Warnings: This is a bit darker than my other stuff.
Comments: Okay, I know, I'm sure at least ten people want to chew my head off for starting something new...again. But the truth is, I haven't had a writing bunny this big since Misery Business. I'm already halfway through the third chapter, and I keep having dreams about it, and in general, I can't stop writing it. It's so different from anything I've done so far, and I like the challenge of writing something so bizarrely unique. Forgive me while I hack this one out because it's got me possessed.
I hope you guys like it too.
There was something different about the way the clouds fell over the sun, spilling over the horizon like paint dripping down a grey-colored wall. They shrouded the metropolis in unequivocal smog, the smoke from the inner-city factories forming clumps of haze that were too thick to evaporate in the humidity. It was sweltering and muggy and a commonly unbearable summer day.
Naruto clasped a palm against his mouth as he coughed, his throat burning from having run five blocks to catch his subway train. His hand curled around a cool metal pole as the car dove forward, steadying him as the train's wheels connected with the rusting tracks beneath. They whistled and the sound made Naruto flinch, even if the same shriek of grinding metal invaded his ears every single morning on the ten minute trip to the Marquis.
"Mommy, I don't feel good today," a small girl said, and since there were only a few people on the train, her voice carried to where Naruto stood. He watched as the little girl's mother rubbed a thumb on her cheek, looking sullen.
"It's a day just like any other, Cara," was her comforting reply, but her words didn't match the expression on her face. Her eyes reminded Naruto of a doe's, wide and bothered, and after a short second he realized the little girl was staring up at him, curious.
He grinned to hide his surprise and was happy to see that the expression was contagious; the little girl beamed up at him, all until the train jolted a couple of times, causing her to grip her mother tightly in order not to fall.
Hardly anyone used the subway systems anymore; it was far too dangerous. Since the throngs of city people commuted above ground more often than not, the state neglected the underground transport, leaving it in horrible condition. Repairs were so far and few that they hardly existed, and the train itself was a mess to behold. The seats were shredded with wear and the floors were embedded with a jumble of muddied footprints, and most of the windows were either cracked or missing completely.
But for some odd reason the machine still ran, and was still the fastest way to go. Naruto fancied the age of it, imagining what it would have been like to see it clean and clustered full of people; to hear their chatter over the grinding wheels beneath, or to feel the sobered breath of a stranger against his neck.
If ever a voice had once existed to announce exits it was no more, and so by practice, Naruto knew his stop by a disfigured hot dog stand that lay crumpled before a large sign that read, underneath a few smears of graffiti, '4'. The subway jittered to a halt, groaning as it did so, and Naruto saw his knuckles whiten as his grip tightened on the metal pole beside him.
The car screamed to a halt and Naruto grimaced again, all before rushing through the jerky sliding doors before they closed. His boots hit the crumpled pavement of the old loading area, and a puff of condensation swelled from the train's rear, rising like a cloud, but unable to escape past the tiled ceiling.
Beads of sweat collected on Naruto's forehead and he hurried up the old stairwell, instinctively reaching for a handrail that didn't exist. His opposite hand clutched a rucksack, clutching it tightly to his chest until he finally reached the street level, where car horns and trolley engines nearly deafened him. He looked at his watch and realized, with a click of his tongue, that he was going to have to hurry. Even though the weekends had less sidewalk traffic, he always managed to find the busiest walkways.
He whipped around the nearest corner and jogged forward, his shirt sticking to his skin as the sun caught him from in between the skyscrapers above. He let out a short cough as he rounded another corner, content to see his destination straight ahead.
The Marquis was tall and exquisite, made of glass and metal holding-beams. Like everything above ground it looked brand new from a distance, but a closer proximity showed the damage taken from the sun and pollution, and the general deterioration of aged architecture.
The metal handrails that flaked rust didn't catch Naruto's attention, and a barren willow tree in the courtyard didn't seem at all out of place. He quickly hustled up the short concrete stairway and ducked inside, feeling chilled when the air conditioning attacked the dampness clinging to his skin. A woman seated at a receptionist table raised an eyebrow at him and he held up the beat-up satchel he had in his hand.
"I'm changing, I'm changing," he explained, and he rushed by her, headed straight for the employee bathrooms. He was already unbuttoning his shirt when he opened the door, clumsily slamming into someone attempting to emerge. His satchel fell to the ground, and he tore his vision upward, looking apologetic.
"I'm so sorry," he said, but the figure, a tall and slender man with no interest in their collision, was already disappearing from sight. Naruto watched as the door closed behind the stranger, someone he had never seen before. Pale skin was pretty unusual for a city that normally baked under the sun's scrutiny. He shook his head and scrambled into the bathroom.
Naruto's watch beeped and he let out a startled gasp before falling to his knees to retrieve his bag, ripping out a dry collared shirt, decorated with detailed designs over its left breast. He pulled off his sweat-dampened tee shirt and shrugged on the nicer one, wriggling out of his pants as he did so. When he was finished buttoning the starched shirt he fished out a dark pair of work-denims and stumbled around the room in an attempt to tug them on, fighting to get his shoes back on while he fastened the waist.
After stuffing his traveling clothes into his bag he washed his face and ran a damp hand through his hair, looking at himself in the mirror. His eyes were a shocking blue today, not dull and distracted like usual. He was focused, prepared, and as his watch beeped again, unfashionably late.
"Damn it all," he cursed, ducking back out into the lobby. "Its on the 43rd, right Julie?"
The receptionist glanced up at the mention of her name, and nodded passively. She looked irritated, and Naruto felt ridiculous for being late for the third time since his newest promotion. It was a gift that he was such a people-person; if it weren't for his social skills he imagined he'd be someplace less renowned than the Marquis, one of the world's most well-known corporate agencies.
Dodging onto an elevator, Naruto tapped his fingers against the railing within, his heart pounding in his chest. He was unreasonably nervous for something he had done hundreds of times before. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, feeling the elevator rise higher and higher in his gut.
It was just as the little girl had said. Something didn't feel right.
