Unnatural Selection - A Fanzine
By Bonnie Rutledge
Copyright 1998

     He had to walk out.   

      Stefan stepped unapologetically into the cool night air. He heard the gallery's metal back door slam and lock behind him, Helen's faint angry footsteps echoing as she stormed away. Stefan shrugged. It was simply the same argument over and over. He was through with shouting in circles. 

     He walked down the street half a block, hugging his coat tightly to his body and burying his chin deeply within the folds of the knit scarf banding his throat. His face was shielded by a hat, its brim tilted down toward his nose. Stefan unlocked his car and settled in the driver's seat as he turned the sedan's ignition. The radio blared to life, raging with heavy guitar music. Stefan grimaced and tipped his hat back for a better view of the dark streets, then pulled his car into traffic.

     At the first light, he flipped the radio to AM and adjusted the dial, banishing the blaring strings from his airwaves. A station identification notice was playing, informing Stefan that the channel was CERK 490 MHz, and he was listening to 'Nightwatch with the Nightcrawler.' He let out a deep breath, then allowed his gloved fingers to fall away from the tuner as the traffic light turned green. Anything but screaming metal was bound to improve his frustrated mood.

    A fluid voice drifted from the speakers, snaking hypnotically around his thoughts.

                "Do you feel like an outcast? Do you wander lost, 
               isolated  from the souls that  surround you? Such 
               solitude. There  is an invisible wall  that separates 
               you from the rest of the world. Cut adrift from the 
               minute, day to day communion of normal creatures, 
               you  stand burdened,  suffocating within  what you 
               see as an impenetrable barrier...Tell me: is your pain 
               really necessary?"

     Stefan braked as another light turned red, then clenched his gloved hands around the steering wheel. He squeezed his eyes shut, his thoughts dancing around the Nightcrawler's words, old arguments, and a life filled with being the odd-man-out. 

     He scowled in annoyance and reached out to change the channel once more. Stefan's movement was violently interrupted by a screech of tires. He heard the collision first, his awareness shifting to a stop-motion kaleidoscope of sensations. His ears prickled at the sounds: metal buckling and twisting, the steel seeming to scream at the energy of impact as it bent. One noise resembled an inflating balloon. A sickening crack followed, then shattering glass.

     Stefan's nervous system took over as the crash racket echoed in his ears. He had tensed when the car was jarred forward, instinctively alarmed. His foot had automatically pressed the brake pedal to the floor, causing the sedan's tires to scratch along the asphalt in protest. His head slammed against the steering wheel. The force of the blow made him dizzy at first. While he was still coming to his senses, the air bag had been triggered into action.

     It exploded in his face. Stefan had been leaning forward, and the force of the inflating restraint struck his jaw in a brutal right hook. His fingers had clutched the steering wheel tightly from the first moment of impact. Inertia jerked his body forward, then the air bag crammed him back into his seat. The push and pull twisted Stefan's right arm at an awkward angle, then it snapped.

     Initially, he simply felt numb. Seconds passed before the searing pain bolted through his arm, neck and jaw, causing Stefan to expel a rough groan. His eyes drifted closed as he fell unconscious. The background noise shifted from a violent cacophony of destruction to a peaceful quiet, broken only by the soothing tones of the voice murmuring over the radio.

               "...You consider yourself an obscene anomaly, 
              branded foul by your impossible quest to become 
              ordinary. What insanity drives this compulsion? You
              are more, so much more than the common man..."

     Stefan twitched slightly, the Nightcrawler broadcast gradually penetrating his stupor.  The scent of gasoline tickled his nostrils. I should move, Stephan thought. 

     He heard soft footsteps, then someone tried the handle of the car door. It was locked. Stefan had automatically latched them as he entered his car because of the late hour. Now his left hand flailed to locate the switch that would free him.

     Whoever was outside wasn't going to wait. The driver's side window was struck with a tire jack, causing the glass to crumble inward. Stefan whimpered as the shards hit him, the smaller fragments catching in the hair on his face. A dark hand reached inside the car to search for the lock switch. There was a click, and the door was roughly yanked open. The stranger seized Stefan by the lapels of his coat then dragged him free of the car, uncaring of any injuries the movement might exacerbate. 

     Stefan's back and arm pulsed in angry spasms as his feet stumbled over the asphalt. He stiffened his left arm, trying to hold back the stranger. "It hurts!"

