| 03:05:11 26 February 2006
back with a vengeance
On forum: 07/31/2003
Alone (revised edition)|
There the sound was, once more.
Still distant, but closer than it had been when he first heard it. Close enough for the sound to cause his heart to jump, resuming its pace fast enough to send blood rushing to his head.
[gotta keep going]
He rubbed his eyelids with his free hand until the thudding sensation reduced to an unpleasent hum. Slowly he opened his eyes and re-evaluated his surrondings.
Water flowed around his ankles, drenching him up to his knees, but he didn't notice. It never even occured to him that the water was radioactive, like everything else in this miserable place. All that he knew was...
[it's following me]
... the horrible sound was closer. The horrible sound was following him. He couldn't see it, but he could feel that it was bad. In a normal place he would have thought himself foolish...
[you're been a paranoid fool]
...but Chernobyl was not a normal place. It hadn't been for a very long time, not since the hand of man made it's final mark on the earth. Chernobyl was sick of man's mark, man's hatred and destruction. Finally, Chernobyl showed man it's hate. It was a place of death, of monstrosities. There was no God in Chernobyl. Or at least he no longer cared.
A splash, about 15 meters up stream. With highly trained reflexes he had his rifle trained at the spot, fighting the urge to fire instead. He was better trained than that, and had enough sense to not waste the last of his bullets.
A small furry shape emerged from the water, four legs paddling in an attempt to stay afloat....
[just a rat...]
...as the steam washed it away from him.
Damn rats, they were everywhere in this place. Most men had enough sense to avoid this place...
[only fools come in here]
...but the rats had no knowledge on radiation. All they saw was food, which was plentiful thanks to all of the STALKER's.
The rats were not smart enough to avoid the radiation, but they did know that the life expectancy of a STALKER was very short. No-one really knew how many men had died inside the zone, but the rats made sure there bodies did not remain for the long. The rats...and other things. The monstrosities. Mutations.
That sound again.
He snapped out of his daze, realised that the sound was closer. Looked around fast, there was nothing there. Not even the drowned rat upstream. He was alone, standing ankle deep in a shallow stream. Just him. Him and that horrible sound, somewhere distant...somewhere close. Coming closer. Coming for him.
"Run you fool..." he said aloud.
He was no stranger to good advice, even his own. He wasn't far from MOTH'S CAVE. The cave would offer shelter, a wall for a back to lean on. Protection from the radioactive rain. Possible even protection from the noise. If he was lucky he could reach it in five, maybe ten minutes.
Looking back one last time, he turned around and ran for the shelter of MOTH'S CAVE.
When he was young, he remembered playing with his friends. How they would laugh, and imagine how big and strong they were. They would play STALKERs, stalking through their neighbourhoods with their fingers pointed into a resemblance of a pistol, keeping their eyes open for any dangers they may need to take care of or precious artifacts that would make them rich beyond even a child's dream.
But they were kids. The dangers were mostly imaginary (although often they would pretend to shoot at passing vehicles, imagining them to be giant mutants intent on eating them all for breakfast), the artifacts were shiny
washers or dropped money. A kings ransom in a child's eyes.
He grew up playing with Tom and Richard, each bearing their mother's wrath when some old lady would complain to them about how "Tom, Richard and David are nothing but a pack of hooligans wandering the street looking for a fight". But they bore it and later smiled at the thought of them intimidating someone, even if it was a little old lady.
They grew up, but they kept their nicknames. David was Hawk. Richard was Boulder. And Tom, they always called him Moth.
But the games of children are quickly forgotten. When he was 16, Richard did end up in a fight. He was beaten to within an inch of his life, and died a week later in his bed. David remembered hearing the term "stroke" been used, but it didn't matter to him. A friend had fallen, and it would never be the same again.
