The Final Evolution Chapter 8


Click here for Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Throughout the night, the rest of us discuss the chances of heading out to the beach for escape while Hermes sleeps. There is no way anyone can come down and get us. Besides, I want to get out to look for Dad. I will never leave until I have found him. If he is well, we will leave this place together. If he isn’t… I shudder once the thought crosses my mind. Dad as one of those monsters out there is unthinkable. But there is no way I will know without looking for him. Plus, at least I know that he is still alive, right?

The occasional snarling and retching tells us the metal door is still barricaded by the monsters. Hours later, I tell them that I have decided to go out via the beach anyway. There will be no progress if I were to sit here all day. Unless another human being trespasses this area, the mob will still be outside. Jim agrees.

“Listen. This is the radio phone right here.” I take it out of the backpack and hands it to Uncle Timmy. “If you decide to head out for some help, use this. They said they’ll try their best to get to us. Wait. Do you smell that?” A weird smell has wafted into the minimart and I take a huge whiff of the air.

WHAM!

There is a loud pounding on the metal door.

WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!

The pounding grew steadily louder and faster.

“What is that?” I ask, mortified.

A huge dent appears on the door.

“What the-”

BAM‼!

The door crashes open and an Alchemist storms into view, sunlight streaming in, his tank half full. The surface of the door is visibly melted by the Alchemist’s acid. He opens his mouth and roars.

“Get out of here!” Uncle Timmy shouts.

There is only one way left for us to go. Sam leads the way. We crash into shelves, toppling them as we run for the door, the Alchemist tossing them aside like toys. We run down the tunnel and I pray hard nothing is waiting for us on the other side. A short while later, the roaring of the Alchemist ominously stops. Are they heading somewhere else? These creatures have never behaved like this. They never attack unless they can hear or see. Why would it come crashing into the minimart when we hadn’t even made loud noises? How did it know we are in there? Had Hermes been right all along? I turn to check if they are coming after us, but they aren’t, and neither is Hermes. Soon, the thundering of the monsters fades away.

Sunlight shines upon us as we escape into the beach and we stop, staring at the trees, mesmerised. It is a realm of familiarity for me and I know a playground –  my playground –  stands nearby. Yet there is something drastically different. The trees are covered in dark, gray scales, their leaves vibrantly green. The ocean is clear blue and the fishes swimming in them bear the same scales of the trees. The sky is clear, instead of the usual gray thunderclouds I had seen growing up.

“Jim… This is…” I whisper, walking towards a tree and stretching out my hand.

“No. Don’t touch it!” Jim cried.

But I can’t. Something has started attacking me overhead, pelting at me from different directions as if someone has started throwing red hot stones at me, but I can’t see them.

“Dammit!” I scream, flailing my arms wildly. They hit something in the air which singes my coat. Suddenly, something grabs my legs and I slam into the ground.

“ARGH!” I yell.

I am being dragged on my back by something invisible. I can’t see where I am being taken to and crash into a tree or two along the way, nearly knocking the wind out of me. My ankles are burning.

“Jim!” I call out.

A strangled yell tells me he is being dragged too, right behind me, together with the rest. Sam is screaming for his Uncle Timmy but there is nothing any of us could do. We are being dragged like rag dolls. Finally, we slow to a stop. I manage to take a good look of the surroundings around us. We are in the playground. My playground. I slump into the sand as the Phantoms let go of me, Jim stopping next to me, our wrists burnt red. But Sam and Uncle Timmy are being dragged towards a group of Retchers. One of the monsters lashes out a tongue and hit Uncle Timmy’s face, dissolving his skin while he shrieks in pain. Jim and I stand up and prepare to run, but it is no use. We are surrounded by a whole group of them and presumably, the Phantoms. Screams and retches tell us that the Sam and Uncle Timmy are gone and are about to join the monsters’ army that is going to torture us both. There is a grunt and we whirl around.

Sitting on the edge of the slide is the Alchemist, its tank half full and its eyes boring into mine. Then it dawns upon me. Those are the brown eyes I had seen growing up, the brown eyes that fills with warmth whenever they look into mine. Those are the brown eyes of my father’s. But now, the warmth is no longer there.

“Dad?” I say softly. Jim turns to look at me as I start walking slowly towards him.

“Clare,” Jim warns softly. The retching and snarling grew louder with every step I take, but none of the creatures move, waiting for orders from the Alchemist. Dad does nothing, but stares at me, hostile, as I walk towards him.

I stop, leaving a gap between me and him as he continues glaring at me with his angry brown eyes. They narrow. For a moment we look at each other, then he lets out another roar.

“Clare!”

I turn around to see Jim being dragged away once more by the invisible Phantoms, this time towards the forest nearby. He reaches for his air pistol and fires blindly. It hits the bottom of the Dad’s tank and shatters a hole in it. Hot green acid spills out as he roars, dissolving the slide behind him. He walks over to Jim as the Phantoms slow to a stop. Then, bending over him, Dad opens his mouth and retch.

“NO!!!” I scream.

Acid spills out of his foul mouth and onto Jim’s legs and torso as he screams and thrashes on the spot in pain. The flesh of his legs dissolves in patches, revealing the bones beneath. I tremble as the endless shrieks pierce the air. I run towards him but the Retchers pin me to the ground. I watch helplessly as the Phantoms drag a thrashing Jim into the forest. Tears well up in my eyes as I begin to shake uncontrollably in fear.  Dad looks up and walks slowly towards me.

I struggle as hard as I can amongst my trembles but this seems to anger him. He leans over me and open his mouth, retching. I close my eyes, preparing for the acid to drown me, but nothing came. He roars in fury as he turns and reveals an empty tank. All of his acid has leaked out from the hole. The Retchers form a tight circle around both of us and the Dad raises his right hand angrily, poised, just like how the other Alchemist had ripped out Annie’s heart. Before he can strike, however, I cry out.

“Dad! It’s me! Clare!”

I do not know what to expect, but I am afraid, very afraid of what is going to happen next. This is my time. Hermes is right. But it has never crossed my mind that Dad would be the one to kill me. Will it hurt? Where will he toss my body? There are no Jesters to eat me up. Will he even realise that he had killed his own daughter?

But Dad just stops, his hand pausing in mid air as he uses his other hand to grip hold of my shoulder, giving it a small squeeze. A strange mist which I have never seen before is now emitting from the tank, engulfing me. It makes my throat burn. He looks straight into my eyes and I see, for a moment, a familiar warmth flash across them.

For some reason, I am no longer afraid, as though I know this is going to be the ending all along. I take a deep breath, close my eyes and bite my lip. Then his palms hit me. I refuse to scream for I know that Dad hates it when I am weak. Then his hands contract around my insides painfully. I can no longer hold back. I yell in pain as I feel something being ripped out, paralysing me. I sputter as I feel the last of my breath escape me, plunging me into a deep slumber.

*** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Epilogue

I trek through the jungle, blowing bangs out of my eyes and ignoring the sunlight that is slightly stinging me. I can tell we are nearing the sea from the sound of the water. The sky has never been so clear for years ever since I can remember and the forest air is fresh. The younger trees now bore leaves of a clean, green colour, looking much healthier than the dull ones on the older trees, though they now bore more fruit and flowers. Our birds are perched chirping on the dark gray branches of the trees, invisible in the sunlight.

Our army has been trekking for hours and I prod Dad with a stick I had found on the forest floor earlier this morning. He turns around, grunting. I gesture towards a pond nearby and he nods. Our men scramble for it and I follow suit. The water in the pond is crystal clear. Scraping some moss from the sides of the stones, I walk back and pass it over to Dad, who looks at me with the warmth he reserves just for me. I scrape some over the hole in his tank to seal it for him. Then, I return to the pond to get more for myself. I munch on the greens. It feels cool and refreshing; the tubes lining the sides of my arms are slowly filling to the brim with bubbling blue acid. My personal weapon, one that belongs solely to the leader’s right-hand man.

