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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Dark · #1957826
There's darkness on the prairie.
         “It’s been over four days now man …” Chris whined, his voice a whisper that was barely audible above Kelly’s restless sleep.

         “I know …” Tom muttered. He gazed down at Kelly’s frail form lying fetal on the small bed and wondered if she’d ever be the same. Kelly Langdon, a blue-eyed angel with a perpetual smile whose cheerfulness could melt even the coldest of hearts. Even that bastion of misery, Mr. Franklin, had returned her smile when she came into his History class.

         That was then. Four days ago it had only taken a few seconds to harvest hopelessness within those bright eyes. It was hard to admit it, but he truly believed that Kelly would never smile again.

         “So? What are we gonna do?” Chris’s anxious tone worried Tom. A lot. It was always the same questions. He shook his head for the umpteenth time and sighed.


         He’d told Chris as much as he could remember about what had happened over and over, and he still didn’t get it. Or maybe he couldn’t. Some people could wrap themselves up all snug and tight in the warmth of their own ignorance when they wanted to, but Chris had gone even further than that. He’d woven that quilt into a cocoon of naïve machismo after first hearing their story, all hell-bent on charging the fort. Jessica had set him straight about that idea on the first night. At least part of her had.

         Tom recalled that night better than any other in the eighteen years that he’d been out of the womb and in far more detail than he ever wanted to.

         Chris had been busy getting more beer from the Pit downstairs. Named after its appearance before the Thompson’s had remodeled it, the Pit had been the joke of the county over the past year. During the summer, it had finally been converted into a security basement, and everyone had had a good laugh, everyone that was but the Thompson’s who had built it. The jokes had been many, but nobody was laughing now. Nobody you’d want to meet at least.

         The Pit contained two large storage fridges that had been jammed full of beer for the homecoming party going on upstairs, and Chris had been more than delighted to be their keeper. At least fifty people were camped out in and around the small home that night, and all of them had to go through Chris to keep their buzz going. Because of this, Chris could hardly ever leave the Pit, which was probably what had spared him. It had also left him out of the loop. Way out of the loop. Tom and Kelly were neck-deep in the loop. They had been upstairs, standing by the kitchen sink just outside the Pit. Kelly’s best friend Jessica had vomited all over herself, and they were busy trying to keep her from choking to death…


         As he stared out of the kitchen window, a flock of crows flew through the haze of the setting sun, and it had occurred to Tom that these parties were all the same. “A tempest of sin until the sun shines in...” was what his mom used to say about them. His parents had always been able to trust him, though, which was why he was here. He’d been born with a responsible streak a few miles long, and his mom had likened it to a deep blue river people liked to drink from now and then. After all, he was, like it or not, the town chaperone. Being a big brother to everyone wasn’t that bad, though. It was only a burden when he was with Kelly, for she brought out the country in him like no one else ever could. His blue streak was why he’d been watching out for Jessica, but he was always at Kelly’s side anyway. As painful as it was to admit, his blue streak was also why most of the parents had agreed to let their kids come way out into the DC. Like it or not, Tom had been the chaperone for the DC as well.

         In the Dark Country, or the DC as the locals liked to call it, there was a lot of quiet to spare, but it was the kind of quiet where a summer breeze could be deafening. It wasn’t that the air itself was unbreathable in the DC, just that somehow it was unmasked; somehow, you just knew that it wasn’t quite right to begin with. The DC contained miles and miles of open prairie, and while it had always been sparsely populated, it seemed to be well aware of its neighbors and their superstitions. Many stories were going back over a century of people walking off into its silence, never to be seen again. Dogs that went off to hunt in its rocky hills only to come back disfigured, missing limbs or eyes, their very lives now a listless existence as if their souls were missing. While most people knew that the DC wasn’t the boogeyman in and of itself, at least some of the town elders thought that it might as well be where he lived. The DC had filled the surrounding eastern prairie with an unnamable dread, and each new generation had been forced to grow up knowing where its boundaries were. Tom’s family had settled at its eastern border, but he had grown up knowing that a line on a map didn’t mean much to a haunted people.

         The party that night in the DC had been louder than ever, reverberating with a continuous thump that had hung deafening over the tiny home. Tom figured you could only get away with stuff like that when your nearest neighbor was more than five miles away and probably doing the same thing anyway, or worse.

