Interlude Chapter Finale

As they exited the remains of Garrick’s apartment building, they emerged onto a street that he didn’t recognize: bodies lay wherever they had fallen in their flight for their lives, pockmarked holes littered the streets where rounds from the weapons had impacted, cars were either scorched or turned over for cover and filled with small holes where the aliens’ guns had shot through them. There was a thick smoke that filled the air with the pungent smell of burning plastic and flesh. Julia took the lead and wound them through the obstacle course of destruction that Garrick’s neighbourhood had become. They met up with the other people Julia had been scouting with, a young Latina woman named Mariana came over to Garrick and examined him, she told him she had been the one to find him on the floor before running to get Julia to try and help. Mariana was paired with an older man who Garrick found out was her father Joseph, Garrick thanked both of them for their help and they introduced him to the rest of the party: There was John, a mechanic who had owned his own shop before it was destroyed in a battle between the army and the aliens; Natalie, a school teacher who had worked just three blocks from Garrick’s apartment; Thomas, a former criminal who had been paroled not two days before the invasion had happened and Marie a cardiologist from the hospital in his town. They all huddled behind an overturned truck and ran through everything they had found on their scouting raid. Canned goods, batteries, medical supplies, and ammunition were the main focuses, but some of them also found luxuries like alcohol and cigarettes. “Alright, we have as much as we can carry and we even found an extra man, let’s head back to the camp and drop what we have, the Colonel will want to meet Garrick” Mariana said to the party.

“The Colonel?” Garrick asked Mariana, sounding a little scared, “Who’s the colonel?”

“You’ll met them when we get back to camp. Don’t worry, she’s not overly mean” Mariana replied with a smirk as the rest of the party stifled a small giggle. The walked between two completely burned out houses down a small alleyway that Garrick guessed children used to get to the school Natalie worked at. They emerged onto a street in a small cul-de-sac and hurried over to a large van that was parked in one of the driveways on the street. It, along with every other vehicle they had passed on their way there, was riddled with holes from either bullets or those alien weapons. They loaded up the gear and climbed in on top of it, Garrick sat with his back to the driver’s seat facing the back of the van. Julia started the van, but Garrick couldn’t hear anything.

“Did she even star….” he began to ask before Joseph shot him a warning glare and held a finger up to his mouth indicating for silence. Garrick nodded his agreement and they drove in silence to the camp. He kept his eyes down the whole time they drove. As he drifted in and out of consciousness, he realized how exhausted he was but sleep, true restful sleep, not exhaustion, wouldn’t come. He tried to sleep but he kept seeing the faces of his neighbours in the stairwell every time he closed his eyes. He resolved the try and count the turns and time the trip to approximate how far they had gone and in which direction, his attempt was futile. With Julia having to weave around battlegrounds and debris it was impossible to tell when they were actually turning or just maneuvering around an obstacle. After what felt like an eternity the van stopped and everyone began moving towards the door in silence. They all exited the van grabbing the supplies they acquired in silence and moved around the far side of the van. As far as Garrick could tell it was just a mall, one he didn’t even recognize which meant they were in a completely different neighbourhood from his own. They walked past several abandoned cars and through doors missing several panes of glass. They entered the mall and it, like the streets they had traveled down, looked like a battlefield.

Crater’s covered the floor accompanied by scorch marks and, what Garrick could only surmise, was dried blood. The party veered right down a maintenance hallway between a sporting goods store and a photography shop. They pushed the door open hard and ventured through. As they went into the maintenance hallway Garrick looked behind the door and noticed a lot of bedding and sleeping bags that had been placed behind the door to stop it from making noise. The door slid shut but was stopped by several small bean bags on the ground at the side of the door frame, again to stop it’s sound. Julia took the lead and walked briskly down the hallway while the rest followed in silence, down the hall, right turn, left at the next intersection then another left and another right. Finally, they came to a steel door with a keypad, Julia keyed in a code and the light above the panel switched from red to green. The door opened to reveal two heavily armoured marines with their weapons pointed at the door. Julia walked right by them as did the rest of the party. Garrick was followed by Joseph as they moved past the marines and down the stairs they were guarding. They went down what felt like 4 stories and came to another door, Julia entered another code and this door, rather than opening outward as with the previous door guarded by the Marines, slid to the side to reveal a small room. They all squeezed into the room with their gear and the door slid shut behind them. It closed with a faint hiss and then there was the sound of air escaping from a cylinder. The massive light above the door on the opposite side from the one they entered switched from red to green and the door beneath slid open to reveal an underground bunker.

The bunker looked like a cross between a large corporate facility and a military installation. There was a long hallway that led to a large atrium with doors and various hallways on its sides. along the floor were multi coloured lines mapping the way to various crucial areas like the mess and hospital wing. There were several desks lining the hallway staffed by a hodge podge of different people. some military some obviously not. The lighting gave off the weird yellow glow to simulate sunlight even though everyone in the bunker knew it wasn’t.

As they moved into the bunker they were met by a group of kids who ran up to Natalie and started gushing about their school projects they were working on. Natalie stopped and bent down to look the kids in the eye, she smiled and told them to give her a minute to unload the supplies and then she would have something to show them. The kids let out a chorus of cheers as Natalie stood upright and began walking again.

As Natalie went by their attention was turned on to Joseph, “Papa Joseph! Do you have any candy?” they asked him as they surrounded him like a pack of small wolves. Joseph chuckled to himself as he reached into his pocket and pulled out some caramel candies. He gave one to each of the kids and told them to run along, which they did. As the party continued to move down the hallway towards a door to the right side of the large atrium, people started to notice Garrick. There were whispers and stares as Garrick moved with Julia helping her to carry the supplies. They arrived at the door with a small sign that marked ‘Briefing Room’ and Julia turned the knob, opening the door. They all filed into the room and put their supplies on the tables that were set up on the far side of the room. Once they had unloaded their stuff, they took seats along the side of the room, some on the chairs provided and some opting to sit on the floor. They waited for maybe 30 seconds before the door opened and a young woman wearing a camouflage military uniform entered the room.

