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Eighth Plague

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First Lele.

 

Then Teala.

 

Now Matt and Tim too!?

 

Eva gritted her teeth, and wiped her eyes.

 

Why do I keep losing my friends-

 

“You alright?”

 

Oli.

 

She swallowed down the grief burning in her chest.

 

“…Hey”.

 

Slowly turning at the sound of his voice.

 

“You want the honest answer or the bada* one?”

 

He silently reached into the pocket of his giant fur coat, and produced a tissue.

 

“…Thanks”.

 

 

For a while, they just stood like that.


Together, yet alone.

 

Distanced by the weight of losses no one should’ve had to bear.

 

If it weren’t for those creatures-

 

 

If it weren’t for GloZell.

 

 

The fiery burst of anger that rose in her at the mere thought of the woman’s name didn’t scare her as much as she’d expected it to.

 

Then again, it did help that she’d single-handedly extinguished three of her shining lights in one fell swoop.

 

 

Maybe it was wrong to think ill of the dead.

 

But she couldn’t help it.

 

 

“…Oli?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“…Where’s Sierra?”

 

“Camped out by the front door”, was his response.

 

“She’s convinced they’re going to come back at any minute”.

 

“Oh…”

 

Her heart broke.

 

“That poor girl…”

 

“I know”.

 

He moved closer, arms encircling her shaking, devastated frame.

 

“But it could be worse”.

 

“How?”

 

“She could’ve given up”.

 

“-“

Eva’s heartbeat stilled.

 

For only a second-

 

“…You are right.

You-you are…!”

 

“Don’t worry”, he whispered into her neck.

 

“I’m sad too.

But they would want us to live on for them”.

 

“They would”, she admitted sadly.

 

“…You want me to stay for a while?”

 

Her brief nod was all the confirmation he needed.

 

 

No sooner had he nudged the break room door closed than she collapsed into sobs.

 

-

 

Sierra was sitting perched at the glass-plate windows.

 

Unmoving.

 

An almost-perfect statue-

 

She didn’t plan on moving.

 

Or eating.

 

Or sleeping.

 

Until they returned.

 

Her boys…

 

Her girl.

 

Sure, they’d seen Roi’s corpse.

 

But they hadn’t seen anyone else’s.

 

Therefore!

 

There was still a chance-

 

Slim.

 

But still there.

 

That the rest of them were alive.

 

-Though if Eva got her hands on GloZell, well…

 

Make that five.

 

 

“Sierra?”

 

 

Oli.

 

 

“…What are you doing?”

 

“…”

 

“…Sierra…?”

 

“I’m waiting”.

 

“Waiting for-“

 

“They have to come back.

They have to”.

 

“But-“

 

“They will.

I know it”.

 

“…Okay”.

 

 

He wisely walked away.

 

-

 

Eventually, there was a light sound of impact.

 

Something settling down for a landing…

 

A bug.

 

The size of her hand.

 

Or perhaps a bit larger, it was kind-of hard to tell from here-

 

The black, metal spines brought the tentacle that had killed Lele to mind.

 

A parasite, she decided.

 

That’s what it is…looks like one, so must be one, too!

 

Then more.

 

More little sounds of landing…

 

“Ew! What are those-!?” Gabbie shrieked, disgusted.

 

“Big…mosquitoes!?” Tana threw out into the atmosphere-

 

“They’re so roly-poly!” Rosanna observed.

 

“Oh, I hate bugs-“ Colleen moaned.

 

 

“It is a sign…”

 

 

The three Weird sisters.

 

At it, again.

 

For the hundredth time-

 

 

“It is a sign of Him! His winged familiars-“

 

 

“Then wouldn’t they be attacking us?”

 

Safiya cautiously touched the glass.

 

They didn’t stir.

 

“Yeah, I don’t know but I don’t like them”, Joey whimpered.

 

“Why-“

 

 

Something swooped across the storefront and made everyone shudder back!

 

Screaming-

 

A medium-sized, leathery beastie with wings, and a long, spiny tail!

 

“Is that a-“

 

“Pterodactyl?” Safiya finished.

 

“Last I heard they went extinct with the dinosaurs”.

 

“I think somebody needs to tell her that!” Tyler gasped.

 

Like a starving, voracious monster she fell upon the hapless bugs!

 

Ignoring their buzzed cries of distress as they were crunched alive between powerful jaws-!!

