Shattered Remnants of a Dream

Shattered Remnants of a Dream Shattered Remnants of a Dream

Status: Finished

Genre: Horror


Status: Finished

Genre: Horror


adlets onley


adlets onley

Chapter1 (v.1) - Shattered Remnants of a Dream

Author Chapter Note

adlets onley

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: June 17, 2011

Reads: 536

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: June 17, 2011



1: Antiques and Animosity

Vance Dancougar decided then and there that diving behind a glass case during a drive-by wasn't the smartest thing he had ever done. As soon as he heard the sounds of hot, fresh bullets shattering the glass windows in front of him, though, he knew he had to move. He dove behind the display case of picks and tuners in the Plumbro Music store in downtown Pittsburgh, his face instantly buried into the dirtied carpet behind it. Bullets devastated the walls, ricocheting and splintering the crystalline case that was serving as Vance's shield. He felt a hot, sharp sensation shoot up his arm, and looked down to see a long shard of glass embedded there. Pain flooded his senses, and then blood started to trickle out onto the case, coloring it like the stained-glass windows in church. Maybe I should have gone to confession last week after all. He stifled his thoughts immediately and kept his face down, hoping and praying that one of those bullets from the semi-automatics wouldn't give him a kiss. The volume of glass flying around the room increased, and he could feel sharp raindrops trickling down his back. It wasn't the big pieces he was worried about, though, it was the little ones -- the little ones that bit into one's skin and held on like ticks. As he stared broodingly into his wound, the glass case above him exploded one final time. He could hear the gunshots dwindling, as they finished tearing up the next store down, and then the unsettling whine of police sirens. The destruction had passed, at least for now. “What the hell's going on? Hey, man, you okay?!” A young man with scraggly blond hair appeared from the back room. As he came into the light, Vance strained his vision to read the man's name tag:Daryll. “Yeah, I'm fine.” Vance moved out from behind his shelter, which was little more than a busted-up wooden frame decorated with shards of glass. He shook his hair, and glittering silver pieces rained out from his black locks. Daryll surveyed his customer -- for the most part, he looked okay. “Hey...are you hurt? I have some disinfectant in the back, you know." Vance gave the man an irritated look. “I told you I was fine.Alright, geez man, sorry.” Daryll shrugged, taken aback and not wishing to press any further. “Damn, I dunno about you, but I really thought I was dead there for a moment...” Vance didn't reply, shifting his body forward and moving out the dilapidated door without a further word. Thin streams of blood had soaked the sleeve of his jacket, spiraling around and coming to a rest in the small of his palm. He moved his thumb in it, smearing around the liquid and bringing it to his lips. His own blood, his own life-juice, had been taken from him by a single piece of glass. It frustrated him to know that he was this fragile -- this easily broken. Vance pulled the glass out from his bicep without problem, ignoring the irritating pain in the back of his mind. He rolled his sleeve up, revealing a pale, thin arm tattooed with a jagged crimson line. He left the wound as it was -- he honestly didn't care whether he kept bleeding. Maybe then his father would take some interest in him. His dirty blue sneakers connected with a discarded plastic bottle, sending it flying down the street with an angry crunch. It wasn't the fact that he was in the city alone that was pissing him off was the fact that he had no idea where he was. He had walked from the block across...or was it the block behind that? Vance couldn't remember at all. He started downwards, passing Kaufmann's, the two-story monstrosity that qualified as a department store down here...but Vance didn't really care much for shopping. He didn't really care much for anything, to tell the truth. “Hey, kid,” a raspy whisper shot out from behind a dumpster. “I got the goods. You dig?” “No. I don't dig,” Vance spat. “Now get out of my face.” The dark-haired teenager shot the man one last icy glare before he turned from the alley onto another nameless street. As his wanderings continued, Vance tried to recall memories of how life used to be. He had had a relatively normal childhood, growing up quietly with his father and mother in their small ranch house in Turtle Creek. Life was so simple back then, and he'd do anything to go back and be a kid again – with his mother. There he was, just sitting on his small blue swingset in their tiny backyard, flying to and fro as if all was right in the world. His father was much healthier-looking and had a content smile upon his face, roasting chicken in their mini-grill. Vance followed the playback of his childhood memories like an old videocassette, as his mother stepped out of the door to his porch and started talking with his father. She came down the steps and floated onto the concrete driveway. Smoke from the grill rose up into the sky, and the sun shone down on their happy American family. Fast-forward to age fifteen – the family had been relocated so that his father could be closer to work. Then, ithappened: one day she had been in the house, and then, the next day she wasn't. They had said it was a “freak accident,” but Vance didn't – couldn't -- accept that. Two years had slowly passed...and his father had remarried. The dark, dirty slums of Pittsburgh continued to unwind as Vance's memories came to a close. He crossed an empty street and the darkness began to fade, replaced with the neon glow of a small green lightbulb behind a dusty glass window. It was fastened into the neck of an old-fashioned lamp, apparently part of a haphazard display of the store's goods. Above the window the shop's name was carved into a wooden plaque that hung over the looming doorway: “CASKETT ANTIQUES.” He tried remembering what his father had told him before the man had dropped him off at the music store. If he remembered correctly, his father was having an important 'business meeting,' which was surprising. Even Vance knew Edward Dancougar was completely worthless to his company, the type of worker who sat and did paperwork all day like a mindless drone, only to return to his house, position himself down in his easy chair, and stay that way for the remainder of the night. It made him sick just to think about it. The miserable, glaring 17-year old continued through the streets, clinging hopelessly to the remains of his childhood. Lifeless, raven-black hair fell limply to his shoulders, contrasting terribly with his sharp, pale face. His abnormal eyes -- tiny black pupils with white irises -- stared blankly ahead, and he was all alone as she ran through the streets. The girl clutched her hands against her designer jacket, cherry hair bouncing lightly against her shoulderblades. Rapists were not an uncommon occurrence in her city, but she never thought one would target her. She had a pretty face, but she felt that her curveless, plain body left much to be desired. The man chasing her didn't seem to mind that, however – he had been tailing her in his car for the past five blocks. It wouldn't be long now until he eventually caught up with her. The moon glared against the car speeding down the street behind her, and she took a desperate dive into the thin sliver of an alley. The girl peered down the dark passageway in fright, only to see rows of faceless buildings cast against a bleak dark sky. Every street looked the same now. Suddenly she heard the screeching of brakes -- he was coming back. She ran down the alley as best she could on the worn soles of her sandals as the car started to jam its way into the tiny alley. The sides of the Oldsmobile Tornado screeched against the brick walls of the neighboring buildings, letting out the ear-shattering roar of a hungry monster as it came to a stop.

