Sanctuary (Excerpt)

So this is an excerpt from one of my longest ongoing projects.  I started this novel when I was in Grade 11 and it’s had so many revisions and updates and rewrites that I can’t really call it the same story.  The basic idea has stayed the same, but the content has changed so dramatically over the course of the last 9 years.

The gist of the story is that a man wakes up in a seemingly abandoned hospital and has no recollection of who he is or what he’s doing there.  He travels the halls and tries to figure out exactly where he is and along the way he meets a series of enigmatic characters who give conflicting information about himself and his surroundings.  In this excerpt, the protagonist, (who has been told his name is Clarke), discovers that he’s actually in a complex of several buildings and stumbles across an underground train system that links the buildings.

Please let me know what you think of the excerpt.  Thanks.

Sanctuary –

His whole body shuddered, and a warm flush of anxiety ran through him.  Pulling out his penlight, he examined his surroundings intently; worriedly.

This floor looked more like the corridors of the upper levels where he’d first woken up; the same peeling paint and black grime with the same dim and flickering florescent lights overhead.

The floor was sticky with a grungy film that Clarke didn’t even want to try and identify.  Patches of tile were missing from the floor revealing concrete beneath, while others were raised and slightly off centered.

He slowly edged down the hallway towards the sound.

Another crash.

It was closer yet not very loud; as though something of small size was responsible for the noise.

This thought did little to soothe Clarke as he neared the source.

It was coming just beyond the corner of the corridor in front of him.

Taking in a deep breath, he turned the corner.

A small raven raised its head to greet him.  It stared at him from across the dark corridor and tilted its head; hopping a few steps closer.  Its wings arced out in a grand gesture and then shook them preternaturally-impossibly fast-leaving long, hazy trails and Clarke blinked.

It hopped a few steps back and then looked at Clarke with a tilted head.  After a few moments it hopped a few more steps and stopped to stare back at him and cawed.

Clarke’s eyes narrowed.

He started forward and the raven kept a couple paces ahead, hopping in odd, jerky movements.  It kept cawing, beckoning Clarke on.

It shook its head from side to side, leaving hazy after images as it did.

Stopping at the mouth of an opening, the raven shook its head again and then pointed its beak to the end of the hallway.  Clarke could see it lead into a larger room draped in blackness.  When Clark took another step, the raven abruptly flew off into the dark.

Clarke stopped and stood there, silent.

He pulled out his penlight and shone it into the darkness.

He squinted and could barely make out large pillars and what looked to be an escalator leading down to another level.

He slowly moved into the room.

As he passed through the pillars partially covered in tile he saw the dark grime clutching onto them, like a slow acting poison slowly taking the whole pillar over; corroding it, destroying it.

A smell hit him with the force of a fist to the face.

Death.

Decay.

He recognized the smell.  Reservedly following the scent, he found the body slumped against one of the poisoned pillars.

She was drenched in blood and sitting in a small ocean of it.  A long streak of gore coated the pillar behind her.  The top of her head, from the jaw upward, was completely missing.  Fragmented pieces of the jaw could be seen through the tattered flesh of what used to be her cheeks.  There were large chunks of neck ripped out, revealing the muscle and white sinew underneath.

One of those beasts got her.

Gripped firmly in her hand was large piece of aged paper.  It was tattered and torn at the edges and smattered with red blotches of her blood.

He took in a deep breath and cautiously bent down to take the paper.  Her grip was solid.  Rigor Mortis was still prevalent in her body.  She must not have died long ago.

He stopped.

How did I know that? He wondered.  He felt little bursts of fragmented memory flitting into and out of existence again before he could clutch on to any meaning.

He dismissed it.

He pried her fingers off of the thin paper and heard cartilage snapping as he did.  The smell was almost unbearable.  From this vantage point he could look all the way down her head and into her throat.  It was filled with blood and chunks of green and purple bits that he thought might be vomit.

He tasted a small bit of sour bile as it belched up from his throat.  He swallowed before any more decided to follow.    When he finally got the paper away from the corpse, the hand fell away making a slight splash in the pool of her blood.

He took a few steps back trying to recompose himself.

He looked at the paper.  It was folded numerous times over.  He unfolded it and realized it was a map.

Aside from it being stained with blood there were markings on it.  There was a dark black circle on the lower portion of the map and above it was written:

Building I Platform.

