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End of Days
By: RJ Newlyn

Then, in an instant, it is silent again and I find myself alone in the furthest wing of the hospital. Here the polished linoleum floor has given way to soft-carpeted office suites, all unlit and empty except the one at the end where the Director’s name stands out in pale letters against the dark wood of the door.

It is only when I am close that I realise that the wood is not dark but charred and that the name is written in ash. The ribbon of light beneath flickers red and orange on the carpet.

Eleven

I have barely stepped into the office before strong hands grasp me from behind and force me to the floor. I find myself remembering the police doing the same outside our house and staring up at the dirty broken windows, understanding for the first time that you no longer live there.

The Director walks calmly over, his expensive suit unmarked by its enveloping shroud of flames. He kneels down, his face so close to mine that I can see the howling abyss behind his eyes.

“I am truly sorry,” he whispers. “You have fought well but it is over now – you must accept that.”

Then he stands and speaks to his lieutenants holding me down. “You reduced the medication far too soon. Please make sure this never happens again.”

I struggle but their grip is firm and unshakeable. After the needle’s scratch on my thigh, I can feel a deadening paralysis creep upwards.

Leading the holy army, you’d have thought I might have prayed more often. But when I spoke to the empty air, all that returned from the silences were memories of your shining eyes and the soft music of your laughter.

They are all I have now.

Twelve

I never told you how the sword came to me. When I joined the army in those early days, I was nothing but a scavenger amidst the wreck of our dying world. Their leader, shining as he did with blinding righteous fire, brought hope to our darkness and there were many like me who thronged to the cause.

But street fighting is chaotic. When I found him in that alley, I knew he was dying; I could see his edges beginning to blur. He pressed the sword into my hand. “I’m sorry – you must lead them now. Just do your best.”

I stayed with him as he faded. He seemed sad and puzzled, as if this was never meant to happen. But then he asked me my name just before the end, and when I told him it was Michael he smiled. “I understand now,” he murmured, and then there was nothing but a whisper in the morning air.

In the Director’s office, they are preparing to take me back to the ward. Darkness closes in as the injection takes hold. But, just as I flex my fingers one last time, I feel the familiar hilt in my palm once more.

Thirteen

I throw off the drug’s paralysis like an old skin. As I take out the two lieutenants, the office bursts into flames – white from my sword, black from the screaming gulf into which they plummet. The Director roars in anger and falls on me with all the infernal powers of Hell and Death, but my blade withstands him.

At once, the air around us is filled with the clamour of fighting spirits, an eternity’s war now centred on one small room in a hospital annex. The walls can’t hold it of course and they shatter as a shock wave courses through the building, flattening everything in its path. Amidst the falling masonry, sheets of driving rain quench the black fires.

And then, with one last blow he is down, teetering on the edge of the chasm that gapes to receive him. I meet his eyes and we share a moment of understanding, both of us knowing that our parts have been played, that what was written long ago on dusty old parchments has now come to pass. He falls and I seal the grating that lies over the pit.

I slump exhausted to the office floor. Sirens wail in the distance.

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