Shawn P. Madison

The August Featured Writer is Shawn P. Madison

Feel free to email Shawn at: asm89@aol.com


by Shawn P. Madison

Tonight was going to make or break the resistance…tonight would dictate the future of the human race.

Blood dripped thick, oily and black down the long silver blade, leaving large dark stains on the cobblestones beneath her boots. Three dead already and the night was young. Water slapped lazily against the jagged rocks behind her back…the Hudson was calm tonight.

Lindy heard another sound, this time from her left. The buzzing was just at the edge of her range of hearing but getting closer. This one was moving fast—coming in for the kill. One more second, don’t rush into it…

A quick slash with the blade, a shriek that tore through her eardrums and another one of the ugly bastards dropped dead before her. She dared not move from this spot, though the body count was quickly rising. The corpses would only draw more attention as the night wore on. They could smell their dead from miles away, the stench drawing them to the source like a macabre magnet.

Most nights, four kills would make a good total but tonight looked to be special. Of course, she knew it would be. New York City looked spooky in the dark with no lights and no noise carrying across the river. Only the bright half-moon shining in the clear sky above provided any light to see by, millions of pinpricks of light edging the small waves lapping into the stones a few yards behind her.

Water seemed to present a big problem for them—they could move fast on land, unbelievably fast, but they floundered over water. So with the river behind her and nothing but several acres of grass and a million cobblestones lining the path on this Riverwalk surrounding her, a stand she would make.

No one knew how many of them came through the rift four months ago, no one knew if the gateway they’d used was still open or closed but however many of them came through initially, only a fraction of them remained.

Sure, millions—some say billions—of us died during those first few days of the attacks, but over the past two months, we’d figured out enough to take the fight back to them.

Huge portions of the male population had been wiped out. They had attacked the men first, killing them by the millions, faster than the eye could see, ripping them open, tearing off heads; the streets ran red with blood. Terror had taken over for the masses during that first week as the bodies piled up. Millions of men, dead in their tracks—standing tall and full of life one second, lying broken open with glassy eyes and internal organs spilling all over the ground the next.

Lindy had seen it happen, more than once, her heart started pounding now just thinking about it, reliving those memories. So much blood…so much death. But for some reason, the women and children were spared. Men were holed up, hidden away, herded to safety like so much cattle. But it didn’t last. The rats always found these hiding spots. And when large groups of men were gathered together and found, the killing just happened on a much larger scale. Mostly in dark spaces, always with screams…a horrendous cacophony of screams.

Lindy squeezed her eyes shut for several seconds trying to clear her mind of these horrific memories. She had to get herself under control. Had to keep her mind clear to track the incoming telltale buzzing of the Riftrats.

It was no use; the memories flooded back, and she could never hold them at bay. It started with the men but, with diminishing targets, it had shifted toward women. For the first three months the only women who had died were those caught up in the viciousness of the attacks, innocent bystanders…in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now, though…they had become targets as well.

Still the children remained untouched.

Ugly dark shadows…that’s what they looked like during the day. Their speed was beyond comprehension, moving seemingly between rays of light, shifting from view with incredulous rapidity before materializing for a split second, just long enough for their claws to disembowel or decapitate.

But at night, it was a different story. The annoying buzzing created by their vast speed was a telltale that became more noticeable at night. When her senses were heightened, without the light of the sun for our eyes to work up to their potential, the other senses took over. Her hearing gave her that one slight edge, the one thing she could use to exploit their one true weakness.

They moved so fast that they sometimes couldn’t get out of the way fast enough and they were often impaled on broken sign poles, spiked fence tops, any sharp object that was not in the usual place made quick work of them. Long blades, not quite swords—which were unwieldy when dealing with very quick opponents—worked best. Held down at waist height but ready to be flicked up in an instant…

Lindy let the buzzing of her next victim get as close as she could before lashing up with the blade, and another Riftrat died at her feet. The ugly, wet splash of what passed for its innards spread out on the cobblestones, emitting a Godawful stench that made her want to retch. But she had known better than to eat dinner before coming out to kill this night.

That made five so far and the half-moon shining brightly just above hadn’t even passed half its journey across the sky. More buzzing sounded close, getting closer, but this time the sound came from both right and left. Lindy smiled and let a second blade slide loose from her left sleeve, its hasp settling comfortably into the palm of her hand.

They were tricky, these bastards. Whether they were from Hell, some other planet or another dimension, nobody knew. But they died just the same as everything else that walked this earth.

