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By Alex GoodGuy Greganti All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Scifi

Liam is not here.

Raelin sat on the floor by the end of her bed. Her door was locked and barred with a chair. She peaked up for a second to look outside. The reflection militia were storming houses. It wasn’t normal. The reflections were artificially created humanoids whose skin color varied from beige to green along with very distinct four fingered hands. Besides that they could easily be mistaken for humans.

As far as she knew there were no uprisings or escaped artificial animals causing the militia to be called in. She could see a man waving a baseball bat at the militia as he stood on the porch of his burning house. One of the militia ran up to the man but was met with a blow to the head. He dropped to the ground with blood beginning to ooze from the now dented helmet. The man on the porch readied his bat again as five more rushed at him. Why they were not using guns on him Raelin didn’t know. The man hit one in the knee and struck the guard on the head. As the militia buckled on to the ground, the other four tackled him and jabbed a needle in his neck.

Raelin found herself ducked back to the edge of her bed, then checked to make sure her hair was underneath her jacket. The only way to keep her waist-length hair from getting caught on anything was to stick it down her jacket. She checked her pockets to make sure she had everything that was needed. Judging by the weight in her pocket she had her journal, an iPod, and some left over twizzlers. That’s what was assumed anyways. Most likely this house wouldn’t be seeing her again; it was getting too dangerous in her section. Under her bed, there was a pack of darts from her brother. She took one of the darts out, wrapped a cloth around it and stuffed it in her front pocket. The rest went in her back pocket.

When she lived in South Africa with her brother, they used to go to pubs together and earn a living by participating in dart competitions. Often there were comments on how everyone was surprised that a tiny white girl beat them every game. Raelin and her brother were able to rent out a small apartment because of that. Inside they were always practicing on photos and paintings they found on the street.

There was a knock on the lower floor. She got up; wanting to make sure the rest of her roommates were ready to leave, she slowly moved the chair out of the way and unlocked the door. There was a second knock at the front door. She opened the door as fast as she could without making noise and darted across the hall and into another bedroom. Blueprints and spare parts were laid across the floor, the window was open, and it appeared as if he didn’t want to wait for her. There was another knock and militia guards shouting demands that the people inside come out. There was a strange growling, hissing noise that followed. She couldn’t remember what the hissing creatures were called but her roommate called them Haggard’s. they were recognizable as hairless monkeys with three inch-long claws and large ears almost like bats. They were only used for militia operations, which was a good thing. 

She looked among the papers and gears to see if there was anything left she could use. Looking around the room, a wench on a chest came into view. Next thing she knew, it was added weight to her pocket. Outside it was clear that one of the reflection militia was ordering Haggard’s to be moved in shortly following the noise of the claw on the door and chills went up her spine. About a year ago the Dr. Hevas thought it would be a good idea to show the people of New Sarum some experiments that had taken place. He decided to make a zoo in section fifteen and that was when people were, as Dr. Hevas stated, “Ever so lucky to see mutants acting naturally”, which meant having a goat ripped apart to shreds. In the end, it did not go over well with the public.

Checking the other rooms in the house for items wouldn’t help at all because soon enough the Haggard’s would eventually find her. There was nothing that she could find useful, but it wouldn’t hurt to check anyways. The reflection militia would most likely take their time before letting the Haggard’s in so it was only a matter of chance if she would make it out. Raelin went back to the door and checked the hall anyways. There was nothing; there was only the sound of claws and growls. With her finger crossed, she found herself in the next room and out of breath.

The room was virtually empty. Unlike the other room, this one was a bit tidier. The collection of books on the shelf was untouched. There were actual piles of dust on top of the books. Her roommate only had collections of books for decoration, as with the paintings across the room. The bed was at the far end of the room with the end towards the center of the room. At the end board was a chest. She walked to the chest. There was a strange symbol on it, ignoring the crescendo of thumping at the door, she opened the chest. There was nothing.

Closing the chest, she cursed herself for thinking her life worked like an ever-convenient storyline. The sound of shattering wood filled the house. The door was broken down. She began scrambling for the window trying to find the latches, the ‘woots’ of the Haggard’s became louder and louder as they ran through the house. The latches were nowhere to be found. The last thing she wanted to do was break the window. There was no shouting so the guards hadn’t entered yet. She barred the door again and took her chances.