“Welcome back” she said as she entered the room. She closed the door quickly and managed a fast glance at the supplies on the table, She smirked and then turned back to the group of them; “Excellent work guys, this stuff will really help. Who’s this?” she asked as her gaze came to rest on Garrick.

“Hi, I’m Garrick,” he said as he stood up and shook the young woman’s hand, “your party found me in my apartment and patched me up.”

“Well, welcome to the Resistance, Garrick” She added as she shook his hand. “If you don’t mind me asking, what did you do before the attack?”

“I was a lawyer” Garrick replied, “I worked in Corporate mostly” he added.

“A Corporate lawyer? We got ourselves a big wig here!” she said as she looked around the room and was met with a couple of snickers from the rest of the party. “ah, I’m sorry for the bad joke Garrick, but someone has to try and keep the morale up. I am Lieutenant Banks, Earth Air Force”.

“No she’s not, she’s the colonel!” Mariana said from the back of the room. The group all began laughing, including Lt. Banks. Garrick stared around awkwardly as the laughing died down waiting for someone to explain the joke, nobody did.

“Well Garrick, this is the resistance. It’s not much, but somebody has to make sure that the Drift don’t end humanity, and that’s us. We don’t care about your past or what you may have done, we care about skills and what you can bring to help us because frankly, there aren’t many of us left and we can’t afford to be picky.” Banks said as she gestured for the party to follow her out of the room. She opened the door and proceeded into the atrium, clipboard in hand. “This bunker was built in 2029 as a secret VIP bunker during the second Cold War, we re-purposed it as soon as the first attack came. It’s been a rough 12 hours, people have been coming in all night. Some areas were hit harder than others, your neighbourhood was the middle of the pack, several survivors but not many. I know you just got here and it looks like you got hit a bit”, she gestured to his bandage on his shoulder, “but Recon team #2 is down a man so we could move you there, or if you would rather stay with these folks we can arrange that too. I am curious as to what happened though.” By this time they had walked across the atrium to a small security table where Banks had handed in the clipboard.

“I woke up to the sounds of my neighbours dying in the street and I got attacked by two of them, what did you call them? The Drift?” the security staff, also dressed in air force camouflage, began listening intently. “I didn’t do much, they mostly did it to themselves.” Garrick admitted. “They shot my faucet so water was spraying everywhere, I used a water jug I had frozen in my freezer as a club and a kitchen knife. One of them fell into the water and basically dissolved. The other didn’t go down as easy, ended up tackling it to the ground and stabbing it, a lot, then it dissolved too.”

“Wait, they dissolved?” Banks asked.

“Ya, in the water. They writhed and smoked up, it smelled like rotten eggs a bit and then they just dissolved.” Garrick added. Banks looked the security workers and they nodded as they both picked up a headset and began relaying the information to someone on the other end.

“That’s great Garrick, we had our suspicions but we weren’t sure. Julia will show you to your bunk area, where you can catch some rest. It’s not much, but it’s better than the surface. I’ll just go ahead and add you to her team, and move Dustin from facilities to team #2. Get some rest, you’re going out again in 6 hours.” Banks said as she turned her back to the party, signalling for their dismissal. Garrick turned away from the Lieutenant to see only Julia standing there, the rest had disappeared rather quickly. Julia took him to a small room that Garrick suspected had been a janitor’s closet but somehow had a cot with a pillow and blanket shoved into it along with a small barrack box.

“Get some rest Garrick, I don’t want that wound opening up on our next run. I saved your ass once, I don’t want to have to do it again so soon!” Julia said as she left him in his small room.

The next few days were a blur.

They saved people. They saved a lot of people. They lost some too. Joseph died saving a family from a crumbling building. He got the last of the children out but the supports couldn’t handle the weight of the rubble. The whole building collapsed on him before he could get out himself. Mariana was a wreck, she was trying to dig the debris away herself. She had stripped her fingers raw and bloody before John convinced her to stop. A small service was held for Joseph, a candle was lit and his photo was added to a wall of the known deceased. The world spun on.

They raided a small military outpost for ammunition and supplies. They made off with a lot of gear and supplies but when they went back the next day there was a large crater where the outpost had been.

The next week when they went out, they were ambushed. The aliens were waiting for them. They barely made it out, but the other crew that had come with them was decimated. Banks suspended all operations until further notice. They mourned their dead, but didn’t have the luxury of stopping, the people needed them.

Banks lifted the ban on the raids when a bout of the common cold spread through the bunker, every team was tasked with finding medication and other supplies. They found the supplies, but began finding fewer and fewer survivors.

The ambushes became more and more frequent. But the need for supplies outweighed the potential risks, until it didn’t. The ambushes were moving closer and closer to their base, Banks theorized that the aliens were trying to locate their base to root them out. Garrick thought she was right, but when some of the children who had the cold began getting really sick, he and the other members of the raiding party didn’t care. They left in a torrential downpour to get more medication, thinking the rain would give them protection. They got maybe three blocks from the mall, and they were ambushed. The vehicle was destroyed and the run back to base while firing blindly behind them hoping to hit something was nerve wracking.

As they sat in the small room, Banks entered looking very shaken. “The other teams didn’t make it. You’re the only raiding party we have left. “

BOOM!

Dust fell from the ceiling and landed on Garrick’s pack and rifle he had adopted as his own since joining the Resistance. His head shot up, he knew that sound all too well. It would appear that the Drift had found their location at last.

