Flitting. Fleeting. Here and there. Everywhere.
Shadows. Shadows in the trees.
Thunk! The sound of something heavy hitting wood.
Hunched in the dark of night, perched on a tree limb, was a lone figure. Doubled over to keep its balance, it leered ominously to peer at the forest floor below.
A low growl escaped its throat, and it was joined by a second figure.
Race. Tell others. Food.
A small snarl of affirmation and the second figure vanished.
"Watch yourself Parker."
"I am, Mr. Waters."
"This isn't your backyard, this is the forest. We're way out of the safety perimeters now."
"I know, Mr. Waters. Sorry sir."
Parker sighed irritably, adjusting his grip on the heavy machine gun in his hands. Already it had been two hours, and they were nowhere near anything resembling a settlement or a house of any sort. So far this raiding trip looked like a doozy.
He'd rather be back at Marion. The little village along the bay had quickly become his home. Took him a year to get acclimated to the difference in community and the way things were run. Plus all the old people. It was so strange not seeing a middle aged adult anymore.
Lilly had helped. Lilly Garcia. She was a pretty little thing. Half-Chinese and Half-Mexican. She had curly, rich brown hair and such wide, dark brown eyes. But pale skin. And smooth. He always marveled at how soft her hands were whenever he held them. She was like some fragile little angel come down from the sky just to make this new world of his easier.
He'd much rather be with her now than here.
"Parker! Did you hear me!"
Parker looked back up at Mr. Waters. The man was staring at him with bitterness and resentment. The old, wrinkled face was made even more wrinkled by all the frowning he was doing.
"Sorry, sir," Parker muttered. "I was..."
"Not paying attention, that's what. Dammit boy, get your ass in line and stop lolligaggin. I asked you, do you have the map?"
Parker clutched at his left jacket pocket before stuffing his hand inside. He fumbled around the magazine clips till his fingers brushed something smooth and crumpled. He dug the wadded paper out and handed it to Mr. Waters.
The old man snatched the map away and opened it up, glaring at the lines and sketches, muttering to himself. "Dammit. Jim, what do you make of this? Is that a river?"
The four other party members all gathered around the map Mr. Waters held, pointing and muttering. Jim thought it was a cliff. Larry figured it must be the quarry. Tommy was certain it was a river, and Harold couldn't care less.
Parker let them grumble and groan, losing himself in his thoughts again. The forest was a perfect distraction. The wind swished through the leaves, causing little red-brown ones to lose their grip and fall. A bird flitted overheard, chirping shrilly before being lost in the distance. Ferns fluttered in the breeze.
There was a patch of purple among the green ferns. Curious, Parker crept through the undergrowth, wondering what sort of thing lay in store among the cover there.
He pushed past a patch of brambles, slipping between the ferns with ease and a minute sense of caution, as if he didn't want to disturb the plants. He reached out and touched something soft.
Flowers. Tall, royal Hemerocallis. Dressed in luxurious purple petals, gilded with gold at their centers, standing tall and proud on slender stalks; who would have guessed such treasures lay hidden behind the curtain of green ferns.
I must take some to Lilly, he thought, a gentle smile lighting up his face. She loved purple so much.
He remembered... when he first met her...
She was wearing a purple dress.
It seemed so strange. Parker couldn't remember the last time he had seen purple. Months ago. Years ago. The last time he saw purple was the color of the t-shirt his mother wore the day she died.
Such a sad memory connected to such a happy color.
The girl was humming, twirling in her pretty purple dress as she carried the basket of herbs towards the hospice. Her curly hair was unkempt and wind-tossed, floating on the chilly winds. She was barefoot, he noticed. Barefoot with sand between her toes and some on her shins. And she was so lost in her own little world and he was so lost in her, that it wasn't long before she ran right into him.
"Ahhh!" came their collective yell as they became a tangle of arms and legs, and both people and herb basket went tumbling off the docks and into the water.
Parker spluttered as he came up for air. The girl had already broken to the surface of the water, spitting out a stream of water like a fountain.
"Sorry!" Parker said automatically, stirring up little ripples as he treaded water, "Here, let me help you."
"It's all right, I got it," she replied, reaching up for the dock.
"No, I insist," he pressed, feeling hot with embarrassment at how clumsy he had been.
He helped pull her out of the water and they both sat on the edge of the dock, soaked through.
"I'm Parker by the way," he introduced himself.
"I'm Lilly. You're the new guy right?"
"Parker, hmm? Well, Parker you have funny ways of breaking the ice."
"Pushing me in the water. Most guys say hello or recite those silly pick up lines, but yours is quite original there."
"I didn't mean to push you... no wait! I didn't push you, I, uh, ran into you... I..."
She laughed. It was like music to his ears.
"You're cute," she said.
And from there it was love.
Parker plucked the flower from the ground and rolled the stem between his fingers. The purple and gold blended together in a swirl.
Yes, it was a perfect flower for her. Vibrant. Beautiful. Full of life.
Like the life they shared together.
How he wished he could be home now. With her. Her in his arms, just the two of them alone. Just a moment without worries or cares or fears.
Purple and gold.
Where had that red come from?
A shadow flitted over him.
Parker coughed forcefully, involuntarily. He took a sharp, shuddering breath, trying to bring air into his lungs.
"Hey! Parker! Get your ass over here!"
The sound of a voice made him turn. Mr. Waters was there with the other raid party members. As usual, Mr. Waters was glaring.
"Dammit kid, don't wander off alone out here. You're nineteen. Try acting like a responsible adult for god's sake."
Parker opened his mouth to reply, but something caught his attention.
Eyes in the trees.
"Oh my god..."
The world spun and Parker found himself lying on the ground.
Mr. Waters and one of the other men were at his side. "Parker, what happened?"
He couldn't answer. He couldn't breathe. There was something heavy in his chest. It was weighing down his lungs.
"Parker, talk to me, dammit!"
"He's losing too much blood."
The men were quiet. Then: "What was that, Parker?"
His arm felt like lead, but he forced himself to raise it, pointing at those demonic pricks of fire in the darkness above them.
"Eyes... eyes in the trees..."
The men slowly turned their gazes upward.
And hell rained.
All the pretty flowers were splattered with red, like drops of rain.
Parker could hardly see anymore. His vision was black around the edges. His breathing came in soft, small pants. It hurt to breathe. He was breathing blood like it was air and it burned through him.
A dark figure loomed over his vision. He couldn't make out who it was. Probably Harold or Jim judging by the height.
"Help me..." he rasped out.
The figure tilted its head to the side.
"Help me... please..."
The figure crouched down next to him.
It had no eyes.
"What are you?"
It held a knife to Parker's face, the edge dripping with blood.
I killed you. I killed all of you, it seemed to imply.
"You bastard," he choked out.
More shadowy figures drew closer, circling Parker. They crouched down, their growls and snarls fading as his hearing left him.
He could feel teeth sink into his flesh. He could feel himself being torn apart. But heard not a sound. Not even the sound of his own screams.
He couldn't scream much anyway. Drowning. Drowning nulled his screams.
"It's just a raid, Lilly. I'll be fine."
"You have to be careful."
"I'm always careful."
"Please, hurry home. Hurry back to me."
"I have something I want to tell you..."
The thing picked up his hand and pressed the tip of the knife to it. Carefully, delicately, it slid the blade into his skin and carved something.
An L inside an upside-down heart.
And then Lust took his first bite.