Every Storm Breaks - Dystopian Thriller
Water chipped away at the stain in the rusty basin. It ran brown towards the plug hole, like old blood, stinking of metal from the ancient pipework. Jan scrubbed his hands under the faucet, grating his skin with a scouring brush. Over and over. Again and again. But nothing helped. His skin was contaminated. Infested with decay. There was something chilling—a shadow or an absence—lingering in his peripheral vision. Watching. Waiting. He scrubbed and scrubbed. More soap. More water. He noticed his bleeding hands were trembling and forced himself to stop. An emaciated reflection appeared in the shaving mirror above the sink. He lashed around. The bathroom was empty. When he looked at the mirror again he could make out a familiarity in the face. It was him. It had always been him. His head started throbbing. He knew what he had done, even if he could not comprehend it.
The pain worsened. He turned, hitting his legs on the frame of a bed. His feet scuffed against the broken floorboards as he started to pace. This place—this isolated, rotting house—put him on edge. It was too dirty, too broken, too hidden. He was miles away from London and his old life. And he could never go back. It was too late now, everything that was had gone. He'd lost it all. But he'd accepted that when he'd agreed to leave. His home was to be this crumbling cottage in the middle of nowhere, stripped of everything but the barest essentials: water, electricity, dust. The thumping in his head was getting louder, more demanding.
But it wasn't in his head at all. Someone was hammering on the door. He froze. Behind him, wedged in the corner, was a body. There was nowhere to hide it. Nowhere to hide himself. The hammering stopped and the lock clicked open. Jan swallowed. A man filled the entranceway. He was older than Jan, with a face corroded by malice. Behind him was a teenage girl. Jan found her far more unsettling than her thug companion. He pushed himself to remember their names: Derek and Marie. They were an unlikely pair, drawn together by their only commonality: their powers. They were both Reachers. Just like the other. Jan was afraid of them and what their presence awakened inside of him.
Reachers were outlawed in England. If discovered, they were locked away; with good reason too. Reachers were violent and dangerous. They were cunning and fixated on bringing down society. And here he was with two of them, standing as though they all belonged together. He didn't understand their powers, or why a part of him revelled in being around them. He was an accomplished surgeon. This wasn't supposed to be his life. And yet he fitted into it so well. So terribly, terribly well.
If they were surprised to see the dead girl in the corner, they said nothing. Derek cast his eyes over the room with some irritation, but made to clean up the mess without complaint. He manhandled the body as though it were nothing more than a sack of refuse. Perhaps that's what it was to him. Jan wanted to cry out—to demand he show some respect to the poor departed girl—until he realised he had been the one who killed her.
As Derek left, Marie made a show of sighing in disappointment. Despite being the youngest, she held authority over her companion and seemed to have little tolerance for both him and Jan. She stuffed her hands in her pockets and stared up at Jan. “Sol wants to see you.”
Jan backed away. He didn't like these people. He didn't trust them, and he didn't understand why they had brought him from London to this place. He was dangerous and yet they kept him close, hidden away in a little room in the middle of nowhere, letting him get away with murder. They thrust him into a community full of young, promiscuous women, knowing he couldn't help himself. And when the inevitable happened they cleaned up his mess, like he was some kind of pet prone to accidents.
How many had died now? He couldn't recall the early ones, back when it was all too unreal. They were hidden from him, segmented from his rational, human side. It was only his final night in S'aven that he remembered clearly. Meeting with one of the most powerful women in the south and feeling nothing but the desperate urge to take her life. He'd killed her and so many others that night, the trail of bodies blocking his escape out of her lavish compound. It was then he realised he was responsible for the other murders, but he couldn't turn himself in. He had to run, and Sol had already made contact with him, offering him salvation.
Unable to object, Jan followed Marie out of the room, feeling the mediocre power emanating from her fragile body. They were like the other inside of him, but they were all weaker. He wondered if they knew that and, if so, why they weren't afraid of him.
The rest of the cottage was much like his room, desolate but liveable. He had arrived the day before in a stolen ambulance, finding the cottage a hub for a travelling community. From their group he had met the now-deceased girl. He wondered what they would do to him, knowing he had killed one of their own, and he braced himself for conflict as his foot struck the hallway.
The front door was wide open, exposing another humid day in the surrounding wasteland. But no collection of mobile homes that Jan could see. There was only one vehicle parked up, the rest memorialised by the imprints in the dirt surrounding the house. The remaining vehicle was the largest of the original group: a trailer housing the community's leader, Sol. It was Sol who had sniffed Jan out, tracing him through his breadcrumb trail of dead prostitutes. And he had offered Jan an alternative to the path he was on: Join us and we'll help you.
He'd been a fool to listen.