Chapter 36: Damien
My arm shakes against the strength of the beast. A mixture of sweat and blood drips down my arm as I struggle to hold it’s talon back as it rests just inches from impaling Ethan’s face.
I try to ignore the pain of the creature’s weapon having already gone through my forearm, my flesh providing the barrier between life and death.
I look at Ethan with clenched teeth and wide eyes. He remains against the wall, seemingly stunned with fear.
“Move!” I yell, getting his attention.
He looks at me, coming back to reality, then quickly shifts his head to one side. Not a moment later I relax my arm, the monster immediately overpowering me, slamming it’s talon into the wall, piercing it.
It pulls it’s talon out with force, removing it from my forearm as well. I drop to a knee at the sudden relief and resulting intense pain it provides as an open wound is left in me.
I look up, realizing the monster has now turned it’s attention to me. I stand up slowly, placing a hand on my holstered pistol.
“Well come on then you ugly motherfucker. What are you waiting for?” I say tauntingly.
It snarls, preparing itself to attack. My eye catches something behind it.
Ethan takes a few running steps, catapults off a desk and leaps through the air, lifting a shard of debris over his head. He brings it down into the creature's neck as he lands around it’s shoulders. It arches backwards, roaring in pain.
I take my opportunity, drawing my pistol and firing several shots into its chest. The beast’s cries stop and it falls to the floor.
Ethan removes himself from under it and staggers to his feet. I walk closer to the corpse, staring down at it with Ethan.
“That was way harder than it originally was when this shit started”
“Yeah, no kidding. Things are way faster and stronger than before,”
“How’s your arm?” He asks, beginning to nurse his wound.
I look at my forearm, staring through the cavity that has been created.
“I’ll live. Got plenty of time for it to hurt tomorrow,” I respond, tearing a piece of fabric from my uniform and wrapping it around the wound.
“If it took both of us to take down just this one, I can only imagine what they’re dealing with in the observation room. We need to reach them,”
I pull tight on the cloth, thing it off, then look at Ethan “I agree,” I say, taking the chance to pick my rifle up from the floor.
I follow Ethan as he traverses the room and does the same. He presses the button on the switch he used to drop the door, causing it to open back up. The door raises, dripping large masses of pulped flesh and body parts on to floor.
The mass of dead monsters collapses down, settling into the shallow divot the door fastens into.
We climb over their corpses, the squelching sound of their dead bodies beneath my feet giving me a nauseating feeling.
As we reach the other side, the hallway before us is pitch black. Ethan and I stare into the abyss, a feeling of dread jumping between us in solidarity.
I swallow hard, readjusting my grip on my gun.
“Ready?” I ask.
“No…Are you?” he replies.
I shake my head “Nope,”
We begin to walk into the void. It feels as if we’re slipping into a black hole as the light fades away. Time seems sluggish with every step, both of our nervousness growing beyond that which either of us feel comfortable.
Before long we turn on our rifle mounted flashlights, giving us a small looking glass into the nether in which we’ve ventured. I feel my arm start to throb, the silence seemingly amplifying the pain.
The gnawing sensation of being watched creeps in more and more, making me struggle from becoming uneasy and panicking. Both of our weapons are now shouldered, sweeping high and low for any movement.
Faint scritching and scratching echo through the hall.
“I don’t fucking like this, man,” Ethan expresses.
“I’m not overly fond of it either,” I reply.
There’s a shadow in my light. It suddenly leaps forth, raising a talon towards me. I fall backwards, allowing it to fly over me, firing a short burst across it’s head and torso. I feel the warmth of it’s blood spray over top of me. The creature lands heavily on the deck, vibrating the walls.
I jump to my feet, moving to examine it.
“This one doesn’t look like the others,” I state.
“Well that’s great. They have variants,” Ethan complains out loud.
I look at him, my eyes catching another one over his shoulder.
“Move!” I exclaim, grabbing him and tossing him aside.
The creature swipes its long, thin, bladed arm across my chest. The impact tosses me across the hall way. I slam into the wall, feeling like every bone is rattling inside my body. I slide to the floor, my mind falling into a silent darkness.
“Wake up,” I hear, still and small in the dark. “Wake up, Damien. Wake up,” it resonates louder.
