Estimated reading time — 21 minutes
The sky mirrored how he felt on the inside. It was a cloudy day; the morning looked exactly the same as it did this afternoon. Grey and gently snowing, the wind whistled through the air and managed to be louder than the car horns on his way home from work. At a stoplight, he punched the steering wheel and shouted with tears in his eyes, not caring who was watching him in the cars beside him.
He walked through the front door of his crappy, but not too crappy apartment and threw his suitcase on the floor. He sat down on the couch next to his wife and put his face in his hands. “Come on, Jasper, talk to me.”
“They hated the presentation. That was my last shot. I lost my job, Eileen. I failed you.”
“Jasper, you didn’t fail me. Hey, look at me,” she said as she lifted his chin with a gentle hand. She could see the distress in his red and puffy eyes. Not wanting her to see the pain in his face, he turned and shook his head.
“Baby, I can’t even look at you right now. I let you down.”
“You did everything you could do. That’s all you can do.”
Jasper stood up, “that’s not good enough! I’m supposed to take care of you! And now I can’t even pay for this stupid apartment!” He took the tv remote off the couch and threw it at the wall, shattering it to pieces.
Eileen didn’t seem phased; instead she stood up and put her arms around his neck and held him close. “We’re a team, Jasper. You don’t take care of me. We take care of each other. You fall, I hold you up. I fall, you catch me.” She pulled back to wipe the tears forming in his eyes. “We’ll figure something out. I’ll talk to the apartment manager tomorrow and ask if we can get more time to pay the rent.”
Jasper nodded and put his head on her shoulder. The following morning, Eileen and Jasper waited in the front office to meet with the manager. Soon, they were called in his office, and sat down across from the manager. “Look, I’ll just be straight with you: this is the fourth month in a row I’ve given you guys extra time to pay your rent,” Jasper was about to speak but the manager quickly raised a hand to silence him as he continued, “I can’t keep doing this for you guys. I don’t even do this for any of my other tenants! It was only supposed to be a one-time thing, but I feel like you guys are starting to take advantage of my kindness.”
“Please, I just lost my job and—” Jasper begged but the manager raised his hand once again.
“That’s your problem, Jasper. I’ve done all I can for you. You two have three days to be out of your apartment or I’m going to have to take legal action,” the manager stood up and raised his arm to show them the door, “leave your keys at the front desk when you leave.”
They didn’t have much; most of their stuff was old and probably should’ve been thrown out years ago. They packed what they could carry in backpacks and small boxes over the course of the next two days. On the third day, Jasper went out to check the mail for the last time. He walked back to the apartment and was about to throw the mail in the garbage when a dark green envelope fell out of the bundle of junk mail and advertisements.
The envelope was addressed to him and his wife but the return address was from a location he didn’t recognize; Jasper hadn’t even heard of this address before. Regardless, curiosity took over and he tore open the envelope and pulled out a letter. The letter was handwritten and looked surprisingly fancy. A strange symbol appeared to be stamped in the top right-hand corner of the letter.
The letter read as follows: “Having financial troubles? Feel like you’re out of options? Maybe you’re considering ending it all? Maybe you don’t know where to turn or who to call? It feels like the walls are closing in to crush you, doesn’t it? I know; the ground feels like it’s crumbling beneath your feet and will open up any moment to swallow you. We understand how you feel. Everyone in our community does. We believe in second chances. We believe everyone deserves a second chance. A chance to be someone better. A chance to live a better life.
This is what we offer you: a second chance. Join us; come live in our exclusive community and leave your worries and money problems where you live now. Come live in our community of paradise and peace, and leave your old life and the old you behind. Below is the address to our community, Shepherd’s Flock. We have personally chosen you and your lovely wife to come live in a community where we will provide all your needs. You will live in a home we have personally hand selected for you and will give you a job in our community.
Please, stop struggling and come home; come to Shepherd’s Flock. Yours truly, Simon Salazar.”
Jasper stood speechless as he handed the letter to Eileen for her to read. “What is this? Some kind of joke?”
“Baby, this is an answered prayer!”
