The Lights

March 18, 2017 at 12:00 AM

On the southern edge of the small town of Rhanville there is a wide unlit road that separates the town from a wild and thick forest. Three houses adorn the northern edge of the road – they are the homes of the Peters’ family, old Mrs Abernathy, and Joshua Daniels, respectively – and they look out across the road upon the forest that the sun can scarcely pierce. Many travellers who have taken the road late in the evening have confessed to feeling a peculiar sense of uneasiness as they passed the trees in the darkness. There are stories shared in hushed whispers amongst the children of the town that speak of an evil presence lurking within the woods. Apart from the occasional incident of missing cattle, no apparition of maliciousness has ever befell Rhanville, and so the town slumbers peacefully beside the gargantuan labyrinth of ancient oaks.

It was in the early days of autumn that the men came and installed lights up and down the road that cast their luminous light into the trees. It was a welcome change to the residents of the road, who hoped that this would ease any feelings of insecurity in the darkness. Any wrongdoers who had previously made mischievous plans for the road would surely be exposed and foiled, and so the residents hoped for a good night’s rest. While the additional light took a little getting used to they all slept easy that night, except for Adam Peters – the son of the Peters family – who had horribly unpleasant dreams, but that is often the case for children when confronted with any sort of change. The next morning the residents all agreed that the lights were a blessing sent from above.

On the third night after the arrival of the lights Mrs Abernathy sat in her chair by the window, reading from her book. She was always of restless spirit, so it was not an uncommon occurrence for her to stay up until the first rays of sun peeked up from the horizon. On this particular evening the clock had just passed one and her mind had begun to drift from her literature. She looked out of her window upon the illuminated street, everything seemed much clearer to her and she took some small pleasure in watching the trees creak ever so slightly in the wind. The leaves engaged in subtle, ritualistic dances and the branches swayed unsteadily. Then something caught her eye, some bushes that didn’t match the natural rhythm the others seemed to share. It could have easily been some nocturnal animal of the wild attending to its business and yet Mrs Abernathy felt uneasy. Perhaps it was the result of her imagination captivated by late night reading but she could swear she felt that the more she watched the disturbance, the more she felt that she was being watched herself. Slightly disturbed by the ordeal she drew the blinds and returned to her book in an effort to take her mind elsewhere. By the time morning came, she had forgotten all about her late night observations.

As the sun was beginning to set the following evening, Adam Peters was playing alone on the road. The lights had not yet came on and so he found himself in the ill-illuminated haze of dusk. The wind was of mild temperament, but still possessed a bitter and icy bite. It was not the ideal situation as he would have much preferred to find entertainment indoors, but his mother’s insistence had driven him out in to the cold autumn air. He was eagerly anticipating the moment that the lights would spring to life and his mother would fetch him to return indoors. The hours of play had been almost entirely devoid of fun and were replaced by a mysterious sense of uncertainty. He was without an inkling of doubt that something was not as it should be and yet he could not fathom what it could be. His dreams of late had been terrible in nature and he suspected that this was influencing his mood. As he sat in reflection he began to feel the hairs on his neck stand up. Adam felt the all too familiar sensation of someone standing directly behind him. He immediately turned himself around to discover there was nobody there. This was perplexing to Adam as he was certain he could sense the presence of another person. He scanned the neighbouring houses and there was no visible signs of any other residents going about their business outdoors. Just as he was beginning to doubt himself he heard the voice of his mother, calling for him. He was relieved that he would be able to return to the comfort of his home and stood up at once. He ran up the front steps, crossed the porch and entered the house. As he was closing the door he made one more attempt to identify the mystery presence and was once again unsuccessful, the road was completely deserted.
Later that night Joshua Daniels awoke from a peaceful slumber by the unpleasant sensation of dryness of the throat. His thirstiness evicted him from his bed and carried him downstairs to the kitchen where he fetched a glass tumbler and filled it with water directly from the tap. The clock in his kitchen told him that it was nearing three, which irritated him immensely as he knew his remaining hours of precious sleep would be insufficient for the day ahead. Just as he was switching off the kitchen light he heard a faint yet distinguishable tapping noise coming from the road outside. He was intrigued and unsettled by the noise coming at such a late hour. In his freshly awakened state it took him a little time before he came to a realisation about the nature of the noise. He was hearing the sound of footsteps crossing the road as they got increasingly closer to the side of his home. A looming sense of dread grasped him and held in place as it was an almost unheard of occurrence for someone to be taking the road at this hour. The footsteps stopped and Joshua remained petrified in his kitchen for several minutes until he was able to muster the courage to approach the window. It took a great deal of bravery to pull back the blind and peer out into the newly lightened road, however, his bravery offered him little in the way of answers. There was not a single person that Joshua could see anywhere in the gardens or the road or the forest. He hastily made his way to his door to ensure that it was locked. He then made his way upstairs to spend the hours until the sun rose with the light on, convincing himself that he had been imagining the whole event.

It was the unfamiliar coldness of her house that awoke Anna Peters the next morning. Immediately she sprung from her bed to investigate why her house felt so alien to her. She walked down the stairs and was at once struck by the alarming sight of the front door wide open to the elements. The feeling of her security being so harshly violated was enough to bring her to tears. Making her way over to the door she began to notice strange marks on the floor. They were violent indents in to the wood, as if someone had attempted to maintain a grip to the floor while resisting some pulling force. In an instant of pure fear Anna knew exactly what had happened, and she let out a deafening scream that woke most of the town. Her husband appeared to her aid within moments and through uncontrollable bursts of tears she pleaded him to check on Adam’s room. When he entered his son’s room he confirmed the darkest fears of his wife, their son was nowhere to be seen. He sprinted out into the middle of the road, desperately calling his son’s name, but to no avail. Perhaps if he had not been so distressed he would not have overlooked a torn piece of his son’s shirt that hung nonchalantly on the edge of a bush at the mouth of the forest.

The rest of that day was a tempest of confusion, anger and fear for the residents of the road. Many of the men of the town were called upon to search for the young boy, but hours upon hours of searching offered no clues to his fate or whereabouts. Joshua didn’t speak of the events that had befallen him the night before – due to some combination of fear, denial and guilt – but it did motivate him to take some sort of action. He emerged from his home with his toolset and set about deactivating each and every light that had made them feel so safe. Joshua knew now, as did the other residents, that sometimes it is best for the darker places of the world to remain unilluminated.

Credit: Steven Trotter

Nice Neighbors

March 17, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Her family had lived in that house, on that street, for as long as Ivanna could remember.

She had her birthday parties in that backyard and swung from the big tree in the front yard until the rope wore down and the metal creaked. Every Christmas morning her and her brothers gathered on the floor before the tree and every Easter they sat on the back porch and dyed eggs to fill with confetti and glitter. Their walls were covered in both old and new photos; some black and white, some faded sepia and others from the weekend previous. It had always seemed to smell of her grandmother’s flowery perfume and smoke from their small wood burning fireplace. Not too big, but big enough, as her father always said.
It was home, serving as the backdrop for every fond memory she held dear.
Well, them and a less pleasant one.
Having lived in that neighborhood for so long they had come to be close with almost all their immediate neighbors. To their left lived an elderly couple Ivanna knew simply as Mr. and Mrs. Herrera, who always sat in rocking chairs in their netted enclosed porch, and to their right lived the Campbell family. The Campbell’s house was painted a lilac color and their back yards were separated by nothing more than a chain-link fence. It had a bigger front yard too, or at least it felt that way since they lacked bushes or trees, which in turn led to many afternoons spent playing tag there with the Campbell kids. The youngest of them was a girl two years older than Ivanna, named Alyssa. The two were very close, and often walked to school with their arms linked as they tried to stomp in every puddle or kick as much snow off the sidewalk as they could. Alyssa was at every one of those birthday parties without fail, and Ivanna climbed over the fence to join every one of her’s.
They agreed that nothing could ever separate them and someday they might even move away together.

The best thing was, in their minds, the fact that their bedroom windows were both on the sides of their respective house, facing each other. The two of them would sit in the windowsills, perched like birds, and spent many hours talking by writing on notebooks and holding them up for each other to see. They would get each other’s attention late at night with a few flickers of a flashlight and reveled in the disobedience and perceived danger of it all should they be found awake. Gossip, homework answers…anything to preoccupy each other until they were too tired to stay awake. Ivanna looked forward to it every night, especially on days when chores and schoolwork kept her out of the yard. Snowy and sick days were by far the worst and she sought comfort in leaning against the glass with her flashlight in hand.
Alyssa was her best friend, and she loved her.
Alyssa, unfortunately, didn’t stick around as long as she had planned.

That warm summer morning, when the moving truck pulled up in front of the lilac house, the two girls were heartbroken. Neither had known that far in advance and when the news had been broken to them it was taken with the hopeless sort of sadness that came with the inevitable. It rained that afternoon, and Alyssa stood in her window with her backpack over one shoulder, waving goodbye. She wasn’t crying, and Ivanna smiled back with as much reassurance as she could muster. After her friend had gotten into the car and drove away with all her family’s belongings in tow, however, all she could do was cry into her pillow so nobody would hear. She was a big girl after all.
“No, mommy…it’s okay. We’re gonna call and write letters. She’ll do it. She promised.”

The house was empty for a long while, growing weeds while remaining vacant and silent. They stayed out of the front yard and only went over to pick the FOR SALE sign back up when it would fall over. Winter blanketed the house in snow that was left untarnished by footsteps until spring. The lawn turned brown under the summer sun without someone to water in the evenings. School started back up again, and Ivanna had only received one letter and two phone calls from her old friend. They didn’t know what to talk about either time.

