Deception

12/13/2021

A helicopter descended into a field of tall, dead grass that stopped just above a full-grown man's waist. Its silhouette barely seen against the dark sky even with the full moon shining brightly. Five figures emerged from the chopper dressed in military décor. The rest followed as one of them took lead. Another ran ahead.

"Hey! Over here!" he yelled as he bent down.

He stood up, holding something, and let out a strangled scream before dropping it, his eyes wide with horror. It had been a Beretta 9mm handgun and a disembodied hand curled around it, hacked off at the wrist. They heard rustling coming from the grass. The one who had run ahead screamed again as three powerful shapes attacked and started ripping into his flesh.

They were the size and shape of dogs, as big as German Shepherds maybe, except that they seemed to have no fur, no skin. The others looked around, confused. There were more of them coming. They had to get out of there.

"Come on, head for that mansion over there!" The leader swung his arm in the direction of a looming building.

The beasts were everywhere. The group shot at the dogs to ward them off the best they could as they made their way to the abandoned mansion. When they reached it, the front doors were unlocked so they piled in and slammed the doors shut just in time as one of the things tried to stick its head in after them.

"What the hell were those things?" one of them yelled to no one in particular.

There were only three of them now. They appeared to have lost one along the way. They stood there in the main hall, looking at each other.

Christy Wittenberg, a twenty-three-yeard-old machine expert, stood at five-foot-five with one-hundred-eleven pounds, black hair that came down to her shoulders, and brown eyes. She was wearing navy blue pants, a matching beret which she wore on her head, black boots, and a blue T-shirt to complete the ensemble.

Bowe Linde, a thirty-eight-year-old mission leader, stood at six feet with one-hundred-eighty-seven pounds, short brown hair, and sunglasses to hide his deceitful eyes. He wore them at all times, even at night. He had on a black long-sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbows. The rest of his look consisted of black pants, shiny black boots, and black gloves to top it off.

And last, but not least, James Garza, a thirty-eight-year-old weapons specialist, stood at six feet with one-hundred-ninety-seven pounds, shaggy black hair, and brown eyes. His outfit was made up of a puffy red vest, zipped up halfway over a faded brown T-shirt, and brown camo pants to finish it off.

"Where's Kyle?" Christy asked.

"He must have gotten cut off from us. We'll find him later," Linde said nonchalantly. "He'll be fine. He's a big boy, he can take care of himself. But for now, I want you and James to take the west door over there."

Christy and James headed for the west door as Linde had ordered. James went first, the door creaking as he opened it. When they walked inside, they were mesmerized by the elegance of the dining room. It was a huge rectangular shape with a long dinner table going the length of it down the middle. The ceiling was open to a second floor balcony. To the left of the table was a bunch of junk, nothing much of interest. To the right, halfway down the wall, was an old grandfather clock. At the other end of the room, there appeared to be a fireplace. There was no fire going in its hearth.

The two of them went to the right of the table since it was less cluttered. As they passed the grandfather clock, they noted how its hands stood still and its glass had been shattered. They continued on to the fireplace. James stopped so suddenly that Christy ran into him.

"What is it, James?" she asked, trying to see over his broad shoulders.

James knelt down and Christy saw why he had stopped so suddenly. There, before James, was a pool of dark red blood. It looked fresh.

"Oh, my god," Christy screamed.

"I just hope this isn't Kyle's blood. You go search the rest of the mansion while I examine this blood."

There was a door on the north wall and Christy went through it. She could either go left or right. She heard some sort of slopping sound coming from her left and decided to check it out. She slunk a few steps and came into a sitting area. There was a figure stooped over a body. Christy gasped as the figure swiveled its head to look at her. The pale blue cataract eyes; the rotting, stinking flesh; the red bloodstain around its mouth.

Christy screamed and pulled her Beretta. She opened fire on the creature before her, hitting it seven times in the chest and abdomen. She started to back up slowly as the monster started advancing toward her. The bullets hadn't even seemed to faze him. Christy turned and ran for the door she had come through.

"James," she panted as she slammed the door shut behind her.

"Christy, what is it?" James asked as he stood up.

"There's - There's some kind of..." she tried to say before the door crashed open behind her.

"Uuuunnnnhhhh!"

"What the hell," James cried as he whipped out his Python revolver and put two bullets in the creature's head.

It fell to the floor and wriggled a little before finally becoming still.

"That was a goddamn zombie!" James exclaimed.

"That can't be," Christy breathed as she stared down at the lifeless corpse.

"We'd better report this to Linde."

"I agree. Let's go."

James took lead again as they headed back to the main hall. When they came into the light of the main hall, Linde was nowhere to be seen.

"Linde!" James yelled into the brightly lit room. "Linde!"

"Where could he be?"

"I don't know. What I do know is that something very strange is going on here."

They searched the main hall for Linde but found no sign of him anywhere. They met up in front of the stairs. James turned to Christy.

