Green’s Grocery

Greens Grocery sat on the outskirts of a cluster of small villages in Waterloo township. An essential business supplying the township with canned goods, perishables and liquor. At least, that’s what Frank Green always assumed. Frank had, for forty years, thought of himself as an essential worker. If Frank ain’t working the township ain’t running.

Six months to the day, the township stopped working. People stopped coming into the store. Frank knew why, he saw it on the news when the drugs stopped working.
For years, the country had been abusing a drug called Inferno, an antipsychotic but tweaked on the streets to become the last, greatest craze. Antipsychotic became psychotic and people that used it began dying. To counter Inferno, the pharmaceuticals created a new drug. This drug resuscitated the users but eventually drove them further into a psychological rabbit hole. Several corrections later and we have an epidemic world wide.
“A god-damn zombie apocalypse,” quoted some medical expert on the morning news.

Frank donned a red shirt, tie and slacks. He walked down the steps from the apartment above to the store for another uneventful day. He entered the warehouse in the rear of the store and spent the next hour and a half preparing what he had left to be displayed in the aisles.
Paper goods were still plentiful. Frank’s stacked a couple boxes of toilet paper, paper towels and napkins in a shopping cart and pushed it to the door. He unlocked the door handle, chain lock and rolled a large red tool box that blocked the door.
Frank pushed the shopping cart to the West end of the store, near the coolers. The coolers had been off for months, along with the lights. frozen foods, milk and meat expired months ago. Frank’s priority was to prepare for the enviable return of civility.

He turned down the last aisle and moved through, past the coolers on the left, then stopped in front of a trio of empty shelves. He placed the paper products on the shelves. When he was done the shelves displayed three packages of toilet paper, towels and napkins and a lot of empty shelf space. 
Frank pushed the cart to the front customer service desk and entered. He dusted the large counter and the shelves beneath it. The cash register drawer was half open and empty of cash. Frank pushed the drawer closed but it reopened. He pushed it closed a second time then cleaned the shelves beneath. He stopped at a poorly built wooden box. He slid it toward the edge of the shelf and opened it. Inside was a revolver and an open box of ammunition. There were no remaining bullets in the ammunition box but Frank knew there were bullets within the revolver. He grabbed the revolver with his left hand, His hand began to shake. Frank opened the cylinder to verify. He found four rounds ready to use. He closed the cylinder and placed the revolver back in the box. He pushed the box toward the back of the shelf and finished dusting.

Frank searched and found a clean rag, a bottle of window cleaner and a step ladder. He walked to the front of the store. The front window was plate glass, fairly thick. Two eight-foot by six-foot tall panes separated by a small strip. Frank placed the ladder on the left-most end and began cleaning from the top down. 

The dirt and grime came free from the inside of the window revealing a parking lot of abandoned cars parked in front of the store. Like an old photograph, a tranquil scene within the center of town. Except, in reality, there was no tranquility. People of the village milled through the street. No one drove any of the vehicles. They milled with no destination. Something to do as they waited to attack anything not sick and brave enough to make an appearance. 
“Living with such rage,” Frank’s thoughts began to surface. “What was it like trapped in a body or were they just insane? Did they have any conscious thought? 
Frank caught himself staring out the window at a gentlemen in a three piece suit walking slowly past the broken window of Town Bar. The gentleman dressed to kill, clearly a visitor to Waterloo at some point. Maybe a groomsman at a wedding within the township hall. The gentleman passed the broken window of Town Bar, staring forward. A woman approached from the right. Staring forward and oblivious. The man in the three piece suit walking from the left. Eventually they met in the center of Frank’s view. The expected human behavior being to politely move but these two smashed into each other and became a mangled mess. Both managed to stay on their feet, by some miracle, freed them selves, then moved on. No apology, no angry glances. Just acceptance of anything that was… oh well.

“No piss’n and moan’n all the time. Oh I didn’t get my donut with my coffee,” Frank says in a mocking tone. 
The window was half clean when a metallic crash, somewhere in the rear of the store, startled Frank. Frank fell into the window with a thud but the thick glass held.

The act of falling into the window and the noise it created frightened Frank more then the thought of what could possibly be in the back. He settled the ladder and stood near the top. His left hand still on the plate glass. The crowd outside began to become more animated, as if someone had shouted “Help!” and they all wanted to help. They began to search for the source of the noise. Their interest peaked Frank knew he had to be extra cautious to not confirm his location with another noise.
“ I haven’t been hear this long and safe to lose it now,” he mumbled.

