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Aberrant: Dead Rising - [Fic] The flesh is weak [Finished]


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The flesh is weak Johnny, only the soul is Immortal. And yours belongs to ME. - Louis Cyphere, Angel Heart

"What is it in Man, that would drive them to madness? How is it that those who become marked, whose flesh becomes tainted, are always the ones to go first?" Benedict often wondered about such things, and tonight was no exception. The chilly nightwind shared with him its caress, sending shivers down his spine. He readjusted himself, evoking a creaking noise from the lawnchair on which he sat, its chipped paint and rusted nails a fitting entourage to the beat-up minivan behind him that housed his kitchen and his home.

He knew a thing or two about madness, that's for sure. And flesh - he knew about that too. Some strange gift that had been sneaking its way into people's minds and bodies, making them more than Human and less than Gods. And driving them to insanity. And for each gifted with such wonders, a thousand more turned to nothing more than a gibberous, fleshy effigy. Nothing more than a shambling tombstone reading "here was once a Human being".

He worried about himself too, sometimes. All cheer and smiles he seemed, laid-back like one of he beach boys. But he knew of flesh and minds, and he knew his wasn't infallible. That's why he camped outside sometimes, taking moonlit strolls and keeping an eye out for incursions of Zombie hordes or worse. Because sometimes, just every now and then, he'd worry about what might happen if he'd gone off the deep end. He'd been staring down that hole a long time before he decided to turn its back, and you never know what might be sneaking up on him.

Benedict got off the chair, another strangled response followed. He set himself in motion, every once in a while breathing in the thick night air, tasting it on his tongue. Sometimes a scent was familiar, made him think back. Sometimes he'd smell food and he greedily ran his mind along its ingredient. Sometimes the smell'd be somewhat more...raunchy, and he'd smile that Glasgow smile of his that hid teeth that would make Jaws cringe.

But not this time. This time, he smelled death. His brow furrowed, and he tucked his chef's hat under the waistband that fastened his apron - this might get dodgy. With a speed and silence hard to achieve for one so big as he, Benedict set off towards a nearby set of sandy dunes, a while off the quickly deteriorating road that led to the compound.

"Expect problems, and eat them for breakfast" - Alfred Montapert
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  • 2 weeks later...
"Fish, to taste right, must swim three times - in water, in butter and in wine" - Polish proverb

He had run for a few minutes, nose to the wind and eyes to the horizon, when he sensed he came close to the source of this peculiar, rotting smell. He halted, falling into a crouching walk, hoping not to disturb anything dangerous. This was not the time or place to be heroic, so far from his allies - but he had to be sure before calling in anything suspicious. And although he might not look it, he could hold his own were it to be necessary.

A small hill obscured him from direct observation, yet allowed him to look down upon the small indentation in the landscape below. Short and bristly tufts of some sort of desert weed stung him slightly as he crawled over them, rustling in an eerie nightwind. He felt the sand, cool and dry, underneath the palms of his hands as he pushed himself up to take a look.

The shadow of the hillock hid from view a large, solid length of pipe, cracked and broken, some three feet in diameter. The outside of it was smeared with dirt accumulated by years of exposure, and it reeked like a charnel house. Wafts of a sweet and sordid scent emerged and travelled along the breeze, inviting scavengers to dine on whatever had found its untimely end here. The flies had ceased to drone, the cold more than their insect-bodies could handle, and the wretched thing below had been visited already by coyote and vulture alike.

Benedict drew up his nose, his face a grimace. His scent was a thing of terrible acuity, and he now fought the urge to hurl the contents of his stomach out - only barely succeeding. The corpse below had been stripped of all meat fit to eat by mammal predators, leaving only the maggots, beetles and lizards to feast on Human beef jerky and toxic flesh soup. To say it was it an unpleasant sight would be calling a bottle of vodka somewhat alcoholic.

He decided he'd carefully go down the hill and investigate the grisly sight - and pour himself a strong one for his nerves when he'd have the chance.

"Cursed is the man who dies, but the evil done by him survives." - Abu Bakr
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"Nothing happens by chance, my friend... No such thing as luck. A meaning behind every little thing, and such a meaning behind this. Part for you, part for me, may not see it all real clear right now, but we will, before long." - Richard Bach

Small rocks clamored down, not quite an avalanche, but sufficient in amount that anyone who would have been nearby would be drawn to investigate. Benedict cursed his lapse of luck, biting down on his knuckles as if to ward it off, a good luck charm. He gazed left and right quickly, allowing himself a moment's respite before moving closer to the corpse near the drain below. The darkened gape of the pipe revealed nothing, except a trickle of foul-smelling liquid which ended as it pooled around the feet of the corpse. He almost expected some sort of eerie howling, glowing eyes or the laughter of some comic book villain to appear, but none of that happened.

