Ever Vigilant, Part Four

RECAP:  After returning from a mission in the wilds of space, the superhero Extraordinary Man learns that something strange had happened to his friend and colleague The Vigilante.  After disappearing for three weeks, The Vigilante returned suddenly without an explanation.  On his return, The Vigilante had become a far more violent and vicious crime-fighter.  The Extraordinary Man, also known by his real name Nathan to those closest to him, rushed to find his friend to learn what had caused his transformation into a savage executioner.  Nathan quickly discovered that the man behind the mask of The Vigilante was not his friend Kurt, but was actually The Cad, murderous arch-nemesis of The Vigilante.  Nathan forced The Cad to explain what he had done to Kurt, and The Cad was elated to tell the tale of how he had defeated and killed his greatest nemesis.  Nathan, filled with rage at the news of his friend’s death, attacked The Cad and began tearing the armor of the Vigilante off of the villain.  The Cad released a cloud of toxic green gas that instantly weakened The Extraordinary Man, leaving him weakened on his knees with The Cad standing over him, his wicked laugh ringing in Nathan’s ears.

“What have you done to me,” Nathan asked, wheezing as he spoke.

“Oh, Nathan,” The Cad replied with mock sympathy.  “You will love this one.  Absolutely love it.  You see, when I took over the mantle of The Vigilante, I discovered all of his secrets.  And boy, did he have secrets.  For example, did you know that your good friend Kurt had studied each and every one of you heroes, and had created plans for defeating you all?  You know, just in case he needed to.  Isn’t that funny?  I thought it was pretty funny.  And his plan for defeating you revolved around a certain element that is your greatest weakness.  I had no idea that such a thing existed.  An element that strips you of your powers and turns you into a weak little shell of a man.  And so, your friend, your closest comrade, took that element and turned it into a gas which he then used to fill several vials with back at his HQ.  Those vials are locked away in his vault, ready to be used at a moments notice.  A moment like, let’s say, you decide to attack The Vigilante and begin ripping off his armor.  At that moment, said gas will deploy and incapacitate you.  I hate to admit it, but that is a pure stroke of genius on our old friend Kurt’s part.  Real genius.  And paranoia too I think.  It really shows that deep down, ol’ Kurt didn’t even trust you, his best friend.”

“I gave that element to Kurt,” Nathan said, coughing as he spoke.  “I told him to keep it in case something happened to me and I needed to be stopped.”

“Oh my,” The Cad responded, laughing again.  “That’s even better!  I bet that when you gave it to him, you had no idea that it would end up in my hands, did you?”

“Is that your game-plan then,” Nathan asked, wiping blood from his mouth.  “You lure me in by taking on the guise of The Vigilante, and then you kill me with a weapon that I gave him?”

The Cad let out long sigh, shaking his head in disappointment.  “Oh Nathan.  It looks like you have an extra ordinary ego if nothing else.  You know, the universe does not revolve around you, despite what you might think.  This isn’t about me killing you.  I don’t want to kill you.  Not any more at least.  Believe it or not, this does not actually have anything to do with you at all.  You just happened to interrupt me while I was out on patrol.  The gas was just me being prepared for any contingency, that’s all.  Just like Kurt would be prepared.”

“Then why,” Nathan asked desperately.  “What is this?  What are you planning?  What is your scheme?”

The Cad tilted his head in a gesture of pity towards Nathan, and let out another long sigh.  “No plan Nathan.  No scheme, no game, no evil plot.  That’s not me any more.  I’ve turned over a new leaf.  I’m a good guy now Nathan.  Just like you.  This city needs The Vigilante, and since Kurt has passed on to fight crime in the afterlife, the torch must be passed on to someone who can keep the legacy going.  This city needs me, and I am going to be there for her.  I am The Vigilante now, and I will keep this city safe from the dregs and psychos that plague her streets!”

“This is a sick joke,” Nathan hissed.  “And I will stop you!  I will not let you do this!”

