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Broken Brush

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Broken Brush by KingKong381

I looked out over the battlefield, taking in the devastation. The scorched craters, the immobilized tanks and the twisted ruins of cathedral-like buildings. My own forces had been unable to hold back the tide of enemy soldiers. They were slowly pushed back until the enemy were within my command post. Now it came down to this. Two warlords facing one another defiantly ready for the outcome of their final combat to be decided.

I took a deep breath and rolled the small white die onto the tabletop.

The cube plummeted downwards impacting the terrain with an audible plastic click. It spun off to the right, skidding past the statuesque figures of warriors and tumbling into one of the craters. I leaned over the edge of the table to get a better look, taking care to avoid crushing any of the plastic figures with my none-too-small girth. I groaned in irritation at the single black dot that stared up at me like an empty eye-socket in the centre of an angular skull. A one.

“Damn.” I sighed. A warm laugh forced me to look up.

“Good game, Brian.” Jonathan smiled at me offering his hand to shake. I took it:

“Yeah, good game.” I said half-heartedly. “Do you always feel so pleased with yourself when you beat a newbie?”

“A newbie?” Jonathan laughed incredulously. “You’ve been collecting for five years.”

“And have played less than that in games since I started.” I replied. Jonathan waved a hand dismissively:

“Whatever... you’re no newbie.” He said. “Now let’s clear the board.”

It has just occurred to me that some of you may have no idea what I’m talking about here and for that you’ll have to forgive me. Sometimes I forget that there is another world outside the hobby. My friend and I had just finished playing a tabletop game of “Warhammer 40,000” more commonly known to players as “40k” or just “Warhammer”.

I’ll try and keep this rundown brief. “40k” is a tabletop sci-fi strategy game that is played using dice, measuring tape and small plastic miniatures of soldiers the players must assemble and paint themselves. I’ve heard it compared to “Dungeons and Dragons” though honestly I couldn’t tell you how similar it is.

I had been slow to discover “40k”. There was a time when it had experienced a small surge of popularity amongst some of my schoolmates but, having few friends, I had not been in on that. Instead I had discovered the various video game adaptations that had been made. I soon fell in love with the background story or “fluff” of this strange twisted vision of the future. By the time I had heeded my friends and begun collecting the miniatures the popularity had died back down and soon enough even my friends gave up on the hobby, leaving me alone collecting and painting models which stood to attention awaiting battles which came all too rarely. I wasn’t lonely, just disappointed that my effort seemed wasted.

That had all changed when I met Jonathan. Jonathan had started a local gaming club several years ago to try and give isolated players like me a chance to play the game we loved. Two weeks before the game I mentioned earlier. I had met Jonathan at my local Games Workshop while buying paints. He had handed me a leaflet for his club and I had leapt at the chance to actually play the game I had started going to the club every weekend (homework permitting) and felt great about it. They didn’t always play games sometimes it was just conversations about the game or the lore or any “Warhammer” related humour we had come across on the internet.

Almost a year after I had started going to the club I got a call from Jonathan that set into motion the series of events which has me writing this now.

“Hello?” I heard Jonathan crackle from the other end of the line. “Brian? You there?”

“Yeah,” I said distractedly as I twisted the top back onto the glue bottle I was using, the phone pressed against my ear with my shoulder.

“Hey, I was just calling to ask if you are interested buying some old models of mine?”

“Sure!” I said excitedly. Jonathan’s models were considered the best built at the club and he rarely offered his old ones to anyone.

“Great.” said Jonathan, sounding relieved. We arranged to meet outside a nearby library.

The models were as well built as I had hoped. They were Space Marines, a few Terminators, a Force Commander and a Tactical Squad. The Commander held a large sword over his head as if about to execute a powerful downward stroke. The others were similarly converted into dramatic postures. Fists raised threateningly, crouching to get better shots, hand gestures to signal other soldiers and so on. They were painted in a bright yellow colour with glowing red eyes in the helmets. They were “Imperial Fists”, but I figured I would re-paint them to fit with my “Scythes Of The Emperor” army. Of course neither paint scheme or posture had an effect on how the models would play but I did like it when my army looked cool.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Why the hell did you post this nerd crap here? This isn’t the right place for it!” Well I’m sorry that I’ve taken this long to get to the point. But the thing is, what with everything that happened afterwards, you guys might find what I’m going to tell you useful or interesting or maybe just a good laugh. I posted this here because maybe someone could have a better idea of what happened than I did. It’s two weeks later and I’m still trying to get to grips with it. So, if you haven’t been so bored you stopped reading then, please, allow me to explain.

