And while a minority of radical feminists – most infamously Valerie Solanas – were hostile to men, radical feminism was much more instrumental in generating widespread support for campaigns ... In her book Radical Ecology, Carolyn Merchant refers to spiritual ecofeminism as "cultural ecofeminism." According to Merchant, cultural ecofeminism, "celebrates the relationship between women and nature through the revival of ancient rituals centered on goddess worship, the moon, animals, and the female reproductive system." Ecofeminism Ecofeminism is actually the combination of ecology, and feminism, that dwells on the symbolic relationship between the oppression of women, and the destruction of the environment. It is actually a little philosophical, and spiritual in nature, and hence has been a target of critics for a long time. Radical-libertarian feminists believe that it is both possible and desirable for gender differences to be eradicated, or at least greatly reduced, and aim for a state of androgyny in which men and women are not significantly different. Radical-cultural feminists believe in the superiority of the feminine. According to Tong radical cultural ... As ecofeminism continued to develop, it witnessed the first of several splinterings. By the late 1980s ecofeminism had begun to branch out into two distinct schools of thought: radical ecofeminism and cultural ecofeminism. Radical ecofeminists contend that the dominant patriarchal society equates nature and women in order to degrade both. As ecofeminism continued to develop, it witnessed the first of several splinterings. By the late 1980s ecofeminism had begun to branch out into two distinct schools of thought: radical ecofeminism and cultural ecofeminism. Radical ecofeminists contend that the dominant patriarchal… Radical feminism is a philosophy emphasizing the patriarchal roots of inequality between men and women, or, more specifically, the social domination of women by men. Radical feminism views patriarchy as dividing societal rights, privileges, and power primarily along the lines of sex, and as a result, oppressing women and privileging men. Radical feminism is a perspective within feminism that calls for a radical reordering of society in which male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts. That said, radical feminists also recognize that women's experiences differ according to other divisions in society such as race and sexual orientation. Radical ecofeminism talks about this in particular; depicting women as natural and irrational, they say, created a hierarchy where men needed to come in and control and develop them, just as they... Radical Feminism increasingly recognises that females from different oppressed groups experience a combination of oppressions. Class, race and disability have systematic structural impacts on different women's lives in different toxic combinations. Radical Feminists believe in an autonomous women's movement as the path to women's liberation.
2018.08.03 04:58 _pitter_patter Radical Ecofeminism
2020.09.18 17:39 sirenvirgo I'm a Trans woman and this is my experience @ swing events
Hey there! I felt like sharing because scrolling through this Reddit sub I didn't really see a ton of conversation about this.
I feel like I've often been in a very interesting position as a trans woman who has participated in the swinger community for quite some time. Now, I will say that I'm a weirdo in many ways and that I mostly go to swinger events because I enjoy the social aspect of it. I went to my first swinger event when I was 18 and it's kind of become a part of my social life in a way that has been kind of hard for me to let go of. I transitioned the very long time ago and most people who meet me don't know that I'm transgender, but being transgender and going to swinger parties has definitely been an interesting experience for me.
There are a few parties that I go to where I have asked the owners if I would be allowed to attend. I've had some folks straight up tell me that I can't come and that I've had others accept me because of my appearance. do you usually don't allow trans women but they will allow me because apparently I'm good looking. Obviously as a single woman I get a lot of attention when I go to swing your parties. I actually feel pretty bad because for me swing your parties are so social that I forget that a lot of people are there looking for a unicorn. And unfortunately I am not interested in women but I do enjoy watching people have a good time. I'd also say that I'm a bit of a troublemaker and that I like making connections with people and connecting the dots with people who are looking for certain types of fun.
So often I'll go to this swingers house that has a jacuzzi and I mostly go for the jacuzzi. I get mostly naked except for my thong and get in and that draws a fair amount of attention. And from there I usually have these long conversations with couples and with singles and I love seeing them make connections in front of me. It's such a fun time for me.
It's interesting because I have had a very limited experience with being physical with people at swingers events. I've also never gone with one of my partners even though I have several. Actually, that's not true I went once with a partner in San Francisco. We went to twist San Francisco which is definitely the kind of event where the men are straight and the women are bisexual. Him and I had a good time with a guy who was probably bisexual but we couldn't act on it there. He just ended up f****** me and that was pretty fun. But it was also such a rare situation and I really don't think that it being San Francisco really made a difference.
What I personally observed is that there are actually a fair amount of men who go to swingers parties who are interested in trans women, it's just that often times that's not necessarily the space in which we could do anything. Since I'm not usually looking to do anything that doesn't necessarily bother me, but obviously at a certain point I do want to be able to do some of the naughty lol. I'm also very aware that when couples approach me they don't know that I'm trans and in very rare situations have I actually had a conversation about me being transgender at security events.
I'm very sensitive to being somebody who interrupts the space, but I haven't really felt that way and I guess I'm a bit curious about how some people feel about trans women being at their swing events. It's interesting because I believe that it's one of those things where on paper people say that they probably don't want us there, but the reality of it is that there's probably going to be a fair amount of men who are at the very least open to it.
I kind of take up an interesting space I guess because whenever I've gone to trans-specific parties I don't necessarily think that I fit in. Mostly because those parties tend to be for men who are cross-dressing and because that's the vibe the people who go are very very different than the people who go to your standard open straight swinger party. That your standard swinger party you have the sexy people who are open at least with their partners about being naughty and there's a really strong social aspect. Whereas at your Trans-specific events you have a lot of men who are cheating on their wives who really don't have an interest in having a conversation with you that doesn't lead to you sucking their dick or something else. So I tend not to have a lot of fun at those trans events and I think that quite a few trans women who are trans in the way that I am have a similar experience. So I certainly feel more at home in your standard swinger party and I found that I've been able to get into the vast majority of them with the exception of a few. There are a handful of swinger events in Los Angeles that have these unspoken rules about not allowing transgender women in. It sucks but I'm not the kind of person who wants to fight to be somewhere where I'm unwanted.
anyway! I thought I'd share. Maybe one day I'll get to the point where I'm comfortable with a full swap but as of now I'm more of a voyeur than anything.
submitted by sirenvirgo to Swingers [link] [comments]
2020.09.14 04:38 Asianguy2385 Voyeur home life
The holy grail of NSFW subreddits
[Edit] Y’all... http://redditlist.com/nsfw
Original credit to: u/obkreddit
submitted by Asianguy2385 to u/Asianguy2385 [link] [comments]
2020.09.13 23:28 PM_UR_NUDES_LADIES 31 [M4F]/[M4MF] - My job is boring, help me snap the day away!
Are you bored at home? Are you bored with working from home? Well now you can be bored while you chat with me! As a sign up bonus I can offer you constant scenery pics from my 25th floor apartment over the water, that alone should have you rushing straight to PM!
Well, perhaps not. Perhaps you would like to know some things about me. I am 31 years old, Canadian, and some weird kind of long gingery blond hair with stubbly facial hair. I'm an engineer so you know I can make excellent small talk about rules and regulations you never knew you didn't care about. I'm six feet and seven inches, but those are two separate measurements. 180lbs, or 82000 grams if you prefer. I think I qualify as both exhibitionist and voyeur.
Conversation wise, I'm down to talk about pretty much anything EXCEPT recipes. We can talk about life, traveling, fantasies, school, work, your dog, your uncle Steve, your hopes and dreams, or you can tell me a joke, or a vegetable fact (NOT a vegetable recipe). I can tell you about how once a turtle made fun of me, or the time I walked in on two teachers having sex, or the how much I dislike getting woken up from a nap.
In general I'm an active guy. With COVID making it hard to get to the gym I've taken up outside activities like kayaking and walking by the water watching people kayaking. I also pass my time by redditting, working, eating, following politics, learning new things, petting dogs, and researching amateur pornography.
The purpose of this reddit post is to find somebody that's also friendly, flirty, perverted, and not a catfish (big fan of parrot fish though). I'm not super picky on age, so use your discretion there (and stay away Chris Hansen). I appreciate if you are also in decent physical shape, but hey, we all need a pizza every now and then right?
I'm definitely Mr. Worldwide when it comes to your location, as long as a reasonable portion of your time awake overlaps with 7 am-11 pm PST.
If I missed anything send me a PM with your questions and snap! Looking forward to snapping!
submitted by PM_UR_NUDES_LADIES to snapchatflirting [link] [comments]
2020.09.13 15:40 CopyPastePoster Voyeur home life
The sudden death of a young celebrity would be big news anywhere.
But the frenzied coverage of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death and vilification of his actor-girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty has dominated prime-time in India, leading many to ask whether the story is distracting from more important issues at a time of national crisis.
The media obsession began in June when Rajput was found dead in his apartment. Mumbai police said the 34-year-old actor had taken his own life, and reports in the press suggested he had been dealing with mental health issues.
But the case is now being investigated by federal police after Rajput's father accused Chakraborty of abetment of suicide, stealing his son's money, overdosing him on medication, and even murdering him - unsubstantiated allegations that she has denied.
On Tuesday, Chakraborty was arrested by India's narcotics control authority for allegedly buying cannabis for Rajput. She denies all the allegations against her.
A trial by media has followed the wild accusations, with some of India's most popular television hosts declaring Chakraborty guilty already.
"Nothing can rival a reality show - everyone is glued to their TV sets," says Shailaja Bajpai, media editor of news website The Print.
The media circus around the case comes at a time when India faces a host of critical issues. Last Monday, the government released alarming GDP figures. In the three months to the end of June, the economy had contracted by 23.9% - the worst slump since 1996 when the country started releasing quarterly data.
Much of the downturn has been caused by the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the country. India now has the second-largest number of confirmed cases in the world after the US.
Tensions on the disputed border with China are also worse than at any time since the 1960s.
But most television news channels have devoted little time to these issues. When a panellist on one channel gamely sought to discuss the economy, he was slapped down.
"I want to put on record my deep disgust on a day GDP has contracted 23.9%..." he began.
The host cut him short: "You don't need to be part of this debate if you find it so disgusting. Don't waste our time, your time, nation's time, viewers' time and my time," he shouted.
