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Old Fanfiction - War of the Worlds - Texture of Darkness - Part 2/2

Texture of Darkness

Written on December 14, 1989

Part 2:

A sinister calm penetrated the room like a thick film of noxious gas; desensitizing Suzanne from the horrid reality of where she was and that her ex-husband was the cause of all the pain. The figures then exited noiselessly, moving past them without uttering a word, the one man stopping only momentarily to return the key to Cash.

"What have they done? Why won't you tell me?!" Suzanne yelled. "What has happened to you?"

"Let's see for ourselves." Cash finally said, taking a morbid pleasure from her distress.

The two of them walked over to the cell. Suzanne's apprehension tightened around her throat until she felt like she would be asphyxiated. Cash opened the door again, pushed her through, forcefully and locked it back behind her. She was too transfixed by what she had seen to notice that her moment of freedom was over. The slam of the door awakened her from her sleepwalking long enough to turn and see Cash smiling at her.

"I'll be back, Suzanne." Cash said. "The show is about to begin."

He turned and walked up the stairs, disappearing with his long, alien shadow.

Suzanne looked at lronhorse. He sat against the wall, eyes closed, but his face creased with pain. His breathing was deep and ragged. She willed her legs to move to him and then she knelt down next to him.

“Paul?" Suzanne called out, "Paul, can you hear me?"

“Uh, huh ... “ lronhorse uttered with difficulty.

"God, I'm so sorry. I don't know what I can do."

lronhorse opened his eyes to look into hers and incredibly he smiled at her, a crooked and shaky one, but one that had substance behind it. However, as quickly as it had appeared, it disappeared; replaced with the stoic calm that the team had come to depend on as a sign of his

control over a seemingly uncontrollable situation.

"Suzanne, I don't know what they injected into me, or what it will make me say or do, but whatever it is, I'm sorry.”

"You don't have to do that. Let me help you to the cot."

Suzanne lifted Ironhorse with his help and sat him down on the cot.

"Paul, what are we going to do?" Suzanne said, not hiding the fear in her voice.

"I don't know, but at least Harrison, Norton and Debi will be long gone and safe no matter what happens."

“Debi ... What if I never --"

Ironhorse reached for Suzanne's hand and finding it trembling, squeezed it gently in his; his strength transferring to her.

"You'll be fine."

"How can you say that? I think Cash has become an alien."

"What did he say?"

"Just that he'd be back and that the show was about to begin."

"I think it has something to do with the stuff they injected into me. I've seen it before."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm a guinea pig, Suzanne. Whatever the substance, they are either going to threaten to kill me with it unless you talk or threaten you with it. I wish I knew which. My instincts tell me that it's the latter.”

"What did you mean by having gone through this before?"

"In Vietnam,” Ironhorse uttered almost reverently, "At least there you knew what you were getting, but I have no idea what to expect from the aliens."

"How can you be so calm?"

"All we can do is wait...I just..." Ironhorse trailed off.


"I pray to God that it's not something to make me …”

"Into an alien?" Suzanne finished with a deadly kind of certainty in her voice.

lronhorse could only nod his head in reply.

* * * *

Several hours had passed and the nervousness that filled the cell grew oppressive. Suzanne watched lronhorse, trying to see him clinically and anticipate the reactions that might be coming,

but there was no way that she could predict what might happen. He laid on the cot, asleep and seemingly calm, but suddenly that calm was shattered. 

She heard a scream issue from him that could've broken glass; a wrenching scream of anguish. She was locked in fear, unable to free herself and go to his side. She watched his face contort in awful pain and yet she couldn't move, couldn't breathe. Her fear of what he might've become overriding her humanitarian side. She watched as the screaming transformed into ragged breathing. Finally, she decided that this was her friend and that no matter what was happening to him, he was a human being and needed her help. She took incremental steps that seemed to make the journey to the cot longer and interminable; a long stretch to the unknown that awaited her on the other side of the room.

"Suzanne?!" Ironhorse finally uttered in a choked call. "Stay ... where you are ... "

"But -”

“That's ... an .... "

"An order, I know." Suzanne finished with a flash of humor, following orders and stopping in her tracks. "What's happening to you? Can you tell me clinically what is happening to you?"

"P... pain... Lots of...p ... pain ... AII ... all ... over," Ironhorse said in between gasps.

