Sunday Archive: In The Darkness, Part Four

McGavin could only lay there, gasping and praying that she’d stay down. When he could finally sit up, he looked down at Maureen apprehensively. Her eyelids fluttered, but she showed no sign of getting back up. She shivered slightly in the cold air and he watched a thin smattering of goose pimples raise on her arms and buttocks. Then her eyes snapped open and she was staring at him. McGavin looked down at his loafers.

“You move, sweetie, and I stomp you.”

“How do you know I’m not faster?” she replied, a smile playing at her lips.

McGavin pulled out the .45 from under his jacket, “Am I clear?”

Her smile faded. “Crystal.”

“Now, you malignant bitch, what’s the deal?”

“You shouldn’t have fought me. Everything would have been much easier if you had given in.”

McGavin stood up, crossing to the window and turning his back on the icy panes. Maureen sat up, crossing her legs and rubbing her head. She made no attempt to conceal herself and McGavin allowed his eyes to wander over her body, and then gaze at the softly-colored pubic area. He might have put the gun away if he didn’t catch the malevolent flash in her eyes, then he rubbed his throat and started to get mad again. “I don’t give in,” he growled.

Now she looked angry. She stood up and gestured out the window but she kept her distance from McGavin and his pistol. “Have you wondered if you’re the last one? What if you are? Your whole goddamned life and look – look!” She pointed out the window frantically. McGavin didn’t turn around. “What’s it gotten you?” She continued, sedated. “You work your ass off and what’s it gotten you? The last man alive, watching hell come to Earth in a tuxedo. You’ve fought for 35 years to get where you are, then the world ends. You’ve lost everything – everyone!”

McGavin stepped forward, pretty sure that Maureen was out of her mind (after all, the lobby was full of survivors), but understanding the gist of her words. He didn’t like the gist of her words. He half-spat, half-shouted his retort: “I haven’t lost myself!”

“But you’re alone,” Maureen replied softly. She swallowed, seeming somewhat uneasy. Then the suite door opened and Melissa stepped inside. Without even pausing, she came up to Maureen’s side and stared at McGavin. A dark, sad stare.

“It’s over, Lance,” Melissa said at last, watching him carefully.

“What’s over, what are you people talking about?” McGavin shouted.

Melissa shook her head, “You don’t understand…”

Then McGavin took a step back as a sudden realization hit him. “You killed the five looters next door.”

“They died days ago,” Melissa said, “before the party. But, yes, we did kill them.”

“Why…? Who are you?”

Melissa’s smile was thin, uncomfortable. “Mostly, we are memories. Tonight, we just are.”

McGavin shook his head, not understanding her words.

“Turn around, Lance. Look out the window.”

McGavin fought his urge to look outside, to obey her request.

“Go ahead. You’ll be okay,” Melissa insisted.

Unable to deny the impulse, he spun around and looked outside, all the while thinking that this moment was his last.

“You see them?” Melissa whispered.

Yes. Down in the streets, surrounding the hotel, hundreds – no, thousands – of those monsters that had plagued the streets for so long. They were hulking shadows in the night, their eyes glittering with the unnatural red glow McGavin had come to hate –

“My God… They’re gonna get in!” No… He watched them, the terror in his gut fading away as he pressed his face against the cold glass. The creatures were swaying back and forth, listening to the muffled music from the party. They were watching the lights inside, standing like carolers on Christmas Eve. It seemed almost peaceful.

“They do want in,” Melissa said, “They’ve passed on, but the spirits are still trapped in those horrid bodies. They do want to become a part of the party.”

“They soon will,” Maureen said softly.

“Good god. Those things – ”

“Are as much a part of ourselves as we are a part of them,” Melissa said, stepping up to McGavin’s side. She looked down at the creatures with genuine sadness. “Something has happened. Something terrible… Or, perhaps, something wonderful. We are on separate sides of a dividing line, Lance.”

McGavin turned away from the glass and looked at her. “What line?”

Melissa didn’t answer immediately. She continued to look down at the creatures. “This is the last New Year to fall on Humanity. The end of Mankind, but not nearly the end of the world.”

He looked from Maureen to Melissa. His host smiled sadly. “You’re not…” he muttered, shaking his head. “You’re not alive, are you?” He watched her stare right back at him. “You’re ghosts or something?”

Melissa sighed, studying him. Her smile was slight, but still coy. “Or something.” She rapped the window with her knuckles, and then paced the room. Coming to a stop at the ice bucket and pretending to be very interested with the plastic covers on the cups. Then she turned to McGavin and spoke in a low, soothing voice. “When the New Year begins, those creatures out there will fall and rot like the rest of us and a new world will be born. You see, Lance, we all exist in the womb or the coffin. What’s in between is nothing; a brief, noisy transition from birth to death. Myself, many of those at the party, are leftovers from a time long forgotten. We awaken every year in hopes of finding that death has seized Humanity. When that day – this day – comes, the sun will shine on freedom. Our souls, at last, will be able to break free of these bonds.” she raised her arms and smiled grimly.

“Generation after generation, our brothers and sisters have died and their spirits meshed with ours. They have come together in a great, chaotic jumble and waited for this moment. Imagine every Human soul coming in from the rain, from the wandering, and joining a community of travelers, only to be damned to bondage on this world. As time goes on, more and more souls join with the original souls, melding into one, and creating a grand, omnipotent essence.”

“You mean becoming one with God or something?” McGavin asked.

“Oh, no!” Melissa laughed, “There is no God. Not as we have always envisioned it. I could explain it all to you, I could answer every question that mortal Man has asked. I can tell you every secret but, somehow, I don’t think you’d listen to me.”

