This was a prelude I wrote to a very early version of an RPG. At the time it was called Renegade. It serves as a reader’s introduction to this weird world. An early draft of the RPG is avaliable from here.
The coffee is cold but I drink it. The apartment is so empty, so large without her here. The funeral was only a week ago. It was in Glasnevin Cemetery and the sky was a dull grey. We stood around the grave as the priest said some words, which I can’t remember. I remember the coffin; the brown stained wooden box being lowered. I wanted to jump in afterwards and rip the coffin lid off and save her. People came up to me and whispered condolences. I remember one man; a complete stranger to me started talking to me in Irish. Couldn’t understand a word of it, I just remembered he kept his cap on so tight it covered his eyebrows.
The Gardai say it was accidental but before that they were sure there was tampering. The car had an electrical fault and it veered on the motorway into the oncoming traffic. It was suspicious, it was a new car but the cops said it wasn’t, so they must be right. Doesn’t make it easier.
I do remember the hospital. I got a call on my mobile and raced over there and arrived to find her surrounded by Doctors and Nurses in white clean uniforms. She was still alive then, she was talking about men in black suits trying to take her. I grabbed her hand as the Doctor put her under but the look of shear desperation in her face will never leave me as she went under.
The Doctor told me they could do nothing. Even if they had saved her, the damage to her brain would have left her a vegetable.
I’m flicking through photos. Ones of our last holidays, she hates the camera and is constantly avoiding it but I loved to take photos of her, to try and catch her beauty, her silky black hair, her big green eyes and her smile that tickled my heart. She had a nearly second sight and she would know I was upset about something, she would know we were going to argue before I knew there was something to argue. I’ll always remember that.
The coffee is still cold.
I had fallen asleep on the sofa. The sun must have gone down because it was dark. It was the scratching sound on the door that awoke me. I leaned out to switch on the nearest lamp. Nothing. It was still dark. Outside the window I can see the whole apartment block is dead.
What is that scratching? I get up out of the sofa. It stops.
Where did I put the torch?
Now I hear breathing like a dog except twice as exaggerated. Who would be doing that? I look for something to threaten the nuisance with and accidentally spill the half-empty coffee mug all over the sofa.
That?s when the door starts to split, something is breaking in. They heard me say fuck. Now I am fucked. I pull my mobile out of my pocket, no network. This can’t be happening. The door is splitting open. Some thing with claws is breaking in. It isn’t human?
I blink and then I see it properly, a man with tights over his head and with an axe. He’s grunting and gruelling as he widens the gap.
I’m frozen I don’t know what to do.
The little light from the moon outside is suddenly drenched in shadow. Something is moving across the window. The glass shatters inwards and I raise my hands to protect myself but tiny pieces are imbedded in my left hand. They sting like shit.
There are two people by the window. I can only make out their shadows. One is moving his hand and the sofa is suddenly flying across the room at the man with the tights over his head. There is a squeal.
The other looks at me and says, “Sleep.”
I leap awake. What happened? I look around. I’m on a bed in what looks like a cheap hotel or B&B. The lights are all on. My arms are bandaged and the bits of glass have been removed. I hear voices from the other room. I creep up to the door and listen, my heart is pounding. “? we should kill him? the Reclaimer?”
“No!” A familiar woman’s voice. There is silence at her outburst.
“The Reclaimer will come for him, we should use him as bait?” The first voice continues.
“Yes. I agree with Andy.” The voice is almost like a purr.
“You can’t?” the woman’s voice.
“It maybe our only choice Leana?” Another voice? Leana. No. Leana is dead. I stumble back knocking the lamp over. It bangs. I hear the first voice say again “He is awake?”
I panic? where to go, the door swings open and this man leaps across the room, pinning me to the ground. He looks at me like an animal would look at a plaything. His ears, hidden mostly in his hair but still noticeable. They look like cat’s ears.
The man screams back to the others “He’s terrified.”
“Get off him, Phil.” It’s the last voice I heard before cat boy jumped me, the commanding one. He stands in the doorway, tall and intimidating. Phil gets off me.
“We mean you no harm Ken. We are trying to keep you safe.”
“Safe?” I plead but even to me my voice sounds weak and pitiful. Suddenly I’m floating and moving towards the bed. There is another man beside the leader who is moving his hand as if to guide me. He has a maniacal grin on his face. “Relax. You have a surprise.” It’s the voice that threatened to kill me.
“Ken. It’s me.” It’s Leana’s voice, but I she’s not?.She’s dead. My sight starts to go and see white light and I faint.
