Well everyone, after that last shitshow I’m finally back on track.
When I woke up, I was still not entirely in control of my body, and my mind was nothing but a scrambled up mess. By now, though, I’m all better, or at least all right.
The moment I stumbled from the room, Sandra handed me a memory contraption. To be honest, I didn’t feel a hint of the manipulator’s influence anymore, but she insisted. Leaving an incident such as this untreated might lead to long-lasting brain damage.
“Man, first time I’m using this shit for its intended purpose,” I joked as I downed the contents of the small container.
She eyed me suspiciously for a moment, and I instantly regretted my little remark. I hadn’t told her I used this stuff as my hangover cure for years, and if I did, she’d flip.
The moment I’d downed it, my head felt warm and fuzzy. It was the strangest sensation. There was no pain that vanished, no throbbing that stopped, there was just this warm feeling that washed over me. Once it was over, my thoughts felt a tad bit sharper, clearer.
“Dylan,” Sandra spoke up in a low voice. “I’m sorry for what happened to Julie.”
I stared at her before I realized she was talking about the dream, about what I’d been shown. Before I could thank her, she continued talking, undeterred. This time, she was all business again.
“While you were out, I took care of things on my own. There were a handful of D class signatures, but nothing too important. In case you want to have a look at the data, I can transfer it to your phone.”
She stopped for a moment to look at me, but I shook my head. I was sure she handled things just fine.
“I also set up a net of surveillance drones all around the city to find signatures prior to headquarters and keep track of any that have already emerged.”
“Surveillance drones? How in the hell are you able to do all those things?”
She gave me a brief smile before she beckoned me to come over to show me how the system worked.
“This is crazy,” I brought out in astonishment. She’d set up a net of scanners and live feeds all over the city. I tinkered with it and ran a few scans when Sandra poked me to get my attention again.
“I ran some analysis of the orb we found. That manipulator might have had a reason to intrude on your mind, a goal so to speak.”
“Yeah, and what reason would that be other than to drive me insane?”
“To interrogate you and get information.”
“Information on what?”
“On us, headquarters and on our world, or better, our reality.”
For a moment I remembered it trying to learn of our location, our place. Then the visions I’d seen returned to my mind. The barren wasteland, the darkness beyond it and my city being torn apart.
God dammit, what the hell were we up against here?
“So you’re tell me something’s trying to… I don’t know. Start shit around here? Why the fuck here? It’s not like this shithole of a city’s important.”
“Are you familiar with ley lines?”
I stared at her. For a moment I didn’t know what she was talking about before I remembered something about energy lines and fairy lines. Bullshit, so to speak.
When I told her just that, she sighed and explained.
“The ley lines are a net of energy lines between different points on our planet, often historic structures and prominent landmarks. These points are often called centers or clusters. It’s at these points that the fabric of our reality is at its weakest, or the connection to others at its strongest. The archivists at headquarters believe many ancient structures created at these centers, like Stonehenge, have been created as wards against evil, or against influences from outside.”
“Sandra, what the hell are you trying to tell me? You know my fucking head’s still not working properly and you’re giving me all this shit about fairy spirit lines and clusters and-“
“Because this city has been erected near such a cluster. That’s why there’re incidents happening here. These things are drawn to places like this. However, it’s not one of the major European clusters. That’s why the increasing number of incidents in this city’s more than worrisome. I ran some tests and noticed there’s been distortions. With the right tools, we’re able to see them.”
With that, she opened a map of the city. There were two lines crossing at a point a bit to the side of the city center.
“That’s what it used to be like, but that’s what it’s like right now.”
With that, she switched to a new map. There were more lines now, branches growing from the original ones before branching off further. It looked almost like a net thrown over the entire city.
“All right, what am I looking at?”
“Like I said, a distortion. Something’s changing here, meaning something’s about to happen in this city.”
“And what’s that? And why? Is that why there was a, what did you call it again? Manipulator?”
“I’m not sure, Dylan. Some of these distortions happen naturally, but,” she broke up.
She shook her head. “I can’t be sure, yet. But if it’s not natural, that would mean something’s causing it.”
