Resident Evil - Voracious - Chapter Five
The night was uldulating with spears of red and blue as Barry jogged across the street, Kathy's demanding voice at his back from where she stood on the steps of Council Riddick's home. He wasn't ignoring her, exactly, but years of civil service had stamped a claim on his mind, and the scent of trouble rose like a hand in his mind, smashing aside all else, and only the desire to help, to protect, remained. It wasn't until he actually reached one of the police cars that he realised he was effectively useless without a badge, and he pulled up short.
One of the officers had already vanished inside. While curious faces peered from nearby windows and doorways, only a few people had actually gathered around the sidewalk. Their faces were strained and tired in the light, some of them wearing rumpled clothes that had obviously been pulled on in a hurry, and they sounded more annoyed than worried as they questioned the remaining officer, who abandoned them when he saw Barry. "Hey. Hey. Move on, okay? Everything's under control."
"What's going on here? Is everything allright?" Barry frowned, backing up a few paces.
"I said it was under control, didn't I?" the man replied. He sounded irritable and tired, but he didn't look confrontational. He was young, probably fresh out of a training program, and the top of his head barely reached Barry's shoulder. "Probably just a false alarm."
"Probably just a false alarm?" A tall, rail thin woman with hastily applied red lipstick pushed her way forward. She was dressed in a pair of ridiculously immaculate jogging shorts underneath an oversized t-shirt reading 'Number One Mom'. Everything, from the set of her hips to the tilt of her head, spoke of agression. "I'm paying your salary and for every time you take a coffee break, and you come back at me with probably just a false alarm after you wake my daughter up? She has school tomorrow! I have to work tomorrow!"
"Ma'am, I didn't call this in, okay? Nor was I the one who made the disturbance." He gave Barry a harassed look. The brass nametag affixed to the front of his dun coloured uniform read 'Barniman'. "Everything is fine."
"Then you shouldn't be using your sirens, or those godawful lights."
"What happened, exactly?" Barry asked, then added, somewhat inanely, "I was in the military," as though it justified his involvement.
Barniman sighed heavily, scratching at a patch of razor-irritated skin on his shaven jawline. "It's like I said, sir. Someone called in a loud noise and requested it be looked into. We'll be out of here in a few minutes, so you can all go home." he added, raising his voice, although by now the woman had retreated to the other bystanders and was conversing with them in loud, angry tones.
Across the street, Kathy was calling for him to come back. There was a note of anger in her voice now, and Barry knew it would be best to go back and diffuse the situation before the night was completely ruined with an argument about 'playing the hero'. Instead, however, Barry pressed, "What disturbance?"
Barniman turned back to him, brow creasing, but whatever he was about to say, wether admonishing or enlightening, was forgotten in the chaos that broke loose.
A horrifying scream split the air like a carving knife, seeming to drive right into Barry's stomach, and he heard the young officer gasp loudly. The sound of shattering glass that followed it was even louder, like a bright flast of light in Barry's mind, and both he and the cop spun around in time to see the dark form hurtling out of the upstairs window of the darkened house. It hit the lawn with a sickening crunch on the back of it's neck, abruptly ending the still winding scream, toppling head over heels to lie sprawled on the sidewalk.
The woman who may or may not have been in fact the world's greatest mother shrieked so loudly Barry's ears popped, and the other men and women scattered like birds frightened by a gunshot.
The lights from the cars illuminated the still body of another police officer, body contorted unnaturally, eyes wide but already beginning to glaze over. Barry saw with a sickening lurch of reality that this one, too, was young, and most definitely dead, the neck bulging with shattered bones like a clenched fist. The young man's palms lay facing upwards, and Barry saw they were smeared with brilliant crimson dulled by red and blue lights.
"Oh . . . oh . . . oh! . . . Shiiiiiii-iiiiiit!" Barniman cried, face bleached of colour, and he broke for his cruiser, arms and legs flailing, snatching at the shortwave radio inside. "Linda! Linda, this is Barniman, get me, get me the Sherriff, get me backup -- "
But Barry was no longer listening. Rising on the night air from the darkened house was the thin, high, terrified cry of a child.
