the Fallen 5
Edna didn’t know if it was night or day. It really didn’t matter, since it was dark most of the time anyway.
She rolled slightly on the inflatable mattress to look at the windup travel clock that sat on the basement’s cold concrete floor.
Edna still didn’t know if it was morning or night.
The world outside the house was growing more dangerous. There were . . . creatures in the nearly perpetual darkness. Creatures that would harm her family.
It was Edna’s husband, Frank, who had thought it best for the family to move to the basement until things got better.
Until things got better. She let the words swim around in her brain as she listened to the steady, deep breathing of her
sleeping husband and children. Is it even possible to think of such a time? she wondered.
The single basement window had been boarded up with heavy planks, and it was dark in the cellar, the only light coming from a battery-powered lantern atop an old plant stand in the far corner.
Is that light dimming?
She glanced at the faintly glowing clock again.
For the first time that day—or was it night?—Edna allowed herself to think of her niece.
She allowed herself to think of Vilma.
An image took form in her mind. A dark-eyed little girl, scared and saddened by the death of her mother in Brazil.
Edna remembered this child, how she’d brought Vilma back to the States and raised the girl as her own. The child with the dark, soulful eyes growing into a beautiful young woman—
A beautiful young woman with a secret.
Another image took hold, also of Vilma. She was still beautiful, but with fearsome, feathered wings spreading from her back, a sword of holy fire burning in her hand.
Is it true? Can it be possible?
But Edna had only to remember what was outside, and she knew that it was.
Nephilim, Vilma had called herself, the offspring of one of
God’s angels and a mortal woman, and, according to her niece, the saviors of the world.
Edna thought of the night Vilma had returned to their Lynn, Massachusetts, home and the stories the girl had told about the other young people like herself. She had brought her boyfriend with her.
Aaron. His name was Aaron, and something bad had happened to him. Vilma had said he’d been hurt while they were trying to save the world.
Edna’s eyes focused on the lantern. Yes, the light was dimming.
Careful so as to not rouse her daughter, Nicole, or her son, Michael, Edna rolled from the air mattress onto the floor and crept toward the lantern.
The batteries are dying, she thought as she picked up the cheap plastic lantern they’d bought in case the power went out during a storm. She gave it a shake, knowing that it was likely to have little effect, but it didn’t hurt to try.
The light grew dimmer.
Fear began to grip Edna as she considered what she would have to do if they were going to have light in the basement.
“Hey,” her husband whispered in the darkness. “What are you doing?”
“The light’s dimming. The batteries must be dying.”
“Are there more down here?”
“No. They’re upstairs.”
“Why didn’t you bring them down when—”
Edna could hear the annoyance in Frank’s voice and interrupted him. “Because I didn’t think of it till now.”
“Where are they?”
“In the refrigerator,” she told him. “Vegetable drawer.”
“Yeah,” she said. “My father always kept batteries in the fridge. He said they last longer that way.”
“Your father was nuts.”
Silence fell between them, broken only by the sounds of the children’s breathing. Edna was surprised that they hadn’t woken up, but then again, since the business with Aaron and Vilma, since they’d left—were taken, she corrected herself—Nicole and Michael had been awfully quiet.
Edna still wasn’t sure what had happened that night two weeks ago. She had awakened in the morning, somehow knowing that Vilma and Aaron were no longer in the house. She remembered it as if it was a dream, but she knew—as did her children and husband—that it hadn’t been a dream. Somebody, or a group of somebodies, had come in while the family slept, and left with Vilma and Aaron.
“Edna?” Frank asked.
“Want me to go—”
“I’ll go,” Edna snapped, quickly setting the lantern back on the plant stand and starting toward the stairs.
“It’ll only take me a minute, I know right where the batteries are.”
“The vegetable drawer,” Frank said.
“You’re as crazy as your father.”
Edna smiled at her husband in the darkness. “Be right back,” she said, feeling for the railing that would lead her up to the kitchen.
Edna started to climb, the old, wooden steps creaking under her weight.
“Mama?” Nicole asked sleepily.
“Go back to sleep,” Edna told her. “I’ve got to get something from the kitchen. I’ll be right down.”
“Get my Legos,” Michael called from the darkness.
“Your mother is going upstairs to get batteries and that’s all,” Frank warned.
“I’ll be right back,” she said again as she reached for the hastily installed deadbolt. The bolt fought her for an instant, then slid back with a loud snap.
“Frank?” she called out.
“Yeah?” She could hear him moving toward the foot of the stairs.
“Come up here and lock this behind me.”
“I don’t think—”
“I don’t want you to think,” she said. “Close it, and lock it behind me.”
Frank was silent.
“What if there’s something up here?” she asked him. “What if there’s something in the kitchen and—”
“All right, all right.” He stomped up the steps behind her.
“I love you,” she said so only he could hear.
“Yeah,” he replied angrily, but then softened. “You’re a pain in my ass, but I love you, too.”
“Here I go,” she said, taking a deep breath and pushing open the door.
She could feel him right behind her, ready to pull it shut as she stepped out into the kitchen.