As I’ve said the models were exquisite, they certainly made me feel ashamed of my own work. In fact these had to be Jonathan’s best models so far. Why would he sell them? I asked him that and he told me that they had been giving him a “weird feeling”.

He said that he had bought them, unbuilt and still in their packaging from someone on eBay. And had built and painted them himself and that, after he had finished, he left them on his desk in his room. When he had been trying to get to sleep that night he had kept imagining he heard clicks and rustling from his desk and during the day he could not shake the feeling of being watched. After that he had put them in a box and forgotten all about them. He hadn’t shown them to anyone or used them in a game. This had been six months ago, he had accidentally found them while cleaning out his cupboard and all the feelings of unease had come back a thousand times worse than before.

That was why he was selling them, and cheaply too.

His story just seemed too bizarre. I laughed and told him he should have remembered to open a window before using the glue when building. Jonathan smiled weakly at me and we both went our separate ways.

I awoke the following day with a figure swinging a sword down towards me. I cried out, adrenaline waking me faster than I normally would. In desperation I swept my fist in front of me. The model of the Force Commander was sent flying and hit the wall. I laughed as I realized my own stupidity. The model had been on my bedside table and I had been facing it when I woke. The odd thing was that I didn’t remember leaving it there. I shrugged and went over to inspect any damage my over-reaction had caused.

I was lucky. Some of the paint had been scraped but the plastic itself was intact. I put the small soldier to one side with the others I had bought from Jonathan. They would have to wait to be re-painted as I had a pre-existing project (a battle force) in progress. But that would have to wait too, if I didn’t get a move on I’d be late for work. I hurried about getting ready, trying to ignore the strange unease I felt.

That weekend Jonathan didn’t turn up to the meeting of the club. This wasn’t paid any heed, he had missed some meetings before so everything went on as it normally did. Gaming, idle banter, taunts bouncing across the table like artillery shells and the occasional “in-universe” war-cry. It wasn’t until Jonathan had been absent for three weeks we started worrying. It was like he had dropped off the face of the earth. No one had been emailed by him or called or texted. I had been the last person in the group to hear anything and that had just been me buying the models.

That night I decided to stop by his house just to see if he was alright. I parked my car outside and pulled the hood of my jacket up to try and keep myself dry. It didn’t work. The rain was pouring down and running in small rivers at the side of the road. His house only had two floors The ground one with a kitchen and living room and the attic which served as both bedroom and workshop. The street was lit up with a yellow-orange colour by the streetlamps. I walked up to the house. The windows were dark so I expected he would either not be home or asleep.

I was about to knock but before I touched the door I noticed that it was already open. The door was open only by an inch. I called out. No answer.

Every horror movie ever made, every scary book, every awful news report I had ever heard should have told me to run. To get back in my car, go home to my flat, lock the door and call the police. But I didn’t. I was concerned for my friend and I felt that if something terrible had happened the perpetrator wouldn’t hang around for three weeks. If something was wrong the house would probably be deserted. I took a deep breath pushed open the door and stepped into the shadowy maw in front of me.

It did not take very long to find the light switch. I turned it on, I may have been intensely concerned for my friend’s safety but I was not going to add to my own stress by stumbling around in the dark. Everything seemed to be fine. The kitchen was clean with some breakfast dishes beside the sink and on his couch in the living room a copy of the TV Guide lay open showing what was on TV that day three weeks ago. As I climbed the stairs to the attic I stepped on something. I looked down. It was a single broken brush. One of the standard ones that Games Workshop supplied in starter packs The wooden body was splintered in half. I picked up the pieces and pocketed them without thinking.

I reached the door at the top of the stairs and gently pushed it open. The room was black with only a faint orange glow penetrating around the curtains. I reached for the light switch and flipped it. And now I wish I never did.

In the middle of the room Jonathan’s corpse lay on the floor his neck twisted to an unnatural degree, blood dribbling from the corner of his mouth and his eyes gazing up at me without any sign of life. Around him in a wide circle was arrayed his entire collection of “Warhammer” models.

That was all I saw before, with a faint pop, the light went out. I frantically flipped the switch several times. Nothing. The bulb had burst. I looked into the shadows and saw a darker shape at the far end of the room. At first I thought it was just the afterimage of the light. Then it moved and I heard a floorboard creak.

