Away From The LightbyTrueNorth1969©
I wasn't quite sure which category to submit this under. I was guessing sci-fi though it could also fall under interracial or maybe even romance. Anyway, I hope those who have enjoyed and read my previous material will continue their kind support and suggestions.
"No! No! For God's sake somebody help me!!!!"
"Oh God!" Kumiko screamed.
"Don't look back!" Tyler yelled at her as he pulled the terrified woman along behind him, "Run! Don't listen! Just RUN!"
The scream spiked through the air and echoed through the empty city streets. It was a scream beyond agony and fear, enough to freeze the heart and bleach the soul. Not so much a scream of physical pain. It was the sound of a life knowing it was coming to an end. Worse, it was a life that was not prepared to end.
But there wasn't a damn thing anybody could do about it.
Another one gone.
"Run, Kumiko!" Tyler gasped, his own lungs bursting, his own throat raw, "RUN!!!"
The screams happened less frequently these days. Maybe half a dozen or so every hour --- 24 hours a day. It's simple logic as a species nears extinction: Less of those to hunt, less of those to scream.
Ironically, when the minute the genocide of the human species had started just a scant 3 weeks ago, the elimination of millions, billions, of people at the same time was much more silent and serene. The mesmerized multitudes had stumbled outside, crowding the streets and looked up into the sky. Whether it was daytime or night, whether they were in the frozen arctic or standing on the warm soils of the human birthplace in Africa, everyone saw the same thing: The Light. It quashed the light of the sun, blocked out the moon, so bright and beautiful yet it could be looked upon with uncovered eyes. At one point solid white then the next an ebb and flow of millions of colours, it was like a living entity singing its siren song to the masses. The people looked at it with reverence rather than fear. You could understand those who thought God had finally come again.
But if it was the Creator, God had not only come again, he was calling --- everyone. Now.
The Light came down from the sky and descended on the masses, enveloping them like a glowing blanket around a child. Then it started to absorb the people. Each person felt cold fingers claw at their soul. The people shuddered. God or not, suddenly people realized they weren't ready to go. A singular cry from the people across the planet, like the start of a prayer chant, barely registered as a hum as it was cut off instantly.
Then they were gone.
The world was a quiet place. Those who had evaded the initial surge, staying indoors or covered and away from the clutches of the Light, soon filled the silence with their cries of terror.
In the first few hours, many of the remnants of humanity unwittingly stumbled out onto the desolate streets and open fields, a chilling sense of curiosity drawing them out. Within moments, sharp beams of the Light shot down and picked off the individuals like ripe, juicy peaches from a tree.
It had cast its net wide at first to catch most of the fish. Then hundreds of focused beams stabbed down to pick off thousands more. Eventually it settled as a single sporadic beam, appearing then disappearing with a sick, casual deliberateness as it snatched away its dwindling prey. Like the devil boy with a magnifying glass zapping the ants that scurry at his feet, it was having some sport.
Those inside who saw the Light take away friends, family, strangers in the distance and two feet away screamed in horror and confusion. A state of panic is a poor classroom when it comes to learning a vital lesson. For days, the lost and disoriented continued to go outside, easy targets. You could go outside, but you had to run, always be on the move.
So people learned to stay inside when they could.
But the Light was learning as well.
Kumiko and Tyler rounded a corner in the department store. They threw themselves behind a row of refrigerators and sat down for a moment to regain their breaths. Only for a moment. Their gasping and coughing for breath replaced their panic for the time being. Kumiko was trembling and numb but as her breathing eased she winced at the pain in her wrist and hand. It was purplish-red just above where the younger man was squeezing it tight with his hand. Tyler looked at her and finally managed to pry his own stiff fingers off.
"Sorry," he said, his voice hushed.
Kumiko shook her head slightly, offering something that could maybe pass for a smile these days. She rubbed her wrist, felt the blood flow back.
The two stared at each other in silence for a minute. Then, the woman's dark eyes shifted to the left sending a silent signal to the man.
"Is it...?" she began to say.
"Shh," he raised his finger to his lips.
Slowly Tyler rolled to his knees and slipped towards the edge of the row of refrigerators. Holding his breath, he peered slowly around the corner, his grey-blue eyes wide open and alert.
