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Original Short Story

on Fri May 19, 2017 8:53 am
Hello! Welcome to the New Arts Corner! As I always admired the original place, on the original sight, I dedicate this first post to all those who originally posted here, and to all those stories that won't be read again! And to commemorate, here is my own original piece, or at least the beginning of it.

Cleaning Day, By jjmags


Last edited by jjmags on Fri May 19, 2017 8:53 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Original Short Story

on Fri May 19, 2017 8:53 am
Oi! Guvn’r! We got us another infestation under the stairs!”
Lucas Dalliwick lowered the goggles back over his eyes, aimed his Rapid-Fire Vapor Cannon at the writhing mass of vines shrinking away from his headlamp, and let loose a blast of super-heated water vapor. The vines screamed their eerie, high-pitched squeal as the vapor burned through them, causing Lucas to wince in pain of his own and curse himself for the hundredth time for forgetting his ear-plugs.
The clump of overgrowth shriveled quickly from the blast, and Lucas allowed himself a moment’s satisfaction at watching the scourge of humanity wither and die at his hands. No matter how many times he cooked up some Veggies, it always felt good. But of course the feeling was short-lived. Kill one clump, another would pop up somewhere else. The city was covered in them. Being on the front lines as it were, Lucas knew that as much as Home Office put on a brave face for the populace, they were losing ground. More and more street lights went out for good, more and more neighborhoods were evacuated, more and more people were crammed into smaller and smaller spaces.
More and more of London was ceded to the plants.
After a few more satisfying seconds, Lucas let up on his single-minded assault under the stairs, his vaporcannon letting off a jet of steam as it powered down for the moment. Ducking his head into the confined space, he twisted his neck around, letting the light from his headlamp search every nook and cranny. The wooden walls were bare, the paint having been scalded off by Lucas’ vapor, and the floor was covered in a steaming pile of dead mulch.
He relaxed and pulled his head out of the enclosed space.
“Oi! Winthrop! I got ‘em! Turned ‘em into cinders, I did!” he waited for an answer. When none came, he tilted his goggles back up to the top of his head and turned back down the corridor. “Winthrop? Oi! Guvn’r!”
The stillness of the abandoned hospital pressed down on Lucas as stared back down the empty corridor. Last he’d seen Winthrop, the grimey, pudgy Cockney’d been weeding one of the bathrooms. As the room’d only hosted a couple of crab grasses, Lucas had left his partner to finish up while he pushed forward with the cleansing. There was a lot of ground for the two of them to cover and Home Office didn’t pay overtime.
“You done back there? Eh?”
Frowning his bushy eyebrows, Lucas started creeping back down the hallway, passing doorways on either side marked with a green X in dripping spray paint, indicating they’d been Veggie-free on the first pass. Up ahead, he thought he saw movement in the shadows coming from the bathroom doorway where he’d left Winthrop to wipe out a couple of wimpy little crab grasses.
Unless there weren’t just crab grasses in there, he thought apprehensively. “Blimey, I hope me boy’s not met up with a gobbler.”
The gobblers were the latest incarnation of Veggie horror. Still new enough on the scene to be little more than rumor, they nevertheless had every Cleaner looking over his shoulders every time he ducked into a room. Lucas had never seen one, but he’d heard about a fella over in Bloomsbury that had met up with one while trying to clean a church. They said the sick thing’d just dropped down over the bloke’s head and snipped it clean off. Gobbling it up.
“Lord, don’t let it be a gobbler,” whispered Lucas in an unconscious attempt to add an element of life to the lifeless corridor.
The length of his stride grew steadily smaller as he approached the bathroom, it’s door proudly displaying the red X Winthrop had automatically sprayed on it when they’d opened the door and discovered the crab grass infestation. The beam of light from his headlamp pounded through the afternoon gloom which seeped through the widely-spaced window frames running along the edge of the ceiling- all long devoid of glass. A few feet away from the bathroom door, his nerves got the better of him and he powered up his vaporcannon. The echo of the low-pitched, mechanical hum of the steam-powered furnace coming to life reverberated down the hall and quickly gave way to the soft, comforting bubbling sound of the heated vapor within.
