“Okay, I’m done.” Amoc stated. “Any more and I’m going to face plant the coffee table.”
“But we’re about to find out the Baron’s dark secret!” Simon pleaded.
The sun had gone down hours ago, but their nightly tradition was still going. The game for the evening was an RPG from almost ten years before the apocalypse, made by an obscure Polish developer Amoc had never heard of. He found the story surprisingly compelling. The main character was not entirely human, mutated by magic and alchemy, and lived in a world filled with multiple species and monsters, some of which were intelligent. Amoc wondered if there had actually been non-humans on the development team. Some of the references were so close to the truth.
“Yeah, but you didn’t have to fight a horde this morning.” Amoc replied. “The Baron can wait.”
Simon sighed. It seemed he had been quite enjoying the game’s story as well.
“Right, well, I suppose we do have a lot of prep work to do tomorrow.” Simon conceded.
“I do want to find out what happens, though.” Amoc offered.
“Think Logan would let us take it?” Simon asked, referring to the game console.
“I can ask in the morning.” Amoc replied. “This was just gathering dust until we showed up. But right now I just need to fall down, preferably on something soft.”
With that, they shut the system down and headed up the stairs out of the basement. At the top of the stairs they emerged into an expansive field of cleanly cut grass that stretched a good distance to the east and west. Roads busy with cars and buses flanked the north and south sides of their exit at a much closer distance.
“So what do you want to do first?” Simon asked as they stepped out into the sunlight.
Simon had a camera in hand, and was gesturing to the many buildings and monuments in the near distance.
“Lincoln is down that way.” Simon began, pointing west. “Washington’s monument is that giant pillar over there. Of course the White House isn’t far, the Capitol Building is the other way, and there’s all the museums in every direction.”
“Could just walk for a bit.” Amoc offered.
“Lincoln it is.” Simon offered, setting off in the direction he had pointed towards.
It was a lovely Spring day. Not too hot, and the skies were clear. A lot of people were out enjoying the good weather. But something tugged at the back of Amoc’s mind, and it wasn’t the general unease of being out in public.
“Simon, how did we get here?” Amoc asked.
“Huh?” Simon was confused. “We just got off the Metro, how do you think we got here? Oh! Stop for a second!”
Simon walked back up to Amoc and faced east, holding the camera out at arm’s length and motioning for Amoc to do the same. He obliged, and Simon took a photo of the two of them. Amoc looked behind them and realized the Washington Monument was now very prominent in the distance.
“Nice!” Simon stated, reviewing the photo.
“Do you remember where we got on the Metro?” Amoc pressed the question. “Because I don’t.”
Simon looked puzzled, and didn’t immediately answer.
“Now that you mention it, I don’t either.” Simon finally replied. “I don’t even remember getting off the train.”
“We’re Dreamwalking.” Amoc suddenly realized. “We never left the basement.”
“Oh.. fuck.” The realization came to Simon as well. “We were awake. This is like Albany again!”
“No, this isn’t.” Amoc continued. “Albany happened because of how close The Veil was. I never had that feeling at Logan’s compound.”
“That’s not better.” Simon wasn’t happy with that assessment.
“I don’t know.” Amoc knew the answer wasn’t helpful. “But this is different. This is willful. We’re been brought here for a reason.”
“You keep saying that.” Simon began. “The Veil is willful. You’ve said that a lot over the last few months, but I’ve never really been clear on what that means. Is it alive? Is it intelligent?”
“Yes to both.” Amoc explained. “But not like us. We’re beings of flesh and blood, and it… isn’t. I really don’t know how else to explain it to someone that can’t sense it.”
“Can it be reasoned with?” Simon asked.
“No.” Amoc’s response was absolute. “Many have tried. Most came back without a result. Some never came back at all.”
“So what do we do?”
“We wait for it to show us what it wants to show us.”
“Fuck, I know what it that is.” Simon surmised, looking around. “This is Washington D.C. Ground zero. The apocalypse is about to start.”
It made sense. The Paris dream came back to Amoc, as well as Simon’s constant dreaming of all the different viewpoints of how the apocalypse began. This was it, the finale. Had they figured something out that The Veil was now latching on to? Or was this The Veil’s end goal all along?
As if on cue, the screams began.
The Metro entrance they had come from was suddenly pouring out undead, confirming Simon’s theory. The number of bodies seemed improbable. More screams were heard from the north, and from the southeast. The horde that had emerged from the Metro fell upon the living, and began killing anything that got in their way. Those killed began reanimating.
The apocalypse had started.
Amoc committed to the change, shifting to the war form. There was no point hiding in the dream, and this was a willful dream. He was determined to give them as much time as needed to find out what The Veil wanted to say. Amoc bodily picked up Simon as if he was gathering up a child, and set off at a run… away from the horde.
“What are you doing?” Simon asked from over Amoc’s shoulder.