The lights were off in the store, only some late day sunlight illuminating the interior. Tyler had a clear view for about 30 feet down the aisle. He swallowed softly but deeply when he saw it creep in from a connecting aisle.
The Light pulled itself along the floor, slowly, deliberately like a corpse dragging itself from the grave. It was bright like fire, but Tyler could feel its icy cloak from where he was hiding. It was more than just silent. It was sucking the sound from the air.
As Tyler continued to watch it move along down the aisle, Kumiko leaned over him and took a peek for herself. She had never known anything so relentless, so unforgiving in its quest. Though she knew what it did, staring at its slithering determination, her breath continued to steady. The Light, was impossibly mesmerizing.
It continued to move inch by inch along the tiled floor as the two watched. Then it did something they were praying it wouldn't do, though they had seen it do it so many times already. It stopped moving. Kumiko and Tyler's hearts fluttered to a stop and they held their breaths.
The Light began to bend. Like a snake, it slinked and spilled to it's left, angling around the aisle corner towards the two terrified figures behind the refrigerators.
"No," Kumiko gasped, her heart suddenly beginning to race.
Instantly, as the man had done so often since circumstances had linked them together, Tyler went into protect mode and swept Kumiko into his arms and pulled her down. His large frame covered her as the two tried to meld themselves against the refrigerators. His strong arms held her tight against his chest, her face buried against his forearm. They matched heartbeats, a rapid fire rhythm.
He had done this so many times in the little while they had known one another. He was holding her more closely than any man had done so in such a long time. Kumiko knew that this gesture from the young man would mean little against the predator they were facing. Yet somehow, it comforted her. In the hell that she was living in, his arms were like an angel's wings.
Tyler's free hand brushed at her dark hair. He hoped it helped steady her. It definitely eased his own anxieties. He didn't know how long he would have lasted if he had been alone all this time.
They didn't have to look, they knew it was coming. He felt the woman start to tremble in his arms, her face sniffling in fright into his sweater sleeve. He squeezed his eyes tight, trying to will some courage into her, praying that he could muster up some for himself. It was no use.
Kimiko felt him pull back then she felt his large, warm hands wrap against the side of her face. With an impossible gentleness, he lifted her face to look up at his. Her eyes were red but she managed to gaze steadily into his. That's what he wanted .
"Just focus on me," his eyes said to hers in silence.
She looked at him. God he was so young. The thought of such a promising life being snuffed out in this way twisted her gut. But still, like they had done so often in the last few weeks, they somehow found solace in each other.
Their faces came close to one another, eyes never parting. Their foreheads touched. Kumiko's heart was still racing but for a moment, she realized it wasn't because of the terror that filled her.
"Tyler --" she gasped.
"Get away! No! Oh Jesus!" a voice shouted from the distant end of the department store.
Tyler and Kumiko looked up. Still holding her back, he again stole a peek around the refrigerators. The Light had resumed its original course, stretching straight ahead across the aisle.
"God! Please! NO!" the anxious cries of an unseen horrified soul echoed through the building. The sound of boxes and falling merchandise and scrambling footsteps mingled with the desperate screams.
As the Light bared down on its new prey, the man and woman cowering behind the refrigerators stood up and made a break for the emergency stairs.
They ran, hand in hand, eyes stabbing straight ahead. They didn't look back.
"NO! WHY? WHY?! NOOOOOOOO!!!"
They told themselves that they never heard the screams as the stairwell doors closed behind them.
Tyler and Kumiko had been running in fear for 3 weeks. Sneaking through the deserted buildings and empty streets of an empty city, they were rarely ever more than a few feet apart. They had long ago stopped asking questions and seeking answers. The Light appeared. People disappeared, maybe stolen away, maybe killed. Who knew? Running inside or outside made no difference as the Light learned to bleed into even the most airtight of confinements. Those simple realities that had confronted them were enough to keep them moving, aimlessly, without direction, always away from the Light.
They only stopped when they were near delirium with hunger or thirst. Running through the rain or stopping to run a tap over their heads was the closest thing to bathing. When one slept, the other stayed awake, holding close their fugitive partner. Always in step with one another, hand-in-hand, alternating the lead, they seemed bound by an invisible length of rope.
