Children of Doom
by Alex S. Johnson
(An original story inspired by the song by St. Vitus, words and music by Dave Chandler)
They were young, so very young, when they passed through the spacegate.
Infants. Not physically or even intellectually, but emotionally–in their hearts and vision, the ways they had learned to respond to the world they came from.
It was a world built on pain. On tender openness met with fear, wrath, the strangest hostility. And this from the people who they called family. Mom and Dad. Aunt and Uncle. Sister and Brother.
Good citizens. Loyal friends. Faithful companions. But the children knew another side. The faces that smiled in public and bared their teeth in soundproofed privacy. A different kind of smile.
They were frozen behind their eyes, their faces made masks harder than jade. And when they wept–and they did weep–it was alone, knuckles pressed to hairless cheeks, clutching plush animals long ago outgrown, their only succor the blessed day their lives on earth would come to an end, or they managed to escape the present hell for the streets and alleyways where even more terrible predators lay in wait for them.
This further fate some of them knew, and then they prayed again. For death.
Their souls were snared in the sickly web of flashbulbs, in photographic images that stole the brilliance within them, leaving only husks of flesh.
Yet all that changed upon translation.
Walls of green marble, etched with the silver script of the arachnid gods, yawned to receive them.
They found themselves in an enormous vaulted gallery, the ceiling lost even to the memory of those that had built it.
Guards in uniforms made of blinding light stood on either side of a shattered throne black as the dreams of obsidian.
A bodiless voice spoke from the heart of that darkness, reaching into their minds. The voice knew of their secret sorrow, what they had endured and suffered. The things they had done and seen and been forced to witness, rituals of sickness carried out in suburban garages and sound-proofed chambers by Boy Scout troop leaders and pastors and priests, presidents of the local Chamber of Commerce, pillars of their communities. Children’s entertainers, clowns hawking paper cones stuffed with poisoned cotton candy.
The voice knew their anguish, and in some sinister way they couldn’t yet fathom, suffered and delighted in it simultaneously.
As they stood before the blackened throne, the guards swept wings like jagged lightning around and over them, and for the first time in their lives, they felt peace.
For so long they had identified themselves with those who had hurt them. They didn’t dare feel the anger that was their right. But the kiss of the guardians’ wings bestowed something deeper than anger. And more frightening.
It was a cold feeling.
A feeling beyond mere hate or the will to vengeance.
Slowly they changed. Transformed. Were cloaked in an armor stronger than titanium.
The gates of chased silver opened once more in the cold marble wall.
Their return went unnoticed at first, simply because their bodies remained on earth, seemingly animated. But their souls no longer lived there.
The kids came in the dead of night.
With scythes of carved bone, blades of mirrors, luminous swords.
With steel and fire and howling weapons hewed from stars and blood and nightmare.
Wreaking an apocalypse unknown and unseen by the vast majority, those who had honored and protected the children in their care.
They took the predators to the places of private agony. The cork-lined rooms with walls of reinforced concrete. The basements where hung flesh-crusted chains, bricks soaked with suffocated screams.
Slowly, quietly, with infinite care, they returned the gifts of horror.
At first the adults pleaded. Cajoled. They knew they had done wrong, but they could change their ways. Life would be different from now on.
They were so very, very sorry for their crimes.
Until they couldn’t plea, or cajole, or speak through slashed throats, eye sockets weeping blood.
No remorse, no repentance, from the Children of Doom. They were deaf to the death rattle, the awful, high-pitched, animal screams.
At some level, they seemed to enjoy their work.
“‘O Oysters,’ said the Carpenter,
‘You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.”
–Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass