Full chapter should be up soon. The prologues are finally done and we get to meet the actual characters. Expect a fair amount of exposition though.
The girl held herself in a feeble embrace as she tried to keep out the chill. The thick, white jacket she wore did little to protect her from the cold. The jacket went down to her waist, where it met a dark skirt that flowed down her legs like the trunk of a tree, strong, supporting her, holding her up despite the otherwise frail appearance of her freezing, shivering form.
Her blue eyes roamed the empty street. Where was he? Where was her escort for the night? His letter had told her to meet him around here, but why? There was nothing of note nearby, only warehouses and factories. At this time of night, this part of the city was dead. There were no furnaces, no people, and little light. There was nothing.
The girl’s milk white skin stood in stark contrast to the blackened sky above her, through which not even the twinkling stars could shine. The long, silky strands of platinum blonde hair lay level and flat in a straight fringe against her forehead, and ran down her back, all the way to her waist, down to where her white coat met her black skirt.
Willow hoped that her look would be enough to please him, whoever he was. Given the nature of society, it was difficult to strike a balance between looking desirable to her clients, yet also appearing decent and respectable in the eyes of any who might see them together. After all, nobody would be paying her to make them look bad.
They all wanted her body, she had no illusions to the contrary, but they also wanted her to appear worthy of them. They didn’t want anyone to see her and think they were out with some cheap tart after all, regardless of whether or not that may have been the case.
Willow wrapped her arms around herself, shivering in the nippy night air. The bulky white coat she wore may not have been flattering, but it did keep out the cold… or at least most of it. The blonde shuddered to think what she’d be facing if she didn’t have it.
It wasn’t normal for someone to keep her waiting this long. Maybe they weren’t coming. How long should she stay? She couldn’t wait out in this cold all night, but if she returned home empty handed? Her pale face blanched at what would happen to her.
No, she had to earn her keep, and this was the only way she could do it. She had no skills, it was unlikely she’d even make a half decent wife. That was the only reason she forced herself to perform these unsavoury, late-night escapades. It was the only thing she could do. It was all she was good for.
The girl’s flawless brow wrinkled and her eyes shut tight. Long tresses of smooth silk flourished about her as she expelled the destructive, yet sadly true thoughts. Willow felt the dark revelation willingly release her as it loosened its clammy grasp… at least for the moment. The dark thoughts wouldn’t help her here, she had to be strong. Willow was a good time girl, not a denizen of despair. She had a job to do, and the men liked it when she smiled.
Calming her mind, Willow looked around, craning her neck. Maybe she should search for her prodigal client. It was better than standing out in the cold all night.
“That was when she noticed the warehouse. It was just across from her. The door, it was open.
All the other buildings on the street were locked up tight, safe, secure, empty… but not this one.
Willow ventured inside. At least it would provide shelter.
The warehouse was no warmer than the still air outside. Looking around, Willow saw countless crates stacked up against the walls in rows. She wondered what could be in them. How many people worked here during the day? How much hustle and bustle must this place generate during its waking hours?
It didn’t matter now, in the dead of the night, it was fast asleep, dead to the world. As dead as—
Willow’s eyes widened. Her heart jumped into her throat. Her head turned, deep blue eyes staring fearfully at the source of the scream, of the cry.
She should leave. She had to get out of here. The exit was right behind her. So why didn’t she take it?
Her body had a mind of its own. It was as though something compelled her. That sound, it came from the stairway.
Her legs carried her up the stairs, up towards the source of that cry. The girl felt a chill wash over her, and this time it wasn’t from the cold.
The second floor of the warehouse seemed to be filled with offices. Slowly, quietly, she moved throught the empty rooms.
She pushed open a door, and forced herself not to scream.
What she saw beyond, was horrifying. It was impossible. It just couldn’t be real. Was this some kind of nightmare, or was she going insane?
There were a few men inside, tied up, chained to a radiator running along the wall. They were struggling, trying to get free. One of them spotted her. His helpless, pleading eyes locked onto hers. He mouthed something to her. Was it… she understood his desperate plea. ‘Get help!’
They weren’t alone in there. Willow saw others. A group of men stood around each of the helpless, tied up victims. They closed in around them, shuffling haphazardly, slowly, clumsily, as though they weren’t all there. Were these men drugged? Sedated? Or was it something more sinister? Was this the doctor’s cure for Lunacy? Had he finally done it? If so, the cure looked to be worse than the ailment. They didn’t speak, made no noise. They acted like the freshly lobotomised.
They closed in around the men and… and…
Willow could scarcely look.
The victims cried out and screamed as their attackers swarmed like a pack of wild predators. They attacked with their face, their teeth. They were like rabid dogs, wild wolves. Tearing, ripping, biting.
They were… They were eating them! They were eating people!
They were cannibals?!
