Reaching for the door, I heard a knock, followed by a child’s voice. “Help me, please, please. It’s coming…” Standing very still, I felt the sweat roll down my back. “Please.” I could feel my heart beginning to race. I lowered my eyes, knowing I should help, but I couldn’t…I simply could not move, frozen in place by fear.
I waited next to the door, motionless, until I heard the child’s pleas for help coming from further down the hall. I exhaled, releasing a polluted relief, and breathed normally.
Brushing aside the feathers, I rubbed my face, then I heard Samantha’s voice. “Samaritan, they are here for you.” I turned my head to see her crouching on the ledge of my desk. We locked eyes for a moment, without a single word to pass between us. “Why are you looking at me like that?” I asked. ” What…the kid?”
“Samaritan, the Maw has come for you. But you always knew it would… You thought that if you played the game, you’d succeed.” She smiled with an expression somewhere between pity and sarcasm. “Right and wrong. Empathy and Humanity …important matters. The game is a trap. Even when you win, you lose.” She said, placing both feet firmly on the floor, stretching her toes into the weave of the fibers. “You sat idly by when the weak and vulnerable, needed your voice, your action.” Samantha shook her head. “…needed your support.”
The knocking on the door, became a banging sound. But there was something else accompanying the knocking sound. I recalled it’s signature from the day the family across the hall was taken. The sound filled the air like a speeding training. It sounded supernatural. It sounded otherworldly. The intensity in the sound grew increasingly, louder, becoming deafening.
Bang! Bang! Bang! I began to run feverishly and frantically, running past my emergency backpack, knocking it onto the floor. I arrived at the bathroom window to make my escape, with the splintered sound of the apartment door, buckling under the volition of a relentless and hungry assault, giving chase behind.
I saw Samantha standing in the doorway behind me as a black cloud quickly swept over her. “You thought you were different from those of us being unjustly carried away, trampled upon, beaten down and ground under by power.” Her voice carried forward from the smoke. “You are one of ‘Us.’ You have always been one of ‘Us.'”
Looking back, from the other side of the bathroom window, I saw sickly yellow eyes moving within the animated smoke. I tripped over the window sill and fell landing onto the fire escape. Reaching back, I slammed the window shut just as the mass of black smoke reached the window. It levitated in place, swirling as it’s volume pushed against the walls and ceiling of the bathroom.
I alternated between running and sliding down the fire escape, falling onto the pavement below. Small shards of glass fell from the window above, as it exploded under duress. I covered my head and body while the pieces fell delivering multiple cuts to my back and arms. The black smoke curled itself out of the window and down the steps in a serpentine motion.
Springing to my feet, I ran to the farm across the street. I ran into the field where the black cows were grazing. Never dropping their heads to pull more grass from the ground, I ran toward the trees for escape. Their unblinking, black eyes watched as they always had, offering no help. They chewed as the wave of smoke crested as it closed the distance. I screamed, “Help!” Hoping someone would hear me. “Help, help!”
Stepping into an acute deformation in the grass, I nearly lost my footing, while watching the cows get overtaken by the black smoke. It had to be nearly eight feel tall and about forty or more feet wide, as the sleek feline musculature of it’s smoky mass, covered the ground, splashing over the black cows.
Nearly into the woods, I struggled to stay ahead of the Maw as it overtook me. It enveloped my legs and began to make it’s way up my body, lifting me off the ground, absorbing me into it’s mass.
Samantha appeared near the treeline. She locked onto my eyes with that same piercing gaze. “You’ve been so busy about the business of milestones and ‘potential,’ living a life of pious self deception.” As I became totally submerged within the smoke, I groped around, utilizing what little light remained. “…You’ve been busy stepping aside realizing the firing squad did not come for you that day.” The multitude of yellow eyes slowly came into view, behind me. I heard their grinding teeth, felt the wave of anguish and despair drifting off of them. “…Never realizing you were still in line for some future date.” I fell to my knees and began to cry. “Samaritan.” Samantha called out to me. “…Reaching out to prostitutes and tax collectors requires empathy, not achievements, not money, not piety, not status.”
I dropped my head, hearing a multitude of voices howling in the darkness. I looked up to see the sun’s rays still penetrating the black fog from above, just enough to see a murder of crows fly overhead, before the smoke grew thicker, completely blocking out any view of the sky.
Hopping to my feet, amid the howling sounds growing closer and the horrendous noises, that can only be described as wounded deer screaming, I ran toward the woods. I blindly ran over uneven ground, slowing my progress. While I ran, I began to make out shapes in the darkness, up ahead, that appeared to be human in form. The shapes slowly walked between the trees, trudging along with drooping shoulders as though weighed down by burden. Oddly, the people and trees cast their own dim light inside the darkness like a photographic negative. I ran toward the nearest person and asked for help. “Please.” I grabbed the woman’s arm. “Can you help me?”
She slowly turned her head, revealing her yellow eyes, and said. “I’m so hungry.” I began to back peddle away from the gaunt and ragged looking creature. I struggled to process the situation as I began to realize that I knew the woman. She was my neighbor, the mother from across the hall.
A bloody chunk of flesh fell between her bony fingers and into the grass. “I’m so hungry,” she repeated, extending her hand as she began to walk toward me. I watched as the skin on her forehead cracked and split open leaving spidery tendrils of flesh. It sloughed away, separating and sliding away from her face, arms, and breasts. The skin suit lay crumpled on the grass behind her as she continued to step forward. “I’m so hungry.” She moaned.
“We are all so hungry.” I heard many voices say as I watched thousands of yellow eyes moving through the trees, towards me in the darkness.
“Samaritan… We are all so hungry…”
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