After our little encounter in the mall’s basement, we both knew we were in deep shit. Something was brewing in this city, and it wasn’t good.
As if to prove us right, we got more incidents the next day. By now new signatures were popping up multiple times a day. Even worse, we found more of those small fuckers, those puppets, as Sandra calls them. Gives you the feeling the entire city’s crawling with them. So far, we don’t even have a clue what they are or where they are coming from.
We’d barely gotten half a night’s sleep when Sandra’s surveillance system got another hit. This time the puppets were below a bridge, covering it in symbols and writings, trying to open another portal. This time, though, we were fast enough to keep anything from happening.
Throughout the day we handled three more sightings. Only one succeeded in bringing a creature through, but we could dispatch it quickly. Still, it was one hell of a day. Once more, we’d only made it home in the evening.
I’d just opened a bottle of bourbon to get a shot or two and plopped down next to Sandra. For the first time, she didn’t say a damn thing about it.
“So, you got any idea what’s going on here?” I asked after I took a brief sip. “What do you think those things are trying to do?”
“Well, I had a look at the data of the past days and they only appeared at the smaller clusters so far. If they were to try the same thing in one of those areas here,” she said, showing me a map on her phone, “we might be in serious trouble.”
“Well, isn’t that just great? What are we supposed to do then?”
Sandra gave me a frustrated look before she cursed to herself. It was the first time I’d seen her like that. When I kept looking at her, she spoke up again.
“I don’t know, Dylan! I’ve been in contact with headquarters, but they can’t afford to send any additional personal here. We can keep tightening the surveillance of the bigger clusters, so we get alarmed the moment something happens there.”
“But what if we’re too slow? What if something like that thing below the mall makes it through?”
“I don’t know. I wish we could set up base near them, but we can’t ignore any other signatures and let creatures roam.”
“You think that whoever, or… whatever’s behind this knows that? That everything that’s going on here so far is nothing but a diversion?”
Sandra sighed before she gave me a weak nod.
“Then why the fuck’s headquarters not sending any support? Why don’t they do anything about those fucking ley lines and clusters and I don’t know what?”
Sandra shook her head.
“There’s trouble in other areas too, Dylan. I’ve only been informed about one in Asia, and it’s ugly, Dylan. It’s damn ugly. What we’ve got here’s nothing, compared to-“
“All right, I get it. So we’re basically fucked, is that what you’re saying?”
As if to prove me right, the alarm of her surveillance network popped up again. There was yet another emerging signature.
“Seems we are,” Sandra said, not bothering to hide the frustration and hopelessness in her voice.
“You know what? Fuck this!”
With that, I took a deep sip from the bottle of bourbon before I got ready.
It didn’t take us long to pinpoint the area. It was the same alternative part of the city where it all began so many years ago.
The signature itself originated from a small back alley in the outskirts.
We were still a good ten minutes away when Sandra stared at the scanner with wide eyes.
“What?” I pressed out as I turned to her.
“Shit, you mean the fucker left the area and is moving on?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head, “just gone, vanished.”
She frowned, staring at the scanner.
“Fucking hell, is that possible? Can those things hide their signal?”
Sandra shook her head.
“No, once we pinpoint and find them, there’s no way they can slip away. The only possibility’s that the thing’s dead.”
“So, someone took it down before us? Did headquarters send support?”
“No, they’d have informed me about that!”
I remembered my very first run-in with a creature. What if it was some normal dude like me back then?
“What if it was a civilian?” I suggested. “Hell, if it was, they might still be alive!”
“Could be,” she reasoned. “Let’s go.”
With that, we hurried on.
When we arrived at the small alley, there was no need to hit the scanner anymore. The place was a massacre.
The creature’s body was torn apart. Hell, it had been dismantled. Then my gaze wandered around and I noticed something further down the alley. Another body, a person.
I walked over and leaned down at what might have once been a human being. From the dirty clothes and the blankets, it was clear that he’d been homeless.
“You think this guy might have been the one who-?” I started.