There was a black line following the train route to another circle which read:

Building II Platform     Oracle?

Oracle? Clarke wondered. 

The loud roar of a subway train ripped along the tight space of the tunnel and screamed out into the larger space of the platform.  Clarke shone the beam of the penlight in the direction of the sound.  It lit up a fragmented, disjointed sign that said:

Bui  di  g    I    Pla    orm.

The missing letters were found beneath the sign lying lonely on the dusty ground.  Beyond that, he could see the platform under flickering lights and could hear a train rushing closer.

He walked out to the edge of the platform and looked down the long dark tunnel to both sides of him.  He couldn’t see any lights indicating a train.

But he could hear it.

And from the noise, he expected it should already have arrived.  But the noise kept getting louder, and louder.  He folded the map up again frantically and placed it in his lab coat before cupping his hands over his ears.

It did little to dilute the noise.

It came raging into the train station at a decibel Clarke could barely handle but when it stopped, so too did the noise.

Eerily abruptly, it just stopped.

He stood there a moment in the unnerving silence.

There was a loud hiss of escaping air as the doors slid open.

There was no one on the train; although he didn’t really expect there to be.

Stepping onto the train the doors closed behind him.

The dull lights inside the train were dim like those in the hallways.

Hell, like everywhere in this place.

They shuddered on and off infrequently and Clarke could see the carnage that had once gone on in the confined, claustrophobic interior of the subway train.  There were pieces of what Clarke assumed had once been human beings strewn everywhere and all the seats were stained a dark red.  The oppressive, metallic scent of death was thick in the air.

The train lurched forward and Clarke lost his footing.  He grabbed onto the rail beside him to keep from landing in the blood and dismembered body parts.

He moved away towards the next car.  He looked through the small circular window on the door and saw the next car looked identical to the one he was in: blood and human appendages everywhere.

He could see a few cars ahead, and it ended in the conductor’s car, but he couldn’t see the conductor.  He slowly walked through the destruction towards the front car; stepping gingerly through the pieces of hands and feet, and the thick blood staining the linoleum floor.  He realized he didn’t feel the blood on his feet.  Looking down, he saw he was wearing sturdy black boots.

What the hell?

A loud animal screech punctured through to his ears from a few cars behind him.

He forgot about his new found shoes and hurried for the front car.

He pulled open the door and saw there was no one inside.  There was a control panel with a series of buttons and levers but nothing was labeled, at least not in a language he understood.  There were symbols and some squiggles but nothing Clarke could comprehend.

He looked out of the cracked glass windshield in front of him and saw the track and the walls of the tunnel.  It didn’t look so strange.

It felt like he was back home in . . .

He had a brief flash of memory, but before he could take it all in it disappeared back into the dark part of his memory.

He sat down in the chair beside the controls and sighed.  Rubbing his tired face, he dropped his hands beside him.  When he did, his left hand landed on a newspaper.

He opened it up and again could not read a word of it; those same weird, unintelligible symbols and squiggles.  There was a picture on the second page however.  This he could understand, yet he couldn’t comprehend why he was in it.

He was in the picture along with . . . Columbia, and a small girl who sort of resembled a younger version of herself.  They were standing in front of a large house and smiling.

There was a loud screech again, only this time much closer.

The lights went out and Clarke rose to his feet.  He flicked on the penlight and moved into the second car.

His feet landed in wet, sticky sludge that hadn’t been there a moment ago.  He raised a foot and the gooey substance hugging the floor stretched along with it.  He heard a few loud plops and wet crashes around the room.  He shone his penlight over the interior and found that there were large thick, wads of black sludge dripping from the ceiling and walls of the subway car.

At the end of the car, built up around the door, was a large mass of mottled, sinewy fibers mixed in with the black sludge.  It looked almost like a nest of some kind.

In fact, as Clarke grew closer he saw a dozen or so enormous egg shaped orbs, half submerged in the black nest.

Clarke stared worriedly at the nest that had not been there only minutes ago.  He’d only been in the front car a few moments and now this nest was guarding his only escape.  There were no doors in this car, only windows.

The room abruptly filled with sickening sounds of cracking and flowing mucus.  The eggs were opening.

