The doors slammed with such force that Rick flinched. He was probably being way too harsh with the woman, but her killing spree still unnerved him. Was she capable of that at any time? What caused her to do it? These were questions he’d want answers to, but for now he had another task. The girl, Kay, was still very much an issue. She seemed traumatized, unable to really do anything.
“We have to go,” spoke Kay, her quiet voice breaking through the howl of wind building up outside, “it’s already too late. We have to go. It’s too late…” She began to rock back and forth, her hands gripping her head.
“Why is it too late, Kay? Why do we have to go?” Truth be told, he thought, I’m not going to like the answer. Still, he needed to know what she was so afraid of, what caused everything that happened here; the sacrifice, the ambush.
“The demons.” She stopped rocking and looked at Rick with quivering, searching eyes. “We sacrifice people here to stop the demons God sends. The demons are coming, we have to go, but-”
“It’s too late, I gotcha. Look, if we have to go we’re going to move now. Can you walk?” She didn’t move. Rick could feel the heat of frustration beginning to take its toll on him. Between a this girl who would likely slow them down and the crazy woman outside, he had his fill of people for one day. It didn’t help that he was working off of three hours of sleep, either.
“Kid, if we don’t move then we’re in trouble, yeah?” Kay nodded. “Good,” Rick continued, “at least that’s settled. So we need to move. Either you stay here and you die, or you come with me and have a chance. Let’s get up.” She rose, and made for the door.
“I’m grabbing some stuff in the back. Wait by the door.” Rick swiftly made it to the back of the church and grabbed the two packs that he and the woman had brought with them. The candles were barely lit now, the wicks having been burnt to their limits. As Rick made his way back towards the door, something caught his ear. A couple of far off explosions. Then a long, agonizing scream, that kept going. And going. Finally the screaming stopped, abruptly.
Rick took stock of what he knew. He knew that one person had left, with a gun. He couldn’t tell if the scream he heard was male or female, but the explosions could easily have been gunshots. He also knew that dying, screaming, was not his idea of a good time.
“Kay, get over here. We’re going to plan b.” The girl, instead, sat and began to sob again.
“God fucking damnit.” He rushed over to the girl, grabbed her by the shoulders, and dragged her fear paralyzed body to the crypts. He needed to move quickly: he only hoped that the woman was smart enough to realize what was going on.
The woman sat, frozen. She had heard the agony, the screams. The silence that fell afterwards was almost too much to bear, since it held the death throes of the cultist who had left. Not just any death, either. If her guess was correct, the demons that the cult spoke of were the same kind of monsters that attacked her and nearly killed her.
She had fought a lot in her life: everything from gang scum and bandits. The only thing to have caused her fear were the things that almost ended her life. And here they are, she thought, come to finish the job.
The wind whistled amongst the ruins, causing nearby scrap metal to band loudly. A piece of scrapped plastic blew by on the ruined road, a post-apocalyptic tumbleweed. Every sound, every bump, every scrape, and every knock was crystal clear to her now. Her body, though weary from little sleep and too much action, started waking up to deal with her current situation; her heart hastened, her eyes focussed, her fingers grasped the hand cannon by her side. She rose to her feet as quietly as humanly possible. She did her best to breathe in, then out, slowly and in rhythm.
She had a number of options available to her. First option was to run; that was not going to work. She’d be caught, and likely killed. She could stand and fight, but the last time she attempted that… she paid a steep price. Hiding was another option. Where? she thought, her mind scrambling for a solution. The ever present image of dagger-like claws, stabbing into her shoulder, hung on as a hazy reminder of the cost of failure.
Her mind stopped, and she had an answer. Rick might have been a shit, but she knew exactly what he was going to do. It’s pointless to run, and fighting these things in unideal conditions would get you killed. Hiding, however, had one amazing chance. The crypts. With the fresh meat all over the floor, the crypts would be the only place where they could hide, know roughly what was going on, and defend against superior numbers.
The woman smiled, happy with her train of thought; the celebration was brief, however, as she heard a soft patter off to her left.