"What kind of pain?"

lronhorse didn't respond, but only moaned then suddenly he stopped. Suzanne was gripped with fear. She was afraid of so many scenarios. She was afraid that he would stop breathing and be dead, or worse yet, that he would rise from the bed, some kind of mock Frankenstein and not know her and kill her with his bare hands.

"Jimmy ... " lronhorse said quietly.


"Jimmy, you got to be quiet or the V.C.'II find you ... They can hear your boots in the mud ... " lronhorse said incoherently.

Suzanne listened and realized that lronhorse was in a different world now. He was in Vietnam with someone named Jimmy.

"Jimmy? You there?"

“Yes," was all Suzanne could think of to respond at that moment.

Ironhorse's face contorted again, but not in physical pain.

"NOOO!" He yelled. "Not you, too, Jimmy .... Damn those V.C.!!! Why aren't I dead like the rest of you? What the hell is God trying to spare me for?"

Ironhorse was wracked with crying; piteous sobs of a young man forced into being a hardened soldier, but unable to fight the little boy that he still was inside.

Suzanne didn't feel anymore fear and rushed over to him to soothe the little boy who was crying

over a dead buddy.

"Paul, it's okay," She said. "You're not in Vietnam anymore."

Ironhorse's sobs slowed and Suzanne felt him grab her hand and squeeze tightly.

"Nurse, am I going to die?" He asked as he looked at Suzanne, seeing her as someone else.

"No, you're not going to die."

He turned away.

"What's wrong?"

"I want to die.”

"You don't mean that.”

"Yes, I do ... No, I ... " Iron horse's voice suddenly changed and shifted in texture and tone.

He turned to face Suzanne and possessed a look of recognition. His face, pale even in the minimal light, drawn and colored in shadows darker than in the cell itself. His breathing still labored, but steadied.

“S ... Suzanne?" He whispered.

"Yes, thank God, you're all right."

He licked his dry lips.

"Help me up."

"I don't think that you should move."

"I need to get up," he said with difficulty.

Despite her urgings not to, he lifted himself to a sitting position with her help, grimacing with every move.

"Do you remember anything?"

“Unfortunately, this drug doesn't help you forget. I remember too much."

"Perhaps it's a hallucinogenic?"

"I don't know ...I..." Confusion cracked into the lines of weariness on his face. ''I'm afraid, Suzanne."

She had never heard him utter the word "afraid" in the two years that they had spent together. It was a word she never expected to hear him say.

"So am I."

"I haven't been this afraid since I was a nineteen year old newbie in Vietnam. Everything is out of my control ...I don't like to be out of control. I don't know what to expect. I'm not afraid for me...I'm afraid that if I don't control this, I'll hurt you and if I become an alien, I'll hurt the others, hurt Debi or worse."

"Neither of us does, but I know you're going to fight this and win. You won't hurt me. I know that. We'll get out of here somehow."

"Isn't that supposed to be my line?" Ironhorse joked.

Suzanne smiled, but it was to be short-lived. Suddenly, lronhorse's face changed as if in an almost Jekyll and Hyde transformation from the gentle composure of Paul lronhorse into a stranger Suzanne didn't know. The pain began again and she had surmised that pain preceded the hallucinations. She backed away slowly, wanting to comfort, but protecting herself first.

"You're an alien!" lronhorse yelled.

Suzanne saw the rage in his eyes and backed away further, but she knew that she had nowhere to go.

"Paul, listen to me, I'm not an alien. It's Suzanne."

"No, you've taken over her body, but you're not her!" He yelled angrily. "Damn you monsters! I never told her and now it's over.”

Suzanne was puzzled by his words.

"Paul, what are you talking about?"

"I won't let you go on with her!"

“Paul, God, please, wake up!"

lronhorse lunged at her and tried to grip her throat, but freezing, unable to curl his fingers. She saw Paul fighting the effects, fighting the change.

“Paul, I’m Suzanne."

“You may have her memories, her body, but you don't have her soul; the essence that makes us human and the emotions that make us love and ... "

Suzanne watched as she saw an inner struggle within him. She was afraid of his hatred for the aliens, but she saw in his eyes his humanity battling against the hatred and winning.

"Argh!!" He yelled and turned away.

He hurled himself into the wall and then collapsed against it. Suzanne tried to catch him and lead him back to the bed, but she did so with difficulty. She laid him back down on it. She couldn't understand the drug's reactions and she didn't know if lronhorse could withstand any more episodes. She stroked his face and just stared at the uncertainty in it.

"Very touching," said a voice that startled her.

