Legion

Speculative Short Story by Agustin Guerrero

I walked out of the library and into the night. The cool breeze stroking my face helped to reinvigorate me after a long day of schoolwork. I had been working on a biology paper for most of the evening and couldn’t wait to get home and unwind. Finals were next week and I knew I should study, but video games were calling my name. I started down the road toward the little apartment I rented a few blocks away from the campus. It was a chilly weekend night, the kind that should have been filled with college kids bar-hopping or couples out for a romantic stroll. It was a little eerie to see so few people out and about. I guessed that most people were inside cramming all of the semester’s information for an upcoming final.

As I got further away from campus, the streets began to fill up a little more. Still not as busy as I was used to, but enough to put me at ease. I put in my headphones and pulled my hood up. The breeze was getting stronger. I thought I could smell something rotten carried on the wind, but it was faint.

I was looking around for the offending dumpster and didn’t notice the police officer until I ran into him. He had been so still my peripherals hadn’t picked him up. The first thing I noticed when my head snapped around was the badge. My heart sped up a little as I put on an innocent smile and looked up. The smile quickly fell away when I looked into his dead eyes. His lips curled up into a snarl and he snatched at my face. I stumbled back and almost tripped. As I regained my footing, the officer lunged at me. I dodged around him and started running.

My feet were pounding the sidewalk as fast as I could go. I could hear the monster keeping pace, the inhuman snarls just a few yards behind me. I urged my legs to go faster. It was beginning to fall back as I pumped my legs wildly. I saw a man across the street and ran toward him. I was trying to scream for help, but the air was caught in my throat. The man heard my footfalls and looked up from his phone. His eyes widened when he saw me being chased.

“Hold it you little punk,” he said and wrapped his burly arms around me. He used his body weight to drag me to the ground. I struggled in his grasp but he held tight.

“I don’t know what you did, but you’re gonna get what you deserve.” I kept flailing but he had me pinned down.

“No, you don’t understand. That’s not a police officer. It’s some kind of monster. You’ve gotta let me go, we gotta get out of here,” I pleaded. The man hauled me to my feet and held me in front of him by the neck.

“Don’t worry officer, this guy’s not goin anywhere.”

The officer ran directly into us we all tumbled to the ground. After a few moments of struggling, I managed to wriggle out of the pile and scramble away. The man’s screams turn to a gurgle as the monster tore out his throat. I got to my feet, watching the man’s body slowly stop struggling in the growing pool of blood. The life leaked out of his eyes as they began to fog over. The officer stood and backed away, staring at the body intently. For a moment, I thought the officer might be feeling remorse for killing the man. A suction sound drew my attention back to the corpse. The wound in his neck had begun to seal itself, puckered flesh pulling together over the gash. He turned to look at me and his irises had all but disappeared. The police officer followed his gaze and I saw their milky white eyes both shine with hate. The rotten smell on the breeze intensified and at once I knew it was the smell of sulfur. I turned and fled.

 

I ran for as long as I could. My mind was unable to process what I had just witnessed. The eyes of both men were burned into my thoughts like afterimages. I kept replaying the death of the bystander in my head. Shaking my head, I tried to focus on my surroundings. The creatures hadn’t continued the chase, but I had heard screams in the distance. They had found new prey. I didn’t know what had brought the man back, but I had to assume the others would be brought back as well. I was at the epicenter of the end of humanity. Somebody had to be doing something by now. The soldiers had to be scrambling and coming to our defense. I just needed somewhere to hole up and hope they could stop those creatures.

I had passed my apartment building, but I didn’t dare backtrack. I slowed to a jog and tried to find some place to catch my breath. The bars and restaurants on the street all appeared to be closed. I couldn’t help but feel that those of us on the street had missed something. It seemed like the town had already been abandoned. I ducked down an alley and leaned back against the grimy wall. I needed a plan.

The way I saw it I had two options: hide inside one of these restaurants or keep heading out of town toward my parents place. My parents lived a couple miles away from the college. I wanted to put a little bit more distance between myself and the officer so I decided to make the journey out there. Satisfied that I had a plan and some breath in my lungs, I stood up and walked to the end of the alley. I looked up and down the street and, satisfied that both ways looked deserted, I went back to the road and kept walking. I pulled out my cell phone and dialed home.

“Hello?” my father answered.

“Dad, listen to me. Is everything ok there? What’s going on?”

“Um… everything is fine. We’re in bed watching a movie. What’s goin on with you?”

“Dad, I just saw somebody get attacked. Turn on the news I need to know what’s going on.”

“Holy- Charlie are you alright?”

“I’m fine just please I need you to turn on the news!”

“Hold on,” he said. I heard my mother protest as he turned off the movie. I glanced toward the big front window. The streets were still clear. I heard my dad curse under his breath.

“Cable’s out. I’ll go over to the Cromwell’s place and see.”

“Dad just stay inside. I’m coming over.”

