Waking up a second time with a mild headache wasn’t what Alexus wanted. The throbbing pain of getting knocked out left a jarring pain on the side of his temples. He felt the sting when he touched it, waking him up even further. Everything came back to him in a flood of unwanted memories. Finding out that he had died for a moment and resurrected, battling a crazy demon croc lady, and finally being knocked out and dragged somewhere wasn’t what he expected to go through. Who knew that all this could happen in one day if it’s even still the same day.
“Hey, you okay?” A man’s voice startled Alexus, causing him to jump out of bed.
Alexus raised his fist and unconsciously struck forward towards the unsuspecting person. His hands were caught in the man’s fist, he swung with his other, hoping that it would connect, but so far, he only swung at the air.
“Woah there.” The man chuckled as he came into focus. A bald man in his early to mid-thirty stood standing over Alexus. He couldn’t help but feel a bit creeped out that someone was standing over me, watching him sleep. “That’s quite the welcome.”
“Sorry,” Alexus grunted, pulling back my fist. “You are?”
“Marcus Ivanov. You?”
“Alexus Tyger, spelled with a u not an I.”
Marcus was a giant buff man; he wore a simple grey shirt and a sweatpant that did not fit his body. Alexus swore Marcus was ready to burst out of his clothes any moment now if he moved around a bit too much. Marcus gave off a don’t-mess-with-me vibe the way he held himself, making Alexus feel a bit uncomfortable. He could tell he was Russian, especially from his last name.
“I bet you’re surprised that you are here chucked away with some strange man, right?” Marcus leaned over on the side of the bunk bed rail next to the one Alexus was sitting on.
“Yea…”Alexus slowly spoke.
“Well, buddy, you are our fourth roommate.”
“Who’s the other?” Alexus searched around the dimly lit room and found other bunk beds on the left side. There was also a door not too far away, leading to a bathroom. Metal chairs and metal desks chained to the wall sat on the opposite side of where he was sitting; he had to wonder why they went so far to chain the desk and chairs.
“That would be Timothy and Jones. They’re five to a room, but luckily for us, we’re still four. Another person, and I swear it’s going to get crowded in here.” Marcus grunted, displeased at the thought of another person rooming with them.
“Where are they?” Alexus didn’t see anyone here; it was only Marcus.
“At the cafeteria. I heard that we had a recruit, and as a leader, I’m supposed to be here to greet you.”
“I’m not a recruit,” Alexus replied, not liking the thought of being recruited when he was seriously kidnapped. Whoever thought recruiting meant kidnapping, the people need to check their brains.
“Kidnapped?” Marcus thought it over for a moment, then it clicked in his mind.
“You must’ve done something to get spirited away. What did you do? Runaway? Punch a lady in the face? Possibly a wanted man? Murder?”
Alexus couldn’t help but fidget. Everything Marcus said was what he had done, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to answer.
Marcus burst out laughing, causing Alexus to jump. What was so funny that Marcus would be laughing so hard? He couldn’t help but stare at Marcus strangely as he reeled back, hitting his leg hard. “Don’t worry about it; at least half of us in this mental facility have already checked off all the things that I just said.”
“I’m not mental.”
“I know. We all know. So what did you do?” Marcus became serious, looking at him with a frozen expression.
Alexus wasn’t sure if he should tell him what he saw, but Marcus was here just like him, meaning that Marcus might have seen what he had seen.
“You saw them, haven’t you?” Marcus’ voice cut clearly through Alexus’ doubt, making him freeze.
The way Marcus said it made Alexus have a flashback. Alexus couldn’t help but gulp in fear; beads of sweat started to drip on his head, making his hand all clammy. Seeing something monstrous that he would find under the bed or in the closet brought back memories of hiding under the covers. The reason: the fear of the Boogeyman that would come bursting out from the closet to gobble him up. Right now, the Croc Lady was the Boogeyman that sprung out of the closet, and she was way too real to be a dream.
Alexus nodded my head, confirming Marcus’ question.
“She was a monster.” Alexis’s words were hushed.
“I bet.” Marcus chuckled.
“You don’t believe me?” Alexus glared, not liking how Marcus wasn’t taking him seriously.
“No, I do. I heard from the others that they dealt with monsters and ended up here.”
“Look, if you don’t take it seriously, then don’t ask.” Alexus was getting annoyed fast. “I’m not mental.”
“Nobody said that you are. This mental hospital is a cover-up, and my friend is an Ouroboros.”
“Come again?” The words didn’t click in Alexus’s head. What was he saying? I’m an Ouroboros? Did he mean the Ouroboros that have been popping up all over the world? He thought as it jumbled up into a weird puzzle-like knot.
“You’re an Ouroboros, just like how I am.”
“You’re joking, right? Me an Ouroboros? Are you sure you got the right man?”
