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In The Night

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"You're a librarian, Evy!"

"We've branched out into archaeological digs often enough to pick up artifacts for the museum," Evy told her husband, Rick O'Connell. She was wearing one of her museum library blouses and dresses, hair done up in a bun. He still thought she was as beautiful as ever.

"Yes, but—"

"You like adventures rather than confirming provenance of artifacts by letters. The twins are big enough for traveling now, and West Africa is warm."

Rick pulled a face at his wife and resisted the urge to cover his face with his hands. Of course she would know all his usual arguments against leaving England right now. Or ever. "Our last vacation was a horror show."

"Alex was very sorry for activating another Egyptian ruin."

"The fact that this happens every time we leave the house..."

Evy smiled at him and took his hands in hers. Shooting him a confident expression, she lifted his hands to her lips. "We'll go by boat. No planes this time to crash." He shot her a sour look, and she laughed. "Okay, I know we haven't done well with boats, either, but it'll be different this time! A British steamer to Bathurst."

"You've researched this without me," he said, fully aware that he was whining now.

"It's a city," she said brightly. "No deserts or mummies or anything dangerous like that. Lots of industry, things to do. And we should have plenty of help in researching the stone circles."

Rick withdrew his hands from hers. "We're not bringing the children with us."

"So then what? Leaving them with Jonathan?" she scoffed, shaking her head. "That's ludicrous."

"Oh, come on now... He's gotten better. And Lady Catherine seems to be good for him." Rick gave her a hopeful smile. "And if we go by ourselves, that's the entire boat ride in one cabin. All alone. All night," he added suggestively.

Evy shot him a triumphant look, and that was when it occurred to him that he had been played. "I think you drive a hard bargain, Rick," she said, then leaned forward on her tip toes to give him a kiss. "But I accept. I can talk to Jonathan and Catherine, and I'm sure they'd love to keep the children for a time. Alex is certainly old enough to help more."

"You're an evil genius," Rick murmured before kissing her soundly.

Her eyes twinkled with mischief as she pulled away. "Of course I am, and it's only one reason why you love me."

Well, she wasn't wrong.

***

Bathurst was a bustling city full of immigrants coming in from the surrounding countryside to work in the burgeoning factories and farms associated with the groundnut exports. Much of the locals around St. Mary's island weren't fond of the changes, and some of the politicians were growing more conservative in their policies. As much as there was opposition, native born Gambians still didn't carry the power in the city. A number were locally born and educated, then achieved higher education outside of the country, returning with greater cachet.

Local politics didn't interest the O'Connells, at least in the sense of what policy did what. They were concerned enough about the regulations for foreigners coming into the city, and for finding enough help to aid in the physical labor to start the dig in and around the various stone circles. There were any number of circles at intervals along the river, and some even had small villages in and between the stone circles. They ranged between ten and twenty-four standing stones in any particular circle, with each stone in a given circle appearing the same height and size. They stood perhaps two meters tall, some more, some less, and were up to a meter in diameter. A number of locals were more than willing to lead the museum's team toward some of the closer stone circles in exchange for money.

Three children that looked no older than ten pointed at their team, shouting "Toubab! Toubab!" or words to that effect. Rick assumed it was drawing attention to the white people approaching the countryside, since more children seemed to be approaching. He had his pistol under his jacket, just in case and over Evy's objections, but he doubted that would be an appreciated gift for any of the local families.

Evy gave over coins with a soft smile and a wave, making Rick sigh a little inside. For all of their travels and adventures, she still believed the best in people. He couldn't shake the skeptical side of himself, and couldn't help but be a little more suspicious. At least the two of them balanced each other out.

Upon closer inspection, small stones and vegetables were left on top of the stones. "An offering to the spirits," one of their guides told the team with a hushed and respectful tone. "You don't want to be caught out on the plains at night outside the circles, and the spirits at least can feast on the offerings."