“Nonsense-”

“I said stay inside! I’ll be there soon.” I hung up the phone and started jogging toward the outskirts of town. I passed a deli and glanced inside. I couldn’t see anybody inside. Where had everybody gone? How could they have gone so quickly? There had been a dozen people at the library when I had left. Were they still there? What was going on? I was a few steps away from the building when I heard a ding. The familiar sound made my heart stop. I turned and saw a dead-eyed teenager in an apron exiting the deli. He snarled and started running toward me.

I swore and took off. The creature was quicker than the one I’d encountered earlier. I could hear it getting closer, the snarls making the hair on the back of my neck prickle. It’d be on me soon. My mind raced through the possible escapes. There was a slightly ajar door a couple dozen yards away. I made for it, digging deep into my energy reserves. The extra burst of speed saved my life. I made it inside and pulled the door closed just as the creature slammed into it. If it had been a push door I would have been killed. I clicked the lock before it had a chance to figure it out. The creature pounded on the shatterproof glass with unhuman intensity. It would hold for a few minutes, but I didn’t want to be here when it broke.

I looked around the small bar and found it deserted. Whoever had left had been in a hurry. Pint glasses were still covering the bar, only some of them finished. I moved toward the back of the bar. Through the storeroom I could see a roll up loading door. I looked for a quieter exit but the only window was too small for me to wiggle through. The door was heavy and would make a lot of noise to raise. I needed a weapon before I headed back out. I went back into the main area and checked behind the bar. No gun, but a few more moments of searching produced a set of car keys. I picked them up and examined them closely. A Buick was parked outside somewhere. I hoped that the bartender would park in the back and took another look around the bar. Mounted like crossed swords were two baseball bats, each bearing a signature of somebody I’m sure was famous. I pulled one down unceremoniously and made for the exit.

 

The loading door was louder than I expected. I got it up a third of the way before rolling under. I looked around and couldn’t see any cars. The back alley was deserted, only trash keeping me company. I knew the sound would have drawn the attention of the monster at the door. I made up my mind and ran in the opposite direction. Bursting out onto the next street, I saw that there were more of creatures coming toward me. The smell of sulfur burned in my nostrils. Snapping my head up and down the street I found a parked Buick. Deciding to risk it all, I ran for it. If the key didn’t unlock the door the mob would be on me before I could escape.

I made it to the car and struggled to shove the key into the lock. My hands were shaking with adrenaline and I kept scratching the sides of the lock. The red paint peeled off in a dozen thin strips as I struggled to open the car. Dropping the bat, I used my other hand to steady the key. I could feel the creatures closing in on me. I shoved the key into the lock and turned. Relief flooded through me as I heard it click. I threw the door open and slammed it shut behind me as one of them ran into the car. I shoved the key in the ignition and the engine groaned to life. The creatures had me surrounded, their white eyes staring at me through the windshield. Their eyes shone with hatred. The ones on the side began shaking the car back and forth with inhuman strength. I put the car in gear and hit the accelerator. The tires smoked as they tried to gain traction before I lurched forward. I didn’t try to go around the mass of bodies. Instead, I plowed into the mob and kept the accelerator pressed down. Most fell away from the car, but one of them managed to claw her way onto the hood.

I looked into the woman’s eyes and tried to figure out what could have done this to her. Time slowed down as she clawed her way toward me. She opened her mouth to growl at me and I saw that her teeth were razor sharp. Her fingers had turned to large talons that were currently embedded in the Buick’s hood. Something had transformed her. I jammed on the brakes as hard as I could and spun the wheel sharply to the left. She slid off the hood, claws dragging long gashes through the carbon fiber. She slipped in front of the car and I drove over her. There was a satisfying thud as the vehicle rolled over her body. I looked in the rearview and saw her rise and chase after the car. I sped up and she quickly fell away.

There was no traffic on the road anywhere. I wondered how anyone could have been evacuated without some kind of traffic. I’d seen a dozen or so creatures, but if they were spreading there should have been a few hundred by now. And why did they reek of sulfur? Could this be some kind of biblical event? Had everyone else been raptured away and the wicked left to die at the hands of their fellow sinners?

I quickly dismissed the idea. My mom and dad had never missed a Sunday of church. If anyone was going to be raptured, it would be them. So what could it be? I turned on the radio hoping to get some news, but the local station played only static. I flipped through the presets and heard music on most of them. How was this not a bigger deal? I slammed my hands on the steering wheel. None of this made any sense.

I arrived at my parent’s house and hopped out of the car. Approaching the front door, my heart sank when I saw it hung open. Steeling myself, I walked inside.

“Mom? Dad? Are you alright?” I called out from the foyer. I crept over to the coat closet and pulled out one of Dad’s golf clubs. Gripping it tightly, I made my way to the living room. No sign of my parents. I turned toward their bedroom when I heard a moan from the kitchen. I slowly inched my way toward the kitchen. I peeked around the corner and saw my mom standing over my dad. The moan had come from him.

