Project: Phantasma

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IX. Grimy All Over

Gab opened his eyes and saw moist black dirt peeling off all over the place. He’s still on the VIP Lift, his feet keeping the door from closing. He shared things in common with the dead creatures in front of him. They were all wearing uniform and have a dried trail of blood on their faces. The only difference was Gab’s face wasn’t petrified into a scream and he wasn’t quite dead yet.

What was that powerful force? What happens if her eyes opened completely? Who was that strap-bladed psycho? Who was that cowboy? Nightmare... Twitch... Blindspot... That’s what I remember they called themselves. That clown on a wheelchair and that mummy-nurse… Punchline and Painkiller. Who the hell are these people? These thoughts troubled him not just because they were all bizarre. It was because he could remember the details so clearly.

Whatever and whoever they were, the green mist starting to scatter from above didn’t seem lung-friendly. He took his flashlight and exited through the shattered glass where Twitch went through.

The city was a mess. Dead people adorned the whole city like Christmas decorations. Most were disfigured beyond recognition, left to decompose as they slumped in different locations, in different positions.

Gab crept near the walls, afraid to turn his flashlight on as he heard dreadfully familiar grunts. And those sounds were unnervingly close. He couldn’t see clearly, and squinted as he saw the city turn into a disorganized slaughterhouse. Cleanly cut limbs and blade-wounds were visible on the corpses, along with chunks that seemed to have bite shapes of something human.

If I use my flashlight, they will see me. If they see me, they will catch me. If they catch me, they will kill me. But if I don’t use my flashlight, I’ll be wasting time crouching in the darkness. I might even stumble upon a creature or accidentally make a sound and startle them. Better to be safe than sorry, He was saying this to himself when he thought he heard a faint response.

“There is no such thing as a safe place here. Only safer.”

He looked around carefully, but couldn’t make up anything out of the darkness. He thought he must be hallucinating. Whatever that phenomenon with eye-bleeding and grime-covering was, it was like a tumor on his brain. He couldn’t feel it, but he knew something bad was in his system.

The streets were never empty. Vomit-inducing sights of extremities and organs were all over the place, like the creatures went so far as to generously distribute them for tourist-attraction… Well, in this case, tourist-repulsion. Gab looked back and saw he was making a trail of grime, probably from the mall.

Darn. Could those creatures actually follow trails? He thought.

He tried to gently shake the dirt off his shoes but nothing got removed. He got his shoe off and saw that his black leather shoes’ soles were actually clean and slightly bigger, in contrast to the way smaller trail. The trail ended a foot away from him.

“My shoes are new,” a voice said as another shoeprint formed nearer to him.

Fuck.

He ran as fast as he could, adrenaline pumping him up again. He felt a tug on his pocket and a whisper that sounded like “Wipe your tears-”. He tripped on a severed arm and went slamming down to the ground, hearing sudden frill shrieks and a scary rhythm of about a hundred steps getting louder and louder. With what seemed like a hundred hot on his trail and shoeprints following him, he saw a nearby edifice, ascended the short flight of stairs of the porch and banged on the locked double doors. The sound of running steps toned down to just one pair feet followed by sounds of bodies being flailed, accompanied with groans. He turned his flashlight on and swung it back, revealing a giant burned man in a blood-stained apron swinging a cleaver around, leaving a trail of hacked creatures on his wake.

Gab stood frozen and cornered as the butcher ran towards him with his cleaver up in the air. A few meters away, the butcher launched himself toward him and smashed the door, right on the area where Gab’s head was a bare instant ago. He ducked down right in time to kick the butcher square flat in the chest, making the latter tumble down with his cleaver. The creatures shook off from the stunned status they were on upon seeing the burned man, all of them attacking the butcher. The door opened, revealing a plank that was once barring the door, now chopped in half. He got a funny feeling that the butcher did this on purpose. He ran inside and pushed a desk towards the door.

He sat down, exhausted, despite knowing that the desk wouldn’t hold if the butcher pursued him inside. For some mysterious reason, the grunting from outside stopped. He peered through the chop on the door. It’s too dark too see but it was pretty obvious that there isn’t anything happening outside. But something is inside.

Two familiar faces emerged from the stairs right behind the counter a few feet away from him. Both with glasses and flashlights.

“Gab!” Lloyd and Kim chorused, running toward him.

“What happened?” Lloyd asked him immediately. “You and Kim were suddenly gone when Jane and I looked back.”

“What? Kim? I thought you guys were together the whole time! I was left locked inside the control room until-“ Gab felt his throat lock when thinking about the apparently supernatural happening just a while ago. “Well, I got out fine. Someone slaughtered most of the creatures for us. Well, probably not for us but… Well, what happened to you, Kim? “

Kim looked uneasy but Lloyd answered it for her. “She got lost. Jane tried to find her… At the cost of her life.”

For some reason, Gab though this wasn’t the reason why she looked uneasy. He must still be too paranoid from the recent events. “… Well, I’m happy that we’re still alive to say at the very least.”

Gab could hear ruckus from above. Other people were inside, actually around 40, composed entirely of civilians in vintage clothes. Gab didn’t trust the civilians due to playing Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. He caught a glimpse of the large bulletin board on the reception hall.

“Dark Raven Asylum?” Gab said to Lloyd. “What a place to decide as a fort against cannibals.”

Lloyd frowned a little. “Well, at least we found something. And this asylum you’re complaining about happened to instinctively be a hideout for you, too.”

