W. B. Vogel
Darwin was wrong. It was never merely a matter of survival of the fittest, but more so a survival of the fiercest. Every beast making its own way to another day where it would be either left stronger or broken. As time past its rage would be tempered like steel, leaving a dark heart charred black. But with that tempering of time would also come erosion and the return to chaos from which its fury was formed. Such is the nature of all things.
Many things had changed since Jeremy's boyhood. Fifteen years had passed, and like the fallen snow much had been obscured by time from the former glory of the previous seasons. He was now a Gearhead, grinding away his working tedium inside the belly of a beast--an outdated mainframe computer needed by the Grix Steel Corporation. All he saw was chips and boards all day long. It had been an eternity since he had run wild through the trees, or his imagination. His spirit was different now, changed as the wilderness of one solitude had been replaced by that of another. The wild in him had died, as had his dreams.
There was little left but shadows now. The memory of dreams, play, and even his childhood imaginary friend all had suffered a live burial in the deep dark blue. Like the ruins of a shattered citadel they had been forgotten, left to the ravages of seemingly endless time. All that remained now was oblivion and pain.
This day had been a hard one. The beast had crashed, and Jeremy spent three hours sweating and crawling inch by inch inside its guts before he found the burned circuitry board. The Unisys A6 mainframe couldn't handle the heat generated during the smelting process, and the managers had refused to update the crippled system or even make its environment habital to its survival. He ripped the board out, replaced it, and then rebooted the system. The downtime incurred had almost cost him his job along with his sanity. He hated this damned contraption and he longed to gut it in a most spectacular fashion. Obsolescence is one of the ravaging wheels of time.
Jeremy needed to unwind, so after work he went to Trebles. This was the only thing that passed for a nightspot in the town of Moreau, being an old saloon that had been updated to modern tastes. It had a big screen TV, satellite dish, jukebox, and access to the Internet for its weary clientele. With all of these diversions it still only really attracted the worst, but they were the educated scum. It had earned the nickname Troubles as all who entered there would find some. But Jeremy had little choice.
He just wanted a cold soda, and to lay his throbbing head down on a cool wood table. At times like these he liked the feel of a slab. It seemed to put everything into perspective. Beyond all of the noise there was the cold darkness, dim and unrelenting in the blue and red glow of ethereal night.
There was two dollars in his pocket, just enough for a frosty drink and some quiet time. Digging in his pocket, he found the blunt and slammed it down on the table. Then he laid his head down and faded away. Now all that he wanted were dreams...deep, black, and true.
Soon his silence was disturbed, heinously. His eyes rolled open slowly, as his vision instantly blurred by sleep and the stigma of flashing lights from the empty dance floor. The noise of two people arguing drew his attention quickly to a nearby booth. It was a man and a woman, and their disagreement was escalating rapidly to a violent head.
The man smacked her face and screamed, "SHUT UP! I'm tired of your stupid mouth." That was all that it took.
Jeremy rose, and stepped in between the two of them. He put his hand on the man's chest and gave him a shove. He retreated a few feet, but he was a large pile of scum and Jeremy knew that he had bitten off more than he could readily chew. The man's knuckles cracked as he clenched his massive fists.
With rage in his eyes, Jeremy glared at the bruiser and said, "My Momma taught me that it was wrong to hit a lady, but then she was never a whore like yours." Jeremy ducked, barely escaping an overswung punch. He immediately countered, planting his fist hard into the ogre's groin easily bringing him to his knees.
There were groans from the floor. Jeremy swung his body back up, and kicked him the face. The bones cracked as he received another helping. The blood began to puddle on the floor around Jeremy's feet. There was no time to waste though; he hadn't done anything yet except postpone his beating. His eyes caught sight of the door.
Like a flash he was gone through the door. Sure there was no honor in running, but there was less in dying stupidly. He didn't even think as he ran down the street towards the edge of town. It was only a few blocks to the forest's edge. He was reacting at an instinctual level now, letting his primal nature shine. There was something deeper that called to him.
The shadows enveloped him as he hit the tree line. Somewhere deep inside, below the surface of his conscious thought a beckoning urge drew him towards the heart of this aged woods. He could not readily understand this compulsion--he could only obey it.
His breathing was rampant, taxing his heart furiously as he ran almost mindlessly through this twisted labyrinth of dark, macabre forms and foreboding darkness. Why had he chosen this way? The chaotic thoughts he was having kept a wicked pace with his now aching feet. Deeper, deeper, just a little further into the abyss...
Still he ran with his predator right on his heels. Then suddenly, without the slightest warning, he stopped. It was as though he had slammed face first into an invisible stone wall. The pounding of his tired heart began to ease downward down, even though he still was taking heavy drags of air trying to catch his breath.
There, dead in his tracks, he stood waiting like a martyr for the flames. His nemesis was coming...he could feel it. In the core of his bones the omen sang like a siren's chant. With every breath that moment drew closer and more taunt. He knew that there was no way he could win. The man was a giant, but still he had no fear of him. Better to die, better to dream...
"You're DEAD!" a disembodied voice told him. Soon he saw his adversary. Even in the shadows of the trees this man was a menacing hulk. He was bathed in sweat and rage; there was no means of reprieve. There was now only left sudden moments of jagged realization dug deeply from prophetic oblivion. Darkness will have its way.
From the distance there was a growl, as ancient eyes locked on their quarry. The large, atavistic form moved against Jeremy's pursuer. Wrapping its huge hairy arms around the man it broke his back with a quick, practiced jerk. His dread had left him silent, except for a final whimper before his demise. Two clawed hands tore the shattered form in half, spilling blood and guts onto the ground.
The creature then looked at Jeremy. Returning to his work, the creature's eyes moved back to the warm corpse lying at its feet. He didn't understand why, but he had no fear of the beast. It would not harm him. Jeremy knew this at the most basic level, below all of the noise in his mind. He had nothing to fear.
The apelike monster's fangs ripped into the dead flesh. Staining its teeth pink with blood it swallowed a large bite of this gruesome feast. It was a massive thing, and its hunger was now at least temporarily sated with the kill. Then it rose to its feet. Turning away, it drug the mangled torso behind it as it headed into the blackness of the surrounding woods.
Before it was totally out of sight it stopped momentarily, and turned back towards Jeremy. Its black eyes connected with his and then it was gone.
Jeremy exited the forest almost serenely. As he hit the edge of the trees he paused briefly, staring back into its murky depths. A word drifted to the surface of his mind from distant memories of his dazed childhood, "Munkee." For now he could not remember what the importance of it was, only that it made him vaguely happy in some indescribable way.
He walked home. On this night, for the first time in many years, he had dreams. They were dark and prophetic dreams of his angel, an image of a woman he had not yet known but loved too well. Her phantasm haunted him in the times ahead from the dark Gehenna of his soul. Along with these fateful visions came oblique memories from his youth...of darkness, solitude, and a beast he called friend.
Author W.B. Vogel writes about what he loves...the darkness and all of God's creations cast from it. Born early on a dark and dismal day in November of 1972, his love of the storm and the night has been a major influence and inspiration. "The Dark Days are the best..."
Influences range from writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allan Poe to directors such as John Carpenter and bands such as Carcass, Slipknot, Acid Bath, the Vandals, Misfits, Entombed, Konkhra, Transport League, and Fishbone.
"It is not a matter of survival of the fittest, but of the fiercest."
Visit W. B. Vogel's web site.
Read a short horror story by Vogel -- Road Kill
His writings credits include:
Published by permission of the author.