ACCEPTING THE INEVITABLE
Lindsey Melbourne glanced at the clock in her car’s dash as she drove, and groaned when she noticed the digital display change to 12:00. She’d hoped to be home before midnight, but that hadn’t happened thanks to the congested highway. She hated traveling alone, and the repeated long periods of time she’d had to sit and wait on road construction had made the already dreaded trip even worse. But all of her traveling woes faded into the background as she entered her hometown of South Coffeyville, Oklahoma.
The lights of the small town were few and far between at the late hour and Lindsey figured everyone was tucked into bed and asleep; she yawned, wishing she was too.
As she traveled through the quiet streets, heading toward her little house, the wind picked up suddenly and violently, shaking her car.
“Great,” she muttered. “I’ve gotten home just in time for a storm.”
With a deep sigh, she hoped she wouldn’t have to sleep in the narrow cot in her musty basement. Tornadoes were a common occurrence that she didn’t love, but was always prepared for.
Finally arriving at her house, she pulled into the driveway, shut off her car’s engine, and opened the driver’s door. She sat there for a few moments, listening to the howling of the wind as it swirled and moved around standing objects. The lamenting wail was a sound she was very familiar with, and though it posed an ominous threat, it was still the sound of home.
Her house stood before her, shrouded in shadows and darkness. The windows glittered as the street lights shone on them while they rattled, buffering away the frigid air to keep the inside warm and safe. She couldn’t wait to get inside to take a hot shower and curl up in her bed for the first time in a week. Closing her eyes, she practically groaned, thinking of her comfortable sweats that she’d be free to walk around in after being dressed for “business” almost nonstop for six days; the only time she’d been free to be comfortable were the precious few hours she’d been in her hotel room to sleep between meetings. The life of a law partner with a prestigious client in the city was taking its toll on her, and she’d only had the status for a month.
Opening her eyes and turning slightly toward the passenger’s seat, she picked up her purse. When she moved the small leather bag, snack wrappers fell to the floor and she bent to pick them up with an aggravated sigh.
When she sat back up, something bright outside the passenger’s door window caught her eye and made her breath catch in her throat. Just beyond the glass was a mini-tornado that swept across her yard, toward her car. These were usually common in the dry season, when the wind speeds accelerated in gusts across the flat landscape. What was different about this one, though, was that something was glowing in the center of it.
The small, whirling cloud moved toward Lindsey and her car at a tremendous rate of speed, and she expected it to disperse when it hit the solid doors and windows of her vehicle, but it didn’t. A harsh grinding sound filled the interior and sparks flew into the air as the mini-tornado tore into the metal panels, shocking her into momentary immobility. But, when the inside molding of the vehicle started to show signs of damage, she knew it was time to get the hell out of there.
Clutching her purse to her chest, she scrambled from the car and slammed the door behind her before heading up her driveway and around her porch at a dead run.
Another of the glowing cyclones came down a small alley between her house and the next, and as if sensing her, gave chase.
Lindsey kicked off her high-heeled shoes and ran faster, rushing up the wood steps of her porch, fueled by fear and panic.
The new mini-tornado took a more direct route and started grinding into the wooden supports of the porch, intent on reaching her.
“Oh, God!” she squealed as the air filled with smoke from the friction of the mini-tornado spinning against the wood. She dug out the keys to her front door as the acidic smell of the smoke burned her nostrils, making it hard for her to breathe. “Yes!” she screamed in triumph, finally wrangling her keys from her purse as she dropped it to the boards beneath her to rid her hands of its bulky burden.
Seeming to hear her—even over all the noise of the porch demolition—the first destructive whirlwind stopped attacking the car and headed for the porch…and Lindsey.
She chanced a glance around her after she jammed the key into the deadbolt of the door, and turned it while her eyes shifted elsewhere. To her heightened horror, she saw that the entire neighborhood had the strange cyclones attacking their houses. One of her neighbors—an elderly woman by the name of Paula Louise—opened her front door to see what all the noise was outside her front door, which was almost ground through.
Lindsey opened her mouth to warn the woman, but it was too late.
She watched as mini-tornado on Paula’s cement front steps stopped spinning, and from it stood a thin, tall, beige-colored creature with a white glowing orb in the center of its chest; the creature’s eyes glowed as well. She realized for the first time that the whirlwinds were actually beings and not bits of dust and dirt spinning in the wind as she’d assumed.
Paula stared up into those glowing eyes and Lindsey witnessed a content, peaceful smile spread across the older woman’s wrinkled face. She stood and stared up at the creature and actually leaned into it when it spread sheer tan wings and wrapped them around her. The monster opened its large mouth—exposing twisted black teeth that jutting from it in wavy rows—and bit her neck, spraying blood on the doorjamb and door.
Paula went limp in the creature’s bloody embrace.
Scared almost to the point of going into shock, Lindsey managed to get the door of her house open and herself inside, right before there was a loud groan and her porch caved in on itself. She slammed the door closed and relocked the deadbolt with shaking hands while the horrific scene from next-door played over and over again in her mind; it seemed like Paula had just accepted her fate—the inevitable fact that she was going to die. Fear had twisted the old woman’s features for a moment before her eyes had met the eyes of the creature, and Lindsey couldn’t help but wonder what the other woman had seen there that had brought on the peace and calm she’d witnessed, even in the face of death and pain.
