Archive for the The Last Normal Category

Chapter Three: Haunted Shadow

Posted in The Last Normal with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2012 by Single Malt Serials

“What do you mean: ‘no one’s left’?” Ana-Maria spat.

“I’m the last one, the last Normal,” Adam whispered.

“You’re lying.”

“When was the last time you saw a Normal?” Adam queried. “I haven’t seen one in over a year.”

“Maybe you haven’t seen one because you’re too busy hiding. Maybe you should get out more,” Ana-Maria mocked. She lay back against her plump pillow, sighed and examined the ceiling again.

“Are you still thirsty?”

Ana-Maria snapped her head toward Adam and shot malice from her irises. “I’m fine.”

Adam didn’t move but kept his watchful physician’s eye on his patient. Her breathing was steady and her hands no longer twitched. Her eyes darted across the ceiling, following ghosts and shadows. He could tell she was wandering in thought, down what roads and to what hidden cities, he could only guess.

“Aren’t you curious why you aren’t thirsty anymore?” Adam ventured.

“That tube stuck in my arm? The red bag?” she answered without looking at him.

“Do you know what it is?”

“It’s blood, right?” Ana-Maria propped herself up on her good arm and sneered at Adam. “You must think I’m pretty stupid, don’t you?”

“I don’t think you’re stupid,” Adam countered quickly.

“What then? An animal? A helpless little girl?”

“Neither; I’m just trying to figure out how your body is taking the transfusion.”

“You want to know if I’ll bite you again,” Ana-Maria corrected. Adam started to speak but the words caught in his throat like gnats on fly paper. He just sat there with his mouth open, numb and dumb.

“T-t-that’s not it,” he stammered, finally.

“Don’t lie to me. I can see it in your eyes. You’re terrified of me. Admit it!” Ana-Maria barked.

Adam balked. Ana-Maria kept going.

“I have more reason to be afraid of you than you do of me. I’ve spent my whole life hiding from people like you; from doctors and the military and the government and normal people. And now you tell me they’re all gone? I don’t believe you. You’re all liars and murderers and you all hate us.”

“I don’t hate you,” Adam offered softly.

Ana-Maria scoffed at him with a wicked chuckle and continued ranting.

“Maybe not but I’ll tell you one thing for sure. Humans didn’t kill my sister but they might as well have. Drinkers didn’t make the Disease, humans did. Humans cooked up this shit and set it loose on innocent people and then hated them for it. Scientists and doctors and politicians! As far as I care, you’re all the same and can all go to fucking hell!” Ana-Maria’s chest heaved as her lungs begged for more air. Her forehead dripped acrid sweat. She fell back on her pillow and tried to burn a hole in the ceiling with her eyes.

“You need to rest,” Adam practically begged. “You’re still very weak.”

“What do you care? I’m just a science project to you,” she sneered.

“It’s not like that, I want to help you, I swear. Aren’t you tired of always being sick? Having to drink blood to live?”

“Do you honestly think you can cure me? You’re a fool! There is no cure! They would have found it years ago and if they did, they hid it away and forgot all about it. Either way, you’re wasting your time, especially with me. I didn’t ask for your help,” Ana-Maria was overstraining herself. She was still lying on her back but her hands were trembling and her breaths were coming shorter and quicker. Her pillow was now soaked with sweat. Adam noticed this and tried to calm his patient.

“You’re getting too worked up, you need to relax,” Adam pleaded.

“Go to hell!” Ana-Maria screamed. “Let me out of here! I want out, I want to leave!” She sat straight up but suddenly her rage turned to nausea and the room folded up on itself. Her vision tunneled and twisted, her brain screamed, her lungs sealed and her stomach purged. She woke face-down in vomit. She couldn’t move.

“Get off me!” she cried weakly, thinking Adam must be holding her down. Then, she was weightless and hovering. She saw the puddle of red bile she had just been prostrate in slide out of her vision and her bed come back into view. Strong arms lowered her onto softness and gently rolled her onto her back. She found herself looking up into melancholy, broken eyes. The fear was gone; instead, defeated concern stared back at her.

Adam pulled the blankets back up to Ana-Maria’s waist and stood tall over her, gazing down. She glared back up at him, too weak to even raise her arm to push him away.

“I’m sorry this happened to you, all of it. Please believe that all I want to do is help you. I don’t hate you or your kind. Yes, I’m afraid of you, just like you’re afraid of me. I don’t want to be but I am. I’m sorry. Now please rest, you’re very weak.” With his words still hanging in the air, Adam turned and walked off toward his desk.

