Hubris McLeod – Part 5

It was cold to the touch, very cold. Suddenly I found myself struck with a sensation, not entirely unlike a brain-freeze, shooting up my arm. I glanced around the room and, to my horror, saw what appeared to be a creeping frost encase the world around me, slowly followed by a dense and impenetrable fog. The icy pain reached my shoulder and I flinched, screwing my eyes up tight, and tried to pull away.

 

I fell to the ground, landing hard on my frozen arm. The ground felt wrong, far too soft and springy compared to how I remembered wooden floors to feel. I opened my eyes to find myself sprawled on a patch of grass. It seemed that I was no longer in Carly’s house seeing as I distinctly remember the house having walls and being totally devoid of grass.

 

A quick survey of the area told me that I was in a graveyard and, depressingly enough, it looked quite familiar. A few feet ahead of me were hundreds of old, damaged gravestones, in a series of irregular lines. I pulled myself to my feet and walked towards them. As I got closer I began to notice that some of the gravestones came complete with bullet holes, and one even sported a large hole through its centre, likely caused by an errant shotgun blast. This alone should have tipped me off as to where I was, but it was what I saw next that caused the penny to finally drop.

 

I’m terrible at funerals. I’ve been to four funerals in my life, and three of those ended with me getting punched repeatedly in the face by one, or all, of the grieving party. The only funeral where that didn’t happen was where I was the grieving party, my father’s funeral. It was this scene that I stumbled upon as I walked through the graveyard. It was a pathetic funeral by all accounts, probably because I had organised it and by this time most of my acquaintances did not trust me at funerals. In attendance was myself, a priest (who was in the process of being defrocked for various stereotypical offences), a few of my father’s work colleagues, and my father, sealed into a cheap MDF coffin. I watched myself watch my father being lowered into the ground as the priest muttered some insincere statement about how the entire world would mourn for my father. The moment my father disappeared below the lip of the freshly dug grave the entire party dispersed, leaving me alone by his grave.

 

I walked towards my younger self, five years my junior, as he ran a hand over the crisp, new gravestone. It only sported two bullet holes as it had only been in place a few hours. The decision to bury my father in the worst graveyard in the city would haunt me for years, but it was cheap, and my father had hardly left me a sizeable inheritance.

 

I made my way up behind my younger self and went to put a hand on his shoulder. It passed straight through him and caused him to disperse in a series of spirals, as smoke does when wafted away, only to reappear a few feet away, leaning against the shotgun damaged gravestone. I remembered this part well. I followed as my younger self drearily plodded back through the graveyard towards his car, a black Audi parked just outside the church. He reached the car and fished around in his pocket for the keys, taking an unusually long time to find them. There was a loud cracking noise and he looked up just in time to see the head of a stone gargoyle crash straight into his face. Seeing it from outside made it look much more painful than I remembered it to be, although the amount of blood was consistent with my memory. That was the moment that enabled me to see auras.

 

My younger self passed out almost immediately and, suddenly, a thought struck me. I never knew how I had made it from the churchyard to the hospital I was to wake up in later, no-one had called an ambulance and the hospital staff couldn’t remember anyone having brought me in. I scanned the area and found no trace of anyone else so decided to head into the church, perhaps I could at least learn how the gargoyle had fallen. I walked through the church door, actually through it, causing it to billow in a similar smoky fashion to my younger self. I made my way through the main hall at a deliberate pace, nearly bumping into someone coming the other way. He looked familiar but I couldn’t quite place him. He was wearing a long, grey cloak that flowed behind him as he walked. I called off my gargoyle inspection and decided to follow the guy instead, he was just too sinister to ignore.

 

The cloaked figure headed all the way back to my unconscious younger self. He stood over his body and just studied him, barely moving. Reaching into his robe, he pulled out a notepad, scribbled down some notes in incomprehensible handwriting, then replaced the notepad. The cloaked man turned away from my younger self and flicked an archaic mobile phone out of his sleeve. I watched him dial 555-357 before he froze solid. The creeping frost was back again, once more acting as the harbinger to the thick fog. As the fog completely obscured the surrounding environment, hanging so close to me that I could not even see my own feet.

 

After what seemed an eternity the fog cleared and I found myself in Carly’s house once more. The phenomenon’s eyes, still fading in and out of visibility, were staring at me. I backed away slowly, stumbling as my foot suddenly remembered that I had shot it before my little soiree into dreamland. This was way out of my league, whatever this phenomenon was it had power. Fumbling inside my jacket I managed to find the business card the suspicious G-Men had given me. As much as I didn’t want their help I couldn’t really see any other way to sort this mess out. The decision was ultimately taken away from me, however, as almost as soon as I found the card the agents of the NBUO kicked down the lounge door, guns at the ready and still wearing their sunglasses.

 

They fired a few shot at the phenomenon, to no discernible effect. The only thing that did happen was that the creature’s eyes faded away from looking at me and faded back in facing the agents. One of the agents, the one who didn’t talk to me in the lobby earlier, freaked out at this and made a run for the door. The other agent took him down with a sudden lariat, barely taking his eyes off the phenomenon.

 

A large groan suddenly shook the room, the neutered behemoth was awake. It sat up gingerly and glared angrily at me. The agent, in one fluid motion, pulled a metal stake from a pouch on his belt and hurled it at the behemoth, embedding the stake in its brain, all while keeping his gun trained on the phenomenon. The behemoth crashed back to the ground, and I found it very hard not to be impressed. He made a hand motion that I gathered meant I should leave, and hobbled my way out the other doorway. Behind me I heard some gunshots, but I paid them little attention as I made for the back door.

 

Annoyingly the door was gone, and in its place stood a wall of solid ice, blocking my exit. I glanced down the hall to see the same was true of the front door, it seemed the phenomenon didn’t want anyone to leave. There was a loud crash and the agent came flying through the wall, straight into me, knocking me down. His sunglasses didn’t move, I made a note to ask him about that at a later date. He flashed me a wry grin as he got back to his feet, reloaded his gun, and ran back into the lounge. I observed as best a could through the newly formed hole as he fired his gun numerous times at the phenomenon. His gun seemed quieter than before so I deduced that he had changed his ammunition during his strategic reloading. It didn’t seem to have made much difference to the phenomenon, other than angering it.

 

There were thin razors of ice slashing across the room, resembling claw marks. They seemed to be aimed at the agent but he was dodging them effortlessly, continuing to fire away. When he paused to reload the phenomenon took its chance and, with a single swipe, disarmed the agent, launching his gun across the room and causing it to land a few feet away from me. The agent fell back, flat against the wall. He looked flustered. A hand was rummaging around in his pouch again, the icy slashes getting closer and closer. The agent pulled something from his pouch and threw it at the phenomenon. I was blinded by a bright flash, there was a loud squeal, and then an eerie silence.

 

When my sight eventually returned the agent was sat, leaning on the wall of lounge, breathless and flustered. The icy slashes were melting rapidly, as were the walls blocking the exits. I dragged myself to the wall and hoisted myself through the hole to inspect the damage. The phenomenon was gone, as was the behemoth, and apart from the melting ice, shattered furniture, injured agents, and the bullet wound in my foot, there was no evidence that either had been there. The agent smirked at me and let out a strained chuckle.

 

I’ve had easier cases.” he said, wryly.

 

He was still wearing his sunglasses.

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