Orphans of a Dead Nation Chapter 2: The Hand
Trees rustled as an approaching thump and creak sped toward them. Waves of fear spread among the ten like a silent, dreadful plague. The sounds shook their hearts, but it was worse for the small four. The children were frozen, unable to move, and unable to free themselves of the shock that pervaded them to their very core. It ensnared them. Kept them hostage. And no matter how much they racked their brains, no matter how much they told themselves to move, their bodies refused to obey.
A cold sweat dripped down Alaina’s back. Come on legs. Move, damn you. Move! You can’t die here. You cannot die here! Not like this! She panted, her breath becoming more ragged. Her heart sped. And she swallowed.
Boom. Crack. Bsh! The tree in front of them creaked, two branches fractured and splintered. Alaina was twisted to the side in her stillness so all she could do was watch from the corner of her eye as a shadow appeared from the forest gloom. The wind bustled. The girl besides Alaina trembled. Her cap flew off, the cold air whipping her hair out widely.
And the shadow moved.
The ground trembled, knocking Alaina and the others down off their feet. Alaina bit down on the tip of her tongue, hard. A coppery taste flooded her mouth. She winced.
But the pain seeped away, washed like dirt from the gushing rainwater of a drainage ditch when she looked up. More like it was scared away.
Looming three meters high, a black figure, its skin like leather, but the look of bark, stood in front of the girl with two legs and two arms. Its white glowing eyes, glanced around and then fixated. A deep throaty growl rumbled forth. The top of its head, rising like twisted crystal branches, shook with the reverberation. Its lips stretched back, showing its pearl white teach which gleamed against the truck’s headlights.
The girl screamed.
As if coming to her senses, Alaina’s hand twitched. I can move. But knowing that she could move and actually doing so were two different things. She was scared, and unknown of what she should do. Would it attack me if I move?
But as if there were an answer, the giant dark creature opened its maw, stretching as wide as a meter. Its sharp fangs aimed pointed and true. And in one quick swoop, it bit down on the girl beneath it.
Blood splattered as it crunched. The death had been quick and decisive. There was no scream with the crunch. It raised its head, the blood dripping down its chin as it glared at the lights ahead, it’s pupils constricting. The peerless white snow now stained with a growing dark red.
“Fire!” The leader called out.
A rain of yellow flashes came. The black figure winced as the bullets bounced against its tough hide. It held its arms in front of itself, shielding its heart and chest from danger.
The other two boys got up. They were obviously not affected anymore by that wail, and ran in different directions.
Another shot rang out. One different from the path of the hail of bullets. It pierced through one of the two boys, and he fell down, dead.
Alaina took the time to etch away. Her hand darted around, grabbing a hold of the short sword that Dekaros had just tossed. She kept low to the ground, shuffling until she reached a good distance. They want to kill us off too.
As Alaina began to reach the trees, she got up from the snow and hid behind one.
The creature roared.
Alaina peaked around, her eyes wide. Two bulges wormed sporadically on creature’s back. Then… Like a sword piercing through flesh, black crystal-like structures, as long and curved as a giant’s rib jutted from those bulges.
A black curtain swished down from the structures. It flowed with a ghostly form.
“Wings!” Dekaros yelped. “Damn it, Jole. You got us one of them things! We can’t fight an advanced form with these crappy things.”
“Damn it!” More gun fire blazed. The sounds of bullets flying, rounds being reloaded, it all cascaded against Alaina’s ear. She knew she should leave. That she should get to safety, but a part of her, a strong part of her wanted to watch. Needed to.
“Get the crossbow!” The leader roared.
The creature wrapped its shadow wings around its body, and then began to trudge forward. The shadow curtain undulated and shuddered, but it was never pierced through.
Jole ran forward, switching with the redheaded woman. While she turned back to reload, he pulled the silver and black crossbow from off his shoulders. He pressed it against the hood of the truck for stability and aimed. The bolt lit.
Runic symbols flared to life with a timeless glow up along the bolt, eventually crossing across the entire crossbow.
One. Two. Three seconds went by. Alaina counted. An instinct of her training. She watched as the shot had been made.