He ran for the front door, his heart suddenly doing double time, and slammed into it with his shoulder even though it was already partially ajar. He skidded to a stop, almost toppling on a throw rug on a polished wooden floor, and the door rebounded off the wall behind him, slamming shut with a finalistic sound. He opened his mouth to call out -- but didn't.
Something was wrong, even beyond the death of the policeman and the possible presence of a killer if whoever it was hadn't already left by a back door. He was standing in a living room, only slightly brightened by the police cruiser's lights as they passed over the small opening between the drawn curtains over a massive picture window. He could just make out the dim shape of a couch and a coffee table, topped by tiny forms that were probably assorted knick-knacks, and the shadowy blotches of people in picture frames surveyed him from the walls. The air had a heavy quality as though it were pregnant with expectation, and to Barry it seemed too thick to breathe, like forcing his lungs to convert oxygen from molasses.
Now what, hero?
He didn't know.
But there was a still shape draped over the back of the couch that was too large to be anything but a human being.
Barry was physically painfully aware of how unarmed he was. He carried a small pocketknife with him, and he dug it out now, flipping it open and trying to ignore how pitifully small the blade seemed, intended for cleaning fish or working out splinters rather than self defense. Even though the person was most likely dead -- Stop thinking like that! -- he crept towards it anyway, surprisingly stealthy for a man who was usually about as subtle as a drunk bull in a fine china shop.
It was cold in the house, and the yawning shapes of dark doorways made it seem even colder, but sweat was still stippling the back of his neck with sinister kisses. He was far from a cowardly man, but he still found his hand trembling slightly as it reached out towards the slumped form.
His hand touched a smooth, still-warm bald head, a few coarse strands of hair sliding under his palm. "Hey." Barry whispered, wetting his lips before he could bring himself to raise his voice. "Hey." He felt downwards towards the neck, felt the collar of a terrycloth robe against his fingers as he felt for a pulse; the skin on the neck itself was thick and slack, the flesh of a man who had probably just begun to settle into retirement. Even though Barry could feel no flutter under that skin, he felt lower down the back, trying to shack the man to consciousness, telling himself he wasn't a field medic, so what did he know about pulses? "Hey -- "
His hand sank into something spongey and wet.
With a startled grunt of disgust and fear, Barry jerked his hand backwards, and the body -- for there was nothing in it now to make it ever a person again, slithered down to the floor with a heavy sigh of cloth, jarred by his movement. Barry wiped his hand on his pants furiously, backing away. Although he was no stranger to death, accepted it, there was still something horrible about it, even more so when you were alone in a dark room with it.
Barry swallowed heavily and looked around. Against one wall, he could make out the glitter of what looked to be smashed glass or crystal, as though someone had thrown it at something -- the disturbance mentioned? Moving quietly again, but faster now, Barry moved towards one doorway, wincing inwardly at even the softest rasp of his shoes on the floor. He carried the pocketknife down low at his side, ready to be driven upwards in a fatal strike if need be.
Where the hell is backup? he wondered grimly. The hell with some small town police force; he wanted Chris Redfield at his back, or Jill Valentine, or David or Rebecca or anyone else. Anyone he could trust, anyway.
Peering around a corner, Barry made out the shadows of what he thought was a kitchen. Here, the light was better, the moon spilling in through several windows that overlooked a neatly maintained backyard. It was a small room, only large enough for the necessities, a thin staircase leading upwards against the far wall and one small table with two chairs; on the table was a tupperware container with what looked like a cake inside, and a knife gleamed off the tiled floor.
There was another figure slumped at the foot of the stairs, but there would be no need to check the pulse on this one. A woman, one old enough to be Barry's own mother, in a plaid housedress, the crown of her white hair darkened with gore, her face mercifully turned way; her head had been twisted almost all the way around. Above her, there was a dark starburst of blood on the wall where her head had struck, unidentifiable bits strewn outwards from it in all directions.
Barry felt sick, his stomach fluttering with fear and nausea, but his head pounding with anger. Who the hell would break into a house and kill a couple of harmless old people? There was a framed photograph on the wall next to his head, and the sight of the faces smiling from it only made him angrier.
He heard something upstairs and froze.
