The path he chose was revenge, but the journey was to be riddled with death and despair long before he even laid eyes upon the one he wanted so dearly to murder with his own hands. With nearly everyone against him and only three friends at his side, it seems a suicidal mission. But he’ll do it.
He will do it.
Even if it costs him his life.
After all, it’s not like he really cared about it in the first place…
Chapter Two: Death Wish
Sighing, Nick shut his locker, haphazardly tossing his muddy PE uniform into his backpack as his teammates filed through the door, some high-fiving him for the touchdown during one of the few tackle football games that Carey had let them play, others slapping him on the shoulder good-naturedly. It had started raining during the game, and though the watching girls had shrieked and fled, the boys played on. He had managed to dance circles around the others – at least, until Jimmy had tackled him and sent them tumbling into one of the mud puddles so commonly seen during the winter.
It was times like this that he wondered what it would be like playing in the snow, and he smirked at the thought of Jimmy buried headfirst in the powdery white substance, arms flailing like some weird headless Abominable Snowman.
Slamming the lock closed, he exited the emptying room. He wasn’t much of a masochist, like many of the others thought – pain was just relative. But the cold made him feel alive, human. If only slightly. Pain did the same, but he had to admit, it could get dull, day in and day out. It wasn’t cold too often in Southern California.
He decided to walk home that day.
It was one of those decisions that he would probably always regret making afterwards.
Ever since he was young, he had been able to see ghosts. Not the weird blobs that people kept talking about, not ectoplasm or whatever the fuck it was. Not even the shadowy figures – okay, maybe some could be called shadowy, but you could hardly say the same for a little kid who was running around his family’s bakery, unseen, begging for a slice of pie.
It was funny, really. Hell, there was even a ghost in the guys’ bathroom at school. He’d been run over by a car in front of the school, and in the midst of a lot of swearing (there’d even been words that Nick had never heard of, and that was saying a lot), Nick figured out that he hung around because he was bored.
So he spent his time scaring the shit out of the sixth graders. Nick even hung around to help sometimes.
But there were some ghosts that had simply escaped recognition – ghosts who killed, who massacred. Ghosts like the ones who had killed his family.
Ghosts like that, he hadn’t seen for six years.
He took the long route home this time, a route that wove through a large park. Even on good days, you didn’t run into many people there. And now that it was raining, it was practically abandoned. His jacket hung open, his face towards the sky, pelting him with cold rain. He barely took notice of the quiet around him. But something, something, warned him that maybe there was a little too much quiet.
He didn’t notice until blood exploded from his right arm, and a triumphant scream rang out through the park. Shockwaves rolled out from the cry, shattering earth and sky alike.
Gasping, he clutched his right arm, and without thinking, swung his backpack wildly, leaping into the air when it was as high as he could get it, using its momentum to carry him into the air.
The thing was ugly – there was a skull-like mask on a black, serpent-like reptilian body, a gigantic hole where its heart should have been, and massive ivory claws. Claws covered in his blood. The sight of his blood, spilled by something like this, enraged him. He didn’t care if it was thirty feet tall and twice as long – that thing was dead.
Ignoring the pain knifing up through his shredded right arm, he whipped out the pocket knife hidden in his sleeve as he flew through the air, and landed, grabbing onto the scaly neck. Holding the blade upside down in his hand, he drove it hilt-deep into its neck, pulling, tearing at the tough skin. Never mind that this was little more than a scratch to it – he wasn’t going down without a fight.
The thing bucked, screeching wildly, and the force of its cry nearly toppled him. Sliding down its neck, he grabbed wildly onto the edges of its mask as he soared through the air, inches from his own death. Furious, he stabbed the knife into one of the holes in its skull, and was rewarded with another deafening scream and a burst of blood from what was supposedly its eyeball.
“Great, it speaks,” he grumbled. Getting a foothold on the wildly swinging head, he finally managed to leap off its mask. Unfortunately, right at that moment, the massive whip-like tail came cracking through the air and into his chest.
It took him a little while to realize the shattering sound came from his ribs. And then he screamed, all fury and no mercy. With strength he didn’t know he still had, he grabbed its tail. And with a thoughtless swing, powered by little more than pure anger and bloodlust, he tore off the last five feet of its tail.
Roaring in pain and vowing vengeance, the thing turned, and brought its blood-stained claws upon him. And pain, like he had never known it, tore down from his right shoulder to his left hip, nearly severing his body in half. His vision turned white as the world exploded behind his eyes.
Then he noticed that he was falling, falling fast, and furious. This was nothing like the books and movies – the world did not go black as you fell. You could feel everything, hear every little sound, of your breathing, your heart, your body crying out in its last few moments.
And with a deafening thud, he hit the pavement, bones snapping, skull fractured. Dead.
In the eerie quiet that followed, only the Hollow’s laugh of victory could be heard, echoing out across the plain, silent as death.
(C) Khue, 2007