Out of the Dark: An apocalyptic thriller

BOOK: Out of the Dark: An apocalyptic thriller
11.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


















Out of the Dar

Ashlei D. Hawley



This book is a work of fiction. Any characters, places, or events are taken from the author’s imagination and represent no actual individuals, locations, or happenings. Any similarity to persons living or dead is completely coincidental and unintentional.

These works are the copyrighted property of Ashlei Daylen Hawley, not to be redistributed, copied, or pirated in any fashion by any personal or commercial entity without the express permission of the author.



For John and Nathaniel – the light of my future and my hope in the darkness.


For Melissa, who’s in my corner in everything I do, and has me in hers.


To everyone who inspired, gave ideas, worked with me on editing, and always wanted to read more: thanks.


















Part I - The Onset


Surely the Darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me… Psalm 139 Verse 11



Chapter One


     Sam Walker had been on call for the better part of the most miserable night he’d ever had on the job. As he’d worked a twelve-hour shift just the previous day, he hadn’t been expecting a call from the station ordering him in six hours ago–after hardly any sleep and only a couple of hours of time with his kids and wife. It was now 2:12 a.m.

     Riding in the wailing behemoth with his partner and best friend, Dennis Johnson, Sam wore a firm frown. His brow furrowed over his polar blue eyes and lines of concern made the rest of his face seem to have worn many more than his thirty-seven years. His dark hair, which he wore short, was hidden beneath his fireman’s helmet and was soaked with sweat in spite of the chill of the night.

     The sweating was a reaction to nerves, not heat. Something was wrong with the night, with the whole damn world, it seemed. This was the fourth fire in the six hours since Sam had been called back in, and all had been at personal residences except one at a 24-hour Coney Island.

     Not only was the sheer volume of flaming destruction an indicator of something being seriously wrong, but the fires seemed to be moving from one side of the county to the other in a measured, leisurely pace, almost as though the ravenous flames themselves followed some pyromaniac Pied Piper.

     Sam knew they weren’t chasing some asshole with a blowtorch and cans of gas in his car. Nor were they on the trail of teenage pranksters gone bad. Every home so far had started burning seemingly of its own accord. The Coney Island patrons, what few there had been, had spoken with the glazed eyes and toneless voices of the shocked and disbelieving of a spontaneously combustive fireball forming from the kitchens.

     The victims of previous fires were all with police, as far as Sam knew, giving statements. Others were sent to stay with family, friends, or neighbors; whoever would take the displaced residents in for the night. Sam and his fellow firefighters went hopelessly from one incident to the next. They had the unerring sense that there would continue to be a next on this night no matter what they did or how hard they tried.

     “Some shit, isn’t it?” Dennis shouted over the wailing siren of the fire truck.

     “Certainly is,” Sam responded. He made sure to nod in case Dennis hadn’t heard his words.

    The truck began to slow. Sam could see the flickering, wavering indentations against the night sky, pressing against the black like false dawn. This fire was already well into itself, and burning merrily.

     Dennis hopped out of the truck first with Sam close on his heels. They’d been partners for the better part of a decade and had their routines down to science, whether it was when they ordered food from their favorite diner or waged another battle in the seemingly endless war of their job.

     Sam made sure both his and Dennis’s helmets were fastened securely and that the other man knew Sam would be following him in. Dennis gave a nod and thumbs up as four other men began the task of unraveling the long, heavy hoses.

     Dennis and Sam were always the front men for entering a burning building to search for injured or trapped individuals. The caller for this particular fire had been a woman that had frantically informed dispatch that her husband and daughter were still inside the house.

     Sam followed his partner through the front door, which hadn’t been affected by the flames yet. The back left side of the house was in the process of being consumed. Though the heat was a thick, nearly living thing against Sam’s skin, they didn’t need to go toward the more dangerous area of the house. The child’s room was near the front of the home, farthest away from the flames. The wife had told dispatch her husband had gone to get their daughter before urging her outside.

     The house was dark but for the occasional glimpses of fire through hallways and open doorways. The light was inconsistent, and Sam relied more on instinct, following Dennis, and both of their thick flashlight beams. They were steady and soothing, as much a partner to them as each man was to the other.

     One door and one open room were met and quickly investigated before they found the girl’s bedroom. The quaint living room and small bathroom were both entirely empty and were moved beyond with quick efficiency. After checking them both, a trill of sound reminded the men to check in. They both tapped the devices hanging from the underside of their helmets to verify they were still moving and had not been incapacitated.

     As the heat continued to build toward deathly crescendo behind them, Sam and Dennis reached the room they sought. The door was white with pink and yellow flowers, painted painstakingly by hand, scattered across, bringing joy to anyone who saw it. When Dennis swung it open, more pink greeted them. An expected motif for a young girl, the bedroom was done in frills and flowers, with stuffed animals spilling over the top of a dresser painted the same as the door had been and a bed done up princess-style.