 

Gangly, bony limbs smacking into the plate glass Manny had called would be their death three whole chapters ago-

 

“Everybody get back!!” Mortimer yelled, while general panic ensued.

 

“Get away, get away-“ the girl with the Jetpack and her older companion helped to funnel the fleeing YouTubers and their families to safety-

 

 

CRASHHH-

 

 

One of them broke in.

 

 

Screeching up a storm, the critter flapped and flailed around in mid-air, over-turning shelves and swiping several people to the floor!

 

Oh yes.

 

 

And letting in its creepy-crawly prey as well.

 

 

One of them zoomed by Ro, only to be pounded into the floor by Stephanie with a random broom she’d stolen from the Janitor’s Closet.

 

 

WHACK

 

WHACK

 

WHACK-

 

 

“Th-thanks…”

 

“No problem”.

 

She blew a stray strand of hair out of her face.

 

“Let’s get you to the break room”.

 

-

 

Safiya saw it coming for her, and she held her borrowed zapper at the ready.

 

CRRRKL-

 

It stuttered in mid-flight, and dropped to the tiles.

 

SQUISH

 

…I’m gonna need to replace these shoes now-

 

A screech from nearby!

 

“NO-“

 

Tana.

 

Stinger buried up to the hilt in her neck.

 

“No! NO TANA-“

 

Gabbie sprinted to the sagging Saloon Girl’s side, tennis racket in one hand, and can of Mr. Bug-Off in the other!

 

SPSHHHHHH-

 

It dipped a few paces upon being hit at full strength, and proceeded to float away in drunken starts and stops.

 

“Nonononono-!!”

 

Tears were cascading down the YouTuber’s cheeks.

 

Ever so slightly, she began to convulse-

 

“What’s happening to her!? How do we-“

 

Her terrified friend nearly plowed Safiya over!!

 

“HOW DO WE SAVE HER!!?”

 

-

 

While this was going down, Shane Dawson withdrew a .45-caliber handgun from the waistband of his trousers, and sprinted off after their rampaging Pterisaur.

 

Ducking and weaving every so often to avoid her battering wings and snapping tail, the guy dove around a bend as its barbed tip pointed low-

 

“NO! No, get off-“

 

A choked wail as the creature bit into the flesh of a hapless bystander’s neck.

 

Tore-

 

Blood spurted into the air as the critical veins were exposed.

 

Periodically-

 

“Nh…uhh…”

 

He cringed with sympathy for the poor, dying soul.

 

…If he had to guess at a name, he would’ve said…

 

Kevin…?

 

 

There was a deed for a 1920’s house in his pocket.

 

-

 

“What do we do, HOW DO WE CURE THIS!?”

 

Gabbie just kept repeating it over, and over, and over.

 

“I..I think it’s a strain of poison-“

 

Safiya knelt down beside Tana as her skin sloooowly swelled up.

 

Purple blood leaching through her pores as she struggled for breath more and more-

 

“MAT! Get the med kit!!”

 

“On it!”

 

-He took one glance at the situation, and booked it!

 

 

But…

 

“… … ….!!”

 

 

Tana’s eyes bulged wider and wider, mouth opening wider and wider, as she tried and failed to bring in breaths…

 

 

Gabbie felt the tears gathering behind her eyelids…

 

 

 

 

She breathed no more.

 

-

 

“Ohmigod!”

 

Bretman had seen it all!

 

Flying Demon from Hell, begone!!

 

-So naturally, what did it do, it swept for this handsome face.

 

“Oh f* me-!”

 

He ran like a b*.

 

He ran like a b* so well that he got himself cornered in the propane aisle.

 

Then one of those nice wing straps popped the tank.

 

Gasoline sprayed all over the floor…

 

And got on his precious Playboy’s coat!

 

“Sis-!”

 

Now that was just rude!

 

Whipping it off in one smooth motion, he tossed it the fr* away!

 

A rush of heat-

 

 

You have got to be kidding me!

 

Periodt!!

 

 

The friction of the fabric against flammable liquid-soaked skin had produced a blazing, shreeing Banshee!

 

*

 

Blitzing through the air in a spiraling, tormented conflagration, the Ptera-creature ran headlong into a bat, and thunked to the floor, leaving a giant crack in its wake.

 

I looked for something to douse it with, water, or foam-

 

SCKREEE-

 

It lunged at me, and I panicked.

 

I snapped its throat-

 

 

-I didn’t mean to do that, I didn’t-!

 

Staring at its lifeless body…

 

I felt the blunt object slip from my trembling hand.

