Chapter 20: Damien
I try to stifle my heavy breathing. My body is pressed against the cold metal of the lockers. Sweat drips from my face. My hand uncontrollably shakes as it clutches the knife.
The clacking of talons echoes through the locker room with each step of its twisted form. I peek around the corner ever so slightly, my eyes darting back and forth. I see nothing, noticing the clacking has faded.
I lean back against the locker, breathing a sigh of relief, closing my eyes as I do so. The metal crunches above me. My eyes snap open, causing my heart to jump into my throat as I see a mangled, clawed hand clutching the top of the locker.
I hold my breath as the creature’s head reveals itself, peering into the distance. I feel my whole body tremble. Globs of black and red drip to the floor directly in front of me. I carefully start to sidle away from it, keeping tight against the row of lockers.
I keep my eyes transfixed on the monster as I do so, ensuring it’s not looking my way. There’s a plastic crinkling noise as my I feel something catch beneath my foot. I wince at the sound. I look down to see that my foot has fallen upon a used water bottle. My heart pounds as my eyes return to the creature, who is now staring directly at me.
Its bottom jaw splits in half as it screams, revealing an entire mouth full of teeth.
“Shit!” I exclaim as I start to sprint towards the door at the opposite side of the room.
I hear it give chase behind me. I’m not fast enough, however, as I feel something catch my ankle and trip me up. I fall to the floor, tumbling on to my back. It’s only a moment before the thing is on top of me, slamming the two claws jutting out of its back into the tile floor on either side of my head, cracking them.
I’m barely able to react as its wide-open mouth comes for my face. I roll to the side, just barely dodging. I hear bones crunch as the monster’s face collides with the deck. It lunges back upwards, prompting me to roll back to my original position, using the momentum to swing my knife across its chest, creating a deep gash.
It screeches in pain, flinching backwards, allowing me to slide out from underneath it. I jump to my feet and charge the beast, tackling it into the row of lockers behind it. As we collide with the row, they topple over, giving me the advantage of being on top of the mutant.
I reverse the grip on my knife and begin stab over and over in to the monster’s head, unsure of how much damage it’ll take to actually kill it.
It flails around as my blade enters and exits time after time until finally…it goes limp.
I stare at the now unmoving corpse, its already mutated face now even more unrecognizable from the damage I inflicted upon it. My hand is covered in the red and black gore as well as my torso. My arm burns from the constant stabbing motion and my body is tired.
I stand up, using the sleeve of my shirt to wipe the splatter from my face.
My vision quickly turns behind me as I hear the words “Is it dead?” ask.
“You’re…you’re that tech girl Ethan spends time with, right?”
“Elena,” She says as she steps out fully from the corner of a row of lockers.
“Right,” I reply as I look back at the thing.
She walks next to me and we study the creature together.
“Do you have any idea what these things are?” She asks.
I shake my head “None,”
The thought occurs to me as I look at Elena, questioningly “I figured you would’ve gone to find Ethan,” I state.
“I did. Turns out raging mutants kind of halt those sorts of processes,”
I shrug my shoulders, accepting her answer.
“Might be a good idea if we stick together,” She points out.
“Might be right,” I respond.
“You know where we can attain some weapons?”
“Armory would be the most obvious place. But I’m not sure what it looks like in that area,”
“Probably about as FUBAR as everywhere else. So worth a shot, I guess,”
Elena lifts a broken pipe from the floor, giving it a once over to make sure it’s a good weapon.
“Let’s do it,” She states simply.
I clean my blade off with my shirt, noticing that the tip had broken off of it. I sigh at the weapon malfunction, hating the fact that the situation can always get worse.
The door opens to the outside. I peek my head right as Elena does left. Lights flicker or have gone dead entirely, leaving the still red glow of the emergency lighting to guide us down the hallway.
Elena and I slowly tread the path to the armory. Our minds have gone to hyper-awareness given the situation.
