornado strike Reaper, stopping him dead in his tracks.
Unfazed, Reaper shouted, “There is no way you can survive a nuclear blast at this range. If I am to go, I will take you with me!”
“I have something you don’t,” Tyrant responded coolly.
Decarab was flying in evasive patterns, desperately trying to dodge the missile. A fireball was thrown from the demon’s hand, but the heavy rain quickly doused it. Reaper turned and flew straight into Decarab, trying his best to hold the demon still.
“What is that?” Reaper asked, as he struggled, holding Decarab in the missile’s path.
“REAPER! I WILL SEE YOU IN HELL—” was all the demon could manage to say before the warhead slammed into Decarab, vaporizing them both.
“Luck,” Tyrant answered.
The brightness enveloped Tyrant through his tornado shield and everything went black.
* * *
The helicopter shook. I looked back and saw a mushroom cloud blooming in the far distance. To my surprise, there was no comment from the crew members. It was then that I noticed the helicopter was flying at an odd angle. There was a strange smell in the air.
“What’s the status?” I asked.
No response. I got out of my seat and approached the gunner. He was slumped forward in his seat. Putting my hand on his shoulder and pulling him back, I saw that he was clearly dead. His whole face was shriveled up and decayed, as though he’d been dead for months. Small, white maggots were crawling all over him.
I quickly rushed to the cockpit. Both the pilot and co-pilot were dead as well, their flesh all rotten. The helicopter was going down. Pulling the mushy body of the pilot out of his chair, I glanced at the controls. There was no way I was going to control this thing. Still, I grabbed the yolk and pulled back hard.
The ground came up fast, and the last thing I felt was the impact of the helicopter as it smashed into a small forest.
* * *
“I can feel you close,” the beautiful, auburn-haired girl whispered to me. She was dressed in a cat suit. We were sitting in a small room with sex toys of various shapes and sizes scattered all around. A porn video was playing on a television set nearby.
I tried to shut out the moans and groans as I replied to her. “Are you always this kinky?” I asked.
“Ever since I was molested, yes,” she replied. “And even more so when I was raped and beaten by the others in the military.”
“Ever thought about getting therapy for it?”
“What good will that do?” she questioned. “This will stay a part of me forever. It’s a part of my brain that can’t be changed. Just like the past.”
“It wasn’t your choice,” I countered. “It’s never too late for you to get help.”
“Maybe I don’t want help,” she said. “It feels much better this way. Hey, let me show you something.”
She reached down and pulled out a long sniper rifle.
“This is the gun I use whenever I want to have fun,” she informed.
“How can a small girl like you carry such a big gun?” I was pondering. “Isn’t the recoil of that thing a bitch?”
“Maybe it’s because I like the abuse it gives me,” she replied. “That’s why I keep it. Now, help me.”
“Help you how?” I asked.
“Help me insert the barrel end into my snatch.”
“You got to be fucking kidding,” I said.
“No, I’m not. Won’t you help me, please?” she pleaded, and then lowered her pants and tried to force herself on the rifle. “Okay, fine, I’ll do it myself. But, please do one thing for me. Just one thing only. Please?”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“The gun is loaded. Please give the trigger a pull.”
That was when I stood up and started to leave.
“No!” she shouted. “Don’t go into that room!”
Ignoring her, I opened the door. There were locked cages all over the floor. In each of the cages were naked, crying people—men and women, boys and girls.
"The body is nothing but a tool to get what the soul wants."
Part 5: Despair
“The sexual vampire Banshee is the most perverse of all the Vampire Lords. She drains hope from all of her victims, rendering them helpless and in despair. Feeding on their hopeless cries and wails is how she grows strong. She has the power to summon abominable creatures from the netherworlds, and uses them as pets. It is rumored that those creatures have a much closer relationship to her than mere servants.”
I woke up, groggy, and crawled out the wreckage of the helicopter. My whole body ached badly, and the whole world was spinning, but I was still alive. Checking my wrist computer, I saw that it was broken. Sparks flew off the monitor. Yanking it off from my wrist, I stumbled onward.
Before me was a fenced-in area. Multiple “No Trespassing” signs were hung up on the fence, combined with equally numerous “Violators Will Be Shot” signs. A military compound loomed just beyond the fence. Next to it, a black Osprey was parked in a small airfield. It was ours.
Switching my goggles to thermal mode, I found out that it was broken, too. I removed the headset and dropped it.
I pressed a button on my radio, and spoke. “Tyrant, do you copy?”
No response, only static.
The base looked deserted, and an eerie silence hung about in the air. There was no chirping of crickets or scampering of small animals. There was no rain, yet the dark clouds hung high above blocked out the entire sky.
“So this is where it all began,” I whispered to myself. I drew my silenced pistol and walked alongside the fence.
The guard post was empty. Inside it, I pushed the door switch and the fence opened. Keeping in the shadows, I approached the main entrance. That was when I heard the crying.