In front of him the eggs vibrated back and forth, jerking wildly as whatever inside them tried to escape.  Horrified, yet curious, Clarke leaned in closer to see what was emerging from the eggs.

Parts of shell fell away and Clarke saw what looked to be a vaguely human form.  It had arms and legs, and a human looking head, but it didn’t have ears, or a nose or eyes.  It was just a large mouth filled with sharp teeth.

They were pulling themselves out of their shells.  Squirming and writhing, they edged slowly towards Clarke, emitting a sharp, high pitched whine as they clawed closer.

He brought his boot down firmly on the closest one, sending sprays of whatever it was made of in all directions.

The others hissed closer.

He smashed the two nearest things and as he looked up an entirely knew litter of the monsters were escaping their nest.  There was about thirty of them, all moving closer to him, hissing angrily.

There was a loud screech from behind him.  The same he’d heard earlier.  He whipped around and saw a full grown version of whatever the hell those things were.  It had a very human frame; two arms, two legs.  It was just the face; a weird, blank face with a menacing mouth full of teeth.

It stepped closer to him, hissing and spitting black bile; screaming at him in a high pitched drone.

One of the smaller things gripped his leg and with surprising power pulled him off his feet.  He came down with in a painful heap, knocking his head on one of the bloody, fiberglass seats.  His head reeled in pain and confusion.  It took him a few moments for his blurred vision to focus, and he saw, underneath the chairs, a handgun.

The large thing was almost upon him.  He swung out his arm and gripped the gun firmly.  He swung back and aimed it at the thing’s chest.  Clarke fired off five rounds into the monster and it faltered a moment, but kept on coming.

Clarke tried to get to his feet while the smaller things pulled at his clothing trying to keep him down.  He punted one of them away and it smashed against the window, exploding into a dark, black blotch that dribbled down the glass.

He shot again at the larger thing but it didn’t seem to do much.  He instead turned his fire on the smaller things crawling on the ground.  They burst, messily as each bullet connected, spraying his pants and boots with gore.

He rushed back to the nest and tried to reach the door behind it.  He kicked and shot at the nest, trying to remove the obstruction from the door.  The larger monster was gaining closer, almost upon him.

He pulled at the door, and it opened a few inches, but the black, slimy nest was halting any further movement.  He pulled at the nest, ripping out large chunks of sinewy, black slime and bits of egg shells.  He pulled on the door again, it opened a little further.

He maneuvered himself in such a way that he could fit half of his body through the slightly opened door.  He used his weight to push against the door frame and slowly the door began giving way.  Just not fast enough.  The monster was almost upon him.

His whole body surged with desperation and terror and the door moved just enough for him to dash through, but closed immediately after him.

The thing was stopped on the other side, just staring through the glass at Clarke; staring without eyes.  A frigid, eerie tingle ran through Clarke as he stared at the blank face of the thing as it stared back at him.

It brought up a hand and smashed it through the glass window.  Its foot connected with the door making a large dent.  It wouldn’t be long before the thing had broken the door down completely.  Clarke scurried to his feet and began running towards the back of the train, hoping to find some place to hide.

There were nests everywhere; each with twenty or so eggs jerking and vibrating inside them, ready to hatch.

A loud metallic crash intertwined with a dull sounding bodily hit exploded in Clarke’s ears.  Clarke turned back to the front of the train, to the sound.

The large thing was through the door.

As he turned he connected with something hard, yet organic.  It wasn’t a railing, it wasn’t a wall, it was . . .

There was another one of those full grown monsters standing over him.

It screeched at him in a high pitched, horrifying scream that jumbled up the contents of whatever was in Clarke’s stomach and caused them to rise and press on his chest.

He wanted to puke, but he was too damn scared to do anything.

The thing raised its arms in the air and screamed again before stepping closer.

The eggs beside Clark had begun to crack and splinter revealing the monstrosities inside.  They squealed and shook and pulled themselves out of the shells, creeping towards Clarke.

Clarke managed to get a hold of himself for long enough to get up into a half sitting half standing position before he bolted back towards the front of the train.

He stopped.

The thing at the front of the train was walking slowly past the now destroyed first subway car door towards him.  Clarke whipped around to see the other thing sauntering jerkily from the other end of the train.

He felt rough tugging on his pant legs and lab coat.  The smaller versions of those things were all around him.  They were surprisingly powerful and almost succeeding in ripping him to the ground.  He pulled the lab coat out of their grasp and got on top of the seats.  They slid and crawled, erratically moving towards him.

