“Please, please let it be there tonight,” Gloria said to herself.
After a few minutes, the spiked shape left the edge of the road. She couldn’t tell what exactly it was, but she knew it was one of them.
It was night; the sky was a layer of deep ink soaking the horizon. Stars winked out like kids at a carnival. The road was a long, disheveled tongue in either direction. Since the monsters had appeared the plants had broiled and growled over every surface, like jade lions waiting to strike. The entire world was dyed green by their growth. It felt like the apocalypse had given the natural world a second chance.
Gloria crept out of her hiding spot along the forest’s edge. The woods were thick and wild. It was easy to sneak beneath their eves in the darkness. A few times the monsters had drifted into the undergrowth looking for her, but she’d crawled into the vines choking the forest floor. Their forms would hang directly over her, their claws practically tickling the ground with their points. If you stayed still long enough, they’d always leave. They were guided by a restless impatience to kill whatever human had unluckily crossed their vision.
It had been almost four month since the drum had started. Gloria was in her late 40’s. She was living just south of Cloquet, Minnesota with her son and boyfriend when the monsters attacked. She managed to escape them at the onset of the slaughter by hiding in the fireplace when they tore into her home. It was hard to listen to her family be killed. Those grunts and screams punctuated her nightmares on a nightly basis. A guttural requiem stuck on repeat.
Once Gloria survived the first night, she became adept at hiding from them, despite the monsters changing their hunting methods. Gloria was tan, short, thin, and recovering from a cocaine addiction when the demon-thunder appeared. Strangely, the drum helped with her sobriety. Anyone she knew that could influence or tempt her was dead or hiding too far away to visit. It was just her wandering her two bedroom home nestled off the country road.
She was wearing a red flannel with metal buttons that her son would sometimes sleep in. It was cool at night and hot during the day, but it didn’t matter.
She wore it all the time.
Gloria had long hair, big eyes, and thick lips. She carried a rifle over her narrow shoulders. It was her boyfriend’s. He had used it to shoot squirrels, but he’d always miss. Her son was a better shot. She couldn’t think about them too much. The monsters didn’t even leave bodies for her to bury. The pictures she had of them were fading. Something was replacing them inside the images. Some hidden grime had permanently stained them.
At night, even if the drum was playing, which it was currently, Gloria would wander towards the highway outside her property. Tonight was a perfect opportunity for her little escape since there were no clouds. Down the road a little ways from where she hid between the trees was a pickup truck sitting in a shallow ditch. It was her neighbor’s. He’d been caught in the open, and was now just a red smear on the dashboard. The windows were gone, along with the tires, but the hood was intact. Gloria crawled up on it and curled her feet outwards. She was wearing a pair of rubber boots she’d bought at Fleet Farm in the cities years ago. Would she ever be back there again? Would she ever be anywhere again?
“I hope I see them tonight,” she said to herself. She sat up a little bit and looked down either side of the empty road. On the edge of the faraway gloom, light was starting to percolate upwards in faint bands of orange. Gloria knew it wasn’t real. When she first started exploring the areas surrounding her at night, she noticed the drum was summoning odd images out of the annihilated world. Streetlights, cars, signs, even planes would all return to their state of normalcy before the hoods with claws tore everything apart. They were just illusions, tricks to draw out the survivors. Gloria didn’t mind their phantom songs at first, but the more she was exposed to them the more she longed for real light. The kind that machine’s made.
Gloria closed her eyes and focused on the sky above her head. She didn’t want to get too distracted by those resurrected skyscrapers sitting on the borders of the dark sphere surrounding her. The air around her was echoing to the drum. Bugs growled and buzzed along the breeze. They’d get close to her then grumble away uninterested and bored. They didn’t know what to do with themselves when humankind was on the brink of extinction.
“There, there it is!” Gloria said, pointing to the sky. A black, metal shape glided over her for a single second. It had long, thin wings with a round body. It was clearly an aircraft, but it was silent against the heavens. It didn’t want to wake up the devils lurking below. Four blue lights beamed out of its belly down to the ground. They illuminated the world for a single aqua breath, and then dashed away into the dark.
“Light, there is still real light out there,” Gloria said, blinking back a few tears.
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