Compromised

Three hours.

For three hours, I’ve been chasing the Swindler through deserted neighborhoods, past charred remains of houses and finally into the ruins of what once was an elementary school.

I’m still pissed at myself for missing my initial shot. If I had made it, I wouldn’t have had to chase it here.

And it wouldn’t have killed my hunting partners, Myers and Dixon.

The Swindler ran into the last classroom at the end of the hall on the right, its claws scurrying along the tiled floors. Crouching at the hallway’s only opening, I radio for some backup, hoping my squad isn’t too far away.

Down the hall, the Swindler begins growling and snarling, daring me to come in after it.

Even with my gun, these fuckers are tough to kill one on one. They have a mental power that acts as a defense mechanism, if you allow yourself to be compromised. Somehow they are able to make you see them as something they are not. In other words, they play a trick on your senses.

And your sanity.

If it compromises you and you’re in a confined space, like one of these classrooms, the odds are not in your favor. I’ve seen too many less experienced hunters lose their lives this way.

Heavy boots climbing the stairs echo throughout the derelict building. Relief washes through me as I hear them. The Swindler hears them too and stops thrashing about.

Fleming rounds the corner, weapon drawn.

“Are you okay?” he asks.

I nod and reply, “There’s only one and it’s in the last classroom on the right.”

“Myers and Dixon?”

I shake my head.

Fleming grinds his teeth. “Let’s get this motherfucker.”

Checking to make sure my weapon is loaded, I make my way down the hall with Fleming close behind.

We enter the room.

Old desks with plastic chairs bolted to rusty bars are strewn about the room. A chalkboard covers the entire front of the room, graffiti covering almost every inch of it. Faded posters still hanging on the walls flutter gently as a slight draft cuts through the room.

In the middle of the floor, the Swindler sits cross legged with its face buried in its three fingered hands. Sporadic patches of hair decorate its scabbed and grey skin.

It looks up at Fleming and he lowers his weapon.

“Jesus…” he says. “It’s just a kid…” His voice trails off.

Shit.

The Swindler looks over at me with reflective blue eyes.

For a split second, the Swindler’s face disappears, replaced by that of a boy.

I pull the trigger.

The head explodes spraying blood, bone and grey matter onto the nearby desks and chalkboard. Fleming flinches as the body slumps back and then looks over at me, horror dawning on his face.

“Oh my god, Redcliff,” he says, with his lower lip quivering. “It was just a boy… no older than ten.”

Fleming drops to his knees, letting his weapon fall to the floor. I kneel next to him, placing my hand on his shoulder.

“It’ll be alright,” I say to him. “Everything’s going to be fine.”

The rest of the squad arrives and the medic takes over as he begins to assess Fleming. I stand up, nodding to the group that there’s a body to be burned.

My second-in-command, Gilbert, hands me a canteen of water. The water is cool and refreshing.

“What happened in there?” Gilbert asks.

“Fleming got compromised,” I reply.

“Damn it.”

We leave the classroom and make our way back toward the stairs.

“Even if Fleming is cleared by the medical team,” I say, “his days of hunting are over. He’s too much a liability now.”

“Understood, sir,” Gilbert replies.

Once outside, I take in a deep breath of fresh air and begin to feel better. How many more hunts do I have left in me?

After a few minutes, I watch as the Swindler’s body is dragged outside. It is laid in the middle of the cracked and neglected road. After a few kicks of frustration from my men, the body is lit on fire.

I can still see that brief flash of a boy’s face.

It wasn’t the first time I was almost compromised.

The flames dance and swirl over the corpse.

It probably won’t be the last either.

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright 2016 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved

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About jonolsonauthor

On top of working full time as a Security Checkpoint Coordinator at the Halifax Robert L. Stanfield International Airport and still learning the ropes of being a father, Jon is also a writer of horror and dark fiction. While he writes predominantly about the dark and horrible, he will step out into other areas if the interest is there. Jon is a proud member of Pen of the Damned and is also a member of the Horror Writer’s Association (Affiliate level).

21 responses to “Compromised”

  1. Kim Magennis says :

    Brilliant! Loved the darkness of this!

    Like

  2. Nina D'Arcangela says :

    Interesting… a great story. Should we be swayed to believe that the MC has been compromised and there was no Swindler, or do we believe the plain truth of the words that the other hunter was compromised? I like the version where the MC has already gone bat-shit crazy. Very nicely done, Jon! I love the pace of this piece. 🙂

    Like

    • Lee Andrew Forman says :

      I got the idea while reading that maybe the little boy was real, and that the Swindler was making them see a Swindler to get them to shoot the boy. I love the mystery, not knowing for sure if what the character sees is real or not. I also like the apocalyptic feel with the abandoned school. Awesome story!

      Liked by 1 person

      • jonolsonauthor says :

        Thanks Lee! It’s possible the MC has gotten compromised and that’s why he’s so quick to burn the body. Who knows, maybe his mind has gotten so corrupt from the years spent hunting the Swindlers that his ‘truth’ may not be true at all. Thanks again brother!

        Like

    • jonolsonauthor says :

      Thanks Nina! That’s the scary thing about the human mind. You can make yourself see only what you want to see and if the MC has been hunting Swindlers for a long time, who knows what he is truly seeing. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. adeleulnais says :

    I loved this story. The swindler is a great character and really who knows what the human mind will see when faced with one.

    Like

  4. aspend says :

    Nice

    Like

  5. Joseph Pinto says :

    Love these Swindlers, Jon! Interesting trying to figure out what they are…or aren’t. Your story was perfectly paced & swept me up into the turmoil from the start -great writing! 🙂

    Like

  6. Magenta Nero says :

    you created a great tension in this story, and I like the sensitivity you had for the squad guys’ emotional state. Great story, thanks Jon.

    Like

    • jonolsonauthor says :

      Thanks Magenta! I can only imagine how tough it would be to keep ones emotions in check during combat, let alone when the enemy has the ability to manipulate what they actually see.

      Like

  7. Angel with dirty wings says :

    From awdw , via Nika – it’s X files meets Edage of tomorrow! Great writting dude! Stamps foot we want more though! Awdw & Nika X from the crazy Frenchman – bravo! Tony

    Like

  8. jonolsonauthor says :

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    COMPROMISED by Pen of the Damned’s Jon Olson

    Like

  9. zkullis says :

    Hey Jon! Late comment my brother, but it’s not because I didn’t enjoy it! I looked at it in much the same way as Nina. It had me wondering, especially since this was in a school, just how much difference in the shooter’s mind is there between this fantastically macabre tale of yours and the horrific reality of school shootings?

    Like was mentioned earlier, the human mind is powerful, to our betterment, or to our ruin.

    Like

    • jonolsonauthor says :

      No worries about tardiness Big Zack! The mind is definitely powerful but at the same time fragile. Once it’s broken, does it ever fully repair itself? Or does it just reinforce what is already in place? As for school shootings, something definitely has to be ‘off’ for the shooter to see everyone else as targets as opposed to people.
      Thanks for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed, brother!

      Like

  10. Thomas Brown says :

    Brilliant, Jon. You drew me into the story in a matter of lines. I felt like I was part of the hunt, moving through the school.

    The psychological element was a great add. I found myself questioning whether I would have pulled the trigger or not, because even as a reader I wasn’t sure if it was the monster, or if it really was a boy sitting in the classroom!

    Like

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  1. Compromised | angelwithdirtywingsblog - April 30, 2016

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