This is another story of mine, and I came up with it for a freewrite in high school, but re-wrote it during a fiction class in college. I think it may have subconsciously been the inspiration behind Jensen Carpenter (which, coincidentally, was just updated yesterday — cough, cough), and it’s one of my favorite stories. I hope you enjoy =)
That was the first thought that shot through my head as the bullet grazed my shoulder. I felt the warm blood start to trickle effortlessly down my arm, forming its way down and dripping off my elbow.
This was going to slow me down a bit.
I continued to run through the forest, forcing myself not to look behind me. These things that were chasing me – they were something else. They were things created directly out of a nightmare, out of the deepest fears I’ve kept subdued for the entirety of my life.
I lunged over a log, landing hard on the ground. My ankle twisted and pain shot up my calf as I kept myself from falling, but I didn’t care. There was no time to slow down. I shot a quick glance to my right and saw my best friend, Nate, still running right next to me. I couldn’t believe any of us were still going; it’s amazing what adrenaline will do for you when you need it the most.
I forced myself to turn, but only for a moment. The creature chasing me was at least seven feet tall. On all fours. It galloped toward me, its purple-grey skin scabbed over its whole body. It had the deepest black imaginable for eyes, and its fangs were at least seven or eight inches long. Brown saliva hung down from its mouth as it bared its teeth, locking me in as its target. Every time I look into the face of one of these things it shocks me I’ve survived this long.
Holding my breath, I stopped abruptly and flung my gun up. Without taking more than a millisecond to think about it, I shot. A small missile, barely larger than a bullet, but intensely destructive, flew out the other end, hitting this demon directly in the mouth. It whimpered and flew back, hitting the trunk of a nearby tree. As it landed, the missile that shot out of my gun exploded, taking the demon with it.
I turned to the one heading for Nate and shot again. These creatures were going to pay. I was tired of them chasing us, torturing us, murdering us. It was time they got what they deserved.
There was a whole herd of them running at us, at least fifteen to twenty. Nate noticed I stopped and turned to aid me in shooting them. The rest of our group heard the sound of our guns and stopped as well. Each time we shot, a different fire was started. After we’d killed all of them, the whole area was up in flames.
I stood there and watched the forest burn. It was a sad sight. I had spent a lot of time messing around in this forest with these guys when we were really young. Now that I had to stand there and watch it burn, it felt like there was a part of me that was dying with it.
“I hate them,” Nate said tersely, spitting on the ground. “I’m so tired of this stupid shit.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” I said.
“You doing all right, John?” my friend Henry asked.
“I’m fine,” I replied. “I’m just trying to figure out how we’re going to win this one, that’s all.”
These creatures, these demons, whatever they were, attacked us a few years ago. There had been talk of the end of the world for about forty years or so, at least as far back as I can remember. My mother used to tell me that everyone thought the world was going to end at the turn of the millennium, but that didn’t happen. She told me there was some sort of Mayan calendar that was destined to run out, which was another scare, but that one never happened either. Finally, back in 2037, we were attacked.
The first attack hit the European side of the world. Bombs started falling from the sky. There were no planes, no other kinds of aircraft, no nothing. Just bombs. Then these creatures showed up. They started to kill people, but not in groups. People used to report that these demons would walk up to them, look them dead in the eye, then walk off and murder somebody else.
Then they started to sprout. Everywhere. It became an all-out war with us and these demons. There was fire, there was death, there was torment – now we were getting into the end of the world.
My friends and I were finishing basic training from the army when they started to hit the states. Our government came up with new weapons to kill these things, and we were the ones who had to test them out. They weren’t any bigger than an AK 47, but the bullets we created were packed with more gunpowder and when it made contact with something, it forced an explosion. Fortunately for us, these weapons made destroying the demons extremely easy. Having hand-to-hand combat, however, was a death wish that nobody had survived yet.
“We better get back to camp,” said my other friend, Ken. “We should check to make sure everybody else is all right, too.”
“I agree,” said Henry, turning to walk to our base.
All of our homes had been destroyed. The survivors set up different camps, and we fought together. We got split up sometimes, but had always reconvened as soon as the opportunity presented itself. We usually had to move around a lot, but recently we’ve managed to keep our location hidden. We’ve been at our current camp for a few weeks now, but I’m one hundred percent sure these demons know we’re there.
