May 21, 2010

One more entry for the diary of things to have nightmares about.

((The game should start up again at the end of June. Another flashback, this one mostly about Harper dealing with all the horrific crap she's recently been subjugated too. Enjoy.))

The car was quiet as we rolled through the Mexico desert. I was fighting to stay awake, and fighting not to let my hands shake. At the last pit stop, I made sure to put my field medicine kit where I couldn't see it while driving. I found I had started staring at it in the rear-view, instead of paying attention to the road.

I was relieved beyond words when, not only did I see a small run down motel on the side of the barely paved road, but the bikes turned towards it and pulled into the parking lot.

The place was passable, as far as roadside motels went. It was on the very edge of a small town that was currently completely asleep. No one stirred.. but then again, it was 3am. There were one or two lights on in the motel, plus, thank god, the light in the tiny closet of a room that was the front desk area.

I waited outside, leaning against the Jeep, while Giuseppe and Asol went in. They were the only two who spoke Spanish. We'd been driving for 36 hours straight, only stopping for bathroom breaks and coffee. I was inwardly thankful that I'd gotten myself used to shifts that long or longer when I was working as a paramedic.

Idly, I wondered if I'd ever go back to that now.. it seemed a silly thing to be concerned about, considering the things I'd been through over the past few weeks.. It was shocking, really, that I was still alive after facing living dolls, raging vampires, mindless zombies, a homicidal ghost, and more recently, a newly transformed werewolf and spirits that took the forms of rats..

I was still recovering from the wound in my side from the werewolf. I had stitched it up best I could, but it would scar. Anyone who knew what they were looking at would know some wild animal had tried to taste my kidneys. I gave a small involuntary shudder. I had a flash of the former truck-stop guy transformed into a monster with claws from both hands shoved into Goule's body, a split second from literally ripping him into two pieces.

In the rare moments I had let someone else drive while I napped, my nightmares hadn't reflected reality. Really, Roxanne and Stepping-Feather had kept us all alive, tearing into the other werewolf's arms before he could finish the attack.. but in my dreams, I watched, bleeding from the bite on my side (which was also much larger, I looked down, and could see a few of my organs, pieces missing), as Goule was ripped in half, and tossed like a broken rag doll across the grass as the monster turned to finish me off. After that dream, I didn't let anyone else drive. I just loaded up with coffee and energy drinks, and went into '2 day shift paramedic' mode, and just drove. If anyone noticed the haunted look in my eyes, they said nothing. I'm sure they were all collecting their own set of nightmares.

At least no one had been grievously injured when we encounter the Beshilu. I was still trying to wrap my head around spirits that took the forms of rats.. and their war with the werewolves. The pack in Austin explained that the rats chewed thin spots in the gauntlet.. the barrier between this world and the spirit world.. and that was apparently a bad thing. I took their word for it, and when the Beshilu attacked their garage, we helped fend them off. I was still suspicious as to what Giuseppe could have possibly offered to them to get them to back off. But I couldn't argue. They're numbers had been too huge, we would've been overwhelmed eventually.. at least that fight didn't end in nightmares.. not that I was sleeping enough to test that assumption...

But even awake, I thought about Jackie. I had never had nightmares about Jackie.. maybe because he was actually dead.. and my mind was already dealing with the event. It wasn't a possibility for me to worry about.. it was reality. It was a big reason I had pressed Giuseppe so hard about the priest. I was desperate for information. Anything that might help us not end up like Jackie. The memories were just as bad as the nightmares.. I could remember every detail. What I remember first was the smell.

We knew something was wrong the second the smell hit us. Death has a scent, one I was familiar with before I was even involved with the supernatural shit. It smelled like a potpourri of blood, feces, and a stale musk that I'd never been able to identify the source of.

I knew what it smelled like because of my job. The others knew what it smelled like for other reasons. Either way, everyone knew something was very, very wrong the moment we reached the back door of the church.

The interior of the church was something out of a Friday the 13th movie. There was blood covering the walls and the floor.. chunks of flesh, organs, and limbs throw carelessly about the room.

The logical and reasoning side of my brain was cataloging. Noting how there was only enough blood for this to be one person, eyes roaming over appendages, judging the cause of the wounds, then running through the stats on how much strength it would take to physically rip a body into pieces. The other part of my brain was trying very hard to freak the fuck out. I was pissed, sad, and terrified all at once.

