First of all, I should point out that this is a prototype. 'But what's that?' I hear you asking (maybe). Well, I have an idea for a story titled 'Changed', but I don't have the time to write it. Simply because it's such a large idea I could only really accomplish it with a series of novels. So, I thought I'd write a prototype instead. This is just an experiment: I've taken one scene from the story and I've had a go at writing it. When (or rather, if) I ever get around to writing the full story, it would be a little (read: 'very') different to the version here - such is the nature of prototypes.
None the less, all comments on this would be very much appreciate, as they would help me not only with this prototype, but with the full story too (assuming that I ever write it).
The six of us finally made it to shelter - an old warehouse on the outskirts of the town. In the darkness I couldn’t make out any of the details, but Jane had insisted it was empty. I took her word for that - there were, after all, few people I trusted more than her.
I would have preferred to have gone home, back to my warm bed, but unfortunately home was to far away. Jake, I thought to myself at one point, admit it… your life sucks.
It had been a terrifying day… I was still covered with the blood of Mickey and Ben. I blamed myself for their deaths, and not without reason - somehow, I had foreseen their fates. In the past, I had never been one to believe in fortune-telling or psychic powers or any of that crap. However, there was no denying that I had dreamt their deaths, blow for blow. Maybe if I had realised that that dream told the future I would have been able to save then.
The warehouse was cold and hard, but at least it gave us shelter from the wind and the rain, and for that I was thankful. I don’t think any of us actually expected to get to sleep - the screams of our two friends were still ringing in our ears. And that… monster, that thing that had killed them was still in our mind’s eye.
But amazingly, we all fell asleep. I was the last one to go, Jane’s head leaning on my shoulder whilst I nodded off.
The day had been truly terrible, and so it was just my luck that even sleep offered me no comfort. My dream was, in its own odd sort of way, more disturbing than reality. I guess it was because I feared that this dream was also a vision of the future. And seeing the terrible future is far worse than remembering the horrifying past.
My dream went like this:
I was floating through the air, an incorporeal being, unseen and unheard, just like the other dream I had had. It was night, but the stars weren’t to be seen. The sky was covered in the jealous smothering of thick, blue-black clouds, only visible thanks to the weak light of the Moon. I was in a city, tall buildings leaning over me oppressively, glaring at me. The place stunk of waste and car fumes, but the pedestrians below me walked on obliviously. Everyone moved briskly, no one taking their time. It was like the entire city had to be somewhere, and fast.
I was floating towards one of the buildings. I had no control over where I went or what I saw; I was a passenger and the dream was the pilot. Inside the building - I had just floated through the wall (I guess my dream doesn’t believe in doors) - I was confronted with the sight of a horribly smoky pub. Everyone ignoring everyone else. There was a sense of danger in the air, like a stagnant smell of unease and fear. The door banged open; three men walked in.
Each of the men wore dirt brown clothes, with the odd bit of black and grey thrown in for variation. Their faces were smeared with what looked like dust, their features neutral and unemotional. The sense of danger increased. Everybody looked down into their drinks.
As the three men walked, I floated along beside them. No one was saying a word, silence reigned supreme. The men - the hunters (for I was suddenly sure that was what they were) - walked to the back of the room. They stopped at a table with a lone occupant clad in a cloak and hood. From my position I couldn’t see his face.
‘We’re here for you,’ one of the hunters said gruffly, ‘Why don’t you give us some sport and run?’
The man at the table didn’t reply, just carried on staring down at his drink, hood pulled over his features.
‘No?’ the hunter leered, ‘Fine, we’ll kill you here.’
In a flash, the man at the table had made his move. Tipping over the table with a swift push and a kick, he flew to his feet and sprinted past the startled hunters. Swerving between scattered tables, the man made towards the door.
A crack, loud, distinct and startling made my heart skip a beat. One of the hunters had drawn a gun and was firing at the fleeing man. The entire pub began screaming, jumping to the floor, selfish self protection everyone’s first and only priority.
The man twisted and jumped up the stairway to his left, putting him out of sight of his hunters. I began to move again, following the rails, floating towards the stairs. I began to ascend, and drifted easily through the ceiling. This floor was also full of tables and drinks and terrified men and women. The fleeing man had already run to the next staircase - at the other end of the room - and was busy climbing up it. I glanced over my shoulder - the three hunters had only just made it up the first set of stairs. But they were moving confidently - there was nowhere for their prey to run to - except up - and they knew it.
This time I drifted straight up. The next floor had no one in it aside from the fleeing man. It looked more like a storeroom for unused furniture than anything else. Few windows meant that the room was bleak and shadowy. The man didn’t stay long though; within seconds he had run to the next set of stairs and was already running up them as fast as he could.
Once again I floated at a leisurely pace, watching the scene with a steadily increasing heartbeat. I didn’t know who this man was, or why he was being chased, but I wanted him to survive the ordeal.
The next floor was the final one. We had emerged on the roof - nowhere else for the man to flee too. Slowly, anticipating the bloodshed that would surely follow, the clouds began to cry. I didn’t feel the raindrops - they passed right through me, never coming into contact with my being. The laws of physics didn’t apply to me.
Now that he was still, a revelation was made to me: the man was not a man at all, but rather a boy. Although the travelling cloak he wore made it impossible to truly make out his features and build, his slender shoulders and short stature make it possible to estimate his age. I imagined he looked no older than fourteen or fifteen.
