The Cleanse by Brea Behn

Weeks on the road. Going from place to place, town to town. Trying to find food, water and a place to crumble into sleep without fear of being robbed or worse. It was hard to believe it had been three months since the global EMP.

“Carrie, do you see that?” my brother, Darin asked me looking into the smoke filled sky.

“What is…?”

That’s all I managed before a whistle cut through the air. I could see fire cutting through the smoke before shattering the field we were standing in.

We all backed up instinctively when the mass shuddered and rolled, extinguishing the flames. It began to unroll. White blackened by flames uncurled slowly into a human-like shape. First the legs and arms and then in a final stretch that made my stomach lurch a head unrolled and what was once a face turned our way. We should have run, but we were frozen.

“Are you kind?” it asked in a male voice.

I nodded.

“What are you?” My brother’s new friend Rike asked behind me.

The smoking creature turned his head toward Rike and startled me when he moved so quickly I never even saw it. He began walking around him his head moving in an odd way.

“He is a friend,” I said.

“No friend,” the charred creature said. It touched the gun that Rike now had pointed at him. The gun became red and Rike dropped it shaking his hand swearing.

The creature looked to me and then looked back at Rike a couple of times. Then it crouched in a way that I knew meant it was going to attack.

“No more!” it roared.

It arched its back as if to fold in on itself and then stretched its arms out wide. A light flew from his chest into Rike knocking him to the ground. Darin ran to Rike and fell to the ground beside him. A charred hole in Rike’s chest smoked. He did not move.

“He’s…he’s dead…” Darin stammered.

The creature looked back to me. He tilted his head. “He will not hurt you again.”

Tears flooded my eyes. How did he know? I hugged myself in shame and horror. He was dead because of me. Somehow this creature knew and punished him. It only happened once. He was drunk and now he was dead.

The creature approached my brother who was now on his feet pointing his gun at him.

“Darin, no!” I yelled running to him.

“No Darin. Don’t,” I said and put my hands on his shoulder.

The creature had come to stand so close to my brother the smoke still rolling off of him was burning my eyes. They were nose to charred face evaluating each other.

Suddenly my brother’s mouth fell open. He dropped the gun and to my horror a tear brimmed and fell down his face. I had never seen my brother cry. Not even when mom and dad died in those first horrific days. He turned to look down at me.

“Oh Car, why didn’t you tell me?”

I looked down in shame again. “It was…”

He pulled me into a hug then and we both cried.

“Thank you,” he said to the creature.

The creature bowed his head.

“You will help me,” the creature said. “To punish those who are not kind.”

“Yes,” Darin said without hesitation.

They started walking toward the town we had been heading to before this creature had entered our world.

“Wait! Darin!” I yelled. He did not stop. I could only follow.

By the time we came to the first house, the creature had stopped smoking and the white was solidifying. Repairing itself.

Darin ran into the house. I tried to follow, but the creature held me back. His hand was now cool. After a few minutes Darin came back out hauling a man by his red flannel shirt with a strength I know he did not have before.

Without a word the creature killed him with his strange and horrifying light.

“Darin!” I yelled when he continued on to the next house. He did not answer me. Maybe no longer even heard me. I screamed at him anyway. I screamed until tears drowned out his name.

I realized then my brother was no longer there. He was now an instrument for this creature to use. By the third house the creature no longer looked burnt at all. In fact when he turned his head to the woman he was about to kill, I saw a face there. Blue eyes full of calm justice. A perfect nose and a red full mouth. He was handsome and I felt drawn to him despite myself. I found myself thinking that he was doing good. He was ridding our world of those who were toxic.

He looked away. The deed done. To move on to the next house. I ran then. I ran the opposite way they were going. Neither of them tried to stop me, but I felt a tug of resistance that slowed my steps.

I found a place to hide up high. I was on the town water tower. Below me I could see the creature still moving from house to house. Only now he was not alone. Others had joined him. Had joined in his cleanse. Many of them were children. Those whose kindness had not yet been stripped away.

A light away from town caught my attention. It was fire burning itself to the surface. It crashed into a small pond not far from where I was crouched. I saw another one walk out of the water. It’s white and black surface steaming from the water that had cooled it. Even so far away I sensed it turn toward me. Helpless to resist, I began to climb down the tower to join it. To help cleanse and start over. It was so clear to me now. These creatures were saving us. Saving us from ourselves.

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