IncubusA Story by Lucas G. Cook
Todd is an average kid with a secret. A secret named Damian. However, is Damian Todd's secret, or the other way around?
“Todd!” Mr. Hanshaw’s wrinkled face was pressed up against Todd’s, his already raisin-like features morphed into valleys of expression. Todd was still blinking and coming back from his daydream when the older man backed away from the table and started speaking. “Todd, if you cannot muster the strength to stay awake during class, I will fail you.”
Todd pressed his palms against his own cheeks and swirled them about, massaging his face. Then he rested his head on his right palm. “But sir, I was paying attention.”
“Really?” Hanshaw almost laughed, and Todd could see an impending challenge to his claim. “Then tell me, what were we just talking about in class?”
“The Zodiac Killer, sir.”
least you can read the whiteboard.” Hanshaw sidestepped and motioned the entire
class to the whiteboard, THE ZODIAC KILLER written on it, as well as a crude
drawing of the
“Seven victims, but only five died.”
Hanshaw hung his head and sighed. He had lost. He looked back up at Todd, with newfound determination. Todd was going to lose. “What were their names?”
“Of the dead? David Arthur Faraday, Betty Lou Jensen, Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin, Cecelia Ann Shepard, and Paul Lee Stine, all in order of their deaths.”
The professor glared at Todd. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Answering your question.” Todd sensed a disturbance, an uneasiness that wasn’t there before. Staring back at Hanshaw, he saw what had happened. The professor had taken it personally, but Todd didn’t care. The room’s sudden discomfort had grown so large that he could almost cut it with a knife, which he intended to do. “Sir, I’ve answered your questions better than anyone else in this class could’ve done. Can you resume the lesson?”
The entire class glared at him. Not only did he insult the teacher, but all the students as well. The best part was that it was true, but Todd regretted his words as soon as he said them. He was still Detective Damian Smith, not Insecure Senior Todd Cripps.
“Jesus.” Hanshaw chuckled and wiped his nose. “You’re right. Well, I can’t really ask you to stay after class, so I’ll give you a referral.”
Todd groaned internally, but, without the courage to voice his protest, he stood down. Detective Cripps had left the building. Todd looked around, avoiding the annoyed stares of his classmates. He had successfully ostracized himself from the class in seconds, which would’ve been funny had it not been so sad. Just as he was turning back to the front, he spotted a face. It was a girl.
She wasn’t annoyed or angry, but
amused. She was wearing glasses, the ones Todd always thought about when he
imagined life in 1960s-era
She had dark brown hair, the exact color Todd imagined trees were. The hair wasn’t uniform in color, and Todd could only begin to imagine the assortment of colors her hair was. They were all the same shade, but irregardless, Todd let his mind wander for too long, and her freckle-covered face began to chuckle silently and she waved at him. He slowly waved back, the same way an extraterrestrial would wave if it landed on Earth. Todd’s wave was a slow, methodical wave, one with the curiosity of visiting an alien world, but also cautious not to come off as helpless.
Todd had no idea who she was. She was wearing a baggy, white shirt and jeans, but what mystified Todd the most was the way she had grinned at him. It was so optimistic; so honest.
The bell rang, and Todd shuffled out, trying his best to keep up with her. He ended up right behind her, still trying to catch up when the students were forced down the cramped hallways. He didn’t even want to talk with her; he just wanted to look at her. It was alien. But it wasn’t until the hallways extended into the horizon and the roof began to fall apart that Todd knew he was in trouble. He slowed down, trying to take in the sights when a massive football player shoved him aside.
“Move it, Private!”
Damian swung the massive MA46 rifle around his waist as he tried to glance at the Sergeant’s face. It was stained with blood and disgust, looking at Damian as if he were a disgrace to the Army. The Sergeant was at least a foot taller than Damian, his combat uniform rolled up to his shoulders and the vest unzipped. The Sergeant’s helmet was unfastened, the buckles dangling carelessly from his helmet as he held his MA46 with a massive, muscle-bulging arm.