"I'll try upstairs, you take the east door over there," he said. "We'll meet back here in half an hour."

"Gotcha," Christy said, then headed for the door as James climbed the stairs.

She emerged into a small square room with paintings on every wall. There was a tall statue of a woman holding a vase of water above her head standing on a pedestal in the middle of the room. There were two doors opposite the one she had come through. The one on the left was open but blocked by a small chest. It was unlikely that Linde had gone that way...

That left the door on the right. It opened to a long hallway. There were a couple of wide windows showing only the darkness outside. There were three display chests that lined the inner wall, each topped with a small lamp and displayed an array of obscured objects. She walked forward to examine one of the shelves.

Crash!

The window behind her imploded, a sinewy form lunging into the hall, growling and snapping its jaws. It was one of the beasts from outside. It charged her and she shot at it. It fell to the ground and got right back up. It came after her again, and this time she aimed for its head. Bam! Bam! Bam! Three quick shots and it was down for the count.

The corridor took a sharp turn and she hurried on, past more macabre displays. The door at the end of the long hall was unlocked. She came into another dim room with more paintings on the walls. The first door on the right was locked, a carving of an armor on its key plate. If Linde had come this way, she didn't imagine he was locking doors behind him...

The next door she tried opened into a small bathroom with an antique feel, complete with a ceiling fan and an old-fashioned, four-footed tub. There was no sign of recent use.

Christy went back out into the hall and edged around another corner, wondering if James had found Linde, or Kyle for that matter. The last two doors in the hall were locked from the other side. It was high-time she be getting back to James anyway. She made her way to the main hall, miraculously not encountering a single monster.

When she came into the light of the main hall, Christy saw James slouched on the stairs, head in hands.

"James, what's wrong?" she asked, walking over to him. "Did you find Linde?"

"No," he groaned. "Kyle. I found him in one of the rooms upstairs. His - His body has been torn to shreds. I don't know what could have done such a thing."

Christy slumped down beside James and put an arm around his shoulders to comfort him. She had known that he and Kyle had been very good friends.

"Look at you two. Sobbing like a couple of babies."

Christy whipped her head up too late as Linde knocked her over the head with the butt of his gun. James tried to get to his feet as Christy fell to the floor but was too slow. Linde turned the gun on him.

"Why?" James asked. "Why did you do it, Linde?"

"For the money, of course," Linde said. "And to protect the research. No one can know what is going on here. I sicced one of my creatures on Kyle, and now it's your turn to die. Soon, it will be Christy's turn."

"No, you can't!"

"Oh, but I can and I will," Linde said, then pulled the trigger, sending a bullet to the center of James' brain.

He then picked up Christy's limp body and carried her off. She awoke in what looked like a lab of some sort. Linde was standing a couple of feet away.

"It was you, wasn't it?" she said accusingly. "You did this. Where's James?"

"Don't worry about James. He won't be bothering us anymore. But now is the time for you meet my most prized possession. Behold!" he said, raising his arms and turning toward a big glass tube on the far wall that Christy hadn't noticed until now.

It was at least eight or nine feet tall, hooked up to its own computer console - and the thing inside filled it, top to bottom. It was monstrous. It was tall, but proportionally correct, at least through its broad, muscular torso and long legs. Those parts appeared human. One of its arms had been altered into a cluster of massive, dragging claws, hanging past the knees, while the other seemed ordinary, if overly large.

There was a thick, bloody tumor protruding from where its heart would be, and Christy realized, staring at the bulbous mass, that it was the thing's heart. It was pulsing slowly, expanding and contracting in slow rhythmic beats.

She moved a little closer to get a better look. She could see lines of scar tissue snaking across its limbs, surgical scars. It had no sexual organs. They had been cut away. She looked up at its face and saw that parts of the flesh there had also been removed. The lips were gone and it seemed to grin broadly at her through the sliced red tissue of its face, all its teeth exposed.

"Say hello to Tyrant," Linde said proudly. "He's the key to your demise."

Linde walked over to a computer console and flipped a few switches. The tyrant opened its eyes and began beating his human hand against the glass tube. After a couple of hits, the glass shattered to the floor.

"Hahaha!" Linde laughed triumphantly as the tyrant tooks its first step into the world.

It looked at him with menacing eyes.

"KIll her," Linde pointed to Christy.

But instead of turning toward her, the tyrant kept its gaze trained on Linde. It stalked over to him, clawed-hand raised and ready to strike at any moment.

"No. You listen to me. I control you. You listen to-"

The tyrant brought its clawed-hand down and around, skewering Linde and raising his body high in the air. Christy looked on in astonishment. The tyrant had just killed its creator. It now turned toward her to finish the job after dropping Linde's lax body to the ground. She could not move. Her muscles were frozen stiff with fright. The tyrant came barreling down on her.

It raised its clawed arm, ready to strike. She backed up but was not quick enough. The hand came down and the claws protruded her abdomen and came out through her back. The last thing she saw before she died was that Linde's body had disappeared.