Targeting a nameless Hero at a local school, this story has no "I"s, as the name implies.
| Stanley looked at her, confused, but he managed to cry over Jess’ screams as she backed away, “Jess just randomly started to scream, but there’s noth-” The Hero dropped to a half-crouch as the Seconder’s sentence was cut off by a behemoth’s roar, and her eyes flashed toward the monstrous creature that had emerged from the metal gate.
The beast was larger than any that the Hero had ever seen before; as tall as an elephant, but as long as a school bus. The monster was covered by a dark coat of forest-green scales, though two amber eyes gleamed from above a set of fangs that were a fourth of a foot long. The beast prowled as a snake would, head low to the ground, long neck turned to an s-shape as each clawed foot set onto the ground. The scales were heated beneath the afternoon sun’s hot eye, and each shone as an emerald whenever the creature’s flank knotted or bunched beneath them. A long, powerful appendage protruded from the rear end of the behemoth, and that waved back and forth every step the beast took.
The Hero’s thoughts turned promptly to dragons, but of course that was preposterous. Dragons were found only throughout myth and lore, not here beneath East Valley. Furthermore, the Hero saw, the beast had no leathery arms as a bat would, nor even an extra set of arms that would flap to soar through the clouds. The Hero would have betted that the beast breathed only oxygen as well, not flame. Altogether, the creature seemed to be more of a scaly predator from the Cretaceous. Nonetheless, the Hero could not help but come to understand that, even though the beast appeared to be of a nature to be dead, there most assuredly was a monster before her. One that was not dead.
The creature’s throat trembled as a low growl was released from the stomach. The Hero watched as Jess fled the area, screams abundant, but the creature’s gaze was locked on Stanley, who turned only to look on as the Dependent faded across the large grassy area past the portables. The Hero’s heart fluttered, but she stayed put; whether from fear or courage, she was unsure. Jess’ last call rang: “Run! RUN!”
The Hero shuddered and lurched backward as the monster before her released another snarl. Stanley, confused, turned toward her, apparently unaware of the beast. “What’s wrong?” he demanded, hands spread, palms upward. A plead. “Are you gonna scream too now? Why are you here anyways?”
The Hero could not get over her fear enough to reply. She was rooted. Unmovable. Eyes large, muscles tense, heart strung. The creature moved forward, a stealthy predator. What could she do for the Seconder? He was done for. He was done for.
Suddenly, the monster sprang forward, eyes fractures through the armor of the scales, fangs exposed, talons ablaze beneath the sun. A mere second went by that the Hero could only stand and dread, mouth open to cry out to warn Stanley, but she was frozen as the monster descended upon the Seconder. She could only release a hoarse, shattered scream as the creature landed upon the human, swept Stanley to the ground, and then punctured the area just below the collarbone. The scene replayed mentally: the talon flowed through the flesh, then was drawn back out. Just that one. And then the creature reeled around, reared upon the back legs for a half second, and the cold amber eyes met the Hero’s. The jaws parted, and a murderous snarl tore through the sky. One word, then, shattered the Hero’s thoughts: Drama. Then the monster fell back onto four feet and padded back beneath the school, and the darkness consumed her.
The hum of the cars on the other end of the school droned out. The roar of a nearby plane fell from the sky. All was soundless, and the Hero took that moment to hurry over to the fallen Seconder. Her mouth was dry as her eyes rested upon the spot of red on Stanley’s shoulder. He moaned, and she dared venture to ask, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” the Seconder answered, and remarkably, the words were sturdy. He appeared to not be hurt, at least not mentally. However, Stanley’s eyes were closed, and the Hero had not seen the mouth move when he spoke. “Why do you ask…?”
Her stomach jumped, and her nerves stretched taut. He had not moved, not even when he spoke. He appeared all but dead, and yet he had managed to talk to her. That, undoubtedly, was unnatural. So, wordlessly, the Hero stood once more, then turned toward the gap that spaced between two sheets of metal near the wall and fence. Stanley’s words were shut out as she moved forward, toward the mouth of the tunnel. To enter was foolhardy, she told herself. But maybe there was some way to save the Seconder. Maybe Drama would undo what she had just done. Maybe there was some way that the Hero could save Stanley.