Not this time. She ducked and rolled to her right. She heard a swish coming from where she was. She grabbed her hand cannon, and aimed… at nothing. She knelt, barely breathing, waiting for something to act on. Her chest burned as it tried to pull in more oxygen, but she didn’t dare breathe. A flicker of movement to her left, by the road, caught her eye. She needed to remove angles of attack: on the steps, she was far too exposed. She burst towards the church, and plastered herself against the door. That’s one angle down, but still too exposed. Moving sideways along the door, she found where she could push her way in. She hear a hiss above her, and looked up in surprise.
What she saw made no sense. A creature, three muscled, bloody arms attached at a core, clambered down the wall of the church with hellish speed. Just as it dropped, she pushed through the door and burst into the church. The creature landed on the stone where she was just moments ago, its claws digging into the rock with inhuman strength as if it were sand. It recovered quickly, crawling on all three limbs towards the woman. In a blind panic, she slammed the door of the church right into the creature. She backed towards the center of the church slowly, staring at the door. Seconds, unbelievably long seconds passed.
The door then splintered, a trio of large rending claws tearing holes in the woodwork. The sound of a shattered pane of glass from her left. Banging on the door, a hiss of frustration from far behind her. She was quickly becoming surrounded. “Run,” she told herself, “stop staring and run. Run.” The woman could stop staring at the door as it was torn apart, piece by piece. The glint of longer claws flashed by the doorway before disappearing into the darkness of the church.
She felt a hand grab onto her left arm, “Alright, we’ve had our fun now fucking move!” Rick. She nearly didn’t recognize his voice. She took one last look at the door as the three armed creature finally made its way through before running back to the crypts.
The door to the crypts shut behind them, though Rick was careful not to let it make much sound. “Lady, keep the door shut. You’re the one with the strong arm: make sure that door doesn’t so much as budge.” The woman nodded and braced the door with her robotic arm.
“That was cutting it too close lady. You could have died if you’d stuck around a moment longer.” Rick was frustrated. He understood she was terrified of these things. He also understood that shock could cause a person to do really stupid shit. Standing there, waiting for those… things, to tear her apart? That was stupid shit. Which frustrated him, because in all the other engagement he’d seen her in she was a one woman wrecking crew. She blasted out of the forest from hell practically on her own and massacred a small cult single handedly. On top of that, he knew she was craft and quick. You had to be if you grew up in the old city, which she definitely had. Not to mention her eyes: those piercing, cold, surgical eyes that could dissect you in moments, learning everything she needed to know about you.
And here she was, nearly getting herself killed. Unbelievably damn stupid, he thought as he checked on the cultist girl. Kay was huddled in a corner, muttering to herself. Thankfully, it was very quiet, so it wasn’t a problem.
He used his ears to listen to what was going on upstairs. The church, although not as grand as others, still had excellent acoustics. Rick could hear everything that was happening, if he listened closely enough.
An unearthly roar called out. Several dull thuds: pews, he thought. They must have knocked over the pews nearby where the bald man’s corpse was. A screech, and then… tearing, and ripping. Sloshing noises, a wet slap as something hit the floor. A squabble of cries, and another yell. More tearing.
Rick felt bile rise in his throat, and he barely suppressed the sick, queasy feeling that overcame him. He leaned against a wall, barely believing his ears. The sounds bounced around the crypt, repeating the unimaginable fate of the corpses left up on the church floor.
He took a look at the woman. She was bracing the door with everything she had, her head hung down, looking at the floor. Tears formed in the corner of her eyes, and slowly tracked down her cheeks before slipping off, softly dripping onto the mesh on her leg.
That’s when it hit him: right now, she was on one side of a door, a wooden door, which was all that remained between her and the terror up the stairs. He swallowed his own fear, and moved towards her.
“Lady, it doesn’t look like they’re following us,” he whispered, “so you can go and sit. You did fine.”
“No. You said it yourself: I’m the best one to brace the door.” She turned to look at him. Her eyes were puffed up, but the blue in them was as cutting as ever. “Take care of the girl. You’re right; they were just kids. I…” she paused, looking for the right words. “I have a lot to think about right now. You take care of the kid.” With that, she bowed her head, and continued to brace the door.
End of Part 11