Dad lets us rest longer than usual and by the time we are done, the sun has gone down. Our army seems to have grown twice its size with the appearance of our flaming brothers. We continue trekking out of the forest, Jim walking by my side. Finally, we hear the loud crashing of the waves and slow to a stop at the edge of the trees. Then, Dad lets out a low grunt and we move in unison, seeking cover among the trees. I peek out over Jim’s shoulder, his flames lighting up the distance not far from us.

There they are, three humans, strolling down the beach, talking. I can smell something choking, pungent coming from one of them. I have never smelled that from a human before. We wait for a sign from the waters. Then, a low hum of the songs of the sea fills in air. They are ready. Dad gives a low grunt and all of us get into our positions, poised to attack, our Retchers already eager to charge. The trio looks around in alarm at the ruckus we are making. Then, gurgling noises fill the air as our pirates emerge from the sea, led by Matt in his eye-patch. The trio screams. Dad gives his commanding loud roar and we charge, but Dad holds me back. He signals me with a different grunt. The foul one, kill him, it tells me.

Poor guy, but I have to do as I am told and I move swiftly, digging my razor sharp claws into his chest to inject the luminous blue acid into his heart, paralysing it. After all, Dad is our great leader, and he knows who is fit enough to join us in this new world and who isn’t.

The Final Evolution © 2013 by Auby Sparksfield. All rights reserved.

Written by: Ms. Auby Sparksfield

Edited by: Isaac Tan

Click here for Chapter 7

The Final Evolution Chapter 7


Click herefor Chapter 6

Chapter 7

“Arrggghhhhhhh!” Jim and I scream at the top of our lungs and the noises outside grows even louder.

“Shut it!” A rough voice comes from the dark and a few other torches click on, which faintly lights up the place.

It looks like the mini supermarket had been transformed into a makeshift camp. There are shelves and shelves of food, but three hammocks are tied between two pipes and there are mats on the floor. A pile of what looks like burnt blankets sits somewhere near the hammocks. There are a total of three men in the room, staring at us suspiciously. One of them is a boy, about seven years old, who is sitting by a fish tank housing fireflies. The man who had spoken has long hair, a fresh wound down his face and a tattoo across his arm. The other man closest to us is clean shaven, but has chapped lips and a pale complexion.

“Who are you?” Jim asks quietly as the noise outside subsides.

“We should be asking you that.” The man with the tattoo scowls. “We’ve combed the area before. There are no other survivors.”

“We arrived earlier today,” I reply, a little hesitant. “My name is Clare, he’s Jim.”

No one says anything in reply to that. The tattooed man lights a pipe and I watch as smoke billow out of it. He glares at me for a moment and then turns around to face a shelf of canned food. The pale one takes my arm and steers me over roughly to sit next to the boy. On a closer look, I realise the tank contains not fireflies, but three, glowing, stag beetles. The little boy looks at me and offers me the packet of marshmallows he is holding. I take one over.

“Thanks.”

“He’s Hermes,” the pale man tells us, nodding over at Tattoo-man. “This boy here is Sam, my nephew. They call me Uncle Timmy. We’ve been hiding here for weeks.”

“Weeks?” I ask in disbelief.

“Yes. We were escaping from them and Hermes let us in,” Uncle Timmy answers gruffly, setting down his torch. “Now why are you two here?”

Jim takes a deep breath and launch into the story of how we escaped our school and the theme park and how we ended up here to look for Dad.

“Your best chance is to stay in here. Your father is dead,” Hermes interrupts harshly. For some reason, I hate him the moment the words slip out of his mouth.

“How do you know?” I snap at him. “I bet you don’t even know where to look.”

“You don’t either, or else you wouldn’t be here.”

“You-”

“Stop it!” Jim intercepts. “We’re here to figure out how to get out of here, not to quarrel. We have a radio phone with us. We can-”

“I’m not leaving until I’ve found Dad,” I cut in.

“Clare, you heard him. They have combed the area. There are no survivors. You saw what your house looked like,” Jim begins. “If we leave now, we still-”

“You said you’re coming with me and now you’re asking me to give up? Call the army if you want but I’m staying.” I am fuming.

“I know of a way to get out,” Sam pipes up suddenly. “There’s a tunnel there that leads to the beach.” He stuns us all at this pronouncement.

“Kid, how’d you know?” Hermes asks brusquely, breaking the silence.

“I had to feed my beetles. I knew I can’t go up there,” Sam explains, nodding towards the tank. “I was looking around here for something my beetles would eat, and I found another door that led me out to a tunnel. I followed it and arrived by a beach.”

“Sam, there are… creatures in the beach too,” I say gently.

“Well, I didn’t see any. But I let them out under a tree for some tree sap.”

“There was tree sap under a tree?” I ask, suspicious.

“Yeah. Just at the bottom of the tree trunk.”

“Is that when they started glowing?” Jim asks sharply.

“Yes.”

“Let me see it.” Jim pushes his way to the tank. We watch as the beetles crawl. When they touch a leaf, it starts burning. “Are they aggressive?” Jim asks.

“No.”

Jim takes a marshmallow from Sam and very carefully, lifts the small circular lid in the middle of the rectangular cover of the tank. When the marshmallow is dropped into the tank, the beetles attack it, but upon touching it, they head for the opening. They crash into the cover instead. Startled, Jim slams the lid shut and backs away.

“Strange. They’re not usually like this,” Sam says, staring into the tank curiously.

“I think they have become one of them. The Phantoms,” Jim whispers, looking at me.

“Here.” I pick up the torchlight Uncle Timmy had set down and shines it over the tank. The beetles first fade in the light and then reappear, glowing, safely tucked away under the shade of a leaf.

“Sam… I think what they had eaten might not be tree sap,” I begin slowly. “It could be the saliva of the Phantoms.”

“What the hell are Phantoms?” Uncle Timmy asks.

“The ones with the glowing skeletons in the dark,” Jim informs him.

“When did they become like this, Sam? When did they last eat?” I ask.

“Just this morning,” Sam replies.

“What other changes do you see?” Jim queries, cautiously tapping the tank, driving the beetles into a frenzy.

“They’ve stopped wrestling each other. They liked to do that a lot. But they haven’t wrestled all day. I thought it is pretty cool they started glowing.”

None of us know what to say.

“The Phantoms are there, I know it,” I say finally. “The beach isn’t a way out.”

“We can go out at night, they can’t see at night,” Jim points out.

“They could see us, remember? They changed direction and came straight for us just now!”

“They work together to see in the dark,” Hermes growls, his face looming into the light as he approaches us. “These… Phantoms as you call them, they can’t see with the glow from their own kind, but those retching monsters can. The Phantoms follow the noise they make.”

“They weren’t like that when we saw them in school,” Jim points out. “They were mostly with their own kind.”

“It takes time for them to realise they can make use of it,” Hermes adds. “But when they do, they use it well.”

“How do you know?” I ask.

“I’ve seen them at it,” he replies. “I have seen every single one of them. The ones that retch, their saliva turns people into something else. Same for the ones that glow. There are seafaring ones that come out from the sea. They turn people with their poison-tipped daggers. And then there are those with the tanks. They spit acid. These things, they turn everyone they see.”

“No they don’t.” I interject. “We saw it rip a girl’s heart out and eat it whole and toss her body to a mob of clowns to eat her up.”

“That is because the girl isn’t fit enough to live on.”

“Live on? What do you mean by ‘live on’?”

“She has an illness? Something like that?”

“She was already dying when we met her,” Jim says.

“Can’t live. Not with them, not with us. The best way for her is to die.”

“That isn’t the best way,” I snap at him again.

“This is the real world, lady. Open your eyes wide and see. I’ve seen your father. He was cornered by a group of those retching creatures in his own home.”

“I don’t believe you,” I retort hotly. “You don’t even know my father.”

“Brown eyes? He hangs out at the playground with you often, building sandcastles. I saw him. One day he was cornered by the retching monsters but made it home and lured them there. He couldn’t escape.”

