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The Splitters

My town is a strange one. It’s called Split City, though it isn’t much of a city rather than a small town, and nobody outside of town will know what you’re talking about if you ask for directions. We’ve been pretty much cut off from the world for forty years, the only connections and communications we have to the larger planet around us we have is the internet. Other than that, we don’t get visitors, new people don’t come to live here and nobody has ever left.

It wasn’t always this way. There was a military installation here in the 1970s and 1980s, though it was abandoned in 1981. There was something about a contamination report being bad enough for even the shadiest parts of the government to say that the base was a major health code violation, and it was all locked down. Some people say they hear noises coming from inside every now and then, but I call bullshit on them every time.

The people, chief among them being a boy my age at the time, sixteen, called Jay Williams, claimed that there was a monster in there and that whoever could go in there and come back out would be the bravest, toughest guy in the universe. They all claimed that they could do it, but once Jay said that they should actually do it, everyone backed out.

One of them was Jay himself. He refused to say that he was making stuff up, but he also refused to back down from his claims that he was actually going into the bunker. That made me want to see how far he would take it, so I obviously told him that I would go.

The second person to join us was, funnily enough, Sarah Williams, Jay’s twin sister. The two looked like gender-flipped versions of themselves, even though they weren’t fraternal. She was a bit less egocentric than Jay, and we actually got along, but that was where the differences ended. The twins got along like a house on fire, and they were evil geniuses when working together.

The twins were about five feet and six inches tall. They had jet black hair and brown eyes, with speckles of orange spread throughout their irises. Both of them were lanky, but Jay was a bit thicker, as he had been really into exercise lately. Sarah’s hair reached her shoulders and was a very wavy, curly mess. Jay’s hair was similarly curly, but it wasn’t very long, and he had a fade that didn’t look too bad on him. I usually didn’t like that type of hairstyle, but he made it work, somehow.

The fourth person to express interest in entering the military bunker was a younger kid named Ryan Deakon. He was like a little ball of energy, and couldn’t stop fidgeting. I suspected that he was ADD, but I thought it’d look bad if I asked him if he was special or something, so I didn’t say anything.

Ryan was scrawny, like a twig, and was the shortest out of the group. His hair was dirty blond, and it was shaggy, with choppy ends and one of his prominent bangs was cut short, giving me a feeling he did it himself. Ryan had the bluest eyes I had ever seen, and it kind of unnerved me if I looked him in the eye, so I avoided that when possible.

Ryan brought his friend, Hurley Rawlinson, along with him. Hurley was a bit pudgier than was average, but not overly so. He had the same haircut as Ryan, which made me think that they both did it on a dare or something.

While I’m going through describing our party, I should probably talk about myself. My name is Caleb. I was probably a bit taller than average for my age, rocking a whole six feet of height. I had chocolate brown hair, which was unruly, which meant that I often gave up trying to brush it in the morning, letting it settle in the curly, natural style that I had most days. My eyes were blue, and I had a few bits of orange in them, just like the twins. I had read somewhere that it was an indicator of autism or being on that spectrum, which lined up with a few traits for all three of us. I was kind of bookish, being particularly interested in urban legends and modern myths. It was my passion, and I would say that I knew every piece of knowledge that was available to me. I talked about it often, which annoyed the few friends I had, and drove off potential new ones, so that was cool.

So, we had our party, but we needed a way to get into the bunker without being seen or getting in trouble with our parents. Hurley came up with the brilliant plan to tell each of our parents that we were sleeping at the twins’ house, and the twins would tell their parents that they were going to sleep at a different friend’s house, so we all had our alibis. In reality, these excuses were very flimsy as it was, and if even one parent wanted to do a reasonable thing such as call to check in on their kid, it would all fall apart, but it was the best thing we had, so we stuck with it.

Just like that, we were standing at the peak of the tallest hill in town, which was the entrance to the bunker. I’ve been saying bunker because it wasn’t a traditional above ground base; it’s more that the hill was placed there to mask the bunker. The bunker went deep into the ground, deeper than even the hill’s base. Nobody truly knew how low it went. I’d heard a couple of stupid kids say that the bunker went to the Earth’s core itself, and was trying to mine it for resources. It sounded cool, but nothing could withstand the heat, so it was a bust.

Jay was ready to get going. We were all in winter coats because we knew it’d be freezing cold inside. We knew that because the bunker had actually been opened before, but only once. Nobody ever went inside, but they looked in and saw something they didn’t ever tell anybody that they didn’t immediately swear to secrecy. He had described it as bone-chilling, in both the mentally scarring and the physically cold senses.

The twins had coats that were largely the same, with a few major differences so that we could tell them apart if it got too dark to simply look at their face and see how it was. Jay’s coat was red, like his scarf. It was a gradient, with the bottom of his coat basically black, turning into a bright red color as it reached the collar. Sarah’s was the same, except with green. She had a hairpin that was the same color, and I thought how cute it was that they had a theme, but wanted to come off as these badass urban explorer type people.

Ryan and Hurley both had simple grey winter coats on, but they were easy to tell apart due to their height difference. I’m fairly sure that Hurley was closer to my age than he was to Ryan’s, but that the only friend he could make was Ryan. I felt that, so I decided not to bring any of that up.

Finally, my coat was black, only because it had white trims, giving me a sort of reflective vest look. It would be easy to center on me, and I was okay with being that guy for our group. We checked over our gear. We had our phones, flashlights, sleeping bags, blankets, and food and water stuffed into our backpacks. I had the food, Sarah had the blankets, Jay had the sleeping bags, Ryan had the water since it would be bad if one person had both and got lost, and Ryan held the batteries for our flashlights. Hurley held the portable chargers for our phones, and I was fairly sure that was the most important job of all.

If we lost communication, we were fucked.

Not wanting to hold in his need for movement and energy, Jay opened the door in a massive, showy heave that went far over his head. The door opened upwards, so it was hard for him to do alone, and I ended up having to help him get it past the peak of its swing so that it would fall to the ground.

Once we got it open, we had to decide who would go first. I could feel the temperature drop by a good ten degrees when we opened the door, and I was sure it was much, much colder inside.

We all looked at Jay.

“What? You want me to go first?” he asked.

“Obviously, dumbass. You’re the one that was talking so high and mighty about how they were gonna do it alone, so you might as well prove to us that you’re good as your word and go first,” I answered.

Jay sighed heavily and knelt at the opening in the ground. It was circular, so we could all have looked down and seen what he saw, but we didn’t. He gazed into the darkness that seemed to stretch forever downward, but it clicked for him to use his flashlight, like a person with a brain.

He clicked it on and it became so much easier, as if that was its intended use, to see better in the dark. Jay looked down again and exclaimed some words in French that I didn’t understand. The twins’ mother was French, and she had been steadily teaching them the language since they were about eight. They were sixteen, now, so they were pretty much fluent in the language, much to my dismay. They often used it to make fun of people in private, while saying it right to their face. Anybody could simply pick up a French to English dictionary, but that would ruin their fun, and that would be a crime against humanity.

“There’s a ladder. We could climb down it, but that would take too long, so I suggest that we-” Jay was cut off … by me.

“We aren’t making a ladder-slide again, you know that James broke his leg the last time we tried,” I told him sternly.