We started to walk back, and the smell of the smoke continued to fill my nose. We walked through a village that recently got burned down. Bodies hung up in the trees, the ashes taking over their bodies, leaving their bones barely connected. Have you ever smelled burning flesh? Burning hair? Imagine the smell of that one hair, that one person’s flesh, amplified by about three hundred. That smell would make you sick to your stomach. Well, after three years, I’m not phased by that smell anymore. All I can smell is smoke now.
The sight of all these dead bodies, however, is something I’ll never forget. Everybody’s face is frozen in the scream they were letting out as their last breath. The freshly burned bodies still have the horror locked in them. For the bodies that didn’t burn, the decrepit corpses still hold the look of fear in the eyes that didn’t even get to close. There were no more proper burials. Hell, there weren’t even anymore burials at all. Everybody fought for themselves, unless the opportunity to stick together actually arose.
“This is disgusting,” said Nate. “I still can’t get used to this.”
I shrugged. “I try not to let it bother me. These people died fighting to save their lives; against these things, that’s about as brave as you can get.”
“It’s still ridiculous,” said Ken. “You’d think everybody would have learned by now to have someone on watch. Just because these mooks have calmed down doesn’t mean they’re not going to attack. They’re just waiting for us to let our guard down.”
“Hopefully our camp remembered that,” I said.
We had left the night before to go hunting for food to bring back. We’d left Ben in charge, and part of me had been skeptical about that ever since we did so. Ben was a nice guy, and he was a good fighter, but he wasn’t always the brightest person we could keep around.
“Well, if we got attacked and it’s Ben’s fault, I’ll rip his head off if he’s still got one,” said Henry. “My wife and kids are there; they better still be around when we get back.”
“I’m sure everything’s fine,” I replied. “If they did get attacked though, I hope we can at least figure out where they went. That would be pretty bad for us if we were stuck out here.”
Our camp wasn’t far from where we had just been attacked, so it only took us a few minutes to get back to it. Much to our relief, everyone was still there, and everyone was still alive. The only fire going was the one used to keep us warm and cook our food.
As we approached, my own wife, Jen, ran up to me and threw her arms around me.
“I was so worried!” she gasped. “One of our lookouts just came back and said there was an attack. Are you all right?”
“We’re fine,” I said. “None of us were hurt. We killed all of them.”
Her brow furrowed and I could see the worry behind her hazel yes. They were puffy, and I knew she had been worrying herself far too much since receiving the news.
“Hey,” I said, rubbing her arms. “I swore to you I’d return in one piece. I don’t care how hard I have to fight, I’m not leaving you.”
She smiled and wrapped her arms around me again. “Did you guys find anything?”
“Unfortunately, no. The wildlife around here is spread pretty thin. If humans haven’t found them, those demons or the fires have. It’s unfortunate.”
“How many attacked you?”
“A good twenty, at least. Their armies are multiplying, and I have no idea how they’re doing it.”
I sat down on a log and stared into the fire. The sun had started to kiss the top of the ridge, and darkness would encircle us soon enough.
Jen sat next to me and put a hand on my knee. She took in a breath and said, “John, how are we going to win this?”
“I have no idea.”
She looked down. I’d known Jen my entire life. Ours was actually an extremely rare arranged marriage. Even more rare, though, was the fact that we actually loved each other. I knew her better than anybody else in the world. I could tell exactly what she was thinking, even if she didn’t say it.
“We’re not giving up,” I said simply.
“Jen, I know you better than that. You’re losing your hope. All of our friends, most of our family,” I paused, choking back tears as I said, “our children – they’re all dead. You don’t see a way to win this, so you want to end it while we can. But listen, we can’t do that. We’re going to win. We have to.”
Jen looked at me. “Have you ever read Revelations?”
“I have. John, I think this is the end. I think it’s Armageddon, and we might as well give up before things get any worse.”
“I thought we had to wait for Jesus to come back before it was the end of the world?”
“Just because it said He was coming doesn’t mean it said when. We could very well be attacked like this to the point of extinction before He returns, nobody knows.”
I sighed. I respected the fact Jen had always been extremely religious, but somehow I couldn’t seem to find anything that wasn’t a flaw in her beliefs. If there really was a God, I was hoping that He would send somebody to help us – and soon.
Ken swore at the top of his lungs. My heart jumped and I turned around, ready for a battle. I calmed down when I saw all he did was knick himself with a knife.
