Response to Terrible Minds Flash Fiction.
Subgenre: Slasher Horror
Setting: Vampire’s Subterranean Lair
Element: Magical Pocket Watch
Last Man Standing
This is now getting tedious, Myron thought as he despatched the latest moron with a death-wish. He sighed with infinite dejection as he leaned over the still warm carcass and pulled his dagger from its back. With the practiced calm of a professional thief and assassin, he rifled through his victim’s belongings and pocketed anything of value. Apart from an ornate gold pocket watch that had seen better days and a starting pistol, there wasn’t anything of value. He shook his head with dismay. Who the hell comes armed with a starting pistol? Was he hoping to give the denizens a heart-attack or startle one of them enough to get in a killing blow? This made no sense, but it wasn’t the first time some poorly equipped ‘slayer’ emerged from the shadows to kill his employers; the first one he killed had only been armed with a flick knife, rubber band and a hurtful scowl that its wearer thought made him look ‘hard as nails’. It didn’t. In fact, the kid wet himself before Myron introduced him to a stalagmite he’d been meticulously sharpening for use. Well, might as well make use of the environment; after all, one of his employers did like his staff to be imaginative. To be honest, Myron liked the way the boy had tried to pull himself off the spike he’d been impaled on. It showed that he a certain spirit, a never say die approach to life. Either that or he was far too dense to realise he was already dead, Myron reflected grimly, looking over at the desiccated carcass that remained shrivelled around the stalagmite. He almost looks natural, Myron thought wistfully.
He shook his head to rid himself of such thoughts. He cannot afford to daydream; that’s how Maurice ended up being barbecued by some deranged pyromaniac. Honestly, who douses themselves with petrol, lights themselves with a joss stick – he thought that wasn’t even possible – and proceeds to hug his assailant to a fiery death? He had to admit, though, it had been very entertaining to watch and did brighten up the dank cave system; not to mention highlighting how many bodies littered the place.
Myron shrugged off his reverie and sauntered back to the makeshift camp site that had been his home for decades. There was the one burning question that had entered his mind the most: how old was he, anyway? Looking in the cracked mirror that lay on a rickety table didn’t give too much away: dark, dishevelled hair crowned a high forehead; Two equally dark eyes peered out from sunken sockets; Two day’s worth of stubble rounded off what looked like a sinister face that also, strangely, had a nondescript quality to it. He remembered one of his colleagues saying that the ‘guvnors’ liked their staff to be hale and healthy at all times, which also led him to believe that they negated the aging process somehow. Or they had slipped some of their blood into his tea. Probably explained why he didn’t like leaving the caves: he had been subverted by his employers and had to be, as a part of service, near their presence at all times. Or it could be that he was just another psycho who enjoyed his job far too much to even think about leaving. But that was it, wasn’t it? His love for the job was dwindling. Normally he’d ‘play’ with his victims a bit more before administering the final cut, as it were; let the terror sink in a bit more.
Maybe I need a break, he thought with a shudder. What the hell do I do? The world must be a different place by now. When did I last venture out of the caves? Must have been when William was alive. That had been years ago now, leaving him the last man standing. Loneliness had been a word that leaped out in the job description and also warned about not being too ‘friendly’ with colleagues, not that he, or anyone else for that matter, paid any heed to them. That had been then. Now he knew from bitter experience not to let personal feelings get in the way of the job. However, this was starting to be difficult.
A pang of loss threatened to accumulate into a torrent of grief. Natasha had meant the world to him, but she had been amongst the first to be killed by an intruder. Carelessness, one of the employers had said. They never let emotions cloud their judgement when it came to their staff. They were tools, pure and simple; a weapon to be pointed in the way of the enemy, should any be foolish enough to enter their lair. Foolish, however, people were. Far too many for Myron to count had met their end in these cave systems. One or two even haunted the areas where they met their demise, staring solemnly at their shrivelled remains with an intensity only the undead could exude. Myron even attempted to make contact with them, but all he got was a mouthful of abuse and empty threats. He laughed at them. They couldn’t harm him while they were alive, so what could they do to him now they were dead?
