The Scare-It, Book 2: Thirst Chapter 6
Running up the hill, the two agents Tina and Jamie were neck and neck. Their feet pounded the dirt, slipping on the scattered gravel as they struggled to put some distance between them and that thing behind them. Tina had seen it impale Martin, had seen his eyes register the surprise and then the excruciating pain as the Scare-It’s long white tines pierced his liver, his heart and his lungs. It had taken a moment to register what had happened, even if she did not know what that creature was. It sure as hell wasn’t the escaped convict. She knew enough. It had killed her friend. And it was behind her and Jamie and sounded like it was gaining ground.
The Scare-it followed, taking long easy steps, barely touching the ground as it bounded closer to its prey. It was not concerned. This was child’s play.
Santis heard his radio squawk gibberish. He swore under his breath and answered the call. “Come again?”
He held the radio to his ear and heard heavy breathing. He nearly barked an order to quit goofing off when through the radio, he heard pounding footsteps. He waited. Finally, a female voice said, “Man down, man down…a monster…up the hill!”
Santis’s mind raced. He knew Tina. She was a cool cat. Green as could be, but she had potential. Kept things professional. Hard worker. This woman sounded panicked and out of breath. And terrified.
Santis’ reflexes took over. He could feel his stomach clench, his breath accelerate. Could feel his synapses explode with adrenaline. The fight or flight kicked in but of course he was trained to fight. Decades of muscle memory responding to chaos in a controlled and well-considered manner
He’d seen it all. Some things were false alarms, like those suburban kids pretending to be kidnapped just to skip school.
Some things were true emergencies. This sounded like one.
The words “Man down” echoed in his head.
The hunt was on.
Santis barked at the closest agent. “Bales, all eyes on that hill. We’ve got a man down at the checkpoint. Call an ambulance. Also, we’ve got foot traffic headed out way, ours. Someone in pursuit. No ID. Hold fire until further notice. Keep an eye out for the suspect.”
He allowed himself to feel a twinge of annoyance at his agents running away. What the hell kind of work was that? He didn’t want cowards on his team. You lose a teammate, you face your foe. You stand your ground, show no fear.
Still, Tina had sounded shaken.
Santis watched his agents get the message he had told Bales to transmit. They walked and jogged from their positions – they were scattered across the wide yard and even in the field – to the hilltop, like a congregation moving to hear the Word. Santis studied the quiet house. Inside, the lights were out. A small glow, maybe from a nightlight, illuminated part of one wall, but it was barely enough light to see by. The family was locked up tight. Santis had been glad when the little missus had gone inside after he’d told her to let them do their job. He had shut her down. He knew the type. The minute you listen t them, they won’t shut up. Then they’re giving orders and questioning you at every decision point. No thanks. She was a Nervous Nelly, all wound up tight. The minute her little girl is five minutes late, she spins out of control. Probably hounded her kids’ teachers and complained if they got ‘B’s. He knew the type all too well. Hell, he’d married it once. Control freak. Can’t loosen up, let things happen. Santis coughed and spat out a mouthful of phlegm. Wiped the back of his hand along the bottom lip. The same in bed. Lights out. Missionary position. He felt sorry for the husband.
He started to walk away from the house to the crest of the hill. He heard shouting and saw the two agents run into view. They continued running, past their colleagues who stood, transfixed, watching what was just now cresting the hill.
Then Santis saw the creature.
It was white.
A gleaming white being, it moved toward the assembled agents with jerky but efficient motions, its legs like stilts, shifting from left to right with no articulation at where the knee should be. Santis stared at its face or where a face should be. It was simply a flat plate or bone that rounded in the back.
It was heading directly for him. For the house. Santis grabbed his radio and squawked at all agents.
“Shoot that thing. Shoot it!”
Max sat on the bed, on Sarah’s side of the bed. He knew she would not come. She would stay out there, sleep fitfully with her head against the wall until dawn, then would get up to make coffee. She would put on her dressing gown, a fluffy pink robe that covered her from top to bottom, and step outside to ask the Agents if they wanted a cup and how did they take it. Cream? Sugar? Right away!