Not long after Richard's death, Moth left without saying a word. People talked, and rumours told that he had followed a STALKER, becoming a prodigy to one of them. People would say the word "STALKER" like they would say "Leper", or more accurately "Murderer". STALKER's were not decent folk, they were "criminals who broke the law from greed. Murdering their own friends if it earned them a profit" is what mothers would say to each other, and tell their children in hope of scaring them.
David knew that Richard was gone forever, and never expected to see Moth again. Perhaps it would have been better that way, but Moth did return. Many years later, when David had a wife and two children. He loved his wife and children, but could never make enough money for them to live comfortably. Everytime his children went to bed hungry, it was another stab in his heart. It hurt him not been able to provide for his family.
Then Moth turned up. He was older than David remembered him, his face worn and weary, and a tinge of grey in the front of his hair. There was a scar on him, starting from his cheek and snaking down the side of his neck beneath his clothes. His eyes were what startled David the most.
It wasn't what colour they were, but the fact that they had lost almost all colour pigmentation. Once his eyes had been a brilliant blue, but now a pale white. Though surprisingly the man was not blind, and was not even aware of his eye colour till David mentioned it. Moth just shrugged it off and changed the topic to other, even more bizzare topics.
He had asked Moth to come with him, into the zone. To become a STALKER.
David should have said no, but it seemed to him the right thing to do. It seemed to him the thing that he was intended to do. He could send money back home to his family, more money than he could ever have hoped to make through work. He could provide for his family.
Moth was his mentor, he was his prodigy. Moth taught him everything, all about radiation, about hiding from military patrols, the dangers of a blowout, the mutants, weapons, the anomalies, the mutants.... Moth had made a personal catalogue of most of the mutants that he commonly was in contact with, and showed David everything. It had been like when they were kids again.
The most important thing that Moth had shown him was a small cave he had discovered, just outside of Pripyat. It was off all paths, and was difficult to find...unless you know where it is. Moth used it to escape blowouts, to hide from patrols, and to sleep. It was safe, with only one entrance which was easy to defend against invaders. It was Moth's cave.
If Moth had of reached it, then maybe he would be properly buried. Not strung up like an animal.
6 months ago, he had failed to avoid a miltary patrol. Before he could even
raise his gun he had been killed by the soldiers, bullets hitting him in the chest. The soldiers didn't leave it at that, they had thrown his body onto their truck. They had hung his body up by the hands, hanging like a piece of meat in a butcher shop, outside a checkpoint on the border of the zone. A bloody warning to other STALKERS.
His line of thought was broken as he topped a hill. There was Moth's cave, only 50 meters away. He was going to make it.
At first glance, the cave appeared to be a grassy hill. But the trained eye could see a line through the grass. A knife slit in the hanging moss perfectly disguising the entrance.
As he reached this slit in the moss, he heard the sound again. Closer now, the closest it had ever been. In fear, David glanced back over his shoulder expecting to see nothing as always. But not this time.
It was there, on the hill he had left behind. Time seemed to stop, allowing David to fully take in what had been hunting him. It was humanoid, around 6 feet tall. The clothes it wore were torn and muddy, more resembling rags than the camoflauge colour it once was. Blood trickled through the cloth in places, bleeding from pale and dead skin. It's face! A gash of skin was missing from it's cheek, exposing two lines of bloody teeth.
It was dead, yet it was living. David knew what it was from Moth's stories, but had never seen one. A Zombie.
He remembered what Moth had said.
"They sometimes may look like they're alive, but trust me they're dead. There's nothing in their brains anymore. They don't even control their own actions. If you annoy one of these things, then you're been hunted by a Controller."
[Keep going....it's coming towards you]
It started down the hill, dragging one leg as it walked. It had seen him, and it was coming for him. Even as it moved, it was making more noises. Gibberish mostly, but human nonetheless.
"Pain keeps circles growing in gardens of mortality....circles grow in broken circles.....pain....growing..."
This was enough for David, he pulled the moss aside and ran into the cave.
