The Destruction of Beautiful Things

"They give our Master a crown of thorns, why do we hope for a crown of roses?" - Martin Luther

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6. Chapter Five

Silas awoke with Fyn on top of him, gripping his shoulders so hard that he feared he would end up with finger-shaped bruises all over him. Silas jolted upright, knocking Fyn over to the other end of the narrow bed.

“What the fuck?” Silas asked angrily, pushing his covers off and sitting up.

Fyn shrugged helplessly, “It’s time to go.”

Silas glanced at the watch that sat beside his bed and cursed. Fyn left a minute after that, allowing Silas two minutes to get dressed. He pulled his fighting leathers out from the wardrobe at the end of his bed and began to tug them on over his muscled body. Once they were on, he strapped his holster around his waist and slipped a long thin knife into each black boot. Silas walked around the side of the bed and looked at himself in the mirror that hung crookedly off the wardrobe.

He didn’t look too bad, he didn’t think. His hair had grown a bit since he last had it cut, and was messy from sleeping on it. The tattoo that ran down his cheekbone, across the bridge of his nose and back up his other cheekbone stood stark against his tanned skin. He couldn’t remember the day he’d gotten the tattoos, but he knew that the other men that he worked with had far more intricate ones. Fyn’s tattoos snaked up both arms, and from what Silas had seen, around his shoulders too. It was a fashion statement to have visible tattoos, and most people opted for birds or flowers or even maps of their birthplace.

Stepping out of the room, Silas joined Fyn and together they went outside and waited for the others. Everyone in Silas’ unit lived under the same roof owned by Eldridge Farouk. They shared a kitchen and bathrooms, but had separate bedrooms. That night, the air was cool and the rain had ceased. Five minutes later, they were all stood together on the pavement next to their house, conversing quietly.

“Last night we took out the town square. Tonight, I think we should take the back alleys.” Silas said in a hushed voice.

“Why?” Cedric asked, one hand on a rapier at his side.

“Because the Cracks use the main roads less and less. The only way we’re going to keep up with the body count each night is if we start diverting away from the main roads.”

Fyn raised his hand to speak, “Won’t that be more dangerous? I mean….there’s less room to swing a sword in the back alleys.”

Silas nodded in agreement, “That’s why we’ll split off in pairs. Everyone partner up and decide on a route to take. Make sure it’s within a mile of the town square; we don’t want to drift too far apart.”

The group split off into pairs. Fyn with Cedric, Wesley with a tall man named Bruce. The two twins Madison and Mason went in a pair, which left Kenja and Silas. Their unit may seem small, but each BodyBringer unit was made up of eight people. Silas and his unit wouldn’t be the only ones out hunting monsters tonight.

Silas and Kenja decided to go north of the town square. After saying their farewells and checking the walkies were working, they left the rest of the group and walked off on their own. Kenja slipped her hand into Silas’ as they walked.

“Well this is nice,” she said, “having alone time together.”

Silas chuckled, “Don’t think too much of it. You’ll have to wait until we return before you can have your fun.”

Kenja squeezed his hand. Silas was never too sure what to make of their relationship. They weren’t dating, and Silas wasn’t even sure if she would want to. If he ever mentioned it, he imagined that Kenja would just laugh and say of course we’re not dating, silly. But walking down the pavement, her tiny hand in his, he felt a kind of satisfaction, and for one moment hoped she wouldn’t let go.

“Are you okay?” Asked Kenja, filling the silence. Silas nodded, one hand always hovering near the holster at his hip. Once they were off the main road, the silence became less comfortable and more tense. Their hands drifted closer to their weapons, and the walls of the alleyways became closer.

“Don’t you think it’s strange?” Kenja asked.

“What is?”

“It’s been almost an hour and we haven’t come across any Cracks,” she said, “what if they know we’re coming?”

Silas smiled down at her, “And how would they know that we’re coming?”

Kenja shrugged, “They’re smart.”

All of a sudden, there came a high pitch screeching noise ahead of them. Kenja and Silas covered their ears, pressing their backs against the walls.

“What is that?” Silas whispered.

Kenja didn’t reply.

Silas looked at her and smiled, glad they’d finally found something to take back to the manor house, Kenja holding her sword and Silas holding his gun. Their footsteps were almost silent on the cobblestones, but Silas could hear his pulse racing. He wasn’t scared of killing, but he had never heard a noise like that before.

They turned the corner, weapons ready to kill, and Kenja’s jaw dropped at the sight. It was unlike anything they had ever seen. Its skin was dark as the night that enveloped the city, and it’s nails were the same colour, long and pointed and deadly sharp. Its body was draped in what looked like the remnants of clothing that had been charred in a house fire, and its feet were bare. But the thing that threw them off the most was its face. No eyes, no ears, no nose. Only a wide set of jaws that went from the chin to the crown, filled with rows upon rows of jagged teeth. Silas looked at Kenja, and she looked at him back.

What was this creature?

Before they could react, the creature turned towards them, it’s head cocked to one side as if it were contemplating them. But it had no eyes, no ears, no nose…how could it possibly know they were there? As if it read his thoughts, the creature took a few steps towards them. It walked slowly, with its hands out in front of it as if it were trying to feel for them. Kenja grabbed Silas’ hand, and just as she was about to talk, the creature ran at them.