She went back to the door to see if it was possible to head to the other room because the thought of going back to the room without a pre-existing exit would be easier to get out of. She picked up the lamp on her nightstand and looked at it. There were elaborate designs of once mythological creatures like wurms and dragons in battle. Too bad it was going out the window.

She repositioned the lamp in her hand so that the bottom of the lamp was facing the window. Soon enough the sound of pottery hitting glass filled the house. The window had shattered. Raelin was happy that they didn’t purchase the security glass when they remodeled. She scrambled to clear the rest of the glass so that she could crawl out. The sound of the Haggard’s running around the lower floor and now the stairs grew louder. She jumped up and got her arms and upper chest out the window. The door was being broken to pieces as the abominations pounded at it.

She grabbed at the roof tiles trying to pull herself up. The chair flew off the door as a Haggard burst in. Raelin turned around to see where it was. Its black eyes stared at her for a split second before going into full sprint. As soon as it came underneath her feet she stuck her foot on its face and pushed herself up soon enough she found herself sliding down the tiles of her roof. Still on the roof taking a breath, she turned around and stood up.  One of the Haggard’s got out of the window and started to make its way over to Raelin. For some reason the others decided to stay back inside the house. Through all the rush she had found one of her hands holding a dart that had once been in her pocket. Ignoring his, she focused only on what was in front of her.

“Fuck off!” she yelled at the abomination. Waves of fear began to rise up inside her, but she just pushed it back into her stomach. The Haggard seemed unfazed. Raelin struggled to focus as gunshots and yells filled her ears. It was still advancing and found herself lifted her dart above her head and got ready to throw. She threw the dart without aiming but she still had her eyes locked on the creature. The beast stared at the dart as it approached it and was ready to dodge. Then there was a loud thud that came from behind the creature.

  A Velogrun. A ten foot long serpent like creature with long black wings and a jaw that separated in three directions. Obviously escaped from the zoo. The thud of the creatures landing shook both the Haggard and Raelin off their feet. The dart missed the Haggard but got one of the reflections behind it. Raelin started to roll off the roof once again but this time was focused on the Velogrun. Just as she fell off the roof, she saw the millions of dart like tongues stick out of the Velogurn's mouth and run straight into the Haggard. Once she hit the ground she ran behind the adjacent house. She found her back against the wall allowing her to catch her breath, considered herself to be in a blind spot at the moment. The feeling of her half shaved head still caught her off guard as she still wasn’t used to her new haircut. Her hands went through what she had left of her hair to make sure her head feeling light was not because something was blown off.

The Velogrun was the least of her worries. She’d had spent a month volunteering at the zoo and had learned what not to do. Mostly. Her only concerns where the sounds of people hitting the ground either from dodging bullets, being restrained, or colliding with a wooden bat. She peeked around the corner. It was only instinct at this point, due to the fact that she had no plan only to not be taken in.

The reflection militia were still restraining people. Why this was happening she still had no idea. She only knew about a small group of people lead apparently by Jay Ark. Some thought they were just people sabotaging machinery, but she had a feeling there was an issue with Dr. Hevas. She had met them once; sadly it wasn’t on the best of terms. One of them had been lying on the ground sealed in a robotic suit that wasn’t recognizable. She remembered red on the ground but there were no wounds that she could see on the girl. It seemed as if the girl didn’t survive because whenever she saw the group again, the girl wasn’t there.

A hand grabbed her shoulder turning her around to see a black visor in front of her. Her head rammed into the visor of the militia grabbing her. The reflection stumbled back and stood up holding its hands in front of it. She wasn’t sure what it was trying to do so she grabbed a dart and aimed. The reflection spoke.

“Hold on, don’t move.” Its voice was distorted. The reflection moved forward with its hands out still. For every step it took, Raelin took one back. Nervousness set into her stomach. This wasn’t normal behaviour for militia. She wasn’t going to let herself fall for this ‘trick’. She threw the dart. The reflection was only two feet away but she still threw it as hard as she could. The reflection didn’t move as the dart pushed itself into its shoulder. The reflection removed the visor. Ava pulled the dart out of her shoulder and gave a disappointed look.

