I’d begin with “It all started…”, but I have no idea how it really began. I just know how I came into it.
It all started for me when I was playing this new video game called Modern Ancients, where you play as a soldier from 2012 or some old-ass year like that. So, you go around and shoot people. That’s basically it. Anyway, I was playing Modern Ancients on my Y-box 720 with my friend Marcus and chatting when suddenly, it happened. There was a scream when one of our neighbours became the first to see them. I’m not sure what they’re called, but for the purposes of this recall let’s call them Beasts, because that’s what our friends in the ABA (Anti-Beast Alliance) call them.
No one knows where they come from. No-one knows anything about their past. All we know is that they kill mercilessly, and there seems to be no end to the things. If you want to imagine what they look like, here’s the description:
Take a tiger, and splatter paint all over it. Then, flatten the head a bit, and give it row after row after row of unimaginably sharp inward-curving teeth. Then, multiply its ferocity and killer instinct by about a million times. What you get is a Beast, except less ferocious. Oh, and give it the strength to punch through Stelinum.
Anyway, then we could hear the roaring and thundering of them rushing through the streets. Above us, there was a thump.
The ceiling above us shook to another thump, and then cracked, and finally broke as a Beast came through.
This is one of the reasons why I like Marcus. We once went walking in the woods and a lone wolf appeared. I was scared out of my pants but Marcus broke its jaw and kicked it in the nuts. He’s the best friend you could have at a time like this. And he hits hard.
We ran around the house, gathering food and other supplies, occasionally stopping so Marcus could beat to death another Beast or two. Finally, when we were all packed, we ran for it. Into the woods, dodging trees. Out the other side, where I had never been before, onto hillocks and plains. Finally, well into the evening, we found a place to camp for the night. With a fire going and Marcus on watch, I fell asleep.
The next morning I awoke in a rather comfy bed, confused and a little bruised from our forest flight. There were clean sheets and no-one was saying anything like “Go through his pockets” or “Make sure he’s dead,” so I chalked that up as a promising beginning.
There was a whispered discussion going on.
“…couldn’t just leave them.” The voice had a harassed-corporal tone to it.
“Why not?” The second voice certainly sounded in charge.
“One’s got It. And the other was quite a fighter. We need men like that.”
“Is that why you have a limp and cast?”
“Yes, sir. Had to tranquilize, sir.”
“Oh. And It?”
“The It that the other one has?”
“Oh. You know, sir, It. A Power.” I could hear the capital letters in the corporal’s sentence.
“Ah. Alright, wake them up.”
“Yes, sir.” A hand grabbed my shoulder and lightly shook me. Then two fingers forced my eyes open to find the corporal’s face staring at me. He did indeed look very harassed about all this. “Wakey, wakey,” he said gently, in a mother-to-baby voice. I groaned and sat up. Marcus was on another bed, and the corporal was now waking him. After a second he shot back, his one working hand clutching his nose. Blood dripped between his fingers. He screamed, “By dose! By dose! Hody crab, I’b godda…”
“Steady, corporal. You did say he was a bit of a fighter, and last he saw your face it was probably raising a tranquilizer gun, wasn’t it?” I turned to see the second person in the room. Obviously he had been the obviously-in-charge voice I had heard earlier.
“Oh, righd. Yes, ob course,” said the corporal, slightly embarrassed, “we need med like hib, righd edubb,” he added. Looking down at the bed, I saw Marcus getting up slowly, his fist still raised towards the corporal, glaring at him with slit eyes.
“You,” he growled, “what the hell was that for?”
“Steady on,” the obviously-in-charge person replied, “first tell me why you fought, apparently, like a tiger.”
Marcus scowled and replied, “Well, when you have a lot of guns pointing at you, you’ll get scared too,”
“When I get scared I hit people. Particularly when they’re the ones scaring me.”
“Ah.” He turned to me.
“And you fought too?”
“No, I was asleep at the time.”
“Ah. And what were you doing beyond the forest?”
“Oooh, that’s a toughie,” I said sarcastically, “maybe it had something to do with the fact that, oh, I don't know, maybe killer beasts are ravaging my home?”
“Ah. Are we doing anything about this, corporal?”
“Yes, sir. We dispatched the things, although it seems that the citizenry, or at least some, didn’t run without taking a few Beast lives on the way out.”
“What do you mean, corporal?”
“In one house we found three dead bodies, all Beasts.”
“Address?” Sir queried. The corporal told him. It was my place. I said so.
“Well, that explains it.”
“Obviously our friend here,” indicating Marcus, “was over at our other friend’s,” indicating me, “house at the time.”