I won’t lie I screamed like a two year old. I stepped backwards (forgetting the stairs) and tumbled down. Bruised but otherwise unhurt, from the bottom of the stairs I heard dragging footsteps somewhere above me. Without stopping to look back I picked myself up and bolted for the door. I ran, howling, into the night. I got into my car and slammed the door behind me so hard that I cracked the glass of the window. I started the engine and as it spluttered into mechanical life, I could taste victory. Before I pulled away I took one last look at the house. In the doorway a human shape was silhouetted only it was not quite human. I can’t quite explain what gave it away but there was something just simply in its presence that reeked of the unnatural.

When I got back to my flat I locked the door behind me and started to cry. I guess it was the shock of finding my friend’s dead body and escaping what I firmly believe killed him. After an hour (though it felt like a century) I had calmed down enough to call the police.

After visiting the scene the police officers visited me at my flat. They told me they had found nothing. No body, no signs of a struggle and no blood. Everything was in its place. The only irregularity was the open door.

Of course they hadn’t found Jonathan alive either and certainly no sign of what attacked him and chased me. I saw their eyes pass over the model glue on my desk several times as they reassured me that, probably, my friend had left town to visit someone. It was clear they thought I had been high but they said nothing. After they had gone I took the broken brush out of my pocket. No. It had happened. Some... monster had killed Jonathan and had then covered its work up. It knew that I knew.

I felt eyes on my back and turned but only saw the models that Jonathan had sold me sitting on the desk. I put them away. I didn’t want to be reminded of what he said about them.

I tried to go back to normal over the next few weeks but my mind kept going back to what I had seen in Jonathan’s house and at home I always felt uneasy. Like an animal in an open field with a hunter’s crosshairs firmly set on it. Every couple of days I found one or two of Jonathan’s models out of the box I’d put them in though I never remembered moving them.

Then almost a month after my encounter with the creature I saw it again.

It must have been the middle of the night or one of the early morning hours which seem to last forever. I woke up from one of the many uncomfortable dreams I had been having since the incident. It was raining, a thunderstorm. It had been the thunder which woke me. I lay on my side looking into the darkness and the dim light of my window.

I lay there gazing into the blackness unable to go back to sleep, worrying if I had locked the door. I realized I had. I was just beginning to drift into unconsciousness when a lightning flash strobed across the room. On my bedside table were all of the models I bought from Jonathan, facing me.

And at the foot of my bed: the creature.

I yelled as the thunder rolled in behind the flash. I grabbed something from my bedside table (a book I think) and hurled it at the place it had been standing. Without hesitation I leapt from my bed to turn on the lights. I couldn’t fight this thing blind. I flipped the switch and... nothing. It was gone. I searched my flat (after arming myself with the cutting pliers from my desk). Nothing. I was most definitely alone. I would have thought I was dreaming if it weren’t for the models on my bedside table.

It had to be the models. Jonathan had said they were creeping him out. He had disappeared after selling them to me. They kept showing up where they shouldn’t. Had the broken brush been a warning? Jonathan had obviously been having the same problem. He thought it was just him though and that he just needed to get rid of them. Whoever had sold them to him had done something to them. I don’t know what: bound a demon, dipped them in the blood of a murder victim dowsed them in a hallucinogenic chemical? I don’t know, and to be honest I don’t want to. All I know is that they did not do it out of goodness.

Well I wouldn’t make the same mistake Jonathan had. I wouldn’t sell the models or give them away. No. For better or worse I was going to make sure it ended here with me. I took a hammer and I smashed them. Over and over I smashed and smashed. To be sure of their complete destruction I burned them, taking care not to breathe in the fumes of melting plastic.

After that I sent messages to all of my friends warning them not to buy their models from the internet (who knows how many times this guy had done this?). I got a few messages back: joking agreements about the unreliability of eBay. I wish they had taken me seriously. But, if someone had sent me a message about “possessed models” being circulated on internet stores at four in the morning, I would have laughed too.

Somehow though I don’t think I have beaten the creature. Just injured it. I didn’t go to work today. Somehow I know it’s going to come after me tonight but I’m not going down without a fight. I’ve gathered some “weapons” (kitchen knives mostly) and have been watching inspiring videos on the internet all day. You know stuff like Aragorn’s speech from “Return of the King”. To get me psyched up, ready to fight.

I’m posting this on the internet so that the monster can’t hide it. That’s the great thing about the internet for getting word out. Nothing is really removed. Even if you click “delete comment” or close an account the information stays out there. There’s no real way to remove it. That way if the creature kills me it won’t be able to hide what has happened. It will be exposed and those who believe my story will be able to hunt it down and put a stop to it.

The sun is going down now. I’m getting nervous. Cracking my knuckles to try and ease the tension but it’s not enough.

I just picked up one of my brushes maybe snapping that will help.

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