Frank heard some of the boxed stock being tossed within the warehouse. He cursed in a whisper. 
“If it’s Gary,” he said. “I’m going to lose it. I told him to stay in that room.” 

“He never listens…”

Another crash, followed by several additional crashes, prompted Frank to stumble from the ladder. The ladder stuck the front window. 
Frank watched as a hairline fracture spread out from the impact. Outside the window, the infected took notice and began to inspect the front of the grocery.

Blind, the infected, listened for additional evidence. They milled around the front of the store occasionally slapping the glass to prompt a response from any unfortunate frightened creature.

Frank wasn’t frightened, he was pissed. His perfectly manicured situation was in danger.
He was going to rectify this and take it out of Gary’s ass.

The split/the rift

The street was wet and the air smelled like rain. It was the middle of the night and the residents of this small suburb were asleep.

A small white orb floated in chaotic circles till settling above the suburban street. The orb sat motionless for several moments. Stretched downward in a vertical line, illuminating the street and homes on either side of it. A man stepped from the light and onto the street. He sniffed the air, determined the rain would not be a bother, and tossed his large coat back into the light.

The man stood and took in the scene. The monochromatic homes lined up on both sides of the street but one stood out. The man smiled and stepped toward the home. The man stepped under a street lamp within a disc of light spilled across the ground. His face was scarred and burned. His eyes red from lack of sleep. He pulled a glowing sword from a leather sheath on his left side. The sword hung from his hand, pointed downward. He followed a blue aura pulsating from the bedroom. He stopped, for a moment, at the outside wall then floated through.

Appearing within the bedroom he searched for the origin of the blue aura. Two humans lay in a queen-sized bed but the aura floated up from behind the bed. He stepped around the bed and found a small dog sleeping. The aura floating from its body.

The man grumbled, his scarred face dripped with disappointment.

“Barely enough to heal a broken fingernail,” he growled. “Two perfectly delicious human subject, not damn ready.”

He grasp the sword, approached the dying creature and cut him from neck to rear. He reached into the body and yanked a glowing blue seed from beside the heart. Staring at the two humans, sleeping and unaware, the man swallowed the seed. The redness left his eyes. The light from his hands increased in intensity. The man grunted as the soul of the animal meshed with the many already within.

The human man woke and shook the sleep from his eyes, followed by the woman. The human man sat up and browsed the room but it was dark.

“What’s going on,” said the woman.

“I don’t know, a light woke me. Maybe lightning… not sure.”

“That’s weird,” said the woman.

“It is,” the man agreed, swung his feet over the edge of the bed and set them down. He recoiled as moisture soaked his naked toes. He flipped the light on and gasp at the sight of his tortured dog.

The man reappeared outside, beside the tear of light over the drive, and stepped inside. He bent over, recovered his coat and disappeared, taking the light with him.

So many things going on. Such anger, so completely obvious and in your face. It’s too much. I miss the days when we were limited to the 6:00 news and maybe a rumor that the neighbors lost their dog and we had to help find him. I grew up afraid of a few logical things. Strangers, drunk drivers and dogs. Now we all talk and spread fear through social media. We spread all our anxiety and nutty ideas. Others agree and spread it. Soon it’s posted in 24 hour news cycle and posted 50 times a day as true.

I need to escape into my world of storytelling but what story do I tell? Relevant to the world around me or making something up. I am building a world of taur creatures in my art world at www.brokenstick.com. Can connect these worlds?

There is an artist connected to a great show called Tales from the Loop. Where Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag brings his artwork to life. It’s amazing to see his work on the screen. Simon attaches a story to his work. I would love to do the same but all the work I have up to now lives in semi-separate worlds.

It’s certainly on my mind and as I move through this new (minus City of Zombie) world it will effect it.

The Minotaurs

So, this starts my new attempt to write everyday. It’s partially free writing with minimal edits. I want to get words on screen. It will not be eloquent or perfect but hope it will be fun.

I just happen to be doing it in the bathroom of the church next to my house.

There is a story in this situation I am currently in… huge… well maybe not huge. What happened you ask?

