From the Malafarina Files, ‘In The Beginning, There Was Me’ a short story by horror author Thomas M. Malafarina

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By: Thomas M. Malafarina
© 2010 Thomas M. Malafarina

“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn
out well for the Native Americans.” – Stephen Hawking

“I believe in aliens. I think it would be way too selfish of us as mankind to believe we are the only
lifeforms in the universe.“- Demi Lovato

The red numbers on the battery-powered clock perched precariously on a worn wooden
crate read 8:18 AM. Their fading luminescence was the sole source of light in the suffocating
darkness of the tiny room. Ethan stared at the numbers as if in a daze, trying desperately to pull
himself back from the land of slumber. In his stupor, he noticed with some degree of amusement,
if he turned the numerals ninety degrees in his mind, they resembled a smiling face with bushy,
figure-eight eyebrows and a matching goatee. Man; he thought, I must be really losing

He sat up, swinging his legs over the side of his cot while simultaneously removing his
thin layer of blankets, planting his feet solidly on the rug covering the cold concrete floor. It
barely provided sufficient protection from the stone-cold chill. Ethan realized this was one more
thing he probably had overlooked, one of many things he should have given more consideration.
He noticed the diminishing brightness of the clock's display, recognizing it was once again time
to replace the batteries. How many times had he done so? Two times? Three? He couldn't recall.

He slowly stretched his arms upward, arching his back, trying to remove the kinks from
his muscles brought on by the lack of comfort the meager cot provided and from the seemingly
persistent dampness of his basement prison.

Yes, that was how he was beginning to think of the place. Ironically, I went to a great
deal of expense and effort to construct this room to his specifications. Yet, after many months, he
thought of his sanctuary as less of a safe haven and more of a prison. It was supposed to be a
shelter, a place of refuge in the event of nuclear catastrophe, natural disaster, or some other
cataclysm. And although the simple fact that he was still alive was proof it had served its purpose
well, he had been below the surface for what he considered far too long.

Ethan stood and shuffled across the bunker to where the dimly lit digital clock sat. He
reached up on the wall above it. He switched on a battery-powered light, which provided
sufficient illumination for him to change the clock batteries and complete his other various daily
rituals. He looked at the calendar hanging on the wall, took hold of a pen secured by a long
string, and placed a large black; over the date, May 15.

Another one bites  Ethan said to himself as he looked up at the calendar with
its fourteen previous; in May, knowing three last months were likewise marked; “Wow!” he
said to himself, just as he seemed to say each day when he woke up. “I can’t believe I have been
down here so long.”

Ethan was uncertain just how long it would continue since he didn’t know when to risk
venturing outside. He recalled how he hadn’t had electricity or Internet service since the day he
had gone into the room and had stopped receiving short wave radio transmissions a week or two
later. He wasn’t sure what the original crisis was, which had caused him to go underground. He
recalled the last news broadcast talking about the invaders converging on the United States from all directions. Although he suspected an attack by another country, he didn’t know his
presumption was correct.

What he did know was that whoever had chosen to invade was using some mighty
weaponry. During the first several days, he had to wear earplugs to suppress the relentless
thunder of battle, which reverberated above him. Even deep below the earth in a foot-thick
concrete bunker, the unremitting pounding shook his psyche to a point where he feared he might
lose his mind. After a few days, it stopped. Since then, there was nothing to indicate a battle
might still be raging.

Nonetheless, Ethan had remained below the surface, primarily because of his uncertainty
about nuclear fallout. If there had been exchanges of atomic weapons, he knew he would have to
stay underground for several weeks, if not months, to make sure any radiation had dissipated. He
had purchased a Geiger counter for his shelter and knew he would use it before venturing

He thought back to how it was the day he entered the shelter and recalled how surprised
he was with the speed at which he had so quickly left the realm of civilized man and had fallen
into the role of savage survivor. Ethan recalled with distaste how, when he arrived in his
basement prepared to enter his shelter, his next-door neighbor, Bob Jenkins, had been waiting
outside the room, blocking his access to the large steel door. The man had been obviously
desperate to survive and, as such, had broken one of the small basement windows and crawled
inside. The man, who was a head taller than Ethan and many pounds of solid muscle more
significant, stood before the metal door with a wooden baseball bat in his hands, demanding to
know where the key for the door was, so he and his family could be safe.