“Winthrop?” he called into the darkness. “Oi! You there, Guvn’r? That crab grass giving you a spot o’ trouble?”
He wiped his sweaty fingers on his shirt and flipped his goggles over his eyes. Winthrop should have answered him. Something was wrong. He gripped the trigger of the vaporcannon tightly, ready to spray at a moment’s notice. “I’m comin’ in, eh! Don’t vape my face off!”
With a final deep breath that failed to in any way calm him down, Lucas leapt forward and aimed his weapon into the open doorway of the bathroom.
It was empty.
On the one hand, that was good, because according to the rumors, if a gobbler had snapped off Winthrop’s head, then his decapitated body ought to be lying on the floor, blood and gore gushing from the stump. No headless body probably meant no gobbler.
On the other hand, if Winthrop wasn’t in the bathroom, where in the hell was he?
Inching into the bathroom (with a quick look above the doorway, just in case), Lucas immediately saw the remains of the crab grass withered and boiled to a pulp.
“Good one, Guvn’r,” murmured Lucas. Then he noticed something else in the charred remains, a series of thin strings of ivy covered in tiny suckers, like the tentacles of an octopus. Lucas recognised them instantly.
“Oh bloody hell!” cried Lucas. “Orifice ivy!”
He backed away automatically, even though the ivy was obviously dead, fighting the urge to fire his vaporcannon at the nightmarish vegetation. Orifice ivy (it had been given another, more scientific-sounding name by Home Office, but everyone just called it orifice ivy) was notoriously evil and possibly the most terrifying of the common Veggies. It could hide in the tightest of spaces, making it difficult to spot. It tended to coil in upon itself and then spring out at people when they walked past (supposedly it was drawn to body heat). The suckers allowed it to cling to whatever it touched, making it almost impossible to untangle oneself once it had grabbed hold. Worst of all was its propensity to worm its way inside a human body through the closest entrance available.
Which was where it had gotten its name.
While orifice ivy didn’t puncture external skin, it had no problem slashing through a man’s insides once it had taken root. Lucas had seen, on more than one occasion, fellow Cleaners who had stumbled into a patch of orifice ivy writhe in agony while multiple vines worked their way in and out of their bodies, often hoisting up the poor victim until they dangled in the air like a tortured marionette.
A sound behind Lucas grabbed his attention and he swiveled around, finger twitching on the trigger, ready to let loose at the first sign of vegetation.
But there was nothing there.
“Blazes, Guvn’r! Where the bloody Hell are ye?”
Approaching a panic, Lucas flipped his goggles up so hard they fell off his head and clattered to the floor. He made half a swipe at them as they fell then clamped the hand back onto his vaporcannon, eyes bulging, sweat flowing freely down his face thanks to a combination of his growing fright and the humid conditions within the old hospital. He jerked his flashlight up and down the corridor. Where was Winthrop? What in God’s name had happened to him?
All along the corridor, green, spray-painted X’s taunted him. He’d missed the ivy in the bathroom, he could’ve easily missed it in any one of the other rooms. He’d have to go back over every room on the floor, any one of which could be home to that damned ivy waiting to spring out at anyone who strode into its territory.
But first he had to find Winthrop. Had to find his body. Had to find out what the Veggies had done to him. Had to bring back enough of the bloke for a decent identification. Had to… had to…
Had to stay alive.
Movement on the wall to his right warranted a quick blast from the vaporcannon, but there was nothing there, only the slow-moving shadow of a cloud passing in front of the sun outside the window. Lucas released the trigger, ignoring the bubbling paint he’d just caused to rise up on the wall, and swung back around to face the bathroom, weapon up and ready.
“Damn it, Winthrop! Where for pete’s sake are you!”
The slam of a door behind him.
“Ay, Lukie! Found me some orifice-”
Lucas spun around and fired before he even knew what he was doing, sending a blast of scalding steam into Winthrop’s face. His partner screamed and reflexively threw his hands up, but it was too late. Without the protection of his goggles, the vapor instantly boiled his eye balls until they liquified and oozed from his sockets.