Jay grumpily sat on the ground, mumbling something about me taking over from him and stealing the spotlight. I laughed a bit and took a look down the hole for myself and, true to Jay’s words, there was a ladder that stretched further down than I could see, but it as the only way we know of to get into the bunker, so we had to do it, and I said as much to the party.

“What? That sucks. I guess we have to, though,” Sarah agreed.

I went in first. Followed by Sarah, Ryan, Hurley, and, finally for some reason, Jay. It was almost like he was bullshitting us back at school. I laughed at the thought of his frightened whimpers being the thing that gets us found if we were to get lost down here.

We made our way down. The task wasn’t easy, because of our slightly restrictive coats and our backpacks stuffed to the point of bursting. Eventually, about five minutes after first climbing down, we reached a new level in the bunker, it seemed. The cold had intensified, and I guessed that it was now about fifty degrees Fahrenheit.

I decided that we should take a break after ten minutes. We had noticed that every ten meters or so there was a small platform that had a door on the wall. We had never stopped at one, because Ryan had asked if there could still be people down there, working, and that dissuaded us from checking what was behind the doors.

We sat down on the platform. Jay went to open the door to our left, but I stopped him with a yell.

“What, man?” Jay asked.

“Don’t go in there. We have no idea if this place is radioactive or something, and going in this deep is already uncharted territory,” I reasoned.

“Fuck that, I want to explore!” Jay said.

Jay threw the door open and waltzed through it, moving into the darkness. I tried to grab onto his leg, but he moved too fast for me. Sarah chased after him, so that was two out of our party that was gone. This was happening too fast for me to think rationally, so I chased after them as well.

The three of us ran down the corridor, shouting at each other to shut up and agree with whatever we were all saying. It was confusing for a moment, but Jay stopped in his tracks while looking back at us, but he was looking right at us. He was looking behind us.

I stopped and turned around, hearing the sounds of Sarah crashing into Jay, and saw that the door was slowly closing. It was moving, but I couldn’t see Ryan or Hurley moving it. I started running back to it, and as I was sprinting toward the shrinking light, I saw a head peek around the door.

The head looked like a person’s but it was white as a sheet of paper. Its eyes were beady, and glowing yellow. It had the fangs of a spider, and the thing’s jaw was unhinged, like a snake. I couldn’t see any more of it than that, but I’m sure that it was a disgusting amalgamation of creatures that broke numerous laws of nature, science, and the universe.

The door closed just before I got to it. I tried to push it open, but it wouldn’t budge. I don’t recall there ever having been a lock on the door, but this thing had somehow locked the door from the outside.

“What the fuck?” Jay asked.

“I don’t know! There was something there, and it closed the door. It’s locked!” I said, trying my hardest not to panic.

“There was a ‘thing’?” Sarah asked.

“It was this nasty looking motherfucker with a jaw that opened way too wide. Its eyes were glowing and I think it smirked at me! SHIT!” I yelled.

“Well, we’re fucked,” Jay said, which didn’t help the tiny panic attack that was happening with me in the corner.

“No! We still have our phones, right? That means that we can call Ryan and Hurley. If they don’t pick up, we’ll call someone on the outside to come and get us! Do we know what level we’re on?” Sarah thought out loud.

“That’s brilliant! We’re on sub-level thirty, and there’s about a thirty-foot gap between levels, so that means we’re about nine hundred feet in, give or take a couple of dozen feet,” I did the math. It added up to me, and Sarah wasn’t arguing.

“What? That’s insane! We can’t be almost a thousand feet underground; the hill isn’t that big!” Jay screamed.

“You have to remember that the hill is probably just a cover for what they’ve built down here. Maybe they wanted to start at ground level, but the people in charge said it was too deep, and they had to start a bit above ground to satisfy their bosses?” Sarah offered.

“That checks out. We need to see if we get any phone service down here, first,” I said, pulling out my phone.

We all checked our phones, and none of us could use anything other than a flashlight and the clock, which told me that it was midnight, on the spot. I almost laughed at how weird it was that we got trapped just as the witching hour came upon us. I didn’t laugh, though if I did the twins would surely think that I was having a psychotic break or something.

“Okay, what do we do next?” I asked.

Jay and Sarah ruminated for a moment, and they both looked at each other with glee in their eyes, which worried me. The only other time this had happened was when the two had been asked to participate in the demolition of their grandfather’s house after his passing.

“If we can get a big enough object, we could try breaking the door open. If not, we can try the same thing, except for sharp things,” Jay said.

“Exactly,” Sarah agreed.

“That’s insane and you both need professional help. We aren’t going to destroy this place. We need to find a safe way out and I think the only way to do that is to explore and look around to see if there could be an elevator or something, or a satellite phone,” I said, looking down into the corridor.

“What’s a satellite phone?” Jay asked.

“It’s a phone that doesn’t work with cell towers, it connects straight to satellites in orbit. Maybe we can use that to contact someone on the outside,” I explained.

“That’s a good idea, Caleb. I think finding proper communication gear is our top priority, not wrecking the place,” Sarah said.

“Agreed,” I said, shooting Jay a dirty, but playful look.

He returned it with a grin, though he still did look like he understood that he had to be careful.

We started walking down the halls and soon came to find out the place was basically a maze. There were a bunch of offices, laboratories, and bathrooms, but no phone that worked. No computers that would turn on. Nothing. We walked around for about two hours, probably, before we started getting tired.

Another ten minutes after we agreed that we should stop and get some rest soon, we found it. The stairwell. Jay jumped for joy and Sarah and I awkwardly hugged each other. We found that the door was open and that it didn’t require some kind of identification, so we might have had our ticket out of there already.

The problem was Ryan and Hurley. It was possible that they ran away, and that the creature I saw was just my nerves playing up and my eyes playing tricks on me in a low light environment, but I could swear that I saw its shadow, its snarl, its sickeningly yellow, rotted teeth. I knew it was alive, I could smell it. It smelled like urine and blood, with a little bit of shit mixed in. It smelled like it had been down here the whole forty years that the bunker had been locked down.

This thing that I saw, the monster, was probably the reason nobody came down here and was ever seen again. The reason the government had left it. It was probably what was behind the radio silence we received from the world.

I was sure that the government would know this thing existed. It would lock down the site and dissuade anyone from going within a hundred miles. It was the reason we were Split City. My town had been wiped off the maps all that time ago, and it was because there was a monster living under us.

I had one question left to answer, which coincidentally opened up so many more for consideration. What is this thing? Where did it come from? Was it made? If so, by who? Are there more?

I realized that I had been in a sort of trance, stuck in my head as these truths came to me. Jay and Sarah were already looking up, trying to see light at the top of the stairwell. There wasn’t any, which meant that we hadn’t been down there for nearly as long as it seemed. I checked my phone’s clock again and it confirmed that it was only 2:15 am.

We decided that we couldn’t wait any longer, and started making our way up. By the time we had gone up about seven flights, I started thinking out loud. The silence was torture, and I could swear I heard breathing that wasn’t human, so I needed to distract myself or I’d have a heart attack.

“Do you think Ryan and Hurley are okay?” I asked the twins.

They were silent for a long time as we continued climbing the stairs to freedom. After a few minutes, they replied.

“I think we have bigger things to worry about,” Jay said.

