Cry, Silent Hill // By: Rob Myers
Lady finally remembered to close her mouth as her mind reeled at the level of supernatural power being displayed before her. Experimentally, she picked up a stone and flung it out a short way over the abyss ... and watched it drop into the void and vanish. She waited for a 'bang' or a 'splash,' or any other sound of it hitting bottom. She waited. And waited. And waited ...
Finally, Dante broke the silence.
"Oh no. We're trapped," he smirked in mock horror. Lady glanced at him, irritated. "Oh, come on. Lighten up. Don't tell me you weren't expecting something like this."
Lady sighed, and shifted the weight of Kalina-Ann on her shoulder. She turned and headed back up the street, letting Dante bring up the rear for once.
"Guess we're doing this your way," she huffed.
Time passed meaninglessly. Soon after finding the route back had vanished Lady checked her watch only to find it stopped. Dante, of course, didn't wear one.
Nothing attacked them as they fruitlessly searched storefronts and empty streets and even some cars for more ammunition for Lady's weapons. Nothing. Dante's boredom grew exponentially, and when Lady became desperate enough to enter a sporting goods store and ponder the usefulness of an aluminum baseball bat vs. a hockey stick as possible melee weapons, he finally had had enough.
"OK, listen. You just go easy on the ammo, and leave most of the fighting to me. It's not like I'd mind."
Lady dropped the bat, brushed her hands off, and together they headed towards the next block to search for the victims.
"Guess I don't have much of a choice," she sighed, "But you've got to promise me, promise me, that you won't go losing your head again."
She peered at him sternly.
Dante rolled his eyes, and then his whole head.
"Ok, Ok, I promise. Geeze..."
"Which means that if you have a choice between a 'good fight' or whatever, and helping to find this woman and her kid ..."
"Alright, I get the picture."
As they rounded a corner a new structure loomed before them, a large, two-story school building of early 20th century design. Its windows were mostly broken out, its façade was blackened and crumbling, but there was no mistaking it.
"Speaking of pictures ..." Dante muttered.
Confused, Lady glanced away from the foreboding structure.
"What do you mean?" she asked, though she had an idea.
"That drawing you found in their car. It said 'school' on it."
Lady grinned, pleasantly surprised, "I thought you weren't paying attention."
"Hey. I'm not a complete moron," he said as he headed for the front entrance.
"Seriously? Color me shocked," she smirked.
Inside, what had been a large elementary school was now a labyrinth of empty rooms decorated with crumbling paint (probably lead-based, Lady thought) and water stains, totally open to the elements. They went classroom by classroom, but the story was always the same -- child-sized desks awaiting students that would never return.
"You know, one thing kind of surprises me," Lady mused as they headed upstairs to the second floor.
"No graffiti. None. Abandoned buildings and ghost towns are usually magnets for teenagers, vagrants, and other weirdoes. But none of them decided to write their name or draw something gross?"
"Yeah. Well, the demons might explain that, or the magical cliffs. But actually, I'm starting to think we aren't really where we think we are," Dante said as they entered yet another classroom.
"How do you mean?" Lady asked as she started to check through the room, while Dante casually leaned against the doorframe.
"Can't put my finger on it, but ever since that fog rolled in, and especially after we came up from the basement, this whole town has felt a bit like the Demon World. But not exactly."
Lady paused by one of the desks and turned to look at him, "Where you fought my father and your brother?"
"Yeah, but not quite. This has a different ... flavor, I guess. Like there's evil in the air, no doubt about that. But it's tinged with something, I dunno, sick."
Lady turned back to the desk she stood over, "Something sicker than evil? That's a comforting thought."
On an impulse, Lady opened the top of the desk before her. Her eyes widened.
"Well, looky here," she said as she pulled out a pile of children's drawings, all smudges and blackness, done in a familiar style. She held one up for Dante, and he peered at it from the doorway.
"Ok, wait. That kid went to school here? Like 20 years ago? I mean, nothing here makes much sense, but that's just silly."
Lady sorted through the sheaf of construction paper.
"Her. Or someone awfully similar in outlook. I'm starting to think we don't know the whole story on our victims," Lady folded one of the drawings and stuck it in a pocket as they left the classroom.
Back in the hallway, Dante paused, then turned towards a door labeled "Girls."