The mountains in the horizon would twist and spin into magnificent cliffs, which seemed to come alive as the trees shifted violently on their roots. There were massive clouds of black smoke in the horizon as Huey combat helicopters screamed over the soldier’s heads and fired an almost endless stream of missiles at the foliage, which exploded in response. But what were the choppers firing at?
“This is Cervantes Five-Two, we’re at bingo fuel and juice, swing back whenever we can.”
Todd saw an opening and took it. He sped through the crowd and attempted to place himself right next to the girl, hoping to incite conversation. But it was harder than he thought, and he found himself running into several other students. The football player was still looming near Todd, ready to strike. This was tricky.
“Come on! Let’s move it!”
The dirt on the road had already begun to shoot upwards in beautiful towers of dust when Damian had received his orders. Damian lunged off of the road and into the paddy, thoroughly wetting his uniform. He wanted to fire, but he wanted to wait for his orders. He looked over his shoulder for the Sergeant, who had gone missing. It was a chaos. Rounds impacted the soldiers with such force that clothing and muscle alike were torn straight off the bone, creating a geyser of flesh and bones that shot into the air and sparkled out of existence as the intense heat of the bullets dissolved them them.
The crowd had finally thinned, and Todd saw his chance. He went in for the kill.
Damian stood up and ran towards the forest, his fellow soldiers following suite. The firing slowed and stopped as their enemy fled in submission, undoubtedly crowning Damian as his unit’s hero. He grinned and slowed down. He’d chased the enemy away.
Todd placed himself right next to the mysterious girl and was just beginning to talk when he saw his undoing. He had heard a strangely familiar clicking noise the entire voyage, but it was until now that he realized his true enemy. She was texting.
The clicking noise perked up Damian’s hearing, and he ordered his unit to stop. He heard a loud click right below him, and lifted his foot. It was a landmine.
Todd slowed down and let the crowds envelop him, defeated not by the mob, but by a phone. Not by many, but by the single individual that she was texting. Todd’s blood boiled with jealousy as he considered the possibility that she was texting another man. Todd was shoved once again by the football player.
The explosion knocked Damian onto the ground, sparing him from the barrage of gunfire that tore his soldiers to shreds. They didn’t even have the time to shout, and those who weren’t blown into the air only had the time to glance at their fallen comrades before their bodies exploded.
Damian looked up. The Sergeant was still there. The Sergeant’s massive arms shot down towards Damian’s shivering frame and lifted him off the ground.
“Dude, what are you doing?” The player looked over his shoulder at Todd. “Do you want to go in front of me or something?”
Todd’s mind froze. He analyzed the question; the answer was yes. He did want to go around the player, but even his elevated awareness didn’t prepare him for such a rhetorical question. The player had no reason to yield to a pariah like Todd, yet he was offering to. Was this a peace treaty? No, it was an ultimatum. Either Todd could slither back into the crowd, or confront his newfound nemesis.
“Get out of here, Damian.” The Sergeant’s face was burned, charred and covered in blood that probably wasn’t his own. “This isn’t the place for you!” A round pierced through the Sergeant’s knee, inverting his shattered kneecaps and incinerating his bone marrow. It was extremely painful, forcing the Sergeant to drop Damian as he tried to anchor himself on his dead leg.
Damian stumbled back onto the ground and watched in horror as the Sergeant attempted switched to his good leg from his injured leg, which was dangling by little more than skin and what was left of his uniform. The Sergeant gritted his teeth as he pulled his rifle up and took aim. “Run!”
Damian got up and considered his options. He could cut and run, leaving behind his fellow soldiers to die, or die with them in the dirt.
“Dude, do you want to go or not?” Todd spotted the player’s forehead crumple an infinitesimal, signaling that the jock’s countdown had started.
“Go!” The Sergeant pulled the trigger, sending a salvo of searing tracer rounds at the tree line, shredding the foliage as he covered Damian’s escape. “You’ve got to go! Now!” Damian looked over his shoulder and saw the rest of the soldiers open fire, almost as if they were covering Damian as well. The Sergeant was letting Damian escape.
