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September 14, 2014

Demons Ascension - You Mortals

[Posted by Ted H]

Man, I just realizing how much of a bitch this is gonna be to get all posted together for when I add this to the "Completed Series" section...Small one-shot sections like this one don't help either...

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[Demons Ascension - You Mortals]

            The night was eerily quiet when James emerged from the apartments. The power in the area was still out, but an unchecked fire in the upper floors of the apartments lit up the area very well. The streets, which were packed moments ago, were now devoid of all life, living or dead. It was also considerably warmer, though still very cold out.
            There was no impending siren or any sign that anyone cared about the fire currently burning. James figured the apartments would burn to the ground, taking any proof of Croatoan with them. "Probably for the best," he said aloud as he fished a cigarette out of his pocket while he walked towards the street. He lit up and took a long, sweet drag which he felt he was long overdue for.
            "How did you survive the fall?" a familiar voice asked from behind. James turned to see Amy walk over while. "Of all the stuff that's gone down tonight, that's the one thing you're going to question?" James asked. Amy said nothing while he took a couple drags.
            "It wasn't that long of a drop," James said with a smile "One of those big, hulking monsters broke my fall. Plus, I'm pretty sure this coat had something to do with me surviving." Amy shook her head, but said nothing. "Still," James continued "It hurt. But when you know who came plummeting down that hole right after me, then intentionally made himself mortal, it all hurt a hell of a lot less."
            "You mortals," she mused with a small grin.
            "Yeah, we're not all that fragile...mostly."
            "I know of the deal you made with the dark one," Amy said, swiftly changing the subject.
            "Uh...yeah?"
            "Such a deal was not lost in the eyes of our father."
            "Then he must know I didn't make a request yet."
            "Yet," Amy stressed.
            "Yeah," James said as he took a long drag "Yet."
            "His power still resonates from that coat," Amy said "You should burn it."
            "Maybe," James responded before flicking his cigarette away "But I'm cold, so no."
            James then began walking without another word to Amy. It had been a very long day, and he had just about had it with angels, demons and gods. Not another soul bothered him on his long walk to John's apartment.

September 7, 2014

Demons Ascension - About That Favor

[Posted by Ted H]

The end is soon. Gonna try to have a little something ready for afterwards to bridge the gap a little to October before I disappear before NaNoWriMo.

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[Demons Ascension - About That Favor]