“But how did they know that we were struggling?”
“Maybe they have some kind of record of the people in financial people in this area? Look, the address is about a few hours from here!”
“I’ve never heard of this place before, have you?”
“No, but what does it matter? Jasper, it’s either this, or we live on the streets!”
“I know, I know. I just…it seems too good to be true.”
“Jasper…we have nowhere to live tomorrow. The timing is perfect! It’s meant to be! Please baby, we need this.”
“Alright…grab your things and leave them by the door. I’ll start packing our stuff in the car.”
It was late and the night air was cold and silent. By the time they were on the road, it was almost midnight. Eileen put the radio on but at a low volume and rolled down the window a bit to feel the wind on her face. With the exception of the soft music from the radio, you couldn’t hear a thing or see another car on the road.
With the map in her lap, she directed Jasper where to turn. They were both tired, but at the same time, not sleepy. Both anxious about this new colony and anxious about not having a place to call home, they felt wide awake despite the stress taking its toll on them emotionally as well as physically. The trip took them deep into a wooded area in the middle of nowhere. As the hours passed, they began to see fewer and fewer buildings until it was just trees all around them.
The trees were tall and seem to extend to the sky. The wind made the trees gentle sway back and forth; dancing while their leaves made a soft rustling noise being shaken in the wind. Leaves began to flutter all around them and managed to cover the car rather quickly. The trees looked down at them and continued to sway in the wind as the couple drove by.
Besides their headlights, the stars in the sky illuminated the darkness surrounding them and revealed just how outnumbered Jasper and Eileen were. So many trees around them, and they seem to get taller and taller the more they drove towards their destination. Eileen rolled down the window a bit more and tried to get a better look, but couldn’t even see the tops of the trees anymore. The trip took much longer than they were expecting and decided to pull off to the side of the road to sleep in the car until sunrise.
The sunlight shining brightly through their car window is what woke them up. Rubbing their tired eyes, they quickly realized that they had parked their car directly in front of a large compound. Jasper and Eileen exited the car since there was already a few people walking towards them. Eileen noticed that the trees were all around them weren’t that tall; maybe twelve feet tall. She examined the trees, feeling a little unnerved. They looked so much taller last night. Jasper was a bit confused himself; not because of the trees but because he had been so sure that they still had about another hour before they reached the community.
They were both exhausted the previous night and were fighting to keep their eyes open, so they both shrugged their suspicions off, reasoning that they were just tired. The small group of people making their way towards them were lead by a tall slender man in an expensive looking tuxedo. He looked sharp and clearly well off, but his face was aged and despite his warm smile, his eyes hinted at the fact that he may have been through times few people should ever have to go through.
“I’m so glad you received my letter. It’s such a joy to see you both. Pardon me, I’m forgetting my manners—” he extended his long and skinny arm to shake their hands. “I am Simon Salazar. And you are…”
“Jasper; this is my wife, Eileen.”
“Well, it’s a pleasure to finally make your acquaintance.”
“If you don’t mind me asking…why did you choose us? And how did you know we were struggling?”
Simon smiled his warm smile again and put his hand on Jasper’s shoulder while he said, “a good shepherd always knows when one of his sheep is in trouble. Welcome to Shepherd’s Flock.”
If this was anyone else, they would give Jasper an uneasy feeling. But for some reason, Simon’s kind eyes and friendly face made them both feel at ease. Anyone else on this planet attempting to act like Simon probably wouldn’t be seen as anything more than creepy and downright unsettling. But Simon had a presence that just made Jasper and Eileen want to be around him.
The people following closely behind Simon came forward to greet the young couple and introduce themselves. Simon then motioned for everyone to follow him back to the compound, and Jasper and Eileen left their car behind to follow him.
“I didn’t know Dracula had a brother,” Jasper whispered to his wife.
Eileen sneered and elbowed Jasper, “oh stop, he’s very nice,” she whispered back.
“Okay but if he ever bites you in the neck, you’d tell me, right?”
“That’s enough!” She whispered back while trying to hold in a laugh.