 

Thud dully into the ground-

 

 

I…

 

I didn’t want to hurt anyone.

 

-

 

“Alright!”

 

Husky couldn’t believe his eyes.

 

Deadly fire was apparently this thing’s kryptonite.

 

“That worked!?”

 

Joey’s eyes were wide.

 

“I guess so-“

 

He got the mop snatched out of his hand.

 

“Hey!”

 

“C’mon! We can do something, now-“

 

Joey stuck the end into the broken propane tank.

 

Then lightly rubbed it against a sheet of sandpaper in the Hardware Aisle-

 

“What are you doing”.

 

“Trying to help!”

 

“No-“

 

He tried to take it back.

 

“No, Joey-“

 

He slipped.

 

In a puddle that’d sloshed over the edges of the janitor’s bucket he’d originally borrowed the thing from.

 

Fell flat on his back-

 

Accidentally plowed into Joey-

 

Who also fell.

 

“AGHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

 

Fire.

 

Deadly fire.

 

Creeping up the poor guy’s arms, his face, and down-

 

Joey.

 

Was on fire.

 

-

 

Riley scooted deeper into a corner.

 

She could hear the whizzing wings whirring nearer-

 

“-Ugh!”

 

Thudding into her stomach.

 

The bug that she’d seen murder Tana-

 

“…”

 

Fear gripped her vocal cords into a stranglehold and would not let go.

 

. . .

 

. . .

 

. . .

 

For several agonizing moments, she did not move an inch.

 

While it shifted every once in a while upon the bodice of her dress.

 

Just…casually resting…

 

 

It flew off.

 

 

The girl felt the lock upon her heart release.

 

It…it didn’t sting me…

 

A tear slithered down her cheek.

 

Maybe…

 

 

Maybe they were right.

 

Maybe He does love me.

 

-

 

Finally! Shane thought, exasperation warring with grief over not being able to help the poor dude-

 

I’ve gotcha.

 

BANG

 

 

The flying threat that had started it all thumped to the floor.

 

 

Dead.

 

 

 

 

Weary, sweat-stained faces looked up.

 

Eyes wet with relief, fear-

 

 

He exhaled.

 

 

Spun on his heel-

 

 

“Hey.

So, I think we got ‘em all-“

 

*

 

While a cleanup crew re-fortified the storefront, (led by the Mayor, Matpat and his family, and Colleen and Safiya, of course), I hung out near the rear of the operation.

 

I couldn’t stop searching my hand for traces of blood-

 

 

“…They were right”.

 

 

“You know?”

 

 

She jostled my arm-

 

 

“Hey”.

 

She did it again.

 

“You know?”

 

 

This red-haired girl who’d been caught leaving cheer practice early-

 

 

“You know-“

 

“What makes you say that?”

 

 

-I was going to regret this…

 

 

“Because”.

 

 

She nodded to Riley and the Three Witches.

 

Who were now deep in conversation.

 

 

“The insects didn’t kill her like they did that other girl”.

 

She giggled.

 

Borderline psychotically.

 

“They didn’t kill her at all.

They just sat there and let her live…”

 

“She’s lucky”.

 

“No, she’s blessed”.

 

Her claw-like fingers dug into my arm.

 

“She is blessed!”

 

“…And why are you talking to me about this?”

 

I tried to pry it free-

 

“Because you’d make a good blood sacrifice”.

 

 

She smiled with all of her teeth.

 

 

-Oh crap.

 

I recognized her-

 

 

“Lucy!” Riley waved.

 

“Come on over-“

 

 

“See you later…”

 

 

I hope not.

 

*

 

Disturbed, I headed for the vending machine.

 

Did I…?

 

I think I had a few coins in my pockets somewhere-

 

Note to self:

 

Don't get stranded in an apocalypse without a water bottle.

 

...

 

While I punched in the numbers, the events of the past few hours were on playback in my mind.

 

 

…Why did they want me dead?

 

 

First the Witches, now that woman-

 

Yeah, I was the new kid in town.

 

Yeah, it scared me.

 

 

But why…

 

Why was that so important?

 

 

Because they don’t want the likes of you cluttering up their little paradise, that’s why.

 

 

Shut up.

 

*

 

 

…?

 

That wasn’t open before…

 

-!!

 

 

JetPack Girl!?

 

...

 

She was lying at the bottom of the employee shower.

 

Unmoving.

 

An empty bottle of pills in her limp hand.