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Chapter 23

Chapter 23: Ethan

I stifle a tremble as we tread through the dark halls of the station. I’ve managed to keep my nerve up until this point. It seems as though my body physically can’t continue on dealing with the fear I’m feeling at this point.

Thinking back, I can still barely fathom what I witnessed when all of this started…the way their bodies contorted and twisted. I feel the gnawing sensation of wanting to wretch as I dwell on the memory. I shake my head to free my thoughts, turning back towards my companions.

“How much further?” I ask with barely a whisper.

“Turn right just up there. Elevator should be directly on the left,” I hear back just as quiet from Dante.

I halt myself, in turn halting the group, at the corner. I take a moment, readying my mind to stare at another one of those things if need be. I peek one half of my face around the bend. My eye catches the trudging movement of a monstrosity in motion.

I feel the tickling of a bead sweat trickling down my temple. I turn away and press my back against the wall, sighing.

“There’s one in front of the elevator,” I state plainly.

“We don’t have any weapons,” Elena says, slightly helplessly.

“What if we tag team it. Shouldn’t be a problem then,” Damien suggests.

“Too much risk of one of us getting scratched and turning into one. We need distance,” Dante explains, furthering the back and forth.

I close my eyes, tuning them out. I try to think of any solution that’ll keep us out of danger. These things are fast. And stronger than anything I’ve went up against. And I think we’ve all run out of our good luck cards for the situation.

I open my eyes, their voices coming back into focus. I take a deep breath, accepting the conclusion I’ve come to.

“Get to the elevator as it gives chase. I’ll meet you there. Don’t wait up,”

“Ethan, don’t you dare,” Elena says as she reaches for me.

I swiftly whip around the corner, escaping her grasp, sprinting down the hall towards the creature. It’s only a few moments before I’m noticed, triggering its trademark screech as it barrels down in my direction. The monster lifts a talon to strike me, prompting me to slide between its legs, bounding back onto my feet and continuing my mad dash.

I look back to ensure it’s still following, slowing my stride even to keep an optimal distance. The dimly lit hall fades further and further to black as the lights proceeding my path are no longer functioning.

Shaking my hesitation, I commit to my sprint into the pitch black, pleading with the universe to keep my path clear. I feel my foot catch and all at once I’m tossed through the air as my momentum carries me forward. I land hard on the ground, feeling the sharp jolt of pain. I roll for an indeterminate distance before finally coming to a stop as my body collides against the wall at the far end of the hallway.

I shake as I lift myself into a sitting position against the wall. I run my hands across my body, wiping the dust off. I suddenly stop when my hand catches on something solid jutting out of my stomach. I look down on instinct, my sight unable to make out a single thing in front of my face. It’s then that I feel the pain. A throbbing sting, giving me sharp stabs whenever I move.

I look up, the small light near the elevators looks like a metaphorical end of the tunnel. My eyes finally notice the large shadow of the creature, who has now stopped pursuing me. I can feel its black, dead eyes glaring at me. I freeze, feeling that any movement from that point on would being a swifter end to my life.

The urge to tremble returns.

I sit there, frozen, for what seems like an eternity as I wait for the monster to attack me. But just then, a odd thing occurs. My vision slowly fades to black as if my eyes were closing. My hand starts to shake as I feel the unnerving sensation of something staring into my eyes. My breathes quicken and become shallow as the panic sets in to my mind.

A light finally flickers to life to unveil the same black eyes I saw at the beginning of this nightmare. I very nearly jump out of my skin as I desperately attempt to crawl further beyond the wall behind me to no avail. She flips down from to the floor from whatever debris she was hanging from, inching closer to me, turning her head from left to right with a clicking motion.

I remain as still as possible as she brings her head back to a normal distance. A wiry smile creeps across her face to show rows of pointed teeth. She lifts a hand, green and textured with rough skin, reaching it towards me. I recoil backwards, instinctively attempting to keep her from touching me.

She places a hand on the wound I sustained from our first meeting. We both looks towards it, then back into each other’s eyes.

She looses a raspy giggle, triggering an immense pain in my shoulder.

My hand snaps to the wound, clutching it tightly. I groan and gnash my teeth as I writhe on to my side, desperately trying to subside the pain. My left arm shakes uncontrollably in agony. It’s not long before I can no longer hold back a scream, trying anything to relieve the torment.

As quickly as the pain came, it finally leaves, leaving me lying dazed on the floor. I can hardly remain awake from the exhaustion of my body tensing up in every place.

I look up at the thing that used to be Katie. She comes closer, placing a hand in my face. She moves her face in so close I can feel her breathe on my cheek.

“We are going to have so much fun together,” she speaks with the smallest of voices.

My body finally gives way and I pass out.

I awaken with a startle.

My mouth is dry, leaving my throat scratchy and sore. My eyes…groggy. It feels like ten-pound weights hang from eyelids as I attempt to keep them open.

My brain chugs beneath my skull, sending an excruciating wave with each pulse. My shoulder creaks as I lift myself back into a sitting position.

I reach a hand to my collar, shifting it down to reveal my shoulder. To my surprise, the wound is completely gone. The unnerving part, is the thin black veins trailing from where the wound originated. I return my shirt to its original position, staring at the floor, contemplating what may happen to me.

My thoughts turn to Katie in that moment.

How did she become so twisted into that…thing.

Is it really even Katie anymore?

What the hell happened?

Whatever the answer, I can see why they jettisoned her out into space in whatever piece of equipment they could possibly find.