The mammoth sized doors of the compound opened up like the gates of Heaven opening up to welcome them in. The doors had to be at least thirty feet high; the same height as the white brick walls that surrounded the entire compound. As they followed Simon inside, the people following them went away to go about their business. Simon led them inside a small office building where they were seated at a fancy wooden table across from their host. Simon cleared his throat and leaned back in his chair, still keeping his usual smile on his face.
“Well? What do you think of our little slice of Heaven?” He asked while his eyes went to Jasper, then to Eileen, then back to Jasper.
It wasn’t a question they needed to think about; the whole place was both impressive and wonderful. Large houses were everywhere, everyone dressed in the nicest clothes, small shops and various businesses all looked busy with people coming and going, and gardens as well as fields growing with produce were massive and abundant. The grass was the healthiest green they had ever seen. The livestock and people both looked well fed and happy. They had so many questions but at the same time, didn’t feel a need to ask any of them. It was real; it was all right before them.
“I…I don’t even know where to start. Everything is like a dream,” were the only words that Jasper could find. Eileen nodded in agreement and Simon smiled and leaned forward.
“Good! I trust that we have made you both feel very welcome so far. As hard as it is to believe, this really is your home now. I’m glad I brought you both here; you two seem like you’re going to fit right in with the rest of my flock. I only ask that you follow a few simple guidelines while you’re here. I ask all of my sheep to follow these guidelines. You do that…you can stay here for as long as you wish. Deal?”
Jasper was surprised how quickly the words left his mouth, “of course! Anything we can do to earn our keep. Just name it!” He didn’t even need a moment to think about what he might be agreeing to. However, Eileen agreed just as quickly.
“Very good! I appreciate your willingness to be so cooperative; I know I made a good choice with you two. So here are our guidelines: We don’t have currency here; we simply ask that you work any job we give you. This might be taking care of a garden one day, and working the general store the next. We are all rich here; not one of us starves. If you have special training in the medical field, we have a small doctor’s office you’re welcome to help out in. Next, we don’t have a court system; we’re all family here. You will take any disputes directly to me, and I will sort it out. But, I highly doubt you two will be any trouble.”
“No sir, of course not!” Jasper added.
Simon smiled and nodded as he continued, “I didn’t think so. Next, everyone is required to be inside their homes at exactly eight o’clock every night. No exceptions. Next, if it ever starts to rain, we require that everyone be indoors until the rain stops. No exceptions.”
Jasper wanted to give Eileen a look, but Simon’s eyes were focused on him; almost paralyzing him with his stare. He was afraid to break eye contact.
“Next, every four months, you will leave a basket of your best food on your doorstep. The basket of food must weight at least twenty pounds. We will notify you the day before your basket is due to remind you in case you forgot. No exceptions. And last, if you ever want to leave Shepherd’s Flock, you must get my permission first,” he smiled his warm smile again, “that sound doable?”
Jasper and Eileen wanted to ask questions but didn’t want to seem difficult or ungrateful. The guidelines seemed strange, but it wasn’t anything that was too much to ask. “Simple and easy to remember,” Jasper responded as Simon shook his hand. He shook Simon’s hand with a firm handshake but a weak heart. For a moment, he pondered just what he was getting himself and his wife into. But he also knew the alternative was; living on the streets. So, he put on his best smile and agreed to follow every guideline with blind obedience. That night, the two were laying in bed at around nine when they heard scratching on the walls of their new home.
The home was small, didn’t have much furniture, but it had all necessary appliances needed to survive and wash clothes. Plus, it was ten times nicer than their last apartment. Eileen nudged her husband awake and Jasper slowly made his way out of bed to find out where the scratching was coming from. “It sounds like a giant cat scratching the entire wall,” is what ran through his mind, which was both a pretty terrifying and silly thought. The scratching moved from one wall to the one beside it where their bedroom window was located.
The window revealed that a large tree branch was scratching along their home; a large branch that belonged to an even larger tree. The tree beside their house was enormous; it stooped over their home, and despite the tree not possessing eyes, it seemed to stare down at them with an unsympathetic gaze. Jasper felt himself being watched by the tree even though he argued with himself that this feeling didn’t make any sense.