Naruto's eyes snapped open when the elevator started to groan. While it was normal for abandoned contraptions like the subway to sound displeased, it wasn't for an elevator put to use every single day. He felt the momentum of traveling upward slow and looked up to the numbered floors above. Thirty-two was lit.
The doors began to open, the lights began to flicker, and a huge decrescendo of energy swelled into a massive sound that Naruto recognized to be one thing. A power outage.
His gut twisted.
The door had only opened about a foot, and Naruto thanked whoever for at least that. He shimmied out and stood silent in the corridor feeling goose bumps prickle on his arms as he looked around, unable to see a single thing in the darkness. His breathing was starting to come faster, and he placed a hand against the wall beside the elevator, following it blindly.
He hissed when the sound of electricity fizzled through the corridor, and the lights made a valiant attempt to come back on. They failed, but in their place the emergency breakers kicked in, providing him with a yellow-hued hallway that looked strangely eerie, especially when the lights hardly provided illumination at all. They were old and faded and only provided short and staccato pulses of insignificant light.
Glancing around, the landing was more difficult to make out with the blinking lights than without. The shadows of uninhabited desks and stocky looking lamps looked like hunched figures crouched against the floor and walls. Naruto shook the images from his head.
"You're imagination's too big," he told himself. "It's just a power outage."
Each floor had a conference room, and magnificent ones at that. They had incredible views of the city from windows that stretched from floor to ceiling, tinted to make the sky look an outstanding shade of blue instead of the stippled molded grey it was to the naked eye.
Naruto searched for the room on this particular floor, squinting his eyes as the breaker lights blinked on and off, indicating a sense of emergency. He frowned, trying to remember the last time a power outage had occurred.
In all honesty, he couldn't remember one at all.
He felt his way past many desks, into private offices, and finally to a broad doorframe that resembled the ones he vaguely remembered. He crept inside the room, running his fingers down the stucco wall, over dry-erase boards and framed pictures, searching for the opposite end of the room.
It was when his fingers touched cold glass that he realized he had made it to the conference room, and that his hand was resting against the window that should have overlooked the city. A moment of panic overcame him, but only for a small moment. He let out a deep breath, and walked to the centerpiece of the window, flipping up a button in an attempt to un-tint it.
To his surprise, the switch was already where he wanted it.
Sometimes it saved on air conditioning to control how dark the rooms could be, and he assumed that was the case with the window he was standing next to. According to the switch, the glass wasn't tinted at all. Taking one more glance to the darkness in front of him, Naruto let out a sigh. The device was broken; that was the only explanation.
Naruto stared, a bit dumbfounded, feeling suddenly nervous. He wasn't normally claustrophobic, but being stuck on the 32nd floor surrounded by blinking hazy yellow lights made him a little uncomfortable, especially being completely alone.
Something red caught his eye, and Naruto leaned against the window, pressing his nose against it to try and fathom what it could be through the tint. His eyes widened as he saw more and more specks of red, all blinking. His stomach was tightening without him realizing, and suddenly, he realized the de-tinter wasn't broken at all.
He was looking at the city—the entire city suffering from a power outage, red emergency lights flickering as far as he could see across the horizon. The darkness would have made sense…if it wasn't midday.
Naruto saw tiny shadows moving in the streets, dodging in and out of the visibility emergency stoplights provided, and he swallowed a lump in his throat.
"Where…" the words were lost to him, but his tongue and lips moved to form them anyway. "…is the sun?"
A panic surged through him, but not before denial. The sun couldn't just disappear; that's not how the universe worked. It was probably a satellite blocking the light, jamming the signals and tricking electrical currents. Naruto wanted to shrug it off, but he couldn't.
He was breathing too fast, and his blood was pulsing too quickly. An adrenaline rush from fear, with nothing to do with the newfound energy. He stepped away from the window when a firework exploded across the way, a huge red explosion that sparkled into a hazy puff that reminded Naruto of tear gas.
It was a flare.
A flare? His mind couldn't comprehend it. Why would someone be shooting a flare?
He leapt backwards as two more soared into view, detonating into their own brightly colored masses, only to fade into darkness after the original blast occurred. Naruto felt his jaw drop when he heard a whistle just beyond the window's plexiglass, and one of the flares bloomed like a flower made of flames, a mere twenty feet from where he stood.
He felt frozen in place when he saw what looked like shadows moving through the temporary light, and clenched his eyes closed.
"It's a trick of the light. Reflections from the glass…" he couldn't finish the theory. He wasn't even sure what he was trying to convince himself of. His hands were shaking at his sides and he willed his stomach to stop rising to his throat. Aside from the crackling noise of the flares outside, he could only hear his own breathing, a raspy and impatient sound that made his apprehension swell into anxiety.
Naruto made an effort to take his next breath in slowly, enough to settle his racing heart. It didn't work like he planned, but he opened his eyes and felt them dart back and forth, searching the world beyond his window. It was a sea of black; even the colored puffs from the flares had dissolved.
His feet moved before his brain could tell them not to as he came closer to the window, squinting in an attempt to make out his surroundings. The world around him became painstakingly quiet except for the blood pounding in his ears as his heart continued to race. His fingers met the window and he pressed is cheek against it, looking as far as he could to the left and right, in hopes of seeing some sign of familiarity.
The sun was as he had thought…gone.
He rested his head against the cool glass and felt the room begin to turn muggy, defenseless against the humidity and heat without working air conditioning. Though he couldn't see anything, he could imagine what would be out there, right where he was looking. He imagined the opaque dome of the art museum, surrounded by electrical fences and gigantic power lines. On a good day you could see the little park beyond, with its sun-bleached playground and sticky black-top.
There hadn't been a 'good day' in a while. The smog had been too much; too thick. The world was slowly burning away, suffocated by pollution and oppressive heat.
Naruto heard it, like someone clicking their fingernail on the other side of the window. He pressed his ear against the glass as the sound continued, almost as though it was growing nearer and nearer.
