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Museum of the Apocalypse

by Kit Queen 5 months ago in Mystery
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Part of the A Tale of Two Brothers Universe

Original cover art by me

The Apocalypse happened impossibly quick.

There was no viral outbreak. There was no nuclear war, no gradual climate change, and no incredible world-ending natural disaster.

The bringers of the Apocalypse came from across the stars—from another universe, even. The walls of our reality opened as easy as doors to them, and when they opened those doors, they brought with them unbelievable horrors, such that Pandora herself would feel no more guilt: gnashing teeth and skinless flesh, beings of pure shadow, pure element, and pure chaos.

Each of these interstellar travelers were nothing more than human, but they possessed power beyond belief. Even beyond comprehension. Any one of them could face down entire armies and emerge from the chaos with nothing but a smirk and dirtied boots.

So how was this world-ending feat of chaos over in a week? No one really knows. Everyone has stories, of course, but not a soul that witnessed the final feat that prevented the destruction of reality itself ended up surviving it. Those involved—those that were more than witnesses, the heroes that saved us all–never gave details. And after a brief adjustment period, humans did what they do best.

They moved on. Memorials that immortalized the names of the dead were erected in no time. At the site of the last battle, a museum telling the story popped up. Soon, the wounds healed, and it became a sad memory. With enough time, it became something people talked about in casual conversation: “where were you when the apocalypse happened?”

Cassie Reynolds was only a child when it happened. Her family was among the hundreds of thousands of people nearly destroyed by the final battle. It stuck with her as she grew up. And now, as a young history major, she took up a job as a docent at the Apocalyptic Memorial Museum in Dallas, Texas.

On one especially slow day, the museum was quiet. She was reading a book for class, trying to pass the time, when a newcomer walked through the doors.

Thinking back on it, Cassie couldn’t remember any defining features about this guy. He was only a couple inches taller than her, with a lean frame tucked into a tattered black hoodie and jeans. One of his dirty sneakers was untied. His hood covered most of his black hair, and a pair of dark sunglasses hid his eyes. She could see a splash of freckles on his cheeks.

“Afternoon sir!” She greeted him, closed her book, and made her way around the front desk. “Welcome to the Apocalyptic Memorial Museum! Have you visited us before?”

“I actually haven’t…” He spoke softly, but his voice was warm. “Mind showing me around?”

“That’s what I’m here for!” Cassie said brightly, grabbing a guidebook from the front desk. “You’re in luck, we just finished expanding our exhibit on the Order of Chaos—the people who started the Apocalypse!”

“I heard about that. My husband said you guys got some… new artifacts or something?”

“We did!” Cassie confirmed as she led him down the hall.

Their first exhibit room held wax figure replicas of the beasts that attacked the streets, as well as testimonials and pictures from people who were there when the Apocalypse began.

“Those things were creepy as fuck.” There was an ironic chuckle in his voice. “Pardon my French.”

Cassie shook her head. “I completely agree. I was attacked by one of those during that week.” She pointed at the model of the skinless fleshy Horror. It looked like a cross between a saber-toothed cat and a hellhound with no skin—horrible gnashing teeth bared in a snarl, with jowls that stretched to an impossible length.

“You seem really young to remember it, how old were you when it happened?”

“Only seven…” Cassie lost herself in the memory. It was over thirteen years ago now, when she was staring down the real Flesh Horror. It had not only decided that she was going to be its next meal, but also that it wanted to play with her first; like it wanted to feed off her fear just as much as it wanted to feed off her flesh.

“That must have been horrible. How did you get away?”

Cassie smiled. “I was saved.”

She led him to the next part of the exhibit. This one held statues of the Heroes that stopped the Apocalypse, their stories, their backgrounds, and then a giant mural on the wall of all of them in mid-battle.

“Oh yeah, all these guys,” the Newcomer said, idly strolling by the displays and reading each one. “Leiah Reese, AKA Supernova…”

“They say she used her levitation powers to save more than a hundred people in the final battle,” Cassie recited. “She and Max Gabriel—” she pointed to the hero’s statue next to Supernova’s, “AKA Bungee, they headed up the rescue and evacuation team during the final battle. Their team saved hundreds of people.”