“Guvn’r!” cried Lucas, finally dropping the Vapor Cannon to the ground and rushing forward.
Winthrop’s mouth opened in a silent scream, as if the agony and pain was at a level beyond coherency. His legs wobbled, his gelatinous belly shook, and he slumped to his knees before the wail of misery could finally be loosed. Lucas had heard screams like that before of course. Since the Spreading, they had become all too common.
But he’d never caused one.
“Blazes, Winthrop! I didn’t…! Oh lordie oh no, oh no!”
Winthrop managed to stop screaming just long enough to take in a horrifically-deep breath before erupting again into a cacophony of agony. Lucas quickly ripped open his emergency pack and dumped the contents onto the ground, frantically digging through them to find the sedative.
“Just gimmie a sec, Guvn’r. Just a bloody sec, blazes!”
He grabbed the syringe and bit off the tip, spitting it out while trying to wrap his other arm around Winthrop’s gyrating head. Running on nothing more than animal instinct, the mutilated Cleaner fought Lucas’s administrations with his hands, the roasted flesh already peeling away. Everything was happening too fast and Lucas wasn’t even sure if he was supposed to be sedating his partner or not.
He’d never Vaped anyone before.
After struggling another moment with the tormented lump next to him, Lucas threw caution to the wind and just tackled the poor sod to the floor, jabbing the sedative into one of the folds of Winthrop’s neck. His partner bucked Lucas off of him, still screaming, and got to his feet, well-baked hands still in front of his face, needle sticking out of his neck.
“Guvn’r! No!”
Winthrop took off running and crashed into the wall after three steps, driving the needle even further into his flesh. Lucas scrambled after his partner, desperate for the screaming to end.
But it didn’t end. Not when the sedative began to take hold and Winthrop sank once more to his knees. Not when he lost control of his arms and they dropped away, exposing the bubbling mass of flesh that was his face. Not when his entire body went slack and he slumped onto his back.
He just lay there, screaming, as Lucas stood over him, mumbling a prayer to a God he no longer believed in.
Only then did the screaming end.
Lucas knelt down and put his trembling fingers to Winthrop’s neck. There was a pulse. He carefully removed the syringe before tossing it away down the hall and grabbing the jar of salve each Cleaner was issued from Home Office. The lid took a strong twist before breaking the seal - Lucas had never opened it before - and gave off an achingly strong, peppermint scent.
“Oi!” cried Lucas wafting his hand in front of his nose. “That’s rough, that is!”
He’d carried the jar around unopened since Home Office organized the Cleaning Crews to combat The Spreading over two years ago. Hoping the stuff didn’t go bad, he slathered a healthy dose across Winthrop’s face, as well as on the back of his hands. Once that was done, he wrapped his partner’s injuries in gauze until the poor man looked like a blind boxer, his hands molded into digitless lumps and the upper half of his face bound in white above the nostrils.
Finally, Lucas dropped the remaining gauze onto the cluttered floor and leaned back against the wall to catch his breath, his mind empty of all but the lasting image of Winthrop’s eyes melting out of their sockets.
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Re: Original Short Story

on Mon May 22, 2017 10:47 am
Chapter 2 (To be continued)

At least the orifice ivy didn’t scream.
Lucas had spent the past hour going back into every room on the floor, each of which he’d previously mistakenly marked ‘clean’ with a green X, and rooting out the vile tentacles from Hell. They weren’t in every room, but he’d found them enough times- hiding behind a light panel or coiled around a box spring- that he’d had plenty of opportunity to work out his frustrations on the insidious plant life. Unlike the normal vines that were everywhere you turned in the city (serving more or less as the Veggie foot soldiers), the orifice ivy made no noise when broiled, instead it dissolved into a foul-smelling, but harmless, char.
The search had been nerve-wracking, with Lucas never knowing when he’d unknowingly disturb a coil of ivy that would spring out and force its way into his ear, nose, or worse. The closest he’d come to disaster had been when he’d flipped over a mattress, alerting a coil of ivy hidden in a ceiling light fixture to his presence. The damn thing had launched itself at him, but had missed by a good foot and landed on the overturned bedding.