Amidst sadness or even uncertainty, Sarah was good at meeting the needs of so many. Everyone near her.
She was upset, of course. So was he. But Sarah needed someone to blame. And tonight he was IT. It was always that way. The perceived slight at a dinner party, seated at the end of the table near the drafty window on a cold night. The delayed returned phone call of an old college friend whose husband had never approved of Sarah’s background. She would turn these insults over and over, her rabbit mind pouncing in each direction looking for the guilty. She explored conversations for meaning and nuance. Once armed with a set of possibilities (perhaps it was an oversight, perhaps her friend had meant to invite her to the wedding but lacked a current address), she’d review them again, lest she had overlooked a critical detail, some minor puzzle piece holding together her fragile acquaintanceships. Such a facet could spotlight Sarah’s fears like a deer in the headlights.
So many events to consider, so much neglect. If she missed something again, she would not forgive herself. A few years back, she had forgotten to pack a snack for Meg on a third grade museum field trip, an all day outing. With no money and an unwillingness to ask for help, Meg had been hungry and had left the group, increasingly embarrassed by her stomach’s loud noises. Absent, she’d missed the bus ride home. When the teacher reported her absent, calling Sarah at work, Sarah had nearly fainted at her desk. She’d left the office to rush home, where she had found Meg, who had caught a ride with a friend’s older sister who worked as a docent at the museum.
There was the time Sarah had forgotten the twin’s tetanus booster and the boys had roamed wild for a year without adequate protection from rusty nails and sharp metal splashguards.
Such events must not happen.
Forgetting. This was Sarah’s worst nightmare.
Until today. Unexplained absence. No, that wasn’t right, Max knew Sarah would remind herself. It was a quarrel among the children and then this absence.
Max had heard her quiz the boys for over an hour in the morning. He had tried to ignore it and to focus on his conference call. But he noticed later, when Sarah sent the boys away. She spent a couple hours pacing. She went outside for a half hour and on her returning, Max had smelled a faint but distinct burning smell. He suspected she had smoked a cigarette in the barn behind the house. A nasty old habit and a long-standing source of contention between them.
Sarah had quizzed the boys again before dinner. What had they done to Meg? Why had they done it? What were they thinking? Didn’t they love their sister? Did they think it was a nice thing to do? How would they feel if she cut off all their hair? Max knew the twins’ reply to this option had angered Sarah, but she had smothered her anger with the grief for her missing daughter.
Max knew that the twins would pay for their transgression, beyond the expected two-week grounding for serious behavior transgressions. There would be no TV, phone, or electronics of any kind for weeks. One way or another, they would pay for their coldness. Could it even be, their aggression toward their only sister.
Max had learned this. He had made mistakes with Sarah. Before they were married. And after. Too many mistakes to count in a marriage.
It’s why you stopped counting, he had been told by a friend. Marriage is not double entry bookkeeping. Nothing comes out equal.
Even still, he loved Meg’s intensity. He’d been drawn to the chaos of emotion that she carried inside her. So different from his steadiness. Sometime, he felt like his entire life had been a flat line. It was not an unpleasant feeling.
His one concern was that if something had happened to Meg, however unlikely, whether she had fallen and scuffed her knee or hitched a ride to town in a pickup truck with a buck wild country boy who gave her a beer and tried to French kiss her, he knew Sarah would blame him.
Because things didn’t just happen. Sarah didn’t think so anyone. Someone was always to blame.
The house was his. He had brought them here. Well his parents who had given him the house, retired to Florida, and popped up north once maybe twice a year. Sarah had made it clear she would prefer to summer in Amagansett, with her friends from the City. But she indulged her husband this quaint cottage, agreeing, reluctantly that it was good for the children to roam free.
He was worried. He didn’t want his wife to know. He stood up and turned off the bedroom light. Outside, he heard shouting, the FBI agents changing shifts he thought.