I fall silent, glaring at him. “And you did nothing to help,” I said coldly.

“You know there is nothing one can do when he is outnumbered by them. We can only succumb to it when the time comes.”

“Rubbish. We can fight. We can help one another survive! But this is the cruel world isn’t it? You take care of yourself and neglect the rest. Selfish, evil bastard-” I begin tearfully. But before I can continue, Hermes pins me against the shelf behind me, sending it shaking precariously over us.

“You tell me whether you have saved anyone from those things out there. Have you not hidden somewhere out of sight when you were outnumbered?” he asks roughly. I think about the night I had let Johanna get attacked outside the dance studio and drop my gaze.

“I thought so too,” he sneers. “Look at yourself, in denial of all these things happening, rebelling against anyone who tries to talk sense into you, only caring about what you want. This is the way humans are. We think we’re the best, even when we’re not. Look at those things out there, figuring a way to work together to get what they want. Didn’t you see those beetles, eh? You heard the boy. They stop fighting when they transformed. These things are way better than us. Your father’s time was up, Clare, and I reckon yours will come soon.”

And with that, Hermes heads back into the darkness, leaving me shaken and guilt-ridden on the spot.

The Final Evolution © 2013 by Auby Sparksfield. All rights reserved.

Written by: Ms. Auby Sparksfield

Edited by: Isaac Tan

Click here for Chapter 6

The Final Evolution Chapter 6


Click here for Chapter 5

Chapter 6

This is the worst nightmare ever. Swearing silently in my head, I try to inch closer to Jim for fear of losing his grip. He tightens his grip on my hand. For a few minutes, we simply stand amongst the retching creatures, my mind whirring. How far are we from the left turn? How are we going to get out of here?

ARGGHHHHHH!

A roar comes from my left and I jump in fright. The image of Emma with her great tank roaring flashes across my mind. There’s an Alchemist here? But we would have seen the tank!

But there is no time to think. The Retchers start thrashing down the hall at high speed. Their flailing arms slap across my face and torso from all directions. A second roar fills the air and the Retchers speed up. Then, it strikes me – it is Jim who had roared, not the Alchemist. There is no time for us to marvel at Jim’s brilliance. We run down the corridor together with the creatures, hardly keeping up with them. Then, without warning, he pulls me to a left turn and we finally detach ourselves from the group. He pulls me to a stop, pressing me against the wall. We listen quietly, hearts thumping as the mob stampede down the hallway. We walk quickly and quietly down the corridor, hands outstretched. Then the tip of my fingers jabbed painfully into something hard in front of me. Jim opens a door and we sneak out, shutting the door quietly behind us. Fortunately, no other creatures are lurking outside.

The air is fresh on the rooftop. A cooling breeze reminds us of the excrement staining our clothes once more. The helipad is in the middle but something tells us that it would be unwise to loiter in the open. Jim nods towards a stack of crates at a corner and we settle down there, waiting for the chopper to come for us. We sit side by side and gaze at the cityscape stretched out before us. There is a Ferris wheel to the left and cable cars to the right. Some of the lights in the skyscrapers have gone out, indicating the parts of the island that have gone down under the attack of the monsters.

We wait until the familiar deep orange splashes across the sky, the sun rising up and above the skyline. And there it is, the sound of the helicopter arriving. We run towards it, grateful and relieved. But all of a sudden, the door to the rooftop burst open and the mob of Retchers come thrashing towards the helipad, attracted to the sound of the helicopter. Quickly, we climb onto the chopper as two men in pixelated green army uniform buckled us down. The helicopter rises quickly into the air as one of the Retchers lashes out its tongue, hits the door of the chopper and dissolving a hole in it. One of the army men opens fire.

“No, don’t!” I shout, but it is too late.

Its head explodes as it falls back to the ground, black bile spilling out. Seconds later, it reemerges as the Alchemist, its green tank blinding under the morning sun. It roars and the rest of the Retchers charges towards us at top speed, but we are already out of reach. Then, two figures appear at the doorway of the rooftop. Strangely enough, the Retchers back down quietly behind the Alchemist, their arms stop flailing.

“Please, help!” the woman screams.

“Hold it! There’re two more!” one of the army men stops the pilot. “Get the ladder ready.”

“No!” Jim interjects hurriedly, grabbing the man’s arm and stopping him. “She isn’t talking to us.”

We watch, half frightened, half curious, as she pushes Annie towards the Alchemist.

“Help my Annie, please!” she begs.

Annie cowers as far as she can back into her wheelchair, but her mother is pushing her forwards.

“Stop!” I scream. “Someone save her!”

But there is nothing we could do. For the Alchemist’s hand has slammed hard into Annie’s chest and she lets out a scream that sends chills down my spine. Two seconds later, the Alchemist rips out what looks like her heart and she slumps against the wheelchair, dead, blood pouring out her open wound. Then, the Alchemist looks up at us and swallows the heart whole.

I freeze, horrified at what I had just witnessed. Tears are streaming down my face as the Alchemist picks up Annie’s body and walks to the side of the roof. Then letting out its huge roar once more, he tips her over to the bouncing Jesters below. All of them scramble ecstatically towards her, then sink their razor sharp teeth into her flesh, tearing it away from her body.

“No‼!” the woman screams.

But it is soon drowned by the Alchemist’s roar and the Retchers close in on her, salivating. When they retreat, Annie’s mother is shaking on the ground, panting and retching like Johanna did.

“Let’s go.”

The chopper zooms away, leaving Annie’s mother behind as one of them. I close my eyes and held my necklace tight, shivering.

“Are you alright?” the man whose nametag on his uniform says “Alvin” asks.

I nod, unable to speak. They hand us some food and water and we gulp them down within minutes. Then, Alvin takes out a first-aid kit and starts applying cream on our scalded areas.

“Where are you taking us?” Jim queries.

“Back to our air base. We’ve set up a refugee camp there.”

“No, wait,” I cut in. “Can you take me somewhere, please. I am looking for my father.”

“And where is that?”

“Wincon’s Hat Bay, Nijuha Estate. Not far from here.”

“That place has gone down, miss. One of the first few places that got infected,” Alvin informs me. “That area is not safe anymore. There are no survivors.”

I swallow hard at the news. “No,” I say again. “I want to try for it.”

“I am not letting my team land there. We’ve lost men there when trying to pick up survivors before.”

“Please. You don’t have to come with me, I just have to get there. I’ll walk from that refugee camp if I have to.”

Alvin stares at me for a few seconds, then tells the pilot to turn around.

“We’re lowering you down by the ladder. We won’t be landing.”

A while later we arrive in Nijuha Estate. I peer out of the chopper. The streets are dirty, trash cans spilled over, other things burnt and charred, windows broken. I point out my block to them and they lower the ladder while hovering over the rooftop.

“Thanks,” I say to Alvin. Unbuckling my seat belt, I am surprised to see Jim already clambering over to the ladder.

“I’m coming with you,” he declares.

I smile at him gratefully and he nods, disappearing down the ladder. Alvin hands me a backpack as I get out of my seat.

“There’re food and weapons in there, and a phone. Call us and we’ll see if we can get you out of here.”

I nod, thank him again before climbing down the ladder. Jim is already on the ground, poised with a blade in his hand. When nothing comes thrashing out at us, we make our way into the building, walking quietly as the chopper zooms away. The entire place is quiet and not a single soul is in sight. I look down at my burnt palms and am reminded of the Phantoms. Keeping an eye out for any disturbances, I lead the way to my house.

After climbing down four flights of steps, I reach my doorstep home. The door is wide open, newspapers and broken bottles strewn all over the floor. My couch is ripped, slashed presumably by a knife that lay by the television which is cracked down the middle. Slowly, I step into my house, unable to accept what I am seeing. We check all the rooms. Chaos seems to have reigned here before our arrival. The rest of the rooms are in a similar mess – lamps are flipped onto the floor, windows broken, black bile and bloodstains everywhere… Finally when we are sure the coast is clear, Jim closes all the doors and windows. I draw the curtains and then sit on my bloodstained bed. Clutching my necklace tight, I break down into tears. Jim comes into my room and stands awkwardly at the doorway.

