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Build Me an Empire

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Since that fateful night, nearly a month ago, Noah has felt as if he’s being watched. He always feels like something is watching him. Observing. Waiting.

Waiting for what, Noah didn’t know, but the constant paranoia and inevitable sense of doom made him jittery, twitchy, skittish.

He couldn’t go to sleep. Went as long as he could without, until he finally passed out due to absolute exhaustion into a dreamless sleep. He mostly managed to do so out of sheer spite and pure stubbornness, but that alone couldn’t keep him up indefinitely. He drank ridiculous amounts of coffee and energy drinks to help keep him going. He listened to loud music and had the television blaring at all times. For this, Noah was slightly grateful that he didn’t have neighbours, even if the thought of no one being able to hear him scream was enough to make him nauseous with trepidation and his heart skip a beat.

As he rounded the corner that lead to his house, nervous and watchful of his surroundings, he suddenly felt it. The sense of eyes burning into the back of his skull. Always watchful. Always persistent.

Noah walked faster.

He didn’t know what it was, but it wasn’t a person. He didn’t know what it was, but he was damned sure it wasn’t a mere animal either. This one cold fact was enough to make him break out in cold sweat as he finally spotted his house in the distance. Noah was nearly running by this point.

What he did know was that nothing had ever been the same since that night. Since the fateful encounter all those four weeks and three days ago. After that night, after his near meeting with death, Noah had taken his baseball bat - the one he had since he was fourteen and decided he wanted to be a professional baseball player - out of the closet where it was kept due to his inability to deal with the sense of nostalgia it brought alone, and had it propped against the wall near his bed, always within reach. Just in case.

After a week, he added the nails. Just in case, he thought.

Two weeks in, he bought a crossbow. Just in case, he repeated.

At the third week, he considered buying a gun. Just in case, he insisted.

He bought two the next day.

At the forth week mark, Noah was just coming back from looking at some pickaxes. Just in case, he murmured tiredly to himself. Just in case.

It was a Wednesday (because nothing good ever happens on Wednesdays) and the streets and sidewalks were filled with pedestrians moving in tandem. It looked like a bizarre sort of march to the beat of the town’s symphony. Noah was almost home. He could practically smell the sweet aroma of the orange tree in his front yard.

Forty meters.

As soon as he was home, Noah thought, he’s going to fill the bathtub and take a long, relaxing bath.

Thirty meters.

That would work, Noah thought somewhat hysterically as the burning on the back of his head seemed to somehow intensify the closer he got to his front door, a nice hot bath would be amazing.

He walked faster, trying to keep up appearances and not look like he was seconds away from having a mental breakdown.

Twenty meters.

He was going to turn on every damn light in the house and put the television on max volume. He swore to God, he goddamn would.

Ten meters.

Noah came to a swift and abrupt stop and his breath hitched. There, at the other end of the street. It was there. It wasn’t the monster that he saw four weeks ago, but it was one of the dogs, the ones that turned. He was sure of it. He was. It sat there, lanky and with a dark fur coat. It sat in the middle of the sidewalk and people walked by like it wasn’t even there. Like they couldn’t even see it. But they still moved aside all the same. As if suddenly there was a large blank spot that they decided to just avoid. To walk around. It was eerie, seeing it.

It sat there and watched with its dark beady eyes, waiting.

Noah didn’t know what it was waiting for.

Five meters to home.

Screw appearances, he was getting to safety. Noah sprinted the rest of the way home, almost let his keys fall with the way his hands were shaking. He fumbled with them for a few precious seconds as beads of sweat started to roll down his temple. The resounding click of the door unlocking was like a breath of fresh air as it swung open. Noah stepped inside and quickly slammed the door behind him.

He took a deep breath and tried to stop his heart from beating out of his chest.

Cautiously, Noah took a few steps to the window and peered around the curtains, curious. He swore and quickly whirled around, his back hitting the wall with a sharp bang. Wincing in slight pain, Noah, tried to take another look outside. The light flickers but he takes no notice.

It was there.

It was in front of the house. Staring, seeing, waiting.

It got harder to breathe as Noah tried to take in large gulps of air in his panic. Shit shit shit shit shit. What do I do?! What do I do?!

The gun in his nightstand came to mind. The one in his living room quickly followed. That one would do.

The light bulb hums and flickers again. Growing brighter. And that is when he sees it. There is something strange on the far wall. It looks almost like a spot of black mold. Only it is throbbing ever so slightly, and, slowly but surely...

Spreading.

Before he could take another step, however, the world around him seemed to tilt and twist and swirl. Dark sludge started to bleed in from the corners of the room. The air grew thin and harsh and Noah struggled to take in a lungful of air properly. What seemed like ashes started fluttering all around him, dead petals flapping uselessly in the air in search of purchase. Colours take on a smudged, dirty quality and the light that had been previously seeping in through the blinds was blown out like a lone candle in the wind, throwing everything into darkness.

Thunder rolled in the distance and it made Noah shiver. The dim and unnatural blue glow of the room made the shadows seem larger and the dark sludge that had been previously climbing out of the walls seems to have collapsed and settled onto his living room. The walls, the floors, the ceiling, the furniture. Everything was now coated in these odd vine-like shadows.

It had volume and… it seemed to be moving.

Noah cautiously approached a thick curling vine next to the hall entrance. Steps careful and breath imitating smoke, curling up into the air, from the cold temperature.

He took in a shallow, shuddering breath and inched closer. He could see his breath fogging his view of the shadowy vine, the cold seeping in through his thin shirt and coiling under his skin in an icy embrace.

His heart was beating so loudly he could hear it thundering in his ears as he moved forward, a dissonance of drum beats with his slow steps.

He paused when he was face to face with it. He stared. It wasn’t doing anything. It just… was.

Just as he was turning around to see if he could still find his gun in all of this mess, movement caught the corner of his eye.

Noah froze.

It seemed to shift.

He inhaled sharply, fingers twitching against his palms. His eyes stayed glued on the vine.

It pulsated. And it glowed.

It was… it was alive, Noah realized somewhat dazedly.

He felt his heart seize up as the dark shadow jerked spasmodically, raising slightly from where it was resting against the wall.

Noah stopped breathing. He knew he was staring wide eyed at the apparently living thing that had taken over his living room. He knew that whatever those things were, they were just outside, watching, seeing, waiting. Waiting to rip him to pieces probably. To kill him. Or to make him one of them. Could that be possible? Noah didn’t know.

He had to move. He had to defend himself. He had to… do something. Anything. But the vine was just so mesmerizing. Its glow. So beautiful. So hypnotic. Noah couldn’t look away. He wouldn’t. The glow was everything. He couldn’t ignore it. He couldn’t. He just couldn’t.

So he just stood there.

 

And watched.

 

And watched.

 

And watched.

 

And watched.

 

When they came for him, he was still standing. Watching. And so he watched.

 

And watched.

 

And watched.

 

And watched.

 

When they came for him, he didn’t even scream. He just watched.

 

And watched.

 

And watched.

 

And watched.