            Watching Croatoan stumble backwards and fall into the now ankle deep pool of blood was almost satisfying enough to watch for James after the long ordeal he had endured to this point...almost. He sprang up in a fit of rage, barely able to contain himself as he got right into James' face. "Guess I only needed one shot, eh?" James said as a shit eating grin crept across his face.
            All emotion drained from Croatoan's face as he tried to comprehend what James just said. Then there was a spark in his eyes that mean he figured it all out. "You weren't aiming for me," he said through his clenched teeth as he began to shake from anger. He reached back and made a fist before punching. James easily caught it, spun Croatoan around and threw him into his own alter.
            "I kept asking myself on my way up," James said as Croatoan struggled to recover "How on earth did they manage to stop you the first time? How did they get Virginia Dare away from you? Then I realized they didn't." Croatoan screamed and rushed James, who easily sidestepped and Croatoan grasped at air as he fell to the ground again.
            "There's more than one way to spoil a ritual sacrifice," James said as Croatoan stood up. The two began circling each other, one waiting for the other to strike. "Sure it would have been nice to get Amanda out of this alive, but I realized that if she died by some other means besides your ritual, then maybe her soul would pass on and away from your clutches."
            Croatoan then quickly ran to James and swung, but James was easily able to swat the punch away, then swing his fist back around and into Croatoan's face. "You must not be used to this mortal thing," he said as he punched Croatoan in the face a few more times before dodging another punch then kicking him in the torso "You're not as strong or as fast as you think, and you're certainly not invincible." Another punch to Croatoan's face drew blood.
            Croatoan slipped and fell to the ground, splashing blood about as he scrambled away. "All the chanting and rituals and carving of symbols you know won't help you now," James said as he followed "They might hide you from demons and angels or whatever else isn't suppose to be here, but this realm is my turf. You can't hide yourself from a human." Croatoan rose to his feet and James could see him reach behind his back.
            "Go fuck yourself," Croatoan said as he pulled out his blade and swung at James. James dodged, then grabbed Croatoan's arm and spun him around as he continued to twist the arm quickly until he heard a snap. Croatoan dropped the blade and screamed as he fell over, clutching at his useless arm. James reached into the pool of blood where the blade fell and retrieved it. He then approached Croatoan.
            "I am going to kill you," Croatoan said, half delusional as he attempted to attack again. "No you won't," James said as he checked the mortal demon into his own alter. Croatoan collapsed onto the table and struggled to get up. James held him down with one arm as he held the blade overhead with the other.
            "I WILL return!" Croatoan shouted as he spit up blood.
            "Again...no," James said as he brought the blade down into Croatoan's right eye. He then pulled it out quickly and plunged the blade into the other eye. Croatoan made little noise as his arms flailed for a moment before going still.
            Satan, who had watched the whole time, began to laugh as he clapped his hands and stepped towards the altar. "That's one way to get the job done," he said with a smile as he reached into Croatoan's body and pulled out his soul. For the first time ever, James saw a look of pure terror on Croatoan as two shadowy figures moved in and without a sound took Croatoan's soul and disappeared with it into the darkness.
            "Looks like I owe you one," Stan said after all the other black figures disappeared.
            "Look like it," James said, noticing that the red glow was slowly starting to fade.
            "And here I thought I heard you say once you wouldn't kill anyone in cold blood."
            "Croatoan was different."
            "Sure," Satan said with a mocking tone. James started for the exit. It would be pitch black in a few moments, and he didn't feel like being in the dark with his current company. "So," Satan said as James turned back to look at him "A favor for a favor. What'll it be, huh? What does your heart desire?"
            James pondered it for a moment. Here was a god, albeit pure evil, ready to grant him anything he desired for stopping Croatoan. The whole situation seemed odd, but that may have been from the bias instilled on him from being told his entire life about evil.