“What was the scratching noise?” Eileen mumbled, still half asleep.
“Nothing honey, it’s just a tree. Go back to sleep now.”
The next morning, they walked outside to start their first jobs working at the general store. Jasper looked back at their home to find that there were no trees anywhere near their home. The compound was surrounded by trees, but none were large or even inside the compound. Jasper felt a cold chill run throughout his body as he continued walking towards the store. He wanted to mention the strange feeling he had last night to Eileen, but decided not to frighten her.
He was half asleep when he heard the scratching. “The mind and eyes can play tricks on you,” he reasoned with himself. The two headed inside the store and became acquainted with the store owner and his wife. The owner showed Jasper how to work at the front of the store while Eileen and the owner’s wife went to the back storeroom to tidy up. The store didn’t take currency, but rather traded items for the resident’s possessions. They had a confusing system of how to know what is a fair trade or not, but eventually, Jasper got the general idea.
Meanwhile, in the storeroom, the owner’s wife began to strike up a conversation with Eileen. The owner’s wife introduced herself as, Emily. She was a small petite woman with a soft-spoken voice. She looked to be about in her late 30s but at the same time, couldn’t weigh anything over a hundred pounds. “So, how do you two like it here so far?” Emily asked Eileen.
“Well, I think it’s exciting to be here! We’ve never been in a community like this before. How long have you and your husband been here?”
“Oh, several years now.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, what’s with all these strange guidelines everyone has to follow? I mean, requiring us to be indoors at a certain time and if it rains seems a little odd, right?” Eileen said lightheartedly as she laughed.
Emily didn’t laugh. She responded with a stone cold look on her face as if Eileen had insulted her family, “we all have to make sacrifices if we want to stay here. It’s best not to question it. For your own safety.”
Eileen looked throw off and wiped the smile from her face immediately. “Oh…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just asking.”
Emily silently mouthed something but Eileen didn’t understand what she was trying to say. Emily opened up her jacket to show Eileen what she was talking about. Eileen’s heart dropped; Emily was wearing a wire. “He’s listening,” Emily mouthed again.
Emily kept the straight face she was wearing and said, “just follow the rules and make your contribution every four months. Do you understand?” She motioned for Eileen to play along.
“O…Of course! I won’t make any trouble,” Eileen nodded and humored her.
Emily continued to make small talk as she wrote something down on a piece of paper and passed it to Eileen. “Help me escape this Hell,” is what the note said.
Eileen continued the small talk and wrote a message back on the paper and passed it to Emily. “What are you talking about? Are you in danger?”
“You don’t realize how doomed we all are,” Emily wrote back. Emily’s husband knocked on the storeroom door and called to see how they were doing in there. “Making progress! We’re almost done organizing in here!” Emily grabbed the paper and quickly wrote down, “they’re not trees. Burn this paper when you get home.” Emily rose and left the storeroom, leaving Eileen alone with a thousand questions.
Later that night, Eileen told her husband about the strange conversation she had with Emily. Jasper wanted to tell his wife about his fears, but she looked frightened enough, so he kept to himself about it. “Eileen, I think maybe they were just messing with you. We’re the new kids on the block, maybe they’re just—”
“No Jasper! She was wearing a wire!”
“Eileen,” he said calmly while pulling her in for a hug, “it’s okay. It was just a joke. Nobody was listening to your conversation. There’s nothing wrong with this place.”
A few months passed without incident. No more strange occurrences or unusual conversations. Emily never brought up their conversation. Neither of them woke up in the middle of the night and they decided to obey all the guidelines, no matter how odd they seemed. They woke up one morning to find a note taped to their front door. “Your contribution is due tomorrow morning. 20 pounds minimum. Your best food. No exceptions,” read the note.
It seemed like a small sacrifice for a free home and security, so they stepped outside to find that it was snowing outside. It was June and this area didn’t normally snow around this time. But the sky was grey and clouds hid the sun while snow began to fall and stick to the ground. The strangest part about it was that it wasn’t all that cold outside. The wind was blowing, but only blowing in one direction.