“Well, isn’t that just great, so something’s causing more and more of those fuckers to land here for some unknown reason? What the hell can we even do if we’ve got signatures popping everywhere?”
“Well, look at the data of the incidents that happened during the last weeks.”
With that, a dozen points appeared on the map. All of them at areas where branches were crossing each other.
“They all took places at these new clusters, at places where the fabric is weakening. If we take this into consideration, we might look at new incidents in the following areas.”
With that she changed to yet another map, which marked several areas in my city by red circles.
“So you’re telling me you’re able to pinpoint where shit’s going down?”
“Yes, we’ve survey drones out there and we can scan the area remotely, but I still don’t know how well the system will work and how early on we can detect changes. With so many distortions, I’m worried something might slip through and-“
“So, you want to go out there and have a look around, that what you’re saying?”
“All right, let’s go. I’m sick and tired of lying around all day, anyway.”
“Are you sure, Dylan? You just took that memory contraption and you’re body’s still-“
“Are you worried about me? You know that’s actually kind of cute.”
She groaned and an annoyed look appeared on her face.
“All right, fuck, let me get ready.”
We were out a couple minutes later and shouldn’t get home until late at night.
Sandra dragged me along the city for hours, scanning clusters, doing research, adjusting surveillance drones and much, much more. She was diligent though, I give you that.
We also revisited some sites of earlier incidents. Not all of them though, since, you know, my little obsession with grenades. The few ones that still existed, though, showed remnants of the same symbols and cryptic writings.
Sandra took some pictures, ran several scans, but those came up with nothing. Still, those writings, those symbols, the orb we’d found and those new distortions. It was all connected, and it all hinted at something to come, something bad.
We were on our way to another cluster when Sandra was notified of a new signature. This one wasn’t transferred by headquarters, but had been caught by her very own surveillance net.
“It’s still weak, very week. It’s either a D-class or it’s one that’s still emerging. We’ve got to be quick!”
As we went on our way, Sandra hit up headquarters, informed them about the signature and got permission to take action.
The signature came from a cluster right at an old shopping mall. The place might have once been a pristine example of capitalism, but was now half-abandoned and only a few stores were still open.
We made our way past store fronts, watching the area. Then Sandra told me she’d pinpointed the area. It was below us, down in the basement.
We made our way down the stairs and hurried through the underground parking area until we reached an old, rusty door.
It didn’t take long to break it down. Behind it was nothing but a dirty old room that might once have been used for maintenance but was now completely empty.
No, not completely. It just took me a while to notice them in the dark.
There was a group of small ghoulish figures down here, barely the size of my hand. They scurried over the floor and walls, leaving behind weird letters and cryptic symbols.
My gun was already in my hand, but Sandra stopped me.
“There’s something strange about the data. It’s not these things, it’s… something else,” she whispered at me.
“What do you mean?”
“They don’t have signals of their own, the actual signature is coming from what they are doing here.”
“And what are they-?” I started but broke up.
At the back of the room, reality began to distort. At first there was nothing but a thin, horizontal line cutting through the air. Looking at it made my eyes hurt. It was not merely a cut, but a change, a twist in reality. My vision became blurry when I stared at it, and its surroundings seemed to shift.
“Oh god,” Sandra started, staring at her scanner, “we’ve got to stop this!”
“Yeah, I know, but-“
“Something’s coming through! The signal, it’s huge! It’s definitely C-class, no, wait, it’s still getting bigger.”
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”
I knew what she was saying. Whatever was coming here was B-class. Shit, this was going to get ugly, really fucking ugly.
Sweat ran down my forehead. The gun felt cold and heavy in my hand. When I couldn’t take the tension anymore, I shot at the strange gnomish creatures.
“No, Dylan, ignore them!”
With that, she pointed at the line in front of us that was torn asunder. Ghastly, bony hands pushed through. First only two, then four, then more than a dozen.
“I’ll try to counter whatever they did here. I might be able to disrupt this portal, but you’ve got to give me some time!”
“Isn’t that just fucking great!”
