All Monsters

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Summary

The door was open. The door was never open. Not in our house. Not with dad’s excessive amount of allergies. Especially not in spring. Something was very wrong. Up until now, Cadence's biggest struggle has been with writing essays for her history class. But a mysterious man and an evil race of creatures called 'Shades' change all that. Now Cadence is caught up in a race against time to save her family- if they're even still alive. Adversaries meet her at every turn, and although the mysterious Lucas has pledged to help her, he may turn out to be the biggest obstacle of all.

Genre:
Action / Other
Author:
Marlett Pines
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
13+

Chapter 1

The day my father was ripped from my life began like any other. I woke up at the usual hour (after hitting the snooze button for the third time) and got ready for school. I threw on a cute top and a pair of shorts and headed downstairs for breakfast. My father’s torso was hidden behind the refrigerator door as he reached for the milk jug.

“Morning daddy,” I called. The door closed, and my father emerged already dressed for work. He was wearing the tie Dennis and I had bought him for father’s day. It was a gaudy thing, all covered in tiny pictures of cheeseburgers and fries, but he wore it anyway. I had made certain dad knew that Dennis had picked it out. He grinned at me with pep even though I knew he had worked late last night again.

“Good morning sweetheart. Did you sleep well?” I shrugged and slid into a chair.

“Well enough,”

“How did your essay go?” I shrugged again.

“I wrote it,” I answered him vaguely. He gave me a stern look.

“Cadence, you know you have to step it up in your school work. If you’re still getting ’D’s in high school, we’re going to have a problem getting you to college,” I sighed, and looked into the empty cereal bowl. Dad insisted we set the breakfast table every night so things are ready in the morning.

“I know dad, it’s just that… words are hard for me,” He ’mmhmm’ed while pouring raisin bran into his bowl. “And no matter what I do, I can’t get the spelling right!” He chuckled, and unscrewed the cap on the milk bottle.

“Well, it sounds like we need to make some homework for you,” His lips crinkled up into a little grin at his own joke. He always looked a little too old to just be a dad. Most people assumed he was our grandfather, actually. His curly hair was just a little too gray, his skin a little too wrinkled. I never knew how old he really was. Every time the question would come up, he would just waggle his finger and say ‘it’s a secret’.

I groaned.

“Daddy, noooo,”

“We’ll start off with a 20 word vocabulary and spelling list once a week. I’ll give it to you on Mondays and I expect it back finished on Fridays,” He spoke in a matter-of-fact manner, as if this were a business meeting instead of family breakfast.

I groaned again. More homework? The day had just begun and it was already terrible! It was then that my little brother decided to grace us with his presence. Dennis toddled slowly down the stairs, reaching for each step with his foot like a blind person with a cane. He had developed this system to ‘maximize his gaming experience.’ In simpler terms, Dennis couldn’t live without constant access to Mariokart.

Without looking up from the screen, Dennis sat down at an empty seat, reached for a cereal box, and started pouring. An impressive feat, if he hadn’t tried to sit on me, dad, and then the floor before finding a vacant spot. Half of the cereal ended up on the table around the bowl instead of inside it. Dad ‘tsked’ and grabbed the top of the device, pulling it from Dennis’ hands.

“You know the rules, no electronics at the table. This is family time,” Dad was big on family. Breakfast and weekends were the only times he really got to see and spend time with us. He spent most of his day managing an outlet store, but he always made time for Dennis and me.

Dennis protested of course, reaching his little 8-year-old hands up to grasp futily at the game. Dad placed it gently on the other end of the table, out of Dennis’ reach and turned the screen away from him. Dennis huffed and plopped back into his chair, arms folded across his chest in defiance.

“None of that, young man. Now pick up that cereal you spilled, I’m your dad, not your maid,”

Dennis grumbled and began picking sullenly at the pieces of sugary wheat and marshmallow bits.

I tried unsuccessfully to hide my grin behind a spoonful of Cheerios. I peeked at the kitchen clock and immediately began shoving spoonfuls of cereal down my throat. Six forty-five! I was going to be late! Dad would have an absolute fit if I missed the bus again.

