Apocolypse monsters, disease,and disasters all merge in what must be the end of days.
|Abandon All Hope: Chapter 1: Lost Prayers
This isn't how it was supposed to happen...
The sounds of screaming had stopped days ago. No one had the energy anymore. Now it was just the muffled whimpers of soft crying. The church sanctuary was filled to near overflowing with refugees, but no one complained of the crowding. Most would say the feeling of another person squeezed against them was comforting. At least there was still some comfort left.
Ian stood at the entrance of the church in front of a broken stained glass window, the distorted image of Saint Mary. A hole in the middle of her chest provided Ian a view of the world outside. It was dark, a starless night, but the moon on its own showed him more than he really wanted to see. Fires dotted the country side growing in number the closer to the city his eyes traced. The city itself was visible only as a flickering glow over the next hill. The flames there must be massive to be visible at this range. Ian thought to himself squinting through the black in vain, trying to make out some further detail.
It had been two weeks since the world went to hell. The shattered landscape gave evidence of some of the problems. Aftershocks from the last major quake were still frequent, each time the ground gave a little rumble the refugees eyes would go wide.
A low growl of thunder turned his eyes upwards. The sky hadn't been clear since everything started, and the constant storms seemed too vicious to be natural. Gales of wind would burst without warning downing trees and flinging loose debris around dangerously. Lightning strikes seemed to pass by buildings and seek out people hiding under them.
The sound of shouting pulled Ian away from the window. A group of people were yelling at a new family of refugees from behind the main doors. As Ian approached he quickly understood the conflict. "You can't stay here!" a tall thin man with glasses yelled to the refugee family outside."
"Please my son needs food. Don't make us go back out there!" the muffled pleas of the father came back in reply. Ian could see a little boy clinging to the mans leg.
"I can see your eyes from here!" the thin man yelled back. Through the window Ian could see the blood red of their sclera, the tell tale sign of infection. "If I let you in everyone here is dead. I am sorry, but you have to leave."
Defeated the man took his wife and child's hands, and turned back down the broken street. Ian's chest clenched as he watched the small child cough up a handful of blood. They won't last the night...
The tall man turned, seeing the look on Ian's face, he grimaced. "You know its true. It had to be done..."
Ian nodded sadly, "I understand." Looking back out the window Ian watched the family slowly moving away, slipping out of view around a bend in the road. Ian continued staring anyways as he added. "Who would have thought it would have come to this? What kind of world is it if we can't even help a dying child."
The tall man stood there dejectedly, his arms hanging limply at his side. "It's the only world we have left... a damned one." Turning the man walked away slumping against a wall, he began to quietly study the floor boards.
"YOU MUST ALL REPENT!" The shout rang out from a filthy old man standing in the corner. "THE DEMONS COME TO DEVOUR US ALL. NAUGHT CAN SAVE US BUT THE LORD ON HIGH!
"Shut your damned mouth!" a young black woman snapped back at the man. "It's bad enough without you reminding the kids about that!" The man's eyes were wide ready to shout a reply, but a look from several men in the room, and he fell quiet again.
It might have almost been funny, a crazy person shouting about the end of the world, if it weren't probably true. After everything else, the natural disasters, that horrible disease, the general collapse of society, even after all that, people might have been able to get by, but then they showed up. As a last violation, the crescendo of the Apocalypse, creatures had begun to appear. Monsters, demons, beasts, the name didn't matter. They were here to find the survivors... to end what was left of this nightmare.
After those things appeared the last doubters were gone. Everyone knew then exactly what this was. This was the end, Armageddon, just as the bible had foretold. But it wasn't what the bible had foretold. Ian thought, shaking his head. This isn't how it was suppose to happen. There was no rapture, no reprieve for the religous. The disease struck saved and sinner alike, the demons walked by crosses and devoured alive those praying for help at the alter. This was no proof of God, only proof of hell.
Ian turned from the entrance-way, walking slowly back into the sanctuary. A small hand slipped into his as he entered the crowded room. A faint smile managed to grace his face as he bent down to hug his little sister's small form. "How are you holding up Liv?"