         When Jessica had started to improve, they had slowly walked her over towards the hallway that led into the Thompson’s packed living room. As they reached the doorway, though, there was an explosive crash that had come from the back porch, as if someone had just rammed a semi through the large patio window that looked out onto the western sky. Within seconds though, a surreal calm had swallowed the house, causing Tom to wonder if some redneck had actually crashed the party with his truck.

         That’s when the lights had flickered, and Tom remembered Jessica laughing hysterically at something, something he couldn’t quite make out in the darkness.

         A second later though she was gone, her body ripped away violently by things that he’d quickly decided he Never wanted to see again.

         Kelly had been the closest to all of it though. Kelly had seen so much more than he had. She’d also been left holding on to what remained of Jessica’s right arm. That’s when the real screams began, and Kelly had passed out in his arms, her face and clothes plastered with the crimson gore of her dead friend.

         It quickly became evident to Tom that a war of some kind had just broken out in the living room, and although he couldn’t see it, he knew in his heart how it would end.

         At this point, time had seemed to cascade into a series of frantic moments, and in retrospect, Tom was surprised by the immediacy of his response to it. Maybe it had been the brief glimpse of the things that had taken Jessica. Maybe it was those horrible grins they had. He was pretty sure though, that in the end, it had been that God-awful screaming.

         He remembered dragging Kelly’s limp body hurriedly over towards the Pit’s security door and thanking God that the Thompson’s had been as paranoid as they were. He’d had just enough time to get them in, slam the steel door shut, and engage the security bolts when the power had gone out.

         The terrible screaming on the other side had lasted a while longer. Not much longer. There had been no mercy on the other side of that door.


         “Look, we’re going to wait down here until tomorrow morning, and then we’re going to try the radio again. If we get nothing, we’re doing nothing. We have enough food and water down here to last a year, if need be. We have a bathroom, beds, and at least two people here Who still don’t want to leave until we know just what the Fuck is on the other side of that God Damn door!

         Chris winced painfully at that last outburst, and a part of Tom wished that he had just seen those horrible smiles one time. Once was enough. But then maybe he’d be left with two comatose friends instead. One thing was for sure; nobody was opening that door unless they absolutely had to.


         That first night had been terribly quiet. Tom had laid out Kelly on one of the small beds he’d found, while Chris had stared at her curiously through a drunken stupor. It was the blood Tom realized later. Chris had been too drunk to understand how it got on her. That was when Tom had first tried to explain what had happened upstairs. At first, it appeared that he’d gotten through Chris’s drunken haze, but as the soberness of the situation had slowly sunk in, Chris had exploded. He was ready for a war. Before Tom could react, Chris had grabbed a folding chair of all things and took off up the cement stairs in a flash.

         Finding Jessica’s bloody arm on the way up though had done more than enough to take the fight out of him. He slowly came back down with it as tears had poured into his beard, and then he slumped into a corner, beaten. They both had cried then, cried until there were no more tears left to give. Some time later though, they’d decided to take a look around.



         “I take it that you didn’t hear anything last night.”

         Tom tried changing the subject back to their schedules. Their routine had given them some semblance of purpose, and however long that may last, it was better than what Kelly was going through at least.

         “Nothing. Nada. We haven’t heard anything from up there in four fucking days man, you know that…” Chris was sulking again, staring at his hands. He just didn’t understand what that really meant, or maybe he did. It was driving Tom crazy though because he knew that what he had seen on that first night couldn’t fear any door.

         It also meant that help wasn’t on its way. No Tonto, no Lone Ranger, No Pancho, No Cisco.

         They’re waiting for us. They know there’s no one coming to help us, and they’re waiting for us to come out. That’s why there have never been any turns at the door handle or any scratches at its surface...

         “Like you sleep anyway man… none of us really sleep nowadays.” Chris peered over at Kelly and laughed wearily. “She’s in nowhere land my friend. Wish they had room for all of us there…” Tom stared back at her helplessly though, wishing that he could pull her back from the other side of the devil’s mirror.

         “At least we have all of this. Mr. Thompson wasn’t all that crazy I guess.” Tom wondered though if he’d ever see it again.

         “This? The sanctuary of the fucking damned? A prison is what it is man! Nothing more, nothing less...” Tom looked down at his feet and sighed. Chris was right, and Tom knew it. Like it or not, it not only felt like a prison, it was beginning to feel more and more like their tomb. He’d originally thought it had saved them, but he wasn’t so sure anymore.


