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‘Decode’ is a short story written by Danni Whitehead. It is available online now.
This is an excerpt from the story ‘Decode’
“My pain and all the trouble caused, no matter how long
I believe that there’s hope”
The bright orange and red flames look beautiful in contrast to the stark black sky. The colours grew more and more vibrant as the fire licked its way up the old derelict mansion. I stood at the bottom of the hill, blending in with the oak trees shadows, watching.
Beneath the fire crackling, pained howls and cries escaped filling the cold, empty sky with their mournful sounds. A mirthless smile spreads on my face.
The mansion is completely ablaze now, I can feel the heat radiating off it. I take a step back, seeking the cold embrace of the shadows. My hand brushes something solid, wet and warm, my senses go on high alert. Behind me. I didn’t get them all. Wait, there’s no sound it’s not breathing.
I turn my head, neck muscles creaking. I lower my hand that was already poised to strike. A dog. A very dead dog, does there savagery know no bounds? One of ours too, the black leather collar emblazoned with a red rose shines in the fire’s light. I slide my bayonet out, grabbing the thick cord wrapped just above the collar. The dogs blood has congealed around the cord, combined with the frost making it unmovable. I remove the collar, wiping the caked blood from the rose with my sleeve. Its owners mustn’t be far.
I make my way out of the clearing, with the bloody collar, nearly slipping on the dogs entrails strewn across the floor. The howls and cries have subsided, the fire has cleansed, ridding the world of those monsters. I didn’t think then that it might have been possible for some of them to have escaped, unscathed. I had destroyed their hideaway, their base of operations, their sanctuary. It’ll be hard for them to congregate again, we have marked or destroyed virtually all possible habitats. We have them backed into a corner, their numbers are less, lone minions wandering in deserted alleyways looking for easy feed, becoming themselves easier to pick off. The streets soon may become safe again, from unnatural monsters anyway. I have mixed feelings about that, once the minions have been exterminated, what will become of me?
Looking back at the ruined mansion I start to feel uneasy. I had walked back up the hidden trail I had followed, listening to the sound of gentle running water, trusting my sense of direction and balance. The stream eventually divided, before the hill where I now stand.
I can clearly see the remains of the building, tiny orange embers still flickering amongst the debris as smoke plumes from it. It burnt fast, all these old houses do. It makes them an easy target, way out in the wilderness away from the emergency services. I hope it hasn’t attracted any unwanted attention, involving the unsuspecting public will have disastrous consequences. This war must be kept secret from them, exposing them to these creatures will lead to questions about were they came from and what the government is doing to stop them, which they really don’t want to know. I don’t want the publicity and neither would The Rose.
My apprehension grows, why I am I so uneasy? Something wrong but I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it’s just my mind suffering from withdrawal. I left my serum back at the motel, it’s a long drive back. God, why didn’t I bring it with me? All the excitement about destroying one of their last remaining H.Q.’s made me careless. Anything could have happened, I could have been made even before I lit the rag or poured the gasoline. One of them could have escaped with vengeance on its mind while I’m going cold turkey. This will be left out of my report, The Rose are already concerned about my capability after the last mission ended up with a very messy death of a fellow agent. My nose had started bleeding uncontrollably, the smell of blood attracting the minions, too many to fight off. I had been lucky. They said it was just a side effect of the new improved serum and that it probably wouldn’t happen again. What they meant was that you better hope it doesn’t happen again.
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