Two days, Eleven hours, and Thirty-two minutes
That's how long it's been since I last saw a Whisperer.
Two years six months, and four days
That's how long since I saw my father.
Fourteen hours and twenty-eight more minutes until I could see Jimmy again. 14 hours until I could see anyone for that matter.
I closed my stopwatch and peered out the building window. The street was quiet. The sun was rising distantly, and its sunlight streamed over the road, reflecting off of the snow and making it sparkle. I remembered a time when snow meant Christmas, sledding with Jimmy, and fun.
A time before.
But now it was September, and the snow was everywhere. I scanned the street for any sign of movement. The buildings on the far side were dark. Half of them partly collapsed in. That's what had become of Seattle, a bunch of icy abandoned buildings. A bird swooped down and landed on a pile of snow - at one point, it had been an abandoned car. But after three years of snow and no movement, you'd have to use a pickaxe to get back to the car at the bottom.
But I liked to think of them as cars, best not forget. I scanned the road over once more, hitched up my rifle, backpack, and molotov cocktails on my belt, and made my way downstairs.
Once again, downstairs is a bit of a misnomer, the stairs in this old grocery store had long since collapsed, so I just climbed down a rope I had set up the day before. But once again, I didn't believe in forgetting. Dad never forgot mom, so I don't plan on forgetting him either.
My boots crunched in as I marched down the road. Passing the old gas station I smiled. "If only fuel was that easy to get these days," I muttered. It was nice to hear a voice, even if it was mine.
Trying to ignore the cold biting the end of my nose and ears, I pulled my coat around me and truged up the road. As I reached the top of the hill, I saw it. There it was, the reason I had left Camp. A large fuel tank truck, sitting atop the hill. The tribe was running out of fuel, so a team had been tasked with mining this out and pulling it back. They had gotten most of the way done when a bunch of Whisperers showed up, so they had to get out.
It had been my job to come back and see if they were gone. Being 18, healthy, and determined, I had a lot of responsibilities in the tribe. Many of the other hated leaving the protection of the fire and the tribe. I didn't mind. Just like dad had left to provide for the family, it was my responsibility to leave and provide for the tribe, and most of all, for Jimmy, since dad couldn't anymore. So I had left the tribe on my own to see if the coast was clear.
It had seemed it was.
Glancing over at the pile of ashes by the minimart across the street, I remembered not to trust what seemed anymore. One had still been here, as if positioned as a guard. Pumping it full of bullets I then burned it for good measure. But it had been too late. I had heard its whispers and seen its third eye. My three-day quarantine had begun then.
I placed my gloved hand on the ladder up to the top of the truck. Something shifted in the distance, a slight sound. "Not again," I mumbled and closed my eyes to listen. I could hear the wind blowing the snow around my feet, the distant ocean... but there it was!
It wasn't a Whisperer. It was something else - something moving.
Quickly climbing the tank and mounting the top, I fell onto my knees for stability. I slung the rifle off my shoulder and scanned around.
Much of the city could be seen from this vantage point. I was on one of the tall seven hills of the city. I remember learning in 4th grade that during the ice age, glaciers had carved out these large hills that defined the cities geography.
That's back when the ice age was a fun idea of history, in the same category dinosaurs, and cavemen, and the pyramids. But now that my fingers are numb every day and I hadn't seen the sun in months, the ice age became a bit more of a modern problem. But the ancient past was no longer fun in general, now that we knew what it had bred.
I could see nothing moving over the extensive landscape, but I felt as if a magnet drew my eye to the old brick tower directly down the hill. It looked flimsy and like too much of a push could bring it down. I tore my eyes from it.. it made me feel dirty for some reason, like a little spike of candy in my brain, so I looked out to the sea.
The sea, too, had lost its glamor. It used to mean the beach and fishing with dad. That water was now the source of that enemy.
I remember seeing it on the news when I was fifteen, that because of global warming, a new type of life was flourishing at the depths of the sea. Something was changing.
But then that life turned out to be The Eye. A god of a forgotten, terrible past. He rose up out of that sea, the same sea that had turned us from brine-eating bacteria to backboned animals. It had been the womb of humanity, the warm wet place we grew, but in the end, it wasn't really ours. We were parasites because it was His. The Eye. Scientists believe It had probably been left there long ago, like an egg. Life had maybe even come from it. But The Eye hatched, and that probably would have been the end of it.
Our ancestors knew it was coming. Every religion has its Ragnarok. Every religion knows we're just visitors, and our time soon comes. At their core, all religions do is prepare us for the end. But we were stubborn, and like a good parasite, we lashed out against our host.
It rose up, and so did our missiles.
A strike of 25 nuclear bombs sent The Eye back to the sea from which He came. We would not surrender to our fate gently.
I stopped. There it was again, the sound. I stood up. Before I could pinpoint it, it was drowned out by another - whispering. The sound of a human breath being pushed through a human mouth but spurred on by an inhuman power. Even at hundreds of yards away, it could be heard distinctly, so close that you might expect the breath on your ear. The words were unrecognizable, in a powerful, terrible language of antiquity.