Marcus, for a moment, went silent and started to chuckle once again.
It was like a sledgehammer hitting Alexus’ mind, rocking him into the core.
“It seems it all clicked from your expression.”
“That’s not possible,” Alexus spoke, not fully understanding how or what has happened for him to change into an Ouroboros.
“I know this is all new, but don’t get me wrong. Everyone here is Ouroboros, and you and my friend are newly awakened. You died and became a whole new man. Literally.”
“I-” No words seem to come out, and instead, Alexus gaped like a fish.
“Like you were saying, you saw her as her true self, didn’t you? The monster, or should I say demon? She had black smoke coming out from her body, black bugs that seemed to crawl around her like she was infested with them, and ghastly red eyes that seemed to stare into your soul? Right?”
“Yes!” Alexus burst out without thinking, gripping the edge of the bed. Marcus nailed all the descriptions of what he saw. “Her face turned into some kind of Nile crocodile with snakes coming out of her head. Even the bugs remind me of an Egyptian scarab.”
“You fought with an Egyptian-type demon?” Then, with a loud whistle, Marcus gave him a knowing smile. “I’m surprised that you’re still alive.”
“Wait, was I supposed to die?”
“Well, yes. The unlucky ones die before they come here. Plus, nobody, I mean nobody, has survived an Egyptian Demon so far nor seen one in close quarters. The older the demons, the stronger they are, and the Egyptian types are quite ancient.”
Alexus’s head was swirling in chaos. She was a demon and an ancient one to boot. He was fortunate to even be alive. Even more surprising was that both of them were Ouroboros, meaning he wasn’t entirely human anymore.
“So Demons are real?” Alexus couldn’t help but ask to reassure them that he wasn’t just being made fun of.
“Yea, you fought one, didn’t you, and escaped?”
“Well…yea, though I think she might be dead.”
Marcus whistled loudly again; he straightened up in disbelief at what he had just heard. “You killed an Egyptian Demon? Wow, even I was lucky to harm mine and getaway. You must have a steel will to fight back against something like that. The majority of us usually run away. We don’t know what the hell we are fighting until we arrive here and share our stories.”
Alexus had a hard time believing that Marcus would run away; the way he carried himself looked like he wouldn’t, but he guessed appearance wasn’t everything.
“Can you explain to me what an Ouroboros even really means?”
“You don’t know?” Marcus raised his eyebrow, quite surprised at Alexus.
“Was I supposed to know something?”
“Well, yes.” Drawing back his hand, Marcus rubbed his bald head. He then dropped his hand to the side. “The moment you are awakened, you should’ve known what you are. We all do, though you’re the first case we don’t know. Strange.”
“I must’ve died and missed the memo when I awoke.” Alexus half-heartedly chuckled.
“I think you did.” Marcus was serious in what he said, making Alexus feel uncomfortable. “Well, Ouroboros are people like us who have evolved into stronger humans. We’re three times stronger, faster, and heal quicker than normal. Our minds are more receptive to this world’s ‘true’ reality. We can see beyond the illusion that these demons have cast around themselves and also see beyond the unordinary, or you could say the veil. The problem is, once we see them for who they are, they instantly know that we can see them. Eventually, they become hunted down by them.”
Alexus shuddered. Hunted. That wasn’t something that he ever wanted. Now to hear that these demons would pursue them wasn’t something he was ready for. To possibly go back into the outside world and see them just plainly walking out in broad daylight sounded terrifying. He can deal with humans anytime, but monsters. That’s a different story, especially demons.
“Then what about those demon creatures? How come I didn’t know anything about them when I awoke? Don’t the others know about them when they awake?”
“No, that’s a bit different. You have to experience the demons, and for some reason, they are always there when you first awaken. Everyone here had run into at least one. Some even two in their awakening.”
“Two?!” Just the thought of meeting two was already mind-boggling in itself. They were something he didn’t want to ever run into again anytime soon.
“Things happen.” Marcus shrugged.
“Are they even human?” Alexus couldn’t help but ask, “I mean when they die. They seem to leave behind the human host. I don’t even know if I killed someone.”
“There are demons for sure. No question about it; the problem is that they take over the host, kill the soul, and eventually become the real owner of the body. They are not even considered human anymore. Though they follow the same set of rules when they inhabit a human flesh, that’s the plus side in all this. So what others see is usually us killing other humans.”
Alexus cringed. That must’ve been why the demon left the body behind. It was dead, useless,
and broken after he choked her out.
“Why don’t we get you something to eat? I bet they have starved you since they took you into custody.”
Alexus didn’t realize how hungry he was until now, his stomach growling, telling him that he needed to feed it right this moment. But, of course, now that Alexus thought about it, he didn’t even get to eat the croissant he had bought, meaning he hasn’t had anything to eat for two days now.
