What is more sad than a mother without children? A mother that does not know she is childless. For now, Sandra sleeps, left to dream. Her final night comforted by her station as a parent in this life. Unaware that her offspring lay tattered and mutilated on her mother’s bedroom floor upstairs. The low hissing static had slowly lulled Sandra and her husband into a deep slumber. The slaughter and screaming moments that came before fell upon deaf ears as the black static drowned out all sounds that might have alerted the couple to the presence of Hell now dragging it’s horrid peeling feet down the stairs, carrying a small bundle in its clenched fists. Chris lay silent and still, his arm draped over Sandra, his body well nestled into the groove the old mattress developed over the years. Everything in its place as it had been since moving to Thornhill with his family so many years ago. Quiet and predictable. Far from pollution, crime, overcrowding, terrorism. The town seemed like a ghost from the days of innocence. Neighbors knowing one another, helping each other in times of need. Every funeral drawing out all that lived in the tiny town of Thornhill., carrying pies, cakes and sympathy. After this night, there would not be enough flour left for anything else.
The static now raised in volume within Chris’s ears. A random popping seemed to disturb him in his sleep. His eyelids crinkled as his head softly moved from side to side. Again, the static grew stronger, and with it, the true nature of the inaudible sound became clearer. Chris began to shake his head more aggressively. The nightmare inducing sound grew to a fevered pitch as the hiss had grown to the sound of millions screaming in his head. Chris sat up in bed, his eyes wide in horror. The sound had now disappeared. Startled by his visions, he wiped his now sweating face. The comfort of familiar surroundings quickly soothed his rattled mind. A glance at Sandra determined she had not been affected by the sudden breakthrough of consciousness that drew Chris to awaken. Within Sandra’s ears, the quiet black static still resonated. His feet stretched to find the floor as he turned on the bed to stand. The blue light of the digital clock cast a shallow glow on the bedside table and the wall. It faced the wall intentionally as the light would sometimes disturb Chris’s sleep. He turned the clock to read the time. 1:11 on a Saturday morning. He shook his head in disbelief. Sandra’s mother doesn’t wake up for another four hours, and coffee sounds good right now. The thought of returning to sleep too quickly was an unpleasant notion. Sometimes, the mind picks up right where it left off and the nightmare continues its’ horrifying sequel. A glass of water would have to do. Coffee would be too much trouble for just one cup this early in the morning. More than one cup would keep him awake the rest of the night. As he stood, he reached for his jeans resting on the floor next to his feet. One leg at a time, he thought to himself. A phrase his mother in-law would interject whenever it fit into any advice she gave. Chris loved her dearly, and had become even more attached to her after his own mother had passed away. It was one of the only pieces of advice she would give that didn’t involve the bible. Chris and Sandra always believed that if one lived a good life and tried to leave it better than they found it, whatever waited beyond would surely return in kind. Another glance at Sandra to make sure he hadn’t awakened her and it was out the door to quench his dry throat. Placing his hand gently on the doorknob, Chris carefully opened the door. He cringed and crooked his shoulders up as the old heavy door complained. The noise seemed alarming in the quiet darkness of the early morning. Sandra lay still, sleeping oblivious to the bitchings of a grumpy old door. Chris relaxed his shoulders and let out his breathe, relieved he had not disturbed his wife’s dreaming.
“I hope yours are better than mine.” he thought to himself.
“Leave the door open until you get back. Too noisy to chance it. Hell. Sophie is probably listening to me right now.” Chris glanced up as if seeing Sophie sitting on her bed, eyes wide open, listening to the patterns of sound, determining who and why. A small grin crossed his face. As his mouth moved to smile, it reminded him of just how dry his throat had become. Two parched lips, clinging to one another like two dry boards glued together, attempting to separate but ending in more of a smirk than a grin.
“Water!” he whispered. His stance shifted to navigate the dark hallway. Two steps into his stride, Chris nearly chokes on the sharp sting of a quick breathe. His bedroom door slams closed behind him, shaking what feels like the very foundation of the house. Startled by the sudden thunderous reverberation, he quickly lowers his stance and spins to face the door. His eyes try to focus on the strange shapes now protruding from the door frame. Large splinters of wood, broken away from the force of the closing door, now make up the frame like razor wire surrounding a prison. Chris hits the light switch on the wall, letting his now squinting eyes focus themselves on the splintered door. Tugging at the door knob, Chris is immediately perplexed. The knob does not turn. He continues trying while pounding on the door with his other hand.
