Glass and Steel, Part 10 - The Chaos Before the Storm
Posted By: Random 14-Year-Old<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 20 January 2006, 2:15 am
Glass and Steel
Part 10: The Chaos Before the Storm
"What... happened...?" Ren groaned as he came to. He was still in the hospital bed, but he could feel a difference in his health, as if he wasn't injured anymore. His neck, albeit a little swollen and stiff, no longer pained him. And his arm—Ren looked down at his arm to see the bloody cuts and gashes gone, replaced by mere scars.
"Feeling a little better, Ren?"
Ren looked at his mother, but his eyes darted from her quickly. He was still a little ashamed for getting himself and his parents into this whole mess. Could he ever repay them for their forgiveness...?
"That's biofoam—" Ren's mother said. She looked at him as he rubbed his neck curiously. "The doctor said that it would take months of resting for the bones to heal in your neck—unless we paid for a biofoam injection."
Ren looked at her again. "Biofoam?" he blurted.
"It will keep your neck feeling normal, at least until your bones can heal themselves. And your arm, too—the biofoam is what closed your cuts so quickly. I saw your face when you looked down and saw that—" The woman smiled.
Maybe Ren had been wrong about all of this. Maybe this whole incident wasn't so bad after all, and he could walk away from it as if nothing had changed—
"Mrs. Basely?" the doctor said when he opened the door and looked inside. "A word with you, please."
And so Ren's mother quietly left the room to speak to the doctor and Ren's father. He was left alone to cry in peace. Please, he prayed, let Ariana be okay, let her still be alive. Let her still have a heartbeat, no matter how faint, but there must be a heartbeat within her stricken body. Ren would have his parents pay for her biofoam injection wherever she needed it, or hell, he would find a way to pay for it himself. After all, he was the one who did it to her. He was the one who crashed the car, causing shards of glass to maul her face. Please, let her be okay...
And what about Jeffery? Poor kid. Struck by a crashing aircraft. Almost assaulted by an alien. Further injured in that damn car crash. Jeffery Jiles was almost certainly dead, along with his parents—and for all Ren knew, his sister, too.
Ren swiftly swung his legs off of the bed and attempted to stand up. His attempt failed, at first—his legs were weak and numb. He fell back on the bed and prepared to try again. He had to find out if Ariana was okay, and that doctor would never tell him as long as he was still lying helpless on the bed. Ren had to get up and demand to know how Ariana was feeling, if she was feeling anything.
Though his legs continuously buckled and half-collapsed, Ren found his way to the door and opened it. His mother, father, and the doctor were having a conversation at a desk nearby. All three of them looked anxious.
"...could be a precursor—"
"A precursor? To what?"
"Well...ask him yourself," the doctor said when met Ren's eyes. Mr. and Mrs. Basely spun around to face Ren, and their expressions turned from surprise to nervousness.
"What?" Ren asked, feeling pressure.
His mother shot a glare at his father, who in turn looked apprehensively at the doctor. With a worried sigh, the doctor stepped forward and showed Ren something he held in his hand. "Can you tell me where you found this?"
Ren's heart stopped. He looked in horror at the weapon before him. It was the alien energy sword he had been carrying in his pocket since the alien had attacked him back at Ariana's house, when Howard miraculously arrived to kill the monster before it could kill Ren. The weapon was only a shiny handle now, but somehow it could be turned on and the crackling blade of white-hot energy that appeared could be used to kill.
"I..." Ren said, speechless. He had to tell them, even if they wouldn't believe it. "The Covenant came in a ship...and one was about to kill me with that before a man shot it to death."
The three adults stared blankly at Ren.
"Are you sure?" asked his father.
"Sure?" Ren retorted with annoyance. "Yes! The alien...it was invisible or something, and it came at me with that!"
"This?" Ren's father wondered, casually feeling the curves and grooves in the alien weapon. "What does it do? Do you get a concussion if you're hit over the head with it?"
Ren knew he was just trying to be light-hearted, but the man was being careless, almost ignorant—he handled the inactive sword like a toy. Any minute now, the thing would activate and the blade would rip through whoever happened to be standing in front of it.