I think it was Karl who found his head, and confirmed what we had suspected. The Korean man's else were glazed over, hair matted with blood and gore. I felt a white hot rage well up inside of me that was surprising. I wouldn't go so far as to call the irritating little Korean man a friend, but he had been one of us, dammit. And someone had butchered him. In the place that was supposed to be safe.

We'd left for Mexico that same day. Us in the cars, Karl, Tommy, Larissa and Davaro on the boat. As far as I knew, Giuseppe had notified Mona, and the cops were looking into it, Mona leading the investigation. We were sure to eradicate evidence of our presence from the church before the cops arrived. It was a solemn and nerve wracking process. Everyone kept looking over their shoulders at the slightest noises..

I started wondering how many more times I could look at a scene like that before my mind just completely shatte..

" 112."
I snapped back to reality. Asol was talking to me and dangling a key in front of my face, smirking. He thought I'd drifted off. I gave him an annoyed look and took the key from him. I grabbed my overnight bag from the car and went inside.

The room was like I'd expected it to be, dingy, but livable. Since we just needed sleep for a few hours, I wasn't going to be picky. Asol threw his shit down and knelt at the edge of his bed, and began doing Hail Mary's with a rosary he'd presumably gotten from the motel manager. I just shook my head and went back out to the car to grab my field kit. I couldn't keep track of that kid's belief system, and I was stuck sharing a room with him because I was the only one who probably wouldn't wring his fucking neck during the night. Or because Giuseppe enjoys annoying the shit out of me. Probably a combination of the two.

I opened the back of the jeep and grabbed for my kit. We had a few hours till we'd be leaving, and I was pretty sure I knew how to make the nightmares, and the hand tremors, go away.

Something moved off to my left.

I jerked and had my gun out, scanning the darkness, before I'd even thought about it.

"Hey Harp.." I held up a hand to silence Jaleel who was walking up to the car from the rooms. He noticed my weapons, drew both his pistols, and looked out into the dark. "Something there?"
"Not sure.. look." I pointed to the dirt a few feet off to our right. Footprint. Very strange footprints.
"Weird." Jaleel commented, unconcerned.

This time we both saw the flash, a few hundred yards in front of us, behind a stand of scrub trees.
Jaleel started to walk in that direction.
"Don't you think we should grab the others before investigating weird shit in the middle of the Mexico desert?" I asked with a sour voice, gun still trained on the trees.

Jaleel just shrugged. "You can if you want." But he kept walking. I took a quick glance back at the squat building and cursed, breaking into a jog to catch up with him.

There is was again, movement behind the trees. We approached them slowly, weapons ready, and the whole time I was thinking what a stupid idea this was.

We reached the trees and could see a small gas station through the leafless branches. It looked abandoned, safe for the dim lights flickering in the dirty windows.
I frowned, gun still at ready. "That can't be what we saw.. "
Jaleel just shrugged again and pushed his way through the small trees. I followed behind him.

Nothing moved. I glanced behind us and could see the small motel 100 yards away, lights glowing in the windows of our rooms. Out here, there was nothing but the dingy gas station.

Then we saw it again. Movement in the darkness.. we only saw it for a moment, heading towards the gas station, darting around the forlorn building. It looked like dim lighting traveling horizontally across the ground. After a moment, there was a popping noise and the lights in the building went out completely.

Jaleel jerked his guns into a firing position. "What the fu.."


Jaleel and I were thrown flat on our asses as one of the pumps exploded in a huge ball of fire. We both rolled to our feet with practiced quickness, him standing, me down on one knee, guns still pointed at the now burning gas station. The fire wasn't even all that large, and any potential threats were obscured by the writhing flames and acrid smoke.

Jaleel and I shared a glance, and started forward. Probably not the smartest thing in the world to do..

There wasn't much to investigate. The station was small, and the building was sagging in on itself, threatening to collapse. It was untouched by flames, but the small explosion had shaken its frame. Going inside seemed to be a bad idea. The only other thing we could find was a fuse box that was torn to pieces, and places were the sand had become so hot, it had melted into glass.

"What the fuck? I'm pretty sure gasoline fires don't get hot enough to melt sand.." I said, crouching down to examine the small area.