She wouldn’t have noticed the FOR SALE sign go down if it wasn’t for her brother Tomas’s suspicious tendencies.
Tomas had said multiple times he had seen people going in and out, but their parents insisted that they had been keeping an eye out and had seen nothing. When he pointed the now empty yard out to their father, he shrugged and suggested that maybe someone was moving in. They never saw a moving truck or the big spectacle that accompanied new tenants.
The red pickup truck was just there one day.
At first it appeared that only one person had moved it; a man with a thick white mustache and thinning silver-blonde hair would occasionally leave to go and buy groceries, and sometimes he would just pace the porch in the evenings with a beer can in one hand, wearing nothing but a wife-beater and a pair of grimy jeans. He introduced himself reluctantly in passing once as Douglas. Ivanna didn’t like the way his gaze lingered on her when he noticed her standing there. Sometimes she would go out and swing only to go inside promptly after noticing him in the window or looking out the screen door. He looked like he couldn’t figure out what she was, like she was some unidentifiable animal prowling about the property.
One late winter night, something else happened that she found unsettlingly odd.

She lay in bed, half awake, when something in the window of Alyssa’s old room caught her attention. It was a tiny flicker, not like a flashlight but more the reflection of light off something else. She sat up, convinced it was a trick of memory and light. The flickering was deliberate, a pattern of varying durations, and something was moving ever so slightly between the half-drawn curtains in the darkness of the supposedly vacant room. Sliding out from under the covers, she made her way to window and cupped her hands around her eyes for a clearer look.
The room wasn’t vacant at all; a girl a few years younger than her stood almost out of sight with a compact mirror in her hand. She was using the glow of the streetlamp, and waved excitedly when she was noticed. She moved forward and began to mouth something unintelligible, as Ivanna reached for her notebook in response.
Hey there, who are you?
The girl looked confused and didn’t appear to understand either what was written or what the question was. She stared blankly at her a moment before she mouthed a simple question.
Name?
Ivanna nodded, urging her to answer. She pointed to herself and mouthed Ivanna as well as she could before pointing to the girl for her response.
Marisa. After a few tries, Ivanna turned back to the notebook and held it up long enough for the girl to decipher.
Its nice to meet you, Marisa

Marisa nodded happily and smiled a wide toothy grin. She was missing a few front teeth, but didn’t seem to mind. Soon they would be back, seeing that adult teeth were beginning to peek out of her gums. It was nothing unusual for a child her age. She pointed out and then held up two fingers. The message was clear.
You too…
Before she could write anything more, Marisa’s head turned and she suddenly looked flustered. She turned back only to wave before slipping back out of sight. This left Ivanna slightly rattled, wondering if this was something normal or not. Some people were just shy, she knew, and she didn’t want to make mountains out of molehills…but the encounter left her uncomfortable.
It wasn’t the last time Marisa appeared in the window; she would stand there waiting for her new friend to notice and come to the window. She only appeared at night at first, which allowed the “I’m tired, gotta sleep” half-excuse to be used, only the sad look on Marisa’s face made her insides writhe with guilt. It was difficult to talk, since she never had any paper and wouldn’t open the window because there was a house alarm installed, so the conversations were quite brief. The girl’s voice was a mystery for the longest time.
Soon she was there during the day too, which made things less unsettling and more uncomfortable. The window would slide open at around nine in the morning and if she was anywhere in sight Marisa would call her name. Sometimes she threw little pebbles at the glass until she came to look. She spoke too fast and asked too many questions, which Ivanna politely answered until an excuse popped up. It made her feel like a horrible sort of friend.

“Do you have a dog? My dad’s allergic to pet fur or something.”
“What are you doing? Homework? Oh yeah spelling is hard. Really, really hard.”
“What took you so long to get home? Do you walk or ride a bus? I like the bus.”
“You wanna play something? I have lots of dolls.”
“You wanna come over and play? I have lots of games we could play.”

For someone with so many questions, however, there was one that she refused to answer herself, which made Ivanna even more suspicious. One afternoon, while unpacking the necessary supplies to complete her homework, Marisa asked her what she did at school and continued to pry at details. Swallowing hard to push back the apprehensiveness, she turned and asked, “Where do you go to school, Marisa? I never see you at mine.”
The girl in the window looked as if she were suddenly put on a stage with a spotlight on her face.
“I used to go to a private school by mom’s house, but daddy’s been…homeschooling me…or something.”
“Really? Is it fun staying home?”
“Sure, I guess.” She tilted her head as if listening, then her eyes widened in surprise.
“What’s wrong.”
“Nothing, my daddy’s calling. See you later.”

That evening at dinner, she brought up Marisa to her parents. She told them everything about her, all the questions and the weird feeling she got. She admitted how she had been actively avoiding her and sneaking around she wouldn’t see her. At first her parents didn’t seem to worry, saying that their new neighbor was just a little nosy. Tomas seemed more interested, and she could tell by his face he was as more curious than anything else. After dinner he asked if he could see Marisa, and there wasn’t any logical reason she should answer no.
But when they tried to get her attention they found that night she didn’t come to the window.
Tomas made sure the window was locked before going back to his own room. A week passed and they waited for the strange neighbor friend. A week passed and Marisa was nowhere in sight and neither of them had any desire to go knocking on the door with Douglas inside.
“Maybe she’s imaginary.”
“I’m too big for imaginary friends.”

Finally, on a particularly cold evening, she saw the flicker from the window once again. The window was indeed open, but only enough for Marisa to whisper through. She looked alright, albeit a little tired. “Hey, Ivanna? You wanna see something cool?!”
“What is it?”
“I made a pillow fort! It’s really fun, and it’s got multiple little rooms. If you’re sneaky you could come over and we can play in it.”
“Why do I have to be sneaky?”
“Daddy doesn’t like people coming over. They make messes. You won’t, but he thinks you will.”
“Where is the pillow fort?”
“It’s in the little crawlspace under the living room floor! You wanna?”
Ivanna swallowed hard. “It’s late, and I have school tomorrow. I gotta go to bed soon. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, I just never have any friends over. It’s like they forgot about me.”
“Oh, I bet they didn’t. Everyone’s in school and… I’ll ask my mom tomorrow.”
Marisa cracked a little smile, and for a while they sat in silence.
“Is Douglas your dad?” Ivanna asked slowly, as if she were tiptoeing around. The little girl in the window made a face she hadn’t before; her brow furrowed and she shook her head? “Douglas?”
“Yeah! He and my dad only talked a little. He doesn’t seem to like neighbors much.”
“That’s not my daddy’s name.”

Tomas wouldn’t let such new information go, and spent more time trying to encounter Marisa himself. He asked questions like, “does she look like him” or “what else did she say about him”. Still there was no response whenever Tomas was present, even if he hid so she couldn’t see him. This frustrated him greatly, and he continued to bring it up to their parents only to be told not to spy on neighbors. At one point he accused his sister of making it all up because she was upset about Alyssa.
On a chilly November morning, Ivanna proved she wasn’t making anything up.

It was about 4:30, before the sun had begun to rise up into the grey winter sky, the entire family was awoken by the sound of glass shattering. She was the first to get up and figure out what had caused the noise since all she had to do was peek out the window. The window Marisa had so frequently perched in had shattered outward, scattering shimmering shards of glass all over the weeds in the window well below. There the dark haired girl stood, her curly locks no longer in their neat braids and her eyes wide with fear, or at least what she perceived to be fear. She was shaking her head, and when Ivanna called her name she looked around frantically, her eyes unfocused.
“I can’t…I can’t see its too dark I don’t wanna… I don’t wanna be here please…”
“Marisa I’m right here, what happened?” She waved her arms but the girl only groped around blindly.
“I don’t wanna go back into to the dark place…its not fun. It’s not fun!”
There was another indistinct thud, and then her voice was gone. Everyone rushed in shortly after, but no body could figure out what had happened or what she was even talking about when she tried to articulate what she had seen.
That afternoon, Ivanna decided to call Alyssa out in hopes of telling someone who would better understand. She sat in her windowsill looking out as she listened to the ringing in anticipation. Alyssa’s mother answered after three attempts, sounding irritated before giving over the phone.
“Hey, Ivanna, how are you?!”
“Something weird is happening in your house.”

She went into detail explaining what was happening, from the first night to that morning, and her old friend only listened in a nervous silence. It was only after Ivanna mentioned Marisa’s offer to join her in the crawlspace pillow fort that Alyssa spoke up.
“Wait, she said she was playing in the crawlspace?”
“Mhmm, she wanted me to go and see it. It was under the living room floor.”
“You’ve been to my house though; we have a basement just like yours. No crawlspace.”
“Really? Oh yeah.”
It was then, while absentmindedly staring out the window, she noticed Douglas practically running from his house, hastily tossing ratty suitcases and bags into the back of his red truck. He was staring all around as if afraid someone would sneak up on him, then jumped in and drove away.

She went hopping down the stairs, eager to tell Tomas, only to find her father sitting on the couch leaning forward to focus all attention on the news report. “Hey, honey isn’t that…”
Her mother came running in, and they all stared in horror as the breaking news ribbon moved across the screen and a photo of a man with a thick white mustache and silver-blonde hair was put onscreen. The local reporter spoke with grim urgency.
“…police are searching for 55 year old Douglas Hume, who is the primary suspect in the murder of Sandra and Anthony Mitchell, as well as the abduction of their seven year old daughter… after neighbors reported a foul smell coming from the attached duplex where Hume had previously lived, police found the Mitchells’ remains buried in the crawlspace after having been missing for nearly four months…police believe that Hume is tied to multiple robberies and abductions all over the state. He is considered to be armed and very dangerous. If you have any information concerning the whereabouts of Mr. Hume, please contact call this number on screen…”

Ivanna watched in shock as her mother snatched the phone from her hands and darted to the kitchen to dial the number.