“I realize that I looked like a reflection but I thought showing you my hands would show you that I am human.” Ava said. A wave of embarrassment came to Raelin. She was happy to see Ava.

“Shit, are you okay? Would have been nice to show your face before I threw it.”

“It’s fine, I pulled the thick armor out. You have no idea how hard it was to get this. I suggest identifying your targets before you try to kill them.” Ava’s advice did not help with making Raelin feel any better.

“We shouldn’t be just standing here, we need to go somewhere. Somewhere people are not getting their heads bashed in,” Raelin said. The sounds of the Haggard’s grew louder.

“I’m guessing you want to do this now?” asked Ava.

“Preferably.” Both Raelin and Ava went through the first door they saw.

The sounds from the outside were fading out. No more growls, thuds, or gun shots. For now.

“So what’s going on with this place? It’s complete hell,” Raelin said.

“Ever since Dr. Ark was found dead in his room, Neil and I became suspicious of Dr. Hevas. Not that anyone wasn’t, but that’s when we started getting into his background. Well, tried to. He doesn’t have one. So we did some—let’s say, investigating. We never realized how dangerous he was until we found out he was…” Ava fell to the floor unconscious. Alive, but unconscious.

Fear ran through Raelin. She looked into the collar of the suit and saw a small needle protruding from the collar into Ava’s neck. It seemed as if Ava forgot about the security mechanism built into the suits. She should have known anything that did not match reflection DNA would eventually set off the trigger.

Raelin felt herself back up as she saw Ava lying on the floor. She reached for the handle behind her and ran out. The reflections would be notified of Ava’s location. It would be best if she ran while she could. Ava would live. She scrambled over the fence and soon found herself on another road.

A dart fired from a reflection grazed her arm. She looked up to see three of them standing at the end of the road. Raelin ran towards them only because running away would only mean more. Another dart was fired and Raelin scrambled to dodge it. Why weren’t they using bullets? She was an altered after all and as far as she knew, she wasn’t needed. She threw a dart that broke the visor of a reflection and stuck itself to its forehead. The reflection dropped lifeless to the ground. More darts were fired and she scrambled again as the darts whizzed by. The other reflections were unimpressed. Raelin found herself in front of the reflections and stood up.

The amount of anger she had seemed to have come out of nowhere. Her fist collided into the reflections visor. Her hand bounced back and the reflection stood still. She swung again only to find her arm in the hands of one of the militia. The reflections stood still. She became more confused than she was in the first place. The anger and confusion seemed irrelevant at this point as she was trying to figure out what was going on.

Raelin found herself turned around and metal rings were placed around her wrists. She rammed her head back and felt the visor of her reflection captor shatter. The reflection buckled over and Raelin brought her cuffs around its neck. The other reflection stood in front of Raelin and stared. Did they not care if one of their own died? It was too much for Raelin. She kept her hold even though the reflection stopped moving.

“Do you not care at all?” Raelin asked. The reflection in front of her stayed still and removed its visor. He was a man with tattoos and piercings. On its forehead was a triangle with lines perpendicular to its sides. He wasn’t a reflection.

“No I don’t, honestly,” said the man, “because once The Voice gets her body, you’re screwed anyways. Plus, his soul is locked in the armour.” Raelin’s eyes grew wide. Jay had told her about these people. Humanoids from a planet called Ezikeal. She could identify the humanoid in front of her as a Dark Cleric, also called the demon.

“Crap.” She said. She heard footsteps behind her and then the demon smirked.

“Well then,” said the demon, “Dr. Hevas will have some fun with you. Thankfully, you need to be conscious to be a threat. We wouldn’t want you poisoning anyone would we?” Raelin felt her veins pulse in her throat allowing her mutation to take control. She tried to rush the process and she felt the second layer of teeth grow again.

Raelin jumped forward hoping to reach him before she was stopped. The Demon took off his glove and grabbed her throat lifting her up. She brought up her hands to pry off the demon. It was no use.  The tattoos glowed and a shock went through Raelin. She fell back and a wave of cold went over her. The demon smirked. She rolled over and found herself facing the demon she had strangled. Then she fell unconscious.