"Fuck if I know. We saw something though, right? Something was here." Jaleel said, still scanning the dark.

I stood and started walking away from the station as it burned, back in the direction of the motel. "There are a million different things I could say to rationalize away that weird electrical discharge that was crawling across the ground.. but given our luck, none of them would be true. Yeah.. we saw something.."


Everyone seemed wary, that night. No one was comfortable dismissing the event as coincidental. I don't know if anyone slept but me.. and I had help. It probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, but I knew from experience that if I didn't do it soon, I'd be even more useless to everyone. So I slept, dreamless, for a few hours, until the drug wore off, and the nightmares came back.

I jerked awake gasping for air. I sat bolt upright in bed looking around frantically, not quite sure were I was. Giuseppe was sitting on top of the twin bed next to mine, legs stretched out in front of him, sketching by the light of the bedside lamp. The bed was completely made, and he didn't look like he'd been sleeping. When I saw him, I remembered. Right.. motel.. Mexico.. ect. ect.

I sagged forward and exhaled slowly, rubbing my eyes with the heels of my hands. My hair was plastered to my face, damp with sweat, and my tank top was sticking to my back. I felt clammy. More nightmares. The morphine didn't last as long as I'd hoped. I might need to up the dosage again..

I sat on the bed with legs crossed, comforter over my lap and concentrated on my breathing. I stayed that way for awhile, hunched forward, lank hair falling across my face. I waited until my heart rate slowed before I bothered to acknowledge Giuseppe again.

"How long have you been sitting there?" My voice was about 100 degrees south of friendly.

"Long enough." He said, not looking up from the small sketchpad.

I sighed and rubbed my face with my hands. Not only do I have nightmares, I have to wake up in a room with this fucker. We hadn't even been sharing a room.. where the fuck was Asol, and why the fuck was he even in here? "What do you want?"

He ignored my question. "Nightmares?"

I turned my head enough to glare at him through the damp curtain of my hair. "No, I've been dreaming about ponies, puppies and butterflies. What the fuck do you think? Of course I'm having fucking nightmares! I haven't slept through the night since I met you people."

A faint sneer crawled across his face, his voice affecting a tone of contempt. "Perhaps then, if it troubles you so much, you should leave, and find a nice area to bury your head in the sand once again in order to protect your fragile sense of sanity."

I just stared at him, slightly stunned. I'd never even considered leaving. But now, I thought about it. Really thought about what he was saying. The shit we've been through.. it was enough to break most people. Take their minds, and shatter them into a million tiny pieces until the person was nothing more than a hollow shell. These real, living nightmares weren't really meant to be undertaken by normal people. Even Giuseppe wasn't what I would call a pillar of sanity.

So I really thought about it. If it got worse, could I take it? I'd always been good at burying things. The shrinks my folks sent me too as a teenager had told me it was bad, to dig a hole and pile shit inside, covering it with miles and miles of dirt. But how else do you deal with vampires, werewolves, and the ghost of the guy you watched get shot in the head?

Any way you could. And I had been. Nightmares or not, I realized, I'd been coping just fine, and Giuseppe was questioning my resolve for no good goddamn reason. I noticed my fists were clenched so hard they were trembling, fingernails biting into my palms. I was pissed. The first time I'd felt like I was doing something important in my life, and Giuseppe was suggesting that I was too weak to handle it? Assuming that I'd actually allow myself to be consumed by something as pointless and useless as fear? Insinuating that I'd rather keep myself ignorant then weather through the stress?

I took a deep breath and forced my hands open. I had carved little half moons in my palms that welled with blood. I wanted to punch him. Instead, I straighten my shoulders and glared at him through narrowed eyes, my expression mirroring his contemptuous sneer. My voice, colored with rage, was little more than a snarl. "Get the FUCK out of my room."

His contemptuous sneer shifted slightly into something resembling his arrogant smirk. He slid off the bed and walked out of the room. "We are leaving." he said as the door shut behind him. I threw a pillow at the warped wood as it swung shut.

Fucking self-absorbed, arrogant asshole. When had I ever suggested that I'd rather bury my head in the sand? When had I ever hinted that I might want to forget the shit I'd learned? I scowled at no one and threw another pillow against the door, then swung my legs off the side of the bed and stomped into the bathroom. I needed a shower, and he could damn well wait for me to take one.

