The Screech Owls – Chapter I Part III

Novel: Fantasy Horror

Except the air grew warmer. Cole stopped shivering and Edward felt heat on his bare skin as if the moon were radiating warmth much as the sun had seemed to radiate cold.

“Where the fuck are we?” Edward hissed. Without the walk to distract him, his thoughts were centered on the question. He had died, that much he knew. Or had he? Was he dreaming, still in the process of dying in the bathtub? Had his mom come home early, and found him and rushed him to a hospital, and he would wake up in a hospital bed just like Cole had fallen asleep in one? For all his desire to keep Cole safe, was he just imagining him?

If this was a dream, surely he could change the scenery, or fly, or something if he knew it was a dream. But he stayed in the dark beside a crumbling wall and the air grew thick and hot and stifling. Cole took off the thick shirt and leaned against Edward, though they were both sweltering. His shoulder against Edward’s side felt warm and real.

Edward wanted to sleep, but couldn’t. He stared at the hot moon and ground his teeth, searching for an answer in it, and searching for stars.

There were no stars.

Something fell in the woods – a dead branch likely – and Cole jerked, looking about.

“Go to sleep, Cole. Nothing’s out there.”

“But…they are.”

“The owls? Or the ones dressed like me?”

“They’re the same.”

Edward frowned. “But we haven’t seen anyone, never mind someone in black armor.”

“They only come at night.”

“Come from where? Who are they?”

He could barely see Cole in the moonlight, but he could see Cole’s eyes flash wide and frightened, and he shook his head and looked out into the dead woods.

Edward would have said more but he heard sounds from the woods. He felt Cole shrink beside him and listened. A whistle. A trilling. A rustle and a dusty fall.

It sounded like birds. And it sounded like footsteps.

Edward stood and shouted “Who’s there?”

SHH!” Cole hissed at him, and tried to pull him back down by the arm.

He picked up his ax, and it nearly slipped through his sweaty palms. He saw a figure among the trees, first one and then another, in the moonlight, dark and lurching towards him.

Even if Cole had shushed him, he had already foolishly announced his presence, so he shouted again “Hey, say something. I have a…weapon.”

They shuffled towards him. The moonlight vanished in their black armor – the same armor he had woken with. Their helmets had the same small horns poking up out of the dark.

Edward focused on the closest one, which was advancing and chirping at him. “Um…you…uh…” he stuttered. He wished they made groaning or moaning sounds, or something other than the twittering. Something else like zombies, so he would at least know they weren’t human.

It lifted its ax. Edward hadn’t even seen their axes but there it was, black against the moonlight, twisted and deadly.

“Woah!” Edward held up his own ax, so that the blow struck the handle and slid off. He felt the collision in the whole length of his arms. The thing lifted the ax and it again fell on the handle Edward held before him.

The others were closing in – two more of them at least. Edward had to do something more than block attacks. Slow as they were, enough of them at once could do some damage. When the thing before him lifted the ax again, chirping at him, Edward swung his own, and it hit the thing squarely in the side. Its ax fell to the ground, and then it did as well with a fwump and a soft rattle of metal.

“Fuck.” Edward breathed. He had to do it, it was going to kill him, but he had never killed anything before. Even shooting a BB gun freaked him out when he was fourteen. He stared down at the body, not quite believing that he had done that, had knocked it or him or her down.

“Edward!” yelled Cole.

His head snapped back up, and he narrowly dodged another ax. He whispered an apology as he sent his ax into the thing’s head.

He looked around for more – surely there had been more approaching, but he saw only the trees. Had they run away? Or wandered away? He didn’t hear their twittering.

“Are there any others?” he asked Cole.

Cole joined him and searched the woods with his eyes. “I don’t think so.”

“I could have sworn there were more.”

“Me too, but…I think we just got freaked out.”

Edward thought about that, and laughed. “I think you’re right. But really they were nothing. I mean, I’ve never even used an ax before. They were so slow.”

“Tomorrow they’ll be worse,” said Cole, his eyes still scanning the trees.

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