tagSci-Fi & FantasyHellcyon Days Ch. 01

Hellcyon Days Ch. 01

byn0mster©

The world as we knew it ended not with a whimper, but with the howls and shrieks of countless horrors.

How the 'Cataclysm' came about is still pretty sketchy. What we do know is that without warning, in late December, a massive comet streaked across the Earth's atmosphere, passing over what used to be the South American continent before exiting above Australia and disappearing without a trace. The passage of the kilometer-wide celestial body turned the skies aflame with colour and even in parts of the world deep in the clutches of night; the horizon was lit as bright as day. Amazingly, the swift passage of the comet inexplicably occurred without causing any of the damages, which should have ensued, simply from the brush of the comet.

Scientists all over the world were baffled by the sudden appearance and subsequent disappearance of the colossal celestial body. With the thousands of telescopes pointed heaven-ward, such an enormous entity shouldn't have been able to come so close to Earth without anyone spotting its entrance or exit. News channels were ablaze with scientists and experts spouting their opinions on the matter, and more often than not, yelling at each other when their sentiments clashed. Somehow, what should have been calm discourse and discussion, unilaterally broke down across the board, as possibly adrenalin from the entire world's close shave with death or something more sinister, muddled the tempers and sensibilities of increasing numbers of people around the world.

With conflicting theories from all the leading minds of the world, no one could even begin to piece together what exactly had transpired that day. What survivors would agree on is that comet, the 'Cataclysm', was no doubt the cause of its namesake date.

The flaring of tempers didn't seem like a portent to the end of the world, but it was a symptom. The seemingly insignificant change in emotional stability was simply the first step to the loss of human civilization. Though tempers flared, life seemed to go on, mental faculties didn't seem to be affected or at least not perceptibly, so people went on with their lives, believing that the worst had passed and that we simply had a close shave with oblivion; certainly celebration-worthy (and many people did) but something that shouldn't be focused too much upon, excessive contemplation of death can only lead to depression.

So as the dreary Friday wore on, people all over the world celebrated their survival of the comet as pretty much every business declared a holiday. This made any changes in psychology even less evident due to the accumulated cheer overwhelming any losses of temper.

It was as dusk drew its murky gloom over the North American continent, a short 12 hours after the passage of the comet, that the first screams resounded through the streets.

On 21st December 2012, the world ended.

-----

Alexander Lee had a lot on his mind. Too many issues had been piling up and it seems that things had chosen today to come to a head. The last few years had been harsh, not financially at least, but socially and emotionally, somehow he managed to constantly rub a lot of jocks and bullies the wrong way, this didn't even take into account his abysmally nonexistent romantic life. Though if he was honest with himself, he knew the issue lay mainly with him.

This wasn't to say that he didn't have a social life, limited as it was, his aunts definitely made sure of that. Though he called them his aunts, they were more like his sisters/mothers, having been the main ones to raise him when his biological mother had passed away from complications surrounding his birth. His father had always been aloof with him, not exactly unkind but never loving either. His aunts had often consoled him whenever Alex had desperately tried to earn his father's approval, only to be stiffly brushed aside. In the intervening years, he had often gone to desperate lengths to try and earn even a curt nod from his cold-faced father.

It was only the existence and care of his two aunts, along with his grandparents, that Alex had grown up as well-adjusted as he was. At a young age, Alex's personality had been much like his mother, bright, cheerful and happy-go-lucky as can be. Even though, his 'mothers' bore the central pillar of his life, his father remained a major factor in his growing years. It was as time passed and the sobriety of his father wore down his exuberance, unconsciously, a not insignificant portion of Alex's demeanor became patterned after his father. This was not necessarily a bad thing, since through it all, Alex's father never once physically abused him, nor left him wanting in finances. It was also later explained to Alex in an attempt to assuage his sadness, why exactly his father behaved much like he did, though this ended up slightly backfiring.