He frowned, unsure of how to place the noise. It reminded him of movies where glass cracked and chipped, a single vein jetting across the clear surface. When he pulled back to see if that as the case, his heart nearly stopped.
Two ghostly eyes met his through the plated window, merely inches away. A hand mirrored his own, which was settled lightly against the surface, unmoving due to an encompassing shock that froze Naruto in place. The person leaned forward, a chilling smirk decorating their unimaginably pale features, and before Naruto could think to move, the glass in front of him was creating a spider web of breaks; shattering before his very eyes.
The force of the blow knocked him off his feet, sending him toppling backwards, shards of glass slicing him as they shot like daggers onto the wall and floor behind him. He collapsed to the ground with an estranged cry, gripping his shoulder as a small chunk of the window embedded itself into it, sending pangs of white-hot pain straight to his nerves.
Naruto's eyes were damp and his thoughts were muddled, mixed with shock and confusion and an almost unbearable pain. He heard footsteps behind him, hard thumps against the ground—the very floor he had been slammed into. He had to move.
He felt his foot twitch and he drew his knee towards his chest, but his whole body was sore. The footsteps were right next to him now, and he could see a black leather boot right next to his face from beneath the sweat-clumped bangs that clung to his forehead.
The thing spoke, and it was a language Naruto had never heard.
Wind whistled through the fragmented window, a hot breeze that made Naruto feel sick to his stomach, especially when he felt his shirt dampening with blood where the shard of glass had pierced his arm. He inhaled sharply and the effort caused him to groan.
It also caused the creature standing next to him to speak again, a human voice creating words that didn't exist. They were a rush of vowels with sharp rises in tone, ones that made Naruto feel like he was being laughed at.
A searing pain rippled through him as the thing gripped his injured shoulder and tore him upward from the ground, lifting him as though he was weightless. Naruto clamped his teeth together and managed to unclench his eyes, breathing short and clipped gasps of air as he met the stranger's gaze.
His stomach rose to his throat; the creature was human…and wasn't at the same time. It was prettier with a thin and elongated body, wrapped in a pale and waxen skin. Like a child's porcelain doll, except without clouded and glassy eyes. The eyes in front of Naruto were sharp and keen, and brutally scarlet. They reminded Naruto of colored contacts, or a vampire film he had watched only a few months ago.
"Let go of me," Naruto bit out. Nothing in the person's expression made him feel safe; his adrenaline was kicking in, urging him to fight, to get away, to run.
Red eyes narrowed to examine him. They weren't normal and Naruto felt as though they saw through him, straight into his mind. He had no idea what was going on, but he knew he wasn't safe; he knew the fingers tangled around his arm could break him easily.
Naruto felt the soreness in his joints flicker away, the unyielding sense of escape creating a bitter taste on his tongue. He narrowed his eyes and brought his leg up fast, slamming it into the creature's side. Whether it was out of surprise or pain, Naruto wasn't sure, he was released. He fell to the floor with an emasculating thud and scrambled to his feet, racing towards the stairwells.
There was an infuriated growl from behind him followed by footsteps that were hard against the ground.
It's going to kill me, it's going to kill me…
Naruto twirled around the lobby way entry, slamming himself against the doorway to the staircase as he jammed himself through it. He sped forward, tripping over his own feet, grasping the rail to steady himself. It was still so dark and the emergency lights were such a faded custard color that they hardly did any justice to the narrow stairs beneath his feet.
He heard the beast come crashing through the door, assorted fragments of it bumbling down the landing as it ripped from its hinges. Naruto's breath was hot in his mouth and his chest pulsed, and he wondered if the feeling soaring through him was strong enough to get him away. His legs were steady in their descent, but his lips trembled, and he rounded another corner, the name plate on the wall labeling it floor number 30.
He skipped a few stairs and heard the footsteps from above coming faster, harder against the tiled flooring. His eyes watered as he whipped around another corner, and a deafening boom came from behind him. It was like slow motion as he turned his head, watching those leather boots land only a few stairs behind him, closing the distance possibly fast.
Naruto hadn't seen it—the figure in front of him. The shadows hid him well, so much that when Naruto felt a strong arm curve around his waist he thought it was his gut rising to his throat, a precursor to vomit. He was suddenly pulled forwards, spun around so fast and with such ease that he felt his feet rise from the floor and his arms scramble for something to hold.
That language; he heard it again, only this time, it was different. It was agitated, or so he assumed, but softer. Not feral, but tense and full of warning. Naruto tried to turn his head, to peer up at the stranger holding him as far from his attacker as possible, but it was a failed attempt. He was only met with the rough leather of a thick jacket, and a quick glance of impossibly fine jet-black hair.
There was an argument that Naruto didn't understand, but the person grasping him was impeccably still and calm, even as the other figure raged from behind. Naruto couldn't see him, couldn't see the anger in those frightening red eyes, but he knew at once that these two beings were not friends. His thoughts were confirmed when he saw his captor's arm raise, a slender forefinger outstretched, and heard the frightening sound of bones snapping to pieces.
There was a thud, and Naruto knew the thing that had been chasing him was dead. He was released, his feet minutely finding footing on the linoleum below, that sound replaying itself in his ears like a sickening tune on repeat.
Feeling everything overwhelm him at once, Naruto stumbled backwards, sinking to the floor as he collided with a wall behind him, his lungs rushing to catch up with the five flights of stairs he had managed. His fingers curled around his shoulder, feeling the piece of glass wedged there, gurgling blood around it.
Naruto's head whipped up when the man who saved him spoke, but couldn't help but cower backwards when he met the face of the person—no, thing—that had just completely massacred a body from the inside without any physical contact. The stranger's features were surprisingly young and his body was one long curve of pale skin, looking unbelievably soft in the breaker-lit lighting, and incredibly dangerous.
Naruto's stomach caught when their vision met, the stranger's defined features decorated with paralyzing eyes. They were just as blood-red as the other creature's, only they didn't looked starved or playful. There was a look of pity in them and a sadness that Naruto couldn't place. It was strange to think this type of person could feel regret, but an air of emotion was filling the gap between them, much like water overwhelming a person who couldn't swim.