First, I should mention that we are Minotaur. Huge bi-pedal creatures with bovine heads. Big muscular thighs to hold our oversized heads. (Just to note something irrelevant) The women are larger then the men, so imagine my fright when she stormed into the bathroom when I was brushing my facial hair.

“Daniel,” she boomed. “Who is this?”

She thrust the picture of a very attractive cow in my face. She had a thick brown color with strips of black along the right-side of her face.

I stepped back and fell into the toilet. The poor ceramic thing burst with my sudden weight… but wait there’s more…

She laughed. A riotous laughter. She thought frightening me was the funniest thing. That was until I skillfully trip her causing her to tumble into the sink and the tub.

So, now I type this from a strangers toilet

Jacob and Michael- The next part – part 4

The beginnings of a trap emerge. The room constricted as a pair of zombies approached. One on the right and the other near the center of the room. The two remaining zombies negotiated a pile of bedding in the doorway.

“Bust the window!” Jacob shouted.

“No way, it will attract more from outside. We will never make it through without being mauled,” Michael replied.

Michael peered out the window, into the darkness.

“I can’t see a damn thing.”

“Smash it!” Jacob insisted. He approached the zombie in the center of the room with the bat. He swung and struck the creature in the chest. It heaved a breath. It stumbled, stood for a moment then continued forward. Jacob swung a second time hitting the creature’s shoulder. The bat fell. Jacob’s hands shook.

Michael tapped the window with his own bat putting a small hole in the center of the lower pain. A second tap shattered the rest of the glass. Michael pushed out the outside screen and stuck his head out the window. A pair of arms wrapped themself around Michael’s waist and he took in a panicked breath. Pulled from the window Michael turned and shoved Jacob into the opposite wall. Jacob tumbled into the wall, stuck it and slide to the floor.

“Dude.. no!” Michael warned.

Jacob gasp then replied, “Ass… look.”

Michael turned to find a pair of swollen hands grabbing at the meal that was in the window for a moment.

“Damn…” Michael grumbled. “Frickn monsters. Five years Jacob! We have been in this crap five years. Monster invasion in New York City and now were are all in the soup. Brother…”. He said to Jacob. “We are done.”

Micheal squared up in front of a zombie. He swung at his face and stuck the zombie. It’s face twisted, the zombie didn’t hesitate and stepped forward.

Jacob stood and prepared to attack the other zombie but his bat lay on the floor beside the creature.

Michael swung again and his zombie fell. He banged the gore-covered bat on the floor. Moved to face zombie two, Michael swung and the bat became twisted in the rubbery arms of the reaching zombie. Michael watched the bat cartwheel into the wall. The zombie’s arms fell to its side at the elbow. It moved forward as if it hadn’t just walked into an aluminum fan.

“What the hell, dude?” Jacob grumbled.

“Hey, you did it first.”

“Now what!”

“We go melee,” Michael said as his took a boxer stance.

“Like your cleric… what was it’s name Wisconsin. Remember that melee?” Jacob asked.

“This is not a remember D&D moment Jacob!” Michael warned, paused then laughed.

“Wisconsin was a good character name.”

Both men laughed then stood firm waiting for the inevitable.

Neither knew how to fight outside of an occasional scuffle. They managed to scrap out some life within the City of Monsters.

Terrordactyl

“Dad, are you sure this is a good idea.”  Janice shouts from the back seat of the old Escort.

“Hey, hey.. enough shouting already.  Little car big ears remember?”  Darrin replied as he grabbed his right ear.

“Why do you have such big ears?”  A smaller version of Janice asked.

Tracy chuckled then swallowed hard.  She turned and faced the two young girls in the back seat.  “There is a kinder way to ask that Sarah.  You are so blunt…”

“Hold up…” Darrin began, “…you may want to turn around.”

Parked on the side of the road was a rusty old truck, with the hood open.  A pair of blue-jeaned legs, waist and shirt were visible but the rest of the man was out of sight.

“Looks like he is having car trouble.”

“You’re not going to help him are you?”  Tracy asked.

“It’s dangerous to be out here too long.  If I can help I would like too.”

“But Darrin… there are Pterodactyl outside.  They are always hungry and pick people up all the time.”

“..but..” Darrin protested and slowed as they approached.

The man stepped from the truck.  He had a full beard, orange and grey with age.  His hair was thin and his hands were dirty.  He began to flag them down.

