Available Darkness: Chapter 13
(Serial and Milk: Available Darkness is a serialized thriller co-written by David Wright and Sean Platt. A new chapter appears here each Friday. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them here.)
John stumbled into the parking lot, shallow breath echoing against a wall of pillowcases and blowing back, burning hot air against the torn flesh of his face.
“What the hell?” a man’s voice said, somewhere to his left.
John turned his head, but couldn’t see anything beyond the pillowcases. While the sun was still out, there was not enough light to discern the few shadows which fell across his one-eyed gaze.
A woman, also to the left, shrieked several times in rapid succession, or perhaps there was more than just the one woman wailing. John couldn’t tell.
As he moved forward awkwardly, sunlight singed his feet, but the pain was not nearly as severe as what he’d felt back in the hotel. He hunched over, draping the blanket lower and thickening the protective barrier that stood between sunlight and skin. The fire in his flesh slowly cooled as he tried to figure out where he was in relation to where he wanted to be.
To his far right, he heard the shrieking chaos and screeching metal simmering in the shooting’s aftermath. John hobbled forward like a blind hunchback, navigating the parking lot with only memory and muffled sound as his guides.
He stumbled several times, barely managing to keep himself upright before slamming into the side of a car. The blanket slipped through his fingers against the grain of his surprise and his skin met one of the final shafts from a fading sun. He was quickly punished for the transgression.
John screamed and fell to the ground, fetal beneath the blanket. He swallowed hard and tuned his ears to receive the telltale reception of unfolding disaster. With perception centered on it’s target, John pulled the blanket tighter, rose to his feet and continued to amble blindly forward. His mind desperately raced down abandoned hallways, famished for even the slightest sign of Abigail; any signal to pull him toward her, but the air between them seemed empty. The connection between them dissipating like wafting smoke from a flame lost to the wind.
Still, John could practically smell Abigail’s peril and knew he was getting closer. He continued to push himself harder and faster against the antagonistic wind of blind momentum. He’d made it out of the hotel parking lot and about 10 yards down the street when he felt his blanket brushed against something, his feet tripped into the tangled fabric and he toppled into approximately a hundred and eighty pounds of anger.
“The fuck is your problem?” from the other side of the blanket.
“He’s got a gun!” a scream from somewhere nearby.
Gun? Did they think he had a gun or did someone else have a gun? Perhaps the men in the van he saw through Abigail’s eyes?
Confusion as the sound of running footsteps reverberated in all directions. Some moving away from him and others – straight at him.
“Hey motherfucker,” a man’s voice, livid but leading.
John felt a harsh blow to his back as someone shoved him to the ground and an entire city seemed to land on top of him.
His world twisted into a sudden whirlwind of suffering and bedlam.
Footsteps stampeded towards him like rolling thunder. A distant wail of sirens grew louder as hands clawed at his pillowcase, tearing at his hair and where the pillowcase had stuck to his bloody face.
John’s fingers strained to hold tight to the pillowcase and blanket as he curled into a frail comma, taut with despair.
An army of blows assaulted his ribs, his back and his head as the mob kicked, hit and tore at his residue. At some point the pain would be too much to bear and he would either lose the battle or admit defeat and let go of his protection and allow the sun to claim his flesh.
No, no, no, no, this can’t be happening.
Sirens now at a scream, a voice boomed through an intercom punctuating the arrival of the authorities, “get off him.”
The mob continued the torrent, raining blow after blow while John grappled with wavering consciousness.
The sound of splitting cotton magnified with anger in John’s ears as the pillowcase surrendered to the militia of mauling hands.
John flinched as the final ribbon of his cotton armor was ripped from his face.
He was prepared for an immediate passing into whatever Hades was waiting.
He was met instead with twilight and cool wind that caressed the sides of his singed cheeks like a salve against his angered flesh.
A second passed and John’s world tipped into new possibility. The sun was gone. A brand new darkness had claimed the sky and inoculated his soul with the power to render pain to rage and rage to thirst. Time had seemed to once again stop for him — for just a moment to take in his surroundings.