“No. Look at the state of the body. With wounds like that, there’s no way he could put up a fight.”
“What about the creature?” I asked, pointing back at it.
“Might have been a beast type, but it’s hard to tell. From the size and the signature I saw before, I’d assume it was a C-class.”
“You telling me there’s someone out here who can take down a C-class all by himself and get away?”
“That, or we’ve got something else on our hands.”
“A cannibal type. They feed on their own to become bigger themselves.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. Something like that exists?”
“So if something like that’s out there, how come we’ve gotten no hit on it? Shouldn’t we’ve gotten two signatures then?”
Sandra was quiet and for a while she didn’t say a thing.
“I’m not sure Dylan, the creature might have been able to avoid detection until now by pure luck.”
“Yeah, but if it was out here and took care of this one, then-“
“Look, Dylan, I don’t know, all right?”
I sighed before I nodded. Shit, we were both exhausted and way to on edge.
“Yeah, gotcha. So, what do we do now?”
Sandra shrugged, hit a few of her scanners, sent out a few more of her surveillance drones all over the area. But ultimately we found nothing. In the end, we packed up and went on our way back home.
The next day started exactly the same, with a new fucking signature.
All together there were only two, allowing us a brief rest during the hours of the late afternoon.
The sun had barely set when he headed out again to the same alternative part of town.
There was yet another signature, this one in the area’s biggest park.
The moment we made it there, my thoughts returned to the swarm type I’d handled a couple weeks ago.
“What you got, Sandra?” I asked, praying it wasn’t another one of those.
“Humanoid, seems to be C-class.”
As we hurried through the park, the gun was already in my hand.
I noticed the fucker right away. What might once have looked like a human was now something different. The creature’s body had twisted around itself, legs had grown to twice their size, and multiple appendages sprouted from the body. The head hung sideways, and even from this distance I could see its gaping black maw.
Right at that moment I noticed a person, a guy, standing nearby, a few meters away from the creature.
“Get away from there!” I called out, but I already knew it was too late for the poor soul.
I pulled the trigger twice, but I was still too damn far away to get a clear shot. A moment later the creature rushed forward, threw itself at the unsuspecting bystander, tearing into him. At least that’s what I saw happening in my mind’s eye.
The creature rushed forward, clawed appendages shot out, but they didn’t hit. Whoever this guy was, he could dodge the attack. For a moment I saw blue eyes sparkling, saw a toothy grin, and a moment later he got a hold of one of the creature’s appendages.
When I heard flesh tearing and bones snapping, my steps slowed down. My jaw dropped when I saw this normal person tear the creature’s arm clear off.
The thing stumbled back before it growled and attacked once more.
The guy dodged the attack again and then counterattacked himself. He plunged forward, his fists connected with the shapeshifter’s body, and it was thrown off its feet.
It tried to get up, but it was too late. The guy rammed his hands into the creature’s body. Blood gushed, and the thing began screeching as he started tearing it apart. He twisted and tore off its appendages one by one before he beat the creature’s head to a bloody pulp.
“Holy shit,” I pressed out, pointing my gun at the guy. “Guess we found our cannibal, right? You think we’re able to take the fucker down?”
“I,” Sandra started but broke up staring at the scanner.
I didn’t wait. There was no way we could let this fucker get away. If he was some sort of cannibalistic organism and if he was going to grow even stronger, we’d be in even more trouble than we already were.
As I stormed forward, I saw the same grin. When I pressed the trigger, he threw himself sideways, dodging my shots. Shit, the fucker was fast. For a moment I saw him still next to the shapeshifter’s remains, in the next he was gone and then he was right in front of me.
I pointed the gun at him, point blank, and was about to fire, but he batted my arm aside with such force, the gun clattered from my hand. I tried to reach for the combat knife, but I felt a hand closing around my neck. He lifted me from the ground by a hand as hard as steel. I saw the same eyes, the same grin I’d seen before. Then a blast wave crashed into him.