            "This something I need to decide right now?" James mused out loud. Satan scoffed. "If you so choose," he replied "But this isn't something I'd advise waiting on. A no strings attached favor from me is quite rare."
            "Let's stick a pin in it then," James said with a smile as he made for the stairs.
            "So be it," Satan said as the red glow faded and he disappeared into darkness.
            "See you around, Stan," James said.
            "Sooner than you think," a voice from the darkness replied.

August 31, 2014

Demons Ascension - The Fallout

[Posted by Ted H]

Oh, it's not quite over yet...

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[Demons Ascension - The Fallout]

            Croatoan allowed himself a beat longer than he should have to enjoy watching James disappear. He'll make his way down to his alter later to view the mangled remains of the man or perhaps have one of his beasts bring the body up; he hadn't decided yet. He enjoyed the spectacle that turned out to be, the bullet just grazing his right ear as it ultimately missed completely, not that it would have mattered. "Now," he said as he turned towards his final sacrifice "Onto what was long denied to me unjustly."
            The girl was where he left her but she had managed to arch her back and drop her head out of view. "It's time," Coratoan said as he revealed his blade and rose towards the girl, a long dormant excitement growing within his form he had long forgotten of. Just as he was about to reach out and draw the girl's body towards him, he heard a voice call to him.
            "It's over, Croatoan," the voice said, jarring him from his task. He looked to see an angelic figure floating near him. "You shouldn't be here," he hissed as he pointed his blade towards the figure."Neither should you," the angel responded.
            "You can't stop me," Croatoan said as he turned back for the girl to find her spirit rising from her body. "What?" he exclaimed as he beckoned the body to him to find that there was a bullet hole in her forehead. "What...did...you...DO!?" he screamed as he could barely contain the rage building inside him.
            "She did not die by your hand," the angel announced as the room began to brighten and the girls soul continued to rise "and her soul now belongs to a much more powerful entity. "No!" Croatoan screamed as he noticed the number of angels appearing nearby as the light continued to brighten. "That soul belongs to me!"
            Croatoan made a desperate grasp for the girls soul until he was stopped by a bright and powerful light that held him at bay as the girls spirit disappeared into heaven. "Noooooooooooooo!" Croatoan screamed as the light only intensified, ultimately blowing Croatoan back and causing him to freefall through his hole all the way down. He landed harshly into the pool of blood that had accumulated.
            Croatoan rose to his knees and screamed at the sky, barely comprehending that his plans for ascension were in ruins. Now more powerful forces than he were around and knew exactly where he was. "I will have my ascension," he barked at the heavens before spitting to the sky "This is nothing more than yet another setback."
            "Oh, this may be more than just a setback," Satan said as he stepped into view from the darkness. Croatoan's power still resonated down here and the red glow still lit everything up enough to see clearly. Satan stood smugly with his hands behind his back, shadowy figures flanked him and surrounded Croatoan on all sides.
            "It's over," Satan stated as he took a step forward, Croatoan took a step back and brandished his blade. "If you think I'm beat..." he trailed off as he turned the knife on himself and stabbed into the upper portion of his chest. He quickly chanted a phrase in an unknown language and dragged the blade to the other side of his chest before pulling it out. The knife left no mark on his body.
            "So you're trying the same trick again," Satan said as Croatoan laughed. "You can't touch me," he said with a hiss.
            "Mortal," Satan said "At least until you find another rock to hide under."
            "There's nothing you can do!"
            Satan let off a slow laugh, leaving Croatoan with an uneasy feeling. "Why do you mock me with your laughter?" he asked. "It's nothing," Satan responded "But let's just say I may owe someone a favor when all this is through." Croatoan didn't understand, and he wasn't sure if he even wanted to. He was on the verge of leaving when he felt a tap on his shoulder. When he turned to face whoever was touching him, he was promptly greeted with a fist being thrown at his face.

