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Hell is Now


Mischief from Down Under
Dec 7, 2018
Veins of blue and ribbons of deep purple cut through a sky the colour of mottled flesh. A city lay in ruins; tall buildings, once the pride and joy of capitalism, fallen and broken, concrete cracked and glass shattered. Shells of cars lay rusted and charred, interiors torn and electrics fried. Everything had been stripped for whatever little worth may be there. A foot of rope was priceless. Fresh water protected with a life. Medicine the money of this broken world. The wind howled as it tore between the skeletons of apartments and banks and shops, loose paper fluttering like leaves.

She stamped her foot, catching a piece beneath her sole. A flushed face smiled up at her, all too happy and all too ignorant of a fate so close. Pink cheeks and zealous eyes, the model’s skin a warm shade of orange. An ad. A very pointless, rather ironic ad. She lifted the toe of her boot and the paper caught in the wind, off to join the other pieces of litter that painted a picture of the frivolities of human life. Frivolities that were long forgotten now. She turned up the collar of her coat, breathing into the thick, woollen inside, thanking God for it. New York winters were never pleasant. But when the world turned to shit and there was less than five to grab what was needed and high tail it somewhere safe, thick woollen jackets weren't on a lot of people's minds.

She licked her lips, suddenly aware of how dry her mouth is. A bottle of water she’d managed to fill from a freshwater stream just outside town lay in the bottom of her black, rather non-descript backpack, but she was wise enough to let it remain there. People would kill for a lot of things now, clean water and weapons topped the list. Shattered glass crunched beneath her boots as she tracked down the road, keeping to the shadows cast by the fallen buildings. She flicked the hood of the jacket up over the long mess of brown hair, blowing away strands as they fall into her heterochromia eyes. Right now, she needed to find somewhere safe to sleep, because dusk was falling, and everyone knew that things don't just go 'bump' in the night anymore.

The twisted metal of a skyscraper caught her eye and she crept from burnt car to torched bus, careful to keep low. The mud brown of her jacket does little to disguise the slenderness frame as she moved quickly, pressing palms to the heavy door blown from its hinges and slipping inside. She swept a hand back, touching the butt of her pistol tucked into the top of her black jeans. Prepare for everything. Prepare for anything. Light filtered in through the tinted windows, the few that remain intact, but she kept to the shadows. This place seemed enticing because of the one entry point, the two piles of rubble that were once spiralling stair cases and the way the building had fallen onto its side, but remained propped up just enough by another to call it a 30 degree tilt. She stalked towards the elevator, eyeing the dark corners. Nothing but a brown mouse moved. Throwing her shoulders back, she gripped the two metal doors to the elevator shaft, holding her breath as she fought to pry them open. The doors
split, revealing the corpse of a man who looked, head to toe, the epitome of New York.

She grit her teeth as she snatched the collar of the discoloured white shirt, hauling the mass of flesh from the carriage and sending him sliding a few feet away. Bones snap as the body thumped into a fallen concrete pillar. She shrugged the backpack off her narrow shoulders, tossing it into the elevator, toeing the edge as she jumped inside. Gripping the cool metal of the doors, she drag them closed, sealing herself inside in the familiar dark. Tucking herself into the corner, she began to sift through the bag, tense shoulders relaxing a little as her fingers clasped the metal cylinder of a bottle. Bringing it to her lips, she took only a mouthful, swishing it around her mouth and licking her dry, cracking lips. Water was not to be wasted. Not now that she’d entered the concrete jungle.

She had no sense of time inside her metal cocoon, eyes having adjusted to the darkness. She drifted to sleep, the pistol in her lap but concealed beneath the heaviness of her coat, the weapon providing the only sense of complete security; her stolen army issued attire no longer frightening enough to keep others away. There were more frightening things in the world now; military, or the fragments that were left, was no longer one of them. She drifted to sleep, the steady beat of her heart a lullaby.

Screams echoed up from beneath the rubble of the once great city, carried in through the wind washing through the streets like a wave. Blood curdling howls, primal enough to make skin crawl. Footsteps pummelled the cracked pavement. Cries of pain as last breaths were stolen.

The night had begun.

She woke to a scream, her skin turning cold and heart stopping. If she were a dog, her hackles would be raised, teeth bared and belly low. Hushed grunts trickled into her ears, whispers of hunger and death and malice. Quick footsteps across loose tiles. The thumping of a heart. A squeal and a smack. Head hit floor and fingers scrabbled amongst rubble. A crash, and she tensed, a back hit the metal doors to the elevator. Her fingers curled over her pistol drawing it out from beneath your coat. Muffled growls that sounded more creature than person, drew closer. There was a shout, a pleading cry, then her ears were pierced with a shrill cry, then hushed by the sound of tearing flesh and smacking lips. Her ears rung as she snatched the pistol in both hands, aiming it steadily at the slight gap between the doors.

Retreating footsteps.

Then silence.