Credit: Ahnika Vigil

Revelations (Sequel to The Fort and Survival)

March 16, 2017 at 12:00 AM

As noted in the title, this is a sequel to The Fort and Survival.

“Baby, come on! We need to go!” Ryan yelled as he slammed the trunk of their Hyundai sedan.
“I’m coming!” Carla called from inside the house, appearing seconds later carrying a gym bag. “I just got some clothes for Kyle.”
She jogged down the steps to Ryan, and he took the bag from her, tossing it on the pile of other stuff on the back seat.
He turned to look at her, fear and trepidation in her eyes.
“Have we got everything?” he asked and put a hand on her shoulder.
“Everything on the list and a couple of extra things I thought of.” she replied, glancing up at the intersection as a siren screamed past. A bang in the distance made her jerk, and he squeezed her shoulder reassuringly.
“Come one.”
He quickly ran up to the house and collected his rifle and ammunition from the table on which he had placed them earlier. Quickly locking the door behind him, he returned to the car and put the Remington on the backseat and threw a blanket over it.
Carla got in the passenger side and Ryan started up the car, backed out of the driveway and headed down the street.
“So when you spoke to him, you made sure he understood that he was to wait for us, right?” Ryan asked, as he slowed at the intersection, before turning right.
“Yes. He understood. He said Graham’s parents weren’t planning on going anywhere and that he was welcome to stay until we got there. But I haven’t been able to get hold of him or them since this morning. Network’s down or something. We should’ve gone straight away.”
Ryan glanced at her, a flash of annoyance running through him.
“We’ve been through this. We don’t really know what’s going on, or how long it’ll last. We can’t just blow out of here without some kind of plan. Look around you Carla, does it look like we’ll be able to stop at the grocery store for food and water and a chocolate?”
She looked as though she wanted to argue, but she slumped back into her seat and said nothing.
The streets were eerily quiet, but Ryan spotted people frantically packing cars, running up the street or speeding past in cars and on bikes.
Reaching another intersection, Ryan slammed on the brakes just in time as a fire truck flew past, sirens blaring.
He took a deep breath and then started forward again, heading to his son’s friend’s house, where he had spent the previous two nights.
The plan was simple. Pick Kyle up and get to Carla’s father’s house. He had a large house in Saxonwold – an up market suburb of Johannesburg where they would stay for a while, waiting for whatever this was to blow over – or to make another plan. Ryan’s older brother Matt stayed in Pretoria, and Ryan had tried to convince him to join them, but Matt had been stubborn. He had insisted that everything was under control and that panic wasn’t necessary. After arguing for a time, Ryan had finally relented and insisted that if he changed his mind they come and join them. He had also been unable to get hold of him since then.
He had seen the reports about children becoming violent – even killing. But so far the authorities had no real explanation. Carla maintained that it had something to do with the asteroid crashing in Texas, but she had always been a bit paranoid. And she loved her space stories way too much in his opinion.
It had been two days since the first big attack in an informal settlement close to the airport. That evening they had agreed that Kyle could spend a couple of nights at his friend’s house, as it was the weekend and the single attack had not concerned them too much. But the next day the attacks had been a consistently growing occurrence and each incident appeared to be getting closer to their area.
Finally, they had started hearing an inordinate amount of sirens and bangs – neither would just come out and say gunshots – and this had prompted Carla to suggest getting to a safer haven. She had argued that their single story house was right on the street in a heavily populated area. At first Ryan had balked. He had said she was overreacting, and that they were perfectly safe, but the next morning footage of children sprinting through the night, attacking every living thing in sight helped change his mind. The news had called it some kind of virus that only affected children, causing them to become extremely violent. They did not know if it was infectious, but all indications seemed to support that assumption. They could however, not guess as to how it was spreading or if it was curable. Adults remained unaffected.
They had phoned her father and he had urged them to hurry. Calling Kyle next, he had assured his mother that he was safe and that he would wait for them.
Carla had wanted to leave immediately, but Ryan had convinced her that they needed to be prepared. So they had made a list of supplies they thought they would need: water, food, clothes, medicine, flashlights. They basically packed everything they would take on a rugged outdoor camping trip – even tents. Soon they had run out of space however, and they had unpacked a lot of lesser essentials, eventually giving up on taking the tents too.
It had taken much longer than planned, and three hours later, when they were ready to leave, Carla was unable to reach her father or son by phone. The radio and TV still worked, giving updates on attacks and emergency numbers, and asking people to stay inside their homes.
“Ryan! Oh my god, oh my god, Ryan!”
Ryan looked to where Carla was pointing and slowed the car.
Three people had exited a house and were running toward them. They were followed by a group of about six teens, who slowly shambled after them. The last of the three was a middle aged man who seemed to be limping, and Ryan saw dark red stains on his shirt and pants.
“Help! Help us!” the first person shouted as the car slowed to a stop. It was a woman of about the same age as the limping man and she was hysterical.
Ryan hit a button and the doors of the car locked.
“What are you doing? We have to help them!” Carla cried and moved as if to unlock her door.
“Stop!” Ryan ordered. “We don’t know what the hell is going on here! What if it’s just a trick to get our car?”
Carla stopped mid movement and sat back.
“How can we be sure?”
“We can’t, but we have to assume the worst. We have other priorities right now. We have to go get our son.”
She seemed to accept this, but she didn’t look happy about it.
“Help, please! They attacked us!” the woman shrieked as Ryan slowly started forward again.
The woman banged on the windows and tried to pry open the doors. She was joined by the second in their group, a young man in his early twenties.
“Come on, man! Let us in!” he cried, tears of desperation streaming down his face.
Ryan picked up a little more speed, and at the same time the group of teens caught up to the injured man.
They pulled him to the ground, and Ryan watched transfixed as one of the teens sank his teeth into the man’s throat, ripping back in a slow, determined motion.
Carla screamed.
The other teens piled onto the man, biting where they could, or punching and kicking in the same slow, methodical way. They looked drunk or high. Dazed somehow, as if they were unaware of where they were and what they were doing.
The young man jumped onto the hood of the car, looking Ryan in the eyes.
“Let us in, man!” he screamed again. “Can’t you see what’s happening?”
Ryan only shook his head.
“Ryan!” Carla exclaimed through tears. “We have to help them!”
Ryan looked at her pleading face, the tears causing her face to shine. He slowed, and was about to stop when a gunshot shook the inside of the car. A hole appeared in the windscreen, and Ryan heard the round exiting through the back window.
The young man had drawn a pistol, and was now pointing it at Ryan.
“Stop the car!” he screamed.
Without thinking, Ryan floored the pedal and jerked the wheel to the side, even as another shot rang out. Carla screamed again, and Ryan jerked the car from side to side, keeping his foot mashed to the floor.
Finally the man lost his grip and tumbled off the side and Ryan straightened the car and kept the speed up until they had put three kilometres behind them.
Carla was sobbing softly in the seat next to him, and he tried to comfort her by putting his hand on her leg, but he kept his attention on the road.
What the fuck is going on? Is everyone going crazy? he thought angrily.
They saw more and more of the dazed children wandering the streets, and a few more people tried to wave them down for assistance or a lift.
Ryan kept going. They saw many cars, fully loaded with people and supplies heading in the direction of the highway and a few near misses with other vehicles eventually forced Ryan to slow down even more, lest they have an accident.
After what felt like hours, but was in reality only twenty minutes, they pulled into Graham’s street. Ryan realised he didn’t even know what his parent’s names were.
He slowed down to a crawl, slowly scanning the street and neighbouring houses. Except for a family hastily loading a mini bus three houses down, the street looked deserted.
Ryan’s eyes were drawn to the family busily packing their bus. The father and mother were running back and forth between the house, returning with boxes and bags, while their young daughter sat on the grass next to the bus. Ryan guessed her at about nine, and she hardly seemed to move. She sat cross legged and stared vacantly down the street, but as Ryan’s car passed, the girl’s head suddenly jerked up and she looked straight into Ryan’s eyes. They looked yellow, and a chill ran up Ryan’s spine. The girl’s face was expressionless, and it looked as if she was covered in sweat.
“The next one. With the black gate.” Carla said beside him and his attention was brought back to his driving.
As he pulled up to the house, he glanced in the rear view mirror, but the girl and her parents were gone. The bus was still parked outside, so they must’ve gone inside.
Carla got out of the car and he followed, nervously looking up and down the street. It was still empty.
Carla trotted through the gate and up to the front door and knocked sharply three times.
A few moments went by and then the door was opened by Graham’s father. His face flooded with relief.
“Kyle, your parents are here!” he called back into the house.
“Thank god. We didn’t want to wait any longer. We’ve decided on leaving as well. We couldn’t get hold of you, so you know… we assumed the worst.”
He nervously wrung his hands.
“My sister… she stays in Jeffrey’s Bay… small town. We’re leaving shortly. We figure as soon as we get out of the city it should get better. We hope.”
Kyle came running out of the house and embraced Carla. She crouched and looked him in the eyes. Ryan felt himself relax a bit. His son was safe.
“Are you ok?”
“Yeah, mom, I’m ok.”
He hugged Ryan fiercely.
“Come on, buddy. Let’s go.”
They thanked Graham’s dad and headed over to the car.
Ryan turned the car around and headed in the direction of his father-in-law’s house, about a thirty minute drive on a normal day.
As they passed the house where the bus was still parked, they heard a scream and glass breaking. Ryan stopped and looked at the house.
“Ryan?”
“Dad, what are you doing?”
