Stranger: Part Five

Written by Derrick Nadeau

Recap:  After awaking from a horrible nightmare in which a dying woman with a slit throat attacked him, Scott tried to fight his exhaustion and head to work.  When he arrived at work, Scott began to hear the disembodied voice of a man saying horrible things to him.  Scott rushed to the bathroom to regain his composure, but was shocked to see the face of a stranger looking back at him in the mirror.  Scott’s boss confronted him in the bathroom for being late, and wound up lying on the bathroom floor with a stab wound in his stomach.  Scott panicked, left work, and rushed home.  After seeing horrible visions of both the stranger, and the woman he had dreamed about, Scott called his girlfriend Melissa and made a desperate plea for her help.  Melissa came to Scott’s house as quickly as should could, and was then stabbed several times by Scott, who saw her as another phantom woman with a slit throat in his mind.  Scott panicked and attempted to run out his front door, but was met by several more naked women with their throats cut and bleeding.  The woman attacked Scott, causing him to lose unconsciousness.

Scott heard the muffled sounds of conversation off in the distance as he began to slowly regain consciousness.  Feeling groggy, Scott slowly opened his eyes and tried to focus his bleary vision, but could only see blurred shapes and a bright light.  As his vision and hearing gradually improved, Scott could make out the shapes of two men standing near him.  Scott surveyed his surroundings, and was surprised to realize that he was lying in what appeared to be a hospital bed.  Scott tried to rub his eyes, but found that he could not move his arms because they were strapped to the bed he was lying in.  Scott’s mind instantly filled with questions as he struggled against his restraints.  Frustrated, Scott attempted to speak to the two men conversing near his bed, but found that his mouth was not functioning yet.

“This is a mess,” one man said.  The man appeared to be older, perhaps in his fifties, with a strong build wearing a dark suit.

“It’s not,” the other man said.  The second man, younger and smaller in stature wearing a white lab coat over his jeans and t-shirt, appeared to be uncomfortable speaking to the man in the suit.  “It’s not a mess.  Well, it is, but it’s not a complete loss.”

“Not a complete loss,” the suited man shouted.  “How can you say that?  We lost one of our agents!  Not to mention the civilian that bled out on the bathroom floor of a factory!”

“I am aware of that,” the man in the lab coat shouted back, then paused to calm himself down.  “I know that people have died because of him.  I know that.  But, that doesn’t mean we need to scrap the whole program.”

“Oh yes it does,” the man in the suit stated callously.  “That is exactly what it means.  He killed the agent that was assigned to watch over him, and he killed an innocent civilian.  One death alone would be enough to prove to me that your program is a failure.”

“It’s not a failure,” the man in the lab coat exclaimed angrily.  “It was just a hiccup in the program.  Just an error that needs a little tweaking, that’s all.  I know exactly what the problem is.  I know exactly how to fix it.  I know exactly how to fix him.”

“You’ve said that before,” the man in the suit said.

“I know,” the man in the lab coat said.  “But I know what we did wrong.  Just, give me a chance to explain it.”

“Who does this guy think he is,” the stranger’s ghostly voice asked suddenly, sending a chill down Scott’s spine.  “Do you believe this shit?  This little punk thinks he can fix me?  He already tried that and obviously failed.”

“What,” Scott asked, his voice barely more than raspy whisper.

“Quiet,” the stranger barked.  “I’m trying to hear this.”

“Fine,” the suited man said.  “I’ll give you one chance to explain yourself doctor.  Make it good.”

“Okay,” the doctor in the lab coat said, wringing his hands nervously.  “Thank you.  So, basically, the idea was that we take this vicious serial killer here, and reprogram him mind using the memory implants that I invented to make him a better person.  A model citizen if you will.”

“Don’t talk to me like I am an idiot,” the man in the suit snapped.  “I am fully aware of the point of this program.  I’m the one who initiated it.”

“Right,” the doctor said nervously.  “Of course.  I was just trying to get some perspective.”

“Serial killer,” Scott whispered, appalled from the revelation.

“That’s right,” the stranger answered back.  “I really enjoyed it too.  Killing those bitches really turned me on.”

“Oh no,” Scott hissed.

“Anyway,” the doctor continued.  “So, you government types decided to try to use my brilliant research with memory implants and use it to reprogram criminals.  Which, by the way, I am still not happy  about.  That was not the intended use for them.”

“I am quickly losing my patience with you Doctor,” the man in the suit growled.  “Get to your point.”

“Right,” the doctor continued.  “Sorry.  My point is that you had me take this evil man who kills women for fun, and try to turn him into a good, upstanding, church going, god fearing, perfect American citizen.  My point is that you tried to turn this bastard into the complete opposite of his true nature.”

“I don’t understand this,” Scott whispered.

“Did they give me a lobotomy,” the stranger bellowed in Scott’s mind.  “I was never this fucking slow!”

“What  are you saying,” the man in the suit asked.
“It’s simple,” the doctor said with a sigh.  “You  wanted me to turn an evil man into something he could never be.  His natural tendencies for wickedness are so deeply ingrained in his brain that his mind realized that his new personality was completely wrong.  So, his mind rebelled and fought against the new personality you had me give him.  It’s like when a foreign object, like a virus, tries to enter your body.  Your immune system does all it can to fight that foreign object and eradicate it.  His mind fought back against my foreign programming and his true personality came back.  So, the programming failed.  But, I have a solution.”

“And what would that be,” the man in the suit asked, his tone skeptical.

“Let me reprogram him again,” the doctor answered.  “But this time, I won’t go to such extremes.  The answer is not to turn him into the model citizen, obviously.  Instead, we need to just turn him into just a boring, ordinary, working class stiff.  Just a regular, average guy.  Not too good, not too evil.  Do you see what I’m saying?”

The man in the suit did not answer, but instead turned to face Scott, studying him for a moment.  Scott struggled to move against his restraints, but found the effort futile.  In his mind, Scott could hear the stranger’s voice screaming obscenities at the man in the suit.  The man in the suit let out a long sigh before addressing the doctor once again.

“It will work,” the doctor said confidently.

“All right Doctor,” the man in the suit said.  “I will give you one more chance.  But that’s it.  If the program fails again, if even one more person dies at his hands, then it is over.  We will cut funding to your research and he will be disposed of.  Is that understood?”

“Yes,” the doctor replied enthusiastically.  “Yes, I completely understand.  I promise you, this will work.  You’ll see.  This will work.”

“No more promises Doctor,” the man in the suit said.  “Bring me results.”

Scott watched in terror as the man in the suit walked out of the room, casting one last distasteful glance in Scott’s direction.  As the man in the suit left, the doctor walked up beside Scott’s bed and smiled down at him.

“I’m so excited,” the doctor said.  “This research is going to win me a Nobel prize.  So, you had better not screw this up for me, get it?”

Scott, feeling his strength almost completely restored, began shaking his head furiously.

“Looks like you are awake now,” the doctor said, pulling a syringe out of his pocket and preparing it.  “Not to worry, this will take care of that.”

“No,” Scott shouted, his cry echoed by the stranger’s voice in his mind.

“Now, now,” the doctor said calmly, stabbing the syringe into Scott’s restrained arm.  “Don’t fight it.  It will all be over soon.  And, you won’t even remember any of this.”

“No,” the stranger shouted, his voice echoing through Scott’s head.  “Don’t let him do this!  Stop him!  Fight it damn it!  Fight it!”

Scott struggled in his restraints violently, but soon found that his strength began to wane once again.  With the sound of the stranger’s voice still screaming in his mind, Scott began to feel a calmness take over him again, as it had back at his apartment.  Soon the stranger’s voice began to fade away as if Scott were suddenly miles away from him.  Moments later, Scott slipped back into a deep unconsciousness.  The last sound Scott would ever hear was that of the stranger’s angry cries as they quickly faded away.