"Here," said the doctor, and he took the weapon from Mr. Basely. Ren felt relieved that his father no longer had it in his hands—
Ren looked on in terror as the doctor now began squeezing the grip—what the hell was he trying to do, turn it on and slaughter somebody?
"Stop!" Ren shouted, and reached out to take the weapon. But his muscles were still weak, and his movements slow. The doctor pulled away and continued to play with the alien technology.
"Ren, we need to find out what this is," Mrs. Basely assured her son.
"Damn it!" Ren seethed. "I'm telling you what it is, it's a goddamn sword that can kill someone!"
The doctor stopped for a second. "Actually," he said matter-of-factly, "I'm pretty sure that this is a replica, maybe ordered from Covey.com? I think you must have dreamed your alien encounter... How—how do you turn on the holographic blade?"
Ren's mouth dropped. What? He stared in disbelief as the doctor rubbed the dangerous weapon like Aladdin with a magic lamp. Holographic blade? This guy was mental. He was going to kill one of Ren's parents—!
"STOP IT NOW!" Ren screamed, lunging forward with what little strength he had. He struggled to take the inactive sword, but his legs collapsed and he found himself on his knees.
People—nurses, patients, bystanders—everyone around looked in confusion at Ren. A desk lady looked up from her computer screen to see what the fuss was about. A nurse pushing a scraggly old guy in a wheelchair stopped to watch the scene—even the guy in the wheelchair watched the scene unfold, with curious, glistening eyes...
"Okay," the doctor said finally, and put down the inactive sword on the desk behind him. He looked at Ren's parents. "Even with the biofoam, Ren needs a lot more rest before he can leave here. Take him back to back his bed while I check in with the nurse."
Ren was still on his knees, looking down at the ground, beads of sweat crawling down his cheeks, onto his lips. If only he could convince these people that it wasn't a "replica," ordered from a random online store that for some sick reason made toy alien weapons. If only they knew that the Covenant had found their way to Luther, that the fate of this planet looked so bleak—
"HIYAHH!!" somebody screeched. Ren heard a burst of crackling energy—the sound that rang in his ears like a nefarious wind chime.
"Hunhh..." the doctor's voice groaned as Ren heard a sick burning sound. Did he dare look up—?
The doctor dropped, unconscious, in front of Ren. Two steaming holes were visible protruding from the doctor's now-bloody chest.
Ren looked up. Standing in front of him was the scraggly old guy that had just been in the wheelchair, and he was firmly holding the energy sword, fully activated and completely lethal. He must have picked it up after it was set on the desk—
In a flash, before Ren could try to comprehend what to do, the old, dirty man lunged forward and with two sickening burning sounds he did the unthinkable.
Ren didn't turn to look at what the madman was doing next, or to see who Ren knew had just been killed. Ren's eyes were fixed on the doctor, whose eyelids had not quite shut before giving way to cold death. The heat of the energy sword had burned the doctor's flesh and blood, and a pink gas could be seen steaming from where the sword had penetrated the chest.
Ren felt dizzy. He trembled and nearly tipped over onto his side. His hands clenched and unclenched, and he felt his slippery palms getting sweatier. He had to turn around—he had to—
"Noo!" he screamed. His parents were laying before him—in pieces. His mother's arm was two feet away from where it should have been. A large piece of his father's abdomen was sitting just next to him. Ren's parents groaned in agony. Ren choked in despair.
The scene ate away at Ren's soul. He... he didn't know what to do. His soul was shattered. He tried to think of what he could do. What was wrong with him? His parents... they had just been attacked—and he was just sitting here? His soul was dead.
No—he was in a fucking hospital—there had to be something he could do to save them.
"Hey!" Ren yelled into the hall. "Somebody help me, my parents are dying!"
Nobody answered. He got up, shaking madly, and looked for someone who could help him. He didn't look too long at the other dying people across the hallway, the other victims—he was only worried about finding a living person who could help him—
Breathing. Ren heard someone breathing heavily nearby. He turned to the desk four feet away—and looked underneath.