The air crackled around me, I felt my hairs stand up and I saw the guy’s body a couple meters ahead of me. He was on the ground, barely able to move.
I scrambled for my gun, got it and was about to fire again, when Sandra stepped up in front of me.
“What the hell are you-?”
“He’s not one of those things! There’s no signature! He’s a human being!”
“Yeah, no shit,” he spat at us. “Who the fuck are you psychos, anyway?”
“We’re with the police,” Sandra explained. “We were sent here to handle the situation and to take out that creature over there. It seems, though, that you’ve been able to take care of the situation before we could.”
The guy in front of me got to his feet. His grin was now tainted with blood. He staggered to his feet, spat some bloodied froth from his mouth before he sank down on a bench nearby.
“All right, question time,” I started. “Have you been in contact with other, similar creatures these past days?”
“And what’s it to you, asshole? You plan on shooting me for taking over your job or what?”
I sighed and put the gun away. “No, all good, we just want to talk, right, Sandra?”
She nodded, scanner still in hand. “Like I said, he’s human.”
“Yeah, no shit, bitch!”
I could see Sandra’s face change to anger. Oh, this wasn’t good.
Now that I got a closer look though, I saw his disheveled look, the dirt on his clothes and the old, torn backpack he’d thrown down next to himself.
“You’re a bum or something?”
“Got a problem with that?” he asked while he was rummaging through his backpack.
After a while he found what he was looking for. It was a syringe. Without another word, he rammed it into his arm.
“Fucking hell,” I cursed as he pushed the contents into his vein. He leaned back, inhaling, but started cursing after mere seconds and threw the syringe into the dark of the night.
“Fucking hell, shit’s not working, can’t feel a damn thing!”
“What do you mean?” Sandra asked.
“Doesn’t matter what I used,” he cursed. “Booze, cigs, even the stronger stuff, nothing works. Just want to score some fucking high, but I feel nothing!”
“All right, when did this start?” Sandra asked, alarmed.
“The hell you want you freaking bit-“ but he broke up in an instant and I saw him cower.
“How the fuck are you-?”
“Now listen, this is just a small sample of what I can do and I can do much, much more. So how about you answer my questions?”
“Fucking hell,” He pressed out and for the first time that annoying grin left his face.
“Don’t know when this shit started, maybe a week or two ago? Had all those crazy dreams and nightmares. Felt like I was fucking delirious.”
“What were they about?”
“Don’t remember shit! It was all sorts of bullshit, all scrambled, old memories, people, faces. Even had some crazy nightmare about a barren wasteland and some upside down hellscape. Shit was crazy!”
When he said this, I looked up and was about to say something, but Sandra motioned for me to let him continue.
“When I woke up, I had these crazy hallucinations, as if the world was melting all around me. Must’ve lain in the gutter for days. Thought I’d scored some nasty shit, but didn’t remember buying any. Didn’t even have the money! But guess what, a day later I’m good as new and the only thing I’ve got to show for this little adventure is this disgusting scar here.”
With that, he lifted his shirt for a moment to show us a small gush on his chest that had already healed.
Sandra’s eyes grew wide when she saw this, and she turned to me.
“I’ve only read about it in the archives, but I’ve heard stories about something like that.”
“Theories, mostly,” she started while tinkering with her scanner. “If I’m right though, then-“
“Right about what?” I cut her off.
“That scar, it looks like a wound caused by a parasite entering a human body. However, there are theories that certain human bodies can sync with parasites. Well, sync is the wrong word, a better one’s absorb. There have been cases in which a parasite entered a human body, mutated and changed it before being fought off by the body’s immune system.”
“Something like that’s… possible?”
“I’ve only ever heard of a handful of cases, but if a parasite really entered his-“
“All right, what the fuck are you assholes talking about? I’ve got no freaking parasites in my body!”
Sandra turned back to the guy with a sour look on her face.
“Stay calm, all right?”
“Sure thing, babe.”
She held the scanner up against his body, staring at the visuals it was showing her.