"Go, go," he told him before advising him to read newspapers the next day if he wanted to know about GDP.
There have been similarly theatrical performances on other channels too, with prime-time hosts telling viewers repeatedly that the star's death was the "biggest story" of our times. On Tuesday, after Chakraborty's arrest, one presenter boasted on air that their channel had spent 2,000 hours on the story.
So why is the death of Rajput getting so much attention, and Chakraborty being so vilified?
The most obvious reason is politics, say analysts, pointing out that the channels that have given most attention to the story are those that are sympathetic to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
"Elections are due later in the year in Bihar - Rajput's home state - and politicians here are seeking votes in the actor's name," says Amarnath Tewary, a senior journalist in the state capital, Patna.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar invoked Rajput's name at his first virtual election rally on Monday and his alliance partner BJP has been distributing car stickers, masks and pamphlets with the actor's smiling face, Mr Tewary says, adding that "once the elections are over, no-one in Bihar will talk about Rajput".
The story may have a longer shelf life in the western state of Maharashtra - capital, Mumbai - where an ugly spat has broken out between the BJP and its former ally-turned-bitter rival Shiv Sena, which governs the state.
The BJP has accused a Shiv Sena minister of involvement in the case - a charge the minister strongly denies, reports senior Mumbai journalist Abhay Deshpande. "The BJP is trying to expedite the fall of the Shiv Sena government. But first, they want to discredit Sena so that it doesn't win people's sympathy. So, they are letting the story roll."
But, as The Print's Ms Bajpai points out, the story could well be a distraction that serves the government well.
"You have a story that has juicy crime, Bollywood, cinema and current affairs. You place a nice-looking young woman at the centre of it and it's tailor-made to divert attention and distract people from the real issues," Ms Bajpai says.
"The government is happy because no-one is questioning them about the economy, the GDP, the job losses and the rising coronavirus numbers."
Also, she says, it makes commercial sense for TV channels because it has improved their ratings, brought them massive audiences and advertising revenues.
"The ratings have constantly gone up because the voyeuristic audiences are lapping up every twist and turn in the story. So the channels stay with it. But we also have to confront the elephant in the room - what does it say about our society?"
It says that our voyeurism may well be partly responsible for the demonisation of Rhea Chakraborty.
By Geeta Pandey BBC News, India
submitted by CopyPastePoster to BollyBlindsNGossip [link] [comments]
2020.09.04 23:36 OisforOwesome Voyeur home life
Diana is an intensely, thoroughly frustrating character, and that's OK.
Trapped in a job that undervalues her, married to a man she no longer feels attracted to, Diana (Demi Moore) finds fulfillment in her side hustle: making audio recordings of women retelling their sexual fantasies, and posting them to her subscription website, HaveAGoodWood.com.
For all that this seems like the act of a libertine, Diana is a voyeur of her own life. She can't articulate why she is no longer attracted to her husband, Oliver. She is uncomfortable talking about her disintegrating marriage to her friends. She is resentful of the arrogant, dismissive men who use her as a token female to retain the investment business of a grieving free spirited heiress.
The overall effect, as a listener, is one of frustration - talk to him. Quit your job and do Good Wood full time. Your cocktail friends are trash, find sone new ones. And yet, trapped by her conception of the life she was supposed to lead, Diana keeps lying, to herself, to everyone around her, until the weight of those lies comes crashing down around her.
Much like other tales of upper-middle class white American mid-life crisis, there is something self indulgent about the show. Shades of American Beauty creep in, and moments of unconscious privilege (Oliver can find and rent a new apartment seemingly on a whim with no visible strain on the family finances, for example) are grating in a world where people are losing their jobs and homes in the midst of a pandemic.
But... if the stories of self absorbed, self important men and their man-pain, chafing at the limits of capitalist society and puritanical morality be considered worthy of an Oscar... why can't the stories of self absorbed and self important women be accorded the same consideration?
For all that I'm dragging the show for its unexamined politics, there is excellent dramatic and character work here. Demi Moore's performance is gold, and the rest of the cast is stellar. Cameos from professional actresses like Gwendoline Christie and Lena Dunham bookend each episode and crinkle with the intimacy of feminine desire. QCode's customary competent sound design is on full display and you will be pulled into Diana's world.
Dirty Diana is a good show and compelling drama, and certainly the contemporary audio drama rarely deals with sex and desire, making this programme a breath of fresh air.
submitted by OisforOwesome to audiodrama [link] [comments]
2020.09.02 21:20 Traditional_Ad1362 Voyeur home life
Im in Grad School and in my mid twenties. Above really kind of explains it all, but here is more information. I am taking a class based around a project where we develop histories about social communities, and we are supposed to pick a community we identify with. I have to turn in a "brain storming sheet" where we answer a bunch of questions, one of which is "what communities do you identify with?" My answer is none. I know this is not an acceptable answer, so now I have to lie and come up with something that is good enough to go there, but also not good enough to warrant my project to be focused around it.
The reality of my life is that I am a straight, white female, from generic small town USA. I was middle class in a poor town that we moved to when I was young. I was regularly left out for being the "rich kid" and for not being from the town. Not just other kids, but even my teachers and principles went out of their way to make it clear that me and my family were not welcome in their community. The only thing different about us is we lived in a slightly nicer house than most of the town and were not the 3rd+ generation to grow up in that town. All of this lead to such severe social anxiety and depression that I had to start going to therapy in first grade and went for the rest of elementary school. Half way through high school we moved, and the two friends I had made were no longer willing to see me, even though I had moved less than an hour away. But, I had moved across the river and people from that town "just didnt cross the river". The new school was really small and tight knit and I really struggled to find footing there. I tried clubs, but even when I tried to work myself in, I was ignored and left out. More than once trips were planned and I was not told about them, so I couldnt go. I was not even told about senior skip day in my last year and was one of 5 seniors that showed up that day. The last day of high school was supposed to be a field day where everyone was on teams, I did not sign up because I did not have a single friend to make a team with. A teacher asked me about it and when I said I didnt have anyone to join a team with she just looked at me and with a pitiful look said "saaad" and walked away. A lot of this has created a lot of social anxiety for me and I have a really hard time joining groups or trusting anyone is more than just a casual acquaintance in my life.
After high school, I went to community college and actually made friends and felt like I belonged. But after the two years, we all went to different schools and people stopped responding to my texts or invites to get together. I lost all but three of my friends. I went away to my four year, I thought I had made friends there, but I think I was just the girl that tagged along and no one could get rid of. I tried to visit friends over the summer but they always had reasons to not see me. I lived with some of them the following year, but even living together, we really only crossed paths in the hallway and never spent time together. And even before I graduated, I had been removed from all of the groupchats.
Since then I have kindof given up on trying with people. I stayed close with the three friends from community college and decided that was good enough. And slowly I have been making more friends. But my core friend group has had a massive falling out with one of the people in our group and no longer speak to them, and a lot of the other friends I thought I had made turned out to not be the friends I thought they were. Mostly male, I thought we were pals, but they have all made moves on me and when I turned down the advance, they stopped talking to me entirely.
Beyond just friends, I hate my job and I dont think they like me, though they have no reason to complain about my work so they cant get rid of me. I am stuck living at home with my parents, who I still have to split my time between them 50/50 because they are divorced and they want to share the cost of my existence (my mother recently complained I use up too much extra electricity. I have one light, I only turn it on when I am using it). My only hobbies are solitary because I dont have anyone in my life that wants to do anything with me and the 20+ years of rejection have created such an anxiety that I am incapable of putting myself back out there. I had one final attempt when I tried grad school, but I am the youngest person in my program by 10 years and no one was interested in hanging out with "the kid".
With my free time all I do is read and play solitary video games. I have realized I am a boring person, with boring interests, that lives a sad but boring life, that has two real friends. The people I speak with on a monthly basis, including family, numbers under 10.
The thing I struggle with is I am fairly confident I am really nice, caring, and helpful. I bend over backwards for the people I care about, though no one would ever do the same for me. I also, while maybe it is a dad joke sense of humor, can be funny, and as much as my hobbies are boring, I think I have a pleasant personality to be around. I am constantly trying to be the best and kindest person I can be. I am not sure why I struggle so much socially. Im not even super distinct looks wise, I know I am pretty/cute without being competition for other girls. I worry that maybe I am annoying and thats why people dont like me, but I have no idea, its hard to gauge oneself that way. I dont find myself to be annoying. My mom says its because I am really different from people my age and people have a hard time understanding me, but I get suspicious that she just says that because shes my mom.
Reddit is the closest thing I have to a community, and even then it is mostly as a voyeur. I have been trying to get into therapy for close to two years now and I cannot get a therapist to take me on as a patient, even though my anxiety keeps getting worse and now I am struggling to sleep. And now with COVID, it feels like my life will just be stuck like this forever. And I still need to come up with lies for my assignment.
Anyways, I dont expect anyone to read through this all, its just a long sniveling rant from a person that should be happy for the things they do have. I did not mean for it to get so long, but once I started I could not stop. I just really needed to get this all off my chest and I dont feel like I have anyone in my life that I can talk to about this and I didnt know what else to do. The last few times I tried to talk to someone, people just were offended that I "didnt think they were enough". Thank you, if you did read all of this for reading it. I feel better just having put this out there. And I am taking suggestions for what I can put on my assignment lol
TLDR: A class assignment realized that I have struggled to make friends my whole life and because of it, I do not have a single place in my life where I feel like I belong and now I am sad. I did not realize this before I had to tell a stranger what "communities" I belong to.
submitted by Traditional_Ad1362 to offmychest [link] [comments]
2020.09.02 01:28 Kookabanus Voyeur life home
I witnessed this yesterday at my local supermarket. The memory still brings a warm glow to my evil black heart...
I have tightened up the dialogue to keep it short and humorous. There was a lot more of the usual bickering but I hope you will understand.
So I live in a rural area of northern Australia. The local town has a total of two supermarkets for general groceries. The next nearest place to shop is a further hours drive down the road. Generally people get along around here although I did have one run in before (link in comments because I can't work out how to do it here) at this place.
