Status: Being worked on, would appreciate criticism

Deadwastes

Explosive Realizations

“So, now what?” Mason asked Erin as she began cruising in the direction of the airport. It was getting dark.

She looked around, her eyes squinting, then hit a button to turn on the headlights. There was a sputter as they flickered to life, then died down again. She let out an annoyed sigh and kept going.

“We’re gonna take this back, tell Jackson that we found it in a junkyard somewhere and managed to get it running, then I’m going to go sleep. Today has been a nightmare.” she told him, staring through the dusky streets. She had to weave past trashed cars and fallen streetlights, but she seemed adept at maneuvering through the ruins of the city.

He nodded silently, then leaned back in his chair, letting himself relax, for once. It wasn’t the most comfortable seat, but it was certainly better than anything else he’d sat on recently. A few moments later, he passed out completely.

. . .

Mason blinked his eyes open slowly, a bright purple glow filling his vision. Rubbing his face, he realized he was staring at a neon sign, proudly bearing the title “Aldavo”. He looked around, startled to see that he was in a city that was... alive. The lights were all on, everything looked useable, and, most startlingly, there was no snow. People walked down the sidewalk, staring at their phones in light clothing, not a heavy coat in sight. He was standing on the edge of the road, staring across at the neon light.

The sign was attached to a modern-looking black building with small, circular windows and a large set of dark double doors. Flanked by two burly-looking men and blocked by a red rope, the doors were being entered by a large group of people in a line.

Looking at it, he figured that it must be some sort of nightclub. He stood there a moment longer, enjoying the warmth. Looking down, he saw that he was in the same clothing as the first day he’d arrived in that frozen wasteland, his hoodie and dark jeans.

A strange feeling in his gut made him walk past the club, towards the alley on the left side. He watched as a small door burst open, and a blonde girl in a small black dress ran out, laughing. Two men came behind her, staring and grinning.

He moved closer to hear what they were saying, but they were whispering, and he couldn’t make out any of it. The girl just kept laughing.

Suddenly, one of the men grabbed the girl’s arm. Her smile fell, and she tried to pull herself away, but didn’t have the strength. The other one grabbed her other arm, and she started to thrash violently as they reached for her dress.

Just before the man could pull it down, Mason heard a loud sound that reminded him of a branch snapping. The girl stood up tall and silent as the men let go, now screaming in pain. Looking closer, he saw that their hands had been frozen solid. One managed to make his screaming stop, and pulled his good hand back to punch her. The other fell on the ground and began to crawl away slowly.

Her eyes were glowing a solid blue, pale and harsh. She ducked under the man’s punch, then slammed her hands into the wall. A shredding noise started from under her palms, and Mason felt the air around him turn chilly and cold.

Massive, jagged spikes of ice erupted violently out of the wall, slamming into the men and impaling them, dragging them away. Within moments, the alleyway looked like an icy bomb had exploded, frozen pillars coming out of the side of the nightclub.

The glow faded from her eyes, and Mason watched as she looked around, shaking her head, before she sat down and put her head in her hands, sobbing quietly. The line of would-be clubgoers had seen the ice erupt out of the alleyway, and started screaming and running away. He saw several putting phones up to their heads and talking in hurried tones.

Within moments, a trio of police cars rushed onto the scene, their sirens blaring noisily. The men inside got out and aimed their guns at the girl, yelling at her to put her hands up and explain what had happened. They sounded scared, and Mason noticed that their hands were shaking violently.

She looked at them, her tears making her makeup run, and started to stand up. Before she could explain herself, though, there was a bright flash, and a burst of electricity came out of nowhere, wrapped itself around her, then took her away in a flash. In moments, all that remained were the cops and the dead men, their blood staining the ice a deep crimson.

“She was innocent once, you know.” he heard a voice say from behind him, the same voice that had been controlling him. He turned around quickly, and was almost instantly greeted by a punch to face, sending him sprawling across the street.