“Where are you going?” Ana-Maria croaked after him.

“I have work to do,” he called back over his shoulder.

“Wait, please…”

Adam halted.

“I’m sorry. Please don’t go,” Ana-Maria pleaded. Her voice was small and strained, she was afraid he hadn’t heard her. She was just about to repeat her plea when Adam turned and walked slowly back to his chair. He sat heavily, as if he were Atlas, allowed a ten minute break from holding up the world. Adam looked across a chasm of projected fear, his eyes brimming with the pain of wisdom.

“Do you even know why you have to drink blood to live?” He queried. Ana-Maria just tightened her jaw in silence. Adam continued.

“The Disease consumes your body’s own blood supply. It eats your body. That’s why your skin is sallow and transparent, why your bones are brittle and why your body can’t handle extremes in heat or cold. You’re a sick person who needs help whether you want to admit it or not.” Ana-Maria squinted at Adam skeptically.

“Haven’t you ever wondered why there are no old Drinkers?” he asked quietly. “It’s the Disease; it kills you. I saved you from those creatures but if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered. You’d still die young. I can say this with all certainty: even if you aren’t killed on the streets, you’ll be dead in five years.”

Ana-Maria glared down a broken doctor pleading with his patient to let him save her.

“Is that true?” she fumed.

“It is.”

But she already knew it was true. She’d felt the inevitability of that truth deep inside herself every day of her life. She hadn’t looked at her own reflection in years. Her face always frightened her; her sunken, blood-shot eyes staring back at her sagging cheeks, thin purple lips and yellow teeth. She never smiled; she looked demented when she smiled.

She always knew Death haunted her shadow, biding time, waiting for her body to shut down or for her to walk down the wrong alley. She could either keep running and hope to outlive Death or she could submit to the uncertainty of hope. The finality of it caught in her throat and she swallowed hard. Ana-Maria inwardly cursed her own weakness. She was out of options. All that was left for her to do now was give up. So she surrendered to hope.

“I want to live,” she admitted meekly. Tears welled up in her eyes but she blinked them back. Tears were for the weak and the weak died violent deaths. “I don’t want to die like this.”

Adam shuffled over and knelt beside the bed.

“I can’t promise it will work, but I promise I’ll do everything I can.” Adam stood and looked down on the invalid woman.  “But you need to rest first, get more strength before we can do anything.”

Ana-Maria nodded and set her jaw in resolution.

“I need to run some tests, you should try to sleep if you can,” Adam suggested and turned back toward his desk. Ana-Maria settled back into her bed and closed her eyes. Before she could get comfortable, Adam interrupted her.

“I just realized that you know my name but I don’t know yours,” he stated. Ana-Maria opened her eyes and looked at Adam.

“It’s Ana-Maria but my sister always called me A.M.” she informed.

“Ana-Maria.” Adam savored the sound like wine, letting it roll over his tongue and linger on his auditory palate. “What was your sister’s name?” Adam asked.

“Marchesca.”

“You both have beautiful names,” Adam replied.

“I hate mine,” Ana-Maria admitted.

“Why?” Adam asked confused.

“It’s boring. Marchesca is so much prettier.”

Adam shook his head from across the room.

“I don’t think you’re name is boring at all,” Adam confessed. “I think it’s very beautiful.”

Ana-Maria dismissed his compliment with a grunt and rolled over into fitful sleep.

Advertisements

Chapter Two: Cryptic Incision

Posted in The Last Normal with tags , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2012 by Single Malt Serials

Ana-Maria woke up screaming. Caustic, boiling sweat bled from every pore. Her chest heaved and begged for air. She tried to sit but failed; pain and fatigue bound her to her back. Feral eyes surveyed a high, dark ceiling where menacing shadows danced across the blackness of cavernous space.

Somewhere to her left, a concerned voice called out: “It’s alright, you’re safe!”

It was a man’s voice, a big voice. Ana-Maria turned her blurry eyes toward the sound. A massive shadow stood from a chair and began to approach.

“No!” Ana-Maria croaked. “Leave me alone.”

The shadow halted and raised its hands in peace.