"Okay, how do spirits feast on anything?" Rick couldn't help but ask, ignoring the annoyed look that a few of Evy's colleagues shot his way. They were insufferable know it all bores at holiday parties, and he didn't care about their opinion one way or another.

"Some of these stones are said to shine bright at night," the guide told him, a bit of reproach in his tone. Rick almost felt chastened. Almost.

"But why? I don't understand it."

"Rick," Evy began in a warning tone, giving him her best "you're embarrassing me now and you'd better make it up to me later" expression.

"You are a scholar, are you not?" the guide asked, frowning at him.

"Well, no," Rick replied with a shrug, refusing to feel lesser than the others on the team just because of his rough and tumble background. "My wife Evy is the scholar, and she's part of the dig team." He smiled sweetly. "I'm just here to look pretty."

The guide snorted with unexpected laughter, but the softening of his expression meant he wasn't hostile. Now he knew that Rick wasn't intentionally insulting anyone, and then he grinned, displaying uneven and missing teeth. "Ah. So you know nothing of the peoples here."

"Nope," Rick said with an easy smile, shoving his hands in his pockets.

"And you know nothing of the kikiyaon, then." The guide sighed a bit. "Nasty, dangerous creatures, sharp teeth and deadly to all."

"The kiki-what?" he asked, smile frozen in place. "Evy, honey," he said, not taking his eyes off of the guide. "Did you know about this?"

"No, I hadn't." Evy came closer, that inquisitive expression on her face. "What was the name of this creature again?"

Uh oh. She'd want to read about this. And study it. And possibly capture a creature like this for the museum gallery.

At least it wasn't a mummy, right?

Finding that the other scholars were attentive and eager for his tale, the guide visibly straightened his spine, squared his shoulders and puffed up his chest. "Ah. You are all foreign, then. You do not know the tales of the kikiyaon."

"Oh, do tell!" Evy practically crooned, just short of clapping her child like their toddlers would.

Rick shot her a pained smile of grit teeth and then gave the guide a desperate expression, begging him without words to cut the story short or simply not tell it.
Having an audience staring with rapt attention, the guide wasn't about to give it up for Rick's comfort. "The kikiyaon are winged creatures, tall as a man, with sharp claws and razor teeth. They have red eyes that shine in the dark, and a wailing cry that will make your blood run cold if you hear it."

"Oh dear," one of the other archaeologists said, his voice almost a whimper. He adjusted the spectacles on his face that didn't need adjusting, and shifted his weight from one foot to another, eyes darting from the guide's intense glee at relating the tale, to the dread fascination of his colleagues. "That sounds dreadful."

"I'm sure it gets worse," Rick told him glumly, not able to remember his name.

"Absolutely!" the guide assured them in an almost cheerful tone. "Many witnesses have claimed that the kikiyaon can travel at immense speeds across the Gambian plains."

"So there's no escape from it at all," the fearful archaeologist said, appearing almost queasy.

"Oh, Gregory," one of the other archaeologists huffed, clapping him on the back in a congenial manner. "It's a local story. All part of the drama. Mustn't fret."

Rick winced. Whenever the presumably benevolent white man came into another country's territory and discounted its folklore, they suffered. Badly. Haven't any of these idiots heard what happened in Egypt, London, Cornwall, India, Turkey, Syria or Iran? He wouldn't be surprised if all of the stories were hushed up in the newspapers, but surely the museum administration was aware of all the danger that seemed to dog the O'Connells' steps?

"The kikiyaon live in the darkest parts of forests or caves in darkness. But when night falls, they seek their prey. Victims know when the kikiyaon is near because it smells of death itself."

Staring at Evy with a pointed expression, Rick mouthed smells of death itself. She waved in a dismissive gesture, but things like that had never been off putting for her.

"They swoop down from the sky if they attack from above, or run across the plains looking for fresh meat. Stories tell how kikiyaon ambush travelers desperately trying to get home before darkness falls. The victims who see it and live through the attack die of illness, their souls lost from this world forever." The guide looked at them with wide eyes to emphasize the danger of this creature. "It can move between the physical and dream realms, and your soul can't find its way home again. The victims, they rot and fall apart from illness, and sometimes they might rise as a kikiyaon themselves."