Shaking her head to dispel what she couldn’t understand, she went into action and grabbed the handset of the phone off a small round table sitting in her living room and dialed 9-1-1; her call was answered instantly.
“9-1-1 dispatch—what’s your emergency?” she heard a woman say in her ear.
Lindsey fought her chattering teeth and tried to answer, but all that came out was a pitiful squeak.
“Hello? I’m sending an officer to your residence right now! If you can hear me, help is on the way!”
“Th…th…thanks,” Lindsey finally managed.
“Can you speak?” the dispatcher asked urgently. “My name’s Rose, and I’ll stay on the phone with you until help arrives. Can you tell me the nature of your emergency, so I can make sure to send the assistance you need?”
“Tornadoes…little ones!” Lindsey cried out in a hoarse voice. “Monsters!”
There was a brief silence on the other end of the line.
“Ma’am, did you say monsters?” the dispatcher finally asked. “Are you on any prescription medications?”
“No!” Lindsey screamed. “I’m not crazy! There are mini-tornadoes outside that are actually monsters! One of them killed Paula—I saw it!” Fleetingly the image of Paula and the expression on her face flashed through her mind. She thought about telling the dispatcher about it, but didn’t see how it would be relevant. Paula was dead and that’s all the woman needed to know.
There was another brief pause.
“Someone has been attacked and was killed?” the dispatcher asked.
“Yes!” Lindsey screamed and jumped when a loud bang sounded from outside her house, close to the front door. “Hurry! They’re after me!”
The dispatcher started speaking again, but Lindsey didn’t catch what she said because the line went dead.
“Hello?” she cried into the handset, shaking it and smacking it off her other hand like her futile efforts would bring it back to life. “My cell…” She paused and looked around, dropping the handset onto the floor; it landed with a resounding thud.
Another bang sounded outside the house, shaking the wall and rattling the windows.
Lindsey whimpered as she realized her cell phone was still in her purse, and it was outside on the broken down porch…with them.
In the distance, she heard sirens. She headed to the closest window to check it out, hoping the police had come to her rescue. Pulling back the curtain with a shaking hand, her mouth fell open at the view beyond the thin pane of glass—the neighborhood was in shambles.
Glancing high on the wall to her left, she read the clock that hung there; its hands indicated that the time was 12:32. To her it seemed like everything was happening in a flash, but in reality, time was ticking away as it always had—steady, without changing.
Looking back out the window, Lindsey whimpered again as she witnessed all of the mini-tornadoes on her street—thirty or so—converge on the police officer as he exited his vehicle.
They stopped spinning and stood to their full height, which she guessed to be around eight feet tall, considering the height of the officer in comparison.
The beings stood and watched the man they’d surrounded, and everything went silent for a moment. The officer moved to draw his sidearm, but paused when his eyes made contact with one of the creatures’. A smile of pure joy spread across his face and he opened his arms wide, as if to hug as many of the creatures as he possibly could.
Without warning the beings leaped into the air with a howl and became one, swallowing the man between them, as if the circle of their bodies had been the teeth of a giant open mouth. Blood spewed through the air in a gory display of slaughter as the officer’s body exploded.
Lindsey covered her mouth and turned away from the window, falling to her knees. She looked around at her home and knew there was nothing she could do to ward off the group of creatures intent on her death—and the death of everyone else, it seemed.
An extremely loud noise rent the night, sounding like a jet engine had just started up beyond the walls of her house; the howls in the street also intensified, since the beings were now one. Echoing calls answered the massive monster outside, sounding eerily similar.
Lindsey was scared to turn back to the window again…and look outside, but she had to know what was out there, what was coming for her.
Standing slowly on shaky legs, she braced herself with a couple of deep breathes before she gripped the curtain once again, and peered out into the darkness.
The huge combined being was standing in the middle of the street, staring off toward the edge of town, panting. Five others of the same size had joined the one who’d killed the officer, and they were all facing the same direction.
Frowning, Lindsey turned and shuffled over to another window, one facing the direction of the creatures’ gaze. Out in the middle of the field, half a mile away, was an enormous tornado-creature with a glowing center. Since this one was larger, she could see what was going on inside it, despite the distance.
While she watched in awe, the huge creature stopped and its body melted back together to form the hideous, black toothed monstrosity that it was. Giant wings with pulsing veins spread out wide behind it and shuddered with every breath it took, and its torso throbbed as the glowing force of energy centered there expanded and grew as it once again spun and became transparent.
A large, black hole was behind the spinning, tan, glowing cyclone, hovering a few feet above the waving grain in the field. The monster’s energy and motion shot out bright bolts of static electricity, which appeared to keep the hole open as the edges sucked it in and sent it back, creating a conductive, symbiotic bond. Within the hole were green stars above a purple, barren, mountainous landscape. Skulls and oddly shaped bones of creatures she couldn’t identify floated in the atmosphere and were strewn about on the ground, leading her to believe they’d devoured everything in their world and had come to do the same to hers.