Stranger: Part Four

Written by Derrick Nadeau

Recap:  Scott awoke from a horrible nightmare about a woman with a slit throat dying in his arms in time to begin day.  Despite feeling exhausted, Scott went to work where he began hearing a strange, disembodied voice saying horrible things to him.  Scott ran to the bathroom to regain his composure, and was shocked to see a strangers face looking back at him in the mirror.  Moments later, Scott’s boss entered the bathroom and began to berate him for being late.  The stranger in the mirror threatened to dispose of Scott’s boss, as they argued, and Scott attempted to stop the stranger only to find that his boss had been stabbed in the stomach.  With the voice of the stranger shouting evil words in his ears, Scott grabbed the knife off of the bathroom floor, still covered in his bosses blood, and fled work.  Scott headed home, and after a few moments of mental torture from the stranger, called his girlfriend Melissa to help him.  After speaking with his girlfriend, Scott passed out on his bed with the laughter of the stranger ringing in his ears.

“Scott, are you here?”

Scott awoke to the sound of his girlfriend’s voice as she entered the front door of his apartment.  A wave of relief swept over Scott’s distraught mind as he rose from his bed and called out to his girlfriend.

“I’m in my room Melissa,” Scott called out.

“Are you ok,” Melissa called back, her footsteps echoing off the floor as she headed down the hallway to meet him.  “You scared me with that phone call.”

“I’m ok,” Scott called back, walking over to the bedroom door.  “No, that’s a lie.  I’m not ok.  I think I’m losing my mind.”

“What are you talking about,” Melissa said, her voice coming from the other side of Scott’s bedroom door.  “What is going on?”

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Scott replied, opening his bedroom door.  Once he opened the door, Scott was horrified to find that it was not his girlfriend that stood on the other side of the door, but another woman.  The woman stood naked before him, a look of anger and confusion on her face, with her throat cut wide open and pouring out blood.  Scott let out a terrified gasp and began to stumble backwards towards his bed.

“What’s wrong Scott,” the naked woman asked.  “Are you hurt?  Do you need me to take you to the hospital?”

Scott opened his mouth to respond, but could not find the words he needed.  Shaking his head furiously, Scott stumbled back further until he fell back onto his bed.

“Scott,” the bleeding woman said, cautiously approaching him, “you’re scaring me.  What’s wrong with you?”

“No,” Scott whispered at last, his throat feeling as dry as a desert.

“No what,” the woman said standing above Scott and reaching down towards him.  “No, you’re not hurt?  What is wrong with you?”

“No,” Scott again a little louder, pushing the woman’s hand away from him.

“Scott,” the naked woman said, her tone one of confusion.  “Honey?  You need to calm down.  You need to tell me what’s wrong.”

“No,” Scott repeated, this time louder and angrier as he scrambled to get up off of his bed.

“Scott,” the bleeding woman said, reaching out towards Scott again.  “Please stop this.  Come here and let me help you.”

“No,” Scott shouted angrily, pulling the bloody pocket knife out of his pocket.  “Leave me alone!”

“Scott,” the woman said, blood continuing to pour out of her throat.  “Honey, what are you doing?”

“No,” Scott screamed charging the woman and knocking her down to the floor.  “Leave me alone!”

Scott let out a guttural scream as he began to stab at the naked, bleeding woman repeatedly.  Scott felt hot tears begin to sting his eyes, and he pulled back from the naked woman to wipe the tears away.  Scott then opened his eyes and was surprised to see his hands covered in blood.  Shocked by his own actions, Scott looked past his hands to the woman underneath him.  Scott’s blood went cold when he saw that the woman lying on his floor was not the naked woman he had attacked, but was instead his girlfriend Melissa drenched in her own blood.  Scott choked back a bit of vomit as he fell backwards off of his girlfriend and onto the floor.  Finding it difficult to breathe, Scott reached over to his nearby dresser, and dragged himself to his feet.  Taking a moment to steady his weakened legs, Scott began to sob uncontrollably.  Scott looked over to his girlfriend dying on the floor near him and felt a sharp pain in his chest.

“Oh no,” Scott whispered, turning to face Melissa.  “No!  I’m so sorry baby.  You were-  You weren’t you.  You weren’t you.”

“Keep telling yourself that,” the voice of the stranger snarled in Scott’s ear.  “Maybe you’ll even believe it some day.”

“No,” Scott shouted, covering his ears with his blood stained hands.  “Why won’t you leave me alone?”

“You ain’t getting rid of me bitch,” the stranger’s voice shouted.  “They tried that already, but I’m still here!”

Scott began sobbing again as the laughter of the stranger tore into his mind, and ran out of the bedroom.  Scott continued running down the hallway to the front door, and swung the door open violently.  Scott screamed when he saw another naked woman with a slit throat standing in the doorway.

“Oh no,” Scott screamed, falling backwards onto the floor of the hallway.  “No!  No!  No!”

Scott continued screaming as the naked woman entered his house, followed by several more women of various appearances, all naked with slit throats.  The women surrounded Scott, grabbing his limbs and holding his limbs so he could not move.  Scott found himself too horrified and confused to struggle as one of the woman stood above him and reached down towards him.  Scott then felt a sharp pinch in his neck, followed by a feeling of calm.  As the calmness filled his mind, Scott felt himself slipping into darkness until finally slipping away into unconsciousness.

Stranger: Part Three

Written by Derrick Nadeau

Recap:  Scott awoke from a horrible nightmare about a woman dying feeling exhausted.  Despite his fatigue, Scott dragged himself out of bed and headed to work.  At work, Scott began to hear a strange disembodied voice whispering terrible things in his ear.  Scott ran into the bathroom, fearing he was hallucinating, and was confronted by a strange face looking back at him in the mirror.  Moments later, Scott’s boss confronted him n the bathroom and was subsequently stabbed and left bleeding on the bathroom floor as Scott ran to his car and sped off.

Scott ran into his apartment and hastily locked the door behind him.  Staring down at the blood on his hands and clothing, Scott tried to calm his mind to no avail.  Every time he closed his eyes, images of his boss bleeding on the bathroom floor  mixed with images of the woman from his dreams flooded his mind.  Tears of frustration filled Scott’s eyes as his brain struggled to make sense of his experiences.  Scott instinctively reached up to rub his eyes, and paused just before rubbing blood into them.  Scott swore to himself, then rushed down the hallway to the bathroom.  Once in the bathroom, Scott turned on the faucet and washed the blood from his hands.  Scott let out a hiss as the warm water stung the cuts on his hands.

“Too much blood,” Scott whispered as he scrubbed his hands until they were raw.  “It will never come off.  Too much blood.”

“Oh yeah,” the stranger’s voice replied.  “He was a bleeder all right.”

“No,” Scott shouted, continuing to scrub his hands clean.  “Get out of my head!  Leave me alone!”

“You are a real whiner,” the stranger snarled back.  “You know that?  A real fucking crybaby.”

“Shut up,” Scott shouted again.  Scott looked up to the mirror above the sink and saw the  stranger looking back at him again.  Rather than feeling shock or surprise, Scott felt only anger as he stared into the stranger’s cold eyes.

“Shut up,” the stranger repeated in a mocking tone.  “Why don’t you make me?  Go ahead, punch the mirror again, that works.”

Scott lifted his fist as the stranger’s laughter bounced off the walls of the bathroom, then quickly stopped himself.  Scott pulled his trembling hand back to the sink, then continued scrubbing it.

“Boy,” the stranger continued, “they really snipped your balls right off, didn’t they?  Just cut ‘em right off and threw ‘em away.”

“What,” Scott asked, pausing his hand washing and looking back up to the mirror.  “What does that mean?”

“You’ve been pussified,” the stranger scoffed.  “There isn’t even a hint of the man you used to be left in there, is there?”

“What are you talking about,” Scott snapped.

“Well, that’s not entirely true, is it?  There’s obviously at least a hint left there.  Maybe even more than that.  There would have to be.”

“A hint of what,” Scott cried out.  “What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about you stupid,” the stranger snarled.  “I’m talking about the man you used to be!  I’m talking about the little pansy they let you turn them into!”

“Pansy?  I’m not a-  Who are you talking about?  Nobody turned me into anything.”

“You are starting to really give me a headache,” the stranger snapped.  “I’m getting real tired of playing this game.”

“I don’t understand any of this,” Scott shouted.  “What in the name of the Lord is going on?”

“In the name of,” the stranger repeated, then paused briefly before continuing.  “I don’t even know who you are any more!  Those pricks really did a number on you.”

“No,” Scott shouted, focusing on washing his bloodied hands again.  “I’m not listening to this any more!”