I quickly stood and, none too gently, dropped my dirty bowl into the sink. I winced at the loud ’CHINK’ noise it made hitting the aluminum, but I made no effort to see if it was broken.

“Cadence!” My father chided, all his focus on me. “You have to be more careful! If that bowl had broken, a piece could have easily flown right off and-” I threw my backpack over my shoulder and unlocked the door.

“Cadence!” He barked. I looked back. 6:50. The bus came in 5 minutes! “Are you listening to me? We will have a talk about this, young lady!”

“Sorry dad, but I’m gonna be late! Talk later, love you, bye!”

“CADENCE!” But I was already out the door.

I dashed down the street, racing toward my bus stop. I was tempted to turn back and apologize, but I heard the tell-tale screech of bus tires. I made it just in time to clamber up the steps before the doors closed behind me. My best friend, Alyssa Hampton got on the bus at the next stop and we chatted about stupid things. I told her how cute Jeremy Marshall was with his new haircut, and she enthused over the latest episode of her favorite teen vampire romance show. It was nice. Normal. But normal was never built to last.

Everything changed in the span of an instant that afternoon.

I can still remember the sound my pink backpack made when it hit the ground- a sort of dull ‘thud’ noise. I say it was ‘dull’, like it was quiet or something, but in that moment, that little pink backpack made the loudest noise in the world. It sounded like the end. There’s no other way to describe it, really.

Our neat, two-floor, stereotypically suburban house was in shambles.

Dad’s little red corolla was positioned very awkwardly, like he had tried to leave in a hurry. It was sitting half out of the driveway, a short line of skid marks trailing after it. The left door had this huge dent in it, like it had been barreled into by a rhino.

But the scariest thing was the blood. It leaked from broken glass and dented metal, a small creek of red. There were marks beside the car, long crimson streaks dotted by occasional pools. It looked like whoever had been trying to get away was dragged from the vehicle. To this day, I still don’t know if my dad made it out of that car alive. Nausea bubbled up in my chest. My feet moved on their own, taking me to the pile of splintered wooden boards that I used to call home.

Before I knew it, I was running. Hot tears gathered in my eyes, and I hoped in my heart of hearts that this was all just some terrible nightmare.

The door was open. The door was never open. Not in our house. Not with dad’s excessive amount of allergies. Especially not in spring. Something was very wrong. My feet were suddenly rooted to the ground. My heart pounded in my chest, and I couldn’t breathe. I took a step back, and considered running.

No. I thought, I have to get in there. I forced my feet to move.

Cautiously, I inched closer to the doorway. It creaked and moaned in an eerie fashion, like something out of a horror movie. I steeled my courage and peeked inside. I wish it would be an exaggeration to say it looked like a tornado passed through. Broken support beams were everywhere, our possessions had been thrown haphazardly across the room. Half of Dennis’ favorite handheld video game console lay at my feet with the screen smashed in. Our dining room table was hanging out of a hole in the wall above the staircase.

The only word I can think of to describe it is wrong. The atmosphere was wrong. The air was heavy, filled with dust and that was wrong. Our house, usually so cheery, was dark and that was wrong. A heavy scent that I couldn’t identify made my nose crinkle up in disgust, and that was wrong. Everything in sight was broken in some way, and oh boy was that wrong.

And standing in the middle of it all, calmly like nothing was wrong, a complete stranger. He looked like that weird bad-boy character in every teen romance movie ever made with his leather jacket and sunglasses. You know the one. Always stirring up trouble, secretly has a ‘heart of gold’ and stalks the lady ’cuz he ‘loves her’? Yeah, that guy.

My hand immediately went to grasp the house key in my pocket. I mentally ran over the list of places dad had taught me to aim at in case this punk-rock wannabe made a move. Below the knee if you can, eyes if you must. He turned to face me, and a bewildered look crossed his face, far different from the menacing glare I had been expecting.

“Who are you?” He sputtered, seemingly at a loss for words.

“I could ask you the same question,” I shot back, which, in hindsight, is not the smartest thing to do when faced with someone who may or may not have demolished your house. Especially if the closest thing you have to a weapon is a Princess Tiana house key.

