The nightmares began as a child. Loren’s mother told her she was a fitful infant and sometimes she even woke her when she was in the womb. She doesn’t remember much from her toddler years but as Loren got older it got harder and harder to sleep.
They saw countless doctors and tried an array of drugs and therapies. Nothing worked and night after night she woke screaming with her hands clawing at her neck and ripping at her face.
The nightmares would always return, more sinister and vicious than the ones before.
The constant screaming.
The death at her feet.
Beth was the opposite of Loren. She was always a calm child, sleeping through the night very early on in infancy and never exhibiting any difficulties whatsoever.
Beth was what Loren longed to be.
Loren and Beth Milroy’s family was chosen to protect the town of Peace Landing in Greer County, New York. In the biblical sense of the term. Peace Landing was a small lazy town that was home to a key. Her. She still wasn’t sure what she was exactly but she knew they were after her and she needed to fight them, or die trying. She was the reason they killed anything in their wake, why they ate the flesh of her kin. Their parents died in the fight when they were young. The last storm wrought the demise of their great aunt and cousin, too.
Generations after generations of their family fought there. They chose to stand their ground against creatures from another time and place. The residents of this town were hunted in an attempt to drag them to a realm where there was no hope, no peace, and no light.
When the nightmares stopped Loren waited wearily for their imminent return. Soon she learned to sleep and tried not to fear. She thought she could somehow feel whole again; maybe even just a little bit safe. She toyed with the idea that something had changed and maybe she wasn’t going to have to live out the path that she knew had been chosen for her.
For years Loren was free. She found comfort in this false sense of security. She lived her life free of the night terrors, and there were no storms. Every time the threat of one nipped at her heels, it dissolved just as quickly. She felt free of her worst fears; of the dreams of thousands of eyes watching her. She was free of the flashes of dark red blood dripping from pointed teeth in too wide grins. She was free of the eerie sounds that haunted her for so long; the images of the hands ripping at her, and dragging her to her death.
It felt good.
Beth was there through all of it. She told Loren she believed the dreams and when the time came she would be with her. She kept her promise every single time. Loren explained to Beth what her ultimate responsibility would be; she shared what she knew of the events and was honest with Beth about how scared she was either way.
On this particularly raw winter night, the women walked home after a terrible movie and delicious popcorn. The snow had gotten worse and was piling quickly. Three foot drifts made it hard to walk and the wind threatened to rob them of their breath. They decided holing up together would be a good idea. They got to Beth’s house and gathered her essentials and any supplies she might have.
Beth looked at Loren; concern etched her face, “Are they coming?”
“Probably. But we are ready,” Loren said.
Beth turned with a quick nod of her head. Loren tried in that moment to understand how hard this was for her too. The closing scene of her life stood before them and all Beth wanted to do was look away and not acknowledge what that meant for her twin sister.
They walked into Beth’s darkened apartment and Loren realized that might be the last time she would be there. Nostalgia settled in and she became misty eyed.
She would miss her.
“Oh my goodness it’s so flipping cold out there,” Beth blew on her hands rubbing them together to get the sting out.
“I know. We have to move quickly. I want to get back to my place and try to get some rest. You can curse you know.”
“You curse enough for the both of us,” she smiled sarcastically. She moved quickly through the apartment, and Loren realized her go bag was already packed. They descended the stairs from Beth’s apartment; the wind howled and pushed against the windows and walls. The house seemed to sway under the pressure of the storm’s grip.
They walked three blocks to Loren’s apartment. The snow blanketed the streets in thick coats and she imagined that was what the inside of a snow globe felt like. Swirls and blasts of wind blinded them and shadows scurried closer but were able to hide in plain sight.
Too much snow.
Too much cover for the monsters to reach just close enough to touch them.
Blizzards wrought all types of havoc and their little town was often ill equipped for Mother Nature’s wrath. Even in their most prepared, people died, got lost or mysteriously disappeared. Loren’s worst fears walked the earth in the ferocity of a night like that night. They were accustomed to the idea of the lights going out or the roads being snowed in. It wasn’t the prime situation for the fight that was coming to their door but handling it together was always a better plan. They both understood that darkness always allowed the monsters out of hiding.
