Part 10: Knocking on Doors.
In the sky the murder swarms.
Beth paces. Tony watches through the binoculars. He sees the three stop at the tree line. The murder circle above them.
"They're coming... wait... they've stopped."
Beth approaches the window.
"I think they're hiding from the crows."
"Let me see."
Beth takes the binocluars and finds them. Above them hundreds of crows begin to land on the trees.
"What are they waiting for?"
Then, a distance away, on the other side of the trees the giant crow flies into the air. Beth gasps and backs away form the window. Tony doesn't need to ask why. He can see the giant bird.
"Look at the size of that thing!"
The crow flies over the trees. The sway beneath the heave of it's wings. It gathers the others toward the church. It gives the three a chance to run.
John, Jospeh and Alex crash into the house. Soaking wet and breathless. Beth goes to her husband.
"We killed it."
Joseph sets his rifle on the kitchen counter.
"It was dying anyway. It came to let that thing in. The crow" he says.
"We saw it. Where did it come from?" asks Tony.
"Inside the other creature."
"We have to leave. We have to try to get out of the valley" says John.
"I agree. We leave now. Before anything else appears from strange places" says Joseph.
"What about the rest of the village? We have to warn them" says Beth."You're right. I'll do it, the rest of you go" says Joseph.
"No, I don't want us to be separated"
"Beth, Emma's the most important thing now. We need to get her to safety. I'll be behind you. Follow the river to the mountains, then take the Hudson pass out of the Valley. Head inland. Try and get to Anderson, raise the alarm."
"Ha, can't wait to see the look on their faces when we start going on about giant crows and ten foot men with wings!" says Alex.
"They'll find out soon enough. But at least we might have a head start away from this... whatever it is! Go. Now."
They all pile into Tony's car. Alex stands waiting at the open door. John leans out.
"Alex, what are you waiting for?"
"I'll give Joe a hand. You go ahead. See you in a while."
"Be careful. The two of you."
"Oh wait" Joseph walks to the car and reaches in his coat. He pulls out the stuffed rabbit and hands it to Beth.
"I thought Emma might miss this."
Beth's eye fill with tears.
"It's her favourite."
"Yeah I know. I do pay attention you know."
"I know. Thank you."
Joseph closes the door. Tony drives away. Alex stands beside him. Joseph looks down at his shorter companion.
"What makes you thing I need your help?"
"What are you talking about?! You'd be lost without me. Beside, I'm the bravest."
"Bravest?! How'd you figure that one?"
"I didn't see you standing out there talking to that giant blue wingy bastard."
"I had my weapon trained on him, ready to shoot."
"Yeah, in a hedge, half a mile away."
Joseph laughs and slaps him on the shoulder.
"Come on. Lets try and save some people before god-knows-what comes barreling into the world."
Outside the church the walls, the trees and the ground are thick with crows. Joseph drives slowly. The birds skip out of the way of the tires. Squawking and pecking at the tires as he does.
"Look at the them all!" says Alex, "There must thousands of them. Where'd the all come from?"
"All over I'd imagine. There aren't that many in this area alone."
Smoke beings to billow from the collapsed roof of the church. They watch. The giant emerges. It perches on the top of the broken steeple. As the smoke funnel out it covers the hole with its wing, allow the smoke to gather, then releasing it and bath it's feathers in it.
"What's it doing?"
"I don't know."
"And where's that smoke coming from? There's no fire."
"John said something about smoke, a ball of smoke. It killed father Landy, then that blue thing came out of it. Maybe it a doorway."
"I don't think I want to know."
They drive on. Leaving the birds behind. They pull up on the main street. A terrace of thirty houses on either side of the street. Some cottage on their own. A shop. Post office and pub.
"How do you want to do this?"
"We'll have to quick and quiet. You take one side I'll take the other. Ring bells, knock softly. Test doors and windows. Just try to get people out. Tell them to follow the river to Anderson. Go by the old road. Not by the church. Got that?"