McGavin squinted, watching Melissa’s eyes for any sign – though for what sign he didn’t know. “So what happens to me, if everyone is forming into this – what? – life force?”

“I’m talking about the creation of a new species, Lance.” Melissa was sounding a little impatient. “The next step. A new universe. Evolution. Our collective consciousness united into a singular being.” Melissa leaned towards McGavin, “A superior being…”

“So you’re all just a part of this spirit waiting to get together? Why like this, why…the party?” McGavin asked.

Melissa nodded. “Our final opportunity to remember what it was like to have been Human. The sounds and the feel of the party also attract those who have been lost. Your brother may be out there, Lance. Everyone you once knew will soon be a part of the one.”

“You’re the last,” Maureen said. “All is ready, but one piece is missing.”

McGavin pressed himself against the window, wanting nothing more than to run. “So is that what happens to me? I’m the last piece of god and, without me, you all can’t finish this…assimilation?”

“Essentially,” Melissa replied. “We are all a piece of the puzzle.”

“So I’m to die?”

Melissa raised a finger, “It’s a rebirth, McGavin. It’s what’s supposed to be – “

“Natural evolution.” Maureen added.

“And if I wanted to live?” McGavin asked.

“Why would you?”

“Because I want to live!”

“That would be very selfish.”

McGavin smiled, stepping up to Melissa, “Yeah, I guess it would.” Then, in one fluid movement, he shoved Melissa into Maureen and barreled out the door.

He rushed back to his room, bursting inside and grabbing the shotgun. He backed against the window, eyes on the door. Then the TV above the closet clicked on to show Times Square; absolutely empty. The ball was the only source of light, sitting atop its’ spire. Instinctively, he checked his watch. Five minutes till midnight. If only –

He burst back out into the hall just as Maureen and Melissa were walking towards his room. If only he could make it past midnight, that just might be his break. With the stairs to the roof behind him, he backpedaled till he hit the emergency door.

“Where are you going, Lance?” Melissa asked.

He reached behind him and tried the door. Locked…the hell? He hadn’t locked this door. He glanced over his shoulder and saw the soldering job on the door frame. That wasn’t his work, he’d left the roof exits cleared.

“The looters turned this place into a fortress,” Melissa explained, a hint of the comedy in her voice. Perhaps the tone was designed to unnerve McGavin.

He gritted his teeth, shaking, clutching the gun and staring at Melissa with what he hoped was defiance.

Now the others were coming up the stairs, marching down the hall to fall in rank behind Melissa and Maureen.

“People die.” Maureen said, mocking what he had said to her on the stairs, “If only that can be accepted, then it would be a little bit easier…”

The doors to all the rooms on the level flew open of their own accord, a powerful wind rushing out and into the hallway. It was a touch of the supernatural designed, again, to unnerve him. At least, that’s what he told himself. These creatures hadn’t killed him yet, which meant they weren’t as powerful as all that. They had to rely on tricks and brute force to do him in, and he was ready to fight his way out. He squinted against the gale as it blew up and around him – encompassing him and attempting to pin him against the door. The smell was death, the hotel dark despite the lighting. The revelers, headed by Melissa and Maureen, slow-marched towards him. Perhaps they were aware of their own inability to subdue this sticky intruder. He saw as much in Melissa’s eyes as she watched him for movement.

“Does one man really matter?” McGavin screamed through the gale, his hair whipping around his eyes as he squinted towards Melissa.

“Every person is a link,” Melissa’s voice moved on the wind; ethereal, soft.

Four minutes.

“I want to go on, damn you!” he pressed against the door, shotgun leveled at the advancing spirits though he knew it would be useless against so many.

Again, Melissa’s voice at his ear. “All of Humanity has lived for this moment. This is what we are. Why do you cling to a ruined life? Why continue when everything you know is dead?” Then she was standing in front of him, the wind dying down within a small sphere containing the two – spirit and man – as the others slowed their march even more, but still they were coming to put an end to McGavin’s uprising. Melissa smiled and continued speaking, gently. “In this darkness – this darkness you call life – your spirit strives to find the light. Here, now, the time has come.”

He found the words numbing, as if his soul knew them to be true. But he didn’t really believe what his soul had to tell him. Nothing made sense anymore, and he wasn’t about to give in. He didn’t care what Melissa had to say. He glanced at his watch.

Three minutes…

Three minutes left of my life?

‘There remain volumes of words unwritten and stories to be told’… Who had said that? Somebody famous or an old girlfriend? A ridiculous comment now, if McGavin was the last. But it still made sense, for all hope lies in ruin. He looked away from his watch and into Melissa’s cold eyes.

Melissa turned back to her comrades, “We’ve tried the calm and quiet method…” she muttered back into the wind.

Then hands were covering him, the wind back against his body with full force. The shotgun went off but found no target. McGavin looked up into Melissa’s face, the faces around hers, and gasped as they turned into bone and rotting flesh. The newly dead and the ancient, all clawing at McGavin and working to crush the life from him. Sharp bones pressed into his skin, drawing blood through countless wounds.

Take him! The wind seemed to scream. It must be now!

Two minutes.
120 seconds.
So many voices.
His family. Friends.
You will not be erased.
I don’t need you.
We need you!
I…am.

McGavin ground his teeth. “I am!” He punched, kicked against the mob…still he was pulled under, the skeletal hands clawing maniacally at him. They were panicked, rushed, blindly attacking him. For a moment, the wind was the only thing holding him down. Then the shouts and screams carried through the tempest struck fear into his heart, moved him to action.

Then McGavin was free.

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