I was at the checkout with my favourite cashier (she is superbly fast and efficient at her job as well as being, in her own words, a total babe) putting my fortnights groceries through when I hear a raised voice at the far end of the checkout lines. The young lady serving me muttered something along the lines of "Oh god, here we go again, she's back".
I asked her what she meant and she informed me that the noisemaker was the local Karen, notorious for coming in and making a scene to get her way. The staff absolutely hated her.
Well Karen was in full swing and so I settled in for a bit of gargoyle style voyeurism to watch the show. She apparently had a bee in her bonnet about something not being stocked correctly, the sun being up too late or a staff member breathing air or something. Either way she demanded to SEE THE MANAGER! RIGHT NOW!
So the senior manager came out along with the floor manager. Both looking like they were completely done with this shit. The manager tried to greet her but couldn't even get a word in before Karen let fly with a tirade of abuse, demands and noise. Lots of noise.
To emphasize her point she swept an armload of groceries, not hers mind you, off the nearest checkout and onto the ground.
Things broke. Eggs, jam jars and similar. The owner who had only just purchased these things looked murderous. She was a middle aged lady with a small child at foot who looked absolutely done with life and I very much doubt could have afforded to replace what was lost. Being a good Aussie mum she began to wade in on the discussion with a view to breaking Karens face.
The rest of us shoppers were by now gathering around, this was getting good.
Unfortunately the floor manager intercepted her before she could make good on her promise and gathering by the hushed conversation I gather all losses were to be replaced. In the meanwhile the discussion between Karen and the senior manager was coming to a conclusion as the manager shouted "THAT IS ENOUGH, YOU WILL NOT COME IN HERE AND BULLY MY STAFF OR OTHER CUSTOMERS. YOU WILL PAY FOR THE GOODS YOU HAVE DAMAGED OR I WILL CALL THE POLICE AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, YOU...ARE...BANNED! NOW GET OUT!"
Karen: *snorts* "You can't ban me. That's illegal".
Crowd: "Oh no it's not". Lots of laughter.
Manager: "Well feel free to call your lawyer if you want to dispute things but until then GET OUT!"
Karen: Realizing she may be in the shit here. "But where will I go to shop then?"
Manager: "Go to the other place across town, I don't care but you are never coming in here again".
Karen: "But... but I can't go in there. I'm not allowed anymore..".
Absolute raucous laughter from the ring of shoppers. We are such a caring and compassionate lot... Even the young lady serving me had to cover her face as she, er coughed. Definitely not laughing I am sure.
So Karen bursts into tears because karma is a bitch best served hot. Gets escorted out by the managers. Hopefully we get to never see her again and she enjoys her hours drive to get groceries in future. I laughed all the way home.
TLDR: Queen bitch Karen pushes it too far for the final time. Gets permabanned. Cries.
submitted by Kookabanus to EntitledPeople [link] [comments]
2020.09.01 20:13 MikeJesus Voyeur home life
I studied the VHS tape. It was one of those pop-in shells, the ones that have an open slot in the center where you can throw in a camera cartridge and watch your home movies without having to process them at a film store. It was exactly what I was looking for.
“Any idea where this came from?” I asked.
“No,” The man replied, wiping away about a quarter of the sweat that had gathered in his beard. The rest of it kept dripping on the remainder of his strange wares. He watched me with utter disdain, but I gave it another shot-
“Really? Where did you find it? Like, c’mon, a little bit of a background would be nice.”
“It’s not a boutique buddy, you’re at a flea market. You either buy it or you can fuck off. Too hot to deal with this detective shit,” he said, but then, probably because I was the only customer at his stall, his tone softened. “Got it from a storage unit auction. That’s all I can tell ya. Don’t keep track of this shit, I just sell it.”
That’s all the information I needed. I paid the man and took my mysterious prize home.
Back in the early 2000s I consumed YouTube vlogs like they were fine caviar and I was a Russian oligarch. There was just something about being able to kick back and become an invisible observer in someone else’s existence that really got to me. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t some desperate basement dweller, I still had a functioning life of my own, but when evening came and all of my responsibilities were checked off, I’d jump behind my computer desk and take a break from reality.
I’d sit back and watch hours upon hours of other people’s lives. I watched a lonely man beat cancer, a promising student struggle with pills, a teen mother who cracked under the pressure of her new responsibilities. I watched people overcome and spiral and regress, I watched slices of raw humanity from all across the globe from the comfort of my own home. I got to get a taste of fates I never would have considered otherwise; a bunch of people speaking to inanimate objects reminded me that the world outside was vaster than I ever could conceive.
Then the Internet money rolled in and ruined it all. As soon as the people bearing their soul into the camera lens realized they could get paid all of the honesty seeped out of their videos. They built up the drama to get more views, they started hiring editors to make them look good, they started to advertise products that no one really needed. Whatever bond I felt to the lives that I have observed for so many years was broken. That rawness of human stories that I craved was gone.
But I still craved it.
That’s when I started going to flea markets and buying abandoned home movies.
What I found on those assorted VHS tapes and unlabeled DVDs was much better than anything I could hope for with YouTube. These people acted completely naturally, the awkward pauses, the obvious annoyances, the grumpy people who didn’t want to be on tape, it all made it so much easier to imagine that I was there. The fact that they didn’t know I was watching made all the difference.
Voyeurism. I know. That’s what my girlfriend called it. She’s my wife now, and she still calls it that, but what is marriage if not a descent into accepting your partner’s quirks? She treats the dog like she’s our daughter, and unless she starts breast-feeding you won’t hear me complain. My flea market bargain trips usually get an eye roll out of her, but there was never any yelling involved.
As I pulled up the driveway, however, Laura was waving her arms around, yelling.
“Three hours? Are you serious Ryan? Three hours out of the city for some stupid tapes?” Betty obediently stood by her, gazing up at her as if she was some Greek goddess. Her little sausage tail wagged a bit when she saw me walk up the porch but after a quick glance she shook her head and looked back up at my wife. I was just a background character in that dog’s life.
I could have told Laura that all the markets around the city limits were tapped out, that any unmarked tapes I could find around town usually ended up being recordings of movies from television with the advertisements still kept in. But I didn’t. This wasn’t about the tapes. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“There’s something broken in Betty’s neck. I need to take her to the vet. I need to take her to the vet and my husband decides to drive out to some corn-field and look for porn,” Laura hissed. The dog shook her head again. And again.
“The tapes aren’t porn. They’re –“ Echoes of the therapist we stopped going to bounced around my skull. This was not the time nor place for that argument. “–Something else wrong?”
“I can’t find her passport. Every other bit of documentation I have, but I’ve looked all around the house and I can’t find her passport.” Laura’s anger gave way to fear. The dog shook its head again. “See? Look! There’s something wrong with her neck!”
I was going to ask her why the hell she thought she needed the dog’s passport for a vet check, but I didn’t. I just shrugged. “Haven’t seen it.”
“Well, I hope they take us without it,” she said, as if the chance for Betty’s neck getting checked out without travel documents was slim to none, “I’ll call you when I know what’s wrong. Can you do the laundry? Left the whites by the machine. Just need to put them in.”
Laura made her way to the car with the dog. Betty shook her head again. “God, I hope you’re okay,” Laura whispered to her pet. “I’ll need a glass of wine when we come back,” she said to me.
My wife and her dog drove off.
I was just about to close the washing machine when I noticed a pair of my red boxers peeking out from the pile of whites. When I took them out I noticed Laura’s blue university tee shirt. In my haste to get to my mysterious tape I didn’t check if the laundry was sorted. It wasn’t.
The sorting couldn’t have taken longer than two minutes, and for thirty seconds I tried, but my eyes quickly drifted to the television in the corner of the basement. The prospect of sorting through my dirty laundry instead of indulging in someone else’s seemed like torture. I’d turn on the tape. Just to get a glimpse of what I was getting into. Then I’d go and do that thing my wife told me to do.
Within seconds of turning on the VCR I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. The tape was exactly what I was craving.
The timestamp in the lower right corner read June 14th, 1994. We were inside of a fancy house, nice marble staircases and oil paintings of mildly inbred aristocrats filled the screen as the camera shook and bobbed around the wedding reception. Whoever was behind the lens had no idea what they were doing, the zoom and shake of the video made it barely watchable. It was perfect. I could imagine standing there, among the fancily dressed guests, watching someone swing around a hulking piece of Sony in utter confusion.
A group of children wearing miniature suits and dresses ran by the camera. The boys made faces and giggled. One girl in a yellow dress waved to the lens.
“Jesus Jessica, where were you? I’ve been looking for you!” a hushed female whisper cut through the hubbub of the reception. I jumped for my remote to turn up the volume.
“I’m just recordin’ stuff, Mary said she wanted a video of today,” Jessica replied as she zoomed in on a very old man staring out into the ether.
“Well there’s a problem.” The other voice hissed.
“What’s wrong?” The crowd walked around the old man like he didn’t exist. Jessica swung the camera at a particularly uninteresting part of the carpet.
“Mary’s ex is here, he’s freaking out at the gate demanding they let him in.”
“Is it Todd?” Jessica pronounced the word Todd with the same intonation one would pronounce terminal cancer.
“I think so.” The other voice whispered.
For a split second I saw a pair of nervously clasped hands against a bright blue dress, but then the video cut out.
My phone dinged. “THEY TOOK US WITHOUT THE PASSPORT!!! THANK GOD!!!”
I ignored it and stared at the screen, hoping that another part of the story would flicker into existence. After a couple waves of static, it did.
A courtyard with a view of a stunning mountain range, in it, a bride and groom – The woman, a Venus of the 90s, the man, a chiseled jawline with too much gel in his hair, they were smiling at each other, but the camera was too far off to tell whether those smiles were genuine. In front of the possibly happy couple was an array of wooden chairs seating the guests of the wedding. Beneath their feet, a sea of sparkling calm gently swayed. A layer of crystal glass divided the family and friends from the pool below them.
A man next to the camera kept on coughing. Someone next to him whispered something, but that didn’t stop the coughs. The couple kept on looking at each other.
Then the video cut out.
