The screaming wouldn’t stop...
Hands fumbling impotently as the brutal staccato of heavy weapons fire blistered the air beyond the reinforced Secure door. Futilely trying to block out the death-cries of his personal bodyguards, his friends... he pulled his CIN card from his pocket. The agonizing shrieks outside grew louder and more guttural as his thoughts swirledl in a maelstrom of doubt and self-loathing.
Such a fool...threw it all away! She can’t stop you, not here Alexander! He tried to reassure himself.
The master console before him was isolated. Wired independently from the rest of the grounds automated computer systems, it should be beyond Her reach, yet doubt tickled, chittering maliciously at the edge of his mind like a host of insidious flesh hungry spiders eager to slip into a warm inviting crevice. Using his left hand to steady his right, he inserted the card into the pristine, never before touched console.
An explosion shook the reinforced walls as the deafening roar of heavy machinegun fire faded into unnerving quiescence. Cold sweat pooled and ran down his spine in miniscule rivulets as he moved his fingertips to the keypad. Slowly, he tapped in the necessary authorization code, starting fearfully as something began pounding relentlessly against the alloyed titanium door.
>> Access Granted <<
Seemingly numb fingertips quivered indecisively over the button that held the desperate promise of ending the madness that had engulfed his life and threatened to consume the world. Time slowed to a glacier-like crawl as the realization of what he meant to do rocked him to the core. He could never take this back… would it work… was there a choice? He paused uncharacteristically. His senses failing to register the earsplitting groan of titanium buckling and being slowly wrenched from its supports.
His face was a mélange of emotions, regret… sadness… remorse, and finally calm acceptance as he swallowed down what had once been fatherly love and embraced the grim necessity of what must be done. For himself, for the world… for Her...
Oblivious to the keening passage of the misshapen, reinforced door as it careened wildly across the room and buried a full third of its twisted mass in the wall just a scant meter from where he stood, he heard Her.
Her anguish washed over him like a deluge of soul chilling filth, Her fear, the betrayal, the utter loathing and hatred that were all She felt for him now, staining his very existence. “You did this to ME! LOOK! Look at what I have become!”
Tears streamed mutely down his flushed cheeks as an unnatural silence descended.The button slid firmly down into place with an all but imperceptible click.
>> FAREWELL <<
Darkness...nothingness, yawns before him in an unending abyss of total annihilation. Graciously his mind snapped. Reason fled from him, like a bird freed from the confines of its gilded cage and winging its way into the distance... never to return. His eyes rolled back into his head as merciful oblivion stole away the anguish his thoughts... his life... had become. He welcomed and embraced it. Anything to be free of the self-revulsion, the guilt of what he had done, what It had tricked him into doing…
For Her… it was not so easy.
<< NOW >>
The unblinking orb of the sun slid begrudgingly beneath the distant Western horizon as a tempestuous breeze began playing along the loathsome streets. Garishly lurid neon and primordial sin accompanied the night, boon companions as a more virulent form of life began to make its presence known. Winding your way along the cracked, refuse-strewn and graffiti marred sidewalk you caught the scent of something foul burning nearby, and turned to stare into the face of a shadowy alleyway.
Before a burned out oil-drum a man wizened beyond his years gazed back at you with an intensity that caused goose bumps to play fitfully upon your flesh. Without knowing exactly why, you found yourself drawn to him. As you approached he nodded slightly, inviting you wordlessly to share the simple warmth of his fire.
In a voice cracked and pitted with age he spoke, “I’ve seen you before... haven’t I? You wanted to know about the world, how it came to be... like this. I can’t tell you how it all began… no one can. Over a generation past, the darkness descended. The powers that were... are no more. Some slumber... others have been obliterated for all time. You are young, you've probably only heard vague whispers or haphazard guesses about what happened. Let it go. The past is dead if not buried. The present is more than enough to deal with.”
Pausing for a moment he hacked uncontrollably, his face contorting as a disgusting gurgling sound bubbled upward from deep within his chest. Grimacing, he turned and spit unceremoniously on the scarred tarmac. The glob of phlegm glistened sickly in the wane half-light, yellowish-brown and revolting.
“The governments, most of them... are just marionettes, whose twisted dances are orchestrated by the mega-corporations of the world. Mankind is a hollow shell, their bodies and souls just another resource, a commodity to be assessed, plundered, stripped of anything useful and cast away.”
He nodded tellingly at you, his eyes somber and filled with heartbreaking empathy.
“The corporation is the new Mecca of the world. All who can, flock like adoring sycophants to the new religion of the hapless masses. Market worth, stock shares… these are the prayers, the crucifixes of modern man.”
The wind keened, as if in a mixture of violent protest and agreement as a storm brewed on the polluted horizon.
Pulling the tattered remnants of his sparse, discolored coat tighter to his emaciated body, his eyes returned from watching the far off gloom of clouds to the dancing flames that undulate within the burned-out garbage bin. Flickering fitfully, fighting off the encroaching darkness of the stygian black alley, the fire's illumination is all but drowned by the ominous atmosphere.
“You must choose. Bow to the corporate monstrosities and live better than most... while you prove to be useful. Make the streets your own and in doing so join the untouchables, fighting for those selfsame streets while the rest of the world grinds onward with callous disregard. Or court destruction by both sides as you play one against the other hoping that in doing so you are not caught in the middle. A dangerous game, that..."
"Nothing in existence sits still friend. All moves forward or falls back. The rules and methods are the same in the streets as they are in even the most powerful mega-corporate boardroom. The sharks in that sea are just better dressed. I should know…” he trailed off mumbling inarticulately to himself.
“Knowledge is power, data is a double-edged sword that will as soon dismember you as it will your enemies. Trust is beyond price and as uncommon as a truly altruistic deed. Remember that and always be wary...”
Blue-green lightning crisscrossed the sky in an exquisite lattice-work of brilliant fury, filling the narrow space of the alleyway with a flash of stark, surreal light. Lifting his face you see the spider-web of fine wrinkles around the old bum's eyes and mouth deepen as he smiled genuinely. “I hope you fair better than I have.” he muttered in the darkness that trails in its wake.
A crack of thunder roared in the distance, acknowledging the lightning strike; only to be followed almost instantly by yet another flash of white hot incandescence. This time the brilliance twisted the old man's face, turning it into a gruesome looking death head skull. His eyes caught the light, turning into tiny pinpricks of volatile fire and his lips twisted into a maniacal heart-stopping grin.
“She calls to me… I must go...”
Before you can speak or ask him any questions, he turned and walked away. Another thunderous boom filled the dusk hewn sky as acid rain began to fall in slow but steadily increasing sheets, cutting off your view of even his stark silhouette as he disappeared into the beckoning darkness. His end seemed all too near...
But your journey has just begun...