Ducking her head, she lashed out with both blades, completing a half-spin that brought her to rest facing the spooky dead city across the river. Two more corpses dropped at her feet but she shook her head from the sting of a close call and felt a warm trickle down her cheek. The gash wasn’t deep but it was enough to draw blood.

Bad news, she knew. Although they could smell their own dead and dying from miles away, they often rushed toward the smell of human blood like sharks in a feeding frenzy, from much farther distances.

Even now, she could hear more buzzing. This was a quick reaction; they must have been out in force tonight. Lindy’s breathing sped up, her heart racing as she felt adrenaline pump into her system. The light body armor she wore could deter close calls but their claws were sharper than any blade mankind had crafted, her armor no match for a direct assault from several of the monsters.

“Steady girl,” she admonished herself and tried to slow her breathing. Brief puffs of spent air frosted in the cold night as she turned back around to face the park. Dressed completely in black and her head covered in a light weight Kevlar hood, she was nearly invisible standing at the water’s edge. “Get that grip and tighten it up…” she muttered.

There were at least two of them this time. The buzzing assaulting her ears as if a bug had crawled inside her head. Almost upon her, almost within striking distance, Lindy swung out again, head ducked down and blades thrust upward.

The beast’s high pierced shrieking made her stumble back two steps, one boot coming to rest on the larger stones that bordered the short wall holding the Hudson River back from land. A few light splashes several feet below indicated small pebbles knocked loose by her boots hitting the water.

Another lay dead at her feet but where was the second? The buzzing had stopped with the death shriek of her latest victim but she knew there had been more than one just now. With keen eyes, she scanned Elysian Park, east and west, north and south. No sign but it was there, she knew. This had never happened; it must be clinging to shadow just as she was, lying just out of reach, but stalking her nonetheless. She was totally creeped out by the change of circumstances. It must be standing perfectly still to be staying so completely silent.

Suddenly, more buzzing to the left, but a quick swipe met nothing but air. Another swipe found the mark and another shriek filled the confines of the open park. Sparing a glance at the cobblestones surrounding her, she could see the bodies piling up. They were distorted, shadowy figures, all angles and shiny black carapaces, nothing but sharp points and even sharper edges. Her boots were becoming sticky with their coagulating blood: thick, oily and grease-like. A sense of fear unlike any other permeated her entire being as she realized that the one she had just killed was not the one who had gone silent just minutes before.

The newly-dead Riftrat at her feet was another—which meant that the silent one had watched as another of its kind had been slaughtered—and, even spookier, had done nothing to stop her or come to its brethren’s aid.

Lindy’s heart was pounding now. She found it hard to catch a breath. These things, or at least some of them, were learning. Adapting. Changing behavior. All of which had not yet been observed with these vermin.

That feeling of being watched went straight to her very core. It was close—she knew without doubt. Close enough to feel but not close enough to kill. Not yet.

More buzzing—at two different pitches—meant that one was coming in closer and the other just a step or two back. Instinct took over and her blades cut through the air, seemingly touching nothing but resulting in two more corpses, their death shrieks still ringing in her head.

But before those awful sounds could die away, another shriek— much louder and assaulting her ears from all directions—let loose from just a meter or two away. Lindy felt a rush of motion, the air whooshing around her, and suddenly it was there.

Standing directly in front of her, its black eyes reflected ghoulishly with moonlight. The pure hatred of those eyes burned into her— freezing her for a moment—making her mind go blank. The thing shrieked again; still visible now, even after several seconds. Another first for her experiences with the Riftrats. Its long and shiny claws slid across each other on both hands with screeching metallic hisses, reminding her of the sound that was a trademark of a series of horror movies many years ago.

Its breath puffed out in the brisk fall air as they stared at each other from mere paces apart. Suddenly the thing’s head darted right, then left, then its eyes settled back on her. A low growl of displeasure at how many of its brothers in arms lay dead at her feet escaped the small slit in the thing’s lower head that passed for a mouth. Sharp fangs protruded from each corner, shiny in the moonlight.

It muttered something under its breath, the sounds unfamiliar and alien to her ears and then the eyes slid down to her belly, settling on the slight bulge just visible underneath her light armor.

“That’s right bitch,” Lindy rasped, “your Achilles heel.”

The thing’s eyes snapped back up to meet hers as Lindy took one step forward and pierced its chest with both of her blades, the steel biting quick and deep.

