Johnny and Chico made their way back home. They made sure to be as quiet as possible, so as to not alert his parents that he was out this late.
As they ventured up the stairs to his room, Johnny overheard his father and mother whispering to one another.
“His powers are going to be manifesting. There is not much time left. We’re going to have to go soon,” said his father.
“I know, it’s just…do you think it’d be best?” asked his mother. Johnny could tell she was pacing in the kitchen in her usual worrisome pace. “The agency can’t possibly know where we are, and even if they do it’s uncharacteristic of them just to abduct him.”
Johnny could sense his father’s anxiety. “Jenna, I am telling you…you didn’t see what I saw them do. What they’re capable of. They’ve killed for a hell of a lot less, let alone their top ‘project’ that gets stolen from under their nose.”
“Don’t call him that…please, Gavin,” said his mother. “He’s is our son. He is Johnny…”
Gavin sighed. “I know…but…he is an instrument that was manipulated, created for destruction. Something we never signed up for. We agreed to be his ‘parents’ because no one else would take him. We—“ Gavin stopped, sensing someone was listening. “Let’s talk about this another time. For now, let’s go to bed. We’ll play it by ear.”
Johnny quietly rushed to his room and closed the door without making a sound. He looked down at Chico, who now sat curled up at the foot of his bed.
“What should we do,” asked Johnny.
Chico yawned heavily. “For now, we rest. We will speak with Red tomorrow and go from there.”
Johnny got himself ready for sleep and laid his heavy down on his pillow, rolling side to side, trying to get comfortable, before falling asleep on his back. He remembered Chico mumbling something about “stop moving so damn much,” and growling before the darkness came.
Here, in the darkness, he was greeted by his friend.
The shade nodded at his question.
“Are you OK? You’re not saying anything,” Johnny inquired concernedly.
Jerry’s mouth moved, but no sound escaped his lips but a cold wind that passed through Johnny.
Johnny reached out for Jerry. “I—I can’t understand you, Jerry. What’s going on?”
Jerry seemed overcome with sadness. His eyes fell to the dark ground before returning his gaze to Johnny. Johnny had noted a shimmer come over Jerry but dismissed it as being a typical dream sequence with his friend’s company. Jerry gave Johnny a smile and waved before slowly fading into the nothingness that surrounded them.
“Jerry? Jerry!” Johnny cried out. “Please…” he fell to his knees, “please don’t leave me alone.”
In the darkness, it called to him. Jerry’s voice. “I’ll always be with you, my friend… my brother.”
Johnny picked his head up, tears streaming down his cheeks, to see the darkness fade to a soft illuminating glow of thousands of people and animals in front of him. He stood up and looked at them all, left to right and the rows upon rows that seemed to stretch on.
A gush of wind passed through him, chilling him down to the marrow. They spoke no words, only silence. Jerry appeared once more in the front and pointed towards Johnny. Johnny turned around and saw only the visions of what could only be the future if he were not to take action.
The world in ruins. An orange and yellow sky. Hell. The streets littered with bodies, twisted metal, debris. Families were being torn apart, literally and figuratively. Children being fought over for food scraps by the modified beasts. Women and children were raped, tortured, sold off to the highest bidder. The sick, crippled, and lame were executed on sight if found. Cannibalism was the sole way of survival.
There was no God. No salvation…only death.
Churches were turned into makeshift genetic mutation facilities in the supposed praise of transcendence to escape the new ‘plague.’ The government systems of countries were long gone. Terror rampant on the streets, with extremists from every aspect. Suicide bombers attempting to blow up the mutation facilities, schools, airports, hospitals, anything and everything. Mushroom clouds erupted on the horizon. People, beast, anything, and everything was turned to ash.
Chaos. Absolute chaos. It was Hell on Earth, made real and manifested by people unknown to Johnny.
All of the peoples’ voices all echoed within his mind. “We all stand with you.”
Johnny turned around to see the darkness, followed by the soft white light rush past him and engulf the chaotic world. Eventually, it burned bright and blinded him wholly.
Jerry’s voice echoed in Johnny’s mind one last time.
“You never asked for this task, I know. You must be strong, though, Johnny. For all of us, for all of those lost and those that will be lost. Find comfort in the night, in the darkness. Do not be afraid of it when it comes. Just remember me, the others, everyone. We will light the way for you.”
Johnny felt hands upon hands being placed on his shoulder, followed by a pat on the back from Jerry.
He closed his eyes. “I will do my best for all of you.”
In that instant, he felt something more awaken within him. Things that were designed to be suppressed, unknown, untouched. Secrets began to seep out from his mind’s vault. Johnny couldn’t help but grin. He had at last, indeed woken up from the dream.
The morning had come and with it, the nagging and incessant poking and nudging from Chico. At least Johnny thought it was morning.
“Alright, alright, I’m up,” said Johnny groggily.
Johnny scanned around the room, noting it was still dark out. “What the hell, Chico? What time is it?”
Chico growled at something that stood in the darkest corner of Johnny’s room. Then he saw it, whatever, whoever it was.
“Be thankful your ‘guardian’ woke you, child. If I weren’t given strict orders to take you in alive, I’d kill you where you lie,” said the shade.
“Who are you, Devil?” Chico growled.
“No one of your concern, mutt,” snapped the shade. “You would be wise to keep your mouth shut before I snap your twig of a neck!”
Then, hundreds of eyes all popped up in the windows. “Somebodies got a wee bit of a mouth on ‘em,” said Red.
The phantom growled angrily. “I see…perhaps this wasn’t the wisest decision I’ve made.”
Red spat on the ground. “Ya got that right. Now if ya know what’s good fer ya, you’ll get a steppin’ unless ya want an ass kickin’.”
Johnny noted an ice cream grin on the shadow’s face and its gaze as it turned to him.
“Soon you will start losing everything and everyone you love,” the shade stated, followed by a laugh. “Be seeing you again real soon, Johnny.”
The shade then evaporated into nothingness.