by TINMAN 4000
A man, just after dying, wakes up where he slept last night, 100 years later.
I fell to the dusty, wooden floor, gasping and coughing. I rolled over and looked up to the ceiling, I was in the old church I slept in the night before, strange. Could I have been dreaming? I forced myself to my feet and looked around the room, the windows showed that it was still night, but the church appeared worn and old, unlike the night before. The pews were rough and some broken, the floor was scattered with dirt and leaves and some windows were broken. I grabbed my bag that I slept on and noticed something else, it was quiet, dead silent.
I figured I'd go outside to figure out what's going on. I opened the door and saw that it was raining, but the rain was still, perfectly still, small, floating spheres.
"What the hell is this?" I said aloud as I dared to poke a drop, which collided with my finger and broke into many smaller droplets. I stepped outside, smashing into hundreds more. I looked over the city of Duluth, which was much more massive than I remember, and seemed to have a huge military base in it. I looked to a nearby hill and saw a lightning bolt, slowly branching across the sky like a crack. I suddenly giggled, though this was terrifying, the experience made me giddy. I ran through the graveyard, laughing as I crashed through the rain drops, scattering them around me. I stopped, worrying for my sanity, and started walking into Duluth.
I wandered through the silent, empty streets of Duluth, staring up at the strange, new buildings. Some were still under construction. Most businesses were closed, considering there was no one to run them, but all the street lights were on, as if no one left. I decided to check out the military base. I turned at an intersection, and found the road packed with empty cars, some overturned and damaged. That's when I noticed the gaping holes in the buildings, cars and pavement. Something terrible happened here.
When I made it to the airstrip of the base that went out over the vast lake, my path was interrupted by a long, chain-link fence. I looked across the airstrip and saw a heavily armed jet, frozen in mid-takeoff, pushed by several blue jets. I looked to the sky and saw many more jets, all encircling larger, darker ships, firing red projectiles, some were exploding slow, fluffy, fiery explosions. The darker ships were firing long, white beams that seemed to be more effective. I looked back to the fence to try to find a way through, eventually finding a loose line post where I could squeeze through the bottom and climb out the other side. I headed straight to the jet and leapt onto the wing, which was surprisingly easy, I looked through the cockpit window and saw the pilot, frozen just like the rest of the plane. Am I the only person who can move? I jumped off and realized I would have to spend eternity here, alone.
"What are you doing here? Why are you not at camp?" A voice said, I turned around and was surprised to see a concerned woman with a large bag, which she dropped. "How did you get here?"
"I uh, found a chink in the fence." I said, gesturing to it,
"No, I mean how did you get here?" she asked, "in Heure de Fin." I gave her a puzzled look.
"Heuru de what?" I asked, "You mean Duluth?"
"It's what we call this place." She said, "What's the last thing you remember?"
"I was drowning in the bottom of that lake." I said, pointing to the middle of the lake, her face turned grave.
"This has happened before." she said with a sigh, "Well, c'mon, let's go back to camp." she picked up her bag and led me toward the fence. When we were closer, she started running and leapt over the fence, clearing it easily, she turned around and saw that I was still there. "C'mon, make sure you jump off that dirt patch." I looked down at the noticeable patch of dry soil and took a deep breath. I sprinted at it and jumped, just before pushing off the patch, I felt my body being forced up and I soared above the fence. I landed heavily onto the ground and collapsed, rolling several times. "Nice landing, better than most starting off." The woman said, reaching a hand out to help pull me up, "My name is Karen Stamp, yours?"
"Taylor Walter." I said gruffly, my leg was hurting from the fall.
"So, what time are you from?" Karen said casually as we walked.
"How do you mean?" I asked, looking ahead,
"When did you die?" she asked, I looked back in my memory,
"I believe it was August 10th, 2015." I said,
"A while ago then eh?"
"When did you get here?"
"August 10th, 2115." she said, "100 years later."
"Wow, same day?" I asked,
"Yep. Same as everyone here." she said, "Strange thing, it's like some magic holiday."
I looked around, "what is this place anyways?"
"Right, what you see here are Earth's final moments, extended into an entire day."
"Then why can only some people move?"
"We assume it's because all of us were asleep during the apocalypse." she said, "which is why most of the people you'll see at camp are women and children."
"Won't they grow up?" I asked,
She chuckled, "In case you have not noticed, time is irrelevant here. The kids may grow in intelligence, but not age."
"How did this happen?" I asked, looking at the aerial battle around me.