The large hazel eyes looking up at him were red from the tears of another night spent sobbing. Ian's heart ached at the sight of her. No child should have been put through this. If God exists, he is a sick being indeed. "Let's find you something to eat,OK?" The small girl nodded up to her older brother, now the only person in the world she could look to for protection.
Ian led her to a back room, where a small food bank had been. There wasn't much left, but Ian managed to find a can of creamed corn and a knife to open it with. The two orphans ate in silence, and then Ian found them a place to lay down. In minutes the 7 year old girl was fast asleep, emotional exhaustion forcing her into a fitful rest.
Ian stared down at her, lost in thought. What are we suppose to do? He looked down at the knife he had used to open the can. Slowly he turned it over again and again in his hands. It was a hunting knife, worn down designs were carved into the wooden handle, a serrated edge on the blade. His eyes drifted back to Liv, It wouldn't be the first time. How many suicides had there been since this all started? Hell, how many suicides had they seen since they found this church? Ian shook his head and slipped the knife into his belt. As he finally started to nod off, one last thought filled his mind. I will protect her as long as I can.
Thick gray matted the sky, even at noon, the sun's light hardly pierced the looming cloud cover. Thunder rolled in the distance like a deep growl, threatening to strike at any moment. The land was little more than a swamp, mud and standing water littered the ground, clues of the constant storms that had beaten the area for the past week.
Rayne trudged through the muck, fighting for each step. The earth itself seemed determine to swallow her whole. At last she collapsed from exhaustion, with a sigh she closed her eyes. "Why am I even trying? Where am I trying to go? Is there anywhere that's any better than every other place I have been?" She whispered to herself. Rolling over onto her side and curling into a ball she fought back tears."It's not like I had much to live for even before all this... maybe I should just give up ... lay here till something kills me."
She smelled them before she saw them. Dead bodies smell a lot like raw meat, and in large amounts it can make just about anyone's stomach crawl. The monsters liked to wear fresh kills on their backs it was one of the few things people were able to use to avoid the beasts, because you could always smell them coming... not that running usually helped much.
Rayne laid trembling in the mud, to scared to breath. There were two of them lumbering along. There was no specific form that defined what a demon would look like, but it was impossible not to know one when you saw it. They were the creatures that haunted your nightmares as a child, sadistic monstrosities that even Hollywood couldn't have cooked up. One of the creatures resembled an extremely obese man, rolls of fat shook with each step it took, it lacked a head, instead its stomach was splayed open revealing a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. The other stood over ten feet tall, massive arms rippling with muscle dragged the ground as it walked. Three inch long spikes sprouting from all over its body, the top half of a young woman was impaled on its shoulder, her eyes still wide with shock, her mouth frozen in an eternal scream.
They were too close to run from, Rayne's mind raced as she watched them get closer and closer. As her eyes locked with the impaled woman's horrific stare she could only muster a single thought I don't want it. I don't want to die. Not here not like this, NOT NOW!" But death walked towards her none the less, ignoring her mental screams. There was no where to hide, no where to run, and not even a knife to defend herself with ....or end it before the torment they would certainly inflict.
After a moment they stood over her, the fat one's hoof like foot sunk deep into the mud beside her head. Then they took another step, clearing her body and proceeding through the swampy field. Laying there covered in filth she was indistinguishable from the sludge around her. As they continued on their way tears began to stream down her face. I do want to live. No matter what kind of life it may be... or how long it may last.
CRAAAACK!!!!!!!!! A sudden flash streaked across Rayne's vision followed by a deafening clap of thunder. Rayne shrieked at the sudden strike, clapping her hands over her mouth a second after it left her lips. The two monsters froze, turning slowing to look towards her. The bloodshot eyes of the spiked demon locked with hers and she knew they saw her. Tearing herself from the mud she ran with everything she had.
Abandon All Hope: Chapter 2: Facing your Demons
CRAAAACK!!!!!!!! The deafening roar woke Ian from a deep sleep in an instant. The pain of sudden consciousness played cruel tricks on his faltering grasp of reality, for a moment he reached to his side grabbing for the alarm clock that had sat next to his bed before all this. He stopped himself midway through the reflex gesture as his mind begrudgingly flooded back to him the truth of where he was.
