Fiction Horror Science Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The repercussions of global warming were more severe than anticipated. With the warming of the planet came the rising of the waters to staggering new heights. The east coast of the United States is now where the Mississippi River used to run, leaving the Appalachian Mountains peeking out of the water like mere islands. Across the nation 440 million Americans struggle to find habitable land, much less work, leaving those who are not exceedingly rich, impoverished, or homeless. Resettlement, intensified storms, severe droughts, uncontrollable wildfires, along with other natural disasters and wildlife encroachment due to loss of habitat has made agriculture next to impossible. Food is now scarce and expensive. Hidden deep within the glaciers, diseases that were unbeknownst to us humans, uncontrollable and incurable, are sweeping over the planet. The dying and the dead alike crowd the streets with nowhere to go; no one to treat them, no one to bury them. War erupted for territory worldwide, each nation looking to preserve its people, its culture, if anything at all is to be preserved. Now war rules the globe with pestilence and famine by its side.

In an effort to render medical services, ration food, rectify the economy, and enforce peace, the world government passed the Emergency Health, Safety, and Economic Stabilization Act of 2133, which requires all citizens to be implanted with a digital implant wallet (DIW). A DIW is a microchip imbedded in the hand that has all of a citizen's personal information on it and all that information is readily accessible by scanner. Each DIW is GPS trackable, is the only way to handle financial transactions, and is connected to the government’s databases through the internet. In ancient Hebrew, letters represented numbers. The Hebrew waw (w) represented 6, as in www equals 666. So, when you put it all to together, to us Christians the DIW is the biblical mark of the beast.

A group of us from a church in Iowa (thirty-one when we left, now twenty-three) went off the grid, refusing implantation, and made our way to the upper-floors and rooftop of the flooded Springfield & Ives tower off the west coast of what’s left of California. Here we have built a self-sustaining community away from the law where we await the day of rapture safe from persecution.

I use the term self-sustaining loosely. Much of what we need comes from the mainland and we send out scavenger and hunting parties as needed. The last one we sent out never returned, so we had no choice but to send out another, this time with more people to determine what happened to the first party. The second party has been gone a week and I expect them back any day now. Even though I’m a former army ranger still in the prime of his life, I am always excluded from mainland excursions. Being their pastor, they see me as invaluable at this time. Our maintenance tech, Mark, always remains behind as well as one of the nurses; this time it’s Jason. Other than them, my wife, Sarah, and daughters, Stephanie, Maddy, and Lexi are the only ones here at Springfield and Ives. The loneliest we have been in over a year.

As I water the rooftop vegetable beds, a cold blast of wind blows in from the direction of the mainland; a curious occurrence since the mainland is east of us. The howl of the wind carries on it a mix of sounds like sound itself is fleeing the grasp of an apex predator nipping at its heels. Everything becomes eerily quiet as the white noise that surrounds me dissipates with the snap of a finger. I look to the others tending to the raised beds to see if it's just me. Everyone's looking around, confused, and concerned.

 I can’t speak for them, but fear clenches hold of my heart and sends a chill down my spine. It isn’t the lack of sound. It's a sense of being watched, stalked by something unseen but you know is there, searching for you. I feel like I should be hiding, praying not to be found, but instead I walk to the east side of the roof and peer into the dark horizon. Off in the not so far distance is a single boat, a rowboat. It has a single man on board coming in our direction. The dark overcast of dust, ash, and smoke from wars, volcanic eruptions, and wildfires throughout the world provide a chilling backdrop to this man’s arrival.

“Who is that daddy,” Stephanie asks from over my shoulder, giving me a terrible start. I didn’t hear her footsteps, not even the rustling of her clothes, nothing to alert me to her presence.

“Probably just someone looking for a safe haven, somewhere beyond government control,” Sarah says, as she comes up and takes my arm.

“No, not all the way out here. Not alone, anyway, and not in a rowboat. He would have no way to sustain himself. He’s rowing this way with intent,” I tell them as I turn and head for the stair well.

“He might have gotten separated from a larger group, Tom, and is coming to us for help,” Sarah calls out behind me.

I pay little attention to her words. The fear that has overcome me is telling me to be cautious. I don’t know why I am so afraid at the moment, but this guy's timing couldn’t be worse. I pass Jason on the stairs as he’s making his way up to the roof.

“Hey, Jason, have you noticed any changes in hearing?”

“Yes, it’s quite peculiar. Like there's no sound, but I hear people in my head when they talk to me, like my ears are being bypassed. The only explanation I can come up with is that one of those mysterious new diseases has made its way out here,” he says with little to no confidence in his voice.