His father had been childhood friends with his mother and from young, it had seemed fated for them to be together. Though inclined to seriousness, before his mother's death, his father had still lived life to the fullest. He had even played a large part in the raising of his much younger sister and sister-in-law, and had been the temperance to his wife's enthusiasm. So when his wife got pregnant with Alexander, they were in the prime of their life, and there seemed no edge to their cloud in sight.

The intervening months were a whirlwind of activity and the couple, if anything, became even closer and more loving. Alex's aunts, only five years old at the time, still recognized how wonderful a time it was and they couldn't wait to see their little 'brother'.

Then disaster struck, in the last trimester, Alex's mother went into labor. All seemed well at first, though a bit early; there should have been no harm to the baby. The problem came when Alex's mother started to bleed out and her blood refused to clot. This wouldn't have been a big issue had Alex's mother not possessed a rare blood-type, which the small hospital they were in, did not stock. Since Alexander's mother had gone into labor early, they had foregone their usual hospital, in favor of a closer one, as such, with no prior knowledge of the patient; the hospital had not stocked any of the rare blood type.

The hospital staff alerted Alex's grandparents and his aunts, who were waiting outside the delivery room, eager for a glimpse of the newborn, unknowing of the developing tragedy inside. They quickly rushed in, desperate to offer any support or help.

Alex's father frantically tried to get ahold of other hospitals to get stock of the needed blood, but even as their usual hospital sent an emergency courier with the blood. Alexander's mother lost consciousness and bled out.

Before she lost consciousness, the last thing she said to Alex's father was that she loved him and that how sorry she was that she couldn't spend the rest of her life with him. Then even as she told him to take care of "Alex, our baby..." she closed her eyes for the last time. This event absolutely broke Alex's father. His wife had been his heart and without her, he had much the same feeling as a stone statue.

It was only then that he looked upon his son, the pale child coated in his mother's lifeblood and wrapped in pristine white towels. The nurse holding Alex told his father that they had already cut and tied his umbilical cord and asked whether he wanted to hold his child.

Alex's grandparents could only look on as their son/son-in-law took Alex in his arms for the first time, with the serene bloodless face of his wife in the background. No one noticed the two children present, who had become silent witnesses to the somber sight.

It was a heartbreaking scene, made the worse by the conflicted face of Alex's father, torn between anguish and joy, as tears streamed down his face.

It was after this event, that Alex's father had become utterly cold, completely immersed in his work as a lawyer, unfailing in his job but absent as a father. This horrible experience ended up alienating his paternal grandparents, while both of his maternal grandparents were killed in a road accident shortly after. As a result, both his aunts ended up moving in with him.

When his aunts first told him the tragic story surrounding his birth, Alex was utterly torn between guilt for being the cause of his mother's death and anger at his father for distancing himself from his only child. The first telling of the tale also became a turning point in Alex's life, from then on, after observing the utter emotional ruin that his father had become; Alex began to worry about forging emotional bonds with other people. Even at the age of 12, though Alexander was surprisingly mature for his age, the revelations he had come upon had the gravid potential to turn him into a sociopath.

It was the redeeming light of his life, his aunts that mostly managed to curb any sociopathic tendencies he might have developed, and filled the void left by the death of his mother and the absence of his father. Despite this, Alex's smile gained a cynical lilt and his grins became fewer and far between. His once cheerful nature had been tempered by guilt and anger, resulting in a much more antisocial Alex. This was not to say that he became a problem child of any sort. Through it all, Alex remained a model student, never wanting to let his aunts down, there being nothing in the world more repugnant to him than the possibility of causing his aunts pain. Unfortunately, even as a teen, he realized that his aunts possessed much the same power over him, as his mother had over his father.

And it terrified him.

This fear drove him to try and slowly distance himself from his aunts, though his psyche rebelled at any attempts which could potentially hurt them. Over the years, he joined many camping and martial arts clubs, trying his best to find legitimate and plausible reasons to spend time outside away from them. Fortunately, because his family lived in one of the most upscale neighborhoods in California, one of the few benefits of a workaholic and successful parent, the high school which he went to had an immense variety of clubs and societies. As luck would have it, he both enjoyed and had a talent for martial arts and survivalist training, so his days were filled with activity and distraction.