Gently he lifted Liv's head from his shoulder, setting it back down onto a torn up shirt. The tingle of a thousand needles shot through his arm as he massaged it. Working life back into the sleeping limb, Ian stood and returned to his lookout at the front of the church. Peering through the broken glass he saw movement.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end when his eyes managed to make out the scene unfolding in the valley below the church. A lone girl running for her life from a pair of monsters. Mind racing, he threw open the doors and dashed out of the church, sprinting to the edge of the hill overlooking where the girl still fled for her life.
An instant later a dozen others from the church followed after him. The tall man from the night before, cursed loudly, "What the hell are you doing kid? You are going to get us all killed." he stopped as his vision shifted to see the girl in the valley. "Holy, shit..."
"We have to help her!" A woman cried, "she's only a girl."
"What do you want us to do!" Another woman retorted harshly. " Everyone in that church could charge down there and it would just give those things more to eat." The first woman's eyes sank downwards.
Another second passed, and the end of this grisly scene was becoming gravely obvious. Ian's hands trembled, he didn't even realize that he had reached down and was now grasping the hunting knife at his belt.
The girl in the valley stumbled, barely pulling her foot out of a mud patch, before the spiked demon slammed down a gruesome fist into the mud where she stood a moment earlier. Ian's feet seemed to move on their own. Shouts of protest failed to reach him as his mind blurred the truth of what was happening. He was down the hill before he knew what he was doing, still no inkling of a plan reached his mind.
The girl's eyes were pure fear, her face pleaded for help. Ian could only assume his eyes held the same expression as he looked upon the monsters from this range. Brandishing his small knife he stood between them and the girl.
It was a pathetic display to say the least, and the demons seemed to relish it. Slowly they stopped only a few feet away, the obese demon's enormous belly shook rippling sickeningly as a low guttural laugh emerged. The spiked demon leaned forwards its head hovering inches away from Ian's knife, a long snake like tongue flicked out running along the blade drawing its own blood before sliding back into the open maw.
"Thank you." the girl whispered from behind Ian. "I am sorry you got into this, but thank you. I don't want to be alone..."
The girl sobbed, and the sound filled Ian with anger. "WELL?! GET ON WITH IT!" He screamed defiantly. The two abominations paused for a moment considering the flea of a boy in front of them. With a swat of its hand the fat one flung Ian across the field, turning him head over heels several times as he tumbled, landing face down in a pool of muddy water.
Ignoring him they stepped closer to the girl, but Ian picked himself up and flung the knife at the creature that had struck him. The blade nicked it's shoulder before falling harmlessly to the ground. Turning again towards him it stomped away from the girl leaving her to it's companion.
The spiked demon lunged forward grasping the girl with its left hand the barbs stuck deep and blood flowed freely from the wounds, as the girl screamed in pain. With its other hand it gingerly ran a finger down her cheek drawing a line from the corner of her eye to her chin, like a tear streak of blood.
The walking pile of lard in front of Ian edged closer, the horrible grin on its stomach sending chills down his spine. Ian kicked at the ground, flailing to get enough footing in the slick mud, to push himself away from the monster.
Without warning the ground rumbled. It was little more than a tremble at first but in seconds the vibrations felt like they would shake the teeth right out of Ian's skull. Fissures began to form, the earth cracking like an iced lake under too much weight.
The demon holding Rayne staggered backwards dropping her as the ground beneath its feet began to give way. Clutching her arm she ran struggling to keep her footing in the midst of the chaos. Ian dodged around his own opponent grabbing Rayne's hand and leading her quickly up the hill.
The church was in pandemonium. The refugees climbed over each other to escape the building as the windows shattered and the beams groaned menacingly. Ian's eyes skimmed the fleeing people searching madly for some sign of his sister.
A sudden jerk of his hand pulled his gaze back behind him, "THEY ARE COMING!" Rayne shouted pointed at the two monsters who had regathered themselves and continued their pursuit.
