PreApocalyptic – Chapter 1 (a strange new visiter)

Author’s Note:

All right, and thus ends my one month without finishing any writing (started a few though). Hopefully it won’t happen again… seems I’ve sufficiently exorcised the demons blocking my creativity (for now at least. They tend to come back without warning, so fingers crossed).

Oh, and any similarity to real people is completely coincidental. Except for Ed. I never got his name, but he’s definitely real.

——————————————–

Jim stared out across the room, watching the mixture of rain and hail attack the pavement outside. It was late, the sun was down, and with the heaviness of this particular storm any light from street lamps or windows was mostly obscured as well. Three feet ahead of the window, Jim saw chaos. Anything beyond that existed only in darkness.

“Crud,” a man in a suit said as he swiveled on the barstool, “looks like I won’t be getting home anytime today.” He leaned forward on the bar and continued, “well, while we’re stuck here, give me another beer, will ya Jimmy?”

“Comin’ up,” Jim replied as he fetched a fresh bottle. “How’s the office been today, Sam?”

“Eh, you know. Nothing exciting,” he yawned. “Got some trouble getting my foot in the door right now, but things will bounce back… honestly, I’d rather not think about work right now.”

Jim nodded and moved on. His eyes scanned across those few remaining customers not foolish enough to leave during the storm or wise enough to leave before it shifted into full force. Three of the “usual suspects” remained in the bar — Sam, the aforementioned businessman, a cop named Mike, and a perpetual drunk, supposedly named Ed, though no one really knew much about him for sure on account of his general incoherence. Jim also spotted a man and a woman sitting at a table together, both late thirties or early forties. Presumably they might be a couple, but Jim couldn’t yet say for sure.

He grabbed a wet rag and began cleaning his way over in their direction until he stood within eavesdropping range. At that point, he began meticulously cleaning each table in their vicinity. It was, after all, a very slow night.

“This is crazy!” the woman laughed, “You’ve changed so much. Out of everyone we knew, I never would have pegged you, Mark, as a preacher! Of all things!”

The man, Mark, returned the polite laughs, “well, Kate, you haven’t changed one bit, and I always expected you to end up a politician!”

The two old friends continued chatting, and Jim learned a few things before he stopped paying attention. He learned that the preacher and the politician had gone to college together, except back then they were a lawyer and an actress. They ran into each other by accident recently when Kate entered Mark’s church one Sunday morning, although Jim was fairly certain it was not accidental as she seemed to be looking for an endorsement. At that point, he had gleaned enough information to satisfy his admittedly low curiosity — politics was an issue which interested Jim even less than the earlier pleasantries. Besides, the tables certainly would not clean themselves.

Jim decided that this storm wouldn’t be letting up anytime that night; it was time to take a break from his cleaning. He dropped the towel down on the last table and headed over to speak with the cop, complimentary coffee in hand.

“Thanks,” Mike said as he accepted the gift. “You about ready to kick these people off the premises? I believe it’s just about closing time. At that point, it’s trespassing to stay, and that’s a crime…”

Jim gave a weak laugh, “well, I could do that, but with this storm we’ve got, they probably wouldn’t get more than a few feet beyond the door.”

“We can get ’em for that too: loitering.”

“Good call. But I think we’ll let it slide, officer — this time,” Jim said with a wink.

“If you say so,” he replied as he sipped his coffee, “it’s your building.” Mike picked up the day’s newspaper and began thumbing through it while Jim picked up his mop. In place of cleaning the floors with such a device, as might be expected, Jim folded his hands together on top of the mop to use it as a support pole. Jim once again took a moment to look out the window and appreciate the ironic tranquility of the storm. Despite the destructive nature of such a force — the pounding of the rain and the piercing of the hail, the power of lightning and the roar of thunder — the only thought to go through Jim’s mind at such a time was the strong desire to curl up and take a nap. During a time of such intense chaos, Jim felt oddly at ease. He appreciated the irony.

His musing, however, was soon cut off by a cry from the other corner of the room.

“Hey Jimmy!” Sam called, “How do you get this TV working?”