The figure leaned down and Naruto's breath hitched.
"Eesshiao-anomona…" Naruto heard the words clearly, and the stranger knelt down, his fingers taking the place of Naruto's over the bruised and bloody wound. Naruto was sure it was fear that kept him rooted in place, a false trust instilled by the fact he wasn't trying to run away. But their eyes were locked, some intangible understanding brewing between them, one that language didn't seem necessary to decipher.
The thing before him, the man that was too beautiful to be human, wasn't going to hurt him.
The grip on his shoulder tightened and Naruto looked away, not wanting to see. He felt slender fingers clutch his muscle and then a startling sudden heated pressure. He hissed and forced his eyes shut; he could feel the glass withdrawing and his muscle screaming in resistance. He balled his fists and the stinging sensation in is arm worsened, all until he heard the clinking of glass hitting linoleum. It was out.
There was a moment when his skin felt like it was on fire, but it only lasted a second. Naruto let out a shaky breath and cracked open his eyes, realizing that at some point he had clamped them shut.
The tense feeling in his muscles eased, and Naruto's skin began to tingle pleasantly instead. In mere seconds the process was finished, the presence in front of Naruto gone as the stranger stood, wiping his hands on the leather lapel of his trench coat. He looked a bit disgusted to have his hand dirtied so, caked with dried blood.
Naruto watched him, enraptured. He was fascinated and confused, and as much as his mind begged him to look away, he couldn't help but soak in the form before him. They met eyes again and Naruto felt shocked, not at all used to that cold and inhuman stare.
The trench coat billowed as the stranger turned, breaking the air between them, ending the moment that seemed like a connection, interrupting whatever understanding they had shared. Naruto found his voice.
"W-wait—" he leaned forward, but the figure was already gone; vanished.
A moment of silence passed and he felt an unfamiliar sense of disappointment. Naruto was strangely alone, with only the disfigured body of the creature that had attacked him to look at. Its eyes were glazed, no longer frightening. Its teeth were sharp, he realized, and chipped where its mouth had collided with the floor.
There was a commotion from the floors above, and Naruto felt his heart rate quicken. His head snapped up, searching the darkness for shadows; for tall and gangly shapes against the wall, and skin too light to be natural. Were there more?
He tried to pull himself up but his body wouldn't move. It was stiff and hot, and his joints felt like they no longer existed. He was suddenly only muscle, piled helplessly with nothing for defense.
"Is anyone down there!?"
It was surprising to hear a human voice. Naruto felt fearful and hesitant, so he didn't respond right away.
Letting out a deep breath, he hollered, "Yes!"
He felt the need to say more, to scream out that he had been attacked and then saved and that he couldn't move, let alone even think…but his throat was dry and sticky and his thoughts were convoluted.
Who had the person been, the one that saved him? And why?
Footsteps came fast down the stairs, and Naruto recognized the apprehensive face that stared down at him as one of his better-known co-workers. His name was Kiba Inuzuka, and he was an intern, often running errands for Naruto on busy corporate days.
"Are you—Naruto, what happened?" The man turned frighteningly pale at the sight of the mangled body beneath his feet, and his eyes lifted towards Naruto, crouched only a few feet away from it. Naruto swallowed a lump in his throat and rested his head back against the wall, not wanting to explain.
Kiba seemed to understand, at least, that Naruto didn't want to talk about it, and he looked back upstairs anxiously. "They've got the air raids going," he said, and he bit his lip. "And the buildings are being evacuated. There's a group coming down now."
Naruto nodded as Kiba continued to watch him, and the sounds of such an escape party beginning to echo down the stair chute. He closed his eyes, unresolved, his head comfortable against the cold stucco wall behind him.
"Here!" he heard Kiba yell, and the noise grew closer. He stayed still against the wall, his shoulder still warm from whatever process had healed it.
"Get back from there," a stern voice commanded, and Naruto opened one eye, only to see an armored military man yanking Kiba back from the dilapidated body below his feet. A cluster of people gasped from the level above, and a series of military personnel rushed to collect the carcass from the floor. One of the men was staring at him peculiarly.
"Who are you?" he asked, his voice laced with suspicion. Naruto stared back at the sergeant, his title clearly labeled by an ornate pin decorating his shirt.
"He's a translator," Kiba answered from behind. "He works here."
Naruto couldn't tear his eyes from the officer's, a tension between them. Naruto knew he had seen something he wasn't supposed to see. He knew that the body on the floor wasn't human, and neither was the person who had saved him. But aside from that, what did he know?
"Your name?" the sergeant questioned and Naruto's lips moved, much like he was speaking from a dream.
"Uzumaki," he answered, and from behind him, another officer not struggling with the broken body flipped through a clipboard's worth of paper.
"Affirmed," he said shortly. "He's here on the employee register."
The sergeant moved closer to Naruto and squatted down onto his knees, his eyes almost as savage as the beast being hauled away behind him. Kiba was staring hesitantly down to him from the forefront of the crowd. The sergeant grunted, and Naruto's attention edged back to the man in front of him.
"How did you kill it?" The question was asked in such a low tone that Naruto had to strain himself to hear. When he didn't answer, the sergeant snorted, and spat against the doorway not two feet from where they sat. "You're nothing special."
The officer was on his feet in seconds, a look of disgust painting his harsh features. He turned away from Naruto and instead took reign of the employees that seemed utterly baffled from above. "Nothing to see here. We're moving on."
Giving one last wry glance to Naruto, the leader began down the stairway followed closely by men toting the waxen carcass, now wrapped in borrowed leather bomber jackets. Curiosity bubbled from the co-workers that followed behind as they exchanged terrified glances. They stared with pale faces at the corpse ahead of them, only to tear their vision back to Naruto, fear evident from their expressions. They continued on, no questions asked.
"What happened?" Kiba had fallen towards the back, waiting for enough people to leave in order to crouch down beside Naruto. He touched the shredded sleeve of Naruto's shirt, his lips curled downward in concern and interest.