I entered the door. Inside were many floating black, eel-like beasts with sharp teeth and many tentacles. Their eyes were glowing red. I raised my pistol. Suddenly, my radio sounded.
“These are my pets. Don’t hurt them,” a familiar feminine voice said.
“Summers, is that you?” I whispered.
“My name is Banshee now, Ming. Come and meet me.”
I lowered my pistol and moved past the beasts, careful to keep a healthy distance from them. There was a crying sound from the next room. I moved in through the doorway to investigate.
A naked man looked up at me from the floor. On top of him was a beast. A tentacle was wrapped around the man’s throat, strangling him. Another tentacle was pumping steadily somewhere behind him, as tears streamed down his eyes. I walked past the man. Countless loud screams and sobbings were heard all over the place.
As I headed for the stairwell, I passed a woman being dragged to the floor by three beasts. Each one of the beasts had a tentacle inserted in each of her orifices and were pumping in and out. The tentacle in her mouth kept her from screaming.
Up the stairwell was a dead woman covered with some kind of dark-colored goo and bite marks. I kept on until I reached a familiar doorway. Looking through the window, I saw her. She was cradling a couple of the vile monsters in her arms. A couple of naked people were cowering at her feet.
I entered the room, gripping my pistol tightly with both hands. As soon as I entered, a sense of recognition stuck me. In the room were five metal beds, stacked side by side. Monitors were beside each bed.
“What we are is a lie,” she spoke, stroking the monster on her lap. “Tyrant used us both.”
“Why are you doing this?” I asked.
“They deserve it,” she answered simply. “These people aren’t real scientists. There is nothing to research about us. We are not super-soldiers, we are just hosts for the Vampire Lords. These people are part of the conspiracy set forth by Tyrant and Fallen. When we die, the Vampire Lords take over.”
“So that’s what happened to Gravey and Payne,” I pondered. “And Meaderow.”
“Yes,” Banshee said. “But you should have been dead long ago, when Reaper first bit you.”
“She won’t let me die,” I muttered in revelation. “The Vampire Lord Shiver.”
“Tyrant wanted all the Vampire Lords in this world at once so they could take over,” Banshee continued. “But five of the seven of them weren’t on this earth. Not yet. Our bodies were given up for them.”
“But Tyrant is changing the plan,” I said. “The personality of his host Meaderow must have manifested and changed him. Gravey was loyal to Tyrant, and it was prevalent inside the Glutten. Payne was already evil long before Decarab entered him, so Decarab stayed evil. And you, you’re just perverted.”
“I know,” she answered. “Nothing’s changed.”
“It’s never too late,” I said. I reached my hand out for her and she took it.
“For me, it is too late. Just let me kiss you, Joshua.” She came close to me. “For old times.”
“I can’t,” I protested. “I have a jealous girlfriend now.”
“Let’s kiss just as friends then?” she asked.
“Okay,” I relented, taking off my mask.
We embraced in a long and passionate kiss. As soon as it was over, I pulled back. The entire bottom half of Banshee’s face was rotten with peeling flesh. I could see her yellowish jawbone right before she revitalized back into her pretty self. She was smiling.
“I need some time alone,” I finally said. “Someplace quiet.”
“Then go,” she said. “I’m staying here to wait for an old friend.”
I turned and left the compound, walking deep into the dark woods. It seemed like a just a short while ago that we had arrived at the university hunting for Reaper…a short while ago when I mistakenly thought my mistress was the night, when she was inside me this whole time.
I felt the demonic angel cradling my head in her arms in pitch darkness. The only light I could see was the red glow of her eyes.
"I've done it all just for you," I murmured. "Now we can finally be alone."
Thunder sounded behind me. I turned to look back at the military compound. The clouds above the compound were getting even darker, and I could make out rain falling over the evil-filled military base.
“Tyrant,” I whispered. “He’s alive. And I can still see what he sees.”
“You will not be under his thumb for much longer,” my virulent mistress spoke to me inside my head.
* * *
Pfft! Pfft! Pfft!
Tyrant mowed down the floating monsters with his rifle as he entered the compound. A woman screamed at him for help, but he ignored her and kept moving. His tactical suit was tattered, and even glowing a little bit with radiation, but his flesh was all revitalized.
Screams were heard all around the building. The Vampire Lord kept moving until he reached a huge locker room. After a brief scan, he opened two sets of lockers and withdrew an electronic device from one locker and a syringe filled with yellow liquid from the other locker.
He lifted the electronic device to his mouth and spoke. “Initiate base self-destruct sequence. Authorization Tyrant.”
“Self-destruct initiated,” the loudspeakers sounded. “All personnel evacuate the building.”
A sudden hiss caused the Vampire Lord to spin around. His former teammate stood before him.
“Tyrant,” Banshee hissed. Monsters suddenly sprouted from thin air all around Tyrant. “There is a fate worse than death that you are gonna get.”
“It’s over, Banshee.” Tyrant said evenly. He held the electronic device up again and pushed a button.