His head cracked against the asphalt, and a bright flash of white light bloomed into his vision. Underneath the pain, he heard a voice, a different one, calling his name.

“Mason…”

He blinked, staring at whoever had just punched him. They were wearing a long, black coat, and a pair of blue jeans.

“Mason…”

His eyes moved upwards to the person’s face, widening in shock. There was no way that was possible.

“MASON!” he heard yelled into his ears. He shook himself, rising out of the dream. He looked blearily around, seeing that he was back in the truck again. The chill bit through his coat, making him shiver.

Erin had been shaking him, trying to wake him up. He stretched out his arms, yawned, then looked around. It was completely dark, and the truck wasn’t moving. He squinted, but couldn’t make out any of their surroundings. Already the dream had started to fade into the background of his mind.

“Where are we?” he asked her. His head ached painfully. She let go of his shoulder and folded her arms. He could barely see her in the dark.

“I have no idea. And because of how fast I burned out of there, and how little time I had to put some in, I’m already out of gas.” she told him. The wind buffeted the truck gently. She turned towards him, looking concerned and worried. She hesitated a moment, then asked him a question.

“What was all that? You were mumbling in your sleep, constantly. You kept saying something about guilt, and pain. It sounded crazy.” she told him. He looked at her bleakly, his head still spinning, reeling from the dream.

“I was just… just dreaming. Nothing to worry about.” he said, trying to sound reassuring. Erin raised her eyebrow, unconvinced. He sighed.

Turning away, he looked into the darkness. “So now what?” he asked.

“I don’t know. We could try to make it back on foot, or we can stay here for the night. What do you think?” she asked him. He thought about it for a moment. If they stayed in the truck, they’d be confined in a smaller space. They were basically sitting ducks. Any monster that wandered by would find a tasty snack, all bundled up and ready for it.

He reached into his bag and pulled out his flashlight, then opened the door. He turned it on and looked around, the beam shining through light snowfall. They were surrounded by large skyscrapers on all sides, and there didn’t seem to be any smaller buildings nearby.

Mason heard the other car door slam shut, and turned to see Erin, armed with her own light, looking around as well. The cold seemed worse at night, and Mason dragged his mask back over his face, keeping the goggles off he could see.

“Well? Any ideas?” she asked him. He pointed down the road.

“Do you know how to get to the airport from here?” he asked her. She nodded. “It shouldn’t be too hard. We’re halfway there already.” she told him, and began walking forward. He followed her, keeping his flashlight aimed ahead.

Their boots crunched through the snow, making a path behind them. Mason’s hands felt cold and numb, with silence deafening his ears. The snow and ice seemed to suck in everything, sound, warmth, happiness. He looked around, staring at the dark towers standing like broken men all around him.

He wished he could understand why this had all happened. The monsters, the cold, everything. And how did he fit into all this? What was going on in his head that kept making him see things, hear things, and create lightning?

A sharp cracking sound broke his train of thought, and he turned to see a gigantic icicle plummet off of a building, smashing into a car and impaling it. He and Erin stopped and stared at it for a moment, neither saying anything, before they continued moving forward.

He figured that he could break the monotony by talking to her, but he didn’t know what to say. She seemed to be thinking about a lot of different things, and he didn’t want to bother her with his idle chatter.

After a few more minutes, the silence finally got to him. He had to say something. As they passed across an icy bridge, he spoke up, his voice quiet and low.

“How did you get here?” he asked her, softly.

She didn’t respond right away. Instead, she kept walking, keeping her head forward. But soon enough, she stopped moving and shoved her hands into her pockets, staring off into the darkness morosely. Then she started to explain.

“I was with my dad. We’d been out in the Rockies for a week, staying in a cabin during the summer. We came back in the middle of the night, and right before we got into the city, there was this horrible white light that came from the east. In a flash, everything was frozen. We were lucky, and we still had our camping clothes on. Dad took out an axe and broke the door off, and we took off with all of our remaining supplies.” she said, her voice quiet. She started to walk again, as they came off the bridge and back into the black embrace of the skyscrapers.