"I…" Naruto started, but an officer that had been following at the rear of the small escape party had stopped behind them, waiting for them to follow the others. His eyes examined Naruto as though he was some sort of ant under a microscope, with as much dislike as the sergeant leading the pack.
They knew something, and they sensed that Naruto knew it too.
"Help me up," Naruto reached forward to grasp Kiba's arm. The intern looked slightly baffled at the quick change of subject, but hoisted Naruto up nonetheless.
Naruto's body didn't hurt as much as it had, but his calves were tight and his back felt numbingly sore. Naruto edged forward and started down the stairs, the rhythm of descending the staircase becoming easier on his muscles as he fell into the pattern.
More than ten flights were filled with silence, minus the booming cluster of heels and boots that scuffed he tiled flooring. Naruto couldn't help but feel like somehow, something inside of him had changed. That even if he were to step outside, sun blaring in his face like any normal day, his mind had been infected.
These memories would never leave him.
A city without no sun and eyes the color of blood, a waxen arm thinner than his own holding him rigorously in place; the sound of a body breaking, the howl of pain that followed. Those softer scarlet eyes on his, looking through him, the warmth on his shoulder, the wound that was no longer there.
The military men that watched him cautiously, that bagged up the crumpled body like it was nothing at all, and who wiped the staircase clean, to make it seem like nothing had transpired. Naruto felt Kiba's grip on his arm tighten, and he realized that he had stopped.
"You okay?" Kiba's voice was soft and examining. It was in this moment that Naruto felt a friendship between them, because Kiba was reading him perfectly. Naruto wasn't okay. Now, on his feet and lost in his own thoughts, he was coming back down to Earth. Everything he had seen was real, not a dream, and what he knew had just happened was setting in.
He fell to the floor in an undignified lump and vomited.
The officer from behind them let out a disgusted sound and continued ahead, looking irritated and uncaring. Kiba crouched down beside Naruto, his hand a comfort on Naruto's healed shoulder.
"What are they…" Naruto asked, not expecting Kiba to have an answer. To his surprise, the intern did have a response. It was spoken so softly that it was told like a secret, like Kiba himself was unsure if he was supposed to know.
He looked around cautiously, making sure the crowd had moved a good distance away. "I heard them talking, but it didn't seem real. They said they were dropping from the sky; that they were exploding in midair because some couldn't handle the altitude…"
"From the sky?" Naruto asked, and the queasy feeling gurgled in his stomach again. The flares. He had seen shadows in them. Those things, their bodies, moving against the clouded light…
Kiba was quiet, for only a second. "They came through the roof," he said, and Naruto was confused until he saw where Kiba was looking, who he was referring to; the officers. "Like they knew. I don't know what's going on, but…"
Naruto knew what he was thinking.
"You better?" Kiba asked suddenly, and Naruto nodded, his stomach relieved. He wiped his chin and stood up again, and they started down the stairwell in a passive rush to catch up with their group.
On every floor the uniformed men would do a search, retrieving any employees that hadn't left the building already. Hours passed. They had to of. Kiba complained about forgetting his watch at home long enough that another man announced, when they were about halfway descended, that it was nightfall.
Naruto vaguely wondered if any were dead, attacked by the same type of monster that had pursued him. He figured he would never know, because the officials weren't divulging any information.
It was past midnight when they reached the lobby (or so announced the man with the watch), and the air had become thick with dust. It hovered like gravity had lost its effect, stale and stuck, making Naruto's lungs feel choked with every breath. Kiba was coughing, as was the majority of their party, and Naruto felt his way to the entryway doors, pricking his finger on a piece of stubbled glass. The door was shattered; burst through.
Naruto felt a tug on the back of his shirt, and turned to realize that it was only Kiba trying not to lose him. The sergeant was shouting for people to stay together, and Naruto's stomach had started to feel queasy again. It was intuition eating at his nerves, devouring his train of thought.
"We shouldn't go with them," Naruto said quietly. He could see the group's shadows across the way, by a set of emergency doors. He could also see the muscular forms of the officers drifting around, trying to wrangle the employees into some organized clump. Kiba's voice was a hiss against his ear.
"What do you mean? Isn't it—" Naruto shushed him, and Kiba obeyed. After a moment, Naruto turned to him.
"If you want to go with them, you can. I'm not, though." His voice was serious. They didn't feel right, even if they were the authority in the situation. The looks they gave him and the suspicion—Naruto didn't trust them, and his gut was urging him to move to a place where they wouldn't be able to find him.
"Did you kill that thing?" Kiba asked, his voice shaky.
Naruto shook his head and his eyes watered with how thick with powdery filth the air was.
"No. Someone saved me."
Kiba let out a laugh that wasn't at all assured. "I was kind of hoping you had; that you knew how," he admitted honestly. He didn't leave Naruto's side however, which was indication enough that he wasn't going with the large group causing a commotion from across the room.
"Come on," Naruto whispered, and he crept through the gaping hole in the entryway door, stepping foot on the crumbling concrete outside. The intern followed, and they ducked into a swell of smoke in order to hide from the prodding eyes of the officers still inside the building.
Naruto felt that at any moment they would realize he was not there. He didn't want to know what the fear inside of him meant, what the tingling sensation in his stomach was hinting. He knew he had to sneak away, and he grabbed Kiba's hand and yanked him to the side, rounding the corner of the building.
"The subway is up this way," Naruto said absently, and Kiba yanked his hand away, frowning.
Naruto squinted, trying to make out which way he meant. Everything was still unbearably dark, and while there wasn't as much of a haze outside as there had been in the lobby of the Marquis, the blinking street lights didn't provide much illumination.
"No one in their right mind uses the subway system anymore…" Kiba said nervously, and Naruto almost laughed. He started towards where he knew Main Street should be, making sure to stay hidden from any sounds he heard that reminded him of footsteps. The air smelled like copper and sulfate, and like thick ebbs of smoke from powdered blasts. A few car alarms chimed in the distance, but the normal urgency of daytime traffic had deadened to a ghostly quiet.
