Well, obviously not everything changed. You know that already. I’m still riding the subway, speaking English, etcetera, etcetera. How about, ‘things will never be the same again.’ That suits the situation better. I was in a Chipotle, about a block from Central Park. Midday, 12:00pm, exact. There was…a light. We’ve been calling it The Brightness, because it wasn’t exactly a light. A light comes from a single source, it’s warm, it’s mostly an ocular experience. But The Brightness seemed to just appear from all around us, a cool, soothing experience that, nonetheless, overwhelmed all of our senses. It lasted less than a few seconds, but it felt like much, much longer. It was such an alien, unreal phenomenon, that I remember every single part of it. When it ended, though, that was when things really rolled downhill.
Once, we were pieces of glass. Shattered by the first rock they threw, broken by the stray branch. The errant fist. Immediate. Sudden, we would splinter into shards, tiny splinters. We’d writhe and twist then and attack those who broke us. work our way under fingernails, push our bloody way into the quick, enjoying the screams. They’d regret it, then. But it never put us back together. That one is up to us.
Her head snaps up. Mud squelches and oozes, slugs trying to squirm away from booted feet. Ferals wouldn’t approach this slow, they’d be running and snapping. And the DemonDead wouldn’t bother being cautious. That leaves Still Men, who might be open to negotiation or…
Or Riders. People, with Demons guiding their every move. One more powerful Demon could control nearly eight, a whispered voice in the ears of the broken. They fought as a team, as one. They were implacable, deadly and inescapable.
Nikki eased her knives into her hands, ignored the itching of the rat bites. Fight or flight. Fight. Murder. Murder, murder, murder.
Scratching, gnawing noises inside the walls were the only warnings of their arrival. They burst through the holes in the walls, pus through a broken scab. They rushed her in a wave, scrabbling on the cold concrete. Tiny, furry, furious bodies. She was a source of meat. Nikki swung her cleaver into them, backing away, kicking and stomping, hacking the starving, angry creatures as them came. The bit at her legs, trying to climb her, get at the soft flesh above. Then they were past her, fleeing into the dark, the even darker. Not after her at all. Running from something. Leaving a sinking ship. Something wicked this way comes.
Boots tramped the mud outside her cold and lonely basement.
The long dark dragged on, as though never ending. A muted glow from distant hellfire, scattered stars through the smog. Nikki didn’t dare risk her torch. Dark things found prey on long nights like this. She sat in her concrete basement, closing her eyes for long peroids, adjusting to the darkness, drinking it in. Become it. Embrace it. And you can walk amongst it’s servants free and untroubled.
Water dripped from the crack in the ceiling. Inches from her eyes, it splashed, droplets exploding into tiny copies of themselves on the concrete. Nikki sighed and rolled over, hugging herself against the cold. A long night had swept in, sudden and oppresive. A faded sun, a hidden moon. A long dark. Wetness. Terror. Wrapped in stolen clothes, she waited for the light, and watched the drips.
(I’ve written about Nikki before. Click here for more)
The darkest edges of things are so often the sharpest. So, tippy-toe out there and slide your hands about, swipe and wipe your hands about, see what cuts into you. What makes an impression. What scars you and rips you and tears you. Blunder about in the dark and find the sharp shards of your future.
If you find the right spot, you can hammer just about anything through anything. Everything has cracks in it, weaks spots. Exploitable places. Take this human skull, for instance. No really, take it, hold it in your hands. Stay still now, while I find wooden stakes and a mallet. Hold it close. Hold it up against yourself and caress the lumps in the bone. Stroke them, trace them over with your fingers. Find the cracks. There are always cracks and weak spots. It’s just a matter of finding them.
Hitting hard enough.
It’s all gone now, into pieces scattered and lost. The NotQuite virus ate away your data-clusters like rats nibbling at concrete foundations. You didn’t notice how much damage had been done. Then it was too late and the whole thing came crumbling down around you. All your little fake friends. All your little fake family, loved ones, worlds, stories, petty heroics came crumbling down. Snowflakes into the fire. You were left, naked in the dark, in a hollow shell of your empire.
Yet there was a spark. And your fire can burn again.
Idea for a video game
A 3D platformer. You play one of a pair of twin brothers. At a young age, you race another through a maze to find a strange artefact at the end. Your brother takes it and runs off, laughing. You chase him out of the maze and back home. It is a fun day.
Many years later your brother tells you he has found another one of these artefacts and he needs your help to get it. You go along with his crazy scheme, as you have many times before. You are taken there by your significant other.
You make your way through the maze and find the artefact. It zaps you both as you approach, giving you a strange power and showing a map with the locations of other artefacts. Your brother pushes you over, intending to claim these powers for himself. You give chase, but he is to fast for you.
You decide that your brother must be stopped. He’s always been reckless and would surely misuse any power given to him. You and your significant other go after the next artefact. When you get there, it zaps you once again, giving you another power, but your brother shows up, having followed you in. He tries to take the artefact, but you attempt to fight him with your fists. If you win, he throws sand in your eyes, grabs the artefact and scarpers. If you lose, he helps you up, explains that he’s tired of being powerless against the larger world and takes the artefact.
This process is repeated several times. You make your way through a level, gain a new power (burst of speed, higher jump, small object telekinesis, underwater breathing etc) then your brothers shows up to take the artefact. Each time he grows more and more frustrated with your presence and your fights escalate in violence. Still, neither really wants to hurt the other and you both stop short of serious injury or death. Winning fights against your brother will make him more bitter and angry, while losing to him will make him more sympathetic towards you.
The powers effect him in different ways and he becomes increasingly violent and erratic. After about 4 levels he starts to go in first and you follow him in, through his trail of destruction. The next level you witness him killing an innocent.
Eventually you go after the final artefact-the one you found back when you were kids, still at your old house. You have a titanic battle with your brother and this time you are most definitely trying to kill one another. If he wins, he will kill you. If you win, he will be knocked off a cliff where you will catch him. He will beg your forgiveness and ask you to give him another chance. You can do so and pull him up, or let him fall to his death for his crimes. If you help him and you lost more fights to him than you won in the earlier levels, he will be genuinely remorseful and leave, giving up the artefacts. If you won more than you lost, he will call you a gullible fool and kill your significant other. You have to fight him again and this time it must end in the death of one or the other.
The game ends with you claiming the last artefact and the sun breaking through the clouds, signifying a new day.