She focused on the landscape and her breath caught in her throat when she saw hundreds, thousands, millions of the creatures beyond, waiting to come through what she assumed to be a portal open to a different dimension. She’d never really believed there were different dimensions until now. All the movies she’d seen and the science fiction books she’d read over her lifetime didn’t even come close to helping her accept the reality of something this huge…this real. Instantly Lindsey knew there would be no hope for humanity. There was nowhere for them to run, to hide—no way for them to defend themselves against an invasion of this size and magnitude. The human race was doomed, and from what she’d witnessed earlier, they would accept it with a smile and go quietly and willingly. There would be no epic battle in the vain hope of saving the world. Death would be the crib in which the souls of humanity slept peacefully after being torn from their bodies through a sadistic trick.
Right before her eyes, the creatures in the purple world began to spin, and as they shot themselves through the portal, the large spinning creature who held it open flung them through the air, raining them down upon the Earth.
Lindsey was so intent on watching the display of power being unleashed on mankind that she didn’t notice the floor under her feet was trembling. Her attention didn’t come back to her immediate surroundings until a loud creaking and crashing from above shook her house and made her lose her footing; she fell to floor, sprawling in her cream-colored silk blouse, sleek navy blue skirt, and ruined stockings. She stared up in wide-eyed fright as one of the mass beings from the street pulled off the top of her house like it was wax paper, and looked down at her.
She screamed, half-sat up, and crab-walked backwards in a vain attempt to get away.
Thick, slimy, bloody slobber dripped from the creatures’ mouth and landed on the hardwood floor with a sickening plop, and the light from its eyes and chest lit the dark interior of her home. Forcibly she kept her eyes averted from the monster’s, knowing that if she looked into their depths she would become a mindless, delirious slave to its will.
Glancing everywhere except at the creature looming above her, Lindsey struggled to her feet and darted from the living room, heading down the hall to the basement door.
The being roared angrily as it reached for her and just missed her as she turned the corner into the hallway.
She fought the urge to cover her ears and protect them from the loud sound, and instead put them to better use, opening the basement door. She stepped down into the darkness and closed the door behind herself.
The house shook again and the foundation shivered, causing dust and dirt to fall from the ceiling. Lindsey assumed the roof had been ripped all the way off and now the creature was destroying the internal walls to get to her; loud crashes and thuds above her confirmed this to be true.
Panting and scared, she reached out in the dark and flipped the light switch at the top of the stairs to the “on” position—nothing happened. With a sigh, swiping at the dust and cobwebs tickling her nose, she headed down the narrow stairs leading into the depths of the basement. Before she knew it, her feet reached the cold cement floor. She felt her way along to her destination, passing objects by throwing her hands out in front of and around her to locate them.
Above her more crashing and roaring could be heard, and soon another of the monsters joined the first in its attempt to get to her; she knew this to be true when she heard grunts, growls, and roars overlapping and joining in with the first.
Finally she reached the small back room she used for a tornado shelter; it was in the far right corner of the basement and held a small bed and her emergency food stores. But, the best features were that the door to the room was made of metal and could take a beating, and the right corner of the basement was completely underground, where the left side of the basement was half-exposed above ground and had a small door leading out into the backyard. Fleetingly she considered heading outside, but she knew what awaited her out there and figured her best bet would be to hide and hope they thought she’d gotten away and leave her alone.
Slamming the heavy metal door shut behind herself, she latched it and stumbled her way over to the narrow cot. She sat down, leaned against the cold cement block wall, drew her knees up to her chest, wrapped her arms around them, and began to pray in incoherent babbles.
The sound of destruction beyond the walls of her safe haven grew louder, and Lindsey could see lines of glowing white light around the door.
They were coming, and they were coming fast.
“Please, God! Please, God!” she whispered over and over again, rocking herself and squeezing her eyes shut.
The light from around the door made her eyelids glow red and she wanted to open them to see how bright the room was, knowing it would be shining like the sun.
A loud boom, boom, boom sounded from the door, before a harsh clang signified the metal had finally given in to the abuse.
Lindsey cried out, still holding her eyes tightly shut. She could feel the beings’ eyes on her and could hear their ragged breathing. Fear held her paralyzed and she just wanted it all to be over—she wanted peace, she wanted calm. A single thought filled her brain, scrolling through like a marque: Open your eyes and end it—accept the inevitable like the others and die in peace.
Taking in a deep, shuddering breath she reassured herself there was nothing else she could do; letting out the breath, she opened her eyes and turned her head toward the creatures above her, just beyond the doorway. She was half-shocked to see that they’d also torn out most of the ceiling when they’d taken out the door, allowing her the ability to make eye contact.
Picking one of them, she gazed directly into its glowing eyes.
Lindsey lost herself in those eyes, feeling peace, feeling like she was being welcomed by the universe; it beckoned to cradle her in its arms.
Without realizing what was happening, she was scooped up by a wart covered, raspy clawed hand, and drawn toward the creature’s mouth. As it opened to eat her, the glow intensified and she felt calm and free…finally.
Copyright © Rebecca Besser, 2011 & 2018