Lucas had roasted that one to ash.
After double-checking the space under the stairs- nearly giving himself a heart attack in the process from the need to duck his head down there- Lucas returned to Winthrop’s side, frowning. His partner had yet to awaken from the overdose of sedative he’d gotten, but Lucas figured he was OK, seeing as his breathing continued on schedule. The problem was, the sun was almost down. The last place he wanted to be during the darkness to follow was an abandoned hospital on the edge of The Spreading. Especially one he hadn’t finished Cleaning. He glanced up at the ceiling, wondering what nameless Hell festered on the floors above and whether or not it was planning on coming downstairs any time soon.
A nearly-inaudible moan at his feet brought Lucas’ attention back to Winthrop. The poor sod was done for, that much was certain. Lucas had leaned into the trigger when startled, and unloaded something fierce. Maybe if he’d only misted him, Winthrop’d have a chance, but he’d bathed his partner in superheated steam for a good five seconds. In addition to turning the eyes to jelly, Lucas had vaped a good layer of flesh off his victim’s face, flash-fired the hair from his head and turned the entire scalp into a blackened, shriveled hulk. And that was just on the outside. Lucas could only imagine what he’d done to the man’s brain, cooked like a rump roast in its own juices within the charred skull.
Winthrop was a dead man, all that was left was for his body to get the message and give up the ghost.
Lucas cast a glance at the darkening sliver of sky visible through the venting windows at the top of the walls. Time to make a choice, Lucas old boy, he thought to himself. It was really quite simple. Leave or stay. If he left now, there was just enough time to get outside, hop in the car and get back to safety behind the barricades. That was the smart thing to do. Anything else meant tempting fate by hunkering down in here and praying the Veggies left him alone.
Which they wouldn’t.
So he had to go. He had to go right now.
Which would mean leaving Winthrop behind.
There was simply no way Lucas would make it out of the building in time if he had carry or drag his half-dead partner back through the halls and stairwells of the old hospital. Winthrop was twice Lucas’ size, easy. They’d done a job of it just working their way inside the rotting hulk of the hospital, but getting out with Winthrop in tow? It simply couldn’t be done, not without killing the poor sod. Not by Lucas.
He stared back down at his horrific creation. He barely even knew the man, to be honest. They’d only been working together for a little over a month. He seemed a nice enough bloke and all, but the job wasn’t generally an overly chatty one. Come to think of it, Lucas didn’t even know if Winthrop were married, had a family, friends, anything. He was just another Cleaner.
A Cleaner Lucas had vaped.
At the end of the day, that’s what it all came down to: Lucas had done this. If Winthrop had gotten himself compromised by the Veggies- say if orifice ivy had leapt into his suit or a gobbler’d snapped his neck off or one of those detestable seed pods had ruptured in his face- Lucas wouldn’t think twice about abandoning him to his fate. That was the nature of the job. Every Cleaner knew it, and every Cleaner was prepared to be left behind.
But as much as he knew he should, Lucas couldn’t leave Winthrop to die. This was his fault, and even though nobody would ever know, nobody would ever blame him, Lucas couldn’t do it.
He glanced up and down the greying corridor, then up back up at the windows.
Right. That’s it then, he thought. Bloody suicidal, I am.
Staying on this floor was out of the question. As soon as the sun was down, the Veggies would start to move. They’d sense the humans’ body heat and creep in through the windows and up from the lower, cooler underground floors. He had to find somewhere to bunker down and wait out the darkness.
His mind went back to the stairwell.
At least I know it’s Clean, he thought.
With as much care as he could muster, Lucas slowly pulled the heavier man down the hallway by the armpits. It was slow going, made slower by the need to stop and flash his beam down the corridor from time to time to make sure there was nothing creeping his way. By the time he was halfway there, the sun had said cheerio and gone home for a good snooze, leaving Lucas to drag his overweight hairshirt the remaining distance to safety in the dark.
Outside, the Veggies woke from their daily hibernation, ready to continue spreading.
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