Jim hesitated a moment, then turned and headed over to troubleshoot the machine, where the businessman, drunk, preacher, and senator sat. After a few moments of his fiddling with the cables in the back and adjusting the antennae, the static and white noise gave way to the local weather report.

“As you can see,” the weatherman said as he exaggerated arm gestures, “we have this storm on top of us. Now, it’s moving pretty quickly so it’ll pass soon, but don’t leave your houses just yet. We’ve got what appears to be a second wind coming in close after, and this one seems to be even bigger. We suggest you stay in your houses, as this seems to only be the beginning.”

The on-screen map zoomed out to reveal a swirling purple spot which easily dwarfed the city. The five guests and the bartender gave their complete attention to the on-goings of the television screen. Ed gave less attention than the rest of them, although proportionately he in fact gave more as he gave all he could given his current level of sobriety, or lack thereof.

Their attention broke off abruptly as the screen flickered away. The guests’ eyes veered over towards Jim, as if to ask him to fix it yet again. Before he could respond though, a pound of thunder shook the building and the lights went out. After a moment of silence, Ed spoke up:

“The purple hell… it’s coming for us!”

Not knowing exactly how to respond to this, Jim did the only sensible thing he could and spoke up. “Nobody panic, I’ll get some lights,” he said as he tripped over chairs and bruised himself on table corners. Eventually, he came back with a kerosene lantern and a few candles. “Not great, but it’ll do. We’ve got some light, we can wait out —”

“Jim!” Mike called from behind his newspaper. “I think we’ve got someone at the door!”

Picking up the kerosene lantern, Jim once again walked across the room. “Hold on, I’m coming!” As he walked, the pounding at the door grew heavier and heavier, as if the person on the other side grew more and more desperate. Not too farfetched a theory, considering the storm this person was stuck in.

As Jim threw the doors open, the man nearly fell in. With his arms holding his stomach and his back arched, he hunched a few steps into the room. The man, gasping for air, mostly mumbled inaudibly. After a few moments though, more definable words came out:

“… madness. Won’t stop… or no. It will. All of it… Everything. Everything will stop… they said it wouldn’t happen, but it is… it’s a perfect storm…”

“Well, I wouldn’t call this evening perfect,” Mike chimed in, “’course, I wasn’t really planning on going home, so —” at this point, the strange man lifted his arms from his stomach to reveal profuse bleeding, which proceeded to spill out onto the floor. He raised his head and looked them each in the eyes with a now profound sense of desperation. The group partook in an appropriate moment of stunned silence.

“Disease, war, famine… this is only the beginning. Or the end… it’s happening.” Urgently and with trembling, the man dug into his coat pocket and protruded a small USB drive. “This… will explain everything.”

“Wait,” Mark asked, “just what are you talking about?”

“Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve said?” the man asked with a gallows chuckle, “Don’t you see? Tonight beckons the end of the world.”

And, with another flash of lightning and crack of thunder, their strange new visitor collapsed to the ground.

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Writer’s Block (a demon in my head)

In the pantheon of demons, there exist many varieties. Some are large and some are small. Some scaly, others slimy, and some clever demons even impersonate angels of light! Some demons attack your mind, while others attack the body. Some are vile and wicked, others… are also vile and wicked, but occasionally grudgingly so. This is the story of one such demon.

Bifron the Dreaded, drinker of the tears of men, was currently part of a rare breed of demons — the disgruntled. As he stood waiting for the elevator up, he kicked a fiery rock on the underground as a physical manifestation of his dissatisfaction. Despite his best reasoning or justification, Bifron still couldn’t believe they would do this to him — and after all the loyalty he had shown them!

This thought, as evil as any of his yet slightly more whiny than most, was briefly cut off by the chime of the elevator. With his hands in his coat pockets, Bifron stepped through the door and hit the top button — “GROUND LEVEL.”

“Bifron… that you?!” the nicely-dressed demon next to him asked. Bifron looked over at him, trying to remember where he recognized this demon from. Cued by Bifron’s blank look, the demon exclaimed “Germany, early 15th century? We tempted that great scholarly guy? C’mon, surely you remember that!”