“I’m not saying that we should just forget about them and go home, but we can’t go back down there. Not when the exit is so close, and that thing you described is still there, assuming it actually exists,” Sarah agreed with her brother.

“Do you think I’m lying about the monster? I saw it, Sarah. I looked it in its beady little eyes and saw it blink, so it couldn’t’ve been a light on the wall or something. Besides that, do you really think that Ryan or Hurley would close the door? Lock us inside? I didn’t see or hear them, so maybe they got got?” I asked.

“Got ‘got’? What does that mean?” she asked me back.

“You know … the monster got them. Killed them,” Jay answered for me.

“What?!” Sarah was worked up now.

I paused. I could see a door at the very top of the stairwell, now that we were closer. I told the twins of my discovery and we started running up the stairs, despite the burning in our legs and reached the door in about a minute.

We stood in front of the door, not daring ourselves to go through it. I sensed the hesitation coming from the twins and I spoke.

“Are we really going to leave them?” I asked.

They both looked at each other, seeming to perform a feat of telepathy since they seemed to come to a consensus without talking or my input.

“No,” they said in unison.

“Why? If we leave Ryan and Hurley down there, and they die, then that’s on us! Whatever that monster does to them will be our fault. You’re really okay with that?” I asked them.

“Yes,” Jay replied, without a moment to think about it.

I looked at him and scoffed.

“I know you are. You don’t have a self-sacrificial bone in your body. I’m talking to you, Sarah. Could you sleep tonight knowing that you left our friends to die?” I turned to Sarah, who looked like she wanted to cry.

“I … I-I don’t know. I don’t know what to do!” she cried.

“This is stupid, let’s just go,” Jay said, grabbing hold of Sarah’s hand and stepping forward.

I put my hand on Jay’s shoulder. We made eye contact for a second before he looked away and opened the door. As soon as it opened, cool, fresh air flowed into the small space. It was warmer the higher we went, and the outside air was refreshing. I wanted so badly to go, but I couldn’t do it knowing that I’d be letting the two boys still trapped inside die.

Suddenly, there was a loud BANG below us. We all looked at each other and came to a conclusion that was equally true for every one of us. If we stay, we die. If we don’t come to a decision, we die. If we leave, we live.

“They’re probably already dead, Caleb. Move on and move it!” Jay yelled as he sprinted down the hill with his sister at his side.

I conceded. I ran outside, bolted the door shut, and booked it down the hill with the twins. There were no pros to staying, and all the cons in the world. It was a simple decision to make after we heard that the monster was coming up. I knew that it was approaching from the sounds getting slightly louder as it continued. I knew that if I were to stay, I’d be dead as soon as I made that choice.

After that, we went our separate ways. The twins went home, and I made my way home as well. As soon as I was through the door, I received all the calls and texts I had gotten when I was down there. It was like a robot with a stutter. DI-DI-DI-DI-DI-DI-DING, DING, DI-DING, DING.

That was probably what let my parents know that I was home, and the fact that I did not try to make my movements quieter at all. They rushed me, my mother hugging me profusely and my father asking where I had been all night.

“Uh, the meet up was canceled. It took me this long to get home. I didn’t get any of your calls because my phone died,” I lied.

I went to my room after that. I searched the few websites there were for looking at installations in small towns and didn’t find anything. I also looked for the name of the town, the real name. ‘Split City’ is just a nickname we gave the town after we had all of our tethers to the world cut. I think the real name was something like ‘Lakeview’, named for our multitude of freshwater lakes that were a dream to swim in on a summer afternoon.

I didn’t find even a single mention of it anywhere. It was as if we didn’t exist, and the space we occupied in Idaho was barren. I didn’t see anything about hills serving as entrances to hidden bunkers, either. That part was a bit of a stretch since people saw them mount the dirt all that time ago, so I think it was kind of an open secret as to what they were doing with it.

Now, I know what you might be thinking about this, but I went back the next night. It may have been curiosity, or it may have been stupidity, most likely a combination of the two, but the thing I knew for sure was that I had to know that Ryan and Hurley were safe. It was against the mindset that my mother had worked so hard to instill in me to leave them behind.

I was standing at the door to the underground bunker again, checking the time. The sun was setting, so I didn’t need much confirmation, but it was a habit. I was on the outside, but that was soon going to change. I steeled my nerves and opened the door. It was like walking into a room where they store frozen meat, except the meat down there is very much alive. I know. I’ve seen it.

I had a metal baseball bat clipped onto my backpack, and it was too cold against the skin on the back of my neck.

As I stepped inside, I heard a voice behind me. I recognized it and turned around to see Sarah standing there, hands in her coat and looking at me like I was some sort of psychopath. Considering that I was about to willingly go back into a shutdown, underground government office with a monster roaming around inside that might’ve already eaten my friends, maybe I was.

“You’re going back down,” she said.

“Yes. I can’t let Ryan and Hurley be killed because of my inaction. It goes against everything that I am,” I clarified.

“Well, then. That makes two of us,” Sarah replied, picking up the backpack that had been lying next to her.

“What? No, you can’t come back in with me. It has to be me,” I told her, but she wasn’t stopping.

“Why is that?” she asked.

“You made your choice, that’s why!” I yelled. I hadn’t meant to, but it just came out.

Sarah was stunned.

“Jay couldn’t’ve made you leave if you didn’t want to. You let him drag you out of that bunker and go home like our friends aren’t stuck down there. Maybe they’re dead, but I’m not taking that chance. I need to make sure that they aren’t hurt. If they’re dead, then I’ll probably be killed, but if they’re alive, I can make sure they stay that way, and I’m not passing up that opportunity!” I rambled.

“I understand. I’ve come to make amends with you, Ryan, and Hurley. I feel horrible about what I did, and I want to correct it if I can. That means going with you, so I’m coming whether you like it or not,” Sarah said, locking eyes with me.

We were the same age, but her emotional maturity sometimes made me think she was a few years older. Jay was also very stable, but that was because he had the emotional range of a two-year-old, and he was disqualified from compliments tonight.

The twins, as similar as they were, were also quite different, more and less mature, and ultimately, I got along better with Sarah. That said nothing of their interests and hobbies, simply that Sarah was more agreeable and more likely to come to a compromise instead of arguing the point for hours until we both lost.

I clicked my stopwatch to time our adventure and we went in. It was cold, maybe even colder than before, and it only got worse as we went further, deeper into the building, descending via the stairwell into what was my personal heaven and hell at the same time. It was a beautiful chance to see something similar to the urban legends and creatures that I studied like a religion, but it was also a prime chance to be killed by an amalgam of beings that were simply not supposed to exist in the same body.

After about half an hour of walking down the stairs, we came to a stop at sub-level thirty, the place where we had been trapped the night before. I opened the door to the office space and saw it exactly as it had been. We made our way, making the exact opposite turns that we had last night to get back to the door to what I assumed was a decommissioned elevator shaft. We had entered through this elevator shaft last night, and our two missing party members had gone missing from the platform outside of sub-level thirty, so that was our first stop.

We reached the locked door that had split our group, and I was still unable to open it by myself.

“You got any ideas on how to open it?” I asked, looking around for long, thin objects.