     In all that pink perfection, the scene Sam and Dennis stumbled into seemed even more wrong, even more shocking.

     “Go get help,” Dennis exclaimed at once as he rushed forward and knelt beside the man who Sam assumed was the husband they were looking for.

     Sam backed up a few steps and debated for the span of only a couple seconds. He was not an indecisive man, and he stood firmly behind the credo both he and Dennis had had beaten into their heads: you do not enter or leave a dangerous situation without your partner.

     Moving back into the room, Sam checked the girl, who, shockingly, was still fast asleep in her bed. After giving her a brisk shake, Sam backed away and allowed her a moment to become aware of her surroundings and the situation.

     “Sam,” Dennis started impatiently, but wasn’t about to be angry with his partner for not leaving.

     “No time to waste just leaving him sitting here,” Sam said. He could feel the fire closing in. “We’ll carry him between us, keep the girl close.”

     Dennis nodded and turned the man over. Sam nearly lost what little lunch he’d managed to scarf down between calls earlier.

     There was no way to tell how it had happened, but the man’s throat had been torn to bloody ribbons. The pale grey nightshirt he wore was stained bright red with what seemed an impossible amount of the tacky liquid and had been torn away from equally-mutilated pectoral muscles. It looked like a bear had taken massive swipes at the man with ferocious claws, trying to tear through to his heart with animalistic enthusiasm.

     “Dennis, is he…?” Sam trailed off as the girl shimmied out of her bed and stood on carpet that squished beneath her small bare feet, wearing a blank expression.

     Instinctively, Sam shielded the girl from the gruesome sight on the floor. He didn’t want her seeing what had happened to her father, though she didn’t seem perturbed by it initially. Sam figured she was deep in shock.

     “I’m not a paramedic,” Dennis responded quickly, and he looked as sick as Sam felt. “We get him out, and give him to someone who knows more than we do. Let’s get moving.”

     The check-in noise trilled again and Sam was so rattled by the man he and Dennis were now pulling up between them that for a moment he was confused by what he was supposed to do about it. Then he shook himself and regained his control and composure. Tapping the device harder than necessary, Sam noted that Dennis had suffered a delay, as well; only hitting his own after Sam had done so.

     “Got him,” Sam assured his partner as they secured their respective holds on the unresponsive man. “Let’s move.” Directing his next words to the girl, he said, “Come on, sweetheart. Keep close to us.”

     They had been in the home no more than five minutes, but already the fire had ravenously doubled the area of its consumption. When they left the girl’s room, they could see hungry tongues of flame licking along the walls near the front door. They weren’t getting out that way.

     “Other exit, side door,” Dennis said firmly. “Near the basement, the lady said.”

     They moved to the right instead of back the way they’d come. Smoke hung suspended from the ceiling in thick ribbons. Sam instinctively kept his head down and breathed more shallowly. The entire house had become too dangerous of an environment for his liking.

     The man hanging lifelessly between Dennis and Sam, though taller than either of them and pure dead weight, seemed lighter than he should be, causing Sam to wonder just how much blood he had lost. He had little confidence the man had been alive even when they’d entered the home.

     “Got the door,” Sam said as they came upon the stairs that led downward toward the basement.

     Twisting the handle and shouldering it open, Sam adjusted his hold on the man and caught Dennis looking down the darkened staircase.

     “Dennis, let’s go,” Sam demanded. His tone was sharp, his mood uneasy.

     “I saw movement,” Dennis countered. He took the girl by the arm and asked, “Honey, is there anyone else in the house? Pets, other people?”

     The girl remained mute and Sam again assumed the depth of her shock was extreme.

     “We don’t have time for searching,” Sam exclaimed in a harried voice. “The house is going to collapse or the smoke is going to get bad. Dennis, come on. We’ve got to go.”

     Dennis didn’t respond immediately, and it made Sam’s unease take another long leap toward true panic. Where were the other firefighters? Why hadn’t they started spraying the house yet? The check-in alarm sounded again and Sam snapped a hand against it to shut it up. Dennis ignored his.

     “Shit, man, let’s go!” Sam insisted. “And hit that thing before they send another team in here, damn it.”

     Before Dennis made any response, a part of the darkness down the stairs seemed to thicken and congeal into some poisonous-looking shade, a disembodied specter part smoke and part shadow.

     The thing leaped, and Dennis pushed Sam and the man he held onto alone back toward the hallway they’d recently exited. The girl fell back, as well, but kept her balance more easily than Sam, who purposely slammed his back against the wall in an attempt to keep himself from ending up on the floor.

     “What the shit is that?!” Sam screeched, half in panic, half in horror.

     “Get out. Get them out!” Dennis shouted instead of answering Sam’s frantic inquiry, looking for where the strange creature might come at them from next.

BOOK: Out of the Dark: An apocalyptic thriller
11.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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