“RUN!” Kenja yelled, pulling Silas around the corner behind her.

Shit, shit, shit, shit.                                                                                                                      

Silas’ blood rushed in his ears and his feet pounded on the ground as Kenja dragged him forwards. He could hear the creature behind them, and could sense the joy it would take in ripping them apart and eating them for its next meal.

They were still running through the back alleys, turning corners and then turning some more until even Silas didn’t recognise where they were. It didn’t seem to matter how far or how fast they were running, because the creature was still behind them, saliva dripping out of its open jaws.

They turned another corner, and Silas swore under his breath.

They were at a dead end.

Silas turned to Kenja, who paled when she was there was no way out. The creature was stood at the end of the alley, as if it were feeding on their fear until it finally decided to kill them. Silas ran to the end of the alley, cursing himself for being so stupid to take the back alleys and hating himself that he put Kenja in danger, but then he halted. There was a cluster of bins at the end of the alley, and about that, a windowsill. A wave of joy washed over Silas, and he turned to Kenja, but she was gone.

Gone, just like the creature.

“Kenja?” Silas whispered, as if saying her name would bring her back.

He said it louder this time, “Kenja?”

There was no answer. Panic flooded through his blood, and his fingers went to the walkie latched to his belt.

“Is anybody receiving?” He demanded. Silas waited a minute, and then finally heard a crackle from the walkie.

“We’re here,” it was Cedric, “but there is some crazy shit going down-“

“Kenja’s missing,” Silas cut him off, “We need to regroup now.”

“But-“

“I said now! Meet in the town square.”

With that, Silas took off. He was shaking, and it was so hard to keep his legs moving as he tried so desperately to navigate his way around the back alleys. Kenja was gone. The creature probably took her, probably killed her, leaving her body for Silas to find.

No. Don’t think like that.  

Silas reached the town square in no time at all. When he arrived, Cedric was waiting along with Fyn, Bruce and Madison. But there were no others.

“Where is everyone?” Demanded Silas as he approached the group. As he got closer, he saw the state that they were all in. Cedric was covered head to toe in blood, and Silas couldn’t tell how much was his and how much was from somebody else. Fyn was also bloodied, as was Bruce, and Madison clutched a piece of cloth to her leg as she leant against Bruce. Something bad was happening.

“There was an attack,” Fyn said, “but these weren’t Cracks.”

Silas rubbed his temples and exhaled, “I know.”

Suddenly, everybody started talking at once. What were those things? Where did they come from? Where’s Kenja?

“All we know is that Kenja is gone, and we need to find her. We don’t know what those things were, or where they come from or how dangerous they are, but we need to find Kenja.” Silas said.

Everybody turned to Silas and nodded solemnly in agreement.

“Where do we start?” Asked Fyn, drawing out a sword from the sheath at his side. It was covered in slick black blood.

Cedric spoke, “Well, whatever those things were, we know that there is more than one. That could mean that they hunt together, just like the Cracks.”

“Go on.” Silas urged.

“Well…the Cracks hunt in herds of about a dozen. From what we know about the others, they seem to do the same. None of us were too far away from each other, which leads me to believe that they still hunt in herds, just not as closely.”

Now, from what we know about Cracks as a whole, we’ve deduced that they live in herds too. We’ve never found where they live, obviously, but from the way they hunt together its logical to say that they live together too.”

“So what you’re saying is that we need to find where they live? Cedric, we’ve been trying to do that for years…” Fyn said, a crease appearing between his brow.

“You want to find Kenja? Find the nest of the others. Unless anybody can think of any other logical place Kenja would be?” Cedric questioned, waiting for somebody to suggest something better. When nobody did, Silas turned to him.

“Okay, so where do you propose we start?” he asked.

“If you wanted to hide someone, where would you take them?” Cedric retaliated.  

Silas shook his head, thinking. When he couldn’t think of an answer, Cedric spoke again.

“Let me change the question then. Where haven’t we searched?”

Bruce was the first to answer, “The sewers.”

Just like that, they were off. Silas walked with Fyn in front of the rest of the group, silence enveloping around them.

“Do you think we’re going to find her?” Asked Fyn in a hushed tone.

Silas shrugged sadly, “I hope so.”

There were many entrances to the sewers in Shalom, and the first one they came upon was on the outskirts of the town square. A small hole was carved out of the cobblestones, and a copper circle was placed on top of it. On the circle was the engraving of Shalom: a diamond within a circle, symbolising the wealth of the city. Then through the diamond, a singular line, symbolising that wealth does not end with the rich.

The group formed a circle around the entrance, and Madison was the first to speak, “Are we sure about this?”

Silas nodded, “Unless you have a better plan?”

Madison pursed her lips and tied the piece of cloth she held around her leg tightly, trying to stem the bleeding. They were all covered in so much blood that Silas could hardly tell how much belonged to them and how much belonged to the others.

“Help me lift this up,” Silas said, bending down to the copper circle and hooking his fingers around the edge. The others following, and on three they lifted it and placed it next to the entrance to the sewers. The stench wafted out, and Silas wrinkled his nose in disgust.

“Let’s go and find Kenja,” said Fyn.

Silas swung his legs over the entrance hole and grasped ahold of the ladder that led down to the sewers. With one last look up at everyone, Silas stepped down onto the second rung, lowering himself into the abyss below.

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