When I awake, it seems real. Leana is smiling her concern at me and she places something on my forehead. I like this moment. But a shiver creeps up my spine as I remember I’ll wake up and I’ll be alone so I try to shake myself awake. But she is still there. Her smile turns to worry.
I am awake. I pinch myself. Ouch. She’s in front of me, I’m hallucinating.
“It’s okay?” she’s whispering to me and reaching out to me.
“Calm down.” The command voice says and I suddenly relax. The tension falling from my body. He sits in the corner observing.
“You’re real?” I whisper.
“Yes.” She answers.
“I saw your body. I watched you die in the hospital. I saw your body in a coffin? I saw the coffin?” She silenced me by putting her finger to my lips.
“I did die, Ken. I was changed and I came back.”
“We don’t know.” the commanding voice again. “We all died, all saw the same creatures in black suits pull us away and then ? then we find ourselves alive again. Changed but alive.”
“Why didn’t you find me?”
Her frown creased, “because I’ve changed Ken and there are things that will, that are hunting you because you once knew me.”
“What? The man with the tights over his head?”
“Is that what you saw?” The commanding voice said. “That is interesting. Personally I saw a slobbering monster with more claws then I have fingers.”
“I don?t understand.”
“None of us understand. We escaped something Ken. But it is angry so it sent a creature we call the Reclaimer. It has gone after all our families and you were next. It won’t stop until your dead.”
“It’s dark again. Tomorrow we’ll put Andy’s plan into action. You’ll only have tonight Leana. Make the most of it.” The commanding voice got up and left the room.
“What does he mean tonight only? What plan?”
“I can’t go back to you Ken. I’ve changed. I see things that I never saw before. I can sense things like I never could. I can read your mind, Ken and I understand your confusion. Don?t say anymore. Just stay with me and hold me.”
And that?s what I did, I held onto her. Hugged her. But her response was mechanical. She held me back but it was stiff. She lay beside me on the bed. I reached out and turned the lights off, but suddenly she was screaming, “Turn them on, turn them on?” I switch the light back on.
“I can’t stand the dark, I can’t stand it anymore. You can’t imagine what it felt like to have your whole essence pulled out? it was so dark?.” tears were streaming down her eyes. I held her and she cried into my shoulder.
She felt asleep in my arms. Oh god, her smell was so much better then I remembered.
She woke first, shaking me awake. She went into the common room. The one called Phil was curled up on the sofa, wrapped into a little ball. She knocked on the other two’s doors to wake them and she pointed me to the kitchen. “Help yourself.” She kissed me on the forehead.
The kitchen was filthy. There were some edible bits in the fridge but the rest was mouldy and filthy. It then only hit me how manky and dirty they all were. Leana looked like she slept in the same clothes for two weeks, Phil, while his face was clean; his clothes were a lot to be desired. Same went for the one with the commanding voice.
Phil came in, his grin wide. ?Hi there. Sorry about jumpin? on ya yesterday. ?Fraid you were goin? run?? He took out some of the edible bits and greedily ate them. I found a kettle and some instant coffee and proceeding to brew something.
I tried to drag his eyes away from the cat ears. ?So what?s this plan??
Phil grinned, ?We wait, till tonight. Your bait and then we hop on it.?
?And after that??
Phil frowned. ?Dunno?.?
Andy was the paranoid one. He always gripped a carving knife in his hand. As I had already discovered he seem to be able to literally move objects with his mind. Phil was like a Cat. He acted like a cat, he had claws like a cat, he even smelled like a cat. Then there was Jay. The one they all listened to. I don?t know what he could do.
I spent the day in that hotel room. Leana stayed with me. We talked but I felt like she was trying to say all the things she wanted to say before she never saw me again. The others pretty much stayed out of our way.
Then night rolled round. I could tell because Leana started to shiver as the light from outside started to fade.
They had a van. An old banger but it moved. We travelled to the Dublin quays and then to a dock land development site. The metal skeleton of the building stood tall in the moonlight.
It was then that Jay grabbed me and we were suddenly moving upwards. We were flying. I was terrified and excited at the same time until he stopped on top of the tallest scaffolding. ?The thing can?t fly like us. It?ll have to climb to kill you. You?ll be safe.? He put me down on the steel pipe. It started to rock with my weight and the wind buffeted back and forth. I grabbed the nearest vertical girder I could and held on for dear life. It was then I looked down, how many floors up, twenty, thirty? I could see Phil, Andy and Leana looking up. Jay looked at me in a funny way and said ?Sorry about this. If there was a better way?? He then literally dropped, nearly making me puke once again.