Sarah got closer to the door and inspected the lock. While she did that, I was walking around trying to spot something I could pry the door open with, like a slat or something.

“From the looks of it, this lock is pretty old. If you hit it with your bat it’ll break,” Sarah said, stepping away from my target.

I rolled my eyes as a thought came to me.

“Great, Jay’s idea was right. I feel cheated,” I said, clasping the bat with both hands.

I raised it above my head and brought it down hard. I heard the sprinkling of metal on the floor before I could turn my head down to see it. It shattered like glass, the steel having eroded over the forty years between when it was last used and now.

Carefully pushing the door open, I saw that Ryan and Hurley’s things were gone. There wasn’t a sign that they were ever there, and I thought that maybe they had taken the chance to get out and climbed back up, but there would be crumbs since I knew that Ryan was spilling them all around him while he ate some of the food we brought with us. There wasn’t anything. Someone or something had cleaned it.

That caused me to start a small freak out session on that platform. Was that monster intelligent? Were there still people down here? Did the boys clean it before they left, and are currently hanging out at an ice cream shop, wondering where I am? That seemed right, given my luck lately.

I showed the scene to Sarah, and she was stumped. I pulled a flashlight from my backpack and shined it around, trying to look for anything that might help, when I saw it. The monster. I almost missed it, but I saw that it was clinging to the wall in front of me, looking at me with a sly grin, almost like it was expecting me.

Shining my light back on it, I saw what it looked like. Before, I had only seen its face, but now I was seeing all of it, and it was absolutely horrifying. I had the head of a man, barely, and the unhinged jaw with yellow, rotted fangs was the same as before. I saw that most of it was normal human biology, only the limbs had been further modified.

The thing had scars running along its body. The four most prominent scars ran from the corners of its mouth along its cheeks, and down its neck in the case of the bottom ones. It looked like they were barely staying there, like keeping his jaw on his face was a conscious effort.

It had claws, sharp enough to cut through steel to allow it to cling to the wall like that. Its hands were far larger than any human could be, and its feet were the same. I guessed that it allowed the creature to move faster and, hopefully not, hit harder.

The rest of it was lanky and pale, as you would expect from a creature that had been locked underground for four decades. We made eye contact and I froze. It had the same blue eyes as Ryan. I distinctly remembered that the creature had glowing, powerful yellow eyes, but this thing’s eyes had the exact same shade that I had never seen anywhere but in my friend’s eyes.

The thing that used to be Ryan skittered away, climbing further down the elevator shaft and retreating into the darkness where we couldn’t see it. My legs gave out. I dropped to the ground and my hands were shaking.

“Ryan, come back!” I mumbled, but Sarah heard it just fine.

“What? You’re not making sense. You need to calm down and breathe, Caleb. Breathe,” Sarah said, holding my hands still.

“I saw it last night, and the thing’s eyes were yellow. This new one has blue eyes, Ryan’s blue eyes!” I told her once I had calmed down from my panic attack.

“Shit. What do you think that means?” Sarah asked, dumbfounded.

“I don’t know. Maybe this thing is a mimic or something,” I offered.

“What is that?” she asked again.

I sat up and leaned against the wall, pulling my backpack onto my front and rifling through it.

“It’s a creature that, once it kills something, can mimic aspects of a living thing. It might be a few individual parts of that being, or it could simply change its shape into the thing it killed. It could’ve killed Ryan and Hurley and mimicked some of their traits, like Ryan’s eyes, but I didn’t see any other differences in it from last night to now. It’s skinnier, I guess, but …” I trailed off.

“Ryan was practically a twig,” Sarah recalled.

I didn’t like where this was going.

“You aren’t saying that you think that’s Ryan and there are two of those monsters running loose in this bunker, are you?” Sarah asked, standing up.

“No,” I answered.

“Good. I’d think you’re going crazy if you did,” she said, chuckling slightly.

“I think there’s three,” I clarified.

Sarah groaned and started walking back to the stairwell.

“Well, then. I think the best thing we can do in this situation is to leave and never come back,” She told me, lingering at the doorway.

“I need to know,” I said back.

She paused.

“What? I’m sorry, could you repeat that? I thought you said that you want to stay, like a crazy person,” Sarah called me out.

“I know it’s insane, and I know that you don’t want to stay here anymore. I don’t want to either, but I need to know what’s happening here. If I don’t, it’ll eat me alive until I come here again, and I don’t want to explain to my parents when I’m caught sneaking out a third time in less than a week,” I explained.

She seemed conflicted, but I didn’t and couldn’t know what was going on inside her head. I wasn’t some supernatural creature, able to lurk in the dark and invade peoples’ minds. I was me, and I was going to do what I could to find out what they were so I could end them, finally putting the bunker to rest properly.

I voiced that thought, and it got Sarah to resign herself to accompany me on my journey deeper into the bunker. I stood up and we hugged out our frustrations. It was kind of awkward for me, to be this close to a girl twice in as many days, but I was able to get over it.

We got to the stairwell, and I knew that the sun had set all the way, and it was now as dark as it was in here as it was out there. I cracked a glow stick and we started going down the stairwell.

We got another ten levels down before realizing that we still couldn’t see the bottom. Sarah and I stopped and discussed our options for sleeping. We could either sleep on the cold, hard floor or we could find a staff room somewhere and use the couches they could have. I would definitely like a few pillows over laying down on steel or linoleum, so we agreed to find a staff room and camp out there. Their food wouldn’t be good if there even was any, but we were lucky that I brought food.

The problem was that, as we came to find, I had only packed for me, so we only had enough food for one person to last them a week, if they were practically starving themselves. What we had was enough to last the both of us three days if we ate even a few bites of it each day.

On sub-level forty, we got the door open and quickly rushed inside. We barricaded the door with a few couches and cabinets. Once we were sure that none of the monsters could break-in, we got comfortable. We made sure to make as little noise as possible as we set up our sleeping places.

We sat on the ground and I pulled out all the food we had so that I could properly ration our portions.

“What do you want out of this?” I asked, pointing to my Snickers bar, a bag of Skittles, a can of already baked beans, and an apple.

Sarah stroked her chin as if she was thinking. I knew she was disappointed in my planning skills, but she couldn’t be more disappointed in me than I was, since now I had to provide for a second person, something I hadn’t even begun to plan for when I was thinking the previous night.

“I think I’ll be fine with Skittles, chef!” she joked.

I laughed, but only to distract myself from the fact that Sarah was going to starve for the time we were going to be down there. I didn’t know how long we would be there, and I was sure that we were going to run out of food before we were done.

“Yeah, well, I’ll be over here with my Snickers bar, so take that!” I said, snatching the bar from the pile. It was probably the second most nutritious thing in the room, after the beans.

We sat like that, me eating the Snickers bar and Sarah eating half the bag of Skittles until we were ready for sleep to come. I think she hoped that she would wake up at home with this whole adventure having been a really bad dream. It wasn’t a dream, though. It was a nightmare.

Sarah woke up with a start at about eleven o’clock. She was sweating, and it was likely that she had a nightmare, but I found it hard to believe her mind could supply something worse than this. I guessed that she could’ve been simply reliving her own memories, but that only happens in movies and stuff.

After a while, I noticed that Sarah wasn’t going back to sleep, so I decided to try and help, however awkward it was going to be. I sat up, which startled her, which I immediately apologized for.

