The Coming Storm
I have always loved songbirds. I have always loved any type of bird quite frankly. That's why I, Richard Percy, am a zoologist. I love animals too much to not do something in that field. The pay wasn't great but being able to live my dream was worth it. Because of this lack of money I haven't been able to keep a steady relationship. Which is a shame because I had always wanted kids. Oh well, too far past my prime now.
I looked out over my four-acre plot of land settled on the edge of West Boylston, Massachusetts from the porch of my two hundred year old Greek-revival Victorian house. It was moderately sized... Certainly big enough for a man living all alone save for his thoughts and the songbirds. I watched as the storm clouds slowly came rolling along the horizon. The land below was instantly cast into shadows and darkness. A shrill rumbling emanated from the direction of the storm. It was a sound... similar to... the sound a hammer makes when driving nails into a cedar coffin.
There I go with my obsession for the macabre and morbid, I say under my calm, stoic breath, which was slowly being taken away as the mockingbirds tweeted despairingly... semi-mournfully in the not-too-far distance.
When the thunder made a grand crescendo from the sound of hammers on wood to the sound of a thousand volleys of cannon fire, I decided to head indoors. There I made afternoon coffee and my dinner. I always cooked from scratch out of some stupid fear of being laughed out of town by the snobbiest of the snobby whom just so happen to live in the same town as I.
Christ only knows they would, I chuckled to myself at the absurd thought.
Just then the power went out.
Great, I thought pessimistically, no dinner tonight. And I sure as hell AM NOT gonna go fix the fuse in this shit-storm.
I decided to go to bed. I trudged up the stairs to the bedroom passing several closed doors that hid nothing but dark rooms and covered furniture. I got into the bedroom and looked at the clock. It said, in blinking lights, “8:30” ...p.m.
Nevermind, I'm going to LAY in bed and at least wait for the storm to pass.
Doing nothing but twiddling my fingers and staring off into the dark corners of my room I lay still for about an hour. Then I hear a knock at the door. Sighing, I dragged myself back downstairs to answer the door. I tried the lights on the way down but the power was still out. As lightning flashed the house would light up for one tenth of a second at a time. Long enough to watch the shadows turn to the rotting talons of some long dead, anonymous ghoul. Long enough to see the faces on the family portraits turn into unknown demons brought to life through the darkest nightmares conjured up by the collective minds of Lovecraft, Poe, Stoker, Hoffman, and Merritt. Long enough to see their faces contort into under-worldly sneers and grimaces.
Fucking with my own head again, I said out loud, why do I DO THAT?
As I made my way down the staircase the knocking got quicker, more desperate, more anxious.
Must be drummers, I joked to myself... mostly to keep my mind off the macabre and morbid that I have gained a love/hate relationship with.
I opened the door and I tried my absolute best not to make eye-contact with whomever was on the other end of the door. Both in black suits, tall, thin, frail, and pale-as-all-hell, they both stood side-by-side. In a monotone that practically drove me nuts, lefty said my name. “Mr. Percy.” I couldn't tell if he was asking or telling me something.
“Yeah... what do you want?” I responded. It was still pouring out. What could be so important that it couldn't wait for tomorrow?
“We need you to come with us,” righty stated with a harsh tone. They both flashed a “badge” that said nothing but the affiliation they were with and some government seal.
“You've got to be kidding me.” I said. Then I read the organization name. “Cryptozoology” was all I needed to read. “You're definitely screwing with me. Where's the camera?” I insulted them.
“No cameras sir. We're dead serious,” they both stated like a couple of robots.
“Okay... let's pretend that you are serious. What makes you think I know anything about cryptids?”
“Well, for starters you are the most qualified,” lefty sneered.
“Listen man, I love animals, not stories.”
“You're coming,” righty pitched in.
“Oh?” I asked. It was a rhetorical question.
Their answer wasn't so rhetorical. I took a fist to the face.
I came around, dizzy and disoriented, yes, but at least the taste of dirt in my mouth was finally gone. Above the whirring of the helicopter I could hardly make out a voice. It was soft with a strong undertone.
“I highly doubt you had to get so violent.” the voice, clearly irritated, said matter-of-factually.
Breaking the long silence I heard what almost sounded like lefty to say, “Our job was to get him over to you, Dr. Matthias. He's here so we did our job. Don't make us come and do yours. The government trusts you.”
After about a minute of listening to the incessant noise slowly diminishing into the distance, Doctor what's-his-face stepped into the tent.
“Hello Richard. My name is Doctor Matthias. Please for the sake of convenience call me Matt,” he held out his hand half expecting me to shake it. Two words: “hell no.” If someone practically kidnaps me then expects me to take an instant liking to them then they have another thing coming.