Ryan needed to see the girl again. He needed to see if she had changed into… whatever it was they were turning into.
“That bus is stocked to the max with supplies. I’m just going to check it out.”
“You’re going to steal it?” Carla asked, shocked.
“What? No! I’m just going to… check if they’re ok.”
Carla was about to protest, but Ryan spoke before she could.
“Get behind the wheel when I get out and leave the car running. Wait ten minutes, then go – no matter what.”
“Ryan-”
“No. Matter. What.” he repeated.
She opened her mouth then closed it again. She licked her lips.
“Ok.”
He quickly reached back and took up his rifle. Taking a handful of rounds, he opened the door.
“Lock the doors.” he said and quickly got out. Standing next to the car he loaded his rifle. Slowly, he started forward.
He looked into the bus as he passed, and saw large containers of water, boxes of food and other supplies. He couldn’t see the keys.
Approaching the front door, he saw that it was open and he heard noises from inside. He heard a thud and then something fall and break.
Gently, he pushed the door open and raised his rifle. He took a step forward and then another, and moments later he was inside the house. There was ample natural light and he took another few steps when he heard a shuffling coming from a doorway ahead of him.
Taking a deep breath, he spun into the doorway with his rifle at the ready.
The girl was standing in the center of the living room. Her mother and father lay next to her, the father jerking sporadically. The amount of blood made Ryan nauseous, and a steady stream was still spurting from a wound in the man’s cheek. It looked like a bite mark.
Ryan fought to keep his stomach under control and he started shaking. He couldn’t tell if it was the nausea or the almost crippling fear he suddenly felt.
The girl stood motionless, looking down at the floor, blood dripping from her face and hair.
“What have you done?” Ryan whispered without realising he was going to and the girl looked up.
She started forward toward Ryan, her face still as expressionless as before and he pointed the rifle at her chest. Her eyes were a feral yellow, and her skin was very pale – gray, like ash. Ryan thought he saw thick, black veins running down from her neck.
“Stay back!” he cried, but the girl only trudged forward, as if she didn’t hear Ryan speak at all.
Ryan took a step back, and then another.
“Stay back, goddamnit! I will fire!”
He took another step back and his foot caught on something. He tumbled over backwards and landed flat on his ass, the rifle spilling from his hands. He had backed into another room and had tripped over more supplies waiting to be loaded.
The girl came a little faster now and she opened her mouth in a low, almost mournful groan. Ryan scrambled to where his rifle lay and scooped it up. Turning to face the girl again, she lunged forward and sunk her teeth into his forearm holding the rifle. He cried out in surprise and pain and ripped his arm back, shoving her back forcefully with his other hand. She stumbled back, falling over backwards. He was bleeding, but it wasn’t serious. Shock and horror almost engulfed him, his eyes wide and his mouth open. Looking up from his wound, he saw the girl getting up again and he realised he was trapped. The room had only one entrance.
He raised the rifle again, his hands now shaking so badly that he was almost unable to keep the rifle pointed at the girl’s chest.
“Please,” Ryan pleaded, choking up, his voice a whimper. “Please don’t make me do this.”
A scream from outside made the girl lift her head and turn. Ryan saw it as an opportunity and lunged forward, knocking the girl aside. He tore down the hallway and out of the house.
A woman was stumbling up the road, headed to where the car was parked. She was bleeding from a wound in her side and she was crying hysterically. Two young boys – twins – of about fourteen were shambling after her.
Ryan reached the car and ripped the door open. He waited for Carla to move to the passenger seat, then jumped inside and handed the rifle to Kyle.
“Ryan – what ha-”
“Kyle, the rifle is loaded, please take out the rounds.” Ryan said crisply, slammed the car into gear and took off down the street.
“Ryan? What happened?” Carla asked, unable to keep the panic out of her voice.
“It’s ok. It’s fine. Let’s just get to your dad.” And he could hear his voice shaking and cracking.
Carla put her hand on his leg and squeezed, and she looked at his bloody forearm questioningly. To her credit she said nothing.
They made it to her father’s house without anymore incidents. They saw more children shambling around, more people begging for help, more injured people and even a few car accidents. Emergency personnel were few and far in between and at the places they were, it was crowded beyond belief by people needing assistance.
They made it to Paul’s house a few hours before sundown, and the feeling of relief when the tall, thick, iron gate rolled shut behind them was immense.
The walls were high and thick, with spikes and electric fencing on top. The inside perimeter walls all had motion sensors in the ground and video camera’s covered almost every inch of the property. The house itself was not as secure, as large windows and glass doors made up most of the ground floor.
I guess the plan is to stop anyone before they get to the glass house, Ryan thought for the hundredth time.
Paul was very wealthy. He was a senior partner for a powerful law firm representing dozens of hugely successful companies. He also had a private pilot’s licence and was an avid hunter and firearm collector. Ryan loved going hunting with his father in law, because of his wide variety of weapons.
They might just come in handy sooner rather than later, Ryan thought as they unloaded the car.
Carla’s mother had died many years before from lung cancer, and since then Paul had enjoyed buying and learning exotic things to pass his free time. He was not the type of man who would marry again and when he wasn’t working, he was usually flying or hunting or diving.
When they had unloaded the car and were all inside the house, Carla cleaned and bandaged Ryan’s arm while he told her what had happened. Paul was busy setting Kyle up with the Xbox he had bought for when he came to visit. When he returned, Ryan told the story again. They were horrified and disbelieving, but the clearly human tooth marks on his arm were difficult to argue with. Paul activated the perimeter alarm system and switched the television in the kitchen to show the feeds of the security cameras.
“You think your security company would actually respond to the alarm with all the shit going on out there?” Ryan asked and nodded his head in the direction of the gate.
“I don’t know, but at least the system can warn us if we get an unwelcome visitor.”
Ryan nodded, hoping that it wouldn’t come to that.
Carla and Paul prepared a simple dinner of sandwiches and crackers as the sun set, but Ryan could not stomach even the lightest meal.
The scene with the girl kept replaying over and over again in his head. He would see the blood and become nauseous and then he would again see the girl slowly walking toward him and he would start to shake and break out in a cold sweat.
They were all huddled around the television watching the news, with a second smaller one set to the camera feeds.
The news was a collection of disturbing images: car accidents, mass attacks by children and police gunning people down. Most news channels were reporting that sources had confirmed that it was somehow linked to the asteroid. They were calling the asteroid Revelations. A press release was planned for later that evening out of the United States, which would disclose all the information they had on the virus.
“Ryan.” Carla whispered and he looked at her.
Kyle was asleep on her lap. She motioned for him to take him to the bedroom.
He got up and gently lifted him. He looked peaceful, and his sleep untroubled. Ryan was relieved that his son could sleep. He had been worried that he might have nightmares, given everything that had happened over the last couple of days. He took him down the hall and into the second guest bedroom and gently laid him down. He took off his shoes and pulled the covers over him. Switching off the light, he was about to close the door, when Kyle stopped him.
“Dad?”
“Yeah, champ, I’m here.” He walked over to the bed and sat down.
“Are we going to be okay? You know, with everything that’s going on?”
Ryan sighed quietly. “Sure, buddy. I know it’s a little crazy right now, but it’ll get better soon, you’ll see. All this has just taken everyone by surprise. It’ll take a couple of days before they get a handle on everything. But for the time being, rest assured that we’re safe and sound.” Ryan smiled reassuringly in the light pouring in from the hallway, but Kyle did not look comforted.
“Why didn’t we help that woman? The one on Graham’s street. The crying one.”
Ryan didn’t respond immediately. He was unsure of how to proceed.
“Well, the thing is, like you’ve seen, things are a little crazy right now,” he started. “And not everyone out there is a good person, or is honest when they say they need help. Some people will try and take advantage of others that are trying to help, and you have to be careful who you try to help and who you accept help from.”
Kyle seemed to ponder this for a moment.
“But how can you be sure someone doesn’t really need help? How can you be sure we couldn’t help that lady?” he asked earnestly, his eyes welling up with tears.
“You can’t, buddy. Not really. These are decisions a person has to make for himself. I decided not to help, because I had you and your mom with me in the car, and I decided that I didn’t want to take the risk – that I didn’t want there to be even a small chance of either one of you getting hurt.”
Kyle thought for a moment longer and then seemed to give a small nod, as if he understood and accepted this explanation.
“Get some sleep, champ.” Ryan said and put his hand on Kyle’s forehead.
Kyle was burning up and his forehead was moist with sweat.
Alarm bells chimed in Ryan’s head.
“You feeling ok, buddy?” Ryan asked gently, pulling back the covers.
“Just a little hot and I’ve got a headache, but I’m okay.”
Ryan quickly got up and switched on the light.
“Dad?”
“Stay here, I’ll go get you something for your headache.”
Ryan left the room and trotted to the kitchen. Carla followed him.
“What’s wrong?”
“He’s got a fever, just getting him something to help.”
“Is he okay?”
He didn’t answer. He opened the cabinet where Paul kept his medicine and pulled out three aspirin and poured some water.
He headed back to the room, dropping in the aspirin to dissolve.
Kyle was sitting upright in bed. He had taken off his shirt.
Ryan handed him the glass, and Kyle waited for it to dissolve completely before downing it.
He handed the glass back. “Thanks dad.”
“No problem, champ. Now get some sleep.”
Kyle lay back and Ryan pulled the covers over him.
He exited the room and switched off the light, pulling the door closed behind him.
Carla was waiting for him in the hallway.
“Is he okay?” she asked.
“I’m sure he’s fine. He drank the aspirin and he’s trying to get some sleep.”
Carla looked worried.
“Come on, baby. Sleep would do us some good too.”
They headed to their room, calling goodnight to Paul.