The air shook. The bolt hissed through it, breaking it asunder like paper in a storm. The bolt shuddered through, piercing the tough black hide of the white-eyed creature.
Alaina’s blood boiled. Her heart thumped harsher than it had been only a dozen seconds ago when the beast could have ripped her apart. She licked her lips. I must have it!
The creature looked up. A dark, red-gold blood oozed from its shoulder.
“Caw! Caw! Caw!” Short, throaty sounds resounded through the air.
The firing stopped. The world seemed to get colder.
“What are you doing?! Don’t stand there in a daze. Shoot! Its calling for reinforcements!” The leaders hoarse voice woke the others. The firing continued. Jole prepared a second bolt.
And as Alaina continued to watch, ignoring the increasing feeling that she should just go, a palm slapped down on her shoulder. The third. She did not forget her training this time, but now she had a sword. Dashing forward in a low stance, she brought up her elbow, hard and fast behind her, twisting around, snapping it straight to bring the sword tip, arcing up.
But her blade stopped. She was the one to stop it this time. The boy that escaped in one of the directions stood there with his hands up. He trembled. “We gotta get out of here! I don’t know how to get back without going through them. Can’t go around now. Don’t know what’s lurking in the area after all this noise. Best go together.”
“Best not.” Alaina frowned. “I have something I must do.” I need to get that crossbow.
“Something you must do? Are you serious? Those six would kill you even if they managed to successfully hunt that thing down. No. Especially if they do. They can’t have rumors going around. And they would do anything to stop it. Aly, or whatever your name is, get a hold of the situation. I need you. You need me. We need each other to survive. So let’s go!”
But Alaina just shook her head. “Go without me. Go around and take the northern route. I will take the south. It might be dangerous at first, but after a mile it won’t be so. And if we split, at least this way, hopefully, one of us will live.
The boy looked at Alaina with fear in his eyes. He hesitated, but hearing the sounds coming from the clearing, he turned and bolted. But his direction was clearly south, the opposite route of her suggestion.
Alaina smiled inwardly. Typical.
It was then that suddenly the ground trembled.
Snow and dirt rose in the air. A large hulking figure, its body like that of an inverted egg, with arms and legs coming out of the sides, and big wide white eyes on its face busted out. It was hard to see it in detail. Its whole body was exuding black ghostly vapors that never seemed to rise any higher than off its skin. But though it’s body was nondescript, its eyes were not.
Some of the six screamed. The second creature had appeared right behind them.
Jole twirled around fast, aiming the crossbow at the figure, but before he could get into position, the creature knocked him with a simple swoosh of its arm, tossing him across the clearing like a rag doll. The crossbow flew across the edges where the forest began.
“Screw this! I can’t die here! I’m gone.” The truck engine rumbled as Dekaros hopped into the driver seat and put his foot on the peddle; he slammed down hard, and the truck reversed, going back on the veered off road.
“Get back here! Don’t just leave us.” The leader called out. The redhead took a glance around; and her eyes caught the crossbow in sight. She bolted for it. “Give me cover!”
She ran and jumped, lunging for the silver metal contraption as the light in the area disappeared along with Dekaros and the truck.
But just as her hand slammed upon the thing, a boot pressed down.
The woman cringed.
Alaina looked down on the older woman. “You were right. It was the second. Tension. I broke it. And now I’m molding it.”
The woman cursed. She pulled out a handgun from behind, but Alaina kicked her in the hand and then went on on the woman’s face. A few more scars won’t hurt you.
Taking the crossbow, she bolted to the north, using the big full moon as her guide.
“Stop that wench! Ahh!”
As Alaina ran on, the screams and shooting grew more heated. But also distant. She ran and ran as hard as she could. I finally got it! I finally got it! And It didn’t have to take me that long to get it.
But as soon just as she had run for a few meters, a hand came from behind a tree in front of her. It was so fast that she could not stop herself. It grabbed her and pulled her in. It closed around her mouth and another wrapped around her body, as the figure behind her pressed itself against the tree.
The dirt rubbed off the course hands and onto her lips. And a smell swarmed her nostrils. It clouded her mind and she felt like she was in a daze.
And then a voice came. No. Not a voice. Not even a whisper. But a hissing of breath.