“Looks like we have company guys” Grey spotted movement beyond the end of the bridge. Something scurried quickly across the crumbling road and into the shadows; they couldn’t make out any distinguishing features.
The group had come to know the inhabitants of this old broken city. After all, there were only two kinds besides themselves.
From time to time, Grey and Emily had come across small sheltered settlements; some were more impressive than others. The humans that dwelt in the settlements were resilient for the most part; their homes had been created years before they were born, usually high up in one of the better-preserved tower blocks. The defences were heavy yet the huge supplies of old military weaponry were greatly diminished.
Grey had found the humans were kind and caring after their initial suspicion. The settlements would go years without seeing anyone from outside. It would be a rare occasion for one of them to see a human from another settlement on their ventures out for food. It only made sense to be suspicious of outsiders.
All the same, neo-human tribes could be deadly. They hunted in packs and were often starved to the brink of death. Any living creature would be tempting enough to eat, even another sentient.
Grey had been shot once. It was only a flesh wound but it had been severe all the same. Desperation could push the humans to anything when it meant survival.
The other kind of inhabitant that now riddled the dark corners of London were the Nekura. Grey had often encountered the Nekura and had the scars to prove it.
“Could just be Humans” ventured Wynd.
“Too fast,” Said Grey “They’ve found us.”
“They know what we’re doing” said Inochi, calmly.
“How can they, they are mindless animals!”
“They are following him.” Inochi said, not indicating whom she was talking about.
Beyond the bridge two tall glass buildings stood, offering dark shadows. Something crawled deep within, making the dark reflective panes of glass shift eerily.
Everyone remained still, hoping that if they were motionless for a long enough period, the hell was about to unleash itself upon them would forget. Silence seemed to make the air stagnant; the soft grains of black sand tumbling along beneath them seemed to scratch on the underbelly of a contorted tension.
From the turgid shadows a figure stumbled, slow and apparently wounded. The figure was that of an old man, his leg seemed to be damaged some how; he dragged it slowly behind him as he walked towards them. He made his way across the bridge, a soft whimper emerging from him. He uttered scared, forlorn words to himself, for surely he didn’t think anyone would save him.
Something snapped within Grey. Maybe compassion overpowered fear, but he stepped forward, breaking the frozen form they had held. With his step Wynd, The stitcher and Emily all reached forward to grab and stop him, but he had already broken into a run.
The man collapsed, a broken heap on the ground consumed by dirty rags.
Grey continued forward as fast as he could to aid the man. Then the silence was broken. Grey stopped in his tracks.
Something scratching and screeching almost like nails on a chalkboard. The sound came loud and penetrating, the tension splintered across the bridge.
Wynd’s eyes widened, she’d heard this before, she’d seen this before, she didn’t want to see it again.
“Run.” Terrified, the word came solitary and hard, like suffocation.
The group moved as suggested. With a burst of energy each and every member spun on their heels and buried their feet into the bridge, knowing that the dark leathery demons beyond the tall glass walls would soon not be far behind.
The omnipresent scream nearly tore through the texture; it seemed to shift in a tremolo. The chaotic sound that bled through the world finally came to a finish with the cacophonic shattering of glass.
From the two tall glass buildings poured a fleshy wave of leathery skin, twisted bone and teeth. Wild, green eyes flashed in the swarm, an unpredictable chaos of shadows crushed forth onto the streets, clambering over old cars and through the symbolic pillar-box red double-decker buses faster than anyone would have conceived possible. Their muscles twitched in multiple spasms, twisting the texture to their needs.
Grey did not run, at least not backwards. Not towards the relative safety of the north bank but towards the south, still determined to help the old man, crumpled in a heap.
Like one muscle the black tide contorted and shifted over the defective roads, their wide, clawed feet battering the floor beneath them.
Grey was still a good twenty meters from the old man laying limp on the floor, he still wasn’t sure he could even save him, but he had to try. The Nekura weren’t much further away and they were faster, much faster.
“What is he doing?!” Wynd had turned to find her partner running in the wrong direction, utter disbelief filled her heart and mind. “Grey!”
“Wynd, keep running.” Emily grabbed her hand but Wynd was too resistant and wrenched her arm free. Something seemed to flutter beneath the beautiful colours of Wynd’s skin. Something crept, muscles pulled and pushed, and somehow she began to change shape, slowly deforming into something altogether more serpentine.
“Love is a dangerous game.” Inochi whispered.
The black creatures were only twenty meters away themselves when Grey finally reached the old man. He grabbed him by the arm and pulled him up over his shoulders. The man wasn’t too heavy, he’d clearly been starving. Even still Grey wouldn’t be able to escape the thousands of Nekura at his back as he ran, lumbered with a dying man on his shoulders.
Deep red and blue patterns ran across the bridge, light bleeding through soft semi-translucent skin. Grey looked up. In the sky a great snake like creature writhed, dark reds and blues, yet the sun flickered through the diamond-like scales.
Wynd shifted through the air, moulding the earth texture to fit the idea that right now, right this instant, she could fly. Wynd wasn’t a very powerful texture-adept but she had the ability to do astonishing things when provoked emotively.
Her heavy scaled tail cracked across the bridge, creating a deep fissure in the surface. Instantly the bridge creaked, the gap stretching across the bridge, in between the Nekura and Grey.
Grey still had a long way to run, the bridge was long, and the first tower of the bridge had already begun to tumble taking a handful of the faster Nekura with it, somehow drowning and evaporating into the dark sands below.
The second part of the bridge thundered as parts of the structure collapsed around Grey. It tilted violently so as the bottom far end of the road was now disappearing into the dark flow of sands.
Nekura leapt ambitiously through the air, some being crushed by falling parts of bridge, some plunging straight into the river.
Grey was now running up the bridge as opposed to across it. From the air, Wynd swept down and plucked Grey and the elderly man from the bridge in great scaled talons.
Wynd swung up and flew towards the north bank. Grey leapt from her back and Wynd morphed back to her normal shape.
“I…I couldn’t have kept that up much longer.” Wynd gasped.
“We have to move quickly, they’ll find another way to cross.” Emily said.
“Yes, others will hear their calls.” Grey spoke, exhausted.
On the other bank thousands of dark shapes barked and screamed in their dark tones. They began to scatter both left and right, no doubt in search of a new way to cross, they had smelt the thoughts of the elderly human, they wouldn’t rest until they had eaten his dreams.
Emily looked at the old man.
“We have to get rid of him.” She said.
“You have to be bloody kidding me” Grey gasped.
“He’s a threat to our safety and our mission.” the stitcher agreed
“He’s still a living being, we can’t just let him die.” Wynd said.
“I will take him away from you, you need to escape though, find somewhere high until I can return.”
“You’re going to leave us, the stitcher?” Grey frowned.
“I’ll be back, keep up high. Emily…”
the stitcher took the old man carefully from Grey’s grip with one hand, and with the other curled the time-texture around to suit him.
“Never look back, Emily, never look back.
With that, the stitcher
had gone. For a moment there was silence as the group readied themselves to leave.
“To the west. We’ll trace along the river until we find a human camp, they might be able to provide us with a place to rest.” Emily said
“Or kill us.” Grey looked down at the fleshy chunk missing from his upper arm.
“We’ll offer them our protection from the night creatures.”
“We can’t protect ourselves from them, let alone them.”
“They don’t know that.”
The group brushed themselves down and begun walking to the west, where the sun now hung, high in the sky.