*****

“Ryan! Ryan, wake up!”
Ryan opened his eyes and lifted his head, blinking into the light. Carla was standing next to him, her face contorted in barely controlled panic.
“What is it?” he mumbled, trying to come awake fully.
“It’s Kyle.”
That did it. He sat up and shook his head.
“What about him?”
“His fever is worse and…” she trailed off.
He stood up. “What is it Carla?”
She motioned for him to follow her and he did.
Paul was sitting on Kyle’s bed and the light was on. He moved aside when he saw Ryan enter and he moved toward Kyle.
His son was soaked with sweat. Thin, black veins, were visible on his neck, running down to his shoulders, arms and torso.
“He’s unconscious. We can’t get him awake.” Paul said softly.
Ryan sat on the bed and leaned down to Kyle’s face. He muttered a quick prayer and then gently opened his son’s eye lids.
They were almost yellow – feral, like a cat’s.
He sat upright and sighed.
“This may be a pointless question, but did you try a doctor?” he asked.
Paul nodded. “I tried with my landline. Some of the emergency numbers ring, but no one answers.”
“What do we do?” Carla asked, her voice cracking.
Ryan didn’t answer and after a couple of moments Paul spoke. “We can only try to bring the fever down.”
They drew a bath of lukewarm water and gently submerged him in it for a couple of minutes. When it felt as if the fever let up, they took him out and dried him off, putting him under clean, dry covers again.
His breathing had become raspy, and the dark veins were becoming darker and thicker at an alarming rate.
All through that day, they watched over him, dabbing his head with a damp cloth and dipping him in a bath when they felt his fever spiked too high.
Kyle regained consciousness once during the late afternoon, but he stared blankly around the room, looking at each in turn as if he didn’t recognize them. His eyes were a deep yellow now, and his skin was pale. After clumsily trying to get up, but held down by Ryan, he drifted off again.
It was around eight o’clock that evening, when all three of them were forcing down some food and drink in the kitchen, that they heard a thud coming from down the hall.
They looked at each other for a moment, and then they hurried down the hall to Kyle’s room, Ryan in the lead. He burst into the room, and found Kyle standing on the opposite side of the bed, with his back to him.
A moment of relief burst through him, but then he noted how still his son stood and it was replaced by dread.
“Kyle? Champ?” Ryan ventured, taking a step into the room.
Kyle’s head snapped around, and Ryan recoiled. His face was contorted in anger and what Ryan thought was hate. His eyes were a deep, wild yellow and his skin was gray like ash. He noticed that the black veins criss-crossing his body looked like they had multiplied and were much darker and thicker.
“Kyle?” Carla asked behind Ryan, stepping into the room and around him.
Kyle lunged. He took one step, planted his other foot on the bed and flew at Carla. Ryan grabbed her by the waist instinctively and shoved her aside, and Kyle tackled him to the ground. He shot his hands up and grabbed Kyle by the chin to keep his mouth away from his face, the image of the bite mark on the dead man’s cheek flashing through his mind.
“Kyle, what are you doing?” Carla shrieked hysterically, but he paid her no mind. His teeth was gnashing as he tried to bite his father, saliva dripping from his mouth like a rabid dog. His arms flailed around him, as if he was unsure what to do with them, but a moment later he started hitting his father, landing fists and open palms against Ryan’s face and neck.
A moment later, Kyle floated into the air off of Ryan, flailing and screaming like a maddened ape. Paul had grabbed him by the waist and had lifted him off, but Kyle fought and resisted with such ferocity that he was battling to keep hold.
Ryan jumped to his feet. He stole a glance at Carla to make sure she was alright. “Get out of the room!” he yelled, but didn’t wait to see if she’d comply.
He started forward to try and assist Paul, but Kyle’s elbow connected Paul’s temple, causing a loud thud. Paul staggered back two steps and then Kyle was free. As soon as he hit the ground, he lunged at Ryan again, but his time Ryan was a little more prepared. He quickly moved low and to the side as his son attacked, and Kyle missed, landing harmlessly a few feet from the door. At first Ryan thought he would turn and attack again, but Kyle’s attention was drawn to Carla standing by the door, looking indecisive about staying or going.
Kyle flung himself forward with a high pitched scream and Carla’s eyes widened.
“Run!” Ryan yelled and Carla hesitated for an instant longer before taking off down the hall. Kyle followed and Ryan took off after him. As he rushed through the door of the room, he heard Paul follow.
“Carla, get to the garage!” Ryan yelled. The garage had a thick, sturdy door and he was sure if she could get through it she would be safe.
He saw Kyle ahead of him, running hunched over. He was extremely quick and he was gaining on Carla.
She wouldn’t make it.
“Carla, left!” he screamed, hoping she would understand that he meant for her to duck into the kitchen.
She had always mixed up her rights and lefts. When she gave directions to him in the car, she would say “Turn at the next one on my side” or “Your side”. He found it endearing and it was one of the many things he loved about her.
So when he said left, she went right – into the living room. The kitchen had a narrow doorway, and he had hoped Kyle would miss the exit, so to speak, and she would have had a few extra moments. But it was not to be.
The living room was a large open space, with comfortable couches and a large, glass coffee table. She ran around a couch, and was out of his sight as the wall obscured his view.
Kyle hardly slowed down. He changed direction and slammed his leg into the couch, causing him to fly forward, right into the coffee table. It shattered with a resounding crash. Ryan winced as Kyle went tumbling over the ground and broken glass, but Kyle had hardly come to a stop, before he was up again, looking around wildly.
“Kyle?” Ryan said, having come to a stop a few feet away. Kyle whipped around to face him and Ryan saw glass shards protruding from his arms and torso. A large piece had impaled his cheek and Ryan gasped, but it seemed as if Kyle hardly noticed, even as the blood streamed down his face.
Ryan was about to speak again, when Kyle opened his mouth and let loose a bloodcurdling shriek. The hair on Ryan’s arms stood on end, and he took a step back involuntarily.
Kyle lunged at him once more, and Ryan had a moment to think Well, shit, before his son tackled him to the ground for the second time that night.
This time he was too late to get his hands up, and Kyle sunk his teeth into his shoulder. Ryan screamed in pain and with all his strength he bucked and shoved and Kyle went flying. He fell against a couch, his head cracking against the wooden leg of the sofa, but it did not seem to slow him down. He was up in a flash, and was poised to lunge at Ryan again when a sofa cushion struck him in the face.
Kyle blinked, and turned to look at Carla, standing on the opposite side of the living room in front of an open door. Before Ryan could say or do anything Kyle charged his mother, but at the last second she fell down onto her stomach and he stumbled over her and through the open door. She quickly jumped up and pulled the large glass door shut and locked it.
She retreated deeper into the house as Kyle turned and ran at her, slamming into the glass door, causing it to shake in its frame.
Paul came to a stop next to Ryan, a pistol in his hands. Ryan looked at the pistol and then at Paul questioningly, but he avoided his gaze. Carla had reached Ryan’s side, and standing in line, they watched Kyle’s insanity. He kept running into the door, headfirst, until fresh blood gushed from his forehead.
Every time he struck the door, he gave a shrill cry, almost as if in frustration.
“What do we do?” Carla whimpered.
They stood in horrified silence, watching their son and grandson continuously run headfirst into a glass door.
Paul was the one who noticed the cracks first.
“The door’s not gonna hold.” he said quietly.
Ryan noticed the hairline cracks appearing around the impact zone. Frankly he was surprised the door hadn’t broken yet.
“Load the car.” Ryan said. Paul and Carla both looked at him, but said nothing.
“We have to get him help. We have to find a doctor, or … or someone.” He could hear the whine in his own voice, but he was powerless to do anything about it.
“A doctor? Haven’t you been paying attention to the news? No one knows what’s going on, or why this is happening, or how to stop it. A doctor won’t help.” Paul countered, actually sounding a bit angry.
“I don’t care, we need to get him to a doctor. Maybe a doctor can do something… anything!”
Paul sighed audibly. “How? How do you want to get him to a doctor? The streets are insane! You saw what is happening out there. And even if you get to a hospital or clinic, there’s no guarantee anyone will be there. And that’s assuming we can somehow get him in the car in the first pl-“
Ryan rounded on him, rage and grief boiling beneath the surface. His voice had taken on an ominous buzz. “What do you want me to say? What do you want me to do? Do you want me to abandon him? Do you want me to kill him? What? Tell me?”
Paul looked down. “That is not your son anymore.” He said quietly.
All the fight went out of Ryan and his shoulders sagged.
The door cracked audibly as Kyle ran into it again.
Kyle suddenly looked to his right, toward the gate, as if something there had grabbed his attention. Shrieking again, he ran out of sight.
Moments later, an alarm screamed shrilly through the quiet house.
“It’s the perimeter alarm. He must’ve set it off.” Paul said.
They moved toward a window looking out at the gate and they saw Kyle pausing. He turned back to the house, the alarm obviously recalling his attention back from what had drawn him first. A moment later Ryan thought he saw the large front gate shudder. Paul moved off to silence the alarm and a few seconds later it was quiet again. Ryan kept his eyes on the gate, even as Kyle slammed into a different door, trying to gain entry into the house.
The gate shuddered again and with the alarm now silent, Ryan could this time hear that something had slammed into it.
“What- what was that?” Carla asked softly.
No one answered.
Another thud. And then another.
The frequency increased, until a constant banging rattled the large gate. A moment later they saw what looked like a teen boy climbing over the gate – the spikes and electric fence having seemingly no affect. He tumbled over the gate, landing on his back. He tried to get up, but his legs appeared to have stopped working.
As they watched, they saw the gate swaying ominously, the rail holding it at the top, severely bent.
“Load the car.” Paul said. “Take only the most important stuff you can think of, we have to get out of here.”
No one moved for a second, until they saw two more clambering over the gate, this time landing on their feet and sprinting at the house.
Carla and Paul moved off toward the kitchen, but Ryan lingered at the window a moment longer. He feared for Kyle, even as he saw him running into the door again. The two newcomers paid Kyle no mind however and immediately joined him in ramming themselves into the door.
Ryan swallowed, looked down and then moved off. He firstly grabbed his rifle and ammunition and then his hiking pack. It was filled with emergency supplies and food and he jammed his ammunition inside.
Carla and Paul had already loaded several items into Paul’s Audi Q7, and Ryan ran back and forth a couple of times, loading more food and water.
Ryan was about to ask Paul about his weapons, when they heard the front gate crash down.
“Come on, we have to go!” Paul cried as he tossed in a final bag, filled with food.
As Carla clambered into the back seat, they heard the front door shatter. Ryan quickly shut the door connecting to the house and got into the passenger side.
“What about Kyle?” Carla asked from the backseat and Paul looked at Ryan.
“We have to leave him.” Paul said softly.
Ryan somehow knew he was right. That Kyle was no longer his son. That whatever he had become, could not be reasoned or bargained with. But it was almost impossible to accept. To know for sure that he couldn’t be helped. He wanted to run into the house. He wanted to find his son. To hug him and to comfort him. To take him with them and to promise him everything was going to be ok.
But that wasn’t going to happen. He knew it in his heart.
“We can’t just leave him here!” Carla said, her voice rising.
“What do you want to do, Butterball?” Paul asked gently. “You saw them, we can’t go after him they’d rip us apart. We wouldn’t stand a chance.”
“But that’s my son! Do you just expect me to leave him here?”
“We don’t have a choice.” Paul replied.
Ryan had been silent.
“Ryan! We can’t leave him here!” Carla pleaded.
He was silent for a moment longer.
“When the others that jumped over the gate got to him, they didn’t even look at him. They just attacked the door like he was doing. He’s one of them.”
“No.” Cara said firmly. “We have to go get him.”
“Did you bring any of your guns?” Ryan asked, ignoring Carla’s statement.
“No!” Carla said again, louder. “I won’t leave him here.”
“Just my pistol and my shotgun, I didn’t have time to get the rest.”
“Ammo?” Ryan asked.
“A lot.” Paul nodded.
“NO!” Carla screamed hysterically, grabbing Ryan’s seat and shaking it violently. She went for the door to get out, but Paul quickly locked them.
Carla was going berserk. She was banging on the windows and hitting the seats in front of her, shrieking maniacally.
“Chances are there’ll probably be some in the way when the garage door opens…” Ryan said, ignoring Carla. He left the fact that they might have to run some of them over, unsaid.
Paul nodded. “I know. I’ll get us out.”
Ryan stared at his father in law for a few moments.
“Where are we going?” Ryan asked.
“I think we need to get out of the city. We could take my plane to the farm.”
Ryan nodded.
“Then let’s go.”
Paul started the SUV and pressed a button hanging from his keychain. Carla had subsided a little, but she was sobbing uncontrollably. As the door opened however, she quieted down.
The large wooden door rolled up, and as it rose, they saw dozens of children running erratically across the lawn.
Upon seeing the garage door opening and hearing the sound of the engine, a few sprinted toward them. Paul put the SUV in gear and started forward slowly, looking at the front door of his house as they moved.
The children’s attention inside the house was drawn to the moving vehicle and they came charging out.
“There’s too many, we need to go.” Ryan urged, but Paul did not increase his speed.
Two of the children came running from the front door, hunched over. It looks like they’re trying not to be seen. As if they’re lurking, Ryan thought randomly.
Two of the children slammed into the SUV, banging on the doors and windows.
“Go for fuck sake!” Ryan yelled, but still Paul crept along.
Kyle jumped onto the hood of the car and Carla screamed. Blood from his many cuts and wounds spattered onto the windscreen and he screamed crazily before slamming his head into the window. He did it again and again, screaming and shrieking constantly.
Paul had come to a stop, and appeared frozen – it all suddenly becoming too much for him.
“Daddy.” Carla said softly from the backseat. “Just go. Get us out of here. Please.”
This seemed to bring Paul back and after glancing at Carla, he gunned the engine. They shot forward and Kyle lost his balance, falling face first onto the windscreen. As they reached the street, they hit one or two of the crazed children, sending them flying. Paul jerked the wheel left. The SUV turned onto the street and Kyle tumbled off of the hood – and straight under the wheels of the large vehicle.
Carla shrieked and Ryan went cold. Paul’s face had become as white as a sheet. Looking out the back window, Ryan could see Kyle lying in the road, unmoving.
“Stop! We have to see if he’s ok!” Carla screamed, again trying to open the door. Neither Paul nor Ryan answered her, and Paul kept his foot flat on the pedal.