Which was exactly what he did.
She stood still for a moment, allowing her eyes to adjust to the gloom.
The place was a shambles, which was not how it had been left. They’d had visitors since the family had taken to the cellar. An electric chill coursed down her spine.
“Everything okay?” she heard Frank ask softly from the other side of the door.
“Yeah,” she whispered. She just needed to grab the batteries from the fridge and get back behind the locked door with her family. “Going for the batteries now.”
Breathing deeply, she began to move through the kitchen, trying to avoid the debris strewn across her path. Whatever had been there had been searching for something, food perhaps, tearing open every door and cabinet. The refrigerator hung open before her. At least she was coming for batteries, not something to eat.
In her haste, Edna tripped over the legs of a broken chair and went sprawling across the kitchen floor. She lay there stunned, her heart hammering in her chest.
She heard the click of the deadbolt snapping back.
“Don’t,” she called out. “Stay with the kids.”
“What’s going on? I heard—”
“I fell,” she said, already getting to her feet—only to find herself face-to-face with a living nightmare.
Vilma had referred to the things by various names: goblins, trolls, and others that weren’t fit to repeat in front of the children. But what they were called didn’t matter; to Edna, they were all monsters.
As was what stood in her kitchen now, staring at her with eyes like big black buttons, eyes that looked right through her, turning her soul to ice.
Edna stifled a scream, knowing Frank would instantly appear at her side, leaving the children alone and exposed in the cellar below.
The creature remained perfectly still, its glistening eyes
fixed upon her. Maybe it’s as afraid of me as I am of it, she thought.
Ever so slowly, she slid her foot behind her in an attempt to back away.
The thing’s thick, leathery lips peeled back, revealing a mouth full of needle-sharp teeth, but it did not move. It began to growl, the sound growing in intensity and pitch.
Edna knew that she should have been more afraid, should have been screaming at the top of her lungs or passed out cold upon the kitchen floor, but she thought of her family—of her husband and children—and knew there was nothing more important than staying calm and focused to get back to them.
As she inched away from the creature, the growling became louder. Edna sensed that it was only a matter of seconds before she had a problem. She was about to turn and make a run for the basement when she heard the door open behind her.
“Are you all right?” Frank asked.
“Close the door!” Edna screamed, as the creature in her kitchen rushed toward her with an ear-piercing wail.
Edna tried to run, but her foot slid on the floor and she was falling again. She landed on her knees, the impact making her legs go numb. She could hear the labored breathing of the monster almost upon her. She struggled to stand, but her legs refused to help. It was as if they’d been shot full of Novocain. Instead, she began to frantically crawl across the floor.
Then suddenly something grabbed her. She cried out,
clawing at the body that was trying to pull her up from the floor.
“It’s me!” yelled Frank, attempting to drag her to the cellar door.
The open cellar door.
“Frank, the door,” she managed, her voice filled with panic. He didn’t answer, his strong arms wrapped around her, practically carrying her.
“Daddy?” a voice called out from the cellar below.
“No,” Edna said, twisting her head to locate the monster. She found it perched atop a nearby counter, its awful face pointed toward the open door, sniffing the air—smelling her children below.
And then it leaped.
The creature’s body collided with them, and they fell against the wall beside the door to their sanctuary.
“What’s going on up there?” Michael called up, and Edna thought she could hear the creak of stairs.
“Michael, stay where you are!” Edna screamed.
Her husband was on his hands and knees, his eyes locked on the creature that crouched mere inches from him.
“Get down the stairs,” Frank ordered, refusing to look away from the beast. “Get down the stairs and lock the door behind you.”
“You heard me!” he shouted as the monster attacked.
The abomination wrapped its spindly arms around the man Edna had loved for well over twenty years. Frank fought back, using all his might to drive his attacker toward the center of the kitchen.
“Go!” Frank grunted with exertion as the monster growled with annoyance.
Edna couldn’t leave her husband. She ran to the basement door, peering down the steps at her children, who stood there, their eyes shining white in the darkness below.
“Lock this door!” she commanded, slamming it closed.
Back pressed against the door, she heard the deadbolt slide into place and could not help but smile. Good kids, she thought, as she grabbed an overturned kitchen chair and swung it with all her might at the murderous beast that straddled her husband on the floor.
The creature cried out, falling from atop her husband to the floor. Edna went to Frank, reaching down to pull him to his feet. His face was wet, glistening in the faint light of the room, and she knew that it wasn’t sweat.
“I thought I told you to—”
“When have I ever listened to you?” Edna asked, placing herself beneath his weight and helping him toward the cellar door.
The monster was suddenly before them, cutting them off, its mouth opening wider and wider as it hissed, raising its clawed hands, preparing to attack again.
But there came a rumble so loud and intense that it shook the house.
And then there was light—a searing white light that seemed to find its way into every corner of the room.
As the monster cowered, Frank and Edna froze in terror.
And Edna had to wonder, Is this it? Have Vilma and Aaron—the Nephilim—failed?
Is this the end of the world?