Maybe the suddenness and unexpectedness of the appearance of the monster had caused her to abandon all hope of dependable pronouncements. Perhaps the Seconder’s encounter was just a phantasm, smashed together from wayward thoughts of a dreamland. Perhaps she was crazy, a psycho. But maybe not; maybe what had just occurred was real, and she was Stanley’s only chance.
The Hero was crazy. She knew so.
She followed the monster down the slope of the black-hearted tunnel, toward the stomach of the school.
Whenever Drama ventured above her catacombs, she was proud of the pungent reek of rot that met her nose. The Marked, when accumulated as they were on the ground throughout the hallways and rooms, were arranged as they would, had they been returned from war. Drama could see them when the sun ducked below the western edge of the world, and then she prowled the halls and passageways beneath the cover of darkness. When the sun was ablaze above, she would cower beneath the school, and she would watch those who had not yet been marked, the remembrance of decay heavy around her. The Marked would move among the others, and that was when they were free to roam the world of the pure. But when the sun set…
Drama’s muscles contorted, and her head swung around to watch the passageway that she had just departed. The darkness was complete. Soundless. Dank. And yet she felt that she was not alone. Someone else prowled these tunnels.
Teeth bared, the monster turned to creep toward the sound. The only objects to burn a hole through the blackness, her eyes glowed.
The Hero yelped, lurched forward, and spun on her heels to see what had just tapped her on the back. To her annoyance—and embarrassment—Jess stood there. The other stood abashedly, tense, and refused to meet the Hero’s eyes. “Are you really after the monster?” the Dependent asked, and the Hero could detect a waver when she spoke. Jess feared for herself, and perhaps—perhaps—even Stanley as well. She wanted to help.
“No,” the Hero retorted and managed to collect the courage to start forward, toward the endless black throat. “Just after fame and glory and crap.” She turned cheery. “So, what are you up to down here? Come here often?”
Jess hung back toward the entrance, loath to go onwards. Her shadow cast a deep gash across the floor of the tunnel. The Hero felt a shard of dread; to wander these halls alone was a death penalty, but to do so attended by another seemed at least somewhat safer. The Hero added, “Don’t you want fame and glory and crap? To help Stanley? To go on an adventure? Come on…” She clenched her jaw. The Hero knew that she was nervous; she would never converse so much had she not been. Her rambles swept through the hallway.
There was a palpable pause on Jess’ part, and shuffles as of feet came to meet the Hero’s back. She went onwards. After a long moment, Jess trotted to catch up. She muttered, “Yeah… Yeah.” The Hero felt the wave of dread flush away from her. There was a moment when the only sounds were footsteps. Then: “You have a plan…?”
A half-chuckle of regret. “Nope.”
The tunnels were long, and they reeked of terror; no matter how much the Hero attempted to brush the smell off, the fear always crept back. There was no sound but Jess’ and her own footsteps. Not even the vague echoes of drops of water so often heard when underground passages were part of the story could be found. A pale shaft of red cut through the darkness: the flash on the Dependent’s phone turned on extendedly and set to draw red. But even that brought no comfort to the two wary explorers. The blackness breathed, pulsed around them, unseen lungs full only to contract and expel deathly cold breath through the hallway. But the adumbral walls moved not; they were as soundless as graves. And yet the Hero was unsure that even that analogy was dependable anymore.
When they came to a fork that broke the passage, the Hero randomly chose to head off to the left, and she left a mark on the floor to show what way they should go when they returned. “When.” Of course “when.” What other than “when?”
When the second fork came, they turned the other way, and the toe of the Hero’s shoe cut through the dust on the floor once more. The scenery was monotonous, and she could not help but wonder how large the tunnels were exactly. Perhaps they stretched for thousands of feet. Perhaps the Dependent and the Hero would get trapped or lost. Perhaps the monster, Drama, would pounce upon them as a cat would and lacerate them from head to toe. The Hero made every attempt to keep these thoughts from her head, but that proved to be useless; apparently, when far beneath the surface of the earth, surrounded by roars of soundlessness, you could not just brush off the fact.
Apparently, the Hero thought to herself—even her thoughts were as soft as they could be—Drama’s probably after us by now, and we’re now the hunted. That’s just full of comfort. Why’d we ever come down here? However, these thoughts were subdued by the memory of Stanley on the ground, the blood the décor on the concrete around the torso.