August 24, 2014

Demons Ascension - One Bullet

[Posted by Ted H]

The very very very VERY 1st time I started writing this...way back in 2006, I started the tale at the point in the story where this entry ends, wherein Blake would then do a flashback through the entire story until it catches up to this point again. For obvious reasons I decided against it, one of which was I wanted him to be a bit more calculating rather than dumb-luck relying....I'm glad I changed it.

Story isn't over yet, so make sure you're around next week.

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[Demons Ascension - One Bullet]

            James sprinted down the hallway to where Croatoan lived and found it closed with the same symbols carved into the frame as the basement. "Wonder if my key will work on this door, too," he said as he backed up a few feet, then ran up and threw his foot into the door. This time, probably having more to do with the coat as opposed to blunt force, the door easily swung open and James stepped through, the door quickly closing behind him.
            The room resembled nothing like the place James had been before. Everything was different. The entire apartment, walls and all, were gone. Instead was a wide open area with a large gaping hole in the middle of everything leading down to the basement alter where James was at the beginning. Floating over the hole was Croatoan with his back to James, and in front of Croatoan was Amanda, nude and in the same sacrificial position as all the other victims. She was alive, but the only movement she could manage was the terrified look on her face.
            "Alright James, no pressure," he said to himself, which caught Croatoan's attention as he turned around and looked down at James with some bewilderment. "How?" he began to ask before composing himself and waving his hand at the notion. "It doesn't matter," he said "You will simply bear witness to my ascension firsthand, and also spare me the trouble of tracking you down afterwards."
            "That's where you're wrong," James said "I'm here to stop you."
            Croatoan gave off a deep laugh. "You honestly still believe you have a chance? I am a GOD!"
            "Not yet. This whole this is to make it official, is it not?"
            "Does that give you hope? The belief that as long as I'm not fully ascended, you might have a sliver of a chance to stop me?"
            "Maybe," James said as he pulled out Bradford's gun "So is our agreement still in effect?"
            Croatoan's eyes lit up before he laughed again. "Of course," he said "Take your one shot! Nail me right between the eyes and I might plummet down this hole and never be seen again!"
            "Funny how you're willing to take this chance, seeing how I take it you've never been this close to your ultimate goal before."
            "One bullet will not ruin my ascension."
            "Then why even bother allowing me the chance?"
            "Because I know you honestly think you can stop me with just a bullet. Otherwise you wouldn't be here. Your despair will be so much sweeter if I allow you to act on your current hope."
            James knew that headshots were moot now against Croatoan, but Croatoan didn't know he knew that. He knew the shot he wanted, but he needed Croatoan to be in perfect position for him to pull it off. It was a long shot, and James wasn't entirely sure if it would even work at this point, but there was no other option now.
            "Promise not to move?" James asked as he raised the gun and aimed towards Croatoan.
            "I would never dream of it," Croatoan answered "But if your plan is to stall me, I'm afraid it won't work." With that, the door behind James was struck by something big, then followed by a familiar chorus of growling. The three minions had made their way out of the elevator shaft and were now beating at the door to get at James. "My will is the only thing keeping that door shut," Croatoan announced "Right before midnight, I will allow it to open and you will be torn limb from limb while I see to my final sacrifice. So you have but a moment to take your fruitless shot."
            James aimed and looked for his shot, but wasn't satisfied with his options. The door behind him took another powerful hit and Croatoan announced that it was now or never. "Well?" he asked as James continued to aim but refused to shoot. "Times up," Croatoan shouted as the door behind James splintered at the strike of Croatoans beast.
            James looked quick behind himself before taking off towards the hole Croatoan was floating over, all three beasts were in quick pursuit. James ran to the edge and launched himself up and towards the demon with both arms still aiming upwards. Croatoan did not move as he watched the man begin to fall. James finally found the shot he wanted and pulled the trigger. The gun exploded its shot out as it jerked from James' hands. As soon as he got the shot off, the first of all three beasts hand begun to grasp James and soon he and all three beasts plummeted downward into the hole, all four screaming as they fell into the darkness.