After a moment, the memories rushed back to Bifron. “Mephistopheles! Why, I haven’t seen you in ages!” This was the moment in which, had the two old friends not been horrid demons, they would have given each other a large embrace. This behavior, though, would be far too loving a behavior for vile demons such as themselves.

“Boy, those were some good times!”

“Yeah,” Bifron agreed, “though I seem to recall you got all the credit for that one.”

“Haha, well that’s how the legends tell it.” Mephistopheles replied, “but I sure do remember a certain promotion coming out of it. How have the centuries of tempting world leaders been treating you, anyways?”

“About that…” Bifron trailed off, hoping Mephistopheles would pick up on the cues that this wasn’t a subject he wished to talk about. He looked up at the ceiling, and saw the “3rd Circle” light lit up; they’d be at the surface soon. After a moment, he could tell that Mephistopheles wasn’t picking up on any cues. “I was transferred to another department… demoted, really.”

“What?” Mephistopheles exclaimed, “redeemit, why’d they go about doing that?! I mean, I don’t want to be blasphemous or anything… well, I do, but not to our side. You know what I’m saying. I’d just expect more loyalty from the big guy, that’s all.”

“I don’t know… I guess I kind of… I’d rather not talk about it.”

After a few more moments of awkward silence, the elevator reached the top. The demons said their parting words and Mephistopheles went off to seduce upright men with ideas of power. Bifron, on the other hand, headed off to begin his first day on the new job.

From now on, Bifron was a writers block demon.

It was not a glamorous job. He was afraid that he would never again hold the respect of his fellow demons. But he had always believed in a job well done, no matter what that job was, and this would be no different.

Bifron checked his surroundings. He was in a small, one-bedroom apartment in the big city. Two late notices from the landlord sat on the kitchen counter. The kitchen sink was filled with dishes, most crusted with the dry remnants of pasta sauce or sandwich crumbs. Flies had begun to make their home in the overflown garbage can. At the desk, a young man sat, frantically typing away at his laptop.

The demon made his way over to the man, close enough to read over his shoulder. He moved neither silently nor cautiously — one advantage to living in the spirit world was the ability to not be noticed by anyone, save those with that pesky “discernment” gift. Just the thought of it made Bifron sick, so he put that thought out of his head. Once it was sufficiently gone and the vomit was back down his throat, Bifron looked over at the computer screen. The man had his word processor opened. At the top of the document, he read the title “The Long Road Ahead, a novel by Pete Peterson.”

“Ok, here goes,” Bifron said to himself. After taking a deep breath, he plunged his head into Peterson’s, so he could get a better view on what he was working with. Inside Peterson’s psyche, he saw a nebula of words floating around. Slowly, a few words would make their way out of the general mass and meet up in a smaller group. Once these words had assembled together, they zoomed out towards the exit.

Simple enough. Bifron stuck his hand into Peterson’s head and commenced the chaos. He grabbed hold of an adverb — “serendipitously” — and with all his might he hurdled it to the far side of Peterson’s mind.

“Well,” he said to himself, “that wasn’t so tough.” Bifron went for another. This time he chose a noun, “vanguard.” Within a few throws, Bifron began to really get into this new job. It almost became a game for him. He grabbed words as quickly as possible and threw them this way and that, causing complete disorder in the mind of the poor young writer. Soon, the words became too jumbled for any progress to be made that night. It may have not been the highest profile job out there, but Bifron had enjoyed himself.

After an amount of time relatively short when compared to the damage he had done, Bifron wiped the dust from his hands and exited poor Peterson’s presence. He felt deliciously bad about what he had done, as he should. It was a bad thing to do, and he was an evil demon. Within a few moments, a messenger for him had arrived with his next assignment.

Excitedly, he opened the envelope. It contained directions to an apartment a mere few blocks away, where a college student, Jen Benson, was writing a term paper. Sources said it was due the next day, and worth half her grade.

Bifron smiled. This would be fun.

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