After hundreds of wordless feet, Jess spoke. Softly. Always softly. “Are you sure the monster-”
Drama’s roar sounded throughout the passageway, and both the Hero and the Dependent screamed, the pressure of the last half an hour broken. They spun around, eyes unfocused as they scanned the tunnel that they had just walked through. Needlessly.
The monster was all too apparent; even the halfhearted red glow of Jess’ phone was enough to reflect shards of green onto the bone-dry stone walls. Amber eyes shone, burned through the two students who had dared to trespass. Screeches came from the daggers attached to the creature’s feet, and they made deep gashes through the floor. The teeth glowed red when the phone was focused on them. The monster wove through the darkness, and a low growl rumbled around the passageway.
Needless to say, both Hero and Dependent turned after a moment of frozen horror, and they ran.
Drama would not allow them to get far. The tunnel shook as the monster launched herself through the blackness above to crash down before the two terror-struck students. She spun around, and her eyes flashed dangerously as the two scrambled to get away, mouths agape. The Hero’s heart thrummed uncontrollably, and her movements were taut and jerky from the flurry of battle. Ha. Battle, the Hero mocked even as she got to her feet and scampered back the way that the two had come. Only half of a battle, so far. So laudable. The usage of vocabulary words often eases the alarm of those hunted by monsters.
Jess had already made a dash for the tunnel whence they came, and somehow she had managed to keep ahold of her phone. The red beam swung uncontrollably through the passageway that now echoed thunderously, flashes of coherent truth versus a world of darkness and danger. The Hero had almost dared to hope that they would get around the bend, but such was not to be; the ground shook once more as the beast that they had fled from reared and smashed her feet through the dust on the floor. A tremor strong enough to knock the Hero and the Dependent off-balance spread through the tunnels, and the roar that helped made the sound nearly loud enough to deafen.
The Hero staggered toward the wall, hands outstretched, and she caught herself. Jess had not managed to do so. She had been flung to the ground, and the phone had scuttled away from her. The Dependent now crawled around on the stone floor, and her hands felt for the phone. “My phone! MY PHONE!” The Hero’s thoughts were jumbled enough that she could form no understandable curses to throw at the Dependent, and so she merely pushed herself to her feet and hobbled over to pull Jess to hers. The two nearly ended up sprawled on the ground once more because of the flood of black around them.
Drama’s eyes darted back and forth from one student to the other. They could not see her now, she saw. But she could not touch that one, the Hero; the Hero was not close enough to those who she searched out. Any harm that the monster attempted to exact on her would be small, more of an annoyance than a wound. But the other one… the Dependent…
“NO!” came the shout from the Hero. Drama’s growl was cut off, and her bunched muscles relaxed for a second; she had been about to pounce on the two. The monster watched as the Hero took a step—a step meant for a baby, truly—forward, and her eyes scanned for her adversary. “No,” she repeated, and the Dependent stared on. “You won’t come any closer. You’ll not touch me or her. You’ll heal Stanley, the one up there. And then you’ll go away… forever.”
There was a pause from both the humans and the monster. A muscle beneath the scales on Drama’s shoulder spasmed. Go away forever? The beast had to envy the Hero’s words; they were words of power, of courage. And yet they would do no good when thrown at a monster, would they. Would they? Even at these few meager statements, Drama felt her resolve start to weaken. How could that be? The Hero, even though she was unaffected by any attacks, could not really counterattack… and not verbally, of course. And yet…
Drama shot out the thought toward the two before her: No. She would not be put down by a mere human, and not by words. Words were weak. They could not hurt a monster such as she. A small sense of deterrence called to her: The enemy of drama? Reason.
“Yes,” the Hero retorted. “Yes, and you’ll do so now. Heal Stanley.” Softer, she added, “Please…”
No, came the sharp response, though Drama could feel a new horror break through her unbreakable wall. What was that? Not… not fear, surely? Because of a few puny demands? That made no sense. Drama could not—would not—feel fear. Not because of the Hero. Not because of the Seconders. Not because of the Dependent. No one could make her fear them. No one.