"What we feared for a long time, Aliens." she said, "They came out of nowhere, and hit hard, then they used their super weapon." she pointed to the largest ship, floating above the lake, covering most of it with it's sheer scale, "At noon they will fire from that ship, and the beam won't touch down till about five PM, and the Earth will be completely destroyed by about midnight."
"How do you survive every night?" I asked,
"We go to sleep by 10:00." she said, looking forward, "And somehow, it works. We're almost there." we came across a parking lot and to the entrance of a vast football stadium, and walked past the abandoned ticket booths and into the open, grassy, field, which was covered with tents, and people, coming to greet us.
"Karen!" one of them said, coming up and hugging her, "How'd it go?"
"It was great, Ferren, I think I found some really useful things." she said, people started to notice me.
"Who's this?" Ferren asked, trying to be polite about it.
"Meet Taylor Walter, I found him at the airfield, Taylor, meet Ferren." she said as she took her bag off and started to empty it's contents, Ferren stepped toward me, wide-eyed and awestruck.
"Nice to meet you, Taylor." he said shaking my hand, he was a big guy with a rough face and black hair, and his hand was heavy, but cold, "so, how'd you get here?"
"Uh, yeah, I died." I said nervously, "but, I don't really know what here is, er, I don't believe what here is."
"Yeah, I remember having trouble soaking it all in when I made it here, you really just have to pretend that this is all a movie or something, it makes the transition easier." he said, looking up into the sky.
"Wait, did you die too?"
"Oh, yeah, I was fishing with my son in the lake when our boat overturned and we fell in and drowned." he said, "Luckily, we both made it here."
"Uh, 1795, I was a fur trader." he said, "What about you? How did you die?"
"Concrete shoes, I pissed some people off."
"And the year?"
"2015." I said, "I was a journalist."
He looked down, thinking, "alright, let's go to your tent." he said finally and led me through the curious crowds, I noticed an area fenced off with orange tape,
"Wait, what's the tape for?" I asked,
"A missile will hit there in one hour, c'mon." he said and kept leading me to my tent, "This is the Griggs field, of the James S. Malosky Stadium, it is our shelter because it stays intact the longest. We keep the lights on until 9:30 PM to simulate daylight." I wasn't completely listening, because I was still staring into the sky. He showed me the tent, which had nothing but a cot in it, I had a sudden question.
"Where do you get food and water?" I asked him,
"Most of the time we don't need it, since all of your bodily functions will reset to how they were when you woke up in Heure de Fin, but sometimes we just hit a restaurant, just 'cause we can." he said with a wink, "Make sure you go to bed by 10:00, also, there is a small chance you'll wake up back where you woke up this morning, so, don't be alarmed."
"Um, ok, thanks." I said,
"So you can hang in here if you like, let it all soak in." he said, "I need to talk with Karen." when he left I went into my tent and laid on the cot, thinking. I didn't know what to do, I was in a world that didn't make sense, that disobeyed the laws of the universe. But then I got an idea, I am a journalist, so I will cope with writing. I tore my notebook out of my bag and grabbed my pen, I opened the notebook, found a fresh sheet of paper, and started writing: "August 10th, 2115, Day 1: I did not have the most pleasant death, concrete shoes in the bottom of lake Superior, yeah I really pissed some important people off..." When I wrote to the present moment, I heard yelling outside, I instinctively grabbed my camera, got out of my tent and saw people gathered around the entrance to the field, people were running left and right, indians, trappers, fishermen, and tourists. I heard gunshots from the area by the entrance, I ran toward the crowd and started to push through, desperate to find out what was going on. When the crowd cleared, it revealed a black, smoking creature in the center that did not seem to have a specific shape. I couldn't tell if it was hairy, scaly, or slimy, but it appeared as if it switched between them all throughout its body. It shrieked as it got pummeled by bullets, but it didn't seem to die.
"We call them End Demons." Karen said, standing next to me
"End Demons?" I asked, taking a picture of it as it shrieked, "Where do they come from?"
"We don't know." she said, still looking at it, "But we think these are the Aliens that caused all this to happen."
"Where's Ferren?" I asked, looking around "shouldn't he be helping?"
"He would be helping, but for some reason he starts screaming and rolling around whenever an End Demon comes." she said, "But it's not like we can use his reactions to prepare for when they come, of course, they only happen when we start shooting the Demons."
"Why?" I asked, looking at the photo, which was inverted, for some reason,
"This is like my mantra now, but, we don't know." she said as the people shooting the End Demon stopped and started forcing it back out of the entrance with crowbars and sledgehammers,
"What are they doing with it?" I asked,
"They're trying to force it through a portal." she said plainly,
"A portal?" I asked.