“A bit jumpy?” asked Jen.
“What do you expect?” I snapped, a little harsher than I had meant. When her expression changed, I added, “Sorry. I’m still hyped up from the battle.”
There was a rustling in the trees around us and my hand instantly went to my gun. I wasn’t the only one this time, however. I noticed every man in the camp jumping straight for theirs and turning to the sound as well.
The rustling turned into the snapping of a twig.
“Jen get behind me right now,” I said quickly.
“Just get behind me like I told you to!” I didn’t have time for questions. If there was something in those trees about to attack us, her safety came first.
A low growl came from trees and my heartbeat rose again. The snapping of the twig turned into the sound of footsteps, and one of those demons appeared at the edge of the forest surrounding our camp.
Jen grabbed onto my shoulder and dug her nails into me. I ignored her, knowing she was just doing it out of fear.
Another twig snapped from behind us, and it took every effort not to turn to it. I knew someone else would tend to that demon; I had my own that I had to deal with.
“Adios muchacho!” shouted Ken, pulling his trigger and shooting the demon. “I’m not waiting around for you idiots to surround us! I’m going to shoot every one of you that comes in my eye sight!”
That wasn’t a bad idea. The only problem in it was there were far more of them than we could even conceive. I noticed at least seven starting to form right where the other one had just died. They just formed out of nowhere, whenever they pleased.
We were about to be in way over our heads.
The demons held up their hands and started to shoot. I don’t know how exactly to explain it; they had some sort of ammunition built into their bodies, thus how I got shot in our last attack. Their bullets were small, barely even visible, but they sent a shock through the entire body that would put you under faster than you could blink if it hit the right spot.
The demons kept appearing out of nowhere, the flames starting to grow faster around us.
We were screwed.
Ken opened his mouth and let out a war cry I’ve never heard and started shooting anything that moved, unfortunately including some of our own people. The demons who weren’t hit by our missiles kept coming closer, shooting us back.
We were going to have to resort to hand-to-hand combat.
Unfortunately, none of us had ever really got that far. We didn’t have any kind of weapon that could protect us; all we had were our guns and our hands.
One of the demons threw back its head and let out a roar. Then I saw something I’d never seen it before: it started shrinking. It got smaller and smaller until it was no bigger than a hamster. It jumped up and flew straight into somebody’s mouth.
Holy shit! These guys were going to start possessing us!
The person they possessed, another childhood friend of mine, Alyson, turned into a monster almost instantaneously. Her face contorted into the most evil look I’ve ever seen on a person. Have you ever seen The Exorcist? That girl looked like an angel in comparison to Alyson.
Her eyes turned black and her shoulders molded above her head as she turned into a hunchback. Her fingers started to contort and she fell to the ground. She stuck her tongue out and licked her lips and started to move. She moved like a large tiger circling its pray, and she looked at me directly in the eye.
I thought my heart was going to stop beating.
It was like looking into anything I’d ever been afraid of, anything that had ever tried to take over me, anything that ever kept me awake at night worrying. It was like every negative thought I’d ever had about anything or anyone shot straight to the surface and started to overcome me.
I thought about giving up. But then she did something no one ever gets away with doing.
She went for Jen.
“Oh, hell no!” I said, bringing my gun up and shooting. Friend or no friend, Alyson had to die. No one touches my family.
But then another thing happened I hadn’t seen yet; the missile I shot went straight through her and she kept coming. She started laughing and licked her lips again. Her tongue had turned a black-green color and saliva dripped off her mouth like she’d been given too much Novocain.
Alyson walked for us slowly, tauntingly. She knew – or the demon inside of her knew, at least – that they were invincible to our weapons.
I shot a quick look around and realized this was happening all around us. There were a few people who were possessed, all walking towards a particular person of their choice. Ken was going crazy shooting everything, but it just gave the demons more to go off of. Its laugh sent chills down my spine.
“Jen,” I whispered. “Run.”
We both turned and booked it for the forest. Alyson let out a shriek and started to run after us.
So I was being chased. Again. It’s sad that I’ve gotten so used to this now.
We tore through the forest at a pace I’ve never hit before. I have no idea how we made it through the wall of demons that was circling our camp. Like I said before, sometimes they just looked at a person and decided to let them go.
Alyson dashed through the forest with us, growling as she went.
“What’s happening to her?” shouted Jen as we ran.