         The Pit was primarily powered by three rows of solar cells that layered the roof of the small home. Hell, they were the talk of the county when Mr. Thompson began installing the shiny bastards over the last summer. They didn’t always work though, and the power had been intermittent at best. The Thompson’s, in full survivalist mode at the time, had eventually installed a ham radio, as well as a laptop computer and an assortment of handheld radios.The Radio Shack in town must have loved them.

         In the northwest corner they’d found a storage room, and their mouths had dropped. It contained at least thirty large boxes filled with bottled water, as well three rows of tall storage cabinets that held a seemingly endless supply of canned goods. Across from the stairwell in the main room there was a small bathroom with barely enough space for a toilet, but at least it worked. The two storage fridges lay next to it, still half full of the beer that was slowly being consumed by Chris. A steel-plated ceiling covered all of the rooms and had a series of fluorescent lights connected to it. Finally, in one of the small boxes that were stored in a corner Tom had found four small flashlights. Not that he’d intended to go anywhere they would be needed, he was pretty sure that venturing out anywhere into the dark would be a really bad idea, and a flashlight wasn’t a light saber.

         Of course there were real weapons as well, two shotguns and a .44 magnum. There also appeared to be a large stockpile of ammunition for each of them in the back of the storage room.

         On their second night Tom had decided that it was time to devise some kind of a plan. As they had settled in, it became obvious that their options were simple; arm themselves to the teeth, try to make a run for his father’s truck and then head to Fort Riley, which Chris was all for (If they could somehow get past those things, there were a lot of Ifs in that plan), or attempt to wait out whatever type of hell had descended upon them, hoping that someone would find them before their food and water ran out. There were fewer Ifs involved in waiting though, and in time, the horrible silence beyond the steel door had made that decision for them. It was simply too quiet to go out into the unknown.

         Tom had some experience with a shotgun, and he knew that Chris did as well. The problem was he was absolutely certain that they wouldn’t be any more effective than spitting as far as those things were concerned. That was the primary reason to hold off from playing Rambo with Chris; the second one was that Tom wasn’t sure he could trust Chris to back him up anyway while he continued drinking, and Kelly… well Kelly wasn’t really in Kansas anymore.


         “Tom …”


         “What do you think those things really were? I know what you told me but…”

         “I’m not sure. I mean… well they just can’t be what I thought they were...”

         “Can’t be what? You’ve never explained that.”

         “Look, I’ve seen a lot of weird things, especially out here in the DC, but…”

         “But What?”

         Chris stared over at Tom who was now looking at the floor, crossing himself.

         “Oh come on! You don’t mean…You think they were vam-…?”

         “…maybe I do.”

         “Ah Jesus …You really are insane…”

         “Anyways, there were lots of them, and you weren’t there… maybe they’re…I don’t know man.” Tom said solemnly. He didn’t. He’d really only seen two of them, and that was only a glimpse thankfully, but he’d felt more. A lot more.

         “They had… “ He closed his eyes, wishing he could look away.

         Lots of teeth, Dear God, so many long, awful looking teeth…


         “The most horrible grins I’ve ever seen…” A nervous laugh escaped him, and then he remembered Jessica. Tom put his hands over his face and tried to think of anything else but those grins.

         “That ceiling in the hallway has got to be at least eight feet high, right? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t high enough for them.”

         “Fuck me…”

         Tom closed his eyes tightly and reluctantly tried to remember anything else he could about them.

         “They were like… shadows in the dark. I don’t know how else to put it man, it all happened so quickly! That hallway to the living room… I mean it was nearly pitch black, like the end of the universe you know? Yet…God man, they owned that darkness.” Tom felt the hair on his skin standing up. There was something else too. Something he could almost make out in the blackened fog that had once been a hallway…

         “Chris… I think they had wings.”


         There were no windows in the security basement, but by the clock on the wall Tom knew that it had to be mid afternoon again. The clock seemed to be working right, although he wasn't sure. They’d been taking shifts trying out the ham radio once they’d found out that their cell phones didn’t work in the pit. Except for a distant static worn scream they’d heard on the ham radio the second night, there’d been nothing, nothing but a dreadful silence.

         Whatever had happened in the DC must have happened everywhere at once.

         The laptop wasn’t able to connect to the web, so it appeared to be of little use. Mrs. Thompson had kept all of her recipes on it, but they could no more cook a ham now than browse Facebook or Twitter. Tom had a feeling nobody was tweeting anything useful, if at all anymore.