"No..." the woman whispered. She crawled out from under the desk and looked in horror at the lifeless hallway before her. Ren recognized her as the nurse who had been pushing the madman's wheelchair.
"Hey," Ren snapped, grabbing her shoulder. "Help me save my parents!"
She looked at him, and then looked at where he was pointing, at the two bodies on the ground. She just stood there for a second, stunned. Finally, she hurried behind the desk and retrieved two stretchers which she laid down next to Ren's parents.
It was all so surreal—here were his parents, who had cared for him since birth. And they were dying. Even if they lived, they would be severely disabled. Ren shook his head. He fought the tears. He fought the madness, which raged inside of him. He wanted to murder the monsters that had ruined his life. First the Covenant Elite, then Howard Gaffer, and now—now this fucking mental patient that had ensured his parents' deaths!
Ren wanted to grasp his revenge—but right now his parents were barely hanging onto life. He carefully pushed his mother onto a stretcher—there wasn't any blood, because it had either been burned to a crisp by the energy sword or heated to a boil and evaporated in a pink mist. Ren's father was a more difficult task, as the man had lost half his torso—Ren prayed his father's heart was still intact—but eventually both of Ren's parents were safely on stretchers.
The nurse said something to him, but he didn't hear her. In a trance-like daze, Ren helped the nurse carry his mother and father to the emergency room. It was useless, though. Just as they pushed through the double-doors the nurse tripped over something—a body. Several bodies littered the emergency room, all of them headless. Ren saw something out of the corner of his eye, turned to look, and saw six lifeless heads arranged in a triangle on a desk. The nurse broke down.
"No-o-o..." she whimpered on the ground, letting her tears flow out onto the tiles. Ren saw that she had dropped her half of his mother's stretcher, and now Ren's mom was sliding uneasily into the ground. He set her down carefully, and realized something. The psycho was on a mad killing spree in this building. Somebody who could save his parents' lives, who had also evaded the sword-wielding madman, would be hard to find. And even if Ren did find such a survivor, what made him think his parents would take priority over the dozens of other dying victims of the madman? The situation was hopeless.
"Try and..." said a raspy voice behind Ren. He spun around and saw his father, in his stretcher on the ground, trying to say something. "Try—try and g—get home early—Ren...try and get home early—"
Ren's father fell still and silent. Lifeless.
He looked back at his mother—she seemed to be breathing still, and was only unconscious. Ren looked at the crying nurse.
"Get up," he said. She ignored him. "Get up, damnit! We're going to sa—"
"All dead..." the nurse said in a harsh whisper. "Everyone in the hospital is going to die...all my fault...all my fault..."
Everyone in the hospital. Everyone.
"Hey!" Ren yelled at the grieving nurse. "Get up!"
He had run out of patience—he walked over to the woman, pulled her up, and slapped her. She quit crying.
"Now, do everything you can to keep her alive!" Ren said as clear as possible, gesturing toward his mother on the ground. "Do you understand?"
The nurse nodded, wiped away her tears, and bent down to assess Mrs. Basely.
Ren turned and started walking towards the elevator across the hall. He found himself breathing heavily, just thinking about how his father had just died, his mother was just clinging to life, and how Ariana was somewhere in the hospital, completely vulnerable to the madman on the loose...
Could he save her? Was it too late? Had Ren already lost every person in his life who meant anything to him?
The reality swept over Ren. He collapsed against the wall of the elevator, his sadness forcing rushed tears, even though he had to stay calm—he had to stay focused—he had to find Ariana.
"No... f-focus..." His trembling fingers found the elevator control, and he pressed a button that he prayed with his whole heart would lead to Ariana. But—but what would he see, if he found Ariana? A body wrapped in gauze that covered the wounds from the car crash—or—or a body sliced into harshly carved chunks of steaming flesh—?
The elevator doors opened to a new floor. Ren looked out across the hallway, his fingers twitching nervously with each dead, mangled body that met his eyes. It was too much—he was going to get himself killed—he was going to meet the madman face to face, hoping to stop the onslaught like the hero Ren only hoped he could be—and a split-second later, Ren would be have a fork of burning plasma piercing his gut.
