Short Stories from Phil Barnes

Lonely Soul….

It’s like deja vu. That feeling you get when someone walks across your grave, that person in the corner of your eye who’s not there when you turn around or that shadow that suddenly disappears.

I can’t quite explain it but you know when they are there, darkness envelops the world around you. Coldness hits you and the shivers begin, move quickly before the hand of quiet death strikes.

It’s been a year now, I know they are out there collecting souls, but this last month they have been busy, more deaths than normal but no one notices, they still go about their normal mundane existence.

No matter how I’ve tried to convince people we are in trouble no one has listened, I am alone, I wish I had friends, I wish I had family, I wish I had anyone, anyone to talk to, to help me but I will continue in my quest to rid the world of this evil.

It’s Saturday, again, I hate Saturday’s as this is when the world seems at it’s busiest, people enjoying simple pleasures, eating out, pubbing and clubbing. This is when they are at their most vulnerable, easy prey for the Soul Eaters.

I watch from the shadows, armed with my home-made catcher, a simple design that sucks the Soul Eater in, a bit like a vacuum cleaner in reverse. I’ve caught 186 now but there are still plenty out there requiring my attention.

Liverpool is the eighth City I have lived in this year as I go from town to city ridding the country of these foul creatures, taking lives that do not belong to them. They only seem to gather in the most populated areas, makes sense, more fresh meat for them to devour.

Suddenly I hear a scream, not a normal scream but a blood chilling one that lets me know a Soul Eater is taking it’s next victim, quickly I run to the scream, damn, too late to save the girl but not to clean up, a click, a gurgle and the Soul Eater is mine. It’s the best way to catch them after they have fed, they are digesting the soul and not in hunting mode, harsh on the victim I know, but getting to them early means they put up a fight. I have too many scars from too many fights, 187 in the tank, time to move on, sorry girl.

I can remember when I started sensing the Soul Eaters and over the months my senses have become attuned to them, I know how many are in a place. I know when they are in a place but I can’t explain why I was chosen to be left with this ability, if you can call it an ability, all I know is I have this overbearing duty to catch them.

As I pass down through Matthew Street it’s still busy despite the late hour, I can sense three more Soul Eaters in the City, off towards the Docks, my senses take me there without thinking and within no time I’m at the Dockland area and I hear a scream.

I sprint in the direction of the scream, two Soul Eaters have converged on a helpless old drunkard, they are fighting over the soul, it’s too late to save the old man now but this could be tricky, who ever wins I can bag but the loser will put up a fight.

As they jostle for the soul I get in position ready to ensnare the victor but keeping in the shadows.

Quietly navigating my way, position sorted, now time to wait….. a sudden disruption stops the Soul Eaters fighting, a young couple stumble past in a drunken stupor, laughing at each other. The Soul Eaters turn their attention to them realising now they can have a meal each.

“Run” I yell at the couple as I burst from my hiding place, shocked they stand and stare as the Soul Eaters come at them, “run” I yell again as I spark my machine in to life as lasers fly at the Soul Eaters. The young couple look terrified but run they eventually do, the Soul Eaters turn on me, they are angry and they come at me ferociously.

Right up until the last minute I stand my ground, dive and roll, they swing round, as usual their appearance has altered, this happens when they turn aggressive, they spit and snarl with huge teeth jutting out as they ready themselves to bite through me.

I still remember my first encounter with a Soul Eater, I was left with a massive scar across my right shoulder as the beast attempted to bite through and rip my arm off, I had disturbed them in a hunt and I still wonder how I escaped that day.

Duck, roll, up on my knee’s armed and primed, I have caught the smaller one off guard and manage to catch him, he squeals with evil discontent as he is captured, the larger one spins round, “quickly” I say to myself, this will be tight. He hits me hard just as I move away, knocking me over but not able to bite me, as I round on him another Soul Eater appears but rather than help he starts to feed on the old man.

This was just the distraction I needed as the aggressive bigger Soul Eater looks on angrier at losing his prey than with me, I capture him as he turns away from me, dust myself down and watch as the new comer finishes off the old man, hunger satisfied it slumps back and I finish the job.

That’s Liverpool finished with, time to move on to……..Manchester is calling me now, almost immediately I sense a massive presence of Soul Eaters there, more than any place so far, the number is spinning in my head like a constantly updating scoreboard, 20, 25, 33, 46…..it is an impossible number for me to defeat on my own.

Even London only had 37, that took me three weeks to capture them all, London was my biggest challenge and the second place I went after leaving my home town of Gloucester. It seemed logical to go there after dealing with the nine Soul Eater’s that had spawned in Gloucester and the calling had started then.

I remember my first confrontation with the creatures, I had just finished my dinner for one at the Quay’s and was walking home when I stumbled across an old woman’s body, it was like a husk, devoid of all life, I bent down to check if she was indeed dead when I was bitten on the shoulder.

The pain was agonising and as it came in for the kill a second one appeared to challenge for the meal, I had managed to crawl away, all the while watching them, how do you explain this injury at Accident & Emergency. After being bitten that is when I started to sense and have a feel for them, I thought I was delirious and going to die, but all of a sudden I was ready to go home and start a new mission in life.

I spent nights watching them, spying, making notes, yes I felt guilty watching people die but I needed to know how I could defeat them, what use was I until I had figured that out. Over a weekend I constructed the machine, I was always good at building things and I had ventured out nervously on a chilly Monday night in November to see if it would work.