“Forward Security, report in!” Banks called into the headset that she wore everywhere, Nothing came through. Another resounding boom could be heard. Screams from the rest of the people, the young and old fearing for their lives. Banks left the room and they could hear her yelling for calm. The screaming stopped and angry shouting was being made at the Lieutenant. Garrick couldn’t make out what was being said, but it didn’t sound nice. She came back into the room, her face a bright red, Garrick couldn’t tell if it was anger or embarrassment. She took three quick breaths and looked at them, “Alright soldiers, it’s time to defend the bunker. I need you to get out there and help divide up the citizens into defense teams. They’re coming in and we don’t have time to argue. They need us.” She held up a drawing done by one of the kids in Natalie’s class, it showed them all as heroes, complete with the capes and tights. “These people need heroes and right now, you’re it.”

“We are not soldiers! And we’re definitely not heroes…” Garrick said, his voice quiet.

“I know! But right now, with everything going on, those people out there, they need someone… something to believe in, right now..they need heroes. Now, you can sit here and pity yourselves, or you can stand with me and be the heroes those people need. That’s the choice I leave to you.” She turned and left the small meeting room closing the door behind her.

“Let’s go” Julia said as she stood up, picking up her pack, medical bag and her rifle she always carried on their raids out onto the surface. “Those things are coming in here, and I will not be caught cowering in a room hoping they pass us by while the others outside fight and die for us. I wanted to help people, that’s why I became a paramedic. I will fight to protect these people because that’s what I can do. I couldn’t help Joseph, I couldn’t help those kids we lost, but I can help defend these people. So I’m going out there and I’m going to fight. The rest of you can hide here, but that’s not me.” She strode over to the door and opened it. Without even thinking, Garrick and the rest followed her out into the atrium, their defacto leader.

As they strode out and took positions behind Banks, the people gathered in the atrium silenced their objections. Banks moved fast, dividing up the people and assigning them to a member of Julia’s party. Each party member was responsible for a group of people to arrange and set up however they saw fit to defend the door. The defenses were set up in silence, not because they needed to be quiet now, because everyone knew this was it. There was no way out of this bunker except through the Drift, and that was a fight they probably wouldn’t win.

BOOM!

They took their positions, weapons trained on the door, waiting.

BOOM!

More dust falls making a slight cloud that hangs in the air, the lasers from the rifles visible as they shine against the dust. “You were a lawyer right? Before all this happened?” one of the recruits that was assigned to Garrick asked him as they watched the door.

“Uh, ya. But that was a long time ago” he replied.

“So you must be good at giving speeches? Care to give us a rousing speech?” He asked as his eyes slid over to focus on Garrick while his head remained facing the door.

“You want a speech?” Garrick asked as he looked at the young man.

“Ya, let’s see what you’ve got.”

“I’m not giving a speech.” Garrick replied.

BOOM!

There was a crackle over the PA system and Banks voice came through echoing throughout the bunker, “This is it. This is our final stand. I would like to thank you all for everything you’ve done in the past few weeks to help turn this old dust filled bunker into our home..” She trailed off before coming back stronger, “.. this our line in the sand. We can’t go back so we are going forward. We will push them back and we will get these people out of this bunker. We are their only hope! Through Blood and Sand!”

“Through Blood and Sand!” they all echoed back. As their voices died, there was an eerie silence that filled the bunker, broken only by the coughing of one of the children hiding in a room off the atrium.

BANG!

The door burst open and the first two teams, headed by Julia and Mariana, opened up. When they emptied their magazines, they ducked to reload and the next two teams emptied their mags. They leapfrogged like that all the way back until everyone had emptied one magazine and reloaded. The only thing was, they weren’t being shot at. “Cease Fire!” Banks called out. The silence came back with deafening force. Then he heard it, the faint metallic clink, like a dime on a stone floor. There was a loud “Whoosh”, and all the electronics in the bunker died; the lights, lasers and ammo readouts on the rifles disappeared. Then it started. The screams.

Julia’s team went down first, then Mariana’s. Back and back the screams came, until John’s group in front of Garrick’s went down. Through the smoke he could barely make out a large hulking shape cutting through the resistance members.

He looked up and fired at the exposed sprinkler head that was part of the fire suppression system in the bunker. The sprinkler head broke and water began raining down. There was a sizzling sound coming from in front of Garrick’s group and they began firing. Small bursts at first and then turning into fully automatic. The young man that had asked for the speech was grabbed by a long tendril that looked like a demon of saome sort from the depths of an abyss. He was pulled into the darkness in front of Garrick and his scream echoed through the bunker. “Keep firing!” Garrick shouted without realizing he was the only one left from his group. The tendril came back for him. It grabbed his shoulder that had barely healed. Garrick let out a scream of pain as he was lifted off his feet by his newly healed shoulder and into the darkness.

The one that held him was bigger, much bigger than the ones that had come into his apartment. While it had large tendrils for gripping, there were many more extending out of it’s back with several of the weapons he had seen attached to them. It pulled him close to it’s body and just stared at him as its tendrils streaked out towards the remaining defenders. Screams of pain and fear accompanied every dash of the tendril and eventually Garrick heard Banks shout to fall back. A red flare was ignited behind him which provided some light as the red glow illuminated the creature holding Garrick. The weapons all pointed towards the defenders and began firing. there were no screams this time, just the sounds of bodies falling and rifles clattering on the ground.

The alien’s weapons stopped firing and it held Garrick for a moment. It let out a deafening shriek, the sizzling could still be heard from the water falling onto the creature. One of the weapons on a tendril began glowing white pulsing in a strange succession, then the rest began glowing white in the same pattern. Garrick was dropped roughly to the ground. As he scrambled for a rifle, the creature just stood there, the weapons glowed brighter and brighter. As Garrick grasped the handle of a rifle, he hefted it and pointed at the target. There was a blinding white light.

….

Far away on a Drift ship orbiting the planet, a view screen showed hundreds of bright lights all over the world. The drift operating the console reached forward and swiped through the display, the picture of the Earth vanished to show several smaller ships entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

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Interlude Chapter – Part 5

“No thanks, I’m allergic”.