         “Are you really religious Tom?” asked Chris, his eyes bloodshot and weary.

         “Well… I’ve always sort of been …I can’t help but think about what kind of God would put things like that…” Tom shook his head and looked down again. They sat across from each other and shared a can of Campbell’s chicken soup. He’d loved it when he was a kid, but now… Kelly still wouldn’t eat, she’d only had some water and he’d had to force her to drink that. Tom knew that they had to do something for her soon, but he had no idea what that was.

         They’d converted one of the beds into a makeshift table of sorts when they couldn’t find another one. Even though it was summertime, the cement floor was freezing.

         “I haven’t been to church in a long while though.” Tom continued. “How about you? You a believer?” Tom swallowed the bland soup indifferently, he wasn’t really hungry anyway; it was just something to do.

         “I believe in God. At least I used to. After the last few days though… My family was never really that religious you know. You remember my father…”

         Tom did. Chris’s father had been an alcoholic, and a mean one at that. Tom remembered the night he’d received a call from Chris at the Dairy Queen in town. He’d been crying and not making much sense, going on about how he was going to kill his dad. It turned out that his father had been on the receiving end of a baseball bat after battering his wife around earlier in the evening. Tom had a pretty good idea who had stepped up to that plate. Chris’s father on the other hand wouldn’t admit to anything, said he’d fallen from the loft in the barn where he worked. He’d left them after that though. Chris’s mom would never let her son forget about that either and he’d been following the bottle himself ever since. Too bad it had led here.

         “God wasn’t really around much for mom and me…” Chris rubbed his eyes and then stared off into space again. “Don’t blame him though; my father took his name in vain a lot.” He flashed one of his quirky fake grins at Tom and then took one last swallow of his Budweiser before tossing the can aside. He’d accumulated quite a few empty cans in the last few days, all of them sitting in a corner of the room. After a minute of what appeared to be some heavy thinking he looked up at Tom, his eyes almost pleading. “Do you think anybody else is out there? Like us?”

         Tom stared back blankly at Chris and tried to smile himself. “There’s got to be, the guys at Fort Riley are probably wiping those bastards out right now and looking for survivors. It’s just taking awhile…”

         Chris laughed at him and shook his head. “Yeah, they’re using those silent bombs.” He looked down at himself and shook his head. “I suppose it would be better if we had a crucifix or some shit like that. Jesus man, we haven’t heard anything up there! And that damn radio… might as well be trying to contact Marvin the fucking Martian!” He laughed at this, but his eyes had begun to swell up again. “I love you man, but I don’t want to die down here staring at your ugly face.”

         “We’re not going to die down here...” Tom said evenly. He stared coldly at the gun rack behind Chris and prayed.


         In a matter of hours, Kelly had begun to get worse. She started having convulsions during the morning, and by late afternoon she was in the throes of a raging fever. Tom figured that she must have been scratched by one of those things when they’d taken Jessica away.

         That’s why they’re waiting…

         He’d torn the storage room apart looking for anything that he could use, but soon realized that the Thompson’s had forgotten to include any medical supplies, there wasn’t even aspirin available. Mr. Thompson had always said they had a lot more to do.

         Out of options, Tom realized that they were going to have to take her to a hospital if she was going to make it. That meant Fort Riley.

         They’d have to open that door after all.

         With Kelly’s life in the balance, Tom had agreed with Chris to finally make a break for his father’s truck. There were only two conditions. First, it would have to be around noon the next day. It was a necessary delay that he hoped Kelly could survive. Whatever those things might be, he figured that it would be safer to try it when the sun was at its peak and when they would be able to see whatever lay in the shadows. The second one was that Chris would have to begin sobering up immediately, as they would need all of their wits about them if they hoped to be able to survive outside of the Pit. Without any hesitation Chris had agreed, and he began the task of cleaning the guns.

         Tom was far more obsessed with Kelly though. He continued to pray that she would be able to get though the night without getting any worse. All he could really do was sit beside her bed and continue to wipe her forehead with a damp towel, and that just wasn’t enough. Occasionally he would float in and out of something like sleep, but he never really felt rested as his mind kept focusing on what was ahead of them. He knew that even if their guns wouldn’t kill those things, they still might be able to buy them some time, and time was what they really needed. Kelly was counting on him after all. He bent over and kissed her cheek, trying to remember her smile.