The gap between the doors grew dark, red pouring through onto the floor by her feet. It stuck to the sole of her boots, smearing across the while tile. She cursed and edged to the side, away from the pooling hot crimson. Blood attracted more than just flies now. Her grip on the gun was tighter than before as she wondered just how safe she was to hide out there for the rest of the night. How many hours until dawn? How many mouthfuls of water until it's gone? How many bullets until she’s left with fists?

She sunk lower into the corner of the metal walls, tilting her head back and eyeing the shattered remnants of neon lights above. She’s not able to sleep for the rest of the night.

The city drew silent, the pain-filled screams of torment turning to whispers then to nothing. That is how she knew the sun had peaked through the fallen city, how she’s just that little bit safer now as night gave way to day. The blood had congealed on the floor beside her outstretched leg; a dark, viscous pool, filling the air with copper and decay. Standing tall in the tilted carriage of the elevator, stretching her tired arms above her head, she shouldered the backpack. She slipped the gun beneath her belt, always within reach but always concealed, and zipped the coat up to her chin.

She peeled the elevator doors apart and stepped back just in time as the mutilated corpse fell through. Flesh had been torn from the skull, eyeballs blank and staring. Bones shattered and intestines spilling onto the floor. She swallowed as she grit her teeth, trying hard not to inhale as she stepped over the body and onto the tiles. She’d seen far, far worse left behind. The soles of her boots crunched as she quickly surveyed the room before walking briskly to the exit, but paused by a footprint marked and smeared in blood. Stepping around it, eager to leave this place, she blinked twice as the sun met her eyes.

The street was bare, nothing seemed to be unchanged, but as more and more nights sweep through and the Plague spreads, there were more bodies and more mutilated corpses. Not that any government body was left to take a toll. It had already been in the millions, that was the last television broadcast she’d seen before the world really had turned to shit.

She set her eyes on a general store a few blocks down, her stomach painfully empty. Its shop front was smashed in, contents probably long gone by now, but hope settled in her chest. She’d settle for anything now, even one of those gluten free, vegan friendly cupcakes her sister had been obsessed with. The hope in her chest faded a little, and she stalked down the street past the general store. There was no hope there, no hope anywhere, and it was wiser she realise that now rather than later. But just as she slipped past the empty doorway, something moved and made her pause.

A face peered back at her from between the shelves; dark brown eyes, the colour of her boots, creased slightly in a frown. Her fingertips touched the gun at her hip, and the eyes scowled, edging lower behind a stack of second-hand VCRs. The eyes disappeared, but a pale hand held an apple in its palm, outstretched towards the window in offering. The apple, red with brown scratches, seemed to glow.

The hand shook once, impatient, the eyes reappearing creased in the same scowl. She shake her head, fingertips still touching her gun as she move on down the street. Favours were not something she wanted to owe.

“Be careful." A young boy stepped from the shop front, his clothes from Before loose over his body, but remarkably clean bar the splash of blood across his stomach. His face was unrecognisable behind a mat of hair. "They're hunting during the day now. Whole tribe of them have swept in from the East. Wouldn't surprise me if you come across two or three in your travels. Where you headed?"

She turned her back to him. "Thanks for the tip, I'll keep it in mind."


Her step faltered. “Aussie."

"Long way from home."

"Guess so."


She turned to him, raising an eyebrow. "That's of no importance to you."

The boy put a hand to his chest. "British. Long way from home, too."


The boy shook his head. "No." She nodded her head and turned away, beginning back down the street. Something struck her shoulder and she spun to catch it, the apple falling into her palm. "Eat up. Just because the world's fucked doesn't mean an apple a day doesn't keep the doctor away." His smile was bright, white teeth flashing quickly before it fell. "You'll want to keep out of the North block; it's their favourite hunting grounds. You'll be safer moving through via the Park." With a quick wave, he darted from view.

She eyed the apple in her hand, pocketing it for later, making a mental note to avoid the North section of the city. Slipping back into the shadows, she ducked beneath a fallen pylon and grazed around the skeleton of a burnt out tank. The city was a war zone, a war long ago won, where the victors ruled this land at night, wreaking havoc and spilling blood. The long shadows of the fallen city faded into pure whites and grey sludge. She toed the edge of the cracked pavement, an expanse of white snow enticing her further. The shadows grew longer here, seeming to watch her with a thousand beady eyes. Considering the brown of her coat and the rest of her attire, she wouldn't find it any easier to blend here, she knew other things hide just as well in snow.

Rolling her shoulder, she gave her neck a good squeeze, the muscles there screaming beneath the weight of her pack. Stepping out onto the white, she thought to herself that there was no going back now. Whatever lurked beneath the burnt pines and wild oaks had seen her now. She passed baseball pitches, upturned park benches and destroyed swing sets. What was once the green heart of this city was now far from green, the thick trunks of the trees scorched and cracked from heat. This place was filled with nothing but hopelessness and misery, human control finally giving way to nature's true power.

