Leapers

Inspired by a nightmare I had a few months ago. I woke up in a cold sweat after dreaming of being in the same position as our protagonist here, Samir. I hadn't really thought about it any further, as my dream ended at about the same point as the first chapter.

Fifteen, twenty seconds, tops. That was all the time he had. To most, that short a time would pass in a flash. To him, sitting here, waiting, crouched in the corner of the room like a tiger ready to pounce, it felt like an eternity.

He watched the opposite corner of the large room closely. The candle had extinguished itself, the wick non-existent, and he had nothing to replace it with. The only light flickered low from his side of the room, shadows playing on the wall to his back. Daylight was still a half-hour away, and this candle would last. But the malevolent darkness forming on the far side of the room spoke of untold violence.

He hefted the cocked heavy metallic crossbow that rested gently in his lap, running a finger along the thick cable holding back the solid, gleaming black bolt. The texture of the braided steel reassured him. A bolt from this monster could pierce sheet metal at three hundred paces. From this range, it had nearly the force to demolish a concrete wall. He hoped it would be enough.

The seconds ticked away, with no regard to the anxiety he felt. A droplet of sweat beaded on his forehead, running down the deep furrows of his weathered face to drip off his chin. The sound of the tiny drop hitting the rickety wooden floor beneath his feet seemed to echo in the vacant space across the room.

Time, he thought to himself.

As if he had willed it, the darkness on the far side of the room thickened like acrid, oily smoke. Here it comes. He lifted the crossbow, ready. Thick as molasses, the shadows roiled as a piercing shriek broke the silence of the room, enough to sear his eardrums and make him want to drop his weapon and clap his rough hands to his ears.

Then it came.

A knotted and writhing form materialized from the darkness, and in a single motion leaped towards his position. He was ready for it, but it was always a shock to see them up close. A charred smell pervaded the air as tendrils of smoky blackness surrounded the man-sized form that flew through the air towards him.

Slowing down time in his mind, if not in reality, he carefully aimed and released the crossbow in a single, fluid motion. The bolt founds its mark, striking the leaper in the center of the forehead. The force of the impact reversed its motion and the now-dead creature landed heavily on the floorboards in the middle of the room. He let it remain there, unmoving. The fun wasn't over, yet.

He settled back into his corner, away from the pitch-like darkness of the other side of the room, shifting his weight back and forth to avoid cramping in his thighs. He eyed the withered corpse warily. They were predictable, at least, as dangerous as they were.

Much unlike their brethren in the streets, after dark.

The first of many, he thought to himself.

Another thirty minutes or so until the safety of daylight. Until then, the thick shutters remained closed and barred, the doors locked, and he remained ensconced in his corner, back to the wall. He tugged loose another bolt from his backpack and re-armed the crossbow with practiced grace.

At least the second candle would hold out long enough, he considered. This last hour before the dawn would be busy.

The End

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