Alexander was an especially late bloomer, which often compounded his problem with his peers, and though later than usual, he eventually discovered interests in the opposite sex. This led to his biggest problem yet, when he realized that his love for his aunts went beyond that of family.

It was when he was fifteen that Alexander started to view the female gender with more than passing interest. It was unfortunate that this revelation transpired utterly unexpectedly as Alex sat down at the breakfast table on a morning like any other. Staggering into the kitchen while mumbling a good morning and plopping down into his usual seat, his eyes blurry with sleep and still dressed in his baggy pajamas, Alex had looked up to see a vision of beauty; his aunt Elizabeth had been simply standing in front of the kitchen stove as usual, her jet black hair tied up in a practical pony tail, dressed in a worn pair of jeans and a plain pink T-shirt, covered in an apron with a 'Kiss the Cook' slogan sewn into it, she was the most beautiful thing Alex had ever laid his eyes on. As she hummed quietly to herself while stirring something in a large pot, Alex's heart began to pound incessantly as his eyes were transfixed to the angel.

He was shocked out of his reverie by the presence of a soft hand patting his head and a laughed greeting, "Good morning, sleepy head. Someone seems out of it this morning," the source of the voice, moved into his vision and for the second time that day he was mesmerized by an apparition of beauty. His second aunt Veronica had a voluptuous figure that put most lingerie models to shame, her curves were hugged by a bright yellow sundress, a sight that nearly stopped his heart, as her platinum blond tresses cascaded down her back in a waterfall of shining silver-gold. Flashing a smile at her nephew, Veronica took a seat as her sister-in-law brought over the large pot of porridge to set it in the middle of the breakfast table.

At this point, his mind a blur with hormones and newly discovered feelings, Alex could only muddle his way through his breakfast, before rushing off as quickly as possible, leaving a pair of slightly worried women at the table.

In his room, Alexander realized that he had to step-up his game, from then on, he tried his best to avoid his aunts without seeming to, while desperately trying to kill any romantic feelings he had for them. The subsequent years were torture to Alex; stuck in a house with an unfeeling father and two lovely women he was head over heels in love with, but who he could never have. What made this worse was how he couldn't even look upon another woman romantically, without feeling guilty for 'cheating' on his aunts, as screwed up a thought process as that was. This was not to say that he wasn't attracted to other women, after all, they did live in an exclusive neighborhood full of trophy wives and their progeny, most of whom could have won beauty contests easily. But physical attraction aside, the shadow of his father ensured that Alex never tried to create nor further any relationships.

This was exacerbated by the fact that beyond club activities, Alex never attended any social gatherings, this combined with his anti-social tendencies even during club trainings and such, made sure that Alex had few acquaintances and even fewer friends. As a result, he would have made prime pickings for any or bully, had he not undergone extensive martial arts and survivalist training since young. Yet even after he sent the first few would-be-bullies to the nurse with minor injuries, then started ramping up the humiliation level in subsequent encounters, inexplicably the challenges and the fights never stopped. Unexpectedly, neither he nor the bullies ever got in trouble, him because of his impeccable academic and student record, and the bullies because of a few strategic calls from their powerful parents.

As high school ended, Alex's initial plan was to study for an Engineering degree, as far away from his aunts as possible, this was promptly shot down by judicious use of the 'Puppy Dog Eyes' by his aunts, who wished for him to study in one of the prestigious universities closer by to home. The compromise they ended up with was that he would study at one of the closer universities, though he'd stay in one of the university student accommodations while returning home as often as possible. With both sides somewhat satisfied with the outcome, August 2012 started off Alexander's university life.

Which promptly seemed to crash and burn.

Once again, Alex couldn't and didn't want to fit in, despite no longer requiring the time consuming activities now that he wasn't staying in his childhood home. Alex joined a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) club along with the university survivalist/camping club since they were some of the few genuine pleasures in his life.