“I’ll take you on that offer.” Alexus got up.
“Good, because I was getting hungry as well. I’ll take you to the others.”
They both walked out of the room; Alexus trailed behind him, taking everything in as much as possible. He was pretty surprised at where we were. This place was a top-quality facility with name-brand equipment. Nothing about this whole building screamed mental hospital; everything just looked futuristic and even clean. Every couple of doors, he would even see plants neatly arranged and taken care of, giving the place a nice refreshing feel.
Marcus pushed open a double metal door, the loud, obnoxious sound of people laughing and talking burst through the door. Alexus couldn’t help but wearily stare around; the thought of being surrounded by other Ouroboros made him feel a bit nervous. He heard on the news that quite a bit of them were killers, but now he thought about those killers; they must’ve been like him, people who had fought an actual demon and lived.
Feeling a little better, the cafeteria momentarily went quiet as people looked over in curiosity. Everyone was wearing the same colored grey shirt and pants; even Alexus wore ugly clothes.
Marcus walked past quite a few people, ignoring some glares, while the others respected.
However, Alexus felt that Marcus was high up in the pecking order of the Ouroboros community.
“Hey, Marcus!” An African American male waved Marcus down. His hair was braided into dreads which were slicked back into a ponytail. He was quite fit, heavily decorated with tattoos up and down both arms. Six angel wings were a giant cross mixed with a sword on his right arm and trimmed around it. While the other side was the complete opposite of the beautiful carving of the tattoos on his right. Instead, they were six bat wings elegantly merged with a grim reaper.
They weren’t bad. He thought the tattoos looked pretty cool.
“Hey, Jones.” Both of them did their handshake and finished off with a chest bump.
“New blood?” Jones turned towards Alexus, raising his hand for a handshake. Alexus took it and squeezed.
“Yep, the ninety-nine one.” Marcus slapped Alexus on his shoulder, lurching him forward. He caught himself before he fell into Jones.
“We’ve been killin’ it with recruits. This is like what? The second one of this month? That’s quite a lot for the past three years. I swear the number of Ouroboros has been increasing rapidly.”
“Well, you could say it’s a good thing. As an evolved human, we’ll be able to see the reality of this world, especially against those demons.”
“Still, there’s not enough of us to be saying that.” Jones sat back down while Marcus and Alexus took the opposite seat from him.
“Yo, Marcus. Good to see you’re here. I was getting bored with waiting.” A young man who seemed to be in his early twenties spoke tapped on his bowl with his spoon. He was sitting right next to Alexus on his left. Compared to Jones, he had a more geeky appearance, slim shoulders and arms, and had a thin face. Alexus could tell that he had a bit of Latino mixed in his blood from his eyes and hair. He was a pretty boy by girls’ standards.
“You know me. I got to introduce the newbie. It’s protocol.” Marcus smiled. “The one on my left is Timothy Ortiz, our tech wiz, and the one on my right with all those tattoos is Jones Robinson.”
“Alexus Tyger.” Everyone else nodded, acknowledging his presence. He sat down and saw Marcus shifting through the digital menu that appeared on the table. His fingers swiped through the many available foods.
Alexus followed his action and found out that this facility served some pretty high-quality stuff. His fingers were already pressed down on hamburgers and onion rings. The moment he pressed to accept, the digital screen gave him a countdown until delivery. He was impressed with the level of service even more.
“Yea, still you get too engrossed in it. It’s not like you’re going to lose him to Simon. He doesn’t compare a cent to you.”
“Doesn’t matter. What’s important is that we don’t push the new blood like Simon and get them killed. I swear he’s trying to start a cult with his demon killer bullshit. But, wait, let me take it back. He calls himself the new wave of humanity: The Enlightened Beings.”
“Though you got to say that it’s pretty cool,” Timothy replied. He was chewing on a meatloaf while listening in on the conversation.
“Sure, it’s pretty cool, but right now, we don’t know much about the demon except for what we all experienced. We’re not some heroes that go around saving people. We can barely stay alive. Plus, look at how the media label us. Killers. Murders. Outcast. Unwanted.”
Alexus could tell that Jones wasn’t pleased with how the media was portraying them as a whole. Even he couldn’t help but feel a bit down at the labels they were given.
“Being a hero sounds worse than being a villain. They just don’t know what they are dealing with. If only the ‘normals’ could see…” Timothy thought it over on what he had said.
“True, but right now, our priorities are different. We need to survive these demon attacks when we one day get out into society,” said Marcus.
“I’m sorry, normals?” Alexus couldn’t help but ask.
“People who aren’t like us,” said Jones. “Though I believe it makes me feel less human when he says it like that.”