The darkness of the screen dragged on, for a split second I even considered getting the laundry out of the way, but just as I was about to reach into the washing machine for Laura’s orange stocking another image crackled to life on the screen.
We were back in the courtyard but it was in a considerably worse state. Cigarette stubs peeked out of the once impressive stone floor, empty and sometimes broken bottles were all over the place and where there was once a sea of calm there was now the shell of a pool filled with broken furniture. Even smashed up with rough axe cuts the dressers and chairs still looked expensive. It was evening, August 19th 2002 and the groom from eight years ago was wearing a dirty pink bathrobe.
The man aged a couple of decades; his hair was gathered around his shoulders in thick greasy clumps, a patchy beard of graying hair now covered his chiseled jawline. “You really hurt me,” he said. A cigarette hissed in his mouth and a controlled madness burnt in his eyes.
“You changed me. I used to like people. I used to want to do some good in this world. I could have done some good in this world.” The man bent down and produced a bottle off the floor. “But you hurt me. You hurt me so bad I just want to see everything burn.”
The man continued ranting and raving, but as he walked away from the camera his words fell to a static filled whisper. I turned up the volume as loud as it would go but the only thing I could hear was the chirping of crickets intercut by a steady bassy tone. Out in the mountains beyond the courtyard there was a grouping of lit up tents. A man was going quietly insane in a fancy house as people across the valley indulged in cheery techno music.
I was watching someone go insane on a summer evening. The tape was better than anything I could have hoped for.
The man in the bathrobe took a pull from the bottle, recoiled and then smashed the thing against the mountain of furniture stacked in the pool. He screamed. I heard that part.
“You ever talk about fire with Todd? Ever talk about how much you wouldn’t want to burn alive?” The man was back in front of the camera now. He was swaying from side to side, clearly off balance from whatever was in that bottle. “Of course you don’t. All you two talk about is vapid bullshit; all you do is waste your stupid lives, stuck in meaningless gossip that doesn’t matter. But you know what? YOU KNOW WHAT?!”
The man paused. A gentle gust of wind blew his filthy bathrobe apart, revealing far too much of his malnourished body. For a second he tried to pull the flimsy bit of pink cloth back around his jagged ribcage but with a frustrated sigh he gave up on his drunken hands.
Memories of wasted nights in high school filled my head. I remember how the world spun, how impossibly bright and quick all the headlights were as I stumbled my way back home, how difficult it was to stand upright with my blood full of booze. Once the body is so far off in the deep end of the whiskey pool there’s only one way to momentarily regain balance.
The man on the television squished his face into an effort filled wink. For a blink I was standing there, in his ratty flip-flops, watching the triple vision of the world focus into a singular blurry image.
“I love you,” he mumbled to himself. He tore his eye away from the camera and stared down at his dying cigarette. “I love you…. I love – but I won’t love you for long! No! I won’t! Because I’ll be dead! And you’ll be dead! And he’ll be dead! The world will burn!”
The man reached behind the camera and produced another cigarette, but he didn’t light it. He studied the stick of tobacco for a bit and then put it behind his ear. “How much do you know about fire?” he asked, reaching down. “You don’t know shit about fire,” he hissed, as he reemerged off-screen with a jerry can.
“I’ve been reading my great uncle’s books. They say old Vernerzeig was mad, but could a madman build all of this? Could a madman create an empire out of nothing? Could a madman-“ he spilled a bit of the gasoline out of the can as he waved around his arms. This calmed him down somewhat. The madman’s voice dropped to a whisper, the music across the valley slowed down to a steady low heartbeat. “I’ve been reading Vernerzeig’s books, and I know more about fire than your feeble mind ever could,” he started.
The words that the man spoke came out in a controlled whisper, but the ideas that lingered in his monologue flickered with madness. Fire was not a tool that humanity discovered, it was a portal to another realm that our primitive ancestors had stumbled upon and were too simple to comprehend. He spoke of flames as if they were hands, as if the flashes of chemical energy that burst out of a bonfire were fingers from a different world that were desperately trying to claw themselves into our realm.
“My uncle warned of the power that exists in the fire. He spoke of Alexandria, of Peshtigo, of Bois Du Cazier, of fires that ravaged humanity, but he spoke of them as if they were mistakes. As if we were lucky that the flames were put out. He was wrong. The man was a genius, but in this one essential thing he faltered. Each time that the burning God emerged humanity was given a chance at becoming pure and they spit out the embers of freedom. Every time that the burning God’s arrival was postponed it was a tragedy. But even that tragedy can be brought to rest.”
He went over to the pool and started pouring gasoline on the broken down furniture. As he poured he spoke, but he was too far away from the camera’s microphone. The music across the valley started to grow in tempo. The man started to punctuate his inaudible rant with manic shouts. “I WILL SUMMON HIM!” he shouted. With the techno music playing in the background he sounded like a misguided DJ, trying to hype up a tired dive-bar. After the can ran dry he produced another one and resumed pouring and rambling. The man might have emptied out his pool and filled it with chopped up furniture, but he was far off in the deep end.
Less than half a year after I got out of university I also got out of my first real relationship – five years of raw connection in the trash and unemployment to boot. I was desperate for any form of affirmation in my life. I bought dozens of pick-up artist books that offered to teach me the secret to making women want to sleep with me. Watching that broken man pour gasoline all over the antique furniture a part of me felt his pain. It’s not that difficult to fall for a cult when your heart is broken.
My phone dinged, again. “THERE IS SOMETHING IN BETTY’S EAR. DOCTOR SAYS NOT SERIOUS. SHE’S SUCH A TROOPER. LAUNDRY DONE?”
I barely looked away from the television. The man in the bathrobe was done with the pouring. He was back in front of the camera now. A cigarette dangled from his lips.
He was thinking. Fear broke through the mania in his eyes. He turned around and looked at the festival across the valley. The sun had set by then but bright lights flashed across the darkening sky from the music-filled tents. The man let out a desperate groan. For a second it looked as if he would walk away from the fire-to-be, as if he would give up on whatever ritual he was trying to perform, but before he could give up his right hand flew through the air.
He slapped himself, dropping his cigarette. After he picked it up he slapped himself again. “I WILL SUMMON HIM!” he screamed at the camera as he lit up his smoke, “AND HE WILL BURN THE WORLD!”
He took one long puff of his cigarette and threw it into the pool.
For a moment he simply stood there, a man in a filthy bathrobe with dark mountains stretched out before him. He looked at peace.
He screamed. He screamed in a way that I didn’t think was possible for a grown man to scream. He screamed and ran through the courtyard, burning. He spun in place like a wounded animal, shedding his bathrobe, but as the flames behind him started to consume the furniture his body propelled him away from the inferno. Screeching and limping the man ran towards the camera.
He knocked it over in his escape, but it kept recording. The fire soon drowned his agonizing cries out. Only his burning bathrobe remained.
Out across the valley the tents lit up with another color; a flashing of blue and red. For a couple beats of the far off techno I could see the siren lights traveling down the mountain road, but the flames quickly cut off my line of sight.
My phone dinged, again. I didn’t look at it. I was so enthralled in the video that I had started chewing on my shirt collar. Haven’t done that since I was eight.
The flames reached out into the night sky like clawed fingers. They grasped at oxygen, growing, roaring, demanding more. The fire spread throughout the screen. I tilted my head sideways to see better. The inferno beckoned to me.
I was on my feet staring into the television. It was as if the fire was calling for me, pulling me in, demanding that I join it in that crackling universe of energy. In the cool air of my basement I felt warmth. I reached out for the television.
“You should have seen the size of the thing they pulled out of her ear! We need to be careful when we let her run in the – Ryan? Ryan what are you doing?” Laura stood on the stairs. Betty squeezed herself past and gave my calf a lick before jumping on the couch.
“I was uh-“ my eyes shifted towards the open washing machine. Her gaze followed mine.
“You didn’t do the laundry. Great. Absolutely great. Come on Ryan, we talked about this. I don’t ask for a lot I just want –“ it took me a second to realize she stopped talking. As she spoke my eyes drifted back towards the screen.
Out in that burning hellscape I could see something move. I could see a beak. Two orbs of blue flame stared back at me. I tore my attention away from the eldritch god and back towards my wife, “Sorry.”
“What are you watching?” She walked down the last couple of steps with a controlled anger that cracked as soon as she saw what was on the television, “Jesus Christ Ryan! What the hell are you watching?”
“It’s, uh – some guy was going through a bad divorce, I think, so he tried to set the world on fire. Burned himself in the process and now there’s –“
As hot as the inferno on the screen was, her icy stare cut through me. She inhaled sharply, turning her words into cold steel, “That shit belongs in an evidence locker. Not our house.” Laura stomped her way up the stairs, with Betty barely making it past the door before she slammed it.
I turned my attention back towards the screen. Whatever presence I saw hiding in that fire was gone now. The flames still tore through the sky with animalistic fervor but the beast’s eyes were gone. The fire roared on for a couple of minutes until it’s thunderous cry turned into a hiss.
A burst of water was softening the flames. Soon enough firefighters were talking about how they wished they could have stayed at the festival. As they sprayed water over the gasoline filled pool one of them proceeded to give a five-paragraph essay’s worth of description of a redhead bartender he once saw in the 90s.
I thought about rewinding the tape, about going back to that moment when I saw those burning balls of light hiding in a storm of bristling energy, but I decided against it. Upstairs I could hear a cork get angrily pulled out of a wine bottle. I sorted through the washing machine, turned it on and went to get a wine glass.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
She was on the porch, puffing on a cigarette with one hand and scratching Betty behind the ear with the other. She didn’t look at me as she spoke. “You can’t keep on doing this Ryan. This isn’t about the laundry; this is about you not being reliable. You can’t just drop everything to indulge in your voyeurism.”
I tried to remember all three parts of the three-part apology thing that our therapist kept on rambling about back in the day. “I’m sorry for not being reliable and sometimes acting like a child, I’ll try to do better next time.” Her lack of yelling made me reconsider therapy for a split second. “So, Betty okay now?”
The dog wagged her tail at the mention of her name.
