His eyes were sullen and in a straight stare. His long black jacket covered all but his black jeans with a collar that reached above his ears. A matching black baseball cap with no logo or markings was pulled low. Passers by could only see his eyes. He wore a permenant frown, not of anger but of focus.
Although the sidewalk was bustling, it appeared as if he believed he was the only one on the street. He walked fast, precisely and without pause. He was of grand stature and anyone stupid enough not to be paying attention were quickly bowled over as if they weren't even there. The roads were filthy, the cars were old and the crowds were unhappy. No one here wanted to be here, but no one who was here had a choice. Some gun shots fired not far off, a woman nearby screamed and the crowds shuffled away from the disturbance to avoid any participation in what may be taking place. The stranger didn't flinch, he continued his long, fast paced strides to his destination. He turned off the main street to an alley that smelled of urine anddead rodents. It was daylight now, but it was the type of alley that if it were night, a smart person would surely avoid. A homeless man rustled under some old boxes and what appeared to be a garbage bag. The alley was narrow, the stranger glanced upward for a moment and could see a column of brown sky between the buildings either side of him, just as filthy as the rest of his surroundings. He caught himself imagining it to be a pale blue with clouds like it would have been so long ago. He lowered his head and continued forward. The door to the apartment building hung off it's hinges, the words "Gracious Apartments" above the door, once finely polished brass were now missing almost every letter, and had been replaced by spraypainted versions. Two men stood either side of the door sharing a cigarette.
Both were large and covered head to toe in various tattoos. The brute on the left who had obviously aged badly beyond his years spat in front of the stranger and uttered poorly formed words - something about payment to enter. The stranger stopped and looked up at the comrades who were now smiling toothless grins. The tall, but scrawnier, and far uglier - if that were possible - man on the right was holding a knife inches from the stranger's throat. The stranger pondered for a moment and decided they must be new to the building. It had been a very long time since anyone tried to mess with him. The two thugs were starting to get angry at the stranger's silence and were now yelling at him about various payments they were expecting or they would slice his throat. He locked his eyes on the one holding the knife and simply took a fast direct step straight into the blade. He felt the metal edge pierce his jugular and wind pipe but he felt no pain. Blood poured out over the thin man's hand. Both of the men's eyes were now wide, astonished at what had just happened. The stranger, getting sick of the two brute's interference grabbed the knife and ripped it all the way across his own throat, carving himself a new smile. Blood was everywhere. The once threatening duo were now cowering in fear at the site of the stranger glaring at them, showing no pain or care about the mortal wound in his throat.
They did what anyone would do, they ran.
Stain had just arrived home from work, earlier than usual. He hated his job and his boss was a fat dominating pig. He had hoped to catch his wife before she left to go see her mother as she always did on a Tuesday. But as was always his luck, he had missed her, so he grabbed himself a beer from the fridge and turned on the TV. A cloud of dust lifted from the old couch as he put his feet up. Stain could hear the house creaking around him and the roof sagged not too far from where he was sitting. If it were raining, he'd have to get the bucket out. He pondered how long it would be before that sag just gave way one day and the whole roof came crumbling down on top of him. His home reeked of mildew and mold, but it would still be considered one of the nicer houses in the neighbourhood. The whole city was in such ruin now, it was likened to a garbage dump. In fact, Stain's job was a futile effort of "cleaning up the city". The state promised that one day the city would be returned to it's former glory. A complete load of shit, Stain thought, but he was just happy to have a job in a country with over 50% unemployment. He glanced around at the crap-shack he called home. If anything, it was good to be home.
