This story is by William Douglass and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Jarret wakes to a sound he thought existed only in his nightmares. In an instant, he moves to the window, trying to identify the hellish shriek. He sees a dim glow in the distance and hears the familiar sound of a raging fire.
“What is it?” Laura asks.
He hears the apprehension in her words. Jarret fights down his own.
“Go, take Lilly and hide, I’m going to see.”
Without question, his wife moves to their daughter’s bed and begins ushering the sleepy child into the hidden room under their table. The young girl starts whimpering.
Laura scoops her up, now carrying the child, “It’s alright sweetheart, it’s alright.”
Jarret grabs the scabbard leaning on the foot of their bed and puts on his trousers, two knives on either side of his belt. He takes one last look at his wife as she lowers the cellar door.
“Be safe,” she says.
The two share a look. Each one saying what they already know.
I love you.
He goes outside, away from his home, towards the faint glow. Their church, which sits in the middle of the town, is engulfed in flame. He watches as the building slowly burns away. Outside, Jarret sees other townsfolk, awakened by the strange sound. They move about trying to save the condemned structure. Water barrels are filled and people begin to douse the fire.
“Jarret! Over here!” a large man says as he makes his way through the growing crowd, two men follow close behind. He recognizes two of them.
“Marcus! What is happening?” Jarret says.
“Hell if I know, I heard something and came to find the church. Yates and Greyson showed up shortly after I arrived…I guess you heard it too?”
Jarret nods and shows his blade. “Just in case I wasn’t dreaming.”
He sees similar weapons in the men’s hands, Marcus smiles, “I hoped to never have to use this thing again. Serves us right for what we did, I guess.”
“We did what we had to, Marcus. I couldn’t have us all die.”
“Jarret, you don’t think…,”
“I don’t know what to think Yates, none of this makes sense.”
Marcus looks at the blade in his hands and is about to speak when suddenly a high pitch screech tears its way through the night. The crowd cries out, clutching their ears. Instinctually, all the men draw their swords, searching for the source. Fire light gleams off their silver blades as the four of them stand back to back ready for the terrors to reveal themselves.
“Let’s hope the blessings on these still work.” Marcus says.
“Just don’t do anything stupid.” Jarret knuckles turn white with anticipation.
Without warning, the carnage begins.
Out of the darkness, tall, gangly human like creatures with long razor sharp claws, rush into the crowd slashing and tearing through the helpless mass. Screams erupt and are silenced as the people are cut down one after another, blood painting the ground. Jarret moves, and the other three move with him in tight formation. None of them wavering. Two more assailants leap from the rooftops. One lands on Marcus, causing him to fall. The creature pins him down. Its jaws make a sickening snapping sound as it inches closer and closer to the man’s throat. Marcus struggles to break free, and manages to slice the creature’s torso with his blade. The creature rears back in agony. Its stomach smoking from the encounter. Yates swoops in and severs the monsters head. Greyson finishes off the second with ease.
“Bless the Father, they still work!” Marcus yells, getting to his feet.
Jarret runs towards the other threats still attacking the crowds.
“Marcus! With me!”
“Wait Jarret, something isn’t right here.”
Jarret stops, “We don’t have time for this Marcus. People are dying!”
More creatures appear in the town center.
“We can take care of this. You have a family, they need you.” Greyson says, his face stern.
“I can’t just leave you…”
“Go, damn it!” Marcus yells, pushing Jarret back.
Reluctantly, Jarret turns and runs back towards his home. He arrives to a dark and lifeless husk, the door has been forced in on itself and he can feel the terror intensifying
The air is electrified. The hair on the back of his neck stiffens, “Come out!” he says, his anger rising.
A few moments pass and he sees movement from within the small house. Lilly steps out from the shadow of the door frame, her cheeks wet with tears, hair messy. Her mother follows, hands locked on her daughter’s tiny shoulders guiding her forward, but Laura’s stride is rigid. Forced. Behind the two women stands the thing that has haunted his nightmares. Its eyes are like deep black holes that seem to syphon in the wandering light, its pale white skin reflects the moonlight as it makes its way out the door. Its hand wrapped around Laura’s throat. It is taller than the rest of them, and has somehow retained more humanlike features.
Upon seeing this horror, Jarret tenses and raises his blade into a high guard position. On the roof behind his family two more of the creatures appear, flanking it.
“I was hoping you would return for them, old friend.” It says, the voice calm and soothing. It smiles, teeth a jagged mess of razor sharp points.
“You do not look happy to see me after all these years. Why is that? I would have thought you’d miss me…considering our history.” It begins to chuckle.
Jarred tightens his grip, “You…I watched you die.” He says, voice cracking.
“In a way…I did. Tell me, have you ever seen the transformation? Ever wondered how these creatures came to be. I have seen it. Thanks to you.” Its long black clawed fingers caress Laura’s left cheek, as it stares at Jarret.
“Please Wexler, don’t do this. Please! Your quarrel is with me…not them. Let them go…” Jarret falls to his knees.
Wexler laughs, his smile growing wider. “Yes…this is about you. It has always been about you. You chose Marcus. Marcus, who led us into that hell hole. Marcus, who would have gotten us all killed!” Wexler’s grip tightens around Laura’s neck. She struggles to breathe.
“Why did you pull the men back Jarret? Why did you leave? There was still time. I could have gotten out!” He pauses, and throws Laura to the ground. He examines Jarret’s family, his voice goes distant as if all emotion seems to fade away, “It was agonizing at first…when they tore into me. There was so much blood, I couldn’t keep track of what was mine and what was theirs. I wanted to die…I wanted it to end so badly.” He leans down to look at Lilly, teeth centimeters from her face. “Agony for days.” Wexler’s tongue softly tastes the girl’s cheek.
The creatures on either side tense.
Wexler simply raises his hand to stop them. “Now, they will know how it feels.”
Wexler lowers his hand, the two creatures grab the mother and daughter and pull them to opposite sides of the clearing. Both fight to stay together.
Lilly begins to cry and reaches for her mother, “Mommy, Mommy!”
“Save Lilly! Save our daughter!”
Laura is placed to Jarret’s right, Lilly to Jarret’s left.
“Wexler, please…no,” Jarret says, “Do not do this. The man I knew would not do this.”
“The man you knew died in that cave four years ago.” Wexler says, “Choose which one will live, or I will claim them both…slowly.”
Jarret stands and brings his blade up, he eyes the two creatures.
His breathing calms. His eyes close.
Holy Father. Let my sins be my own. Spare my wife and daughter.
His eyes open, and Jarret charges forward. Not at his wife. Not at his daughter, but at the thing standing in front of him. In a flurry of motion, Jarret launches the knives at his side at each monster holding his family. Both go down. Wexler’s eyes flash with delight. He slashes, Jarret maneuvers around and inside the guard of the monster’s wide slash, the claw brushing past his face as he thrusts his sword into the creature’s abdomen, twisting upward, driving the holy weapon further and further. Wexler gasps. He grabs Jarret by the back of the head and throws him to the ground, blade still burning inside. Wexler grabs the hilt and yanks the blade free and screams with pain.
“You have made your choice then!”
Wexler begins uttering something Jarret does not understand and Lilly falls to the ground. One of the creatures immediately rises, the knife protruding out its shoulder and grabs Lilly.
“Lilly!” Laura screams.
Terrified, Jarret runs for his daughter. “No! Wexler take me! Take me!”
Wexler’s hand hammers into Jarret’s face knocking him to the ground. “She is mine now.”
Jarret watches, dazed, as the two monsters disappear into the night. He hears a terrible wail pierce the night as his consciousness slowly fades, leaving only darkness.