Penumbra: Dragon (part three of four)

 The illuminated face looked like a cat’s face. The eye itself was as big as her head and seemed to glow a bright yellow. The face turned and let out a roar. The sound was like a lion and as the mouth opened Cindy saw the teeth. They stretched like sabers and glowed an eerie white. Before Cindy could react Julia shot. A green blast exited the end of the weapon and blew a window out. The next five shots slammed into the face and it let out a hiss.  “LET THERE BE LIGHT!” Clark shouted and a blast of white light made Cindy cover her eyes. Julia pulled her up as a massive man flew out the shattered window. Julia flipped the lock and pulled the door open. The two came out of the house as a shockwave blew out the windows. Glass fell all around and Cindy felt her breath leave her chest. The sound like a person hitting a trampoline followed and then the man arced over the house and into the ground. The man rose from the three foot deep depression and brushed the dirt off. His chiseled face turned up as the beast came over the house.

 The creature had black leathery wings that were as long as school busses. Each wing ended in bony claws the length of a human fore arm. The body was like a lizard, the underside scaly and glistened in the streetlight. The legs looked like a lion’s legs but with black fur. The beast had six tails that were like snakes but had a rat like head on the end. The heads were the size of human heads and snapped unendingly. The beast landed on all fours and let loose a lion roar from the face. The tails whipped up and the rat heads cackled down at them.

Julia swung around and yanked down the gawking Cindy. Her gun let loose another six rounds and each rat head exploded in sequence. The man charged forward and slammed the beast’s head down and cracked the pavement. The beast tossed it’s head and flung him skyward. He steadied himself mid air and Cindy saw the man hover. His white uniform and silver candle began to show red splotches as his wounds reopened. 

 “Begone abomination!” He cried out with a booming voice.

 “Pitiful creatures.” Hummed the beast. “A crippled meta human and a weak pup? Do you even imagine you can protect that girl? I will tear her apart, I will devour her, and then I’ll eat the family. After I have done all that while you are helpless, I will kill you.” The rat heads regenerated from the bloody stumps, double the amount as before. They began to chant: “Bite them! Grind them! Rip them! Eat them!” They hissed aloud. 

 “Cindy.” Purred the beast. “Do you know what I am?” Cindy shook her head no as the color drained. “I am your nightmares!” The rat heads sent lightning into the skies and the blue bolts came down all around them. Skeletons of blue lightning began to stumble towards the two girls, as the beast began to shout. “I was born from your mother’s ugliness. I drank as she drained her finance into cosmetics. I instilled insecurity in your father. I make each morning hell for him. I am the beast of your fear. I am the reason you dread texting. I am your shame. I am the beast in your brother’s nightmares. I am the shadow. I am your terror!” The beast let loose a roar. Cindy stared up at the beast. Her heart raced and she fell straight on her rear end as the beast howled. She looked up at Julia who yawned in boredom. 

 “Is he done?” Julia said and re-examined her gun. “Fear is powerful, but perfect love casts out fear. We showed up not because of our job but for our friend.” Julia looked down at Cindy and lifted her to her feet. 

 “Begone to the pit beast! Spare yourself the pain!” The Night Light hollered. He turned and beams of white light shot from his eyes. The lights blasted the skeletons, causing them to dissipate. The beast went into the air and tried to swallow the Night Light. The tails whipped down at the girls and Julia fired on them. 

 “Ok this is a bigger one than I thought.” Julia muttered. The Night Light held the mouth open against what seemed to be tons of bite force. His eyes lit up and tore into the roof of the creature’s mouth. There was a howl of pain and the beast released. The Night Light slammed his fists into it’s face. The beast wheeled away and it began to speak. 

 “I am Azarogg! I am the annihilation of this family and this town!” 

 “Clark send him to orbit!” Julia screamed. The Night Light snagged a tail as the beast came by. He smashed the head and then swung the whole beast. The two became a blur of black and silver and then the monster was gone. It flew off like a rocket into the night. The Night Light dropped down. “It had a name Clark. This isn’t like anything I’ve met before.” 

