Lisa heard the sound of a baby cry. Her drooping eyelids sprang open and her head jerked up to attention. Her mom-sense kicked in. It was not one of her babies. Pictures of her own babies flashed through her memory and made her smile. Her head began to droop again until the baby cry rose up the scale and became an unearthly wail. Her eyes opened wide.
Lisa heard the crash downstairs. Her watch said eight o’clock. She almost went to sleep sitting there, but the crash brought her fully awake. She strained her ears and heard a sizzling sound. A moment later, she could smell the burning hair. She did not know if any of her other traps worked, but she thought she better not wait around to find out.
“Quickly. Up the stairs,” Lisa shouted. Though unclear how intelligent the night creatures were, Lisa felt that even if they did not understand the words, they might think she was talking to someone. She stood on the attic stairs and closed the door behind her. She made running sounds on the steps until she heard a crash against the door and the door developed a wicked crack. “Enough. Out.” She shouted to herself. She ran and another crash came, followed by a growl.
Lisa reached for the bicycle handle bars even as she heard scratches scrambling up the stairs. She went out the window and slid down the rope hoping only that she stayed inside long enough for the rear guard to catch up. Lisa landed just behind the line of firs and found a surprise. There were people there with high powered rifles. Emily and Heinrich were also there. She smiled briefly for Emily and felt glad for the first time to see Heinrich. Without a word, she picked up the box she set at the base of the rope that afternoon. Then they all waited, but they did not have to wait long.
The night creatures burst out the side window with such speed and ferocity, the entire window frame got wrenched from the side of the house. There were four on the lawn, roaring, but hesitant, as if they sensed the danger. Lisa dared not wait.
“Everybody get down!” she yelled over the roars and pushed the red button. The entire side lawn of the house exploded. It became impossible to see for a moment as dirt, grass, snow and stones flew everywhere.
The trees protected the people for the most part. Sergeant Holmes got a deep cut in her arm as a shard of rock whizzed past. Rob Parker took a stone in the leg, but that did not prevent his fingers from pulling the trigger when Heinrich yelled at full volume, “Fire!”
Bullets filled the air like rain. Most put holes in the house, but there was no place for the night creatures to hide. They charged. One had been blown to pieces by the explosives. A second looked crippled in three of four legs, but it still dragged itself forward, growling and snapping its terrible jaws. A third had a gash in its side that poured out blood, but that did not impede its mobility. The fourth appeared only stunned by the explosions and it went straight for Lisa.
Lisa got her knives out, but the creature was on her and leapt. She had no choice but to fall to her back to avoid the outstretched claws and teeth. Her knives went up and cut along the underbelly of the beast, using the creature’s momentum against it, but the creature was so full of muscle and cartilage, little of the guts spilled on her. Her knives got torn from her hands.
Heinrich swung his broadsword up from the throat, having surmised the spinal cord might be stronger than his steel. The blow, not as hard as one would have been from above, caused the broadsword to slice through most of the neck before it hit the spine and snapped in two. That creature collapsed and trapped Lisa under its hind quarters.
The one with the terrible gash leapt at Emily who was barely quick enough to step aside as Riverbend’s arrow penetrated the creature’s eye. Mitzy held tight to the spear despite the sweat pouring from her palms. When the creature opened its mouth to roar, and just before it twisted to follow Emily, Mitzy rammed the spear in that open mouth. Again, the creature’s momentum drove the blade deep into its throat until Mitzy got lifted from her feet and driven back through the air. The creature snapped its jaws shut and easily broke the shaft of the spear, but it could not dislodge the blade down its throat. Mitzy, driven wildly to the earth, broke her wrist. Her ribs cracked on the side where she clung tenaciously to the spear.
Emily stabbed with her sword, and all the strength she had. The sword entered the creature’s side and pinned it to the oak tree. Officer Scott stepped up and riddled the creature with bullets until the creature stopped moving.
“Look out!” Heinrich let out his own roar. The crippled one had nearly reached Lisa’s feet where she was pinned beneath the back side of the beast that she gutted and Heinrich beheaded. With another roar, Heinrich pushed the creature off. Lisa pulled up her feet and rolled away. Ashish and Millsaps came up and filled the creature with enough bullets to make its body bounce on the ground. It, too, eventually stopped moving and everyone sighed relief. Until Margaret Holmes shouted.
Everyone’s eyes turned toward the front of the house where a figure stood in the dark and a night creature sat beside it like a faithful puppy dog. The figure wailed an unearthly sound and pointed, and the night creature started toward the group. No one had a weapon left. The rifles had been emptied. Knives and pistols were pulled, but everyone imagined they might not survive this encounter.
Just before the creature charged, a bright flash of light shone at the end of the trees. The creature became a pincushion of arrows. It roared but did not deviate from its path. A second volley of arrows, and the creature staggered. Pistols fired as Emily finally yanked her sword free of the beast and the oak tree as a third volley of arrows sent the creature to its knees.
Half of the elf troop charged the figure in the dark who wailed again and vanished. The other half charged the creature with swords drawn, even as Emily charged. Emily sliced the creature’s throat. The elves cut elsewhere until the creature finally stopped moving forward.
“Ghoul,” that elf reported.
“Damn!” Heinrich swore.
Riverbend turned to Lisa. “And where there is one, there are ten.”
Heinrich finished the couplet. “And where there are ten, there are a hundred.”
Riverbend got their attention with her next word. “Empress.” She spoke to Lisa, and Emily grinned. “This is Lieutenant Aurora. She and her troop are assigned to you until this crisis is passed.”
“What?” Lisa looked uncertain.
“Do not turn down the help. Ghouls are terrible to face alone.” Heinrich still looked in the direction the ghoul had escaped. He did not see Riverbend and Aurora both bow their heads.
“Lord,” Aurora breathed.
“No,” Emily spoke up and still had the grin. “I think she is objecting to the title, Empress.”
Lisa turned to Emily. “Queen,” she said, but she grinned too before she turned to her house and shrieked. “My house! My yard! Josh is going to kill me!”
“Hey! Who are you?” Margaret Holmes shouted and every eye turned. The Pizza delivery man had his mouth open. No one could tell how long he stood there, or if maybe he saw the whole battle. He did have one thing to say.
Next Monday, the Amazon troop begin to set about their Zoe assigned task in the Elect II-17, Closing the Door. Happy Reading