The sun plunged across sky, a burning disc. Darkness had come swift and sudden; a brutal plague of black enveloped the eastern skies.
Grey and his following happened across one of the few remaining human settlements, just before the twilight pulse trickled from the horizon.
They were an intimidating group to look at, save for Inochi’s soft presence. Grey was tall and well built – he had spent his life as a scavenger, protecting his family. Wynd was noticeably alien. Her ruby and sapphire scaled skin was exotic and beautiful but gave a sense of danger. The three burly men following, and sworn to protect her, were also of her race. Opposing Inochi, Emily wore all black. The colour was understandably associated with death.
Given that the seven of them were unlikely candidates for dinner guests it was a surprise that the human clan had welcomed them in so readily.
“It’s the least we can do,” they had said. Although none of them really knew why.
“We just need somewhere to stay the night,” said Emily, “we won’t be an inconvenience, I hope?”
“Not at all. We love meeting new people. There are only thirty-four of us here, it’s always nice to have new company.” the man that spoke had long grey hair reaching to the arch of his back. He wore dark earthy clothes and a friendly smile.
The group were led into a labyrinth of old tunnels that seemed to stream for miles underneath the city. Lights flickered uncertainly. A sign read “Piccadilly Circus Station”.
“Where is your encampment?” Grey stepped forward to walk side by side with the leader of the human group.
“Not far from here. We will have to go to the surface and across a large expanse but we’re not far from home now.”
The old man walked them past a defence of military weapons, old cardboard boxes and men that were keen to see the new arrivals. One of them passed the old man a lantern.
“Don’t mind them,” he said, smirking, “We don’t have many women here so the boys are always interested to see a new pretty face” Inochi and Emily continued unfazed, Wynd directed a disgruntled look at Grey and edged closer into his side. “This is our safe house,” he said, “nothing too elaborate, just a tunnel guarded at either end. It works. There is an old machine further on down the line where we can stay if anything gets too rough up above – it’s easier to defend from down here, but not as nice or practical as being above ground.”
They soon passed the old machine he had mentioned. It was long and narrow, it had seats inside and wheels outside. It seemed to span over a few rooms. It seemed like a strange contraption to Wynd.
“It’s a train. It used to carry people for miles and miles along these old tunnels.” Emily noted Wynd’s confused look.
After clambering up a set of metal stairs and clambering over old unused ticket gates the group were back on the surface, at what appeared to be the edge of the city. There were buildings on one side of the road and a dark expanse on the other.
“This is the Green Park,” the old man whispered, “stay close, stay quiet.”
The group silently entered the park. It seemed crazy to abandon the relative safety of the lit buildings for the certain death in the darkness ahead. Nekura could see in the Dark. They could smell fear. They could hear the tiniest noise.
No stars shone. The moon didn’t even trickle through the dark. The clouds were thick and turgid because the wind was still.
The group continued to edge further into the Park, the faint outline of trees surrounded them as they headed deeper.
Wynd gripped Grey’s hand, tugging him close.
Then there was a noise in the darkness. Everyone froze.
It was the soft padding of bare feet on soft grass. Something was coming.
No one could see what was there. Just hear the ever-nearing pad of footsteps. Everyone tried to think of pleasant things. Nekura could smell dark thoughts, dark dreams. Nekura became dark dreams.
A soft grunt. A quiet mumble and everyone was certain. The dialect of the Nekura was like a choking animal, quick guttural snorts and cries twisted into some horrific word that no one understood, but everyone feared.
It edged closer. It’s cold rough skin rubbing along Wynd’s arm.
Tremulous she stood, biting her lip, closed eyes, trying to dream of home.
A slight red dot travelled over the ground, tracing it’s way towards the group. Grey noticed it first, confusion filling his mind.
It seemed to distract the Nekura too. In the darkness, the red light was like a beacon of light.
The soft red glow travelled up the coarse skin of the creature, outlining strange black scabs and deep scars. They were the outcome of fights with fellow Nekura for food, no doubt. The dot came to rest on the Nekura’s head.
With an almighty explosion thundering across the darkness the creature dropped dead.
“Oh dear Ra…” Emily whispered. The group broke into a run. The noise would attract hundreds if not thousands of the creatures. Let alone the fact that they could sense the death of their brethren.
The park seemed huge. There was no discernable end to it.
“Where in the UnTexture are we going?” said Grey.
“Follow me, there is a building on the other side of the park, our base, we’ll be able to hold them off there.” The old man said.
The recognizable scream came from behind. Nekura were approaching.
Like a volley of thunder the dark paws and claws of the night creatures collided with the soft earth making it tremble.
In the distance, bright lights blazed on around a huge building behind large ornate gates.
“Keep going!” Grey shouted.
They were getting closer. The building was within reach but the Nekura were gaining fast.
Even if they made the gates they would be stuck outside, thought Grey.
Emily and Inochi were dropping further behind too, they wouldn’t last long against the creatures if they got caught.
Gunshots begun firing out from the windows of the palace, their shots were good. They were picking off the fastest of the Nekura but there were just too many of them and hidden in the shadows of the park it must have been hard to see everyone clearly.
Two men ran from the doors of the building to come open the gates that prevented the incoming entry. They made it there just in time to open it a crack to allow Grey and Wynd through.
Wynd’s guards turned to look for Emily and Inochi who had dropped behind significantly. The Nekura were nearly at their back.
Nekura leapt and tumbled over each other, great claws slashing out trying to catch them.
“Looks like this is your time, wingwalker.” A voice came from behind Grey, he turned to see the strange complex shadows that Nyx cast around him.
“Wh.. who the ninth ring are you?” Grey stepped backwards, tripping over on top of Wynd.
Light escaped the world as Nyx focused on the floodlights that lit the huge building.
With long bony fingers Nyx plucked Grey from the ground. “Who do you creatures think you are, anyway? We’re the Godlike’s you serve, puny seraph.” Her fist clenched around his throat. Wings appeared at his back, behemoth white wings glistening against the dark. They begun to crack as Nyx strengthened her hold.
“Grey!” Emily called still far from the palace, Nekura at her feet.
Inochi spun on her feet and splayed her hand out in front of Emily. She froze in her place.
“Never look back Emily. Never look back.” Inochi whispered.
Emily stopped and looked into Inochi’s eyes. She felt fear and sickness. What was she doing?
Behind her, Emily felt the heavy breath of something warm, something dark. She couldn’t see it but she knew what it was.
“Never look back, Emily. Never look back.” Inochi repeated, eyes wide with horror, her voice weaker this time, but she didn’t move, she didn’t do anything to stop what may be behind Emily.
There was no noise, just a pungent smell. Emily could smell the damp rotting breath on her neck, steamy and disgusting.
A tear streamed from Inochi’s eye. She begun to walk backwards. “Never look back” her voice trailed into the darkness.