 “Y’all have seen this stuff?!” Cindy shrieked. 

 “That creature is far more articulate than any class two I’ve faced. In addition this beast is far more resilient. Even with my injured physique I should have beaten any class two monster to dust in the elapsed time.” The Night Light pressed on his chest. The red marks were slowly growing as he wheezed. Julia inhaled and exhaled deeply. 

 “Y’all aren’t freaking out?” The question ought to have been a shriek of terror, but honestly Cindy was just confused. 

 “No, this is our job Cindy. The monsters under beds, in closets, and anywhere else are our job to eliminate.” Julia cracked a smile. “Or so my boss says.” 

 “So this ain’t a nightmare?” Cindy asked slowly rising to her feet. 

 “Not in the connotation you would use the word.” The Night Light replied. 

 “You aren’t asleep and that thing can kill you.” Julia added coldly. 

 “Y’all ain’t scared?” Cindy asked. Julia was a stringy girl. Sure she had a tough face, and the martial arts training to stop a fight before it began, but this wasn’t some thug. This wasn’t a fight that a hundred pound girl could stare down fearlessly. No one looked at a six ton dragon and didn’t flinch. Unless they knew something. Julia smacked herself on the head. She had forgotten how to do her job. 

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Penumbra Dragon part two of four

“I got your text.” Julia said lamely. Cindy looked at her two drenched friends and saw Clark had an arm in a sling. 

“It happened that Julia and I were in the neighborhood. She believed, and I concurred, that it would be a profitable use of our time to respond to aforementioned message.” 

“We wanted to hang out.” Julia pushed Clark, who winced in pain. “Sorry Clark.” 

“My injuries are still bothersome.” He said stretching out a little.

“Cindy, can we come in? It’s kinda cold out.” Cindy waved her friends in. Julia and Clark had dark coats that stretched down near their knees and they hung them up. Julia pulled a DVD out of one of the deep pockets. It was some corny b-movie super hero flick. 

“Clark, ain’t’cha a bit old for super hero stuff?” Cindy remarked. 

“It is a guilty pleasure of mine.” He shrugged. Julia put on the movie and dropped on the coach. Clark slowly sat down by her. It was as if his every movement was a strain on his body. Cindy plopped down next to Julia. 

“Y’all didn’t hafta come.” She muttered throwing a glance at Julia and Clark who raised and lowered their shoulders. “I don’t like third wheelin’.” 

“We are not a couple, and this was not a romantic excursion.” Clark blurted out. Julia just shook her head and mouthed “not yet.” The girls laughed. Clark raised an eyebrow suspiciously before the movie started. A few minutes in and the lights flickered. Then darkness filled the room as the power exited. 

“Clark.” Julia said calmly. “My light is in my coat, can you grab it?” The sound of Clark rising was followed by him shuffling to the door way. The sound of a roar rattled Cindy. It wasn’t the howl of the wind but a sound like a lion. As soon as Cindy was sure she’d imagined the sound there was another blast. A flash of lightning showed Clark had returned. He passed Julia a silver device that looked like a pistol. Julia pressed her thumb to the back and then spun it on her forefinger. Six lights turned green in sequence from back to front. She gripped the weapon and pointed it outwards. Cindy looked up as the lightning illuminated a face in the window by the TV. It wasn’t a human face, it was the wrong shape and far too large. It was, quite unmistakably, the face of a monster.

Penumbra: Dragon part 1 of 4

Perhaps it was the thunder and lightning that kept Cindy Sinclair’s eyes open. The incessant rain drummed upon the roof like an endless march. It was barely past nine, but fighting her brother into bed had been more than enough to tire her out. She glanced at her phone hoping that someone would invite her out. The black screen simply stared back, unresponsive. Cindy let out a groan, no one wanted to hang out with her anyways.

The sound of pacing feet above her head made Cindy tense. Cindy listened as her father’s steps went back and forth like a patrolling soldier. She could only imagine him walking back and forth above her. His measured steps seemed rehearsed. The rhythm sounded ingrained. Cindy had never seen him pace, but his pacing footsteps had become a constant sound in the night. 