“More for me then” he said as he slurped back the rest of the can of peaches. The syrup overflowed from his mouth and ran down the right side of his cheek to his earlobe. He reached his uninjured hand up, tugging on the IV line and wiped the syrup away with the back of his hand.

“Stop tugging on that or it’s going to come out, and I don’t have the supplies to fix it.” Julia said, as he finished wiping the side of his face.

“Sorry”, he said sheepishly.

“What’s your name lawyer man?” She asked.

“How did you know I’m a lawyer?” he asked. She pointed to the ground between the kitchen and the living room, right near the door where his smashed BAR certification lay amongst his shoes.

“Oh… ya, that kind of gives it away” he said as he laid back down on the cool floor.

“Not going to tell me your name?” She asked again.

“Oh, right. sorry. My name’s Garrick.”

“Garrick…Garrick, what?”

“Garrick Whyte” he replied, as Julia stood up from her crouched position and began looking around the pantry.

“What kind of a name is Garrick, especially nowadays?” Julia asked with a small laugh as she checked some of the contents of the pantry.

“My parents liked old fashioned names. You should see my sister, her name is Katelina, but she goes by Kaylie…” he trailed off as he suddenly realized that he had no idea if anything had happened to her in this attack. Did they only hit his City? Had she seen it coming? Did she get away somehow? What about his parents? He had no idea what happened to anyone in his family, his dad, his mom, or his sister, and it made him worry.

“I’d probably go by Kaylie as well if my name sounded like an 1800’s Russian ballerina” Julia remarked as she began grabbing some of the undamaged canned goods and putting them in her bag.

“I haven’t spoken to her in weeks…” Garrick said as he sat up off the floor for the first time in a while. He could feel the throbbing in his head of his body not liking the sudden change of position, but he ignored it as he rested his back against one of the shelving units that lined the walls of his pantry. “I have to get a hold of them” he finally said after a few moments of uneasy silence as Julia picked her way through the canned goods.

“Ya, that’s not going to happen bud” Julia said as she continued to grab cans of all kinds, adding them to her bag which was beginning to bulge from the contents. She turned to him and looked him in the eyes for the first time since meeting him. Garrick turned his head upwards to look her in the eyes, locking her gaze as she started speaking. “There’s no communication. Internet, Cell phones, radios, hell…even the landlines are dead”

“Fuck” he said as he lowered his head again defeated.

“Ya, right now, we gotta grab what we can and move. Yours wasn’t the last building on this block and there might be some more people who need my help.”

“Okay, I understand. Give me five minutes to get some stuff together. Can I take this IV out now?” Garrick asked as he stood up using the shelving unit for support. Julia moved over and checked his pulse and blood pressure quickly before cutting off the IV and removing it from his arm.

“You should be okay for now, I can save the rest of this for someone else. If you start feeling feint or anything you need to tell me immediately though, okay?” She said as she cut the used end of the IV that had been in his arm and packed the rest of the bag away safely in her paramedic bag that had been holding the canned food. Garrick moved down the hall past his bathroom and into his fairly untouched bedroom. There was a fine layer of drywall dust that had fallen over everything from the explosions that had rocked the building. Had the world not been ending he probably would’ve cared but it didn’t matter now. He moved towards his closet on the far side of the room adjacent to his window. As he opened the closet door, he looked out the window and couldn’t believe what he saw.

It wasn’t the City or neighbourhood he remembered, it more or less resembled a war zone. Debris and craters littered the street. Chunks of his building were strewn about the front of the property completely covering the small bit of grass on an otherwise barren landscape. Cars were covered in concrete dust, chunks of buildings, or they were overturned in the street. Some of the street lights were ripped down and lay across the road while others were just missing with small craters where they used to be. Water was spilling into the street from a burst fire hydrant and there was a city bus missing then entire top half of the frame on fire in the middle of the street. Mostly though, he noticed the bodies. Not just a few here and there, dozens of people strewn about in various locations. Some had obviously attempted to flee and were shot down, some were blown to pieces and some looked like they had been burned. He saw a couple of dead police officers behind their cruiser which was parked diagonally in the middle of the road in front of his building. It looked like they had tried to defend the people around them and paid the ultimate price. He tore his eyes from the street and continued grabbing some clothing out of his closet and packing himself a large backpack. As he finished packing his bag and changing into a more acceptable, attire of dark jeans, hiking boots, and his favourite retro t-shirt of a concert put on by Iron Maiden nearly 80 years before, his eyes lingered on the long case at the back of his closet. Resolving he might need it, he grabbed it and left his room to meet up with Julia in the kitchen. She had found his hockey bag and upturned the contents on the floor. She had taken all of the canned goods she could find along with the extra jug of water from the pantry and stuffed them in the bag.

“What’s in the case?” she asked as she bent down and hefted the large bag of supplies while her paramedic pack was strapped firmly to her back.

“It’s my compound bow and hunting arrows. I haven’t used it in a long time, but it’s the only thing I have besides my kitchen knife.”

“It’s better than nothing” she said as she moved to the door of his apartment. She set the bag down and crept out into the hallway. Garrick set down his bow case and followed her, making sure to make as little noise as possible. She leaned against the wall opposite his door and held her breath listening for a few seconds. Not hearing anything she put her fingers to her mouth and let out a long, frighteningly loud whistle.

“What the fuck are you doing?!” Garrick whispered at Julia as he started backing into his apartment. There was a response whistle and Julia looked at him with a smile on her face.

“What’s the matter? I had to see if anyone was left in the building. Let’s go” she said as she moved into his apartment and picked up the bag of supplies again.

“How did you know that there weren’t more of them?” he asked as they made their way down the dark hallway towards the staircase past other blown open apartments while the bodies of his friends and neighbours littered the ground.

