Tarnished Hope

By Malloy Garcia

 

The day that those things appeared remains engraved in my memory. The day that the darkness overtook the land and everything changed. Before that day, I was just a simple farmer attempting to survive everyday by doing farm work. Being a farmer in this day and age was hellish and the payoff was practically worthless. The city folk did nothing to support us so we were all on our own. Why Koharu had decided to let us suffer like this was beyond my understanding. However, I had a wife and child to take care of, so I toiled in the fields day after day without end.

That day started off like every other. I had just finished gathering the food for the day and was heading towards the marketplace in the village to sell my the products of my labor. The first thing that tipped me off that something was wrong was that the sky was strangely a dull orange as if it were already dusk. The problem with this was that it should only be around midday. It felt as if an ill omen was approaching, but I continued towards the village with baskets full of produce in my hands. The other villagers did not seem to notice the bizarre occurrence in the sky. Perhaps they simply didn’t care enough to point it out and carried on with their mundane tasks. Stalls selling various wares lined the street, their owners gesturing at passersby to look at their goods and shouting their offers.  I walked up to the stand whose owner was a good friend of mine.

“Ah, Satsume, here to bring the usual?”

“Yes, of course.” I began grabbing vegetables out of my basket and placed them on the stall. The thought of the sky floated around in my head and I was curious as to if my friend saw it too, so I blurted out, “ Say, have you noticed the sky? Something doesn’t seem right .” I gestured towards the orange sky.

He picked up one of my fruits and looked up at the sky which had already turned a darker shade of orange.

“I’m inclined to agree with you.Something is strange. What do you think caused it?”

“I’m not sure, but whatever is messing with the skies is an ill omen for sure.”

“Yes, that is true. Hopefully the gods watch over us and protect us from ha-”

The shopkeeper was cut off by the sound of somebody screaming. Everyone in the nearby vicinity looked in the direction of the scream. As I turned my head, I saw something fly out from the window of a house. It spun through the air and tumbled around in the dirt before coming to a stop. I stepped away from the stand and towards the object to get a closer look, to confirm that it wasn’t what I thought it was. To my horror, my suspicions were confirmed true. It was a human body, or rather a mangled corpse, as a good chunk of its torso was now missing and its insides were now spilling out, creating a pile of blood. I resisted the urge to throw up and quickly looked away only for my eyes to meet it. This was the first time I saw one of those beasts.

Whatever that thing was, it resembled one of the many sheep I tended to, except it was larger . Its fur was a dark gray and had sharp ears. The thing that unnerved me the most was the face of this thing. The skin on its head was practically falling off revealing the white bones of its skull. In place of its eyes there were just two empty dark holes. It had its mouth agape revealing bloodstained sharp teeth. As the beast began to lock onto me, I felt my skin crawl and slowly began to back away from it. I could sense its bloodlust and did not wish to be its food. The beast let out a ear-piercing shriek and I pressed up hands against my ears. It started to run towards me. My eyes widened as fear immediately kicked in. I abruptly turned around and ran from that thing as fast as I could.

It became apparent that something was wrong as there was more screaming and more of that god forsaken screeching filling the air. How many of those things were running around? The village was in chaos. One thought rushed into my head as I saw that the beast lost track of me. I had to find out if my family was okay.

 

It has been a week I believe since I have barricaded myself within my own home. I laid against the wall staring at the front door to my home, continuously dreading that something could tear it down at any second. For whatever reason, the monsters had not broken down my door even though they were more than able to. Perhaps they had decided to take mercy on me and spare my life. No, ridiculous, there’s no way that those things are capable of intelligent thought like that.  

  The sky has remained in a perpetual state of darkness ever since those beasts showed up. The area had become much more quiet after the first night. I came to the conclusion that the reason was due to everyone being killed. I didn’t dare go outside to look for survivors because I knew that they were still out there. Those monsters. I could hear them. Shuffling around outside. I could’ve sworn I even heard them talking, whispering things. What were they? What did they want? I was terrified to say the least. But I did not have the courage to do anything about their presence so I had spent the past few days shuffling  within the darkness of my house, completely helpless to do anything about my situation.

On top of all of this, something was wrong with my body. I seemed to have contracted some sort of illness that I believed was due to all of these bizarre events that were happening.. I started noticing it two days after I had barricaded myself. I started to feel sick to my stomach and my body started to feel very weak. It became very exhausting to move so I just spent most of the days leaning against a wall. On top of that, patches of my skin had started to turn purple as if they were bruised. I had started to have massive headaches. At times they had started to become unbearable almost as if something was boring into my head. Whatever this sickness was, it was making things even more difficult than it already was. I hoped that these symptoms weren’t fatal. I didn’t want to die here.

“Daddy?”

I looked to my side and saw my daughter. She still looked like she did before all this happened with her white dress and clean combed hair. She looked up at me with confused innocent eyes.

“What’s wrong Daddy?” she asked me.

“N-nothing dear. I was just spacing out again.”