The Newcomer was quiet as she continued down the line, talking about all the people that saved the general populace thirteen years ago. Her extensive knowledge about this subject was her proudest achievement—in her own opinion, at least. The Newcomer didn’t say much, only gave Cassie small acknowledgements that he was still listening and interested in the information she was spouting at him.

“Good grief, you got me talking!” She laughed as they reached the last two statues. “I’m sorry, I don’t usually word vomit this much.”

“No, no, don’t worry,” he assured her. “I’m listening, I promise. But, I do have one question—didn’t the heroes also have villains helping them?”

Cassie wavered as she geared up an explanation. “I wouldn’t exactly use the word 'villain'—there were some former criminals on their team, but they’ve since had their records expunged for saving the world. The most notable, is…”

They came to a stop at the final statue. It was a pair of identical twins, standing hand-in-hand, with their hands raised between them. One of them was dressed like a classic superhero, with a caped bodysuit, a tactical shield on his free arm, and a domino mask on his face. The other had on a mask and a Victorian-style tailcoat with a gun strapped to each leg, a throwing knife on each arm, and a pair of katana in an ‘x’ on his back.

“Right, the twins…” The Newcomer mumbled as he came to a stop. “One of ‘em’s still an active-duty hero, right?”

“Daiki Miyari.” Cassie gestured to the twin holding the shield. “Known as the hero Valiant.”

“And the other one?”

“His brother Itsuko was… well, like I said, one of the most notable former criminals that fought with this team of heroes. It was revealed that he was the infamous international assassin known as The White Rabbit.” There was a long pause of silence between them as Cassie looked up at the statue. A smile eased its way onto her face.

“He was the one who saved me, you know.”

“Him?” She could feel the Newcomer’s eyes on her, but she didn’t look at him.

“Yeah, I’ll never forget it.” She said, reverent. “They say he never had powers before, even though his twin brother did… but…”

She could still see the explosion of green light in the back of her mind. The Flesh Horror that attacked her vaporized in a single second, and her hero stood just beyond: black curls flowing like tiny waves, eyes greener than spring grass, and the same shade of green undulating in waves of energy between his fingers. He’d knelt and asked—

“You okay, kid?”

The Newcomer’s voice startled her out of her reminiscing, and she looked over at him. For a moment, something twisted in her gut. Something about the way he said that felt odd to her, but she only smiled and kept going.

“Sorry! I lost track of what I was saying. ”

“You said no one thought he had powers?”

“But he did!” She snapped back into docent mode, stepping beside the statue and plaque to show him an enhanced photo of The White Rabbit, taken mid-battle: he was suspended in mid-air, hands extended to the side and fingers curled as tendrils of green light flew out from him. “They say that he discovered he had powers that very week!”

“Seems a little dramatic.” The Newcomer snorted.

“And then there’s this,” Cassie continued. She gestured to the next photo. “This picture was donated by the hero Valiant himself.”

It was another of Itsuko, but this time there was another in the frame: a man with a blonde mohawk and a scar over his right eye and cheek. Eyes like warm Tuscan chocolate were intensely locked on Itsuko. He had his arms wrapped around Itsuko’s waist, and Itsuko in turn had his hands on his lover’s jaw and neck. The two didn’t seem to be aware a picture was being taken—in fact, they didn’t seem to realize the world around them existed. Instead, they were gazing deep into each other’s eyes.

“Why that one?” The Newcomer was almost talking to himself in a soft grumble.

“When he submitted the picture, Valiant told the museum that he thought it best described Itsuko’s relationship with this man—Yaken, he was called.” Cassie tilted her head, her nose wrinkling. “We don’t have much information on him. All we know is that he was originally part of the Order of Chaos, but he betrayed them to help Itsuko.”