If the girl had lived in a perfect world, there would not have been a high brick wall at the end of the alleyway. However, miracles seemed to be an impossibility in this day and age, and the frail, young teenager had been trapped. Her big green eyes stared into the car's headlights, innocence and fright permeating from them like like a frightened doe. A bead of sweat fell down her forehead and slid down her thin, round face. Her features were childish, from her pouty red lips to her small, punctuated nose. Covering herself with her delicate, peach arms, the girl scrunched herself up against the wall and wondered if this was truly the end.

The shattering of fiberglass was heard as her pursuer kicked out the back window of his car, escaping from his metal shell and heading for his target. From what the girl could see, he had curly brown hair, a cocky smile, and a sleek, black gun.

Get in the car,” he commanded, bluntly and quickly. I'm so sick of these fetch missions the Rabbit keeps throwing to me. Not only are they long and boring, but every time I come to this place, I get a killer headache – painful enough to make me split wide open. Not even the Stingers the boss sent me are enough to keep down that sense of suction. I can't stand it anymore!! I'm gonna end quickly as possible.

The girl stood completely still, her bright hair flowing in the night breeze as she shivered, her bony arms shaking in fear.

Whatever.” The man lost what little patience he had and fired at the girl. She jerked sideways, and the bullet ripped through the fabric of her jacket. It grazed the side of her jacket, tearing the soft leather away like a dog's teeth through meat and continued through the brick behind her. The alley was so dark that her assailant could hardly see what happened. He knew his own skill, though -- for all he cared, he had hit her.

"Tolerance to tranquilizers?” He cocked his gun. “Maybe you've had psynergy training after all. I'll just have to shoot you twice, then.”

She said nothing; he raised the gun. Panicked, the girl rolled downwards covering her head with her arms as she kicked upwards. Somehow, her legs connected with him, startling and throwing him off balance for a moment. She followed through, not wanting to miss this chance, and pushed as hard as she could. The gun flew out of the man's hands as he fell, skidding along the ground as he scrambled to get back to his feet. The girl reached for the hot pistol and snatched it, quickly swerving back to her assailant. She held the mysterious object outwards, desperately searching for the trigger.