August 17, 2014

Demons Ascension - Not Earth

[Posted by Ted H]

Next week will be the confrontation we've spent the last friggin year building up to...

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[Demons Ascension - Not Earth]

            Back where there was light, James looked to his watch and noticed he still had just under an hour to go. "Plenty of time," he said as he quickly ascended the stairs. The top of the stairwell led to a large metallic door, barring entrance to the final floor. An uncomfortable thought crossed James' mind that the door would be locked as he tried the handle and the door gave way.
            The other side was pitch black, but James wasn't going to let that deter him. He had an idea of where to go and if he had to grope around in the dark for half an hour, he would. He stepped through and tried to let his eyes adjust to the darkness. Even with the light from the stairwell, nothing could be seen. It was as if the darkness was too thick to cut through. The stairwell door slowly swung close behind him.
            After the soft click of the door, there was no sound to accompany the darkness. James began to feel around for a wall but couldn't grasp anything. He reached for the stairwell door to find that it too was gone. "That's different," he said as a soft, red light similar to what he knew from the basement began to light up all around him.
            Where he was no longer resembled a hallway or a room of any sort. It felt like he was outside, but he couldn't tell if there was a ceiling or just more darkness when he looked up. There was no wall nearby but he felt like he was in an extremely enclosed space. "Take a damn breath," James said to himself as all his senses seem to be on edge. Wherever he was, it didn't feel like earth. At first glance the floor appeared to be hardwood like all the hallways in the apartment, then he thought he looked down and saw carpeting before seeing elaborate tile work. One glace, James thought he was standing in mid air.
            He closed his eyes and the sensation of plummeting overtook him. He opened his eyes to reveal he wasn't moving. Pungent sweet and bitter smells assaulted his nose and he dared not open his mouth, lest he taste the air which seemed weighted down by something more than just darkness. The silence was deafening and at the same time blaring. A complete sense of both dread and calm shot up and down his spine as he tried to make sense of where he was.
            "There's nothing here," James said as he took another long breath. His brain was overloading, trying to piece together feelings and sensations that it felt were required. He took a step forward and felt something beneath his foot when it landed. He slowly made his way forward, in a direction he felt was the one he needed to be walking. In the distance were six figures he deemed not to be illusions, standing and looking towards James with their arms at their sides.
            James continued forward, the ground never even with his previous steps. Sometimes he found himself going up, and sometimes down, both steeply and gradually, never the same twice. The figures became more and more clear as James approached; three men and three women, all nude, all showing no emotion as they watched James. Their faces and skin had all been torn apart and awkwardly stitched back together, as if they were wearing masks of themselves. James recognized most of them. One girl he assumed was named Sarah, he remembered the priest and Williams. The Praque sisters and Bradford stood farther back, eyeing James as if he was just another wandering soul.
            "Amanda's still alive then," James said to Bradford as all six opened their mouths in unison and spoke with one voice, seemingly comprised of all six. James couldn't make out what any of them were saying. It seemed like they were talking in reverse, but much too fast for James to keep note of. "Slow down," he said, unsure to what was happening. He glanced down at his watch and caught his breath at how fast it was moving. The half hour he thought he had was now less than ten minutes.
            Wherever James was, time wasn't keeping the same rules as he was used to. "My watch is broken right now, right?" he asked towards Bradford. "Ohn!" all six said in unison. "Thought so," James said as he pushed himself passed where Bradford was standing. He felt his steps grow more and more heavy as he pushed, the red glow of the world around him slowly growing darker and darker until he was once again in darkness.
            Not far ahead of him he saw a faint outline of a door, struggling to pierce the darkness with whatever light it contained. James knew that was his exit. He was almost at a crawl with how heavy his walking had become, but he was able to reach out and grab the door and pull himself through it. As he fell through, he felt himself land on the familiar local of the apartment hallway. The door slowly clocked shut and he was once again where he felt he needed to be.
            He quickly rose and examined the door he just came through. All over the frame were various carvings, some of which were glowing, not unlike the ones he came across before in the basement. "I don't think I was suppose to get through there," he said as he pondered whether or not the trench coat once again had aided him in this impossible journey. He then quickly snapped out of thought and looked to his watch, now running normal again, and found he had under five minutes before midnight.