Feet pounding the sidewalk floor they skittered around a corner. Kumiko slipped and would have likely tumbled onto the concrete if Tyler hadn't had such a grip on her. Swiftly, the young man effortlessly propped her up even before her knee skimmed the ground. Still, just as he stopped to lean her up against the wall, the demure woman collapsed to the ground, exhausted.
"No, no, Kumiko," Tyler gasped, "Come on. Please, you gotta get up!"
The woman was trembling, her head hanging low and shaking side to side. "No more," she pleaded softly.
Tyler looked around him. About half a kilometre away, the next block over, a metre-wide beam of the Light punctured through the gray of the evening sky and scanned the ground below.
"We can't stop here," he urged her on, his hands on her shoulders, "We've got to keep moving."
She remained slumped over, her head hanging low. He couldn't see her eyes. He needed to see them.
"K-Kumiko?" he said then swallowed. It was all he could say, his voice already quivering.
"Leave me," she said softly.
Tyler felt the blood drain from his heart.
"Please. Just--go," Kumiko said.
This was the first time either of them showed any sign of giving up. Tyler had been trying not to think about it, yet knowing that despair could come at anytime. It hit him harder than he had thought it would. The fear of being alone was overwhelming. Yet even more so than just being alone, he didn't want to lose her. The angst of possibly being separated from Kumiko was something he couldn't bear.
"Kumiko," he said managing to steady his voice, "Look at me."
He lifted her face to his and brushed away her hair. Her eyes were puffy and red, tears rolling down her cheeks. It shattered his heart to see her like this.
"Just look at me," he stared hard into her eyes and continued, "I'm not going anywhere without you. I'm not leaving you. Do you understand?"
So many times in the previous harrowing days, he had saved her by just looking at her the way he did now. That reassurance, that strength was enough to fuel her spirits. He had given her so much hope. What sort of drain on him was she? How much further could he have run without dragging her along with him?
Kumiko started to tremble uncontrollably and cried out loud.
"Kumiko! Look at me! Kumiko!" Tyler pleaded, shaking her. He was losing her.
"Go! Just go!" she cried.
"Don't!" He shook his head. "Don't say that!"
"I-," she sniffed and gasped, "I don't want you to die. Not for me."
Tyler paused and blinked. His mouth dropped open to say something but then, down the street, two hundred yards away, The Light appeared. It slowly stalked towards them.
His adrenalin automatically kicked in. Hers didn't. It didn't matter.
"Come on," he stood and pulled at the wrecked woman.
She didn't budge.
The Light continued to approach.
"COME ON!!!" he yelled at her.
Still she just shook her head. Tyler lifted her to her feet, her legs carrying little of her own weight.
"Stay with me, Kumiko! STAY WITH ME!"
Kumiko turned her head. Her dark eyes were filled with the oncoming Light. She screamed, draining her lungs of air. She continued to wail as she collapsed to the ground even as Tyler struggled to carry her rag doll body. The world swirled and spun, the sound of Tyler's pleading voice just a numb throb in the back of her terrified skull. As her eyes rolled dreamily upwards into the back of her head, the last thing she saw was the unforgiving Light approaching, silently, relentlessly.
Warmth. That's what she felt. A blanketing, settling warmth, impossibly soothing. Kumiko had awakened but kept her eyes closed for two minutes. She was anxious about what she would see when she opened them.
Then a single thought filled her head and suddenly her eyes widened, staring straight up.
"Tyler?" she gasped and sat up. She was on a bed, that was the warmth and softness she had felt. At this moment, however, it was failing to comfort her.
"Tyler!" she called out again. She clutched at the blankets. Her head jerked around, and it took a moment to put together the jigsaw puzzle glimpses of her surroundings. "Wh-where...?" she eked.
The bed was in the centre of a very large room with high ceilings. It was dark, lit only by several candles placed around the open loft apartment. She heard the sound of rushing water. A shower? Towards one of the far corners, she could see some movement behind frosted bricks of glass. The image was large, masculine. There was strength in its movements. She listened to the soft strain of pipes as the shower was turned off. Still watching from the bed, the figure moved silently behind the glass. After a moment, Tyler stuck his head out through the door of the bathroom.
"Kumiko?" he asked, "You're awake?"