Naruto whipped to the side, and followed the crosswalk beneath his feet as a guide.
"I figure that if we need to evacuate," he explained, jumping the curb, "we can do it ourselves."
The world was eerily quiet. He thought he heard whispers from around him, but he ignored it, convinced it was his paranoia. But in the heavy recesses of the smog that was nearly opaque around them, it wasn't impossible.
Naruto stared at the shadow of a building that towered beside them, trying to recognize the outward curve of a sign shaped like a subway car. There were too many stop signs and street signs to mislead him, but he squinted his eyes and made an effort to search harder.
They had managed to find their way to a marketing street, with restaurants and businesses lining the road. Naruto remembered what it looked like in the daylight, a neon-studded alleyway crowded with people rushing to get indoors, away from the suffocating heat outside.
Now it was merely the skeleton of an attraction.
He recognized the sign almost immediately and paced closer to it, staring hard in order to confirm it was the one he hoped it was. Even in the darkness he could make out the shape of the subway car. Around it, metal rafters held the dilapidated and rusting shape in place.
Kiba was fumbling behind him, looking nervous and out-of-place. His hands had darted straight to his pockets as he hunched his figure, looking a bit like a nervous criminal.
"This is it," Naruto looked back at him, but they held eye contact for a very short period of time. His feet were already moving, his hands searching for a handrail. They grasped something cool and Naruto felt an ounce of accomplishment race through him.
"Kiba," Naruto hissed, seeing his friend meandering a few feet away. The intern jumped at Naruto's tone and jogged forward, shaking his head.
"I've just got a bad feeling, man," he explained, looking jittery. He stared hesitantly into the dark abyss that led to the under-parts of the city and continued. "It's like the city is empty…"
"Come on," Naruto encouraged, taking a step downward. He held his hand out to the intern, feeling confident in his plan of action. "We'll be fine."
Kiba gave him a look that said he'd never be fine another day in his life after what he had already been through, but he still moved forward. He walked past Naruto, his hands tight on the railing, his breathing heavy. "You're crazy, you know? It's just going to be dark, and who the hell know what lives down here…"
Their shoes scraped the gravel of the stairwell as they descended, and the sound echoed dissonantly against the crackled tiled walls. It was a matter of moments before they reached the platform, the decaying subway station even more skeptical when it was shrouded in darkness.
Naruto suddenly felt the gravity of his friend's words. It was just as Kiba had said. The place was desolate and vacated, robbed of any sign of life. It also smelled rancid, like decay and sweat trapped by a stifling heat. Naruto chased the images his imagination concocted away.
There was a halo of a glow across the room, and it only caught Naruto's eye because it suddenly flickered to life. Kiba had noticed it too, but he stepped closer to Naruto, easier to read than a book. He was frightened, and wouldn't take a step closer without Naruto in the lead.
"I don't know," Naruto said, answering the unspoken question of what it could be. He took a step forward though, curiosity getting the best of him. Kiba didn't follow; his feet seemingly planted to the ground.
Naruto felt his nerves jitter as shadows seemed to crawl in the obscurity. The closer he got to the little blur of light the more he imagined figures hiding in the darkness, waiting to jump out at him. He thought he heard something move in front of him, and he let out a startled shout as something curled around his ankle.
He fell to the ground with a painful thud and scrambled against the floor, tearing at the concrete beneath him with his fingers. He heard Kiba holler something from behind, but he was too busy reaching for the small swell of light.
His fingers wrapped around it.
A dying flashlight.
He twisted around and attempted to illuminate the place where his ankle was, gasping in both fear and surprise when he saw bony fingers wrapped around his denims. An ancient-looking man stared at him, his lips parted, heavy pants escaping, along with a dribble of spit. He was pale and his face was wrinkled, and his eyes looked painfully bloodshot. His face was smeared in something red and blotchy, and Naruto didn't want to admit to himself that it could be blood.
"Let go of him!" Kiba yelled suddenly, and Naruto glanced up, seeing the outline of his friend. His fists were clenched at his sides and he was shaking, and Naruto felt his heart beat faster, even as he cautiously sat forward.
The old man didn't obey the command, but instead shifted, crawling on top of the gravel, pained gasps escaping his lips. "They're everywhere," he choked out.
Kiba came forward and nudged the old man's arm with is shoe, trying to get his grip to loosen. Naruto was breathing hard, watching as the man bore holes into him, his bloodshot eyes begging someone to listen. He crawled forward, like a spider that had lost a few legs, unable to move freely due to an injury Naruto couldn't and didn't want to see.
"T-they tried to evacuate us, but they were here…" the man looked delirious, but Naruto knew what he was saying. The aliens; they had been in the subway. There had been people trying to evacuate, but the aliens had been there, and they were most likely ones like the first he had encountered.
"The guards," the man coughed, a sickening sound to hear, "they said it would be alright. But they—but they—"
The man's eyes glazed, and Naruto took the opportunity to shake his foot free. He scuttled backwards and jumped to his feet, Kiba wrapping a protective hand around his arm. They spared a glance to each other before glancing own to the old man, who was curling himself into a ball, looking like a person whose mind was lost. Only he didn't have enough left of a body to do so.
After a few minutes he stilled, and Naruto turned his head from the sight.
It was obvious; the man was dead.
"What..?" Kiba said, his words low and flooded with apprehension. He turned to look at Naruto before speaking again.
"That thing," Kiba said, his voice tainted. "That's what he meant, isn't it?"
Naruto imagined what was running through his friend's mind; after all, Kiba had only stumbled upon the broken body at the bottom of the stairwell, hardly looking like anything earthly with the odd angles it was bent at. Naruto nodded, and after a belabored minute, turned to gage the person who had, in such a short span of time, become his closest friend.
He held up the flashlight in an attempt to make out the rest of the room, and this time, he could make out masses. Bulges on the floor that looked like bodies, colored in the same navy blue as the military men that he had met earlier.
