“So yer really goin’ in there, huh?” Mr. Grimes stood against the backdrop of his mechanical shadow, looking past me at the malefic city of endless nightmare.
“Indeed I am,” I said, turning to join his gaze at the thing that could destroy me.
“Before ya take off, I gotta know…why didn’t ya kill me? Ya could’a just driven the bus on yer own. Ya didn’t need me.” I wasn’t quite sure how to answer him, as the question required a galaxy of nuanced explanation, time and vision.
After a pause, I produced a suitable explanation. “I dislike driving vehicles that employ standard transmissions.”
“Huh. Fair enough, I guess. One more thing. Those weapons really made of yer own family?”
“Yeah, kinda figured they were. Well, I doubt yer gonna get outta there alive, but good luck tryin’…Family Man.”
With that, we took our leave of each other. I watched as the hunter of dark roads disappeared into the dust that first unveiled him—slave to a hunger darker than death, a thing that consumed its prey with hidden killing machines living deep within its corroded shadow.
The street I stood upon was severed by a portion of the massive steel and concrete wall that surrounded the entire city of New Victoria—a futile effort to contain what sleep would only free again. The length of the wall was punctuated by gaping holes, torn open by a storm that blew out from beneath beds and beyond sleep. I entered the city through one of these massive breaches. It was lined with an amalgam of encrusted human remains, warped together into a frustration of biology and nightmare that denied rot its purchase on flesh and waking its power over dreams.
The city rose before me, denuded of all earthly obstruction and covered in the blood of twilight, defiling the cold reality that lay in shambles at its feet. New Victoria was almost beyond words. Its body had been shaped by the hidden fears and explicit terrors of countless dreamers, its soul solidified beyond the broken minds and benighted screams that once nurtured it.
When the shadows of the city finally converged upon me, I could feel the gossamer touch of unseen hands whispering across my mind, eager to find a door. Meanwhile, the invisible intrusion into my thoughts caused my sister to rise from her red dreams, deep within my own darkness. So long as she dwelt in that city of living nightmares, her words carried beyond her radiant smile.
“So many greedy hands and old hungers. What wonderful gifts have you brought me, sweet brother?” I could feel the heat of her delight—her blazing smile burned the darkness around me, searing shadows too foolish to run from fire.
“Oh, you silly shades! Shouldn’t you know what grinning terrors can await you behind closed doors? My dearest brother’s mind has shadows of its own, and we’ll suffer none besides. Now, now, there’ll be time enough for playing, and I’ll be more than thrilled to savor your screams as they pass betwixt my glittering metal teeth. But now is the time for hiding, I’m afraid.” At my sister’s prompting, my hunter’s silence poured out from me, drowning what remained of the alien whispers that called out from undead dreams. I slipped from beneath the scattering pack of shadows to find shelter beyond the gaze of the wicked city.
I quickly found the darkness of an abandoned hospital and blended into its stillness. Careful not to linger in any one shadow for too long, I made my way toward the oldest silence. I could feel the currents of quiet rushing out of a stairwell that descended deep into the bowels of the structure. As I moved to the top of the stairs, I noticed four sets of small delicate footprints descending into the dust. I immediately knew they belonged to the quartet of women I’d glimpsed earlier.
As I followed the prints, I realized they seemed to sink further down into the dust and grime that lay heavy and thick upon the steps—it was as if the women had suddenly become burdened by something heavy. I waded into the densest currents of silence and darkness, finding that the footprints had been joined by four sets of handprints. Clearly the women had crawled down the last few steps into the darkness. The prints then disappeared altogether.
I halted my descent to examine the anomaly, and while the dust and filth betrayed nothing useful, the silence showed signs of having been broken. Moving beyond the last of the stairs, I encountered a set of wide double doors.
A word above the doors plainly stated: Morgue.
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