“Mom? What’s going on?” I turned the corner and saw that my dad was lying in a pool of blood. He moaned again and my mom stomped on his throat.

“No! What are you doing?!” She turned to look at me and her eyes were black orbs. She grinned at me.

“Charlieboy. Come to mama. Let me make it all better.” She stepped toward me and I took an involuntary step back. I raised the golf club in front of me.

“Mom, what’s happening?” Her smile widened, showing sharpened fangs where her perfect smile had once been. She ran her tongue over her new teeth.

“The experiment is over, Charlie.” She took another step toward me. I stepped back and felt for the wall. I wanted to run, but some instinct kept me in the room. Maybe it was belief that my mother could never hurt me. I kept the golf club raised between us.

“What are you talking about? What experiment?”

“You can’t possibly remember in your current form. Let mama fix that.”

“Like you fixed Dad? No way.”

“Your father isn’t one of us, Charlie. He was part of the experiment. It’ll all make sense if you let me help you.”

“This can’t be happening. Just stay back. Please Mom, don’t make me hurt you.” She started laughing.

“With that? Please Charlie.” I heard something coming in from the hall. I turned and saw Mr. Cromwell coming toward me, his eyes white orbs of hate. My dad’s neighbor and poker buddy didn’t show any signs of recognizing me. Crying out, I swung the golf club at his head. I misjudged the distance and smacked the golf club into the wall. I struggled to pull it out of the wall, but Mr. Cromwell tackled me back into the kitchen.

“No, you’ll leave him to me,” my mom cried out as I struggled with Mr. Cromwell. He looked up at her and snarled.

“I said, leave him.” Her voice boomed through the kitchen. She sounded like a dozen people talking at once. The sound echoed around me and the creature slowly began to climb off of me. I kicked him away and jumped to my feet. I turned to my mother and she rammed her claws into my stomach. My eyes widened and I threw my head back in a howl. Everything was coming back.

Our mission was to conduct an experiment in the human realm to determine if the species was ripe for takeover. My mother, who was in fact not my mother but my commanding officer, and I were to go undercover and find out what we could about the humans. My cover identity was to be complete; I would have no memory of my mission until it was over. My commanding officer would collect the data from me when the time was right.

My father, the unlucky soul who had entered into marriage with an extra-dimensional spirit made flesh, had been brainwashed into thinking he had a son in college and a loving wife at home. His real wife and kids had been erased from reality. We began our mission and it was quickly decided that the humans would be easy prey.

Rather than wipe humanity from existence, we used their strongest specimens to grow our own army’s strength. Hibernating inside each of them was a member of our military waiting to be released. Tonight I had witnessed the birth of our species’ new militia.

All of this information flooded back into my mind as I rose in my new physical form. I bared my fangs to my commanding officer and gave a human salute. We both laughed.

“It is good to have you back with us, Alachar,” she said.

“It is good to be back, Fildanra. The experiment seems to have been a rousing success. How long until we can expand the operation to encompass this world?”

“It has already begun. It is time to amass our forces and carry forward, releasing all of our hibernating brothers. And once we have completed our mission, we will find new worlds for us to conquer. For the glory of Ackra!”

“For the glory of Ackra,” I shouted. My cry rung through the streets, taken up by each of the soldiers we had birthed on this planet. Like a mighty horde, we would sweep the globe and wipe out the weak. The strong would join us and make us stronger. I bared my fangs and began the charge.

2 comments on “Legion

  1. Really good story (and I don’t say that often!). The premise is excellent – taking the reader from zombie to demon (vampire?) to alien. I think it could be even better though if more subtlety is added to the narration, on several counts. First, the action towards the beginning is well-written, but could use more urgency as a whole. I’m no expert on how this could be achieved, but perhaps it would do with a higher level of detail, word choice, and surprising/uncommon situations. Second, it felt like the ending unraveled a little too rapidly. It felt like the transition from human to alien should have been more emphatic. Third (and closely related to the second), the narrator’s voice didn’t change significantly between the human and alien form. I think if this change were more drastic and delivered with less internal monologue and more subtlely described outward changes, the ending could be even more powerful (cause it’s a really cool twist!). – I’m sorry if I’m out of place with such detailed criticism, but you had mentioned you welcome feedback and this was certainly a story worthy of careful consideration!

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Nothing makes me happier than having somebody read and hopefully enjoy my work. I definitely welcome detailed criticisms and you bring up a lot of good points here. I’m not sure if you’re an editor already but I think you’d make a really good one. Looking back at the ending it does all happen pretty fast. It’s currently submitted for consideration, but if it gets turned down I’d love to try and implement some of what you’re saying. I’m glad you like the twist and if it can be made even more powerful I want to make it so!
      Thanks again for the kind words and the constructive criticism.

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