It was dark in the cave, but David knew it would be to his advantages. The small amount of light in the entrance would illuminate the zombie if it tried to come in. Even though he was low on bullets, there was enough to shoot this monster in it's head. Enough to destroy what was left of it's brain.
He did not wait for his eyes to adjust to the dark, he knew the inside of here. He walked around a crate in the middle of the floor, banging his knee on it in his rush. Biting down on the pain, he kept moving towards the back of the cave.
His hand felt the back wall of the cave. Perfect. Gracefully he turned to face the entrance to the cave, bent over and dropped his left knee to the ground. Careful to make no more noise, he slowly brough his rifle up into his shoulder, aiming carefully at the entrance.
Somewhere distant, thunder. The storm would continue for the rest of the day, probably into the night as well.
His heart began pounding again, sweat trickled down his face, but his aim he kept steady. Over and over he kept remembering....
[wait till you see the white of it's eyes, wait till you see the white of
.... the lessons Moth had given him on weapon use. David was going to make sure that every bullet was on target.
A scraping, just outside the cave. Through the moss a blurry silhouette was taking form. The zombie had definitely seen him go in here, and was now trying to make it's way in.
[Damn thing can't even get in here.....]
It tore the moss, ripping it off the cave entrance. Destroying the camoflauge, leaving the cave open to all. It was in.
[Wait till you see it's eyes]
It pulled itself into the cave, then stopped. It could not see, and was as blind as David had felt.
Then it turned it's head to the right, knowingly. It moved towards a shelf carved into the wall....
[what the hell is it doing]
...and it's hands moved clumsily over a dark shape. Suddenly light shone from between it's hands, illuminating the cave and casting dark shadows from the Zombie. It moved it's hands away, allowing David to see that it was a Keresone lantern.
[damn thing knew there was a lantern there....]
It saw David, and started towards him. David forced himself back to the task at hand. He looked down his weapon, at the approaching monstrosity. At it's hideously destroyed face. At it's....
The weapon fell out of his hand, clattering on the dirt floor. David made no move to catch it, nor to pick it up. He was mesmerised by the creature's eyes.
They were pale, really pale. His pupils were a pale shade of white. But not the white of dead eyes, for there was life in those eyes.
He looked again at it's clothing, green camoflauge once, torn and bloddy mostly around the chest. Dried blood caked around it's wrists in circles, marks where rope had once held it.
"Moth....." David said in disbelief.
[A Controller must have found his body]
The creature made no sign of recognition. His friend was gone, was dead. This thing was just using his body.
It started it gibberish again...some of it David recognised.
"death falls to those whom died.....stalkers die before they're dead"
[Moth said that once, that Stalkers died inside before they were killed]
The creature was only two meters away now. A bloodied hand was reaching out, reaching for it's prey.
David realised what he had to do. He reached down for his weapon, his hand groping in the partial darkness for a moment unable to find the rifle.
"crushing flows from head...head flows crushing flow"
His hand closed on the weapon, running along the barrel till he felt the stock, lifting it.
He stood up and aimed the weapon at the creature that was once Moth. It paused, as though recognising the weapon.
David looked at it's eyes, the paleness that was not blindness. The life that glowed behind them, but not the life that had owned them.
"Goodbye, Moth" he gasped in the silence, as he squeezed the trigger of the weapon.
Six loud claps, echoing in the enclosed cave. The creatures face disappearing as bullets destroyed what was left of it's head.
The creature that was no longer Moth fell to the ground, to never move again.
A tear rolled down David's cheek
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We fight our countrys battles In the air', on land, and sea.
First to fight for right and freedom , And to keep our honor clean,
We are proud to claim the title Of United States Marines.
Our flags unfurl'd to every breeze From dawn to setting sun';
We have fought in every clime and place Where we could take a gun.
In the snow of far-off northern lands And in sunny tropic scenes,
You will find us always on the job - The United States Marines.
Here's health to you and to our Corps Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we've fought for life And never lost our nerve.
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They will find the streets are guarded By United States Marines. - US Marines Hymn