"Um, I'm sure there's a boys' room nearby ..." Lady said, disturbed.
"It's not about that," Dante said as he opened the door. Still unsure, Lady followed him inside.
Inside, more decay was in the process of consuming the child-sized stalls and sinks. Dante marched inside and, as Lady covered the door to the hall, he strode up to the last stall and kicked it open with a resounding 'SLAM!' Lady flinched at the noise, but she knew the word 'stealth' was not in his vocabulary (much less 'tact' or 'class' ... or 'comb' for that matter).
"Wanna see something gross?" he called.
Lady made a face, but reluctantly left her post to join him.
"This better be relevant and not just some disgust ... uh."
Inside was the desiccated body of a human, contorted so that its spine bent in reverse far enough that the feet nearly touched the back of its head. Many strands of barbed wire, rusted and caked with dried blood, bound it in this hideous position. Its face reached upwards, its eyes covered with a tightly wrapped strip of cloth, and its mouth was stretched open in a soundless scream. Lady found herself wishing he had simply shown her a backed-up toilet.
"And check this out," with that Dante entered the stall and reached for the corpse's neck, from which he plucked a pendant of some type, snapping its chain. Proud as a cat with a dead bird he presented the find to Lady, who only stared at him in disgust.
"And you say I'm no good with clues," he grinned, but then her expression registered with him. "What?"
"Nothing, never mind," Lady said as she took the pendant. It was definitely religious, a cross of some kind, but with several bars and a more complicated design. She tried to ignore the obviously tortured-to-death corpse before her.
"Did we see a church on the way here?" she asked, turning the pendant over in her hand, but he didn't answer. "Dante?"
"Cover your ears," Dante said, but it was on them again -- a blast of sirens seemingly 10 times louder than before.
Lady staggered, in genuine pain this time. Reeling, she tried to steady herself against the wall, barely holding on to the pendant, clutching her ears desperately. The lights outside dimmed again rapidly. She fumbled with the light still affixed to her weapon harness, and it sparked to life, weak and flickering. Looking up, her stomach knotted at what she saw.
It was like being trapped inside a time-lapsed movie on the subject of rot. As she watched, the already decaying surroundings began to rapidly melt, flake, crumble and collapse around them. Twenty, forty, sixty years worth of erosion seemed to happen within seconds -- paint curled up on itself and turned to dust, ceiling tiles rotted from their fastenings and dropped, only to become so much powder before even hitting the floor. The wooden partitions of the stalls melted like sugar in boiling water, and pipes newly exposed by the rapid destruction rusted away to red-orange piles before her eyes.
As she stood in horrified awe at the changes sweeping the darkening room, Dante abruptly grabbed her by the belt and yanked her behind him. She spun and tried to steady herself against a sink, but it crumpled at her touch and she barely kept her footing.
She looked to Dante, who stood pointing his shotgun at the stall. The sirens continued, preventing communication, but she knew better than to question his actions when the supernatural tried to ambush them.
As the sirens faded and the light reached its minimum level, her skin crawled at another sound assaulting her ears--a piercing scrape as of a metal rake dragged across a sidewalk. Like fingernails on a blackboard. Like tinfoil on her teeth. She drew one of her pistols to back up Dante, but her muscles twitched the whole time. The corpse was moving, scraping its rusting bindings across the floor tiles.
With its broken and dislocated limbs flexing despite the razor wire binding them, it dragged itself along, still contorted into an inhuman position. The sound and sight was so hideously wrong she could barely lift her one pistol.
*BANG!* Dante's shotgun blast nearly deafened her again, but for once she was glad. The corpse was smashed back three feet across the floor, collided with the wall, and kept twitching.
"Man! That is just so f-"
After each shot Dante twirled the 12-gauge on his finger, somehow reloading and re-cocking it with each spin, while shell casings popped out, pinged off the floor, and promptly vanished.
The corpse stopped moving.
"Come on," Dante gave it a swift kick, smashing in its face. "Wimp."
He turned to Lady who was holstering her Glock and coming to investigate, but he waved her back
"Something tells me we're about to have more company," he said.
A new sound, not as nerve-wracking but just as ominous, came from the body. A frantic chittering, a scurrying. Lady gasped in disgust as an oversized cockroach, at least three inches in length, crawled out of the corpse's ruined face, froze briefly in that way insects do, then scrambled towards Dante. A handful of the insects followed, then a bucketful, then an infinite stream poured from the mangled remains like clowns from a Volkswagen.