August 10, 2014

Demons Ascension - Elevator

[Posted by Ted H]

Aw snap...climax in sight!

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[Demons Ascension - Elevator]

            James wasted no time deciding where to go when he entered the lobby. He made for the stairwell and all but tumbled down the stairs as he made for the basement. Once there, he sprinted for the next downward staircase that led him to where the alter was. The next level down was flooding with blood up to his ankles. It was pouring down from all the walls and James didn't bother wondering how. The ceiling was giving off a soft, reddish glow, allowing James to see.
            The door ahead was still kicked open. James pushed ahead and didn't bother with subtlety with his approach. He was attempting to mess with a gods plan to cement his ascension, he figured the direct approach was just as likely to succeed as a ninja approach, and the ludicrously of it might catch Croatoan off guard.
            He charged into where the alter was but found nothing inside. "Uh oh," he breathed as he looked around, feeling the pressure of time as he wondered where else Croatoan might attempt the final sacrifice. "Where else would he finalize his ascension?" he said as ran both his hands through his hair before he stopped. "Ascension..." he said "...Up."
            James looked up to find the ceiling wasn't even there. The entire building above him didn't seem to exist, but there was something to see up in the distance. Two figures floating essentially in midair. "His room," James said as he spun and made back for the staircase. It was too dark to read his watch clearly, but he knew time was oppressively short. Having to struggle his way through the now knee deep blood wasn't helping.
            He made it back up and into the basement and sprinted for the stairs before stopping at the sound of the roaring that echoed down the stairwell. "Not good," he said as he backed away from the entry. His mind raced quickly for a way to hide before he rushed for the elevators and pushed the call button.
            "C'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon," he kept repeating as the roars from the stairwell grew louder. "Ding!" the elevator sounded as the doors slowly opened and he threw himself into the elevator and slammed his finger into a random floor button. The doors then began to close at a snails pace as he noticed a huge human hand with large claws protruding from where the fingers used to be reached out from the stairwell entry and slice into the wall. There were tatters of skin hanging off from bright red and bloody patched of overstretched muscle. In the darkness, James could see a pair of bright eyes shining through and looking directly at him. The doors finally shut and the elevator began its ascent just as the beast was beginning to stick its head out and let off a tremendous roar.
            "I've got about ten seconds," James said to himself as he stepped onto a rail on the elevator and lifted himself into the air and reached for the roof hatch. He pounded at the hatch until it popped off and he began to climb through. As soon as he was through, the elevator shook and stopped. He looked back down to see a claw tear through the floor like butter. The elevator then plunged a foot suddenly and James fell over and almost back through the hatch. His mind raced for a plan as a second claw reached in and began to peel through the floor to get in.
            James grabbed for the nearby ladder leading up and pulled out his knife. He reached out with the knife and began to cut at the wires holding the elevator up until he realized this wasn't a movie and he wouldn't be able to cut steel cables with a pocket knife. A new idea struck as he idly waited on the ladder. He heard one beast finally pull itself into the elevator and then reach its arm through the hatch.
            "I'm right here!" James yelled "Come get me!" He was still nearby, but defiantly out of range of the swinging claw. It reached out and tore through one of the steel cables and, as James had hoped, cut through it like nothing. There were others and James continued to yell out and taunt the beast, attempting to keep it in a blind frenzy as opposed to allowing it to attempt to tear its way out.
            One final cable eventually remained as a new arm tore through and James knew time was running out. He cupped his one free hand to his mouth and threw his voice over to where the last cable was, drawing the swinging claws in that direction. One final and fatal swing severed the cable and the heavily damaged elevator began a free fall back to the basement level. The beasts were down, but defiantly not out as James began a frantic climb up the elevator shaft. Several floors up, he pried a set of doors open with his knife and made for staircase just as the beasts managed to pull themselves free from the wreck and each other at the bottom of the cramped shaft.