Unfortunately, Alex continued to be a catalyst for trouble, within the MMA club, various competitive members constantly sought him out for 'practice', and even among the more placid enthusiasts of the camping club, Alex never seemed to be invited for any after-club activities, though this might have been Alexander's intent.

Then the strain began to show as the first few months of university passed. The lifeline of Alexander's sanity and mental stability had always been his family, or more precisely, his aunts. With the prolonged and repeated separation from his pillars of emotional strength, the not entirely stable balance that was Alexander Lee had begun to waver.

All these issues culminated on Friday, the 21st of December 2012, the day Alexander was to return home.

-----

The day had started out normal enough, if you ignored the momentous event that had transpired earlier. As usual, Alex started off the morning with a quick breakfast while reading the latest news on his tablet, as his mind slowly booted up for the day.

"Comet narrowly misses Earth!"

"21/12/12 is upon us!"

"Warning from God!"

Were just some of the news headlines plaguing the tubes of the internet machine that morning. Browsing through the more reputable news websites, while munching through a bowl of cereal, Alex felt a migraine coming on, so he quickly took a painkiller, before cleaning up and putting away his utensils.

'It seems that humanity dodged a massive bullet,' Alex thought to himself, 'now if only I could say the same.' He let out a loud sigh, as he was wont to do nowadays as he prepared himself for the journey home. With the start of the Christmas holidays, his aunts were expecting him back, and though he had delayed his return as long as possible without it being obvious, he had neither reason nor excuse to delay his trip any further. He had a bus ticket back for later that evening and he still had a few errands to perform before leaving.

Leaving his apartment after finishing his ablutions, Alex mused quietly to himself about how the many pictures posted online depicted quite a spectacular scene when the comet narrowly missed the Earth. If he had woken up a few hours earlier, he would've gotten quite an eyeful as the skies were ablaze with color, unfortunately, what's done is done and all he could do was get on with his day.

He entered the nearby jewelry store, approaching one of the sales women to enquire about the status of the presents he had picked earlier for his aunts.

"Excuse me miss, I'm here to pick up a few of my purchases. Here's my receipt." As he handed over said piece of paper, he noticed and immediately ignored the usual strange looks that people often gave him. Standing a shade under 6 feet, with handsome aristocratic features and messy jet black hair, Alex was already pretty eye-catching. But it was because of Alex's unique genetic abnormalities, which caused him to move from eye-catching to spectacle.

While not albino, Alex possessed extremely pale skin that refused to tan despite his many outdoor activities, which while noteworthy, wasn't exactly unheard of. What really caught peoples' attention were Alexander's vibrant amethyst eyes, with their almost cat-like pupils. Doctors had repeatedly asked/demanded to do tests on Alex, which he had quickly refused since he hadn't had any problems with his sight, and more importantly because he hadn't liked the unsettling gazes of aforementioned doctors.

"Please wait here and I'll be back with your purchases shortly," the bob-haired salesgirl chirped as she disappeared into the back of the store. Sweeping the relatively small shop with his gaze, Alex quickly noted the many people browsing for last-minute Christmas gifts whilst surreptitiously glancing in his direction. Typical. What struck Alex the wrong way was how high-strung everyone seemed to be, a forced laugh here and some tension lines across a brow there.

Uncomfortable, once the petite salesgirl returned with his purchases, Alex quickly paid off the rest of his gift not covered by his deposit.

"Thank you and please come again," the slim sales woman favored him with a smile as she handed over his gifts. Alex gave her a curt nod and a simulacrum of a smile, before continuing on his errand run. The next item on his agenda was to collect his belongings from the clubs' offices. Hopefully he'd be able to avoid most of the club members by going in the morning.

The trip to his club offices took less than half an hour, and the rather balmy weather made it the ideal temperature for a stroll. Reaching the offices sooner than he'd like, he decided to visit the MMA club first, hoping that the early timing would mean a minimal number of members present.

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