Darrin slowed to a stop looked behind and saw no traffic.  On the right was a row of trees and the left was a field of half-grown corn.  Above the field he could see a pair of Pterodactyl circling.  These large reptiles were at least five hundred feet away.

“What’s going on with the truck,” Darrin asked as the older man approached.

“Well, I lost a belt… I think.  I’ve been here all day.  Do you have a splash of water?”

“Sure.. sure,” Darrin turns toward the back to ask the girls for a bottle of water.  The older man pulls a knife from his pocket.  With a single motion he opens the car door and wraps the knife around Darrin’s neck.  Tracy, strapped into the passenger seat, grabs the man’s hand and wrist and pulls long enough to allow Darrin to push the knife into the steering wheel.  Darrin punches the underside of the elbow causing the knife to fall to the car floor.  He then shoves the older man onto the street.

Darrin unbuckles his seatbelt and steps outside.  He kicks the man in the gut and tries to shove him out of the way.  The man fights back and sweeps a leg causing Darrin to stumble.  Tracy unbuckles and closes the driver’s door.  She then steps out of the car.

“Get back in the car,” Darrin shouts.

“No, I’m going to help.”

“I got this,” Darrin said as he grabbed the man’s legs and dragged him toward the culvert on the opposite side of the road.  The man struggled to free himself as Darrin watched Tracy from the corner of his eye.  He watched as she walked toward the back of the car.  He knew she was looking for the rifle.

Determined to control the situation, Darrin threw the man’s legs toward the culvert and waited for the weight of his body to take him.  Tracy opened the truck and fished for the rifle.

“My wife is going to shoot you.  Stay still and you might live.  We just want to pass.  We are heading to Ohio.  I was being nice and you just pissed that away.”

The man lay still.  His orange-grey beard flecked with dirt.  Darrin could feel the growl before the man showed it.

“Don’t you move,” Darrin warned.  Tracy inched closer with the rifle.  He caught sight of his children plastered to the inside of the closed car windows.  His youngest daughter had climbed into the front seat.

“Damn,” he thought as he ran through a scenario of running and driving away.  “Tracy would have to get in plus Sarah in the way…”

Tracy stepped forward.  The rifle sits just below her shoulder.  Her right eye zeroed in.

“We are going to walk away,” Darrin stated as both he and Tracy stepped back.

Darrin could hear a banging from behind him.  He tried to ignore it.  “Kids,” he thought.

He turned to see them pointing upward.

Circling above him were the giant predatory reptiles.  The large pointed heads and leather wings left a massive shadow that circled both cars.

“Tracy!”

Tracy and Darrin ran for the car.  Darrin watched as Tracy disappeared behind the car.  The old man punched him in the kidney.  The pain sent him into the side of the car.  The girls screamed.

The fright shot up Darrin’s back.  The thought of a crazed man free to kill his children.

The pain disappeared and Darrin turned.  He forced his right fist into the man’s jaw.  Tracy fired a shot at the same time but it missed.  Darrin opened the driver’s door as the man stumbled backward.  He sat inside, shoving Sarah into the center of the seat.  Her small leg pinned underneath him.  Tracy placed the rifle onto the back seat and sat in the passenger seat.  She wrestled with Sarah’s legs as Darrin tried to put the car in gear and sit up at the same time.  The old man banged on the driver’s door, trying to bust it.  Darrin barely clears the old man’s truck when he realizes the man has a pistol.  He used it to bang on the window but now he is standing alone behind the Escort.  His front foot set and the pistol pointed at them.

“Get your heads down!”  Darrin yelled.

Tense and ready for the explosion Darrin drove around the truck with his head down as much as possible.  A large shadow hovered over him for moments then disappeared.  The explosion of gunfire never stuck the fragile glass of the Escort.  Darrin looked into the rearview mirror to see the thin leather back of a Pterodactyl pecking away at something lying in the road.  He slowed the car then turn to get a better look.  The two girls followed his lead and squealed in disgust.

Yanfis – Darkness series

The small brick and mortar building in Yanfis withstood a downpour as the rain fell hard.  Dontarious covered his face as Angel disappeared into a small building.  He followed.