         “Tom? Hey Tom! Wake up! What the hell is this?” asked Chris. While cleaning one of the shotguns he’d noticed a green light blinking on a small box behind the laptop.

         “What…?” Tom woke suddenly from one of his mini naps. He got up painfully, his arm numb and his body creaking in every joint. He left Kelly to her restless sleep and slowly bent over to look at the small box. There were three small cables leading from it, one to the laptop, and the other two went up the wall into a small metal box on the ceiling.

         They were labeled as video inputs.

         “Shit! …” It couldn’t be. How did they miss this? Tom glanced carefully at the computer screen and then finally moved the mouse over an icon called “Eyes”. He double-clicked on it and watched anxiously as a new program opened up. It was a video surveillance program. There was a prompt asking for a camera source. Tom felt his skin grow tighter around his face. He chose “Eye 1-6:38pm”.

         The screen went black and a new window opened up. Almost immediately Chris fell over and wretched, vomiting all over the floor. Tom, however, was unable to look away.

         “Holy Mother of God …”

         The devil and his minions had redecorated the living room upstairs, using it as a canvas for pain and misery. There were no real bodies to speak of, only parts. It was as if someone had randomly thrown pieces from a slaughterhouse on to the floor and bathed in the gore and filth with lustful abandon. There were no good deaths here; grace had passed over what must have been their final hellish pleas without as much as a prayer for their soul’s departure. With a growing disgust, he realized that there were at least a dozen severed heads that he thought he could recognize.

         Yes, your honor, that’s Jeff Ingram there. Kind of short right now, but I’d know that jock prick anywhere, even with his left eyeball hanging out like that. And that there is Missy Rollins, and wouldn’t you know it, this year’s head cheerleader is just that…

         Their faces were fixed in a silent scream, begging Tom, anyone, to help them find the rest of their bodies.

         All of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men wouldn’t come near this room my friends.

         But where were the rest of them? This couldn’t be it; the house had been packed…

         Bile began to rise in the back of his throat as he choked back tears.

         “Why? What The Fuck Are You?”

         The silence of his dead peers beckoned him with their terribly vacant eyes.

         There was something else… something worse he realized. Behind all of the carnage and between of all the body parts that were staring back at him, Tom noticed one glaring absence…

         Where’s all the blood? There are entrails and there’s some blood but…

         “There should be more…a lot more.” he heard himself whisper from far away.

         “What?” Chris asked meekly.

         “They’ve been ripped apart and there’s...”

         Behind them Kelly laughed and Tom’s world went black.


         “Tom? Come on man, wake the hell up!” Chris was yelling at him from some far away place. He felt cold water being poured over his face as the back of his head throbbed with a dull, agonizing pain. He opened his eyes slowly and looked up at Chris who was kneeling over him.  He was sweating and looking anxiously around.

         “We gotta go Bud. Come on, let’s get you up…”

         “Christ… what happened?” Chris had grabbed his left arm and had begun lifting him off of the floor. He noticed that he had the magnum under his belt.

         “I hate to tell you this man, but your girl… well she freaked out, big time. I guess she’d seen us looking at that video thing and… well I guess she saw it too. She conked you with a chair.” Chris had one arm around him and had propped him up against the cement wall.

         “What? Where’s…” Tom felt the back of his head, found a large lump and winced.

         “She’s gone.” Chris was staring into his eyes. “She ran laughing up the stairs and out that fucking door! Laughing man!” He giggled anxiously. “I saw her tear through the living room on the video… I couldn’t stop her man; she was like lightning in a bottle that had been let loose…” Chris grabbed the last shotgun from the gun rack, placed it next to the one already on the bed, and reached for the ammo boxes on the table by the computer.

         A beam of light held it’s footing at the bottom of the stairs, daring anyone to break its plane. Sure enough the security door was now standing wide open at the top, and like the flaps of a Venus flytrap it was beckoning them to taste the nectar of its freedom.

         “But… she was so sick, how could she…?”

         “She didn’t look sick to me man! Not at all! She looked crazed, and her eyes… Whoever or whatever she was, she sure as hell wasn’t your girl anymore! Look, I’m sorry man, but she’s history. Now come on, we gotta go!”

         This was bad. Really Bad. Everything was wrong about this.


         “We can’t just …”

         “The hell we can’t! She’s gone! And there ain’t anything up there right now to stop us!” He began to load the shotgun closest to him while he continued to scream at Tom. “I’m not gonna stay down here and wait for the God Damn Calvary man! Let’s go!”