It was clearly meant to be a terrible fate for anyone to suffer, and some of the archaeologists seemed duly chastised. Not Evy, of course. Of course. Rick swallowed down a sigh and looked at the guide. "So how can you kill them?"

The guide laughed as if Rick had told a joke. "Oh, you Britishers. You think you can solve everything with bullets and blades." He laughed again, shaking his head and then gesturing for the archaeologists to keep following him toward the circles. "Don't you see? There is no escape from the kikiyaon. It moves in the physical world, in the dream world. If it wants your soul to eat, it will find you. And you suffer and die so painfully, then wander the world as one of them forever. There is no killing a spirit."

Rick wanted to snort in disdain and laugh at the guide. No killing a spirit? It just meant that they hadn't tried hard enough, as far as he was concerned. Everything could be killed sooner or later, it was just a matter of finding the right weapon.

***

For all that the guide had scared them with stories of the kikiyaon, the actual trip to the circles was uneventful. The archaeologists were cheerful when they were at the stones, able to dig and figure out how the circles were placed. "Make an offering," the guide warned them before leaving to head back to his village. "The spirits must be appeased."

The fearful archaeologist, Gregory, was far more confident this time around, and didn't do much more than make an appeasing sort of gesture. The guide left them behind to do their work, mapping out the circle and the surrounding area. Evy's job with this was to evaluate the stones and see if there was any kind of writing on them or any of the stones left on them. If there was, she knew all sorts of dead languages, and should be able to translate them. Rick, as he'd said, had no real purpose on the dig and was left to his own devices.

He chose to look at the shorter stone circles and peer closely at the piles of pebbles and vegetable offerings that had been left behind. There was the vague scent of rot, various plants that had decayed under the sun over the years in between the smaller stone piles. Some of the stones had little flecks of shiny matter in them, and this could very well be the thing that had led the stories to say that there were glowing eyes in the dark. At the same time, he was well versed enough in the occult that he wasn't about to discount the old stories entirely.

"Evy," Rick called, a pleasant expression on his face. "I'll go for a bit of a walk, get out of your hair for a bit."

Her expression softened, because she knew that as much as she found this part fascinating, it bored him to tears. She quickly came up to him, dirt worn into her clothes already, glasses perched on the edge of her nose. "Stay safe out there," she warned, leaning up on tip toes to give him a kiss. Rick couldn't help but squeeze her tightly and lift her off of her feet a bit, swinging her about in a quarter circle before he put her back down again.

"Of course! When am I not?"

"When I have to save you," she pointed out in arch tones.

Rick couldn't help but laugh. "Okay. Once." At the way she looked at him over her glasses, Rick laughed a little harder. "A year," he added ruefully.

"You've already had your once this year," she reminded him with a cheerful grin. "Don't cash in on next year's saving."

Another kiss, and then he was walking across the plains away from the cluster of stone circles that the museum staff were inspecting and cataloguing. It seemed almost sad that everything was being relegated to lines and equations and science, all the magic and mystery laid out neatly with all the answers plain as day. Some things deserved to keep its mystery, in his opinion, and a good lot of mystical bullshit should just stay buried.

It was a good distance across the plain to the forests or any caves, so Rick knew he wasn't about to meet any of those odd creatures of the Gambia. What he did eventually find was an old man with torn clothing, skin shriveled and pressed close to his sunken cheeks, eyes half closed and his breathing shallow. He looked sickly, as if he had collapsed while walking across the plains, and had simply given up and laid down to die. Rick got a little water out of his canteen into him, and the old man mumbled something in his native language.

"I don't understand," Rick said, expression one of anxious concern. "I don't speak your language. Just English. And, you know, according all those stuffy people in England, it's not even the proper kind of English."