August 3, 2014

Demons Ascension - The Army

[Posted by Ted H]

Don't give me that look...you just KNEW that if there was a way to shoehorn zombies into this story, I'd do it....

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[Demons Ascension - The Army]

            "Did you hang up on me? he asked as Matthew answered again.
            "Yes, because I need to prepare for the end of our world. Tell me something, you idiot, you wasted time trying to save the other sacrifices as opposed to saving the final one, didn't you?"
            "Just one...and only because we figured it out. Listen, we still have time. It isn't midnight yet. How do we go about stopping him? We know who he's gonna sacrifice and we know exactly where he will be."
            "You don't just stop a god, James. His power is too great at this point. The only chance you had was to hide the final sacrifice from him."
            "He kept super close watch on Amanda though, how was I suppose to hide her?"
            "James, whatever you could have done before would be an infinitely better option than what you can do now. Nothing will stop Croatoan outside from direct intervention by a deity, and the only ones available are blocked out of this realm. You can't stop Croatoan, he's bulletproof and invincible."
            "There has to be some way..."
            "The only way was preventing the sacrifice."
            "Then that's our play."
            "My best advice to you is to get as far away from the city as possible. Maybe you'll last a few days while Croatoan begins to reshape our world to his liking."
            "How much harder could this possibly have gotten?"
            "If he hasn't already, he's about to raise an army. Anything killed by him or his followers will only add to their numbers."
            James was about to ask another question when the phone cut off and the lights in the station went out. "Stay calm," Lyle said "Emergency power should kick in." The three men waited in pitch black for a few seconds until some dim, red lights illuminated the area. "What happened?" James asked. "The entire block must've gone out," Lyle said as he approached a window and looked out "Maybe even the entire city."
            "Guys?" Pete asked as James was walking over to the window with Lyle "That cop who died just stood up." Both men turned to look where Pete was looking to see the young cop from before standing up with his arms at his sides, head down and blood pouring from his gaping wound on his side. "Will?" Lyle asked almost at a whisper when the newly risen officer snapped his head up, revealing pale, white eyes, and snarled like an animal. He then began limping towards Pete as he backed behind Lyle who had taken his gun out and pointed it.
            "Will, stop, please," he said as Will paid no mind to the words and blindly made his way forward, arms out clawing at the air between him and Lyle. "That's his army," James said softly before noticing Lyle's obvious hesitation. "Shoot him!" he screamed as Lyle couldn't go through with it and instead ended up wrestling the undead officers arms. In a panic, Pete ran up to one of the dead bodies lying around and pulled out their gun. James ran up and threw his arms around Will then with Lyle's help, pulled him away and tossed him near Pete who quickly ran up and shot him in the head, killing him yet again.
            "We need to get out of here, now," James said. Pete was barely able to ask why when he screamed at the feel of the officer whose gun he took reaching up and grabbing his leg. As Lyle pulled him off, James took note of all the other dead bodies starting to rise again, the same pale and dead eyes in every one of them like Will. "Follow me!" Lyle called as he started running, James and Pete sticking close behind.
            "Where are we going?" James asked, knowing that the direction they were running was not the exit. "Armory," Lyle said "We're not getting out of here with just a couple handguns." Any reservations Lyle would have about Pete being armed were being ignored at the moment since he seemed just as desperate to survive as everyone else was.
            The armory itself wasn't much, mostly picked clean by the previous attack from within. Lyle was able to scavenge some ammunition for his gun and load up a shotgun and handed it to James. "I'm not really a gun person," James said attempting to hand the shotgun back. "Are you kidding me?" Lyle asked "It's the apocalypse out there!"
            "Guns aren't going to stop Croatoan," James said.
            "Don't worry," Pete said as he took the shotgun. Lyle had a visual objection to letting Pete have the most powerful gun available, but he kept his mouth shut. "Those things are about to catch up," he said as he checked out the door. "There another way out?" James asked.
            The three men snuck around some hallways and out a back door into the streets. The thick overcast and the power being out made it almost impossible to see. Lyle pulled out his flashlight and led the men through and back around to the street side where he had parked. The undead were pouring out of the police station and making their way in the same direction; towards the apartments.
            "Car is on the other end of the street," Lyle said "We make a break for it and hope we don't get mauled or eaten."
            "They're not gonna eat us," James said "But they will try to kill us. So worry less about their biting and more about their scratching and clawing."
            "There's got to be an easier way," Pete said, vocalizing the absurdity of a plan that had them running in almost complete darkness to a car surrounded by the living dead.
            "That's why you have a shotgun," Lyle said as he primed himself to run like a sprinter. "Go," he said aloud as he ran for the car, the others right behind him. He fired a round off as he reached for the door and opened. James attempted to run around the side for the front passenger door. Every undead person in the vicinity were converging on the car and groping to pull everyone away.
            James reached for anything to hold onto as he was being pulled, only managing to grab onto the trench coat lying in the front seat as he was pulled away. He could hear shots being fired, but no one was coming to his aid. As he fell to the ground away from the car, the trench coat fell on top of him, obscuring his vision. For a moment he laid, blind to the world, and braced for the inevitable attack from all the corpses surrounding him, but nothing happened.
            James pulled the coat off of his face to see the undead crowding around him but doing nothing. "Get off of me!" he heard Lyle scream drowned out by shotgun fire and James wondered very quickly why he was being spared. He stood up, still holding the trench coat and a number of the undead backed away from him. He held out the coat and they backed up even more. "This thing reeks of your power, doesn't it?" he said to himself as he threw on the trench coat and rushed to the other side of the car.
            Pete was using the shotgun as a bat while struggling to reload while Lyle was on the ground with a number of undead groping at his flailing body. As James ran over, all the undead instinctively withdrew and cowered off. Lyle did not get off the ground as he laid there, holding his head. His gun was gone and he was bleeding profusely out of his nose, mouth and ears. Pete reached into Lyle's pocket and pulled out the keys and tossed them to James. "C'mon! We need to go!" he yelled, not understanding why the undead had retreated a few feet so suddenly.