“Maybe…” he begins, “Maybe he escaped.”

“He would’ve told me.”

“Maybe he lost his phone like you did.”

I continue sobbing uncontrollably. He walks over and sits himself next to me, taking my hand. “Come on. We fought to come here. Let’s not give up.”

“You know, Jim, maybe that woman was right. Maybe- maybe… I mean. Look at Matt. He was supposed to be dead and then he revived. You saw the leaves of that tree. It was stained with that black stuff on the dagger and it grew leaves healthier than ever. And Em- she became so strong. Maybe it really is for the better-”

“Clare, stop it.” Jim shakes me hard. “We both know that is nonsense.”

I shake my head and stares into his brown eyes. “How do you know?”

There is a moment’s silence, and then his grip on my shoulders lessens.

“I don’t,” he says finally.

A faint snarling in a distance alerts us. We creep to the window and peer out from behind the curtains. Not far away from our block is a canal and the monsters are once again crowded around there.

“What are they doing?” I ask.

“Beats me.”

We watch them for a while as they climb in and out of the canal, splashing in the water. Whenever they emerge, there is something green in their hands. A full grown monster passes it over to a smaller sized one and it puts the green stuff into its mouth.

“They’re eating,” I whisper.

An Alchemist lumbers into view and turns to climb into the canal. For the first time, the tank looks empty. He reappears a while later, stuffing green stuff into its mouth and the tank starts filling up.

“They’re hungry when they are low on their… ammo,” Jim concludes. “They need to recharge, like a battery.”

“Like us,” I add.

“Stop it, Clare,” Jim says firmly. “They’re not like us.”

The tone in Jim’s voice makes it clear that this conversation is over. I stand up and walk out of the room.

“Where are you going?” he asks, grabbing my hand.

“I’m going downstairs to look for Dad.”

Jim thinks for a moment and did not protest. Finally, he agrees to come with me but not until we are well-rested. We empty the contents in the backpack Alvin had given us. There are two bottles of water, two torchlights, a radio phone, a few packets of biscuits and rations, two air pistols and air pellets.

“What good will these pistols do? Don’t they see that they come in a horde?” Jim asks, looking at the weapons incredulously. But it is better than nothing. We clip the pistols to our belts and eat a few biscuits. When we are ready, we walk to the door quietly and look out of the window. The coast is clear. I step out of the door first, Jim trailing behind me. The neighbourhood looks worse from here than when we were airborne. Units are burnt down and the 7-eleven shop looks like it had been looted. The cashier’s box is open, shelves crashed to the ground. We stuff our backpacks with bread and more water before heading towards another shop. The night is slowly creeping up on us after hours of walking but there is still no sign of Dad. The final hopes I have are slowly dwindling. We know we have to find a place to rest for the night, but many doors and rooms are stained ominously with black bile and blood and we dare not go higher up in the buildings. Snarling and retching noises are growing louder and louder as the sky grows darker. The streetlamps fail to turn on like they usually did.

“Can’t we just go back to that shop to stay for the night?” I say, clinging onto Jim’s jacket.

“The doors and windows are broken. They can get in as easily as we can get out. If we get cornered in there we’re dead.”

Then, a faint glowing light appears in the distance down the winding road that leads to another estate. It is growing larger as larger. The sun dips below the horizon and the retching noises join in. The glow surges towards us, lighting up the Retchers leading the mob. We turn and sprint silently out of the way, but the mob changes direction immediately and heads straight for us.

“Shit! They can see us, Jim!”

The apartment buildings loom into view again as we run back towards Nijuha Estate. But another pack is charging towards us from the front. I pull out the air pistol and fire a few pellets, but the mob just keeps coming.

“No use! Over there!”

Jim points to a dull green metal door under a block. I recognise it at once. It was once a bomb shelter that was transformed into a mini shop underground. Dad and I used to patronise the shop for cheap ice-cream. We run and slam into the door, Jim rattling the handle. But it is bolted shut.

“Shit!” Jim curses and pounds on the door.

Suddenly it swings ajar just a little. Without hesitation, we slide through the small crack slam it shut, bolting the lock. We can hear the creatures outside snarling and retching. The door starts glowing hot with the Phantom’s heat. We back away from it and climb down a flight of steps. Then a torch clicks on to our right, illuminating a pale, ghastly face in the darkness.

The Final Evolution © 2013 by Auby Sparksfield. All rights reserved.

Written by: Ms. Auby Sparksfield

Edited by: Isaac Tan

Click here for Chapter 5

The Final Evolution Chapter 5


Click here for Chapter 4

Chapter 5

I slump backwards, resting against the tree trunk. The cackling creatures loiter around below us, bouncing. There is no way we can get down until they are gone. Jim swings his backpack forward and takes out a pen and a notebook.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

“Writing down what I just saw.”

I look over as he writes, “Alchemist, big, with acid tank”, across the top of the page, followed by “Jesters, bouncing, clown-like features”. I chuckle and shake my head. Who but Jim, the workaholic director, would be in the mood to take notes at this juncture? I reach for my necklace and fiddle with it, gazing into the sea, thinking about Dad. How is he doing? Does he know what is happening? Or is he even still…

I shake the thought out of my mind. Whatever the case may be, I have to get to him. I imagine Dad sitting next to me right now, hugging the tree trunk and admiring the cityscape with me like we used to. Once, a bird had pooped on his head and he tumbled out of the tree in shock. I chortle at the thought.

“Why are you laughing?” Jim ask, still scribbling across the paper.

“Thinking about my father,” I reply.

“What about him?”

I started telling him about the story of the bird poop and before I know it, I am recounting every little thing about Dad: how we used to go for root beer float and ice cream waffles, how we used to build sandcastles together, and how we used to race to see who could climb trees faster. After a while, Jim sets his pen down and looks at me, listening intently. At times, he smiles at the funny little things Dad did, like biting into cheese balls and had cheese squirt out onto my face, or when he pretended clothes hangers were guns and imagined we were playing real life ‘Counterstrike’ while doing the laundry. Then he has the look of envy when I recollect how Dad liked to encourage and reassure me.

“He’d do this,” I say, sitting up straight and adopting my Dad’s deep voice, “You can do it, Clare.” And then I raise my left hand and give Jim’s shoulder a hard squeeze, just like what Dad always did to me. Jim laughs. Before we know it, the sun has risen. The cackling below fades away as the sun paints orange and yellow streaks across the sky.

“You have a great father,” Jim says after a while.

“I love him. He’s all I have left in the world,” I reply, still playing with the necklace. “What about you?”

“I lost my father when I was ten, and then my mother just two years ago.”

There is an awkward pause. It suddenly strikes me how little I know about him.

“Sorry.” I manage after a while.

“It’s alright. They weren’t great parents. They divorced and… I had to live at a different aunt’s place every week.”

“That’s awful,” I whisper.

“It’s over,” he says, plucking a leaf off the branch nearest to him.

“So…Where are you going from here?” I ask him, changing the subject.

“I don’t know. The tree seems like a pretty safe place to hide in. Maybe find a jungle and go be Tarzan?”

I laugh. “Well, that’s an interesting plan.”

“What about you?”

“I’m going to get my Dad. Bring him out of this place.” There is another pause.

Jim looks at me thoughtfully as I look out into the sea once again, blowing the bangs out of my eyes. Then, my stomach growls.

“Sorry,” I say, unable to suppress my giggles.”Let’s get out of here. Those foul things are gone.”

“What if there are those… Phantoms around?”

“We’ll see.”

I begin making my descent when I catch sight of the tree branch that was pierced by the dagger the night before. “Jim, look!” I point.

