“Wait, come again?” Kim asked, shocked. “Are you serious?!” He asked, his eyebrows furrowed deeply as his face was etched with concern.
Alexus was a bit taken aback by his sudden words, he thought they would be pleased with going towards the Seventh Sanctum, but apparently, it wasn’t the case with a few of them. Maze frowned; David was concerned while everyone’s moods darkened. The only one who seemed happy at the thought of going was Jesse herself, who jumped up in joy.
“Really?!” Jesse asked, completely blazed with excitement. She jumped around on her tippy toes, excited at the thought of meeting more Ouroboros. “That’s so cool!”
“No, it’s not.” Kim cut her off coldly. “Did you forget where we are and realize how far that is? That is all the way to Springfield!”
“We’ll find a working car and get out of here,” Alexus replied. Springfield wasn’t a far drive. However, walking there was a different story that could probably take weeks or even months. Staying out in the demon-infested city wasn’t a good idea, and getting to the headquarters was a priority.
“Not here, you won’t,” Kim replied with a knowing tone. “All cars you attempt to start-up in the city will attract every demon in the vicinity. The best way is to walk as far away from the city as possible, and that will take days.” He hissed.
Alexus was starting to get annoyed at his pessimistic attitude and wanted to clock him for bringing everyone’s mood down.
“Look,” Alexus snapped towards him, facing him directly as he glared. “You either go back to the church and live a cowardly life until your life expires or….” His gaze swept across the group, emphasizing what he said next. “Follow us and have a chance to live again, free from the thought of possibly being killed by demons and not living afraid every day of your lives.”
The other’s eyes glimmered with the thought of living without fear; they had all heard of the time when such freedom was such a thing. They knew about the history of the past, but they were skeptical of it ever coming back.
“Are you sure?” Abbie asked. She spoke up with a hint of hope in her tone of voice. She stared at him, knowing that what he was saying could be a lie, but the thought of freedom and safety brought the courage out of her to ask. “Will we be safe?”
Without a second thought, Alexus said, “Yes.” He had a feeling that the sanctuary was the safest to be. There was a high chance that the Ouroboros had a better handle on the demon population around their areas and knew of a way to exterminate them.
It was better that they went to a more highly defended place than roam around the city with barely any weapons on them. He knew that they had enough bullets and power between Crystal and Alexus over hundreds of low-class demons, but it was a lot more of a challenge with higher-level demons with limited amounts of ammo and weapons from both of us.
“How are you so sure?” She asked once more. Alexus could tell the others were listening more closely than before. “Seventh Sanctum could be run over like the rest of the city, ending the world.”
Alexus let out a short snort. The thought of the world ending was plausible, but that wasn’t what he believed it would end up anytime soon.
“The demons need the human body to take over. So they are not going to just let humanity be completely extinct.” Alexus replied. The others were shocked, while Crystal nodded in agreement with what he had just said. “This has always been the case with demons, and with that reason only, the only real way for humanity to go extinct is the mother earth sending her retribution to humanity or…. humans kill each other.”
Alexus was about to raise his hands and stop her, but Crystal jumped in instead.
“Look, we fought demons and know them way more than normal people think. They need us to manifest in this world. Our bodies are the host for them, and they can barely manage to do things in this plane without a body. Why would they eradicate humans, yet, when we are needed?” She asked her.
Though when Alexus caught her saying yet, he felt a bit worrisome. Demons were fickle beings, and he wouldn’t be highly surprised if their goal was the damnation of the whole human race.
Abbie stuttered, caught off guard by what she had said, then she retorted. “They are demons.” Her words were simple and sharp. “Even if you guys have fought and personally met them, that doesn’t mean you know their ulterior motives. Have you not heard about the extensive amount of horrible things they have done?”
“I know.” Crystal replied. “It’s a normal thing.”
“Normal?!” Abbie gasped, her hands raised to her mouth.