Ethan had, of course, refused to give him the key, and the man had swung the Louisville
slugger at Ethan intending to break his arm, thereby incapacitating him and allowing Jenkins to
overpower and, if necessary, torture the key's location from him. But Ethan had anticipated the
strike and dodged the attack, countered with a right cross, hitting Jenkins square in the jaw and
knocking him off balance.

Then Ethan grabbed a nearby length of two-by-four and began to beat the man. Even
after Jenkins fell to the floor and was unconscious, Ethan's rage was unrelenting, and he didn't
stop. He continued to batter the man's head and face, turning it into a bloody unrecognizable pulp
of crimson meat, looking more like a festering pile of rotting hamburger than a human being.
Ethan pushed the body away from the bunker door, knowing he had mere minutes to get
inside, which was precisely what he did. He could only hope that the crisis had ended; he'd find
some way to prove to whatever form of the legal system remained that his actions were in self-
defense. He knew this wasn't entirely true, and he had gone too far in his excessive violence,
having bashed the man's skull as he lay defenseless on the basement floor. But Ethan believed he
might still be able to pull off a plea of temporary insanity. At least he hoped the insanity was
only temporary. Regardless, he did not intend to spend the rest of his life in prison after living
underground in a ten-foot square room for the past several months.

During the early part of the crisis, Ethan heard scraping and light pounding on the outside
of the door. Someone was trying to get inside. For a moment, Ethan thought it might be Jenkins;
that perhaps he had underestimated the extent of the man's injuries. Then he recalled the liquidy-
gelatinous mass, which had once been the man's face, and realized there was no way Jenkins
could have lived through such a beating.

His imagination began to take over as he thought of the various zombie apocalypse
movies he had watched during his lifetime. He envisioned the battered corpse of Bob Jenkins
arising impossibly from the dead in the form of some rotting creature, whose sole purpose was to
get inside the room to get Ethan. He shook off the ridiculous thought chalking it up to the
heightened level of stress he was experiencing.

It was also possible that Jenkin’s family had likewise crawled in through the same
basement window he had. If they had discovered his battered remains, they might be trying to get
into the shelter not only for sanctuary but to get revenge on Ethan, the man who had killed their
father and husband. But he knew such attempts would be to no avail, as he had done his
homework well, and nothing short of dynamite or C-4 would allow anyone access. Fortunately,
whoever it was who had been outside, didn’t have the necessary supplies to blast their way inside
and eventually must have given up since the scratching stopped.

Then he recalled how it had been several days later when he heard one of the last of the
incredible explosions, which sounded like his entire house, had collapsed on top of him. He
never heard anyone else attempting to get in from that point on. Sometimes he strangely missed
the sound of scratching and knocking on the door. Although it had been nerve-racking, the sound
at least had told Ethan someone or something was outside and was still alive. That had been a
very long time ago, and yet still, he remained locked inside.

Ethan had lived in an old townhouse in the downtown section of a lesser-known east
coast metropolitan area. He had spent many years designing and methodically constructing the
shelter in the back part of his underground basement. For a while, he wondered if he were
behaving like a fool, expending of the time, energy, and money he had put into the shelter only
to satisfy something, which might be nothing more than a paranoid fantasy.

Now, after three and half months underground, Ethan was contemplating when exactly he
should consider venturing back up to the surface world. Each day he waffled back and forth,
unable to make a decision and, as a result, always ended up staying inside for one day longer. He
had awoken that morning feeling much less indecisive than any day previously and had made up
his mind to remain underground for the rest of May, and he would leave his shelter on June 1. So
for the next fifteen days, he stayed underground, making plans for his first exploration back to
the surface world.

The morning of June 1 arrived with none of the usual mundane routines of all the other
days Ethan had spent in his self-imposed solitude. Instead, it came with a flurry of excitement
tied to Ethan’s uncertainty about what he might find in the world outside. He realized he had
hardly slept the previous night as he was reviewing his plans for the next day, mentally checking
and double-checking what supplies he would take with him as well as what his strategy would be
for his first excursion.

Many fantasy scenarios had played through his mind during that long and restless night
of May 31, sometimes separately, sometimes jumbled together. Now it was morning, and as the
digital clock announced, it was time for him to venture out, to see what awaited him on the
surface world.