Stain peered out his living room window from the couch. He was right in the middle of the forsaken Caspian City. Once a booming metropolis where the streets were seemingly paved with gold was now a wasteland. It was as if the city had undergone a nuclear war and this is what remained post apolocalypse. But in fact the dismal surroundings were the result of over population and recession. Poverty plagued the country and Caspian was in the heart of the desolation. He could hear children playing outside, it was refreshing - they sounded happy. He was grateful that anyone could find pleasure in such a hell-hole. Even though he could not see the kids, he could picture their faces, smiling and laughing and wondered to himself when was the last time he had seen an adult laugh. Stain was a nickname, his real name was Stanley but even his wife called him Stain these days. It was quite common place to drop your real name for something much less appealing - it was the populace's way of mourning the current economic situation. He actually liked Stain, if anything it was better than most. One of his best friends at work was known as Smegma for example.
Stain looked at his watch. He worried about his wife walking in this crime infested city to her mother's house. It was a fair distance but she insisted, even though she was five months pregnant. He didn't bother arguing with her anymore, she was stubborn and willful but that's why he loved her. There wasn't much choice anyway, they couldn't afford a car and public transport had long since stopped since the depression hit. All he could do was hope she had reached her mother's house safely, before he could finish his thought, the phone rang. Stain dragged himself out his couch, sneezed twice from the dust and walked over to where the phone lay on the kitchen bench top. "Hello?" Stain asked. Nothing. The piece of crap was broken again, stain banged the handset on the bench top a few times. "Hello?" Stain asked again. This time a voice answered, it was his mother-in-law asking if he had seen his wife. Stain's heart sank.
A blood drenched face stared back at him as the stranger stared into his bathroom mirror. The mirror was cracked and tarnished, but it was still useable. He grabbed an old rag from the floor and turned on the tap. The old pipes in the buildings walls clanked and moaned before sputtering a brown ooze from the faucet. He waited awhile till the brown finally turned to a murky water and soaked the rag. Wiping his face and neck cleared away the blood and revealed an already healed throat, no trace that it had been sliced by a knife moments ago. He finished cleaning up and looked at his clothes, the blood had already hardened and he remembered why he always wore black. The stranger returned to his living room, the stench of death in his defiled apartment would be enough to make the toughest of men vomit. Just as pain had no affect on him, neither did smell nor any other sense for that matter. The penthouse he dwelled in was sparse and decrepid. What would have once been a fantastic apartment once was now way past its use-by date and called out for demolition. Wallpaper was shredded, floorboards were missing, light bulbs were non-existant and replaced by candles. The living room opened up on to a balcony which had a grand view of a disgusting alley and the side of another withered building. There were some scattered pieces of furniture, an old desk with a bucket turned upside down as a chair stood firmly at the far side of the lounge. A plastic chair sat on the balcony next to a wooden box used as a coffee table - a make-shift ashtray lay on the box overflowing with cigarette butts. There was good reason that the place stank to high heaven though. A wide trail of dried blood lead from the front door right through the living room and through to another lone door on the opposite side of the room. It was quite clear that dragged bodies had created the gruesome trail, the foul atrocities that lay hidden behind that door were all but obvious. Footprints of blood madepatterns that almost gave an illusion of purposeful decorations throughout the apartments floor. This was a trulydisgusting place to behold.
In his chair, out on the balcony, the stranger lit a cigarette and took a deep puff. He could hear the echoing of the city; beeping horns, sirens, screams, gun shots and the constant rabble of people yelling and talking. He heard a banging from downstairs, it sounded like another scuffle over living space he thought. There were various squatters in the old abandonded building always fighting each other for the best living spots but none dared venture to the top floor where the stranger lived. Everyone nearby had come to understand that the penthouse was not to be approached if you valued your life.
It was late in the afternoon, it would be getting dark soon. The stranger began to get restless. As his boredom set in, the chance that someone was about to get hurt rose relatively. He was standing now at the edge of his balcony, grasping the rusted metal rails. He peered at the alley below, he could see the entrance where he had encountered the two idiots earlier. His apartment was on the sixth floor, high up, but not so high that he couldn't see what was going on below. A stray cat wrestled with what looked like a rotting piece of steak but he couldn't be sure. He could see the homeless man still lying underneath his cardboard duvet, a bottle of some alcohol clenched in his fist. The noise of the city still ever present, the voices of the distant people seemed to be getting louder and louder. Always yelling and aruging, louder, louder. The stranger clasped his head between his hands. Such noise! For someone that could feel no pain, he was in agony. The frustation and annoyance turned to anger then deep hatred. He could feel the fury swell inside of him - they all needed to shut up or he would have to fix it, one person at a time. In fact he had been "fixing it" for years now but to him it was as if it started all over again every night.