Scott focused on his hands, scrubbing furiously despite the stinging cuts.  After a few tense minutes, Scott paused again, realizing that the voice of the stranger had gone silent.  Scott looked up to the mirror, and was horrified by what he saw looking back at him.  The visage of the stranger had disappeared, leaving instead the face of a woman looking back at him.  The woman’s throat was sliced open, similar to the woman in Scott’s dream, but her appearance was completely different.

“How could you,” the woman cried out as blood poured from her throat.  “How could you do this to me?”

“No,” Scott shouted, stumbling backwards until his back hit the opposite wall of the bathroom.  “No, please!  Not this again!”

Scott ran out of the bathroom, tears flowing from his eyes, down the hallway to his bedroom.  Once he reached his bedroom, Scott slammed the door behind him, placed his head against the door, and closed his tear stung eyes.

“I am losing my mind,” Scott whispered to himself.  “I must be going insane.”

Scott took several deep breaths in another failed attempt to calm himself, then reached into his pocket and pulled out his cellphone.  Scott struggled to dial a number with his quivering fingers, and swore to himself again as he waited for an answer to his call.

“Hello,” a female voice on the other end of the call said.  Scott felt an instant bit of relief at the sound of his girlfriend’s voice, and he began to feel his nerves slowly calming.

“Hi Melissa.  It’s me, Scott.”

“Scott,” Melissa said. a tinge of concern in his voice.  “Are you okay?  Why are you calling me in the middle of the day?  Is something wrong?”

“No,” Scott replied.  “I am not okay.  Something is very wrong.  I need you sweetheart.”

“What is it,” Melissa asked, the concern in her voice intensifying.  “What’s wrong?  Are you hurt?”

“I can’t talk about it over the phone,” Scott replied.  “I need to see you baby.  I need your help.”

“Sure honey,” Melissa said.  “I can leave work early to see you.  Are you still at work?  Or are you at the hospital?”

“No,” Scott replied.  “I’m at home.  I left work and headed home.  Please come as soon as you can.  Please.”

“Your really worrying me here Scott,” Melissa said.  “But, I’ll be right over, just hang on.  I’ll be there in a few minutes baby.  I promise.”

“Thank you Melissa,” Scott whispered.

“Okay baby, just hang on.”

Scott hung up the phone and closed his eyes again, letting the tears flow down his face.  Scott took one long, deep breath, held it in for a few minutes, then slowly let it slip out of his lungs.  Scott wiped his tear-stained cheeks, then walked over to his bed and sat down.  Taking a few more deep breaths, Scott looked down at his trembling hands and clenched them into fists.  Scott focused his thoughts on his girlfriend and felt himself finally begin to calm down.  Scott let out one more deep breath, then lay back on his bed.

“I can’t wait until your little girly gets here,” the stranger’s voice whispered in Scott’s ear.  “Then we’ll have some real fun!”

The sickening sound of the stranger’s laughter was the last thing Scott heard before passing out on his bed.

 

 

Stranger: Part Two

Written by Derrick Nadeau

 

Recap:  Scott awoke from a horrible dream in which he was attacked by a phantom crying woman with a slit throat.  Feeling exhausted by the stress of the dream, Scott went to work and tried to forget the horrors he had dreamed the night before.  While at work, he began to hear a strange voice he could not identify saying horrible things to him.  Scott ran to the bathroom in an attempt to regain his senses.  When he looked at himself in the mirror, he saw the face of a stranger staring back at him.

Scott stumbled back in horror until his back hit the wall opposite the mirror he had seen the strange face in.  Scott wanted to scream, but found that his voice had been momentarily stolen from him.  Scott stared at the floor of the bathroom, shaking his head furiously.  Scott then took a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm his nerves while trying to convince himself to check the mirror again.  Trembling uncontrollably, Scott took one last deep breath and forced himself to look in the mirror once again.  Scott was instantly relieved when he saw his own face staring back at him.

“I must be more tired than I realized,” Scott whispered to himself.  “I’m starting to hallucinate now.”

At that moment, the door to the bathroom burst open, startling Scott and rattling his already ravaged nerves.  Scott’s boss Mark stormed into the bathroom, looking extremely upset.

“What are you doing in here,” Mark growled.  “You are late.  Quit messing around in here and get to work already!”

Scott opened his mouth to speak, but was frozen by fear when he caught another glimpse of the stranger in the mirror directly behind Mark.

“Who is this jackass,” the  stranger asked angrily.  “What is his problem?”

Scott, feeling himself begin to tremble again, could only shake his head in response.

“Why are you shaking your head,” Mark snapped.  “Are you telling me no?”

“You really going to let this tool talk to you like that,” the stranger in the mirror asked.  “Seriously?”

“Oh no,” Scott whispered.

“What was that,” Mark asked.  “What did you just say?  Speak up.”

“I,” Scott tried to speak, but could not think of the right words to say.

“You don’t have to put up with this shit,” the stranger in the mirror snapped.  “This guy ain’t nothing.  Just get rid of him.”

Scott stared at the stranger in the mirror, feeling his body shaking uncontrollably, shaking his head frantically.

“What are you staring at,” Mark barked, turning to face the mirror.

“Now’s your chance man,” the stranger said.  “while his back is turned.  Take him out.”

Scott’s eyes grew wide and his mouth fell open as he continued to stare back at the mirror in horror.

“What are you doing, just staring at yourself in the mirror,” Mark asked angrily.

“Seriously,” the stranger growled.  “I can’t take this asshole any more.  If you won’t do it, then I’m gonna have to do it for you.”

Scott shouted out the word no as he grabbed his boss and pushed him away from the mirror.  Mark slammed against the nearby wall of one of the stalls, nearly knocking it down.  Scott slammed his fist into the mirror, shattering the glass and tearing open his arm in the process.  As blood began to flow down his arm, the sound of laughter echoed throughout the bathroom.  Mark let out a groan as he slid down the bathroom stall, holding his stomach as he slumped to the floor.  Scott looked over to his boss on the floor, and was shocked to see blood pouring out of a wound in his stomach.  Scott moved towards his boss, but stumbled over something on the bathroom floor.  Scott looked down to see what had tripped him up, and saw a blood covered pocket knife lying there.

“Oh no,” Scott whispered.  “No, no, no, no ,no!”

Scott looked back to the shattered mirror, but only saw his own face reflected in the shards.

“What did you do,” Scott cried, searching for signs of the stranger.  “What did you do?”

Mark let out another groan, jarring from his search and pulling him back to the reality of the situation.

“What am I going to do,” Scott asked, kneeling beside his boss to check his wound.

“I suggest getting the hell out of there,” the stranger’s disembodied voice replied.

“Leave,” Scott repeated.  “I have to leave.  I can’t stay here.  I can’t let them find me like this.”

Scott reached over, picked up the pocket knife on the floor, and put it in his pocket as he stood up.  Scott turned to face the bathroom door, but halted himself.

“You need to do something about that arm,” the stranger’s voice said.

“My arm,” Scott said, staring down at his bleeding appendage.  “I have to do something about this.”

Scott walked over to the paper towel dispenser on the wall, emptied it, and hastily wrapped the paper towels around his quivering arm.  Scott held the towels to his bloody gash and took several deep breaths in an attempt to calm his anxious nerves.  Scott glanced back at the broken mirror, surprised to find the stranger face staring back at him in the broken shard.

“What are you waiting for,” the stranger bellowed.  “Get out of here!”

Scott took one last glance at his boss lying on the bathroom floor, bleeding to death, and quickly exited the room.  As he walked to the employee entrance, Scott’s eyes darted around the hallway, searching for the eyes of his coworkers looking back at him.  Scott was relieved that he did not come across a single person as he rushed out into the parking lot of his plant and ran to his car in the nearby parking lot.  Feeling his nerves get the best of him, Scott stumbled to pull his keys out of his pocket with his injured arm.  Scott took one last look around him, searching the parking lot for anyone that might have seen him.  Once he had determined that there was not a single person around him, Scott got in his car, and started the engine.  Scott took one last quick glance around the parking lot, then sped off in his car.  Though uncertain where he would go, Scott knew he had to get as far away from his work as he possibly could.  Scott glanced in his rearview mirror to check the traffic behind him, and saw the stranger looking back at him once again.