“There’s a stranger approaching on the east side. Please, tell everyone up there not to interact with him until I get back up there. I’m going for a gun, just to be safe.”

Jason assures me he’ll do so, and I make my way down to the maintenance room we built where the guns are locked up in a locker. In the maintenance room, Mark takes a moment to show me that his hammer doesn’t make a sound when hitting something. I told him what Jason told me, and it seemed to suffice, although I’m not sure I believe it. I unlock the locker to find only a single revolver left. It’s loaded, but there’s no other ammo. I was hoping for a shotgun, but this will have to do. Everything went with the scavenger and hunting parties. I put the gun in my waistband and head back up to the roof. When I get there, Sarah is chatting it up with the stranger down below, giggling like some sort of schoolgirl, and the girls seem to be enjoying the conversation along with her.

Jason approaches me with a shrug of the shoulders, “I told them, Tom, but they were insistent on talking to this guy.”

“Sarah! Girls! What did I say,” I question them, my heart sinking into a state of sorrow. It was unexpected and comparable to the time I watched my mother die when we were in a car accident when I was ten. All my emotions seem to be magnified. I could see myself being a little hurt that they disobeyed me, but sorrowful? That’s a bit extreme.

“He’s harmless, Tom, and quite charming. Besides, I’m a grown woman, capable of deciding who she talks to,” Sarah uncharacteristically snaps back at me as she steps back from the ledge.

“Yeah, dad, you don’t have to be such a hard ass all the time,” Lexi snorts as the girls head back inside. Usually my sweet quiet one, I was a little stunned by her attitude. None of the girls have ever talked to me like that, but if one did, I would have never guessed Lexi.

Brushing it off, I prop myself on the ledge and take a look at this guy. He would have been rowing for hours, at least twelve, yet his grey suit still looks freshly pressed, not a strand of his perfectly combed silver hair is out of place, and he looks as rested as if he just power napped. “Hey down there, I’m Thomas Kirk. Do you have a name?”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Kirk. I’m Silas Abaddon. I came across some of your friends back on the mainland when they were searching my house for usable goods.”

“Do these friends have names?"

“I only know them by what they called each other: McCallister, Fritzy, Bones, Stacey, Momma, and Erin. I was supposed to come back with them, but there was a shootout with law enforcement. Fritzy and Bones are dead, and the others were taken prisoner. I escaped because I chose to hide instead of fight.”

“What happened to the other parties?”

“What other parties?”

“Tom, at least invite the man in to eat and drink. It is the Christian thing to do.”

She’s right. Despite the fact I instinctively don’t trust this guy, the least I can do is feed him before turning him away. “Alright Mr. Abaddon, go halfway down the south side. There will be an opening you can fit through. Come back around to the east stairwell and we’ll meet you there.”

As I head to the stairwell nausea sets in. I really don’t like the idea of letting this guy in; and the name Abaddon is not reassuring. Jason and I head down three flights of stairs. The fourth flight is flooded at the bottom, so we keep the door to the fourth flight locked. When we get there, Mr. Abaddon is peering in through the little slat window in the door. His expressionless gaze turns to a warming smile, and what I thought were pitch black eyes at first turn out to be bright blue. He is a tall man. Jason and I both stand in around six-foot, and this guy has several inches on us. I'm relieved when Mark steps into the stairwell carrying his soundless hammer.

“Mark, why don’t you join us for a minute,” I say as I unlock the door. Pulling the gun from my waist band, I let Mr. Abaddon in.

“Thanks for taking me in. Fritzy said you guys had quite the communal family here and that you would be most hospitable.”

“To be honest with you, I’m not sure if you are going to be staying long, but you’re welcome to eat and drink, and I guess stay the night given the time.”

“Whatever hospitality you can show me will be much appreciated,” he says, his smile never fading.

“Silas Abaddon, this is Jason Edmonds, our nurse, and Mark Schuster, our industrial engineer. We’re going to escort you upstairs and have some dinner.”

We make our way up the stairs to the top floor which was once a CEOs luxury office suite. The meeting table serves as a dining table. There is a bar and game area with poker table and indoor putting green and a lounge area with expensive sofas and chairs looking out over the ocean. Jason and Mark enter the room first with Mr. Abaddon and I behind them.

“Silas,” Sarah welcomes warmly when suddenly Mark hits Jason over the head with his hammer. There’s no sound but blood splatters. Sarah looks like she is screaming, but no sound is emitting from her mouth. I see the same horrified expressions in the girls who are climbing the back of the couch, hugging each other. Mark is still pounding on Jason when I make my way around Mr. Abaddon to get the gun in his face. He looks up at me terrified and confused.