“We survived for a long time like that. Back then, it was just me and him, so we didn’t have to worry about anyone else. Then, when the creatures started to appear, we… We got separated, one day, by a swarm of little ice monsters. They grabbed him and dragged him off, and I never saw him again. I’d given up by the time Jackson found me and convinced me to become a scout for him.” she told him, then stopped again, staring upwards into the sky.

Mason watched the steam coming out of her mouth, fogging up into the air. He felt bad for asking.

“Anyways, that’s me. How about you, Mason? How have you been surviving these years?” she asked.

The word “years” gave him pause. Then he remembered something.

“Erin, what day is it? Do you know?” he asked her quickly.

She put her hand to her chin, thinking. After a moment, she shrugged. “It’s July 28th or 29th, or something. Why?” she asked him, raising an eyebrow.

He let out a quiet laugh, devoid of humor, and shook his head. “I turn 26 next week.” he said, then swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat.

Erin stopped, then walked over and gave him an awkward pat on the shoulder. He nodded slightly. She turned back around and continued on the path back to the airport.

A cold whisper traced itself around his ears, speaking to him.

“Oh, poor you. Won’t be getting a nice birthday party, will you? All that cake, going to waste...” it said, echoing away with a mocking laugh.

Mason gritted his teeth. He needed to do something. And soon. He was sick of being a puppet.

He looked around, realizing something. They hadn’t taken the tunnels that Erin apparently knew so well back to the airport.

“Why didn’t we get into the tunnels?” he asked her.

“Because I couldn’t take the truck down there from where we were, and everyone else is scared to go in. I needed to know how to get back to it from the surface.” she told him, sounding unsure herself.

He was just about to say that what she had said made no sense when the ground beneath him shuddered slightly. He looked around with his flashlight, scaring off a few giant rats, but otherwise seeing nothing.

Erin shook her head at him slightly, wondering what was wrong. He shrugged at her meekly, and they kept walking. A few moments later, the earth rippled again, a little stronger now. Erin stopped moving, feeling it too. They stood there and looked at each other as the tremors started to gain in intensity.

The ground shook violently now. Erin’s eyes widened, staring at Mason, then she pointed at a nearby building. He watched her sprint away and jump inside a broken window, narrowly avoiding the shards of frozen glass. She waved him inside, but he stayed in the middle of the road, feeling an uncharacteristic burst of bravery.

“You want to be a hero now? You’re pathetic.” the voice whispered.

The comment made Mason’s eyes narrow, and he planted his feet firmly on the ground. Remembering the sword the voice had made him take, he pulled it out, gripping it tightly in his right hand, and put the flashlight in his left.

The tremors stopped. Everything was calm, quiet. Erin was looking at him from her refuge inside the building with angry eyes, and kept motioning for him to follow her. He ignored her.

A final, thunderous quake shook the earth beneath him. He stared straight ahead, unflinching. A strange, monstrous groan from above him made his gaze slowly go upwards, before looking in disbelief at what was staring right back at him.

Barely illuminated by the flashlight, a vaguely humanoid face was peeking around the skyscraper, looking straight down at Mason. It was gigantic, easily the size of the spider’s body from before. Huge eyes looked down at him as the giant turned, putting it’s full body into view.

It was monstrously large, bigger than some of the skyscrapers surrounding them. It’s skin was a pale blue, and it was covered in shaggy white fur. Two giant horns curled out of a pudgy, squashed-in face, within which was set a pair of solid white eyes, dead-looking and pale. It’s fingers were tipped with gigantic claws, dulled and blunt. It reminded him of a yeti, but it’s scale was immense.

Mason’s stance faltered. His hands started shaking, and the sword clanged out of his palms onto the cold ground. The voice began laughing, booming in his ears. He couldn’t move. Something had snapped in his mind, and the voice wasn’t doing anything to take control.