Both of the larger things were now in the same car with Clarke, both at either ends, blocking any chance of escape.  The smaller things were reaching up and trying to pull Clarke off the plastic seats.  He tried to kick them away.

There was light at the corner of his eye.

The entire train shuddered to a stop, sending everything, including Clarke, flying.  Clarke hit one of the upright metal bars before connecting hard with the front wall.  Large bits of the gooey, black nest shot about the inside of the car and the smaller monsters screamed as they shot around.

In a few moments it was all over.  Clarke shook the searing pain from his head and, with great difficulty, started to stand up.  He could see out of the windows.  Beyond them was mildew and dust covered tile and large pillars.

Platform II.

His chest throbbed, he realized he might have broken a rib.  His breathing was erratic and it hurt to exhale.  But there wasn’t anything he could do about that now.

The things on the floor were beginning to stir.  And he saw the larger thing regaining his composure and standing to full height.

One of the windows beside him was already cracked.  Clarke gripped the overhead railing with both hands and began kicking at the window.  But it wasn’t glass, it was plastic.  He kicked again and again and small bits of plastic broke away, but not enough for someone to escape through.

There was another scream from the other side of him.  Now both of the large things were up and continuing their pursuit.  He kicked more frantically, screaming out with every hit, as though that would somehow help.

The hole became bigger as more and more pieces flew off onto the cold, dirty tiles.

They were about two meters away, almost within arms reach.  He didn’t care if the hole was big enough.  He tried to squeeze through.  He got his head and left arm through.  He angled himself so that he could pull his right arm through.  He pushed against the window until he was out to his waist.  Something was catching.

Something in his pockets.

My fucking wallet!

The hole wasn’t big enough.  He smashed the plastic with his fists, bloodying them, but not making so much as a crack in the window.

He screamed, and the monsters on the other side answered with ones of their own.

One of them grabbed his leg and began pulling him back into the train.

Madly, Clarke fit a hand back through the hole and tried to reach into his pocket for his wallet.

The monster was jerking him back and forth, causing the sharp plastic to cut into his sides, drawing blood.

His hand gripped the small leather wallet and he managed to pull it out.  It dropped onto one of the plastic seats.  The sound was lost amid the screaming of both Clarke and the things behind the glass.

Clarke used his free leg to kick at the monster that was digging its slimy nails into his other.  He kicked it straight where its eyes should’ve been, and it fell back, holding its head as it collapsed on the ground.

Clarke pulled himself through the hole in the plastic, narrowly missing the second monster as it pawed at his legs before they disappeared through the hole.

Clarke landed, panting, on the cold, damp tile of Platform II.  He could hear the screams of frustration from the things inside the train.  They were reaching their arms out of the hole trying to pull Clarke back in, but he was far enough away.

Something wet dripped onto his face and he looked up to see where it had come from.  The entire ceiling was dark, with a wet gleaming sheen.  Clarke could make out small eggs stuck firmly in the black sludge.

“No,” Clarke shouted.  “No!”

Several large things, just like those on the train, emerged from behind the pillars, staring at him confusedly.  Cocking their heads to one side, like a intrigued canine.

“No!”

Clarke bolted for the stairwell leading up and, he hoped, to some place safe.

The things followed him, sauntering slowly after him.

He reached the stairs and sped up them, until he saw the second floor.

There were about thirty of those things.

Staring at him.

“Oh, god.”

They moved closer and they all screamed out their high pitched squeal.

The entire Platform exploded into light.  Clarke covered his eyes.  The light was so bright that even with his eyes closed it came bleeding through with such intensity that his head rippled with steady, intense waves of pain.

He couldn’t see, but he could hear the monsters fleeing.  Their cries were becoming more and more faint.  The light slowly began to dim and when Clarke opened his eyes he saw a familiar face before him.

Columbia.

But she was floating above the ground.  Her thin, blue robes were dancing slowly in some weird wind that Clarke couldn’t feel.

“You are safe,” She said.

She floated nearer.  The light continued to dull and he could make out the shape of wings on either side of her.  They were out stretched and spanned all the way up to the platforms grungy ceiling.

Slowly the room began to get brighter again.

And brighter still.

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