Cindy reached for her phone again and unlocked it. She went through her contacts. One after another she decided not text anyone. She hesitated at Clark’s number then shook her head. She certainly wasn’t going to have anyone thinking she was easy. That and Julia probably wouldn’t speak to her again, at least. She kept scrolling until she reached Julia’s number and opened a text. The full crowd of letters and an empty row stared back at her. Her thumb hit the “H” and then the “E”. She tapped the “Y”. Hey. She stared at the single word and sighed. She didn’t want to bother, or worry her friend. Nothing was wrong. No, even while no one slept in the house, nothing was wrong. No, even with a silent plea for help sitting on the phone, nothing was wrong. 

The windows rattled as thunder split the atmosphere. A flash of lightning made Cindy flinch as the objects outside threw horrible shadows on her wall. Another blast of thunder rocked the house as Cindy chided herself for being startled by a storm. Perhaps it had been when the lightning had startled her. Perhaps it had been a simple slip of her finger.  Perhaps it had been her subconscious mind acting through her hand. Whatever the reason Cindy had let out a desperate cry for help. A single syllable sent swiftly to her best friend. 

Ding dong. 

Cindy was out of bed and through the door in a heartbeat. Any excuse, any reason, any thing, to get her out of that room was acceptable. Her heart hammered as her feet threw her down the hall like a rocket. She threw open the door and found Clark and Julia there in the rain. 

Penumbra: Team Mates (part 3 of 3)

The sound of help was the crunch of the concrete and steel roof. A blast of dust and debris blew the doors off their hinges, rocketing them past λ. A cloud of brown billowed past him into the corridor, and he ran into it. Screams of terror filled the air as he charged towards Ron. 

“Terrence?” Ron coughed. 

“I summoned our proverbial cavalry.” 

“So not complaining.” Ron glanced into the reflection of his blade. “That black gas leak doesn’t look good.” λ glanced into the reflection, blackish blue smog poured from shattered vats. The soldiers and workers screamed warnings and ran the opposite way. 

“Allow me friend.” λ spoke extending a hand at the black gas. He closed his eyes and then the gas flickered and vanished. 

“Nice.” Ron nodded. “Never gets old.” Terrence swung tirelessly, his metal fists slaying soldiers left and right. Bullets bounced harmlessly off him as he howled and swung his fists. His body glowed red as the enemy retreated. He charged the line of fleeing soldiers, and blasted one up in the air. The main sailed into a glass vat that stood at least twenty feet high. It contained a purple black liquid that evaporated as the soldier shattered the glass. 

The smog drew back within the glass and began to boil. The soldier hacked and coughed in the cloud of black air. He batted it away from his face, desperately trying to escape the vat, before collapsing to the ground. Behind him the gas condensed into the form of an old woman. Her skin, pale and shriveled hung to her bones. She had on a white dress that hung to her ankles. Her hair was a grey bun pulled neat and orderly. Her hands gripped a gnarled cane, and she smashed the soldier with it. The cloud continued to pour into her, and she grew larger and larger. 

“Mummy is very angry with you boy. You need to be disciplined!” The creature screeched. The man was crawling away backwards, his every breath a cry for mercy. She stood ten feet tall and brought the cane down on the man with a sickening crack. She examined her bloody pole and shook her head. She prodded the limp body with her foot and scoffed. “Pah. Useless boy, you’re better off dead.” She surveyed the battle. Soldiers fled as Ron and λ struck at them with blades. Terrence smashed soldiers left and right, as the ranks broke. 

“Well would yuh look’t that.” Terrence looked up at the giant woman as she towered over the battle field. Her cane swinging down at the soldiers, whose helmets hardly reached her knees. “Ron, λ. Get the soldiers. Grandma is mine.” His fists smashed together rattling the room. He took two steps towards the giant and leapt. He was up higher than a basketball hoop in an instant, and sailed from where a three point line would have been before striking the granny giant. His blow hit her in the stomach and doubled her over. Her cane the size of a telephone pole hit the ground with a slam. Terrence grunted and hefted it up in both hands. The sound of servos and human straining as he smashed the giant behind the neck. The sound was like a thunderclap and the giant bellowed in rage. It gripped the cane and flipped Terrence over. He smashed into the ground with a clang, his breath coming out in an “oof” noise.