They climbed up the stairs to Loren’s apartment quickly and pushed the iron door open. It creaked and the wind protested her need to keep them safe. The door pushed back against her allowing Loren to hear the whispers. Panic settled in her chest and she pushed the door back so she could lock the dead bolt. Loren slid the pole into the floor not caring if her neighbor, Feller, was in for the night or not.
She shook off the frost and turned, “Beth, it’s bad out there. At least we have plenty of shit. I’m glad we aren’t separated for this one.” Loren didn’t want to mention that she heard them. She couldn’t tell Beth their enemies were already there, plotting and waiting.
Beth looked at her, her face flushed with the cold and smiled.
“Always a lady, Lo. I just hope the lights don’t go out. I hate the darkness of a storm sometimes. I know it’s a necessity for what we’re dealing with but sometimes I would take a rain storm. A cold rain storm. Every time a flake falls my heart breaks at the thought of what might need to be done.”
Loren knew exactly what Beth meant.
They trudged up to her apartment and unpacked what they had. Loren made coffee and they plopped in front of the television. Their weapons were stockpiled and separated into two duffel bags. They kept making sure all their devices were charged and candles were at the ready.
They set up shop in the living room and closed the storm windows as if they would battle what was pushing against them. All to get to Loren. Lying on the couch they dozed off and the sound of white noise pulled Loren from her dream. The whispers, hushed but hurried, unfurled in a mess of sounds when her dream was invaded by a loud piercing shriek.
Beth’s screaming voice, the panic and fear was pulling and straining at her vocal chords. Loren bolted up right and grabbed at her chest; her breath left her lungs in panicked bursts.
In her confusion she thought she heard, “This is not a test. This is not a test. They are coming. This is not a test.”
The loud beep rang through the living room and she turned to look at Beth who was stirring. She looked at the time on the clock…
Beth sat up and looked at her, “At least we know it works.”
“This is not a test. This is not a test. They are coming. This is not a test.”
Their eyes stared at the black and white dots dancing across the screen and she turned to look at Beth, her hand was raised to her mouth. She looked back at Loren and whispered, “Did you hear that? That’s never happened before.”
The loud bang on the door startled them. Loren nearly jumped into Beth’s lap as they both stared wide eyed at Loren’s front door. She hadn’t expected Feller to be at the door, not during a storm.
Not after what they just heard.
“Loren. Loren. It’s Feller from down the hall. Loren, please let me in.”
The women got up and crept to the door, their arms intertwined so tightly you couldn’t be sure where one ended and the other began. Loren was brave and Beth was too, but for some reason this part always scared them. It was hard to stand and wait for the other shoe to drop. They took turns looking through the peephole. Feller seemed his normal disheveled self; he paced and wrung his hands.
He leaned towards the door, and placed his eye up to the peephole. “Loren, please. Loren, are you up? Please let me in.” The sheer panic in his voice led her to put her finger to her lips and pull Beth away from the door. They slid quietly into the living room and gathered what they could while listening for Feller in the hallway.
“This is not a tessssssssst.”
The door rattled on its frame as Feller pounded again, this time with more force and urgency.
“LOREN! LET ME IN!”
Beth turned to face Loren, her eyes wide with terror. They grabbed the duffel bags and ran to Loren’s bedroom. She closed the door softly and slid the lock into place. Beth’s face was stone cold and Loren was silent. The duffel bags stayed with them at all times. They searched for the latch to the room that would hide them from Feller and anything else that tried to get in there.
The emergency beep from their cellphones rang into the room as the lights snapped out. It was the darkest Loren had ever experienced and Beth grabbed for her in the inky pitch. The banging outside her bedroom door was expected as they heard Feller push his way through the rooms searching for them.
Beth looked at her; strangled whispers came from her throat. “They are coming, Loren. They are probably already here.”
She raised the flashlight to meet her face and Loren looked at her, fear danced in Beth’s eyes like the flicker of a flame. “I know,” Loren said.
They slid into the closet and down into the panic room, and closed the door with a sickening hissing sound. No one else could get in the room; at least that’s what they thought. Loren recently had it installed; thinking a place to hide could never be a bad idea. The space was comfortable enough to fit three adults; since it would always be the two of them they used the extra space for supplies.
The scratching on the floor above them became louder with the thud of heavy steps above their heads. They could just make out Feller’s muffled screams before Loren loaded her weapon. Beth began unzipping her duffel, placing ammunition in her belt. Her loaded gun snapped as she lifted it, aiming square at the door they just came through.