"Yeah, right." she said, noticing my confusion, "When the beam touches the lake, portals to other times and places start popping up everywhere. So, since we can't kill them, we banish them." Just then, a white tear opened up next to a ticket booth, revealing a grassy meadow dotted with tepees. Then a woman with a shovel slammed the End Demon into the portal, screaming as it reached the other side, then it stopped, writhing in midair, above the tall, still grasses.
"Well, then." she said, handing the shovel to a boy with a yellow jacket, "I guess we're done."
"Then why don't we go though one?" I asked, "We could actually make it out of this place."
"It's too risky, everything we put through them disappears after a day." Karen said, "But you're welcome to if you want." I thought long and hard about it, staring at the portal as everyone left, I could leave this all behind, it would be like it never happened, like all this end-of-world crap would be gone. I looked at the End Demon, it's shapeless claws, its writhing, black hair......or tentacles.... Naw I could hang around for a while, explore this strange future, I literally have all the time in the world.
"Hey Karen!" I called.
"What's up?" she asked when I made it to her.
"What were you doing when you found me at the airfield?" I asked suddenly,
"Oh, I uh..." she said, surprised by my question, "I was getting supplies."
"Could I go with you next time?"
"Sure, I'm getting ready to go right now, so bring whatever you need." she said, grabbing her large bag, "We're having a bigger search tomorrow." I ran to my tent, grabbed my bag and threw it onto my back. I met her at the entrance next to the portal, "Ready?" she asked.
"Uh, yeah." I said, checking to make sure I had my camera, "let's go." but as soon as I stepped out of the stadium I saw the hundreds of portals scattered across the landscape, in broken windows, under burning cars, some were even just floating in the air. and they all had different colors.
"C'mon." she said, leading me down a sidewalk that led to the backside of the stadium, by the shot put pit. I looked over toward the lake and instead of seeing a quiet neighbourhood, I saw a field of rubble, some buildings were still exploding, pieces of wood and brick floating in the air, just outside of the fireball.
"Oh, my god." I said breathlessly,
"Oh, right." she said, "It's about 5:00, most of the American fleet is destroyed. But wait till we get to the lake." We continued down through the former town, passing piles of rubble and gaping portals. When we came to what once was the school, I took pictures and looked through portals as Karen searched the rubble. I was looking at a volcano through a portal when I noticed a dark shape out of the corner of my eye, I turned quickly and saw a humanoid figure, crouched on top of a distant hill of rubble. Thankfully, it was no End Demon, but what else would it be?
"Karen what's that?" I said, she looked over and smiled.
"That's Ghost, he's always around here at this time." she said, finding a small rubix cube under a piece of wood. "He's always looking for something for some reason."
"What is he looking for?" I asked, watching him search frantically through all the rubble.
"It's different every time."
"Who is he?"
"We don't really know." she said, mixing the rubix cube, "you can talk to him if you want."
I stood up and walked toward the pile. As I got closer, I saw that he wore a trench coat with a full headed, skull mask. He continued to search frantically until I was just behind him. He was constantly saying "where is" under his breath, which was muffled by the mask.
"Excuse me, sir." I said, he seemed to not notice me, or he was ignoring me. I said it louder, but he continued to search. I finally tapped his shoulder, he instantly twisted around and faced me, but as soon as he saw my face, he relaxed. he grabbed the jaw of his mask and pulled it off, then proceeded to pull the rest off his head, revealing a teary-eyed face, but one side of his face looked abnormally tight, as if it had been stretched or shrunk. He smiled at me significantly, as if he's seen an old friend.
"Steve.... I-I haven't seen you in so long." he said, more tears came, "have you seen my Sarah?"
Before I could say anything, he faded away, disappeared. I ran back to Karen, who has solved the rubix cube.
"What was he looking for this time?" she asked, mixing it again.
"Someone named Sarah." I said, sitting down next to her. "He called me Steve."
She laughed, "he calls me Rebecca, it means he likes you." she said, turning the Rubix cube, "the only person he really doesn't like is Ferren, he calls him the Devil."
"Who knows?" she said, shrugging, "Maybe Ghost is an animal rights activist and knows Ferren is a trapper." We both laughed, "C'mon, let's go to the lake." We kept walking through the rubble, which was more leveled-off than before the school. We made it to London road, right by the shore of the still lake. I looked across the horizon and saw a large, dark cloud, right below the massive ship, with the white beam in between.
"What is that?" I asked, pointing to it.