*****

Francois Pienaar Airfield was n small airfield between Johannesburg and Pretoria. It was mainly used for training and for wealthy pilots to store their personal planes. Paul had bought his plane ten years before, and had stored it there ever since.
Reaching the airfield had been difficult, but easier than Ryan had expected.
The city had been in chaos. Crazed children were everywhere. People were driving recklessly to try and escape and time and again they had to swerve to avoid accidents and wreckage.
They had first tried the highway, but it had been completely deadlocked. The most disturbing of this had been the children running between the stationary cars on the highway, attacking cars and breaking windows, trying to get to the people inside. Paul had quickly driven over a low embankment to get to a secondary road and although the going was slow, they had at least been going.
Two hours and many U-turns because of dead ends later, they had reached the airfield.
It was located in a fairly empty area, with almost no businesses or houses close by.
Paul had parked beneath a large tree some distance from the gate, and using Ryan’s binoculars they had scouted out the airport. There had been some movement, but Ryan couldn’t see who – or what it was.
After waiting for half an hour, they had decided to attempt the escape.
“I haven’t flown in a while,” Paul said, as they approached the gate. “So I’ll have to do all the pre-flight checks before we can go.”
“Okay,” Ryan replied. “You do that while Carla loads the supplies. I’ll make sure no one bothers us.”
Paul nodded, but Carla had no reaction. She was slumped in her seat, her head resting against the window – a vacant expression on her face.
The gate was closed, but unlocked and Ryan quickly pushed it open and closed it again after Paul drove through. The security booth was empty, and Ryan saw no one else, except for a few cars and what looked like a small school bus. Ryan swallowed hard at the sight of the bus, but he saw no movement.
The small hangar where Paul’s plane was stored was one of the last in the row, but it was close to the runway.
Pulling up outside the hangar, Paul quickly went inside after unlocking the door.
Ryan opened the back door and looked at Carla.
“Baby, we have to go. We have to get out of here.”
She looked at him blankly, but didn’t respond. Ryan opened his mouth to speak again when his phone rang. He at first didn’t register what the sound was, having already become so used to the fact that cell phones hadn’t worked over the last few days.
He pulled it from his pocket – a habit of putting it there even when it hadn’t been working – and saw that it was his brother.
Matt.
“Hello?” he said uncertainly.
“Ryan! Thank god! I’ve been trying to get hold of you for two days!” Matt sounded out of breath and scared.
“Matt? What’s going on? How did you get through?” he asked, concerned.
“I don’t know, maybe fewer people are trying to call as things go from bad to fucking terrible. I don’t know, but I need your help.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m at the Protea Hotel in Centurion. A couple of hours after I spoke to you, somebody tossed a petrol bomb through our window. I got everyone out safe and sound and headed to the hotel, but now we’re trapped. I went down this morning to get the car ready so we could get out of here, but somebody stole it. We can’t leave on foot!”
Ryan grunted in agreement. Matt had two young children, one hardly even a toddler.
Ryan thought for a moment. He looked at Carla, still staring blankly past him.
He turned and walked out of earshot of Carla.
“Ryan, you there?” Matt asked.
“I’m here. Okay, I’m going to get Carla and Paul on the plane and safely in the air – then I’ll come for you. Stay exactly where you are.”
Matt thanked him a hundred times. He gave him his room number and then hung up.
He walked back to the car just as Paul exited.
“Okay, we’ll be able to go in about half an hour.” He said, then ducked inside and started opening the hangar doors.
Ryan was about to try to talk to Carla again, when he heard a shriek behind him. He whirled around, and saw a single teen running straight at them.
“Carla, start loading the plane, now!” he yelled, and he was a little surprised to see her jump out, grab two bags and run to the plane. He quickly reached into the back and pulled out his rifle. Reaching into his pack which he had made sure was easily accessible he took out four rounds and loaded his rifle.
He raised the rifle and took aim, the teen about forty meters away. He held his breath and put his finger on the trigger. Hesitating for a second more, he steeled himself and squeezed the trigger.
As the teen fell, a thin red mist hanging in the air, Carla exited the building again. She looked over at where the teen lay and then stared at Ryan. She said nothing, but only grabbed more parcels to take to the plane.
Ryan ejected the spent cartridge, just as shrieks and screams erupted in the night air.
He took his ammunition and clambered onto the roof of the Audi. He crouched down onto one knee and waited.
About two-hundred meters away, a dozen children came tearing around the corner, bearing down on them. The youngest looked to be about Kyle’s age, and something tugged at Ryan’s heart.
He took a deep breath and lifted the rifle. He got the closest one in his sights, held his breath and squeezed the trigger. Ejecting the cartridge, he aimed at the one behind the one he had dropped. Breathe in, hold, squeeze, eject. Breathe in, hold, squeeze, eject. Reload. Again.
He found a disturbingly comfortable rhythm in the act of bringing down the crazed children, though some part of him still objected every time he pulled the trigger and one of them fell. Every time he squeezed the trigger however, that objection became less pronounced.
Breathe in, hold, squeeze, eject.
When he had killed the twelfth one, there seemed to be a lull. They had all come from the same area, which he thought was lucky. It gave him time to aim and shoot and reload.
He was reloading the rifle, when he heard another shriek. This time it was much closer.
A boy of about twelve tore around a building only twenty meters from Ryan. He lifted the rifle, surprised, and fired. The round slammed into the ground next to the boy’s feet and he kept coming.
Ejecting the spent cartridge, Ryan fired again, hitting the boy in the arm.
He kept coming.
Ryan ejected the round and was about to fire again when the boy jumped. He smashed against the SUV, his arms just reaching the roof of the vehicle and grabbed hold of Ryan’s ankle.
As the boy fell back, Ryan’s leg was pulled from underneath him and he fell too. He landed on his ass, and the rifle went clattering onto the ground. He felt a powerful tug as the boy pulled him from the roof and he landed on his back, the wind knocked out of him. He tried to suck in a breath, but the boy was on him. He managed to get his hand around the boy’s neck, keeping him from biting him, but seconds later the boy started raining punches and slaps down on him, just as Kyle had done.
Ryan was suddenly angry. No, not angry – furious.
Why was this happening? How did this happen? The world had gone to shit in less than a week and they didn’t even know why or how. His son was dead. His wife was more than likely mentally and emotionally broken. And nobody knew why.
He got a better grip around the boy’s neck and started squeezing – firmly at first, but then with all of his strength. The boy was still hitting him and screaming, but they came out as wheezes and the strength was fading from his blows.
Soon the boy went limp, but Ryan kept squeezing. He rolled the boy off of him easily, the boy’s eyes closed, but Ryan kept squeezing. He changed his position so that he was sitting on the boy’s chest, and he kept squeezing. He tried to squeeze the fear and pain of the last couple of days out of the boy. The uncertainty. The grief.
He squeezed until rough hands pulled him from the boy and he found that he was sobbing. Paul pulled him into a hug, and he transferred him into Carla’s embrace. Together they cried, sobbing at the loss of their world – of their son.
“The plane’s ready.” Paul said quietly behind them. They pulled apart. Neither had any idea how long they had held each other.
The three of them quickly loaded the rest of the supplies into the plane and Ryan loaded his pack with food and supplies when the others weren’t around.
“Ok, let’s get going.” Paul said and was about to climb into the pilot’s seat when Ryan spoke.
“I can’t go with you.”
Paul stopped. Carla had been tying her hair in a ponytail, but she froze.
“Matt got through to me. I don’t know how, but he did. He needs my help. He needs me to go get them.”
This was greeted by silence.
“No.” Carla said firmly. “Fuck, no. We’re not splitting up. That is not happening. I just lost my son, you are not leaving.”
Ryan stepped closer to her and reached for her, but she recoiled, slapping his hands away.
“No!” she cried.
“Baby, I have to. They’re trapped. They have no car and they can’t leave on foot. You saw yourself what it’s like out there. I have to.”
“No.” she said simply, tears streaming down her face. Paul said nothing and stared at the floor.
“We’ll go with you.” she said.
“No, it’s too dangerous. I need you to be safe. I need you to go with your dad. I need to know that you’re safe.”
“Then we’ll wait for you.” Carla said simply.
Ryan shook his head. “You can’t stay here. You don’t know who’ll come along – or what. You have to get out of here while you still can. I’ll go get Matt and Teresa and then we’ll drive up to the farm. We’ll meet you there.”
She shook her head again, but said nothing.
“The only thing that will make me feel better, that will keep me going – is knowing that you’re safe.”
He pulled her into an embrace, and this time she didn’t fight. “I’ll find Matt, and then we’ll meet you at your dad’s farm. Just go with him. Get there. Make it safe. It will be ok. I will find you. I will make it.”
He kissed her, long and deep and with all the love he felt for her. When he pulled back he nodded at Paul and he stepped forward, gently taking Carla’s arm. At his touch, she ripped her arm away, and threw her arms around Ryan.
“No!” she screamed.
Ryan took hold of her, gently putting his arms around her.
“Baby, I love you. Please don’t fight, I need you to be safe.” She struggled meekly, and Paul helped Ryan get him out of her embrace and into the plane. When she was inside and the door was closed, she slumped back weakly into her chair, staring at him through the window.
“Have you got food, water?” Paul asked.
“Yeah, I loaded my pack while you loaded the plane.”
Paul nodded.
“Be safe out there, son.” Paul said simply, and shook his hand.
“I will. Keep her safe.” Ryan said.
Paul nodded and clambered into the plane.
Minutes later, Ryan watched from the Audi as the plane took off and turned away, out of sight.