Willow’s stomach turned. She raised a hand to her mouth as she lurched. She felt as though she were about to be sick.
The sudden movement had the unexpected effect of opening the door wider, exposing her hiding place, but also giving her a wider view of the room, and what she saw made everything entirely worse.
There were more dead bodies than Willow could have ever imagined. Bodies lay, blood stained, chunks missing, but still… they were moving. They were alive? How? How were they still alive?!
Willow’s eyes were drawn to one figure in particular. Unlike the others who attacked in a horde, he was alone, devouring one of the still bodies. This one wasn’t kicking and screaming, he was… he was already dead. He was long dead. How long had he been lying there, rotting there?
Just how long had this madness been going on, unnoticed within their city?
The lone figure turned around. Blood oozed from his mouth. His skin was pale, whiter than the moon. His clothes were in ruins, tattered, and stained with a mix of blood and dirt.
The worst by far however, the scariest feature about him, had to be his eyes. They were black. Where a normal person’s eyes were white, he had nothing. They were like hollow pits, twin black voids. They weren’t empty sockets, his eyes were there, but they were black as pitch, definitely not human. There was no iris, no colour. In place of a round pupil, there was only a slit, like that of a cat, and blood red in colour.
The blackness spread beyond his eyes, shooting out into the surrounding skin like veins of black mould. He turned his attention to more of the bodies, untying them. These had obviously been dead for a while, yet they were moving. Slowly, clumsily… like the others.
Was the figure, the monster, somehow creating these cannibalistic abominations from the living victims he had tied up?
This wasn’t real, it couldn’t be real. It was too horrible.
“My children,” the monster drawled. “You must be hungry. Go, seek out the flesh of the living, and bring them back here. Our family must grow larger.”
It was true! Willow didn’t know how, but it was. This wide-awake nightmare was actually happening.
Was this cruel fate the one that had befallen her missing client? Was it destined to befall her as well?
The girl shuddered. She had to get away. She had to escape.
Suddenly, the monster turned to her. Willow froze. The figure took her in, and his bloody grin turned up in a devilish smirk.
No, no, this couldn’t be happening. Why was this happening? Why her? No, this… this wasn’t just about her. Why was it happening at all?! She backed away slowly, hoping she wouldn’t trip and fall over, she didn’t want to provoke those… things.
“My children,” the monster spoke, “we have a guest.” He gestured to the open door. “You may Begin…” his voice took on a cruel edge, “with her.”
“No…” Willow turned and ran, back the way she’d come, down the stairs, taking them as fast as she could. She had to get away from those demonic, shambling corpses, but she wasn’t fast enough to evade that eerie drawl. That voice… that thing, that monster. Whatever he was, he wasn’t human.
“Bring her to me,” she heard him say. “We must ensure that our uninvited guest is made comfortable.”
Willow’s face paled as that helpless, pleading man tied to the radiator entered her mind.
The girl raced down the stairs and made her way to the warehouse exit.
Her legs carried her as fast as they could across the building, to the expansive street beyond its four great walls.
Willow tried to get away as fast as she could, but all those stairs had really taken it out of her. She wasn’t sure how long she would be able to outrun them.
Her only option was to lose them.
The girl ran from one Side Street to another. The city was like a labyrinth, and she was trapped within it, with those monstrous beings chasing after her.
How fast were they gaining? Willow was too terrified to look, and she couldn’t hear them over the percussive drum of her heart, not to mention the pounding of her feet against the ground and her loud, desperate gasps for air as she ran.
Willow desperately needed to lose her pursuers, but in the end, the only one she had managed to lose was herself.
These streets were unfamiliar. Where… where was she?
Unable to keep her pace, her run shifted down to a walk.
She heard footsteps. They were close.
Willow broke into a run once again and tried to elude them by slipping down another side street. She turned a corner, slipped into an alley, and ran into a wall.
A dead end? No!
Eyes teared as ears told her those bodies were closing in on her. She turned and ran back the way she had come. It was all she could do.
Maybe she could sneak past them. Maybe she could slip by. Maybe… maybe not.
Running headlong, she hit another wall, slamming full steam into it, but this wall wasn’t made of stone or brick. It was something far worse. A wall of bodies.
She felt their clammy hands grab at her. Willow tried desperately to fight them off.
She struggled against them, but there were so many, and they were surprisingly strong, and soon, she was overwhelmed.
The girl felt her eyes well with overflowing tears as those foul smelling, clumsy beings swarmed over her, pawing at her body, her skin, her clothes. She heard the material rip. She felt the sickening warmth of their drool as it slid down her skin. She let out a scream, but nobody would come to help her. There was nobody left.
She was all alone, in this city of the dead. And soon, she would be as they were.
That was the last, desperate, frantic thought to cross her mind before giving in to the cold, dark embrace of unconsciousness.