She found herself on her back, just inches from the water’s edge, in an instant as the rat exploded into motion. One of her blades had been knocked free but the other was still firmly grasped and pointed straight ahead. The thing stopped moving, its eyes opening wide with the realization of death and it dropped to its knees.

Lindy scampered back up into a semi-crouch and watched as it died…watched the hatred and the life leave its eyes…watched as something akin to love came over the oily black features, freezing the expression in her mind forever. Spinning to her left, snapping out the blade, and another corpse dropped, another shriek tore through the night and, scampering, Lindy found both hands again holding blades. More blood dripped from another wound on her neck, superficial but that made two cuts in one night; no cease to the surprises unleashed with this outing.

Standing tall she heard several buzzes that had been strong just a few seconds ago begin to recede. These were different than when the one she had watched die went silent…it almost sounded like a retreat. Lindy caught her breath and allowed her heart beat to return to a non-pounding state. The brisk night air was starting to chill her to her bones. The dark and silent campus of Steven’s Tech stood dead to her left, the buildings alive with shadows slowly shifting in the breeze.

She glanced down at her belly bump and smiled with victory. She had just confirmed what the experts could only guess at. For some unknown reason, women had been off limits to start this mess but, now that they were mostly the only targets left, women seemed to be more open to attack than before.

However, some women were seemingly untouchable to the rats. Some women in a certain condition seemed to be off limits.

And Lindy was in that certain way right at this moment—and would be for another five months at least—and during that time, Lindy knew, she was going to avenge the death of her unborn baby’s father as often as possible. “That’s right, you filthy bastards,” Lindy laughed. “This Momma’s gonna kick some Riftrat ass.”

Lindy strode confidently out of the park and on to Frank Sinatra Drive, both blades whistling through the air as she swirled them lazily at her sides. There was some buzzing, she could hear it come closer and fade away, but nothing more came at her like the one that had gone silent. Seemed the rats had some unknown plan for the pregnant women of the Earth…but Lindy and a whole bunch of other pregnant women who had been training for this on the off-chance that a hunch turned out to be right had plans for the Riftrats, too.

Buzzing caught her attention to her right and Lindy ran at the source, swinging the blade and watching the rat sprawl dead at her feet. She charged another one and nearly severed its head, its screams drowning in its own blood. Her armor was being scored and nicked but only slight wounds marred her this night. She knew it had been too easy, piling up all those kills at the water’s edge. They were aggressive enough to come close but put off enough by her condition to hesitate and everybody knew that hesitation kills.

A far off shriek tore through the night and Lindy stopped in her tracks, trying to determine the direction of the kill. Not so far off, she thought and smiled. Another of her Sisters was close by, bringing more death to these bastards. Not a moment of remorse for killing these beings crossed Lindy’s thoughts, she had become a death machine and was proud of it. Proud to avenge the countless human dead that littered the Earth. Proud to draw the blood of those who had drawn human blood first. And kill them she would, as many as possible, until they either took her life or every last one of them was gone.

When she had lost all sense of herself she did not know…when she had become okay with the blades performing their work, using her hands and muscles as the means, was a mystery. But what she had become was ok with Lindy. An avenging angel for the human race. And above all, the protector of the small one, hidden in her womb.

For it was at that very moment, when the pregnancy test showed positive, that something switched on in Lindy’s brain. Something that changed her from the timid scared creature hiding in corners to this warrior with blades and armor charging through the streets, marching toward the slaughter of these spawn of evil.

It was the knowledge of becoming a mother, of the need to protect her child, that drove her to kill and dismember as many of these unspeakable horrors as she could, and take great pleasure in doing so.

A buzzing crept up from behind and, with a spin and a slash, the rat’s body collapsed to the ground, its insides steaming in the chill night air. More buzzing sounded in Lindy’s ears and she readied herself for more. “That’s right, you bastards,” Lindy growled. “Come to Momma…”

Lindy’s blades slashed the air and more death shrieks shattered the night.

Shawn P. Madison, creator of the Guarder/U.E.N. Universe, currently lives in the beautiful Garden State of New Jersey with his wife and a veritable cornucopia of kids. Although he has written in many different genres, he tends to write mostly science fiction and horror. He has published more than eighty short stories in thirty different magazines and anthologies, both electronic and print. His first novel, Guarder Lore, was released by NovelBooks, Inc. in March of 2002, the follow-up novel, The Guarder Factor, was released by NovelBooks, Inc. in November of 2003 and his collection of short horror fiction, The Road to Darkness, was released by Double Dragon Publishing (www.double-dragon-ebooks.com) in April of 2003.