Who doesn't want to live on Earth?
There's a lot of reasons to live in nicer places, like the Sprawl, somewhere in the Andromeda Galaxy (if you have a good degree in physics, biology and such – there aren't any miners on the forefront of mankind) if you're lucky, but God forbid you get put on a Planet-Cracker.
Alistair had worked – no, lived – on a Planet-Cracker class ship for a month, and still suffered nightmares to this day. Compact corridors, hazardous machinery, nobody to help if things go wrong but a shuttle of five (an engineer, an electrician and three Merchant Marines) to the population of a large city. The conditions were hellish... but the thing Alistair missed most about being in the depths of space was the sun.
It was odd, getting used to the absence of light. When he looked outside a window, all he could see was blackness, going on and on for eternity... how his mind got lost in the depths as though a black hole were parked right outside the ship still haunted him to this day, despite the amount of room behind being “Lab Assistant” on a compacted ship and a surgeon in London.
But on Earth – particularly England – the sun always shone.
Perhaps it was this detail which seemed to make the scene unfolding in front of him all the more... off. He was looking into the operating theatre – which was scheduled to be in use today – and failed to see any signs of life.
The tools were set up, of course, the gas, the scalpels, and such, but the whole room was empty.
Scanning the room, he began to notice part of what was off-putting about the situation – the whole hospital was silent, apart from the strong winds outside which relentlessly ripped through the supposedly impenetrable barrier (the sound of which he had just dozed off to). Even his breathing, becoming faster and faster with the rising tension, was seemingly muffled by the environment, making it seem as though Alistair's ears were stuffed with cotton.
Looking around the darkened and slanted auditorium, he remembered the door down the emergency stairs. Surely, there would be people in reception. But first...
He retraced his steps back to his office, and, digging in one of his drawers, recovered a spare scalpel which was due for cleaning. It was a bit bloodied, but most of it was dry, and his anyway. Remembering the tumorous-looking scar on his left thumb, he slipped it into his lab coat. Sure, he thought, if anybody asks, I'm just cleaning it downstairs because my sink doesn't work. Who would know that, for a moment, he thought that the world had been utterly vaporised except him, leaving unnatural creatures in their wake...
Sure, who would really ask again?
Heading for the stairs, taking the high route around the steel chairs of the auditorium, Alistair noticed something that made his heart stop and skip a beat.
There was blood leading out the door of the theatre.
Unsheathing his scalpel, he reached a satisfying conclusion: there were complications during the patient's surgery. A large amount of veins and arteries were punctured, and he had to be carted away, and, in doing so, left a trail of blood.
Smiling at how he thought the zombie apocalypse had begun, he slipped the scalpel back into his pocket, and continued downstairs.
As he passed one of the many Janitor's closets, Alistair thought to tell one of the cleaners of the blood he had seen, and that he hoped for it to be cleaned up before anybody slipped on it.
Moving to knock on the door, he realized it was slightly ajar. Normally, he was not one to intrude, but opened the door anyway.
He almost immediately dived back out and threw up on the landing.
What he had seen in there... was beyond description.
Was it a man, or a creature? No, it most certainly was not a man. Men did not have large scythes of bone, jutting out crazily from stubbed arms, nor did they posses huge maws of teeth, having apparently torn free from the lower jaw bone.
What was in there... was not a man, nor was it a creature of any sort.
It was a mutilated corpse, created for the pleasure of a sadist.
But perhaps there was still life within it. Perhaps the person suffered torture, but not murder. But the idea of going back in there...
No. He would go back in, and help the creature, if indeed it could be helped.
Taking a deep breath, he plunged back in.
The first thing to strike him was the thick smell in the air. Indeed, like that of a corpse, but also an unidentifiable trace of something, something putrid,but just faint enough to sicken yet leave the victim uncertain of what they were smelling.
The second thing to strike him was that the corpse was entirely naked, but, fortunately, lay facing the floor. A boot (undoubtedly having gravity-defying capability), a RIG and a shattered helmet lay discarded on the ground, as if taken off in a fit of panic. But why the panic?
Pulling out his scalpel solely because it made him feel better, Alistair examined the corpse closely, scoping in to it and pulling his shirt up to save himself from the smell.
For a moment, the corpse began to wriggle. Alistair chalked it up to being the smell (and possible toxins in the air, given the state of decomposition) making him hallucinate, but, mere seconds later, it began to jerk about, apparently in a fit.
Now, Alistair was an intelligent man. He was schooled at Eton, and knew a great deal about medicine. But if all that knowledge had left him at that moment and he became nothing but an essential cave-man, he would still know that corpses apparently put through torture and violent execution should not fucking wriggle.