"You'll see." she said, grinning, she led me to the beach, "Watch this." She reached her foot out and stepped onto the waters and stood on top of the surface. "C'mon." She gestured for me to follow. I stepped onto the surface, which felt like normal ground, but softer and stickier. "Keep moving or you'll sink through." Karen said, looking to the cloud on the horizon, she started running across the lake, with me just behind. Running was easy, since the water was soft enough and sticky enough to provide extra traction.
"How long will this take?" I asked, looking at how far away the cloud was.
"Not long, it's coming toward us too." she said, jumping over a small boat. We kept running for fifteen minutes and the cloud seemed to get bigger by the minute. Before I knew it, I was in front of a 200 foot tall wall of steam that seemed almost ghostly as it drifted toward us. Flashes of lightning lit up behind the thick fog. "Come, check this out." she said, pulling me through. I instantly felt the hot, moist air pressing on my skin. But as soon as I looked up, I saw a colossal wave, almost as tall as the steam itself.
"What is this?" I asked, gaping at it's sheer size.
"When the beam touched the lake, it vaporized all the surrounding water, causing an explosion that will flip this lake onto any dry land for miles." She said, pacing to stay afloat.
"Won't the stadium get destroyed?" I asked worriedly.
"What? No, it won't get destroyed." She said, perplexed, "it's practically a temporal safe-haven."
"Everything here has to do with time, or the lack of it." She said, raising her arms up, with her voice. "It's basically a massive paradox, but it's also a time loop, but neither at the same time; it's too damn confusing and I'm sick of it!" She stopped, took a deep breath, resting her face in her hands. "I'm okay, I'm okay, sorry. Why don't we go back to camp, eh?" We turned around and ran back, I remained silent as we easily outran the sluggish wave and made it back to shore, zig-zagging through crippled houses, and portals, flashing in and out of existence. When we made it to camp we were greeted by a puffy-eyed Ferren, who's just recovered from his episode.
"Welcome back." He said, hugging her. "Where'd you go this time?"
"Just down to the wave." she said. "It was a long trip, but I just had to show Taylor."
"That's okay." He said, leading her back to the tents. "You better get to sleep, then."
I didn't want to talk to them, I hurried to my tent. I needed to write down everything, as fresh and vivid as possible. I threw myself onto the cot, ripping my journal out of my bag and started scribbling everything since the End Demon came into camp, looking for trouble. I went through every moment in my head as if I were reliving it, I thought about the sad look on Ghost's face.... The cot suddenly vibrated violently, "what the hell?" I said aloud, looking around. I looked under the cot and saw a white object, I pulled it out, It was Ghost's mask, which had a large crack from the top and to the eye socket. I was tempted to go around asking everyone what happened, but I remembered Karen freaking out on the lake so I thought better of it and hastily threw it onto the ground, next to my bag and continued writing.
"Taylor?" Ferren said, sticking his head into my tent. "You still awake?"
"Yeah, I'm just finishing up some writing." I said, looking up at him, "is it time for bed soon?"
"Almost, but please, finish your writing." he said with a wink and promptly left. As soon as I finished writing, I laid down on the cot, still thinking about all the events of the day, one day down, perhaps an infinity to go....
I fell to the dusty, wooden floor, gasping and coughing. I rolled over and looked up to the ceiling, I was back at that same old church, I forced myself to my feet, confused, then I remembered Ferren saying something about this, so I got my journal out to start the day and sat on the pew. I flipped past yesterday's entries, but I began to notice something odd about them; I couldn't read them, not because of my obviously terrible handwriting, but they were all written in weird symbols that resembled snowflakes, like they were all in a different language, like I just now learned English but forgot I have been speaking Chinese my entire life. I looked through all the photos to make sure they were still the same, most were the same, except for one, which was an eerie image of a birthday party and had a weird upward angle of a support beam on a whitewashed ceiling with balloons stuck to it. I shuddered and put it away quickly. I found Ghost's mask on the same pew as my bag, and shoved it, along with my journal and pens, into my bag, promising to rewrite yesterday's entries. I opened the church doors to the dark, stormy sky and pulled my flashlight from my bag and went out. I needed to get to the Griggs field as soon as possible. Thankfully, I found a soggy skateboard, resting on the backside of the church, so I conjured up the little skateboarding skill that I had and rode down the wet cemetery road, using my flashlight as a headlight. I skidded down Woodland avenue, gaining speed and swerving past pieces of rubble and the occasional explosion. I started walking when I made it to the university, Ferren was waiting for me at the field entrance.
"Been sleepwalking?" He said jokingly.