Alive, but unconscious.

“She’s just like Alice, besides the nasty mark on her head.” A shrewd, nasally like voice said from a distance.

“Don’t touch her Charles. Hashim has to talk to her apparently.” Raelin was conscious now. Someone had placed a blindfold around her head and bandaged her head. Footsteps seemed to appear from nowhere and seemed to have stopped around where the previous voices where.

“Hashim! Speak of the devil; I’ve been waiting for you to get here. Do you have my hat?” Raelin felt her veins pump blood faster. Her mutation was starting again. If she wanted a fighting chance it would have to speed up.

“Well Mr. Hatts, if you have my ‘special drink’ I might have your hat.” There was a sound of vial’s being shoved around in a bag then a pause.

“Here it is. What are you going to use it for?” Raelin felt the blindfold lifted off of her face. Her eyes opened to see the demon from earlier, a man in what appeared to be a doctor’s uniform, and a shorter man examining a black fedora.

“Her.” The man in the doctor’s suit said. “Now if you excuse us Charles, I have some tests to do.” The man holding the fedora walked out of the room.

“I was told you caused some trouble out there. Roughing up some militia.”

“In my defense, they started it.” The demon hit Raelin across the face as she spoke, leaving a small cut across her face.

“Now there’s someone out there, who’s much more powerful than me, that decides who’s in charge. Apparently even though I shared a body with her for about twenty years,” Raelin gave an odd look at Hashim, “Yes strange I know. Anyways, it’s between me and a bounty hunter.” Hashim scowled under his breath, “In order for me to maintain my purpose. I have to have a champion. You should work.”

“Screw yourself. I’m not doing anything for…” the demon opened Raelin’s mouth forcing it open before she could finish talking. The vile from earlier was drained in her mouth. She tried to hold it, but it was no use. Soon enough the liquid took its effects.

“Its effects will be temporary. If your body can handle it.” Hashim said as the demon grabbed her and started moving her towards a door.

“Don’t worry,” the demon said with a smile on his face, “You wouldn’t be here if he had picked something stronger then you. Have fun. Even if you do survive, I can’t say I won’t disable you again.” Raelin’s started to hallucinate. The door appeared to be an array colours.

“Good luck.” The demon said sarcastically as he shoved her threw the door. She turned around to get out, but soon found out it was locked. There was a tap on the glass window to the left of her revealing Hashim, the demon, and another man with a scar on his face. All of them looked as if they were sprayed down with neon paint. Their bodies began to morph in front of Raelin. She turned away to see who she was up against.

Her eyes focused in on the wall across from her. A green skinned humanoid stood in front of her. There were two long horns protruding from the back of its head scaling down its back. Its eyes were black and two large mandibles appeared to be fused to its mouth. It looked like someone attempted to make a mantis chimera. It was clear his was never human. Its arms lifted revealing blade like bones along its arms. Just like a mantis. It let out a high pitched screech.

The drink Hashim gave Raelin was still taking its effects. The world around her was still surrounded with color. It was hard to focus on the monster sharing the room with her.  It stood still looking Raelin in the eyes. It made a series of clicks with its mouth, sizing her up then it charged. Sword like spikes on the creatures arms stuck out as it charged. Raelin ducked avoiding the attack, sweeping its leg with her own. The creature staggered up turning around to meet Raelin. Raelin’s hand came within inches of colliding with the creatures face before it grabbed her hand and twisting it behind her back. It twisted her around putting its spike on its free hand across her neck.

Her breathing slowed. The poison Hashim gave her had made her more aware. Maybe he wasn’t trying to make her die. Maybe he was telling the truth. She felt her mutation beginning to work. Her blood began to pump faster than ever before. Her teeth became sharp within seconds. She felt her saliva change. She became as much of a predator as this abomination was.

Raelin stuck her head back with lightning speed breaking off one of the creature’s mandibles. It stumbled back slashing its arms. Raelin picked up the broken mandible and charged back at it. She rammed the mandible into the creature’s eye; in response it made a loud screech hurting her ears. She backed up to avoid being defenceless. There was a sharp pain in her side; somehow she hadn’t noticed that the creatures spike making contact with her side.