Frowning at the sudden surge of memory, he lay down on one of the many empty beds and stared up at the stalactites that lined the cave’s ceiling. A slight smile creased his mouth as he remembered knocking a couple of them down on to a group of intruders. The mess had been quite spectacular, but had taken ages to clean up. The employers were very strict about that: no gore or body parts. The body had to be whole for them to ‘consume’or, as they were also fond of saying, ‘tap the bottle’. It explained why all the bodies looked like dry husks and never seemed to rot. Even though his methods of disposal would often be in conflict with this directive, he didn’t mind much; it was quite refreshing to have employers who cared about hygiene.
A slight sound suddenly made all his senses acute. He sat upright and strained to listen. Soft footfalls emanated from the entrance, the intruder trying to be a stealthy as possible. Myron flitted between rock formations and their shadows, all the while unobserved by the intruder. He was soon within ten feet of his prey, watching their every move. A young female, no doubt the partner to the idiot he had just killed. She hissed a name every couple of seconds, as though she were expecting a reply. She must have known by now he was dead, but this didn’t stop her from trying to find him or from suffering the same fate. Myron crept up behind her and, with one hand, covered her mouth and pulled her head back roughly. She yelped with surprise, fright and pain; when she saw his dagger come close to her throat she began to struggle. Just as he was about to administer the killing blow, the air around her began to shimmer then, impossibly, her squirming body began to pulsate with unnatural energy, the force of which broke his hold over her and threw him back into the shadows. Sitting up groggily, he saw the woman wreathed in light for a split second before she vanished abruptly, leaving a vacuum that air rushed in to fill.
He stood up, looking around warily, as though expecting her to reappear at will. Nothing but silence greeted him…no, he felt a faint pulsating that came from one of his pockets. He pulled out the pocket watch and felt a similar power to the one that had been used against him moments earlier. Scowling, he flipped open the cover. He wished he hadn’t. Somehow, in the deepest parts of his mind, he knew he had been snared into something that he had no control over. The hands to the watch began to spin wildly, generating an intense power he knew all too well. Then the cave began to shimmer and pulsate. He, too, was subject to this powerful transformation, but in a different way: he seemed to become more translucent, as though he vanished from where he was standing.
With rising horror, he soon realised that this had been a baited trap all the long. Somewhere in the back of his mind, people had always known about him, how he protected his employers from those who meant them harm. They feared him more than the faceless monsters they came to destroy. People came here to kill those who protected them first and foremost, but soon realised that not all were dead. Yes, he was the last man standing. This would be a bitter twist that would ensure he would be a man guarding nothing.
Time began to alter the cave’s physical appearance. Bodies vanished, leaving a bare floor; his camp site, his one haven, also vanished, along with all the torches ensconced in the cave walls. The only light left was from the infernal machine he held in his hand. Suddenly, the watch stopped, making reality hit him hard and fast as he reappeared at the very spot he vanished from. There was a difference, one which he only had moments to realise: the cave was devoid of life.
Light from the watch barely penetrated the intense darkness that surrounded him. He moved quickly from the main cave to the inner sanctum where his employers rested, his movements oddly halting and painful. He reached the cave, pausing in mute horror at what he witnessed: in the centre of the room, several headless bodies lay slumped together. Blood from the vicious wounds pooled around their cooling bodies and streaked the walls. Someone had found a way to end it before it started.
He sank to his knees and held the pocket watch out, the light almost nothing now. His hand, he noticed, was a withered claw. Grim understanding hit him then. All the years have caught up with me, he thought. They died before any of us were employed to protect them, which means I wasn’t given the charm to stave off time.
“Not so tedious now, is it?” He laughed mirthlessly, sinking to the ground. He stared at the watch until the light vanished completely.