“Good job,” the stranger snarled, flashing a wicked smile.  “Now, what are we going to do next for fun?”

Stranger

Part One

By Derrick Nadeau

Scott felt disoriented as he looked down the long, stark white hallway to the door at the end.  As he focused on the door, Scott could hear what sounded like a woman crying on the other side.  Scott took a deep breath, and slowly began to walk down the hallway.  With each step he took, the door at the end of the hallway seemed to be getting further away rather than closer, yet the sound of crying seemed to be increasing in volume.  Scott began walking faster, almost to the point of jogging, but still the door remained just out of reach.  Frustrated, Scott stopped walking, and turned to look back in the direction he had come from, and saw nothing but a cold, empty darkness.  Feeling panic begin to set into his mind, Scott turned back to the other end of the hallway, determined to run as fast as he could towards the door.  As he turned, Scott was shocked to find himself suddenly standing directly in front of the door.  Scott stared grimly at the doorknob, feeling an intense sense of trepidation., as the sound of the crying woman continued to grow louder.  Scott took another deep breath in an attempt to calm his nerves, then slowly opened the door in front of him.  The door opened to reveal a heavy darkness on the other side.  In the center of the darkness, a large bed could be seen bathed in a dim light.  Scott was shocked to see a naked woman on her hands and knees on top of the bed, facing away from him.  It was evident to Scott that the crying he had been hearing was coming from the woman on the bed.

“Are you all right,” Scott asked as he approached the bed cautiously.

“How could you,” the woman asked between sobs.

“I’m sorry?  What did you say?”

“How could you do this to me,” the woman cried, remaining perfectly still on the bed.

“Me,” Scott asked.  “What did I do?  Are you okay?”

“How could you,” the woman repeated coldly.

“What are you talking about?  What did I do?”

When Scott reached the head of the bed, he froze in his tracks and let out a loud gasp.  To his horror, Scott immediately discovered the answer to his question.  Through the dim light, Scott could see a large pool of blood soaking the bed directly under the kneeling woman.  Upon closer inspection, Scott discovered that the blood was pouring out of a large gash cut into the woman’s throat.  A sudden rush of panic filled Scott’s mind, and he began to stumble backwards into the darkness.  As he moved back, the woman began to stir on the bed, rising up and appearing to float off the bed and onto the floor.

“How could you do this to me,” the woman cried as her body began to move towards Scott without moving her legs or feet.

“What is this,” Scott asked, his voice barely more than a whisper.  At that moment, Scott tripped over something he could not see and fell to the floor.

“How could you do this to me,” the woman cried again, moving closer and closer to Scott.

“I didn’t,” Scott said, shaking his head furiously.  “I don’t know what this is.  I don’t understand.”

“How could you,” the woman asked again, this time a loud shout.

“Please,” Scott cried.  “Don’t.”

“How could you do this to me,” the woman asked again, this time in a scream so loud that it hurt Scott’s ears.

Before Scott could say another word, the woman suddenly appeared directly on top of him, pinning him to the floor.  Scott tried to push the woman off of him, but found himself unable to move as blood from the woman’s throat flowed down into his face.  Scott felt terror overtake him as the blood flowed down his throat, choking him.  Scott wanted to scream, but could not get out a sound as the deathly pale visage of the woman began to peel back, revealing a deep darkness underneath.  Scott could only watch in horror as the darkness expanded out, swallowing him up into it.

Scott woke up with a scream and quickly sat up in his bed, breathing heavily and drenched in sweat.  Scott shook his head, trying to shake the horrible dream out of his head, and then rubbed his eyes wearily.  Scott took a deep breath to calm his nerves, looked at his clock, and swore when he saw the time.  Though he felt exhausted from a night of disturbing dreams and wanted desperately to go back to sleep, his clock told him that he had a mere six minutes before his alarm would go off to let him know it was time to get ready for work.  Scott swore again, then stumbled out of bed to start his day.

Though he felt like a zombie, Scott managed to follow his routine and get himself ready for work.  Once he arrived at work, Scott headed to the break room and bought himself a cup of coffee from the vending machine.  Though he usually found the sludge masking itself as coffee served by the vending machine completely disgusting, Scott hoped that it would be gross enough to pull him our of his funk.  As he tried to force the coffee down his throat, his mind suddenly flashed back to the blood choking him in his dream, and he almost choked on the viscous liquid.  As he tried to recover from his choking, Scott’s friend Rich entered the breakroom and greeted him.

“Hey buddy,” Rich said.  “You okay there?”

“Yeah,” Scott replied, clearing his throat.  “Just trying to suck this crap down.”

“That stuff is nasty,” Rich said.  “Why are drinking that?”

“Didn’t sleep well last night,” Scott answered back, trying to decide if he could stomach another swig of motor oil.  “Figured this might help me wake up.”

“Yeah, you look like crap,” Rich said, shaking his head and chuckling.  “Late night with Sarah?”

“No,” Scott replied with a sigh.  “I didn’t even see Sarah last night.  She had to work late.  I’ve just been having some really bad dreams lately, that’s all.  They’ve really been messing with my head and ruining my sleep.”

“Really?  What kind of dreams?”

“Just,” Scott paused a moment, deciding if he wanted to discuss the nightly horrors his mind had been playing for him.  “I don’t really remember them.  I just know that they are bad and they are causing me to sleep like crap.”

“Sorry to hear that buddy,” Rich said.  “Maybe you should have called in sick today.”

“Maybe,” Scott said with a frown.  “But I think I needed to come in to keep my mind off of my crazy dreams.”

“Have you thought about going to see someone about this,” Rich asked.  “It’s obvious that it is something that is really affecting you.  You look exhausted.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Scott replied.  “I guess I could try to make an appointment with my doctor later.  Maybe that will help.”

“I’m sure they will be able to help in some way,” Rich agreed.  “Come on, it’s time to get to work now.”

“Yeah, okay,” Scott said, dumping the coffee he could not stomach down the drain of a nearby sink.

As Scott and Rich exited the breakroom, Scott paused in front of the doorway to let one of his coworkers, a woman named Mona, enter the breakroom.

“Good morning Scott,” Mona said, offering a greeting smile.

“Morning Mona,” Scott said back, attempting to return a weak smile.

“Have a good day today.  I’ll talk to you sometime later.”

“Sure thing Mona,” Scott said, as Mona walked past him into the breakroom.  “You have a good day too.  I hope it won’t be too busy.”

“Look at the ass on that one,” Scott heard someone say near him.  “I bet you could have some real fun with that one.”

Horrified, Scott turned to see who had made such a crass statement, but was surprised to see that there wan not a single person around him.

“I must be hearing things,” Scott said to himself, letting out a frustrated breath.  “My lack of sleep must be getting to me.”

“Come on,” the voice said again with a rough growl.  “You know you want a piece of that.”

Scott looked around again, desperately searching for a source to the voice he heard, but was dismayed to once again not find a single person near him.  Scott shook his head furiously, and hurried out of the breakroom.  Scott felt a surge of panic as he began to worry that his mind might be slipping, causing him to begin to hallucinate.  Scott ran into a nearby bathroom, walked up to the sink, and began to splash cold water on his face.  Scott grabbed a couple of paper towels, dried his face, and rubbed his eyes for a long moment.  Scott then took a couple of deep breaths, then glanced at himself in the mirror to see just how tired he actually appeared.  Scott’s blood turned to ice when he saw the face of a stranger staring back at him.

“Hey buddy,” the stranger in the mirror snarled.  “Remember me?”

On Blackened Wings

cooltext1595959836

You Burn

Rand could not hold back his joyous laughter as he soared through the air on his newly acquired wings.  As the cool wind gently nipped at his face, Rand felt the troubles and concerns of his life slip away into nothingness.  At that moment, all Rand cared about was the feeling of unparalleled freedom he felt soaring among the clouds.  Rand had never dreamed that flying high in the sky could feel so truly amazing, and he found himself wishing that he never had to touch the ground again.  As Rand began to feel more comfortable with his newly acquired wings, he began to test himself by attempting to mimic the actions of the birds that he had witnessed in the sky.  Rand pulled his wings close to his sides, and launched into  a free-fall towards the ground below.  Seconds before reaching the ground, Rand opened his wings again, catching the air perfectly to halt his fall and send him back up towards the sky, spinning and laughing as he rose.  Once he reached a high enough altitude, Rand dove towards the ground again.  Instead of rising back to the sky, Rand this time opened his wings further to allow himself to soar low to the ground.  Rand let out a triumphant shout as he watched the ground below him speed past.