The stranger needed to appease his desire, it was the only way to shut them up, at least until tomorrow. He had strengthed his grip on the rails, the whites of his knuckles were showing. His eyes were now wide and bloodshot while his teeth were gnashing. He was consumed by rage and he only knew of one way to fix it... he scowered the alley below for a target, he did not have time to go searching for a victim tonight - they would have to be close. Not just anyone would do, a squatter served no recompense for his violence. No, it had to be someone who valued their own life, someone with a family, someone with hope. And like a gift from hell, he spotted a woman, it appeared she was attempting to cut through the dark alley before nightfall hit, perhaps a shortcut? She had certainly provided him with the shortcut he needed. It would be her last mistake, he thought.
Stain placed the phone back on the hook slowly. His mind began to race, he quickly calculated in his head the approximate time his wife would have left their house and the time it would have taken her to reach her mother's house. He estimated she should have arrived about 30 minutes ago, something must have happened. Although all sorts of horrible possibilities began to flood his thoughts, he pushed them aside, as he knew idle speculation was pointless. There was only one way to find out. However, in this city, Stain had learned to prepare for the worst. He reached under the kitchen counter and felt around. After a moment his fingers found what he was looking for, a loaded revolver. His wife would kill him if she knew he kept a loaded gun in the house but Stain was willing to take that risk to protect his family. His wife may believe in the kindness of strangers, but Stain certainly did not. He rushed out the front door, not even bothering to lock it behind him.
It was about half past six and it was beginning to get dark. Stain had searched and yelled for his wife the entire route to her mother's house but with no luck. He checked in with his mother-in-law to see if she had heard from her daughter, but no sign of her. Stain retraced his steps back over again and again. It was now nine o'clock and still nothing. He was tired and frustrated but he couldn't give up " he was the only one who could help her. The police were a waste of time, in a city so crime ridden, a missing person case would be considered highly unimportant. Stain was walking back along the route again almost in tears. He stopped, it seemed futile. He sat on the pavement, his feet on the road and his back to a dark alley. A street lamp buzzed next to him while random people walked past him oblivious to his sobbing.
Stain removed his hands from his face and wiped a few tears away when something caught the corner of his eye... a scarf lying in the drain near his feet. It was still clean, couldn't have been there very long. He picked it up and gasped, it was the red scarf he had given his wife for their anniversary not too long ago. He knew the scarf well because he slept on the couch for a week for giving her such a meaningless gift but she had grown to love it. There is no way she would have just left it there unless something was wrong. Stain stood up and his head darted around in all directions like a pigeon. Everyone around him was constantly on the move, no one here would be any use questioning, save one. Stain didn't notice him earlier, the old man was lying under a cardboard box, clearly homeless and drunk, but it was his only shot.
Stain entered the alley, a beam of light still reached a section of the alley from the street lamp but he couldn't make out what lay further ahead. He knelt down to the drunkard. The old man appeared to be fast asleep, arms folded with a bottle of some clear liquid grasped firmly between his arms. Stain prodded him in the forehead with his index finger. The bum stirred but did not wake. Stain had no time for this. He slapped the man across the face as hard as he could. The old guy leapt up yelling gibberish with a bewildered look on his face as if he had no idea where or who he was. Stain calmed him down and he finally seemed to gain his senses. "Wha you want?" the old man questioned with an eyebrow raised and one eye closed. "Did you see a woman walk near here recently? She is pregnant." Stain asked and he immediately noticed the old man tilt his head as if he knew exactly who Stain was referring to. "It'll cost ya, almost outta grog" haggled the old man who now wore a cheeky grin. Again, Stain had no time for this. Without thinking he pulled out the revolver and aimed it at the homeless man's head. "Tell me what you know" he demanded.
