Thunderless lightning branched across the sky. The dark clouds held their rain like Darren was holding his breath. His footsteps scraped across the dirt road. He was loud, too loud, for a man skilled in stealth and thievery. Ez and Marcus’s footsteps were also too heavy, relative to the vacant streets of the city.
Lightning flashed down the street, empty streets and shuttered windows were all Darren could see. Empty or dead, Darren wasn’t sure, but he took solace it not seeing scores of corpses littering the road. He gulped, the Thing probably didn’t leave corpses. He hoped the townsfolk were secured in their homes, holding their children beneath their beds.
After all, a monster was prowling the street. With each sky flare, Darren feared to see that Thing, its many eyes and mouths, or the woman it mimicked, somewhere down the road. So far, there was only the road. Darren didn’t know which thought made him more nervous, knowing there was a monster somewhere or realizing exactly when it would be upon them.
The trio turned down the major street near the alley where Darren last left Jacob to die. A smile crept across Darren’s face. Jacob’s death was a welcome bonus to this whole mess.
The rain rushed upon the team from behind. They were soaked in seconds. Darren grumbled. The rain added a rotten touch to a terrible night. At least, Darren’s footfalls were muffled by the deluge. Lightning flashed through the sky again, the flash bounced off numerous droplets of rain.
Darren stopped, he saw a form up ahead. “Marcus,” he whispered, “I think I see something.”
Marcus gripped his sword and grunted. Darren felt there was some sarcasm in that grunt. By now, Marcus knew Darren’s excellent vision, surely he wasn’t doubting now. Marcus nodded silently and raised his shield. He saw it too.
A horizontal pillar of wet flesh pushed through the falling rain. Darren rolled left while Marcus stood his ground. His shield took the blow, the flesh hit the shield like a waterfall of slimy mud. He legs bent at the knees and he leaned forward into blow. Tiny tendrils of mud reached around Marcus’s shield. Darren gulped, the flesh pillar was pulling at Marcus’s shield, trying to pull it away!
Marcus grunted under the weight of the attack. “Ez, it’s your turn.”
Esmeralda stepped to the side of Marcus. She lifted her left hand, open palm and fired orange yellow orbs of light through the downpour. Three orbs hit something in the darkness. Esmeralda closed her left hand in a fist and brilliant blast of light and fire ignited.
A haunted flash of teeth and large eyes pierced through the rain with each flash of fire from Esmeralda’s attack. Orbs of flame burned on the Thing. The rain couldn’t douse Ez’s flame. Darren knew that burn was probably a terrible way to go.
The orbs were consumed by the fleshy Thing. The orbs grew darker as they burned inside the Thing, covered by flesh. The creature’s flesh pulsated in the light of the burning orbs, blazing a lattice network of nerves or blood vessels. An eye floated, its pupil burned with the absorbed burning orange light.
It made no sound. Was it even in pain? The flesh pillar released Marcus’s shield and reeled back into the creature’s mass. The orange lights went out.
Marcus grunted. “What now?”
Don’t ask that, you fool? thought Darren.
The deluge was heavy, it sounded like falling sand or large beads. Through the rain, Darren heard something else, a gurgling laugh, like a madman happily being drowned. It was followed by another laugh, but different in pitch, then another. Soon, the sound of rain was replaced with a cacophony of gurgling, drowning laughter.
Marcus held his shield close to his body, protecting his face with only his eyes exposed over the metal rim. “This can’t be good.”
A brilliant red glow erupted from the rain before them. Lit flesh filled Darren’s vision. A large circular maw filled with jagged, inward-pointing teeth opened.
Esmeralda eyes widened. “Run!”
The blast came quickly. The orb, three times as large as Esmeralda’s attacks, sailed through the rain, forming a tunnel of evaporation. Esmeralda crossed her arms, a purple shield encompassed her body. The blast hit the shield. It erupted and engulfed Esmeralda. Marcus was flung across the street and Darren tumbled out of the street, the concussive blast tossed him into the porch of an abandoned building. Flame nipped at Darren’s face that he blocked with his leather bracers. They got fire and he rolled into the nascent puddles in the street. The smell of burning leather evaporated as the fire sizzled in the puddle.
Little smoke formed in the rain. Darren squinted through the rain, looking for Esmeralda. A white light illuminated the falling rain. Esmeralda’s staff lit up the street. Its light drowned out the lightning that arched through the sky. Thunder rumbled as Darren stared at the great maw that towered over Esmeralda. Eyes circled along the rim of the creature’s lips. A gurgling, choking laugh echoed from the maw.
Then it spoke with a feminine voice, wailing from a torment that Darren’s body quivered from in fearful revulsion. “I know you.”
Esmeralda tilted her head. She gazed up at sky as the lightning flashed again. She reached up her right hand and snapped her fingers.
Darren was stunned. The branching lightning in the sky froze in place in the sky. A low rumble of thunder rolled across the dark expanse, like a stampede. Esmeralda dropped to her knees, slamming her right hand on the ground. The lightning arced from the sky and into the beast’s mouth.
A female scream ripped through the streets of the town. The lightning pushed back the creature, but it fought the assault. Fleshy appendages flailed out from the creature and arcs of electricity traced along its amorphous body. These appendages hardened into long spindly legs ending in a single sharp claw. They dug into the muddy road.
How was it still even up?
Esmeralda looked up from her kneeling position and screamed at the creature. Her voice was muffled by the angry roar of the sky. A wave of thunder poured through the street. Darren laid close to the ground as shop signs swung and splintered and windows shattered behind cracking wooden shutters. The waves of thunder hit the Thing. It pulsed and rippled as if it were a pond assailed by an avalanche of boulders. Its more solid appendages shattered from the blast. Flesh, teeth, and eyes flowed from the severed wounds. The Thing licked up those oozing tendrils of flesh and pulled away from Esmerelda. It howled into the darkness.
Darren could still hear it laughing in the dark. A muffled chorus of agonizing, drowning laughter.
© 2017 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.