The Final Cadence

Chapter 1 – The Plague Doctor

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The air was cold and on the verge of dusk as Damone exited the archaic subway terminal via the crumbling stairs leading to the street. The rain fell in heavy droplets, bringing the decades-long layer of ash embedded in the streets through to his sinuses. He could taste the decay in the back of his throat.

Weary and sun-starved, he removed his plague mask as he traipsed across the last few steps and sauntered into the cold, lifeless surroundings of what once was a busy Market Street. His traveler’s high began to diminish.

The nonstop trip from the Seattle Province to San Francisco Hills required much endurance. The appalling amount of “No Man’s Land” between the two outpost cities was an instant death note for most hunters. And although physically disheveled, his black pea coat sprinkled with days of cigarette ash, unkempt black hair and sharp fragments of a beard beginning to emerge from his anemic skin, his spirits began to lift once he inhaled the frigid but much-needed air of the city. Despite the haziness of the settling embers drifting about the wind, it was a welcome relief having traveled via the underground terminal for the majority of the trip

Hooking his mask to his belt, Damone shuffled the weight of his military-issued black canvas bag on his right shoulder as he surveyed his immediate surroundings. Tall, patchwork steel walls encircled the subway station entrance and front of the building. The subway station entrance was encircled on all sides by tall patchwork steel walls. The expanding metal grating that lay overhead protected any travelers from above. This was typical with entrances to underground throughways throughout the downtown area.

Tall, patchwork steel walls were constructed at each intersection of the street encasing the entrance of the subway and bank inside a giant steel box. This was typical with entrances to underground throughways throughout the downtown area. The expanding metal grating that lay overhead protected any travelers from above.

He was instructed to get off at the Montgomery Street station and take the underground thoroughfare within the bank vault to St. Mary’s Cathedral where he would meet with a member of the Council, as well as other hunters, and be stationed until further notice.

Damone had been doing this his whole life. There were never any roots to nourish for they could be usurped at any given time. His time in the Seattle Province was brief but important for the eventual move down to San Francisco Hills. Same with his time in Las Desierto before that (formerly known as Sin City pre-world decay). And Salt Basin City, Old Chicago, Pittsburgh Corridor…so many places yet so little time to cultivate an identity. But this is the life he was born into. A life of primeval secrets, impromptu ‘living’, and the policing of a bestial anathema.

Hunters called them by many names: ticks, leeches, deevs, and vamps were among a few of the less inane. Damone called them pyres, more so for the way they incinerated themselves when dispatched from this world.

The council of people he worked for were descendants of the first hunters, who were able to effectively drive the brood underground throughout civilization's historical reshaping and forming across the globe. But once the War of Nations began over a century ago, mankind was wounded. That final war gave the pyres the backdoor they needed to bring about their own legion and to usher the end of this planet’s human existence. That’s where Damone and the slew of other hunters came into play.

Damone and his huntsmen cohorts were all designated to different regions of the world. Proficient hunters such as Damone moved around fervently to different hotbeds of pyre action in order to help other hunter’s gain control of the creature population. Something happened in San Francisco Hills that initiated the Council to send Damone without haste. Something catastrophic and unbeknownst to him. Damone could only speculate as to what lay in store upon his arrival.

With the immediate lay of the land surveyed, Damone walked towards the remnants of what used to be a prominent bank; here, the underground access tunnel was located. The Council worked fervently over the century to create safe travel ways located at or near the mouth's of the railway exits. The less people were exposed to the outside world the better.

The access tunnel was located inside the vault. Surprisingly enough, a tunnel had already been entrenched and paved underneath from before the world decay; it was then only a matter of directing it towards the right outlet.

Damone scanned his immediate vicinity once more before walking up to the archaic looking ATM located near the main doors, which were completely boarded and blocked with the same construction as the protective walls on the street. Removing the black glove from his right hand, he reached into his coat and retrieved his access card. The machine was constructed on hinges like a door to serve as a service hatch into the front entrance. The card and PIN were the only way into this building.

Inserting the card, the machine came to life with a dim glow. The ATM locked his card into the slot with a secure thunk before he punched in his access code and the machine scanned his card’s imprint. The machine let out a chime of verification and the bolts released allowing entrance.

As Damone reached to open the hatch, the machine whirred to life again and dispersed a single $20 bill. Damone was taken aback and unconsciously claimed the currency. He held it up, working the paper through his fingers and admiring the design and antiquated art. On the front of the bill, someone had scribed a single word across the face of the currency portrait: FALLEN.

Currency of the paper variety had been useless for several decades but still fetched a decent trade for those living in the past and collected old grocery store coupons, UPC barcodes, and used envelopes.

With dry disdain, Damone let the bill flutter from his hand and scrape along the ground, the light breeze making it dance along the steps of the subway entrance. All the world’s accounts were empty or overdrawn--and his was no different.

Grabbing his card, he hauled open the entryway and peered inside. The air lay still and musty in the opaque darkness. He threw in his bag first then pulled himself up into the narrow rectangular opening, sliding in feet first. Darkness surrounded him as he slowly worked his way into the building and closed the hatch behind him.

His eyes began to slowly adjust to the overwhelming darkness of the vast lobby. The flaming ground lanterns that were supposed to light up the walkway towards the vault were dead and cold; the fire barrel marking the vault’s post was nonexistent in the distance as well. Something was amiss.

Damone removed his S&W 4506 handgun from his hip holster and made his way into the dreamy darkness, using the wall to his right for guidance. He was the only hunter who still used the antiquated firearm for dispatching pyres.

Despite his deprecation for the nostalgia of ancient artifacts, Damone had his vices as well. A plethora of different firearms lay within his canvas bag. And with ammo being scarce, Damone found a way to replicate the process with his own concoction. The only frustrating part was collecting the shells for use after a firefight. An endeavor worth completing due to the violent death that consumed the pyres through the barrel of his gun. To him, pyres were flesh and blood. The way they were dispatched was irrelevant…and the barrel of a gun was less personal and less baroque.

A quiet chill began to rise from the vast interior and despite the gray haze of the failing daylight outside, all the windows of the bank were reinforced with steel sheets, letting no amount of light through to the lobby. When this building was commandeered for use by the Council, the remnants of the past life lay undisturbed. Old banknotes, desks, chairs, even the glass chandelier lay as vestiges of yesteryears, littering the bulk of the lobby in disarray.

Hugging the wall, Damone continued into the lobby as he scanned his surroundings as best he could. The darkness was unforgiving in this arena of dying light and by the strength of its obscure aura, no light had touched these walls in quite some time. The few ground lanterns that Damone came across in their makeshift spittoons were cold to the touch. There were no signs of embers nor wispy smoke escaping the piles. The coldness of the interior began its bestial creep into his bloodstream. This was not how his arrival was to be met.

Damone slowly walked on with heavy ambiguity in his step, leery for what was to eventfully unfold but ready for what could. He only hoped Damien had been on alert and was intrigued by the possibilities as well.

This Manuscript: © 2018 Legion Media LLC 

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