By way of introduction, this is my entry into the first phase of the "Alexandria Initiative" writing contest, a fan-organized contest with venues on the The Secret Forums and councilofvenice.tumblr.com. It's an expansion of a story I previously posted here, but I hope you enjoy it.~~~
Most people go through life on a sort of autopilot. Not that they can't make decisions, they just don't—beyond the trivial. They have no problem deciding what shirt to wear in the morning, but then simply fall into love affairs, careers . . . parenthood; perhaps even believing they are happy. They lack the Will to do otherwise. They follow instructions, they do what they're told. These are the sort you find are easily turned. They succumb to the Will of other, more powerful, forces, like sheep for the shearing—or cattle to the slaughter—realizing too late that they've never had the option in the first place.
A rare few have the power to exert their Will—their "Anima"—to withstand the influences of forces beyond the capacity of the rest to comprehend, or even perceive. In a population of billions, they number perhaps in the thousands. These few "Animated" individuals are all that stand between the sheep and the long cold night of oblivion.
"It's like shooting fish in a barrel," Xander Hayes quipped. The blond, blue-eyed Canadian took aim at the barnacle-encrusted behemoth over the sea wall where he and Sam had taken cover. Whereas Sam's rifle was a up-converted M4 MWS, Hayes sported an Orochi Occultech rifle. ("I like to call it Hard Rain," he'd said.) On semi-auto, he made short work of the incubators that had begun to advance on their position. Sam focused on the big one. The red and gray creature screamed in pain and anger, recoiling briefly before renewing its advance.
Unlike the soggy former residents of Kingsmouth, the beast they fought now was clearly from the depths. It towered at least four meters, with giant lobster claws and a gaping, saw-toothed maw in its torso. And still it advanced, despite Sam emptying a full clip into it. Almost within striking distance, it reared up.
"Time to go," said Hayes, as he dodged to his right, out of the blast wave. Sam wasn't so quick, and the spray of water knocked her on her back. Chunks of seawall went flying. Sputtering, she looked up as the creature raised its claw to impale her. The small hairs on her arms stood on end as a tendril of brilliant white flashed into view, enveloping the creature and causing it to seize up for an instant. Momentarily forgetting Sam, it turned toward the source of its new pain, Xander. As it lumbered toward him, Sam dragged out her own claws and leapt onto the beast's back.
She failed to gain purchase and tumbled off. The Canadian was driving fireballs into the creature's maw. Sam jumped again—more determined this time—and drove her claws into the creature's back, using them to climb higher. The beast screamed in pain and anger, but Sam made it to the shoulders. With one set of claws embedded for leverage, she stabbed into the creature's head with the other. Over and over, she drove in her claws as the beast flailed its pincers, unable to reach her. Xander kept up his fiery assault as the creature stumbled and fell.
The impact threw Sam clear of the carcass. As she lay there trying to catch her breath, Xander came and stood over her.
"You all right?" he asked, lending a hand to help her up.
"Yeah, I think so." She looked down at her slacks and jacket, formerly so professorial, now drenched in seawater and gore.
"You ever read Harry Potter?"
She looked at the Canadian askance. "Yes, why?"
"Remember what it said about the Killing Curse, Avada Kedrava? You've got to mean it! I don't think you meant it until you got up on that beast's back."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Sam answered, bemused by his mispronunciation of the infamous spell.
Hayes peered at Sam intently. "I'm telling you, when you really mean it, you won't even need bullets in that gun." He then flashed her a grin. "Meanwhile, you'd better reload."
Samantha sat near the back of the local church. She wasn't religious, too much time spent studying the influence of dogmas on history. But now, she'd seen the realities behind a few of the myths, terrifying realities. She needed time to think, and the sanctuary seemed an appropriate place to mull things over. She stared at the business card Xander had given her, inviting her to a meeting in London. "Beyond the Veil," it read, promising further knowledge, perhaps? But the last time she accepted such an invitation, she'd fallen down a deeper rabbit hole than she could possibly have imagined.
The local pastor, the Reverend Henry Hawthorne, came and sat beside her in the pew.
"You seem a little more thoughtful than many of my current crop of visitors, my dear. What's on your mind?"
"What isn't on my mind? My world has been turned upside down. Just days ago I was a simple college professor. Now I am expected to take up arms in some conflict I knew nothing of before. Not just some cold war between ancient conspiracies that pull the strings on world politics, but a fight for existence against even more ancient things that care nothing for the petty power plays of the human race. We may as well be warring ant colonies. I don't know what to make of the creatures we face out there. The dead rising, but not alive. Lovecraftian sea monsters. What's next, giant insects and walking scarecrows?"
"Actually I have heard rumors," he answered, scratching his chin absently. "But never mind that. The surviving townsfolk are grateful for your help. With enough—special—reinforcements, perhaps we can stem the tide and bury our dead."
"How can we fight this?" she asked. She shook her head. "How can we possibly hope to win against a relentless bombardment that drives us mad and can't be killed?"
The pastor stared up at the altar, pondering. She followed his gaze to the candles burning there.
"You know the funny thing about Darkness?" Hawthorne asked, then answered his own question. "It can be driven away by the light of a single flame. You know, at its heart, that is the creed of the Illuminati, the Enlightened Ones."
He held up his Bible. "The Good Book is full of such imagery. 'Ye are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.'
"The World is a dark place, my dear. Shadowy forces seek to destroy it, to devour it whole. But Gaia is strong, she calls forth bright warriors to fight the Darkness. Of course, we may disagree on how that battle should be fought, and who should lead it. But the Three will prevail, complementing each other's strengths while compensating for each other's weaknesses. Rest assured of that."~~~
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