Nightmares be damned, I wasn't going to run away from any of this shit. If for no other reason than to deny him the satisfaction.


I was just finishing shoving clothes in my overnight bag when I heard someone yelling.

And then I smelled the smoke.

"Oh Fuck me.." I grabbed my shit and bolted out the door. If its not one thing, it's another. I guess I should be thankful the shit waited until sunrise to fall apart again.

The first thing I saw as I turned around was black smoke billowing out of the windows of several of the rooms. Everyone was outside, staring at the flames that had begun to lick the morning sky. But it was only us. No other guests. that should've been my first clue. Asol ran up and skidded to a halt in front of us, panting.

"Juan.. we gotta..get him ..and family..out.."

I blinked at him, confused. "Who the.. shit. The manager." The managers office, which was attached to a small apartment, presumably where the manager and his family lived, was located a few doors down from where the flames were gobbling up the rotted wood siding. It looked like the fire had started only a few yards away from his living quarters.

Asol got there before the rest of us and started banging on the door. I was surprised he was so adamant, but then, he'd apparently spent most of the night talking with the manager while we slept.

No one answered the door, and the walls were getting hotter. Jaleel rolled his eyes, yanked Asol out of the way and kicked the door in with one practiced strike from his boot. The door slammed inward, and the smell poured outward.

That oh-so-familiar smell... tinged with the scent of rot. Old Death.

It made us hesitate. I heard Asol swallow and try not to gag. His voice was thready and uncertain. "Juan..?"

Jaleel crept inside, Goule, Asol and I behind him. I wasn't sure where the others were. The hallway was narrow, and the walls were hot enough to burn you if you touched them. We didn't have much time, but we couldn't rush. Something was off and it made all of us proceed with caution.

It was only about 10 steps until we entered the kitchen, and were privy to a scene that put another notch in the nightmare bedpost.

Jaleel didn't warn any of us. He entered the kitchen and stepped to the side to allow everyone else to file in. He didn't say anything, but he looked a little green. Goule started cursing loudly. Asol inhaled sharply, which caused him to gag because of the smell. He managed to keep his breakfast down.

I didn't. It was worse then everything else we'd seen till now, more twisted, more macabre. I turned and vomited in the corner until my stomach was completely empty, and even then I dry heaved until my throat was raw. The guys, to their credit, didn't rib me about it.

We had found Juan's family. In the middle of the kitchen, sitting around a small rickety kitchen table, were four people. The bodies were bloated and covered in flies. The smell of rot was heavy, it forced its way down our throats and coated our tongues. They must have been dead for days. A woman, who must have been Juan's wife, sat at one end of the table, her head sat on her neck at an odd angle, eyes bulging and covered in gnats. She'd been strangled, then her neck snapped.

A man who was not Juan sat across from her, a small bullet hole in his left cheek, and the entire back of his head blown off.

But the worst part were the kids. Two young kids completed this 'happy little family' dinner. A boy and a little girl, neither any older than 8, sat in their little chairs, dressed in their Sunday finest, with food on the table in front of them, their little bodies swollen and limp, well past all the staged of rigor mortis. The girl had a nasty gash across her neck that was covered in dried blood and pus, writhing with maggots and other insects. The little boys mouth hung open, and I tried not to see what was moving around in there, eating his tongue.

I spit one last time and stood up, my legs shaky. Smoke had begun to creep into the room. Asol was babbling.

"But.. he was so cool. how could he.. what happ.. I don't get it."

I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and tried not to look at the gruesome scene. My voice was raspy. "I think it's obvious what happened. That's the 'other man' and Juan is completely bat-shit-fucking-insane."

Jaleel nodded and turned to the door. "Yeah. Fuck this shi...FUCK!"

We turned to see Juan falling from the side hallway and burying a fire axe 4 inches into Jaleel's shoulder. Jaleel shoved him off and pulled a gun with his good arm. But Juan was too close, the quarters too small, and he couldn't get a shot off. Juan lunged forward and swung the axe down towards Jaleel's neck.

But the attack fell to the side, harmlessly, as Asol flung himself into the older man's torso, knocking the wind from his lungs. He grabbed Asol by the shirt and flung him to the ground, pulling the axe upward to cleave Asol like a piece of firewood.