“I listened and didn’t hear anything. So I took the chance that they were gone or that the only two sent to clear the building were dead in your apartment.”

“That’s a pretty fucking big chance to take” Garrick growled under his breath.

“Zip it! I saved your ass! Don’t you forget that..”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s all good. Now help me carry this down the stairs and out to our truck. I’m strong but bot that strong”. Garrick placed his bow case on top of the supply bag and grabbed the one end with his good arm. Down the stairs they went, stepping over chunks of concrete, unknown bodies and missing chunks of stairs. They didn’t find any familiar bodies until they got near the bottom of the stair case. As they rounded the last small flight of stairs to the exit door,Garrick noticed the stairs were covered in bodies not just the nameless people on the street or farther up the stairwell, Garrick knew these people.

The entire Gonzalez family, that Garrick had dinner with on occasion, was at the base of the stairs by the door, Janet and David Thomas who hosted the building’s wine nights were between Jason and Tyler who lived the floor above Garrick, all of whom were halfway up the stairs their survival bags still clutched in their hands. The thing that hit Garrick the most was James Victor and his daughter Stacey who had been killed at the top of the final staircase as they tried to run back up to safety.

Garrick sank to his knees on the landing as he looked down at Stacey’s face. There was no pain in her motionless visage. If anything, she looked like she had been sleeping when she had passed. No pain, just a peaceful passing. The drying blood clotting in her auburn air, and the red stains on the back of her tanned neck and between her should blades showed it had been anything but a peaceful death.

“Is this your sister?” Julia asked as she moved over behind Garrick lowering herself to her knees and putting her hand on his right shoulder in an attempt to provide some comfort to him.

“No, this isn’t Kaylie, this is Stacey Victor. She lived with her dad James two apartments down from me. She was accepted to Stanford Medical School in the fall. I helped her study for the SATs… She was so excited to go…” Garrick whispered as he reached down to move a strand of Stacey’s hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear. As he brought his hand back he noticed it was covered in blood and wiped it on his shirt, leaving large crimson streaks down his front. ” I knew all of these people” he said as he looked about the massacre in the stairwell. ” What purpose does gunning down innocent people have?” he asked the anger rising in his voice.

“I don’t know what they are or why they did this. But I do know that you can’t help these people anymore, they’re gone. There are people waiting outside who do need our help and who are in very real danger right now, so we need to go” Julia said as she stood up removing her hand from his shoulder.

“How can you be so callous?” he snapped, tears welling up in his eyes.

“You can’t save everyone Garrick. sometimes you can do everything right and it doesn’t matter, you lose someone. That’s just how it is. So you concentrate on the people you can save, the people you can help, and you mourn those you lost.” Garrick sat unmoving staring down at Stacey’s body and slowly panning his vision to look at the rest of his neighbours and friends who lay dead around him. He took mental snapshots of each person so he would be able to remember them and the times they shared; the new tenant mixer that Janet Thomas had thrown when he had moved in, helping Stacey with the SATs, Cinqo de Mayo with the Gonzalezes and Tyler’s 22nd birthday, all great memories that he could recall to bring a smile to his face. A lasting memory for these people he had grown to regard as a surrogate family. He stood up, taking his pack off and started his work. He began moving their bodies very carefully to the sides of the staircase, taking care not to cause any further harm to them. Eventually there was a small path he and Julia could walk down to get to the door.

Wordlessly, he walked up the path and grabbed his pack, he adjusted his bow case on top of the supply bag, moving it to the center of the bag, that he had discarded so he could move his fallen friends. Julia moved beside the supply bag and together they lifted the bag and made their way down through the veritable honour guard of Garrick’s fallen neighbours. Julia put her shoulder to the door and pushed with all her might. There was a loud scraping sound as the door swung open and blinding light filled the small space.

Interlude Chapter – Part 4

It wasn’t harsh, it wasn’t cold, it was… peaceful. The darkness welcomed him like a long lost love and brought him into its warm embrace. There was something wrong though, it wasn’t how he had imagined it. Growing up in the Catholic belt of the Northern Regions, he had been spoon fed the same bullshit over and over; paradise, unending and eternal. This was a far cry from that.

It was warm sure, but there was no paradise. It was a darkness, a darkness that he had never fully believed in. It wasn’t the cold release of death, it was the darkness of the mind. The emptiness we feel when we are about to finally drift off to sleep. He spun around and sitting a few meters away was a small wooden table with a photo which was turned away from him. He moved over to the table, his limbs feeling very heavy, he reached out with his left hand and felt a sharp blinding pain, he looked down and saw the blood running down his arm. He gasped as he watched the blood leave his body falling to the ground, or more accurately the darkness he was standing on. He could hear some low clicking, and it caused the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end. He looked up from his bleeding arm and the table with the photo had moved farther away. He began moving towards it but for every step he took it moved farther away. He started moving faster and the clicking he had been hearing was replaced with the light pattering of rain on a roof. He moved faster. The table moved. He broke into a run ignoring the pain in his arm and reached out for the photo, the pattering was louder now like it was hitting a metal roof directly above him, he could hear the sounds of screaming and tires screeching but he still couldn’t see anything in the darkness but this table and the photo that was turned away. He stopped briefly listening to try and discern the sounds he was hearing.

He started running again, finally gaining some ground on the elusive table. The screaming and tires screeching became deafening and he couldn’t help but think that the voices screaming sounded familiar. He kept running, he was getting closer and closer, the voices becoming clearer and sharper. He reached out and grabbed a hold of the table. Instantly everything stopped. He kept his hand on the table not wanting it to take off again, he could hear the clear voice of a woman whimpering and calling out but he couldn’t make out the name she was saying. He reached with his injured hand and grasped the photo frame as his blood continued to drain off his elbow. The woman’s voice became clearer and he could make out what she was saying, it was one word, a name, “Shane”. He turned the photo over to find the last photo he had of him and Shane. He had his arm in a cast and Shane was signing his name in massive letters right across the top of it. He lifted the photo and looked at it closely, something was off… He remembered this photo being taken, it had been day time, but the photo showed it happening at night. He continued to examine the photo and the woman’s voice started again, “Shane? Shane? Shane?” just repeating the name over and over again. The voice was cut off by the sound of tires screeching as it got closer and closer. The woman’s voice said “I love you Shane” as a resounding crash cut off the last of her voice.