My eyes sluggishly open.
I find myself in a room of white marble. The architecture is elaborate and decorated with gold. My eyes settle on a face standing across from me.
The entity wears finely engraved armor, with imagery that seems to tell a story. Staring at their face however, I can’t seem to discern a denotable sex.
Though I’m confused, and perhaps downright frightened, I can’t help but feel a sense of comfort in the situation.
“Do not be afraid of my presence,” it finally speaks with a voice that is light and wispy with a touch of gravel.
“Wh—where am I?” I ask.
It smiles slightly “If I told you that, you would not be able to focus on the matter at hand,”
“Why am I here, then?”
“So that a message may be delivered,”
It tilts it’s head towards me, studying me amusedly “You always did fascinate me in the way that you always get straight to the point, Damien. Even when meeting a creature such as I,”
“I don’t know what you are. I just know you’re holding me back from what I need to do,”
“Very well, then,” it says as it suddenly appears inches from my face.
Staring this close into its eyes, they look as if constellations are shifting within them.
“You have a lot of anger, Damien” it places a hand on my face “It is going to destroy you. You have a craving to keep it with you. I know that you have held it for so long,” it shifts it’s hand from my face to my chest, at about where my heart is “But the real fire is here. And it craves you to feed it. There is still so much for you to do,”
I take a step back, beginning to feel my eyes water “Why…why are you telling me this?”
it smiles again “I am but a messenger from my father,”
It grows close to me, placing it’s mouth next to my ear “If you keep your heart open enough, perhaps the next message…will be for you personally,” it says, it’s voice barely a whisper.
My eyes suddenly open, catching Ethan’s face as he stares at me, irrationality in his expression.
“Are you okay, Damien? Are you okay?” He asks, shaking me by my shoulders.
I lift a hand “I’m good, I’m good. Just…stop touching me,”
The realization hits me “Wait…those things,” I say, starting to stand.
“Its alright. Just sit back down. I got them,”
I look at him, confused “How? There had to have been more than those two,”
“There were…I handled it,”
I take my flashlight and scan it down his body. His torso and arms are filled with cuts and slashes. None that are immediately life threatening but over time…he could possibly bleed out.
“We have to go. We have to get to rest of them,” I say, this time actually standing up.
“Should be just around the corner up ahead,” Ethan says, pointing towards the end of the passageway.
I start down it, Ethan quickly following next to me. I notice him turn his head towards me, looking with focus.
“What?” I ask.
“Seems like you lucked out. Your body armor took most of that hit,” He points out.
I look down, finally noticing the slash across my chest. I run a hand across it, noticing that more of my gear than flesh had been cut.
“Guess I got lucky,” I respond, my mind flashing back to the vision I had.
As we round the corner, Ethan and I stop in our tracks. The large doors to the observation room are wide open. Light and blood flood the entrance. We both instinctively run down the hall and enter the room, nearly tripping over the corpses of the creatures.
I scan the room, looking up to the balcony and to the prep room on the main level.
“There’s no one here, Damien,” Ethan says, his voice growing with concern.
I push aside the obvious fear that they’re dead and study the room for clues. I bend down, looking at a particular area on the floor, one of my explosive mounts.
“Seems they had enough time to trigger the bombs,”
“Up there,” I follow Ethan’s pointed finger to a spot on the wall, my eyes settling on large gouges.
“They climbed the walls to get to Dante and Lauren,”
“God damn it!” Ethan kicks a piece of debris “How did we underestimate them so damn much?”
“Wasn’t too difficult. We know nothing about these things. And even less about how they behave when working together,”
Ethan gives me a hard stare.
I stare back “What?” I say with attitude.
“You almost sounded like you for a minute there,”
I shrug “Don’t get used to it,” I respond as I continue my study of the area.
“They must have been overwhelmed and fled,” Ethan says making note.
“There’s not nearly as many dead bodies down here as there should be either,” I say, adding my own observations.
“Where do you think they went?” Ethan asks me.
I shake my head lightly as I come to no clear conclusion.
“Only real safe place we have right now is the Security Center. And if they went there then…I doubt that door could hold for long,”
“Let’s go. It’s worth a shot,” Ethan says, jumping over the divider to the prep room.