“Look, even if there are demons out there that want to wipe out humanity, they are people out there that will fight back. So far, the Ouroboros has been countering the demon infestation problem. If you think you know any other way, please.” She waved her hand in front of her. “Tell me. I am all ears.”
Silenced between the two women, Abbie’s group was tense with their disagreement. But he understood them; they didn’t have the power to repel the demons he knew of, and they hadn’t killed anyone. The only one who killed a demon was them and any other Ouroboros.
To them, Alexus and Crystal were like heroes or maybe monsters, while they were innocent bystanders. He couldn’t help but sigh, scrunching his brows as his hands rubbed against his temple. Persuading frightened people shouldn’t be too hard, but at the same time, it was. Their doubts and fear got in the way too many times, making it difficult to think straight.
“Look, Crystal and I will protect you guys as best as possible. But, at the same time, just follow us closely as possible and listen to our directions. I’m not saying that you will all survive, though. It could probably be a few of us, even me.” Alexus knew he was scaring them a lot, but he wanted them to see the truth of the matter. “Though the end goal is to get to safety away from the city. Don’t you all want that?”
A few of them were slowly shaking their heads, and surprisingly even Kim, who was against the whole idea, agreed with what he had to say. Even though he was skeptical, he wanted freedom from constant fear. It was what they all wanted.
With a deep but short breath, Alexus stood up taller and gazed around one more time. None of them were backing down or shifted away. Eventually, he locked his gaze with Crystal, nodding my head towards her.
They started to walk again; this time, they made it towards the side emergency door that was still partially light with red. It flickered on and off as it let out an irritating buzzing sound. He reached over towards the door and slowly pushed it open as gently as possible, trying not to draw any attention outside. It took a moment for the door to jolt open, causing a loud squeaking sound.
Everyone froze; they knew that such loud sounds would bring unwanted attention. It was something they all didn’t want to happen as Crystal and Alexus had their hands on their weapons. Crystal’s eyes squinted as she leaned against the wall and peeked out. Then, she glanced around and stood silent.
All of them were on edge; they stood silent, waiting for her to give them a nod that everything was okay. Seconds passed by, and she didn’t move and stood there silent. Everyone could sense the heavy atmosphere as they waited patiently. It felt like time had slowed down, waiting for the answer if it was okay to go.
Rye was about to speak out when Jesse, behind him, raised her hand to cover his mouth to silence him. She knew it would bring trouble, and she stopped it from happening.
Eventually, the long, tense wait ended; Crystal glanced over her shoulder and motioned with her head to move out. Alexus nodded and knew that it was time to get out of here as quickly as possible and find a safer place to hole up for the night.
Crystal went out first, her hand holding tightly to her gun. He closely followed from behind, scanning around for any movement. He was surprised at where they ended up; they were in the middle of a small park behind skyscrapers surrounding the area. Unfortunately, the looming shadows from the skyscraper made the whole park even darker in the night light, making it a bit difficult to see.
It was like a desolate wasteland as the buildings were partially destroyed, and the barren trees were bent at funny angles. It twisted knots as the swing squeaked back and forth. The whole place felt empty, giving him a strange chill. The wind gently blew through the park and in between buildings, causing a slight whistle through the air. The whole of Chicago had a dark atmosphere around it; everywhere he looked, there was no escaping from the pitch darkness.
Not even a speck of the moonlight was out in the sky as the clouds covered it well. Sparks of lightning flashed overhead, but no sound of thunder followed after. Instead, the air felt moist and damp, as if the clouds were ready to pour rain.
In a single-file line, the others trailed behind wearily.
Alexus’ senses were in overdrive, paying attention to it as best as possible. They slowly creeped out, fully alert. A crinkle of paper-like sound resounded to the left; he wiped towards it and stared with his hand resting on his sword hilt by his hip.
The others flinched, worried for a split moment that the demons would come spilling out of the darkness and kill them. But, when Alexus saw that it was nothing more than the crinkled paper stuck in between the slide, Alexus’ body relaxed slightly.