Kiba jumped when he saw the same sight, a quick rush of breath escaping his chest. His voice was full of fear and the intern licked his lips, a shaky breath escaping them. After glancing around, he asked, "What the hell—what happened?"
The room suddenly smelled sickening, and Naruto's stomach recoiled. The earlier stench…it had been death. He took a deep breath and looked Kiba straight in the eye.
"The one that you saw…the one that was dead…"
Kiba stared at him.
"It came through the window," he divulged. "It tore through it like it was paper."
There was a pregnant pause before Kiba shuddered. "What was it? And how…how did it die?"
Naruto thought for a moment, biting his lip. "I don't know. They're…not human, but they look like us. They're pretty," he thought, his mind wandering to the one that had protected him. He was about to say something else when Kiba cut him off.
"Pretty?" he almost choked out the word. "That thing on in the stairway was not pretty!"
Naruto snorted. "Before it was snapped limb-from-limb, it wasn't that bad-looking," he stated. Kiba seemed to take the hint that Naruto was attempting to tell his story and pursed his lips shut. Naruto let out a short breath and continued.
"It chased me," he explained, feeling his mind fade to reminiscence. His memories surged forth and could no longer resist the urge to reveal them.
"It was going to kill me," he said seriously, glancing up to meet his friend's stare. "But there was another one. It saved me." In any other circumstance those words may have sounded comical, admitting that an alien had possibly rescued you from an otherwise certain death. But Naruto's gaze held steady as he admitted the events to the man beside him.
"It saved you? Why?" Kiba asked. Naruto couldn't answer because he did not know himself.
The flashlight flickered a bit before the light was completely lost, and Naruto bashed it against the palm of his hand to get it working again. He felt himself wondering how many people were still in the city, and if it had been a mistake not to leave with the other employees of the Marquis. Kiba's voice snapped him from his thoughts, almost as though he had read them.
"Not all of them are bad then, right?" his voice was full of hope-turned-fact. "It's a good thing we stayed. Those officers would have never told us anything. And…well, look what happened here."
Naruto admired the newly found conviction in his friend's voice, even if it was a placeholder for the fear he most undoubtedly felt. Naruto felt it too, but there was also something else. His shoulder was still warm; it still tingled from when the alien had healed it. He wondered if it would always feel that way; if it was a sensation he was allowed to keep.
"So…" Kiba said as a silence encompassed them. "What should we do now?"
Naruto thought for a moment, but he didn't have a plan. He didn't know what he wanted to do, much less what he should. His lips parted to admit that fact, but an earth-shaking groan made the underground place rumble, bits of loose rock crumbling to the floor.
Both Naruto and Kiba's heads snapped towards the stairwell. Whatever it was, it was happening above.
Naruto was up in an instant and Kiba was back to his nerve-wracked state-of-mind, looking as though he'd be shaken from a dream at any moment.
"You're not going out there, are you?" he sounded a bit fanatic, like the idea was ludicrous. Naruto turned to him from the stairway as he found it with his fingers, merely preparing to exit.
"I'm not staying here," Naruto answered honestly. "I'm not afraid of them."
He quickly paced to the stairwell, tripping a bit in the darkness as he did so. As Kiba followed him up to the street level, he muttered, "You're insane."
The concrete crumbled beneath Naruto's feet as he stepped out towards the street, the air somehow less thick with dust than before. It had settled, it seemed, and breathing was easier. The groaning sound was louder now, and Naruto looked up.
It was coming from the sky.
Footsteps behind him didn't make Naruto turn; he knew it was Kiba. He let out a startled gasp, and Naruto did too, as color started to bleach the sky, thick ribbons of pink and blue and oyster-purple; a perfect sunrise. It spilled over the city the way water washes away dirt, the darkness slowly ebbed away by a familiar sky, slowly revealing itself.
Naruto's breath caught, watching the curved windows of the high-rise architecture reflect the impossible hues of color that flooded the city in life. It was a sunrise unlike any Naruto had ever seen, but he was certain that was because he had been sure he would never see one again.
"Look at that," Kiba said, but the comment was more for himself than for Naruto, who was standing in front of him. "What is it?"
Naruto was wondering the same thing, unable to tear his eyes away from the massive form revealing itself not feet above the highest building in the metropolis. It was a slate of metal, but gigantic to behold, stretching so far that it had to of encompassed the entire city—
"Blocking the sun…" Naruto whispered to himself, his feet unconsciously moving forward, as though a few steps would provide a better view. It was covered in elaborate carvings that reminded Naruto of old science fiction novels he had read as a child. Small circles decorated the lower chunk of metal that jutted out from the bottom of the craft, and Naruto was positive they were windows. Wires hung like vines from the base, weaving in the air as wind influenced them, and as it shifted, morning sun filtered through.
"That's a spaceship," Kiba stated, his voice in an awkward sort of awe. "Do you see that? Naruto, it's a space—"
"I see that," Naruto said, his voice clipped. Every inhalation of air was jetting through his system like he was a train, chugging oxygen as though in minutes it would no longer be accessible. The realization was overwhelming him, the sounds of the contraption fading from his ears, the only thing on his mind an agonizing fascination.
His fingers twitched and his feet felt like running—but not away—towards it. He was drawn to it, the way a fly would be tempted by the dangerous and burning bulb of a lamp, and his stomach churned with a sensation he couldn't place.
His shoulder itched and he once again recalled the feeling of that slender arm around his waist, a cold and foreign leather against his skin; and a language he didn't know.
The city was lit again, though the shadows had only moved, not disappeared. The power was still down, but now Naruto could see the chaos and panic such an event had caused, from the abandoned cars twisted along the street to the deserted bikes and bags of random shopping items strewn about the sidewalk.
A plastic bag glided through with a breeze as if it was running away, twirling in the air as it blew over an abandoned vehicle with its doors ajar. Naruto watched as it disappeared from sight, feeling a sense of abandonment as his skin burned, like normal, under the presence of the sun.
"We should go," Kiba said, glancing around nervously. He was antsy, even when they could see their surroundings. Naruto nodded, agreeing, but unsure.