In combat they taught us that hyper-awareness wasn’t a good thing to have as it made focusing on the objective harder to perform. It’s a side effect of fear flooding the brain, telling you to run as fast and far as you can. Fighting against that notion is difficult when bullets are flying over your head. But this…this is a whole new level of fear.
Staring at something I can barely fathom to understand without breaking my brain. The very sight of these things incites an insanity, like staring into absolute darkness without an ounce of light to give you clarity. You lose total comprehension of your surroundings and the only thing you can do is close your eyes and stay in the same spot.
As we approach the corner, the sound of crunching and crackling echoes from pathway behind. I motion Elena to move against the wall as I do, allowing just an eye to look around the corner. Two of the monsters, that look like two completely different variants of the one I fought, stand in front of the armory cage.
I notice blood dripping from the counter that’s attached to the cage’s window. I signal for Elena to stay put as I slowly creep to the opposite corner for a better look at the cage. There’s blood all over the cage covering the window itself, it drips between the holes of the cage as it cascades down to the counter below it. I finally notice the corpse of the armorer, who looks as if his body, very painfully, has been forced through the shallow slot at the bottom of the cage where firearms are passed through. He’s completely mangled, missing limbs, of which I’m sure is where the crunching sound is currently coming from as the creatures feed on him.
I wave to Elena to come to me. She hesitates, taking a quick look before quickly and quietly moving to my position.
“Looks like the armory is a no go,” I whisper to her.
“Well that’s great. What now?”
“I do--,” the telltale clacking grows closer from the opposite side of the hallway.
I look into the darkness as it grows closer. I feel a tap on my shoulder. I look back to see Elena stepping into a close by room. I follow behind her, taking cover beneath the fogged glass window of the office.
The clacking gets closer and closer, until the sparks of a broken light outside frame the silhouette of one of the creatures stepping by the room. The sound fades as it passes, prompting relief to flow. Elena and I stand up, staring at the window.
“What are the odds you think?” She asks.
I look at her confused. “Of what?”
“Of us honestly getting out of this,” She states with a helpless expression.
“Not very high, I’d figure,”
“Yeah, I thought so,”
I suddenly see hands clutch on to Elena’s coveralls, tossing her sideways into the nearby wall of shelves. She crashes into them, the various objects toppling over on to her. She hits the floor, leaving a large crack in the wall. A heavy globe hits her in the head, stunning her.
I look to the source as it snatches me up, lifting me off the floor and slamming me on to the office desk. It’s then that I finally get a good look.
A woman sits halfway between mutated and not. Her face is twisted and pulled in every direction, unnaturally stretching her skin. Her teeth are both sharpened and not. Her eyes bulge from her head, bloodshot from the dryness that has seeped into them. Her eyelids are peeled backwards with the stretching of her skin. She unnaturally growls at me, attempting to enact the purpose these creatures seem to have.
I pull at her wrists, attempting to break her grip on me, resorting to punching her in the face. The shock of it causes her to let go and stumble backwards. She immediately continues her onslaught, charging me, wrapping her hands around my throat.
She begins to strangle me, screaming as if she’s enraged at me for wronging her. I desperately paw at my hip, searching for my knife. My eyes look passed the creature, noticing the knife sits on the floor at my original position.
I look to anywhere as I feel the unconsciousness starting to creep in. There’s nothing to grab, no leverage.
This is it.
I struggle as my eyes begin to close, the darkness ticking down the seconds to my death. As my hands start to go limp, I feel the pressure of the creature’s hands release me, allowing my lungs to fill with air once more.
I notice my knife sticking out of its head, held on to by Elena who snaps the blade off in its skull as the monster begins to fall.
I crumble to the floor, beginning to cough uncontrollably. I feel around my neck, wincing at the rawness of the bruised flesh.
Elena tosses the knife away and crouches down next to me.
“Are you alright?” She asks, placing a hand on my shoulder.