Dante was firing Ebony and Ivory like twin machine guns, destroying a roach with each precise shot, but the flood was such that even he had to back up towards Lady, who was already struggling with the window frame. The door they had come in through was quickly blocked by a writhing carpet of pests, their feelers waving madly.
Giving up on opening the window normally, Lady smashed out the privacy glass with the rear of Kalina-Ann, and promptly leapt through. Dante held his ground for another few seconds, but seeing he'd be overwhelmed shortly he turned and grabbed the window frame and swung through it like a gymnast.
The two-story drop to the ground was nothing to Dante, but Lady had barely managed to avoid injury by aiming for what she hoped was a patch of grass and rolling. As Dante landed like a cat, his crimson coat fluttering around him, Lady was brushing the dirt from her knees and butt, checking for scrapes. Dante flapped his coat, and surveyed his legs in case he needed to dislodge any hitchhikers. Finding nothing on either of them, Lady shouldered Kalina-Ann as they surveyed their new surroundings.
They were in the school's central courtyard. The light still hadn't returned, but the feeble glow of Lady's flashlight showed that the exaggerated rate of decay had taken hold out here as well. A few dozen yards across a sparsely covered central lawn there was a patch of deeper darkness hinting at an exit.
"Actually, yeah," Dante said without preamble.
"'Yeah,' what?" Lady was confused.
"I did see a church, or at least the top of one, through one of the windows. It was on like the far side of the school," Dante pointed ahead as he set off across the yard.
"So that must be the next stage," said Lady as she flanked him and peered ahead into the gloom. The exit was a large arch, decaying like everything else here, which lead into a darker passageway. From what she remembered, it should let them out on the side of the school closest to the church. Lady unholstered her Glock to reload it as she walked, and didn't notice Dante had stopped at the entrance until he was a few steps behind.
"Dante ...?" She turned, and nearly dropped her gun in surprise.
A red curtain of energy had materialized in the archway, keeping her out of the courtyard and sealing Dante in. In the red glow, she could make out what appeared to be images of faces rippling through the energy barrier, faces contorted in agony, or fear or rage. Damned souls of some kind, she figured.
"You might want to take a step ..."
Abruptly, the glowing curtain curled itself into an immense hand that swiped at Lady and sent her flying several feet.
"... back." Dante grimaced in empathy.
She landed hard, feeling as if she had just touched a live power line. Gasping, she rolled over into a sitting position.
"What the HELL is that?"
"Dunno," Dante shrugged, "But it happens to me a lot."
She scrambled back up, snarling at being caught flat-footed, and hauled Kalina-Ann into firing position.
"Move out of the way, I'm gonna..."
"Don't waste your ammo. It won't do any good," Dante said as he casually started some light stretching, rotating his shoulders first, then his neck. "Besides, I think you're in for a show."
"Huh?" Lady lowered the missile launcher in confusion, but then she spotted some movement at the far side of the courtyard. Dante was already turning to face it.
The shape was hard to make sense of at this distance, as with all the demons they'd encountered here, but this one was much bigger than the others. It was bipedal, she could see that immediately, and at least nine--maybe 12--feet tall. Its legs were like small trees, and its arms were long and thick and knotted with muscle. But the torso ... the torso was absurd. Or creepy as all hell.
As Dante marched coolly out to meet it in the middle of the courtyard, she was finally able to make sense of what she was seeing. What had seemed at first like a cartoon of a walking pyramid was in fact a gigantic man wearing an even more gigantic helmet, triangular in shape, which covered the entire upper third of his body. The figure dragged behind it an equally oversized knife-shaped sword, longer even than Dante's six-foot sword Rebellion, with a blade a couple of feet wide. Around its waist the figure wore a long apron, like a butcher's smock, pale in color like the man's skin, and splattered with what must be dried blood, also like his skin.
Something about the apparition reminded her of her father...Even at this distance it stank of blood and rape. Lady clutched Kalina-Ann in nauseous fear as her knees nearly gave out on her. Surely this must be Death, she thought, come to devour me…
"Hey. Nice hat."
Dante had stopped a dozen feet from the thing and crossed his arms, striking a pose. Lady couldn't help but grin at that, and her panic eased a little.