My senses prickle again, 89……89 Soul Eaters in Manchester, my God, they are converging, they know I’m coming and they have gathered to stop me once and for all. They know it is me that stands between them and every soul in the country, I hear a lorry approaching so I jump to the roadside quickly to hitch a lift.

“Where you heading love ?” asks the driver as the window winds down, I hate being called love but woman and girls have put up with this for years, I stroke my hair back, smile at him and say “Manchester if you’re going that way”, he smiles in return and seems genuine, he’s in his late fifties I would guess but looks like someone’s granddad, “hop in, it’s my next stop” he replies, so hop in I do.

We’ve been driving two minutes when he turns to me and says “dare I ask ?”, I smile at him and reply “for one you wouldn’t believe me and for two you don’t have the time to hear it all”, he shrugs his acceptance, he does not push me at all, I appreciate this, “would you mind if I sleep until we get there ?” I ask politely, “not at all, looks like you could do with it” he replies smiling, he’s right, I’ve not been blessed with a lot of sleep lately.

It seems like only moments have passed when the lorry driver says gently “we are just pulling in love”, again I hate being called love, feels patronising but for some reason it feels natural when he says it, like he cares, I thank him, grab my backpack and jump out of the cab.

Almost immediately my senses are overwhelmed by the Soul Eaters presence, an enormous gathering of them not far away from me and they seem to be getting closer. I have to move quickly, away from people, find somewhere secluded so they can stay away from the population of Manchester. They are moving faster in the early morning twilight, the sun is coming up, there is no way they won’t be seen.

How am I going to beat this many, I have to beat them or it’s game over, I can’t fail, not now, not after all this effort, I find myself absently jogging towards an old industrial estate, perfect place for a battle against this spawn of evil, a couple of Soul Eaters have got to me ahead of the bunch and with teeth exposed they begin the chase.

I sprint down an alley, through a hole in the fence and quickly double back on myself, the Soul Eaters don’t expect this and as I come back round I catch them off guard. I snaffle the first one up and with lightening quick reactions roll and hop through the hole in the fence again, the second one spins round to come after me but I’m ready for him and with a very satisfying pop he is dealt with.

That only leaves the 87 on their way…..no time to dwell on the obvious, a quick look around and rays of sunlight are starting to trickle through the gloom. I jog to the back of the industrial estate and wait by the broken down garages, suddenly an idea comes to me and I pull the machine out from my backpack, quickly I re-calibrate it.

The sun has almost lit up Manchester now, I know the Soul Eater’s are on their way but then I hear the screams, the terrible screams, the Soul Eater’s have stopped and after being seen in the early morning sunlight they decide to cause havoc as they chase and feed on the unsuspecting early morning work travellers.

I find I’m caught between act and wait but after a minutes deliberation that seems like it lasted a lifetime I decide to run towards the chaos and fully embrace the disaster. Within no time I come across the carnage, Soul Eaters everywhere, the screams have become less as I notice dozens of human husks drained of their souls, on pavements, roads, in cars, vans and even a bus, vehicles crashed, some still with the engine running, it looks like a scene from a horror movie.

Some Soul Eaters are feeding, others digesting and a few are cleaning up the last few people alive, hidden under a car I spot a young girl terrified by the horror that is happening in front of her. As much as I want to help her I have to concentrate on destroying the Soul Eater’s for good, I just hope my plan works.

The bus is stuck in the middle of the road with half a dozen or so empty human husks, if I could get them all to follow me in there it might just work, my thoughts are interrupted by screams from the young girl under the car. As I turn the poor girl is being dragged from under the vehicle, some of the Soul Eaters have noticed me now and with evil smiles are making their way over to me.

The poor girl is being fought over by ten or more Soul Eaters and her screams suddenly end as a victor emerges and drains her soul from her, her lifeless body sags to the floor and now it is all attention on me, “COME ON THEN” I yell at them and run to the bus.

The world seems to almost stop, every action happens in super slow motion and though no one will ever realise the sacrifice I’m about to make or what the hell happened here this morning I know I’m ready and for some reason not scared.

Soul Eaters are pouring through the bus door and windows filling the bus with their evil intention, it’s like they sense victory is within their grasp, they get rid of me and the world is theirs but I have other idea’s, the last few stragglers join me in the packed bus and the ambush seems complete but I’m still smiling.

The bus is almost bursting with Soul Eaters, they are right on top of me now, I can sense their sudden confusion, they do not know why I’m not reacting, trying to run or screaming with terror, “okay World, this is for you…” I whisper. A lonely tear trickles down my cheek, not because I’m about to die, not because I won’t be recognised for saving humanity but in the realisation I have left no one behind and no one will miss me.

I click the machine in to gear and pull the trigger slowly, the Soul Eaters start to move in for the kill, the world has slowed again, the time ticks by impossibly sluggish, my life suddenly flashes before my eye’s, this is it….

Time becomes a reality again and I squeeze the trigger fully, I have a sense that the Soul Eaters have just realised my intention but it’s too late for them, the machine in my back pack explodes in to life, the explosion is huge and it sucks the Soul Eaters in as they try to escape the confines of the bus. The roof of the bus lifts off under the pressure of the explosion, my fragile human body bursts to pieces and my last thought is I hope this is not in vain……

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