It was the corporal’s turn to say, “Ah.”
“You know what, we’ve been talking so much, we should get introductions dealt with. I’m Jonas. Sergeant, for my sins,” said Sir.
“I’m Corporal Sanders,” said the corporal.
“I’m Max,” I said.
“I’m Marcus, and,” he turned to Sanders, “sorry about your nose.”
“It’s all right, I perfectly understand. Where in the world did you learn to fight like that?”
“Dunno. I guess I’ve just always known.”
“Can you teach me?”
“I can try.”
“Hold up,” I said, “where are we, anyway?”
“The Anti-Beast Alliance Headquarters,” came the reply from Jonas.
“The what headquarters?”
“Anti-Beast Alliance. We fight those… things you encountered.”
“Oh,” a memory struck me, “What’s a Power?”
“Some people are born with an ability of some sort. It’s very rare.”
“How are you supposed to be able to tell?”
“Look at the back of your hand. See that greenish Y formed by those veins? That’s a sure sign.”
“Oh. How do I know what my Power is?”
“It’ll show up eventually.”
Suddenly, a klaxon blared. “Crap!” exclaimed Jonas.
“What is it?”
“Stay here, and keep quiet, and maybe they won’t find you!” he ordered.
“Ok.” We waited.
Suddenly, there was a thump. “Ah, crap,” came Marcus’ interjection. And another.
Time seemed to slow.
The wall shook to another thump, and finally shattered as a Beast burst through, surrounded by shards of the wall. My hand had a mind of its own, moving with that same slow, inexorable force as the Beast coming through the wall. A glow surrounded my hand as it moved, extending into claws, aiming for the throat,and I found out what my Power is. I can harden light.
The claws struck the Beast in the throat in a massively lethal uppercut that thrust its head into the ceiling, where it hung like some slapstick joke. Another came through the ceiling next to that hole, only to meet a sword coming the other way, splitting its head in two, splattering blood everywhere. Yet another came through the hole in the wall where Marcus beat it to death with a pillow (don’t ask me how). Yet another Beast came through the ceiling only to meet Marcus with that pillow.
For what seemed like ages we fought, me with a hardlight morningstar and Marcus with his pillow of doom. Beasts came through the wall, the ceiling, and even the floor. I had some fun playing Whack-A-Beast with the morningstar. More, and more, and more, and more, and more, and more, and more Beasts came. Finally, we managed to get into the hallway to find even more Beasts up against other soldiers. In a flash moment, I saw one of them had the distinctive green Y on the back of his palm that indicated a power, and as I looked his weapon was discarded, ammo gone, and he flung his hands up to his face in defense against the Beast’s charge that now came.
Time slowed in that moment for me. I watched the Beast moving slowly towards him, knowing that I was too slow, that all I could do was watch, and hopefully avenge his death, and then, I saw, noticing along the way that he seemed as surprised as I was that this was happening, that his hands glowed to little pilot lights in the center of each palm, and slowly, inexorably, little flames came out, blossoming slowly into full-grown fireballs, heading for the Beast’s now-in-mid-leap midsection, and I knew, by his look of utter surprise, that he had just discovered his Power. Pyrokinesis.
The Beast was sent flying, well done, through the ceiling by the blast of fire that had blossomed from his hands in that moment of revelation. He stared, just stared at his hands, and would have been killed by another Beast at that moment if I hadn’t stuck its cranium full of hardlight quarrels. He noticed the save and, pausing only to charbroil another Beast, shouted his thanks.
Then it was the three of us, back to back to back, me with a hardlight sword, Marcus with the pyrokinetic’s discarded weapon, using it as a club, and the pyrokinetic, who could’ve started a Beast-meat franchise if a) Beast meat was edible at any amount of cooking, and b) we weren’t in the middle of a battle for our very lives.
And then it was over. No more Beasts came. We just stood there, me and Marcus with blood and in Marcus’ case brains splattered all over our weapons.
Marcus looked at me, and asked me, “Remind me never to jump out at you. Jeez, that was one helluva reflex.”
“What are you guys talking about?” the pyrokinetic asked.
“When we were in that,” I indicated the room I had been in, “room, a Beast came through the wall, and I reflexively uppercut it with hardlight claws.”
“Ah. Oh, by the way, my name’s Peter”
We were lucky. The Beasts had killed about a hundred and fifty people, twenty of which had Powers. We had killed about two thousand Beasts, but their numbers seemed to be infinite. They had been routed, not slaughtered. Strange. I thought they were almost mindless in their ferocity. Maybe the keyword is almost. This wasn’t over yet.