Rayne wrenched at Ian away from the church, but he pulled against her. "My sister!" He tried to explain in anguish. Rayne bit her lip in worry, before finally nodding her head. Together they dove into the the crumbling building fighting against the the swarm of people still trying to get out.
"LIV!" Ian shouted. " OLIVIA!" he spun around scouring the sanctuary where he had left her to no avail. Ian's mind reeled DAMMIT WHERE IS SHE!?
Liv struggled to keep still as her older brother slipped out from under her head. She kept her eyes closed and pretended she was still asleep till she was sure he wasn't looking. Peeking out from barely open lids she watched him walk back to his place by the stained glass window.
She had always loved her brother. Maybe even more than she had loved their dad. Of course after their mom had died, their dad had done his best to keep them going as a family. He had worked to make sure they always had a roof over their head and a hot meal for dinner, but he had never been very good at the little things.
He never tucked her in at night, or told her bedtime stories. He couldn't have, working late most nights it was rare for him to be home before she went to sleep. On his days off he would usually pass out in front of the TV, exhausted. She didn't blame him for it, beside she had Ian.
Ian would tuck her in, get her ready for school, and come to her soft ball games. When he had turned sixteen he drove her to the mall and to movies. He always had time for her. Even if it meant not having time for himself.
When Dad had gotten sick with the new flu, Ian had taken care of her. He had held her as she cried in the hospital when Dad died. He had always been there. As far as she was concerned he always would be there. Ian would always protect her.
She was scared though. Even knowing Ian was there. She was scared that they would never be happy again. That Ian would never smile again. She didn't know when the tears would stop. Everyone was crying, so she cried too. She didn't know what else to do, when surrounded by so much sadness. She didn't understand what was happening. Why the storm clouds wouldn't go away. She missed the stars.
Standing up, she decided to explore the church. A 7 year old like Liv tired quickly of sitting around. They had been cooped up for days and she was ready to do something. Riffling through their bags she pulled out a flashlight. When they had gone into the food bank the night before, the young girl had seen stairs leading to a a basement, and she decided to start her exploration there.
It was dark down those stairs. The flashlight beam barely dented the blackness. Each step creaked loudly as the old wood groaned even under her minuscule weight. As she finally reached the bottom her eyes filled with wonder. The old basement was full of junk, old costumes, props, and Sunday school teaching tools. It was a 7 year old's treasure trove.
The young girl smiled broadly as she tore into the clothing rack. She put on a dress, many times to big, digging through boxes she found a pair of high heels and a wig full of golden curls. Clad in her new attire, she paraded around the dimly lit room. Giggling like a normal little girl... giggling like hell hadn't broken loose in the world outside.
Faint noises caught her attention from outside the basement door over her head, causing her to pause for a moment. She strained her ears trying to make out what was causing the commotion. Then she felt it. The shaking ground. Boxes and old broken furniture shifted and fell all around her. Screaming she ran dropping her flashlight onto the ground. As it hit the floor the light went out. Alone in the dark basement suddenly Liv was terrified. Tears streaming down her face she groped in the darkness debris from above sprinkled over her, a big piece smacked her hard on the leg bruising darkly in a second.
She managed to hobble into a corner, and cover her head. "Ian..." she whimpered. "Where are you?"
Abandon All Hope: Chapter 3: A Sword of the Spirit.
Colored glass lay shattered on the floor of the church's foyer. Light streaming in from the gaping holes left by the destroyed windows reflected off the shards, creating a rainbow of colors that gave the doomed building an ironic beauty. The quiet sobs of the previous evening were replaced with frantic screams. Most of the people were out of the building by now, but at least a dozen remained. Some were cowering under the pews too scared to flee, while others were trapped under fallen debris.
Unfortunately, Ian had no time to help the trapped and injured. His eyes glazed over the poor souls unable to even process their plight as he searched for his sister. He dashed through the labyrinthine halls of the church desperate to find any trace of her.