In front of me, the portal began spreading out, was ripped apart. The hands that had already pushed through were tearing at it, spreading it out. Spidery legs followed, dozens of them. No, it was a freaking swarm of thin, bone-white legs, scratching and skittering over the concrete floor.
I rushed forward in an instant, shooting haphazardly at the mass of limbs, but it didn’t do a damn thing. Whatever this thing was, it didn’t react at all.
Then arms shot out, pushed from the portal, clutched on to anything they could find, digging into the floor and walls. And then they began dragging something through this tear in reality.
I instantly switched targets to these arms, blasted them apart, but there were too many of them, too many of them still appearing.
For a moment a thundering growl erupted from within the portal, shaking the entire room.
“Sandra, tell me you can keep this thing out, please tell me!”
“I’m trying, but I need more time!”
I shot again, but there was no reaction. The thing didn’t care or even feel.
I lowered the gun and pulled out a flamer. No clue if this would work or if it would do anything, but I activated it and threw it right through the tear in reality.
It vanished, then I saw the arms and legs of the spidery creature twitch, shake and convulse before fire burst from the opening.
“Take that you-“
I was cut off when the arms calmed down, when they continued their effort in widening the tear. Then one of them shot forward, swept me off my feet and got a hold of my leg.
I crashed to the floor hard and all the air was pushed from my lungs. The gun clattered away. I kicked at the long spidery hand with my free leg, but it was restrained moments later. I screamed in pain as the creature twisted my leg and began pulling me towards the portal.
My hand closed around a grenade, but I was too close. If I’d throw it now, then… shit!
Then I got a glimpse of the horror hidden behind the portal. It was still distorted, but I felt fear washing over me. I saw a giant, upside down skull, a gaping, open maw and bellow it an uncountable number of alien eyes.
The thing giggled as it yanked me toward the portal. I panicked, twisted myself against the grip, screamed, beat at it with my hands, but there was nothing I could do.
That fucker was too strong, too big, way too damn big.
Hands and legs skittered forward in droves. For a moment the face pushed through, opening its maw in anticipation. Another bellowing growl erupted from it. I was about to throw the grenade when the air behind me crackled. A shock-wave pushed past me and exploded against the portal and the creature behind it.
The writings and symbols on the walls were gone, had vanished, and a moment later the portal started to collapse.
The creature bellowed in anger. I was released as arms and legs retreated, saw them push against the collapsing portal, but it was futile.
Now free, I retreated, crawled backward, and a moment later the portal was gone. All that was left now were a dozen skittery legs and arms.
One of those arms was still dangling from my leg, and I kicked it away before I fought myself to my feet.
“Jesus fucking Christ, Sandra, what the hell was that thing?!”
Sandra didn’t say a thing, instead she picked up one of the small ghoulish creatures that was now completely still.
I was about to walk up to her when I saw that the arms and legs were still moving, skittering and scrambling all over the area.
I got my gun and started shooting them one by one, but there were too damn many. Sure, they might rot away or vanish in time, but you never know. Not with those fuckers in B-class and above. For all I knew, they might find a way out of here and turn into something else, something nasty.
I pushed Sandra toward the door, then out of it and dropped a flamer behind us. In an instant, I threw the door and pulled her aside.
“What are you-?” Sandra started, but I cut her right off.
“Those fucking limbs, they are alive and god knows what they might become. You saw that thing, didn’t you? You fucking saw it, right?”
She was about to protest, but then she nodded.
Her eyes wandered from me to the tiny creature she was holding.
“What are you going to do with that? Keep it as a pet?”
“No. It’s empty now. There’s nothing to it anymore.”
“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”
“It’s a doll, or better a puppet. It was created by something to make this room, this portal. But if they did it here then,” her voice trailed off, but I knew what she meant.
“Isn’t that great, so you’re telling me those things might be all over the city, doing the same thing they did here?”
“At the ley lines, yes. At all of those new clusters on the map. And I think this wasn’t the only creature they were trying to get to come over here.”
“Fucking shit!” I cursed.
You know what? Fuck monsters and fuck those goddamn ley lines!