“From what I can see here, the scanner suggests certain anomalies with the body, caused by mutation and restructuring. There’s no hint of any outside influences, meaning the parasite must’ve been rendered useless after altering his body. From looking at data and from what we’ve seen before, his physical prowess is far above that of a normal human being.”
“You know, if you want to see what I’m capable off, bitchtits, how about a round in the bushes over there?” he joked, giving Sandra a little wink.
I saw the frown on her face, saw it growing ever deep before anger replaced it.
“Shit dude, now you’ve done it.”
He looked over at me for a moment, a questioning look on his face before he was thrown off the bench and landed a couple of meters behind it.
Sandra stood there, staring at the body before she turned back to me.
“He’s out for a while.”
I could see a bit of blood running from her nose that she quickly wiped away.
“Holy shit, you’re bleeding! You sure you didn’t kill him?”
“Yes. I knocked him out, but this isn’t enough to kill him. That parasite he was infested with was at least C-class, probably higher.”
“So, what you want to do with him? You said he’s human, right? I can’t just go and-“
“No. But with things as they are, we might be able to use him.”
“What? Are you crazy? We don’t even know if we can trust him!”
Sandra gave me a cold, hard look.
“Get him to the apartment. We’ve got some contraptions there that should render him useless and ready for interrogation. If he turns out to be uncooperative, we can still inform headquarters. Or, we can take care of the problem ourselves.”
I stared at her, at her face, the cold look, and for the first time in days I remembered who I was talking to. I’d grown to know her a bit, grown compassionate about her, but this woman was a cold, hard professional, more so than I was.
“Sure thing,” I said in a low voice and with that holstered the guy up.
Sandra took this thing the whole nine yards. After we’d returned to the apartment, our unsuspecting guest was still knocked out. To be honest, I wondered if he’d ever wake up again.
While Sandra searched through the storage room, I followed her instructions and bound the guy to the bed. She was back soon and injected him with some sort of strange, yellowish liquid.
“What the hell was that?” I asked while our guest began stirring.
“Something to keep him in line, similar to a muscle relaxant,” she said with a simple shrug.
“What the fuck? Where the fuck am I? The fuck did you do to me?” he cursed and tried to push himself up, but couldn’t even move his arms.
“A simple sedative, you won’t be able to do anything for quite a while,” Sandra said with a little grin.
“You freaking bitch! Who the fuck you think you are? The moment I’m up, I’m going to-“
He broke up, cringing in pain, and I saw Sandra holding up her hand.
“No, I don’t think you will. So how about we all calm down and you listen?”
Finally, as the pain of Sandra’s attack left him, the guy nodded.
“I would like to make you an offer. Seeing that you were proficient enough to kill multiple creatures all by yourself, we’d like to ask you to help us should more of them show up.”
The guy laughed a little. “Right, and why the hell would I do that?”
Sandra stepped forward again, and I saw his eyes widen. He closed his mouth instantly.
I sighed, this was going really fucking well.
“Accommodation. We can offer you to stay here with us. We’ll also take care of all your expenses,” I cut in.
“And for that you expect me to risk my life?”
“You’re fucking crazy, man,” he said, laughing.
I stared at him, scanning his face, thought back to the way he’d grinned as he tore that humanoid organism to pieces.
“No, I’m not. I can see it in your eyes. You enjoyed fighting them, right? No, that’s not it, you enjoyed killing them. You’re the same as me. You’ve got your reason for going out there.”
He gave me a long look. There was something on his face for a moment, pain and sadness, but they were quickly replaced by the same hungry grin.
“Well, it’s not like I’ve got anything else going on at the moment. And this shithole here might be better than sleeping out in the streets. But you know, man, you’ve got one thing right. I’ve got my reason for going out there.”
“What is it?”
“I guess, I just like destroying things.”
As I stood there, staring down at this disheveled asshole, at his wide crazy eyes and that damned grin, I knew what he was. A freaking psycho.
Fuck monsters and fuck psychopaths.