         Tom felt woozy, and in the back of his mind he knew that there was something missing. Something that felt more and more like a fishhook.

         “Wait! Come on! It’s nearly dark out there! How do we know those things aren’t just hiding up there, or waiting outside for us? Maybe they’re…”

         Chris pointed impatiently at the video screen. The upper right hand corner said they were currently looking at “Eye 2-6:45pm”, it showed a clear row of cars and trucks lined up and down the dirt road that led up to the home. There was nothing moving in them that he could see, nothing crouching on the lawn, nothing hunched in the fields that lay across from the dirt road that led there. Dusk was descending. There was only a soft breeze that swept drearily across the stalks of wheat that covered the endless acres of the DC. Above this golden sea, an ashen gray sky speckled with a flock of crows flying high held its countenance over them, beckoning them to come out of their rabbit hole.

         “Maybe they’re out there, maybe they’re not. I don’t care anymore! I ain’t staying down here! The way I see it, we were gonna try this anyway, Kelly just forced our hands early!” He double pumped the shotgun and stared ominously at Tom. “We’re about a hundred miles west of Fort Riley. We get in your dad’s truck, haul major ass there, and then hole out with the real Calvary while we figure out just what the fuck is going on!”

         “Chris, we’ve never heard Anything on the radio!” Tom was trying desperately to buy some more time, he knew he had to deescalate the situation quickly before the insanity that had swallowed Kelly took Chris as well. “Don’t you think they would have answered us by now? We’ve tried getting in touch with them every fucking day! Wouldn’t they be here by now if they could?”

         “Hell, I don’t know! Maybe they’re busy taking care of business… like you said! They’re wiping those bastards out! This is our chance!”

         “This is Insane! It’s nearly dark man! At least wait until morning…”

         “No more waiting! I’m leaving Right Now! With you or without you!”

         “Chris, please…”

         Chris stood back, and as if casually waving goodbye, aimed his shotgun at Tom’s face.

         “Give me the fucking keys you bastard!”

         Tom looked into his friend’s eyes for anything left of the young man he’d once known. Chris though, had apparently punched out his timecard along with Kelly, grabbed his lunchbox and was now ready to leave their tiny world without even putting up a fight for his sanity.

         “So this is how it’s going to be? You’re going to walk right out of here, right into a damn trap! Its going to be dark soon, you idiot! Once they catch you, they’re going to rip you to pieces! Then do you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to drink your blood and take whatever else they want from your mutilated corpse why they hold your head up to watch them!” Tom searched for any sense of fear in Chris’s eyes, but only saw a fever for freedom in charge. It was like asking a dying man in the desert not to drink from a poisoned well he had just found. The open door was just too much.

         “Enough talk. Keys now.”

         “Chris, I’m Begging You! Don’t Go…”

         Before he could react, Chris slammed the butt of the shotgun against his forehead, and for the second time in one day, someone that he had once trusted left him lying unconscious on the floor.


         Tom woke up screaming in pain on the cold cement floor of the Pit.

         He’d dreamt that Kelly and Chris had come back for him, but they weren’t alone. All of his missing friends had come back with them, all of them with those horrible crimson grins. Kelly had reached out for him, her ruby red eyes begging him for one last kiss, and then…

         The back of his head was throbbing, and he now had a lump on his forehead to match it.

         The Door!

         His eyes swam fearfully to the top of the stairs…

         Nothing. Darkness reigned.

         Is it closed?

         He couldn’t tell.

         How long have I been out!?!

         He turned painfully to look at the clock on the wall…


         He screamed again inside of his head. His thoughts running wild with all that could mean.

Breathing shallowly, he scanned the darkened room of the Pit, looking anxiously into the shadows for any movement.

         The laptop was still on, a screensaver providing the only light available. They had decided early on to only use as much light as they needed. His eyes moved slowly from one end of the room to the next. The bathroom door was closest to the light, and he saw nothing but the toilet seat staring back. It appeared that he was still alone but…

         The storage room…

         Once he was satisfied that nothing appeared to be disturbed in the main room, he quietly reached out for one of the small beds by the stairway and worked himself up on to it. He fought hard against the urge to lie back on it, and pushed himself up slowly, standing wearily against the bottom of the stairs. Sweat poured from his body while he tried to regain his focus.