Part of the branch where the dagger had struck has turned a scaly gray, but its leaves are greener than any others on the tree. I climb down and pluck out the dagger, examining it. It has a red and gold handle and a script which I can’t recognise carved into the blade. The sharp end of the blade appears to have been dipped in black liquid. Jim attempts to wipe it off with a towel. It stains the towel, but the tip remains black. He keeps the dagger in his backpack and we make our way down the tree, looking at the tree branch curiously.

We walk around nervously looking for food. Not daring to go into any of the shops, we break the door of a pushcart that says “Popcorn and Nachos” open and pack as much nachos as we can find into Jim’s backpack. Finally, we fill a giant bucket with cold popcorn and set off towards the exit of the theme park, walking as quietly as we can.

WHAM!

A loud smack breaks the tranquil silence and Jim crumples onto the floor, unconscious. Before I can respond, a stick comes down on my head and everything fades into darkness.

***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***

I struggle to open my eyes and sit up. For a few seconds my vision is blurred, then it slowly comes into focus. I attempt to push myself up but something cuts into my wrists – my arms and legs are bound. A slight cramp in my legs tells me I have been out for quite some time, lying in that awkward position. Finally, my vision clears and I look around wildly. I turn and see Jim, already awake next to me. Behind him, a canopy bed stands at a corner, right next to the window and a small little closet. At the furthest end of the room is a table where a pale little girl sits, watching, in a wheelchair. A woman is seated in a wooden chair next to her, brandishing a stick. Her graying hair is tied in a bun and her clothes are torn and tattered. I try to say something, but all I manage is a loud “ummmph!” There is a distasteful piece of cloth stuffed in my mouth.

The woman walks towards us, dragging the wooden stick on the floor behind her. She swings it upwards as she nears us. I close my eyes, crouching away. Then, the gag is removed from my mouth. I open my eyes.

“What do you want?” Jim asks the moment the cloth in his mouth is removed.

The woman does not answer immediately but strolls over to the bed and sits, looking out of the window. The pale little girl wheels her chair over to her.

“This is my little girl. Her name is Annie.” The woman finally speaks in a crisp voice.

“She’s beautiful,” I reply softly.

“She’s dying,” she answers curtly. “I want her to live, to be able to walk, run, and eat like the others.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” Jim cuts in. “But I don’t think we can help. We aren’t doctors.”

“Yes you can,” the woman says. She walks over to us and pulls us to our feet with bull-like strength. She drags us over to the window. The scenery outside reveals to be the theme park. We are in one of the hotels.

“You know what is out there. I saw you two last night.”

“Three of us,” Jim says roughly. “We had a friend.”

“And you saw him die. And then revived by the creatures of the sea.”

“How does that help your daughter?” I demand.

“Don’t you see? They can revive the dead. They make the normal people stronger,” she replies in a loud, harsh whisper. The image of Emma and her acid tank flashed past my mind.

“So?” Jim says. “What has that got to do with us?”

“You can save my Annie,” her eyes twinkle with insanity as she sinks onto the bed. “The monsters won’t come near her. You can be the bait.”

“Mother…” Annie speaks up for the first time, her voice weak.

“Hush, my little girl. You’ll be fine soon.”

The woman moves to the other end of the room and takes out two sets of clothes from the closet. She sets them on the bed. “These are what you will be wearing tonight. I want them to be able to smell you, sniff you out, and lead them to my Annie.”

“Ma’am, there must be some other way to help her,” I say desperately. “You can’t let her turn into something else.”

“Oh, my dear girl!” she exclaims as she pranced back to the window, laughing. “Look outside! Look at those things around you! How many of them are there? How many of us are here?”

She turns and looks me straight in the eyes, laughing hysterically. Then she stops very abruptly, and started walking towards me, swinging the stick upwards again.

“Don’t you realise it, stupid girl? Now we are the something else,” she snarls.

The stick swing downwards and my world goes black once more.

***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***

“Clare!”

I stir. My head feels like it has been split into two.

“Clare, wake up! It’s time to go!”

Someone is cutting the ropes binding me. I open my eyes wide. It is dark outside once again. Jim is sawing the ropes with the dagger we got from the Pirates. The little girl is sitting by the table again but the woman is nowhere to be seen.

“Run, as far as you can go,” Annie says. “I’m sorry about Mother.”

“Thank you,” Jim says urgently and pulls me to my feet.

“What is going on?” My head is still throbbing.

“I’ll explain later. Now let’s go.” He pockets the knife, grabs my hand and heads for the door.

“Wait! Annie, come with us,” I say softly, stretching my hand out.

“No. I will stay with Mother.” Annie smiles slightly and looks out of the window.

“But…” I begin.

Jim nudges me out of the door and we creep down the corridor. We turn into a staircase landing and start climbing up the steps. Jim fills me in about how Annie had said she was hungry, so her mother went out to find food. Then Annie freed him and told him that every morning at sunrise, a chopper would come to the helipad to wait for survivors.

“Annie said many parts of the island have already been infected. She had gone to many places with her mother, but they refused to go near her. In fact, they stayed away as far as possible from her.”

“Why?”

“No idea,” Jim whispers back. “But she told me about them. They prefer the dark but they’re blinded in the night and rely a lot on their sense of hearing and smell. They do attack in the day if they’re not hungry.”

“What do you mean? Aren’t we their food?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t have time to ask. I was afraid her mother would come back. She gave me directions to the helipad. That’s where we’re heading to. Come on.”

We climb in silence, listening hard. Occasionally we can hear retching coming from a distance, but we bypass the floors quietly. Finally, eight floors up, we exit and sneak into the corridor, closing the door quietly behind us. Everything is pitched black. We can’t even see each other. Jim and I instinctively grab each other’s hands and we tiptoe down the hallway, looking around cautiously. Quite very suddenly, a loud retching comes from right ahead.

“Did you hear that?”

“Ssshh… They can hear you.”

I am pretty sure our harsh whispers would have travelled to their nimble ears anyway. We inch along the corridors, our backs flat against the walls. There is a steady dripping of something which we are sure is not water. Jim slows to a stop.

“It’s round this corner, and then the door is at the next left turn,” Jim says in an undertone.

“How do we know that they are not down the corridor?”

“Even if they are, they can’t see us. They can’t see in the dark, remember?”

“They can smell!”

“When we are covered in shit? Come on. We smell just like them.” Jim tightens his hand around mine. “Let’s go, or we’d be stuck here forever.”

“You’re nuts,” I whisper back, petrified.

“We’ll be fine.” He doesn’t sound convinced himself.

Jim creeps forward slowly, pulling me along. I try to walk as stealthily as I can, even imitating their slow lumber in case we pass by them. Desperate to blend in, I check the smell of the feces on my shirt. It has been so long since we had climbed out of the sewers that I thought I smell normal. I bite my lip to stop myself from crying. Breathing as lightly as I can, I tuck my hands in to minimize my surface area, to minimize the chances of me brushing past them as much as possible. With every step I take, I feel utterly relieved not to have touched or felt anything brush past me. Numerous swear words have gone through my mind by now and I settle on “fuck” to repeat in my head over and over again.

Suddenly, Jim’s hand stiffens. He squeezes my hand and pulls me closer. I hold my breath. Something wet and cold brushes past my right, knocking into my shoulder and smearing thick liquid on my arm. A deep shadow lumbers past on my right and then another plods across my left. I take a larger step forward and stick as close to Jim as possible. Retching noises now fill the corridor and more and more shadows loom into view. Jim and I follow their slow rhythmic trudge, hunching as we squeeze past them. They are going in the opposite direction and I wonder how long we can stay undetected as imposters.

The retching grows louder and louder as we proceed and I take a chance to catch a quick breath. The air is foul and burns my nostrils. It overwhelms the smell of our feces-soaked outfits and helps us blend in. I knock into more and more shadows as I feel my movement space grow smaller and smaller. Jim navigates to the left, trying to move to the left side of the corridor as much as possible for us to make the turn. Our steps become more and more constricted, more and more cautious as we proceed, shuffling against the rest of the Retchers until we can no longer move. We are stuck.