“Do you want to talk about what you dreamed?” I asked, leaning forward.

“Yeah. I had the worst nightmare. I imagined that we hadn’t found a place to sleep and that we had gotten found by the monsters, except there were so many of them. There were easily twenty of them. When I looked up, I saw that Jay had come with us. He was ripped apart, and then I watched you get torn to shreds,” Sarah told me.

I was horrified, to say the least. I felt some adrenaline work its way through me and fade as quickly as it came. I pictured myself actually trying to fight those things and being ripped apart, limb by limb until I was a bloody stump, watching them eat my legs until I died of blood loss or shock, whichever came first.

“I’m sorry you had to see that, even if it was just a bad dream. I promise that will never happen. Jay isn’t even here, so it can’t happen like that,” I said.

“It wasn’t scary because I care about Jay. It was scary because I care about you, too. You’re kind of my best friend right now” she shot back.

“What do you mean? We’ve only been talking because of your brother. If Jay and I weren’t friends then we wouldn’t be friends either,” I told her, slumping down into my makeshift bed.

“That isn’t true! You’re awesome! You risked your life to help your friends. I mean, they’re dead now and mutated into some weird chimera but that was still cool for you to even think about. Nobody I know would’ve done this purely out of selflessness except you. That’s incredible! I think you’re definitely friend material!” she reassured me.

“You think all that? I’m just a guy,” I said.

“Well, let’s agree to disagree. You think you’re a greasy nerd, and I think you’re a hero,” Sarah plainly stated.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I never said the words ‘greasy’ or ‘nerd’!” I argued.

I regretted talking so loud after an extremely loud SCREECH right outside the door. It made Sarah cover her ears, and it sounded as if it was inside our heads. The door shook and with it the massive barricade we had made. It didn’t look like we were going to be getting any more sleep.

Sarah packed up all of our things and I looked around for a weapon. I saw a few things I could use to impale the thing with; a pool stick, a few regular kitchen knives and I still had my baseball bat, so that was more than a few weapons that were immediately available to me.

The door was ripped off the hinges and tossed aside, which was impressive since it was all steel. Heavily aged and probably rusty steel, but it was more than a human could do, so I was still scared shitless.

I saw that it was a different monster than the others, because of the creature’s piercing green eyes. It was also a couple of shades darker than the others, which made me believe that it was younger, and had less time to settle into its new form and fade from the tan color that Hurley’s skin was to the absolute white that the other two had.

It was also a bit thicker than the others, which fit Hurley to a tee. I watched as this new monster ripped our barricade down in one try, utterly crushing whatever confidence I had in myself. The creature was in the room, but I had hidden Sarah in a bathroom in the back, so she was safe as long as she was quiet.

It lunged at me, but with my bat in hand, I swung. I landed that swing on the thing’s head, and it sprawled on the ground for a moment, trying to regain its bearings. Using the distraction, I ran to the knives and picked up two, keeping my body facing the monster and sheathing one for later use.

The creature jumped at me, and I attacked. I jabbed at the monster with my knife, but the blade broke in half, which also twisted my wrist at an angle that it was probably sprained. I dropped the handle and clutched my wrist.

“Well, that was a bust,” I muttered.

The blade hadn’t affected the creature at all. It was like it was iron or steel, and not the crappy old military base variety, but the good stuff. I simply couldn’t hurt the thing. The monster knew this and got ready for the kill-shot.

The monster stood tall and opened its mouth. When I say ‘open’ its mouth, I mean that the thing’s jaw unhinged and the scars on its face, the same as the creature that once was Ryan, opened and unfurled to let me see the true horror of the monster, and I came up with the perfect name for the creature that I could put in my bestiary for paranormal entities.

The Splitters.

These monsters could unhinge their jaws and open up their mouths and throats to allow them to swallow a human whole. They were big enough to do the deed, and it was likely that their bodily fluids were corrosive, allowing for a smoother meal. They could apparently transform humans into another version of them, though how they did this was unknown to me at the time.

While it had its face open, I got distracted and impulsively poked the Splitter’s exposed flesh with my baseball bat. The Splitter jerked back and seemed to be in pain from the shivering that wracked its body.

I realized the Splitters’ weakness. Their skin was pretty much indestructible, but if you can bypass the outer shell and get straight to the flesh inside, then they were fragile. I guessed that the creature had adapted to be resistant to attacks, but it never was attacked from the insides, with things like poison, or a bomb implanted in the Splitter’s brain. Something like that.

The Splitter’s jaw hinged itself again and it roared at me. I had never heard a sound like that in my life. It sounded like it could have been words, but it was in a language that I couldn’t understand, and like multiple people were talking at once. It was very disorienting.

That allowed the Splitter to pounce. It tackled me and we both fell to the ground. The Splitter was drooling on my face. I guess it was time to test out that ‘corrosive bodily fluids’ theory of mine.

It stung.

Badly.

The stinging was unbearable, and I screamed bloody murder as I slid myself out from under the Splitter and let it fall to the ground. I could feel my skin peeling away as I pulled out the knife and stalked toward the Splitter with what I could only guess is an aura of murderous intent.

I felt the corrosion subside as I finally managed to get a good hit on the Splitter, sinking my knife upwards into its brain from the inside of its own mouth. It felt great to know that I killed such a powerful creature, but my hand was also burning even worse than my face, which was already fucked.

I screamed, victorious, and I passed out.

I don’t know how long I was out for, but when I woke up, my injuries were healed. My wrist was a bit stiff, but I figured that it would work itself out with time. I was more worried about my face and my other arm, though. I had been drenched in the corrosive saliva of the Splitter that was still sprawled across the floor where I had killed it.

Sarah, who had been tending to my wounds, judging by the basic first aid kit at my side, noticed that I was awake. She started to fret over me.

“Don’t move, you’ll mess with your dressings,” she said.

“You know first aid?” I asked. The worst of the damage was above my nose, and I could feel the differences in how the fabric felt on the undamaged skin and the scar tissue.

“Very basic first aid, but … yeah. I had to make sure that the Splitter was dead before I started treating you, so that was fun,” Sarah complained.

“You’re calling it a Splitter as well?” I asked, confused as to how she knew of the conclusions that I had come to.

“You talk in your sleep,” she said, failing to hide a smirk.

“Oh,” I said, the flush that came over my face aggravating my burns.

Sarah proceeded to show me my arm. It was horribly scarred, but it was better than I imagined. I had a lot of mobility, though closing my fist still hurt a lot. She wouldn’t let me see my face. I think it hadn’t ridden out the recommended time the kit said to leave my bandages on.

I was able to get up and move around, and I quickly saw to it that the Splitter was tossed down the hole in the stairwell, falling until it reached the bottom, probably tearing the body into pieces in a gruesome display. I didn’t know, because I couldn’t actually see the bottom, despite my eyes being uncovered. I hadn’t suffered too much from loss of vision. Only certain spots in my field of vision were spotty or blurry.

We were able to hear the Splitter’s body impact the ground in about ten seconds, however, which meant we were close to the bottom, even if we couldn’t see it. I felt good about that because we had almost no food for what was supposed to be a simple in and out mission for one person.