The stranger focussed his glare at the woman from high above on the sixth floor. She was oblivious to his presence; he was stalking her like an owl to a field mouse. She was moving quickly, aware that this was a place she shouldn't be and the stranger suddenly realised he would need to make this happen before he lost the opportunity. But it occurred to him, she was moving too fast, he would not reach the bottom floor before she had made it through to the other side of the alley. He analysed the situation for a moment, a single bead of sweat ran down the side of his face over a throbbing vein in his temple. The anger still raged inside of him, the voices of the city growing ever louder. He knew what he had to do, but there was no time for calculations, no time to prepare, the woman was very close to the base of his apartment, he had to do it now!
He stepped up on to the balcony's railing, balancing for a moment, arms stretched wide. He anticipated the woman was in the perfect spot,he leant forward... He could feel the immediate rush of air as he began to plummet from the sixth floor but it was all in slow motion. The sound of the voices, the wind against his face, the surrounding blur as he descended, it was perfect and precise. His eyes never moved, locked on his target, falling in a pin drop fashion, head first " faster and faster the ground approached. The unfortunate woman looked up at the final moment with a horrified look of shock unable to comprehend what was about to happen to her, before she could let out a sound the stranger felt his skull impact hers. Then his shoulder shattered and rib cage caved in as his body was crushed in the collision but ultimately demolishing her with tenfold the damage. He fell unconscious.
The stranger awoke moments later, blood ran over his eyes. He struggled to lift his head then with a sharp jerk, snapped the vertebrae in his neck back into place. He listened for voices " silence, sweet silence, it made him smile. He used his less damaged arm to crack the broken bones back into place in his exploded shoulder. Flesh quickly healed around the repaired bones and he tested his newly formed appendage with a quick stretch. He was wheezing and sputtering blood, unable to breathe. Using both hands, he proceeded to delve his fingers into his own chest to pull out his ribcage back into shape. Still unable to stand, the stranger searched around in the bloody mess for a missing piece of his pelvis. He yanked out a piece of bone which had imbedded it's self in his target's abdomen. He did not need to return it, but he had discovered long ago replacing the original bone healed twice the speed. He shoved the broken pelvic bone back in place and felt it repair. His legs cracked and snapped back into place and his calves filled out back to recognisable leg muscle. He stood up and examined the corpse the lay beneath him. The woman's body was a mess, no longer human, rather a bleeding sack of organs and tissue.
Something caught the stranger's eye which he had not noticed until now; the woman was pregnant. For a split second, the stranger felt remorse " he actually felt sorry for the woman. He looked up at the brownish-purple, twilight sky and then back down at the mess. Feelings? He had had no feelings for decades. Was something changing inside of him? Did he somehow regain a piece of humanity? He tried to shrug it off, but even a fleeting moment of emotion was enough to send shivers down his spine " this was highly unusual. The stranger took one last look at his surroundings. Blood had covered the entrance to the apartment and had even painted the wall of the building opposite. The rains would clean that up he thought to himself. He noticed that the homeless man was cowering under his cardboard box, wide eyed and clearly terrified but continued to take gulps from his bottle none-the-less. A drunken witness is not a witness at all he thought to himself while he reached down to grab the dead woman's ankle. He began dragging her beaten corpse up the six flights of stairs back to his apartment all the while concerned about the unhappiness he had felt a moment ago.
Stain lit a match and entered deeper into the alley. The homeless drunk hadn't been much help, he had just pointed down the alley and said "Apartments, top floor." The match didn't give much light, but stain was able to make his way down the alley without tripping over the various junk that was scattered between the two old buildings. He reached what was left of a door, since there were no other entrances; Stain concluded this must be the place. The place was rank, horrible smells spewed down the stair case ahead of him. A full moon let in a small amount of light from the various broken windows in the decrepit apartment building. Stain could make out what looked like a mix of blood and vomit covering the floors and leading up the staircase. He dared not try the elevator, even in new buildings such luxuries no longer functioned or at least were no longer safe. Stain was still holding the revolver, leading his way with it as if he knew how to use it. As he passed each floor, Stain could make out silhouettes of various squatters who had moved in and were either sleeping or shuffling around in the dark, in normal circumstances Stain would have turned and run from a place like this but he had discovered new courage knowing that his pregnant wife was in danger.