Something's wrong, the girl realized, running her hands over its unearthly surface. It's so light, and there isn't a chamber for bullets or even any hint of a trigger.

The man barreled up from the ground then, elbowing the girl in the side and breaking her grip on the alien device.

This is too dangerous a toy for a little girl like you.” The assassin smirked, reclaiming his gun from his victim's weak grip and re-aiming it at her body. Then, there was a shot

that rang through Vance's ears. He looked to his right and saw a car screech around the corner.

They're back! he screamed in his mind, looking around frantically for any possible shelter he could find. Eventually, he moved toward the doors of the antique store, a broken padlock hanging dismally from their handles. The sound of screeching wheels became louder as Vance approached his new hiding place.

The brass handle squeaked as he put his hand around it and yanked open the door. It opened with a groan, a small silver bell jingling softly at the top to signify a customer's entrance. Vance entered the lobby, a small wooden room which was outlined by a glass door that led further into the store. He tried its handle, but this time it was definitely locked.

Great,” he muttered, and began to study the glass lining. Without a further thought, he bit his lip, curled his fist up and slammed into it. The glass somehow felt as if it had shattered even before his fist had come in contact with it, but there was no way he could be sure. The shining pieces spewed into the store like the entrails of a slain beast. Vance kicked the remaining splinters out with his cheap sneakers and slid his body through the opening. At six feet tall, he realized he was quite fortunate to fit through.

It wasn't until he was hiding behind the corner of a large oak shelf that he realized that his middle finger was bleeding profusely. There was a slash all the way down the center, his short nail split in two by a deep red line. A tiny piece of glass glimmered in the gash, and Vance pulled it out as carefully as he could. He saw red creeping up through his flesh as it filled in the empty cut, and soon his finger was gushing again. Vance grimaced at the thin, metallic taste of blood as he began to suck: a taste that while now unknown to Vance, he would be tasting quite frequently in the next few months.

After a few minutes of taking it in, he cautiously removed his injured finger. Soon after, however, the cut began bleeding again. Frustrated, Vance rolled his finger up with the bottom of his jacket, squeezing as hard as he could to suspend the circulation. While this may not have been the best course of action, at least he wouldn't lose any more of his precious blood.

Standing up at last, Vance took another look at his new environment. The bottom floor of the place was all one room, as far as he could tell. At the opposite side, partially hidden by a jungle of cobwebbed shelves and displays was the checkout desk – minus the cash register. Guess that means no prize, Vance lamented. He stepped through the aisles, looking around carefully until he spotted a small wooden table next to the checkout counter. It was hard to tell in the darkness, but there seemed to be a deck of cards spread out on the surface. In the center of the table lay the queen of spades.

How foreboding. Vance thought sarcastically, looking past the table to a lone display case cornered against the right wall. Wait, why didn't I see this from outside? doesn't matter. He walked over to the tiny pocket of a window, hoping to get a better look out to the alleyway beyond. As he moved closer, however, he realized that beyond the glass showcase was nothing but a brick wall – whatever contents were displayed here seemed to be for private purposes only.

Centered on the thin glass platform was a small, cedar clock. Vance nearly tripped himself falling back in shock as a loud chime was emitted from the object, followed by a rickety cuckoo that ventured out from the opened windows. Vance hadn't seen a cuckoo clock in person before, but he had never imagined them to be like this. The bird in question was utterly crystalline in texture, each shard of its figure bearing a different color of the rainbow. The eyes were azure blue, and what he thought to be a tuft of hair at the top was dashed with emerald. It was breathtaking. He went to touch it, and as if it was evading his hand, the cuckoo zoomed back into the clock.

The rhythmic ticking of the clock continued as Vance studied the artifact. Had that deafening sound always been within the room? He couldn't remember. The hands of the mechanism were ticking at 1:01, and Vance slowly followed the Roman script with his eyes, eventually coming to an end at the numeral 'XIII.' Well, it was an antique -- but hadn't there always been twenty-four hours in a day?

Either way, Vance could sell this clock for tons of money.

There was another blast of gunfire in the distance, sending him once again diving behind the nearest structure – his new favorite reflex action. As the volume of the gunshots quit escalating and started descending, the teenager crept cautiously back to the front window to get a better look. The street looked deserted and silent – no strange bullet holes in nearby buildings, no fresh black tire tracks on the road. And had sounded like there was a war going on outside.