The snow felt powdery and quickly melted into warm water Jasper’s hand. “What is this? Snow should be colder…” his voice trailed off as he looked off in the distance and noticed that a large object was just beyond the walls. Stepping closer, he quickly came to the conclusion that a large volcano stood not too far away from the compound. He had never noticed the volcano the entire time he lived there. “Was the snow ash?” He wondered.
He walked towards his neighbors, who were busy farming and not taking notice to the snow or ash or whatever it was. He got the general store owner’s attention and asked how long the volcano had been there.
“It’s your turn to look after my store. Don’t be late, Jasper,” the owner didn’t seem to acknowledge the question so Jasper asked again.
“Mr. Johnson, can you see the volcano too?” Jasper even pointed to it while he asked.
“Jasper, I’m very busy. Please mind your business and don’t bother anyone about things that don’t concern you.” His voice was about as cold as the air that engulfed the community.
Jasper went back inside to grab Eileen to show her the volcano. “Please tell me you see it.”
“Wow…that’s interesting. I’ve never seen that before.”
“Right? I asked Mr. Johnson but he wouldn’t even acknowledge it was there!”
“Now Jasper, calm down. You know how he can be at times. I’ll talk to Emily about it.”
At work a few hours later, Eileen pulled Emily to the side to ask her about the volcano. Emily continued stocking shelves, never once looking up at Eileen. “We need to get these products on the shelf before it gets too busy. You know how crazy it gets—”
“Emily! What is that thing? And how is it snowing today?” She smacked a box of raisins out of Emily’s hand and grabbed her by the shoulders. “Answer me, Emily! What do you know?”
Emily stood motionless and her expressionless face looked like a mannequin as she silently mouthed, “it’s not snow.”
The memory of their first conversation invaded her mind and she felt sick to her stomach. “Where did the volcano come from?” Eileen wrote down on a slip of paper and passed it to Emily discretely as customers walked into the store.
Emily pointed to the sky with her index finger and shook her head. “Not a volcano. Don’t speak about it.” Emily wrote down. She slowly opened her jacket and quickly closed it as soon as Eileen saw it; the wire.
Emily motioned to continue stocking shelves and quickly shot a look at the slip of paper. Eileen grabbed it and stuffed it in her pocket. In case someone really was listening to their conversation, Eileen quickly changed the subject, “so what are you giving for your contribution tomorrow.”
Emily took a deep sigh and said that they were giving all the food they had left. She took out her notepad and wrote, “it doesn’t weigh 20 pounds.”
Eileen looked puzzled. “But Simon told Jasper and I that nobody starves in Shepherd’s Flock. How are you guys struggling?”
Emily jumped at Eileen and put a hand over her mouth and furiously shook her head. Emily’s eyes were wild and, in that moment, Eileen realized what she had done. Emily ran out of the store and towards her home. Eileen put a hand over her mouth and felt herself beginning to cry.
She quickly pulled herself together as a customer approached her to ask a question about a product. The customer immediately saw the terror in her eyes and asked if she was okay. “Please…please tell me you see it!” She whispered in a shaky voice as she pointed out the window towards the volcano.
The concern was erased from the customer’s face and they casually walked away. Eileen was desperately wiping tears from her face as she saw Simon walking towards the store. Simon walked inside and made a beeline towards her. “My friend, are you alright?” He asked Eileen after seeing the tears still flowing down her face.
“Y—yes sir! I’m fine, I just hit myself in the eye. I was just being clumsy.”
“Yes…yes you were.” Simon leaned forwards and put her mouth near her ear as he whispered, “I advise shutting your clumsy mouth before I give you and your husband over to them.” He pulled back and smiled his warm smile as he said in a pleasant tone, “have a wonderful day, Eileen. Follow the guidelines and you will live a long and happy life in my flock.” He turned and walked away.
Eileen stood trembling and soon ran over to a nearby trashcan to vomit. A customer approached her and asked her if she was ready to make a trade for some products they needed, completely unconcerned as she continued puking in the trash.