The Final Evolution © 2013 by Auby Sparksfield. All rights reserved.

Written by: Ms. Auby Sparksfield

Edited by: Isaac Tan

Click here for Chapter 4

The Final Evolution Chapter 4


Click here for Chapter 3

Chapter 4

There is a loud splat and I opened my eyes. I am stuck, swimming in something thick and goopy, waist deep into whatever it is. I yank the bat out of the junk.

“YUCK!” Jim swears, somewhere to my right. It is dark once more.

“Everyone alright?”

“Yes,” Jim and I reply in unison.

We listen to the retching, snarling and stomping of feet coming from above us in silence. I am afraid that the metal would give way, but another loud roar silences them all. We hold still, not daring to make any noise for a minute until shuffling is heard. Then, a torchlight clicks on, revealing a tunnel before us, filled with junk up to our waists.

“Wow. We sure are in deep shit,” I murmur.

Matt shines the torchlight around. We take the chance to survey our injuries. Jim’s neck is scalded red raw as are my hands. Matt takes out a tiny tube of ointment and we rub it over our injuries. By the time we are done, the tube is empty. Matt tosses it into the waste.

“If we are all good to go, let’s move, before she destroys the metal cover,” Matt says softly.

“I think she would have done that already if she’d wanted to.” Jim has a point, but I move off anyway. The faster we get out of this place, the better.

We trudge through the waste silently. The journey is labourious; we have to constantly throw our weight forward in order to bring our legs through the thick waste. Even though I lead the way, I have absolutely no idea where we are heading to. All I am doing is praying that we exit somewhere safe, somewhere that can lead me to Dad safe and sound.

It feels like it has been almost an hour since we landed in this sewer. The muscles in my thighs are burning as though they, too, had been scalded by those skeletons. The only consolation I have is that the waste seems to be thinning already. Then, round a bend, we stop at a fork. A faint sound of water flowing comes from our left.

“Let’s go there. It’s probably an opening,” Matt says.

I can hardly bring myself to remind him that it is perhaps just someone flushing the toilet. But we proceed left anyway and arrives at a metal gate.

“What is this?” I ask. “Where does this lead to?”

“I believe it is to prevent the waste from clogging up. This path should lead to a canal. We can get out from there.”

Matt brings out his crowbar again and we push together, prying the gate open. We follow the path down and indeed, the air is clearing. The gate has apparently been effective in segmenting the waste, for there is none on the ground now. The smell, however, lingers in my nose.

“Do you think we’ve walked long enough to be out of school?” I whisper.

“Yes, I think so.”

Before long we can see the sky, dotted with little stars twinkling. I begin taking the route at a run, water splashing at my feet. The other two follow closely behind me and I feel the mood lightening. Soon, the wall of the canal is low enough for us to climb out. Jim pulls himself up first then helps Matt and I up. The sky is still dark and there is no retching nor any glowing skeletons in sight. The streetlamps are working, lighting up the area well. Not far away from us, there are outlines of roller coasters.

“We need to go somewhere,” Matt says, looking around.

“Yeah. Like maybe go for a thrill ride or something,” I suggest, nodding towards the theme park in the distance.

There is a moment’s silence at first, and then we burst out laughing, clearly very much relieved at our escape. We walk towards the theme park silently, worn out from our ordeal. When we finally arrive at the gates of the theme park, however, we are greeted by the ominous absence of a security guard at the gate.

“Shouldn’t there be someone here?” I ask, frowning at the security post.

“We’ll just wash up. Make it quick, come on,” Matt says, pushing me towards the gantry. Reluctantly, I climb over it and land in the theme park. We walk in a straight line, side by side, heading straight for the bathroom sign across a facade of a Hollywood street. Finally we reach the washroom. The boys dart into theirs and I dawdle outside, thinking. Then, not wanting to be left all alone, I decide to go into the boys’ washroom as well.

“HEHEHE! HAAAAHAAAHAAA!” A cackle whips through the air, raising goosebumps on my arms.

I spin around.

“Who’s there?” I ask as loudly as I dare.

A long silence came in reply.

I scan the place quickly for any sign of chaos which had happened here before, but all seems quiet and calm. The displays in the shops are still arranged in an orderly manner. An action figure poses in the window of one shop and the window next to it has ornaments glinting under the moonlight. My eyes land on the shop selling Goth dolls. All of them bore huge round eyes and little black lips. A tiny doll sits on a rocking chair and stares back at me, unblinking. Its piercing glare is creeping me out. I move my eyes onto the candy shop next to it. Then, a slight disturbance makes me do a little double take.

The chair is rocking slightly and then it slows to a stop. The doll is gone.

We are not alone.

I turn to run into the washroom where the boys are, but they are already sprinting out towards me. Jim gestures for me to turn around and I obey immediately. Loud cackling fills the air and the door to the doll shop bursts open. Monsters flood out, bouncing on stilts towards us. All of them have big red noses and bright red lips flipped inside out. There are black circles round their gigantic eyes that are rolling backwards in their mutated lids. Dressed in circus costumes, one of them waves the tiny Goth doll, cackling menacingly. Then, it hurls the doll towards us. I yelp and duck. The doll hits the ground and starts crying.

Fear spreads through my body. My legs almost give way, muscles burning in protest of fatigue. Jim drags me along as I throw the bat aside to lighten my load, but the monsters are catching up on us. At last, we reach the other side of the theme park. The road spills onto an open beach.

“The beach!” I gasp.

A strange, low humming creeps into the air and down my spine. Something else is coming for us, I just know it.

“Up a tree!” I yell, recalling my hiding place the night before. My eyes sweep the place and lands on a tree not too far away. “That one!”

We flee towards it, feet sinking into the sand. Then a strange gurgling noise emerges from our right, joining in the ruckus. Out of the corner of my eyes, shadows rise out from the sea. One by one they trudge forwards, all of them holding daggers, poised to strike. Dripping wet, they move towards us, still gurgling. We have to get to the tree as fast as possible in order to avoid getting cornered on the ground.

Jim reaches the tree first. He jumps and catches hold of the first branch. After pulling himself up, he reaches back down to help me up. A loud cracking ensues from the tree branch – it is too heavy to hold both of our weights.

“Up!” Jim cries. I scramble up to the second branch and he follows closely behind. I look down frantically to check if Matt is catching up. He is at the bottom of the tree, having trouble climbing. I start making my way down to get him. But before I can reach the lower branch, he catches hold of it and heaves himself up. Quickly, I sat myself down on the second branch and dangle upside-down, using my legs to cling on.

“Come on!” I yell at Matt, stretching out my hand for him, knowing that his branch will give way anytime soon. He reaches up high for it, but he isn’t tall enough. “Jump!” I call out desperately.

But it is too late. The branch gives way with a loud crack and Matt crashes all the way down to the sand. He gets up, looks around wildly as the monsters close in on him. Then he dashes towards another tree in the distance. But before he can reach the tree, a dagger flies out of nowhere and strikes him on the back of his neck. He collapses, face down, onto the sand.

“No!” I scream.

The creatures from the sea look up when they heard my voice and I quickly sat up. A dagger misses me by inches and sticks to the branch behind me. Then the jesters bounce upwards, attempting to grab my dangling legs. I quickly duck behind the tree trunk to take cover as leaves rain upon me; Jim is making his way to the top of the tree. I climb as fast as my weary legs can carry me, out of the way of the terrible clowns. Finally, I reach the top and peek out from behind the leaves.

One of the creatures from the sea is pulling the dagger out from Matt’s neck and then slits it across his throat. Blood spurts out from his wound as the rest carry him towards the sea. Matt is clearly dead. I gasp as moonlight cast itself onto those creatures.

They are gray, covered in scales that gleam beautifully under the moonlight. Like their cousins, their facial features are turned inside out. But something is a little different about them. There are slits on the sides of their necks and they flare outwards rhythmically. One of them dons an eye-patch.