As he soared along, close to the ground, Rand suddenly noticed a strange creature crawling on the ground ahead of him.  As he got closer, Rand noticed that the creature was actually a man.  Rand recognized the man immediately as he flew over him, and the joy in his heart was instantly consumed by pure hatred.  Rand adjusted his flight to bring himself back into the sky, and he circled around to get another view of the Seraph below him.

“How do you still live.” Rand shouted to the Seraph too far below him to hear.  “How is it possible?  I told the elders we should have killed you!”

Rand continued to circle the Seraph below him like a vulture waiting to feast, cursing the gods for sparing the creature’s life.  Letting anger take control, Rand dropped into another dive, aimed directly at the Seraph below.  Rand felt his blood boiling in his veins as he soared towards his target, and his mind began to focus on getting his revenge.  In a matter of seconds, Rand reached the Seraph, but was soaring too fast.  Unable to control himself, Rand crashed into the Seraph and rolled several feet before coming to a halt.  Rand moaned as he felt the pain of several broken ribs and a fractured jaw.  As Rand tried to get back to his feet, he heard another moan from the nearby Seraph.

“How,” Rand hissed, spitting out blood.  “How do you still live?”

Rand tried to stand but found that he had sprained his ankle as well, forcing him to drop back to the ground.  Rand fought back tears caused by a mix of pain and frustration as he looked over to the Seraph lying broken several feet away from him.  The Seraph began to attempt to move again, and Rand found his mind filling with hatred and anger once again.

“Die, damn you,” Rand shouted.  “Why won’t you just die?”

The Seraph responded to Rand’s question by coughing up blood, drove Rand past his breaking point.  With a scream of anger mixed with intense pain, Rand rose to his feet, ignoring his injuries, and hobbled over to the Seraph.  Letting out an anguished cry, Rand grabbed the Seraph and mustered all the strength he had left to launch himself back into the sky.  Though it was a great struggle, Rand lifted the Seraph high into the air, leaving the ground far below him.  Once he rose as high as he felt he could go, Rand released his grip on the Seraph, letting his son’s killer fall.  Rand began to fly in a circular pattern, watching intently as the Seraph dropped to the ground.  An eternity later, the Seraph crashed into the ground violently, leaving a bloody splatter around his body.

Rand felt a sense of relief as he stared at the lifeless body of his son’s murderer lying on the ground below him, and the tears began to flow from his eyes.  Moments later, Rand’s relief was turned to horror as he felt a burning sensation on his back.  In his peripheral vision, Rand could see flames coming from behind him.  Before Rand could realize what had happened, his wings had caught fire and burned up, leaving a mass of charred skin on his back.  Rand let out another pain filled scream as his once glorious wings burned off, leaving him charred and falling back to the earth.  Despite the agony of losing his wings, all Rand could focus on was his family as he fell to his death.  A brief moment later, Rand’s body crashed into the ground bringing his life to a painful end.

“I’m sorry Waryn,” a white-winged Seraph named Gabras announced.  “Your son did not survive the fall.”

“My son,” Waryn whispered as he knelt  over his son’s lifeless body.  “What did those animals do to you?”

” I can’t explain what happened here,” The Gabras stated.  “It seems that Ezkel’s wings have been chopped off his body, and his death seems to have been caused by the fall from that.  But, I can’t possibly imagine how that is possible.  We may never know the true story of how your son was slain.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Waryn stated coldly.  “All that matters is that my son lies dead in the dirt like some common beast.  Wrap up his body so that we can take him back home and give him a proper ritual.”

“Of course Waryn,” Gabras said, then turned his attention to the burnt and broken body of the Devlin lying nearby.  “And what of this beast?”

“Leave it,” Waryn snapped.  “I know that creature is somehow responsible for the death of my son.  Leave it lying in the dirt for the other beasts to feed on.  That is a fitting end for that creature.”

Waryn let his tears flow as he and Gabras wrapped Ezkel’s body in a large cloth.  The two Seraph then launched into the sky, carrying Ezkel’s body back to his home for a proper burial.

On Blackened Wings: Part Four

cooltext1595959836

Written by Derrick Nadeau

Part Four

You Are Reborn

 Rand stared at the black wings bolted to the side of his farmhouse as his mind swarmed with mixed emotions.  From the moment his son had been murdered by the monster once attached to the black wings, Rand’s life had become a whirlwind of anger, hatred, and sadness.  Rand picked up the ax he had used to remove the wings of his Seraph captive, and his mind swelled with the memory of what it felt like to chop the wings off of the monster that had attacked his family.  Each swing of the ax allowing Rand to expel his anger while the sound of the monster’s flesh tearing recharged his hatred for the next swing of the ax.  Rand stared down at the blood covered ax and found himself wishing he had been allowed to kill the Seraph instead of being forced to watch the monster that had destroyed his family crawl out of his village, wingless, with two huge, cauterised wounds on his back.  Though it seemed unlikely that the Seraph would survive the long journey back to his people, the small possibility that the monster could make it home filled Rand’s heart with bitterness.

Rand tossed the ax back on the ground, disgusted with the weakness of his village elders for letting the Seraph just leave.  Rand walked up to one of the wings, grabbed a hold of the crossbow bolt anchoring it to the wall of the farmhouse, and attempted to wrench it free.  Rand pulled on the bolt with all his strength while attempting to wiggle the bolt free, but could not get it to move at all.  As he tried to force the bolt out, Rand’s hands became sweaty, eventually slipping off the bolt and sending Rand reeling backwards.  As he slipped back, Rand tripped on the ax he had tossed on the ground, altering his fall so that he bumped into the wall of his farmhouse, landing between the two black wings.  Rand leaned against the wall for a moment, regaining his composure from the fall, when he suddenly began to feel a burning sensation on his back.  Rand attempted to push himself off the wall as the burning intensified, but found himself inexplicably paralyzed.  Panic began to overtake Rand’s mind, and he let out a scream filled with fear and agony.

Rand’s wife, Meleda, was preparing dinner when she was startled by the sound of her husband’s screaming.  Grabbing a nearby kitchen knife, Meleda ran outside to discover her husband writhing on the ground, covered by the black wings of the Seraph, and screaming as though he were being torn apart.  Meleda attempted to run to her husband’s side, but was blocked by the flailing wings.  Meleda lifted the knife in her hand, and stabbed at the closest wing, which seemed to only cause her husband to let out another agonized scream.

“Rand,” Meleda shouted, hoping her husband would hear her over his own screams.  “What is happening?  What can I do?”

Rand did not respond, continuing his chorus of pain, and Meleda began to feel panic set into her mind.  Desperate to help her husband, Meleda began to stab at the black wings again and again, ignoring her husband’s frantic cries after each stab.  After several hacks, one of the wings swung up and hit Meleda square in the chest, knocking her to the ground brutally.  Meleda placed her hand on her chest, sore from the impact of the wing, and felt for broken ribs as she tried to catch the breath that had been knocked out of her.  Meleda pulled her shirt open slightly, and examined her chest.  Meleda was not surprised to see a large, deep black bruise on her chest, but was relieved to see that no bones appeared broken.  As she watched a large welt begin to form on he skin, Meleda realized that the screams of her husband had abruptly stopped.  Meleda looked up to see rand lying still on the ground, covered by the black wings, his body slowly undulating as his breathing became deep and heavy.

“Rand,” Meleda cried, her voice barely able to produce more than a harsh whisper.  “My love, are you hurt?  What happened?”

Meleda paused, staring at her husband and praying for his response.

“Rand,” Meleda shouted, “Husband, please answer me!  Are you all right?”

Meleda struggled to get to her feet and move to her husband when suddenly, she saw the wings of the Seraph begin to stir.  Meleda watched in shock as the wings spread wide and her husband slowly rose to his feet.  Horror began to fill Meleda’s heart as she witnessed the sight of her husband standing before her with the black wings of the Seraph somehow attached to Rand’s back.