The man's expression creased in pain or frustration, he couldn't tell which. Apparently England or English was a word he recognized, because he lifted a hand and thumped Rick on the chest with surprising strength. "Eng-lish," he rasped, eyes opening wider. The sclera of both eyes were a sickly bloodshot yellow, pupils blown wide. He said something in his language again, a mess of syllables that Rick couldn't quite even wrap his brain around. Then another word that might have been one of the local ones for "sorry," if the guide could be trusted, and the old man closed his eyes and heaved a heavy sigh.

And then stopped breathing.

Rick could feel his panic start to rise, and he shook the old man. The body flopped about in that way that only dead bodies could do, and it was really bothering him that he knew the difference between dead-dead, mostly dead, somewhat dead, and unconscious. This man was definitely dead-dead, as if he had simply breathed his last when there was someone to witness it. He was glad that the old man didn't die alone, but holy shit, he was so not prepared for this.

As difficult as it was, Rick had to bring the old man's body back with him to the dig site. The village he passed on the way there had some people milling about. They chattered in obvious fear as they pointed at him, and he had to grit his teeth and keep going. Great. They probably were going to spread stories that he killed the old man, and none appeared to know any English so he couldn't even state his case or find out who he had been.

The archaeologists were all in a tizzy and helped Rick, at least. Whatever native people that had been roped into maintaining the site backed off, eyeing them worriedly when they talked about bringing the body into Bathurst. "Someone had to know who he was, right?" Rick tried to say, approaching a group of the native staff. To a man, they all backed up. He looked at them in confusion and irritation. "What? Do you leave old people out there to waste away and die around here or something?"

They murmured something their language to each other, and one of them stepped forward. It was a tiny step, just enough to indicate he was the leader of their little band, but not enough to really get close to Rick. "He was cursed," the man told him in his accented but flawless English. "Badara told you of the kikiyaon."

"Badara?" Rick asked with a frown. "Wait, the guide? He hadn't introduced himself..."

Frowning at Rick in disapproval, the local man pointed down at the dead body. "That man was marked and had sickened and now has died. His soul is lost and he will become a kikiyaon. You may have been marked as well."

"Wait, the story said they have to bite you, right? Like a vampire or something."

"You mock our ways," the man growled in anger.

Rick raised both of his hands in a placating, surrendering gesture. He was sure he looked like a shocked idiot, and he certainly felt that way at the moment. "Not on purpose, and I'm sorry if it's coming across that way. I don't know anything about anything out here."

"Mate, shut it and let the rest of us deal with this," Sir Henry Featherstone declared, stepping forward and clapping Rick on the shoulder. He was in charge of the entire expedition, and thus far still looked pristine. Which meant he hadn't done any digging at all, but had likely stayed in his tent and drank tea or something equally annoying.

The local man spat out a word in his language that was probably a derogatory term, and Featherstone all but pushed Rick aside. "I'm sure we can come to some kind of arrangement," he said, approaching the knot of men. "We'll increase the hazard pay to bring the body to the city coroner to determine the cause of death. Sir Forster is a learned man, he'll be able to tell us exactly what happened to the poor fellow."

That was hardly a placating tone, and one of the other men spat on the ground before walking away. The one that had spoken tugged at the bottom of his khaki shirt and lifted his chin with pride as he glared at Featherstone. "You think you know of this land, but you do not. This is cursed, that man is cursed, and none will help you now."

To a man, all of the local help decided to leave. Evy frowned at Rick and looped her arm around his waist. "I suppose you had to make this an adventure after all," she murmured.

"Not my fault," Rick sighed. "I couldn't just leave that guy out there."

"I know," she said, giving him a squeeze. She looked up at him and gave him a wry smile. "I suppose I'll need to use you as my assistant after all."

Ugh. Digging in the dirt with a toothbrush and trowel was not his idea of fun. His idea of fun tended to involve a lot more naked Evy or discovering expensive artifacts he could sell to private collectors for a tidy profit.

Still, it was time with Evy. That was more than enough compensation.