Her skin turned cold and she ground to a halt, the snow crunching beneath her boots as she grew still. Something did not seem right, her gut is twisting, instincts screaming something awful. She eyed the shadows around her, trying to pick figures from branches, but her eyes play tricks on her, finding figures dotted around her. Behind trees, in branches, beneath overturned benches. She struggled to discern real faces from those her eyes found in the bark. She must be tired, she passed off, ignoring the feeling in her stomach, hitching her backpack higher. The pistol tucked into her belt felt warm, the only sense of security she had now in a world like this.

She walked for what felt like hours, the sun beginning to dip low in the sky. She could have sworn that, walking in a straight line as she’d set her course, she would have made it to the concrete jungle before sunset. She had three hours left, and she knew each minute was precious, for as soon as the sun dipped beneath the horizon, this world was no longer human.

The muffled sound of music called to her, making her turn back toward where she had come. A voice, carrying on the wind, called to her; light yet foreboding. Something about the musical notes of their song made her uncomfortable, itching to draw the pistol. The voice stopped. The world fell silent once more, and she’s left missing the only sound that reminded her of Before. Something moved in the distance between two trees; a figure running from shadow to shadow. She squinted her eyes, shading them from the sun now level with her brows. The figure bolted again, ducking back into the shadows where they become invisible. The pistol was in her hand and aimed straight ahead before she knew what she was doing; the action so engrained it was automatic after just three years. Her heart thumped in her chest. Once. Twice. The figure sprung again and she steadied her aim.

Something was not right.

Closer now, the figure ran again between the lines of the trees and her heart seemed to stop. Her finger moved over the trigger. No human she knew runs at that speed. Nor was their skin a mottled grey, covered in never-healing wounds. No human she know had eyes that seemed to stare into her soul but reflected no light. The figure dashed again, faster this time and almost a blur. No, not a figure. An Other.

She didn’t fill her mind with questions; like why it was out before dusk and why it was hunting alone. She pressed them away, something for later, as she trained the pistol down the centre of two trees. Shallowing her breath, she took two and held. The Other darted but made it halfway, the fire of her gun ear-splitting in the silence. It crumpled and fell to the ground. She kept her pistol trained toward the shadows, waiting. Then, like dogs, howls began to fill the cooling air.

“Well, fuck..." She turned on her heels and bolted, no need to wait around to know she was hunted. She needed every second of head start she could get. Three steps of hers was one of their's. Her boots pummeled the snow, slipping just a little as she took a sharp corner, heading towards a dense part of the forest. More places to hide, her reasoning was, more places to play mouse. The howls turned into screams of rage and murder, voices indiscernible but intentions clear. Her coat weighed her down, but she didn’t have the time to strip it, she must keep going.

Her face hit snow and her ears filled with a cry of pure rage. Fingers clawed at her hair, ripping her head back and exposing her throat. Kicking back, her foot connected heavily with meat, the steel cap in her boot cracking fragile bone. The Other didn’t so much as wince in pain. She rolled in the snow, the skin of her face burning cold, grappling against their clawing hands while trying to buck them off. More weight piled on top of her, and two hands turned to six. They reached for her eyes, teared at her clothes, snapped their jaws towards her throat. She managed to raise the gun beneath a rotting chin and fire, grey brains spilling onto snow as the Other was knocked away with the blast. But where she defeated one, two more piled on her leg. Her pistol was knocked away from her hands as one dove at her face. She was sure that this was it.

A guttural sound. They hesitated for a split moment before returning to snarling at her, yellowing cracked teeth sharp as a
shark's. The sound echoed in the woods again, and they stopped. They snapped their jaws and clicked their teeth, a few rolling their joints out. They weighed her down into the snow, sitting on top of her, but they made no move...until she heard heavy feet pushing through snow. A few moved off of her legs, but held her now bare ankles tightly, so tightly her feet began to turn numb. The Others above her snarled as they looked over their shoulders, quickly turning their heads and lowering their eyes. A shadow was cast over her, and she squinted up at the face.

An Other, but not as she had seen them before. He stood tall and clothed, shoulders thrown back with confidence only people of power show. The only sign of his infection, the mottling of his skin, the black of his eyes and the way his skin clings to his cheekbones, too tight for his skull. A series of low rumbling growls resonated from within his chest as he cast his eyes over his fellow tribe. Only they don't seem fellow, they seemed followers.

Her ankles were gripped tighter and wrists snatched as the weight of the four Others moved aside. Kicking out, she cursed at them, trying to throw punches that are held still. They lifted her off the snow and she struggled, her sudden movements sending three tripping over. Another guttural sound as she kept kicking out, managing to fight off the remaining few and scrabbling in the snow.

"Seems you give me no choice," the voice was tinged with death. A pain split her skull and her world faded to black, eyes rolling back into her head, but not before she sent a quick prayer to whatever God there was left that he let her die.
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