“Rand,” Meleda whispered, choking as she did.  “What has happened to you?”

Rand began to slowly move each wing, testing the strength and flexibility of his new appendages before turning his gaze to his wife.  Meleda was startled by the look in her husband’s eyes, a combination of awe and elation.

“My wife,” Rand said, smiling at Meleda.  “My love.  Look at me.  Look at what the gods have given me.  Look upon your husband as he has been reborn!”

“Reborn,” Melada whispered.  “I-I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I,” Rand laughed.  “Not fully.  It seems the will of the gods that I should be given this gift of our enemy’s wings.  Though the pain was exquisite, I am now truly blessed by the gods.”

“But why,” Meleda asked.  “For what purpose?”

“Who am I to guess at the whims of the gods,” Rand replied.  “Blessed though I be, I have not been given a glimpse into the will of the gods.”

“This is no small matter,” Meleda stated.  “We need to seek the counsel of the elders.”

“Yes, perhaps you are right my love,” Rand responded.  “Very well, let us seek the advice of our village elders.  I will meet you there my wife.  But first, my heart is aching to test out these wings.”

Before Meleda could answer, Rand began to flutter his wings, causing a wind to blow the dirt around.  Meleda covered her eyes to block the wind and dirt as her husband began to lift into the air.  With a cry of pure joy, Rand launched himself into the sky, leaving his wife behind.  Meleda watched her husband fly away, but instead of feeling awe or amazement, found only fear and concern filling her heart.

On Blackened Wings: Part Three

cooltext1595959836Written by Derrick Nadeau

Part Three

You Suffer

Rand studied the damage done to his village as he walked back to his farm from the town square.  Looking at all the destruction and pain caused by the Seraph attack, Rand found it difficult to agree with the sentence the village elders had decided on.  Rand had argued his point that the Seraph he had captured should be put to death immediately, but the elders would not allow such violence in their village.  Instead, the elders decided that the captured Seraph would be stripped of his wings and released outside the village to find his own way home, or die trying.  Rand found himself hoping for the death of the Seraph, a fitting end to the monster that took his son’s life, but also prayed to the gods that the death would be long and painful.  Rand took a deep breath, attempting to push down his anger and hatred to think with a clear mind, but the attempt was made futile the moment he once again saw the captured Seraph pinned to the side of his farmhouse.  Rand walked up to the Seraph, ignoring the questions from his wife and youngest son regarding the decision of the elders.

“I want to kill you,” Rand spat at the Seraph.  “Right here, right now, I want to kill you to avenge the son that you took from me.”

The Seraph, weakened by loss of blood and dehydration, began to cough violently until flecks of blood began to form on his lips.  Rand grabbed a nearby bucket of cold water and dumped it on the head of the Seraph.  The Seraph then began to struggle violently, attempting to pull his wings free from the crossbow bolts that held them firm to the farmhouse wall, while also attempting to break the rope that Rand had used to tie his hands together.

“You are too weak to break free now monster,” Rand shouted.

“Then kill me,” the Seraph hissed, barely able to speak.  “Kill me and take your revenge!”

Rand grabbed an ax that had been leaning against the wall nearby, charged towards the Seraph, lifted the ax to strike a fatal blow, then paused.

“I cannot,” Rand said, his arm shaking as he held the ax up.  “I am not allowed to kill you.  The elders have decided that you shall live.”

The Seraph began to laugh at that moment.  A weak, raspy laugh that could only be heard by Rand.

“Weak,” the Seraph hissed as he laughed.

“Say that again,” Rand said through gritted teeth.

“I will say it again, and again,” the Seraph continued, his voice becoming louder though still hoarse.  “You are weak!  Weak little animals!  That is why we hunt you.  The gods made you for the sole purpose of being prey for the mighty Seraph.  You are fooling yourselves if you think otherwise.”

“We are not animals,” Rand shouted,  “Look around you!  We have built ourselves a civilization here.  We are peaceful farming community.  We have never harmed your people.  We have given you no cause to slaughter us year after year.”

“The gods give us cause,” the Seraph said.  “You can pretend you are civilized all you like, but you always have been, and always will be animals put here for the Seraph to hunt and kill.  That is all you will ever be.”

“How can you say such things,” Rand asked.  “How can you look me in the eye and say such things to me.”

“Look you in the eye,” the Seraph asked in return.  “I look you in the eye and it only confirms my beliefs.  Look at yourself animal.  See yourself as we see you.  With your yellow eyes that glow red at night.  The horns that protrude out of the tops of your beastly heads.  Horns that point to the sky as if you are constantly praying to the gods.  It is my people that have been given the blessing of the gods.  My people who have been given wings so that we may soar in the heavens with the gods while you filthy animals work in the dirt where you belong.”

“Stop calling us animals,” Rand shouted, finding it harder to hold back his urge to kill the Seraph.

“Why would I,” the Seraph asked smugly.  “You are proving my point.  Look at how angry you are.  I can see your pathetic, animal emotions fighting to take control of you.  I can see it in your beastly face.  The faces of my people are beautiful, hand carved by the gods themselves.  While your faces are ugly and hairy.  Your noses are flat like the swine you tend to in your pens there.  Even your feet bear hooves, just like the feet of your pigs.”

“Stop now,” Rand shouted.  “Or I swear I will kill you no matter what the elder’s decision!”

“Then do it animal,” the Seraph shouted.  “Prove me right!  Show this world what an animal you still are.  Through aside your facade of civility and give in to your true nature.  Become the sad little beast I know you to be!”

Rand lifted the ax as high as he could, let out a blood-curdling scream, and sent the ax down with all the strength he had into the flesh of the Seraph.  As the Seraph let out his own agonized scream, Rand’s wife let out a gasp of shock as she grabbed her young son and turned his innocent eyes away from the brutal scene.  A spatter of blood smacked Rand in the face, and he felt a twinge of satisfaction as he again bit into the Seraph’s flesh with his ax.  Rand’s wife tried to cover her son’s ears with her hands to protect the child from the screams of agony mixed with the aggressive growl of her husband.  Rand’s wife closed her own eyes and listened to the sickening thud of the ax finding its target again and again until finally, the screaming died down to moaning.  Rand’s wife took a deep breath, slowly opened her eyes, then turned to see what her husband had done.

“It is done,” Rand said, spitting on the broken, wingless Seraph lying on the ground before him.  Rand looked up at his wife and son, who were staring back at him with expressions of pure shock, then quickly moved his gaze to the black wings still bolted to the farmhouse.  the wings twitched slightly, and Rand was pleased to see blood dripping down from the areas that  he had chopped away from the back of the Seraph.  As he stared at the wings, Rand heard the sounds of his fellow villagers approaching behind him.

“You have kept your word,” Delphon, one of the village elders announced as he approached Rand and the broken Seraph lying before him.

“I have,” Rand said back.  “I would not defy the wishes of the elders.  I thank you for at least allowing me the honor of carrying out the monster’s sentence.”

“I know you do not agree with our decision Rand,” Rigus, another elder spoke up.  “But, I hope in time you will come to understand it.  We cannot allow ourselves to become like them.  We cannot allow violence to become our way.”

“I do understand,” Rand said.  “Deep down, I know that we must be the animals these monsters think we are.  It is just hard to deal with the murder of my son.”

“We do hope this has brought some sort of closure for you,” Rigus said.  “Perhaps you will see that justice has been done for your son’s death.”

“Perhaps,” Rand whispered to himself, then cleared his throat before addressing the villager.  “Let’s get these wounds cauterized so we can get this monster out of our village for good then.”

“I brought a nice, hot iron for just that purpose,” Hark, the village blacksmith announced as he approached the broken Seraph.

Rand felt another twinge of satisfaction as he watched the blacksmith use his hot iron to cauterize the open wounds left in the Seraph’s back by the removal of his wings.  Rand allowed himself to find pleasure in the pain filled screams of the monster that had taken his son from him.  Though the elder’s had not allowed Rand to seek his vengeance in the death of the monster, taking the wings of the Seraph proved to be a favorable alternative.  Rand closed his eyes and pictured his son’s face, then let out a long sigh that helped him release some of his pain into the heavens.

“You are with the gods now my son,” Rand whispered as he looked to the sky with tears in his eyes.  “Though my heart is heavy, I take comfort knowing you are looking down on us.  You will always be loved here.”

