Natalie Herrera, known to the residents of Grant Texas as Nelly, no longer expected to make it to sunrise.
This was the second time her town had been turned into a horror movie. The first time had been like something George R Romero would have come up with, “Day of the Walking Mummies” or something like that. It had been chaos and death and over in less than an hour. It had been horrible, but it had been horrible in the same way the tornado that blew through back in ninety-four had been horrible. Quick, abrupt, devastating, and over. There’d been time to be afraid, but not like this.
This time the terror had been pervasive, omnipresent. This time the terror had an opportunity to work its way into her bones.
Screw that, Nelly thought, pushing away the maudlin thoughts. Maybe she wouldn’t survive the night, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to curl up into a ball and let the monsters come for her. She wouldn’t be easy prey.
Nelly chambered a round in her bolt action rifle. It had been her grandfather’s weapon, and then her mother’s, and now it was hers, a rifle so old it had seen service in the trenches of the second World War. She knew how to use it, how to take it apart and put it back together, how to clean and care for each piece, and while it wasn’t as fancy as a modern-day semi-automatic – any simpler and it would have been a damn musket – it worked well enough for her.
After all, she didn’t expect to get more than one shot off anyway. As fast as these monsters moved, if she missed, they’d have her heart in their hands before she could have lined up a second.
Most of the rest of the town was still holed up in the police station, under the deputy’s watchful eyes. These monsters would come in every now and then, kill a couple more, then retreat. They were getting hurt each time, though. “I think some of the people inside will make it through,” she whispered.
Beside her, the Reverend nodded. Nelly didn’t know what to make of him. He’d insisted on coming with her on this insane mission – and it was insane. Everyone had told Nelly it was absolutely insane, and she hadn’t argued. Yet the Reverend had volunteered to come with her and refused to be dissuaded.
At least he’d agreed to hold Nelly’s pistol, a .45 Magnum revolver. She owned it for the same reason she owned the rifle – it was a family legacy, and she found cleaning it to be soothing. It was disturbing seeing it in the Reverend’s hands as they crawled under the dead semitrucks in the rest stop.
Of course, it was less disturbing than the empty eyes of the dead trucker that was only three feet away from Nelly’s face. It was less disturbing than seeing the man’s ribcage open like a book, torn apart by impossibly strong hands.
I guess things are all relative, Nelly thought, peering around the man’s head. No sign of the creatures, at least not that she could see. She glanced at the Reverend, who shook his head. He couldn’t see them either.
Nelly glanced further. They’d crawled as far as they could under the trucks, and at this point the only option was a sprint across the empty parking lot. On the other side was their destination – the 12-Inn-One, a cheap chain motel that dotted a lot of small towns across middle America. Thirty-Six tiny rooms, easy to maintain for a low cost, and all but guaranteed to draw just enough business from travelers to stay afloat.
Right now, it didn’t have travelers. It hadn’t since the initial chaos after the mummy invasion died down. It held something far more precious. “Last chance to back out,” Nelly whispered.
The Reverend shook his head again, more firmly than before. He was pale and looked sick with fear, but she could see a determination in his eyes she never would have credited to the kind, soft-spoken man she knew from Sunday sermons.
“Alright, we just need to run the last bit, and then we’re-”
“Caught,” said another voice. A woman’s voice, as soft and clean as a scalpel. The semi they were hiding under went flying into the air as if tossed by an angry child. It hit the gas tanks of the rest stop and the acrid smell of spilled gasoline began to fill the air.
Nelly hardly noticed it. Standing over them was Bast, the woman who had murdered Grant. A woman they called a goddess in her own right. Nelly swallowed hard scrambled to her feet, raising the rifle with trembling fingers.
Bast laughed and stepped forward, pressing her forehead against the barrel of the rifle. “You’ve never shot this at a person in your life,” Bast said. She grabbed the barrel and pressed it firmly against her forehead. “Well, now’s your chance. See if you can kill a goddess. Pull the trigger. Shoot me. Except you won’t. I’m sure you-”
Nelly snarled and pulled the trigger.
The sound wasn’t like movies. Real guns, the kind Nelly had grown up shooting, sounded like cannons when the trigger was pulled, a deafening roar that left your ears ringing. There was recoil, too, more than Nelly had even remembered feeling before. Bast’s eyes widened. I did it! Nelly thought, so shocked that she could barely process what she was seeing. I killed her! I-
Bast moved the gun away and shook her head. Her forehead was unblemished. “I honestly didn’t think you would.”
Nelly looked at the gun in her hand. Or, rather, the gun that rested in the mangled wreck of what had been her hand. Dimly, her brain reminded her of the increased recoil, and suddenly things fell into place. Somehow, Bast had jammed the gun. There’d been a misfire.
This should hurt more than it- The shock wore off, and Nelly started to scream.