*****

“So, what do you think?” Tim asked.
Ryan lowered the binoculars. The house looked quiet and still. Ryan could see no movement, but all of the pot plants were alive and he thought he saw the faintest wisp of smoke rising from the chimney.
“I’m not seeing any movement, but in my experience that doesn’t mean much.”
“So…” Tim said.
“Oh, we’re going. We are definitely going. I’ve been trying to get to this fucking farm for three years. Nothing’s stopping me now. It looks like it’s inhabited. Whether by my wife and her dad or someone else, I’m going to find out.”
He walked back to the Land Rover. He checked that the pistol was loaded and then stuffed in the back of his pants. Picking up the AK-47, he did the same and slung it over his shoulder.
“Stay with the car and keep watch. Check through the binoculars every now and then. If it’s safe, I’ll signal for you to come down.”
Tim nodded. “What if it’s not safe? What if something happens? What do I do?”
Ryan sighed. “If you don’t see or hear from me in an hour, I think it would be safe to assume that I’m dead. Then you’re on your own, buddy.”
Tim nodded again, but he looked as if he was about to throw up.
Ryan thought about comforting him and decided against it. He needed to become stronger if he was going to survive. Ryan had been surprised at how weak Tim was. Especially since he had been an EMT. He had gotten to know him fairly well in the time they had spent together, and he had realised that Tim was probably only alive because of his dead friend Jeremy.
“Chin up, Tim, you’ll figure it out.” Ryan smiled. It was a dry, humourless smile.
“And if you don’t, well… then it won’t matter for long.” Ryan winked at him and turned, starting down the low hill toward the farmhouse.

Credit: Pablo Dickens

Intuitive Advertising

March 15, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Message Body:
Intuitive ads.

You see them everywhere now, and don’t really give it a second thought. Ads that use tracking cookies to track your browsing history or personal profile and provide suggestions that might appeal to you.

You know. The way Amazon suggests new books based on what you just read. Or when you search for something on Google, and then start seeing ads for it on other websites. Or when you’re a 20-something-year-old girl “in a relationship” on Facebook and suddenly all of your ads are for engagement rings and wedding planners.

The point is: We’re all so used to this that we don’t really pay attention it anymore.

But lately…these targeted ads have been…unnervingly on-point.

“Buy plastic sheeting in bulk!”

“Electric chainsaws on sale now!”

“Affordable dry lime. Overnight shipping available!”

I don’t know how they’re doing it. I don’t know what technology is driving these changes. But somehow, it’s like the Internet is reading my mind, showing me ads for things that it couldn’t possibly know I wanted. I swear to god, I didn’t touch a keyboard, I didn’t do a search…I was so careful to keep all of my plans and research and ideas offline.

How is it doing this?

How does it know about the bodies?

Credit: T.L. Bodine

Die Teufelsbrücke

March 14, 2017 at 12:00 AM

People always get the wrong end of the stick when I tell them that my grandad was a Nazi. I mean, of course he was in the Leipzig branch of the Hitler Youth as a teen, joined the party when old enough and, in December of 1943, was drafted into the army to fight in the dying years of the war. That said though, he was never really committed to all the anti-Semitic, fascist ideology. In fact, just three years after the war, he married my grandmother Rokhl, a Polish Jew, in the same church hall that years earlier had hosted the Hitler Youth meetings, before crossing the border into British Germany and, then, across the sea to a new life in London. That said, he did have some great stories from what I grew up thinking of as “the other side”.

He fought on the Eastern Front mainly. Though never sent to the worst conflicts of the region, battles like those at Stalingrad, Kursk, and Kharkov, he met many soldiers both in the standard army and the Waffen-SS who had fought there, who told him their stories. Years later, he would tell these stories to an impressionable young child on his knee who would listen, enrapt in the story, sitting on the floor of the little apartment that smelled of wood smoke and cigarettes.