“Sandra? Are you O.K.?”
His questions are unanswered. Growing more concerned, Chris takes a small step back and prepares himself to ram the door with his shoulder.
“Help me…” his mother in-law’s voice echoes from the darkness of the living room at the end of the hall.
“Mama Iris? Iris? Is that you? Chris shouts down the hall. Puzzlement and confusion wrap around his head tightly like an airless plastic bag, suffocating his thoughts until he can finally bite through and take in the fresh breathe of clear thought. He turns to the door for just an instant before hearing the sound of broken glass coming from the kitchen.
“Chris… Help me…” Mama Iris called out. At least it sounded like Mama Iris. Chris turned and began walking briskly down the hall, leaving the glow of the hallway light behind him to disappear into the darkness.
Sandra lay in a colorful bed of flowers. The light summer breeze cooled her skin under the bright afternoon sky just beyond the shadow of a large billowing tree. Day dreaming within a dream. Every tall blade of grass, every colorful flower, every strand of hair bending in slow motion to the touch of the wind. Birds and crickets singing soft summer songs lulled the dreamer to close her eyes. The melody began to form into an almost cohesive orchestration. The notes rising and swelling into a great crescendo. As the notes reach their climax, they fall into separate off key patterns as if a choir were one by one walking off a cliff. A slow static crept into her ears through the grass and flowers as it drew closer. Her eyes open wide. The beautiful flowers she had laid down upon had all turned to red. Sitting up on her elbows, her expression changed from confusion to horror. The field was now stained with hundreds of dead birds. The trees surrounding the field appeared withered and dead. The static grew louder. Sandra turned her head towards the direction it seemed to emanate from. The large shadow of the tree she had laid next to was now slowly moving closer to her. Burnt grass, red flowers and dead birds pressed into the ground by the heavy black shadow as it oozed over the ground. A pecking sound rose above the hissing static. Sandra’s eyes followed the sound up the base of the tree. Her mouth hung agape as her fingers dug into the bloodied soil. In the crook of the first large dead branch, a large emaciated vulture greedily picked away at the flesh of a much smaller white bird. Through the blood and feathers, Sandra could see the vulture’s bright silver beak stabbing into the soft pink and red chest of the tiny bird. It raised its blood covered face from the carnage to swallow the last bite torn away. With a screech that sounded like the static but much louder, It turned its head towards Sandra. Large black and grey wings spread from its body as the vulture swooped down on her. The silver beak began slamming into Sandra’s face. Every peck breaking and tearing at her skin. Her arms and legs lay motionless. She strained and struggled to move them, but her concentration was broken by the sharp silver maw tearing at her flesh. The sound of the strikes hammered in her ears. Her eyes were soon nothing more than warm puddles of gelatinous matter running down the ragged lines etched into her cheeks. The sound echoed louder in her head. Each strike sounding like metal slamming into muddied pottery, wet and crisp at the same time. The vulture shoved its head into her screaming mouth . It quickly lurched forward deep into her throat Its long neck disappearing into her choking scream. The horrible sound now muffled within her chest still filled her ears. The sharp nails of the vulture began pushing at her belly, straining to pull the neck and head from her throat. The neck jerked and tugged wildly until the head finally emerged from Sandra’s mouth, and with it, Sandra’s beating heart. It dropped the organ between her breasts and began pecking at it, plunging the sharp silver beak into the exposed muscle. The sound of each stab grew louder and louder. The shadow of the tree now pressed its darkness upon her. She could not see it any longer, but she could feel its weight. Peck, peck, peck.
Sandra woke with a scream. Pressing her fingers into the mattress, she pushed her upper body straight up off of the bed. Immediately realizing she was wakening from a terrible nightmare, Sandra turned to Chris’s side of the bed. She stared at the empty side of his bed for a moment.