The top floor was different, it lead to a single door, probably the penthouse. Stain spotted a bunch of half melted candles at the top of the stairs and quickly grabbed the biggest one and used his last match to light it. The candle flamed brightly and illuminated his surroundings surprisingly well. He was in a corridor, a single entrance ahead of him - the front door to the apartment. There was no lock on the door anymore; a hole where the door handle would have once been was all that remained. Stain bumped the door with his foot and the door slowly swung open. Light from the candle flooded the room and for a moment the room had a sense of familiarity. It was about what he expected; an abandoned penthouse with some broken furniture and a couple of other exits to what he assumed were the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms. But what instantly hit Stain and nearly knocked him to the floor was the overwhelming stench which was now tenfold what it had been in the staircase, clearly this was the place that was ultimately the culprit for the horrendous smell.Stain looked at his feet, a thick trail of blood let across the room to a closed door. It was still red and sticky, somewhat fresh. City lights flickered from the ranch slider that opened up onto a balcony. Fresh air, (well, city air, but fresh compared to the air inside) bellowed in from the open slider. Stain felt a chill, but it was not from the cool breeze, it was the realisation that his worst nightmare may be behind this door, the door with the blood trail which he now stood directly in front of. He closed his eyes and said a quiet prayer, begging God that the old drunk was having him on, that whatever lay behind this door had nothing to do with the disappearance of his wife. Without opening his eyes, Stain grasped the handle, turned it slowly and pulled open the door. It creaked with a high pitched screech. He held the candle into the room and opened his eyes. The candle fell from Stains hand, he dropped to his knees, his jaw was wide, eyes showing horror that could only bestow the type of distress someone feels when their loved ones lie dead in front of them. The room was large, huge in fact, it was at least twice the size of the apartment lounge and from wall to wall it was filled with rotting corpses, some already skeletons, others still decaying and the closest ones to the door near where Stain stood were still fresh. Directly at his knees lay the gruesome corpse of a pregnant female. Her face so badly mutilated that it was unrecognisable but Stain immediatelyknew her clothing. She wore the maternity smock given to her by her mother and on her left wrist was the gold bracelet Stain had bought for her the day after she announced to him he would be a father. Tears were now streaming down his cheeks; he grasped his face with both hands, shaking. Sadness, fury, disbelief all fell on his shoulders at once, so mortified he did not even realise he was now screaming at the top of his lungs in anguish.
Hours passed; Stain was now standing on the balcony's rail ready to commit the ultimate sin. Without his wife, his unborn child, he had nothing. Life, death, it no longer mattered to him, his entire life felt like a blur. With his eyes closed, his mind swirled with images of his wife, his mother-in-law, his fat boss, the city. He opened his eyes in time to see the pavement for a split second before the impact.
Stain opened his eyes. He was alive? He was also standing. Confused, Stain looked around, last thing he remembered was falling from the building and now he appeared to be standing in an almost empty parking lot. He could see Caspian Tower in the not to distant horizon - it was the tallest building in Caspian City, but if it were that close it meant he was on the other side of town. Stain looked at his hands, they were covered in blood. Then he noticed it, another corpse, as if he hadn't seen enough for one day. It was a young boy dead at his feet, someone had gouged out the eyes of the poor teenager, was it him? He remembered nothing. Stain stepped back from the body and bumped into a beaten up truck. He turned and faced the vehicle, Stain saw his own reflection in a side mirror. He was wearing a black baseball cap, pulled very low and a black jacket with a high collar, he could barely see his face other than his own bloodshot eyes glaring back at him...