Vance flirted with the thought of insanity. Was there even a car at all? Forget it, just forget it...

He stood up and walked back into the darkness of the antiques store. Groping in the abyss, his hand smacked off the side of a desk lamp and sent a cloud of dust bursting up into the darkness. As soon as he had cleared his sinuses, Vance moved to switch on the apparatus.

The light illuminated a sleek black bar that spread out across the rear wall of the shop. It came to a stop at the far end, leaving behind the dusty antiques in exchange for shelves of old whiskey bottles. Directly in front of Vance, showcased by the desk lamp, was a brown leather diary. While the outside was void of any sort of identification, scrawled within the jacket in shaky, messy, print was one name: Edgar J. Caskett. The diary was thick, overflowing with hastily-written entries. At a loss for anything better to do, Vance opened to a random page and started to read:

Feb 12

I've been working all day. For some reason, our back wall was knocked out. There were pieces of wood everywhere--walls, ceiling panels, ripped up floorboards. It was as if a hurricane headed straight for our shop hit. I'm just glad it didn't hit our bedrooms upstairs. All it managed to do was knock out the washroom side and the back of some old stuff. It was when I woke up that I heard it, a big pounding sound, then the crash of some of the antiques. We couldn't use the washroom all yesterday, since the facing side was open to the whole alley and street behind us. It was a real pain to clean up the mess--the wood had flown not only inside but outside. How could that be? If the force was coming from outside, it would have pushed the wood in--not out. And if it had come from the inside, then how could the floorboards have been ripped up? It doesn't make any sense.

Could they have found me? No, it's impossible. I covered my tracks entirely – there weren't even any tracks to cover in the first place, since I disappeared so suddenly. She told me to hide here...and I trust her judgement, the judgement of the most powerful, knowledgeable person I've ever met. The immense amount of ground that they would have to cover to find just doesn't seem possible, does it? If they somehow have found me, though...I must flee once again. My research has brought me so far, and I feel like I'm just on the verge of a discovery. Especially after what I brought with me – well, I'll go over it from the beginning some other time, I guess. I'm much too tired now.

I went to bed straight after the work, and in the morning I gathered the scattered antiques. Two or three were broken, the others had minor blemishes which I either sanded off or cleaned. I managed to get the shop open by 10, but I still didn't have a mass amount of customers. I also didn't really have any spectacular item to place on display, so I had no choice but to take “it” out of storage.

It looks just like a small clock to them, about one or one and a half feet tall. But we both know it isn't just a clock – it's a Clock. That's why this is a safe place, though. It's probably the only place I could stay anonymous like this. All is not safe even in this world, however -- especially with such a beautiful item. It's finished perfectly, shines every direction you look at it. There's no cardboard or strong backing to it-- it's all ancient wood. At the bottom it's kinda flat and comes out to a little curve, rising upwards with two thin wooden pillars on each side. There's no pendulum, though -- where the pendulum should be is just blank wood. It feels like there's something not right about it, but that's not the half of it. If only the public knew what was sealed inside this mechanism...we'd have quite the problem on our hands.

Additionally, even with the extended amount of time I've had the Clock in my possession, I have yet to figure out the correct rhythm of its hands. During my first experiment, I waited a few hours, and the minute hand moved twice. TWICE. I couldn't unseal it and look inside, either...not without the proper tools, which I had to leave behind in my haste.

I won't let them have it. My life's research, all the sacrifices that were made to bring us this far -- my entire point of purpose is riding upon this small, mystical object. It's alright, though. Even if I have to run forever, I won't let them have you. I'll leave you in a place where they'll never think to look for you – right under their noses.

Vance was interrupted from his leafing through the journal when he heard a clock chime again, a single chilling beat that hung forever in the air. He jumped from his position on the grimy barstool and stared around as best he could.

What am I doing here? Vance mentally slapped himself. I'm infiltrating some old guy's home and reading his diary, and now he's probably up there with a shotgun ready to blow me a new one.

The intrepid teenager turned from his position to face the 'Clock.' He felt it beckoning him to come closer, ripping deep into his unconsciousness and pulling him forwards with some unknown power. With Caskett's diary tucked under his shoulder, Vance prepared to take the item into his possession. He slid his hands down the cedar sides and grasped the bottom firmly. Surprisingly enough, the little item weighed much heavier than it looked. He tried again, putting much more shoulder into this one, and successfully hoisted the Clock up. As soon as it was off the ground, it was kind of weird, wasn't so heavy anymore.