I dropped back to my knees and quickly put my ear coverings on. They had become crucial after the Whisperers had come. To hear a whisperer for too long was to see the third eye, and to see the eye meant corruption. As the coverings slipped over my ears, the sounds of the world faded until all I could hear was my own pulse.
I turned in circles, using the sights of my shotgun to scan the streets. I found it, making its way up a hill, walking with its perfect robotic motions.
It had been a woman. She had been wearing jeans and a winter coat when they'd got her, but her eyes were the perfect white of the Whisperer's, and her lips were moving with the distinct rolling mumble of a Whisperer.
And the walk, the perfect robotic motions, the head never looking down at the street, staying on me, never pausing, just the slow and eternal march forward.
Many of the others don't like to think about the fact these had been people not too long ago. But dad never forgot the corpse we buried had once been my mother, so I didn't plan on forgetting who these had been either. Despite whatever had corrupted either of them - Cancer or Eye.
I lined up my sights, listening to my heartbeat in my ears and the sound of my jaw creaking. I fired, and the sound vibrated through me and past my sound protection to sound like a low rumble, like the sound of something making a splash while underwater.
The first two shots missed, the third caught the Whisperer in its shoulder, the fourth in the chest, the fifth in the head, and it came down.
I shot the body on the ground twice more and then scanned around.
No others. I hadn't seen the Eye. Taking off my ear protection, I listened intently. There were no whispers.
I considered getting down and burning her body too, that was the only way you could know you'd gotten rid of one for sure. But I only had so much fuel.
The 12 hours began to slip by, I didn't have much to do, so I just sat and watched. I paid attention to my breathing. Trying to ignore the cold as I wandered through memories of warmer days, days before the Whisperers.
Upon occasion, I would have to stop daydreaming to check my symptoms.
"It's already been two and a half days," I muttered hoarsely. "You probably would have already experienced the symptoms if you were going to. You're fine." Fear was for myself was mostly dead these days, entirely usurped by fear for Jimmy. He was only 12. He didn't deserve any of this.
The atomic bombs Cast the Eye back down, but they also caused an atomic ice age. All of the stuff thrown into the atmosphere from the bombs blocked the sun's light and caused the planet to cool down. Crops failed, livestock died, and people froze. Billions died of starvation, drought, and even more died from the violence that came from those two. We thought that was the price we paid to destroy The Eye... if only we had been right. We had only slowed Them.
It first sent the Tsunamis, which hit Japan, China, Korea, and Hawaii. Killing nearly a million, and then the Whisperers came. At first, we thought it was just people getting violent and insane because of the lack of resources, but we soon realized this was a pandemic. The time in hospitals with those in the early stages made us realize these people were under the control of The Eye. That's what they saw. If a Whisperer got close enough to you and you heard its Eldritch mutterings, you would then see its third eye upon its forehead. You were infected. Once infected, you had three days before your mind and body submit, or win. Varies symptoms show that it's coming, but they usually knew, you could feel His presence, they told us who was claiming them, that's how we realized it was him, they knew. But once the first three days of battle are over, you are either a Whisperer or no longer contagious.
I had seen the eye two days, nine hours, and forty-two minutes ago now. I only had four hours and eighteen minutes until I knew if I'd won or not. I ate my rations, dried meats, fruits, and seaweed.
I hate seaweed.
I heard the sound again and looked around. It was vibrating, like a machine. I peered out; it was coming from somewhere in front of me. But then it was covered up by the sound of the wind that started up. The air was freezing and cut straight to my core.
But they tried to vaccinate against it, that was silly really, it wasn't a virus of the body, but of the mind. The only thing close to a cure we found was fire, Whisperers hate fire, and it's the only way to kill them for sure. If you don't burn them, they might rise like tormented puppets, yanked by the strings of The Eye. Fire was the only way to cut those strings. So with the three-day quarantine and fire, we began to be able to fight back, and after the pandemic claimed a couple of billion more, it began to even out. So many had died now of starvation, fighting, or the cold. But we could now survive in small groups off of what's left, using lines of torches to keep the Whispers back.
That's why we needed this oil so bad; the fires were the only way to keep the tribe safe from the hoards of Whispers. The relentless Whisperers, with their hive mind, coming in droves, waiting for any opening. Any chance to come inside. To get us. To get Jimmy. Fire was the only thing standing between Jimmy and them.
A light blinking from a tower a mile away shook me from my thoughts.
I ruffled around in my backpack and pulled out my flashlight. I checked my stopwatch, 1 hour until the end of the quarantine. I was showing no symptoms, and no Whisperers had been seen or heard since that first one.
All clear, quarantine ends in 1 hour. I blinked back.
Sounds good. We'll start coming over.
I set down my flashlight, then heard it. The Whispering, but this time, it was a plurality of voices, of throats, all coming.
Part two linked on the side ==============>