“Just don’t stray near the other rooms.” Kim warned, staring at Gab.

With lots of crazy voices heard from the inside of other rooms, with hands sticking out of the iron barred-window on the doors, Gab made a teasing face that resembled the wrong internet meme (he looked like the Yao Ming one instead of the Nicolas Cage one). “You don’t say?”

The civilians were busy barricading the place, lifting tables and chairs towards windows and doors and keeping them in place. Lloyd and the others settled in the last room available, Room 309. It’s like any other batshit cell, with a bed held to a wall by chains and a plank chained in the same manner that serves as a bench. It smelled faintly of chlorine. A large supposedly-iron barred window was on the wall opposite the entrance. It seemed that acid has been used on the bars, having a space just enough for a man to fit in.

Kim and Gab sat on the bed. Lloyd sat on the bench. Lloyd fixed his glasses and his hair for moment and cleared his throat, but said nothing.

Gab had the urge to ask. “Who are those other people?” He of course, knew that they were civilians here. He asked out of doubt.

“They’re locals here.” Kim replied, frowning a bit. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing. I’m just not someone who trusts easily.”

There was a long moment of silence. Gab wanted to break it but he didn’t know what to say. Lloyd stood up and brushed his butt from dirt. “I’ll be asking questions from the locals. You guys should rest.” He left the room.

“What’s his problem?” Gab said.

Kim shrugged. “So, how did you get outside?”

This was the first time Gab appreciated her simple attractiveness. The glasses seemed to deemphasize the flaws on her face, not that he saw any. “What can I say? I have Redfield blood in my veins.”

“What Redfield?”

“Oh c’mon… Chris and Claire Redfield?”

Kim shook her head, keeping her smile. “Who are they?”

“Only one of the most badass icons in history, from Resident Evil.”

“Nurrrd,” she said with an amusingly cute expression.

Gab broke a smile. “You’re one to talk.” Brief laughing ensued. “So, anything new about the current situation?”

“The civilians suspect a terrorist attack or something that Governor Maxwell Chikfried might have devised, probably to instill more fear on the civilians so his renovation plans would work without question.”

“So far as to killing the ones who would question him?”

Kim pushed the bridge of her glasses. “That seems to be the loophole. Why govern a city without citizens?”

“Maybe the things that happened weren’t according to plan. What’s with the evil governor scheme?”

“There are two big projects here that supposedly destroyed the vintage theme. The Genesis Mall and the Casino of New Beginnings.”

“There’s a casino here?” Gab asked skeptically rather than excitedly.

“Uhuh. These two structures seem to be the root of this madness. Everyone inside were reportedly reduced to their primal state, with earlier symptoms of paranoia, hallucination and diarrhea.”

Gab scratched his head. “Indeed sounds like terrorism.”

“Things aren’t adding up, though.” Kim said, looking serious. “If the governor built those for more tourist attraction, why would he do such stuff to the tourists? Wouldn’t that create an issue that will prevent tourism here?”

“Unless nothing got out.”

Kim was impressed by Gab’s way of thinking, as she was crazy about everything mysterious. Hell, she thinks that she’s crazy about everything. Every detail shown to her seemed quite important. She just laughed at a rather rude manner, resembling one that belongs in the asylum. She realized her mistake and smiled apologetically. “Whoops… Got carried away. I like how you think.”

Gab found it cute. He looked away, hiding his flushing face. “It’s nothing... Just natural.” He gained a little control of his face again. “Maybe he wants Silent Hill Tourism?” Gab changed accent. “And here before you people is ze Silvercrest Casino of New Beginnings, where people allegedly turned into cannibals. Let us pray for zeir restless souls. Now our next destination is ze Genesis.”

Kim seemed to be accustomed to laughing that way, again doing so because of Gab’s recent antic. “Plausible, plausible.” She said, mimicking Lloyd that made them laugh more. “What could the infected have taken? Something we didn’t.”

“Intestines and human flesh.”

“Before they were cannibals.”

Gab took a while to think. “Well… I didn’t drink the wine… Did you?”

“No, I didn’t…” Kim’s chinky eyes started to widen. “You’re a genius!”

Lloyd went in and the two immediately fed him with information and Doritos from the pack they got from the supermarket. He sat down on the bench again. “It seems that the darkness hasn’t changed at all.” They nodded as Lloyd continued. “Anyway, from what I gathered, Gab’s theory of infection through physical contact seems to not be the ’cause of its spreading, now paved by a recent theory that wine is the cause.”

“And if I’m not mistaken, some patients confined here are one of them. And by them, I mean the cannibals. That must mean that there have already been cases in this city before this happened, only that it was contained easily and was in a way smaller scale.”

They decided to change the topic, to lighten the mood and hope for a doubtful sunrise. The words and laughing seemed to fade with the background. Gab didn’t realize he was out in a few moments from exhaustion. Kim felt sleepy too, and gave in. As they shared a bed, Lloyd looked beyond the acid-destroyed, iron-barred window.

It wasn’t all darkness. He could make out moving figures from below. Some occasional grunts and the sort. The civilians’ talking could be heard a little, but it was obvious they were all keeping quiet. He thought it was so that the creatures wouldn’t hear them, but he tried to think in Gab’s shoes.

What if they were secretly plotting against us? He laughed at the thought but lost the feeling when he could have sworn he saw a man with a black hat in a long, loose-fitting coat on top of a nearby building. The duster was blowing with the wind as the man slowly walked out of view on top of the opposite building.

That’s what he thought he saw.

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