Nightwalkers."I don't want to be white anymore." Calvin said, putting on black, rubber gloves. They matched his tattered, hand-me-down suit jacket and slightly oversized dress pants which were held up with an old belt. Calvin's tactical boots were more comfortable and more expensive, and his elaborate Halloween mask was more angry-looking than his friend's. The receipt for the online orders was crumpled up somewhere in the dark of his freezing bedroom some feet away, the last stuff the 16-year-old bought before the internet went offline and his parents disappeared.
Calvin's friend and him were standing behind the front door of a poorly-lit, ground floor apartment.
"I don't want to be black anymore." Axel replied, putting on a grinning white mask with red and grey markings, and holes for seeing and smoking. Besides the mask, Axel looked like he had ravaged an entire military supplies store for his clothing. He had an odd-looking backpack he often wore that he said had tent supplies in it. People thought Axel was a pothead because his eyes were always bloodshot, he always had to explain to such people that he had trouble sleeping. The 17-year-old sometimes used eye drops before going in public to look more normal.
The two young men went outside and started walking, keeping an eye out for aliens and gangs. The world around them seemed completely empty, even peaceful, but the sense of dread underneath that silence was unshakable. They both had their suspicions that the news could lie, but neither thought the journalists had completely about the obituaries before the local newspaper stopped printing.
Axel tried not to think of the stories they told about his older brother before the barriers were finished. He wondered if he was out there or just dead in a ditch somewhere-- but these were pointless sentimental thoughts that could get him killed outside. His shoulder blades itched like hell, like usual. And the cold night air didn't seem right without tobacco smoke, and nicotine didn't seem right without a focus on the task at hand. Axel wished he could smoke more, or chug an energy shot, but too many stimulants made him angry, whereas all Calvin had to do to lose his cool was breathe.
'We'll take the roads to the fuckin' left." Calvin kept his hands in his pocket, and obsessively touched the shoddy duct-taped wiring on the thick chain connected to his pocket-watch in a kind of silent, nervous fit.
"What about your sister?" Axel said as the two kept up there pace past old buildings and empty streets lit primarily by moonlight.
"She'll meet us past Newtown's first barrier." Calvin feigned optimism, knowing that they could all die tonight.
Axel puffed out a waft of tobacco smoke from a long cigarette, "That is if the kidnappers don't know you or what you've done."
"I forge identities like you make stories. Remember I dropped out of high school for this."
"I don't know whether to consider that a compliment or an insult." Axel said.
"Kudos, or whatever the word is." Calvin snapped back as though he was having trouble breathing from the frigid Autumn air, or his friend's tobacco smoke, or both.
"It doesn't matter." Axel said, looking down at the deep, unnatural cracks running along the road and sidewalks and trying not to scratch. "I don't know why ever wrote stories in the first place."
“Its for the best Axel, you can't spell for shit anyways.” Calvin said sarcastically.
There was battered fencing up further ahead, covering the banged-up road and its sides past the abandoned ruins of houses. The fence was barbed at the top like prison fencing, but bowed down largely at a center junction where the boys could cross.
“Last firestorm was 5 days ago.” Axel said. “These houses always gave me the creeps.”
“Firestorms usually come 6 or 7 days in a row.” Calvin mumbled.
Axel laughed nervously, “Not the last one that I seen.”
“Just don't piss your pants if the sun rises.” Calvin kept fumbling with his pocket-watch, “Wait a tick, there's a Prilo Officer up ahead.”
Empty, dark houses, some fucked from the storms, surrounded the two boys. They made quiet strides towards the bushes of the front yard with the ruins of a house behind them. On their left was a massive crevice in the ground that was long enough that crossing it would be near impossible. The pit stretched on like a river, fatal to everyone, like a scar unto the Earth.
There were two Prilo Officers patrolling ahead. They were in standard, medium armor, but likely armed with an abundance of weapons. They kept the endless nocturnal curfew in effect, but they were not the communal saviors they once were. After the second invasion of Newtown, the aliens began using human skin to hide themselves. So the Prilo Officers became villains as much as heroes, sometimes if not often, attacking human beings who ventured outside in order to protect themselves.
“Why is there so few of them?” Axel whispered.
The taller and more slender officer looked around behind a menacing helmet that hid his face and muffled his voice, “Operator, where did the last grab take place?”
Calving watched the shorter, and more buff Prilo Officer walk the line of the crevice with submachine gun in-hand, he silently looked around while his partner spoke into the radio.
Suddenly, the quiet Prilo Officer screamed and dropped his gun, his scream stopping abruptly. Calvin watched from a visible point in the bushes but Axel's vision was blocked. Something black and vine-like had whipped across the man's neck and dragged him with such force that he was pulled over the massive crack in the ground, his feet hitting the cement, and his hands clenched tightly to the dark appendage that dragged him in.
“Fuck!” Calvin said in a whisper.
Axel flicked his cigarette to the side. Machine gun fire rang out from the taller officer who had now holstered his radio; the black teenager tried to get a better view out of morbid curiosity.
The Prilo Officer kept spitting bullets until the clip ran out. Then the boys saw something like a vine attached to a claw wrap around one of the armored man's legs, dragging him across the crevice and dropping him in with nothing out of him but a series of grunts. The officer's radio clanked against the cement before he disappeared.
