Will Durmer woke up in a wreckage of a house, covered in the blood of his father.
Later, he would come to believe that he’d died in that house along with his family, and that everything he’d done afterward was as much an attempt to bring himself back to life as it was a quest of revenge. From the moment he opened his eyes, halfway down the concrete basement stairs, blinking in the dimness, he was conscious of an absence. He knew he was alive, and that everyone he’d ever loved had died in the most horrific ways imaginable, and yet when he looked inside himself there was nothing but a gap where grief and fear should have been.
He tried to roll over onto all fours and ended up sliding painfully down the last few stairs onto the cold floor of the basement, where he lay groaning for a few minutes, processing a thousand aches. When he was sure he hadn’t been seriously injured, he pulled himself to his feet with the aid of his father’s sturdy work table.
The memories were all there, fresh in his mind, and as he made his way up the stairs on shaky legs they reared their misshapen heads: His father, screaming while an enormous beast scooped intestines into its shark mouth. His sister looking up at him from beside the fireplace and smiling, just a minute before everything happened. Smashing a spidery creature into the carpet with a broken table leg. He shook his head clear and moved on.
Most of his father was gone, but what was left was scattered liberally on the topmost stairs, and he had to repress the urge to vomit as he navigated them. A shallow cup of smashed skull here, pink worms of chewed intestine there. The concrete was slippery with thick congealing blood, and he almost lost his footing twice.
He paused on the threshold of the kitchen, eyes moving from the splintered dining table to the broken window in the living room. Broken wood and glass covered the floor; the only thing intact was his sister, lying across the counter, pale and lifeless but otherwise uninjured. One slender arm dangled over the side, and he took hold of her icy hand and pulled, wondering at the weight of such a small girl. He dragged her over the debris to the freezer, an industrial beast his father had bought to stockpile meat, milk and bread, and heaved her into it. If he couldn’t save her, at least he could preserve her. Later, when the truth of everything sunk in, maybe he could look at her peaceful face and be reassured.
He wandered through the wreckage of his house like a zombie, and when he arrived upstairs in front of the bathroom mirror, he couldn’t deny that he looked the part. The expression beneath his blood and dust covered face was empty of emotion. It reflected exactly how he felt inside.
I should kill myself before it hits me. The thought came from nowhere, but took on an urgency as soon as it entered his mind. What else could he do? He had no one and nothing, and everything he loved was dead. Once the shock wore off, he’d be consumed in a hurricane of grief and despair. Even if he didn’t lose his sanity completely, the world would think he had when he told them what really happened. Monsters weren’t supposed to be real. They’ll think you’re the monster.
He thrust his hand palm first into the mirror cabinet, shattering it and making large shards rain down into the basin. The cuts in his hand were so deep it took a few moments for the blood to well to the surface. The pain was there, but detached, as though he were only loosely connected to his own body. A hundred unblinking eyes watched him from the pieces of broken mirror.
It’s coming. I can feel the truth coming to get me. It was like standing on a beach and watching all the water drain out to sea, a mountainous tsunami rising up in the distance. Far, far away, hardly seeming to move.
He reached into the basin with his bloody hand and took hold of the largest triangular shard. He raised the point to his throat and pressed it to his jugular, applying pressure slowly but surely. It was strange, but he was almost looking forward to the coming minutes, warm blood pumping out of him with each beat of his heart, the strength leaking from his body, getting cold and sleepy. It would be so pleasant then, to just close his eyes and pass out, knowing he’d escaped the pain forever.
Then a voice – soft, scratchy, and definitely not human, spoke from just behind him: ‘Please don’t do that, little boy.’ And a row of long black fingers with silver claws came to rest on his shoulder.