"I don't think I could ever walk that far in my sleep." I said with a chuckle. "But I don't know how serious this is, but my journal entries from yesterday are in gibberish." I handed him my journal, he read through it, shuddering when he saw the birthday photo.
"Yeah, weird things happen here all the time." he said handing it back with a smile. "If we had a fit every time we couldn't explain something, we'd never get over it. Heure de Fin is known for its mysteries and its wonder."
"Who named Heure de Fin?" I asked, walking toward the tents.
"I did." he said, "I'm French you know."
"Oh, right." I said. "Is it almost time to go search for supplies?"
"Yes, meet me back at the other entrance, Karen will introduce you to the team." he said, opening his tent. "I hope you're ready."
"I am." I said, "But who is the team?"
"They're an interesting bunch." he said, "you didn't really think she does this all by herself, did you?"
"I didn't really think of it that much." I said, "I better get ready, then."
"Yes, please do that." he said, entering his tent, I went over to mine, and figuring that I was as ready as I could be, being that all I had was in my bag, except for the skateboard, I started to rewrite yesterday's entries. I wrote for several minutes, until I felt like they were waiting for me, then I grabbed my stuff and headed out to the entrance. Sure enough, they were all there, waiting.
"Great, you're here." Karen said, "let me introduce you to the team." she pointed to Ferren, "so you already know Ferren, he's our navigator." she then pointed to a teenager with a buzzed haircut and a hoodie, he held an assault rifle, "this is Derek, he is our spotter since he has the best vision out of all of us, so if we do encounter an End Demon, he'll see it first." she pointed to an old lady next to him, "and this is my grandma, Margaret, she is our strategist, she will choose our best route. And I am the doctor, I will make sure everyone is healthy and accounted for." she looked around, "and everyone, this is Taylor, he'll be our.....uh journalist I guess."
"What's his last name?" Derek asked.
"Why does that matter?" Karen said, sounding irritated.
"Last names are more important than you think." he said and looked at me expectantly.
"It's Walter." I said politely, "Taylor Walter." he nodded.
"Arright, here are your weapons." Karen said, setting down a crate of guns at our feet. most of them were pistols and rifles, but I could not recognize some of them. She handed everyone a pistol, except Derek, who just got an extra clip of ammo. Karen had to help me with the shoulder holster.
"So, why do we have guns if we can't kill them?" I asked as she clipped the holster on.
"Hurting them slows them down, that's why we use hollow points." she said, tightening her own holster, "and if you time it right, you can knock one into a portal." she looked around and saw that everyone was ready, "Let's head out, eh?"
We marched out onto the parking lot, fully armed. Margaret pulled out several sheets of paper, which I assumed were maps, Ferren looked over her shoulder.
"We could see the other side of the lake, maybe there'll be something there." he said said.
"No, we'd get cut off by the wave." Margaret said, "it's happened before, only a few managed to get to sleep in time."
"Right. we ought to go hit the chain of hospitals by the Edge." he said.
"Dangerous, but it has a lot of promise." she said.
"Edge of what?" I asked.
"The Edge, it's like the rest of Heure de Fin, it does not make sense, but not just in time, but also in space, matter works differently, it moves differently, it's incompatible with our world." Karen said, "so, if you go in there, you will be torn apart. Rumor is that you'd even become an End Demon."
"I heard you go to another dimension." Derek said.
"It is another dimension." Ferren said coldly.
"Don't be silly." Margaret said, "You become like Ghost, wandering around, searching endlessly."
"Granny, you have the worst theories." Derek said dismissively.
"I have great theories and you know it!" she said.
"Alright! All we know is that it is dark, makes no sense, and harbors lots of End Demons." Karen said, "so let's debate our theories when we get back."
"I think it's best if we keep going on Woodland Avenue, then turn off on N 21st Avenue E to London Road." Ferren said, staring at the maps.
"Agreed." Margaret said. "That path seems to work best."
"Off we go, then." Karen said cheerfully, leading us down Woodland Avenue, I set my skateboard on the ground and rode it down the road, I was getting better at skateboarding, I was able to properly stand on one foot when I push off and switch between stances. "So, do we have any good gravity spots?" Karen asked Margaret.
"A few." she said, "at least one big one."
"Sounds fun." Derek said gruffly. We ducked under a fallen streetlight, but as I touched the post to swing under, it felt softer, and grainier, I stopped to hit my fist against it, making a hollow knock.
"This is made of wood!" I said aloud, the team all turned around at once.
"What?" Karen asked.
"This lamppost is made of wood." I said, appalled, "But it still looks like metal."
"Oh, right, I remember that now, It happens sometimes." she said, "Let's keep going." I ducked under the post, still awestruck, and rolled on, gaining speed.