He removed his sunglasses in a surprisingly insulting manner, like he was looking down at me or something. Punk-rock wannabe looked me over. Dark brown eyes a few shades deeper than his skin tone raked over me condescendingly. We stood like that for an eternity, my heart pounding with fear as this terrifying figure judged me and my Disney princess house key. Then he dragged a hand down his face and groaned.

“I told HQ I need backup, not some snot-nosed newbie!”

Excuse me?”

Then he started flailing his arms and making these weird angry sounds.

“This is a serious mission! The Shades could still be around, and I’ve never seen an attack this violent, and they send me some little kid?!” PR wannabe ranted under his breath. He picked out a few more choice words that dad would have insisted I never repeat. I cleared my throat. The stranger’s head snapped up to look at me, and for a moment I could have sworn he had serpent eyes.

What?” he hissed.

“Who are you, and what are you doing in my house?” I pulled my key out of my jacket pocket and attempted to brandish it threateningly.

For a moment there was only silence and the unsettling feeling of PR wannabe judging me and my disney princess key. Then he blinked, and very slowly asked me,

Your house? You... live here?” He said the words slowly like I was telling him 1+1=2, and he hadn’t fully grasped finger counting yet. “You’re not from HQ, are you?”

I gestured none too subtly at my cheerleading uniform.

“What was your first clue?!”

“Wait, then how did you-”

He paused. Then he took a deep breath and pinched the bridge of his nose. Dad always did that when he was stressed. I felt a pang in my chest. Dad wasn’t here anymore. He might be somewhere out there, but he wasn’t in the place I needed him to be.

“Alright, look. This place isn’t safe. You need to do exactly what I tell you, or else neither of us are getting out alive, okay?”

I wasn’t really sure how to respond to that, but he wasn’t trying to kill me so I just nodded and stuck my key back in my jacket pocket. He sighed, in a relieved sort of way.

“Okay. These things are pure, concentrated evil. And, for whatever reason, they seem to have targeted your family,” He began, “So stick close to me, and if you see anything move, you tell me right away, got it?” I nodded, but something wriggled at the back of my mind, like I was forgetting something important. Then, before I could figure out what that something was, a creak sounded from upstairs.

Simultaneously, we froze, staring up at the ceiling. I noticed for the first time that there were long deep scratches in the walls. I shuddered and inched slightly closer to PR wannabe. I figured he was the lesser of two evils here. My mysterious companion inched towards the staircase. He stepped lightly, somehow making no noise on the broken floorboards. He motioned for me to follow him with his head while he reached for something in his pocket. Another creak caught my attention before I could see what it was. This time, the noise came from the back porch. My breath caught in my throat. They’re surrounding us, I realized.

PR Wannabe’s head whipped toward the noise. Our eyes met. Hide, he mouthed. I nodded, crouching under the closest pile of rubble I could find. If I closed my eyes and focused really hard, I could make it seem like the ‘tents’ my little brother and I used to erect in the back yard. They would be made of strong branches we found under the apple tree… with a sheet over the top to act as a tarp… and when it got dark out, we would stare at the stars…

Creeeaaakk….

I opened my eyes to slavering jaws, a mouth with rows of sharp teeth sewn into a perma-grin by some sort of rope. Saliva and blood dripped from the monster’s jaws, landing with an innocent sounding plink! On the hardwood floor. My breath quickened. The creature tilted its head, revealing gleaming red eyes with no visible pupil. Yet I could tell it was staring right at me. Slowly, I reached into my jacket pocket. The eyes followed curiously, but it made no move to stop me. The mouth, if you could call it that, widened mockingly.

The next thing either of us knew, Princess Tiana’s grinning face was embedded halfway into the monster’s eyeball and I was halfway up the stairs. An ugly screech sounded from the bottom of the steps and I could hear confused bumping accompanied by pained cries. Well, I thought, At least it’s distracted.

“Hey!” I shouted, “Punk-rock Wannabe! A little help would be nice!” A very confused looking brown face emerged as I inched around the table hanging out of the wall, desperate to reach the second floor.

“What did you just call me?”