Everyone quickly followed behind Alexus while Crystal covered their rear. Rye was picked up by David as his pace was too slow. As he hugged him so he wouldn’t fall. Their pace quickened, moving through the desolate park, passing the squeaking swings and the thunking seesaw that cracked up and down as if someone was on it.
Silence followed them. They moved through the rundown park and through the more open streets where flickers of street lights were still on.
Alexus tried his best to stay out of the streetlights like a plague. He didn’t want their bodies to cast shadows and alert any other beings in the vicinity, plus he knew that it would mess with their visions as it took time to adjust from dark to light and vice versa. They needed to see more in the dark than going a couple seconds blind because of the light. That couple of seconds could mean life or death, and it wasn’t something he ever wanted to risk. It was quite ironic that they were walking away from the light that the world had symbolized goodness, clarity, and safety. Now it was more of a hindrance to their progress to get to safety.
The others didn’t question why he didn’t walk down the open street where the light shines clear as day. It was almost welcoming, telling them it was okay. But, in a city like this, it was a death trap.
“Um….” Jesse whispered; even though it was soft, they all heard it.
Everyone froze; Alexus snapped around, looking for any movement because she spoke. Demons had a good hearing, so it was possible for them to even hear the whisper.
Jesse clasped her mouth, fearful of what she had done. When neither Crystal nor Alexus found any danger, he turned toward Jesse. Raising his hands, he motioned her to be quiet.
Jesse nodded; she knew what she did would get them in trouble, but she was curious about why they avoided the light. Like any kid, she wanted to walk in the safety of the streetlights.
Alexus motioned them to continue walking; they quietly marched through the packed street with abandoned cars. Some were flipped over; others opened up as if someone ran out and forgot to close them. There were even quite several cars crushed or crashed into one another. Some were even in walls, leaving behind an ugly holes.
Several dead bodies were dried-up bones and skin, held up together by their clothes. It was like walking down an endless cemetery that didn’t have grave markers.
Alexus could tell that some battles took place. Some of the buildings had large holes that weren’t caused by a car. Slash marks were apparent on walls, and cars were tipped over or smashed like a pancaked. As they continued to travel down the desolate street, there were areas where cars were cleared out and pushed against the wall like building blocks with street lamps bent at weird angles and streetlights falling onto the ground. The only obvious thing to see was the black markings on the ground as if something burned and left scorch on the floor.
Their travels down the desolate streets even got creepier. Alexus didn’t know what or how it was possible, but when they turned right to cut through the road and pass the upturned cars, what welcomed them was a clear pathway. No cars. No damage to the buildings.
The only thing present was the ghastly images of human figures burnt into the walls like the Hiroshima shadows that got etched from the atomic bomb. There wasn’t just one, but many.
Jesse whimpered; she gazed around, scared as she cozied up to David. Even Rye stuck even closer as he suckled on his thumb harder. David gripped tightened around Rye; his eyes widened from disbelief and horror. Maze squeezed Kim’s hands, sticking closer to him than before.
“You gotta be kidding me….” Kim whispered in a disbelief gasp. He felt very uncomfortable from the mural-like shadows on the building walls and ground. “This is creepy as hell.”
Alexus had to agree with him completely. Seeing humans burnt into the wall gave him chills. He could tell that it was instantaneous as there were none where the person was running away in fear.
He wondered how it was possible. He didn’t see any supposed atomic bomb dropped in the middle of Chicago; the only answer was that it was a demon.
“Brother…” Jesse whimpered. She was scared of going through this way. “I don’t like this way.”
“It’ll be alright, Jess.” David held her closer, he straightened up and tried to look as confident as he could, but Alexus could tell that this was all a facade to reassure his sister.
Jess glanced over towards Alexus with her eyes, begging him not to go down this path. He thought it over for a moment, figuring out a different route to get to our destination. It wasn’t too far away; the problem was that going through this way was faster to get to their destination than cutting around, which could delay our travel time by a couple hours. Staying out here in the middle of the night where demons prowled was a bad idea.
