Sunday, February 15, 2009

Roads Not Taken: Chapter 1

“Will you love me forever?”

“What kinda of question is that?”

“An important one.”

“Forever is a long time.”

It was a quiet evening in a quiet suburb. Families were home from their commutes to the city and ready to sit down for dinner. The neighborhood was one that was carefully laid out around man-made miniature lakes. The houses were crammed close together and did not allow much room for yards. A small playground served as a centerpiece, and the mothers had sat on the strategically placed benches and watched their children run and play.

Cole Buchannon watched it all in silence and searched for a killer. There was a stretch of forest that the small community backed to. It was not enough for any wildlife larger than squirrels to claim as a home, but it was enough that Cole could move around without being detected. He had spent the day walking through the woods in silence. Cole cursed the fact that he had so little time to work, but knew it could not be helped.

He was a massive man, well over six feet tall with a thick build. His dark brown hair was clean, but wild. He kept it cut short, but did not bother to comb it. There was a couple of days growth on his face. It made him look older than he actually was. He was a young man but everything about him, from his appearance to his movements, made him seem older. It was the result of having to grow up too fast.
Once he had heard about what was going to happen he traveled across two states to try to stop it. Someone in that little community would become a danger to everyone around him soon. Their very soul was in jeopardy, and in all likelihood they did not even know it.

The mothers and children all retreated into their homes for the evening. Rain was coming. Cole could smell it in the air. He could smell many things. The house closest to him was having pot roast for dinner. The family two doors down from them had fertilized their garden two days ago. Someone’s dog really needed a bath. However the one scent Cole was hoping to catch on the light evening breeze eluded him.

He perked up as a car made it’s way into the community. It was a small blue four-door sedan. Nothing looked out of the ordinary, but Cole followed it all the same. He hurried through the woods. His heavy boots did not make a sound upon the blanket of pine needles that he ran across. The car pulled into a driveway well away from the woods Cole used to conceal himself. Still, the massive skulker could see the driver well enough, even in the fading light of the day.

The driver was a thin man in a gray suit. He was rather pale and had a receding hairline. There was a smile on his face, obviously from being happy to be home after a long day at work. He did not make it halfway from his car to his front door before Cole knew. That man would become a killer tomorrow night if no one stopped him.

Then another scent caught Cole’s attention. It was one he was all too familiar with. He was not the only one after the thin, pale man in the gray suit. Cole did not know who they were, but he knew why they were there. He also knew they had to be stopped.

Cole bolted from the woods leaping over privacy fences and sprinting across streets. The man in the suit had gotten into his house. That was not Cole’s concern. What was his concern was the scents that were becoming more powerful with every step. A few of the neighborhood dogs barked protectively as Cole sprinted past their yards. Cole managed to get to the street in front of his quarry’s home. He paused. Despite covering over fifty yards, including leaping over a few fences, his breathing was not labored. He looked around and saw nothing but well kept houses, manicured lawns and an assortment of cars in the numerous driveways, all of this illuminated by the glow of streetlights and a the few porch lights that were now on.

“Might as well come out where I can see you. There’s not enough sunlight left for you to be shy.” He looked to his left and saw the three of them. They stood together on the sidewalk in front of the house next door to the one Cole was standing in front of. Cole walked slowly to the sidewalk, blocking their way to house. They were dressed casually, and looked like they would fit right in with the neighborhood.

“You think you have business here?” One of them spoke, and Cole took him to be the leader by the way the other two flanked him. He was young and handsome with well-coifed blond hair.

“Yeah. I do.” Cole answered flatly.

“Hope it’s not with Mister Bralter in there, because that would make things complicated.” The blond man glanced over to house Cole was standing in front of.

“Well, I guess things are just going to have to be complicated.”

“You’re trying to poach our find.”

“Don’t go talking like this is a game!” Cole snapped and he felt his heart quicken. “Walk away. All of you. You can’t have him.”

“My friend, you are hardly in a position to make demands.” The blond said calmly. The two men with him started to walk forward. They were nowhere near as big as Cole, but he knew that made no difference. They were dangerous. Cole did not know them, but he knew their kind.

“Don’t do it.” Cole warned sternly.

“Why not?” The blond responded with a smirk. His companions were nearly to Cole and still walking calmly. Both were smiling. The smiles faded once they saw what was happening in front of them.

Cole’s face was twisting. He grimaced in pain as the sound of popping and wet friction echoed in his ears. His skin itched horribly as hair began to sprout. His muscles spasmed and contorted, yet Cole barely stirred. He just stood there and slowly became a monster.

“You’re looking for a victim, not a fight. I’ve got no problem doing this, right here, right now.” Cole’s voice was guttural and barely human at this point. “Question is: are you boys ready to be outted?” Cole’s twisted bestial face smiled. The change was continuing, but he was ready to fight them.

The two stopped advancing and looked to their leader. Their leader was not pleased.

“Filthy animal.”

“You should talk.”

“This isn’t over.” With those words the blond man seemed to dematerialize and a fine mist took his place. The two others followed suit and soon the mist they had become dissipated. Cole did not reverse his change. He stood there in the dim light and waited, paused between animal and man. It was not until he could not smell them anymore that he reversed the change.

He breathed deeply trying to dispel the memory of the pain he had just been in. He turned to the house he just protected. The Bralter residence had been spared being plunged violently into a world of horror and violence by the three monsters that had faced him.

It saddened Cole Buchannon that he was to be the monster that did the deed.

About this month's artist: Kat is a doodler from Texas. She likes comics, monsters, and an assortment of old stuff. Someday perhaps she'll get off her lazy duff and make one of them thar comic doohickeys. For now, though, it's all about the random sketches. She thinks that Hellboy is awesome and believes that you should think so too.