On Blackened Wings: Part Two

cooltext1595959836

Written by Derrick Nadeau

Part Two

You Hunt

Rand wiped sweat off his brow as he stared up towards the sun standing high in the noon time sky.  Taking a swig of water from his flask, Rand stared at the field around him.  The year had been good for farming, and the crops had yielded a bountiful harvest.  Rand looked over to his eldest son, Emrik, harvesting tomatoes nearby and smiled proudly.  Rand looked back to his farmhouse and saw his youngest son, Donno, tending to the pigs in their pen with his mother, and his smile grew prouder.  Rand’s favorite time of year was quickly approaching, the end of harvest when the air would start becoming cooler and the leaves would change, and he was anxious to spend that time taking his sons out to the forest to hunt for wild game.  Though his people had been farmers for generations, planting crops and raising livestock, Rand had decided to rekindle the old traditions of hunting game in the fall and winter to sustain his family during the harder periods of cold and snow.  Rand had even used his skills as a tinkerer to upgrade his hunting weapons, such as turning a simple bow and arrow into a crossbow to improve his chances.  Rand had tried to share his inventions with his entire village, but was denied by his village elders.  The elders had decided that farming provided all the food needed by the village, and the old traditions of hunting wild animals for food no longer needed to be used for sustenance.  Rand shook his head and let out a chuckle as he thought about the arguments he had tried to use to convince the elders that hunting would add to the food supply in the harsh winters, and help everyone survive.  The elders quickly dismissed Rand’s claims, telling him that the farmlands yielded plenty of food for the entire village.  Though they had determined that hunting did not need to be used as an alternate food source, they would not deny anyone that chose to hunt on their own.  Rand had taught his sons to hunt, building crossbows for both, as well as a few of his closest friends.

Rand’s thoughts were interrupted suddenly by the sound of a bell ringing loudly at the edge of the village.  The bell was an alarm warning the village of an approaching attack by the mortal enemy of Rand’s village, the Seraph.  The Seraph, a race of winged hunters and warriors, believed themselves superior to Rand’s race, the Devlin.  With their horned heads and hoofed feet, the Devlin were treated as nothing more than mere animals by the Seraph  to be hunted and killed in a yearly ritual dedicated to the Gods.  The fact that the Devlin were merely farmers also led to the Seraph seeing them as weak pacifists that deserved to be hunted.

“Emrik,” Rand shouted to his son, “That’s the alarm!  The Seraph are coming!  Get to the house, now!”

Emrik responded immediately, dropping his basket of tomatoes and running full speed towards the farmhouse.  Rand followed closely behind, but could not match his son’s speed.  Emrik reached the farmhouse, paused, and turned to make sure his father was not too far behind.  Emrik was relieved to see that his father was only a couple of steps behind him, and he turned his gaze up to the sky.  Emrik could see the silhouettes of several Seraph hunters in the sunlight, and his heart filled with dread.

“They’re coming father,” Emrik shouted, pointing to the sky.  “Hurry!”

Rand reached the doorway of his house, breathing heavily, and turned to look in the direction his son was pointing in time to see the Seraph diving towards Rand’s village, their spears hungry for blood.

“Get in the house,” Rand hissed through heavy breaths.

“But father,” Emrik protested.

“Go,” Rand shouted.  “Make sure your mother and brother are safe!”

As Emrik ran to find his mother and brother, Rand looked to his tool shed several yards away from the house and calculated his chances of making it to the shed safely. The crossbows Rand and his sons used to hunt were stored in that shed, and he knew that he would need the weapons to keep his family safe from the sky hunters.  Rand took a deep breath, cursed his fortune, and ran at full speed towards the shed.  With his focus centered on the shed in front of him, Rand did not see the Seraph bearing down on him.  Rand let out an agonized shout as the Seraph swooped down and knocked Rand to the ground.  Rand rolled over, holding his now aching ribs, to see the Seraph, a young hunter with black wings, circling back to attack again.

“Father,” Rand heard Emrik shout as he ran out to help his father.

“No son,” Rand shouted back.  “Stay in the house!  Don’t worry about me!”

Rand watched in horror as the black winged Seraph swooped down again, this time aiming for his son.  Rand struggled to get to his feet as his son was knocked to the ground by the Seraph.  Rand fought the urge to run to his son’s side, knowing that he would not be able to protect his son without a weapon.  As tears filled his eyes, Rand turned and ran to the shed, the sound of Seraph wings taunting him from the air.  As Rand approached the shed, he put his head down and ran into the door of the shed.  Using his momentum coupled with the hard bone of the horns on his head, Ran was able to easily break through the locked door of the shed in one single attempt.  Once inside the shed, Rand grabbed his crossbow and a quiver of bolts,  and quickly loaded a bolt into the crossbow.  Rand rushed out of the shed to see his son lying on the ground with the black winged Seraph standing over him.  Before Rand could react, the Seraph stabbed his spear into Emrik’s chest, piercing the young Devlin’s heart.

Rand let out a blood curdling scream as he watched the spear pierce his son’s chest several more times.  Acting on pure impulse, Rand lifted his crossbow, aimed it at the black winged Seraph, and released a bolt.  The bolt soared through the air and found its mark, piercing through the right arm of the Seraph.  The Seraph let out a cry of pain as he grabbed on to the bolt protruding from his arm.  The Seraph turned to face Rand, raising his wings to take flight.  Rand had quickly loaded another bolt into his crossbow, and he rushed to fire it at the Seraph.  The second bolt found its way to the Seraph’s wing, boring into the thin, feather covered flesh, and sending the Seraph careening backwards towards Rand’s nearby farmhouse.  The Seraph screamed as the bolt found purchase in the wall of the farmhouse, trapping him against the wall.  Rand, having once again loaded his crossbow, fired another bolt into the Seraph’s other wing, preventing the creature from escaping.

Once Rand had determined that the Seraph was securely trapped against the wall of his farmhouse, he ran to his son’s side and cradled the boy in his arms.  With the sounds of the Seraph struggling to free himself echoing through the air, Rand stared down at his son with tear filled eyes.  Rand watched helplessly as the god of death stole his son’s life away, offering a prayer for the safe travel of his son’s soul to the heavens.  Once the life had fully slipped away from Emrik, Rand closed his son’s eyes and kissed him on the forehead.

Rand grabbed his crossbow, then focused his hate filled gaze on the captured Seraph.

“You took my son from me you bastard,” Rand shouted as he loaded another bolt into his crossbow.

The Seraph did not reply, but instead focused solely on the bolts holding his wings to the wall of the farmhouse.

“My son,” Rand shouted, aiming the crossbow at the Seraph’s head and walking towards the hunter.  “My eldest son!  You took his life!  You stole my son from me!”

The Seraph turned his focus to the crossbow aimed at his head, his eyes growing wide, but still did not respond.

“Do you not feel a bit of remorse,” Rand asked, still shouting.  “What kind of horrible creature are you?  You murdered my son!  For what purpose?  To appease your cruel gods?  How many sons of my people have been taken by your hunters?  And now look at you.  Trapped here by my bolts.  Your wings useless to you now.  I should just put another bolt in your head and finish you!  Or perhaps through your heart as you did to my son!”

“Please,” the Seraph cried out at last.  “Please don’t kill me!”

“So you can speak,” Rand said.  “And those are the words you choose to say to me?  To beg for your life?  You did not even give my son time to beg for his.”

“Please,” The Seraph said again as Rand pushed the head of the crossbow bolt into the his chest.

“Beg all you want monster,” Rand spat.  “You killed my son.  There is no reason for me to spare your life.”

“Perhaps there is,” A voice said from behind Rand.

Rand turned to see several of his fellow villagers approaching his farmhouse, including the elders.  Rand turned back to the Seraph and once again pointed his crossbow at his head.

“He killed my son,” Rand said, addressing the approaching villagers.  “He deserves nothing less than death.”

“Our village has lost many sons this day,” One elder said.  “And we will lose many more when the hunters return in the next few days.  And yet, you have done something that has never been done before Rand.  You have captured one of the hunter’s own sons.  We understand your need for justice in your son’s death Rand.  But, perhaps there is a better way.  A way that will show the Seraph that we will no longer sit by and allow them to take our people from us.”