Room after room was empty. Each failed search killed another piece of his heart as he was forced to deal with the real possibility that she was already dead. A touch on his hand pulled him from his mad hunt. He spun around to see the scared eyes of the girl from the valley.
She was a sad sight. She looked to be in her early twenties, about the same age as him. Her small frame looked more than a little gaunt, no doubt it had been days since her last meal. Covered head to toe in mud and dirt it was hard to make out what she might look like clean, but a few stray hairs that had miraculously stayed free of the grime showed a hint of fiery red. For a moment Ian looked at her questioningly. Why is this girl still following me?
"We have to be quiet they are in the building now!" She whispered urgently. Caught up over the loss of his sister Ian furrowed his brow in confusion. "The Demons!" the girl nearly cried out, pointing back towards the sanctuary.
Ian crept to the doorway and peered through, following her finger. He cringed at what he saw. The fat demon was dragging an elderly woman out from under one of the pews. Her screams were swallowed in the din all around them. The quake finally seemed to have settled, but the building was still falling apart around them. Like a child playing with his food, the monstrosity held the poor woman under one foot and rent her arm from its socket. Tossing it whole down its repulsive gullet.
Ian retreated back down the hallway, holding his mouth to keep from heaving. He grabbed the mud caked girl's hand and they ran deeper into the church.
Finally, Ian and Rayne stopped in the food kitchen. "She has to be here somewhere." Ian whispered desperately. "I brought her here last night maybe she came here for something to eat?"
Rayne nodded gingerly, her eyes still trained on the hallway that lead back to where the creatures were. Ian threw open the door to the cellar and shouted for his sister.
"Ian?" a soft voice replied. A wave of relief washed over him as he bounded down the decrepit stairs. Pushing past the fallen junk piles he reached his sister and scooped her into his arms. The small girl sobbed as she squeezed her older brother with all her might.
"Thank god you are alright!" Ian said finally putting his sister down. Looking her over he saw bruising on her leg. "Are you hurt?"
Liv nodded, "A little, but I will be OK now. I thought you weren't going to come back." She wiped tears away on her sleeve for a moment before looking behind Ian and cocking her head quizzically. "Who's that?"
Ian turned and started to introduce them. "This is my sister Liv, and this is ...." he paused and looked towards the other girl.
"Rayne." She said softly, looking nervously towards the top of the stairs. "We really need to get out of here now. They will be back any second!"
The unease in her voice reminded Ian of the real danger they were still in. " Maybe we should hide here till they leave? Its dark I bet after they finish in the sanctuary..." he grimaced at the thought, "...they will leave."
Even as he said the words a shadow passed by the doorway, which was still the only source of light coming into the cellar. Instantly, Ian grabbed Liv, and put a finger to her mouth signalling her to stay quiet. Slowly the trio backed into the corner and waited.
Every heartbeat sounded like a snare drum, every breath sounded like a gale. The minutes elapsed as an eternity as the shadows in the doorway continued to pass, over and over again as if they were walking in circles, searching for their lost prey. Ian felt like they were sniffing them out, tracking them like blood hounds.
For a moment the shadows stopped. For a moment it seemed they would be spared. Then a porcupine silhouette emerged at the top of the stairs. Rayne sank to her knees hands clasp over her mouth. There was no where left to run.
Ian looked everywhere in a panic. Frantically searching for anything he could use to defend them, or at least distract the creature long enough to escape. The light from the door glinted off something in the far corner of the room. Is that an old suit of armor? Ian questioned in his head. It must be a stage prop for the church's old dramas, but the sword laying next to it looks real... well at least it doesn't look like its made of plastic.
In a second the monster would be down the stairs and would be between them and the weapon. In another they would be found. After that... Ian shook his head. No time to debate it now! Ian pushed Liv into Rayne's shocked embrace, and sprinted across the room.
The sudden movement instantly alerted the demon. It started to dash down the stairs after him, but a single step onto the dilapidated stairs and the whole thing came crashing down. Ian reached the sword just as the monster emerged from the rubble, swinging it up he leveled the blade at the creature.