***

Featherstone may have been many things, but a navigator was not one of them. After all of the locals had left the dig site when the dead body wasn't simply thrown back into the empty fields, he had declared he knew the way back. Because of that claim, he had pushed the team to continue even as the light was fading and the lanterns they brought with them clearly didn't provide enough light to do the job properly. Evy finally put her foot down, disgusted with the simpering way her male colleagues were trying to kowtow to Featherstone's position at the library rather than listen to common sense.

And now he was lost.

Rick had lost his own bearings some time ago, and finally put the travois carrying the dead body down, refusing to go another step. A few of the others soon realized it and stopped as well. It took Featherstone a little longer to realize no one was following him any longer; Gregory had already helped Rick gather twigs and dried grasses from the plain to help start a fire. It was probably the glow that had alerted Featherstone, who only pursed his lips in a pinched kind of way before declaring. "Excellent fire, gentlemen. This is a good a place as any to camp for the night, and then in the morning we can make our way back."

"To the city, or to the dig site?" Rick asked stiffly.

Ignoring Rick completely, Featherstone proceeded to direct the archaeologists to look about for things to use as tents and scrounge for food. Rick and Evy exchanged a worried glance, because that wasn't a good sign. They were in an open plain with no visible line of sight to a village or even the circle stones. What could these men actually track?

Evy suddenly grabbed Rick's arm as he stoked the fire. "Rick," she hissed, then directed his attention to the travois.

It was empty.

Not wanting to cause alarm, Rick carefully put down the stick he was using as a poker and walked casually toward the travois. The covering was askew and stinking, and there was no body in sight. Lying flat on the ground, there was no way it could have "accidentally" fallen out. He looked around, trying to see if he could figure out where the body had gone, but saw nothing but open plains and darkness around them. There was no sign of a village, no sign of animals, no sign of a body.

"Do mummies just follow us around now??" he said to Evy in distress, keeping his voice low enough that the other archaeologists could continue to ignore them. Featherstone was still talking in that bombastic way that he had, and Rick still had to suppress the urge to punch his self absorbed teeth in.

"Technically, the dead body wasn't mummified," she told him in her usual librarian-prim tones when correcting him. "We would have had to prepare it, and had the tools to remove the brain through the nostrils, and the organs from inside the body cavity, and stored them properly in canopic jars while we wrapped it in linen..."

"Okay," he said, cutting her off with grit teeth. "It wasn't a mummy. But it was a dead body. That was here, and stinking, and now is not. How do you explain that?"

From off in the distance came a screech, almost the hoot of an owl. Rick looked at Evy with narrowed eyes. "If it's that thing the guide was talking about, I'm going to have words with Jonathan about how safe that museum job is. Because this is not what we agreed to when you took the job!"

"Look, we don't know for sure that's what happened. It could be a prank."

"One, who would be the kind to do that without making sure we all know about this? And two, how would that ass even manage to do it when we're all walking around back and forth, making sure that it looks like the blanket was pushed out of the way and the dead body just got up and went for a walk!"

"Calm down. I'm sure there's a perfectly logical explanation for all of this," Evy said, rubbing his arm in a soothing manner.

Rick was cut off by Gregory approaching them with an anxious look on his face. "Hey. I can't find Sir Featherstone anywhere. And it's not like there's many places to hide..."

In spite of themselves, all three looked around them into the darkness of the plains. Rick looked over at Gregory. "When was he last seen?"

"I don't know. I was looking for him because there's nothing to find out here. The grass and twigs for a fire is one thing, but there's nothing to eat for miles around." Gregory looked pained and gulped. "Except us. And the fire's an easy target for any wild animal, right?"

It was clear that Gregory wanted Rick to clap him on the back and assure him that things were going to be okay. Rick wasn't the type to lie about a thing like that, so he sighed instead and hauled himself back to his feet and pulled Evy up from the huddle they were in. "We're going to have to take a look around, see if he just got lost taking a pee break."