“Can’t imagine why,” The Newcomer joked. He stood there for a second, staring at the picture, then asked, “How come you can’t just ask about him? Valiant gave you the photo, why not just ask him?”

“Valiant won’t talk about his brother, or Yaken,” Cassie said sadly. “After the Apocalypse was averted… the two disappeared. It’s believed that they perished in the final battle.”

“Damned shame…” He sounded rather nonchalant about that. He paused for a bit, and when Cassie looked at him, he was typing something on his phone. When he sent whatever text message she assumed he was typing, he looked back up at her and asked: “What about this weirdo Lovecraftian Cult, huh? I wanna see that new exhibit.”

That feeling in her gut returned, and Cassie started to get suspicious. She had no reason to be, but the feeling only grew as she led him to the final hall. She talked only briefly about some of the accounts of the final battle, as they passed video loops and pictures and testimonials about what people saw that day. The Newcomer, however, seemed to be rushing her through this last room.

On the far wall was what he was looking for: every shred of information they had on the Order of Chaos. Up until recently, all they had was secondary information they’d gathered after the fact from eyewitnesses or those that were involved in the fight. But finally, after years upon years of sifting through everything extracted from the site, they found something substantial.

“'The Book of Darkness,'” The Newcomer read dramatically. “Really?”

The book was sitting beneath a solid inch of bulletproof glass, but Cassie had no idea why anyone would want to steal it. It only looked like a simple tome bound in black leather—it wasn’t even that big, either—but just looking at it made her skin crawl. It was like the book itself wanted to menace her just for regarding it.

“I know, it sounds super cheesy.” Cassie crossed her arms. “It’s their Unholy Bible. The Order’s entire religion came from this thing. The guy that was supposed to verify it couldn’t even open it; they say he ended up in the nuthouse just from touching it.”

“Why put it on display?” Again, the Newcomer didn’t seem to be talking to her.

For the first time since he walked in, Cassie took a long look at him. That feeling of suspicion was still growing.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.”

“Mm? Oh, name’s Ian.” Before she could ask anything else of him, he turned away from the book and clapped Cassie on the shoulder. “You know, you really are the best museum tour lady—”

“Docent.”

“Docent, that’s the word! I learned a whole lot since I came here, but I totally have to go.”

Now that was suspicious. “So soon? We spent more time talking about the Flesh Horror—you said you wanted to see the new exhibit.”

“And now I have seen it, and I am thoroughly creeped out by it, and I have to tell my husband not to send me any more touring recommendations. Thank you so very much—um…?”

“Cassie.” She said flatly.

“Cassie! Thank you very much, you are wonderful, chase your dreams.” With one more pat on her shoulder, he walked very quickly out of the exhibit. The only thing left of him mere seconds later was the echo of the front door closing behind him.

Cassie stood there for several minutes after he left, dumbfounded. She didn’t know what to make of this weird interaction. She wouldn’t even know how to start to explain it to her manager. But… nothing really happened. She just showed this weird guy in sunglasses and a hoodie around the museum, then he left. She did nothing wrong, it was time to just… move along. Especially since she was now alone with that creepy ass book.

The rest of the day ticked away too slowly. She finished several chapters of her book before the timer on her smartwatch beeped, telling her it was time to start closing up shop. Her manager had punched out hours ago, leaving her with the keys.

Closing was easy enough on her own—even if it was supremely creepy to shut the lights off in the last exhibit with that book sitting in there now. She put one of her earbuds in, hoping the music would counter the ominous feeling that seemed timed to her pulse.

She was just sweeping through the Heroes exhibit when she heard a door open. She froze.

“Gemma?” She called out, thinking that maybe her manager had forgotten something and come back for it. The doors were supposed to be locked—and those new magnetic locks were nothing to sneeze at—so that was the only person it could’ve been.

Still, as she headed toward the source of the noise, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. “It’s just in your head,” she quietly tried to convince herself. Yet, as she passed the dark exhibit, the shadows seemed to be pulling her in. Calling to her.

Something moved.

