It's story time once again, my friends.
THURSDAY – A Firebird Lying in Ashes
Hazy, orange dawn light and muted traffic noise filtered through the open gaps in the cheap, black-plastic blinds that covered Sarah Mulholland’s bedroom window. The raven-haired woman fidgeted and moaned as she clutched at her thin duvet like an insecure child seeking comfort from the disturbing visions that ran through her sleeping mind. As she rolled over onto her back, eyes flickering from side-to-side beneath their lids, a troubled moan escaped her lips and her breathing quickened to a series of panicked gasps. Sarah’s right hand clawed at the covering, pulling it off her as her head twitched on a sweat-dampened pillow. Her shoulder-length hair was lank and in disarray and her face was a clammy mask of anguish. The horrific scenes that unfolded inside her mind reached their climactic peak and her eyes flew open as she sat bolt upright with a scream of primal terror.
For long seconds the distraught, gasping woman wasn’t sure where she was as the ghostly memory of the carnage-filled nightmare lingered like an afterimage burned onto her retinas. Finally, her eyes focused on the shafts of warm light that streamed in through the blind as the rising sun fought to penetrate the morning smog outside. Her mind calmed and a shaking sigh of relief shuddered from her heaving chest. Warm, salty tears ran down her cheeks. She swung her bare legs over the edge of her single bed and ran a hand through her damp hair.
With an expression of mild disgust, she pulled the damp, sweat-soaked cotton material of her black vest-top away from her chest and gave a slight shudder as the cold cloth slapped back into place, clinging to the curves of her breasts like a second skin. Letting out a sigh, she stood up and shuffled across the worn, blue bedroom carpet to her bathroom.
Cool, clear water fell from the single, dual-flow tap on the grimy sink and filled Sarah’s cupped hands to overflowing. Pools of refreshingly cold liquid were repeatedly splashed over her face as she tried to clear her head. Turning off the tap, Sarah grasped the edge of the sink and looked at her dripping, wet reflection in the mirror.
Despite the darkness around her eyes and the lank, sweaty hair that hung limply from her head, she was still an attractive woman, with strong features, a sensuous mouth, and dark brown eyes. She took a couple of long, slow breaths and felt herself start to relax again. Her eyelids grew heavy and she considered going back to bed to try and get some more sleep. She had no sooner contemplated the action when her alarm went off in the bedroom. An exasperated sigh escaped her lips and she visibly sagged as she reluctantly banished the thought of returning to her warm, comfortable cocoon of duvet and pillow.
Returning to the bedroom, she switched off the alarm that beeped incessantly from the mobile phone that lay on the small table beside her bed and went back to the bathroom to start getting ready.
Teeth brushed, body showered, and hair washed, Sarah stood wrapped in her favourite pink towel in front of the full-length mirror that was inside the door of her cheap, beige, flat-pack closet and enjoyed the sensation of the warm air from her hair dryer as it blew through her shiny, dripping locks with a high-pitched drone. After finishing with the dryer and dropping it onto her unmade bed she brushed out the remaining tangles and looked at herself in the mirror. Releasing the knot that kept the towel in place over her breasts, she let it drop around her feet in a damp heap and examined her naked body with a critical eye.
Her right hand ran over the smooth, pale skin of her abdomen, tracing the white lines of faded scars with an odd sense of fondness. The old wounds were from her time in the Rift Containment Force when she had served on the Shield Wall, the titanic man-made barrier that encircled the Hadron Crater, a deep gouge in the Earth located just outside of New Geneva on the Franco-Swiss border.
The R.C.F was an amalgamation of military forces drawn from the nations that had pulled together following the disaster at the Hadron site. The catastrophic explosion had left a crater that was twenty-miles in diameter with an anomaly at its centre that defied explanation, “rift” perhaps being the most fitting description. Similarly, the beings that had emerged from the rift shortly after its creation also defied categorisation – their general appearance and nature leading the majority of people to refer to them as “demons”. Although the exact origin of these creatures was unknown, when the first emergency response teams arrived at the disaster site it quickly became apparent that the new arrivals were extremely hostile and in possession of teeth and claws that had ripped the relief crews to pieces – both personnel and vehicles.
The military response was swift and when combat was engaged it was discovered that the modern weaponry of the time only ever managed to, at best, incapacitate the creatures for a short period of time. To actually kill them a person had to get close enough to deliver a coup de grace with a melee weapon. Though this phenomenon had yet to be fully explained, its discovery led to bladed weapons being added to the R.C.F arsenal, with the soldiers therein trained to a level where they wielded them with proficiency akin to reinvented neo-samurai.
Despite the many advances in technology that had taken place in the fifty-one years since the Hardon Disaster on September 10th 2008, along with the construction of the Shield Wall, humanity had only ever managed to reach a stalemate with the unrelenting denizens from the other side of the rift and it was a continuous battle to keep them contained within the wall.
