The Forsaken

G. Wells Taylor


1 – Assassin

An Angel was going to die. The idea caused the man on the road to smile-a rare smile cruelly cut into hard, pitiless features. The Angel would die quickly. It was a pity that it had to be so fast. But surprise was necessary. It was essential. He knew he was lucky to have that much of an edge and speed was the only way to maintain it. Their supernatural abilities allowed no margin for error. But the idea of killing one slowly appealed to him-to kill an Angel and take his time doing it. He smiled again thinking about what it would be like to get a knife and take one apart. See what all the fuss was about.

Miles to the west, his car was parked permanently on the soft shoulder. The Pontiac’s twenty-year-old engine had cracked in two. He had taken one look under the hood and grabbed his packs to start the long walk to the City. There was nothing he could do about it. He was not that kind of mechanic.

But an Angel was going to die. That was something. Two hours had passed, and the idea had kept him focused on the march. Fuck the car. It was common for people to drive them into the ground only to purchase another rebuilt junker when it was necessary. He’d done it more times than he could remember. Automotive parts designed to last in the old counting could not keep up to people who did not age in a time of endless rain and decay.

Money wasn’t a problem. He carried enough in pocket to buy a new vehicle right off the lot. But why bother? They all fell apart eventually. It didn’t matter how much money you spent. Time got them in the end, like it got everything.

But he wouldn’t buy another vehicle just yet. There were too many variables to justify the expense. He had only trusted his abandoned car because it drew little attention. But this was now and the future was then. He was close enough to the City of Light to walk, so he’d walk. And once there, who knew? Cars were more common than strangers buying them. Until he completed his contract anonymity was his greatest ally.

Don’t let them see you coming. That was the first rule of the business he was in. The second was to have a backup plan and backup plans cost money. Beneath his Kevlar vest was a nylon money belt containing forty thousand in cash and about the same in gems for special purchases. Printed money wouldn’t always buy you what you wanted in the circles he traveled. And it seemed that people with apparently ageless bodies identified with the permanence of diamonds and gems- he did.

The belt held enough for bribes, transport and emergencies. He had plenty more, but with the chaos that yawned around what was left of humanity, the traveler knew that a place you left might not be there when you returned. The remains of civilization were on the verge of riot and dissolution. Occasionally fear would manifest and burn one of the dying cities or towns that remained. The man on the road didn’t care about the social costs; he just understood that his many money stashes could be consumed by the madness; so carrying a small fortune had become a habit. And he was the safest bank he knew.

He snarled up at the rumbling overcast as he marched along the road-then stumbled. The broken pavement beneath his boots had heaved in places torn by cycles of frost, and undercut by incessant rain. Scowling, he dropped back into his steady, rhythmic pace. The black canvas bags were heavy hanging across his muscular shoulders, but they did not impede him. The mild annoyance of the gun barrels and ammunition thudding against his kidneys did more to reassure than irritate.

The City was not far off. He’d get there by sundown. The last hill he crested had given him a bleak view of its monolithic skyline and the Eastern Sea beyond. The distance did not concern him, since he welcomed any sort of physical challenge. In his Spartan philosophy he could never be hard or strong enough. Besides, if he grew bored with the walk, he could flag down a passing motorist and either hitch a ride or buy the vehicle outright with a bullet-there were still travelers despite the rigors of the road. In fact, the latter mode of transportation would allow him to enter the slow tempest of the City without making a ripple. And he wouldn’t have to make conversation.

But the walk would do for now. It allowed him to step outside his life for a time and do something simple-it was the closest he ever got to carefree, and he could never be carefree. There was no rush. Again the distant thunder made him look up at the clouds. He shrugged knowing he’d packed an overcoat in the smaller of the two bags.

Rattle! His boots scuffed against the pavement, almost muffled the sound. And then: Click!

The traveler threw his bags and dropped to a knee. A. 9 mm automatic jumped lightly in his sinewy hand; its muzzle scanned the dark brush at the side of the road. Dim light from the overcast showed ugly gray weeds-the brittle shafts quivering, rattling sporadically as the gun ran over their varied surfaces searching a target.

Then the traveler hissed with disgust, turned the pistol up and slipped it away. A woman’s hand twitched and convulsed its way out of the dead brush. The skin was torn off it from the severed wrist all the way up the broken thumb-worms or beetles crawled in the swollen red meat on its palm. The knuckles clicked hollowly as it moved.

The man walked to his bags, hefted them, and resumed his trek without another glance at the hideous thing that scuttled farther onto the road behind him. The traveler let his mind move onto more prosaic concerns. He could reach the City inside two hours-if he didn’t buy a car first.

And an Angel would die soon after.

2 – Dawn at Night

The forever child had a hard time following orders though the reckless bravado that started her current adventure had long ago departed. Swagger was fine to get things going but tended to dissolve the farther she got from safety. That left behind was a small and trembling child of over a hundred years, but a child at heart with a child’s store of emotion and anxiety and imagination. She looked to be five years of age, no more-pixie-like, cute with curly brown hair and big round chestnut eyes that peeked over soft and downy cheeks. Dawn was terrified and she was in deep shit.

Her grownup friend Mr. Jay wanted her to stay in the hideout while he was away on business. But she took his concern as a command, and rebelled against it. The first few minutes of her escape were thrilling-she usually had to go about disguised or hidden-but it was dark, and the neighborhood was shadowy and quiet enough for her to take the chance.

Almost all forever children like her had been rounded up in the first fifty years following the Change. Authority insisted it was for their own protection but rumors spoke a grimmer tale of science experiments and worse. Other kids that escaped the government were caught by evil men who made them do evil and grownup things-still others in the cities lived a life in hiding: always running in a world that was after them. So sprinting through the shadowed puddles in a mist of rain-droplets spattering her bare calves-was exhilarating in its first few innocent moments, before the truth hit home.

She moved quickly through the trash-strewn alley re-tracing her steps, fully aware of the danger. Her child’s body held too few defenses to justify wandering the streets of the City of Light at night-especially on its lowest level, Zero. A quick scan of the familiar damp walls told her that she was close to safety but Dawn was too frightened to breathe a sigh of relief just yet.

A scream rang along the alley and the forever girl froze in her tracks. Her loose fitting jumper hung close and

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