Rand took a deep breath, glared back at the captured Seraph, then lowered his crossbow reluctantly.

“Tell me your plan,” Rand finally said after a long pause.  “Convince me why I should not just kill him outright.”

On Blackened Wings: Part One

cooltext1595959836Written by Derrick Nadeau

Part One

You Rise

The sound of wings beating on the wind ripped Ezkel’s mind from a deep meditation.  Opening his weary eyes, Ezkel tried to focus his vision on the sun soaked sky above him.  Excitement and relief filled Ezkel’s heart as he realized that it was finally time for him to go home.  Though Ezkel had lost track of how long he had actually been abandoned on the cliffs above his home, it had begun to seem like his entire life had been spent in exile.  Ezkel closed his eyes once more, took in a deep breath of the cool air, and slowly rose to his feet.  Ezkel moved clumsily on weak legs towards the landing area, keeping his eyes skyward as the sound of the wings grew closer.  Ezkel allowed himself a smile of true joy as the source of the sounds came into view.  As Ezkel approached the landing area, he waved at the three winged men flying down to meet him.

“Hello father,” Ezkel said as he walked up to the three winged men.

“Ezkel, my son,” one of the men replied, reaching out to embrace Ezkel.  “It is good to see you alive and well.”

“Thank you father,” Ezkel replied, circling his arms around his father’s muscular form.  As he embraced his father, Ezkel felt his skin brush up against his father’s wings, and he felt a pang of sadness.  “It has been a challenge, but I am proud to say that I have survived the ritual.”

“Unbind him,” Ezkel’s father said to the two other men at his side.  “You did well my son.  I am proud you have survived the ritual as well.  Now, it is time for you to go home and prepare for the hunt.”

“I am very much looking forward to that,” Ezkel beamed.

Ezkel let out a sigh of relief as the two men accompanying his father walked behind him and began to unbind his wings.  Ezkel winced as he stretched his wings, now stiff and weakened from the ritual binding.  Though his wings now felt broken and useless, his feathers almost completely fallen off, Ezkel accepted his pain as part of the ritual.  When a boy reaches the age of fifteen, he is then sent to the cliffs above his home, wings bound tightly so that they cannot be used, and forced to live on their own for one month.  Once the ritual is complete, the boy is allowed to return home as a man.  Now considered a man by his tribe, Ezkel would be allowed to join the annual hunt of the Devlin with the rest of the men in his tribe.

“Let’s go home then,” Ezkel’s father announced.

The two men then wrapped a harness around Ezkel’s waist, stood on either side of him, and prepared to launch back into the sky.  With his wings in their weakened state, Ezkel had no choice but to allow himself to be carried home by the two men.  Though it was the most degrading part of the ritual, being carried home after a month of wing binding was considered an important lesson in humility.  Ezkel placed his hands on the straps of the harness and held tightly as the two men began flapping their wings, slowly at first then increasing speed until they began to lift off.  Ezkel began to grow excited as he felt the ground fall away from his feet.  It had been too long since Ezkel felt the joy of soaring through the sky, and the wind on his face brought back pleasant memories of mock dogfights in the sky with his friends as a child.  Ezkel looked over at his father, flying by his side, and smiled brightly.  After a month of pain and loneliness, Ezkel allowed himself to revel in the bliss of gliding through the air.

Ezkel watched the ground below him as he soared past, not realizing how homesick he was until he actually saw his village growing larger as he approached.  Ezkel’s father smiled at his son before suddenly diving down to the village below.  The two men began to slowly lower Ezkel down to the ground below, circling the village as they lowered down.  As the men approached the village center, Ezkel was pleased to see it filled with his fellow villagers cheering for his return.  Once he reached the ground, Ezkel began to remove his harness as his mother appeared from the crowd and ran up to embrace her son.

“Hello Mother,” Ezkel whispered as he wrapped his arms tightly around his mother.

“My son is back,” Ezkel’s mother cried.  “I missed you so much.”

“I missed you too,” Ezkel whispered, choking back tears.

“Our son has done us proud Ada,” Ezkel’s father said as he approached his son and wife.

“Yes, Waryn,” Ada said, not letting go of her son.  “I am a very proud mother.”

“I can see that,” Waryn said with a chuckle.  “But I’m afraid you must let him go now.  It is time for him to finish the ritual.  If you are ready of course.”

“Yes father,” Ezkel replied calmly.  “I am ready.”

“Then come along,” Waryn commanded.  “Meet us at the lake.”

Though he craved a good night of rest, Ezkel knew that his ordeal was not over yet.  With an anguished sigh, Ezkel watched as his parents flew off without him.  The next part of the ritual would consist of Ezkel, his wings still unusable, making the journey by foot out of his village, through the forest of the ancients, until reaching the great lake of renewal deep in the forest.  The journey, normally just over an hour, would take a bit longer for Ezkel in his tired and weakened state, but Ezkel took a deep breath and pushed himself forward.

As night began to fall, Ezkel arrived at the lake of renewal to find his fellow villagers, including his parents, waiting for him.  Ezkel felt pride overtake his state of exhaustion, giving him the strength to finish his journey.  Ezkel walked to his parent’s side, and stood there gazing into the water of the lake of renewal.  Ezkel’s mind began to drift off when another man, the minister of the Lake of Renewal stood before him.

“Young Ezkel,” the minister said, projecting loudly enough for all to hear.  “I have watched you grow up from a young child into the man who stands before me now.  You have completed the binding ritual, and are now standing before the Lake of Renewal, ready to complete your transformation.  Now, your destiny is in your own hands young one.  You must walk into the lake and bathe in its rejuvinating waters.  Are you prepared?”

“I am prepared Minister,” Ezkel replied.

“Then take the journey,” the minister replied.

Ezkel straightened himself, gave both his parents a reassuring glance, then began slowly shuffling towards the lake.  Ezkel continued walking until he was waist deep in the cool water, then turned to look back at his parents.  Ezkel’s father smiled back at his son, then gave him a nod of approval.  Ezkel returned his father’s nod, then allowed himself to fall backwards into the lake.  As Ezkel felt the waters engulf his entire body, he felt tranquil and relaxed, but only for a moment.  Suddenly, pain overtook every nerve in Ezkel’s body, and he began to thrash around in the water, unable to lift himself out of the lake.  Panic set into Ezkel’s mind as felt water fill his mouth, and he felt that he would undoubtedly drown in the lake.  Ezkel then used skills of meditation he had learned during his time alone on the cliffs to calm his mind and push the pain out of his body.  Once calmed, Ezkel found his footing on the bottom of the lake, and raised himself out of the water.  Ezkel was amazed to find himself suddenly full of vitality as he rose from the lake, letting out a shout of exhilaration as he shook off the lake water.

At that moment, Ezkel realized that his wings felt fully functional once again, and he spread his wings out fully with pride.  Ezkel heard a gasp of shock, and he looked to the shore to see his parents staring back at him with their mouths hanging open.  Ezkel walked back to the shore, flapping his now rejuvenated wings to air them out.

“Son,” Ezkel’s father said as he ran up to Ezkel.  “Your wings.”

“I know father,” Ezkel said, his smile beaming.  “I feel like I could fly around the world now!”

“No son,” Ezkel’s father said.  “Your wings are black.”

Ezkel stopped suddenly, shocked by the words of his father.  Ezkel’s race, the Seraph, traditionally had white wings, even after bathing in the Lake of Renewal.  Once every few decades, Seraph would rise from the waters with black feathered wings instead of white.  It was believed by the Seraph that black wings were a gift bestowed upon the greatest of hunters by the gods themselves.  To rise from the waters with black wings was a sign that you were truly blessed by the gods as the supreme hunter.

“My son,” Ezkel’s father announced to the crowd of villagers, “has been blessed by the gods.  Ezkel has been given the wings of the supreme hunter.  As is our way, we shall bow to the decision of the gods.  My son will lead the hunt.”

Ezkel felt his heart swell with pride as the crowd of villagers cheered and began chanting his name.  Ezkel spread his wings as far as he could for the entire village to see as he smiled at his proud father.

“Let us celebrate,” Ezkel’s father shouted over the crowds cheers.  “In two days we hunt!”

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