It was night time and spring in the small college town in Southern California. The night was cool and there was a dampness in the air that chilled his bones, and he could sense he was being followed. It was a young man that looked to be military to Stewart. Like he had been in constant physical training for most of his life. The guy was being just a little too normal and appeared to be too uninterested in anyone. Stewart saw him several times while in the shopping district downtown. Every time Stewart took a scan. There he was. So he began to lead the guy away from downtown at a leisurely pace. And now they were on the dark sidewalks of the residential part of town but Stewart could still hear the soft pad of the young man's steps behind him. This guy's a soldier for sure, he thought. He's got a light gate that's really hard to hear. Probably special forces or CIA. "I hope he's not a spook," he thought quietly and softly aloud. It was obvious the guy was in shape and he didn't want to get into a confrontation with him and risk the exposure. No question he could take the guy, but it wouldn't be a good idea and really served no purpose. He had been so careful and he couldn't let his prey know that he was in town. After turning a corner he sprinted across the street and hopped a fence between two houses. He knew the neighborhood and that this house had no motion sensor lights and no dogs in the backyard. He crouched in the dark beneath a tree and waited for his tail to come into view, watching through the wood slats of the fence in front of him. As the young man passed on the other side of the street he saw that the man realize that he had lost sight of his charge.
After Mr. CIA took off in the opposite direction, Stewart jumped the fence at the far end of the yard, crossed another street, turned up an ally that led back to Main Street where he had come from. Before reaching the end of the street he jumped up springing off the brick wall and caught hold of the fire escape ladder about 12 feet off the ground and let his weight pull it down. He climbed the fire escape silently and without effort, stopping on the first landing he pulled up the ladder, then he made it to the roof of the building. He peered over the edge of the four-story building and pulled out a small pair of powerful binoculars and watched and waited until he was sure he was safe from unwanted eyes. Watching until he was sure the young man who'd been following him was nowhere to be seen, he made his way down and out of the old town building.
Walking down Main Street he passed the local gastropub and crossed the street. Stopping he considered entering his building through the front but decided to go around back. He passed the front door then made a quick turn up an outdoor corridor which lead him to the back entrance of the building and opened the heavy door. He casually continued down the hall and opened a door marked employees only. He descended a dark flight of stairs. As he reached the landing at the last step he retrieved his keys from his belt. He paused to remove a black paperclip from between the door and the top jam putting it between his teeth. This was his simple alert to intruders. Entering the small room he passed a table with a single chair and a single mattress against the wall on the other side and stepped up on a stool beneath a small window near the top of the ceiling. He watched intently from the basement room for the CIA guy for a long while. As he observed the foot traffic outside the window, suddenly his Spidey sense told him he wasn't alone. "How'd you get in?" He said to someone who wasn't a stranger. "Same as always." Came the reply. "I know everything about this place. And I know everything that you are about to do." Stewart inhaled deeply. "The hell you do," he said as he turned and let loose a powerful spinning roundhouse kick that missed its mark completely.
"I'm not going to fight you, Stew," said the man now from the other side of the room. "Oh, you'll fight me, Sebastian," Stewart said angrily. "You will fight or die!" The man he called Sebastian backed up and said with a grave tone, "No you will die if you don't stop and listen to me." Stewart looked incredulously back at this enemy of his. "So, you think you can beat me?" "Of course I would beat you, but you know that's not the point." Now Sebastian moved toward Stewart speaking calmly and slowly. "Stew, you must come with me. Now. Either way, it ends tonight. There's no more time. This is your last chance. We won't go through this again."
Stewart couldn't speak. He couldn't think. He just stared at this man who he'd called his enemy for what seemed like forever. Sebastian spoke, asking "Do you remember anything other than coming here? Anything, but losing the guy downtown? Do you even remember why he was following you?" Sebastian paused. "I remember that you almost killed me," Stewart said angrily. "And you, you killed her... you killed your own sister. Audra! You killed her!" Stewart's anger rose and as it did the room trembled violently. The window behind him broke with a crash. Just then, Stewart looked back and saw the entire wall begin to crumble and the air seemed thin and he was having trouble breathing. Sebastian got his attention, “I didn’t try to kill you and I didn’t kill Audra. She’s alive! But you have to follow me, Stew, if you want to see her, and if you want to live you have to come with me.” The room now burst into flames as even the empty space around him started to warp and tear. Spider veins of electricity crackled around them. “Stewart!” Sebastian yelled. You’ve been trapped here in this night for weeks. Take my hand now, come with me and you’ll see. You’ll begin to remember everything.”
Stewart gasped for air. Looking around as not only the room but it seemed that the world was disintegrating right before his eyes. And then he saw the beasts and remembered them. They were terrible, with yellow eyes and long fangs that sneered at him. They seemed to be coming out of a pure black rift in space. As they emerged a putrid stench came with them. He turned, looked at Sebastian and screamed, “No… You want to kill me this is just like what happened before.” Sebastian reached out his hand and said, “Stew, take my hand. You have to take my hand and come with me. Now! Come with me! You’ll see!” Stewart reluctantly reached out to take Sebastian’s hand. He somehow knew he needed to trust him. As he looked at Sebastian he saw a peaceful glow and calm around him. He grasped his hand and took a step toward him.
All at once the room was no longer a crumbling apocalypse and the beasts were gone. And it wasn’t the same room. Sebastian looked at Stewart and said, “Wow that was close. But I knew you ‘d come.” Stewart was dazed and said, “Where are we?" Rubbing his head he said, "Oh man, why did I hate you, Bass?” Sebastian smiled at the sound of his childhood friend calling him by that nickname. "Well, Stew, there’s plenty of time for that. Right now you’ve got to get some rest.” Then he looked up and Stewart followed his gaze. There she was, the sight of her took his breath away. It was Audra, Sebastian’s sister and the love of his life. She quickly made her way to Stewart and said, “Don’t ever scare me like that again, do you hear me?” She said with tears in her eyes. Then she smiled and kissed him deeply. “Okay,” he said smiling, “I won’t.”
© 2018 Julian Lane