Walking to the window, he pulled up the blind and looked out. It was dark, though a spotlight had been trained down on the hill, He could see men moving toward the light in silhouette. A few of them ran.
Sliding the glass window open, Max pushed out the window screen, which gave with almost no pressure, everything in this old place was falling apart, Sarah was right, they should just sell it and buy a beach house. He hoisted himself up to the window sill and, with a grace that belied his age, perched on the sill, still inside the house, he lifted his knees to his chest, pivoted his buttocks on the windows frame and dropped his legs out the other side of the window, propelling himself forward to the outdoors, landing with a soft thud on the grass, his hands on the earth steadying his landing. The ground was soft, the grass cool to his touch. The temperature had dropped with the setting of the sun. He stayed crouched as he surveyed the goings-on.
Behind the bright spotlight stood a row of men, staring down the hill, stoic in bulky combat gear. They stood ready for whatever or whomever might come over the hill.
Max shrugged. He couldn’t think about convict prison escapees or whatever they were. It didn’t matter to his family.
He had one task and it was not government sanctioned.
To find his daughter. To find Meg and bring her home, safe.
He turned away from the line of armed men and ran into the night, away from the light and the shadows.
In the spotlight, the Scare-It was as white as flaming phosphorus. It stood still on the hilltop. It had stopped running when it saw the loose line of men standing twenty feet ahead of it in the road by the Flint’s house. Several other men were scattered across the front yard. Beyond the light, there was only the night in every direction.
Seated in the front seat of an SUV, technically on a sleep break, Agent Murphy stopped chewing on the pork rinds he was having for dinner. He put the half empty bag on the dash and flicked his colleague Glynn on the arm, to get him to look up.
“What is that?” he whispered. Glynn was playing Candy Crush on his phone and only grunted.
The Scare-It walked in a small circle. Its back and front were indistinguishable, just flat bone, with protruding antler tines. Its arms had grown longer, to accommodate the long sharp tines that grew like tree limbs from its forearm.
“Sure as hell ain’t no escapee.”
From the backseat, came this: “Dammit, I figured we’d be home by midnight.”
“Sorry to mess up your social life, son. We’ll do better scheduling our operations around you.” Murphy had been stuck with these newbies for too many days.
From the backseat, Jackson whined. “I thought it’d be an easy take, is all. We’ve been looking for this Kyle guy for weeks. This was a solid lead.”
Murphy had pulled out his binoculars to get a better look. He trained the glasses on the Scare-It but his fellow agents were milling around at the top of the hill, some moving closer, some farther away from the white thing that was standing so still. They kept stepping into Murphy’s field of vision. Finally Murphy got a clear view. He could see the solid white structure that made up the body and the rounded tubular extensions of the arms and legs. The head looked like a paper-Mache mask, all stuck together with weird creases and indentations in all the wrong places. There was no mouth and no eyes or ears.
He lowered the binoculars to speak to his colleagues. “Guys, I don’t think it’s human.”
Glynn guffawed. “Ohh, are you getting spooked?” Telling ghost stories. Let me see.” He grabbed the binoculars.
In the back, Jackson: “Probably some new fangled body armor from China. Some biker high on meth put on his armor for some illegal night hunting. He’ll wake up tomorrow with one hell of a headache and maybe a bullet hole or two in his…”
“I think we need to call in for back up,” Murphy cut-in.
“Forget it. We are the back up. The rest of our guys are still combing the woods an hour away. By the time they get here…”
“Just call it in, goddammit. Something is wrong,” Murphy barked.
The agents watched the Scare-It shuffle sideways toward the open field. Words flew on the radios.
“What is that thing?”
“It’s not human!”
Santis’ order squawked: “Shoot it.”
Shots rang out across the night.
To Be Continued
The Scare-It, Book 2: Thirst Chapter 6
- Author: Kae Bell
- Published: 2016-09-25 02:20:14
- Words: 2480