“What? It’s true,” countered Timothy. “We’re not normal anymore. You need to wake up and get on with the train fast. Out there, in the ‘normal’ world, we’re seen as mental. So what are you going to do if you come across another Demon? You know just as well as I that these demons are not going to let us go.”
“Still, I would like to see myself as normal as everyone else for a bit longer.”
“I swear, you’re in serious denial.”
“Let me have some peace of mind. Eventually, I’ll run with the program.” Jones harrumphed.
“You better wake up fast before you get killed.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine.”
Timothy shook his head and continued eating. A man wearing all blue with a company Logo wrote Seventh Sanctum Corporation. It was a simple double-winged design with a sword cutting through both wings. The man walked over with two plates of food.
Marcus raised his hand. He was handed the food, and Marcus happily accepted it.
“Hamburger with onion rings?”
Alexus raised him and took the food hungrily. It’s been a long time since he had an actual full-course meal. He was skipping out on a couple of meals to save money. Right now, he didn’t need to hold back. It took a lot of restraint not to wolf down the food and instead, actually, take his time to enjoy every single bite.
“Anything else?” The man in blue asked.
“No, thanks, Harry,” said Marcus as he waved his hand away.
“No problem. If you need something else, you have the menu to order from.” He left, leaving the four of them alone once again.
Jones leaned over, and he whispered. “I got good news. Simon is planning a break out of the facility.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea right now.” Marcus’ eyes scrunched up. “He’s putting us all in danger.”
“I don’t think so. We can finally get back on with our real lives, plus we won’t be caged in this building for the rest of our lives.”
“There is a reason we’re here, you know. It’s best to use it to our advantage before we attempt to escape.”
“Still, I would like to live a normal life. But, I still got a girlfriend waiting for me back outside.”
“That’s been three years. I put money on it that your girlfriend has forgotten about after what you have done.”
Alexus couldn’t help but ask. “What did he do?”
“Killed a young demon girl; she was recently born a demon too. Swats were on him in a flash. He was on death row until the CEO of Seventh Sanctum brought him in.”
“We all know that was a demon,” Jones countered.
“I thought you wanted to be normal.” Timothy goaded with a smug smile on his face.
“Shut up, you know what I mean.”
“Damn it, fine! They are normal, and I’m not. Happy?!” Jones was getting pissed.
Jones scowled. Timothy was having fun annoying Jones. “Anyways,” he cleared his throat, and his voice went down into a whisper again. “It’s going down in a couple days. Are you in or out?”
“Out,” said Marcus. “The safest place is here for now.”
“Same,” Timothy replied. “Right now, I have everything I need. But, they are willing to let me play with some new toys that you won’t see on the streets. That’s so awesome.” He excitedly explained.
“What about you?” Jones turned towards Alexus, hoping that he would say yes.
Alexus wasn’t sure if he wanted to leave this place yet. Free food, not worrying about paying bills, and even a roof over his head. Indeed a blessing in disguise, but still, he was a bit skeptical about this place. “Well…”
“Think about it. You’ll see why this place isn’t right. There is seriously something wrong with this whole place; mark my words, it’s not what you guys think it is.”
“Sure~” Timothy shrugged his shoulders, not caring what Jones had said.
“I’ll think about it.” Still, Alexus, on the other hand, took his words to heart. Who knows what kind of messed up science experiment could be going on here, and if there was a hint of it, he was for sure getting out of here.
“Good.” Jones felt satisfied. “You’ll see a lot of things that’ll be happening; I suggest you keep your ears and eyes peeled open.”
“Don’t take him too seriously. He’s just way too paranoid,” said Timothy.
“I’m not; you’re just too relaxed about this whole shit.”
“Guys, relax. We got other things to worry about,” said Marcus. He held up his hands to stop the two.
“Such as?” Alexus asked.
“We got physical to go through.” Marcus had a wide grin on his face.
Alexus wondered what Marcus had in his mind to have such a silly grin.
“What’s with that smile?” Alexus couldn’t help but ask.
Timothy snorted and chuckled. He nudged Marcus with a knowing grin. “You’ll see.”
“Excuse me?” Alexus was completely confused, not understanding what they were talking about.
“Girls,” Jones said with a knowing tone, but he wasn’t as excited as the two.
“Oh…” Then it hit Alexus; he hasn’t seen a single female here in the cafeteria so far. He searched around, but everyone was a male.
“We’re divided into two groups. We don’t get to see the girls except on examination,” Timothy answered Alexus’ question without even asking.
“Well, boys, let’s go meet our future prospective girlfriends,” said Marcus with a chuckle as he was the first one to get up.
“Right behind you.” Timothy followed after; eventually, Alexus got up as well. Girls, such thoughts haven’t even crossed his mind for a very long time. Of course, he was looking forward to them, but what he enjoyed was the three new comrades he had made in the short amount of time he had spent here. Maybe this new life was turning out better than he thought.