After brushing his teeth and freshening up as best as possible with his ration of water and
pre-moisten towelettes, Ethan checked to make sure everything he needed was stored in his
backpack and ready for the trip. He put on a pair of camouflage military-grade pants with many
utility pockets, which he had purchased at the Army surplus store, and filled the pockets with the
various things he might need during the day. He strapped on his holster belt, which held two
forty-five revolvers he had purchased several years earlier at a gun show.

Ethan picked up one of his most essential tools, his bright yellow Geiger counter, which
he had ordered from a website for $79.95. The site had advertised their company had bought a
considerable supply of the devices from a federal warehouse, which had collected them from
various former Cold War fallout shelters around the country.

As he approached the door to the outside, he hesitated and was overcome by a wave of
indecision, wondering for a moment if he should perhaps wait another month. He briefly took his
hand off the handle, looking around the confining room, and almost changed his mind. Then he
realized just how much he needed to get out of the claustrophobic space. He seriously doubted he
could survive in the room for another day, let alone another month without some change of
scenery, even if temporary. He understood if he encountered enemies outside, there was a good
chance he might die, but if he had to stay inside one more day, he believed his death would be
just as inevitable.

Ever so slowly, he released the lock on his vault-like steel door, and with one of his
revolvers at the ready, he opened it about two inches. Ethan then took the radiation detector and
placed it near the opening, expecting to see it spike into the red zone, but it didn’t; the needle
stayed in the safe area.

This made him feel somewhat better until, for a moment, he wondered if perhaps the
the device might not be working correctly, and unknowingly he might be at that very moment be
getting showered with lethal doses of radiation. If he was, then the last several months in
isolation was for naught, but it was too late to worry about that now, so he figured he might as
well, continue forward with his plan.

He set the detector down and again began pulling the large door slowly inward. He saw
that his house had fallen entirely down on top of his shelter.

There was a mass of broken timbers, bricks, glass, and other collapsed building materials
outside the door. As he looked up through the wreckage, Ethan could see the faintest bit of light
shining in from somewhere far up above. He stood looking upward for a moment sniffing the air,
and could immediately smell the damp scent of rain-soaked wood, broken bricks, and crushed
sodden plaster. There were puddles of water, which had collected on what had once been his
basement floor, and they were visible between the crisscross pattern of fallen timbers and
floorboards. Then he smelled the foul odor of decay and recognized it as the smell of
decomposition. Somewhere in the rubble, Bob Jenkins's body and perhaps the bodies of others
lay rotting.

Ethan thought back to the pounding and scratching sounds he had heard against the
outside of his door. He wondered if it had been an animal or if it had been his neighbors, making
a final effort to get inside before the house collapsed down upon them. He looked slightly to his
right and could see the stairs leading from the basement to the missing first floor. Most of the
stairs were covered with debris, but he believed he could crawl under the timbers, which hung
precariously at strange angles and make it to the stairs if he were careful.

Once on the few remaining segments of the stairs, he might be able to venture upward
and outside. Then he hesitated, realizing that no matter how much he despised his shelter, it was
still the only safe haven he had. As a result, Ethan took a few hours to move timbers and debris
to make a clear and safe path from the doorway of his room to the stairs. That way, if he ran into
trouble up above, he hopefully could make it back to the shelter unseen and could once again
hide for a while longer if necessary.

While he struggled to move a large section of fallen flooring, he noticed a skeletal hand,
barely covered with flesh, jutting out below the lumber. Knowing a rotting body lay beneath,
perhaps that of dear old Bob, Ethan carefully pushed the bony hand under the section of flooring
with his foot before shoving it aside, not wanting to see or even acknowledge whom it really
might have been.

For the briefest of seconds, he thought he saw one of the fingers move ever so slightly,
and he jumped back with irrational horror. Then after a few moments of uncertainty, he laughed
to himself and the ridiculousness of what he had imagined. Bob Jenkins was dead, and whether
the hand had been his or someone else’s, the fact remained the same; dead was dead. Ethan
realized he was jitterier than was acceptable and had to calm down before he ventured outside.
Once he had satisfactorily cleared a path, he picked up his radiation detector and slowly
began to work his way up the stairs looking all around for any sign of danger. He had seen
enough apocalyptic movies to know when society had broken down; he had just as much to fear
from his fellow Americans as he had to worry from any enemy invaders.