Figuring there's no way out of this I gave in and shook his hand. “Yeah I heard le-” I stopped myself short guessing that he wouldn't know who the hell I was talking about if I had said “lefty”.
“You heard the agent say my name?” he guessed like he'd just read my mind.
“Yeah... what was his name? He was a pleasurable enough guy. Hey, maybe you can get me his number too. Seems like the kind of person who likes to chit-chat.”
“So sarcastic. But... in case you were serious... I don't even know his name.” Matt said with a chuckle. I hope to God that he knew I was being sarcastic. I don't think I'd be able to make (whatever we were doing) it out alive if I couldn't be sarcastic and not have people know what I was saying.
“Let me give you a little briefing. For the next couple of months we will be working with-”
“Cryptids,” I interrupted.
“Yes... cryptids... but how did you know?” Matt's face grew grim which really unsettled me.
“I read it on the... agent's badge thing.”
“Ah right. So yes we are working with a cryptid. The thing is we don't know anything about it yet. That's why we're here.”
“Well, if we know everything about it then it really wouldn't be a cryptid now would it?” I asked quite condescendingly.
“This is true. Anyways, get up, I'll show you the rest of the team.”
Matt didn't need to tell me twice. By now I'd lost all feeling in my legs and my arms were starting to fall asleep too. I guess that's what happens when a shady looking government agent knocks you out cold. Outside of the tent I saw countless people either sitting around talking, or working the camp. I assumed the later to be interns. I remember how much of a bitch internship was.
“Let me show you the rest of our team.” Matt said cheerily. “This is Jessica, Bryce, Doyle, and Zach.”
“What about your specialties?” I wondered out loud.
“We're all multi... talented. If you ask us to do anything we'll be able to do it.” Zach said hardly looking up to me. I could tell right now that he was the outspoken one of the group.
Good... competition. I thought to myself letting myself smile a little.
“Well now I don't think I'm that skilled. So basically you guys are... ultra specialists I guess you could say?”
“Essentially,” Bryce said.
“What are your specialties?” Doyle asked.
“Well, specialty,” I corrected, “and that's zoology.”
“Bravo, that puts you one step above the peons.” Jess said with a wide smile.
After no time whatsoever with the rest of the group Matt brought me around the rest of the camp to continue going into the specifics about what we were doing. For what seemed like hours we walked around the camp. We apparently had to go into every boring little detail. I guess it was the essentials though. Just before he was through with me I asked him, “Why didn't we meet the other groups?”
His face turned grim once again and he said, “They don't matter. You probably will not see them again.” To ease the apparent fear that spread across my face he added, “It's nothing like that. They'll just get extracted at different points in the search.”
Something about this set of the little red alarm back inside my brain nonetheless. Maybe it was the hesitation in the last sentence... that sure as hell didn't help. I guess it was mostly how he said the first couple of sentences. Maybe it's just me but I don't think of good things when I hear, “They don't matter” and “You probably will not see them again.”
Somewhat relaxed he told me to go for a walk. Think over my current situation (Since it was the only thing I could do about it.) and enjoy some more fresh air before dinner. I did exactly as he told me to with absolutely no qualm on my part.
On the edge of the woods I noticed how much darker it was in there compared to the rest of the area. Taking the step in, the shadows almost swallowed me whole. With barely any light it took me awhile for my eyes to readjust. Everything and I mean everything in there seemed dead. Even the songbirds' tunes were dull and half alive. Then it all stopped. The silence was eerie. I think I'd prefer the morbid, funeral home sounding songs of the birds than that silence. By now my situation was fully forced into my brain. Every disturbance in the silence had a menacing timbre to it. Almost as soon as the silence began the birds went crazy. Singing along as they dive-bombed me from above. Three feet in front of me the shrubs rustled and I booked it out of there. I have no idea if I had overreacted there but I was scared shitless. Who wouldn't have run?
When I'd gotten back I told everyone about my experience. They believed in cryptids. How judgmental could they be? I told them everything, save for the whole part about me running like a bitch. I was especially careful not to talk about that in front of Zach... and Jess. As I'd tell someone about what happened their faces would turn stark white. I don't know if they knew it but I sure noticed. When I'd ask if there was anything nobody was telling me about I'd always get the same response. “Nope,” “negative,” “absolutely not!” etc. etc.
Day one was a little... scary. All the teams broke off. Team one a.k.a. us went into the deep woods.