It might have been a footstep. Probably was. But the quality of it was strange. It was stealthy, so quiet he'd almost missed it, but loud enough to be deliberate, like someone trying to get his attention. Barry had heard of killers who enjoyed toying with their victims, getting off on the scent of fear in the air and the terror of their victims. Had these people experienced that? Had they spun about in fear before the game had finally been ended?
A child's sob, from upstairs.
Without thinking, Barry broke for the staircase, leaping over the body crumpled at the bottom with surprising agility. The part of him that was still a professional screamed at him that he was going at this all wrong, that charging in was a good way to get himself and the kid killed, but all he could think was, God, what if that was my baby? Ever since the threat that Albert Wesker had made at the Spencer Estate, smiling like a razor blade while he said he'd have Kathy and the girls killed if Barry didn't help him, Barry had been acutely attuned to the safety of his children. Now, the threat to another child tore up something primal and paternal in him.
At the top of the stairs, Barry looked around wildly in time to see a door slam shut at the end of the hallway. Here, the shadows seemed thicker somehow, as though the walls and the floor had been painted black, leeching any light. It was, he thought distantly, like standing in the throat of some great beast, about to be swallowed. He hurried towards the door, head and heart throbbing in time, and grasped the handle.
The room was the one the policeman had made his unfortunate exit from; a sewing room, mannequins against the wall draped with fabric, and the floor littered with glass.
Crouched against the opposite wall, his eyes huge with fear, was a small boy.
The kid looked to be about five, head shaved, dressed in white pajamas. His limbs were thin and delicate looking, and he thrust himself back against the wall as though he could force himself through it, crying out with fear at the sight of Barry. The soles of his bare feet were bloody.
Relief coursed through Barry, making his legs weak. The room was empty, except for the kid. And, even more importantly, he looked to be mostly unhurt.
The boy's eyes were a shocking, vivid blue, and they swam with unshed tears. He lashed out in Barry's direction with one hand, feeling frantically along the wall with the other, trying to find some means of escape. Barry realised how intimidating he must look, and he hastily tossed the knife aside. "It's okay." he said, trying to make his voice sound non-threatening and soothing from it's usual deep rumble. He felt suddenly clumsy. "You're gonna be okay now. I'm here to help you -- "
The kid ran straight for him, screaming.
Startled by the sudden movement, Barry jumped back a step, and the boy shoved him aside as he fled into the hall, still yowling like a banshee. "Hey -- !"
Something detached itself from the wall as the kid reached the stairs.
It looked like a spill of ink, sinuous and flowing, rising up until it crested the ceiling, and Barry heard a great hiss of air, like a breath taken after being underwater for a long time, and the air suddenly felt colder, as though he were standing in a meat locker.
not seeing this --
Barry felt as though he were pinned against the wall by the weight of a gaze, and though he could make out no head, the shadow seemed to be looking in his direction. The boy had frozen on the stairs, staring back with an expression of unutterable terror. Then he began to run.
And the shadow broke after him.
"No!" Barry bellowed, not understanding what was going on, only knowing that the boy was in danger. It took all of his effort to push away from the wall --
and something launched itself at him from the other end of the hallway.
He couldn't see what it was in the dark, but it felt like a sledgehammer hitting his chest as it barrelled into him. He was thrown backwards, literally taken off his feet by the force of it, and when he hit the floor the breath left his body in a painful rush and heard a crunching sound from within himself that terrified him. For an instant, a tremendous weight pressed down on him, something dark and deadly coiled on his chest. He heard a leonine growl, and then the thing was gone, leaping off him as though it weighed no more than a feather. Immediately, Barry tried to scramble to his feet, still thinking of the boy fleeing from the shadowed thing down below, but a screaming pain in his side drove him back to his knees with a gasp, arms wrapped around himself. Something felt loose inside his body.
Broken rib? he thought, reeling.
Footsteps were pounding up the stairs, and then Barry was suddenly blinking in a bright wash of light. It took a moment for him to realise he was looking into a flashlight, and he saw the glint of a gun behind it. Pointed at him.
"Don't fucking move!" a shrill male voice screamed, taught with fear. "Police!"
I was just having dinner fifteen minutes ago. Barry thought dimly. He tried to stand again, and the pain wrapped around his mind like an iron vice. "The kid." he managed to say before he passed out, and then the only shadows were the ones behind his eyes.