“This will teach you to respect your elders!” The granny giant smashed the cane on him again and again. Terence crossed his arms and bore each blow, a shockwave rattling the entire building. The solid concrete cracked beneath him as he grunted under the blows. The granny giant stood as tall as a house and Terrence looked up at her. 

“Respect?!” He shouted. He pushed forward and charged straight at her. “Respect you?” He grabbed her ankle and slammed her to the ground. “I respect my elders enough to be my own man! I respect them cause they loved me. You?! You just hate.” He pressed his finger tips to the giant. λ shouted and grabbed Ron. The two shimmered in the air, then with a gut wrenching shock, they vanished. The two appeared on top of the compound. Shimmer, shock, vanish. They appeared on a hill outside the compound. Then Terrence closed his fist, the servos in his arm crushing the atoms of the air the fingers grabbed. His fist struck and all the energy bloomed from it. 

Ron and λ felt the heat of the blast on their backs. They threw themselves into the earth. The roar of the wind blasted in their ears. The thud of something landing in front of them made them look up. Before them were the silver feet of Terrence.

“That’s how you use a big stick.”
T minus 62 days

Corrected: T minus 82 days
By TKH Hamilton

Penumbra: Team mates (part two of three)

Ron peaked out around the dark corner. Four guards marched past as the two swordsmen lurked in the shadows. The guards rounded another corner and the two dashed across the corridor. Ron pressed himself into a doorway as another set of guards’ boots reverberated down the hall. He glanced at λ, who drew his lightblade. Ron gripped the sword handle behind his back. 

The boots drew nearer and nearer. Bang.

Bang.

Bang.

The first set of soldiers stepped even with the two agents.

Bang. 

They stepped just past the two. Ron dove behind and λ dove in front. There was a flash, his blade appearing a brilliant blue. The soldiers tried to shout, but Ron drew his sword. His hand found the proper rune, and the world went silent. Ron and λ sliced at the enemies. Ron slammed his sword down straight on the back of a soldier’s helmet. The next one turned, and his hilt found the man’s eye. The two soldiers dropped as λ deactivated his blade, his adversaries incapacitated as well. 

“Did we kill them?” Ron gaped. λ knelt besides the two men and examined their pulses. He shook his head. 

“No. You merely knocked them out cold.” He kicked a door open and carted a body in. 

“Ok.” Ron sighed. “Um and uh did you?”

“No my friend.” λ held up his sleek sword hilt. “The blade pierces skin and muscle. It goes past bone and marrow. It strikes the very spirit.”

“Huh.”

“My sword doesn’t strike the physical, as your blade does. I can cut and not kill with it, slicing away my enemy’s energy.” He nodded and the two dragged the rest of the soldiers in. “It is a Masamune, a weapon of good.” He heaved the last body in the storage closet and smiled. 

“So you have a sword that can’t kill?” That seemed pretty neat. 

“Oh no my friend. I never said that.” At that, λ lanced forward, his long legs carrying him down the corridor. Ron sheathed his blade and followed behind. The two eventually came to a door. The sound of voices muddled together as Ron pressed his ear to the door. The rhythmic heavy hammer of industrial machinery banged beyond the wall. Suddenly the door slammed open, and Ron tumbled inward. 

“Intruders!” Screamed a voice and a cacophony of others joined him. Ron smashed the man, who had opened the door, in his face. He rolled behind a tower of machinery. λ ducked behind the wall as the clatter of machine gun fire went off. 

“Terrence! Speak softly failed, situation requires big stick!” 