So Ren fumbled through the options in his mind. He could stand here in this elevator, waiting until he regained his nerve. But then it would be too late, and Ariana would be dead. Or—or—he could race to catch the madman and get himself killed. And then Ariana would still be dead with nobody to save her.
Second option seemed best. Even if Ren escaped with his life, there was no way he could go on living without his parents—without Ariana. So Ren would be the hero. One last time.
"Ariana!" he screamed, racing into the hall. It was difficult to scream—not because he had just suffered a neck injury, but instead because of how his throat always seemed to choke up when he cried. "Ariana!"
Ren darted down the hall, following the trail of carved bodies that would surely lead him to the madman. He had no idea where Ariana was, and it occurred to him—now that he had regained some nerve—that he should have asked the nurse where Ariana's room was. Too late now, he had to find the madman and stop him as quickly as possible.
"Aghh!" cried Ren as he tripped over something. He flew forward and landed his shoulder into the ground. A shockwave of pain spiraled into his arm, forcing him to tighten his muscles and grit his teeth to null the hurt.
Those moments, as Ren lay crumpled on the cold tiles, seemed like years. He looked up at the ceiling and envisioned himself knocking out the madman with a single punch, reuniting with Ariana, and returning to his mother to find her in stable condition. But—he also envisioned himself being cleaved and dissected by the madman's weapon, succumbing to the cold fog of death, and descending into Hell where he belonged.
The cackling laughter rang through the hallway, swinging Ren back into reality. He pulled himself off of the ground, squinting his eyes for any sight of the madman. The hallway was devoid of life. Dead, mangled bodies...stranded carts...an open door...
An open door. Ren found himself walking towards it, the only room in the hallway that wasn't closed. A ray of light escaped from the room, partially illuminating the otherwise dark corridor. With all of the composure he could pull together, Ren silently moved into the threshold of the room.
Ren's heart stopped.
"Oh yeah..." the madman seethed. He tore his shirt off and tossed it on the ground, where a mess of blankets and bed sheets lay scattered across the floor. The man stretched his arms and shouted, "Baby!"
Ren tried to comprehend what was going on. He looked at the bed in the middle of the room and choked on his own shock.
Chills ran down Ren's back. She had bandages running across most of her body—her head was heavily bandaged as well, and her face was barely recognizable behind all of the medical tape. But Ren recognized her. He recognized her deep brown hair, her peaceful expression ... her helplessness...
"What are you doing!" Ren shot at the madman. "Get—get out of here—before I kill you—"
Ren shuddered at his own words. Would he kill another human being—? Could he kill another human being? Could he kill this man, who had brutally slaughtered his parents in cold blood—who was about to—about to—
"Yeah..." the madman growled with satisfaction. His pants were off, and he stood next to Ariana's bed with only his boxers on. "That feels better..."
Ren felt anger rage through his body—yet what kept him standing still was a wave of fear that gripped his stomach like binding chains. This man had killed his parents ... and could easily kill Ren as well. He feared for his own life. He feared that sword—
Ren's eyes dropped to the ground in front of him. There, laying in the mess of bed sheets, was the Covenant energy sword. Ren felt his heart pounding as something inside of him suddenly realized what he had to do. Like instinct, Ren picked up the inactive sword and wrapped his fingers around the grip. Automatically, as if the alien technology knew what to do, the sword activated. Twin beams of plasma shot out of the sides of the grip and curved upward into identical prongs that sputtered and sparked with white-hot energy.
Ren looked up away from the dazzling sword and found a nightmarish image before his eyes—the madman was crawling onto Ariana's bed, and his right hand was reaching for her shirt...
Ren couldn't kill another human being—it was just ... just wrong...
But this man had killed his father. He deserved to die...
What did Ren plan to do—slice the man into pieces? No—he couldn't ... he wouldn't...
But this man had practically ensured Ren's mother's death. Yes—the bastard deserved to be chopped up—!
It was too much for Ren—he couldn't just take this sword and kill the madman. He wasn't a brutal monster—he wasn't a heartless alien...
But this man had slaughtered dozens of people in this building—this man deserved countless deaths. Justice had to be served...