The rain was a dim fraction of the noise within this room.  It was full of creatures Dontarious could name from fantasy and mythology.  He saw a couple elves.  The ears extending over their bald, round heads, as they stood at a counter.  A long counter sat on the end of a spacious room.  On top of the counter were stacked glasses.  Behind the counter were several shelves containing glass bottles.  Behind the bar was a strange, snake-like creature that hissed when it spoke.  This creature, green and full of scales, had a pair of human arms and hands and a human-isk face.

“Are you going to move,” someone shouted.  Dontarious turned to see the pale face and extended canines of a vampire.  The quintessential bad guy in any action fantasy he had seen once when he was still on Earth proper.

“You can’t stand in front of the door.  Human, you’re lucky I like this place and have to be invited or you would be a crumpled mass of skin and bone by now.

Dontarious stepped back and looked for Angel.  He found him, with his wings behind his back and pushing through the crowd of noise.  Near the left side of the room several other harpies stood talking.

“He is the only guide I have to this world,” Dontarious told himself and pushed through the crowd of colorful creatures.

“Ah, here he is!”  Angel shouted as Dontarious approached.

“You are hanging with a human, Angel… disgusting,” this harpy wore a Cincinnati Reds baseball can over platinum blond hair.  He looked to be nineteen years old or younger.  His wings were smaller than the rest.

“Angel, we don’t want him around here.”

“Wait,” Angel said addressing the largest of the harpies.  An older looking birdman with greying hair and skin folded under his eyes.  “Christoff, the human can help us with the operation.  If you hear what I’m saying.”

The older harpie stood.  He flexed his wings and shook his head violently.  “How can this small human help us?”

Angel had an answer prepared, “he hopped the Spirit of the Dead from the world above.”

The harpies all gasp at the same time.

Lament of a SuperVillan

Freewriting lament..

Erik, the Terrible paced the grounds.  His minions, despicable characters that complimented the super villain, wandered nervously waiting for the man to make a decision.

“Every time,” Erik shouted.  “Every time I do anything this man… Super-something flies in and stops me.”

“His name is SuperAlan.”  A large man, dressed in black says as he paces alongside the supervillain.

Erik stopped, “SuperAlan?  Are you serious?  Alan?”

The large man stopped and stood.  He shook, fear erupted within him.  He took in a breath.  “I read it in the paper.  The Daily Digest.  They called him SuperAlan.”

“You can’t call him SuperAlan,” Erik advised.

“What do you want me to call him,” the man replied.

“I don’t know.  Just make something up… just not SuperAlan.”

The big man thought for several moments as Erik continued to pace.

“So to finance my new evil plan I will need to have a Nuclear submarine in my arsenal.  I can alter it to take out Super…”

“Have you came up with a name yet?”  He shouted.
The big man jumped.

“Yes, sir.  Super Pancake.”

Erik stopped walking immediately and turned on his heels.  A smile stuck on the dirty, usually sour face.

The big man returned the smile but was very cautious.  Any sort of emotional response could be interpreted badly and the man could end up at the end of a bullet.

Erik, the Terrible was the only employer in the area for a man that spend most of his youth in jail.  Assault, murder and a bunch of unsavory connections.  Those connections are what got him this job.  This job is not something you get fired from.  The smallest indication of disrespect will get you killed.

Erik, the Terrible felt the smile upon his face.  He rubbed the corners of his mouth and the muscles that pulled them upward.

Suddenly, the supervillain laughed.  He did more than that… he roared.  This roar was followed by an uneasy response by everyone in the room.  A forced reply to a presumed joke.

As spontaneously as the laughter started it stopped and everyone, outside of Erik and the big man continued working.

The big man stared at Erik as the supervillain started back.

Erik laughed again.  A short escape of glee.

“This is why I keep you around.  What’s your name again?  I can not ever remember.”

The big man began to speak… but Erik spoke over him.

“Funny, SuperPancake.. that is so funny.”

He then walked away while Patrick stood alone.

A to Z Chupacabra- Part 3

“What are we going to do?  This creature will not let me move,” Gabriel shouted.

“His name is Diablo,” Oscar inserted.  “He a chupacabra.  Not sure how it appeared here. I dream’t about it.”

The backdoors opened.  The driver of the ambulance disappeared from the front seat and shouted at the others to close the door.

Gabriel watched the dark leather folds around Diablo’s dog-like shoulders twitch as it shifted its weight to it’s thin front legs.  Diablo bared its long front canines and walked slowly toward the hospital receiving crew.

