You wait, as you always wait, as it feels like you have always waited, as you know you will always wait, waiting for the right moment, the right moment to strike, the right moment to MAKE THEM ALL PAY FOR WHAT THEY HAVE DONE although somewhere deep within you a voice screams STOP THIS and somewhere else someone, who sounds familiar if only you could place that voice, screams that they are just innocents, but you ignore that part of yourself.
There are no innocents anymore.
Corporal Chris Munro, late of New York, was "fighting the good fight", he thought. He had joined the army and been seconded to the UN where, for the past three years, he had done good work – rescues, relief, aid, etcetera…
All in all, yeah, the good work.
But - and it was a big but - now, he was worried. His squad – led by a redoubtable Japanese Sergeant named Tanaka – was ordered to Middle Of Nowhere, Africa, (not actually named that, but that's what it felt like to Munro). It was hot and dusty, and boring, and boring, and…
His squad seemed to feel as he did: Americans Cain, Peters and Peterson (the last two hated being mixed up with one another) and the usually intensely cheerful American Louise Davis, the taciturn and brusque German Private Dieter, and finally the clipped Englishman Johnson, all of them looking pensive and unhappy.
Tanaka halted them, and held up his hand. They had come, somehow, to a little village, apparently deserted.
"Right," the Sergeant said. "We'll split up, take in the whole thing. Johnson, Cain, you're with me; Munro, take the rest around the left side. I'll take the right."
"Sir – Ok, Dieter, take point."
The UN soldiers moved, unaware that they were already being observed by, as Wells might have put it, intelligences cool and unsympathetic.
These intelligences, in point of fact, no longer knew what sympathy was.
You watch the people with guns spread out, trying to bring light to the darkness in the world. Some part of you wishes, in vain, that they could bring light to your world, could save you, but no; they can't save you.
They can't even save themselves.
When Munro heard the screaming, he snapped into action as a good soldier should, taking the safety of his MP5 and running to help whoever it was. His people snapped to it with him, checking their weapons as they ran.
"Was that Tanaka?!" Davis asked.
"Who else would it have been?" Dieter said, barely seeming to feel the strain of running with full kit.
When they got there, Tanaka was lying on the ground, eyes staring, breathing shallow. Johnson was nowhere to be found, and Cain was dead, eyes wide and stiff and pained.
"Davis look at him," Munro ordered. "Dieter, Peters, small perimeter. Peterson, find Cain."
"Sir," Peterson nodded, starting a careful look around, gun raised in readiness for whatever could take three soldiers unawares so quickly. The rest of his team were already at their assigned jobs.
"He's not injured," Davis reported, as Munro turned back to her and Tanaka. "Just in shock, but he's fading too fast for me to do anything. I can't figure it out."
"Ju… ju…" Tanaka was trying to speak. Munro knelt by him.
"Take it easy, Sarge," he said. "Just take it easy. You'll be fine, we'll get you out of here in no time…"
"Ju on!" the Sergeant managed suddenly, grabbing Munro's front, stammering, and then, with a juddering gasp, he expired, wide eyes staring at nothing in particuar.
"Was that Japanese?" Peterson asked, returned from scouting without Munro noticing.
"Yeah," Munro said, standing up. "Yeah it was."
"What'd it mean?" the soldier asked.
"Something like 'the curse,' or 'the grudge,'" Munro answered. "No sign of Cain?"
"Nothing, sir," Peterson replied dolefully.
"He can't just have vanished, Peterson," Davis pointed out. Before Peterson could reply, Dieter yelled out.
"Who's that?!" the grim German snapped, aiming his gun. Munro turned to regard him.
He was aiming his MP5 at a small figure, walking out towards the UN troopers.
"Stand down, soldier," Munro said, walking towards him.
It was a child. A small, pale child, holding a black cat…
You wish Toshio could have been spared this.
You wish you were not so abhorrent to look upon, that the noise that you keep making and can't stop would abate so he would not be so terrified of you, even though he too is as undead as you are.
You wish you could hold him in your twisted, unearthly grasp, comfort him.
You wish you could bear to look him in the eye.
Munro knew something was wrong. The boy was too pale, his eyes ringed with black, his expression dead.
"Hey son, what's your name?" Peterson said to him.