It was Sarah’s many battles with these demons that had left her with the roadmap of scars that she idly traced with a finger, each touch recalling to mind the tooth or claw that had pierced her combat armour but failed to kill her. Of course, she could easily have had the blemishes removed by dropping into any mall-based walk-in cosmetic surgery boutique, but a part of her wanted to keep them, like they were some kind of sick badge of honour – a reminder that she had gone toe-to-toe with hellish creatures from another dimension and survived.
Despite her victories against the demons, her final engagement, during what was supposed to have been a standard reconnaissance mission to gather data from the anomaly at the centre of the crater, had ultimately cost her the lives of her entire unit and given her the violent nightmares that frequently plagued her sleep.
Her fingers lingered on the most recent set of scars that ran across the flesh of her belly, sweeping from left to right in four jagged lines. For a moment she stared into space as she recalled that final mission and the screams of the dying began to echo in her ears…
Sarah shook her head to banish the memories that threatened to overwhelm her and frowned in disapproval as she ran her hand over the soft flesh of her belly. She poked a finger into the slight bulge of fat that protruded from her lower abdomen just above the thick, dark, triangular thatch of hair that covered her genitals.
It had been a year since she had been discharged from the R.C.F rehabilitation centre where she had recovered from her injuries, and she was a far cry from the taught and toned warrior she had once been. A prolonged period of convalescence followed by bouts of depression and a subsequent lack of general motivation had allowed a layer of softness to form over her once rock-hard body. Her shoulders and legs retained most of their definition, though her thighs had gotten fatter. Her breasts hadn’t gained much mass from the weight gain but, as she neared thirty, they were starting to show the first hints of losing the inevitably one-sided battle against gravity. Sarah’s previously trim waist and hips had expanded several dress sizes, her once defined and chiselled abdominal muscles now hidden beneath a layer of subcutaneous padding. She pinched nearly an inch of fat at a love-handle and turned to profile as she ran a hand over her ass, trying to gauge if it had increased in size overnight. By most standards she was still an attractive woman (if you liked curves), but she had been so used to seeing herself as a ripped fighting machine with a body fat percentage that was measured in single digits, that she couldn’t reconcile herself with the reflection that stared back at her. The most annoying and frustrating thing for her was that she felt as if she had lost her drive and couldn’t bring herself to do the necessary exercise to reverse the process.
With a dejected sigh of self-disgust, she turned away from the mirror and, now under a distinct cloud of depression, got dressed to go to work.
Oscar’s Diner was a fairly small establishment with only half-a-dozen Formica-topped tables and a kitchen that produced mediocre food that would never win any awards, but neither would it give you an instant coronary. Despite the distinctly average tone of the place, the owner had been wise (or lucky) enough to open it on one of the main routes used by a lot of local students to get to college on a morning. The fortuitous choice of location, combined with prices that could accommodate an average student’s meagre budget, meant that the place stayed afloat on coffee and breakfast-bun sales alone.
In the last couple of weeks a reconstruction and renovation job had begun on an old abandoned shop across the street from the diner. The job had brought in a lot of extra business as the workers had chosen to use Oscar’s for their daily lunch breaks, mostly due to its convenient location.
The workers’ money may have given the owner a permanent ear-to-ear grin, but their habits had really started to annoy Sarah. Working as a waitress in the diner, she was accustomed to occasional banter with customers, especially with some of the students that possessed an inflated sense of self-importance, but one of the workers in particular had begun to push things. Starting with the usual seemingly innocent flirty comments and gestures, which she had easily been able to deflect or ignore, his behaviour had progressed to sly “accidental” touches that had ended up in a blatant ass-grab. When Sarah had protested to her boss, he had made it clear to her that the money the construction crew brought in was far more valuable to him than her complaints. Her disbelief had turned to outrage but had faded to acceptance when her boss had explained in no uncertain terms that if she didn’t like it then she knew where the door was. She needed the job so she tried to console herself with the fact that the creep would be gone once the work across the street was completed; so she endured the now daily grope and took some comfort in the fact that the diner’s Polish cook was sympathetic and often added an extra portion of home-grown spit to the creep’s meals.
As it hit lunchtime, Sarah looked out through the glass front of the diner to the shop across the street and knew that today wouldn’t be any different. Sure enough, the noisy crowd of five workers came in and sat down at what had become their usual table. They looked over at Sarah expectantly as she stood by the pass with the other waitress, Kerry.
The petite blonde woman turned to Sarah and spoke in a low tone that only they could hear.
‘Here we go again, same old shit,’ she murmured. ‘Look, why don’t you just break that asshole’s nose? Yeah, you’d probably get fired but it’d be worth it.’
Sarah sighed and smirked slightly. ‘Believe me, I’ve thought about it.’
