~~~

THEN…

It once had a name, a life–a purpose–in the world where people once held jobs and status, invested money in the future and tried not to drink too much on weekends while watching sport’s events and flirting with girls they would never have. When The Change struck, the man and his team were responding to reports of a house fire. They were the first to capture the grim scenes below as they flew over the chaos of panicked citizens in cars or on foot, fleeing for their lives. People were being slaughtered indiscriminately by what was then… unknown.

The man in the Channel 5 News chopper had been broadcasting live everything they witnessed from above. The fear was evident in his shaky voice as he had tried to remain professional, tried not to think about his family down there, hiding in the blood-splattered madness below.

And then the man stopped broadcasting as he stared absently down into the darkness.

To the other passengers, it appeared as through the man had simply shut down. They assumed it was shock. As one tried to see if he was alright, the man had turned suddenly and attacked… slaughtering everyone in the helicopter including the pilot. The chopper started spinning wildly out of control, launching the crazed man out the open doorway. The helicopter spun out over the lake, before crashing into the water.

The man had fallen to the ground, landing hard on a metallic sculpture of a spider, reducing the impact of the fall. He’d impaled himself on a long metallic spider leg. The man did not care about surviving the fall or killing his crew in the chopper. The man did not think about his family or his responsibility to inform the public of the grisly deaths he’d seen from above. The man was dead. The man was hungry… and nothing else had mattered.

When the strangers entered the heart of the junkyard and ran toward it, the former News anchor with the fancy airman’s jacket and emblem, turned its face toward the approaching blood bags and snapped its teeth violently in the air. Its face was pale and bloody. Veins that wanted to burst through skin ran down the sides of his cheeks. It tried to break free but was held in place by the spider’s leg. Never had it wanted anything more than to rip the strangers into pieces and eat their flesh. Its new ambition dominated him. Its intense gaze fell upon Charlie, Amanda and Stephen. Its yellow eyes promised no quarter, no mercy, and no backing down… ever… because it absolutely needed them.

“STOP! THERE’S ONE RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU! ARM YOUR FUCKING SELVES!” Frank yelled.

Amanda came within five feet of the yellow-eyed beast and fell backwards right into Charlie. They both hit the ground and Amanda screamed.

Charlie tried to free himself and run but Amanda’s full weight was on his legs.

Stephen fell to his knees and placed his hands over his ears to block out Amanda’s screams. He closed his eyes and waited for the beast to put him out of his misery.

The once sluggish creature was immediately aroused into a frenzy as it struggled to free itself from the steel pole, reaching its dead arms out toward Amanda.

Greg arrived behind Meredith and Ashley. He quickly grabbed his daughter and pulled her back.

Gina came next, reaching Meredith who looked like she was about to pass out.

“Frank!” Doug yelled, arriving too late to stop what he’d sanctioned. “Stop this!”

Frank turned and said, “We agreed to this, so stop your second-guessing and help me! Look at them! They’re already acting like they’re dead and just lying on the ground like fucking dinner!”

Russell arrived and stopped in his tracks, unsure of how to proceed. He looked to Doug and saw his own hesitation mirrored there. He had his machete out and wondered if he should kill the horrid creature. He moved within striking range and looked to Doug.

Doug reluctantly shook his head. “Let this play out,” he said weakly.

Russell briefly met Frank’s distrusting gaze before the big man turned away and continued with his dangerous game. Russell saw a hint of the familiar in Frank, understanding that this man either was or once was … a killer.

He recognizes us too, boss. Enough to pay attention. Mind your steps around this volatile one.

No shit. Frank was on the verge of screwing everything up with this dangerous ‘push’. He could not know what he would release in each of these people and they all had the potential to crack.

Frank crawled up between them and challenged Amanda, “Is this all you’ve got! All that bullshit tough talk and you’re ready to lie down and feed this fucking thing!”

Amanda looked into Frank’s face like a whimpering child.

“Get up and fight!” Frank said. He looked at all of them. “What are you so fucking afraid of? Look at it.”

They refused.

“LOOK AT IT!”

At last, Stephen, Charlie and Amanda dared a glance into its feverish eyes.

“That’s right! Look at it. See how much it hates you?” Frank asked. “Damn thing’s rotting away on a pole but it still fights to feed on your fucking souls!” Frank continued goading the cowering three. “It’s relentless, even now. Dumb fuck doesn’t even know when it’s beat. But you’re all more pathetic than this pitiful thing is! I should put you on that fucking pole and let that thing loose! It’s fucking dead and it still has more life than all of you!”

