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He’s running. Running across a smoking plain. Where? He doesn’t know. From what? He can’t remember. He sees wreckage all around him, dead bodies staring at him with lifeless eyes. He tripped; fell into the mud, why did it sting? No, can’t be, it hurts everywhere, remember? No, he didn’t remember. He turned around in the mud; it hurt a little bit more. Another soldier, walking towards him, his face was blurred out. Who is he? Why does he look so familiar? A gun was in his hand, he cocked it. Is he pointing that at me? The man tried to shout “friendly” but no words escaped his throat. The soldier’s closing in; he’s aiming it at his head, ready to fire. The man jumped up, trying to grab the oncoming soldier, but instead, fazed through him as if he wasn’t there. He turned around, to see his own body staring at the gun pointed at his face. The soldier glanced back, right into his eyes, a smirk crossed his face. Why did he look so familiar? Dad?

Evan Crane woke up panting, sweat dripping from his face. He sat up with a groan and looked at the clock by his bed. 4:00AM.

“Great, that’s the twelfth time this month.” He thought to himself.

It was always the same dream that haunted him, that tormented him. Evan sighed as he sat up, and looked to his right, where his wife once laid. He shook his head, and clutched his brown hair in obvious distress. This couldn’t keep happening. The dream had robbed him of sleep on some of his most important days this year. Multiple job interviews, his high school reunion, the ski trip, all things critical if he ever wanted to get his life going again. It all screeched to a halt one night.

“Christ, that night…” he muttered.

Evan Crane needed a drink. A hard one. He needed to sit down, pour himself a nice glass of whiskey and – no. A drink was the last thing he needed. He needed to finish step 8. Step 8 involves making a list of everyone whom you had harmed through your drinking. At the top of the list was his late wife. The rest of the list was the hard part. It was easy for him to make a list of people who had harmed him. It was almost as if everyone he ever met only wanted to harm him.

“Fuck life,” said Evan Crane, as he reached for his revolver. He put the business end into his mouth and bit down, hard. Revolvers taste uncannily like chicken parmesan, if chicken parmesan is what you had for dinner.

The phone rang.

“Why oo ay aways gegh callgh agh da mosh inconveniengh kimes?” he struggled to say, revolver still in his mouth. He put his revolver, a frequent visitor to his mouth, back on his bedside table. He picked up the phone.

“Hello?”

“This is very important, listen to every word I say,” said a mysterious voice, unrecognizable to Evan.

“Hey, yeah, whatever. It’s important for you to know that you interrupted something important.”

“Shut up, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” commanded Mr. Mystery Voice. “You’re needed in Washington.”

“Washington? That’s all the way in the Rockies. How am I supposed to get from here to there?” Here for Evan Crane was in Austin, on the shore of what used to be Texas, before the floods and before the states unified under President O’Conor.

“We have transportation waiting outside. You’ll meet an associate of mine inside; he’ll further brief you on what you need to know.” Click.

Reluctantly, Evan swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up. Almost immediately his vision blurred and he momentarily lost his balance as the blood rushed from his head. Staggering, he moved into the bathroom and placed both his hands on the sink to support him. The room was cold and damp. There was the sound of dripping water hitting cold porcelain at a steady rate and was only disturbed by the sound of a cricket who decided to rub its legs together occasionally.

A slow, steady hand crawled towards the light switch flicked it into the “on” position. Blinding white light filled the room, and Evan was forced to squint as his eyes adjusted accordingly.

“Fucking lights…” he muttered through his teeth.

Blue eyes scanned the tiny bathroom for a toothbrush, and found it on top of the toilet; the handle was slightly bent from the daily pressure of one’s thumb, bristles frayed and faintly yellow from use. For a moment, Evan wondered if the rumors about air-borne fecal matter getting onto your toothbrush if it was too close to the toilet were true. With a shrug, the baby blue brush was run under lukewarm water, covered in mint-flavored gel, and placed in a waiting mouth.

As the rough bristles were run over his teeth, lazy eyes examined the face of the man in the mirror. An ever thickening layer of facial hair was growing, giving him a lumberjack type appearance, sans axe and pancakes. Evan debated if he should shave, but decided against it when he saw the dull pieces of metal that, at one point in time, were blades.