A high pitched noise emitted. The multi-tentacled beasts started squirming about wildly, hissing. The monsters turned and started converging on her.
“No!” Banshee screamed. “My pets…”
“This is your last chance,” Tyrant warned. “Give it up.”
“Never!” Banshee shouted. She readied herself to pounce on him. Suddenly, a huge monster ripped out of her body, followed by another, even bigger than before—and another.
Tyrant turned and sprinted for the door at uncanny speed. Behind him, a loud scream of anguish sounded. It sounded like a banshee’s last wail.
Tyrant was out the main entrance and heading toward the Osprey when the compound started crumbling. He was in the Osprey, already taking off when gigantic, snake-like monsters rose from the rubble, floating toward him. The Vampire Lord sent the Osprey traveling full speed ahead as the giant beasts chased after him. They were getting closer.
Suddenly, Tyrant jerked in agony as his skin began to rot. All around him, the monsters howled and wailed as they started shriveling to nothingness. His undead flesh decaying more and more by the second, Tyrant rushed out of the cockpit and leapt through the open ramp of the Osprey, gliding into the woods down below. He saw a lone figure waiting for him on the ground amongst the rotting plants.
Part 6: Decay
“The nosferatu Shiver is perhaps the most frightening of them all. She carries a strange disease that can infect the flesh of any being. Those who come close to her seem to age faster, and not only their body decays, but their minds and souls as well. Societies become degraded into dystopia whenever she’s around. May God have mercy on those whom she infects with her poison, for they will eventually die a slow and gruesome death.”
I watched my commander land swiftly and approach me. I opened my mouth to speak, but my words wouldn’t come out. Instead, I could feel my mistress doing the talking for me.
“Tyrant, ssso we meet once again.”
“Let him go, Shiver.” His face was decaying at a rapid rate, yet Tyrant still spoke with his same calm voice.
“You betrayed usss all. You were once our leader. Now you deserve to die!” My hand reached for my pistol, and I raised it to Tyrant’s face.
Moving lightning quick, Tyrant gripped my wrist and sliced my arm with his half-melted combat knife. I jerked my hand back and gazed at the wound. Beneath my skin, my flesh inside was completely rotten.
“That was how you stayed alive, Ming,” Tyrant spoke. I heard his kneecaps suddenly pop. His legs trembled, and my commander collapsed to his knees.
“S-sir,” I stammered. “I can’t help myself.”
“I know,” Tyrant answered. His face was peeling so badly that I could see the cheekbones jutting from his yellow, decaying skull. “You’re a damn good soldier.”
“I-it’s been an honor, sir.”
“The honor was mine.” That was all Tyrant could say. His bottom jaw detached from his skull after that and dropped to the ground. Moments later, he was shriveled up until he was nothing but a decaying skeleton.
“You are completely mine now.” I could hear Shiver’s voice in my head. “I will never let you go.”
Suddenly, the skeleton that was Tyrant rose in front of me, raising a huge syringe. I felt the needle pierce deep inside my rotten heart. The watery, self-replicating nanites started to ooze into my flesh.
“No!” Shiver shouted.
She slowly started to fade from my mind, and I passed out in a dreamless sleep.
* * *
“Sir, we’ve found him!”
I opened my eyes, squinting from the bright sunlight. A squad of PAREX troopers in MOPP suits and gas masks were standing over me. Checking the wound on my arm, I saw that my flesh was no longer rotten. Fresh blood streamed down from the opening.
“Get the medic!” the commander shouted. “I want him quarantined and placed under heavy guard until we can be absolutely certain that he’s no longer a threat.”
The commander knelt down besides me.
“You’re safe now, corporal,” he said. “I can’t say the same about the rest of your team.”
“Sir, Tyr—er, Commander Gunther Meaderow—” I gasped. “He was a hero.”
“No, son. Meaderow was about to stand court martial for war crimes he committed, along with three of his subordinates, Gravey, Payne, and Summers. But they were all whisked away to a secret program.”
“He committed war crimes, sir?” I asked.
“That’s correct, son. He was a traitor, and the most evil bastard who ever wore our uniform.”
“But, but—” I stammered.
“You need some rest, soldier.” The commander gave me a pat and walked away.
* * *
Tyrant stood before the gates of Hell.
“So, it has finally come to this,” he spoke. He then turned to the other six figures standing next to him. “Fallen, Glutton, Decarab, Reaper, Banshee, and Shiver, you are all here with me.”
“So this was the reason why you needed me dead,” Reaper stated calmly. “Why you killed all of us.”
Tyrant nodded. “Taking over the earth was never my plan. Together, the seven of us have more power than anything combined. We’re here now to take over Hell itself.”
“Well, shit, you could have just asked,” Reaper said.
“Couldn’t take that chance,” Tyrant replied. “Decarab, you know the layout of this place. Take us to Lucifer first.”
And, with that, the seven Vampire Lords proceeded toward Hell.