The giant tilted its head downwards, looking at him. It watched Mason for a moment, gazing at him, then it looked back up and stepped over him, its stride spanning an entire block. It kept moving, walking past him and going down the street.

Mason fell to his knees, his body shaking. He had no idea what had come over him. That creature had seemed so surreal, so wrong. He could still hear it moving through the city behind him. He was so small that he was beyond its notice, beyond it caring about him. The voice’s laughs still echoed in his ears.

He felt Erin come up behind him, staring at him. She walked over next to Mason and held out a hand to help him up. Mason shook his head slowly, waved her hand away, and stood up on his own. He felt embarrassed and ashamed. He weakly picked up the sword and brushed himself off, then started walking forward again.

Erin moved in front of him, stopping him. She looked at him with concern in her eyes.

“Look, I know it’s not my problem, but what the hell just happened? You acted like you were going to do something. There’s no way anything could hurt that thing, not in a million years. Not even you.” she told him. He looked at her, his throat dry, and shook his head.

“I just wanted to… do something. I was tired of running away from everything.” he told her. He hung his head, feeling like a fool.

Mason looked at Erin, but her eyes had widened, and were staring behind him. He turned, and watched as something insane happened.

He saw the form of the giant, about four blocks away and dimly lit by the moon, swatting at something. A bright gout of flames suddenly erupted from a building on its left, lighting its shoulder on fire. It roared in pain, thunderously loud even this far away. It turned and dragged its hand across the top of the building, rending it into a thousand chunks of concrete and metal. Another burst of fire came from the other side of it, burning into its face. Snarling, it punched the other building and destroyed it, sending it crumbling downwards to the earth, a giant cloud of dust erupting from it.

“What the hell is that?!?” Mason asked. He turned and saw Erin staring at it with a look of wonder. A third blast of fire came from its back, almost like something was clinging to it. The fire rushed along its body, spreading at an unnatural pace. The giant screamed in pain, and Mason held his hands up to his ears to try and block out its deafening volume. Soon the fire had extended its bright fingers along the beast’s entire body.

With a dull, choked moan, the giant teetered, standing limply, before it slowly and thunderously crashed to the ground. With an enormous impact that sent snow blasting away from it, its body collided with the ground violently, shattering the earth below it. The fire kept blazing away, burning into the dead giants skin.

Mason looked at it in terror, unable to stop staring at the horrific pyre that now lay there. Something caught his eye, and he squinted, moving forward slightly. He could just barely make out a… silhouette. Of a person, standing in front of the burning corpse.

A switch flicked on in his mind. The voice started whispering incoherently, angrily, and Mason felt himself lose control of his body again. His fingers curled themselves tightly around the sword, and his left hand clenched into a fist. He walked towards the giant’s body, unable to respond to Erin’s shouts of alarm and warning.

He felt an immense wave of anger roll over him, unable to stop the hatred that had begun to bubble up. He started to run, dodging past the streetlamps and cars that the giant had trashed during its walk. Within a minute, he had reached the body, and saw the person who was standing in front of it.

They had their back turned, but he could see it was a man, African-American, wearing a black tank top and cargo shorts. Something was off about him. He was standing there silently, watching the inferno. Mason managed to look closer at him, and realized with a shock that his skin was cracked and broken, a fiery red glow burning from underneath it.

The heat was making him sweat, and he was out of breath, but somehow the voice forced him to still stand up tall and straight, then aim his sword at the man. They were surrounded by rubble, and the stench made Mason want to gag.

He had begun to move forward when the man started to speak, still staring at the fire.

“You know, I heard you were dead.” he said, his voice deep and brassy. He turned slowly, staring back at him. He was muscled and toned, and his clothes were singed with ash. He had a light beard on his face, and bright, glowing orange eyes blazing out from under dark brows. He looked about Mason’s age, maybe a little older. He was also, startlingly, barefoot.

The glow under his skin flared a little, and he seemed to radiate an intense heat. He stood tall and looked at Mason, his eyes searching. After a moment, he smiled.