“Hey honey, how was work at the shop today?” Jasper asked.
“It was fine…do you have our basket ready yet?”
“I haven’t prepared it yet. I’ll do it tonight.”
“Gosh Jasper, do I have to do everything for you?” Eileen shouted as she stormed off to prepare the basket.
Jasper followed her into the kitchen. “Baby? What’s wrong?” Jasper asked as he tried not to take it personally.
Eileen spun around and pulled out the slip of paper from her pocket to let her husband read. “Emily was wearing a wire again…I may have incriminated her today.”
Jasper held his wife and told her that he asked a few people around the community about the snow that day as well as the volcano. “It was the weirdest thing; nobody answered my questions. Everyone I talked to deliberately avoided the question. I even went into Simon’s office today, but he told me that we just had an unusual cold front, and that explains the snow. I even mentioned the volcano in the distance, to which he said it’s always been there and immediately sent me out.”
“Always been there?”
“Yeah, I don’t know what he meant by that. I’ve never seen it until this morning.”
“What exactly did he say”
“It didn’t make any sense, Eileen. I think he just wanted me out—”
“What did he say?” She yelled as she pushed him off of her.
Jasper put his hands up to try and calm her down. “He just said that the volcano has been here since Earth’s formation; it deserves respect. And it doesn’t want anything but my complete and total reverence. And to make sure my basket is ready tomorrow morning. It was nonsense, Eileen.”
Eileen was quiet as if trying to solve the riddle in her head. Jasper took the basket and began stuffing it with food. “I’m sorry, Jasper. Give it here, I’ll do it.”
“It’s alright, Eileen. Just get some rest; I’ll take care of the basket.”
After Jasper finished the basket, he put it on a weight scale that came with the house and made sure it was over 20 pounds. He placed it on their doorstep before he went to bed and fell fast asleep soon after. The next morning, Jasper and Eileen woke up to the sound of rain. As expected, everyone stayed indoors. Jasper peered through the front door window and noticed the basket was gone.
He also noticed something alarming, “Eileen, come here! Quick, come here!”
Eileen leaped out of bed and raced over the door. “Oh my…that’s Emily’s and Mr. Johnson’s house!” Their home looked as if something had crashed through the roof and exploded the house from the inside. The entire home was charred and the hole in the roof wasn’t all that large; maybe a small meteor could’ve been the cause. Jasper immediately picked up the phone and called Simon.
“Mr. Salazar, something terrible has happened! Mr. Johnson and Emily are—”
“I know, Jasper. I’ve been receiving calls from their neighbors all morning. A lightening bolt struck their home early this morning. Please stay inside, we’ll check on them once it stops raining.”
“Are you insane? They need help now! We can’t wait!”
“Jasper…please remain calm. They brought this upon themselves.”
“What? What on earth are y—”
“Their basket wasn’t twenty pounds. Please stay inside,” Simon hung up. The whole house was completely silent; only the sound of the dial tone and the pounding of the rain remained.
“Eileen, I have to go check on them. Stay here,” Jasper instructed.
“No! Jasper, I’m coming with you!”
Jasper gently pushed Eileen back and made her promise she wouldn’t leave. “Promise me! Promise me you’ll stay inside! I’m just going to check on them.”
“You come right back! You hear me, you come right back here!”
Jasper hugged his wife and kissed her on the forehead. “I’ll return. Stay inside.” He took a deep breath and flung the front door open. The rain was frigid cold and Jasper could see his breath as he ran. Looking up, he took note that the volcano was gone. He slipped in the rain and fell into a pile of mud. Neighbors quickly took notice of Jasper and he could see all of them peering out their windows. Some were even slowly opening their doors and shouting at him to get back inside his home. Some were begging for him to even come inside their homes. The rainclouds covered the sky in a blanket of dark grey, which made the morning appear as night.
