This week’s prompt:
A storm, children, a machine gun
The steel gray waves beat themselves against the rocks endlessly. The sound kept the new kids up all night. Devon was tired. The little ones were wearing on him. He was only 14, damn it, why was he having to take care of two dozen children under the age of six.
He shifted the gun to his lap and rubbed his eyes. There was no sense in sulking about it. As far as any of them knew, they and these children were the last people left on the New England Coast. Possibly even the entire Northeast. He could not allow himself to think about the possibility of it being worse. There had to be more people out there somewhere.
The waves continued to pound, and the wind whipped the makeshift door so it snapped and rattled. The rain came down in sheets, just like it had been since that night. It felt like it might never let up.
Sandy came back two days ago with 8 kids in tow. She was 16 and knew how to drive. She had gone inland to see if she could get better supplies, maybe something to sleep on and some way to keep the rain out of the cave. Instead, she came back with more than a half a dozen more mouths to feed. Most of these kids had never been near the ocean, and certainly not in a storm like this. The sound invaded their dreams, causing them to wake crying and screaming. As soon as they soothed one, another woke.
Sandy, Abbi, and James were in the cave now. They were doing their best to keeps the kid quiet, but the addition of the 8 made it 24 children, to 4 adults. Not even adults. Sandy was the oldest. James was only a year older than Devon, at 15 and Abbi was barely 13.
The night it happened, they found each other while hiding in an abandoned house. It was barely standing when the weather was good, and it creaked and swayed in the storm alarmingly. They picked up the little kids the next morning. James went to see if he could find anyone else and came across the 16 kids raging in age from somewhere around 2 to 5 and a half. None of them knew each other except for 2 pairs of siblings. No one knew how they got there, or where their parents were.
Even though the sun should have been high in the sky, the thick clouds made it a perpetual twilight. The four teens found a safer place for themselves and the little kids. Each day one of them went out and searched as far as they could get without seeing one of them. If you saw one, you had to head back in the most roundabout way possible. They did not want to risk being followed.
What were they? None of them knew. The first night a sudden storm had blown in just as the sun went down. It was as bad as any hurricane, but the weather had said nothing about it. It alarmed people, but as experienced New Englanders, they went about their business. A little rain never stopped them. Devon and his parents had been at a local chain restaurant when the news cut in just as everyone’s emergency alerts went off on their phones. The restaurant was a cacophony of beeps and rings and the terrible alert tone on all the televisions. The anchor never got to say a word, just as the camera cut to her serious and well cared for face it all went dark. Every light, every phone, every radio went silent.
Devon’s dad tossed some money on the table to pay the bill and stood up. “You two stay here,” he said “I’ll bring the car around.”
Several people had the same idea, and it felt like half the restaurant tried to leave all at the same time. It made for a human traffic jam at the doors. The managers were yelling at the staff and the guests, trying to get them to pay their bills with cash. The staff was trying to make sure no one got hurt in the dark.
No emergency lights came on. He heard the girl that sat them at their table tell server that the back-up generator should have kicked on by now.
Devon’s mother grabbed him by the arm and pulled him behind her, heading for the tangle at the door. He was too short to see much of anything in the press of bodies, but her fingers were digging into his arm so tightly they hurt. He pulled back and broke her grip for a moment, and rubbed at it to get the circulation back in it. The press of people closed in and he could no longer see her.
Then the sky lit up. It was not like lightning entirely. Though there was a lot of that. It was like the floodlights on the football field, and the blinding high beams of a big truck on a dark road, and a carnival fun house all at once. People gasped and shielded their eyes for a moment, but then the screams started. Somewhere near the front a woman started shrieking, and another joined her. The people were now confused, and the mass surged both forward and back at the same time as people tried to either get away from the door or get closer at the same time. Devon was tossed about in a human riptide.
He had no idea where his mother was. Glass shattered and a high-pitched cry of something not even remotely human from the crowd. It was the instinct of a prey animal on sighting a predator. The moment of stillness broke into further chaos, and Devon lost track of everything.
The next remotely coherent thought was sitting in the shack that was about to tear itself apart in the wind with three strangers. They all had similar stories and none had any idea if anyone else was alive, but the permanent storm and heavy rain kept them from getting a good look at the things. Devon’s impression of them was something out of a Geiger nightmare. But the others did not share his fascination with art and rolled their eyes. Abbi said she had seen them in a game her brother played, said they were demons. Devon was pretty sure they were aliens. Not that it mattered. Whatever they were, they were killing people.
A rustle to Devon’s right made him freeze. None of them had seen a single animal since that night. Not even the always present seagulls. He squinted out into the gloom. He kept his finger off the trigger until he was sure. His dad taught him that. Of course he meant it for deer hunting with a rifle, not protecting preschoolers from aliens with a machine gun.
Movement. Seen not heard. He let off a quick burst of fire; the muzzle flashed in the gloom. They did not have enough ammunition to play Rambo out here. He had to be sure if he was going to use it. The unearthly squeal came from the thick foliage. Devon opened up and sprayed the area with bullets, caution be damned. The scream stopped.
Kids started crying inside, and James poked his head around the flap cautiously. His dark eyes were wide.
“Get them bundled up,” Devon said shortly. “They are too close. Time to move on.”