“No, it’s not you. Not quite. Something’s wrong. But…” he started, and filled his left hand with fire. He grinned maliciously, then flung his hand at Mason, sending a ball of flame hurtling towards him.

Mason heard a strange snapping noise, and his vision suddenly filled with blue. The voice became silent for a moment, and then a wave of nausea hit him. Blinking the color away, he saw that he had somehow moved straight behind the man. A pungent metallic smell hung in the air, masking the stench of burning flesh.

The voice let out a dry chuckle. The man turned around, looking at Mason again. He nodded. “I figured as much. You can even lie and cheat your way out of death. But still, you’re not insulting me every five seconds, and haven’t attacked me quite yet. What’s happened?” he asked him, crossing his arms.

Mason remained silent. He could feel the voice straining, struggling to keep control. Something felt wrong, almost like it was… Like it was afraid.

The man laughed, a deep booming noise that somehow was completely devoid of mirth. “We’ll see each other again soon. I can promise you that. She’s going to want to know about this first, though.” he told him, and turned away. With a loud crackling noise, he shot out two jets of fire from his palms, causing Mason to shield himself from the heat. He stood still for a moment, the flames searing the ground beneath him and melting the snow and ice. Then he shot into the air, launching himself away at high speeds.

Mason stood and watched the fire in the sky, forced by the voice to stand still. He stayed there until all that remained were two small pinpricks of light, then felt the voice slowly and tiredly slip away.

“Not him… Anyone but him…”

He shuddered, feeling a chill as it let go of him. He took one final look at the fallen giant, feeling a strange pang of sadness as he looked at the fire that was consuming it. Then he turned back around, and walked slowly back to where Erin was still standing, a terrified expression on her face.

“What just happened? What was that?” she asked quickly, and he could see sweat dripping off of her face. He shrugged weakly, then felt another wave of nausea roll over him. He hunched over, hugging his stomach, until it subsided.

Erin was staring at him incredulously, watching.

“You need to start talking. Right now.” she told him, and he saw her hands nervously clasped behind her back, next to her shotgun. He sighed, then sat down in the snow, staring up at the stars.

“I’m not who you think I am. But you’d call me crazy if I told you what’s been happening.” he said softly, grabbing a handful of snow and tossing it away. The heat was gone, and he was glad to be back in a colder, more calm temperature.

She walked across from him and sat down, taking out her shotgun and leveling it across her knees. Then she watched him with a deadly seriousness.

“I’m serious. I need answers, and you’re going to give them to me. And I don’t think even you could survive a shot from this distance.” she told him.

He shook his head slowly. “Fine. Fine.” he said, then started to explain his situation, carefully leaving out the parts about the voice that kept taking control of him, and his earlier encounter with Greg and Louise. She listened with a confused look on her face, and when he finished, she looked at the ground, her eyes far-off.

“So… You’re from the past, or something?” she asked. He shrugged.

“I don’t know. All I know is a week ago I was sleeping in my bed on a nice summer night and the next thing I know I’m here in this frozen crazyland. The lightning, the monsters, the world… Nothing makes sense anymore.” he told her.

He stood up and pointed in the direction he guessed the airport was in. “You can believe me or not, but that’s the truth. All of it. So are we going to go back together or are we done here?” he asked. His voice had a hard edge to it, that he didn’t remember it having before.

She stood back up slowly, then looked at him. “Fine. I don’t trust you, but there’s no reason you can’t stay with us for now. But I’m warning you. If you abandon me again, if you run off to do something crazy, you’re not gonna see me ever again.” she threatened, shaking her gun at him before sliding it over her back.

He nodded. He felt tired, and sore, and sick. He was happy that, at least for tonight, he had somewhere vaguely warm to sleep in. Erin began to walk again, and he followed her, but at a safe distance. He stopped, for a moment, to look at the night sky over the giant’s corpse. Somewhere out there somebody wanted him to be hurt. And he didn’t understand why.

Erin may have gotten her answers, but he still needed his. And he needed them soon.