“A chupa… what.  Isn’t that a… All I know,” Gabriel began.  He recalled faint memories of a dog-like tale but the creature leap forward.  He shouted at the chupacabra.  He tried to distract the monster.  It was all he could do.  Outside the ambulance several nurses stood staring at the starved, leather creature.  A large, male nurse approached.

“Dude, that is not a good idea,” Gabriel warned then began to swing his arms and taunt the creature.  Anything to distract him.  “Hey!  You! Leatherface!  Oscar, do something.  It listens to you.”

Oscar yelled at the chupacabra and it paused.  It looked back at the officer lying in the gurney then at Gabriel. It’s lip curled up revealing a long, curved, sharp tooth followed by dozens of smaller pointed teeth.  Diablo crept toward Gabriel.  The male nurse stepped forward and Diablo leapt from the back of the ambulance.  Diablo fell into the male nurse, knocking him to the ground.  The animal cleared it’s head and approached the nurse.  The others in the hospital receiving crew left and hide within the doors of the hospital.  They were joined by an audience of patience and panic.

The chupacabra walked slowly, measuring his victim, accessing the soft tissues and then clamped down on his neck.  The nurse let out a garbled scream as the audience behind the hospital doors gasp.  Diablo held the man’s neck in a vise grip till the man stopped moving then released.  The chupacabra sniffed at the blood falling from the nurse’s neck then began to lick up the crimson mess.  Gabriel watched from the ambulance.  He then noticed the black onyx sitting in a small recess next to the door.  Light from the floods above the hospital awning reflected of the stone and Gabriel could see movement within the stone.  He approached the stone carefully, watching and trying to interrupt the opera playing out within it.

It was difficult to make out but as Gabriel got closer he could see a couple dancing then the light washed away the scene.  The next scene displayed an animal but it was too difficult to make out the shapes.  Gabriel stood above the stone, the world outside of the scenes were washing away when he was snapped back to reality.

Diablo stood a foot from him.  His teeth exposed and growl angry.  The chupacabra barked.  The percussion filled Gabriel’s ears with pain.  Gabriel looked at the stone.  It’s mystery overwhelming then the beast protecting it.  The last thing he remembered was reaching and then the world went black.

 

The View

The pungent smell of death was everywhere.  It burned your nose, not like a flame but like a punch to your brain.  The view, outside the garage, was unreal.  Neighbors standing in the corner of the yard staring at nothing.  Body parts dangling from gnawed bones.  Others following the leader beside the privacy fence in the back yard.

“We can head into my house,” Jacob offered.

“No Sharon is in there and Barbara.”

Jacob took in a deep breath in all the commotion yesterday he had forgot that his wife Barbara had been the first to fall.  They were less than a foot from the exit when Michael’s wife Sharon was ripped from his arms.

“Oh god,” Jacob almost fell to his knees and stepped back into the garage.

“You are not dying in that garage by yourself,” Michael whispered.  “I am not going back in there.  Are you going to follow me or not?”

Jacob looked at his friend.  In two days Michael’s face had aged twenty years.  His blue eyes hidden within the swelling of a black eye and lack of sleep.

“What the hell you looking at?  Let’s go.”

Jacob followed Michael from the garage.  They leapt over to the house and followed the outside wall.  At the first window Jacob stopped and looked inside.  Michael continued to the next window.

She was in there.  Her perfect hair screwed up.  Her face long and drawn down.  Her jaw slack and her arms to her side.  She stood staring at nothing till she saw him in the window.  Something flashed inside her and she began forward.  Jacob felt Michael tug at him but Barbara was coming.

“Maybe she hadn’t been bitten,” he thought.  “Maybe she wasn’t part of this.  Maybe all this will go away with one more look at her.”

“Jacob!”

Michael jerked him to the side just before Barbara appeared at the window.

“Ass!  She was fine,” Jacob shouted then realized what he had done.  He had just alerted ten… maybe twenty infected undead to his location.

Three standing in the driveway woke up suddenly.  Their eyes burst with excitement.  They took one careful step then another.  One of them jolted forward and both men ran toward the front of the house.  They stopped mid-front yard and looked at the view ahead of them.  The population of human corruption stumbling in lines forward and backward.  Lives missing and replaced by a corrosive mental condition called the Darkness.