The three hunters ascended the stairway, one after another, humourless smiles pasted on their gaunt faces. Their catch was near.
One of the hunters drew a knife and pointed it at the boy. ‘I hope you’re ready to die.’
It was the first time I had heard the prey speak - and the voice froze my blood. That was no man nor boy. It was-
‘Tough luck little girl.’
It was Jane. The girl whose sleeping head was leaning on my shoulder as I dreamt. Not a fifteen year old boy, but an eighteen year old girl.
Jane drew back her hood, as if my revelation had warranted it unnecessary, ‘I’m never going to die.’
I have to admit, seeing Jane’s face shocked me. I had no idea how far into the future this was set - age wise, she didn’t look any older, but her face had a hardness I did not associate with her. Her eyes were without feeling, like her very soul had perished. Her skin was pale and drawn. The hair falling over her face was un-kept and greasy. A slight sneer in her lips finished the almost demonic look.
The three hunters spread out and encircled Jane, one of them crowing, ‘I’m going to enjoy hearing you scream.’
Jane moved with such speed that I had trouble following her movements. She drew her own knife and - with movements only practice could possibly bring about - flung it towards the nearest hunter. Suddenly the man was crying out in shock and pain, surprised to find he had a hilt growing out his calf.
Jane was on the move, running full pelt towards the downed hunter. A crack rang out in the air; one of the men had just taken a shot at her. Jane reached the injured hunter, grabbed his jacket with one hand and positioned the unfortunate man between herself and the shooter. A second shot rang out, this time accompanied with the dull thud of the bullet hitting Jane’s human shield.
‘Thanks,’ Jane nodded to the dying hunter, dragging his pistol from his side. My mind went blank for a moment. I had just seen Jane - Jane - kill a man without a shred of emotion! It didn’t seem possible.
The two remaining hunters moved with more caution now - their fox was a vicious one after all. Both of them opened fire - only a shot or two each, for neither could afford to run out of bullets. But Jane was already running again - she looked as though she was going impossibly fast. Her aggressors had trouble following her.
Lifting her own pistol up in a lazy grip, Jane let off a single shot. One of the hunter’s heads whipped back in a spray of blood, followed a second later by the rest of his body.
But Jane had slowed down to let off the killer shot, and it had left her vulnerable. The final hunter grunted in painful satisfaction as his bullet hit Jane full force in the leg. She stumbled to the floor, crying out as she did so.
Eyes closed, breathing ragged, Jane lay on the floor, one had grasping the wound in her leg.
The man walked over to her, like a fox hunter making the final shot at point blank. As Jane realised he was approaching, she raised her own gun in a shaking hand, but was to slow for him. The man kicked the pistol from her grasp, and it tumbled over the edge of the building, into the street below.
‘Little bitch, you just killed my comrades and friends. Now… now I’m going to avenge them.’
With what must have the last of her energy, Jane slipped her hand inside her cloak and whipped it back out again - a blur of movement. The hunter staggered back, a knife embedded in his throat, horrible gurgling noises coming from him as he tried to scream. Within seconds he was dead, blood pooling around his head, forming a mock halo.
Jane laid still for the next five or so minutes. Eyes closed, breathing hard, hands clutching at her leg wound. The rain was still coming down, harder now, and Jane was wet through. She was shivering too - although I couldn’t tell if it was from pain or cold. Probably a mix of both.
I wondered why I was still there. I had hardly moved during the fight, and had remained in the exact same position - hovering just over Jane - since it had ended.
Eventually, Jane staggered to her feet, gritting her teeth in between quiet whimpers. Once she was standing, hunched over, one hand still grasping her wound, she muttered, ‘I… I will live… forever...’
Slow clapping came from the direction of the stairs. Jane’s head and mine both shot up in unison. Standing at the other end of the roof was a man, clad simply in blacks and silver.
‘Bravo Jane, bravo. I have to admit, for a moment there I thought you had had it. But then again, you were always one of the toughest, weren’t you?’
Jane didn’t answer - she just stared at him, narrowing her eyes. I didn’t recognise this strange man, but she evidently did.
‘And look,’ he continued, ‘I wasn’t even the only spectator. Hello there Jake, old friend - you’re looking healthy.’
With a jolt, I realised he was talking to me. How could he know my name? How could he see me?
‘Yes Jane, that’s right. It’s Jake.’
Jane was glancing around herself, tears in her eyes, mouthing the words, ‘but how?’ over and over again.
‘But now Jane, I’m afraid you’re going to have to die. Goodbye.’
The man was suddenly standing in front of her - I didn’t even see him move! With an easy thrust, he plunged a knife into her chest.
Jane’s eyes opened wide in shock. She uttered a single word - ‘Jake’ - and slipped back off the edge of the building, falling - falling to her death on the hard streets below.
And me? With a horrible jolt, I awoke.
In the warehouse, I woke with my eyes already adjusted to the small amount of light present in the room. I couldn’t see anyone else moving, and all I heard was the deep breathing of peaceful sleepers. Jane was still leaning her head against me and I calmed a fraction.
Was that dream her future? I prayed that it wasn’t, but really… I knew that it would be. But it didn’t have to be. I had seen the future, and so I would protect her from it.
Jane shifted slightly, getting into a more comfortable position. She wasn’t changed. She wasn’t dead. And she wouldn’t have to be, not if I had a say about it. No, I would protect her. I would make sure that she lives.