A spit and a rinse later, he turned off the lights and left the bathroom to get dressed. The closet smelled heavily of moth balls, and dust covered most of the interior. The clothes that hung from the racks were worn out, some even had holes in them; Evan never had enough time, or money, or care to buy a new wardrobe. He took a simple green t-shirt off of its hanger and put it on, and walked to his chair to slip into the jeans that were on it. As he was leaving the bedroom, Evan stole a glance back at the revolver on his nightstand. For a second, he debated if he should finish what he started earlier, but ultimately, decided against it.

The small kitchen was connected to an equally small living room. Blinds covered all the windows, but it was evident that the sun was starting to rise, casting a soft, but eerie, orange glow throughout the house. There was a pad of paper on the round wooden table in the middle of the kitchen. On it were the words “Step 8” and a number one with the word “Wife” under that. It was obvious that it had been sitting there for the better half of a year due to the brown coffee mug stains and orange Dorrito crumbs that covered it. Evan saw the pad and was reminded of the revolver on his night stand. Wouldn’t that be so much easier? He thought about it, thought about it long and hard. With a sigh, he pushed the idea of sweet release to the back of his mind.

Parked on the driveway was a black luxury car. It was decorated with the government seal on the right side and an American flag hung from the long radio antenna. Evan saw it waiting outside and decided to skip breakfast. The clock read 5 AM. Evan grabbed his brown leather jacket from the coat rack by the door and walked towards the car. A thin layer of frost covered every surface outside of the small house and white smoke drifted out of Evan’s mouth whenever he exhaled. Ever since the floods, the weather patterns of the Earth have changed dramatically, effectively inverting the pattern of the seasons.

As Evan came closer to the car, a man stepped out of the back seat. He was tall, about six feet, and was dressed in a standard black suit. His hair was thinning and his face was worn from stress. The man extended a bony hand towards Evan as he came closer. For a moment, Evan just stared at the hand before shaking it. It was large and rough, and prominent blue veins snaked across the back of it. The two men shook hands, and the man spoke.

“Evan Crane. Please get in the car.” He said as he opened the back door.

Evan shrugged and entered. Leather covered the seats of the car, and a glass separator isolated the driver from the back seat where Evan and the man sat.

“My name is Agent Kennedy. I am part of the Global Security Union. However, that’s not what is important here.” Kennedy paused for a moment and then tapped on the tinted glass separator.

“Drive.” He said and turned back towards Evan. A steady hand motioned towards the small cooler that was part of the island between the two seats. “Drink?” he asked as the hand pulled out a half empty bottle of Jack Daniels.

Evan hadn’t realized how thirsty he was until that moment. All of a sudden his mouth seemed unbearably dry. It was as if his mouth was a desert, cacti and all. Was it even legal to be so thirsty? He didn’t think so. Evan felt the word “yes” creep up his throat as he stared, but a part of him kept it from escaping; he hated that part of him.

“Uh…um. N-no. No thanks.” He said with great reluctance.

“Suit yourself.” Kennedy replied, placing the bottle back, and continuing. “Maybe you’ve heard of the arch-like structure discovered in France. Until recently we’ve been excavating that structure for research purposes. However, an…issue has arrived.”

“Issue?”

“Yes. During the excavation process, half of the structure broke, unfortunately. According to our sources on site, this produced a vortex of sorts, and something came out.” Kennedy suddenly stopped talking, a look of hesitance drawn on his face.

“Well…what was it?”

“No one really knows. It doesn’t match any records that we have. But…most of us call them…demons.”
Evan started to laugh openly, tears almost coming from his eyes. “You’re kidding right? You’ve gotta be kidding.”

“Do I look like I’m kidding?” Kennedy asked him, his demeanor deathly serious. He was not kidding.
Evan got the message, and the cabin of the car grew silent. Both men stared into the distance as they were driven to their destination. Kennedy glanced at the gold Rolex watch on his wrist, 5:30 AM. Suddenly, the car jerked to a stop, and the engine was shut off. The sound of jets flying off of the runway filled the air as the two men got out of the vehicle. There was a small plane in the distance, it too was black and decorated with the government seal. It was unlike any plane Evan had seen, surely a model exclusively for government use. The two men began walking towards the jet, the steps accented by leather shoes that Kennedy was wearing.