Team two went into the woods surrounding the lake and rivers. Team three went into the caves. All the other teams were completely separated and nowhere near the same vicinity as us. We lost contact with Team three first. It was reported to us by Matt that their communications systems went down. Well... it was reported to us that way. When Matt came out of his tent, where all of communications systems were, he looked dead. Better yet he looked like his life was forcefully sucked out of him as he sat in front of the radio. We lost communication with Team two only about a day after that. Matt looked worse. Then came the day we lost contact with the world. This time Doyle brought him out... this time dead for real. The blood was still drizzling from the hole in his head. I didn't even know we had guns on this trip. From that point on we each had one though.
For weeks we'd search for a way out of the woods. Rations were running low and we passed Team two's campsite without looking for food. We could see the red from where we were. It was carnage down there. Jess was sobbing non-stop. I normally would have felt bad but Christ we're in a survival situation. All noise in the forest stopped completely by now. There was no sound... no life in there. With the forest completely devoid of anything living I knew that we were still not alone. I'm sure every single one of the others... all four of them knew so too.
Zach took charge. Go figure. For all the time that he was alive he did pretty good too. At that point the food had run out and he ended up making a good hunter. The thing to watch out for in a situation like this is your own ass though. No more than a couple of days later he got separated from the group. The lack of sound in the forest made his screams and cries that much easier to hear. Now everybody was an emotional wreck. Doyle was next in line for leadership. He was scared shitless but he, surprisingly, wasn't next to die. Bryce went of starvation. He looked like a skeleton by the time he kicked it. For days on end he wouldn't eat. On the day before he died he claimed to hear whatever was out there stalking us beckoning for him “Like a banshee.”
Next went Doyle. He walked into a cave to check it out. To make sure it wasn't Team three's cave. I'm not entirely sure if it was the same cave that Team three went into but we never heard back from Doyle so I guess we'd never know. First the scream came. Then the grunts and the ripping sounds. Then the roar. Right before that thing came hauling ass out of the darkness all the songbirds started going crazy. The sound was unbearably intense. For days... weeks maybe we hadn't heard a damn thing. Then in an instant all these songbirds went nuts. Squawking and dive-bombing us from overhead. Jess was horrified and I can't blame her. I would be too if I was getting attacked by sparrows and mockingbirds. Add that to the fact that I was nothing but “one step above the interns.” If I wasn't already ready to book it out of there then I saw these two... eyes, I guess. They were glazed over white like that of a man, centuries old, and blinded for two thirds of that time. Whatever came running at us from within the shadows sure as hell wasn't Doyle though. We, or at least I never had to see what it looked like. I don't know, maybe Jess did. I found her dead, hanging by a tree the next day. Written on the last piece of paper any of us had was a short suicide note. Nothing other than the typical “I'm so sorry to have to leave you like this” bullshit. Except for the little line that read, “I could hear it beckoning to me.” Damn, so Bryce wasn't the only one. Damn, there went my last-ditch final dinner.
The Longing/The Rescue
I didn't miss out on the little schizophrenic episodes though. At least that's what I'd labeled the whispers as. I grew accustomed to both the dark deadness of the surrounding woods and the ominous and equally dead sounding whispers. During the day I'd stay in my tent. And I'd stay put all night. Hoping that dying and or of thirst wasn't too painful. I was also hoping that the screams were more out of fear rather than agony. It took actually seeing the beast's silhouette outside my tent to finally convince me to get the hell out of there. Sprinting through the woods I came upon a cave. Dreading going in I practically had to force myself in there. I hid behind a rock so I could let my eyes adjust hoping that it wouldn't come up behind me.
When they did adjust what I saw horrified me. No Doyle as far as I knew. But I saw what was left of Team three all over the walls. I saw Team three and more. Backpacks and hunting gear were strewn all over the cave floor. All that and whatever the thing that was chasing me didn't have much of a taste for of course. The moldy leftovers. The smell of rot was unbearable. I had to get the hell out of there. I don't think I was ever so scared to hear the songbirds chirping. I knew that, eventually, the singing would cease and I knew when that happened I would most surely die. The chirping finally did stop and I think it was the first time in my life that I jumped when silence occurred. The silence... wasn't quite silent though. It was quiet but not totally devoid of sound. In the distance I cold hear whispering. I could hear, “I am the disruptor.” over and over again. It would ring in my ears and resound in my head. “I am the disruptor.” it would say. Leaning against my rock, clutching my ears begging for the voices to stop all I would hear is “I am the disruptor, I am the disruptor, I am the destroyer, I am the destroyer of everything, anything. I am the collector. I AM Diablo.” The audible torture was too much to bear. I stood up from my position and walked outside of the cave waiting for my demise. I remember hearing the birds going crazy again. I remember hearing the helicopter buzzing overhead. I remember the birds quieting down. Then I remember hearing the mockingbirds chirping outside my fourth floor hospital window.