The World Asunder
Roan’s arm pulsed with pain.
“What was that?” He screamed.
Grandpa dropped the blade and ran into the field surrounding them. The field was colored a dark red matching the sky above.
Flint dashed to Roan’s side. “We have to get to town, get you to the doctor,” he said examining the wound.
Celia picked up the knife Grandpa had dropped. She gazed to the field and watched her Grandfather run.
“Didn’t he hobble all the way here? I remember him asking us to slow down on more than one occasion,” she was very confused.
“Bigger issues, Celia,” Flint said. He had wrapped his coat around Roan’s arm.
Roan huffed through the pain. “We have to find Grandpa. My arm will heal if we are not eaten by a demon first.”
“That would be nice to avoid,” Celia said.
“So what’s the plan?” Flint asked.
Roan looked at the field, then at the sky. Grandpa was nowhere in sight now. The wind and rain picked up, but no one bothered to care. A deep rumbling sound unlike anything the kids had heard before filled the town.
“We’re students right? And what do students do best?” Roan asked.
“Binge?” Celia questioned.
“Frolf?” Flint offered.
Roan winced as he adjusted his improvised arm bandage. “Hungry demon coming after us, guys,” he said.
“Sorry. I have like zero stress coping skills,” Flint laughed.
“Books,” Roan said, “Grandpa probably has a family history sitting in his house. Let’s raid his collection and find out more about.”
Roan stepped off the flat rock and led the three back to town.
The field that was earlier being picked clean by the town’s police force was empty. Sirens were blaring in the distance. It was obvious the town now had greater concerns. A plume of smoke rose from the center of town.
“The pharmacy?” Celia asked.
“Spacing works out,” Flint said.
“We’ll figure out how to fix this,” Roan said.
As they entered the city proper the group slowed their pace. The town was in shambles, cars were flipped over. More smoke, more fires were popping up. A tricycle appeared from a side road, pedals spun quickly as the bike was rushing downhill. It swerved and hit a trashcan on the street in front of the Reed house. Roan had known the Reed family a long time. They were not part of the Fletcher or Eastman families, just good people working the land. Their house was dark, windows shattered and a the garage door looked as if it had been driven through. Roan could only hope it was the family making their escape that caused such damage.
Street lights were flickering. Power was going out slowly across the town.
“We’ll need some flashlights soon,” Celia said.
“Grandpa has a ton of them in his kitchen’s junk drawer. I don’t know why I know that,” Flint said.
“We should hurry,” Roan said, “my arm has not stopped bleeding.”
They picked up pace. Fog was starting to collect above the street pavement. It twisted and twirled around itself, pooling around gutters and drains, slowly getting thicker and thicker.
“That’s straight up ominous, that fog,” Flint said.
Celia chuckled. Roan gave no response.
They were unable to take the quick path back to Grandpa’s house. Instead of wandering by the mobile home park they had passed earlier, the trio of youths found themselves walking by the town’s tractor supply store. Heavy machines laid on their sides, pushed over by powerful winds or pillaging townsfolk; Roan was unsure which.
The shop was a gathering place for the Eastman family. They were the farmers of the valley, the Fletchers focused on ranching tasks.
“We better keep quiet, just in case,” Roan whispered to his compatriots. Flint and Celia nodded their agreement.
Roan’s words must have been carried by the wind, for a few steps later voices rose from the shop’s interior.
“I heard something,” one man’s shrill voice said.
“I’ll get the shotgun,” another man called.
Roan, Flint and Celia took cover behind a toppled green tractor.
“I don’t see nothing,” the shrill voice said.
The shotgun carried by the second man was fired into the air. Roan jumped, Flint ducked and Celia screamed.
“Over there!” The shotgun carrying man shouted.
Quick footsteps grew louder and closer. Roan felt his pulse pick up. He had never read about what to do in a situation such as this. Pursued by two armed people presumably of a rival clan, he flashed through every book, every movie, every episode of every procedural cop drama he had ever seen.
“We’re over here. Unarmed!” Roan shouted. He did not know where he had seen this plan before, but hoped it worked out well enough in its source material.
“Come on out, keep them hands up high,” the shrill voice called.
The three students stood up and left the shelter of the fallen tractor.
“Fletchers?” The shotgun carrying man was noticeably displeased.
“We don’t want any trouble, man, we just have to get to my Grandpa’s house,” Roan said.
“Fletchers caused this mess. Fletchers brought back the demon. You Fletchers have doomed us all and you think I’m just going to let you go to grandpa’s house? This ain’t a fairytale kiddo. This is the end of days!” As the man spoke, he raised the shotgun to his shoulder.
“No, no, no, you don’t want to do this. We can fix this,” Roan pleaded.
“They’re just kids, Gary, put that thing away,” the shrill voiced man said.
“They are the enemy, Woody,” Gary said.
Roan heard true hatred in the man’s voice. He did not know Gary, Gary did not know him. The Fletcher family’s distinctive chin and forehead combo was the only thing that Roan could think of that let Gary know he was looking at Fletchers.
“The only enemy now is that demon thing destroying our city,” Flint said.
“It wants blood. That’s what the legend says. I’ll give them blood,” Gary readied the weapon.
As the shotgun shell fell into place, two gunshots rang out. The parking lot echoed like a thunder clap and Gary fell to the ground.
“Get out of here, Woody.” The familiar, authoritative voice of Sheriff Donna Dunn came the other side of the parking lot.
Woody heeded the warning and ran off.
“You kids just cannot stay out of trouble,” the Sheriff said.
Celia hugged the group’s savior. “Thank you, Sheriff,” she said through tears.
“That was not something that deserves thanks. He was a stupid man about to do a stupid thing,” Sheriff Dunn said looking down at Gary.
There was no time for reflection, no time to pause.
“Any chance you can help us through to my Grandpa’s house? I’m apparently demon bait and we have to find something that can explain how to kill it,” Roan was hopeful his request did not sound so bizarre to the sheriff.
Sheriff Donna Dunn had seen plenty of horrific scenes. She was familiar with unstoppable drunks, violent sports fans and had stopped arsonists on more than one occasion. She had read all about the feud between Fletcher and Eastman prior to taking on her position. In a deep, nearly hidden part of her mind she thought one day she would be faced with red skies and demons ruining her city. In the more practical portion of her brain she knew myths of bubbling cauldrons and blood sacrifices were simply stories meant to keep children well behaved. That bit of her that believed a demon could one day rise from the depths of the Earth and come to eat the two most prominent families in the valley forced her to buy a $400 bottle of fine single malt scotch. It was meant to be a celebratory bottle for when she defeated a demon or retired.
She very much hoped for retirement. She looked the three young adults over, choosing her words very carefully.
“Kids,” she started, “I have plans for when this is over. Let’s get you to your grandpa’s house.”
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