The Cad leaned  closer to Nathan, and sprayed another cloud of toxic gas directly in Nathan’s face, causing The Extraordinary Man to slump over in pain, coughing violently.

“This is happening Nathan,” The Cad said coldly.  “I am The Vigilante now, and I will bring order and justice to this city.  I do not want to fight you, I want to work with you just as Kurt did.  We can be allies if you just accept me.  But, make no mistake, if you try to stand in my way, I will kill you.  I will kill any of you that try to stand in my way.  Just as I will kill any criminal that dares to sully my city with their presence.”

The Cad backed away from Nathan, leaving him writhing in agony, picked up the pieces of his Vigilante armor, and moved to the edge of the rooftop he and Nathan had been conversing on.

“Spread the word Nathan,” The Cad called out, turning to face The Extraordinary Man.  “Tell your friends, tell your colleagues, The Vigilante is back in town, refocused on his mission for justice.  Tell them all to stay out of my way Nathan.  Tell them all that I know all of their weaknesses.  When next we meet, let us hope it will be under more pleasant circumstances, shall we?  Say, do you guys some kind of monthly club meeting, or something like that?  I’m looking forward to that.  I will be waiting patiently for my invitation.”

Nathan could only let out a pathetic whimper as he watched The Cad fall backwards off of the rooftop, and then swing away on a grappling hook, laughing hysterically as he disappeared into the night.

Ever Vigilant, Part Three

RECAP:  After returning from a mission in the wilds of space, the superhero Extraordinary Man learns that something strange had happened to his friend and colleague The Vigilante.  After disappearing for three weeks, The Vigilante returned suddenly without an explanation.  On his return, The Vigilante had become a far more violent and vicious crime-fighter.  The Extraordinary Man, also known by his real name Nathan to those closest to him, rushed to find his friend to learn what had caused his transformation into a savage executioner.  Nathan quickly discovered that the man behind the mask of The Vigilante was not his friend Kurt, but was actually The Cad, murderous arch-nemesis of The Vigilante.  Nathan forced The Cad to explain what he had done to Kurt, and The Cad was elated to tell the tale of how he had defeated his despised nemesis.

“It was brilliant,” The Cad beamed, throwing his hands towards the sky in a gesture of victory.  “My finest hour!  I planned, and I planned, and I was so certain that he would beat me yet again, as he had so many times.  But this time…..This time, he did not beat me!”

The Cad let out a devilish laugh that sent a chill down Nathan’s spine.  Nathan clenched his fists, suppressing the urge to beat The Cad senseless.

“This time,” The Cad continued, chuckling enthusiastically.  “This time I beat him!  Can you believe that?  After all these years, I, humble little ol’ me, finally defeated my one true adversary.  In a moment that will live on in my mind until the day I die, I beat The Vigilante!  Oh, and I also recorded my entire genius plan digitally as well.  Would you like to watch it?  It is quite entertaining.”

“You psychopath,” Nathan spat.

“Right again Mister Extra Ordinary Man,” The Cad laughed.  “Does that mean you don’t want to watch the video?”

“Where is he,” Nathan growled.  “What did you do with him?  Where are you holding him?”

“Holding him,” The Cad asked, letting out a long sigh.  “Now, I thought you were smarter than that.  I guess extra ordinary really does apply to you, doesn’t it?  At least as far as your mind goes.”

“Cad,” Nathan barked, grabbing the villain by his chest-plate.  “Where is The Vigilante?”