"Old road to Anderson. Stay away from the church."
They climb out and set to their task. Alex on the left side. Joseph on the right. Knocking. Quietly calling out. Tapping on glass. Hardly anyone answers.
"Joe, it's not working! No one's answering."
Joseph shakes his head in frustration. Something else is needed. A different approach. He goes back to the truck and takes out his rifle. He walks into the centre of the street and fires two shots into the air. Alex ducks, still gently tapping someone's window.
"What the hell are at?! You'll have those birds down on us!"
"They'll be coming anyway, they either get these people running, or they get them in their beds. It's up to them"
He fires anther shot.
"LISTEN UP - YOU ALL KNOW WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING HERE - NO POINT IN DENYING IT AND TIMES RUNNING OUT TO HIDE FROM IT - SOMETHING IS COMING - IT'S ON THE WAY HEAR TONIGHT - NOW - SO THIS IS YOUR ONE CHANCE TO LEAVE - I'M NOT WAITING ANYMORE - WE'RE GOING TO ANDERSON - YOU COME WITH US OR YOU DON'T - TAKE A CHANCE TO LIVE - OR DIE IN YOUR BED - UP TO YOU - IF YOU'RE COMING TAKE THE OLD ROAD TO ANDERSON - AVOID THE CHURCH - I REPEAT - AVOID. THE. CHURCH."
He listens for a moment. Then walks back to the truck.
"That's all I can do. We're out of here Al, let's go."
Alex reluctantly follows. As he gets to the truck doors start to open. People step out onto the street. A man from the house closest walks to the truck.
"Hey Joe, Alex"
"What was that thing? I saw it."
"We don't know. But we can guarantee on thing, there's more coming, and they going to be hiding in forests and mountains. You coming?"
"Yeah, yeah, we'll be behind you. Just have to load the car."
"Take only what you need."
Brian nods as Joseph pulls out. He runs back into his house. His wife waiting at the door with a young son and daughter. They looking afraid.
Joseph gets to the end of the road and stops.
"You forget something?"
He looks at Alex. Takes a cigar from his coat pocket. Chomps of the end and lights it. Amid the clouds of smoke a thought forms. He leans across Alex and opens the door. Outside people are already in their cars.
"Get a lift with one of them."
"What are you talking about?! No."
"I need to see what's in that church."
"Are you insane? Why? Let's just go, while we have the chance."
"I'm not asking you to come. But I'm going. I need to see."
Alex is mad. He stares out the window. A car pulls up at his side. Another neighbour look up at him.
"Anderson you said?" Joseph answers.
"Yeah, John, Beth and Tony are gone ahead, try to find them."
Alex looks at Joseph. Shakes his head. He closes the door.
"No, we got something to do first."
The driver nods and drives on, followed by more cars. Joseph is looking at Alex. Alex is still shaking his head.
"You said you Brave, I'm starting to believe you."
"Yeah, brave, better add stupid to the list. We going or what?"
Joseph cracks a half smile and turns the truck. Drive back toward the church. Against the traffic as the village evacuates.
Part 11: Shadows.
John and Tony stand side by side. Looking down. Trying to comprehend what they're looking at. Beth joins them. Emma huddled close to her chest. She sees the town for the first time. Her mouth dries up. Her throat closes. Shes tries to swallow but cannot. Her words feel like powder.
Tony looks at John.
"What do we do?"
"I don't know."
"It must be happening everywhere."
John turns. In the distance. Some miles away. He sees the headlights of ten or more cars.
"We can start be going back to warn everyone else."
Something large and quiet moves overhead. The three of them duck. Then it's gone. Out of site. Tony whispers.
"What was that?"
No one answers. John signals to the both to move off the road. Away from the car. He finds a gate into a field and climbs it. They take shelter under a tree. John and Tony watch the sky. They can still the line of cars moving toward them. When the middle one suddenly veers and swerves. It is picked up off the ground. They can hear distant screams. The car is lifted high into the sky and dropped. It lands on its roof and flattens. A moment later the sound of smashing glass and tearing metal reaches them.