He stepped off the top step out into the open air of the city sidewalk, behind which his
townhouse once stood, now a wrecked pile of rubble. He looked slowly about at the destruction
surrounding him and immediately noticed the complete absence of any living creatures. There
were no signs of life anywhere, none of the familiar city sounds to which he had become so
accustomed, nothing.

He unexpectedly thought of the first line from the book of Genesis, which read, “In the
beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” He had no idea why that particular passage
came into his mind, especially since he believed God had nothing to do with the devastation he
saw around him. Then he had an even stranger thought, perhaps brought on by the silence all
around him, and he thought to himself, “In the beginning… there was me.” He believed this was
true; he might very well be alone, the only survivor alive in the burned-out metropolis.

He certainly hoped he was wrong and that somewhere along the line, he would find
others, hopefully friendly, someone he could join up with and start the long and arduous process
of rebuilding civilization. After all, that was one of the main reasons he had built the shelter in
the first place. He meant to survive and to be part of the rebuilding. He decided to venture just a
bit further from the safety of his shelter and see what, if anything, he might discover.
Ethan took a final look at his radiation detector with his revolver at the ready. Then either
because he assumed the atmosphere was safe or perhaps he was simply frustrated thinking the
thing just didn’t work, he tossed it aside into a nearby pile of rubble. He continued down the
street, taking into account the incredible destruction all around him.

Ethan was confident that no matter who had started the war, it had been fought primarily
using conventional weaponry. Despite the incredible destruction around him, Ethan could tell it
was non-nuclear. It looked more like a scene from an old World War II movie than from
newsreels he had seen of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the History Channel. In those videos,
everything had been flattened and disintegrated for miles, but many buildings still stood here,
ruined but recognizable. Despite the extensive destruction, the area looked more like a
conventional type of war had been fought. But then he began to wonder if anyone had won such
an all-encompassing war. He recalled the last radio broadcast he had heard announcing the
invaders were attacking the country from all sides and by virtually every avenue available to

The reports didn’t say where the invaders had originated, just that the country was under
attack. For a time, Ethan fantasized that the invaders might have been creatures from another
planet or perhaps an unknown race of beings below the earth’s surface. Since he had no idea
where the enemy had originated, he had to be prepared for almost anything. “Plan for the worst
and hope for the best,”; he repeated quietly to himself.

He slowly walked down what once was the street in front of his house, and a cool breeze
began to blow in his direction. It, unfortunately, brought with it the fetid smell he immediately
again recognized as the stench of death and putrefaction. He looked into the rubble piles
scattered around the street and saw skeletal remains poking out underneath the fallen debris.
Most of the corpses he saw wore tattered clothing; a few appeared to be naked, but very few,
thank God. Although some were in street clothing, many were dressed in soldiers’ uniforms. He
saw remnants of American uniforms only, but no strange or foreign uniforms, which he might
attribute to those of any possible enemy. He thought he should at least see some dead enemy
soldiers scattered among the rotting corpses.

He could hear loud buzzing sounds, which he attributed to the no doubt thousands of
insects inhabiting the once vital, now decaying bodies. On occasion, he caught a glimpse of rats
scurrying away into the mountains of debris as he passed. Ethan envisioned millions of the vile
creatures roaming freely, their ever-growing population unchecked, feasting on the hundreds of
thousands of abandoned corpses littering the streets. For a moment, his stomach lurched in
disgust, and he had to regain his composure to go on.

As he turned the corner about a block from his home, he saw many giant metal burned-
out hulks, which must have once been army tanks, jeeps, hummers, and other similar machinery.
He realized a battle had taken place directly over him while he was safely hidden in his
underground bunker.

He experienced a brief pang of regret and suddenly felt a bit guilty and cowardly by the
fact he had hidden while soldiers and neighbors made a futile attempt to fight off the enemy and
save their world above. Ethan had no desire to die, and as such, he had prepared for survival, but
this was a bit more horrid than he could have ever imagined. Everyone seemed to be gone. He
had initially rationalized his hiding below ground as a responsibility to keep the human race
going. But now, he felt guilty and was questioning his motivation.