I follow behind him, taking account of the space as we walk through it. There’s more blood and a couple dead bodies on the floor.
The door leading outside is smashed off the hinges. As it was with climbing the balcony, it seemed these things also went after whoever decided to be on the bottom floor.
As we exit to the outside, a clear trail of blood and corpses provides a path to follow. The same follows from the doorway leading to the balcony stairs, merging together with the original trail in the main hall.
We follow it carefully, keeping on guard the whole way. We ensure that each step is kept quiet in case there were any stragglers left behind like last time.
I notice a cold sweat start to permeate my body. My eyes start to get heavy. I stumble, quickly fixing myself.
Ethan looks at me “You okay?” he asks.
I stumble again, this time into a wall. Ethan rushes to me.
“What’s going on, man?” He says, touching my arm, quickly pulling it back.
He looks at it. I notice it’s coated in blood.
“Damien, Jesus Christ. You’ve lost a lot of blood,”
“I’m…I’m…fine,” I slide to the floor against the wall and pass out.
I jump to a sitting position. I find myself in the white marble room again. The same strange entity sits in a chair this time.
It tilts its head, smiling “Please, Damien. Sit with me,” it says.
A chair of the same kind forms beneath me, lifts me up, and slides me to a position a few feet across from the creature.
“Why am I here again?” I ask.
“Because you are not listening,”
“What are you talking about? What am I supposed to be listening to?”
“The same thing that first woke you when you came here. That still, small voice in your ear. It echoes in your head. My father wishes to speak to you,”
“Then let him speak!” I exclaim, jumping from my seat, hands clenched.
The entity remains seated, staring at me without change in expression. It stands up, drawing closer to me.
It raises a hand, gently touching my face.
“You are so tired. The pain you feel within is great,” it says, sorrow beginning to paint the thing’s face.
I feel as if my whole psyche is about to break. As if something is trying to crack me open and extract everything that I am right now.
It brings inescapable tears to my eyes. My mind panics. I slap its hand away and step back, the chair no longer behind me.
“Wh—what are you doing to me?”
“What man has forgotten, Damien…is that the tragedy itself is not what makes you suffer. It is the fact that you have no flame within to fuel with your tragedy,”
“I…I don’t understand,”
“It is time for your flame to be kindled,”
As the entity finishes, I notice a pinhole of light crack through what seems to be reality itself. The pinhole grows until it is a large orb. It then explodes like a flashbang, a blast of light, encapsulated and suspended in the air. The light is warm and embracing. It’s distant, yet still feels as if it’s enveloping me. The presence is so overwhelming I’m left frozen.
The light draws closer, wrapping itself around me. It swirls as it transforms into little particulates of light, as if a galaxy of tiny stars were revolving around me.
They stop suddenly, then all at once shoot into me.
I see all manner of things. Visions I can not comprehend. Like the entire universe is peeling away and I can see the blueprints of its creation beneath.
The creation of all things leading up to my birth plays through my head like a movie on fast forward. My brain feels as if every synapse is moments from breaking.
Who I am.
Everything I am is mixed and distilled within me.
The light suddenly dissipates, dropping me on to the floor. I sit on my hands and knees, eyes uncontrollably dripping tears on the white marble, breathing heavy.
“Wha…what…was that?” I force out.
The entity kneels down beside me “You have felt the essence of my father. He has started your fire. It is your job from here to fuel it. Always remember, Damien,” it gently places two fingers under my chin, lifting my face until our eyes connect “You are loved,”
Everything fades to black. My eyes open, bringing forth a clarity in my mind that I hadn’t felt in years.
Everything I felt before is still there. But now…it somehow feels…filtered, weaker.
I sit up, looking at my arm that is now repaired. I look around the room until my eyes catch Ethan who is now walking towards me.
“What…happened?” I ask in a low voice.
“You scared the hell out of me is what happened. You almost bled to death. Your heart stopped,”
I look at him, eyes wide. “I…I died?”
“For a few minutes, yeah. I didn’t think I was going to be able to revive you,”
I stare down, contemplating what I saw.
I look up at him, feeling a type of calm that is new to me “Yeah…better than ever,”