“Pirates,” I whisper.

When the mob reaches the sea, all of them crowd around Matt’s body and starts gagging. Eye-patch emits a loud cry, very much like a war cry and some sort of a chant. Then Matt seems to go into spasms as his eyelids starts turning outwards as do his nose and lips. Scales then slowly spread, covering his skin and his entire body. Finally, slits appear on the sides of his neck. The mob releases him as his eyes open and he starts gasping for breath. He sinks into the sea and emerges a moment later, very much alive.

“No way,” Jim murmurs, his mouth gaping open in disbelief.

Eye-patch draws a dagger out from the water and hands it to Matt, who takes it over with a bow. Then Eye-patch puts a scaly hand over Matt’s shoulders and in uniformity, the mob dives and disappears into the sea, claiming Matt as one of their own.

The Final Evolution © 2013 by Auby Sparksfield. All rights reserved.

Written by: Ms. Auby Sparksfield

Edited by: Isaac Tan

Click here for Chapter 3

The Final Evolution Chapter 3


Click here for Chapter 2.

Chapter 3

“We’re with you guys,” Jim whispers. I keep my eyes on the figures moving outside. I see Emma’s ears twitch as Jim’s whisper fades into the air. They are coming closer and appears to be sniffing the air, like guard dogs. With every sniff, they take a step forward.

“Jim?” says the voice. “It’s me, Matt.”

The creatures inch closer and closer to our door. I whimper softly in fright.

“Sshh. They can hear you.” Matt’s whisper is not as soft as it should be. Then Emma turns and stares at the glass panel, walking slowly towards me, bells jingling.

Emma and I are practically staring at each other through the glass panel, her eyes rolling and eyelids inside out. She still looks like her even with her mutated features – heart shaped face, long curly hair and her fringe covering one side of her face. Her acid green teeth are glowing together with the rest of its body, heating up the panel and fogging up the glass. A part of me regrets very much for not forcing her to stay with me that afternoon, but the other part feels utterly relieved to have something separating the two of us now.

A loud scream pierce the air from a distance. Emma lets out a snarl, head turning in the direction of the scream. The group of creatures thrashes away at top speed, looking for our saviours. Seizing the chance, Jim pulls me away from the door. I nearly trip when we hit the first step of the stairs. I climb the stairs at high speed, trembling, my only comfort being that the entire staircase building is in the dark. Much as I had wanted to save as many people as possible in the afternoon, my mind now wishes deeply no one would come into this part of the building, luring the glowing skeletons here.

“Come on, this floor’s entirely dark,” Matt whispers as we slow down to a stop.

He opens the door cautiously and sneaks out into the corridor. I follow closely behind, moving as quietly as possible through the darkness. Then there is a soft clinking of the keys and a room door opens. We dash inside and shuts the door, bolting it, heaving a sigh of relief as the lock clicks home.

“Keep the lights off. I’ve got a torchlight.”

Someone shoves something soft into my hand. Realising that it is a blanket, I instinctively stretch it out as I feel that someone is pulling on the other end.

“Get under it.”

I stoop down and crawl under the blanket. As soon as we are all seated on the floor, a torchlight clicks on. For the first time, Matt’s face came into view. He is clean shaven, in thick glasses and has a head of neatly combed, curly brown hair

“All of you alright?” he asked softly.

A nod in reply is only all I can manage.

“What are those things?” Jim asks. He is pale, hands trembling slightly as he holds on to the torchlight. Both of their faces are shining with sweat and I am sure so is mine. We are still panting slightly from the escape.

“I don’t know. But they’re like phantoms. You can hardly see them under the light. They are practically invisible in the day and you only know that they are there when they hit you.”

“Phantoms? You’ve seen these things before?” I ask in response to Matt’s answer.

“Yeah. They attacked the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering last week. I barely escaped.”

He draws the blanket closer and hug his backpack, which reminds me that I had left mine behind. “Listen, I am leaving before sunrise. Are you guys coming?”

“They’re out there. They’ll kill us.” Jim shakes his head firmly.

“We can’t stay here either. Before long we’ll run out of food. They’re bound to find us in here.”

I secretly agree with Jim. Matt’s room seems like the most ideal hiding place for now. If we keep our mouth shut and soundproof the place, those things will never know that we are here. Besides, it is dark out, we can’t even see where we were going. How are we going to make a successful escape attempt?

“Listen, Matt. They run at top speed, they come together in groups. If we get caught we’ll have no chance against them. How are we going to escape? The school is huge,” I pipe up, hoping to dissuade him from his ideas.

“Simple. We go underground.” Matt’s eyes glint as he suggests it, as though it is some ingenious plan.

“There is no ‘underground’ in school, Matt.”

“Yes there is.”

He reaches into his backpack and pulls out something. Laying it out in front of us, we all recognise it as the building’s map. But something seems to differ from the usual fire escape plans which we see stuck to the end of the staircases. It is littered with tiny dots and rectangular features. He stretches out s finger and points at a small little path.

“How is that underground?” I ask, confused.

“Of course it is. It’s the sewers.” He grins.

***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***      ***

When I was young Dad used to bring me to the playground. There we played with the swings and the see-saws. We built sandcastles with the small little pails Mum bought me. Every Saturday, the three of us would head down to the playground together and then some root beer float and ice cream waffles after. This routine only stopped when Mum died when I was seven. Dad said he could not bear to go back to that place. It turned out it was where he first met Mum.

Ever since then I would go down to the playgrounds alone and wished that someone would play with me. Sometimes I watched the other kids play catch and envied those girls who had their fathers to push the swings for them. One day when I was just done building my sandcastle, a little boy came over to ask me if I wanted to join them in a game. I agreed. I was to be blindfolded and be led to the slides to count to ten. Before I could finish counting, however, there were fits of laughter. I peeled off the blindfold to see my sandcastle crumbled to the ground. Broken. Gone. I ran home crying. I had never cried so hard before.

When Dad heard about it, he rushed down to the playground to look for the boys and yelled at them till they cried. He then brought me to have some root beer float and ice cream waffles. Since then, we strolled to the playground every night after dinner and built our own sandcastles.

“Didn’t you hate coming back here, Dad?” I remember myself asking as I piled more sand into the bucket.

“I realised this is a place for princesses and I was sent here to protect them,” he had replied.

My fingers tighten around the necklace which Dad had given me for my twenty-first birthday. It is rose gold in colour, the pendant in the shape of a tiara. I raise it up to my lips and kiss it.  The moment the boys had decided to get out of this place, I had decided to go home to get Dad. We will flee this horrifying place together. We will be safe with each other.

“Done?” Matt asks, buckling up his backpack. Jim is emptying the noisy contents from his bag and wrapping smaller trinkets in socks and towels.

“Jim, we’re going into the sewers. These are only gonna get wet and heavy,” I point out. “Why are you bringing your hairspray?”

He holds up the metal Gatsby can and shakes it in my face. “I can’t live without this.” He wraps it up in a towel and stuffs it into his bag.

“Let’s go.”

Jim hands me a Swiss knife. I swallow hard and click a blade open, then follow Matt to the door.

The corridor is dark once more and we walk in a single file, hand in hand. We make it past a turn and walk down the stairs. Everything is fraudulently peaceful. There isn’t a single sound except for the leaves rustling in the trees. Where has everyone else gone? Are there still people hiding in their own rooms? The walk feels like a tour round the haunted house in the theme park during the Halloween season. I had sprinted through the entire place, screaming, the moment I was scared by the first ‘ghost’. Evidently, I couldn’t do that here and I had never dreaded any walk this much before.

We reach the lobby safely after what seems like the longest time. In a distance the streetlamps are still on and we walk in that direction. Matt is guiding us based on what he remembers on his map. I feel a little more reassured from the dim light on the streets. We trek along the roadside for a while. Most of the lights in the dormitories had gone out. Finally we reach a cross junction where we take a right turn into the sports complex. A giant, round metal cover is nested in the middle of the grass patch not far from us.