The helmet-thing also stopped. It spread its arms wide, pointing the blade upward, and continued to raise them over its imprisoned head, higher and higher, until it held the sword high over its pointed helm. Then, grasping the hilt with both massive meaty hands, it brought the blade down in a thunderous impact that staggered Lady, brought a rain of debris down from the walls of the abandoned school, and engulfed the warriors in a cloud of dust.
As it settled, she saw Dante hadn't moved.
"Man of few words. I like that," Dante unslung Rebellion and casually propped it over his shoulder, "But back to your fashion sense... Ever heard of pants?"
The monster lifted its great knife, charged at Dante, and swung. At the last possible instant Dante leapt over it and came down on its helm with Rebellion. But instead of breaking open the monster's headgear, Rebellion bounced off with a resounding 'clang,' and Dante rebounded behind the creature. Before he even hit the ground, he had re-slung his sword and was blasting away at the monster's back with Ebony and Ivory. But the creature turned to block most of the bullets with its helm and enormous blade.
Right as he touched down Dante lunged in with Rebellion, but with another loud 'clang' the creature raised its guard and the opponents bounced off each other, staggered. Dante recovered a quarter instant faster and brought his sword in to chop at the thing's exposed torso, but the creature simply lunged forward with its sharp-edged helm, struck Dante amidships, and sent him flying. He skidded on his butt as he landed, scissored his legs in the air like a break-dancer, and hopped to his feet.
Anyone else watching would have thought the blow had barely fazed Dante, but Lady knew him well enough to know it had hurt.
Again he pounded away at the thing with Ebony and Ivory, but the bullets bounced harmlessly off his armored adversary. Then Dante did something Lady had seen him do a few times before, but still couldn't believe. He vanished with a "shwoof" -- a sound vaguely like a sneeze -- to reappear over the monster's head and blast it point-blank with his shotgun. Dante bounced on its helmet, pushed off from a red flash of magical energy that appeared at his feet, and zoomed horizontally across the courtyard. Before landing, he "shwoofed" back again, blasted the creature with his shotgun, and bounced up and away.
It might have looked like Dante was merely playing with his foe, but Lady saw it for what it was -- Dante was stumped and was trying to find an opening. Her earlier concern began to return.
Dante waded back in towards the thing, peppering it with a steady stream of pistol fire and forcing it to take its defensive stance. When he was no more than a yard away, he stopped firing.
"Come and get me," he coaxed it with both hands out. Lady slapped her forehead.
The creature obliged and swung its blade, but this time Dante slid out of range like an ice skater, instantly reversed, and sped back in with Rebellion. But again he was repelled and staggered by the monster's defense. Before he could even leap away the demon lunged with its helmet, and this time Dante went flying into a wall. He bounced off and landed in a heap, without an ounce of his usual cool.
"Dante!" Lady screamed, beginning to truly panic.
As Dante struggled to his feet, the pyramid creature lumbered forward and tried to grab the devil hunter with its free hand. But Dante evaded by running straight up the wall, hovered overhead by firing down with Ebony and Ivory (that shouldn't even work, thought Lady), and plunged downward with Rebellion. Again, he bounced off the creature's helm, but he swung his sword around again and struck.
Again, he struck down with Rebellion from mid-air.
Frustrated, Dante landed, skidded to the creature's side, pulled Cerberus from under his coat and spun through the air, swinging the flail madly. But still he struck armor and rebounded. He landed and twirled Cerberus in front of him by its central ring as the demon swung its huge knife. The blade clashed with Cerberus and sparks flew, the impact nearly knocking Cerberus from Dante's hand as his arm went numb. He drew Ebony and Ivory to put the thing on the defensive again, but the pyramid monster had had enough.
The beast grabbed the silver-haired warrior by the front of his red waistcoat, hauled him off his feet and slammed him into the wall. Dante struggled like a child in its powerful grip as the hellish butcher drew back its long knife.
With no breath left to insult his executioner, Dante spat onto its helm.
The blade came in like a missile, split open the devil-hunter's ribcage, severed his spine, and buried half its length in the wall, skewering Dante like a crimson butterfly. Blood gushed from the wound, down Dante's legs, and splashed in the dirt.
Lady just screamed, without any hope at all.
Continue to Chapter 3 >>
© 2006 Rob Myers