“Chris?” she called out, thinking he might be in the master bathroom attached to the bedroom. Her head turned to the open door and darkness within. Her mind reeled as the pecking sound returned from the other side of the room, closest to her side of the bed. Cautiously, Sandra turned her head towards the sound. With every centimeter, the terror rose up within her. A heavy oppression began growing within her arms and legs. Her peripheral vision caught movement from the dark corner of the room. A glint of sliver followed by the damnable pecking sound seized her gaze. Sandra’s eyes strained to focus on the black mass huddled in the corner behind the blinking silver. Her glasses folded neatly by her night lamp lay only a foot away, but her arms would not follow her commands to reach them or the light. Straining to focus, her vision slowly adapted. Peck, peck, peck. Her breathing became fast and shallow. Lungs frozen in agony as her eyes let the vision cut through, dragging what felt like broken glass against her sockets. The thing in the corner stared back at her. Cold dead eyes peering through hers, soaking in the horror that now flowed from Sandra like a burst water balloon. Laying in front of its crossed legs, Amanda’s severed head, receiving blow after blow from the silver knives, gushed what little blood that was left into a warm pool beneath it. Metal vibrated with a wet clang as silver broke through the tiny skull and into the soft jelly within.
“Peck, peck, peck.” The words now joining the sound of knives falling over and over again into Amanda’s mutilated face. The thing’s voice, filled with low guttural death, repeated the phrase.
“Peck, peck, peck.”
The next stroke of the blade crashes into the floor between Amanda’s head and the bed. The next knife does the same. Evil dead flesh hunches its back as its rotting muscles pull itself forward from the corner. Each knife now stabbing at the floor, inching the thing closer to Sandra, frozen in the shadow of unspeakable horror on her bedroom mattress. Her head, no longer capable of movement, faces the remains of her daughter’s decapitated head. Her eyes, however, jolt back and forth, scanning the edge of the bed. Rotted knuckles, tightly grasping the silver blade, slam into the top of the mattress next to Sandra’s waist. Slowly, familiar soft brown hair, now matted in blood and viscera, begins to rise over the side of the bed. Sophie’s empty eye sockets appear as her head is raised further into view. The little girls features have been hacked away. Her lipless mouth hangs unnaturally from loose muscle in her jaw, yet her soft voice burns in Sandra’s ears.
“Mommy. The vulture has come for us all.”
Sandra’s teeth pressed together, almost breaking under the pressure. The stinging in her jaw forced her mouth to open wide as her screams tore through her throat. Blood and pain let loose from her lips as Sandra sat in bed, wailing the sound of sheer agony. Sophie’s severed head now floated, suspended in front of Sandra’s face. A knife clenching fist held the blood dripping head from behind.
“Why didn’t you protect me, Mommy?”
Sophie’s voice was barely audible over Sandra’s screams. So focused on her dead daughter’s mangled features, she never saw the thrust of silver flash from the mattress to just beneath her shoulder. The knife splashed into her body with enough force that Sandra fell backwards onto her bed. Her body still unresponsive, all she could feel now was the blade digging and turning into her warm upper chest. Her head slightly cocked forward on her pillows, she watched as the foul corpse placed Sophie’s head upon her belly. Its’ now loose hand still holding the silver knife moved closer to Sandra’s screaming mouth. Flayed decaying skin and bone, greasy with red tin and stinking of death, shoved its fist between her teeth. The knife blade pressed against the corner of her mouth. The edge melted into the skin as the taste of salt and metal filled the gaps in her teeth. The corpse forced its hand, muffling Sandra’s screams, cutting deeper through her lip and into her cheek. The knife in her chest withdrew. Silver streams of pain began stabbing down on her torso. Sandra stared into the open caverns of her daughter’s eyes as the blade fell like the start of hot rain against her skin. With every drop, red splashes gurgled to the surface of the impact.
“Peck, peck, peck.” Followed every agonizing stab. Five wounds now spewed the life from them around Sandra’s heart. The thing softly withdrew the knife from her chest and lovingly placed its head upon her upper stomach between the wounds and Sophie’s eyeless stare. Yellow teeth, locked in death’s bitter smile, grinning with hellish joy as the thing placed a blade against the center of her five wounds. Every movement, every scream, every drop of blood moved in slow motion as the blade entered the skin, slid past bone and muscle, finally nesting in Sandra’s heart. The Mother bird now dead in a field of red, surrounded by the carcasses of her babies.
“The vulture has come for you all”