“I don’t know what happened, Tom, honest. I don’t even remember doing that. You know me I would never…”

“We saw you,” Stephanie blurts out in fear and anger as Sarah rushes to them to comfort them.

“She’s right, Mark. Let’s get you tied up downstairs. When the others come back, we’ll decide what to do with you, but until then I need to always know where you are at. I’m not putting my family at risk.”

Mark backs his way out of the room, and I follow him down the stairs with the gun. He seems oddly remorseful for just doing something so malicious and is being cooperative. I use zip-ties I found in the maintenance room to bind him to a pipe in a janitor's closet off the hall.

“It wasn’t me, Tom. You have to believe me. I wouldn’t have done that to anyone, much less Jason. It’s him, that Mr. Abaddon. He gets in your head…” Mark pleads, but at the mention of our mysterious guest, I realize that in all the commotion I had left my family with that stranger unprotected.

I sprint up three flights of stairs, taking them two at a time. When I get to the top floor and enter the suite, everyone is seated at the table as Sarah serves dinner, talking and laughing like nothing ever happened. Sitting in my normal seat at the head of the table is Mr. Abaddon.

“Tom... Tom!” I look over at my wife, panting and sweating, confused by their sudden change in demeanor. “Can you get rid of that,” she says with a shooing motion towards Jason’s body. “I’d like it gone before you sit down to eat.”

“Yeah, I planned on that, but don’t you all think we should go up and have a quick memorial before we eat,” I say, feeling we owe our friend some respect after such an untimely death.

“Ugh, do we have to dad, we’re just starting to get to know Mr. Abaddon,” Maddy disrespectfully protests.

“Yes, you do! Just because you have a visitor…” a bang on the table and my wife’s angry expression as she rises from her seat interrupts me.

“That’s enough, Tom! I don’t know what has gotten into you today, but you have been hostile towards Silas before he even got here. Get rid of that body and you better be civil when you come back!”

I begin to doubt myself. My emotions have been running high. Maybe it is me and not them. But this fear, this terror inside me is screaming caution and we just witnessed a murder by someone who isn’t by nature a murderer. I wrap Jason in bed sheets and fling him over my shoulder. On the roof I pray for his soul and say goodbye before rolling him off the ledge into the waters below.

When I reenter the top floor suite, they are gathered around the table laughing and drinking, even the girls, the youngest of which is sixteen.

“I thought we all agreed we wouldn’t touch that alcohol, much less give it to our kids,” I yell at Sarah who’s laughing and touching Mr. Abaddon’s hand.

“Oh, lighten up, Tom. It’s a celebration. It’s been so long since we’ve talked to someone from the mainland and Silas is filled with stories and news, come join us.”

“Yeah, dad, once you get to know Mr. Abaddon, you’ll come to love him the way we have,” Stephanie tells me.

“I’m sure Mr. Abaddon is quite the peach, but I better take some food down to Mark,” I tell them as I dish up a plate and leave, terribly concerned that my family is turning on me.

When I get to the janitor’s closet where I left Mark, I find him balled up on the floor covered in blood. I didn’t think to take his pocketknife and instead of using it to escape, he slit his throat. I wrap him in a tarp I found in the maintenance room and repeat the process I just completed with Jason.

When I get back to the top floor suite, my daughters are dancing naked around Mr. Abaddon as my wife copulates with him in a chair. I grab a blanket off the sofa and cover the closest child before forcefully removing Sarah from Mr. Abaddon’s lap. Sarah looks at me with black eyes and shrieks like a thousand forks scraping a thousand plates. Mr. Abaddon stands and levitates a foot off the ground. Maddy and Lexi float up above him as Sarah and Stephanie stand to the right and left of him, their eyes black. First Stephanie lunges at me. Then Lexi dives towards me. Next thing I know, I’m trying to subdue my family, trying to keep them from killing me as they swoop in and out of the air, scratching, biting, punching, kicking. I finally see an opening for Mr. Abaddon, so I draw the gun and fire a shot into his chest. The sound I heard earlier in the day, the sound of all sounds fleeing, comes bursting forth momentarily and his true self is revealed. His skin is blue, and his hair is black. He has yellow eyes and a forked tongue. From out of his back comes four tentacles that look like snakes, and in the mouths of the snakes are the heads of my wife and daughters. I fire at Mr. Abaddon until the chamber is empty. He drops to his knees and releases the girls. They are stunned and confused, but back to trusting me, so I rush them down the stairs to Mr. Abaddon’s rowboat.

“Honey, what’s going on? Why are we naked,” Sarah asks frantically.

“Bad company corrupted good character and let’s leave it at that for now,” I reply, rowing as fast as possible away from Springfield & Ives, leaving Mr. Abaddon behind.

June 28, 2023 04:21

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