“Yeah…yeah I’m good,” I confirm through a hoarse voice.
Elena helps me up, traversing the office, picking up the pipe she had tossed away as she likewise was.
“Looks like we have only one weapon now,”
“Seems…” I clear my throat, trying to subside the irritation “Seems so,”
I walk to the door, opening it, checking outside.
“Time to move on,”
Elena gives me a nod as she follows.
We continue our careful trek through the hallways, walking to god knows where. Just anywhere but where we were. We enter one of the conference rooms, taking a break from the tense nature of the hallways. I take a seat against one the walls, resting my eyes for a moment as Elena takes a look around the room.
“Get back!” an unknown voice exclaims.
I jump to my feet and traverse the room to Elena’s side.
“It’s alright, Doctor Cain, it’s Elena,” Elena says as I stare down at a woman I vaguely recognize, who’s pointing a scalpel at the both of us with a shaky hand.
She drops her hand as she realizes we’re no threat. Elena helps her to her feet, prompting her to adjust her disheveled blouse and skirt, both of which are mildly torn. Grime coats her face as well as smudged make up. A cut or two puts a coat of crimson on her cheek and forehead.
“Glad we aren’t the only ones alive here,” Elena says.
“Lady, I don’t know what your people do here, but they fucked up,” I state plainly.
“Oh, you think so? Because I hadn’t noticed,” She responds snidely.
I scoff, unable to help a smirk from creeping across my face.
“Do you know anything about this, Doctor?”
“I know nothing,”
“Are you sure? Because now’s the time to be honest. And maybe put a stop to it before it reaches a point of no return,” Elena says sternly, apparently knowing much more than I do about what goes on here.
“I said no. I don’t know anything about this. My goal was not to create some kind of Cronenberg madness like this. This is insanity,” She explains.
“Then what were you trying to create?” I ask, folding my arms, skeptical.
The doctor narrows her eyes at me “I don’t have to explain myself to you. You don’t even know who I am, let alone perform any duties here, Blake,”
“Well I see you know my name,”
“How could I not?” She says, not having to explain the reasoning behind the statement.
Elena and I stare at the doctor, still waiting for an answer to my question. Her eyes move between the two of us. She finally rolls her eyes, conceding to satisfying our query.
“We were attempting to make a formula that enhances the properties of the human body,”
“So, a super soldier serum?” I ask, unamused.
“If you want to explain it like a Neanderthal, then yes,”
“You scientists are all the same. Those things never work. And this has to be the worst interpretation of that I’ve ever seen,”
“What do you know? You shoot a gun for a living. You don’t know anything about biological alteration and the complexities of it,”
“Clearly you don’t either…doc,”
“Enough. Both of you,” Elena commands.
“How do you know all this came from that project in particular?” Elena asks.
“Because we had some…complications. Sometimes the subjects would mutate similar to this. We couldn’t pinpoint what was causing it. It always seemed to happen at random. But we always purged those subjects before they could do anything. I don’t know what triggered this event. But I figure that it’d be best if we figured out how,”
“Could’ve just left well enough alone,” I say passive-aggressively.
“Hm…well then I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t give a damn about your opinion. Or any Blakes' opinion for that matter. As much as the lot of you would like to think that everyone does,”
“You really are some kind of stuck up bitch, aren’t you?”
Doctor Cain begins charge me with her scalpel, being stopped as Elena steps between us.
“Stop it. Now. As much as you both hate it, we all need each other. I doubt there’s very many normal people left in this place. Which means those of us that are need to stick together. So, stow your shit, and let’s work together,”
I put my hands up “Hey, I’m good,”
Cain composes herself “Fine. I am too,”
“So, any ideas as to what we should do?” Elena asks.
“Find Dante. The other Blake should be with him,”
“Much as I hate to admit it, the Doctor is right. Knowing my brother, he’s most likely looking for us too,”
“It’s settled then. Find the boys, and go from there,”
Should’ve stayed in prison.