He knew better than to touch it, using a clamp to search around near the battered body and its tattered cloth pall.The expected accoutrements wheren't present - no wallet, no driver's license or pictures, no keys or even spare change. The corpse's clothing - as tattered and frayed as it was due to exposure to the elements - seemed to be some sort of worker's overall. The original color had most likely been blue, but it had faded to a state between white and beige, with many holes and an uneven texture from moisture and sunlight.

The scent had not improved, remeniscent of beef jerkey and wilted flowers. The last scraps of decay would soon vanish, leaving behind only a dried skeleton. As Benedict decided to get up and look for clues inside the pipe, his eyes were drawn instead to something glinting in the dust below the corpse. Carefully, he used the clamps to dislodge a few bits of metal from the soil. Although beaten up and largely corroded, Uncle Sam made his dogtags to last - and just so they were.

"Marshall Dean" in a comic book font, stamped deep in stainless steel. Of course, it was no longer quite stainless, but the meaning had hit home. This poor fellow had been a military man, and he'd died here all alone. No one left to find him, or look for him. And whatever he ran from had been down that drainage pipe. He had almost made it. Benedict couldn't make out the rank or file of Marshall, but he doubted he'd been a high-up. Grunt, engineer, technician - something along those lines.

He folded the dogtags inside a napkin, and put them in his pocket. He was sure there were people at the refuge who might be interested - or knew this man, even. Once more he faced the drainage pipe, a frown on his forehead. Was he foolishly heroic enough - or just foolish - to check out the drainage pipe's sinister entrails?

“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future.” - Fulton Oursler
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  • 3 weeks later...
“Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.” - Terry Pratchett

Darkness never bothered Benedict much. In fact, he felt so much better when there was no light to distract his sense of smell. He removed the small round glasses from his nose and squinted as he peered into the dark hallow of the drainage pipe. Casually, he cleaned them on a raggy hadkerchief emerging from the front pocket of his apron as he pondered his next move. He then tucked the rag and his glasses into the pocket - he'd have no need for them where he was going now.

Exposed to darkness in full, engulfed in silence, Benedict relied fully on his smell and taste now. In a round opening, with a trickle of water, so much information is passed down by even the smallest waft of air or current of liquid. The tips of his fingers touched the walls gently, searching for the best spots to keep his balance as the sensation of his whole world seemed to shrink to his taste buds. He ran his tongue across the the roof of his mouth, the palate rushing to make sense of the information contained in the vaporous highway.

The stench behind him grew weaker with every passing step, the taste of rusting metal (so uncannily like blood) leveling out the light wafts of living beings and wet earth ahead. As much as it comforted him that ahead there would be no charnel house, he softened his footfalls and crouched lower to the ground anyway. Because as much as he'd like to believe anything alive needn't be dangerous, he assumed it would be so.

He thought it was weird that no vermin - no grubs, no beetles, no rats or spiders - seemed to make this tunnel its home. By now he expected to hear a scuttling sound, the splashing of a tiny body into the water or some warning rasp or titter. But none of it seemed to come, nothing at all save the constant drip of water. Benedict tucked his chef's hat into his belt and ran his hand across his forehead, beaded with sweat. The temperature had gone up quite a bit, and he felt like being in a steam room.

For another ten to fifteen minutes he clumsily made his way through the pipe - and it seemed to have no end.

Just as he considered turning back, his foot hit a small metal box, displacing it down the tunnel several feet. He froze in place, straining his ear to hear even the tiniest movement ahead. When he was sure nothing seemed to have been disturbed by the noise, he turned his attention to the mtal box at his feet.

It wasn't a very heavy box, and a quick feel-over confirmed that it was, in fact, round and flat. Metal bands ran crosswise over its surface, and it seemed to have a lid. A piece of metal wire attached the a square piece of plastic to the box, much like a dogtag. The box smelled wet and grimy, so it had been here for a while. All the same, he couldn't feel any damaged pieces or cracks on it.

He didn't want to turn back now, but he had to get the box to safety. With a slight sigh he decided that using his power was probably the best option in this case. He closed his eyes (an instinctive reaction) and mentally reached out for an organ he had which - as far as he knew - was unique to himself. Something deep inside of him convulsed, like a case of indigestion, and then he felt the heat rising.

Benedict clung to the side of the pipe, fighting the dizziness that came with such a sudden rise in heat, and fighting his reflex to stop the process and what was to come. He felt the sides of his mouth twitch as the scars on his check opened wide, revealing the full width of his mouth. He clenched his stomach as the heat rose further, and as a horrible analogy to the nightlives of so many college students, he felt his insides turn inside out as a fleshy mass hurled from his mouth and onto the floor of the pipe.