“Cash ... " Suzanne said with surprise

She rose and her anger bubbled to the surface and she ran to the cell door.

“You have become one of them!"

"No more than your beloved, Colonel," Cash said with distaste and a touch of jealousy.

"Paul isn't an alien!" Suzanne denied.

"Not yet, but that drug will convert him. A few more shots and he will become an alien without the messy melding and so will I. He will betray you like I have betrayed you."

lronhorse's worst fear was coming true and it devastated Suzanne.

"What do you want?"

"To recruit you. I think the Colonel would appreciate the analogy."

Cash signaled behind him and the same three men came to the door and she backed away. Cash opened the door to have them enter. Two of them walked toward Suzanne to keep her back as the other one injected Ironhorse again.

"Why don't you just finish the job and inject me too?" Suzanne said, watching helplessly again.

"Too much to handle. The drug's effects, as you have seen, are violent and unpredictable. One at a time is more efficient and you'll learn what to expect when your turn comes," Cash smiled unnaturally.

"How many injections did it take to rob you of your humanity?"

"It's different with everyone."

"Guess you had a head start," Suzanne spat out as the three men exited.

"Just remember, Suzie, when you're like me, you are going to betray those that you love, including Debi. I must've loved you to have betrayed you."

"You don't know the meaning of the word."

Suddenly there was stirring from lronhorse.

"I'll leave you two alone." Cash said sarcastically and left.

Suzanne went to the cot.

"Paul?" She queried, hoping for a familiar reply.

"Tired, Suzanne." Ironhorse said, his voice a mere whisper and swallowing the dryness in his throat.

"I know." Suzanne said weakly. "It'll be over soon."

Suzanne sat on the floor by Ironhorse's cot, feeling defeated and lost. She never thought that the day would come so soon when she would be at the mercy of the aliens. She had envisioned a triumphant end for the team and the Earth. She had to think that way to keep on going on those days when failure was its strongest. Though it had never been as strong as it was now, she couldn't muster the strength to rationalize anymore and the fact that Cash had been the one to deal the final blow was even harder to accept. She remembered the Cash that she had married and tried to separate that man with the alien mutant that held her hostage with lronhorse. 

During their marriage, she had witnessed the darker, focused, rabid nature that the aliens had preyed upon. It had eventually drove them apart. She turned to lronhorse and understood what the drug did. It somehow zeroed in on the evil in all humans and fed it with horrible delusions and disillusions; those feelings that won out in others, like criminals, but that were contained by the strength of the psyches in still others.

"Paul? Can you hear me?" Suzanne said, tired herself.

lronhorse could only moan in reply. She had hoped that he would hear her this one time.

"If you can't make it. ... if you can't control ... " Suzanne trailed off. "I won't stop you."

Ironhorse turned and his hand reached out to her and she grasped it tightly.

"I won't let that happen," He said with a strength that renewed her a little.

She shook her head in amazement. How could he continue to be optimistic?



"Thank you...for giving me that choice...for absolving me...”

He suddenly stiffened and closed his eyes tightly. Suzanne stiffened with him. She was being worn down with each episode so she could only imagine what he was going through. Again, soft moans issued from him, but they were decreasing with each episode. He then relaxed and she awaited the new flashback, but it didn't come. She checked his pulse, afraid that he was dead as she always feared with each one. She was then startled by Ironhorse grabbing her hand and pulling it away from him. He squeezed it in his grip and pain surged through her fingers and up her arm. He rose, still weak from his previous ordeals, but in his eyes was a steely seriousness

that frightened her. She then calmed. She knew that lronhorse's promise was unrealistic, still she let it fill her with some hope, but seeing the look on his face, she knew that even he couldn't fight and win all of the battles. The transformation was not unexpected and she almost welcomed it. He wouldn't be feeling anymore pain and he was no longer the Ironhorse she knew. Perhaps a momentary attack of madness would end it for her as well, if not, she struggled to accept that her fate would soon be to follow lronhorse into the abyss of alien psychology. She stared into his eyes and smiled.

"Good bye, Paul," she said.

The new lronhorse just looked at her as if not recognizing the name.

"You'll soon say 'hello' to him again," Cash smiled.

Cash's appearances were becoming ghostlike in their quiet, but she had also been preoccupied with other thoughts.

"It's your turn, Suzie," Cash said as he opened the door again. "The Colonel has another step to complete.”

"How did you --?"

“We've been monitoring you since you got here. He's ready for the next transformation.”

