The Threat

A story for my Apocalypse Bingo card. 


The monsters were getting closer.

The survivors had created three ragged perimeters around what had been, at one point, Main Street.  They had hung the outside with cold iron.  They’d put mines on the middle perimeter.  And on the inside they’d put up the biggest wooden spikes they could manage.

They had no idea what held off the monsters and what didn’t, but inside their wall, their wall with the roof made of layers and layers of aviary mesh, they hoped something they had done would help protect them.

Cary sat watch, up in the back window of what had, at one point, been an apartment over the record shop.  He didn’t really know what he was looking for, but he knew that there was something brushing up against their perimeters.  He knew that there was something screaming in rage at night.  He knew that people who went outside the third perimeter almost never came back.

“You know, it’s like being in a cage.”  Lyda was sitting nearby, out of sight of the window, her rifle waiting at hand.  She was knitting, because it wasn’t her turn to watch, but they’d found that they had to keep two people in each checkpoint at all times.  “We can’t leave.  We live with bars on all our windows.”

“We live, Lyda.  That’s the important part.  We haven’t heard from Brockport or Henrietta in weeks.  We haven’t heard from downtown since everything started.  We might be in a cage, but we’re living in a cage.”

“Have we seen them yet?  I know we stand watch, but – well, I mean, what are we watching for?  The screams?  The shakes and growls?  Have we ever even…” she trailed off, because Cary had turned to look at her. “You have to watch,” she added uncomfortably.

“You know what happens when we leave people alone out here.”  He turned to watch the park uncomfortably.  “Ed.  Sandy.”

“I know.  Something got them, that’s for sure. Nothing left but-” She swallowed loudly.  “Anyway. The thing is, we don’t know.  We’re watching, and it’s like, as long as there are two of us watching, we won’t ever see anything?  As long as there’s a screen up, nothing attacks it?  This is like, it’s like kids with the monster in the closet, Cary.”

“But it works for the kids, doesn’t it?”  Cary turned to look at her and then looked back out the window quickly.  “The kids.  They don’t look in the closet and the monster doesn’t get them.”

“That’s because -”

“Don’t say it.” Cary didn’t quite snap the words out, but it was close.  

The words hung in the air between them.

Because the monster in the closet isn’t really there.

“Have you-”

“No, I haven’t seen one.  But I saw what was left of Jodi when she went out on patrol.  I saw the blood splatters from when Ed and Sandy left.”  His back was tense, his shoulders hunched.

“We hear the sounds at night.  The screams.”  Lyda offered it almost like an olive branch.  “Something has to be making those noises.”

“Something.”  Both of them had kids.  Neither of them mentioned the way that branches scraping across the side of the house, shadows from a passing car, the pile of clothes over Mr. Bear, had all looked like something much more ominous at one point or another.

“Something.”  Lyda stared out the window with Cary at the no-man’s-land that had once been their town.


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