     He was ignored. Stefan's gaze drifted over his right arm which hung uselessly at his side. The material of his coat was damp with blood. It appeared that his broken arm had pierced the skin. His entire body felt like one unending chain of abrasions, bruises and cuts.

     Stefan let his eyes dart around his surroundings. He couldn't see the features of the man holding him as a burst of dizziness overwhelmed him. The street was deserted of cars except for his own and the van that had plowed into his rear bumper. 

     The realization hit him swiftly. He tried to shove the other man away with his left arm without success. "I'll have your damn license!" he slurred. "You'll pay!"

     The stranger's answer was cold. "Shut up, freak."

     Stefan started to struggle in earnest. The stranger kicked his feet out from underneath him, causing Stefan to black out momentarily as he landed on his injured arm. Again, he woke at the sound of the Nightcrawler still lecturing over the radio.

               "...What you are defies their comprehension...
              you are ever evolved...immaculate..."

     Stefan's eyes fluttered open. The man standing over him was clothed entirely in black, his features finally in clear view. Stefan gasped in disbelief as he processed the other driver's appearance. His face was close to a mirror image of Stefan's own. "You're like me!" he exclaimed as he scrambled to his feet.

     The other man laughed harshly. "No...If I was like you, I'd kill myself rather than be such a malformed brute. You're a beast. Nothing but an unprincipled animal. How dare you ruin my future, lording your sideshow face over everyone as though it makes you some kind of saint? You're nothing." The stranger raised one hand menacingly, showing Stefan that he still had the tire jack in his grip. "That's why I'm going to put you out of your misery." He struck at Stefan's head with the metal tool.

     Stefan managed to throw up his good arm as he tilted his head to the side to shield himself. The blow landed on his shoulder, knocking him back into the car. Stefan saw his attacker approach him calmly, then bend down to again pull him out of the sedan. In a desperate rage, Stefan fought back, scratching at the other man's face and kicking out at his stomach.

     The stranger grunted, cursed under his breath, then brought one prong of the jack down against Stefan's right shin. Up and down, up and down, and the man struck twice more in the left thigh and abdomen, violently knocking the air out of his chest. Stefan began to cough uncontrollably.

     His attacker used this advantage to pull him out of the car, then shoved him in the direction of an alley just off the sidewalk, between the corner building and the next shop. Stefan never had a chance to catch his breath before the blow came that cracked his skull. The attacker used the jack several more times after Stefan collapsed to the pavement, metal striking flesh in muffled, pulpy blows.

     There was a disturbance in the darkest part of the alley. The attacker looked up in alarm at the crackle of newspaper and the clatter of aluminum trash cans. A sleepy figure stumbled forward, a homeless man woken from his slumber. "What tha'...?"

     The attacker turned and sprinted for his van as the homeless man began to shout. He threw the vehicle into reverse, backed away from the ruined rear end of Stefan's sedan, then ran a red light as he sped away. The homeless man rushed out of the darkness and shuffled down the street as he yelled for the police or a doctor.

     The body and the car lay ravaged, abandoned at the intersection. The scene was oddly still and strangely quiet. Such sights of violence fit better with the earlier screaming and shouts. Instead, there was the radio. The Nightcrawler broadcast played on, despite the unavailability of any present audience who could listen. The words fell on deaf ears.

               "There are no monstrosities, only fear and cowardice. 
              Only the ignorant seek to crush what they do not 
              understand. You're smarter than that, my children...
              Aren't you?"

End of Prologue

'Unnatural Selection' is a fanzine written to benefit the Kickstart the Knight ad campaign. All profits will go toward placing advertisements promoting Forever Knight in editions of TV Guide. This is a 92-page novella set in the second season, featuring artwork by Ankhnita and Bonnie Rutledge. To order, send check or money order in US funds for $14 to:

                                   Bonnie Rutledge
                                  5931 Fitzwilliams Lane
                                  Charlotte, NC 28270

You must include a return address and e-mail (so you can be notified when your order is received and shipped). US orders will be shipped by first class mail. All others will be shipped via airmail. 30 advance orders are needed to start production, the first zines will ship within a week of that date.

This information and a peek at the zine cover are available on the web at http://www.geocities.com/~br1035/zine.htm

Questions can be sent to br1035@ix.netcom.com

Thanks for your support!


    Source: geocities.com/televisioncity/5077

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