“NOOOOOOO!!!!” he shouted staring up into the darkness. “SOP THIS! WHAT IS GOING ON?”

The photograph in his hand began to shake and he looked down to see the night sky was oozing out of the photograph on his fingers that clutched the frame. The cold started at the tips of his fingers, as the ooze moved up his arm, the cold spread. It felt like he was standing outside in one of the terrible northern winters without any clothing trying to battle the sub zero temperatures. He dropped the photo and the frame shattered on the black of the floor. The entire space started to move, like a wave of black ooze. He tried to move but his legs were stuck fast in the black. He swung his free, injured arm, ignoring the pain for it to be grabbed by a tendril of the darkness so that it would be held fast. The ooze continued to move up his extremities to his core where the cold pierced his very soul. “WHAT IS THIS?!” He shouted as the darkness moved up his neck.

“We are the Drift…” a metallic voice answered, “..we are legion and we will not be stopped!”

The ooze was moving up the sides and back of his head, he tried to scream but he couldn’t make any noise. It enveloped his entire body and then went in his mouth and down through his entire body. He screamed silently as the darkness took over. There was a blinding pain in his leg and he awoke.

He wasn’t in the dark, he wasn’t covered in black ooze, he was in his pantry, soaked with a mixture of water and blood. He remembered fighting the aliens and he remembered barely winning, but he didn’t remember collapsing in his pantry. He tried to sit up but there was a sharp intense pain coming from his left shoulder which caused him to collapse back down.

“Don’t try to sit up, I have to patch your arm and give you some blood. What’s your blood type?”

” O- Negative… Wait who are you?!” he asked the woman who was crouched over him.

“Oh right, my name’s Julia and I’m the paramedic that just saved your ass. I’m with a group of survivors moving through the buildings looking for anyone alive. One of them found you and ran to get me. You flatlined, so I had to hit you with a shot of Adrenaline. I was worried it was going to be a waste on you but you perked right up. Lay down and don’t move, I need to patch this wound.” She replied as she set to work on him. She was wearing bright orange of the Critical Care paramedics designation and had jet black hair with a very fair complexion. Her movements were methodical and exact, like someone who had done this for years and was confident in their skills.

He laid back down and stared at the ceiling of his pantry as she set to work opening up an IV line and setting up a bag of blood to replenish what he lost in the fight with the aliens. “Well…”, he said out loud, “… this is definitely not how I planned on starting my day.” Julia looked at him with an expression that was equal ‘you don’t say?’ and ‘No shit Sherlock’ before cleaning up the supplies she had used reviving him. As he watched her clean up his eyes lingered on the larger needle that was attached to a syringe labeled Epinephrine. Julia noticed his gaze and smirked while saying “Ya, this is what I stabbed you in the leg with, so don’t fuck with me” she let out a small laugh and set back to work.

He looked around the small space and finally realized how much destruction his fight with the two aliens had caused. There were canned goods everywhere and coffee grinds scattered about the floor mixing with the leaking water and the bodies of the aliens. As he continued to look around the space he spied a small can underneath one of his shelving units. It was small and green, with a picture of a sunrise. He reached out with his good arm and tugged the IV in Julia’s hand.

“And just what do you think you’re doing?” she asked.

“Getting breakfast” he replied as he reached the can and pulled it out popping the easy open lid. He tipped the can back and let the delicious taste of peaches in syrup fill his dry mouth. After a long slurp where he downed half the can, he looked up at Julia gave the can a shake and asked “Want some?”

Interlude Chapter – Part 3

He collapsed in front of the sink, blood oozing out of the wound in his shoulder and what felt like 4 or 5 cuts on his back. He couldn’t tell for sure but when the projectile had impacted his skin he could feel it split apart into several smaller pieces, each one passing through his body and shredding out the other side. He was no paramedic, but even he knew, if he didn’t end this fast and get medical attention, he was as good as dead. The water being thrown around the room by the broken faucet felt nice on his skin and helped to wash some of the blood away. With the water falling on his skin he remembered the time when he had separated his shoulder as kid trying to  climb the cliff near his family’s cottage in northern Ontario during a terrible rainstorm. He had been there with his best friend, Shane, and his sister, Kaylie; they had decided to climb the cliff but once the rain started Kaylie had wanted to turn back while he and Shane wanted to press on.

Shane and he were inseparable. They had been mistaken for brothers on more than one occasion and liked it that way. They had grown up living three houses away from one an other and became fast friends at the ripe old age of 3. They didn’t remember this but their parents had told them that when they first met, they fought over who would get to go down the slide at the local park first. As they whined and threw temper tantrums their mothers put them both on the slide side by side, as it was big enough for both of them, and the crying stopped immediately. From that moment on, they were glued to each other. Through day care, elementary school and even high school. Shane’s dad had accepted a job on the other side of the country during their grade 10 year. They had kept in touch but it just wasn’t the same. It was like someone had cut a piece of him out and he wasn’t sure on how to cope. 