Vance's mind once again interfered with his body's actions. Hold on a second here. I'm ripping off some guy's clock...a 'Clock,' even. He set it back down tentatively, but before he knew it, his hands had returned instinctively to the mechanism's sides. For some reason, though...I don't think that guy is coming back.

As he stared out the window, he caught sight of a shadowy couple disappear into an alleyway, their hands locked firmly together.

Vance grunted, the image reminding him of a time long past. I suppose he will be waiting for me.

Looking deep within the Clock, he watched as his own eager eyes were reflected back through the glass face. I'll say I found it in the garbage. Yeah, the garbage – no, the pawn shop. I bought it at the pawn shop. It was on sale since it didn't work...yeah, of course. They'll buy that.

He put the clock under his arm -- it seemed to fit perfectly -- and walked out of the building.


Armond P. Morrison had been trained in his profession for six years. As a child, he had loved hearing stories about legendary outlaws, the ones that seemed invincible...the ones that could handle entire police forces using nothing but their own intelligence and physical prowess. That was when he first heard about the Dark Zodiacs -- the most infamous, mysterious underground organization known to man. From that moment on, he had wanted to become one of them. He'd join the ranks, and then, one day, he'd rise up, and he'd...

As Armond's head hit the ground, though, he wasn't really thinking about anything. Maybe that's because his brains had been blown out from the shotgun spray -- or maybe he just figured that nothing truly mattered anymore. At the age of 29, he, an attractive, charismatic, drug-addicted killer-for-hire was dying a fool's death in an alleyway wearing a rented suit. The mission wasn't supposed to turn out this way; he was supposed to restrain the girl and bring her back before morning. The first thing that went wrong was he had messed up on the address. After spooking an elderly couple, (and nearly shooting the old farts in the face) he angrily returned to his car and tunneled back to the base. By the time he figured out the chick's apartment number, she wasn't home. It was almost as if the little tramp had known what was going on – but that was impossible.

Hot and bothered, Armond had gone around the city in a desperate search, eventually finding her in Mark's Diner eating. She was quick, though, too quick, and managed to escape from his grasp that time. If he had caught her, the boss would have given him all he had ever wanted – immense, unspeakable power. But the bitch had beaten him in the end -- and now, he was dead.

The girl sat frozen on the ground as she stared up past Armond's corpse to her savior. He was a broad-shouldered man who stood about 6'3”, dressed from head to toe in clothes that she imagined a cowboy would wear – he had everything from snakeskin boots to a tan, wide-brimmed hat. The gunman slung his double-barrel shotgun over his shoulder, the weapon coming to rest next to the shining ends of his dirty-blond hair. “These bastards just get sloppier and sloppier...” the cowboy muttered, turning pitifully from the corpse and shifting his eyes to the girl. “I've been looking for you...” An anxious smile crept onto his face. “Cliff Walden at your service, miss – Vice-Captain of the 4th division of the Dimensional Knights.” The girl stared up at this new stranger, backing up against the wall as smoke rose from the barrel of the man's warped shotgun, trying her hardest to settle her body and speak. “A dimensional...what?” "You're being tailed by these guys,” Cliff nodded toward the downed man. “So I'm surprised you don't know what a Dimensional Knight is.” “I-I don't know what's going on,” the girl stuttered, on the verge of erupting into hysterics. “He just started chasing me! I don't know what you want, please!!” “Oh, ok. Innocent bystanders...that makes even less sense.” Cliff dug his steel-toed boot into Armond's lifeless back. “The Seneschal's gonna piss his pants.” She calmed down, the first tears falling down to her chin, black from the remnants of mascara smeared around her eyelids. “Who are you?!” Cliff bent down so that his eyes were at the same level as the kidnapper's would-be victim. “I come from a place called Despair,” he began. “It's a desert world. There's no water, except in underground reserves. Pipes run all over the place, but most towns there are deserted. Everyone migrated over a long time ago through tunneling. Even though our dimension was ass-backwards with technology, we were one of the first to be saved.” “Wait, I don't follow,” she stammered. “What are you talking about?” “When I was a kid...” Cliff's eyes were lost, staring off into the darkness. “I loved to see it rain. It would happen every couple of months, for a few days at a time, and that would be the end of it. Everyone would rush out to collect as much as they could, and the miners would suck the water into their underground reservoirs...nevermind, I'm getting off track here. Basically, our world was a desert, littered with scarce oases. Later, people who could afford to pay the cost were tunneled to other places. When I grew up, I became a Dimensional Knight in order to escape that horrible place. No one should ever have to live there...ever.” At first, the girl thought he had been her savior, but now he looked like nothing short of a complete psycho. Cliff seemed unfazed by her confusion, however, and returned to his interrogation. “Where do you live?”“In a small apartment complex...” she started, not sure if she wanted to tell this stranger her full address so soon. “But is it really safe to go back there?” “Come with me.” Cliff fished in the dead man's pockets for his car keys and turned toward the Oldsmobile. “As much as I hate to do it, we'll have to use his car. I came here on foot, after all.” The two entered the car, and it began to rain as Vance finally navigated his way out from the maze that was downtown Pittsburgh. It had taken him little over ten minutes to reach his destination, the large plastic 'Mark's Diner' sign marking the end of his journey. Do I really want to go in there...andend my fun-filled journeys so soon? A large jolt of pain suddenly seared through Vance's back, knocking him forwards into the gutter. The Clock flew from his hands, and was quickly reclaimed by those of a dirty, mangy man who smelled like a terrible mixture between cheap beer and cheaper shoe polish. Vance coughed and pulled himself to his feet, watching the crazy guy escape into the darkness of the shops on the other side of the street. “What is this?” Vance muttered. “First a drive-by, now I'm getting mugged by a drunk.”(Come...) A dark, soothing voice penetrated through Vance's worries. [I need you,, more than ever.]Vance shifted his eyes to the left and right, looking around nervously for the owner of the strange voice. He was having the oddest feeling of deja vu...while the voice

