“Are they still out there?” Ron asked, crouched down beside the window. “Are they still out there?” he repeated, his voice more frantic, not even giving anyone time to answer the first question. The shotgun he held between his legs shook with fear.
Nelly pulled herself up to peer out the window. “Yeah,” she said through gritted teeth.
Ron just moaned in fear. The interior of the Grant, Texas, police station looked like a war zone. Filing cabinets had been pushed up against windows, desks had been moved to bar doors, chairs shoved to the sides. The people inside had hollow, sunken eyes. Reverend Jeremy Howard couldn’t blame them. They’d endured an unimaginable horror earlier this year, the dead rising and razing the town in a war between gods. Just when things were starting to get back to normal, just when people were starting to heal, the horror had come back.
And I don’t even know what it is this time, he thought through gritted teeth. The first time he hadn’t known, not really, but it had been something that he had seen in movies and on tv before. The dead rising and attacking the living. That was a thing that you could think about, something you could understand. This? Whatever it was, it was something worse. He crept closer to the window and peered out.
Two shadows stood under a street lamp, regarding the building. “Come out, come out, wherever you are…” one of them said in a singsong voice.
A voice that the Reverend knew, a voice the Reverend had heard singing Hymns every Sunday. It was Sally. He could almost make her out from here, although it was hard to be sure with the front of her shirt stained with blood, hard to be sure with the massive wound in her chest where something had been torn out of her.
“We should just go in,” the other figure said, a lower, gruffer voice. It had taken a bit longer for the Reverend to identify the voice. Billy, he thought sadly. He’d baptised both these children, and having them standing out there in the night, taunting the figures inside…
The sound of gunfire sent everyone to the ground. Everyone except Ron, who had been the one to shoot. The panicked shot had gone horrendously wild – the Reverend couldn’t even see what he’d managed to hit, but it certainly wasn’t Billy or Sally. “Get down, you idiot!” Nelly said, pulling on the back of Ron’s shirt.
“It’s not right,” Ron said through tears. “It’s not right!”
The reverend tuned him out. Ron was barely holding it together. His wife was still at home, and as far as anyone in town knew, everyone outside this little police station was already did. God, please, if you grant me nothing else ever again as long as you live, please grant that it’s not so, he prayed quietly.
“They’re trying to shoot us,” Billy said to Sally. “We need to,”
“No,” Sally snapped, a harsh note to her voice that the Reverend had never heard before. Sally was a kind girl, a gentle soul. She didn’t snap, and she certainly didn’t sound like that when she was angry. “We wait for her.”
“But I’m hungry,” Billy whined. “You already got to eat, Sally. I still haven’t.”
“And I promised you food, did I not?” said a new voice, prompting the Reverend to peer up over the window again. A woman had joined the two. The Reverend couldn’t make out much about her. Her hair was up in a bun, and she wore some sort of coat, but that was about all he could clearly make out. Her voice, though – it didn’t have an accent the Reverend associated with anyone he knew. It was more Midwestern, with a bit of a clip to it. Somewhere up north, then.
“Who the hell is that?” Nelly asked, peering through the window.
“How the hell are we supposed to know?” Ron snapped. “Some psycho bitch, what else matters?”
“Calm down, Ron,” The Reverend said, motioning for him to lower the gun. “We don’t know what’s going on out there.”
“Calm down?” Ron shouted. “Calm down!? They ate Chaz’s heart, Reverend, and you’re telling me to calm the fuck down!?”
If the figures outside heard or cared about Ron’s outburst, they gave no indication. “Yes, Ron. We can’t do anything for him.” Or for the others. The Reverend had seen the corpses, seen the way their chests had been torn open. He wondered what made Billy and Sally special, why they were still up and walking around. There were others like them, he was sure of it. There were also many more dead.
“You can have one,” the woman outside was saying, causing the Reverend to tense up. “The rest, let them run.”
“We have a whole town to eat, Cassandra,” Sally said. “I don’t know why we have to be careful.”
“Because She commands it.” The Reverend could hear the emphasis on the pronoun. That was why he kept everyone holed up, why he was encouraging them to wait. There was someone else out there, someone behind all this. Just like the Mummies. Why did they have to come back?
“Of course,” Billy said reluctantly. “But…I can get one?”
The woman – Cassandra – nodded. “Only one.”
“Get ready!” The Reverend said firmly. “Billy’s coming.”
The idea that those two words could cause a ripple of fear through the people inside would have caused the Reverend to laugh once upon a time. Billy was about as intimidating as a wet kitten. Or at least, he had been.
When the Reverend glanced up to the street, Billy was gone. “Where is he?” Ron asked. He turned the gun inwards, pointing it around. “He could be anywhere.”
“Jesus, Ron, don’t point that shit at us,” Nelly hissed, ducking when the barrel swung her way. “You want to kill one of-”
A thump came from the roof above them. Ron jerked the shotgun up and fired into the ceiling. Everyone inside screamed and ducked. Ron’s hand shook as he began to reload. “Did I get it? I think I got it! I think-”
Two hands burst out of the ceiling above Ron’s head. They barely looked human – the fingers were too long, and the tips of them ended in hooked claws like a cats. The skin was tight and gaunt. Half of the figure they were attached to came with them, and although the face was grotesquely distorted, like someone had stretched a human face over a cat’s skull, the Reverend recognized Billy’s green eyes.
The hands latched into Ron’s chin, and Ron screamed, a high pitched sound. Several people inside opened fire now that they had a target. Bits of the creature that had once been Billy blew away, and Billy hissed in pain, but he didn’t let go of his prey. Instead, he flew back into the ceiling, dragging Ron by his face.
A few more gunshots were fired, but there was no more target. No one knew where Billy was. Ron’s screams cut off.
In the silence, they could all hear terribly suggestive sounds of something being chewed. “Oh God in heaven,” Nelly said, crossing herself.
Another series of thumps, and more gunfire erupted from the panicked people of the town. They needn’t have wasted the ammo.
It was just Ron’s body, being thrown back into the room. He stared up at the ceiling, his face a wordless scream of pain, a gaping hole torn into his chest.
Billy was back in the street, shifting back into something recognizably human. “They shot me,” he growled at Cassandra.
“And you were able to feed. Don’t worry. We’re not going anywhere anytime soon.” Cassandra reached over and gave Billy an affectionate pat on the shoulder. “She has a plan.”
“It still hurt.”
“Let them hurt,” Cassandra said. “Let them thrash, let them howl, let them scream. They can’t do anything to us, not permanently. Not as long as She protects us. And when this is done…we can finish off the lot of them.”
“What do you want us to do for now?” Sally asked.
“Keep them in there for now. Wait for your new siblings.”
“And if we get hungry?” Sally asked.
“They’ll eventually try to run. You can eat some then.” That last sentence Cassandra said a bit louder. She wanted the people inside to stay right where they were, to know they were safe so long as they didn’t try to run.
Yeah, the Reverend thought grimly, as safe as a lamb in the slaughterhouse.
Backing away from the window, the Reverend started to pray again. It was not right for a man to ask the Almighty for a miracle, but he still did.
Right now, it was their only hope.