Hearts pounding in their ears. Breath, scraping through their lungs. Dodging, slipping, careening through ruined buildings. It could not be deterred. The thing that walked on all fours and soared with feathered arms. It’s backward limbs carrying it’s lithe, featureless form. It was the eyes. The round, headlight eyes. Always on them. Through every window. Every hole. Every crack. Behind them. In front of them. It screamed through its gaping maw.
Daniel collapsed. His lungs devoid of breath. He wheezed and choked on the second story floor. Jeron tried to lift him, but there it stood. At first it was upright on its inverted legs. Long, bony appendages that touched the ground with large curved talons. And then it lowered itself onto all fours, the sparse feathers on its arms pointing upwards. Hooks took the place of hands. At first… it moved slowly. Knowing its prey was cornered. Click. Clack. Click. Clack. Feathers brushing on the walls. Tendril hanging from it’s beak, dragging across the dusty floor.
“Dan,” Jeron sobbed, “Get up… Please Daniel get up…”
“I can’t, Jeron… I can’t…” the words barely made it past his dried, weary lips.
Click. Clack. Click. Clack.
“Tell Dad I’m sorry…” he cried, tears streaking down his dust-covered cheeks.
“Dan I am NOT going back without you!” It took every ounce of strength he had left, but Jeron managed to heave Daniel’s limp body into his arms. But it was too late.
Golden orbs stared directly into his. The beak opened until the only thing Jeron could see was the back of the creature’s throat. He tried to step back, only to find its tongue was wrapped around his legs.
“Not like this…” he quietly sobbed, “Not like this…”
The breathless voice echoed through their minds.
Jeron desperately squeezed Daniel to himself. Closing his eyes tightly, he found himself begging for divine intervention.
“Oh God, Oh Lord… Please… Not like this… Jesus… help us… Please…”
Somewhere in the house, a wall exploded.
The thought of something else coming up and tearing them apart was more than Jeron could bear. His legs, already shaking and on fire, gave way.
“Please, God, Please…” he sobbed into Daniel’s hair, “PLEASE!”
The creature’s unhinged beak lowered down over them, dripping on their heads.
The dripping maw was torn away from them and hauled down the hallway. It screamed and yelled and squawked and cried like a human.
DIE, BAD THING, DIE!
The sound was of a familiar voice. Daniel slowly turned around in Jeron’s grip.
At the end of the hall, a void spawn was tearing at the creature that had been chasing them. Clawed talons stood no chance against the all-encompassing tendrils that engulfed it.
“Nine?” Daniel breathed.
Jeron slowly opened his eyes.
Grey tentacles had taken completely ahold of the monstrosity. Feathers fluttered from its struggling form, it’s screeching dimming to a choking caw as the air was strangled from its body.
“Jesus Christ…” Jeron gasped, holding Daniel even tighter.
Slowly the tendrils pulled the creature toward outstretched wings. As soon as it was within reach, the wings lashed out and wrapped tightly around its body, forcing it down into the tentacled beast’s body. Their pursuer could still be seen struggling inside the fleshy wings that now encased it, forcing it down inside the greater monstrosity.
Eventually, the wings laid flat against the predator’s back, lifting away to reveal talons sticking out of a toothy maw. Tendrils moved to push them inside until nothing remained but a plump void spawn at the end of the hall.
For a long moment, the creature writhed in place with the undulations of its prey. Finally, it sat down across the hall with a goofy tilt to its featureless face.
Nine is good boy?
“Nine!” Daniel sobbed excitedly as he pried himself away from Jeron’s death grip. “You saved us boy! You saved us!” Daniel dropped to his knees, embracing the considerably fatter spawn than the one who’d left the shelter. It’s tattered tail wagged happily. “You’re a very good boy!”
Jeron sat still on his knees, still paralyzed with fear. Was this life now? Was this what they would have to face every day? If that was the case, Jeron Miles had no plans of ever leaving his basement shelter. Then again… His weak gaze turned to Nine. It seemed the had an apex predator on their side…
“Y-you a-ate that thing?” Jeron stammered, barely able to summon the strength to say the words.
Nine very hungry. Nine eat thing! It’s tongue-tendril hung from its mouth.
“D-do you know what it was?”
Nine cocked its head upwards in thought. Yellow Man called them Watcher-things. They watch… things? The creature cocked it’s head again realizing the absurdity of what it was saying. They watch you, Nine always has food! It ruffled it’s damaged wings with pride.
Jeron slapped a hand over his face.
“Yeah, Dan?” he huffed through his hand.
“Can we go back to the shelter? I think I’ve had enough outside for one day…”
Jeron guffawed, “I’ve had enough for the rest of my life!”
Slowly, they coerced their still-raw lungs and wobbly legs to carry them home. Nine waddling along between them.
Jeron kept muttering to himself about monsters and demons.
“Hey,” Daniel breathed as they approached the hatch, “At least Nine’s on our side, right?”
Jeron turned a glaring eye on the spawn sitting in the middle of the kitchen, licking its wings.
“It’s not fitting through the tunnel like that.”
Daniel turned to Nine. “Oh, I guess not… Will you be okay out here, boy?”
Nine nodded, flapping his tongue as he did.
“Well if you want to get in later, just let us know, okay?” Daniel patted the spawn on its head. Again it nodded with what may have been a grin on its “face”.
“Alright,” Jeron opened the hatch, “Get in, Synclaire.”
“And you!” Jeron turned to Nine, “Good job.” He gave the spawn a thumbs up before entering the tunnel himself.
Nine paced around in circles before settling down for the night. Nine saved his family and got yummies out of it, too! Nine was a very happy void spawn.