Candle

An explosion rocked the burnt out townhouse that I was taking refuge in.  It shook dust and ash loose.  Slowly the particles drifted down through the flickering candle light.  I was scared sitting here alone.  The only thing stopping a Creeper or anyone else from walking into the burnt out townhouse was an old dresser I used to block the main doorway.  Beyond that dresser is a world of death.

I tried to distract myself by thinking back to the days of my mediocre life.  Days filled with a job I hated, going to the gym because my doctor said I had too, and wasting my evenings playing video games that distracted me from thoughts of loneliness.

Gun fire in the distance pulled me from my thoughts.  I knew somewhere out there in the darkness men and women were in battle against a technologically advanced enemy.  Hope was dwindling faster with every loss we suffered.

I can remember when the aliens first appeared and the Prime Minister’s address to the country.  He spoke of the beginning of a new era but he never finished his address.  Parliament was vaporized along with all our leaders who were in attendance.  I didn’t find out until much later that the same thing had happened across the globe, which seemed impossible at the time.  A lot of things seemed impossible back then when the conflict was in its infancy.

 

I heard rumors about what sparked the conflict when I was in the refugee camp.  That is where I also heard the aliens referred to as Creepers for the first time.  I wondered if anyone knew what the species was called?

Before the refugee camp was destroyed.  I can remember overhearing two soldiers talking about the rumors that started this conflict.  Some mention the war over our natural resources where we almost destroyed our own planet in the late 21st century through nuclear war.  Others in the scientific community commented that our technology and the rate that we were advancing intimidated the Creepers.  Only a year ago did we solve space travel and develop engines that could travel at the speed of light.  I can remember the celebration as we colonized Mars, put outposts on the Moon, all of these advancements are gone, and all signs point to mass extinction of the human race.

I’d probably never know the truth about why this war started.  Perhaps the experts were just searching looking for a reason why.   Not being able to accept that maybe there was no logical reason why.  Maybe these Creepers were conquers and our planet was next in line.  I doubted that anyone would get close enough to a Creeper to ask why.

I miss that refugee camp.  It’s a strange thing to say but it’s the truth.  They’re not pretty to look at and they stink to high heavens.  Open latrines and pits full of human feces tend to do that.  One thing these refugee camps provided is company.  I felt safe there with armed MP’s at guard stations.  It was the company of other people that made it livable and somewhat enjoyable.  Each one of us had lost something.  Our lively hood…gone, our homes…gone, but what hurt the most was losing loved ones.  That was something everyone had in common and something we could bond over during the quiet moments.  I lost my parents; they were in their eighties and lived their entire lives in a peaceful technological wonder of a new world.  They lived in a nursing home that was vaporized during the first attacks.  They were killed because the nursing home was close to a hospital.  The Creepers took our power, our government, our ability to communicate, and our ability to help one another all in one day.

In the refugee camp I got to know a woman.  Her name was Vanessa.  She was a lovely woman.  Even with her ripped clothing and dirt and soot covering her face there was something beautiful about her.  She had seen her husband murdered by three Creepers.  Their weapons blew holes clean through his body the weapon cauterizing the wound instantly.  Next she witnessed one of her two daughters killed the other was taken to an unknown location.

I’m not sure I’d be able to live through something like that and keep my humanity.  She only ever spoke to me about her family, not sure why that was but I listened.  It was the least I could do.  The look on her face said it all when she told me her story.  It showed the pain, the horror, and the terrible feeling of helplessness when it came to her missing daughter.  She looked drawn out with soulless eyes staring out into a bleak world.  I often wondered what she saw when she looked out into the world.  Did she see her children walking up the driveway after school?  Could she still feel the intimate embrace of her husband during the early hours of the morning while the kids were still fast asleep?  Whatever she was thinking or picturing I’m sure it haunted her.

She died the night the refugee camp was attacked.  The ships the Creepers used ran silent.  It wasn’t until they were right on top of us that an alarm sounded.  By then it was too late.  Blasts from the Creeper’s ships shook the ground violently.  I can’t remember how many times I fell or tripped over what remained of a building or a body.  One of the bodies I fell over was Vanessa’s. She still had the blank look on her face and her eyes dull and lifeless as they always had been.  If not for her legs missing I’d have checked for a pulse.  That was the first and only time I was physically ill seeing a torn up body.  I don’t believe it was the gore that made me sick but the fact that I knew her and one of her daughters may still be alive holding on to hope that her mother is looking for her.  That made me sick knowing what ever hope her daughter may have had was truly lost.  Truth of the matter is she was probably already dead.