He was apparently Asian in origin – Japanese, maybe. The cat seemed to struggle in his grip, and then it got out and vanished into the darkness with a wail.
"Kid?" Munro asked, for some reason hefting his rifle. Peterson got in close to the kid, and then suddenly a great darkness – almost like a living shadow – leapt up from the kid, as he let out a screeching noise like a tortured cat. Peterson fell to the ground, and the shadow enveloped him.
"What the hell is that?" Peters screamed. Dieter seemed to make up his own mind and opened fire into the shadow. A moment later Munro followed suit.
"Stop!" Davis screamed, racing forward. "What if you hit Peterson?"
Munro and Dieter stopped firing, and Davis stepped up to the shadow, hesitantly.
And an arm grabbed her, long and pale and dead…
The girl is a relative of the other ones, the brave one who burned your home and her sister; that is why you're here, you realise. You're here for her. These others are just in the way.
But there's still a few left, and there's reason enough for you to continue your vengeance upon them. They exist, after all, and that is enough.
Davis was pulled into the shadow, and Peters' nerve broke. He ran into the darkness. The kid meowed and vanished, and Dieter and Munro were left firing.
"Dies ist ein Albtraume!" Dieter yelled. "A spectre!"
"The curse," Munro muttered. "Some curse. Fall back and keep firing at it!"
"We cannot fight the Dämonen der Hölle!" Dieter yelled.
"We can try," Munro muttered grimly, not knowing what the words "damonen der holle" meant, but having a pretty good guess. He aimed his rifle into the shadow as it began its inexorable advance. "Move it!"
Peters was a soldier, and he knew he should not be scared, but he was. In fact he was terrified. There were things, things attacking him and his unit, and those things should not even exist. It was the stuff of horror novels and first person shooter games, these pale dead people.
"Peters!" a man's voice yelled, cutting through his thoughts. A familiar voice, British accent and clipped tones evident.
"Johnson?" he hissed. "Where are you?!"
"The alley!" the voice of his comrade called. Peters smiled, and began to think of going back, him and his friend fighting the monsters from hell back.
"You seen the creepy dead stuff?" he asked.
"Sort of," the Englishman's voice said in reply. "Anyway, hurry it up will you!"
Peters ran towards the alley, and for a second, the complete absence of Johnson didn't register. When it did, he began to get worried.
"Johnson?!" he shouted. "Johnson?!"
There was no reply. He aimed his gun into the dark alley, and clicked the light on.
"Show yourself!" he yelled. The answer this time was not silence, however, but a loud wail like a dying cat. Peters' eyes widened, and then he closed them, and turned around.
The kid was staring right at him. Peters swore, and emptied bullets into him with a yell of desperation; they had no effect. Then a shadow rose up, and the kid, most disconcertingly of all, smiled…
The two men, Munro and Dieter, unleashed a hail of bullets into the shadow, their training taking over, suppressing the fear that threatened to overcome them like a wave. Munro was almost relieved that now he had something decent to shoot at – it might be a shadow ghost thing, but it was a shadow ghost thing that he could see, instead of an unknown force and a weird looking kid.
The bullets that the two troopers unleashed had no discernible effect, however, and as Munro's clip emptied, and he moved to reload it, the shadow began to resolve, into a shape like that of a woman… she had long black hair, lank and dead, flowing from the top of her head, obscuring part of her pale face, although not her wide and staring eyes, nor her mouth, which was wide open. Munro could not help but stare at her in horror, especially at the bloodstains that covered her... she was obviously dead.
And yet she was making a noise, a horrific croaking noise that sounded like a walking corpse might, if the world had truly gone as mad as Munro thought it had and the dead could walk.
And she shambled forwards towards them like something from a nightmare…
Munro heard a scream, coming from somewhere, a long and painful scream…
And he realised it was his own.
Darkness took him.
They are all dead now; they are dead and their spirits are enslaved to your will forever, to be used as puppets should you desire.
You desire nothing of the sort. You desire something that can stop this… this madness that has become your existence.
But there's nothing that can stop your revenge. You won't stop. Ever. The world may turn and change and grow but you'll still be there, ready to wreak your curse upon them. Even now, you approach another, a boy, in a padded cell, one you have seen before, one who escaped you then. You will kill him, and those around him, and those around them…
And the grudge will never end.