TAKA-TAKA-CREAAK

The noise drew our attention back to the bottom of the steps. The creature was slowly, but surely making its way toward us. I had no doubt that, had the house not been in a total state of disarray, and the creature crippled, we would have been killed. Despite everything going against it, the… whatever it was, was incredibly agile. Now that I was facing it head on, I could see what this thing really looked like. It was a mottled gray in color, and the mouth was really the only feature displayed on its face. The giant red eyes I had seen before were mounted on the ends of tentacle-like appendages that sprouted from the top of the creature’s head and wrapped around the back to rest just below the bottom of its jaw. It wasn’t scaly by any means, but its body resembled that of a lizard. Long, thin and whip-like with a tail the length of two men. It stood on four spindly legs that ended in human hands. I grimaced.

“That’s just wrong,” I muttered. To make matters worse, it looked like each hand had been taken from a different person and stitched on to the creature’s body. I felt bile rise in my throat when I noticed that the hands were drenched in a deep red liquid.

“Into the bathroom, hurry!”

I darted through the open door, heart pounding, closely followed by PR wannabe who promptly closed it behind us.

“Now what?”

He shoved what looked like a small LED flashlight into my hands.

“Take this, keep it pointed at the door while I look for an escape route,” He turned and began glancing around frantically.

“What am I supposed to do with this? Point it at the ground, and hope it’s attracted to shiny objects?” My voice was steadily getting shriller by the second. I was panicking.

“No. It’s a weapon. If the Shade finds us, point and shoot,”

“Why do I have to do it?! I’m no monster hunter!”

“Because if you don’t and that thing corners us, we’re a nice juicy piece of bacon done to his idea of perfection, okay?!” PR wannabe snapped, pausing in his search just to glare at me with those dark eyes.

I closed my mouth. I waited in near silence, eyes locked on the door in front of me. Dust was heavy in the air and I struggled not to cough. Rubble shifted. There was the occasional creak or taka-taka-tak that meant the shade was moving around in the hallway. I tried not to think about it too much. After several minutes of this, I took a deep breath, and, as calmly as possible, asked:

“Won’t they just follow us outside?” There was a grunt and the sound of shifting rubble from somewhere behind me.

“No. They can’t survive in sunlight. It’s their only weakness. The sun touches them-” another grunt, “-they shrivel up like prunes,”

“What kinda exit do we need?”

“Anything, as long as it takes us outside,”

“There was a window above the toilet. It’s small, but I think we can fit,” He nodded.

“That’ll work,”

A loud THUD sounded in the hallway followed closely by the sound of splintering wood and then a pained screech. The noise was inhuman, and sent chills up my spine. Almost like a cross between the cry of a hawk and nails on a chalkboard. Footsteps, nearly inaudible, but human. They seemed to stroll around the second floor for a bit before heading toward us. The stranger stopped right outside the bathroom, and stood in front of the door for a moment, almost as if contemplating something.

I took a step back, my heart pounding in my chest. There was a moment of baited silence and then...

BOOM! I managed to roll out of the path of the falling door in time. It hit the floor with a Thud.

“Hey there slinky, heard you needed backup,” Came a new voice that was somehow peppy, but also incredibly smug.

PR wannabe groaned in a long-suffering sort of way.

“Hello Cassandra, great timing. And what a subtle entrance you’ve made,”

‘Cassandra’ was a petite woman who looked to be in her early twenties, about the same age as PR wannabe. There was a glint of something wild in her amber-brown eyes and her smirk was nothing if not feral. Her long blonde hair was tied up in a ponytail at the back of her neck where it fell in ringlets over her shoulder. She dismissed his comment with a casual wave of her hand.

“Oh please. You should know by now that subtle isn’t really my style,” She strolled into the room casually, like this was a common occurrence. I threw the LED flashlight-weapon on the ground. Two pairs of eyes locked onto me, more due to the movement than the sound.

“Alright, maybe now that thing’s gone, somebody can give me some answers. What the heck is going on!?” I yelled, turning to point at PR wannabe, “Who the hell are you? What was that… that… thing?! Why was it in my house? Where’s my dad!?”

PR wannabe grabbed me by the shoulders.

“Calm down, kid. Listen-” Cassandra turned on him before he could continue, venom in her eyes.

“You brought a civilian into a containment zone? Even worse, a child!?” Mystery man sputtered.

“It wasn’t my fault! I just turned around and she was there!” Cassandra scoffed.