“Oh yeah, she was a real trooper. Held still for the doc, shook a bit, but didn’t move her head at all. Everyone in the lobby kept on saying how cute she is!”
Asking about Betty would always get Laura talking.
We finished off the bottle of wine, watched some shitty reality TV show, made love and now Laura is sleeping on my chest. Betty’s curled up by our feet and seems to be having a dream that involves a lot of biting and running. There’s a nice summer breeze outside.
I should be sleeping.
The thought of going back to the basement and rewinding the tape was there as soon as we finished the wine, but Laura wanted to watch some scripted reality TV show about hot people looking for love on a beach and I figured I’d be a good partner and indulge with her. The question of the sentient inferno disappeared during our own little fiery bout of passion, but now that we’re post-coital and cuddled up, I can’t let go of the memory of those hungry claws.
She’s a light sleeper, so if I move she’ll wake up and be disappointed. And I don’t want to disappoint her, she might have a weird relationship with the dog and a horrible taste in entertainment, but I’d probably be burning furniture without her. Maybe she’s right. Maybe the video does belong in some evidence locker instead of our basement.
All of this is bouncing around my head and I can’t get any sleep, so I figured I’d come to this little insomniac corner of the internet and vent for a bit. I’m torn between the mystery of what that desperate man brought into our world and being a decent husband.
My wife just mumbled something about how I should go to sleep.
I think the light from my phone is keeping her up.
I think I should just go to sleep.
(A shared smouldering universe)
submitted by MikeJesus to nosleep [link] [comments]
2020.08.31 19:30 cerebralspinaldruid Life voyeur home
My parents taught me to read when I was a child. I’d be in tears, wanting to go out and play, instead I’d be lying on my bed reading children’s books about historical figures who just happened to own other human beings. In a world full of Gargoyles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and X-men cartoons, you can hardly blame me for not being especially interested in George Washington’s wooden teeth.
Around the age of 10, my best friend, we’ll call him Deckard, loaned me some of his books after I’d told him I didn’t like reading. They were The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I devoured them. I may have literally eaten a few pages. They transported me. I flew along with wings made of paragraphs, a voyeur in the best sense, peering down with eagle-eyed vision. No, even better: X-ray vision. I wasn’t a bird at all, more like a skinny-kid Superman who lacked any understanding of boundaries and personal space, an eavesdropping Alien.
The point is, I was gone. I’d left my bedroom thousands of miles behind for some dusty old Manor in the English countryside. People pay actual money to travel? Dumb! A few more pages in and I’m chilling with some talking animals. Holy Shit! This is a thing that I can do? I fell into that wardrobe right along with those English kids, and the adventure stretched on endlessly.
I’ve sailed with Prince Caspian. I’ve held the One Ring and climbed Mount Doom. Peered into the darkness with Drizzt Do’Urden’s purple eyes. Rolled the Elfstones in the palm of my hand. The Sword of Truth? Swung it, and Valyrian steel too. I’ve traveled as part of a Ka-tet to the Dark Tower itself. How lucky is that?
And today? Today, I flew from the sun-blasted wasteland of Arizona to the Pacific Ocean where I watched what happened to characters that I cared deeply about. I could almost taste the blood and feel the sharp sting of salt water in a dozen wounds. We were all hurting, together. It was the depth of caring that took me by surprise. It made me think of all the great characters that I’ve adventured with, bled with, cried with. It made me appreciate them, and the amazing Writers who created them.
It’s 25 years later and I guess I never climbed out of that wardrobe. This morning I was transported in a way that I haven’t been in a very long time. When I finished The Last of Us 2, I wept. I also had a good hard think about what I’m doing with my life.
When I was a teenager, I’d look over at my bookshelf from my bed. It was full, and I was proud of it. They were all lined up in the order I’d read them: from left to right, Book 1 to whatever, with shorter series on the left. The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Redwall, Shannara, Sword of Truth, The Dark Tower, Liveship Traders, Wheel of Time, and A Song of Ice and Fire…which contained only slightly less books at the time. There was a smattering of others, but those are what I remember most.
I could afford all these interdimensional paperback portals with money I’d earned from a summer job that Deckard had helped me land. There was an easily accessible public Library close to my home, so this wasn’t exactly the savviest financial move on my part. Still though, it was a kickass bookshelf.
My Dad wasn’t so keen about any of it. He’d make little throwaway comments. They were like ticks burrowing slowly into my skin.
Silly stuff, those fantasy books. For kids.
So, I never told him I wanted to be a writer, or worse yet, a fantasy writer. I didn’t want the man I looked up to the most to look down on me.
Then, one Christmas morning, I got an OG PlayStation. Holy shit! This is another thing I can do? My Dad’s disappointment grew.
Whether it was a book, a film, or a videogame didn’t matter to me. It’s all Fiction. It’s the story that matters. Final Fantasy VII, Xenogears, and Diablo (honorable mention for Myth on PC), those were great stories. At least at the time, the only way to access them was through that iconic controller, with the XSquareTriangleCircle buttons that, just this morning, propelled me along yet another character arc. It’s like Magic.
In a world filled with Magic, I’ve failed to create my own.
Instead, I left home and joined the Army because it was safe, odd as that may sound. That mistake became another, and another, and another, but something changed today.
This morning, I was ripped to shreds by Ellie, Joel, and Abby. Names I’ll never forget. In the same way I can’t forget Frodo, Sam, and Gollum even if I tried.
I’m going to start writing. I’ve decided.
I’m going to start, and this is the most important point: not stop. I’m going to start writing for me. I’m going to start for my mental health, and to contribute to the mountain of fiction that exits. Not to compete with anyone, there will always be better writers. But I think that the higher that mountain grows, the higher we can climb, and from the peak we can finally see ourselves for who we really are.
There is a kind of catharsis in the craft. I didn’t realize how much accumulated damage needed mending until my own characters began speaking about things that I’d buried. I’ve been the kid with the dad who never said he was proud, I’ve been the Soldier in a war that he regrets fighting, the combat veteran who finds himself trying to assimilate in a workplace full of people who’ve never seen a body ripped in to chunks of meat by a .50 cal, who aren’t always tense and on edge and just waiting for the gunfire to start. Head on a swivel, watch your six, all day every day. It’s exhausting. I didn’t think it’d ever end, and then I met my wife, my new best friend.
Lately, I’ve found myself as the protagonist in a love story. My new, amazing wife said she’d be my audience of one for now, and I really needed that. She deserves to be in a good story. After all, she’s the only reason I’ll be able to write about the other side of love and family, the side without regret. The lengths I would go to, to keep those two things safe... I guess The Last of Us just resonated with me at the perfect time in my life, when I have some love and support, something to really lose, for what feels like the first time in a long time.
We are in the process of family planning, and as I brace for the impact of fatherhood, as I eavesdrop on Joel and Ellie, I understand that my dad was just trying to keep me safe. He didn’t want me to be a “starving artist.” He looked at the world, how savage and unmerciful it could be, and he wanted to make sure I was ready. Not everyone has that. Not everyone has the luxury of being angry at a Father who cares. Both he and my Mom are dead now, she when I was 24, and he a little less than two years ago. This game, this absolute masterpiece, helped me grieve. Heal. More importantly, I discovered a tool that allows me to craft my own bandages and keep fighting.
I want to make someone feel the way that Neil Druckman and Halley Gross just made me feel. Not just them, but everyone who worked on this beautiful, heartbreaking story. It takes so many talented people to create such an immersive experience, and I will be forever be grateful, and it deserves to be mentioned alongside other great works of fiction and fantasy, regardless of the medium that story is delivered through. Thank you, Naughty Dog.
I’m going to keep pushing forward, keep writing, Infected be damned. I think good fiction, like a small Firefly, can beat back the darkness just a bit. May your survival be long. May your death be swift. Don’t stop following the light.
tl;dr The themes in this game hit me like a freight train to the chest, and helped me process things like my relationship with my father, what I suspect is some un-diagnosed PTSD, and my fear of "failing" as writer. It helped me accept that my present is full of love from a wife that I would fight hordes of Clickers for. Naughty Dog helped me fall head over heels for Fiction and Fantasy again. I love this story like no other.
submitted by cerebralspinaldruid to Fantasy [link] [comments]
2020.08.26 22:29 RTKGuy Voyeur home life
I’m going to skip past some of the less interesting parts of the final leg of our trip back to Crusoe. Rest assured, we got back without further incident. We met a road block manned by well-armed policemen who had no idea what to make of us until one of them called it in and got us cleared to continue. It wasn’t exactly a hero’s welcome, but I did breathe a sigh of relief as we crossed over the town line and into actual civilization again.
Crusoe itself had that ghost-town feel to it now, with only scattered patrols of police and National Guard walking about, watching us go by with suspicious glares. Lazlo had contacted what passed for Wrangler Field Headquarters and was told to come park at a shopping plaza near the town hospital, its parking lot converted into a field hospital. We needed medical attention for sure – Theo had a dislocated shoulder, I had minor wounds… and we had Abbott’s remains to deliver.
The only other casualty hadn’t been human. Voyeur Four had gone dark during our battle. It was back in the forest along the road, and that’s where it was going to stay. We were not going back to retrieve it.
The next several hours was lot of waiting, debriefing, waiting, debriefing, medical attention, and waiting. I was so tired that I fell asleep every time I sat down, barely getting any food in me between meetings. I didn’t see Lazlo or Theo much, as they were busy with their own meetings and affairs. The authorities weren’t sure what to do with me – was I a survivor or one of these Wranglers that they were supposed to give deference to? Civilians had to stay home or at a shelter, and by all rights I should have been sent away. But I’m pretty sure Lazlo and Theo had pulled a string or two so the authorities let me have some freedom of movement. I knew it wasn’t going to last, so I used it to go run one very important errand.
I went to the hospital proper, passing by rooms and hallways filled with patients and the relatives of said patients, most of them wearing stricken expressions, some crying over the lost, some staring off into space as if haunted by their memories. I moved passed doctors and nurses who looked even more tired than I felt, having seen more than their fair share of injury and death in the last two weeks. I don’t think anyone could hear my story and think I had an easy time of it, yet somehow I felt luckier than these fine people who had been dealing with the nonstop human misery.