He rose to his feet and couldn’t understand why everyone was pleading with him to get out of the rain. He knew that they weren’t concerned with him catching a cold, but seemed fearful of something else; they begged and pleaded with him as if he was endangering their safety. Jasper finally made it to Emily and Mr. Johnson’s house. He darted inside as thunder clapped louder than he had heard in his lifetime. His eardrums were still ringing from the thunder’s roar as he shouted for Emily and her husband to respond.
Rain poured in through their roof and the entire house looked like it had been set ablaze. Jasper shouted once more as he ran up the steps, one of his feet going through a wooden step. He struggled to pull his foot out as he heard scratching all along the walls of the charred house. Familiar scratching that he knew he had heard before. “Emily! Mr. Johnson! It’s Jasper! Please come out! We have to get out!”
His lungs were growing weary from screaming and his voice began to fade out as he screamed their names once more. The scratching became louder and his mind imagined the eerie trees scratching at the home with their branches. He imagined the enormous trees trying to reach in to grab him. Adrenaline kicked in and he got his foot free from the broken step on the stair case. He continued upstairs and stopped dead in his tracks. With all the strength he had left, he screamed at the sight before him. Emily and Mr. Johnson’s burnt remains lay on the floor. He could smell their flesh still burning and he turned and threw up all over the floor. He began to hear the others in the community shouting at him, although he couldn’t tell what exactly they were trying to say. He sprinted down the staircase as thunder boomed once more and the horrible scratching at the house became so loud, he could feel the vibration in his ears and chest.
He kicked the front door open and fell onto the ground outside. He turned over on his back to see the trees all around him. They rose to the sky and their tops were covered by the dark clouds which hovered over him. Jasper felt his reasoning and sanity starting to slip away from him as he shouted a wild and crazy scream. They weren’t trees; Jasper’s mind couldn’t begin to comprehend what his eyes were seeing. Tears poured down from his face, but he couldn’t tell how much he was crying since he was already covered in rain water.
He picked himself up and began to run again but stopped and screamed in agony; he had broken his foot in the fall. Limping as fast as he could, he made his way towards his home where Eileen was shouting at him while pointing at something behind him. Reluctantly, Jasper turned his head only for a moment, and even that proved to be too much for his mind to bear. The volcano was rising up and then came a deafening sound of rumbling, followed by the ground shaking like an earthquake.
Jasper limped forward to the best of his ability as he heard a sound coming from behind him that no human being as ever experience. The sound of the most heinous and sordid screeching echoed throughout the entire compound. Jasper slipped in a puddle and landed on his broken foot, screaming the most painful scream that has ever left his throat. He began to crawl forward as he dug his hands in the mud before him, desperately trying to reach his home. Eileen fell to her knees on their front porch and suddenly stopped screaming. Her eyes rolled in the back of her head and immediately fainted; falling to the ground with a loud thud. Jasper thought a huge gust of wind was blowing him forwards, but listened more closely as he continued to crawl in the mud, all the while screaming for Eileen. It wasn’t a gust of wind, but the sound became clearer through the pounding of the rain, revealing that it was the awful sound of wings.
Jasper turned for a brief moment to see the prodigious wings flapping in the air. The wings were attached to the most sanity blasting image Jasper had ever seen. The otherworldly sight immediately sent Jasper into a wild panic as his eyes rolled back into his head and he began to twitch and shake as foam slowly began to form in his mouth.
Everyone in the community was outside their homes at this point; they fell to their knees and cried out for mercy from this hideous winged creature. The many eyes covering each of this winged creature’s arms looked down at the people with distain and without sympathy as it flew upwards with its disgusting wings. The sky flashed a bright light that blinded all in the community. In an instant, they all felt their skin and entire bodies ignite into flames.
The dark clouds received the winged creature as it flew upwards, the thunder masked the sound of its horrible screeching, and the lightening shot down from the sky to destroy the Shepherd’s Flock. A quiescent volcano had erupted deep in the woods to spew forth a creature not of this world; a creature which originated from the darkest corners of space and time. The ancient ones from the Salazar family bloodline called it the, “Old Chimera,” and they created sacred guidelines to postpone its arrival.
CREDIT : Josiah Santos