“It’s taken over her body!” I replied, pulling her out of the way of a tree branch she didn’t notice.
Jen screamed as she tripped over a log, falling to the ground.
Even though it was every man for himself, there was no way I was going to let her die.
The sun had gone down completely now, and the only light that was coming was the now faint glow from the fire we had left behind in our camp, the last bits of the sun fading on the horizon, and the first bits of the moon rising. Alyson stood there, her hands clawed and her face contorted, waiting to attack us.
“Who are you?” I snapped.
“I think you know,” came her voice, raspy and deep. It definitely didn’t represent Alyson’s actual voice at all.
“Why are you doing this to us?”
She cocked her head and licked her blackened tongue again. “Don’t you know? We’re here because you let us be here.”
“What are you talking about?”
My eyes met her gaze again and I was filled with that same sense of overwhelming fear I felt before.
“I think you know exactly what I’m talking about,” the demon inside of her snapped.
“Leave us alone!”
“Watch your tone, cretin! Do not for one minute think you can have any control or say over us. We are stronger than you could ever imagine.”
I held up my gun and shot her again. The missile went straight into her forehead, but she was unharmed.
She cursed at me. “You think it would be so easy to kill me? That you could just pull one of your triggers and I would fall dead without a second thought? I am what you fear the most; it’s going to take a lot more than that to fight me off.”
Alyson threw her head back and the demon started to crawl out of her, getting itself back on the ground. What I hadn’t noticed before was that there was more than one demon that went inside of her. The one that came out of her grew larger than before and turned its gaze to Jen. She started crying harder than I had ever seen her cry before. I got the strange feeling the eyes of this demon made her feel the exact same way they made me feel.
It began to walk towards her. I tried to move to her, but the demon looked at me and I was frozen to the spot.
“Jen, don’t let it scare you,” I whispered. “Please, baby, fight. Just fight it as hard as you can.”
“I can’t!” Jen wept. “I can’t!”
“Don’t say that! Please, baby, just try! Don’t let it kill you that easily; go down with a fight!”
The demon lunged at her and she threw up her hands in defense. They rolled on the ground and she punched it in the face, continuing to scream. The demon – or demons, I guess – inside of Alyson began to laugh.
“You can never win!” they taunted.
“Jen, come on baby! Fight it!”
It killed me that I had to stand there and watch Jen fight this thing alone. I had sworn to be by her side and help her for our entire lives, and here I was, nothing more than a solitary being, helpless and weak.
Jen let out a scream that was more along the lines of a battle shriek and kicked the demon off of her. She turned and found a stick and picked it up. The demon she was fighting flung its head back and laughed.
“You think that little thing will kill me?”
It slashed her arm with its claws and she started breathing hard and crying. The blood was oozing fast from her arm, and if this thing didn’t kill her she would die of blood loss.
The demon went to lunge for her, but Jen threw the stick up and it went straight through the demon’s brain. Its eyes grew wide and it convulsed a bit, but eventually, it died.
Jen laid her head on the ground, crying.
“Jen!” I cried. “No!”
She looked at me as one final tear streamed down her face, mouthing, “I love you.”
Now these things were really going to pay.
I turned back to Alyson.
“COME AT ME AND FIGHT ME LIKE A MAN, YOU COWARD!!”
Alyson cocked her head. “So demanding, John. You should really watch your attitude.”
“Fight me! Stop being such a coward and FIGHT ME!”
“You say things like this as if it’s so easy. You’re not ready to fight me, not yet. You’re still content with me torturing you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I can’t move, you’ve got me locked to this spot.”
“Move.” This time it was more than just a simple demand.
Instantaneously my body felt looser and I could move.
I didn’t waste another second. I ran straight for Alyson, gun in hand.
As soon as I approached her, she put her hand around my throat. She lifted me off the ground smoothly and chucked me into a nearby tree. Pain immediately shot through my back, and I found it difficult to breathe. My vision went blurry, but I shook it off.
I wasn’t going to let this thing get the best of me.
Alyson lunged at me, but I was ready this time. I threw my fist into her face with such force she flew back. I’m a pretty big guy – I was in the army for a little while, and I used to be a linebacker. While most people thought of me as a pretty big teddy bear, these demons needed to know as soon as they messed with me it would be the end of them.
I ran to my gun and picked it up. Alyson started to convulse and demons began to come out of her. Not one or two – four. They started crawling out of her like ants out of a mound.