"How many times have you guys done this?" I asked, trying to make conversation.
"At least a billion times." Ferren said, "and I mean that litterally."
"Well we're not supposed to keep track. " Karen said, "people have gone insane because they've tried to keep track of thousands of years. So we just have today, tomorrow, and yesterday."
I thought about having to give up my journal, "So you are thousands of years old?"
"Yep." she said, "but you won't have to worry about going crazy until your at least 130 years old. But it's funny, you know, we technically just got here a few hours ago but we have the memories of a hundred lifetimes here at Heure De Fin."
"Karen, you're doing it again." Ferren said.
"I know, but it makes you wonder." she said, looking at a black ship in the sky and getting slightly flustered, "I mean, why did they do this to us?"
"Karen, you need to stop now." he said, raising his voice.
"Okay, Okay, I'll stop." she said, the team continued to walk in silence.
"Almost there." Margaret grunted.
"To the children's healthcare clinic?" Ferren asked.
"Yes, not much there but it will do." she said as we turned off on London road.
"How shall we enter?" he asked,
"We should be fine to go through the front." She said as we entered a cluttered parking lot, "but stay sharp!"
I looked above the entrance and read the big letters that spelled "Lakewalk Center" but several were missing. We stepped through the glass doors, which were broken, with Derek in the lead, I turned my flashlight on.
"Lemme see that." he said, taking it from me and attaching it to his gun, he continued as I struggled to see down the dark hallway.
"Everyone fan out." Karen said, "Keep your weapons handy."
I entered the first door to my right and pulled my pistol out and held it in front of me, i've written about guns before, but never have I handled one. I stalked down the hall, the same way I've seen soldiers do. The trashed hallway was lit only by emergency lights that glowed orange, it was filled with overturned carts, papers and computers were scattered everywhere. I stepped over a cart to reach a door with light shining underneath. I opened it and jumped when I saw a nurse, she was frozen, sadly gripping the arm of the frightened child in bed, who was bloody, scratched, and bruised. I looked through the steel cabinets, not entirely sure of what I'm looking for, I grabbed several vials of medicine.
"Medicine will be of no use to you here." I whirled around and pointed my gun out, it was Ghost, leaning against the wall casually, he was clearly behaving differently than when I first met him. "When you wake up the next day, any injuries you had before will be gone, isn't that right, Steve?"
"It's Taylor." I took my gun off him, he was no threat to me.
"Sure it is." he said sarcastically. But he suddenly grew serious, "Can you promise me something?"
"What is it?"
"Don't make deals with the Devil." He said darkly. just before he popped back into his casual mood as if nothing happened. "So your friends are almost done searching this building, they already know what they're looking for. Speaking of which, have you seen my Keys?"
"Who are you?" I asked,
"Steve, you already know me." he said with a puzzled look as he faded away, the door burst open, it was the Team.
"Where have you been?" Karen asked angrily, "We had to search this entire wing to find you."
"Sorry, I was just searching this room." I said defensively, "New guy, remember?"
"Who were you talking to?"
"Uh, it was Ghost."
"Alright. C'mon, we still have plenty of hospitals to go through." she said, motioning for me to come out. "We might have to hurry if we want to hit all of them."
I followed them out of the building, some of them glared, especially Karen. We crossed the parking lot and continued down London road, which now had even more rubble than before, some were burning and others were still falling. Derek looked around cautiously as Margaret and Ferren consulted a map. I stared into the sky, into the battle. I've led a fairly normal life, I was a journalist for CBS news and I was always one of the lower-class journalists, guess I never got that good of a story or something, but I was always willing to get my hands dirty. But one day I hit the jackpot, and everything began to change. I got a tip from a dying man who had an unusual disease, he told me of a cult that was called Malus based here, in Duluth, who were experimenting on children in an attempt to achieve immortality. Pretty wild huh? But I tend to blur the lines between being a reporter and being a detective, guess that's what got me in this mess in the first place. I should've minded my own business, I kicked a rock across the ground, which seemed to slow down, just like when everything else is moved here.
"We're almost to the Edge." Ferren said grimly, he had an odd look in his face.
"Keep your weapons handy." Margaret said, folding her map and pulling out a revolver, I looked ahead and saw the hospital, which was a block away from London road
"It's St. Luke's hospital." Karen said to me. "They've always had the best supplies there, but we usually don't go there because it's so close to the Edge."