To his left, a two-story building, which was less ruined than most, caught Ethan’s eye,
and he saw something moving slightly up near the second-floor window. The early morning sun
was shining directly in his eyes, and he couldn’t quite make out what exactly had attracted his
attention. Then as he shielded his eyes, he saw an incredibly horrible sight. Jutting out from the
second-story window of the battered home was a large piece of lumber or plank extending ten
feet or more into the air.

As Ethan looked toward the end of the plank, he saw the withered body of a dead man
dangling, a rope fastened tightly around his stretched neck, his bluish-gray tongue hanging
limply from his wrinkled rotting face. The man’s dead filmy left eye bulged out of its socket,
resembling an enormous puss-filled blister about to burst, and his right eye was gone entirely,
leaving only an empty black socket remaining. His arms and legs had withered to the point of
being not much more than bones covered with wrinkled gray leathery flesh, but his belly
distended to the point of resembling an enormous balloon filled with some vile undulating fluid.
Ethan stared, shocked at the horrible spectacle hanging before him. Another cool wind
worked its way along the street, and with a slight creaking sound, the dangling corpse began to
spin and sway to slowly and fro in the breeze as if performing some hideous slowly twisting
ballet of death. As he watched, stunned, Ethan noticed the surface of the large belly had begun to
quiver slightly, as if something was moving just below the outer layer of mottled flesh. Then the
stomach started to bulge even further, impossibly distending to a size ten times that of an average
human, sagging downward like some gargantuan hellish pregnancy growing incredibly more
enormous before his eyes, the flesh expanding to the point of transparency.
He saw a tiny hole beginning to open at the bottom of the enormous stomach, gradually
enlarging slightly as a trickle of fluid. It did not appear to be blood but something of a pinkish,
watery consistency, which began to drip slowly from the orifice. Then suddenly, the hole became
a giant slit as the stomach ripped upward and the disgusting fluid spilled to the ground with a
sickening splash. As Ethan jumped back to avoid being hit by whatever the disgusting mess was,
he looked up again to see a site he couldn't quite comprehend. Something was emerging from the
sizeable distended belly; no, it was several things.

What appeared to be many small creatures were climbing down through the air,
appearing to be at least partially insectile but somewhat resembling a squid-like sea creature,
with yet some type of plant-life in their metabolism. They were intertwined, crawling over each
other, forming a long slimy chain from the opening in the torn stomach to the ground. The things
were in constant and rapid motion, and Ethan couldn’t precisely determine what they looked like
or what their origin might have been.

When they reached the street, the chain seemed to maintain its vertical position as the
creatures closest to the dangling corpse began to crawl downward along the chain’s length. Once
each of the crawly things had made it safely down to the surface, they began scurrying about
randomly, as if unable to see or perhaps becoming acclimated to their new environment.
Ethan thought about shooting them but decided to conserve his ammunition until he saw
what he might be up against in the new and strange world he had found waiting for him. Besides,
he didn't want to fire until necessary as giving away his position and attracting unwanted
attention might not be the best idea. He began walking backward away from the strange creatures
when he heard something from a darkened nearby alley connected to the street.

“Hey! Hey, you … Hey Mister … Over here …”

The voice sounded like a woman, or perhaps a young boy. Ethan immediately noticed,
however, the voice didn’t sound quite right to him, as if it might be some manufactured
electronic disembodied simulation of a human voice, a strange imitation of humanity.
Ethan turned cautiously, his gun pointed in the direction of the voice and was surprised
to see a young woman, perhaps twenty or so years old, standing in the shadows at the center of
the alley calling him. Although he couldn’t make out the details of her appearance, he was pretty
sure she was naked.

“Wh… what?” Ethan said through his confusion, wondering how or why a young naked,
vulnerable woman would still be alive and able to call to him. How had she possibly survived?
Could he be hallucinating? He took a few steps toward the alley. Then as he became more aware
and as some light began to filter into the dark alley, he noticed something was very wrong with
the entire situation. There was something strange about the way the woman stood, about the way
her arms seemed to dangle at her sides as if nonfunctional; the way her legs were vertical but
didn’t seem to support her body so much as hang limply from her body.