“Don’t you get it,” The Cad replied abruptly, chuckling dementedly.  “I created an elaborate scheme that pushed him to his limits and beyond.  I used those closest to him as bait, and he skipped right into my trap like the hero he is.  Or was, I should say.  He had no clue that I knew his secret identity, so it was pathetically easy to use that against him.  I’ve known his true face for years, but I always kept that from him because I didn’t want to ruin the game.  But this time, I had become frustrated from him beating me time and time again, so I finally decided to use his secret identity against him.  And, you know what, it worked!   I wore him down physically and mentally until he reached his breaking point, and then I broke him!  It was my finest moment  I broke The Vigilante!  And then, after I broke him, I cut off his mask, looked him right in the eyes, those cold, calculating eyes, and stabbed him in the throat!  I stabbed him, I stabbed him, and I stabbed him again and again!  And then, just for an extra measure, I slit his throat and washed my face with his blood as I watched him bleed to death.  Just picturing it in my mind now makes my heart swell with pride and joy.  And, just to make his last moments pure Hell, I told him how I was going to kill his loved ones that I had captured.  I tell you, it is a story that will will be passed on from generation to generation for centuries to come!”

Nathan shook his head slowly, his jaw hanging open in a mixture of shock and disbelief.  His mind suddenly flooded with a host of thoughts and images that rendered Nathan completely speechless.

“No comment,” The Cad asked, sounding disappointed.  “Nothing to say at all about my greatest moment?”

“You animal,” Nathan spat, his eyes narrowing angrily.

“Well, yes, we are all animals now, aren’t we,” The Cad asked nonchalantly.  “Some of us are just a bit more animalistic than others.”

Letting his anger take control, Nathan lifted The Cad into the air, and began ripping the armor of The Vigilante off of his gnarled body.

“What are you doing,” The Cad howled.  “You can’t do this to my armor!  This is unprofessional!”

“It isn’t your armor,” Nathan shouted.  “It belongs to The Vigilante, and I won’t let you desecrate it!”

“I am Vigilante,” The Cad roared.

“You are a murderer, and I am taking you to justice!”

As Nathan continued ripping pieces of armor off of The Cad, a green cloud of gas began to emit from underneath the pieces.  A moment later, Nathan began to feel weak as he inhaled the gas.  Before long, Nathan no longer had the strength to hold onto The Cad, and his grip on the villain loosed.  Nathan began coughing violently as he dropped to his knees, grasping his chest tightly.

“I am The Viglante,” The Cad stated coldly, glaring down at Nathan.  “Kurt is gone, and I have picked up the mantle in his place.  It’s a new world now Nathan, a violent world full of violent criminals.  Kurt was too weak to fight all that violence, and he was swallowed up by it.  But now, there is a new Vigilante in town, and he is up to the task of scouring the criminal element off of the streets of this city.  Permanently.”

“No,” Nathan wheezed, choking as he spoke.  “You can’t do this.”

“Can’t do it,” The Cad scoffed.  “Look at me Nathan.  Take a good, long look.  I’ve already done it.  And who is going to stop me?  You?  Look at yourself.  On your knees, choking and gasping for air.  You can’t stop me.”

Nathan’s heart filled with dread as he listened to the sickening sound of The Cad’s fiendish laughter ringing in his ears.

Ever Vigilant, Part Two

RECAP:  Upon returning to Earth from a journey to outer space, Nathan, also known as the superhero Extraordinary Man, learned that his friend and colleague The Vigilante had gone through a disturbing change.  After mysteriously disappearing for a brief period of time, The Vigilante continued his crime-fighting duties in a far more violent and lethal manner.  Nathan, knowing that The Vigilante had sworn an oath to never kill, decided to confront his friend in order to discover what had changed in the heart of The Vigilante.  During the confrontation, Nathan removed The Vigilante’s mask only to find that the man standing before him was not who he had expected to find.

Nathan shook his head slowly in disbelief, his ears ringing with the sickening laughter of the villain standing before him.  The villain, a monster known as The Cad, glared at Nathan with demented eyes as his maniacal laughter dissolved to an repulsive chuckle.  Feeling a surge of anger overtake him, Nathan grabbed The Cad by his chest armor, and lifted him off the ground, holding the madman in front him.

“What have you done with the Vigilante,” Nathan shouted, shaking The Cad’s body like a doll.  “Where is he?”

The Cad let out another long, boisterous laugh before replying to Nathin’s query.

“He’s dead,” The Cad spat out.  “He’s dead!  He’s dead!  He is dead!”