“We have to hurry if we are going to make it to Washington in time. You’ll be further briefed there.” Kennedy said as they walked. Evan nodded in response.

They ascended the stairs into the cabin of the craft and sat down in the large leather seats. Almost immediately after they sat, the plane jerked into motion, increasing in speed the farther they went. Soon, they were in the air, en route to Washington.

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Panting.

The tired pant of a man running for what seemed days. Days in the pouring rain that burned his tanned skin. Days in constant fear. Days knowing that this was the end of it all.

The man nimbly hopped over the trunk of a tree that had been cut down. Finally, out of breath, he slumped down and cried. He shuddered violently with each new inhale of a breath. Cried until he had no tears left, only the choppy, raspy, breath that accompanied it. And then he cried some more.
This man let out all of his emotions, thinking of what he had left behind. He was leaving his wife and two kids, all because of this god forsaken dig. A big find they said. The man remembered his wifes warm touch in the cold, burning rain. He remembered the laughter of his two children as they ran to him in joy.

Then, laughter. A hysterical laugh of a man beaten by fate and destiny. He laughed like a madman until he had no air left in his lungs. He bent his head back and let the rain burn his flesh. He began to doze. Slowly closing his eyes as he drifted in and out of reality.

Sleep. It was a concept that had eluded him for days. He spent nights thinking of the new disovery. The strange occurrences. He spent nights trying to figure out the connection. He couldn’t. This failure is what drove him mad. Then this happens? Hell on Earth, he thought. He almost liked the idea. Sleep would mean death, but it would also mean relief. Relief from the anguish that he has experienced these past days. Relief from the stress. That idea pleased him. The man began to fall asleep.

Static

The man looked lazily at the radio attached to his hip. His matted brown hair slightly covered his dark eyes. Blood covered his palms and marked his face. His left leg had a deep gash that soaked his camo pants with thick, red liquid. Part of his right ear lobe was missing, he had forgotten how. There was a bite on his shoulder, oozing dark blood. It didn’t matter. He didn’t feel it anyway. The static continued. The man unclipped the radio from his belt and clicked the “Talk” button.

“Private Wilkens. Private James Wilkens. Can you read me?” the radio crackled. It was the voice of his Seargent. Wilkens laughed.

“I read you loud and clear, Sarge.” Wilkens replied.

“Private, get your ass back here! We need you with us goddamnit!” Sarge yelled, almost pleadingly.
Wilkens laughed. He had never heard anything so funny in his life! He laughed in hysterics. To think that somebody needed him! Hysteria consumed him. He knew he would never leave here. So he did what he thought was best. He cursed the heavens for this tragedy that has befallen him. He cursed and cried. His cries mixed with his insane laughter.

“I tried.” He told himself over and over again. The two words seemed to comfort him in his time of need. The words that will comfort him in only the way a mother can comfort her baby. Wilkens said it over and over again to know one but himself. He was lost in his own realm now. He felt no pain from his various injuries, or from the acidic rain that pelted him. Wilkens laughed and cried. He went through all the emotions he knew. He laughed at himself and everyone around him for being so blind as to not seeing this coming. He cried for the perfect life that he was leaving behind. He grew angry at the world and God for letting this happen to him. Then the pain. The pain of all of his injuries that he had somehow sustained. It crept back. First starting as a slight tingle, then to an itch, and then the needle like jolts of agony. Wilkins didn’t care though. He almost enjoyed it. He knew that every second he lost more blood, it was a second closer to death. To sweet release. So he resumed his cursing, crying and laughing. Recollecting his life, or what he remembered of it at least. The good times seemed to have been stripped from his memory. Only the sad and the evil did he remember, taking him into an even deeper state of depression. Little did he know that his insanity attracted something. There was a snarl from the bent creature behind him. Wilkens turned around at a lightning speed. He only got a glance of the creature behind him, before…

Darkness.