frightened him, he still felt that he had heard it before...that it was almost natural for that voice to be within his mind. “...I wasn't in need of anything,” Vance mumbled, blindly crossing the road. “Nothing.” Upon reaching the other side of the street, Vance heard a soft creaking sound, and soon spotted a rusty metal door in an adjacent alley. He carefully made his way over to the crude, swinging mechanism, peeking into the depths of the bum's chosen hiding place. From the looks of the room, it appeared to be an abandoned storehouse for a pharmacy. Medicine bottles were spilled over the cluttered counter; the contents of ruined shelves covered the floor. Vance entered the dim chamber, searching the mess thoroughly until he came to a metal shutter on the opposite wall. He managed to shove it open with a grunt, revealing a dark cement stairway leading upwards. (Come,) the voice beckoned, and Vance obeyed. He climbed the steps, following the ghostly green glow that seeped through cracks in the hastily-assembled walls. Grime covered each step, and sewage bubbled from various ruptured pipes along the slanted walls. As he reached the top, Vance realized exactly where he was going -- across the street from the diner, he had remembered seeing a fairly large parking garage. So, he's going to try and steal a car as well, is he? Vance hurried through the dark passageway, bursting out to the main hall of the parking garage. He barely caught a glimpse of the thief in the driver's seat as a stolen car shot down the street, Cliff's eyes habitually checked the rear-view mirror for any unwanted guests. “What kinda music you listen to?” Cliff flicked on the FM/AM radio, gradually calming down. “Um, it doesn't matter,” the girl said softly, shuddering. Even though she was 'safe' in a car with this mysterious stranger, she didn't feel any better – but she was just so tired of running. It was really the only reason she could find for going with him. “I don't believe I got your name?” “Oh,” she looked down and began to bite her lower lip. What had she done? He could be a kidnapper, or worse...yet there was something about him. That was probably the otherreason she had stepped into the car – he had an 'aura.' “Well, would you be kind enough to tell me?” Cliff strained his head sideways to try and look into her eyes. “Eden,” she answered, raising her head. “I'm sorry for being so, I dunno, shy, but...this doesn't make any sense to me.” “I don't know why this is happening to you either.” Cliff put an arm on her thin shoulder. She froze, staring at him now with huge, shimmering eyes. “But those guys -- I recognize them. They're bad, and the psynergy auras they were giving off were even worse. Just trust me, I'll get you out of this. Don't worry, I'm not some sick psycho who wants a crack at playing the hero. That man who was chasing you, now he was a sick psycho. How should I put this...well, I can't really explain right now...on the account that we're kinda being followed.” Eden swirled her head and looked into the rearview mirror. Another car had materialized behind them, its headlights gleaming menacingly. “Shit!” Cliff swore, doing a sudden u-turn and nearly smashing the enormous hood of the Oldsmobile into the side of a building. Luckily, the car tailing them didn't act quickly enough, missing the turn completely. “How could they have...?” The Knight stared suspiciously at the radio as he pulled off to the side of the road, parallel parking between two other vehicles and shutting off the car's lights. Eden watched in confusion as Cliff grabbed his shotgun, used the handle as a bludgeon and smashed the radio to pieces. As the bulk of the device came apart, a small, beeping red light was revealed, attached to a larger black module that had been fused between the wires. “A tracking device on your own car?!” Cliff shouted in confusion. “They thought of everything, didn't they?” He raised his shotgun one final time, slamming the cedar handle of the gun against the device and crushing it instantly. “Cliff!” Eden suddenly cried, pointing out the window as she saw a familiar-looking black car turn the corner at the end of the street. Wheels screeched as Vance ran in pursuit of the brown Buick. The driver, a man with a scraggly beard and a red, white, and blue bandanna, gripped the wheel furiously with starved knuckles. The car skidded along the curving path as it began to descend to the next level, leaving Vance in its dust as it disappeared around the loop. Realizing that his legs alone wouldn't do the job, Vance leaned over the edge of the cement barrier, noticing the mild drop down to the next platform. Here goes, he shrugged, hopping off the edge and landing roughly nine feet lower on the sixth level. His legs hurt, but he was far from finished. Upon reaching the fifth level, Vance could see the car again. It was swirling clumsily around another curve, and he was sure he could catch it this time. Wasting no more time, he took a final leap off the fifth platform, landing with a loud smack on the dirty hood of the car as it continued to fly forward. A half hour ago, he wouldn't have taken a flying dive onto a speeding car for anything or anyone, for that matter. But now...he had seen that Clock. The Clock has been the one thing in the past year that I've actually given a damn about – and I'm not about to let some dirty hobo take it from me like this! He turned toward the windshield, gritting his teeth furiously and staring at the driver with the eyes of a desperate warrior. While there was certainly fear in the man's expression, for some reason Vance felt as if he was staring at something else. Making sure to keep a firm hold on the bottom of the windshield, Vance craned his neck around and realized what the problem was: the gates to the garage's exit were closed.

