“Jessica! Jessica wake up!” Lizzie yelled and her voice burned in her own throat as she tried to scream harder than she had ever screamed before. She was not about to watch another one of her friends die. No matter what she had to do.
She tried to reach out again to pull herself along the ground, but her injured hand refused to work. She was forced to bring it back to herself, tears falling as she worked to ignore the pain. Each time anything shifted around her hand, new stabs of pain made it hard, but she bit down on it, biting into her own lip until she tasted copper.
“Jessica, please. God wake her up. Please God!” Lizzie called. She was not a religious person. Jessica was the one who never missed a week of church. Lizzie hoped that maybe that loyalty would reward her. At least, Lizzie prayed for Jessica’s sake. “Please!”
Lizzie heard laughter behind her, and knew that it was mocking her. Overhead, the large black birds were crying out, squawking as they reached the apex of their flight. Lizzie didn’t have to look up to see that they were coming back now, formed in they’re final formation.
“Please Lord help us.” Lizzie muttered under her breath as she shifted on her place on the ground. She didn’t try to pull herself along the ground anymore. The cobwebs had cleared, and she was able to think so maybe she could run. She had to try.
She rocked back and forth once and gave herself momentum, using that and the shifting of her weight to propel herself forward. She caught herself by putting one leg quickly forward and then she did it! She was on her feet nearly straight into a run.
Her legs were still a little unsteady, but she was nowhere near the mess she’d been minutes ago. In fact, she wasn’t even sure how she was standing as she could feel her knees buckle, yet she never fell. It was almost like there was a hand holding her, keeping her up.
It had to be her imagination, and she didn’t have time to dwell on it as she rushed as fast as she could to Jessica. The birds shrieking above grew louder as they neared.
She heard a moan as she neared Jessica, then saw her leg move. Maybe she would make it in time, she thought as she neared and Jessica shakily looked up at her.
Lizzie paused when she saw the dullness to the eyes as they looked back her. Her stomach tightened. Something about them made her think that Jessica was already dead. It wasn’t like the others, as this death looked like that of l, well, of a zombie if she had to put words to it.
“Something dark is coming, and your shadow man wants to control it.” A voice spoke inside her head. She didn’t recognize it, but somehow she trusted it. She felt a warmth wash over her and much of the pain she had felt, lifted. Her hand was no longer numb and her feet somehow felt light as she could feel herself running faster. “Trust.”
“Tic-a-too, tic-a-tee, what was one will be three.” The shadow voice screamed from behind her. Lizzie ignored it as she reached Jessica, and Jessica came to life the moment Lizzie touched her. It was like an electric shock went through them both. Jessica shook her head and then looked to her. That look was gone, and her determined friend looked at Lizzie with that raw hunger of needing to survive.
“We have to run now!” Lizzie said as she pulled at Jessica to stand. Jessica was already working to her feet, so she worked into Lizzie’s grip just as the first wave of birds hit the ground around them.
The shadow thing growled in frustration as none of the birds came close to touching them. Each bird crashed into the ground, their bodies breaking on impact leaving the corpses to surround them as they ran the few yards to the door.
“Come on!” Lizzie scream. She was dragging Jessica or Jessica was dragging her. It was hard to tell as they clutched one another, pulling each other forward. Lizzie wasn’t sure how they weren’t tripping over each other. It was almost like some force was guiding them. Jessica’s skin was feeling warm to the touch and it felt like they both had begun to glow, the light tossing off the shadows that formed around them.
“We can make it!” Jessica screamed! “Help us Lord, we can make it!”
“No!” They heard a mangled cry behind them. It was a voice like they had never heard before. Part of it was Sarah’s voice but it was mangled with other voices, all of them coalescing into this one sound that it was hard to hear the words. They just heard the screams, and then the impact of more birds, none of which were even close to where they were.
They were so close to the door. It didn’t take them long. Behind them, they could feel the change in air flow as the birds were crashing down all around them, but none of them made it to them.
“Up the stairs!” Lizzie yelled to her friend, and hoped she had enough strength to make it up them. If not, she would have to shove her friend and hope she fell forward enough that Lizzie could drag her through the open door. Oh God, she hoped the door was still open.
A sinking filling flooded her stomach. She couldn’t tell if the door was open or not. What if Jessica had closed it. What if the wind had blown it closed? A thousand more what ifs tried to rush at her like the birds crashing around them, and she had to push them away. She could see them getting up the stairs just to have the door closed in front of them. It wouldn’t open no matter how hard she tried, and as she fought with the door. They would be stranded out there, and there would be no stopping the murder of crows as they flew down in an effort to due their namesake.
“Trust.” She heard that voice again, and it was like a whisper in her ear opposite to the side of Jessica. She thought she could now recognize the voice. She just just couldn’t place it. It was right their at the tip of some knowledge, like a word stuck just out of reach, it was on the tip of her tongue. She knew it, but also knew that right then she didn’t have the time to focus on who that voice belonged. She had to get into the house, and get to where it was safe.
They came to the first step, and to Lizzie’s surprise, it was Jessica who was pulling her up the rickety wooden stairs. Their protests from two people on them at the same time, loud, screaming to be heard over the calls of the birds crashing down.
“Come on, we’re almost there.” Jessica yelled down to her as she was pulling Lizzie up them. Lizzie wanted to yell at her, telling her she could get up them herself. She thought she could at least, but Jessica tugging at her was pulling her off balance and she wasn’t sure she could make it. She made it up the first step, but then tripped over the second that had her leaning heaving into Jessica for the third.