This is why I have not looked for another refugee camp.  The pain of getting to know someone and then losing them is hard enough the first time around.  When you watch friends that you have known all your life die slowly one by one until you’re all that remained.  Or when your parents passed away and for the first time you are left to your own decisions and thoughts with no one turn too.  Then you make new friends, like Vanessa only to see their bodies mangled forcing you to go through the loss over again.  Death comes for us all in this world of conflict.  I suppose I’m just waiting my turn.

Since then I had seen many people suffer some form of mental illness. I can remember walking through what was left of Richmond Hill.  I was heading north away from what was left of Toronto and a man was walking down the center of the road mumbling.  Maybe in his mind he was walking with someone, but he was alone and walking towards the war and his undoing.  Other times I saw men and women shaking like someone had taken a hold of their shoulders and started to shake them uncontrollably.  We all dealt with things in our own way.  Some of us just couldn’t handle it as well as others and as your mental health deteriorates your mind starts to play mean tricks on you.  Friends look like enemies, enemies look like friends, and the world around you seems like a game. 

An explosion much closer than the last rocked the house.  I thought this was it.  That the rickety old townhouse was going to drop on my head.  The shaking stopped after a few long seconds and everything fell silent.  My gut was telling me something was wrong and that nauseated feeling crept through my stomach.

I started to glance around nervously.  Expecting a Creeper to leap out and turn me in to vapor.  Maybe this sense of dread was my fault. I had spent two nights already in this house and knew when I decided to stay a third night I was pushing it.  I wanted to stay because across the street was a pharmacy.  Inside I managed to find a few frozen dinners and a couple of bottles of water.  They were hidden under a collapsed ceiling tile.  Maybe there was more there hidden under rubble.  Food was hard to find and I learned not to leave anything uunchecked.  Since I hadn’t had time to explore all the rubble of the pharmacy I didn’t want to leave until I was sure I wasn’t leaving anything behind.  The frozen dinners were thawed of course and past there expiration date but tasted fine.  In fact the mac and cheese tasted amazing.

When I was in the refugee camp I made a buddy in the military.    He gave me some tips on surviving outside the camp.  His first tip was move by night and don’t stay in one place to long.  One night he told me how the refugee camp should move.  That it had been here to long and grown too big to effectively protect or evacuate.  After he prophesied what happened to the refugee camp I took his words to heart.  I started to think I should have moved on when the sun was setting.

A scream ripped through the eerie silence.  I jumped at the sound.  The thin charred walls did nothing to stifle terror and pain that was contained in the voice.  The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.  Unexpectedly a loud bang on the roof caused me to jump again.  Suddenly all my fears came alive, the shadows were filled with monsters and I was frozen to my seat. Whatever was on the roof started to move.  With each step my heart pounded louder and louder until I thought whatever was up there could hear the rhythm of my beating heart.

I soon realized that it was not human, a Creeper was walking along the row of town-homes that I had taken refuge in.  No human would be walking out in the open, let alone on an exposed rooftop.  I had never seen a Creeper up close, the closest I ever got was back at the refugee camp.  You could see them moving against the smoke and flames once their air craft had finished bombing the hell out of the camp.  Rumor goes if you see a Creeper it won’t be for long.  So having a shitty burnt out roof separating me from a Creeper finding its way inside did not give me much confidence.

There was a cracking sound and then silence.  Did it get inside?  Maybe a board had come loose under its weight?  Damn it!  I started to freak out.  Should I blow out the candle?  I didn’t know what to do, the only thing I could do was sit still, hold my breath, and hope that luck was on my side.

I scanned the room looking for any sign that the Creeper was near.  Maybe if I saw it before it saw me I could hide or escape.  My attention was pulled to the doorway that leads to the third floor.  The door frame was crumbling.  The top piece of wood had wedged between the two warped sides.  Two eyes appeared as if they were blinked in to existence.  They were glowing, they were yellow, and they were not human.  My heart beat quickened I could hear the pounding of my pulse behind my eyes.  I started to sweat my skin becoming clammy, my shirt sticking to my back.  I swallowed hard as my eyes were frozen on this creature.

It walked in to the room, silent, not a sound at all.  I wondered if the sounds it made on the roof was just to cause me more duress.   I never would have guessed that the Creepers were hunched over, there head almost in the middle of their chest.  A huge orb surrounded its head that had a hexagonal design imprinted on it.  Images and strange text came to life flashing from the sides.  The heads up display probably told him everything he needed to know from my weight to the size of my shoe.

The candle light flickered sending a strange shadow of the Creeper over the wall.  What could I do to such a creature when it had a gun raised and pointed at me?  I could try speaking to him but did it even understand English?  The Creeper blinked, its eye lids coming in from the side, there was a sound, and the candle went out.  My world went dark.

 

The End

 

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