Alistair froze, gulped, and raised his scalpel. The intelligent part of his brain wanted to tell him to put away the scalpel, as this person may jump at him with the shock and be stabbed. Put the other side, the brutal side, the side that Alistair never listened to, told him to stab this thing in the brain and run.
Alistair chose the brutal side.
Jabbing it in the skull and breaking through the bone, he heard a distinct squish he heard during failed operations at his own, panicking hands. But what happened next defied everything he had ever been taught, of physics, of chemistry, of medicine, all these things became no more trustworthy than a drunken miner's tales. For the creature rose, and it rose as though it had springs in its heels, jumping up, and almost forcing Alistair to dive down the stairs, possibly breaking his neck.
Then, it let out a horrible, bone-chilling roar – no, a scream, of pain, of satisfaction at finding the prey... and hooked a sharpened, crude claw around Alistair, and began to drag him in, readying its teeth, savouring his struggle as it loomed in to bite his jugular...
Alistair thrashed about, the claw cutting into his back. Perhaps if you do that enough it'll cut off your spine and you won't feel a thing! His mind taunted him. But what do you know about luck?
Apparently, he knew quite a bit about it, as his hands felt around, searching for anything, anything, to help.
Struggling, he at last placed his hands on a sharp piece of glass, and, tugging it towards the creature's head, he brought the helmet directly into the left side of its face.
The creature fell to the side, dazed by the unexpected resistance, trailing a gash along Alistair's back. Acting quickly, he looked on the floor for anything more than his (apparently ineffective) scalpel. His eyes fell on the boot as the creature regained its ferocity.
Sticking his hand inside the boot, he pressed back in the toe with his fingers as the creature neared, bringing its claw up for the final blow...
He launched forward, pinning the creature against the wall. Before it could bring its claw down, he rolled back, feeling a sting of pain in his wound as he brought himself up.
The creature thrashed about, stuck on the wall by the gravity-boot.
Taking a deep, shaken breath, he pulled back, outside the closet and down the stairs.
Reception was as empty as would be expected. God knows how many of those... things had hit London. Apparently, they were un-killable. The only only option now was to hide... but where?
His apartment building wasn't exactly a castle, despite what it was named. “Beverly Castles” my arse! He thought. Apparently, he was losing enough blood to make light of the situation. Yippie.
Hobbling out of the building so as to avoid as much pain on his back as possible, he looked about the carnage.
Destroyed buildings, possibly from bombs, still-burning cars wrecked in the street, shattered glass underfoot... what the Hell has happened here?
A silhouette danced out of sight to Alistair's right. It may have been in a destroyed car salesmanship, but the Chinese takeaway was an equally viable option. Either way, it was moving like no man should, and it was probably moving towards him.
He checked his options, panicking slightly.
Can't go to the left, he thought, covered in debris.
Another darkened shadow moved away, into the dark of an open door.
Can't stay and fight, I don't have any weapons.
And I'm scared.
He looked back, into the shadowy reception, and, taking quick account of what would undoubtedly happen if he stayed or went to his right, ran back into the hospital. He didn't need to look over his shoulder to know that at least two of them (or two of something) were chasing him.
Taking a left, he fled down a flickering corridor. Knocking down a filing cabinet to slow them, he barged into the first door he saw on his left – the toilets.
Slamming the door behind him, he backed away. There wasn't anything to barricade with.
Hoping that the lock would be enough, he heard a moment of them walking about outside.
Alistair closed his eyes and stopped his breathing, hoping they were dumb enough to forget about him fast enough to leave him alone.
There was a bang, a crash, and a sound of meat being struck.
He drew his final breath.
He opened his eyes.
The door was undamaged.
Looking about, confused, he at first thought of it as blind luck.
But then he heard a banging about above, in the vents. And he knew what they were doing. Panicking, he did the first thing that occurred to him – diving into one of the stalls.
Looking up, he noticed a window. Standing on the seat, he was able to get up onto the frame and part-way through the window when he heard another bang, and the same sound of flesh hitting the floor.
Struggling through, he had to escape, had to!
He heard a scream, and was unsure of what happened next.
At first, time seemed to pause for a few moments, before a deafening explosion filled his ears. Flung outside by the shockwave with a few pieces of unidentifiable yellow skin, he struck the building opposite, and was met by blackness.
“Are you sure? Come on, leave him.”
“No, damn it! Where are you going? Mark! Come back! We can save him. Look, he's fine!”
“For fuck's sake, Diana. If you pick up all the strays, there's not gonna be enough food! Goddamn it. Fine, help me get his arms...”