We turned off London road and onto 10th avenue E. The hospital consisted of several large buildings, many were destroyed or damaged, some looked like tall, burning skeletons. I could not see anything past them. We entered the building that seemed most intact, with Derek at the front. It was dark, as expected, an End Demon could have been at my feet and I would not have noticed. I shuddered at the thought and pulled out my gun. We climbed up the only stairwell that was not blocked off or collapsed, leaving one person on each floor to search it, but I was left on the third floor with Karen.
"What exactly are we looking for here?" I asked as we stalked down the silent hallway. "Ghost told me any medication would be pointless here."
"Of course it would be." she said, "Any supplies we find here are defences against the End Demons."
"So why are we in a hospital and not that air base?"
"Well we've recently learned that End Demons can be slowed by drugs or poison, which can allow us to force them into a portal without hurting Ferren." she searched a small room. "We also have a high demand for anti-depressants."
"That's understandable." I said, remembering the heavy, weighted feeling of having to stay here for eternity. I heard a loud noise crack through the halls with a flash of light, my gun immediately pointed in that direction. "What was that?"
"That was probably an Omniportal." She said, looking down the hall.
"An Omni-what?" I asked.
"An Omniportal." she said. "They tend to show up around the Edge. It's like a portal, but it has no shape and it only appears for a half-second and it is completely unpredictable, you can't know when or where they'll appear or even what they'll drop off."
"What do you think it dropped?"
She shrugged. "It could be anything from any world, any timeline, even other universes or dimensions, so be carefull."
Curiosity caused me to drift forward and down the hall, Karen quietly followed behind, my eyes adjusted enough to see when I came to it, which appeared to be a small, crystalline rock.
"Ugh, it's just a dumb rock." She said with exasperation. "With our luck it's probably radioactive."
I reached out to touch it, ignoring what Karen just said, and it immediately leapt into the air and floated in front of me, giving off a bright, warm, deep purple light. All of the halls seemed to brighten, but I could stare at the light from the crystal without my eyes hurting. Karen looked around with wonder.
"Oh my god." She said breathlessly. "You are a very lucky man."
"Derek can keep my flashlight now." I said, my mouth agape. "I don't need it anymore."
We quickly got used to the floating crystal, which seemed to follow me, probably because I had touched it. We split up, with me exploring half of the floor and with her searching the other half. I listened for Omniportals as I looked through each room, which, unlike the first hospital, had no people. I snapped pictures of whatever strange things I could find and rolled through the clearer hallways on my skateboard, collecting drugs and other useful-looking stuff. When I was almost to the place I would meet up with Karen, I noticed there was a lot of light coming from one of the halls, a lot more than what would come from a window. I began to walk down the hall when the crystal suddenly stopped following me and darkened the hall I was going down. When I made it to the end of the hallway, the entire building seemed to take an utter stop, as if it were cut in half, in fact, several buildings seemed to be cut, forming a clear border. Far below, where the ground would be, was a dark, watery surface that seemed to reflect the sky of another world, anything around it was blackened.
"What are you doing?!" Karen's panicked voice said as I was pulled backward.
"Why? What is it?" I asked as I turned to face her.
"That's the Edge!" She said furiously as she pointed to the strange atmosphere. "If you were to take one more step.... Well I don't exactly know what would happen, but it would be bad."
She picked up a rock and threw it into the Edge, which zapped out of sight, just to make a point. She was just dragging me out of the wing when we were met by Derek and Margaret.
"We're done." Derek said, his rifle at his side. "Where's Ferren?"
"I thought he was on the first floor." Karen said.
"We already checked there."
Suddenly, the halls were filled with the sound of demented howling. It felt like I was hearing the sounds in a dream, distant and forgettable.
"End Demons!" She said in pure panic. We made to the stairs, but more End Demons flooded from it. I looked down the hall to see an End Demon emerging from the Edge. I fired at it before it even touched the ground and it recoiled back into the Edge with a shriek that sounded like an owl hoot.
"Jump to the other building!" Derek shouted, shooting at the window, the glass shards drifted away and Karen, Margaret, and Derek jumped out the window as an End Demon snapped at their heels. The Demon now blocked the window that was within jumping distance of the other building, so I shot at my own window even though nothing would break my fall, and jumped. I screamed a curse as I plummeted to the ground, the purple crystal flew into my hand and I gripped on. It jerked me upward, slowing my fall. My feet hit the ground hard and my ankle twisted underneath me, but I was okay.
"Thanks." I said, looking at the crystal in my hand, it flashed twice, as if it said: "You're welcome." It was sentient. Neat. Derek began to shoot at them from the other building. I let the crystal go and ran to the building he was on, my leg stinging. The crystal floated up to the top of the building and Karen grabbed the crystal and jumped off the building. I made an effort to catch her before she hit the ground. The crystal then helped Margaret and Derek down. Derek was lightest and easiest to catch, of course. The End Demons were flooding out of the building now, hissing.