They made it to the summit and snapped a picture of victory against the high winds and driving rain. It was in that moment that he was happy, happier than he had been in a long time. It was the first time he had seen Shane in over 2 years and they had spent every waking moment together. It made this victory up on top of the cliff that much sweeter. Even despite her reservations against climbing in the rain, Kaylie had the biggest smile on her face. That was the last good memory he had. After that day, everything had gone to shit in no time at all. Not two days after their trip to the cottage, his parents told him they were getting a divorce. Kaylie would be going to live with their mother and he would be going to spend time with his father before he went off to college. He was six months away from his high school graduation when he got the call, Shane’s mother called him and could barely get the words out between sobs, Shane and his father had been killed in a car accident. When the phone call ended he sat there on his couch, staring straight forward tears welling up behind his eyes.

“Everything alright, Champ?” his dad asked taking his gaze away from the hockey game they were watching on the projector.

“Shane’s dead” was all he managed to get out.

The following days were a blur. His dad had taken time off work to fly him across the country to attend his best friends’ funeral. He felt numb the entire time, waiting for the feeling to come back… but it never did. He finished high school, university, and law school by himself, he got a job at a great firm by himself, he lives by himself, and… he might die alone he thought laying on the floor; the pain of his shoulder bringing the present back into focus. As the water continued to spray from the faucet that had been severed, he reached around for something he could use as a weapon, having lost his own when he had been thrown by the creature. As he scrambled around on the floor never taking his eyes off his opponent who had begun to lower its weapon again, his right hand closed around a can from one of his cupboards. Without pausing to see what it was he pulled his arm back, ignoring the searing pain in his left side, and launched it across the small space at the assailant. As the can flew through the air, it spun slightly throwing some of the water being sprayed into the air onto the attacker. There was a sizzling sound as the creatures shrieked. It had dodged the can but the water that had hit it caused the creature to recoil in fear. It moved around to the far side of the granite topped island and took cover lowering its weapon and firing off some more shots.

He slipped and slid around on the wet floor as he tried to slide closer to the island to get out of the path of the alien’s weapon. He slid through coffee grounds, broken dishes and glasses, some moldy bagels he had been meaning to throw out, boxes of Kraft Dinner, and non-perishable cans of all types. As he scrambled around on the ground he spied his trusty cooking knife he had in his hand before being thrown laying just in front of the island the assailant was using as cover. As he slid into the island with a thud, his hands gripped the handle on the knife as he grabbed it off the floor. He could feel the blood oozing from his wounds and sliding down his arm as he crouched against the island holding the knife in front of him. The alien had stopped firing, and was presumably, crouched on the other side of the island. He took the chance and slid around the far side of the island closest to the pantry and the hallway to his bedroom. As he made his way around the island, he held the knife in his right hand ready to strike at a moment’s notice. He came around the far side of the island and the creature had not noticed him. He got closer to the creature until he was nearly directly beside it. As he got closer it must have noticed him because it let out a shriek and its body morphed to face him. Not turned. Morphed. Rather than its body turning and bringing its weapon to bare, it shifted its entire mass so that it was now facing him with its weapon on the opposite arm. This time he didn’t hesitate, he drove the knife directly into the creature near the top of its mass, right where the neck would’ve been on a human.

His knife sliced into the creature and it let our a shriek. As he pulled the knife out, a substantial amount of the metallic liquid inside began to ooze out and sizzle. The assailant let out a shriek and began to move towards his living room to seek help from the other one that was still smashing its way through his possessions. “Oh no you don’t” he said as he grabbed hold of the creature’s weapon, making sure to keep the business end away from his person. With a searing pain he pushed/tossed the creature across his small kitchen into the counter right in front of the sink… right into the path of the spraying water. As the water made contact with the creature, it shook violently like it was having a Grand mal seizure and then fell to the ground in a smoldering pile of ooze and foul smelling fumes.

Amazed at what he had just witnessed, he stood for a moment staring at the smoldering remains of the attacker. When a grunt came from the living room and the sound of smashing had stopped he knew the other one was about to come into his kitchen. He moved into the pantry and pulled the water jug off the cooler.As he heaved the jug off the top of the cooler, he heard a growl of anger and the sound of one of their weapons being discharged. The sound of the spraying faucet ceased and was replaced by the sound of dripping and water pouring onto the floor.

As he held the jug of water from the cooler he was glad he hadn’t gone with his mother’s idea to get a bigger one. He was hing trouble holding the 10L jug with his injured arm as it was. He was biting his lip against the pain and he knew if it was any bigger he wouldn’t have been able to carry it. He moved out of the pantry and slid behind the island, the jug of water striking the side of the island causing a loud thud to sound through the small room. The other creature had been standing over the remains of the first as the water slowly oozed out across the floor from under the sink. At the sound of the thud, it morphed to face him firing its weapon instantly. The shots flew over his head and embedded in the wall behind him before dissipating. The can he had thrown at the first assailant was on the ground and he picked it up with his good hand, laying the knife he had been carrying on the ground in its place. He hefted the can once more and let it fly at the assailant. As the creature moved out of the way it stepped to the right which brought it into contact with the water making its way across the floor.

There was the sound of liquid being boiled off of a stove top as the creature growled in pain and anger. He swung the jug, ignoring the pain in his arm and shoulder and tossed it at the creature. The creature tracked the jug as it flew through the air and fired its weapon at it, as the rounds made contact with the airborne projectile, they stuck into the outside of the jug, causing cracks to appear in the receptacle. The jug struck the creature and broke apart at the cracks causing the water to spill over the alien.

He ducked behind the counter his hand finding the familiar handle of the knife as he stood up to move towards the alien. As he stood back up he saw the second alien had collapsed back onto the ground right in the puddle of water and was sizzling as it laid there. He rushed over and began stabbing it in the center of it’s mass, each stab harder and more vicious than the last. after about 10 seconds he stopped and watched as the metallic center made contact with the water and instantly boiled away leaving that foul smelling smoke in its wake.

Amazed at what he had done, he hadn’t noticed how dizzy he had become, he looked down at the arm to see it covered in blood which was still running from his wound. He moved towards the pantry his legs not cooperating with his brain anymore and he crashed to the ground inside the small space.