She managed an unsteady nod.
Tyler emerged from behind the door wearing only cotton lounge pants. He wiped down his muscular top with a big bath towel. Kumiko blinked, and inwardly gasped, still trying to sort things out in her head while looking at the bare-chested young man approach her. He had shaved, his square jaw now smooth. He covered himself with a clean pressed shirt.
"You okay?" he said as he walked to the foot of the bed, crouched down and looked up at the flustered woman.
For a moment, focusing on his eyes, she regressed to the single thought that had made her sit up before. Finally she managed to answer him, "Y-yes. What...where are we?"
"You fainted. I picked you up and brought you here," he replied calmly, "I don't know who's place this is. It was the first one I could get ourselves into."
She listened to him carefully as he spoke. Something wasn't right. There was no sense of urgency in his voice, that persistent and driving voice she had become accustomed to ever since --- ever since they started running from...
"The Light!" she gasped aloud. Her body tensed and she scrambled in the bed. She urged, "We have to go! We have to run!"
The young man leaned forward and stopped her as she tried to slip off the bed. His hands gently but assuredly held her down at her shoulders.
"What? Tyler, we've got to get out of here!" she insisted.
He looked at her, shaking his head slightly. "No," he said softly, "No more running for now. You're going to rest. We can rest."
"No, no," she continued, "We need to get away."
He placed a hand on the side of her face and rubbed her cheek. "We can rest," he repeated, "It's okay." There was a long pause. He continued to tenderly stroke her cheek with his fingers. Her eyes had been skittering about just a few seconds before. Now they settled on his.
"We," she breathed deeply, "We can rest? Are you sure?"
He smiled and nodded.
After another moment, he was relieved to see her body relax. She still looked a bit unsure, but he could see the tension slipping away from her. He placed his hand on the top of her head and stroked in down the length of her hair.
"It-it must be filthy," she remarked. Each word of normalcy she spoke relaxed her even more. She looked down at the clothes she was wearing, all scuffed and dirty.
"I only took off your jacket and your shoes and socks," he said.
She smiled to herself. Ever the gentleman.
He stood up and walked to an armoire against the wall. "Looks like this is a guy's place," he said as he opened the door and sifted through the clothes hanging inside.
Kumiko watched as he returned to the bedside holding a forest green silk shirt. He held it out to her.
"It's your colour," he said, "It's soft and clean so you can put it on after you take a shower. I've got some candles in there so it won't be pitch dark."
Taking the shirt from him, she ran her fingers against the fine material. It was very soft. She started to get up from the bed but hesitated slightly.
Anticipating her lingering uncertainty, Tyler said, "I'll see if I can find us something to eat while you take a shower."
Finally she managed a relaxed smile. He watched with satisfaction as the diminutive woman stood up from the bed and walked quietly towards the bathroom.
She was a 34 year old Japanese woman, divorced for 11 years, who had been waiting anxiously at the back of a lounge to meet a man she had been introduced to through an online dating service. "50 000 single people just waiting to meet you," the service had boasted. All of those lonely people. Somehow, it didn't fill her with any sense of community knowing this.
Despite the commotion she thought she heard coming from outside, she refused to budge from her chair. She had mustered all of her courage to do this. She wasn't even really interested in the guy but she knew if she was going to overcome her reclusive, solitary life, she had to go through with this. She had been with only one man in her life and he turned out to be emotionally abusive and unfaithful. Her marriage to him after her university undergraduate studies had ended her ties with her disapproving family back in Japan. For over a decade she withdrew from any relationships.
It took everything she had just to drag herself out of her apartment. Little steps.
So focused and so nervous, she hadn't even noticed the dwindling number of people in the lounge until she finally looked up from her glass and realized she was alone. And this was supposed to be Happy Hour.
Kumiko checked her watch. Her brow arched upwards and she glanced around the lounge anxiously. It was deadly quiet. She stood up.
"Hello?" she called out softly. "Are you still open?"
She stood nervously behind the table for a minute before she finally picked up her bag and slowly made her way through the empty lounge. She stepped past the bar and could see the front street window. It was getting dark outside. She thought she noticed a flash of light from outside and she paused for a moment before continuing to move towards the lounge's door. It didn't look like there was anybody outside either.