We packed up our things, faith restored that this adventure was actually possible to complete, not that we had any in the first place. Sarah took most of the weight since I was still recovering. We set off down the stairwell and kept going until we couldn’t anymore.

My phone’s clock said that it was 10:30 am, and I had guessed that we had gotten about three hours of good sleep before the Splitter showed up. I had gotten a few more hours in, because of blacking out, but Sarah looked ready to drop after twenty flights of stairs.

“Are you okay? We can go back if you want,” I said.

“No. We need to get to the bottom of this, literally,” she countered.

“Yeah, but we could always use a different staff room again and you can get some actual sleep,” I offered.

“No, that isn’t fair to you. I can keep going, so don’t worry about it,” Sarah said, before trailing off and leaning forward.

She was falling. Fuck. We were on the flat concrete between flights, and she was going to fall onto the stairs and be seriously hurt if I didn’t do something. I rushed forward, ignoring my burning legs, and got in front of Sarah just as her legs gave out. I caught her, but she was unconscious, so I was going to have to carry her down a couple more flights.

I managed to get to the door of sub-level fifty-seven. I barricaded the door again, this time with stronger materials, and I actually fixed them to each other and helped Sarah get to sleep on the couch in that floor’s staff room.

I don’t know when I fell asleep, but I woke up lying next to Sarah. It was strange because I was on the floor, curled up in a blanket, while she was supposed to be on the couch, with a bunch of pillows and stuff. Naturally, I was uncomfortable. It was bad enough that I was curled up with anybody, but it didn’t help the fact that Sarah was doing so with a pretty girl.

I didn’t want to talk about this, but Sarah and I have history. We’ve known each other for a long time, thanks to Jay. He and I met as toddlers, and he finally made me talk to her when I was ten. I had always wanted to talk to her, but Jay saw that one of those stupid, childhood crushes was blooming so he shut it down quickly.

After that, I just quietly pined after Sarah for a few years, until she snuck away from Jay and told me that she had felt the same things I was feeling for her. It blew my mind that someone could be that interested in me, so I asked her out on a date. This was when we were fourteen, so the only place I could take a girl was the roller-skate rink at the edge of town.

She didn’t show up. I talked to her the next day and she said that it had been a prank from the other girls, but that she was forced into it. I forgave her but ended up correctly guessing that that group of girls was becoming a major pain in the ass for everyone, so I asked her to stop talking to them.

Sarah agreed and started hanging out with her brother and I, full time, but it was still weird between us. My affection for her withered slightly, but I still respected her. She never acknowledged our little incident again, so I didn’t either. Jay didn’t seem to know anything had happened, so we simply went about our lives.

That was two years ago, though, and I was over that. I never thought to ask if she really did have those feelings, but it was irrelevant. She hurt me, that was all that mattered, and even that had been put to rest.

I snapped out of it as Sarah started to wake up, and she rolled over to come face to face with me.

“Holy shit!” She said, scrambled out of our position.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. I didn’t want to wake you, so I kinda just froze up and tried to go back to sleep,” I said.

“Yeah, right, you liked it,” she teased.

“I can like something and want it to stop. It’s called overstimulation,” I told her.

“Okay, that’s just gross. It was nothing like that!” Sarah groaned.

“What was it like, then?” I asked.

She turned red. It was adorable. That’s what I would say if I still liked her, which I didn’t. Not one bit.

“I must have moved in my sleep!” she almost yelled, and I had to shush her, getting her to mutter a ‘sorry’.

“I didn’t know you sleepwalk,” I said.

She was silent for a long time.

“Listen, we can talk about this stuff when we get out of here,” I told her, and she gave me a thankful look.

“You mean ‘if’?” she asked.

“No, I mean ‘when’. We are leaving. You are going to live, even if it kills me. We’re almost to the bottom, I know it,” I clarified.

“Thanks, but you shouldn’t think like that. We’re both going home, do you understand?” Sarah said, and I nodded.

A few moments passed until Sarah asked the golden question that was probably setting a few alarms in her brain off.

“How do you know we’re almost at the bottom?” she asked.

“When you passed out, I managed to carry you down a level. Just as I was about to go inside, I saw the lights at the end. It’s only about ten levels down, so we can get there by 1:30 pm,” I explained.

“You carried me?” she asked. Her blush came back full force, and I couldn’t help the smile that overcame my face as she curled in on herself in embarrassment.

“Yep. I had to. I couldn’t drag you down the stairs,” I said.

“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s get going!” Sarah changed the subject. I could tell that she was uncomfortable with being questioned, so I let it go.

We packed up and hit the … stairs. We made it a couple of flights down before the other question I was expecting came up.

“What time is it?” Sarah asked.

“It’s currently … 12:37 pm,” I answered.

“WHAT?! That’s insane! That means that …” she trailed off.

“We’ve been down here for almost nineteen hours, yeah,” I confirmed.

“That’s crazy. They’ve probably noticed that we’re gone,” Sarah said, and I agreed.

“Both of us disappear at the same time? That’ll paint some pictures,” I said as I accidentally missed a step and stumbled a bit. I regained control of myself, but it was still embarrassing.

Another twenty minutes and we were there. We stood in front of the door, looking at the blinking light above it that said ‘AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY’. We looked at each other and snickered as we pushed the door open easily.

“Top notch American security,” I said sarcastically.

“Hey, this was forty years ago. Plus, there’s Splitters running about down here,” Sarah defended it.

“I can’t believe this!” I said in amazement, which Sarah took for an exaggerated offense taken to her opposition.

“Well, I … that’s wack!” She said as she realized what I was seeing.

We were looking at a massive room, with pods full of ice. They had people in them, but they were dead, I knew it from the smell. That and the fact that the pods were open. A man was standing in front of two of the cleaner looking pods, examining two bodies, the bodies of Ryan and Hurley.

“Hey, you! Who are you and what are you doing to our friends?” I said as we ran closer to the man.

He tried to run, but I caught him easily. He was older, so I outpaced him without much effort. I unclipped my baseball bat from my backpack and pointed it at him, while Sarah unsheathed the knife she had brought with her when we left the first staff room.

“Answer me, NOW!” I yelled.

“Ssh! You’ll attract them,” the old man said and began walking. “Come,” he told us.

We found ourselves obeying him, for whatever reason. He led us to a room that, once the doors closed, was completely soundproof. We could be however loud we wanted, and we took advantage of that.

“Do you have any weapons on you?” I asked.

“No,” he answered.

“Do you have any weapons hidden in this office?” Sarah asked.

“Yes,” he answered.

“Why?” we asked simultaneously.

“To kill the monsters that you have so affectionately called ‘the Splitters’,” he told us.

“You’ve been watching us?” I asked. I recalled a few cameras placed throughout the facility, but I hadn’t thought they would still be active. I didn’t even think there was anyone alive down here, and I said as much.

The old man chuckled at my question of how the hell he was still alive.

“If you store it right, a large enough number of canned goods can last you a century. I’m the only one left who hasn’t been turned into one of those things and subsequently died,” he said.

“How did they die?” I asked.

“Starvation,” the old man answered.

The man sighed and put on a presentation, likely one that he had not shown in a long time, so long that he almost looked giddy. The presentation started, and the old man started talking. He introduced himself as Dr. Kallar.

“Caleb,” I said.