“Yeah, right! Like I’m supposed to believe some mundane just waltzed through the barrier and-” She paused, and turned to me. “Wait a minute. That Shade was injured when I found it. Did you…?”

“Yeah. My dad taught me what to do if someone was chasing me and I couldn’t get away. My turn: what’s a Shade?” Cassandra blinked. Then she laughed.

“I like this kid, she’s got spunk!” The house moaned.

“We’ll answer all your questions, but first we have to get out of here,”

We managed to make it out, somehow. Everything was broken and crumbling, so we had to step lightly until we reached the bottom floor. Any creaking would freeze me in place, sending my deep brown eyes darting around the house, looking for the monster. My heart would jump on a racetrack each time the house made any sort of sound. PR wannabe and Cassandra seemed perfectly at ease with the whole situation, and I was honestly beginning to question their sanity. If I hadn’t seen that Shade thing with my own eyes, I would be running for the hills by now. I would be running anyway, actually. But I had questions.

Who were these people? What did Cassandra mean when she called me a ‘mundane’? Why was wannabe dude so surprised I was able to get in here? Cassandra mentioned a ‘barrier’. What barrier? There wasn’t even police tape around the house! Wait… why wasn’t there any police tape? Was my dad going to be okay?

Was… is he even alive?

That last question quieted my brain and left a sinking stone in my gut. The blood on the car… the handprints on the walls… my heart felt like it was being squeezed by a boa constrictor. I stopped walking. Without noticing, I had focused all my attention on my cheer sneakers. Dad was gone. Where, I didn’t know. Hot tears pricked at the corners of my eyes. Suddenly, I was struggling to breathe.

My two strange companions didn’t notice.

“-have to erase her memory-”

“But-”

I fell to my knees on the rubble, not noticing or caring that it was ripping into my skin.

“Listen Luke, I know how hard this is for you, especially knowing-”

“It’s not about that! It’s just-”

The tears fell, pouring from my eyes in hot streams.

“Oh really? You haven’t said a word about it since it happened,” Cassandra’s voice softened, “Besides, you know she can’t come with us,” Wannabe threw his hands in the air.

“Fine! Erase her memory! Like I care!”

I let out a tiny sob.

“Great. Glad we all agree,”

I wrapped my arms around myself.

A hand on my shoulder.

And then someone was screaming. And warm rain was falling heavily, but only on my face. And something was gripping my arms tight, and I wasn’t sure I could move. And there was something tight in my stomach that made me want to curl into a ball and never unwind. And everything hurt, and it wasn’t just my outsides, but it was my heart and it was something I wasn’t sure was even physical. I had only gone to school for a few hours, and now no one was home and no one would ever be home again, and it hurt.

And then there was nothing for a very long time. I was there, and I was awake, and my eyes were open, but I didn’t see. I could hear, but I didn’t process the sounds. I could feel, but it never really registered.

I sat there feeling pathetic for about an eternity before someone finally approached.

“Come on,” PR wannabe urged gently “It’s time to go,”

I let him pull me to my feet and lead me off.

I looked around the area blankly, noticing for the first time that there were now large cracks in the pavement and several trees around our house were lying broken on the ground. All kinds of debris littered the streets. Trash, papers, water bottles, tree limbs, even a dumpster lid. I was almost positive none of that had been there when I got home.

I glanced up at PR wannabe’s stony face.

“What… what happened?” He raised his eyebrows at me.

“The trees… and the pavement… what…?” He shook his head.

“Later,”

As we walked out of the driveway, I saw the car again and a thought hit me. When did the attack take place? What if it was right after I left? Dad always drives Dennis to school and… oh hell. Dennis.

Suddenly I knew what had been bothering me earlier. Where was Dennis? Where was my baby brother? I tried to think back to what I had seen. The bloody handprints… what size were they? Were they large like my dad’s hands, or small like Dennis’? His game had been lying in the doorway... had they been ambushed on the way out? The car… the car had been in motion… I felt sick.

I halted. PR wannabe looked back at me in confusion. Then his face morphed into one of understanding.

And before I knew it, we were getting into a car a few houses down from my own. It was painted black and looked official. I sagged into my seat and refused to move. Even so, my eyes shifted to the window where I watched my home, my life roll past for what might very well be the last time.