“It’s only a scratch.” She said to herself. She advanced towards the creature before it could make a recover and unleashed a fury of swipes with her nails that had sharpened as well. The creature jabbed at her stomach. This time, Raelin was faster. She grabbed its arm, twisting it around, taking it off with bone crunching snap and throwing it off to the side. A greenish-yellow fluid jutted out of its shoulder spraying across the floor. Raelin’s vision had focused on one thing even though her vision was still filled with overwhelming colour. The creature struck down the remaining spike towards Raelin. She ducked under it and tackled it to the ground.

“I’ve had enough!” She yelled. All she wanted was to go home. See her brother. Get out of this damn city. Her instinct kicked in. Her actions were no longer her choice. Raelin’s teeth sunk into the creature’s neck leaving a black mark where she had bit. She spit out a piece of flesh stuck in her mouth.

The creature laid on ground shaking with foam leaving its mouth as Raelin got up towards the door. There was a quiet screech and the sound of footsteps. She looked down to find the spiked appendage from earlier. Within seconds it was in her hands. The creature made a moan making Raelin turn around. The creature limped towards her with its other arm turning a sickly black colour.

“You tried killing me first. I’m not going to have a change of heart.” Raelin said. She found herself ramming the other appendage into the creature chest with a tremendous force. The creature flew back to the other side of the room. When it landed, its head was bent at an unusual angle. Her mutation was still in effect taking over the poison Hashim had given her earlier.

Raelin stared through the window at Hashim. The demon was gone and the man with the scar had a disappointing look on his face. There was an intercom buzz.

“You’ve made me proud Raelin.” Hashim said with a grin on his face, “How would you like to be a part of my revolution?”

“What does it include? Spreading chaos for no apparent reason? Killing only because there’s moving targets? Just killing in general is out of the question.”

“Look at what you just did.” Hashim said gesturing towards the lifeless creature she had just impaled. “He had just the same amount of right to live as you did. You’re really no different. You did what you must to survive. We do what we need to do to survive.”

“You two just have so much in common.” The man with the scar said mocking him.

“I’m not like you. Either of you. I killed so I would live. Nothing more.” She said staring into Hashim’s eyes.

“Didn’t I just say that’s why we are in common? Oh as it comes to mind, can you tell me you didn’t enjoy brutally attacking my men? Or even ripping off that creatures arms and gouging its eyes out?”

“It was necessary only to…”

“Live?” Hashim interrupted.

“Yes.” She said slight disappointed in herself.

“I’ll cut you a deal. Now if you haven’t noticed, I like you. Proof is you’re alive right now. Stay with us, help humanity and make sure the only reason things die is so that others may live.”

“I can’t. I have my brother to live with. I have my home to go to.”

“Your brother has been dead for six years now and South Africa has been overrun by North Korea. Don’t lie to me I know your brother was there fighting them off.” Hashim said staring at Raelin reading her movements.

“Fine.” Raelin said. She had disappointed herself. Joining the people who had been causing chaos for the past day in a half had been something she didn’t want to do. But it was necessary. In order to live.

“Excellent. You’re starting a new life Raelin. Be happy for yourself. You will be hanging out with Hound for now on.” Hashim said looking at the man with the scar, “Play nice.” Raelin kept her eyes on Hound and Hashim as they left the observation room. Anger filled her insides. She was not a cold hearted killer. She only wanted to live.

The drinks effect came back filling her vision with colors. It came harder this time. Her head felt heavy and hot as she found herself plummeting down what appeared to be a rabbit hole. She opened her eyes to see her brother staring at her.

“Did I make the right choice Liam?” tears filled her eyes as she spoke. She stumbled up off the ground hoping to get an answer.

“Liam?” She asked. Her brother was dead from what she could remember but he was standing here with her.

“Yes. You did what you did to survive.” Liam said. Raelin’s head hurt even more than before. That wasn’t what her brother sounded like. She walked over towards Liam hoping for some sort of comfort. As she came closer Liam faded away like a mirage. She fell to the floor hoping her hallucinations were right.

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