Ethan recalled seeing various entertainment shows performed periodically in the school
auditorium or gymnasium during his elementary school years. He immediately thought of puppet
and marionette shows and realized that was how this woman before him looked. She appeared
suspended in the air like a live marionette, supported somehow by some unknown force.
As his eyes adjusted to the dwindling shadows of the alley, Ethan saw something that
made his skin crawl. The woman’s flesh was gray and mottled with dark brown splotches, and
her eyes were missing from their blackened sockets. Her mouth was hanging slack as in death,
and her withered breasts hung like deflated windsocks. This was no woman in need of help but
some reanimated flesh puppet, somehow given the power of speech by some unearthly
ventriloquist controlling the decaying corpse.

Looking down toward the thing’s most private areas, Ethan was disgusted to see some
thick appendage, perhaps four inches in diameter, inserted inside her. The composition of the
the portion of the tendril which he could see looked very much like a larger version of the horrid
creatures he had just seen emerge from the stomach of the hanged man, but much, much more

Then Ethan jumped with fright as he felt something small scurry across his foot. He
immediately thought it might be a rat, but when he looked down, he saw one of the horrible
creatures from the hanged man was on the ground in front of him. It was using its tentacle-like
arms to try to wrap itself around his ankles. He kicked wildly and managed to make solid contact
with the creature.

The feeling on his foot was beyond disgusting as if he had just kicked a flesh-covered
water bottle. The creature flew through the air and struck the side of a nearby building, where it
splattered into a mass of greenish-gray liquid appearing to have the consistency of clotting blood.
It slowly began to run down the side of the building until it reached the broken pavement below.
Once there, it regained its original, horrid shape and again started crawling back toward Ethan
once again.

He looked around and saw the rest of the monsters were now coming for him. Down the
alley, he saw the rotting corpse/woman thrown through the air, discarded by the creature
occupying her as quickly as one would shed a filthy work glove. Ethan saw the total size of the
beast in the alley and couldn’t believe his eyes. Although it resembled the tiny creature he had
just kicked, it was enormous.

As it rose to its full height, the slime-covered creature had to be at least twenty feet tall
and almost as broad. Its long tentacle-like arms waved simultaneously in the air, numbering
between six and eight; Ethan couldn’t tell for sure. Each of the appendages was at least fifteen
feet long, starting at a diameter of three feet at the creature’s body, tapering down to a few inches
in diameter at their tips.

The thing’s head was large and bulbous like that of a squid or octopus, but it had an array
of what had to be dozens of multi-faceted eyes like that of a fly only as big as soccer balls. The
rest, of what Ethan thought of as its face, was perhaps the most disturbing visage of all. It
appeared almost human, with a vast mouth surrounded by large swollen lips. As the creature
opened its gigantic maw, Ethan smelled a foul odor, like a combination of rotting fish and
decaying meat. The inside was filled with large teeth like those found in the fossilized skeletons
of Tyrannosaurus Rex. A large, thick tongue, pinkish-purple in color, thrust out of the mouth and
raked itself across the vast lips coating them with a revolting translucent light green slime.
Ethan backed away from the alley and turned to run down the street toward his shelter,
not wanting to be out in the strange new world any longer. As he started to run, he tripped and
fell face-first to the street, managing to break his fall with his hands, which screamed with pain
from the numerous cuts and abrasions they received as a result. Looking back from his prone
position, he saw one of the smaller creatures had once again wrapped its tentacles around his
ankle, thus tripping him. Ethan kicked and kicked at the horrid creature, but it wouldn’t let go.
Looking back at the alley, he saw the massive beast now making its way out into the main street,
no doubt coming to finish him.

Without taking time to think, Ethan lifted his pistol and fired at the tiny creature, striking
it straight in one of its many eyes, almost shooting his foot in the process. The beast let out an
ear-piercing scream and momentarily let go of Ethan’s leg, just long enough for him to get to his
feet and run limping back down the street.

He turned the corner, running as quickly as possible back to the location of his former
home and sanctuary. As he did, he heard voices calling wait… come back… we won’t hurt you…
please come back…” Ethan took a moment to turn and look behind him and wished he hadn’t
done so, for the sight he saw was something more horrifying than his worst of nightmares.
Sliding slowly down the street far behind him was the enormous creature being led by a
procession of decaying naked corpses, both male and female, each suspended from one of its
long slithering tentacles. The horror Ethan felt was more than he could have ever anticipated.
Seeing his people, his fellow human beings, reduced to nothing more than rotting flesh puppets
for some alien race was a horror beyond all horrors. He knew he could never allow himself to
end up like that. No matter what, he couldn’t let that happen.