Ren looked at the man, who was now leaning over Ariana, and rolling up her shirt—this was the time of reckoning...
Ren took a final, sharp breath and charged. He thrust the sword in front of him, screaming every step of the way until he felt the sword dig into the flesh of the madman—and such a perverse feeling of satisfaction swept over Ren. He savored the sound of that hot seething sound that the sword made as it pierced the madman's stomach and burned all the way through to his spine.
But before the man's body could collapse onto Ariana, Ren raised his leg and kicked the madman off of the bed, without even bothering to remove the plasma sword that was now lodged in his gut. Ren hoped that it would fry the psycho's vital organs and bring him a slow, painful death.
"Ariana..." Ren whispered. He sat down on the bed, steadily feeling his blood begin to cool. "Ariana—are you—are you okay?"
He touched the bandages wrapped across her cheeks. She was still unconscious, and Ren had no idea for how long she would stay like that. He suddenly panicked—what if she still needed to be treated in some way, and there was no doctor that was still alive in the hospital to help her? What if Ariana never got the extra prescription she needed to fully recover? What if she—never woke up?
"Ariana..." cried Ren, wishing he could hold her in his arms, and hug her, and kiss her. "I'm sorry for everything—I'm sorry I caused all of this—all of these horrible things that are happening to us... Oh, god, I'm sorry! I—I brought Howard to your dad's house, and he killed your parents—and—and I'm sorry I drove us into the car crash and put us in this hospital—Ariana... Ariana... I'm sorry..."
Ariana's voice made something click inside Ren's head, and he burst into uncontrollable tears. She was awake... she was awake!
"Ren... look... behind you..."
Ren rubbed away his tears and turned to look behind him. He nearly vomited when he saw the madman standing at the foot of the bed, with the sword still lodged into his stomach. He stood still, like a statue, not even twitching a finger. He was looking out the window.
The madman spoke. "Know that no one can have indulged in the Holy Writers efficiently, unless he has governed churches for a hundred years with the prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha, John the Baptist, Christ, and the apostles ... we are beggars—this is true."
Ren stared at the man, trying to comprehend what the speech had meant. But Ren was caught by surprise when without warning the man lunged forward and tackled Ren off the bed. Before Ren could throw the madman off of him, he felt a sudden stabbing pain in his arm. He screamed in shock, and furiously pushed the madman off of him and into the wall.
Ren looked down at his arm and gasped—there were teeth marks, and streams of blood. He looked up and saw the psycho, who was happily smiling at him. And stuck in the madman's teeth were small strips of skin—Ren's skin.
The madman reached down at the sword in his gut and pushed it through his body even further. "Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God."
Ren watched as the man sunk against the wall and slid down to the ground. His head tilted to the side and his eyes went cold.
"Ren..." Ariana whispered. Ren went and sat down on the bed with her again. "Thank you, Ren... I—I love you..."
Ren took a deep breath and looked out the window. It was all over, and at last he and Ariana would be able to be together in peace. They would find that Ren's mom was in stable condition, and they would locate Ariana's brother and be relieved to see that he too was in recovering health. And they would all go home...
"No..." Ren whispered. He couldn't believe what he was seeing in the window right now. A massive alien spaceship hovering over the horizon, and a bright pink beam shooting out of its underside... "Ariana—Ariana—!"
He grabbed her, disregarded the injuries she had, and pulled her off the bed. Despite her screams of pain, Ren dragged her with him to the wall, right underneath the window.
"Put your head down—Ariana! Put your head down!"
First the ground shook, knocking a lamp off its desk. Then an intense pink aura shone through the window. And then—
The window shattered, and a violet inferno of plasma burst through the window.
As Ren held Ariana close to him, he realized that this was his world now. This was his hell, and this hell owned him. The horrors would never end. He would have to stand up against what he feared ... or die.
Ren took Ariana, cradled her in his arms, and stood up, facing the window. As the ceiling broke down under the pressure of the blast, and walls crumbled from overwhelming heat, Ren dove through the window.
Luckily for Ariana, her savior's body broke the fall.