More shadows move over head. The rest of the cars are attack. They watch the headlights as they move frantically. Some drive into fields. But only get so far. Other crash into ditches, trees. A car from behind breaks clear and manages to make some distance. Beth is first to recognise it. She stands up.
Then the truck is attacked. Something unseen crushes down on it. The headlights explode. The truck is broken in two at the cab and trailer. It grinds to a halt in a trail of sparks. Beth stands watching her brother be killed. She crumples. Falls to her knees. John rushes to her on his hands an knees and coaxes her back to the tree. He holds her close. Emma cooing in his other arm.
One of the shadows flies over head. This one stops. Hovers. They hear it. Like a rush of wind. With the faint crackle of a fire. It moves closer. They hold their breath. Hoping it, whatever it is, passes. It does not. It moves to the centre of the field. They can see it now. A cloud of black smoke. Hidden against the cloudy night sky. A from it steps another of the winged giants. It's skin still grey and bright. It's veins pulse with black blood. It's wings beginning to grow. It's eyes crackling blue flame. It walks slowly toward them. The stops. They hear death's whisper calling them.
The flame in it's eyes dims to black. It walks closer until it towers above them. Then kneels on one knee. It reaches out and gently moves the blanket aside to look at Emma's face. John pushes back against the tree. Beth holds her breath. Waiting. The creature touches Emma's face with it's black talon. Beth breaks. She slaps the creatures hand.
"Don't touch her. You get away from her."
The creature slowly turns to at her. Beth does not back down. The creature takes hold of Beth's face and stands. Lifting her with it. Looking at her like a curiosity. Then it speaks.
"You are mother?"
It's voice comes from deep inside. A low dull voice. Emotionless.
Then something moves inside the creature. Trying to push out.
"I am mother too."
A shot rings out. The creature's head moves slightly. It turns to look at where the shot has come from and Beth sees that the left side of it's head has been blown out. She tries to scream but her mouth is clamped shut by the creatures mighty hand. The creature falls. Slow and heavy. Taking beth with it. They crash into the mud.
John lays Emma gently on the ground and he and Tony run to help Beth. They get her free from the grasp of the huge hand. Her face is brushed. Her nose is bleeding.
"Are you OK?" She nods. Catches her breath and crawls to Emma. Taking her up in her arms.
John and Tony stand.
"Where did that shot come from?"
John looks across the field. Someone is walking toward them.
A familiar voice sounds in the distant.
"I told you I was a great shot..."
Alex comes into view.
"And that other idiot sending me out on me own!"
The two men are glad to see him. Beth is hopefully. But she doesn't see Joseph.
"Where's my brother?"
Alex hangs his head.
"Is he dead?"
"I don't know."
"Is he back in the truck? Is he injured?"
"No, no. He's at the church. Or that's the last place I saw him."
"Look I couldn't stop him. I tried. Believe me. I tried. But you know what he's like, once he gets an idea into his head. He wanted to see what was happening inside the church. That was the last I saw of him. I waited for as long as I could, till..."
"There was this noise. Something breathing. Something big. And I mean big, not like these things. Enormous. I saw something too..."
"What? What did you see?"
"I went to the door to look for him. I could hardly see anything through the smoke. I called him. But there was no answer. Then I saw this... I don't know what it was... it's hard to explain..."
"Like a slit?"
"Yeah, that's it."
"I saw it too. About the size of your hand?"
Alex's expression is grave.
"This was as big as a doorway. There was something on the other side. A glow. And then I saw..."
Alex stops. Afraid to speak. Afraid to make real what till know he has being trying to deny.
Alex looks at the three of them.
"An eye. A green eye with a black slit in it. An eye bigger than a man. Looking right at me."
They stand silent. All knowing but afraid to say. This is only beginning.