Penumbra: Teammates (part 1 of 3)

Ron locked his bedroom door, and walked to the center of his room. Homework was done, now was the good part of his days. He closed his eyes and extended a hand to the door. He let his mind relax, his thoughts flowing out like a stream. His breathing slowed and his heart steadied. The dream of another place filled his mind. His body moved in the trance and he opened up the door. 
Rather than the hallway to his bedroom, the door opened on a vast field. A sea of green grass flowed under the currents of a gentle breeze. A full moon hung perpetually midnight above him. It flowed a magnificent orange as Ron ran towards the red granite castle. It’s keep sat squat behind a thick wall. Four high towers thrust into the sky at its corners. Their flag, a black field with a silver flame, flapped proudly in the breeze. 

Their flag. He slid down a green hill and then rolled onto the drawbridge. He dusted himself off and sauntered across the base. They were the order of the Silver Flame, and they were monster fighters. Every night he was out fighting monsters, like IRL, or as IRL as his life could be. The dim entryway was lit by green flames that cast odd shadows and colors. Ron shoved his hands in his pockets as he crossed the threshold into a great hall. The hall was empty except for one other occupant. 

The girl sat on the far end of the room. Two huge piles of books were stacked high on either side of her. A bag of chips sat in front of her, her hand rummaged around trying to scrape the last bits out. Ron slowly walked across the great hall and sat across from her. 

“Oh! Uh hi Ronald…” Her head tipped up and Ron shifted uncomfortably. How the heck did it feel like she could always see straight through him? Especially with that ridiculous blind fold? Yet without fail he got a chill when she “looked” at him. She had on a plain white dress and a silver blind fold over her eyes. 

“Hey Lily.” Ron dropped himself across from her with a thud. The two sat in silence, broken only by the occasional flip of one book to the other pile. “Are you reading without opening the books?” Lily just nodded. 

“It’s faster.” Lily mumbled at her chips.

“Fair ’nuff.” Ron turned around and leaned back against the table. The sound of metal soles on the floor gave Ron a reason to lazily look down a corridor. 

The first member to appear was Terence. Ron could hear the clank and whir of his mechanical limbs echoing furiously down the hall. He stepped into the torchlight and glowed orange and red off his limbs and metal jaw. The sleek silvery hands, tightened in fists that could crush coal to diamonds, swung as he easily outdistanced the others on his massive legs. He easily dwarfed his companion who trailed behind him. Terrence was broad and λ was lanky. Terrence’s muscles bulged under his black sleeveless shirt, λ wore a long black jacket that hung to his knees. Terrence had two long pale scars across his black skin. One of his eyes glowed a mechanical red. λ, on the other hand, had no scars on his face, or elsewhere on his yellow skin for that matter. His boots stuck out from beneath his long pants, each step clicked every time the heels hit the floor. The final man wore a long cape and a massive hat. The cape billowed behind him, as he rushed on his short legs to catch up. A silver and ornate hilt hung on his left hip, swinging noisily as he ran. His body was pudgy, and his face turned the color of a tomato as he tried to keep up with the much taller men. 

“Ronald, we have a mission.” Terence growled.
By TKH Hamilton

Penumbra: Star Light (part 3 of 3)

George sauntered away from his brother as soon as he had the chance. When Richard had bent down to examine something, George had tiptoed away. When he was far enough he picked up to a run through the corn. As he ran, George shoved his hands in his pockets and wrapped his fingers around the fresh batteries from Richard’s flash light. Their mother had told them to change the batteries in the lights, and George did just that. Richard hadn’t realized his batteries wouldn’t last the night. Served the brat right for playing in his room while George was away. The sight of his brother’s light flickering in the night sky gave George a reason to pause. Now he could head back and rescue his brother. That was the plan at least. 

George realized that he had no idea which path he had come up. Three paths stretched and wound like snakes in the direction he came. George peered up each path and frowned. He closed his eyes trying to remember how he had reached this intersection. When he opened them he felt his jaw drop. He was certain that he hadn’t moved and yet none of the four paths were in the same place. He shook his head, there had only been three paths when he closed his eyes. Yet before him stood four different paths. Before George could decide which path he would go on, a smell reached his nose.