“I’m not going to hurt you. My name is Adam. You’re in my home,” the shadow replied. “Do you remember? You were attacked…”

Another coughing fit constricted Ana-Maria into a fetal ball. Adam hurried over to a large white box next to a table. He pulled on its handle and as it opened, Ana-Maria saw a yellow glow bleed out from inside. He removed a clay jug and poured a clear liquid into a glass. Then the white box swallowed the jug and the door snapped shut with a hiss and click. The man carried the glass toward the bed slowly.

“It’s water. For your throat,” he explained as he extended the glass cautiously.

Ana-Maria took the glass suspiciously and sipped. The cold liquid knifed her throat. She choked and dropped the glass. Adam tried to catch it, but it slipped through his fingers and shattered on the floor. When Ana-Maria finally reclaimed her breath, she spit weakly toward Adam.

“What are you trying to do to me?” she croaked.

“It was just water,” Adam contested. He bent next to the bed and began picking up the broken shards but was clumsy. One of the jagged little pieces sliced into the flesh of his finger. Ruby beadlets lifted out of the cryptic incision and dropped delicately onto the concrete floor.

Ana-Maria didn’t even have to see the blood; the scent of iron slapped her in the face. She inhaled sharply then lunged for Adam’s neck. Her inhalation was Adam’s only warning; he barely evaded her attack. He fell onto his back and kicked himself away from the bed.

When Adam looked up, Ana-Maria hung haphazardly off the edge of the mattress and had weakly braced herself against the floor with her good arm. She was trying to lick at the tiny puddle of blood but was too weak to reach it.

“Don’t do that!” Adam warned. “There’s broken glass, you could swallow it.” He stood awkwardly and took a step toward Ana-Maria. She twisted her head up toward him.

“Touch me and I’ll kill you!” she growled.

“Are you going to let me help you?” he asked her.

Ana-Maria hissed in answer.

Adam hesitated for a moment, calculating the risk. After a moment, he sighed and walked back to the bed. He scooped the weak woman up and laid her gently against the pillow. He pulled the quilt back over her and stepped back. She made no move to assault him.

“Not going to restrain me?” she inquired through clenched teeth.

“Do you think I should?” Adam asked.

“I just tried to bite you, aren’t you afraid of me?”

“Probably more than you are of me,” Adam answered.

Ana-Maria turned her head away and growled. It was then that she realized that her right arm was bandaged tightly and secured in a sling. A transparent plastic tube ran from her left arm into a bloated scarlet bag suspended from a metal pole. Adam straightened the tangled tubing.

“You’re safe here,” Adam reassured. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

To prove his goodwill, the man lifted his hands and backed away slowly, keeping a watchful gaze on the injured woman. He sat down in his chair and waited. Ana-Maria glowered up at Adam; rage dancing underneath soft blue oceans. Not a blink passed between the two for many moments.

It was Ana-Maria who broke the stalemate. Her nimble eyes swept the room like a manic cyclone. The man’s chair was dark velvet, possible scarlet or plum, and high-backed with wide armrests. Behind the chair, a fireplace wreathed the man in a shifty, golden halo. Above the brick mantle hung a massive picture of a blurry landscape.

To the right of the fireplace was a wooden desk cluttered with papers and unfamiliar objects. Beside the desk were three shelves filled with a kaleidoscope of different colored boxes lined across them. Above the shelves and the desk, pictures of chubby naked women and ballerinas and forests and city skylines crowded each other and covered nearly every square inch of the wall. The opposite facing wall was much the same. Pictures of odd shapes with eyes and others of colors splashed haphazardly spread from corner to corner and floor to ceiling.

Behind Ana-Maria’s head the white box towered above a lonely table. The table was empty except for a single, unlit candle drooping like a sleeping watchman in the center.

The room was long and narrow and void of windows. The only light flickered from half-melted candles and the popping fireplace below the stone mantle. A heavy steel door to the left of the desk marked the only means of ingress or egress. It was short and near perfectly square. Three forbidding steel bars stretched across it.

The bed Ana-Maria lay in was pushed right up against the fourth wall. Ana-Maria turned her head to her right. Above the bed, in the center of the wall, hung a solitary picture with a beautiful hand-carved wooden frame. The warm brown of the frame contrasted starkly with the dull gray of the concrete wall behind it. This particular picture wasn’t blurry or distorted or formless like the pictures that adorned the other walls. It was a sharp, gray-scale picture of a beautiful, young woman with dark hair and mysterious eyes. She seemed to be looking right down on Ana-Maria, examining her knowingly. The mysterious woman in the picture frightened Ana-Maria. She turned away quickly but the image of those piercing eyes was branded against the back of Ana-Maria’s own vision.

