Chapter 17:

The Beginning of the End

By the Shores of Time

Bars rattled, echoing under the dim setting. The holding cells had become akin to an insane asylum. With the soldiers looking down the stretch of the corridor, two figures passed through, receiving the hollers and extended grasps of those in contempt. Elizabeth glimpsed each one, seeing the mental facilities reduced to belligerence and mindless drivel. Victoria saw the scientist’s lanky body sit against the grimy wall, gazing back from the shadows. The wall gave a strange flesh-like appearance she hadn’t noticed before.Bookmark here

“Greg,” Victoria spoke, waiting for his response.Bookmark here

“Darkness,” he whispered. “When there is no light, there is darkness.”Bookmark here

Elizabeth shone light against him, prompting him to block his eyes. She gasped to the disturbing sight. His pale body was covered in bruises and cuts; the fresh wounds appeared to be self-inflicted.Bookmark here

“How long has he been doing this?” she asked in a trembling voice. “He shouldn’t be down here… Not with what’s going on.”Bookmark here

“He’s unstable, so—” the lieutenant replied nonchalantly.Bookmark here

“What do you think this sort of confinement was going to do? Do you have any idea what it—”Bookmark here

“Let me ask you something,” she interrupted, maintaining her cold tone. “Do you know what those government troops did to the women fighters they captured?”Bookmark here

Elizabeth saw the anger under her masked indifference under the poor lighting. Death, aggression, pain… All laced within the energy she gave. The nurse didn’t dare to press on as she glimpsed the haggard man before them. Things devolved in a matter of days.Bookmark here

“Then—” she spoke. “I’ll keep watch over him.”Bookmark here

“Not happening,” Victoria replied.Bookmark here

“We need him. There’s a lot we don’t know… And—Things are changing.”Bookmark here

Victoria sighed, turning to the silent scientist. He gazed off a thousand-yard stare as though the world around him didn’t exist It was as though he cosigned to spending his remaining days in the darkest reaches. She pitied him and she despised what the lieutenant did. Victoria begrudgingly opened the cell, noticing the glint in his eye.Bookmark here

“Don’t fuck this up,” she muttered.Bookmark here

“But, it may already be too late,” he spoke weakly.Bookmark here

“Lt. Salazar!” a soldier shouted as the elevator opened. “We have an emergency!”Bookmark here

The nurse and lieutenant glimpsed one another before the scientist brushed past him. The prisoners grew more unruly as they passed, some even slamming against the bars violently. Greg ignored the fuss as the other two trailed behind him. The soldiers parted, aghast by his appearance. The thinning hair revealed his shiny scalp, his body dwindled by starvation, and his eyes gave the appearance of having looked death in the eyes. Victoria picked up the soldier’s anxiousness as the elevator ascended.Bookmark here

“What’s going on?” she questioned.Bookmark here

“The bodies—They,” he spoke before the door open; the priest was loud and clear.Bookmark here

“They said the dead will rise and which it did,” his frail voice declared. “We can’t turn away from this reality!”Bookmark here

Victoria shoved through everyone, furious about what Nathanial was trying to do. She entered the packed Eastern wing where all the bodies were kept temporarily. The priest glimpsed her with an unsavory acknowledgment. When she reached him, she found Alex next to him. The bodies were kept were gone without a trace. The puddled blood was the only thing that would’ve signified the bodies were there. Victoria stood at the doorway, Bookmark here

“Where are the bodies?” her voice cracked. “Stop fucking around! Where’d you put them?”Bookmark here

“They weren’t here when I tried to give them their last rites,” he responded with a smile.Bookmark here

“Over a dozen bodies doesn’t just go poof! C’mon! Somebody better speak up!”Bookmark here

“Or what?” Alex asked. “You’re going to tell us to go to our rooms?”Bookmark here

As her eyebrows twitched as Greg emerged with his ever-distant expression. He paid little heed to Elizabeth as he entered the blood-drenched room. Everyone huddled to see what he was doing, noting his frail appearance. Elizabeth cast light along the slick storage room’s floors. He saw the streak of blood oozing from the large vent shat at the top of the wall. The scientist slowly looked over his shoulder, staring the nurse in her frightened eyes.Bookmark here

“A light on the vent here,” he pointed.Bookmark here

“That—Doesn’t make any sense,” Elizabeth cast her light, revealing the blooding vent’s frame.Bookmark here

Victoria lifting the frame over, gesturing a light into the dark space. A trail of blood going through both paths of the shaft. Everyone gauged each other’s reactions, taking in the strange revelation. Nathanial remained undeterred by the peculiar nature of the happening. A strange visceral feeling struck the scientist as he turned toward everyone, hearing the faint noises crawling through the ventilation.Bookmark here

“Get everyone out of their rooms now!” he ordered.Bookmark here

“What?” Victoria winced.Bookmark here

“Those bodies didn’t drag themselves out!”Bookmark here

Victoria ordered her soldiers without question as they began ushering everyone from their rooms. They were met with confused looks, arguments, and even physical altercations as everyone was herded to the main hall. Celeste went to her room to get Gabriel. Swinging the door open, she found the room empty. A strange crushing sound sent shivers down her spine as she looked toward the rattling ventilation shaft. She struggled to breathe, clenching her heart over her chest.Bookmark here