Inside the front shelter around the stairs, there was a thunderous explosion of sound, followed by three more in rapid succession. It echoed around them and pushed painfully in on their ears. They could actually feel the noise as it shook everything, rocketing through themselves as they had been rushing up the stairs.
Both of them stopped, and it only took them a second to identify the large dents in the roof of the shelter and realize that the birds were now aimed at the metal around them. First the four birds, then more started striking down into the metal. After six more hit, finally a little hole appeared where one of the birds beaks must have hit hard enough and in a weak enough spot that it broke through.
It felt like they had shotguns going off all around them, as they could feel the shock waves reverberate through them. The sound from the strikes kept rocketing through them. Lizzie thought her ear drums were going to burst and both of them stopped on the platform before the front door covering their ears as they began to bleed. More holes appeared. Dents were forming all around them. Lizzie had no clue how much longer the structure would hold, but the pain that was drumming through her head made it hard for her to concentrate on looking to see if it was open. Her eyes were closed, and she knew Jessica was the same as neither of them moved.
“It’s open. You can do it. Trust. Go through the door. Trust. You can do this. Just step through the door, and the pain will go away.”
Lizzie wasn’t sure how she could hear the voice over the noise. It still felt like a whisper in her ear, but hearing it relaxed her. She could feel the tension ease, and the cacophony around her dulled to the point that she could see that the door was open. They were right there. All they had to do was take the step, and both of them would be inside. Jessica had her hands away from her ears, and was looking at it too before looking back at Lizzie, a relieved smile breaking through the fear.
Jessica stepped across the threshold first, quickly followed by Lizzie. As soon as they were in, the noise outside faded. The drumming of the birds on the metal stopped and in mass, they heard thumps of what Lizzie guessed was the rest of the birds dropping to the ground. She didn’t need to look out the window. She knew that the rest of the birds would be dead. She would…, no, it would have killed them and let them drop as he no longer needed them.
They had both just stood there inside the door and were unsure how long they had been there. They had ran into the house both breathing hard, and once they were inside, didn’t want to move. Lizzie thought they were both afraid too. After the birds had died, there was an eerie quiet that had decended only interrupted by the sound of the refridgerator in the other room clicking on and off.
Lizzie never took her eyes off the door. She was sure that once she did, something, maybe even more birds that had somehow survived, would rush at them through the door. At once point, Lizzie thougth she had seen a wave of small spiders rushing in across the floor. She had been too tired to panic, and somehow, it hadn’t scared her to see them. She blinked her eyes, and they were gone. No, not gone, just not there at her cabin. The spiders were loose elsewhere in the world, yet somehow she was close to the darkness that was a part of them.
She shook her head. Way too many cob webs were spreading through her mind, and too many weird thoughts.
“You okay? How’s your hand?”
Lizzie looked over and saw that Jessica was trying to look at her hand. Lizzie remembered how much pain had been going through her when they had been trying escape the outside, remembered that she thought it had been crushed when the bird had slammed down on it. Yet, since she had started hearing that voice, the pain had faded.
She looked at it now, and didn’t see anything wrong. There were scratches on the back of it, obvious that the bird had crashed into it, but it didn’t look broken. She remembered the pain, remembered looking at it before, it had been a wreck. Some of her fingers had been at the wrong angles and she had been sure she would never be able to use her hand again.
She flexed it slowly. Everything worked. All her finds closed and she could form a fist. It was sore, but the hand worked.
Her jaw as opened as she lifted her eyes from the fist in front of her to Jessica who was standing next to her. Jessica wasn’t watching her, she was watching the door and Lizzie turned to see why.
It was there. It still held the shape of Sarah, but there was a darkness around it now. Somehow, Lizzie knew that even if this thing stood in the direct sunlight, those shadows would still cross its face. That darkness was something the sun could never push away. It was older in the sun. Lizzie knew that, and if made her stomach clench as she stared it down. Her knees were weak, but she was not about to give in to the fear that tried to weigh her down.
The thing was obviously furious with them as it took turns glaring at them. It stood just on the platform outside of the front door, not daring to attempt to cross into the house. Whatever protected them remained strong, but that didn’t stop it from standing there seething at them.
Finally it spoke, and Lizzie wished it would have remained silent as that voice was like nails on a chalkboard. It screeched with the voice of a thousand voices, all speaking at once and forming the words. Were they all the voices of the dead? Who knew how long the thing had been killing, how many generations had fallen victim to the curse, but now they all spoke.
“Tic-a-too, tic-a-tee, you are now trapped with thee.” it said. It was staring straight at Jessica, and Lizzie felt her heart sink. Lizzie hoped she was wrong by what that would mean, but knew she was right. Jessica would never be able to leave now. She was cursed just as Lizzie was.
It smiled at her, those orange eyes of fire burning suddenly through Sarah’s own as it drilled that look into her. Then it was gone, but the after image of those eyes were burned into her vision even after she tried to blink them away.
They both stood there in silence as they continued to watch the door, afraid that if they took their eyes off of it, something new and hideous would come for them at any minute. Finally, Jessica did move. She walked across the room and slammed the door close.
“Let’s killed that damned thing.” Jessica said as she went into the dining room and grabbed one of the journals Lizzie had piled in there.