“Sarah,” she followed.

“Okay, then. Caleb, Sarah, how long have you two been in this facility?” Kallar asked.

“Nineteen hours and then some,” I answered.

“We were here last night, too. We were only a few hours that time, and we didn’t go this deep, only to sub-level thirty, was it?” Sarah chimed in.

“Yeah, level thirty,” I confirmed.

“That’s astonishing! You’ve survived for almost an entire day outside the lab with nothing but yourselves. Nobody else made it that far!” Kallar praised.

“I have a few questions about that. If you saw us, why did you not try to help us?” I asked.

“I couldn’t contact you without revealing your location to the Splitters,” Kallar answered. It was good enough for me, but it had some holes.

“Why not?” Sarah apparently didn’t feel the same way.

“The creatures can sense emissions in the electromagnetic spectrum. That includes radio waves,” Kallar explained.

That satisfied us both, but a few burning questions came up after that.

“Why can they sense electromagnetic waves? Do they have some sort of organ that humans don’t or something?” Sarah said, jokingly.

“Spot on. They evolved to be able to know when the guards with radios were coming. They ambushed the guards and killed them. That’s how this place became the way it is now,” Kallar said.

“That makes no sense. Evolution is the steady progression of a species over hundreds of thousands of years. It took us millennia to simply walk upright, do you think we’d believe these things would develop a whole new organ in a few years?” I ranted.

“Yes. These things adapt at an unprecedented level. You experienced the Splitters’ hardened skin and acidic saliva yourself, I can see it. Those features are new to this specific breed. I didn’t expect them to be as powerful as they were when they escaped,” Kallar muttered.

“Escaped?” Sarah asked.

Kallar was silent for a few moments until he decided to tell the whole story of the Splitters, and what this installation was really for. After an hour, he could tell we were getting tired.

“You kids should get to bed. I have actual beds in the back. I’m sure you’d like to sleep and shower,” Kallar said.

We both lit up like Christmas trees. We thanked him for his hospitality and we got settled into bed nicely, clean and happy.

I’ll use this opportunity to relay the story of the Splitters. A hundred years ago, the government came across one and decided to vivisect it, and saw how it worked. The creature was extremely strong, fast, and durable, and it became even more so after time. When the government decided to test an ‘adaptation’ theory of theirs, they introduced snake DNA into the Splitter’s body. It integrated perfectly, and the monster became able to unhinge its jaw and eat people whole. It also shed its skin every so often as it grew.

Next, the scientists introduced spider DNA. It grew fangs that injected a paralyzing agent into the victim. It became even deadlier. In the 1970s, they built this laboratory to farm the creature, as they found that Splitter DNA also merged perfectly with human DNA. They proceeded to conduct experiments on humans and the Splitter hybrids that they had made.

Soon, they had the Splitters we had been encountering on our journey. These Splitters were able to plant their DNA into humans and that human would slowly transform into a Splitter over a day or so. It was very fast-acting, and there wasn’t a cure. After a few years, they stopped getting volunteers for their experiments, as it came out that they weren’t telling people that it was getting Split that they were signing up for.

They started taking people. Kidnapping people on the streets and bringing them down into the bunker and putting the Splitter DNA in them themselves. They made too much, however, and the hybrids revolted. They destroyed the facility and slaughtered everyone inside. It was mainly on the bottom few layers, and they soon infested the place. They starved to death in a few weeks, a side effect of still being human, if only on a basic level.

That was forty years ago, though. Recently, Kallar had been receiving people from the outside and being forced to experiment on them, the government seemingly having a renewed interest in the ‘Hybreeding Project’.

I got the feeling that I wasn’t being told everything, but I finally knew what these Splitters were, and I was ready to go home when we woke up. We had slept for about twelve hours, which was understandable since we had been through a lot of extremely exhausting things in the last couple of days. I checked my watch, where I had clicked on a stopwatch when I first went down all that time ago. It was at a little over forty-seven hours. It was hard to believe that we had been down there for almost two entire days, but when you’re inside for long enough, time gets muddy.

I was pulled aside by Sarah, who looked very uncomfortable. We went to a back room for privacy.

“I need you to do something for me,” she said.

“Okay. What?” I asked.

“I need some … feminine hygiene products,” her smile was forced, and I could tell that she would rather not be talking about this.

“Oh … oh. Oh! Okay, I’ll look around in the locker area. I saw it when we were about to sleep before, there’s probably some very old but usable stuff in there,” I said, and set off for the room I was talking about.

When I got there, I found that the rooms were separated by gender, which was perfect. I didn’t need to spend time searching around for female names, and I could just head straight for the women’s sections.

Kallar was nowhere around. I thought he would stop me, but I was able to rummage around easily and find a few different things that I thought could help. I didn’t know much about this stuff, but my parents had always made sure I understood the things my school taught me in sex ed, about both male and female anatomy. They were awesome.

I realized while walking back that I was sure that I would die while down there before we had found Kallar. What would my parents think? What would Sarah’s parents think, or Jay? My parents would probably think Sarah led me down here, and Sarah’s would think that I did that to her. It would be a whole mess if we never came back one day. It probably was a mess up there. We had been gone for a day and a half already, and my parents weren’t those kinds of hippy people, they were borderline helicopter parents.

I made my way back, and I saw Ryan and Hurley in the cryo-chamber through the window, and I realized that I had been far too tired to form any coherent thoughts about my friends. I felt bad, briefly forgetting about half my reason for coming down there. A question occurred to me as I studied their forms.

If Ryan and Hurley were turned into monsters, then how are they there, alive and well, according to the EKG machines at the pods’ side?

Fuck.

I suddenly recalled how Jay said he got the idea to come down here in the first place. He said he had heard two older men talk about the bunker and how dangerous it is, and that anybody who went in and survived would be a hero in his book. Fuck.

Kallar had said that he had been getting sent people to experiment on, and I had been sickened at the time, but now I understood a fact that I had brushed off earlier. He had known we were there the whole time and was expecting people. Preferably healthy, young individuals to get the best results.

We were sent to him on purpose so that we could get turned into Splitters.

I stuffed the products into my backpack and ran to where I had left Sarah. When I got there, she wasn’t in the storage room anymore. I heard a scream, suddenly, and chased after it. It was a girl screaming, so unless Kallar had people in here that he didn’t tell anyone about, it was Sarah.

I busted the door down and rushed into the room where the screams were coming from. Sarah was strapped onto an operating table by leather restraints. She was straining against them, but she simply couldn’t break them. Kallar was in a surgeon’s outfit and was readying surgical equipment. Scalpels, Petri dishes, and tweezers.

“Hey! What are you doing?” I yelled.

“I thought I locked that door!” Kallar muttered.

“The locks here are all rusted,” I said as I walked toward him, baseball bat raised.

“HEY! Don’t do anything you’ll regret, Caleb!” Kallar said.

“We did that when we walked into this place. You’ve been waiting for us! I bet the phones here really do work, it’s just that you shut them all down so that you can control who communicates with who on the outside!” I accused.

“Well, you’re a smart cookie. You and the girl are my perfect donors!” Kallar revealed.

“What?” I asked.

