Might I make my own Deadpool style 4th wall break here and say: This, other than the prologue, is one of my favorite chapters. The visuals, not to toot my own horn are awesome in this one and it worked out so beautifully! Also HUGE head nod to Stephen King’s DreamCatcher in this chapter. Did you catch what the nod was?
Chapter 6: Mr. Grey
The family had retreated into the barn on the edge of their property when it started. Screaming and terrified they hid beneath the layers of sweet hay in the barn. The horses had been braying and kicking violently in their stalls around them. Jim, the father, tried to quiet them. They had tried to quiet the damned beasts so that the attention of those monsters out there wouldn’t be diverted to the barn. Right then, they had been safe for the time being, the sheep were screaming in an almost human-like manner as the blackened and stinking abominations torn through the flock in their pens. The screaming had been almost unbearable and had made Sneakers shiver against his boy master. The mother, Trish, had cried uncontrollably while trying not to retch at the same time. The dog remembered the stench of her breath, foul with gastric acids that had backed up her throat, threatening to spew across the floor of the barn they were trapped in.
Then there was the silence, still and looming dangerous silence. It had happened suddenly. No more screaming from the cattle pens outside the barn, just eerie dead quiet. Tristan had jumped to his feet and was about to run to the barn doors when Sneakers caught hold of the boy’s shirt in his teeth, trying to tug his boy back to safety. It was then that one of the horses had screamed, it had sounded like the screeching that black cat Sneakers had caught in the back fields once. It made the dog shiver and growl. The whole family stared at the horse as tendrils crept around its body, snaking along the sides of the mare with accurate speed, burning tracks along the horse’s flesh in smoky whispers.
The horse had screamed again, trying to kick away the offending intruder and only succeeding in breaking its legs against the destroyed wood of the barn wall. Ripping up its flesh in the splintered remains of wood paneling. Then it happened, still screaming bloody murder, the horse disappeared through the gaping maw of the wall. Never to be heard or seen ever again. The horses were riled up and jittering around their stalls, biting at thin air and kicking up hay and dust when one by one, they too disappeared through their own gaping holes in the barn walls.
The family stood there in shock and awe. Unable to believe what had just happened, unable to move from sheer terror. Is this what it felt like to be on the slaughtering floor, the victim of the butchering hands rather than those hands themselves? It had certainly felt like it at the time. Panic-stricken the family huddled close in the middle of the barn, shaking with fear as tendrils ran across the floor from all directions, zoning in on each of them like heat-seeking missiles. Sneakers yipped when a tendril snaked past him and snatched Tristan like a rag doll, lifting the boy up in the air and slamming him back down with a sickening crunch of bone and wood. Running for the nearest hole in the barn walls the dog had escaped screaming into the forest that surrounded the property, all loyalty lost in the heat of the moment to fear.
When the dog had worked up the strength and courage to come back to the barn to seek out his family he found the barn stank of rot and decay. As the gray dog trotted across the dusty floor. His whip-like tail flicked back and forth nervously while he sniffed around, eyes darting back and forth. The dog had learned quickly in the fray of carnage that had besieged its owners a few weeks ago to avoid open spaces and inescapable places. It had witnessed the destruction of what had been home and hearth within minutes, his gray eyes the only surviving witness to the unfamiliar beasts that had come for the ones that fed, loved, and walked him.
For the last few weeks, the irony of feeding on the fleshy hands that had cared for him from puppyhood had been lost on his primitive mind. The unfortunate collateral damage of canine instinctual survival. Always the smart and opportunistic animal the greyhound made his way to the rotting carcass of the little boy that had played fetch with him on so many occasions, he sniffed at the rotting flesh, searching out the tasty tidbits that were left. Ripping at them like a rabid wolf the dog slurped and gorged on what was once his playmate without so much as a flicker of remorse.
It was all about survival now unlike the first week after the carnage had died down. The first week the dog had been reluctant only whimpering and laying beside each of his human companions. Nudging at them with his paws and nose thinking they were only sleeping. He couldn’t understand why his human family didn’t get up when he tried to make them. His feeble canine mind not making the connections between the living and the dead. When it happened his hungry belly and instinct for survival had taken over. He had turned first to the man he had come to know as the booming voice of the household. The father was the biggest morsel of meat and it took him a full week to work through the man. By the time he got to the soft-spoken female of the family, half the meat on the bones of the body had melted away to slimy goo that trickled across the wooden dusty floor of the barn. It seemed the child’s body was less susceptible to whatever was prematurely rotting the adult bodies. The dog, once known as Sneakers, chose to devour his favorite human companion last. A token, perhaps, of the dog’s undying affection and loyalty to the boy. Perhaps even a tribute on some primal level.