"I've never seen that many before." Derek said.
"We've got to go back to the Griggs field." Karen said, sullen. "Even if it means leaving Ferren behind."
We ran away from the horde of End Demons, led by the light of the crystal, down London road. The water from the lake now seemed to make a full arch over us, making it even darker. I knew we had to get rid of all the End Demons. So I grabbed my skateboard, pushed off on it, and held the crystal. As I had hoped, the crystal pulled me on the skateboard as I shot at the Demons, trying to force them into the portals.
"Yes, we need to slow them down." Karen said, noticing what I was doing. She pulled a grenade out of her bag and chucked it at the horde. The explosion blossomed, effectively blocking the road, but the End Demons started to climb the rubble around the fireball.
"That bought us some time, but they will still chase us all the way back to camp." I said with a hopeless feeling in my gut. "We'd have to get rid of every single one of them."
"Time cannot be bought, Taylor, because here, time is broken and worthless." she said thoughtfully as she ran.
"There's a gravity spot comin' up." Margaret grunted, she was probably miserable in those slippers. "Ah, 'ere it is." She stopped by a manhole cover. Derek immediately jumped off it, soaring hundreds of feet into the air and through a perfect hole in the monstrous wave in the sky. I was next, but I did not hesitate, since the End Demons were still catching up. I felt my body being forced upward as the ground
became more distant. I finally stopped struggling and looked strait up as I shot through the wave without getting a single drop on me. My guts churned as I continued to soar above the wave. I flew so high that I wasn't sure whether I was falling or flying. I made the mistake of looking down to see if Karen and Margaret followed and I began to tumble through the air, getting dizzy. I felt like hurling when my crystal finally caught up with me to help me straighten out. It seemed like I was in the air for hours until I finally landed on the roof of a building,
my leg protested with pain. Derek helped me up after I doubled-over. I looked back up to see Karen soaring down and softly landing on the gravel of the roof.
How do you do that?" I asked as she made her way towards us.
"What do you mean?" she said. "Landing? Eh, you'll get the hang of it."
"So can they follow us?"
"They shouldn't, but they can if they find the spot." she said. "Luckily, they're practically trapped in that wave until they do."
Margaret landed shortly afterward and we descended down the damaged building, crystal style, and landing the best way we could without hurting ourselves. Margaret and Karen led the way as Derek struggled to carry his gun and I tried to rewrite yesterday's entries while walking which made my already terrible handwriting worse so I quickly gave up and put the notebook back into my bag. I had trouble believing that Ferren was gone-- he didn't talk much, but his presence always there and noticeable, almost comforting. We were almost to the camp when Derek spoke up, startling me.
"So you're a reporter, huh?"
"Um, yes, I am." I said, trying my best to not talk to him like he was a child.
"What kinds of things do you report?"
"Anything, really." I said, my mind drifting to the case of the Malus cult. "Mainly politics."
"Will you report this?"
"Maybe. If I get out of here."
"You mean Heure de Fin?"
"Yes, what else would I have meant?"
"The rest of Heure de Fin."
"The rest?" I asked curiously.
"Well yes, Duluth isn't the only place in Heure de Fin."
"What else is here?"
"Well most of the world, in bits an pieces, but a huge chunk of Russia, South America, Nepal, and Canada are missing."
"What's there instead?" I asked, but I almost already knew the answer.
"The Edge, mostly." He said, almost cheerfully. "I've heard that sometimes other places show up where they're not supposed to be, you could find the Taklamakan Desert in the middle of Siberia!"
"Meh, what isn't?" he wondered, pausing for a while as he walked. "I've heard that you come from 2015. How'd you die?"
"That sucks." he said, almost sympathetically. "Who'd you mess with?"
"Some weird cult." I said, reminding myself that he was older than he looked. "They called themselves Malus."
He stopped suddenly.
"Something wrong?" I asked.
"You know what Malus is?" he said with surprise.
"Yes, they're like, America's greatest threat, besides the End Demons."
"Seriously?" I asked, as surprised as he was. "But they were just a cult!"
"Apparently not." he said. "They came out of nowhere and took over half the world."
He shrugged. "Guess one of their experiments worked." We entered the Griggs field with questions in our heads and worn legs.
Karen went straight to her tent, leaving Margaret, Derek, and I to tell everyone what had happened. The stadium lights were out and my crystal began to attract eyes.