“What’s the hold-up?” Crystal asked in a whisper as she walked up towards Alexus as he was standing still, pondering what to do next. “Are we going this way or not?”
“Is there a problem or something that I don’t know about?”
Alexus sighed. “Not really.”
“Then let’s go. Don’t let the burnt shadows scare you.” Crystal tried to console him. “If this is the way to get to our destination faster, we might as well quickly pass it and get it over with.”
“Are you sure?” Kim asked. He snapped his attention around wearily. He wasn’t a fan of standing around any longer than necessary. “This place gives me the creeps more than back at the church. So where exactly are we going?”
“My old apartment….” Alexus replied. Too many things had changed, but it was something to go off from. The familiarity was the comfort he needed in this war-torn city, giving him the confidence he needed. Luckily, the closer he got to his old home, the more he remembered the landmarks that he was familiar with.
With the decision made, Alexus took a step forward. “Let’s go.”
The others followed, walking quickly. They went through the partially lit open street. Every block they walked and passed, the murals of the shadows were creepier than the next. Alexus wasn’t sure how it was possible, but some of the shadows had four arms, three legs, or even two heads stuck on one body. Even elongated arms and legs looked like they were melting off the person itself.
A harsh wind whistled through the air, pushing the debris around as a loud thunking-like sound was heard rolling across the paved ground. The lingering smell of burnt flesh drifted in the air, making his nose crinkle up with disgust. Everyone could smell the foul air as they tried their best to ignore the smell.
Suddenly, out of the corner of his eyes, he thought he saw something move. Whipping his head to the left, he stared. Nothing. Again, something caught his attention, but just as quickly as he moved, nothing.
The others were just as confused as Alexus, not sure what was going on, but they also saw movements.
“Did you see that?” Kim whispered in his ear. He wasn’t pleased with all that there was something out there tracking them.
“Yes.” Maze replied with a sweet voice; it was the first time Alexus had heard her speak. The whole time, he thought she was a mute.
“There is something here,” said David. “We need to get out before we get surrounded.
“No shit Sherlock,” Kim rudely replied. Then, Maze elbowed him, causing him to let out a loud oomph. “What?” He rubbed his stomach, looking at her as if she was crazy for elbowing him. Maze shook her head at him once, telling him no.
Their footsteps started to pick up faster as they rushed across the streets. Alexus’ heart was thumping fast, and his nerves were shot and amplified. Something was out there, and he didn’t know what.
His senses started to tingle, the back of his arm started to have goosebumps, and even worse was the foul smell of burnt skin and rotten flesh mixed heavily with burning fire. Nowhere did he look, did I find a single flame, but a strange crackling sound of fire could be heard.
“Kyyyyyyyyyyyyaaaaaa!” A blood-curdling scream of death resounded outwards, startling everyone. They froze and looked around, trying to find the source as the female’s voice bounced off the city walls and echoed into the distance.
An eerie silence followed after.
“What. The. Hell.” Kim replied with disbelief in his voice. “What was that?!” His voice went up an octave.
“God damn, Kim.” David hissed, glaring at him. “Do you want them to find us?” He glowered at Kim, but Kim didn’t seem phased at all.
“I’m a serious man.”
“You need to calm down, or you’re going to scare the kids.”
Jesse and Rye were shivering; their eyes became wide as they clenched onto David even tighter than before. Even Alexus was getting goosebumps.
“L-l-l-look!” Kim stuttered, pointing in the direction behind David.
They all snapped towards where Kim was pointing but found nothing.
“What?” David asked, not seeing what Kim was looking at.
“D-d-didn’t you just see that?!” Kim was gawking, looking in the direction of where he pointed out.
“There is nothing there, dude.”
“No, I’m serious,” Kim stressed his words, baffled that the others didn’t see what he saw. “The freakin shadows moved!”
They were all silent, taking in what Kim had said. He wasn’t sure what exactly Kim meant, but they all saw something just as he was finishing his sentence.
Kim was right. The shadows moved.