My shot caught him in the stomach. It was deafening in the small kitchen. The smell of gunpowder was masked by the reek of death and fire. He looked at the wound, then up at me. I have never seen that look in a human beings eyes before. It wasn't just rage. It was rage fueled by jealousy. Jealousy so intense it had led him to murder his entire family, just based on suspicion, and set them up in a grotesque parody of happiness, and burn down his livelihood.

Those eyes made me hesitate. He took two steps and brought that axe down, and my reaction time was shit. I starting moving, and knew it would be too slow. That blade was going to to bury itself in the top of my head.

Or it would have, if two throwing knives hadn't impacted at that exact moment. They hit within milliseconds of each other, one burying itself in his chest, and the other right between his eyes. The force of the blows snapped his head back and threw him to the ground, the axe clattering to the floor.

Giuseppe stood in the hallway, morning sun pouring in from behind him, and partially obscured by the smoke leaking in from the walls. His eyes flicked to the kitchen table, then away, and he pointedly did not look at them again. That was the only indication that the scene may have been unsettling to him.

"I believe that it is time to go." And he turned and walked out.

Goule offered me a hand up, though I didn't remember falling on my ass. I ignored it and slowly got to my feet, staring after the Italian. Damn. Now I owed him..

We walked out of the manager's quarters just as the fire began to eat through the walls. Jaleel had blood coursing down his arm, so I took him aside and pulled out my kit. The wound wasn't nearly as nasty as I thought it had been. Which was odd, but I didn't question it. Right now, I didn't care. I stitched him up as quickly as I could, then turned to watch the motel darken the sky.

And then I realized we were the only ones outside. I turned in a slow circle and realized that there was no one else, anywhere. We were on a small rise, just outside the town, and it was empty too. Landry still waved in the breeze, stands stood open for business, but there was no one there. It was just after sunrise, and the town was completely dead.

"Shit.." Goule said, breathlessly. He'd noticed too.

My face was a stony mas as I took the vial out of my pocket, adding a small drop to each eye. I blinked through the excess liquid as my vision faded to black and white. I looked at the town again.. and inhaled sharply and took an involuntary step backwards.

"What? Whats going on?" Goule prodded.

I swallowed and tore my eyes away from the vision in front of me. My voice sounded much more calm and matter of fact than I actually felt.

"The whole town.. they're all dead. They all killed each other..And they're all staring at us."

About 50 yards away was a group of ghosts. There had to be at least a hundred of them. They stood on the sand and watched us, silent and unmoving. They're injuries ranged from bullet holes, to broken necks, caved in skulls, and a dozen other methods of murder. They had all killed each other.

"What the fuck would cause an entire town to turn on itself?" I asked, looking to the werewolves. Roxanne shook her head, and Stepping Feather shrugged helplessly. "Fuck if I know.."

And then, as if in answer, a streak of electricity quite literally bolted out of the motel and right past us. But in the morning sun, we could see it more clearly. It was about the size of petite woman, scuttling on four deformed limbs. It's mouth was full of jagged teeth and a tongue that resembled a human tongue that someone had split right down the middle with a knife.

And it looked like it just had sex with a Tesla coil. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up as it darted past me, energy making the air crackle.

It got about 20 yards away from us, heading towards the town, when the largest bolt of lightning I'd ever seen arced down from the smoky sky and struck it on the back. The impact was loud, and we stumbled back as a smoking crater formed from the impact.

When the smoke cleared, there was a man standing in the crater, his boot heel on the neck of the creature. Bones were protruding from its leathery skin, and it wasn't moving. He picked up the limp form and tossed it over his shoulder like it weighed nothing. He looked like a perfect marble statue He was beautiful, but something about him seemed completely artificial, something was just wrong. He looked up at us, but his face remained a neutral mask.

"What the fuck is that?" Asol squeaked.
I don't think any of us actually expected the 'man' to answer, but he did, and his voice was oddly pleasant. "My creation."
"And who the fuck are you?" Jaleel asked.
He stared at us a moment before turning and walking out of the crater (which was now filled with quickly hardening glass), and towards the desert. "No one."

We watched him go, no one moved to stop him.

"We are leaving." Giuseppe said in a flat voice, and turned towards the Jeep. We all followed him without a word, eager to leave this god forsaken piece of land behind us.

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