Stand, part 1

Posted: April 19, 2013 in End of Times, Fiction

“Pause,” the watcher said. Eisenhower. The Continental Divide. “Shit,” she muttered. She was east of that by about a thousand miles. And going the wrong way. She slowed, palmed the wheel, and made a U-turn. She’d have to go back past her apartment, but there was no way she’d stop. Those fuckers might be demons from the warmer parts of Hell, but they weren’t bumper-proof. The watcher smirked at the thought. “Resume playback.” She had a heading, but more information was always better.

The gravelly sound of Anders’ voice filled the cab of the small truck. “At the time, we didn’t rightly know which Rider it was. Turns out, that’s because it was two of ’em. Probably best that we didn’t know – Hope springs eternal and all, but even me and my boys mighta given up the ghost at that moment.” The sound of drinking. “So we’re about mid-way between the outskirts of the crowd and the black maw of the tunnel. The power hadda have been out for days by that time. Takes an extraordinary panic to make people look to a pitch-black hole for safety. The screams were deafening. The roaring of those hell-beasts, the sounds of military hardware that weren’t on our side anymore… ” Another drink. “Johnny gets the idea first, scrambles up on top of one of the cars. Starts jumping from one to the other. I boost Wil up, then Riley. Riley drags me up. Johnny’s three cars away by then, moving real quick-like. Riley jumps to the next car, but Wil is frozen. He looked back. And then, damn my eyes, I looked back.” The recording was quiet for just long enough that the watcher worried that it’d stopped. Anders’ voice startled her when he resumed talking.

“We knew it was bad without looking. Why else would we run? We knew people were being torn apart. Ya know, it ain’t a tragedy until women and children are bein’ killed. But I looked back, and I saw a man pushing a woman onward through the crowd, arms spread like he’d be shielding them from death. And this leather-winged horror swoops out of the sky, trailing streamers of pure darkness and screeching, and snatches both of them up in these big-ass barbed talons. I’m not too proud to say, I was turnin’ to run again. I woulda. But a shot barked right next to me. I see Wil’s got his rifle shouldered. Pumps the lever. Bang. Again. He kept firing, round after round… He had this crazy dee eye why kit attached to his Marlin, turned it into a revolver. Looked goofy, but he was hitting that flying terror with enough lead that it noticed, then floundered, then fell outta the damned sky.”

The watcher squinted, trying to pierce the darkness beyond the range of her headlights; she was nearing her home again, and there had been those monsters she left alive. She grinned in spite of herself. She should be horrified by the sudden upturn in violence in her life. Actual demons from real-life Hell! But she had killed four, maybe five! Her, a lab assistant in a museum dedicated to cataloguing Armageddon! She gripped the steering wheel a little tighter as she passed the entry to her parking lot. Her hands hurt. Blood seeped through the fabric of her make-shift bandage.

“… kept comin’, but I stood my ground next to Wil, and we two kept firing. I didn’t look, but I knew Johnny was behind us, emptying his piece. Riley too. I wanted to run. I think we all did. We’d been doin’ it already. But all those people…”

Movement. The watcher lost track of Anders’ narrative. Mirror check. Nothing. The street lights still poured a steady glow of yellow onto the road. She turned, checked the bed of the truck through the back window. Empty. She caught a glimpse of the street behind her. The lights flickered. Her breath went thick in her throat. “Here we go,” she whispered. Her adrenaline surged. “Pause playback.” Her computer fell silent, she faced forward. She mashed the accelerator to the floor. So far she’d been able to handle the demons. She knew it was luck. The gun. The knife. The table-leg. She could run more down, but the truck would probably only handle so much abuse. So outrunning them would be the best option.

She checked her speed. Johnson’s recount of the Divide Retreat had mentioned flying monsters. Hopefully they couldn’t keep up with ninety miles an hour. She leaned forward, scanning the sky. Nothing but inky black. Not even the moon.

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