Her sneakers squeaked on the polished stone floor as she halted. She stood there, frozen, trying to ignore the urge to peer into the darkness. It had to be her imagination. A trick of the light, a reflection, her own shadow caught in the corner of her eye—that’s all it could have been.

“Okay Gemma, if that’s you, it’s not funny!” She called out.

There was no answer. She closed her eyes, and after a breath, she turned to step into the dark exhibit. No problem, the light switch was just on the pillar in the middle of the room. Five steps and she’d be there. It was pointless, of course, but it would at least let her get on with her night with more peace of mind. After another deep breath to brace herself, she strode forward confidently. One, two, three, four—

On the fifth step, she was interrupted. There was a sharp pain in her neck, and she squeaked to a stop once more. When her hand went to the source of the pain, it came back with something about as long as her pinky finger and rather sharp. In the dim light, she could’ve sworn it looked like a dart.

Her head swam. What little she could see began to blur, even as she tried to blink her eyes clear. She tried to reach for the light switch, but her inner ear betrayed her and she fell off-balance. Before she could hit the floor, she felt a pair of warm, gloved hands on the back of her head and shoulders. The person that caught her lowered her down slowly, and Cassie tried desperately to focus on their face.

“Ge…mma?” She asked.

But it wasn’t Gemma. A familiar pair of striking green eyes gazed down at her, practically glowing. Black curls cascaded from under a white hood, and a silver mask glinted faintly, covering the lower half of the person’s face.

“Sorry kid,” came a voice she swore she’d heard before, though distorted through the mask. “You’ll be fine. Thanks for talking to me today.”

Her world went black.

A sigh reverberated through his mask as the Intruder stood from the floor. He didn’t want to have to involve the kid—she was sweet, she was good at her job, and she was full of life. He remembered a time before he was worn down and depressed. Man, those were the days.

Ah, well. Back to work.

“Stupid fucking book,” he mumbled as he picked up the damned Book of Darkness. The glass case sat on the floor, undamaged. He held the sinister thing between two fingers like it was a dirty pair of underpants and dropped it into a backpack. From the pack, he removed a book that looked exactly like it and set it on the display. The glass went back on easily.

“There.” In one fluid motion, he zipped the backpack shut and threw it on. “Putting the literal Deepest Evil Instruction Manual on display like it’s a friggin’ vintage Bible or something… Dumbasses.”

As he headed for the back door, he looked back over his shoulder at the poor girl laying on the floor. In a split-second decision, he pulled the nearest fire alarm before he high tailed it into the back parking lot.

Alarms screamed as his boots pounded the pavement. There was an unmarked sedan idling at the back of the lot. The driver’s side door flew open, and a man in a black hoodie and a blonde mohawk jumped out. Eyes like warm cocoa narrowed in annoyance.

“What the hell did you do?!”

“The docent girl was still there, I told you we should’ve waited another hour! I had to put her down!” The intruder threw himself into the passenger’s seat. His partner jumped back into the driver’s seat and slammed the door before he hit the gas.

“Tell me you didn’t kill her.”

“Just a harmless tranq. She’ll sleep for an hour or so. Fire Department will take care of her.”

“Did you get it?”

“Sure fuckin’ did.” The intruder gripped onto the grab handle as they ripped through the streets. “Hopefully that duplicate Eddie cooked up is good enough to fool them. Tell me we can finally get rid of this thing.”

“Yep.” A sharp-toothed grin spread across the driver’s face. “I’m ready to be rid of it, Itsu. The sooner that part of my life is over, the better.”

Itsuko grinned as he quickly leaned over to plant a loving kiss on his husband’s lips. “You know that stupid picture that Dai took of us on our first Christmas? The sappy one?”

“Yeah? What about it?”

“He sent it to the museum.”

“God damnit—I knew I should’ve smashed that camera.”

Mystery

About the author

Kit Queen

Kit | 25 | They/Them

Just your friendly neighborhood Enby Storyteller, building palaces out of paragraphs and creating fantasies in living color. My stories are the fire that gives me life, and I want to share that light with the world.

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