This is it, he thought to himself, this is going to be my casket, I’m okay with that. He laid on the ground, his body getting colder and his vision darkening, This is fine, I’ll be able to see Shane again… He could hear footsteps as the darkness took over his vision right before he lost consciousness he heard a gasp.

Interlude Chapter – Part 2

 

He stood there, immobile, leaning against his water cooler hidden in his kitchen closet in his boxers and t-shirt, waiting.

He heard it again, the screeching he had heard earlier coming from the street, only this time it was much quieter and almost guttural in its delivery.  Back and forth, a higher pitched shrieking and a low guttural sound for what felt like eternity; then he heard it, a soft barely audible metallic clink, like dropping a dime on a hard surface.  There was a whooshing sound followed immediately by the unmistakable drone of all electronics dying simultaneously.

An EMP? he thought. The military was far from being able to weaponize an electromagnetic pulse… This is bad! he thought to himself.  As the electronics in his apartment died the all too familiar high pitched whine came over his entertainment dock to notify him of power loss. It’s high pitched whine was unmistakable, like nails on a chalk board amplified. It was meant to signal him to reset the power so that he didn’t lose all of his files from his storage drive due to the drive overheating. Many a time he had been awoken at night when the power failed and his back up supply had depleted before they got the power restored. He hated that sound, hated it with a passion.

Whatever was in the hallway outside of his front door didn’t like the whine of the entertainment dock in the slightest either. He heard the floor boards creak slightly before a low angry grunt came from his living room/common area. The grunt was followed by several more and accompanied by the sound of his tech being tossed around as whatever had entered his apartment was looking for the source of the whine. A loud crack could be heard over the whine singalling his dock had been broken. As the whining stopped, the floorboards creaked again signalling that whatever had been in his living room had moved back to near his door.

The grunting and screeching came back in full force. Either this thing was talking to itself or there was another one with it, he thought to himself in a panic. He gripped his knife and the frozen jug of water tightly, his hand was beginning to slip on the handle from the condensation on the outside of the jug. He stayed in the pantry leaning against the water jug as he heard the assailants enter his apartment and begin their search.

He could make out the sound of his shoes being cast around as if the assailants were expecting something to be hiding inside of them, waiting to pounce. The floorboards creaked as one of the intruders entered into his kitchen. The creaky floorboards had been a point of contention with him and the realtor about the apartment. He had argued that he should be given a substantial break on the price because he would have to redo the floors within a few years, and real wood floors cost ‘an arm and a leg’. The realtor had fired back that while the floor boards creaked he would not find a place with ‘this much square footage south of the Nord river; and if he did find a place with this much space, it wouldn’t have granite counter tops or an island’. In the end he had agreed with the realtor and they had compromised on a small reduction in price. Now, he thought to himself as he hid in the pantry, he’s happy he had the floorboards. At least they gave him some sign of where these things were in his apartment.

BANG!

He heard the sound of his utility drawer being ripped out of the counter, its contents dumped on the floor. Then, one after the other, his remaining drawers we ripped out and their contents spilled. Once the drawers were done, they moved to the cupboards. Each one in turn ripped open and the contents thrown from the shelves to crash on the floor. They had started at the far end of his kitchen working their way counter clockwise around the small space, ending with the cupboards that were immediately adjacent to the pantry where he hid. He could hear more commotion coming from his living room as more things were being thrown around and destroyed, his heart broke a little with each crash. His most treasured possessions were in that room. His 16K TV, his gaming consoles, computer, stereo system, entertainment dock, all his photos of family and friends, not to mention his film collection…

That’s it! I am going to kill these bastards he thought to himself as he straightened up and moved towards the pantry door. He reached out his hand and grasped the knob to turn it but felt some resistance.

“NO! No No No No!” he whispered as he withdrew from the door, he hadn’t locked it. That meant the resistance on the knob could only come from something holding onto the other side.  As he stepped back from the door there was a shredding sound and the door was ripped off its hinges and thrown against the island in his kitchen.

He tightened his grip on both his knife and ice jug and the light from his windows flooded into the pantry temporarily blinding him. He could hear it before he could see it. It shrieked and moved in front to block some of the light allowing him to see the intruder for the first time.

It looked like someone had encased mercury in some sort of membrane. It had a vaguely humanoid shape but it’s interior was constantly in motion. There were no eyes or mouth of any kind and no ears or nose either. Attached to its arm was a fearsome looking gun that glowed yellow from between the overlapping plates that made up its exterior. It was long and sleek with no real edges and ended in two sharp points. There was no real handle or cartridge to hold rounds of any kind and it appeared to be fused to the alien’s body, giving the impression that this creature would have to die before it let go of its weapon. It let out a shriek and lowered its weapon towards him.

Not willing to die without a fight, he lunged forward out of pure fear and instinct swinging the frozen jug like a club towards the creature. As he was swinging the jug he noticed the weapon the alien was using changed from a yellow glow to a purple glow as three projectiles released from the end of the top point. One of the projectiles went through the jug in his hand as he was at the apex of his swing, the other two barely, missed him  and landed somewhere in the pantry behind him.

His jug made contact with the side of the intruders head and it was knocked back into the island shrieking as a faint sizzle sound could be heard. Knowing that he had the invader dazed he lunged forward with his trusty kitchen knife. He sliced into the alien with relative ease but causing little damage to the creature. He withdrew his blade from the torso where his lunge had carried it and noticed the blade came out clean but the incision began to leak some of the liquid that made up the creature. The creature let out another shriek as it brought it’s un-armed appendage down and  gripping his shirt threw him against his counter. As he hit the counter right in front of his sink, the creature brought the weapon to bear once more and fire two shots. Shot one, hit the faucet on his sink causing it to be severed from the counter and water to begin spraying out; shot two found its target, and it tore through his left shoulder.