“How are you feeling?” the man asked from his chair.

Ana-Maria’s spun her face toward the man and glared at him in silence. Terror and rage burned simultaneously in her blood-shot eyes. She could smell the man’s pulse from across the room. Hunger burned in her throat.

“Can you understand me? Do you know what I’m saying?” the man queried.

“I’m not stupid,” Ana-Maria replied.

“Of course not, I’m sorry. This must be very frightening for you.”

“You’re a Normal. Why didn’t you kill me?” Ana-Maria asked.

“I don’t like killing,” Adam replied soberly.

“You killed those other Drinkers,” she retorted.

“I was trying to help you and your…”

Ana-Maria’s eyes swelled in debilitating rage. Memory stabbed her in the chest and twisted the blade. Her anger found a resting place on the ceiling. She tried to bore through the roof with her hate, but the ceiling held fast. Her entire body trembled with inexpressible anguish.

“I’m sorry,” Adam mumbled awkwardly. “I tried, but I was too late…”

Silence filled the space like acrid smoke. Salt water welled in Ana-Maria’s eyes but froze and retreated. Marchesca wouldn’t have cried for her. As the malice in her eyes subsided, Ana-Maria turned back to Adam.

“Where are we?” Ana-Maria inquired.

“In my home, it’s an old fallout shelter,” Adam answered.

Ana-Maria examined him malignantly, searching for signs of potential treachery. She had learned on the street that appearances were often intentionally deceptive. Unconvinced but satisfied for the moment, she continued her interrogation.

“Why did you bring me here? Am I to be your slave? Your little sex toy?”

Adam’s face contorted under the pain her accusation.

“I’m a doctor,” he informed her.

“Gonna try and fix me then?”

Adam hung his head and was silent.

“You fucking snake! You come near me and you’re dead!” she screamed from her parched throat.

“No, no! It’s not like that!” Adam pleaded. “I’m not going to hurt you, I swear! I just want to help you.”

“Why?” Ana-Maria demanded. “Why do you even give a shit?”

The gravity of annihilation burned in Adam’s chest as he replied. “Because there’s no one left…”

Chapter One: The Last Light of the Dying Day

Posted in The Last Normal with tags , , , , , , , on November 5, 2012 by Single Malt Serials

As the late summer sun dipped behind the ruined buildings of a rotting city, two hooded figures darted into the jaws of a shadowy alley. The sudden blackness blinded Ana-Maria and she reached out to her sister to steady herself. Once her eyes adjusted, Ana-Maria surveyed the treacherous side street.

A narrow tunnel of bricks collapsed into blackness before the two women. Piles of human filth steamed as the air cooled, casting wispy shadows against faded brick walls. The sweet biting aroma of trash and shit wafted past Ana-Maria and she dry swallowed a ball of vomit. Even though the air was still warm, Ana-Maria shivered for the third time in minutes.

“Marchesca, I can’t feel my fingers.”

“Be quiet! Do you want to find food or do you want to be food?” Marchesca rasped as she dug her fingers into the soft flesh of Ana-Maria’s shivering arm. “Don’t you think I’m just as cold and hungry as you? Now shut your mouth and keep looking.”

Ana-Maria cowered to the older woman. She wasn’t sure if Marchesca was cautioning or threatening her. Either way, Ana-Maria knew it unwise to upset her sister. She tried to twist out of her sister’s grasp but Marchesca shook her again, as if to reiterate the gravity of their communal plight. Marchesca shoved the younger woman away and turned back to rifling through trash.

Ana-Maria ventured farther into the alley, pawing through refuse, searching for any kind of scrap or morsel. If the women could find one or two food containers, up to whole teaspoons of life-giving nectar might be scrounged and scraped out. But stealth was essential to their search; there were other dangers beyond simply going hungry.

After the malignant sun set, all manner of predators slithered out from their daylight lairs. Some marauded in gangs while others wandered solo. They hid in shadows and waited for hapless victims to stumble unfortunately into ambush. Even in a petite, under-nourished female nearly three liters of warm blood pulsed through a network of veins. Two women spread between three Drinkers could yield over two liters per; a good meal on a bad day. Ana-Maria and her sister were hoping to find mere ounces.

