Running on Empty – Nightmares

Below is a scene that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It’s entirely unedited and might change quite a bit before it’s finished. Heck, it might not even make it into the book.

For now, though… I hope you enjoy.


They were coming. Sharp and dark, mindless and hungry, they were coming.

Guttural snarls and screeches predicated the arrival of the Nightmares. Ghost had started referring to them that way, as Nightmares when he realized there wasn’t any other way to categorize the creatures that stalked he and his friend. The two of them had been on the run for a long while now, and Ghost could feel his reserves, physical and metal, dwindling.

Clawing, barking, they edged closer. He’d gained some ground when he emptied the magazine of his rifle into the black, but it hadn’t been enough. The Nightmares would find them soon. He couldn’t hide from them. They smelled blood. Preacher’s blood.

A thought flit through Ghost’s head. No, not a thought. A voice, soft and filled to the brim with equal parts torment and temptation. The voice toyed with him.

“You can leave him, you know. They might be distracted with him long enough for you to escape on your own. His end doesn’t have to be your end, Ghost.”

He recognized the voice. Knew it had no place between his ears, knew he was losing his mind. Knowing that didn’t make the suggestion any less tempting.

Ghost reached down to type a response into the Text and Talk on instinct before he remembered that the voice in his head didn’t need an audible response. No need to vocalize his thoughts using the archaic children’s toy that had served as Ghost’s voice for so long. The voice could hear his thoughts just fine.

“Not… gonna… happen, Charlie.” Ghost said through bouts of physical effort, dragging his friend another foot through the labyrinthine hallway. “Preacher… goes, I… go.”

He heard his own voice clearly in his head. Older, and deeper than it was the day the beast had torn his throat. That was the first time he’d seen the Nightmares. He’d survived them once, he’d do it again.

“Oh sweet Ghost,” the voice mocked, full of syrupy sweetness, “Where was that loyalty when you let me die?”

He didn’t respond in thought or text. He may be insane, but the voice had a point, and he hated her for it. Hated himself for what he’d done, what he’d let them do to her.

He was hurt too. One of the bullets had ricocheted and hit him in the shoulder. It hurt, but he’d live.

“Only if you leave him. Only then,” the voice said.

Ghost grit his teeth, and threw an arm around Preacher’s ruined chest in an effort to redistribute some of the weight. He felt the hot blood of his friend cover his arms, and down to coat his fingers in it’s slippery warmth. The combination of exhaustion and slippery hands were too much for Ghost to manage, and Preacher fell to the floor.

Something had torn into Preacher good, and he’d lost enough blood that his complexion was starting to resemble that of Ghost’s own albino skin. Ghost grunted, summoning the strength from some new found reserve, he pulled Preacher to a standing position, and began to drag him through the Stygian halls, trying to buy enough time to find the exit.

He couldn’t see anything. It was too dark. It was always dark. Had been for 80 years, but there’s dark, and then there’s dark. This was the latter, and even Ghost’s keen eyes couldn’t see much further than the dim green glow of the Text and Talk allowed, maybe a foot or so ahead.

So he listened. He listened to the beasts draw near, listened while Preacher babbled some verses from his damn book. It was always the book with Preacher.

They would be here any second now. This was the end.

Preacher’s head lolled over his shoulder, giving him a view of Ghosts’ own injury.

“Hey Ghost. You’re not looking too good, buddy.”

Ghost held a finger to his lips in an effort to quiet his injured friend. It didn’t work.

“Ghost’s got a bullet hole in him. Now he’s a Holy Ghost. Hey Ghost! Hear that? You’re the Holy Ghost!”

Ghost clapped a hand over Preacher’s mouth, and the talking slowly subsided.

Preacher had been snapping in and out of lucidity like that for the past hour or so. At least Ghost thought it had been at least that long. It was hard to tell. Every minute felt like an eternity with those things on his heels.

Ghost looked down, concerned that he may have smothered his friend, and felt relief when he saw that Preacher’s eyes were open, looking right at him. They were crazy, like the eyes of someone with a bad fever while the rest of his features were hard. Focused. Determined.

Then Preacher sat up straight, stared into the darkness, and spoke.

“Gonna paraphrase this one since you’re obviously getting a little impatient,” he shouted into the black.

“Someone’s coming. Someone a lot more bad ass than me. Someone whose boots I’m not fit to lick. But they’re taking their sweet time and right now it’s just you and us. You think you’ve got us. That there’s no way out. No way to be saved. The way I see it, it’s you in need of saving. So I’m giving you this chance. We’ve tried talking, tried dousing you with hot lead from the Holy Ghost. Only one thing left for us to do. Now it’s time we baptize you with fire!”

Something small and metal skittered across the concrete floor, but Ghosts’ eyes rested on the pitted metal sphere that his friend held. A smile brushed his lips, but he had only a moment to wonder where in all of this mess Preacher had found a grenade before their world became flame.

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