I looked down once again but they were nowhere.
I waited. I found I could control the swaying by positioning myself in a vertical line. At the very least it didn?t make me feel like being sick.
It was then that I heard something from far below. A shadow moving. Then commotion and violence from below. I tried to peer into the building through the girders. I leaned as much as I could.
A flash then something that sounded like screaming or anger. I leaned in more to see if I could tell what the sounds were. Another flash and this time a scream of pain.
Damn, what?s going on?
I stretched a little further, loosening the grip of my hand.
Suddenly the whole structure shook. I couldn?t hold on. I slipped. The girders raced by me until I bounced off one with my leg and then proceeding downwards facing upwards. I could see the night sky illuminated by the moon. With a thump I landed and lost consciousness.
When I opened my eyes, I saw Jay. His back was to me. He was struggling. The man with the tights on his head was trying to push him over. But it wasn?t the man. I blinked furiously and the illusion ceased to be.
It was a monster.
It seemed to be shaped like a 5-foot anteater. Two dark black eyes on either side of its flat head. Its long beak was actually a huge jaw filled with razor teeth. It stood on two legs but fought with four arms, each ending in a huge crab like claw. It skin was red raw as if it didn?t bother to create skin for itself. It pushed Jay aside, flinging him into one of the girders with bent under the impact. Amazingly Jay just groaned and began to pick him self up.
But that was not my concern. The monster was coming towards me, it?s jaws opened wide and drool dripping from its fangs.
Jay shook himself off but he was slowly recovering.
The thing was nearly on top of him. I could smell the blood from his skinless body. I righted myself, sitting up and tried to push myself away. But pain shot through my broken leg.
It roared as it neared me as if in triumph of its victory.
Something pummelled into it at high speed sending it rolling towards the edge but it stopped short. I could see now we were still many floors up. The city seemed flattened against the clear sky with the stars like miniature beacons. Leana unrolled herself. It was she who had pushed the beast. The monster righted itself and made to charge her.
I got up and started to dash towards the edge. I yelled, ?Over here, come on? you big feck?in ant eater? Come on.?
It stopped and it looked at me. Then it started to charge. I hoped knew what I?m doing. God, the pain in my leg! The thing was nearly on top of me yet the edge was just in my reach. Its speed was amazing. The jaw opened. I had to wait till it was right on top of me. I could feel its foul breath on my face.
I dropped, hoping to trip it. The pain was unbearable in my leg. It kicked into my side as it went over. Its claw dug in to my left arm. It held on ripping into the flesh of my arm. I could only scream in agony as it clawed its way back up. Its quarry in its snarl. This was it. I was ant meat. I stared at it, as it hung from my arm and it raised its other claws.
It shook like a fuzzy image on television set. It roared aloud in pain. Something was happening to it. My left arm was going fuzzy too. Christ it hurt more then anything else. I was screaming without even realising, shouting for it to stop. My eyesight grew dim.
Someone was tending to me. He wore a white monk?s smock. I looked down at my left arm; it wasn?t there any more. My leg hurt like hell. ?Be still. I tried to warn you before.? It was the man from the funeral who spoke only Irish. The disturbing thing was, he had a third eye that occasionally blinked at me while he placed my leg in splinter.
I could see Jay and Leana slowly landing behind him.
?Who are you?? Leana asked.
?A concerned passer by. I?d advise you to leave young Ken to me before any Gardai arrive. We will talk later?? He smiled at me as he tied the bandage around my arm.
That was the last time I saw Leana.
The monk?s name is Lon by the way. He said they just left, he couldn?t find them.
I?ve changed. Lon has been my guide to what my new eyes have brought me. He?s a Void Traveller, not actually from Earth if you get that. He said my wife and the others are commonly called Renegades or Rebels. Warriors for mankind he kept saying but I?m not sure he?s telling me the full story.
I can?t go back to my old life. I see things different. I help Lon and sometimes join in the fight. He patched me up well, my leg healed quickly but my left arm is gone forever. Lon explained he literally threw the monster into the space where it came from; unfortunately it took part of my arm with it.
I’ve met others who know, who’ve seen. Occasionally I hear about Leana and the others and how they help stop this thing or that. She never calls.
In the end, I suppose, I?m still alive. Leana is alive.
This will be made avaliable through Renegade RPG as a PDF.