Sarah was still struggling to get out of her restraints, and I shot her a look that said ‘not yet’. She understood and stopped trying to get out as vehemently. She couldn’t simply stop trying to escape, otherwise, Kallar would catch on. She needed to look like she was struggling, but losing the will to fight.

“I’m supposed to extract her sex cells, combine them with yours, and grow the fetus, injecting small amounts of Splitter DNA along the way,” Kallar explained.

I was speechless. I looked at Sarah, and she was trying harder than ever to get out of her bindings and leave. I smashed the buckle that held the restraints on her left arm, allowing her to undo the bindings on her right arm herself. Once she had undone the binds on her legs, we both stood at the door.

“You’re fucking sick. What, you think introducing Splitter DNA will make it a smoother transformation?” Sarah asked.

“Yes and no. There will be no need for a transformation. The fusion will be born with its Splitter traits already manifested. It will be the ultimate form of humankind. It will be able to take in what makes it stronger and expel the weak from society. It will be … The Chameleon!” Kallar said.

While Kallar was going on and on about his perfect creation, I swung at him and caved his head in. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t something I’m proud of, but I did it. It looked like the skin of a grape with his brains splattered all over the floor behind him, his corpse sprawled across the floor at strange angles.

“Holy fucking shit!” Sarah screamed.

I turned to look at her. She was looking at me like I was crazy, but if I allowed Kallar to keep going, he’d probably win against me. My hand was throbbing as the blood rushed under my burns.

“Come on, we’re leaving!” I shouted, and we rushed to our temporary room.

We grabbed our things and set off. Sarah and I sprinted to the soundproofed room that he had told us the Splitters’ origins in. We were about to make for the door when I saw a flashing set of numbers in my peripheral vision.

I stopped and looked at them properly. They weren’t just numbers, it was a countdown. It also said ‘TIME UNTIL DETONATION’ on it, so I got the message.

“Sarah, stop. This place is gonna blow in two minutes. There’s no hope for us to get to the surface in time,” I said, shrinking in on myself.

I sat down, accepting defeat. Apparently, Sarah wasn’t having any of that, and she kicked me for being stupid.

“Do you think that we should just sit down and die? Fuck no! We have been up against the odds this whole time and we’re still alive! Do you know how crazy that is? I think that we should at least try, don’t you?” Sarah said.

I felt a surge of something. Was it admiration? Respect? I thought it might’ve been my old crush for a second, but I pushed that down and stood up.

“Yeah. How are we going to get out, though?” I asked.

Sarah looked around for things that could help, and I thought back to our travels around the facility. What could’ve been useful to us now? I thought for a few moments until I remembered an idea I had about the entrance our group had used during our first journey into the bunker being an unused elevator shaft.

I voiced that thought and got a look of pure amazement from Sarah. We sprinted all the way to where we approximated the shaft’s bottom entrance was. We found it in about thirty seconds, meaning we still had about one minute left. We got in and the doors closed.

“What floor would you like to go to?” an artificial voice asked me.

I was too nervous to nerd out about how cool it was that the government had invented that kind of technology when it was only now becoming even a little bit commonplace.

“Um, take us to the very top!” I yelled.

The elevator complied and started taking us up slower than I would’ve liked, but it was getting the job done. By my guess, we had about forty seconds until the whole facility went up in flames.

“CAN’T YOU TAKE US ANY FASTER?” Sarah was hyperventilating.

I put my hand on her shoulder.

“Breathe, Sarah! Breathe!” I told her.

Sarah started doing small breathing exercises in the corner while I examined the control board for the elevator.

“What speed setting would you like to move at?” the voice asked, its calm tone actually bringing me down a bit and helping me focus.

“The fastest setting!” I shouted, and it was like the whole world tried to come and punch me in the face.

The speed of the elevator rapidly shifted, and the difference in the speed was so great that I was pulled down, my legs not being strong enough to keep me up under that kind of stress. I fell to the floor in an instant, and so did Sarah. I crawled over to her and told her to hold on, as I knew what was coming next.

I was sure that the elevator wouldn’t be able to stop itself when it got to the top, and I couldn’t see the writing on the walls that indicated what levels we were on as they all blurred past, and that was when I realized that it was going to be worse than I thought.

It was only a few moments until I felt the resistance of the ceiling of the shaft give out, and we went flying through the air as I heard the countdown sound from inside the facility. I also heard the Splitters climbing the walls of the shaft, so we were pretty much fucked if the blast didn’t kill them.

Our elevator landed on the ground with a loud CRASH and I heard screams. They were distinctly human sounds, so I climbed out of the elevator, helping Sarah out after me, and ran towards them.

I saw both our families standing next to the blown-out hatch that leads to the elevator shaft. We started running toward each other, but I was still concerned about the Splitters and the incoming explosions.

“Everybody, get back! It’s gonna–” I didn’t get to finish my sentence as flames erupted from the hole in the ground, and everybody was pushed back.

My vision was fussy for a second. It was always just a bit fuzzy from when I had accidentally been drenched in a Splitter’s fluids. I knew I would have vision problems for life, and my hand would probably always be weaker than the undamaged one. I hadn’t seen my face yet, but I was sure there was a long scar running across my face from my left temple to the bottom right of my jaw, spanning the width of a couple of inches by the textures.

Then, the Splitters came. They were sooty and black and smelled like roast chicken, but they were alive, and that was bad for everyone. I quickly rushed to the one person I didn’t recognize, a police officer. I grabbed his gun and aimed it at the creature.

“Whoa, kid!” he yelled, but I didn’t care, because these fuckers needed to die that very second.

I wasn’t going to let them kill us now, after everything Sarah and I had been through. I shot at the Splitter that used to be Ryan, and it roared at me with its exposed maw. I shot it twice in the pink muscle and brain tissue that I knew was just above the roof of its mouth.

The thin Splitter dropped dead. I couldn’t stop now, though. My scarred hand was starting to throb from the firing of the gun, but I pushed through that pain and kept attacking the bigger, stronger Splitter. The original.

I didn’t know who this thing originated from, but it didn’t matter anymore. That person was dead, and all that mattered was that this thing joined him, preferably soon. I kept aggressing, firing three times at it to get it to expose itself, but it seemingly knew about its own inferiorities and kept its jaw shut the whole time.

This was the last resort, but I unclipped my baseball bat from my backpack. It had scorch marks on it, which made me wonder how powerful that explosion was really supposed to be. I’m sure the chemicals had to be old, but I wasn’t sure how all of that worked in the first place.

I ran at the Splitter with my bat in hand and leaped with my swing. My bat and I came down at the same moment, giving my blow extra power. The Splitter got angry and yelled something at me in some language that I didn’t understand.

Now was my chance. I jammed the gun into the thing’s mouth and pulled the trigger, watching as it fell to the ground in a heap. I grinned but felt that hand of unconsciousness over me like I had the first time I defeated a Splitter.

I passed out again.

I woke up in a hospital, and I was fully healed. It was supposedly the next day, but I was allowed to see my scars. I was right about my face, spot-on, in fact. I had already seen my hand, and I wasn’t surprised to hear that I had sustained hairline fractures along my forearm from my already injured hand firing the gun in rapid succession.

Nobody would believe us when we talked about the Splitters. Our families did, of course, though it didn’t count because they had seen them with their own eyes as well.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Fiction, Horror, Mystery/Thriller

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