“You’re lying,” Nathan shouted, fighting the urge to throw the villain off of the rooftop he stood on with The Cad in his grip.

The Cad began bobbing his head from side to side, coldly repeating the word dead over and over again in alternating tones.

“Stop that,” Nathan roared.  “He’s not dead!  That’s impossible!”

“Now see,” The Cad said, turning his head to stare off into the distance blankly.  “That’s what I used to think too.  You can’t kill The Vigilante.  That’s impossible.  He can’t die.  But, you know what, he can die.  He is not a god, or a monster, or a mythical creature.  He’s just a man.  Just a vulnerable, mortal man, and he can die.  It’s kind of disappointing, really.”

“How,” Nathan began, his voice barely above a whisper.  “How did…”

“How do I know that” The Cad interrupted, finishing Nathan’s question.  “Take a wild guess.  Give up?  That’s right genius, I killed him.  Little old me.  Little old crazy, some might say insane, homicidal maniac, me.  Wanna know how I killed him?  Of course you do!  You are going to absolutely love this one!”

“Tell me what you’ve done Cad,” Nathan growled, pulling the villain closer.  “Or, so help me, I will-“

“You’ll what,” The Cad scoffed, interrupting Nathan mid-sentence.  “Beat me up?  Torture me?  Kill me?  That’s not your style cowboy.  Don’t worry, if you want to know how I killed him, I’ll gladly tell you.  Not because I’m afraid of you, but because I want you to know.  I want to tell this story.  I want to scream it out to the world, but I can’t.  But I can tell you at least.”

“You’re mad,” Nathan cried.

“No I’m not,” The Cad said, his expression softening.  “What have I got to be mad about.  I have done what few other supervillains have ever been able to do.  I killed my rival!  I’m going to go down in history for that!  Except, no one can ever know about it.  But, that makes me sad, not mad.”

“What are you talking about?  You’re not making any sense at all!”

The Cad let out another deranged laugh, a sound that pierced Nathan’s mind like the cold steel of a knife.

“You don’t know me that well,” The Cad snickered, “do you?  The Vigilante would tell you that I never make any sense.  I never did to him anyway.  But, alas, the man we both called friend has moved on to the next plane of existence.  Which one do you think he went to?  Up, or down?”

“You were not his friend,” Nathan shouted.  “How dare you try to call yourself his friend?”

“Yes, I suppose you are right,” The Cad said, his demeanor turning dour.  “What we had was more than just a common friendship.  I loved him like a brother.  And I think, deep down, he felt the same way.”

“You are insane,” Nathan whispered, shaking his head somberly.

“Now you’re getting it,” The Cad exclaimed.  “You’re not the first one to figure that out my friend!”

“I’m not your,” Nathan began, but then stopped himself when he realized the futility of his statement.  “Tell me what you’ve done to The Vigilante.”

“I told you, I killed him.”

“I know that,” Nathan shouted, his voice echoing off nearby buildings.  “Tell me your damned story.”

“Finally,” The Cad sighed.  “I thought you’d never get around to that part, dancing around the subject the way you were.”

Nathan sucked in a deep breath, and held it in his chest as he closed his eyes, trying desperately to push down the ball of rage welling up inside him.  In that moment, Nathan realized why The Vigilante hated his rival with such passion.  Beside the fact that The Cad was an insane, maniacal killer with no regard for the lives of other, he seemed to genuinely enjoy tormenting The Vigilante with the nefarious games and pranks he would play.  The enormous amount of patience that The Vigilante had to employ to keep from losing his own mind while dealing with The Cad had always impressed Nathan, but never had he realized the true extent of that patience.

“Just tell me the story,” Nathan said slowly through gritted teeth.

“Ah yes,” The Cad said, his mouth twisting into an exuberant grin.  “The moment we have all been waiting for.  Let me tell you the grand tale of how, after years of constant struggle, I finally managed to kill my greatest enemy once and for all.”

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?”

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