Ethan doubled his speed, and with all the energy he had remaining, he hurried down the
stairs, across the basement, and into the safety of his shelter, pulling the door tightly shut behind
him. He sat in the darkness of the tiny room, panting for a few moments, looking around at his
home with the minimal light provided by the battery-operated lamp.

He knew the batteries soon would be all gone, as would the food and water. He had a
minimal amount of time before he would have to go back out into the world, and he knew when
he did, they would be waiting for him, waiting to use him as one of their horrible playthings.
As if on queue, a thump struck against the outside of the steel door. It was followed by
another even louder thump. Then Ethan heard scratching and more thumping against the outside
of the shelter. He understood the creatures had followed him down into the basement and had
figured out where he was hiding. He also knew this meant it would only be a matter of time until
they figured out some way to break in and get to him.

Ethan finally had to admit the truth to himself. He was alone. The human race was dead.
He had survived with the hopes of helping rebuild society, but it was a lost cause. “In the
beginning, there was me,” he said again to the empty shelter. Then he heard the voices again,
calling to him and asking him to come out.

“Hey buddy … we know you’re in there … we followed you … come out now … join us …
please, we need you.”

He didn’t know which was worse, the thought of the horrible creatures trying to get to
him or the idea of them using rotting cadavers to call to him and to drive him insane. Ethan knew
what he must do; the only thing he had remaining to save his human dignity.
“I may die!” He screamed at the tightly shut steel door. But it won’t be of your doing!

With that, Ethan took one of his forty-five revolvers out of its holster, placed it under his chin,
and without another moment’s hesitation, pulled the trigger. The explosive sound was deafening
inside the small room, but Ethan’s time of hearing such things had passed. The top of his head
had exploded upward, carrying with it chunks of bone and brain matter which decorated the
ceiling like a work of modern art. Ethan’s troubles were now over.

Outside the shelter, two men looked at each other with horror in their eyes. “Did you hear
that?” the first man said.

“Of course, I did.” the second man replied, “I guess he couldn’t take it. Maybe the shock
of seeing those things must have pushed him over the edge.

“Damn!” The first man said, “We really could have used him, not to mention whatever
supplies and weapons he might have had in there.

“You’re right.” The second man replied, “When we saw him run from those slithering
slugs and followed him down here, I was excited to find one more man to help our resistance
fight the last of those remaining hideous creatures.”

The first man said, “Yeah, sometimes it’s still hard for me to believe that the human race
was almost completely wiped out until we learned how to kill those things. And now we’re well
on the road to total victory. But I suppose he didn’t have what it took after all.” The second man said,” Well, there’s no way we can get in there, and we had better sneak out of here before those things learn we’re
down here.”

Yeah, let’s get out of here. The first man said. We can come back later with
reinforcements and finish off those few up there in the street. Too bad this guy couldn’t hold out
a bit longer, especially since we’re getting so close to victory. He could have helped us rebuild
the human race. But I suppose it wasn’t meant to be.”

About Author Thomas M. Malafarina|
Thomas M. Malafarina ( is an author of horror fiction from Berks County, Pennsylvania. To date, he has published seven horror novels “What Waits Beneath”, “Burner”, “From The Dark”, “Circle Of Blood”, “Dead Kill Book 1: The Ridge of Death”, “Dead Kill Book 2: The Ridge Of Change” and “Dead Kill Book 3: The Ridge Of War”.

He has published seven collections of horror short stories; “Thirteen Deadly Endings”, “Ghost Shadows”, “Undead Living” “Malaformed Realities Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and Vol. 3” and most recently “Horror Classics”. He has also published a book of often-strange single-panel cartoons called “Yes, I Smelled It Too; Cartoons For The Slightly Off Center”.

All of his books are published through Hellbender Books, an imprint of Sunbury Press.(

In addition, many of Thomas’ stories have appeared in anthologies and e-magazines. Some have been produced and presented for internet podcasts and radio plays as well. Thomas has shared anthology pages with some of the biggest names in horror fiction such as Jack Ketchum, Joe Lansdale, Jonathan Maberry, and Luck McKee to name a few.

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