Up to the 2nd story I went, where the patient I was out to see remained housed. When I finally found Room 235, she was alone in her room, sitting in a wheelchair, clad in a navy-blue bathrobe, looking out her room window into the twilight sky. She didn’t notice me until I knocked on the doorframe. She glanced my way, did a double take with wide eyes, and let out a sincere laugh.
“I really didn’t believe it until now,” Madison said, turning her wheelchair to face me. “Lazlo emailed me, gave me a heads-up, but I…well…” She was genuinely tongue tied for the next few moments, then her smile switched to a scowl. “You bastard. You were supposed to get in the rescue basket.”
I smiled and shrugged. “Well, as you liked to point out, you didn’t have any actual authority over me.”
She grunted, though there was still merriment in her tone. “I suppose you came up here to gloat about being a hero.”
“I came up here to see you, that’s it.” I motioned to her wheelchair. “You’re not stuck in that thing, are you?”
“I’m doing rehab,” she replied. “A few more days of it and I should be able to leave this stupid place. Then I can… get back in the fight.” Her tone didn’t convey much confidence. I knew better than to point out how broken bones robbed sports players of their careers. I didn’t believe she could go ML hunting like before. I don’t think she believed it either.
She changed the subject by motioning to her bed as a place for me to sit. “So… you and Abbott’s team kicking ass and making earth-shattering discoveries.” She looked out the window as I sat down, trying to hide her emotions from me. “Don’t ever tell Theo and Lazlo this, but I actually respected the hell out of Abbott.”
I sighed and nodded. “He saved my life, just like you did.”
She scoffed and looked at me again. “I was trying like hell to get you out of there. He throws you into it. He didn’t know when to quit. Still, he didn’t deserve to get killed by…” She gave me a curious look. “Did you guys ever name it?”
“I think we’re leaning towards Flesh Reaper,” I said. “Lazlo’s idea.”
She frowned. “Really? Well, it goes with the theme.”
“What has Lazlo actually told you?”
“Just a bunch of conjecture. She thinks the signal interference the Reaper puts out might be a form of communication, how it commands the other MLs. She thinks that it acts like a general rather than a queen. Perhaps there have always been Reapers hiding out and calling the shots from a distance. Or maybe they’re brand new. Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that the one you fought isn’t the only one out there.”
“It tried to eat my face, by the way,” I calmly brought up.
“When you’re a Wrangler, something is always trying to eat your face,” Madison replied. “Lazlo mentioned that she thinks it wasn’t after your face, but your brain. She thinks that’s why it took Abbott and left her alone. It was after information… and that’s how it gets it. Personally, I think she’s watched too many zombie films.”
I cringed at the thought of Abbott’s fate, and at the thought that I had almost shared it. I decided to change the subject. “Please tell me the military is finally getting involved.”
She nodded, and I felt better at the news. “That’s not all, Hector. The story’s broken wide open. We might get some real help and real funding. Best of all, we have drone pictures showing the packs around Crusoe are leaving the area, heading deeper into the forest. The siege looks like it’s over.”
“That is good,” I said, though I didn’t feel all that happy. Truth was, I was dreading the phone call I was going to make to my ex-girlfriend’s parent, the one where I was going to somehow explain what had happened to their daughter, and why they would need to have a close-casket funeral.
“Yeah… and that’s all the good news,” she added sourly, and I looked at her questioningly. “The world knows about the MLs now. People are scared and angry. Many of them aren’t going to take it well. Others are going to see nothing but dollar signs. Then there’s this.”
She wheeled over to a nightstand and grabbed her I-Pad off it, then gave it to me. She guided me through the reports from the Internet, the ones about ML attacks that weren’t based in Oregon. I felt a growing unease as she rattled off the other incidents – a village in Mexico, a safari in Zimbabwe, a campground in Colorado. All within the last two weeks, all over the world.
“It’s like a switch has been flipped,” she said. “No more hiding. Whatever they have planned, they’re putting it into motion.”
I put down the I-Pad and stared off into the darkness beyond the window. “So… I guess they’re going to need more Wranglers like us.”
She caught the implication. “So you actually want to do this? No way to save you from this life?” Despite her words, I could tell she wasn’t all that surprised… or even disappointed.
I kept staring out in the night, knowing that I could still tell her that I was out and she wouldn’t argue against it. I would be looking forward to many more times like this, with people dying around me and horror battering away at my sanity. I doubted that my odds of survival were good, or that my lifespan would be long. Did one have to be crazy to be a Wrangler? The jury was out on that.
Crazy or not, I knew what I knew. I couldn’t live a nine-to-five life knowing that as I was staring out into the shadows, hundreds of eyes were staring back at me. Staring back at all of us.
“If you want to save me, teach me how to shoot,” I told her. “I kinda suck at guns.”
submitted by RTKGuy to DrCreepensVault [link] [comments]
2020.08.26 22:21 RTKGuy Voyeur home life
I felt an eerie sense of calm as I followed Theo up the hill, the kind of peace I used to get when I hiked in the woods. Seeing the sun after days of solitude might have had something to do with it, feeling its warmth on my cheeks and seeing the night’s lingering darkness melt away. Or maybe it was the constant whine of the drone hovering above the trees and our heads, knowing that Lazlo would give us an instant warning via the radio in my ear if a Meat Locust showed up. I had felt on edge with Madison, not because I didn’t trust her but because no one person can cover all dangers, no matter how much of a bad ass they were.
That said, my calm was never far from collapsing. My hike started by moving through a wafting dust cloud of gray, the lingering residue of dozens of dead MLs decomposing rapidly. My outfit carried some of it along, and no matter how much I wiped it away I never felt completely clean. A constant reminder that there were hundreds of these monsters around Crusoe, and who could say how close the next pack was from our position. Not to mention the ten missing MLs – more than enough to take Theo and me down if we got too complacent.
Regardless, I chose to enjoy the picturesque view and the smell of pines and the freedom of movement I finally had. Theo seemed less enthralled and more focused on keeping us in the right direction. We were skirting Cell Point this time, aiming for a small valley two miles past it. That valley held the copse that the pack had disappeared into, and where the lost drone was now.
“You guys are boring, you know that?” spoke Lazlo in my ear at one point. “No dirty jokes, no nervous comments. I knew Theo had no sense of humor, but I didn’t think you’d be a killjoy, Hector.”
“At least I can turn off the radio when you tell your bad puns, Laz,” said Theo.
“Silence the chatter, you two,” ordered Abbott. “We may have hostiles in the area.”
I couldn’t help but smile. Even after last night’s frantic battle and Abbott’s injury, the group still held onto its camaraderie. It also disturbed me somewhat. How many run-ins with the MLs did you have to rack up before you became desensitized to their horrors?
It was close to two blessedly uneventful hours before we came to the edge of the copse. It was a tight cluster of pines that had grown too close together, their upper boughs plentiful with needles but their lower limbs starved of light, their bare branches twisting and drooping towards the ground. If I had been a superstitious type I might have deemed it a cursed place. The sun had less power in there, the trees turning the copse into a shadowed realm where monsters hid and awaited the unwary.
Theo must have been feeling nervous too, as he held his assault rifle at the ready and thumbed off the safety. I grabbed a flash ball from my belt and held it in my left hand, content just to be holding it. I figured if the MLs attacked us, I’d do exactly what I’d done with Madison. Let Theo do the killing and me the distracting.
“Follow close behind me and watch our backs,” instructed Theo. “We won’t have Third Eye in there. We go in, find the drone, and get out. No diversions or distractions. Got it?”
I nodded to Theo and he started in, failing to see me hesitate. I knew what I needed to do, what I had volunteered to do, and here we were about to do it, but now that I was at the mouth of the lion’s den my earlier convictions were less convicting. It’s hard to overcome those pesky survival instincts within us – they’re present for a reason.
“Hey, Hector, don’t you puss out now,” scolded the voice in my ear. Lazlo could see me hesitating, and it was enough to get me moving. Besides, I definitely didn’t want Theo getting too far ahead.
To be fair to the trees, the copse wasn’t any more macabre or menacing than the rest of the forest. In fact, there was precious little brush and grass since the trees hogged up most of the sunlight. Still, I studied every tree for the telltale signs of enigmatic fungus or distortion, the favored camouflage of the MLs. Every crunching branch under my foot felt like a gunshot going off. We swept through the copse in a slow, wide pattern, hoping to spot the wayward drone while hoping not to spot anything else.
Every few minutes Lazlo or Abbott chimed in to check up on us. I was a little surprised that we hadn’t lost radio contact. After all, Lazlo had complained of some kind of signal interference with the wayward drone. She was even surprised at the clarity of our communications. I wasn’t going to over-think it, though. Dealing with malfunctioning tech was her territory. I was just the mule in this mission.
I lost track of how long we spent searching the copse. It was certainly long enough for me to start feeling a little bored. We were almost to the other edge of the copse when I spotted it – a metallic object resting on a bed of broken branches. “I think I found it,” I told the team, and Theo confirmed my catch. Lazlo whooped with joy as we went over to it, Theo telling me to keep an eye out while he made a quick inspection.
I scanned the trees as I had for the last half-hour, knowing not to let my guard down despite my elation at this meager success. Theo talked on the radio with Lazlo, describing what appeared to be damage to the drone’s forward-right propeller. She moaned and said that it wasn’t going to fly back with a propeller down, so I still had to carry it back. Well, I hadn’t come out here for nothing.
Then I noticed something… odd. I was pretty sure I could make out in the distance some strange rock-like structures. There were a lot of trees in the way, so I couldn’t make out much. But I could easily tell that the structures weren’t natural. They were also pretty small, and the more I stared at them the more they reminded me of… statues. Statues of what, I wasn’t sure. Who would bring statues out here?
Theo had said no diversions, and part of me agreed with him. I didn’t want to press our luck. But I was getting an ominous vibe from looking at those statues.
“Theo, there’s something over there,” I said. Theo stood up and looked where I was pointing. He was silent as he stared, his face unreadable. Then he looked back at me with a frown. “I said no diversions and I mean it. Whatever’s over there isn’t our priority.”