I was ready for them.
As soon as the demons left, Alyson – the real Alyson – stood up. A demon grabbed her and she screamed.
“Let her go!”
I shot the demon, and he let her go. He fell to the ground and disintegrated.
“Not so tough when you stand by yourselves, are you, you great MORONS!!”
A demon lunged at me but I shot him square in the eye. I felt a hand close around my neck and the air started to leave my lungs again as I dropped my gun to the ground. One of them had snuck up behind me. This could be the end of me.
My eyesight started to go black, but I wasn’t going to give up this easily. I didn’t care how hard I had to fight; I was not going down without the biggest struggle I could possibly muster.
I threw my elbow back in the demon. I don’t know where I hit it, but it loosened up its grip. I turned around and kicked it. Another demon came at me, but I turned and punched it has hard as I could. Their skin was like spiked armor, and the force of the blow cut my knuckles.
It was now three against one, but that didn’t matter. I picked up my gun again and shot blindly. I hit another demon in the stomach.
Two on one.
I was surprised more hadn’t come. It seemed as though they had forgotten about their friends, more focused on the rest of my village. Alyson had run off, and I prayed silently that she made it back to safety somehow. I really hope she survived this one.
I shot the next demon that came at me, but the other one pulled another sneak attack. It wrapped both of its claws around my neck, and I knew it was about to snap it in half. That didn’t matter to me.
I resisted as hard as I could, and for some reason the demon was unable to break my neck. I could tell it was getting frustrated because it was trying so hard, yet it had no success.
I started to push my way back for a tree. I pushed the demon into it, and it let its grip up just enough for me to turn and kick it. I picked up a stick and shoved it in the demon’s eye. Blood squirted in my face, some of it getting in my mouth. It’s strange how demon blood tastes. It’s not the same sort of copper, penny-like taste a human’s blood has. It’s more sweet, richer, seductive. It was probably one of the things they used to lure their humans in to possess them before they came out in an all-out attack.
As the demon struggled with the stick now protruding from its eye, I turned to my gun one last time and shot it.
It screamed, it blew up, and it died just like the rest of them.
Then something I didn’t expect happened.
I stopped breathing. Completely. I tried to pull air in through my lungs, but there was nothing there. My eyesight started to grow black again and my body screamed for oxygen.
I fell to the ground, gasping for air.
My world closed in around me.
The black world around me dissipated into a white light. I opened my eyes and I breathed in the most pure oxygen I had ever breathed. Jen was sitting a few feet away from me, the biggest smile I had ever seen on her face.
“You made it!” she cried, running to me and hugging me.
“What do you mean?”
She nodded her head and I followed her gaze. There was an angel – at least, that’s what I think it was – standing there, a smile on his face as well. He was dressed in all white and looked like a human. It was nothing like I would have ever imagined an angel to look like.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“You made it,” said the angel. “You’ve won.”
“What are you talking about? I just killed all those demons and I still died!”
“That’s the point.”
“This war – this apocalypse – it was brought on by humans. These are the end times, and this is the final war.”
I stared blankly at the angel, not knowing what to say. “Do you mind explaining?”
“Those demons that you’ve been fighting – they’re your personal demons. All that confusion you’ve had about why they only attack certain people, why some just walk right by you – those are the ones you don’t struggle with. Your own personal demons came to the world. Everyone’s own personal demons – they all came to life. Drugs, sex, alcohol, addiction, anything any human has struggled with surfaced to the air. That’s what you’ve been fighting against.”
“So I just beat my personal demons? Why did I die then?”
“Because that’s the whole point of the final war. Your demons can only beat you if you let them. You fought harder and braver than anyone I’ve ever seen before. Only you can defeat your demons; no one else can. All those people who died, died because they gave up.”
I turned back to Jen. “So that’s why you died? Because you killed your final demon?”
“Did you know about any of this?”
“Part of me had a feeling, but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know for sure until now, like you.”
This was hard to wrap my head around. I had no idea what to say, no idea what to do. I didn’t know what was going to happen now, and it was strange to me that that didn’t scare me. At all.
“So when people gave up –”
“They died. Plain and simple.”
“But then what happened?”
“If people allow their demons to overcome them, they go to hell. All those people who died let those demons control them.”
“So you’re saying I’ve made it into heaven?”
“No. I’m saying you’ve fought your way out of hell.”