            James looked down at Lyle as Pete ran to the passenger door and got in. "Don't...Leave me..." he choked out as he continued to spit out blood. James was unsure what Lyle meant. Was he pleading for James to leave him behind, that lugging his dead weight the rest of the way would only slow them down? Don't bother, just leave me? Or was he honestly pleading not to be left behind to the discretion of the undead army that were only a few feet away, ready to carry on with smothering him to death.
            Lyle could barely open his eyes and wasn't able to elaborate any more, but James couldn't just leave him behind so unceremoniously. He quickly threw open the back door and dragged Lyle up and into the car. He then Jumped for the driver's seat and fired up the engine. The undead began to surround the car, but James wasted little time in driving forward and running anything over that got in the way.
            The road to the apartments was frantic and crowded. Multiple accident occurred when the entire city went dark, and added to that were the numerous panicked people dealing with the sudden undead assault. Countless times, James found the main roads impassible and had to find a way around. Pete had been trying the radio and couldn't raise any signals. The entire time, James would glance at his watch and grow increasingly sick at how fast midnight seemed to be approaching.
            "How's that shotgun looking?" James asked, suddenly concerned for how well armed they were.
            "Plenty of shells left. We'll be fine," Pete said, trying to sound reassuring, but he couldn't even convince himself. Lyle's gun was gone and the handgun Pete took only had the one magazine. Between those and the shotgun, there was also Bradford's magnum that James still had on him, with only one bullet loaded for what it was worth.
            James wasn't entirely familiar with the area, but he knew where the apartments would be since all he needed to do was follow the mass of walking dead. As he approached, he noticed there was an area in the distance that still had light, meaning Croatoan still kept the power on in his own home.
            "I don't want to sound repetitive," Pete said "But how about a plan?"
            "The plan is..." James said before taking a moment to think "The plan is to walk right into his little sacrifice event and gum up the works. This coat allows us to walk right through his minions, something I doubt he's accounted for."
            "How do we mess up his sacrifice?"
            "I don't know, but if we get through midnight with Amanda still alive, more powerful forces will be able to intervene."
            "So we need to stall? And walk right through all his defenses? It all sounds too easy."
            "Yeah, well, there's probably a monkey wrench in there somewhere. We just need to deal when things like that occur."
            "Where are we going in the apartments?"
            "There's a room in the basement. My money's on there."
            "It all just sounds-" Pete began before he started screaming. Lyle had reached around from the back and was scratching at Pete's face. "Lyle!" James yelled as he turned to see the man had died and had turned. Lyle briefly turned to face James, giving him a full view of his pale white eyes, before ignoring him and continuing with his attack on Pete.
            Pete struggling interfered with James as he tried to maneuver around some of the dead and he ended up mounting a sidewalk and crashing into a building. For the second time that day airbags had blown into James' face as he opened his door and stepped out. The crash wasn't that bad and it allowed Pete to exit the car and close Lyle inside. Pete leveled his shotgun at the approaching horde as James stepped in front.
            "You ok?" he asked as Pete nodded but kept his eyes at the undead. "They won't try anything," James said as everything approaching stopped within arms length but made no effort to attack. "What now?" Pete finally said as James eyes the light of the apartments not too far in the distance. "We walk," James said.
            The entire block before the apartments on all sides were packed with the undead, all gathering outside and waiting. Pete stuck close behind as James walked through the horde completely untouched. The undead parted in his path, allowing him a clear path to the apartments.
            "This is too easy," Pete said as he frantically scanned the surrounding dead "Are they really just letting us pass?"
            "They're letting me pass, not you," James said "It's the coat I think. They think I'm him maybe."
            "They can't tell the difference?"
            "They're soulless vessels, blindly worshiping the rise of their new god, I don't think they have the capacity to care."
            A low pitched howl pierced the otherwise quiet night air. "What the hell was that?" James asked. "It's that thing that killed everyone in the station," Pete said, raising the shotgun. The howl began again, this time joining in with two others from different areas, all unknown. "That might have the capacity to care," James said as they hurried through the crowd of the dead.
            As they made their way through the crowd, James snuck looks behind himself to see a towering figure on the top of a nearby building. Another look back showed that there were two more figures accompanying it. James picked up the pace and was eventually running with Pete through the horde.
            The sounds of heavy figures thudding onto the street sounded behind them as they ran up to the apartments, the carving of Croatoan's name glowing over the entry. None of the undead dared to step within a hundred feet of the building as they stood and fixated on it, waiting for their god to emerge.
            As soon as they were clear of the horde, James spun around to see the giant figures leaping through the horde to where they were. They were too dark to see clearly but they were massive and glistened in whatever light caught them. "Get inside," James said to Pete "Close quarters might hinder their movement...maybe." James made for the entrance, but Pete didn't move as he clutched his shotgun. "This is where I help you," Pete said to himself.
            "Pete!" James yelled. "Go!" Pete yelled back "You might last five more minutes than me, but you'll be five minutes closer to stopping Croatoan."
            "No," James said as he grabbed Pete's arm.
            "Just go," Pete said, refusing to budge "I want to see my family, Amy said I would when I'm done helping you."
            "They'll rip you to shreds!"
            "They'll waste time on me. I'll die, and then I'll find my family."
            Pete pulled his arm free and steeled himself for the approaching beasts. James sighed and ran for the apartments. "I'll do what I can," Pete yelled as he raised his shotgun up "Just don't fuck up on your end!" James disappeared into the apartment to the sounds of shotgun fire. There was a moment of continuous fire, then a long moment of silence before there was one final blast. Moments later the front doors were torn down by the beasts as they went to pursue James.