Russell gazed at the offensive beast. It lashed out, desperately trying to reach them with useless limbs and futile screams. There’s nothing to gain by stirring up the bees’ nest, Russell thought. He will get them all killed trying to turn them hard. He shook his head. The dead thing won’t care either way if it is destroyed or continues to feed.

Yes, boss, but look at all the fun they’re having, the other one mocked. Can’t you just picture the long term results of all this mind-fucking that fool is doin’ now? No matter how this turns out, they’ll be destroyed, too.

Russell looked at Charlie, Amanda and Stephen. They were broken vessels before this beast and Frank intended to light them on fire. To what end? Russell wondered. One could be taught to defend themselves easily enough against these things without driving them to the brink. Besides, the monster’s blood will not satisfy anyone. It is a pointless killing machine that feels nothing other than an impulse to feed.

You’re missing the big picture, boss. This is not about killing the beast. Frank’s trying to help them let the beasts out within each of them. It’s the way of the world now, boss. They’ll all be giving in to their savage sides eventually. This is simply the accelerated crash course.

Russell would not accept that.

You’ll see, boss. You’ll see that it takes a savage to survive in a world of savages. The dead, the living… doesn’t fuckin’ matter. Everything’s goin’ south and blood’s the new currency of exchange if anybody’s lookin’ to purchase another day on this shit-hole planet.

Bullshit!

You just watch, boss. Today… it’s these three. Tomorrow, or the next day, the others will turn, too. It’s a dead-eats-dead world out there full of monsters waitin’ to be born. And your kind… well… you had your time, boss. But now it’s time to let go and let the savage loose.

Frank could see the fires begin to blaze in their eyes. They were close. He had to keep pushing. “How does it feel to be so fucking cowardly? So fucking worthless? Was this what you did when that thing came and tore your families and friends to pieces? Did you hide and watch your loved ones die?”

“Make him stop,” Gina pleaded to Doug. Meredith was weeping in her arms. “He’s taking this too far.”

Russell looked into her deep, compassionate eyes and was encouraged. Your world will not break her, savage… and there must be others like her.

What? You mean others worthy of salvation, boss? Please… wake… up! They’re all damned now… just like you. And just like that yellow-eyed freaky thing over there. We’re all the same… just in different stages of devolving.

Russell was forced to consider this.

Doug refused to acknowledge Gina. He couldn’t. He walked over to where they had placed the three steel pipes he and Frank had salvaged earlier and repositioned them within reach of the sheep.

Stephen, Charlie and Amanda were staring at Frank. They hated him. He used it.

“That’s right. You feel that, don’t you? Hits home where all that anger lives—all that fire just waiting to come out of you. Fucking rage!” he pushed. “Well, do something about it!” He got up and pointed at the creature. “There’s the fucking murderer of your families! There’s the soulless bastard who ate your friends right in front of you! There’s the demon who’s laughing at you while you piss yourselves in front of everybody! It mocks you still… even after everything that it’s taken from you… your loved ones, your lives¬—your fucking self-respect! And it’s going to keep coming after you until it has devoured everything you have… along with everything else you’ll never have again!”

Stephen let loose a gut-wrenching cry and looked the monster in the eye. He could see it reflected in those hideous yellow orbs—all he’d lost. And he wanted payback! He reached over and grabbed the pipe, got to his feet, and approached the beast head on.

It reached for him excitedly, the hunger blazing in its decrepit bones.

Frank had his gun out, aimed at the monster’s temple.

Russell raised his machete, prepared to chop its arms off if Stephen got any closer. He was caught off guard by the look of pure hatred mixed with madness that dominated Stephen’s face. It was ugly… it was undeniable.

You see, boss! Are ‘ya watching? You were there once.

Shut up, he fought back.

When the boy died inside, this was how you looked before you checked out, boss.

SHUT UP! Russell wanted to destroy the beast, Stephen, Frank… all of them. Just to keep the madness that was about to be unleashed away.

Stephen stopped just out of its reach of the creature and shouted, “I fucking hate you! You did this to me!”

The dead thing showed no remorse, no guilt, no pain, no fear… just hunger. Stephen envied it and hated it more because it could possess such indifference… such bliss… such freedom… and still spill so much blood.