Ironhorse let Suzanne go and turned almost robotically toward the door as if knowing where he had to go. It knotted her stomach to watch him walk away like that.

lronhorse walked past the door and then around Cash so that he was in back of him. Cash began to swing the door closed when Ironhorse's stiff stance disappeared. He pushed him hard against the cell door, Cash's balance already vulnerable as he bent to turn the key in the lock.

"Suzanne, grab him!" He yelled.

She was momentarily stunned, but recovered to comply. She grabbed for his shirt and pulled it hard until his face slammed into the barred door, causing him to drop the key. Ironhorse reached into his pockets and got the gun he kept in one of them. He then held it in his hands momentarily wondering what to do. 

Though Cash was an alien on one level, he was still Suzanne's ex-husband and Debi's father. Cash freed himself from the hold Suzanne had on him by shoving her away from him through the bars. He turned and with full force anger, punched lronhorse, careening him to the ground, the grip on the gun broken, flying across the room. Suzanne looked down and spotted the key on the ground. She grabbed for it and manipulated it into the lock. Ironhorse and Cash struggled, throwing blow after blow at each other, but Ironhorse's weakened state was to his disadvantage. He struggled against the blows, but was feeling unconsciousness filter slowly into his vision. Cash struck him again with such force that Ironhorse fell lifeless on the ground. He then walked over to retrieve the gun, but when he turned, he saw Suzanne pointing it at him, shaking uncontrollably.

“You're not going to shoot me, Suzie," Cash taunted.

"Stop, Cash!" Suzanne warned.

"I'm your husband and Debi's father," Cash said.

"You were my husband and you were barely a father to Debi. Now, you're even less those things."

"You can't forget that though, can you, Suzie?”

Suzanne looked into the face that once belonged to a man she had loved and she wavered. lronhorse propped himself up to a sitting position and heard what Cash was saying to Suzanne and her weakening under the seduction of his words.

"Leave her alone, McCullough!" lronhorse yelled hoarsely, hoping to break Suzanne's indecision.

Cash turned back to lronhorse.

"You could've had immortal life, but instead, Suzanne will watch you lose it."

“Your definition of life is not what I want to live."

Cash lunged toward him, but a gunshot rattled the air and silence replaced it.

Cash had a look of astonishment as he returned to Suzanne and walked over to her. She pulled the trigger once more and he lurched back and fell lifeless. Though he didn't melt away like an alien would, she knew that everything that was Cash had died before she had shot him. She dropped the gun and covered her face with her trembling hands and sobbed into them.

lronhorse, bruised and battered, crawled over to where Suzanne was crying.

"I'm sorry, Suzanne."

When he was close enough, she hugged him against her so hard that he grimaced from the soreness she was reactivating by the embrace.

“I almost blew it, Paul. He almost killed you."

"No, Suzanne, you didn't. Killing doesn't come easy to you even against the aliens and I hope that it never will. I'd give anything to feel that way again," lronhorse said, almost wistfully, "It was also Cash. Not just an alien in a stranger's body. You loved him."

"I've hated him for so long, but I still couldn't...”

"That's because you care no matter what. This is something you're not going to get over right away and you shouldn't try to, but I'll be there for you if you ever need to talk."

"Thanks," Suzanne said, then her expression took on a doubtful look. "Wait a minute, how did you --"

"The drug?"

Suzanne nodded.

"It's like Cash said, its effects are different with each person, I guess, and I just flooded my mind with other thoughts to block out the nightmarish ones and stay in control. A form of self-hypnosis I learned, though don't tell Harrison that. I'll never live it down. There was no guarantee it would work, but I had to try it ."

"What kind of other thoughts?" Suzanne asked, almost flirtatiously.

"We've got to get out of here," lronhorse evaded. "I suspect the other aliens have left for safe cover and we're never going to find them. I suggest that we report in to Harrison before he begins shredding all of my reports."

Suzanne glared at lronhorse then smiled at him. She helped him up slowly, lronhorse moaning and groaning from the battered bones and muscles that had been assaulted by the drug and by Cash.

"Paul?" Suzanne started.


"Nothing." She said as they walked up the stairs and into the dark of night.

A full moon cast their silhouettes in the whiteness of the snow.

FIN - Thanks for reading!

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This is such a great conclusion! I loved the angst, and the uncertainty. But, I was glad that Paul was able to fight the drug. I have a feeling that thoughts of Suzanne were what saved him, lol. :D Wonderful work as always!

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