Ana-Maria’s teeth chattered again so she bit down hard on her shirt sleeve. She turned back to her side of the darkening alley but couldn’t focus; cold and hunger were beginning to strangle her. The air after sundown was a calm seventy five degrees but her malnourished and diseased body was beginning to shut down. Limbs became numb lead and dangled from Ana-Maria’s emaciated frame.

Suddenly Marchesca froze.

“A.M., get over here!” Marchesca hissed. “I think I heard something.” She reached out for her sister’s arm but Ana-Maria evaded her grasp. Before Ana-Maria could take cover, a single, shifty shadow shuffled from behind a dumpster farther down the alleyway.

“You have good ears girl. I wouldn’t mind having a nibble on those lobes,” a raspy voice coughed.

“Fuck off, snake!” Ana-Maria spit. “We were here first. Get lost or die.”

“How impolite. There’s surely enough here to go around. I’m willing to share,” the serpentine figure sniveled. Out of the belly of the alley, two Drinkers stumbled from behind dumpsters and two more rose from under piles of rubbish.

Marchesca turned to Ana-Maria. “Back away slowly,” she whispered. “When you get to the street, run.” The two women began their retreat toward the better lit boulevard.

“Where are you off to so soon?” cackled a wicked sneer from behind the sisters. The two women spun in time to see another shadow slip from blackness into the gray of dusk, blotting out the alley mouth.

Ana-Maria froze in choking cold terror. She eyed the circling pack of flesh-eaters and doom crushed her heart. Scores of jagged edged teeth shimmered from underneath shadow. Evil gleamed in a dozen ravenous eyes. There was no escape, no hope of living. Death was moments away, sauntering ever closer. Ana-Maria’s only remaining hope lay in the possibility of a quick end, but even that seemed unlikely.

Marchesca however, wasn’t going down without a fight. She darted across the open space and ripped the lid off a garbage can and brandished it like a shield. Her eyes darted from one gaunt assailant to the next, trying to pick out the weakest, easiest target. If she was going down, so was at least one of them.

“You girlies look hungry but I think we’ll be the ones feasting tonight,” one of the Drinkers cackled.

“Run!” Marchesca screamed as she shoved her sister toward the street then dove at her attackers.

Ana-Maria’s body slammed onto unforgiving concrete. The brittle bones in the young woman’s arm shattered. She screamed as waves of fire clawed up her arm. Gargled screams echoed off the alley walls, reverberating back in a cacophony of death.

Warm wetness splattered Ana-Maria’s face and the scent of hot iron slammed her nostrils. The tactile contact of the liquid was electric. The world deafened around her. Muffled echoes of carnage tickled her ears but suffocated in the bludgeoning of her own heartbeat. She frantically wiped her face with her good hand and greedily sucked her fingers clean.

As the last echoes of butchery faded, silence swelled in Ana-Maria’s terrified ears. She lay on her back and clutched her wrecked arm to her shaking chest. Hot salt blurred her eyes and her lungs forgot how to breathe. A massive shadow loomed over her broken, reposed frame. She waited impatiently for the end, but the end never arrived…

sometimesmagical

the bifeminist, interfaith ramblings of an apostate writer

The Red Thread Quartet

A fairy tale family history

Lindsay Kitson - Author and Pilot

In which a pilot and author inflicts her opinions on the world....

Girls + Comics

Exploring female relationships with comic books

Foley's Sience-Fiction & Fantasy Films

latest news and views on Science Fiction/Fantasy Films

thedreamysweet

A sisters' nook for ruminations, exasperations, and food fixations

L-Jay Health

Nutrition and Fitness

ENTROPIC WORLDS

notes on speculative fiction in comics, literature, and art

Eve Proofreads

Professional Proofreading Service

Miss Viktoriya

I make it, I try it, I buy it, I love it, I blog it.

Call Me Jagi

An Asian skincare fanatic and lover of all things cute

Unladylike Musings

unladylike: "lacking the behavior or manner or style considered proper for a lady" musings: "absorbed in thought; contemplation; reflection"

The Beanstalk

Tracking the continuance of fairy tales as a dead medium that somehow keeps growing

A Steampunk Opera (The Dolls Of New Albion)

The writing, composing and production of a steampunk opera and all periphery topics that come along in the process

The Spidereen Frigate

Nine decks, no bottom. Kind of like my writing.

Word Blurb

Just another WordPress.com site

Felix Pearce

speculative fiction from cambridge, uk