Grandad passed away early last year, surrounded by his closest family. I’ll always miss him. In memory, I’m going to pass on a story he himself passed on from a wounded soldier, who himself heard it from a Waffen-SS friend of him. The story of Die Teufelsbrücke.

~~~~~~~~~~

The camp lay quiet as the snows fell that night. The canvas of the tent bulged inwards, pregnant, as four men talked angrily over a table smothered in sepia brown maps and charts, pins marking the path they should have taken days ago. The only heat and light in the room came from a spitting naphtha lamp in the corner that cast long, dark shadows over everything. One of the men was talking with ice in his voice.
“Look! I don’t care about the fucking mission right now! If we don’t move on tomorrow, we are all going to die. We need help!”

The officer was young, too young perhaps to have been promoted to Scharführer. Exasperated, he ripped off his hat and ran a hand through his blonde hair. The older men noticed this lapse in discipline.

“We have our orders,” one of them replied, his voice a flat monotone. “We are to hold the bridge until further orders are given. We cannot give in to the Bolsheviks!” As he spoke the pasty skin of his jowls quivered. One lock of the greying hair stuck out from under the brim of his cap.

“What bridge?” the Scharführer cried, ignoring the man’s higher rank of Standartenjunker. “Look at it!”

He strode across the tent and threw the flap open. A blast of horrifyingly cold air forced its way into the room, but the officers did not react. The snow had paused for the moment, and through the thinning clouds a half moon shone fiercely. The undisturbed snow reflected the light into a pale blue sheen across the land.

Just beyond the perimeter of the camp, the once lazy river was now frozen, a thin crust of ice and snow separating the air from the rushing waters beneath. Jutting up from the bright expanse were shattered pieces of masonry, charred and humbled.

“For three hundred years that bridge stood tall, but all it took was one Petlyakov to flatten it and kill half our god-damn section as well! Look, we can’t cross here, but there’s another bridge just a day’s travel south of here, day and a night tops in this weather.”

“When they know of our situation, they will send engineers to rebuild the bridge,” another man said, his skin pale white from the days of cold, and the oncoming illness that would be his death. He was also higher rank than the youth.

“And just when will they know of our situation, Sturmführer? We haven’t had radio contact in days, have we? We are on our own here! It is time to take action!”

“Steurmannsmatt, how long will our provisions last?” the pasty-skinned Standartenjunker asked, ignoring the Scharführer. The timid, diminutive quartermaster looked up from the corner where he had been sitting quietly. He spoke with a mild, stuttering shiver.

“We have food for four days, six if we start seriously rationing. Ammunition is fine, we haven’t fired a single shot in weeks. The petrol is frozen solid in the trucks, though, and as for the naphtha,” he gestured at the spitting flame, “the tanks ran dry this evening. What is currently in the furnaces is all we have.”

“What about water?” the pale Sturmführer asked.

The Steurmannsmatt shrugged, his unornamented lapels lifting and dropping with a futile little rustle of fabric. “I couldn’t say. Until now we’ve been melting snow with the naphtha, but I guess we’ll have to start drawing dirty water from the river. We have no chance of digging a well in these conditions.”

The Scharführer quietly looked out of the flap at the heap on the camp’s edge. Wells weren’t the only thing that they were having difficulty with digging into the frozen, hard ground, and the pile of preserved, ice-white bodies had been steadily growing over the past few weeks. Unable to rot in the cold, their gleaming pale skin was naked where people had harvested their clothes in an attempt to stay warm. As the steadily increasing mortality rates showed, it was a tactic that seldom worked.

“We have enough to survive for at least a week then. Make sure we do, Steurmannsmatt. Oh, and Scharführer?” the Standartenjunker called. The Scharführer turned to face him.

“You’re dismissed. Be sure to close the tent on your way out, won’t you?” he said mockingly, tossing the cap to the youth. Glaring at the older man, he firmly forced it onto his head and stamped out into the snow, purposefully leaving the door open.

With each step, his leather boots crunched knee-deep into the icy crust. The clouds had gone now, blown away by the same fierce wind that now rattled the tent poles and sucked at the canvas, bringing a thousand diamonds of ice stinging into his cheek with each raging gust.

“Scharführer, the officers are arschlochs, no?”

The youth stopped walking, glancing up from the snow-bound path ahead of him, searching for the source of the voice. He didn’t recognise it. Most of his men were from bigger cities, harsh in voice and temperament. The voice he had heard, though, was sophisticated, cultured. Carefully, the officer readied his pistol.

“Behind you, Scharführer.”

He turned and saw a dark form standing in the shadow of a tent. Slowly, he walked towards the figure.

“Identify yourself, soldier.

The man stepped forwards into the light of the moon and, for a second, the young officer was unable to believe his eyes. With shaking, numb fingers he struck a match and, by the wavering, long yellow flame, looked upon the face of a dead man.

“Rottenführer Pfeiffer? I saw the bombs fall! I saw them drag you out of the water, lungs full of water and a belly full of shrapnel! You’re dead! You can’t be here!”

“A temporary setback,” the man drawled in his aristocratic tongue. “Touch me, Scharführer, and you will see that I am here.”

The dead man held out one hand and, tentatively, the officer took it.

The corpse was warm. Not just warm, really, but hot, near painfully so. His skin felt like as if fires were raging beneath the surface, only just held at bay by the Scaphian Bull of the man’s skin. Terrified, the youth tore his hand away from the cadaver’s grip, and noticed that the ground around the two of them was steaming, snow melting and leaving the floor a shiny quagmire of new, saturated mud.

“You… you’re not real!” the officer exclaimed.

“And yet I am,” the dead man replied. His eyes still looked glassy and blind, on the edge of rotting.

The Scharführer looked over to the towering pyramid of unburied bodies. Was it his imagination? Or did it look like a couple were missing? The glassy, dead eyes followed his gaze.

“I am flesh, like you, Scharführer. If you look at the heap, you will not find me there.”

“What… what are you?” he gasped out, terror clutching about his heart like the icy, asphyxiating mantle of snow that enveloped the heap of dead men, men his leadership had killed. The corpse shrugged.
“We are Legion, Scharführer.”

“Dear Christ, are you the devil?”

The man laughed, a dry, croaking sort of laugh that sounded airless and gasped out of his mouth. On the breath, the faintest odour of dry rot was carried. The officer wrapped his hand around the well-worn grip of the automatic pistol in the holster at his hip.

“We may not be the Devil, Scharführer, but we’re closely related enough to Him that that peashooter you’re clutching will do nothing but anger us, and we are not a group you want to anger. Now, we have a proposal for you, one that will not cost the lives of a single man in your service.”

“Make your offer, demon,” the Scharführer said. Normally, he would have wanted to talk inside, but the snow that had started to fall again now melted into a thin mist of drizzle as it approached the two of them. The officer didn’t take his hand off of his pistol.

“Let’s take this inside, shall we? We don’t feel the cold, so much,” he said, reaching out of the circle of warmth and plunging his bare hand down into the deep snow up to his elbow, the ground frozen from days before, at his side. He never broke eye contact. “But you do,” he continued.

The two men entered the tent.

~~~~~~~~~~

“So, you will build me a bridge?”

The dead man nodded. “We will. You have dozens of ready hosts out there that we can use. It can be done by morning.”

“Where will the materials come from?”
The cadaver shrugged. “It won’t be a problem.”

“And what payment do you require? My grandfather always said that when you deal with the devil, you have to pay the price.”

“A wise man. We require a soul.”

The man shivered at the way the corpse uttered the word. What business do you have with souls, when you yourself lack one? he thought. As the man was warming up, the smell of rot was becoming far, far stronger than previously, to the point where the Scharführer began to feel a gag coming on.

“Any soul?”

“Any will do. We will harvest the soul of the first man to cross the bridge.”

“But you said that this did not require the deaths of a single man in my service!”

“And that is true. I believe there are three officers at this camp?”

“Four.”

The two sat in silence for a couple of minutes. The Scharführer wondered whether the smell of Pfeiffer’s reanimated body would linger in the tent after he was gone.

“Do I have your agreement, Scharführer?”

The man nodded. The officer wondered whether it was just a clever trick or true, evil magic that the corpse used to produce a pre-written contract and a quill pen, tipped with a single ruby drop of fresh blood.

~~~~~~~~~~

The officer did not sleep that night, the sounds of the dead labouring away at the edge of the river keeping him away from what would have been, he had no doubt, uneasy dreams. Eventually, a rosy finger of dawn light broke through the seam of his tent and, not bothering to clothe himself, he walked out and into the snow.

More snow had fallen, and the deep whiteness reached up to his thighs, soaking his thin pyjamas through. The heap was gone, a little rough rectangle of bare ground with footsteps leading away. The man faltered and tripped, plunging whole body into the snow.

It sure was a fine bridge ahead of him.

Three long, Roman arches crossed the water. A few broken spires from the previous structure still poked out of the ice, though the red bricks of the new construction seemed entirely unrelated from the older, late-medieval structure. Strangely, the ice seemed entirely smooth, unbroken and treacherously clear. Underneath the frosty glass the Scharführer could see the supports, where algae seemed already to have been growing for years, despite the youth of the bridge.

The officer had been dreading seeing the dead on this final walk but, mercifully, they weren’t there. He reached the perimeter gate and saw that the guards were still asleep. Just as well. He didn’t want there to be any witnesses to what happened next.

The smooth paving of the bridge had just the barest dusting of snow, the newly laid tarmac modern and high-quality. The man whispered one final prayer and, eyes closed, stepped onto the bridge.

When his eyes opened, he was looking into the eyes of the dead- not just the eyes of Pfeiffer, but the eyes of all the dead at the camp, their flesh now sloughing off as the skin discoloured and their faces drooping heavy with death. The thing controlling Pfeiffer’s form smiled and, plunging a hand into the soft flesh of the Scharführer’s stomach, shrieked with all the ancient anger of the thousand demons that made up Legion.

The dead fell upon the officer, fingers grasping and claws tearing.

~~~~~~~~~~

Officially, the Scharführer died of suicide by hanging. What the officers left out of the report was that the young officer had been hanged from the bridge by his own intestines, his belly torn open with savage force and his scalp ripped off. His face was left intact, save for his lower jaw which, by the account of the camp medic, had been bitten clean in half by human teeth. The upper mandible was missing all its teeth, and it looked as if they’d been pulled out while the officer was still alive and, worse, conscious.

As it happened, his self-sacrifice was in vain. Just two days after, as the men trudged to what they were told was safety, two Petlyakov dive-bombers attacked the soldiers, one of which was flown by the same pilot who had bombed the bridge days earlier, killing all but two men- the pasty-skinned Standartenjunker, and a junior soldier. The Standartenjunker ended up killing the man to survive in the cold, planning to cannibalise him, when he was captured, tortured, and executed by Soviet forces.

To this day, the Teufelsbrücke still stands, reaching between the banks of the Taseyeva River.

Credit: HulloThere

Creepypasta

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