They whirled around the final curve and descended onto the ground floor. At the rate this bastard's driving...I'll be smashed like a mouse in a trash compactor. If I rolled off now, I could escape with minor scratches, and say goodbye to the Clock forever. Honestly, though...that just isn't my style at all.

Vance took one last desperate glance at the Clock, and he could feel the alien energy surrounding it. At that point, the world around him ceased to exist – all he could sense was the presence of that enigmatic power within him.

Mom...? The windshield of the car exploded then, glass filtering out in two steady streams past Vance's shoulders. He was standing on the hood of the car as it slid to a stop -- the entire vehicle smoking. Pieces of the engine dropped out alongside the brake pads, fuel pump, and the scattered pistons. The hubcaps of the car flew out with a deadly screech as the tires were ripped to shreds by some invisible force. The frame of the 1980 Buick fell to the ground, and all was quiet inside the parking garage.

The old man's eyes went wide as he saw the look in Vance's face. It wasn't the look of a disgruntled, pale-faced, unshaven teenager at was something more than that, something far more frightening. Vance's body was lit up like a beacon -- he was practically glowing! The demonic boy gripped a windshield wiper with one hand, and reached inside with another.!” Vance growled.

The man glanced at the clock -- it had 13 numbers. He slowly turned his head and looked back at the kid. "It's a demon!" he muttered, diving out of the car and crawling up the ramp of the parking garage, all the while mumbling the Lord's Prayer.

Vance felt his consciousness shatter as he collapsed...and the clock's minute hand gave out a droning click.

3 : Subconscious Dread

You must realize, the required funds for our future plans have been steadily -- no, exponentially increasing in the past month. Such dire for a certain change in work habits.” The man in the grey suit conservatively adjusted his clear thin glasses as he finished speaking. He had long blond hair, which was pulled into a single braided ponytail that hung down his back. Despite the dim light in the restaurant, there still seemed to be a strange glow emanating from the man's spectacles.

Mr. Edward Dancougar, a man of 45, with slick, black hair and a thin mustache, peered back at the man in grey with whom he had been called to meet. He had ordered a burger, one that he really didn't care for -- it didn't matter, though...he hadn't come here to eat. Edward opened his mouth to speak, but then suddenly reconsidered and turned to his wife. “Where's Vance? We need to be going.”