This was the second time he had pointed steel at this particular monster, and this time it seemed to be in less playful spirits. It charged, hands out stretched, the spikes pointed forwards to skewer him alive. A snarl erupting from its lips as it prepared to finally catch its frustratingly elusive prey.
Ian was in shock for a moment. All he could think about was the strange feeling of the weapon in his hand. The blade felt too light. He was sure it was metal, but it was as light as a feather. It was modeled after a medieval claymore, the long hilt allowed him to grasp the weapon with both hands easily. The hand guard a simple horizontal bar, gave the weapon a perfect cross like shape. Along the blade on both sides a series of designs were evident. The symbols were runic, flowing all the way down to the tip and were tied together by a wisp like line that wove in between each mark.
Ian had no idea what, if anything, the runes meant, or why a small country church had such an ornate blade, but at that moment it didn't matter. He dropped to one knee as the creature's deadly arms reached him dodging death by a hairs breadth. With everything he had he thrust his weapon up straight into its thorn covered chest.
The monster stood staring in disbelief at the impossible blow. As shocked by the success of the attack as Ian was. A black tar like substance oozed from the wound as the monster backed away. Ian couldn't give it a chance to recover. The creatures stumbled and fell landing in a seated position still looking on dumbfounded, as Ian charged. A swing from his blade cut straight across its neck severing the head in a single absurdly simple blow.
Standing over the corpse Ian's arms wouldn't stop shaking. Slowly he looked over to where the girls held each other, both looking on in bewilderment. Olivia bolted from Rayne's arms and embraced her brother, who was now leaning against the sword trying not to pass-out.
Rayne didn't blink. She stared at the boy in front of her. "It's not possible..." she stammered. "tanks have failed to bring down these monsters. I have seen people empty round after round into their heads with no effect what so ever... How did you kill one with a sword!"
Ian just stared back at her as confused as she was, unable to offer any solution he looked again at the strange blade and thought to himself. Is this something more than just an old prop?
"My brother is a lot tougher than any of these stupid freaks. He can do anything!" She beamed up at her savior, causing Ian to blush a little.
"I have no idea what just happened, but I don't really want to test it again, So we should get the hell out of here before its fat friend shows up." Ian managed to reply. "Help me find something to stack up here for us to climb out on." he finished pointing to the remains of the ruined stairway.
Rayne nodded helping him gather a few pieces of furniture to stack up and create a makeshift ladder. Ian climbed up first, checking the room for the other creature. The storeroom was in shambles. What little had remained of the food lay trampled and shredded, but at first glance Ian could see no sign of the creature responsible. Quickly he helped Rayne and Liv up and they crept towards the back entrance of the church building.
The sun was setting as they finally escaped the ravaged building. There was no sign any life outside, human or otherwise. The refugees from before were likely still running from the horrors they had seen. Alone the three made for a distant tree line hoping to find some sort of shelter before night fall. Ian still clutched his new sword.
Abandon All Hope: Chapter 4: A Light in Dark Places.
The soft crackle of the campfire was the only sound any of them heard. The noise of modern society was gone now. There were no cars or planes to pierce the haunting quiet. Rayne's eyes danced with the flicker of the flames, hypnotized by the writhing light. This must be what it's like to meditate. She thought to herself after a while. Sitting in a mindless gaze, forgetting the world around me. But it was a fragile state. Just as she was struck by how peaceful it was, the horrors of the day rushed back to her.
She rubbed her eyes, fighting back tears that she had no desire to let out again. If I start now, I don't think I will ever stop. The moisture smeared the dirt on her face leaving a streak, that Ian pretended not to notice. Looking up she locked eyes with him for a moment, before he looked away, staring out into the darkness that enclosed their small camp.
Recalling the events of the day she couldn't help but stare at the young man in front of her. He certainly didn't look like anything special. He had deep blue eyes that seemed to slide back and forth between scanning their surroundings and checking on his little sister. His dirty blonde hair, was matted with sweat and filth, I imagine he is cleaner than I am, though. Rayne mused looking down at her own mud caked form.