He raised the pipe up over his head and brought it down on the creature’s skull, transferring all his rage into the swing. “I WANT IT BACK!” he yelled, striking once… twice… “I WANT IT ALL BACK!”… three… four times… he kept swinging.

By now, Charlie and Amanda were emboldened by Stephen’s charge. They quickly grabbed the remaining pipes and joined in, striking the beast until those heart-piercing eyes bulged out of its head. They continued to beat the thing, long after it went slack and still.

Russell stood back and lowered his machete, completely stunned.

Doug turned away in disgust, unable to watch as they continued to swing their blood-drenched pipes like wild animals, getting soaked in the process.

Look at ‘em, boss! Look at the monsters of the new fuckin’ world! They’re swimming in all that hate, all that blood, all that butchery… everything they’ve been suppressing and savin’ for the feast is comin’ out of these magnificent creatures!

Russell looked away. The part of him which tried to divine meaning and a higher purpose through selective and merciful kills, was repulsed by the insane brutality. Another part, a primal part… wanted to hack into their faces to keep from staring at Charlie, Amanda and Stephen’s inner monsters. The savage on hold, could feel what they felt, relishing in the freedom of the kill, the deep sadistic satisfaction of murder, the taste of fear in the blood as it splattered… splattered… splattered… oh, that wonderful liberation and free-fall into unfathomable madness!

Russell winced at the sounds of their pipes mutilating flesh. It was seductive music which taunted him to bathe in the pool of the barbaric, as he once did when the other one held sway in his life, long ago. And why not? If the other one was correct, then there was no point… to anything. All life’s meaning had been reduced to a steak thrown among the wolves to see who could claim the biggest portion. Why resist? He looked from the blood-drenched savages to the horrified onlookers and he suddenly wanted them all! He wanted his blade to rip rapidly into their flesh until their blood was raining down on top of him.

Yes, boss! FINALLY! You feel it! You know it! You fuckin’ want it!

Yes. He did. Russell slowly lifted the machete. His hand shook as he felt the blade become heavy, demanding flesh.

Frank turned to Doug, who refused to look at him, and said, “You asked for my help. Well… there it is. I just saved their pathetic lives. Maybe now we stand a chance of making it to your fucking boat.” He walked off toward the fence, climbed it, and went to wait by the tracks.

Greg tried to shield his daughter from the endless hate-born mutilation of the beast, but she refused to turn away.

Russell was about to feast. He looked at the blood drenched maniacs. He would kill them first in the most violent ways he could think of. The others would watch. The others would run. The others would die, one by one, as he hunted each of them, maimed them… and then took his time before finishing them off!

Do it, boss! Fuckin’ FEED!

“Get him!” Ashley cried out. “Kill it!”

Russell faltered, confused, and turned to the girl. Was she speaking to him?

The girl broke free of her shocked father’s grasp and moved closer to get a better view. All Greg could do was watch with a broken heart as this cruel new world robbed Ashley of her innocence.

Finally, Charlie, Amanda and Stephen stopped swinging at the bloody mess, which was once a human being like them, now, just the remains of a monster, as they collapsed in silence, struggling to keep their sanity while catching their breath.

Russell froze, moments from letting the maniac loose. He was staring at Ashley, staring into the monster which crept behind her eyes. The monster that did not belong.

What the fuck am I doing? he thought. Seeing the girl… like this… was like looking into a murky mirror from the past. That was me, a long time ago. Russell took a deep breath and slowly lowered the machete. He then let it slip from his shaking hand and stepped prudently away from it. That was too fucking close!

On the inside, the other one was having the equivalent of a demonic temper-tantrum.

Nearby, Gina held Meredith tight as the weeping woman tried to hide her face in her arms.

She watched as Ashley walked through the bloody scene, past the three blood drenched savages—formerly sheep—who sat exhausted on the ground, and she picked up a bloody pipe.

Russell lifted his arm toward the girl and wanted to say… anything… to stop her present course of action. Instead, he could say nothing.

Before Ashley could swing at the corpse, Gina yelled, “ENOUGH!!!”

Ashley dropped the pipe as if coming out of a trance and ran back to her father in tears when she realized what she was about to do.

Russell gazed at the distracted red-head who looked like she was about to have a breakdown. Thank you, Gina. Thank you for stopping her. He looked at the girl and finished, And thank you, Ashley, for stopping me…

~~~

Next Episode 37-9

Previous Episode 37-7

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 37-8: Through the Eyes of a Devil” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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