The player was staring at Todd, and every second felt like an hour. Every hour felt like a year, and every year felt like a century. Future generations would look back at this as a major ethical victory, the pivotal moment of Todd’s cowardice or compromise. They would read it in their textbooks, and would be tested every Tuesday about how many times Todd blinked or how many feet away Todd was from his target before he decided to act. It would be an easy class, and the students would always leave class happy.
Todd’s eyes glazed as the importance of the moment sank into his skull and etched its way into his brain, where it fried and scrambled his spinal cord and froze his body in place. The pressure of the impending tactical warfare squeezed Todd’s shoulders the same way a coach would squeeze a losing boxer’s soaking arms, convincing the fighter to leap once more into the breach and destroy his enemy.
Moving in front of the player and closer to the girl would be recognized as the moment when Todd charged into his death; when the boxer stepped into the battlefield and broke his neck with an unexpected right upper-cut. The punch would be easily avoidable, a standard “Punch-Punch-Hook-Uppercut” combo, but it would catch the fighter off guard. Anything could catch Todd off guard. He didn’t know what he would be facing if he advanced.
Damian spun and ran back towards the road, which, while offering no cover, would isolate Damian from his dying comrades. They stared back at him as he ran; a fallen angel fleeing from a redemption that could burst through his chest a mile and a half away, if only the wind was right. But in this case it wasn’t. The wind was very choppy, and Damian was already falling out of range.
Todd slowed down and let the crowd shove past him, keeping his eyes on the girl as arms and chests flooding in from his flanks blocked his view. He was in a mass grave, a funeral. The bodies of his comrades, who had so bravely advanced, lay at his sides. Except that he was alive. The enemy never checked his body, and this would be the moment in which Todd outsmarted his enemies, narrowly avoiding detection.
Beads of sweat lined Damian’s face as he sprinted away from the paddy, water and blood splashing up against his thighs as he ran through the remnants of his friends. He was coated in the substance, a combination of tears and urine that smelled so strong that he could feel the desperation in the soldier’s souls as they atomized and died.
Todd had already lost sight of the girl when he heard it.
Damian could hear a faint patting noise, which he would’ve shrugged off as gunfire had it not gotten louder and maintained its consistency, whereas gunfire stopped as the firing soldier’s face was split into seventeen pieces by a Tungsten-infused Full Metal Jacket.
He had heard it. It was directed in his direction. How did he know? He just did. Who was it? It was her. Not any her, but her. Todd made a mental note to remember that it was her, not her.
"Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever."
Todd walked forward, and saw her standing in the hallway, waiting for him expectantly. She was grinning, even when the rest of the galaxy shoved past her. No, not her. Her.
"Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."
Damian saw the Hueys break from the pillars of smoke obscuring Damian’s view and almost instantly began to launch their missiles. Damian looked up and turned, following the path of the missiles as they arched from the choppers to the tree line. The trees vanished out of existence as the shockwaves from the missiles stripped the plants of their cell barriers and infiltrated their bodies with napalm and hate.
The explosions, instead of going from red to black, went from red to white, spiraling into the sky in beautiful tornadoes of death that coagulated above their victims and floated innocently as clouds. The trees were gone.
“Hey, I saw you in class!” She approached Todd, scrunching her nose to lift her glasses back up as they sagged down her appropriately large nose. She was smiling, and as long as she was, Todd was happy.
The choppers made a pass over Damian and left. They flew into the sun, tearing Todd’s dream apart. It collapsed on itself like a stack of cards, each one fluttering and shuddering as it split into even smaller cards, which fell down into the space below Todd and formed tiles. The rest boiled into large synagogues, which crawled apart and walked next to Todd, T-shirts and Backpacks coagulating on their skin. He was coming back.
“So, what’s your name?” She approached Todd, oblivious to the river around her. She grinned at him.
“My name’s Todd, yours?”
© 2012 Lucas G. Cook
Added on May 13, 2012
Last Updated on May 13, 2012
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