Finally it was Liv that broke the silence. Stirring from her spot on the ground by Ian's side she rubbed the sleep from her small eyes and looked around for a moment. "I am hungry." she stated simply, sitting up and crossing her legs. "What are we going to eat?"
Ian frowned, rubbing his head. "I don't think we have anything at the moment, Liv." he sighed looking back out into the darkness. "As soon as the sun comes up we will see what we can find."
Liv folded her arms and pouted. "I am hungry now, though. There must be something close by right?"
Ian shook his head. "Not in the dark Sis. At first light we will get you something, I promise." he petted her soothingly. "Get some more sleep when you wake up it will be time for breakfast." Liv nodded and nestled into his shoulder.
A few moments later the small girl was asleep again. "She really believes in you." Rayne marveled. "I don't think I have seen someone fall asleep like that in weeks."
"She's young. She still thinks her big brother is invincible." Ian replied with a quiet laugh.
Rayne looked into his eyes soberly. "After what I saw down there, I am not sure I disagree." Ian shifted uncomfortably. "How did you do that? What kind of sword did you find?" She pressed.
Ian drew the blade out from the spot he had laid it behind him. Turning it over in the firelight he showed it to her. "It was just laying there in the basement." He said with a shrug. "I thought it was just a prop but..." his eyes glazed as he remembered the fight.
Rayne walked around to sit next to him, and held out her hand. "Can I see it?" Ian nodded and handed her the weapon. She looked it over as closely as she could before giving it back with a shrug. "It seems normal enough. Not that I have any experience with something like this."
Ian gently placed the blade across his lap. "Well what sorts of things do you have experience with? What did you do before all this happened?"
Rayne's furrowed her eyebrows a bit before turning to look back at the fire. "Nothing interesting I assure you."
"It's not like we have anything better to do." Ian replied.
It was Rayne's turn to shift uncomfortably. "Well..." she started hesitantly. "I worked at a club."
"Bartender?" Ian asked trying to keep the conversation going.
She shook her head, not looking away from the fire. "No. I was a dancer."
Ian paused finally understanding her reluctance. "Oh." he chewed lip for a moment before changing the subject. "How about family. Any loved ones nearby."
"My father lived just outside of town, but no. No loved ones." She said coldly.
I can see why she didn't want to talk about it... Ian thought to himself finally deciding to let the conversation die.
To his surprise it was Rayne that spoke next. "I did have a dog, Pip. He was a ratty little thing." She managed a half smile. "I found him by a dumpster after work one day. The poor guy was nearly starved. Ever since then he never left my side unless I made him." A tear slide down her cheek that she quickly wiped away. "When everything went bad one of those things attack our apartment. I hid under my bed, but the monster just ripped its way in. Pip jumped right out. Stupid dog probably only weighed 15 lbs. but it thought it was a rottweiler." She laughed for a second before getting quiet. Several minute passed in silence before she spoke up again. "It left after that. Just walked off after some other poor son of a bitch... Never even noticed me."
Ian searched for something to say, finally he gave a small sigh. "It has been a rough few weeks." To his surprise Rayne broke out laughing at that, uncontrollably for almost a whole minute. Ian cocked an eyebrow at the out burst. "Did I say something funny?"
Rayne caught her breath. " 'A rough few weeks!' That has to be the goddamn understatement of all time." She sighed. "I don't think I have laughed like that in ages." Looking over at Ian she smiled. "You really do make people feel at ease..." She sighed, a sad smile still lingering on her face. "God I wish this could last."
Ian's smile faded. "Yea. me too."
They sat quietly after that. watching the fire fade to embers. Rayne finally fell asleep a little before dawn. Ian let the two of them sleep as he watched the slow light of morning sprinkle down through the trees. Like a thousand needles, the slivers of light dotted the small camp, revealing the surrounding area.
Through the thin underbrush of the small out cropping of trees, Ian could see a neighborhood. Modest one floor homes sat in neat little rows, with small picket fences separating the unkempt yards. At a distance it looked quiet, homey even, but as he continued to scan the peaceful mirage began to fade.