Abbott spoke up on the radio, asking for clarification of our current conversation. Theo groaned and said, “It’s an unknown anomaly, roughly seventy meters away. We’d have to go investigate for more info.”
“You know, the drone did go down right there,” pointed out Lazlo. “It might be…”
“Hush, Laz,” said Abbott. The radio then went silent for a few beats. When Abbott spoke up again, his tone was for more serious. “Theo, do you think it’s safe to investigate?”
“I don’t think any of this is safe, Abbott,” Theo replied. “But… I think we can divert with minimal added risk.”
“Then go check it out. But if anything starts moving, get out of there.”
“Roger that,” finished Theo. He looked at me and added, “Let’s get the drone and get moving.”
He helped me rig up a harness to the drone with some straps taken from my backpack. This way I could carry the drone with less effort, even keep one hand free if the need arrived. Once that was done, I fell behind Theo as we hiked the short distance to the unknown anomaly. We moved past the cluster of trees that had obscured our vision, and what we saw made things both clearer and murkier simultaneously, as well as making my heart accelerate.
The small statues occupied a very small clearing within the copse, a group of ten figures in a circular formation with each figure spaced an equal distance from the next. Their appearance was unmistakable – Meat Locusts. They were the same size and shape, but their skin resembled bleached-white chalk or calcium instead of their typical snake-like texture. They were all kneeling down as if kowtowing, facing outward from the center of the circle. A line of dust led inward from each figure, meeting in the center and forming a large circular mound, with pieces of the same substance littering the ground around it.
“Jesus,” said Theo. “Hector, don’t touch anything.” He continued around the circle, inspecting the figures carefully. I stood in place, unsure of what else to do.
“Uh, can somebody start talking?” asked Lazlo in my ear. “Also, start taking pictures. We can’t see what you’re seeing.”
That jogged me into action. I put down the drone and extracted the digital camera and sample kit from my backpack. As I powered up the camera, I watched as Theo poked one of the figures with the barrel of his rifle, eliciting a puff of dust upon contact.
“I think we found the remains of the missing MLs,” he said.
“Remains?” asked Abbott incredulously. “As in corpses?”
“Not exactly.” Theo gave Abbott and Lazlo a cursory description of the sight before us while he gestured at me to bring over the sample kit. I did so and then began taking pictures of the entire scene. Theo extracted a plastic container and a pair of tweezers from the kit and began carefully plucking material from the nearest corpse, and having most of it crumble away. I was in agreement with Theo – I believed these figures were once MLs. I stooped to stare into the face of one of them, and I saw hollow eye sockets and a mouth empty of teeth or flesh. It was as if we were seeing only their outer skin, hardened by some bizarre process of petrifaction.
“It’s like something hollowed them out and left behind their skin,” continued Theo. “The remaining matter seems to have undergone some kind of calcification.”
“It’s like they were doing some kind of ritual,” I offered, taking a picture of the emptiness beyond the corpse’s eyes. I should have taken more, but being so close to even a dead ML ruined my calm. I stood back up and continued my picture taking with the next ML corpse. “The posturing, the organization – it’s almost religious in nature.”
“These things don’t do rituals,” Theo remarked. “They sure as hell don’t worship anything.”
“How do you explain these poses, then?” I said, waving to the figures. “You think someone killed them, positioned them, and then turned them to stone?”
“Folks, let’s leave the conjecture for later,” spoke up Abbott. “Theo, Hector, five more minutes of data collecting and then get out of there.”
I was almost disappointed to have to leave, emphasis on almost. I felt like we had stumbled onto a deep dark secret that no other human had ever discovered until now. MLs holding rituals and corpses that didn’t dissolve? This had to be something huge. Why else would the MLs hide the act in the first place? But I also had a pattern of learning intriguing and hidden knowledge right before life’s bounty of horror found me once more. As I was about to find out, that pattern wasn’t changing anytime soon.
Once we cleared the copse, Lazlo walked me through the process of transmitting the camera’s pictures through its wi-fi, using her watchful drone as a signal relay. Lazlo didn’t want to wait another two hours to get the data. Theo wasn’t happy about the delay, wanting us to get moving. He was more on edge now, even though we had accounted for the missing MLs. I couldn’t blame him – I felt out of sorts after our discovery, like the world had found yet another way to warp my sense of reality. But I didn’t think we were in more danger than before. Whatever the MLs had done had occurred hours ago, and the team had killed the only pack in the area. As long as we got back to camp and disembarked before another pack showed up, we’d be home free.
The day remained sunny and cheerful, and while I felt like a beast of burden as I carried the recovered drone I was kinda enjoying the moment. I knew I wasn’t really cut out to be a soldier, but I might make a good researcher. I no longer felt like such a tagalong. I knew I was a long way from being at the same level as the rest of the Wranglers, but at least I was walking the path.
It was that moment that I realized that I was seriously contemplating this life. Madison hadn’t made it look real appealing, what with the lonely hunts in the woods and the constant threat of death. But Abbott’s team made the experience feel almost like an adventure. Maybe it was all about how you approached it. Not everyone had to do it like an old-fashioned safari. There was a high-tech way to do the job - modern technology against the monsters.
Then I found myself getting angry, because once again the proof of the government’s malfeasance was on display. If they had just thrown even a tiny percentage of the federal budget into solving this crisis, there wouldn’t be dozens of dead innocents and a swarm of monsters to contend with. I made a mental note to ask Abbott a lot more questions when we were back in Crusoe. I wanted to know how we’d gotten here, because I wanted to help make sure we never got here again.
The reason I was having these long bouts of cogitation was because Theo had all but clammed up during our trip back. He watched the trees with keen interest, as if he couldn’t trust Third Eye to cover us. I thought about asking what was bothering him, but I knew better than to disturb a vigilant soldier.
Lazlo had been quiet until we were halfway to the camp, then she piped up with her initial analysis of the ML circle ritual, as she was calling it. I think she named it that just to poke Theo, who still maintained that MLs don’t do religion. She admitted that she didn’t know what the bowing was all about, but she did believe that these MLs had done this process to themselves. In fact, it looked like they had created something in the center of the circle.
“Some of those fragments remind me of… well, eggshells,” she said in an unconfident tone.
“Eggshells?” I asked. “Like they laid an egg?”
“Built one, perhaps,” Abbott remarked. “Or it was just excess material that their creation cast off once it was ready. I’m starting to come around to Lazlo’s thinking. The whole process reminds me of some kind of joining ritual - the many coming together to create the one.”
“The one?” spoke up Theo for the first time in an hour. “So you think we’re not alone?”
“Theo, I know you too well,” Abbott replied, his tone growing more serious. “You get quiet when you think we’re in trouble. You think something’s out there too, don’t you?”
Theo grunted in acknowledgement. “Call it Wrangler’s intuition, but yeah, I haven’t felt right since we started back.”
“MLs bud on a one-to-one basis,” I pointed out. “I saw it in action. Why would they sacrifice ten MLs to make only one… thing?”
“That’s a good question,” said Lazlo. “And… I don’t like any of the potential answers. I’m going to put up a second drone, just to be safe.”
I joined Theo in scanning the wilderness, unsure of what I was looking for but assuming I’d know it when I saw it. We passed by the cabin that had once been my sanctuary, but I barely gave it a glance. Suddenly I really wanted to be away from here, or at least in the Oasis with a lot of steel between the outside world and me.
We were maybe twenty minutes away from the camp when I heard the radio crackle in my ear, Lazlo’s voice interspersed with burst of static that obscured her words. Theo and I instinctively stopped and tried to contact her, but if she could hear us we weren’t able to tell. I could make out Lazlo’s tone as heightened and growing more frantic, as if she was desperately trying to get a hold of us, or her own situation was rapidly deteriorating.
“Lazlo, Abbott, someone come in!” Theo demanded, but again the answer was more static and barely-audible voices. Theo then took off at a fast jog, not even bothering to warn me of his intentions. I tried to keep up as best I could, but I didn’t have his physique or conditioning, and he left me in the dust after a few minutes. By that time, the radio no longer crackled. It no longer did anything except relay Theo’s occasional frantic calls to his friends.
I understood Theo’s concerns, but I felt rightly abandoned during the long minutes I jogged after him, hoping that I knew the path back to the camp well enough to not get lost. Then again, I was also afraid of what I would find at the camp. I grabbed a flash ball from my belt and held it as I ran. It gave me enough confidence to keep moving.
I could hear Theo yelling out to Lazlo and Abbott as I neared the camp, and I spotted him just outside the Oasis, holding his rifle up and slowly advancing up the ramp. I switched to walking as I entered the camp’s perimeter, panting and unable to get a word out but still moving forward. I dropped my drone load to the ground and took out my pistol, remembering to switch off the safety this time. Theo disappeared through the doorway as I closed in, and his yells ceased at the same time. Then I spotted the trail of crimson on the ramp, bright and shiny and recent. Adding to the horror was that the solid metal door was hanging off of one hinge and had taken several cruel dents, as if something massively strong had attacked it and ultimately won.
I spotted a drone parked on the ground near the ramp, perhaps the one Lazlo had been preparing for launch. Voyeur Four was still in the air, its incessant whine now a unwelcome distraction. Pistol in my right hand, flash ball in my left, I went up the ramp and stopped just before the entrance. I wanted to help the team, even if it meant walking into a lion’s den. But I wasn’t an idiot.
“Theo?” I yelled. “Are you okay?”
There was no immediate answer, and I was about to throw the flash ball inside when his voice spoke up at last. “God… yes, Hector, I’m okay.”
I knew I wasn’t going to like what was in there. I went in just the same.
The first apparent change to the interior was the small pool of blood congealing next to the bunks. That… and the human leg lying in it. Considering the large soaked bandage wrapped around it, I could easily identify its previous owner. Abbott – my heart froze up at the revelation.
Theo was standing near it, looking like he’d just been kicked hard in the ribs. Beyond the pool of blood and severed limb, there were a few splashes of blood on the bunk Abbott had occupied, a bloody handprint here and there, but little other damage. No random destruction of property. It was not like the MLs to ignore an opportunity to destroy humanity’s work, or be so tidy. Then again, how the hell did the MLs get past a solid steel door?