Gregory looked at him with wide eyes. "We're goners, aren't we?"

Another of those owlish cries rang out in the night, and Gregory jumped. "Is it that thing?"

"Absolutely not," Evy said as Rick nodded solemnly. "Rick!" she chided.

"What? With our luck? How many mummies have we fought off already?"

"Wait... Didn't Garrington and Featherstone say it was all a hallucination because of the poor living conditions in Egypt?"

Rick snorted as Evy patiently tried to explain to him that the living conditions in Egypt had been perfectly tolerable by anyone's standards. Gregory was distracted by that, and Rick scanned the surroundings looking for something that stood out.

Glowing eyes certainly fit that bill.

Without breaking eye contact, he reached out for Evy and caught hold of her arm. "Evy, honey," he began, voice low and intense. "Now is not the time for teaching things."

"Nonsense, it's always good to learn."

"How about we gather up everybody and try to stay safe first?" he said in that same falsely pleasant tone. That was enough to let her know something was wrong, and then she flicked her gaze from Gregory out in the darkness, unerringly finding the eyes in the dark. "Well?" Rick prompted her when she froze in his grasp.

"Yes, that sounds like a lovely idea. I think the way back to Bathurst is behind us."

Gregory slowly turned around and saw the eyes. They blinked, slowly and lazily, as if sleepy, and Gregory sputtered in fear. He started to move toward a few of the other men, who had laid down on the ground near the fire, tripping over one. "Sir Featherstone!" he bellowed, looking around him in terror.

"He's not going to help you," Rick growled, looking around for something a little more useful to use as a weapon. The guide had said there was no way to kill the kikiyaon, but he refused to believe that. Everything that lived had a way to be killed, and Rick wasn't about to give up and become creature bait.

The poor archeologist goggled in terror at the sight of Rick's gun. "Why do you have that?"

"Just be glad I do," Rick answered. "I'll watch this thing with the glowing eyes, you get the others ready to go."

"But—" Gregory tried to sputter as Evy squeezed his arm and took off.

"Just go," Rick insisted.

He stalked forward toward the shining eyes, gun in front of him. It was silly, really, who ran toward danger? But apparently he was just that kind of fool, especially when it was nighttime and Evy was involved. Because he would be damned if some kind of weird creature was going after his wife, and he would put it down with extreme prejudice if need be. He'd killed all manner of mummies at this point, including some weird half man, half scorpion creature that was possibly more creature than mummy. He didn't quibble the stories on that one, or any of the Egyptian mummies really, because his entire family had been at risk.

"I need to find a better travel agent," he muttered as he progressed forward.

The archaeologists were abandoning camp and probably running willy nilly into the night, which was possibly a very bad idea. There was at least one definite predator in front of him, however, and Rick wasn't about to back down from this fight.

Evy was at his side with pieces of equipment that she scrounged and probably even broke apart to give it a sharp edge. "It's not moving," she commented.

"I noticed that," Rick answered, still moving forward at a steady pace. Not in a threatening manner, exactly, but a walk that a creature could avoid if it was bent on getting out of the way and didn't want a confrontation. "They're definitely eyes, though. I caught 'em blinking a few times so far."

"You were hoping they were just rocks on a stone circle," Evy said, grin evident in her voice. "With our luck, though..."

"Can't blame me for hoping."

"One of your endearing qualities, yes," she laughed.

The eyes in the distance shifted slightly, as if confused by her laughter. There was that eerie owlish screech again, somewhere in the darkness but not ahead of them. Whatever that creature was, it wasn't the one making the noise.

As they approached those glowing eyes, the stink of rotting flesh was growing more and more noxious. Both wrinkled noses and continued at their steady pace, the owner of the eyes standing very still and confused. Rick's and Evy's eyes adjusted to the dark at that point, and could see the outline of a humanoid figure that was probably around Rick's height. Its eyes glowed, and it seemed skeletal. There was the slick, almost-shine of some kind of viscous liquid on the flesh at times, with reflected the feeble starlight available.