I don’t know how long we sat in that car, or how many fields I watched roll by with unseeing eyes. I think it was a lot. I didn’t really pay attention to what turns were made or how long we drove in any one direction. I didn’t look at the clock, but we had to have been driving for several hours.

In all that time, no one spoke to me. Maybe they wanted to let me process. Maybe they just didn’t know what to say. Maybe it was something else entirely that drove the silence. Whatever the reason, I was grateful. If someone had tried to start a conversation just then, I knew I would have broken down all over again.

I must have fallen asleep at some point, because the next thing I knew, someone was shaking me awake.

“C’mon. It’s time to go,” A voice told me softly. I nodded and blindly followed. The sun had gone down long ago, and stars were beginning to peek out from under clouds.

The fancy car drove off and left the three of us standing in front of an abandoned warehouse. So they were gonna kill me after all. After the day I’d had, I wasn’t even surprised. I took a slow step back, hoping they wouldn’t notice my quick retreat. Cassandra turned to look at PR wannabe.

“Care to do the honors, Lucas?” Lucas? That was his name? I didn’t think it fit him very well. ‘Lucas’ nodded and carefully pried the warehouse door open. I was immediately hit with a strong blast of musty air. I wrinkled my nose and hoped that whatever they were going to do, it would be quick.

Lucas turned back to look at me.

“Well? Get in here, kid. We haven’t got all day,” He said impatiently, beckoning me with a quick jerk of his head. I gulped and nodded, walking into the warehouse on shaky legs.

Lucas turned and closed the door behind him, leaving us in a short bout of total darkness. Then, a beam of light appeared. Bright light. I blinked my eyes closed in an attempt to shut it out. I found myself squinting, waiting for my eyes to adjust. Lucas swung the LED flashlight around the empty warehouse. I stared at the tool in his hand.

“Hey! You told me that was a weapon!” I yelled angrily.

Lucas just gave me an apathetic look and shrugged. Cassandra snorted.

From what I could see, we were the first visitors in several years. The place was so dirty, dust particles were visible in the flashlight’s bright beam. Cobwebs hung in nearly every corner, and several boxes were stacked in seemingly random places on the concrete floor. Many of them looked to be empty.

Lucas began walking around the warehouse, seeming to search for something. Finally, he picked up one of the many boxes littered across the warehouse floor, inspected it for a moment, and tossed it aside. It made a quiet ‘whump!’ noise as it landed. Lucas brushed a hand over the concrete where the box had sat and nodded to himself. He looked up, meeting Cassandra’s gaze.

“Found it,”

She nodded, like she knew what that meant. I looked up at her, confused. She winked at me, then sauntered over to where Lucas was crouched. I ran after her. I wasn’t about to be left alone in the pitch black of the warehouse.

‘It’ turned out to be a wooden trap door, painted the gray color of cement. It blended into the floor perfectly. I hadn’t even known it was there until Lucas pulled it open. I didn’t think there was anything that could possible be darker than that warehouse, but then I looked into the pitch black abyss underneath the trap door. It was mesmerizing darkness, like staring into a black hole. My heart skipped a beat.

Lucas looked at me.

I stared back.

“Well? Get in,” He ordered me impatiently.

I blinked.

“Um, no? That’s just… I don’t know what’s down there!” I stammered defensively, taking a step back.

“Whatever. Cassandra?” She turned to look at me, a gentle glimmer in her eyes. Cassandra gave me a kind smile, and a reassuring hand found its way to my shoulder.

“Don’t worry kiddo. It’s totally safe,” Then she leapt gracefully into the hole, and I heard her feet hit the earth barely a second later.

A beam of light erupted from the tunnel, and roved around for a moment. Then, Cassandra’s grinning face turned to look up at us. Illuminated from the base of her chin, her face looked ghostly.

“See? Totally safe,”

Lucas nudged me, none too gently.

“Your turn, squirt,” I glared at him.

“My name is Cadence,”

“Duly noted. Now get in the hole,”

I stuck my tongue out at him, but complied. I sat on the edge of the drop. I stared into the darkness for a moment. Then I let myself fall.

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