"Where do we go?" he asked absently, his eyes still attached to the beautiful piece of machinery gliding across the sky.
Kiba snorted. "Anywhere. Just, Naruto, come on—"
Naruto jumped when Kiba's fingers wrapped around his arm, and there was a distant hum, like an engine coming their way. Kiba tugged Naruto towards it, and Naruto finally looked at him, stumbling after.
"You're going towards the noise?" he asked, somewhat surprised. He looked back, half expecting the craft to of disappeared from the sky. It was still there though, magnificent and new, and nothing like Naruto could have ever imagined. His stomach pulled at the thought of walking away, like he was, and he felt an unexplainable urge to shake himself from Kiba and go running back towards it.
"It sounds like a car," Kiba said shortly. "If it was them, I doubt it would be a car." He was referring to the creatures from the spaceship. The aliens.
It was strange because the man that had rescued him hadn't seemed far from human. Just strong and lean, with red eyes and impossibly light-colored skin. His stomach turned at the memory, and he wanted more. More answers, more of everything.
A truck twisted around the corner; it was big and bulky, like a moving van. It jammed to a halt where the two of them stood and an officer jumped out from the passenger side with more-than skeptical eyes. He glanced back and forth between Kiba and Naruto, and his eyes settled firmly on the latter.
"You need to be evacuated," he said, and Naruto found himself taking a step backwards, that newfound intense intuition flaring inside of him. Kiba's grip on him was strong, but he turned, surprised by Naruto's sudden withdrawal. His eyes looked impatient, rather than understanding.
"We know what's going on, so now let's go," Kiba urged, not noticing the stare the officer was giving Naruto. He was being examined, seen-through, looked up-and-down, just as he had been with the sergeant before. His clothes were ripped and covered in blood. His hair was tousled, and he was smeared in a chalky black dust from wandering around outside after the flare-clouds dispersed.
He looked like he had seen one.
"Easy now," the officer said, reading Naruto's mind. He was going to run. It was burning in him, the inescapable feeling of being led to a trap. The official before him made a hand motion that brought the driver from the car as well, and suddenly, the reality seemed to hit Kiba.
"Hey, it's fine, he's just nervous—" he started, but the uniformed man in front of him motioned him away. Kiba stole a glance back to Naruto, looking petrified and guilty, and unsure of what to do.
Naruto was stepping backwards, and Kiba let him go. He was running in an instant, away, as fast as his feet could carry him. His lungs burned and he felt fear again, the first real fear he had felt since that monster had almost skewered him in the Marquis. It as funny, considering these men were perfectly human.
He turned a corner, hearing their footsteps from behind. They were faster, and he was out of shape. His muscles were sill sore, and his adrenaline hadn't refueled. He was running towards an alley, wondering if that man would be there, in the shadows, waiting to save him again.
Would he snap these men in half too?
Naruto felt his eyes tear. He didn't want to be caught. He didn't want to admit he had seen them. He trusted the government less than he trusted the invaders.
He was tackled to the ground unceremoniously, and he grunted in pain as his hands braced his fall, slicing open against bits of rocky concrete. He swore as the two men wrangled him, trying to keep him in place as he struggled to get away, to escape. He panted against the pavement.
"Look at this," an officer said, hoisting Naruto up. His was referring to Naruto's shoulder, and now, in the light, Naruto could see it.
There was a small mark, a swirl that was etched on his skin, looking much like it had been burned into his flesh. The area around it was faded white and the design itself was a rash-colored red. It felt irritated again as Naruto saw it. He didn't want to tear his eyes away.
"Is it one of their infections?" the other officer asked, and the other didn't answer. He was staring at Naruto like a man full of questions without the courage to ask a single one.
"Let's get him to quarantine," he answered instead, and Naruto made one last attempt to struggle and kick his way out of the hold.
"I'm not infected!" he yelled, and the officer gave him one last look of pity before dragging him out and back towards the truck. Kiba was still there, looking anxious and confused, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
"Get into the truck," the official demanded, and Kiba didn't have the strength to argue. He climbed into the back of the carrier as a third officer yanked a door open. Naruto was thrown inside afterwards into a heap on the metal floor. He scrambled up, even though his side was shooting pain to his spine from the impact, but the door was closed, and once more, his world was dark.
He banged on it until Kiba pulled him back and tackled him to the floor.
"Naruto, stop it!" he said, but Naruto struggled against even him, surprised when the intern ended up stronger than he appeared. He let himself settle, falling flat against the truck bed, surrendering. His breathing was still terse, and the whites of Kiba's eyes were startling in the darkness.
"They're going to think you're crazy! They already do!" he said, sounding panicked himself. "What's wrong with you? They're here to help us, Goddamnit! To evacuate us!"
Naruto breathed through his nose and closed his eyes. "I don't know…" he answered. "I don't know what's wrong with me…"
They sat for a long moment and Kiba's forehead fell to rest on Naruto's chest as his grip loosened, trusting Naruto not to do anything extreme. "You just snapped," he said, sounding frightened himself.
"I'm sorry," Naruto said, not knowing if he meant it. There was something unexplainable raging through him, ever since that person had rescued him and had seared his wound closed with his bare hand.
"Where are they taking us?" Kiba asked, his voice still quiet and nervous.
Naruto let his head lull to the side as the truck rumbled on, and he shrugged. "Someplace safe, right?" His voice held sarcasm, but only for himself. He was sure Kiba would be fine. He hadn't been in contact with any of the aliens even the military seemed to fear.
"I'm scared," Kiba admitted, and it was the most masculine thing he could have admitted.
"Me too," Naruto agreed.
When there was nothing left to say, the compartment fell to silence. With nothing left to see, Naruto closed his eyes, and with the hum of the truck's engine constant in his ears, he was stolen by a dreamless sleep.
a/n: Different, right? I told you! This idea is gnawing at me...so much I know it will be finished after 6 or so parts. I can't stop listening to the Lord of War soundtrack, so blame that, and also more of my bizarre dreams. I can't stop with this one. You can tell because the chapters are so long. :)