         All for one, and one for all. The chaperone stands alone and tall…

         So be it…

         He looked over at the doorway to the storage room, and then up to the top of the stairs.

         And then back again.

         He couldn’t believe how dark it was in the Pit, the light from the laptop barely crossed over the entryway to the storage room, and the top of the stairs…

         Well, it didn’t reach that high.

         Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Damned anyway…

         He looked over at the gun rack.

         Empty. It figured.

         He felt against the cold cement wall for the light switch, found it, and hesitated.

         If something happens, I’m only going to have a second to react, if that…

         He prayed silently and sighed.


         Light spilled out over the Pit, draping the walls with a harsh white glow that reached deep into the storage room…and poured perilously out of the open door at the top of the stairs.

         That Son of a…


         Something had fallen in the storage room. His breath caught in his throat as his heart began to beat furiously…

         Fight or flight, Fight or flight!

         Fight with What!?!

         He closed his eyes and tore up the stairs, knowing full well that he might only have seconds left to regret it. He ran blindly through the darkened kitchen, stumbling through the hallway into the blackened abyss of the living room, praying that nothing hungry waited there. Sensing nothing but the cruel rot of what was left of his friends around him, he scrambled madly out of the front door and into the cool night air, hoping against hope that the terrible shadows of this new world would spare him one more time, leaving him alone to the vast open fields of the DC.


         When Tom was in the fifth grade his father had taken him out one night to eat dinner at a new Italian restaurant that had just opened up in town. It was called “Little Italian on the Prairie”, and was aptly owned by a very large man named Anthony Bigglioso, or Big Tony, as he liked to be called by his new friends. That night, Tom finally began to understand what a black hole might actually be like, as Big Tony seemed to be able to eat everything that he wanted without once appearing to be full. It had amazed and frightened him at the same time that this nice old man could out eat his own father. That was the case until the sun had set on the tiny restaurant, and then all at once it appeared that good old Big Tony could barely keep his eyes open. His father smiled then and winked at Tom, whispering something he’d never forget, “That’s food stupor there boy, just wait until you grub like we do, then you’ll understand the real satisfaction that comes with that.” He never saw anything like it for so long that he’d almost forgotten what it looked like. Now he wished he’d never met Big Tony.



         He wasn’t alone in the fields, far from it. The Shadows were everywhere. He’d first glimpsed a few of them back near the house, standing silently like some horrid statues guarding an ancient tomb. Not hiding, not feeding, just watching, and just like Big Tony, Tom somehow knew that they were drunk with a morbid satisfaction.

         Tom realized that there were far too many of the Shadows for the cameras to have missed them, and that just couldn’t be. It couldn’t be at all. As he continued running through the fields, his hope quickly fading with each flailing turn, he began to believe that he was starting to understand some small part of them.

         The Shadows didn’t belong. They couldn’t belong.

         It was because of this, because of the undeniable fact that they couldn’t belong to this world that they had somehow been able to enter completely unnoticed.

         The crows?

         Maybe we only saw what we wanted to see, we only saw what we thought we could understand…

         Somehow they’d been with us all along, existing in some parallel universe to our own, somewhere nearby as the crow flies, somewhere in that awful darkness that was home to the DC. A time and a place that had always been just out of sync with our own, just out of phase but in the haze of our lives nonetheless. One ever so close that the very essence of what we called evil was only the air they exhaled ahead of us, seeping into our pores, tenderizing our souls with the fragrant spices of their decadence. Finally, when the seasoning had been just right, it had been too much for them, and they had become achingly aware of our sensuous stench. After all, living so near with the aroma of sin, we were now Prime.

         Maybe they could only fly in this one time, to feed just this one time. Or maybe we were just one more garden to be scavenged in their travels, and once again, as it had been so many times before, it was simply the season of man.

         Tom kept running deeper and deeper into the heart of the DC, as the fields began to grow black with the opaque presence of what appeared to be both crows and then Shadows, and back again. Whatever they were, he had always known that there would be no mercy for him beyond the door of the Pit, and with this final moment of lucidity he began to sob, throwing himself to the ground, pleading and praying for the peace of oblivion to whatever dark God that now reigned over the DC. The new Shadows smiled down upon him for one last time, their blackened beaks scarlet stained, their prickly teeth gleaming under an ancient moon. In his last breath Tom saw Kelly among them, her chalky pale face and ruby eyes as vacant as her smile now was, and finally, as he closed his eyes, she flew upon him, and most gleefully fed.

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