The Thing that Flew at Night

by R.T. Allenson

I woke up in the middle of the night, and I immediately knew something was wrong. The fire was out even though I had piled dirtweed a bit before dozing off, and my rifle was missing. Amira was missing too, but she was the least of my problems.

A person without anything to protect himself in the desert isn’t going to last long. Bleeders move faster at night and the cool air makes their rock-skin stick better, giving them better defense against anything attacking them. Even pscyh-bullets.

There’s a reason for that. There’s worse things in the dark. Snapping, biting and clawing things. Things that scream, and run faster than a deadhorse running away from hunters. I heard a sound from a distance and felt a shiver run down the length of my spine.

“Fuck this.”

I crouched down, moving slowly towards the stairs down to the tower entrance. The mood offered some form of light, but the passing cloud would blanket me in darkness from time to time. I kept myself from running down the stairs, and every time the darkness took my sight, I’d expect a bleeder or a pitcrawler staring at me just a few feet away. And I don’t know which was worse. Every sound made my heart jump a bit, and the shadows moving in the horizon didn’t help.

I finally made my way into the entrance. My foot hit something, and as I waited for the moon to cast its light at me, I noticed the CZ-X9 lying on the ground as if it fell down from the floor above. Whoever stole Amira and tried to steal the gun must have realized that the CZ-X9 won’t work with regular bullets. These were before my time, and probably before that when the desert was still an ocean and everything wasn’t ruins. The rifles are made for folks like me – for the ones with the psych-bullets in their mind. There’s no short supply of these in the old ruins or a travelling merchant who’d done some digging, but not everyone can use them.

I slung the rifle’s band over my shoulder and held it tightly. I was still jittery, but I managed to conjure a few bullets in my mind just to get ready. Whoever took Amira is probably nearby. I crouched lower, keeping myself in the shadows as the moon cast another light over the expanse. I left the tower and started heading northwards.

The corpse of the big bleeder was already being feasted on by a bunch of scrappers. They were about a foot big and had ugly-looking mouths. Harmless, but they tend to attract bigger things. They didn’t mind me of course – they were too busy munching on the big bleeder.

Then, a blast of wind came from above, almost knocking me down and sending a few scrappers my way. They clung on me like spikes, but I managed to pat them all away as I made my way into one of the rocky outcroppings close to the tower.

Something big came down from the sky. I saw its silhouette standing over the big bleeder’s corpse. It was bigger than the big bleeder by far; it scooped the corpse with its long, tapered snout and flew off just like that. Dust flew into my face and I crouched down. I don’t know what it was. I’ve never seen anything like it, and come to think of it, I still wasn’t able to get a good look at it. It’s gone now, but it just made the night feel more dangerous.