“Gabriel?” she panicked.Bookmark here

A loud bang sent the shaft collapsing onto the floor, revealing the strange, gooey contents within. She tripped backward outside her door while the gluttonous creature took form. She screamed, drawing everyone’s attention. The brilliant lilac in her right eye pulsed as its tendrils lashed against her. Waving her hand away from her chest, a bright flash cut its slithery grasps, sending it squirming back into the dark depths. She fixated on her hand, watching the strange light disappear from her grip.Bookmark here

“What—The hell did you just do?” Victoria asked, glimpsing the trail of slime oozing from the shaft.Bookmark here

“Gabriel—I can’t find Gabriel,” Celeste panicked. “You don’t think it—”Bookmark here

“No—I… Doubt it.”Bookmark here

“We need to find him.”Bookmark here

“What’s going on?” Greg walked over, seeing the strange sight. “Was it whatever took the bodies?”Bookmark here

“I think,” Celeste glanced at him as he noticed the distinct eye color.Bookmark here

“What happened? Did it get you?”Bookmark here

“Almost. It stopped after I screamed.”Bookmark here

Although her voice was sincere, he knew she was lying. As Victoria helped her up, gunfire erupted nearby. People fled from the eastern hall while the soldiers yelled at whatever it was they were shooting at. When Celeste and the others arrived, they stood behind the soldiers, who had their guns drawn toward the room. Whipping sounds slammed against the walls while the distinct gluttonous sounds gurgled. Bone cracking and hoarse breathing filled the darkness while flesh ripped.Bookmark here

Elizabeth raised her flashlight, revealing the strange pinkish blob absorbing one of the soldiers. He opened his mouth, trying to scream, but only a pained whimper escaped as his back was slowly torn apart. Everyone gasped at the horrific sight. It was a similar creature Celeste saw in her room. Victoria grabbed the grenade on one of his soldiers, tossing at it before they retreated. A gushy explosion caved in the ceiling while the creature squirmed back into the ventilation system.Bookmark here

When they convened at the door, a few scattered limbs were all that remained. Greg cautiously approached, examining with the faint light behind him. The available body parts were molten against the charred floor. He looked over toward Victoria, who awaited his assessment. His lips parted, hesitantly with notably fear.Bookmark here

“Speak,” she insisted.Bookmark here

“This thing is absorbing the bodies,” he responded. “But to what aim, I—Don’t know.”Bookmark here

“Fuck!”Bookmark here

“That thing didn’t just show up though,” Celeste chimed in. “Gabriel and I saw something similar in the market we were in. But it wasn’t anywhere that big… Or quick.”Bookmark here

“So, now what?” Elizabeth added.Bookmark here

“We need to draw it out,” the lieutenant declared.Bookmark here

“That’s probably not the only one,” the scientist reluctantly replied. “I have no way to confirm it, but that’s too small to have absorbed the corpses. It probably splits apart when it has to.”Bookmark here

He met Victoria’s unwavering glare when he finished speaking. Celeste thought about Gabriel, wondering where he was. She remembered what she’d seen that evening with Elizabeth and when she was there with Gabriel. The creature’s sudden appearance made a little more sense, but she couldn’t make a connection. She glimpsed the nurse, who had looked at her already. Perhaps she thought the same but didn’t know how to present what they had seen.Bookmark here

“Is it possible,” Celeste spoke up, drawing the lieutenant’s attention. “That it could alter whatever it touches?”Bookmark here

Greg winced before looking over.Bookmark here

“All things considered,” he nodded. “That wouldn’t be out of the question.”Bookmark here

Gunshots echoed overhead, originating from the rooftop. There was a calm before the storm as people panicked. With each shot came the recognizable panic with its pacing. Victoria took a few steps forward as a terrible realization overcame her.Bookmark here

“Send reinforcements to the roof immediately,” she ordered over the frenzy.Bookmark here

“We don’t have enough!” a soldier reminded.Bookmark here

“I didn’t ask you if you had enough. I asked you to get your asses up there now! As for the rest of you, stay put in the main hall until we get things situated.”Bookmark here

She ignored the commotion caused by her statement while the soldiers carried out their orders. Greg looked toward Elizabeth who furrowed her forehead, leaning against the wall while hearing the riled crowd. The scientist tapped her shoulder, seeing the worry on her face. His cold indifference reminded her of the priest’s expression, ever observant and distant.Bookmark here

“What is it?” she asked tiredly.Bookmark here

“We should check back downstairs,” he insisted.Bookmark here

“What for?”Bookmark here

“The thing—There was something strange about it.”Bookmark here

“Let things cool down before Victoria starts coming after us too. She’s on edge—”Bookmark here

“She’s losing control.”Bookmark here

Elizabeth reluctantly agreed, seeing the soldiers circle the crowd like cattle. Greg walked forward, hearing the chaos ahead, one with the macabre environment. The nurse glimpsed the blood pooling from the dull, off-white floors with a sinking feeling. What hid in the darkness had finally come to light, but in the night it had come to thrive.

Things are reaching their peak while everything slides into the bowls of chaos!
And thus, things are coming together in the unlikeliest of ways!
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