It said something in a language neither understood, though it seemed to be the same one that the guide and dig helpers had spoken in. The voice was gravelly, almost awkward, and reminded Rick far too much of the Egyptian mummies roaring. It tried in another language, which didn't work, either. Letting out a frustrated sigh, it seemed remarkably intelligent for something that looked like the remains of a dead body. "No fear of me," it said finally in English, mouth having difficulty with the unfamiliar syllables.

"Oh, we understood that," Evy told it briskly. "And, well, we've dealt with this kind of thing before. More than we've cared to, really."

"You're not gonna kill us, are you?" Rick asked it flatly. "The mummies we've dealt with before all tried to kill us."

The creature blinked slowly, as if pondering things carefully. "You hold a weapon."

"The guide was nice enough to say the supernatural stuff out here can't be killed. Still, not everything out in the dark is supernatural. There are plenty of human monsters."

Its chin lifted a fraction and it made a humming, thoughtful noise. "I am old," it said finally. "I see much in my time. Learn much." It paused, as if trying to find the right words. "I am story to them. They forget purpose."

"Which is?" Evy prompted when it fell silent.

"I was many long time ago. Alone now." It paused. "I try others, they sick. They die."

"The stories," Evy breathed, understanding immediately. "When you tried to make others like you, they died instead."

"The old man in the field today?" Rick asked, head tilted. His wrist softened slightly, but he didn't lower the gun.

"Not right."

"What do you—"

Screams arose in the dark behind them, and Evy turned toward it in a panic. Rick knew better than to break eye contact with the creature in front of them. "He's the thing they talk about, isn't he? The kikiyaon? It's not you that the stories are really about, are they? It's about the things that go wrong when you try to make more."

The eyes nodded solemnly. "Sorry."

It had been the same thing that the old man had said before he died. He'd probably been trying to warn him, but he hadn't known the language or the customs.

"Are they really impossible to kill?" Rick demanded.

He jumped when the creature reached out to touch his arm to lower the gun. "Time," the creature said sadly. "Sickness, time, and then die."

"How much time?" he demanded again, gun at his side.

"Not enough to save the others," Evy snapped, sprinting back in the way they came to try her best to save her colleagues.

Rick turned back toward her, then back at the creature in front of him. "How much time?" he repeated, softer. "Please."

"Months."

"Starving to death and becoming dangerous in the meantime, probably infecting others."

"Yes."

He heaved a sigh of frustration and then shook his head. "I get it if you're lonely, but this isn't worth the risk. It really isn't."

"Night long. Lonely."

The stink of decay and slimy flesh didn't help matters, either. Rick didn't want to know what manner of creature this was, and wasn't about to find out. "A piece of advice? Avoid humans. We're terrible."

He ran off after Evy and saw the old man he had found was up and about after all, eyes wild and bloodshot. His teeth were sunk in Featherstone's neck, and it was he who was wailing in pain and terror. Rick didn't even think twice about putting a bullet in the old man's head. He snapped back, tearing a chunk of flesh out of Featherstone.

Something raced out of the dark past them, scooping up the bodies of the old man and Featherstone, who was bleeding out and still shrieking. Stunned, no one could move to follow right away. The sound of the shrieking was fading quickly, heading in the direction of the forest that no one had wanted to enter even in the daylight.

Gregory was hunched over and trying not to throw up. "We have to do something," he said miserably, finally looking up at the rest of them.

"Maybe, but what?" Rick asked, gun at his side. Evy looked at him in concern. "We don't know where they are or what they were. And I don't think we're in any condition to walk around in the night when we can barely even see." He looked at each of the shaken archaeologists with sympathy, because he knew they would either go insane or be considered insane if they ever spoke about this. "We'll set up watches to keep each other safe. Okay?"

There wasn't much else they could do for the moment. In the morning, they found their way to a village and managed to get to Bathurst. To a one, they all returned to London immediately and never spoke about that night again.

The End