“Then go away,” the Hero told her. “Go away and never come back.” Drama could detect the terror woven throughout the student’s words, and yet she could not seem to take advantage of the weakness. The students’ eyes rolled. The Dependent was pale. The Hero’s chest heaved.
NO, she shouted, and her roar resounded throughout the tunnel. The two students jumped, but though the Dependent stepped back, the Hero stepped forward. Drama could feel the pressure taut between the two of them, a concentrated release of terror and anger from the student, and mere rage and fear of the fear from the monster.
“YES,” the Hero commanded, and her hand swept through the blackness before her, as though she could see. Drama could feel the eyes bore through her chest. She would not allow herself to retreat; she would not allow herself to cower. And yet… “Get out of here! Go away! Don’t come back!” The Hero’s eyes burned a hole through the darkness. An unbearable wave of terror washed over Drama.
The Hero could not help but jump once more when the monster, Drama, gave one last roar. However, that roar was not one of anger, but of—was that…?—fear. The Hero felt a momentary surge of conquest rush through her, but she had celebrated too early. A trapped beast was more dangerous than a free one. The tunnel shook, and there not enough shadow to wash out the dark form of the monster as she rose up on her back feet, claws all too clear and jaws agape.
At the Hero’s back, the Dependent screamed, and the former felt another rush of power course through her. She could not let the monster harm the Dependent. She could not let Drama hurt her; the Hero had to stop Drama so that the other was not harmed. Somehow, the Hero felt that she could not be hurt by the monster, but Jess could.
“GO,” the Hero shouted, and she stepped forward as the monster descended upon her, “NOW!”
A snowy beam shattered the tunnel as the Hero felt Drama’s scaly nose touch her palm. The beast gave a palpable tremble, as though an onslaught of energy had washed through her, and then suddenly and soundlessly the monster was gone. Just gone.
The Hero and the Dependent stood, on both students’ faces alarm and doubt etched. The tunnel around them was soundless, and they were the only corporeal ghosts there, though several mental remembrances of growls and snarls and roars echoed around the passage. What had just happened? Where had Drama gone? Would she return? The Hero’s heart beat faster at her next thought: Had Stanley been healed?
“We have to go, Jess,” she muttered to the Dependent, who stood dumbly, shocked. After a moment, the Hero prodded, “Jess, get your phone. We have to go.” When she urged her once more, the Dependent nodded and crouched down to search through the dust. Once they had located her phone, the two sped back down the passageway, eager to get out of Hell and back to the sun.
Drama watched the students from beneath the gym as the steps resounded throughout the catacombs. She watched always. Her amber eyes glowed. She would watch, and after the last bell rang she would emerge from her tunnels to Mark someone, or perhaps two or three someones. And she would often see the Hero as she sat alone at lunch and looked on toward Stanley and Jess and the other Marked that had gathered together. Homework was what she focused on, and that was what Drama knew to be her comfort. She was busy; she could not hang out anyways.
Drama often contemplated what had taken place when the Hero had entered her tunnels. She remembered what had happened, and how she had lost to a power stronger than drama: reason. And courage, she found. There was no small amount of courage as well. Drama could not touch the Hero, not ever. No matter whether or not she went to the Marked and stayed near them, no matter whether she dared to return to Stanley and Jess; both the Seconder and the Dependent seemed to have forgotten what had happened. But Drama knew that the Hero had not. She could see her eyes even from so far away, eyes that had seen the absurd and dangerous and yet overcame. The monster respected the student; the Hero was not only a Hero, but also a destroyer of her own self. A rescuer of those who should not have been rescued. The herald of death who called to Drama whenever she saw the student.
And soon the Hero was the only one left who was not marked, and she watched the Marked from afar. Tensely. And yet there was a hunger for them, as well. A hunger to forget what had happened and the drama that was woven throughout them. To go to them and become a Seconder. To forget.
But she couldn’t. Soon as the last student other than the Hero was marked, and Drama wondered what to do next. She had to move on to another school, or to another group of people, to spread drama throughout the world. The Marks were spreadable, she found; even over phones and computers they spread. The world would bow to Drama soon; they would show her on the TVs, and the news, and acts of theater.
When Drama watched the school of Marked, her eyes landed on another of the humans. An adult. Her eyes glowed yellow.