Even though the group had always ordered the same thing for the week and a half that they had frequented the diner, Sarah still picked up some menus and walked over to the table where she was met with a general murmur of suggestive sounds. Deliberately avoiding eye contact, she handed out the menus and offered the required ‘Welcome to Oscar’s.’ line. The crew didn’t even bother to look at the lists of food and drinks and proceeded to order their usual choices, which Sarah diligently tapped out with a stylus onto her portable order pad. The info was fed straight to the short order cook in the kitchen and Sarah informed the crowd that she would be back shortly with their drinks.
When she returned with a tray bearing mugs of hot tea and coffee, the workers were chatting and joking amongst themselves and seemed to ignore her as she placed their respective beverages on the table. As she came to Him she silently braced herself as she placed the mug down and turned away. Sure enough, a hand came up and grabbed her ass through the yellow material of the short skirt that was part of her uniform. She tensed but walked away from the lewd chuckling behind her.
A few minutes later the ritual was repeated when she went over with their food – serve, turn, squeeze. As she walked away to return the empty tray to the stack near the pass, Sarah briefly fantasised about taking the tray and repeatedly smashing it into the guy’s head until his face was an unrecognisable, bloody pulp, while his co-workers stared on with open-mouthed horror. It was pure fantasy, but it was enough to put the smallest hint of a smile on her face for the remainder of her shift.
That night, Sarah sat at home slouched in her usual seat in front of the television, wearing an expression of apathetic boredom. Around her bare feet lay the remains of that night’s meal: an open pizza box that held only a few discarded crusts, and five empty cans of JXL beer, the remnants of the last of the six-pack hanging suspended in a loose grip over the arm of the chair.
She was dressed in her comfortable clothes of plain grey sweat pants and an oversized white t-shirt that bore the image of an old cartoon character that was square, yellow, and sponge-like in appearance. Eyes with heavy lids stared at the screen of the TV and absorbed the images, much like the character on her t-shirt would absorb water. The program she was semi-watching was a documentary about the Interceptor officers that served in various cities around the world and were responsible for the rapid response to Breaches – an event when a similar, but smaller, version of the rift found at the centre of the Hadron Crater spontaneously appeared within a populated area and dislodged one or two demons.
When the first such occurrence had happened over London thirty years ago, the local authorities were completely unprepared and the death toll and collateral damage had been nothing short of catastrophic. All theories of it being a one-off event vanished when the same thing happened over Tokyo a couple of months later. This led to the implementation of the Interceptor initiative and stations were built in the major cities of all participating governments.
Sarah watched with distracted interest as one of the Interceptor officers described how they not only dealt with Breaches but also aided the Institute’s elite Jaeger units in the location and apprehension of Cambions after they manifested. It was here that Sarah let out a snort and reached for the remote. The mere mention of the Jaegers brought to mind thoughts of the Institute personnel she had met during her time in the R.C.F. The supposed “saviours of humanity” had always been cold, emotionless, and had frightened her more than the savage creatures that resided in the crater.
Clicking repeatedly through the channels failed to produce anything that grabbed her attention for longer than five seconds.
So many channels and all the same shit, she mused as she took the last sip from the remaining can of JXL before letting it drop to the floor where it landed with a clatter amidst its brethren.
Deciding to call it a night, she hauled herself out of the chair and muttered a curse as she kicked the empty JXL cans with her bare toes as she shuffled to the bathroom to empty her bladder. She then crawled into bed and prayed for the uneventful blackness of a nightmare-free sleep.
Thanks for looking and for reading (if you have done so).
More to come.
Thank you for your comments and feedback. Much appreciated.
Dec 20, 2012 6:56:36 amby renecyberdoc Homepage »
i sat upright in my bed this morning with a primal scream as well i was partly stiff ..muahahahahahahah.
if you are stiff you are dead right??i was 17 incges dead man .muahahaha.
your writing brings out the beast in me.
i thought she was fidgeting with her dildo and therefore moaning but ...ya know ya cant always get what ya want .......
i felt sometimes like beating assholish customers to a bloody pulp,oh yeas i had fantasies but my shrink said i shall take some of mothers little helpers.....heheheh outside the door i took one more....
Dec 20, 2012 8:14:37 amby Nonsolum Homepage »
I will not stop saying myself: what a talent!
You may have to "give" us your story(ies) on Kindle support, or something like this. More than in a dictionnary I have to learn idiomatics lol
At last, if you put all the story in a single final file when it will end, I am accepting Bro :-p
Tale care. Cheers !
Dec 20, 2012 9:34:10 pmby SidheRoseGraphics Online Now! Homepage »
Great imagery and writing in this episode, Alex! I'd imagine it would take all she had not to deck that guy and rip him a new one. A wonderful and perfect image to go with the story.
Reminds me of some Pink Floyd lyrics for 'Nobody Home' re: the tv.
Dec 22, 2012 1:41:16 pmby RodS Online Now! Homepage »
Once again, brilliant writing, Alex! I certainly have to empathize with Sarah; it would be most satisfying to bend a serving tray around that guys face.
You have a very powerful and well done render to accompany her story as well. Looking forward to the next chapter!
Hope you and yours have an excellent Christmas holiday!