“Buying time.” Amoc growled, focused on heading for the most fortified looking building.
More screams, some now directed at the Garou carrying a human in broad daylight, but more and more were coming from all directions. The horde was killing faster, and growing. It would be minutes before it overran the immediate area.
The building Amoc approached was large and made of heavy-looking stone. Most importantly there was only one entrance, with sturdy-looking doors. Amoc barged through the doors, to a new cacophony of screaming. People that had been looking outside at the unfolding horror scattered in all directions when they realized a new horror had made it inside. Amoc placed Simon back down while the humans around them screamed, pointed, and began running.
Amoc suddenly heard two loud pops, and felt a stinging sensation in his chest. He looked over to see a lone armed guard aiming a pistol at him, smoke rising from the barrel. Amoc closed the distance before the guard could take another shot, slamming them into the wall.
“I am not your enemy.” Amoc growled, muzzle inches from the guard’s face.
The guard dropped the gun.
“Whoa!” Simon exclaimed, rushing over. “Honest mistake, they’ve clearly never met a werewolf before! Please don’t kill them!”
It was a dream, he wouldn’t be killing anyone, not for real, but this was a distraction. Amoc let the guard go, and they scrambled away. Aside from some humans trying not to be seen on the upper levels, they now largely had the atrium to themselves. The gunshot wounds in Amoc’s chest began closing, the bullets being forced out by the process, clinking down on the tile. Amoc remarked at how real the pain felt. This was unlike any Dreamwalking experience he had been through before.
“Now what?” Simon asked.
Amoc moved to the information desk, dug a clawed hand into it, and ripped it from its moorings on the floor. Pushing aside metal detectors and screening tables, he placed it in front of the doors, creating an improvised blockade, just in time for banging to be heard on the exterior door. The banging was immediately followed by a crash as the exterior doors likely collapsed, and the massive desk jumped. Amoc put his considerable weight against it, and it held firm.
“Talk to me, buddy, what’s the plan here?” Simon pleaded.
The truth was Amoc was making this up as he went. These were the first moments of the apocalypse, being presented to them in a detail he had never experienced Dreamwalking. There was a reason this was happening, and it had to be about finding out what transpired in those first minutes.
“To learn.” Amoc focused on clear speech. “We’re here to witness this. To see what happened.”
Simon held up the camera.
“I got pictures while you were carrying me. They were flooding out of the Metro station. The other street they were coming down next to this building, I think there’s another Metro station up there. They came from underground.”
That was big. Possibly why they were here. Whatever had started this, it had begun underground. Washington D.C. was a maze of underground tunnels; Metro, government, and otherwise.
The desk jumped again, and Amoc held it in place, but it wasn’t going to hold forever.
“Is that it?” Simon asked. “Is that what we were supposed to see? Not going to lie, I’d like to wake up now.”
“Maybe.” Amoc replied. “But we’re still here.”
The desk jumped again, harder this time, and was joined by the sound of wood cracking. It wasn’t going to be long now.
“Fuck, I really don’t want to go out like this again.” Simon was likely remembering the Paris dream.
That had not been pleasant. Amoc didn’t want that either, but he wasn’t sure if there was any choice in the matter. They had no observer on the outside, no one to pull them out. This would end when The Veil willed it.
“Draki is out there somewhere.” Simon mused, likely trying to distract himself.
Another jump, more cracking. One more hit was likely all it could take.
“He blames himself.” Amoc stated.
“What, for this?” Simon was incredulous. “Who the hell could have seen this coming?”
“It’s what they do.” Amoc continued. “He thinks he failed. It’s personal.”
“So that’s why he’s so dead set on coming with us.” Simon realized.
“Well we’re all getting more answers soon.” Simon again held up the camera. “We know where to start looking.”
The desk jumped one last time and collapsed. Amoc found himself falling backwards, and landed hard, his vision momentarily blurring as his head impacted a solid floor. It was a good thing Garou skulls were hard to crack, even in human form.
In human form!
Amoc looked down to see his human self. He was back in the basement, on the floor next to the sofa. The dream must have started the moment he stood up, and ended right where it started. Leaving the dream in one form to return to another was quite jarring. Amoc had only experienced it a few times, and It explained why he was now sprawled out on the floor.
“Fuck!” Simon exclaimed. “Are you okay?”
“Just… disoriented.” Amoc tried to explain while sitting up.
“What the hell was that?” Simon was probably just as disoriented, but had the advantage of being seated on the sofa.
“That was…” Amoc began, but then noticed the object Simon was holding was not a controller. “Simon… you're still holding the camera!”
“Holy shit!” Simon exclaimed again, noticing the camera for the first time. “That’s not possible!”
Simon quickly moved to drop it on the coffee table.
“No.” Amoc stated, staring at the manifested camera. “No it definitely should not be.”