The smell was sweet like sugar and George turned to follow it. He wandered down a path as the scent grew stronger and stronger. The smell grew and grew until he reached a clearing with a man. The man wore a black cloak and gold epaulettes. His head hung over a cauldron, so all George could see was his pale yellow hair. The man held a long spoon and stirred the cauldron slowly. The smell overflowed from the black cauldron and filled George. George began to walk near when the man reached up and plucked a head of corn off the maze. George looked around and saw a sign that had been snapped and thrown aside. Similar signs were scattered all through out the maze, but this one felt different. Most of the signs read: “DO NOT PICK THE CORN!” In bright red letters on a white sign that had been hammered in the ground. This sign though, had been snapped. The post was still in the ground, but the sign lay face up in the dirt. The sign wasn’t the usual white with red letters, but green with gold letters. It read “do not eat this corn.” No capital letters. No exclamation point. In fact the letters had been written in ornate and careful cursive, rather than printed in bold and thick letters. Unlike all the rest of the signs, this one had a signature at the bottom. In the same stately writing it read: “The Grower.” The only capital letters on the sign. George felt that he mustn’t eat that corn. The other signs had demanded, almost threatened, obedience. This one asked, or perhaps warned, George not to eat.

“Would you like some kettle corn?” The man at the cauldron asked. His voice deep and  resonant. George stepped forward and looked at the sign. 

“The sign says you aren’t supposed to eat that.” George replied. He stepped forward as the man tipped the cauldron toward him and more of the delicious smell came pouring out. 

“Oh, and do you know who wrote that sign?” The man asked George. George stepped forward, he was just going to smell. There was no rule against smelling. 

“The Grower.” George read off the sign. As he looked he felt the urge to run. To flee the man and the smell and the cauldron and the… 

“Yes.” Snarled the man. “The grower wrote that sign.” He calmed a little and George looked away from the sign towards the man. “Do you know what else the grower did?” The man seemed to seethe as he spoke. If George hadn’t been so mesmerized by the voice and the smell, he would have seen that the man was having difficulty keeping his rage in check. A head of corn snapped in his crushing grip. “He grew this whole field. Don’t you think he has more than enough corn for anyone?”

“I suppose He does.” George didn’t know quite why he had emphasized the word “He” but it seemed to make the stirring man stir a little harder. 

“Yes, and he says you and I can’t have any.” The man spat in the mud. George paused at this. The sign hadn’t said that. It said not to eat this corn. There was certainly other corn he could eat. Yet the man didn’t think so. “Isn’t that unfair?” The man said. He scooped some of the kettle corn from his cauldron and poured it in a bag. The smell was delightful, it was warm and sugary. George again stepped nearer, and as he did so he stepped on the sign. He looked down at it and felt that he should just leave. The sound of the crunching of kettle corn. George looked up. The man chewed slowly on the corn, savoring it.

“Is it good?” George stepped nearer.

“Delicious.” The man held out the bag.

“It is good?” George drew closer.

“Just try a bite.” The man grinned. His one visible eye glowing a ghastly blue.

“You’re sure it’s good?” George shoved a hand in the bag. 

“I’m sure you’ll enjoy this.” The man said as George threw a handful in his mouth. Instantly George snatched the bag away. The man let him. The man watched as George gorged himself on the corn. Within moments the bag was gone and George sat in the ground licking his fingers. 

“More.” The boy whispered. 

“Another time.”

“No.” 

“I have to make more.” The man said rising. “Next time, George, bring your brother, and your sister.” George nodded. He’d bring them, but they wouldn’t eat. It was his corn. His corn. His corn! HIS CORN!!! 

“How do I find you?”

“Oh we will find you George. You only need to bring your siblings when the time comes.” The man began to prepare to vanish when an orange bolt of light shot past him. The Penumbra agent aimed again and unleashed a barrage of orange energy from her rifle. The dark man fought the urge to engage, tonight he had won. He waved his hand and all the field and people vanished. The lights in the sky disappeared as well, though he and George hadn’t noticed them at all. He was left in dream space and the maze returned to the real world. His master stood before him and he knelt.

“A most prudent investment Baron Von Todersfurcht. I applaud that. I, for one feel certain it will yield well on the return.” CEO declared. 

Projected: T minus 69 days