“They… it… dragged him away,” Theo muttered in a low, deadly voice. “Tore off his leg and dragged him away.”
Even though he was the military veteran of the group, I think my shock wore off quicker than his. Abbott had been his friend for who knows how long. I knew him for less than a day. “Theo… what about Lazlo?” I managed to ask.
“I… I don’t know. She’s not here. They must have…” He trailed off, gripping his rifle and moving past me to the door. He started looking into the forest, probably hoping to scope out a trail to follow. I became afraid of his next move.
“Theo, tell me you’re not going after them.”
He looked at me with unmistakable rage shining in his eyes. “They got them, Hector. I wasn’t here and they got them. They might still be alive, and even if they aren’t…”
“If you go after what did this, you’ll end up like them,” I insisted. I couldn’t believe I had to be the voice of reason, but here I was being it. “I still need your help, Theo. I can’t make it back on my own, and we have information that could save lives. Please tell me you’re staying here.”
I wasn’t sure if he was buying what I was selling. He looked out again at the forest, his conflicted priorities battling it out on his face. Then he closed his eyes and said, “I’m securing the perimeter. I won’t… I won’t leave you, Hector. But I can’t be in here right now.”
He went down the ramp, ending our conversation. I had to trust his words. I’m not sure what I’d accomplished, though. I wasn’t any better off than Theo. That brief window of friendship and safety that I had occupied was gone, and I had no idea what to do. God, what were we up against now? What had the MLs unleashed on the world? And how the hell were we…
I heard the noise in the back of the vehicle, what they called the storage section as it had little else but cabinets and drawers for personal effects, supplies, and equipment. It came off as a soft metallic rap, almost like something banging gently on a metal cabinet. My sorrow switched to fight-or-flight, heavy on the fight. Theo hadn’t searched the vehicle. In his shock, perhaps he had made a mistake. I wasn’t in the mood to run from this particular fight.
I raised my gun and moved down the length of the vehicle, stepping up to a large closet that Abbott had declared their improvised brig. I thought I heard a soft shuffle inside there. A ML preparing for an ambush, perhaps, though the better part of me must have thought otherwise. I held my gun at the ready and used my free hand to open the door, prepared to fire at a moment’s notice.
In that otherwise empty closet, a wide-eyed Lazlo greeted me with a pistol aimed at my chest, and it was pure providence that neither of us shot the other at that moment. She lowered her weapon and broke out into a combination of laughter and tears as she came out of the closet and gave me a tight hug, as if we were best friends. Once she detached from me, she asked me about Theo. I assured her he was okay, but she didn’t believe me until she went to the exterior door and called out his name. He came running, and she gave him a tight hug as well.
“It wasn’t a pack, Theo,” she managed to say between soft sobs. “It was something… something a lot worse.”
I didn’t have a frame of reference at the time to judge how anything could be worse than a pack of Meat Locusts. Now? If anything, she may have underplayed the threat we were facing.
Obviously Theo and I wanted answers, but we needed to secure the vehicle first. Despite their deep grief over Abbott’s death, Theo and Lazlo fell back into their respective roles as we finished preparing to leave, Lazlo swapping out drones while Theo stood guard. I gave the living section a hasty cleaning and wrapped up Abbott’s leg in a plastic tarp for storage in the rear closet. I feared it was the only part of him we’d ever find. As I did the task, I told myself over and over that it was only flesh now, not the remains of a good man I had been talking to less than an hour ago.
There wasn’t much we could do for the main steel door other than use a bunch of straps to close it and keep it from banging around. Its use as a protective shield was now very limited.
Once we secured the door, we huddled inside and voted on our next move. The smartest plan was to get the Oasis moving and head back to Crusoe. We were down a Wrangler, our resources were significantly depleted, and we were up against an unknown threat that had penetrated our defenses with little effort.
But instead, we unanimously voted to hear out Lazlo first. Maybe it’s the human part of us that wants to know the answers even when it puts you further in jeopardy. Or perhaps we needed to know because there was a good chance that this new monster wasn’t all that far away and might come at us again. Better for us to have some idea what we were up against rather than encounter it in ignorance.
“I was outside installing a new battery in Voyeur Four when I saw it,” she began, sitting down at her computer desk with a bottle of water in her hands and a haunted look in her eyes. “It wasn’t very far away, maybe fifty yards at most. It hadn’t tripped any alarms from Third Eye or the vehicle cameras. It looked humanoid, but it was using the same masking ability the MLs use. Except it’s not the same. They look like forest flora. This one looked like a walking, flowing mound of dirt. It had multiple limbs, but how many I can’t be sure of because its arms appeared to grow and recede from its body at regular intervals. It was also bigger, at least my height. It was walking toward me at that rate serial killers use in slasher movies. You know, where the killer doesn’t feel like running because he knows he’s going to get you eventually and he has all the time in the world. I tried to reach Abbott and you guys on the radio, but there was suddenly some kind of major interference scrambling the signal. Three guesses as to who was likely causing it.”
She gulped down a drink of water and then continued, her hands gripping the bottle tightly. “Abbott saved my life twice in ten minutes. He insisted I take my shotgun with me. I told him the MLs were all gone and that Third Eye would warn me otherwise. He said to humor an injured man and do it anyway. Like an idiot, I had put down the shotgun several feet away, so I had to race to get it, fearing that thing would rush me while my back was turned. But that overconfident bastard didn’t speed up at all. It was twenty yards away when I brought up the shotgun, and I let it get to ten yards before I opened fire. If that thing had been scared of my gun, it never showed it.
“I’m pretty damn sure I hit it. Kinda hard to miss at that range. I emptied the entire shotgun, but it was like I was shooting wiffle balls. The whole time it maintained its masking. I’ve never seen a ML that could keep up its masking while it attacked. Then again, I’ve never seen a ML that could withstand several shotgun blasts.
“Not enough time to reload, so I ran back into the vehicle and locked the door. Abbott was demanding answers because he couldn’t reach me on the radio and it was hard to miss all the gunfire. I was about to start talking when the thing began wailing on the door, pounding it hard enough to leave dents in the metal. It must be damn strong to do even that much. After a few blows, it started wrenching on the door and working the hinges. I used the time to reload the shotgun and I was about to load another shotgun for Abbott when one of the door hinges pulled free. The thing was about to get in, so I stood in front of the door with my gun at the ready. I didn’t think my odds were good, but we weren’t going down without a fight.
“Abbott must have seen things differently, because he told me to give him the shotgun and go hide in the back. I tried pretending that I hadn’t heard him say that, but he repeated himself and added that it didn’t make sense for us to both die. I argued that I might still stop it, and he said that if that was possible, then it was his turn to do the heroics. I remember looking at him and seeing the lie on his face. He knew he couldn’t stop it. He was giving me the best chance possible of surviving.
“He then gave me a direct order. Told me that if I didn’t obey and he made it out of here he’d strip me of my Wrangler status. I knew he wasn’t serious, but somehow it worked on me. I gave him the shotgun, told him he was a jerk, and grabbed a pistol before I hid in the closet. I felt ridiculous, like I was a little girl pretending that the monster wouldn’t see me if I hid under my bed and closed my eyes. Then I heard the door give way with a big grating shriek. The shotgun went off three times before I heard Abbott scream. It was a short scream – I guess that’s better than a long one. I heard some thumping and sliding sounds, and then I heard nothing. I thought about opening the door and rushing the monster a dozen times over, but each time I just had to recall Abbott’s scream and… I just sat there.
“It killed him, Theo,” she softly stated, more tears falling from her eyes. “He told me to hide. He ordered me to. And damn it, I listened. I let it kill him.”
“No, you didn’t,” Theo replied sincerely. “He was right, Laz. You were right to listen to him.”
“You don’t know that,” she shot back. “Maybe I wounded it. Maybe a few more blasts might have done the trick.”
“If it could take eight shells and still wreck a steel door, it was nowhere near wounded,” Theo replied. “Abbott understood that, Laz. He made the call.”
“That doesn’t make me feel better,” she muttered.
“I came up here trying to rescue my ex-girlfriend,” I said, making my own attempt to console her. “She was dead before I arrived, but I still think about how if I had called the cops or left earlier I might have saved her. I don’t think the doubts ever leave you entirely. I don’t think you ever feel better.”
She gave me a slight frown. “I take it you don’t write Hallmark cards for a living.”
I shrugged. “I’m not known for my pep talks.” To my credit, her frown became a slight smile.
Theo stood up and went over to Abbott’s bloodstained bunk, looking at it as if visualizing his friend’s final fate, or merely morning his end. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Laz, but what bothers me is why it didn’t come after you after killing Abbott. It wasn’t like you were well hidden.”
“Well, I don’t have my guidebook on weird monsters with me,” she replied. “So your guess is as good as mine.”
I thought about it myself. The MLs really had only one goal in life – feed to reproduce. This new creature, besides clearly being more powerful, also had different tactics and priorities. Despite going after Lazlo, it had been satisfied with Abbott. How long would it be satisfied, though? A paranoid part of me wondered if we had already pressed our luck too far, and that this creature was on its way back to finish us off.
Thankfully, we were all in agreement that it was time to get the hell out of Dodge. Theo outlined the plan – Lazlo would drive Oasis while he did guard duty in the roof turret. I would man the computer desk and keep an eye on the monitors. I had enough computer knowledge to work Third Eye at an amateur level. Lazlo told me that Voyeur Four would follow Oasis on its own and that it should have enough battery power to last the trip to Crusoe, which was roughly one hundred and ten minutes away at a reasonable speed. As long as we kept moving and stopped only if absolutely necessary, we should make it back okay.
I doubted any of us thought it would go smoothly. But we kept our misgivings to ourselves as Lazlo maneuvered through a small opening that led to the driver’s seat and Theo went to his turret. I managed to get in a question about how safe the driver’s cab would be if we got attacked, and Theo casually mentioned that all the windows were ballistic glass. Good enough to thwart your average Meat Locust, but definitely not the other thing.
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