Looming above him was a young, long haired man poised to deliver a lethal wallop across John’s face. In that suspended moment, the man’s eyes went from large and dark with feral rage to wide and white with fear.
John growled, reality moved forward like a snapping rubber band, as he caught the man’s boot, wrenched his leg sideways until it snapped and sent the punk to the ground in a single sweep.
John stood, sweat pouring from one side of his face while blood dripped from the other. The encroaching crowd cautiously retreated like a pack of gazelles who had happened upon a feasting lion; a collective instinct speaking in a whisper of inherent truth — Death was here.
John lunged at his attacker, his fingers closing so hard around the man’s throat that they almost went straight through. Their skin sealed together as John drank deep from the man’s life force.
John lowered his chin as glazed eyes rolled to the back of his head. His skull bobbed back and forth in a half drunk nod as his skin rippled with some unseen internal climax. The fibers of his body were alive and moving; his flesh mending like death in reverse.
Oh God yes.
Screams, as witnesses flooded away from the savagery. Some started to run. Others, like animals seized by headlights, could do nothing.
Holding the withering corpse casually in his palm, John turned sharply his eyes locking on another lamb in the crowd. Standing 10 feet away; an older man holding a tire iron, which John was pretty sure had been used to hit him.
“You!” John uncurled a finger at the man, then leaped on his body and he stole another life. And it felt good.
The second time was different, energy flooding from the man, like blood from a sudden cut – so fresh it still wore a hint of blue. John saw a glimpse of himself attacking the man, then flashed on a memory of the man eating lunch — pizza. Some sick part of John laughed out loud at the befitting vision as he feasted on the fallen man.
Thunder tore through the riot — a gunshot.
John snapped out of his feeding, glanced up and saw a sheriff’s deputy, ten feet away, aiming a rifle right between his eyes. The first bullet was a stray, but John was certain Lady Luck wouldn’t grant him a second grace. He spun around and sprinted towards the grocery store parking lot.
A car window in front of John erupted in chunked pieces of safety glass.
“Stop!” the cop shouted.
He raced ahead, wrestling his senses for a second of calm, just long enough to carve himself an escape.
Death whizzed by his ears and smashed into another car window.
Ahead, John spotted a woman leaning into the back her car, gently setting brown bags into an empty back seat. While others further off had noticed him, the woman had not. He raced up behind her and screamed, “move!”
Her head hit the inside roof of the car as she spun around clumsily, her heel slipping forward stopping short of touching John’s leg. She was young, with long blond hair, full of energy, which he could feel flaring from her every pore. A hunger stirred within him, a mix of inveterate lust and a desire to feed. She stared at him, frozen by fear or something else he couldn’t quite place in the narrow sweep of a second.
The woman’s rear window shattered as another gunshot rang out and she gave release to a piercing shriek, suddenly shaken from her temporary lull. She launched herself backwards in the car, jerked open the passenger back door, shot out and scrambled out the other side. As she ran for safety, John spun around to see the cop advancing on him, about 40 yards away, unsteady gun aimed recklessly at John — and the people in the parking lot behind him.
Out of the corner of his eyes, John saw that the woman had dropped her keys on the ground.
He ducked down, grabbed a handful of silver, slammed the back door shut and jumped into the driver’s seat.
“Stop!” the cop screamed, now only a few yards away.
John keyed the ignition and threw the car in reverse, yanking the wheel hard right. The car stopped just in front of the cop as he leveled the gun squarely at John’s head. John shifted into drive and floored the gas, but not before the cop squeezed off two rounds.
The first bullet buzzed past the car, but the second found its mark, through the windshield and into John’s chest — slamming him back against the seat at the exact moment the car struck the cop and sent his badge scraping across the hood and his body into an angry tumble behind its bumper.
John gasped for air, barely managing to dip out of the shopping center parking lot and into traffic. Though the pain was intense, his wounded flesh was already starting to stitch itself together as his breath returned.
“Where are you?” he asked Abigail as he navigated his way through horrified pedestrians and sluggish vehicles.
There was no answer on the other end.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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