As he was getting to his senses, the quivering mass quickly reached a state of solidity, reshaping itself in Benedict's image - although only three feet tall as it rose to its feet. The horribly twisted mirror image of himself grinned that careless grin at him, its eyes filled with eagerness to perform the duties it already had imprinted in its mind. Even so, Benedict felt the need to whisper his bidding to the creature.

"Take...this." he said, as he passed the metal box to the Homonculus, "and take it to the trailer, Put it on the table, in plain view. Then return here."

The Homonculus made no noise, not even to acknowledge its commands, as it took the box and bounded down the slope of the pipe. As he looked down after it, Benedict wiped his mouth and calmed his stomach.

Thankfully it looked like this, he thought to himself. He had seen much stranger and horrible things emerge than the horrid mockery of his own form that currently made its was down with the speed of a running dog. Perhaps when he got back he'd make work of Olivia's comment that the resident doctor had insight in the powers Supers were gifted (and burdened) with.

With his stomach quickly returning to its normal, restful state, Benedict resumed his slow trek up into darkness.

“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” - Unknown
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  • 2 weeks later...
“When you have come to the edge Of all light that you know And are about to drop off into the darkness Of the unknown, Faith is knowing One of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or You will be taught to fly” - William Overton

A sweet smell, rapidly becoming a stench, was the prelude to the rising tunnel opening up into a cavern lit by miner's torches. A rope secured along the edge of the wall by climbing hooks hammered into the exposed rock pointed to further Human involvement. The room itself, a dome about 30 feet across, was home to the most bizarre scene that Benedict had ever seen in his life. At the center of the rocky floor was a depression, like a bowl, about a foot or so wide. The surface of the depression, or the liquid, amorphous substance within, was a glistening black or ruby-red. There were occasional ripples along the surface, like a water's edge disturbed, rhythmic and hypnotic like a heartbeat.

Arrayed in concentric circles around the center of the room were bodies - or to be exact - skeletal corpses. Despite their lack of flesh or sinew, the bones had remained arranged in the position at their death - some in fetal position, others bowed low in supplication, others yet again arranged like sinister dancers. The bones seemed moist, like the meat had been only recently gnawed off by a scavenger, and a splash of clear liquid marked the ground at the location of each body.

The light flickered once or twice as the old miner's lamps reminded Benedict of their possible age - he had no idea how long this place had been there. Or, so he mused, how long this macabre display had been this way.

Certainly this scene had been what the military man had found, and something here had cost him his life. Benedict was no fool - the reddish-black liquid at the center of the room mirrored the only substance this scene lacked - flesh and blood - and so that had to be where the demise of these people would remain.

The scent strengthened, imperceptible perhaps to most, but not to Benedict's honed palate. Like a mixture of fresh blood and cloyed milk, it rose to a crescendo of rotting, fetid smells. He felt the air become thick and heavy, his limbs locked in place and a buzz overtook his hearing as he felt the oxygen being pressed from his lungs. He broke out in sweat, beads of it pearling down his forehead as a primordeal fear gripped his throat. Like some prey animal caught in the gaze of a supreme predator, he felt himself in the presence of something monstrous - something inhuman.

The amorphous mass at the center of the room rippled, and slowly a shape like a human head emerged. It was thick and fleshy, but revealing a bony jaw and empty eye sockets, like a face-shaped candle which had melted away during the night. Thin claws, skeletal in nature or perhaps more like an insect's hardened claw, grasped feebly at the rim of the basin, hoisting forth a bulbuous, cancerous body from which ulcerous pores leaked more of that sweet-smelling liquid.

The thing's lower jaw was missing, and the strength-less flap of skin that covered its trachea ruptured slowly downward, towards its chest. With the sound of tearing sutures, a triangular hole of meat and bone erupted at the center of its mass, revealing scores of needle-thin teeth grinding like razorblades surrounding whatever end its guzzled prey would spiral. A waft of acid evaporating from its stomach formed a cloud of acrid gas, causing Benedict to choke on his own bile.

This, however, also brought him to his senses. Even as he failed to tear his eyes loose from the horrible abomination in front of him, his right arm fumbled around and found the stretched rope hammered into the wall.

With a sickly popping sound, more of the creatures body tore itself free from its hiding place, making it look more like a deformed maggot than even an overly obese Humanoid by any stretch of the word. Benedict found himself paralyzed still, whether from the horror itself or because of something in the creature's smell, he couldn't tell. All he knew was he had but seconds to live - and his body would not obey his will...

