Ballast ran down the back stairs as fast as he could without tangling his feet into one another. He moved all 236 pounds on his five foot eight frame like the Refrigerator Perry he used to dream he once was and spun off things that weren’t there, glasses akimbo as he ran passes in his head from hiding spot to spot until he got to the lip of the stairs that slid down into the pit that was the basement of the old building.
“Clearly, i did not think this shit through-” he reprimanded himself as every scary thing that could be thought about basements slammed against his closed eyes as he gingerly bent down on his knees and peeked his head down into the dark lower hallway.
“What are you doing?” Viancourt whispered from the shadows below, scaring the shit out of him. Cursing, Ballast tripped down the last flight of stairs onto the floor and landed with a bang, Fairman’s gun going off in and ripping through his pants pocket. The bullet bounced off the floor and missed his foot by a centimeter then whizzed past Viancourt’s shoulder, singeing the hair above his ear before it slammed into the wall.
“What the hell are you trying to-” Viancourt roared as he dusted angrily at his hair and tufts of it that had been burnt came off under his fingers. Gape-mouthed, he and Ballast slowly turned to stare up at the glowing bullet that lodged in the wall just about the lockers.
“Fairman-?” Viancourt barked, a bit shaken.
“Yeah.” Ballast whispered.
“Where?” Viancourt snapped.
“Third Floor. Maan~All Hell is trying to-” Ballast started.
“You don’t even know the half of it, kid-” Viancourt muttered. Only then did Ballast notice the strange sound that seemed to be pulsing against the foundations of the place.
“What is that noise?” Ballast whispered.
Viancourt silently motioned for Ballast to follow him down the dark hallway. On one side of the hall was Viancourt’s office, a space it was rumored no one had entered and gotten out of without having gangland-style beat-in V marks on their foreheads from his ring to show for it. It was wedged between two of the four furnaces that would’ve heated the always cold building if anything had worked correctly within the school since like forever. Across from the school’s point of no return was the physical education supply room, strung up between the other two dead furnaces. They formed a cold, foundational x in the basement of the school, marking where spiritual and memorial treasures of the highest and lowest kinds had been laid up for eons.
Ballast’s breath caught as Viancourt slowed and motioned him over to the storeroom instead of the office and pushed the door open. Oppressive heat pushed against thick glass walls full of fire on the left and right as the two entered the room from the frigid hall.
“Wait-These are on-?All of them?” Ballast asked, confused.
“…Protectively, Yes.” Viancourt muttered.
“But it’s always cold and-” Ballast started and stopped himself.
Viancourt sighed. “Time to all the way up, kid.” he muttered and quietly motioned towards the iron gated windows cut into the bit of wall between the two furnaces. They were the only ones on that side of the lower level that had not been bricked in.
“Oh my god-” Ballast whispered. He reeled as a slight fog cleared from the lenses of his glasses.
Demons snarled and crawled on their bellies through the carnage of destroyed vehicles and doomed bodies. Unearthly howls erupted from the center of broken chests as packs of devils ripped at rigormortised limbs of humans unable to all the way die as they were torn apart. Suddenly, a pocket of demons reared up and slammed into big grates bolted to the brick walls over vents, shaking the foundations of the old building.
“Wait! That’s what that always was?” Ballast shrieked.”I’ve been here since fourth grade!You teachers always said the building was just settling!”
“More like refusing to settle~” Viancourt chuckled, then realized that due to the current situation it was utterly inappropriate to do so by the terrified look on Ballast’s face. “Just-just watch, kid. Watch-”
Emboldened by the sway of the building, The clatch of demons regrouped and ran into the school again. At that exact moment, the flames in the double boilers boomed and sent out sulphuric blasts of fire that clouded around the devils and yanked them up against the iron points that ran up and down the grated strips that protected the vents, slashing them into chunks that got suctioned into the pits of the boiler. Ballast and Viancourt watched the demons shriek and writhe in pits of fire, protected by nothing but the love of god and the glass.
“You said Fairman’s on Third?” Viancourt muttered absently as he wandered off into a storage unit, filling duffel bags as all the spirit left in Ballast grappled with what he saw.
“Yeah,”Ballast mumbled back, completely thunderstuck between the demonic hunks feeding the fire in his face he had not even felt until now and the apocalyptic scene that was jumping off on the other side of the windows and walls of the good ground that was their decrepit, old school building. “Life is but a dream, man…” Ballast whispered.
Viancourt walked past Ballast then paused.” You said a mouthful there, kid.”
He looked around the territory classified as his dominion as a small seventh grader with jaundice-toned skin, reddish frizzy hair and steely,watery eyes peeked around the door frame. A faint v bruise was noticeable just below the slight widow’s peak of her hairline. Viancourt nodded and tossed the kid a steel bat that she immediately began to swing violently through the air.
“Come on, kid. Let’s go.” Viancourt called out to Ballast who was so stunned by the ferocity of the little girl’s rough practice swings that he refused to make a move. Viancourt whistled. She glared over her shoulder, stopped, and angrily bid Ballast pass.
“What the hell is she doing? and Where are we going?” Ballast whispered as he came up to Viancourt and got tossed two duffels.
“She…” Viancourt grinned, “is practicing. In case any thing breaks through…and we… are going to arm the rest of the Youngers LIKE her. They’ve had it rougher.They’re more attuned to the shit that’s trying to break through. And are even crazier than you all to have made it this far as small as they were when it hit-” Viancourt paused.”Kid- stop asking questions- Let’s go.”
Ballast shrugged his shoulders and started to follow, but something made him stop. He looked back at the scrawny, tough little redbone girl who had started back with the bat and saw that for all her obvious rage, at the center of her firey eyes there was a little kid all the same, defiant, but shaky. He watched as with each swing angry tears flung themselves from her eyes and sprays of sweat popped wheelies off of her sinewy little arms from the exertion.
“What?” Viancourt asked, realizing Ballast had stopped.
“You got anything stronger than that bat for her? Telling you- today…she might need it.” Ballast muttered.
“Okay-give her Fairman’s gloc. Her aim’s better than yours anyway.” Viancourt says.
“Hey, kid-” Ballast called out. She scowled but wouldn’t look through her aura of actual sweat and tears away from her imagined target.”What’s her name?” he whispered as he watched her rough mane of rusty hair slam through space with each violent swing.
“Gloria Byllie Jean Arachne. They tried to call her ‘Glow Worm’ once. Mean-assed kids. Coloring, watery eyes, nervously sweaty. The tears made the bullies bold. Her little ass was all over them, though. Ambidexterous. She kinda went Global-seemed to come from everywhere, fought like a pissed off billy goat. Hits like a beast, too.” Viancourt muttered, almost proudly.
“Yo, Arachne!” Ballast called out and got ignored for a second time.
“Globyl” Viancourt barked. The little batter looked up. Viancourt ripped the gun from Ballast’s pants and overhanded to her.
“What the Hell! you dont just throw a-” Ballast starts. “She’s a kid!” He fussed.
“What the hell? This is Cleveland, kid.”Viancourt chuckled.
The little girl roughly caught the gloc with her left hand like it was a fastball, meanly handling the steel bat with her right. Teeny, twelve year old Gloria Byllie Jean Arachne turned the weapon over, peering at it. She looked over at Ballast, cocked it, then grinned darkly as she rammed it down the back of her pants and went back to swinging in the rain of her own making without missing a beat, which scared the shit out of Ballast.
Viancourt pulled Ballast out the storeroom and bolted the door from the outside.
“She’ll be fine.Trust me. Let’s go.”