They were here for Loren. All of them were here for her.
The handle on the door to the room moved and Beth stepped in front of her, gun steadied and finger on the trigger. The knife on Beth’s hip caught a faint glimmer from the flashlight and the reflection danced across the wall. Loren steadied her back into the corner and tried to calm her breathing.
Beth turned quickly and whispered through gritted teeth, “Loren, are you good?”
Loren nodded and put her finger to her lips. She knew from up there they could probably smell Beth talking, her breath was sweet and warm. They could hear their hearts pounding, and their hunger was already insatiable and needy.
Loren raised her weapon; sweat gathered at the base of her neck then trickled down her chest. The duffels lay open – one behind Beth, the other at Loren’s feet.
The scrape of their steps on the floor above them grated her nerves. She wanted to survive this moment just one more time. She could feel their pull as they called to her, whispers swirled around her head growing louder and louder. They wanted her to end this feud and they wanted Loren to come to them; to accept some sort of change. They expected her to accept her place among them.
The door made a sickening sound, a creaking that can only be described as the bending and warping of metal. Bile filled her mouth as it leaned in; bowing under the pressure of pushing claws. Cold swirled into the room which stunned Beth and made Loren gasp for air.
Loren still lifted her weapon and stood her ground. The bang of the first shot left her dizzy; the noise was too loud in the small space. Quickly Beth was at her side, emptying her clip into the vast whiteness that approached them.
The snow and wind inside the room blinded them.
“Beth! Beth, say something,” Loren yelled. The cold choked her. Loren looked down and tried to reload, she raised her head and caught Beth’s yelling faded off into the distance. The first set of hands grabbed Loren’s feet and pulled them out from under her. Her head hit the hard cement floor of the bunker and the room filled with white starburst then darkness again. Warmth pooled at her head and down the back of her neck.
“Loren. Loren. Get up.” Beth’s hands grabbed at her shirt, Loren’s eyes rolled back into her head. Beth desperately pulled at her arms as the hunters grabbed her feet again and yanked her through the door. Loren slid from Beth’s grasp and pulled the knife from her belt.
She was being dragged so fast it seemed as if it was impossible to see her surroundings. She laid on her back; her head banging through the hallway but somehow managed to pull herself upright to stare into the eyes of her assassin. With her knife firmly in her grasp, she swiped at what felt like thousands of hands ripping at her flesh.
The shot startled her, followed by the sound from her dream. Beth screamed and the world went just a bit muffled. Loren’s heartbeat slowed and it truly was the only thing she could feel. She turned her face upward and opened her eyes to see Beth with the gun in her hand. It shook nervously and tumbled to the floor. Blood seeped from Loren’s back where Beth shot her; she felt warm but cold all the same.
The hooded figures looked down at Loren, their eyes shone with hunger. Confused chatter passed between them. They dragged her as far as the snowy front steps, pink tinted with the blood of others trying to protect her too. They dropped her and fled into the white out….
Beth reached her, and cradled Loren’s head in her lap, the blood seeped below them in a thick pool.
“I can’t believe you did it.”
Beth looked at her, “I told you I wouldn’t let them take you. I had to. I promised.” Tears filled her eyes and she wiped at Loren’s face, her hands were red with blood.
“I love you Loren. I love you and I am sorry,” she said through thick tears.
Loren gasped for air, her body shook uncontrollably as death pulled at her. She looked at Beth and her face swam before her eyes, “This was your job, you did what I asked you to do. I’m so proud of you. I love you and I’ll see you when you get where I’m going.”
Loren closed her eyes and took her last breath.
Feller lay disemboweled in a heap in Loren’s apartment. He had no chance and no clue what he was dealing with. A part of her thought he understood that but he came to find her anyway. Fear does that to people, it helps them justify sending someone else to their death.
Beth knew the instructions; they had rehearsed them many times. She would leave Loren there in case the hunters returned to take her body. It was highly unlikely since what they really wanted was her soul. Loren was no longer there and her body was merely a shell.
Desiree Roundtree was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY where she still lives with her husband and daughter. By day she crunches numbers, but anytime in between she is writing words. She is a lover of hip-hop, acoustic guitar and a well timed curse word.