I looked away from her. I didn’t want her to worry about my condition. This situation was already strenuous enough for a child. Making her worry would just make things worse for all of us. I had to put up a strong face so that we don’t lose our minds. I turned to comfort my daughter, but she was gone. I looked around, confused, but just went back to staring at the door. The shuffling seemed to have stopped, but I didn’t trust that. I knew they were out there just waiting for me. Waiting for me to let my guard down.

I needed water. I struggled to get off of the ground but managed to do so. I stumbled over to the kitchen where the remaining food and water was. I had burned through most of the food that was in the house and water was running low. I couldn’t go outside to grab water though, I didn’t want to risk dying. Yet at the same time staying in here with no water guaranteed my death as well.  This situation was outrageous and I cursed myself for not being able to do anything. I stepped into the kitchen where a mess awaited me. The utensils were scattered about and as I navigated through the kitchen, I kicked around the utensils to create a horribly made path for myself.

I saw a jug of water that was sitting on the table in the corner of the kitchen. I stumbled over and reached for it. As I reached for it, I noticed something odd. Something wrong. I tore my hand away from the jug of water and looked at my hand. Or rather my lack of a hand. In its place was a hoof. A sheep’s hoof connected to the rest of my arm. There was no way. I turned my head towards one of the windows in hopes that I was hallucinating. I looked into my reflection and saw in horror that my head had somehow turned into one of those god forsaken sheep heads. I let out a scream and fell backwards. I looked away from the window and put my hands… hooves to my face and covered my eyes. What was even happening? I couldn’t be turning into one of those monsters right? There was no way! I outstretched my arms. The hooves were gone. My hands were back. Covered in sweat I bolted up and looked into the window. My face stared back. I pinched my face a bit to make sure it really was back to normal. Yes! Everything was back to normal!

I let out a sigh of relief. I hadn’t turned into one of those things. Yet, at the same time, this wasn’t good. A hallucination of that level was not a good omen of my condition. I stumbled over to the water jug and took a vigorous swig. I placed it back onto the table. There was very little left in the jug. I would have to go out eventually to get water, otherwise I would simply die in my own home.

I walked back into the entry hallway. At that moment, I heard something coming from outside. It was the sound of those goddamn beasts, but something was different. It sounded like they were in pain. I saw light peeking in through the window. Light? That couldn’t be. It could only mean one thing. I scrambled over and looked out the window.

The light was blinding especially since my eyes had gotten adjusted to the darkness. The light, it felt so warm and comforting. I squinted and peered into its radiance. I made out a figure standing in the light amongst what appeared to be the corpses of many of those beasts. This person. One who wields a light so bright. They… they could save me! I felt something within myself. Hope, it must have been hope. So beautiful. I tried to call out to the figure, but no words came out. The damn illness had rendered me unable to call for help. I needed to go towards the light. I scrambled over to the front door, almost tripping over the pair of mauled corpses that were lying in the entryway. I shoved the furniture that was barricading the door away and swung the door open.

I was blasted by a gust of cold air as I stepped out into the open. The dirt crunched under my feet as I stepped forward. I looked around. The streets were deserted and buildings were ruined and abandoned. I turned towards the light and saw the figure still standing there. They were wearing a cloak and wielded a sword in their right hand. That sword was the source of this light. This hope. I made a weak attempt at running towards the figure.

“E-excuse me.” I weakly said as I stumbled over the monsters’ corpses.

The figure turned towards me. Their face was covered by some sort of mask. They stood there simply looking at me through an expressionless mask.

“P-please you have to help me. T-those accursed beasts they took everything away from me. I don’t want to die here. Here in this darkness. You have to know somewhere where it’s safe. Away from this accursed place! Please!” I was on the verge of tears. This person was my only way out of this place. My only hope. My light in the darkness. The figure didn’t say a word and just stood there. I made their way towards them. I tripped over myself and fell onto the ground. I crawled towards them and prostrated myself.

“Please. Help me.” I said weakly.

I raised my head at the figure who was now looking down at me. I looked up at them, hoping they would say anything. Save me from this situation. The figure looked away ,then turned around and started walking away.

“Wait, no!” I desperately yelled out. I tried to get their attention but my throat was too weak to make a noise loud enough. They continued walking further into the darkness, taking the light with them. They were going to leave me. My only hope was getting away and slipping between my fingers. I couldn’t let them go. I was going to die here if they left. I tried getting up but my legs were too weak to even support my body anymore. I cursed aloud and tried crawling as fast as I could. But it was too late, they were gone. My hope.

I raised my head towards the sky. The pitch black sky. I tried yelling my lungs out but was even incapable of doing that. I lowered my head and stared into the ground. What would I do now? My only way out was gone. That glorious light. My light of hope. Something overcame my body as the grief, hatred, and frustration took over.

My vision became more and more clouded. I felt my body changing, my bones cracking and muscles tearing. My body felt heavier and my eyes felt dry. My head felt like it was going to split open.  This was it wasn’t it? The end. I couldn’t see anything anymore. All that was left was darkness.

Despair.