What I wanna know is what they were doing to create something like that. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

I pull myself from my mind, finally deciding to get up. I stumble as I step forward, having to regain my balance. The touch she gave me feels like it hit a big reset button on my whole body.

As I step closer to the light it feels brighter than what it is, causing me to shield my eyes as I trudge to the elevator we intended to go down.

I nearly fall over as I step inside, using the wall of the elevator to catch myself. I tap the necessary button and let my body slide to the floor as I lean my shoulder against the cold metal.

As the elevator glides down, I fight back the urge to drift off again. I snap back to full consciousness as the elevator stutters to a stop, the doors opening. I stand up and exit just as the doors close over again.

I drag my feet in the direction I think I need to be going.

At this point my brain is slipping into delirium.

My vision begins to flash strange images in front of me. They’re too fast to make out, but they’re no less unpleasant. The weights on my eyelids feel heavier and heavier with each step.

My body finally quits, forcing me to my knees. I fall face down to the floor with an audible thud, losing consciousness once again.

I find myself in a black space. I feel like my feet are firmly planted but beneath me lies nothingness. I look down, feeling myself instantly becoming disoriented due to no clear form of direction.

My eyes trail up to meet the figure of the little girl.

“Wh…who are you?” I ask her.

She giggles as she skips towards me, circling around me, and stopping a few feet away.

“Maybe I’ll tell you…if you pass the test,” She says, giggling again afterwards.

She leans forward, looking up at me with a titled head and a devious grin “I hope it doesn’t hurt too bad,”

“Hope what—”

I’m suddenly yanked away as I come back to consciousness.

My eyes flutter open at the flooding of white light in to my vision. I reactively spring into an upright position, taking a huge gasp of air into my lungs.

“Well…guess he’s alive,” Damien’s familiar voice echoes into my ears.

My eyes turn to Damien as my expression turns to bewilderment.

“Was I not alive?”

“Your uh…heart stopped for five minutes,” Dante answers.

“Well that’s a new one,” I say rhetorically.

“On the bright side,” Dante starts as he stands from his chair, motioning a hand to show me the large white room we are occupying.

“Welcome to the Security Watch Center,”

He points a finger to a door on the far end “That’s the armory. Stores are there. Showers and bathrooms are next to that. Behind you is a fridge, already stocked with some things. On the other side are all quarters, allowing each of us to have our own rooms if we so choose,” Dante explains as his finger follows his small tour of the area.

“Also, you’re sitting on our dining room table,” He finishes, causing me to look down, taking notice of my position.

I decide to slide myself off of the table and attempt to stand. I feel my head swirl for a moment as I attempt to maintain my balance. The feeling swiftly subsides and I begin to take stock of the center myself.

I carefully walk to each area, observing every piece of furniture, door, and subsequent room that branches off. I stare into the window of the armory door, glancing at either side of the wall inside, making sure they’re lined floor to ceiling with firearms and ammunition.

I traverse to the other side, opening one of the doors to a quarters, taking one step inside, looking all around the room. Each room seems to contain a set of bunk-beds on either side as well as a desk with a console at the foot of each sets of racks.

It’s fortunate that they are set up this way on account of possibly finding more survivors along the way. Though if I’m being honest, is an extremely optimistic view at this juncture.

“Everything to your standards there, Lieutenant?” Dante asks sarcastically.

I look at him with a satisfied smirk “It’s an adequate space, Master Pilot,”

The smell of cooked food wafts through the center as we all sit down for our first real meal since this whole mess began. The only sounds that can be heard are forks clanking and our ravenous chewing.

As we all come up for air, I can’t help but notice the contented expressions on everyone’s faces.

“I never realized how much I loved food until now,” Dante points out, cheerier than his usual self.

I say nothing, leaning back in my chair, allowing my head to tilt upwards as it rests on the back of the seat.

I hold my eyes closed, taking in the moment peace in the cacophony of madness that has gone over these…how long has it been?

I allow myself to drift into my thoughts, drowning out the chatter of the rest of the group. I step into my own imagination, envisioning home. On the beach. The waves of sneaking up on my feet. The cold Atlantic water sending a slight chill through my body.

The strangest thing begins to happen.

I find myself pulled deeper into the vision as if I’m falling into a dream, and yet, I’m still conscious. I attempt to pull myself out of my imaginings only to feel the slight panic of being stuck.

The vision turns at that moment. The sky turns the crimson stain of blood. The waters become black as night. My feet are frozen in place as the world I created starts to spin as if the Earth has been tossed off its axis by God Himself.

My hands clench as they rest on my thighs, taking a handful of my pants with them. I can feel my nails dig into my palms even through the fabric.

Words play on repeat in my head, an echoing whisper.

Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill.

It grows louder with each successive stating.

Kill. Kill. Kill! It finally screams, causing me to be thrown out of the vision.

I lurch forward “Stop!” I yell as I slam my fists into the table, disheveling the dishes that have been set upon it.

Everyone falls silent, staring at me with incredulous, wide eyed expressions.

“Are you okay, Ethan? Your eyes…they’re…” Elena says at she slowly points a finger at me.

I stand up as I come to my senses, hanging my head.

“S-sorry guys. I…I was just flashing back for a second. It’s been a long time since I’ve had any rest,” I try to explain away.

“Why…don’t you try and get some sleep, man,” Dante suggests, a nervousness in his voice.

I turn away and traverse the room until I reach my claimed quarters, entering it without saying another word. I stare at the floor as I feel the terror take hold of me.

Please God don’t let me become one of them.

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