“This is it. That’s the sewers below.” Matt kneels down on the metal cover which is dimly illuminated by a streetlamp nearby.

“How are we going to get in there?” I ask.

Matt reaches into his backpack and retrieves a mini crowbar. He starts prying at the lock buckling the metal cover to the ground. Jim opens his backpack, tosses out a few things and takes out a screwdriver to help.

CLINK! CLINK! CLINK!

The clanking of metal on metal fills the air and dread creeps down right to my fingertips. In no time at all, snarling joins in the ruckus the two boys are creating. It grows steadily louder and louder as the creatures nears us, flashing on and off between the intervals of the flickering of the streetlamps. One of them is wielding a bat. The group looks small, for some reason, just three of them. As they approach us, arms flailing, I scan the area to check for more attackers, but there is none. In fact, all of them are crowding around a large canal on the far side of the sports complex, ignoring us the entire time.

The three monsters reach the junction and comes thrashing towards us. Matt continues clanking down on the stubborn lock in desperation, but it doesn’t seem to be coming apart anytime soon.

“Uhh… Matt…” Jim begins, standing up with the screwdriver still in his hands.

“Should we just run for it? Hide somewhere?” I suggest, heart racing.

“Come on!” Matt growls, slamming the crowbar down on the lock in frustration. A dent appears and there is a glimmer of hope.

“Can we take them?” Jim asks. “Buy him more time.”

How do we take them?” I question in reply, clicking the blade of my Swiss knife open and brace for the attack.

But there is no time to answer. The three monsters pounce as the streetlamp above us snuffs out. They hit us like meteors that had just come crashing into Earth. One of them pins me down to the ground and I lay there for a slight moment, completely winded by the impact. As soon as I muster enough strength to retaliate, I start jabbing my Swiss knife blindly. Black, hot substance oozed out of the open wounds. They drip onto my hand, which starts burning and smoking. Crying out in pain, I push the monster back as hard as possible. No sooner had I got up from the ground, it is already charging towards me. This time I slash it across its face and a scar glows red. It snarls, revealing its acid green teeth and lunges. Crouching down, I close my eyes in fright and raise my Swiss knife in defense. The next thing I know, there is loud sputtering. I open my eyes to see the monster’s face just inches from mine, the Swiss knife pierced through its decaying neck. I back away as I pull out my knife and it collapses onto the tarred floor, black bile forming a pool around its head. It stays there, snarling between gasps and sputters, but no longer coming for me.

Matt is still attempting to break the lock while Jim takes on the other two. I lunge for Emma, grabbing her hand which is swinging the bat. But the bat is glowing red hot from the heat Emma is emitting from her own skin and I let go the moment I lay my hands on it. I look at my hands which are already scalded red, skin peeling off. Emma changes her target and lunges at me. She swings her bat and bares her acid green teeth. She prepares to pounce.

“Hey, Emma!”

Emma whirls around and meets a cloud of hairspray directed into her eyes. The other monster lies on the ground on its side, one leg twisted in a grotesque angle, black substance spilling out of its knee. Unfazed by the attack, Emma lunges at Jim once more, strangling him the second time in the night. The can of spray and screwdriver clatter to the ground as Emma lifts him of his feet. I scramble for them.

A bluish tinge is creeping up Jim’s face by the time I pick them up from the floor, the skin on his neck scalded red. I sneak up behind Emma and jabs the screwdriver through her. Like the others, black bile leaks out as she turns and snarls at me. She releases Jim, who crumples to the floor, choking. Dropping the screwdriver, I run towards Matt, who sticks out his leg. I leap over it, but a loud thud and snarl follows as I turn back to find Emma face down on the ground. Matt backs away hurriedly. Her bat rolls over to my feet and I pick it up.

“Get out of the way!” Jim hollers at us.

He is sprinting towards Emma, using the screwdriver to puncture a hole in the spray can as he comes. I swing the bat at her to buy him more time and she collapses to the side, scowling. He stuffs it under her where hot black goo is forming, burning off the tarred floor. Emma then attempts to get onto her feet, crouching over the floor on her hands and knees, spilling more black good onto the spray can as she does.

BOOM!

The can explodes at the temperature, blasting Emma backwards. She rolls over on the ground, her face ruined. Glowing red and with black bile trickling out of her nose and mouth at the same time. The explosion had blasted her torso apart. She gasps, her eyes resting on me and then she stops moving, dead. At the same time, a loud clank which announces that the lock has broken. Together we lift the metal cover and a foul stench overwhelms our nostrils.

Suddenly a noise comes from our right. Emma is moving again. I raise the bat to get ready in case she attacks. But she isn’t coming for us. She twitches and struggles as she got to her feet. Slowly, the glowing red disappears, revealing her in a burnt blue blazer and the jingling bangles. But her face remains distorted as she starts vomiting green liquid which burns a hole in the ground. She grows twice her size as her shoulders widen, her back hunching forwards. The blazer bursts apart as she is revealed naked, wrinkled gray, her back fused with what looks like a transparent tank of bubbling green chemical. She leers, showing those green teeth. Then she gives a great roar.

The instant the roar fills the air, loud retching and snarling erupt from the canal. The mob starts approaching us. Only Emma stands there, leering as she waits for her army to reach us.

“Jump in!” Matt yells.

I don’t need to be told twice. Taking a deep breath, I take a leap and feel Jim coming after me, his feet colliding hard into my shoulder. A loud yell and clang inform me that Matt has come in after us. I close my eyes and brace myself for the impact.

The Final Evolution © 2013 by Auby Sparksfield. All rights reserved.

Written by: Ms. Auby Sparksfield

Edited by: Isaac Tan

Click here for Chapter 2.

The Final Evolution (Preview 2)


snapshotpreview 2

 

“Do you think we’ve walked long enough to be out of school?” I whispered.

“Yes, I think so.”

Before long we could see the sky, dotted with little stars twinkling. I was never happier to leave that place and I began to take the route at a run, water splashing at my feet. The other two followed and I could feel the mood lightening. Even our panting didn’t feel as constricted. Soon, the wall of the canal was low enough for us to climb out and we did. It was still night and there was no retching sound nor glowing skeletons in sight. The air was foul with the excrement that stained our clothes.

Where we had come out, the area was quite well-lit. We could hear the sound of cars zooming in the distance. There were outlines of roller coasters not far away from us. We were near the theme park.

“We need to go somewhere,” Matt said, looking around.

“Yeah. Like maybe go for a thrill ride or something,” I suggested, nodding towards the distance.

There was silence and then we burst out laughing, clearly very much relieved at our escape. We started walking towards the theme park. When we finally reached, however, the absence of a security guard at the gate worried me.

“Shouldn’t there be someone here?” I asked, frowning at the security post.

“We’ll just wash up. Make it quick, come on,” Matt said, pushing me towards the gantry. Reluctantly, I climbed over it and landed in the theme park. We headed straight for the bathroom sign across a facade of a Hollywood street, not daring to look into the windows of the shops which sold clowns and other dolls. Finally we reached the washroom. The boys darted in to theirs and I dawdled outside, thinking. Not wanting to be left all alone, I made to follow after them.

Then, I heard a faint retch. I spun around.

“Who’s there?” I asked as loudly as I dared.

Goosebumps were erupting all over my arms again. There was no reply. I scanned the place quickly for any sign of chaos which had happened here before, but all seemed quiet and the display at the shops still stood in an orderly manner. An action figure posed in the window of one shop and the window next to it had ornaments glinting under the moonlight. My eyes then landed on the shop selling goth dolls. All of them wore little black dresses, had huge round eyes and little black lips. I couldn’t look at them anymore and skipped the shop. Then I saw something and did a little double take.

Next to the goth dolls in the window, there was a rocking chair. The chair was rocking slightly and then it slowed to a stop.

We were not alone.

The Final Evolution © 2013 by Ms. Auby Sparksfield. All rights reserved.