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
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"The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an important battle decision. That's the time to listen to every fear you can imagine! When you have collected all the facts and fears and made your decision, turn off all your fears and go ahead!" - George Patton

Benedict wasn't a fighting man - he was a damn cook and he knew it. Horrors from beyond his imagination were not his daily cup of tea. And yet, one of those things had just crawled ffrom out of its proverbial rock and lunged at him. He could feel the warmth of its fetid breath and a shiver ran down his spine as its maw unleashed a storm of teeth, each attached to a single, barbed tooth. Almost paralyzed by fear, the only reason he did not get skewered immediately was because of a single mental nudge, causing most of his body to go limp.

Above him, sharp and jagged things hit the ceiling and the wall behind him, salliva dripping down on him from the stretched ligaments that attached them to the abomination's main trunk. It burned his skin, each drop living agony - and it woke him up good.

He wasn't planning to die - especially not for his stupid curiosity. With one hand still on the rope handrail rung alongside the wall, he grabbed his cheek with his free hand, and pulled. With the strength of desperation, he tore free his jaw, revealing the rows of sharp teeth underneath. It was a last measure, and he hoped his gamble would pay off. Just as the creature retracted its projectiles and was readying another volley, he set his teeth into the rope full-force.

For a fraction of a second, nothing happens, the bony projections of the horror sailing through the air at their mark. Then, with a dry pop, the taut rope gave way and released itself violently from the rungs, dragging Benedict along with it. The force of the release was enough to roll him down the slope and through what felt like miles of tunnels before he landed face-first into a wall as it rounded a corner.

Spitting out shrapnel and coughing up rock dust, Benedict cursed his curiosity and having the defensive capabilities of the common Dodo.

He didn't wait to see whether the creature would follow him - throwing caution to the wind he hurried, half-crouching, through the dark corridor towards fresh air. Ahead of him, a bright circle of hope announced that the sun had risen. As he bolted to his freedom, he vaulted over the soldier's corpse, landing flat on the floor twelve feet further. He immediately flopped over, wide eyes watching the pipe opening like a hawk. Twisting, grinding teeth and claws scoured the inside of the pipe, but did not pursue him into the sunlight.

Drawing clawmarks into the soft metal inside, the beast withdrew. It let this morsel go, in favor of luring in another some time to come.

Benedict wasted no time, despite his fatigue, his fear or his hunger. Like a man possessed he shoved sand down the hill to cover the pipe, pushed rocks to block it and any scrap of metal or trash he could to hide it. If it were up to him, no one else would be victim of such lethal curiosity. Nearly two more hours it took in the swelling sun, ere it was complete. Then, with creaking bones and a heavy gait, he shambled the way back to his trailer and the compound.

--- the compound, two hours later

He entered the door, nonchalantly dropping his chef's hat on the small side table, startling the Homonculos on top of it. It turned around, guilt and chocolate butter on its face. With a swift grab, Benedict grabbed the little critter by the scruff of its neck, and turned it left and right. "So, didn't I tell you to come back when you were done here? Bloody tit. Always losing your orders aren't you?" The Homonculos was silent, reverting back to being Benedict's subservient extension with his presence. "Ah well, back to the gullet". Extending his jaws widely, Benedict unceremoniously shoved the creature down his throat, swallowing hard.

He then turned his attention to the metal canister. Seen in daylight, it was clearly some form of reinforced film reel casing. He pushed the casing to the side of the table, and grabbed a bottle of bourbon from the top shelf. Pouring himself a small glass, he put the bottle down next to the casing and fell down on his chair, the poor thing creaking in protest. He creaked his shoulders, rolling his muscles, and took sips from the liquid strength, gathering his thoughts.

What had been the creature he saw, so far down the desert sands? And who were the people it ate - or who became part of it - arranged to grisly in that cavern? And most of all - what secrets were on this movie reel, that a soldier had given his life trying to escape down the tunnel, only to succumb to his wounds at the very end?

Benedict grimaced as his torn cheek healed up slowly, and he contemplated the virtues of being a cook over being dinner. With an annoyed look on his face - a rarity for him - he grabbed his chef's hat and folded it straight and proper before positioning it properly over his cornrows. He was a cook, damnit, not a detective or a military man. But he knew people at the compound who were, and who'd be interested to see what horrors lurk in places forgotten by man only recently.

Cradling the movie reel as he made for the center of the compound, the door to his trailer swung open an closed in the desert wind.

"The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet." - Damon Runyon

The monster in the desert, the contents of the movie reel and the whole mystery behind it can be used for collaborative fiction, if people want to. Let me know, then I will make a new thread for it.

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