Smoke tendrils twisted in the air that at first seemed to rise lazily from a chimney, upon closer inspection were seen to come from burnt out remains of one of the homes. Several of the homes had broken windows and doors that had been knocked down. From the distance he was at, it was hard to tell if there were any signs of people still taking shelter there, however he could almost swear that there were little flashes of movement here and there. After straining his eyes for 10 minutes or so, he finally decided his mind was playing tricks on him.
Whatever the small neighborhood held, they all needed food. Liv had only had that can of creamed corn in the past few days and he suspected Rayne had eaten even less then they had. This was their only hope for gathering any supplies, though from the looks of it there would be little to find.
The sound of rustling leaves brought Ian's gaze back to their camp. Liv was standing by the dead embers of the fire poking them with a stick. The soft glow of the embers would flare each time the stick hit it before going dark again. "Sleep alright?" Ian asked.
"There was a rock under my butt." Liv replied lazily not looking up from her prodding.
Rayne jerked at the sound of their voices, sitting up with a start. Her eyes were wide for a moment before she saw Liv's face. Her expression softened and she slowly stood up brushing the flecks of leaves and dirt off her clothes in vain.
"There is a suburb over there" Ian started, as soon as the two girls seemed fully awake. "It looks abandoned and ransacked, but hopefully we can find something to eat." Looking at Rayne's still mud soaked form, he added. "And maybe some clean clothes." The others nodded eagerly, hopeful to finally get something in their woefully hollow stomachs.
As tentative as a family of frightened deer, they broke the tree line entering the back yard of one of the houses. An old tire swing sluggishly swayed in the mid-morning breeze. The worn rope rubbing on the tree branch it was tied to made for the only sound, as they crept towards the house's back door.
"Well this isn't creepy at all." Rayne whispered, her arms folded in close to her body, rubbing her shoulders out of both chill and dread.
Ian griped his sword with both hands, using it to draw back the curtains on the open screen door. Peering into the house he saw the tell tale signs of a rushed departure. Clothing, pictures, and bags were strewn about, scattered by fearful hands, hurrying to get the bare essentials. His eyes fell on a small suitcase, pink with a cartoon girl in pigtails smiling through buck teeth, painted on the back.
The suitcase was open, half filled with a pretty pink dress. The garment was half folded, as though it had been placed carefully into the container before the container had been tossed to the floor. Turning he saw Liv eyeing the dress, her eyes distant. The scene struck entirely too close to home.
It had been the middle of the night when their father had torn into his room, and shoved a duffle-bag into his arms. From his window, Ian had seen people busting windows out of their neighbor's houses. People being drug kicking and screaming from their homes as the sheer pandemonium broke loose. They hadn't left with much, not even a picture of their mom, but somehow they had gotten out. Looking back at the suitcase, he hoped, that little girl's family, had as well.
"DAMNITT!!!" Rayne's curse range out a little too loudly from the kitchen. "There is nothing. Not a damn thing." her face was a mix of rage and sorrow. She slammed a fist against the wall gripping her stomach. "I can't go on much longer without something..."
"This is just the first house. There has to be something in one of these places. We just have to keep looking till we find it." Rayne sighed, nodding halfheartedly in response. Grabbing a green blouse off the ground Ian tossed it to her. "At least we can get you out of those clothes."
Rayne cocked an eyebrow at him. "Really now?"
Ian's face went red, "You know what I mean!" he hissed with a scowl. Turning away quickly to the sound of giggles, he hurried into the bedrooms to check for supplies.
The back rooms were dark, small windows gave almost no light as he riffled through the clutter. Little of the mess was useful. He managed to policed a few shirts that he thought Liv could fit into, and a pair of jeans for Rayne. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to have been a man living there so nothing he found fit him.
As he entered the last room he heard the snap of the closet shutting and instantly tensed. Raising his sword he stepped slowly towards door, taking deliberate breaths, careful not to make a sound. He threw open the door already poised to strike. The small trembling form of a dirty young boy, probably a few years younger than Liv peeked back at him from the darkness of the closet.
"Por favor" The young boy squeaked, "No hurt."