Calvin pulled out his pocket-watch by the thick chain attached to it .
“We don't have to take this thing head-on.” Axel said, looking Calvin in the eye and shaking his head.
“I can see the radio he left behind.” Calvin said. “I need to know that they haven't kidnapped my sister.”
“Don't be a fuckin' idiot.” Axel said, knowing it was in vein.
Calvin stood up and walked past the large bush he had been slugged down behind. He pressed down on something underneath his jacket. A dull tone began to ring through the air, and a blueish-purple glow lit up Calvin's face from underneath his shirt and coat-- and his blackened pocket-watch began to hover under sparks in his gloved hand, “We'll find out if it is immune.”
All the boys could see when they left cover was some provisions and a radio on the ground. They both had a hunch that the alien was hiding in the ruins of one of the houses, across the road and the massive pit. There was a sudden, high-pitched screech before any of them could speak their minds.
“I'll take the right, you take the left.” Axel said, gripping his crowbar tightly, a deadly seriousness forming in his eyes behind the grinning mask. “Use cover and get him to jump. Then I'll charge and help you finish him off.”
The teenagers split up and ran in opposite directions, so that the creature wouldn't be able to attack them both at once.
“Hey mother-fucker!” Calvin screamed without taking cover yet. “I'm giving you two seconds to step out behind that house!”
“He's inside the house.” Axel said calmly, with the overwhelming anxiety that his friend was going to get them both killed.
“One second then!” Calvin retorted, his face starting to get red.
Something shadowy and fast moving zoomed from the ruins of the building, and Calvin started swinging the chain over his head like a lasso, sparks pouring off of it and dissipating into the night, lighting up as fiercely as the boy's sudden murderous glare.
The alien emerged in the view of a flickering, bending streetlight. It looked like a cross between a hairless ape and a carnivorous dinosaur. There were places where the alien's blackened skin appeared as though inside out, with a hideous network of veins. One of the aliens long, vine-like limbs launched across the distance of the crevice and tried to go underneath the electric chain swinging in the air to grab Calvin by the leg.
Calvin whipped the chain around the vine-like appendage as it wrapped around his leg. Metal and violet electricity held fast to the limb and its joints, and the alien screeched as though it had many voices, and shook, and lept towards the boy with a ghoulish hatred in its necrotic, ape-like face.
Axel had already darted towards Calvin, not afraid to accidentally hit him with the rusting iron bar in his hands. The alien had pinned Calvin to the ground and an array of dagger-like appendages came out of the back of its head. The dagger-like claws were attached to a long, black limb which cocked back ready to bolt into the flesh of the boy like a sniper rifle going off.
The crowbar came flinging like a baseball bat into the alien's right eye and it screeched again, like a distorted chorus. And Axel swung again, and again. The creature winced in pain, just long enough that it couldn't attack back.
Calvin got free now but found his body in a slight tremor and his vision blurred. This wasn't supposed to happen. The alien's electricity had got him again, but this time the exposure was much worse. He began to think how much of a fool he was, and that he should've never tried to use it. His heart pounded faster and he breathed in the cold night air, maybe this was it, and he was going to die. He thought about his sister and hoped that she was safe. The blur of his friend showed that he was in a rage and beating the alien creature senseless, and Calvin looked at the open skin on his wrist and saw the faint glow of his nerves. And the boy shook as if possessed, and found he couldn't walk or speak.
* * *
Calvin was suddenly in a library, or some kind of government building, or some combination; but the books were all locked behind glass cases. In the room he stood in, there was a long stairway that got darker as it went down, and he decided to go down the steps, passing by a large advertisement-- like a billboard, where a woman was smiling and holding an empty glass bottle.
The stairs went down to a bigger library. The books here were mustier, more unkept. There were parts of computer desks strewn all over the floor, and a human skull floating in the air that was talking to him in sounds he didn't understand, and the soundwaves seemed to disrupt his sense of balance. Calvin reached out for the skull, and when he touched the bone, it began to grow flesh around it, and the dimly-lit face that formed resembled his.
* * *
“Calvin, wake the hell up!” Axel said, shaking his friend, almost violently, with an unlit cigarette in his mouth.
Calvin came to, his vision restoring itself to see Axel's perpetual, painted grin and the cigarette sticking out of the hole in the mask.
“Its weird to hear you cursing. I thought you were against that.”
“I am.” Axel replied.
“Anyways, we'll take the fucker's body.” Calvin said as he dragged himself up off the ground.
“What are you nuts? Those things can come back to life!”
“I'll beat in its skull and drag its body around myself.” Calvin said angrily, looking at the crowbar in his friends hand.
“What the heck man? Did that electricity screw up your head?” Axel genuinely asked.
“It could be worth money.”
“Yeah..” The masked smoker looked down at the ground as he lit his cigarette with a metal lighter, “But money isn't worth anything anymore.”
Axel looked up and noticed a weathered piece of paper stapled to an electric pole. Calvin saw him looking at it, and noticed it too. The paper read, “NIGHTWALKERS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS CURFEW BREAKERS. NIGHTWALKERS MAY BE SUBJECT TO PERSONAL HARM OR DEATH. FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY, PLEASE STAY INSIDE WHEN THE SUN IS DOWN.”