He's your son.” Naomi, Mr. Dancougar's stepwife of one year, spoke softly as she shoved a spoonful of sweet potatoes into her mouth. “I told you we shouldn't have let him run off on his own.”

And I told you, we couldn't bring him in here.” Edward spoke sternly, with a deep voice that would have echoed in a better-suited room. “It's fine, nothing is going to happen to him if he walks around the city for a while. There's cops and people everywhere. That's why...that's why,” he quickly rationalized. “So don't even put the blame on me, Naomi -- that's what starts the problem.” He added that last part just for relish, and grinned on the inside. It sounded good.

Oh, okay, so I'm to blame,” she said, sweet potatoes dripping down her chin. “This is so like you.”

Don't tell me how I am!” Edward opened his mouth to continue, raising his finger, when the man in grey across the table coughed loudly.

This could mean a very big promotion for you, Mr. Dancougar,” he said, each word striking Edward like a hammer. “I urge you to reconsider. Zexaron is planning a large, wide scale cut in employees next month. I don't think you would have been informed...since it's happening in your section.”

Naomi took an obnoxiously large bite out of her chicken.

I'm giving you this information so you can clearly assess the situation. I know you have the capability to do excellent work -- President McCarthy has said so himself, so I'm happy to give you this chance. Take it now...or you will be saying goodbye to the Zexaron Corporation in the foreseeable future.”

Edward stared down at his plate, swirling his thoughts around in his mind. I like what I do now...just typing up busy work like a monkey. For some reason, in these last months...I have come to enjoy being a puppet. Ever since she died, it seems as if the desire to think, create, or do anything by myself has long since disappeared. In that sense, though, staying as a mindless drone would be a godsend. And as if the extra work wasn't enough...being on the inside lip is something that opens the door to many dangerous possibilities. He raised his eyes back up and stared at his interrogator, a smug grin on the man's bony face.

Alright,” he muttered. “Thanks, Mr. Lee.”

You're welcome. I'm just glad we're all on the same page.” Mr. Lee picked up his silver attache case, which Edward realized the man had never opened, and began to walk out of the restaurant. “You can expect paperwork to fill out for the move sometime later this week. Oh, and thanks for taking the check.” he added, his suede shoes tapping rhythmically on the floor.

Just as Mr. Lee stretched his hand out to open the door, it swung open and Vance stepped inside. Edward's boss brushed the teenager a bit, staring at him intently for a moment with strange, emerald eyes, and then continued out into the night. Vance said nothing and moved on, ignoring the odd feeling that grew in his gut. He didn't want anything worse to happen.

Last thing I can remember was chasing that god-forsaken bum -- but just barely. Then I was on the ground of a parking garage with the Clock resting on my stomach...tonight just must not be my night, huh? Although the old Vance would have been frightened senseless by the previous turn of events, now the 17-year old felt strangely at ease. “The Clock...I have the Clock, so all is right in the world,” he laughed noncommittally as he passed through the lobby.

The lights were dim and jazz music could be heard from the hidden speakers around the restaurant. The greeter and waiter eyed Vance nervously as the scowling teenager navigated through the dark maze of tables around him. They didn't have to point it out to him -- he knew he didn't belong there.

His stepmother was startled as he suddenly appeared behind her, a wide-eyed specter looming menacingly over her shoulders. She turned to face him, but his blank, stony expression threw her off-guard. Vance looked over to his father, who had just finished muttering the word 'bastard.'

We ready?” Vance asked impatiently.

Naomi snorted, dropping her napkin onto her plate and looking less than thrilled. “Yeah, we ready?”

Mr. Edward Dancougar, 47th secretary-accountant of the Zexaron Co., looked from Naomi to his son. “What is that under your arm?”

It's an antique,” Vance blurted out.

His father rolled his eyes. “Explain it to me.”

Why?” Vance questioned, a smirk rising onto his lips.

I'm interested.”

Another lie, Vance figured. “It looked cool, so I picked it up. Is that all right?”

His father spun out of his seat tiredly. “Yeah, let's hit the road.”

Vance monitored his father with cold eyes as they left the restaurant. He had a robot for a father, and a -- well, he didn't have a mother anymore, as far as he was concerned. He could hardly regard Naomi as a human, let alone 'the next best thing', as his father had so lovingly referred to her. Throughout his life, he had wanted a happy loving family, and in the pas

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