Chapter 17



New York State

Mike’s Journey


A shot rang out, and the claw pulling him toward the shadow let go. Mike pulled away quickly; his elbows and knees acting like pistons to pull him forward, away from the alien beast. He jumped onto his feet and kept running toward the granary, looking behind him only when he was at a safe distance. The shadow-beast, the Glessian, lay on the ground, its edges getting sharper, its shape defining as the shadow changed from empty-black to just-black. The near-frozen winter grass was visible through a hole in the shadow, and no blood seeped out.  A second shot rang  out from right above him, and the shadow-beast slid sideways a bit, a second hole appearing next to the first. The shadow-ship lifted and flew off, disappearing into the cloudless skies with incredible speed. Soon it was a spot and then gone.

Mike turned his face upward to a door hinged tightly to the sides of the silo, a rifle snout floating in mid-air, its aim alternating between the shadow-beast on the ground and the spot in the sky the shadow ship had occupied.

“Is the fucker dead? IS THE FUCKER DEAD?” A quavering ancient voice called out from the door, “Check if the mother-fucker is dead! Giddy-up boy, or I’ll shoot you were you stand! CHECK NOW.”

“I’m not going near that thing – are you nuts?” Mike had begun to tremble as the adrenaline wore off.

“Well, it looks dead enough, and if it ain’t we’re dead anyhow… I can’t blame you for not wanting to go near it. Grab the rope.”

A long rope with large knots every few feet flew out of the door, one end falling at Mike’s feet. He grabbed the rope at head-height and pulled to sense its strength before beginning his climb. The door hung open about twenty-five feet off the ground and Mike struggled the last few feet to climb all the way in. A pair of arms helped him slide in. He was sitting on a loft of some kind, a wooden floor covering a semi-circle, the only light coming through the door. Silhouetted against the door stood a thin, short, old man dressed in buttoned-up jean overalls, a white long-sleeve thermal under-shirt rolled up to the elbows, and a flat-brimmed tan straw had stuck firmly on his head.  

“Thanks.”  Mike raised his hand to block the sunlight and get a better look at his savior.

“No problem, friend. I was just happy to see another living soul. Hell if I was gonna let that thing take ya. I’m Jake Fingerling, and this here used to be my land” The farmer said, turning and sweeping his hand, palm down and fingers splayed, slowly across the door opening. “No more. Ain’t no land left for anyone anymore ‘cause they ain’t nobody left to own it.” He dropped his head and removed his hat, wiping his forehead with his arm in the same motion. He pointed the hat at Mike and asked, “Who might you be, friend? How is it you still alive?”

Mike stood up and extended his hand, “I’m Mike Livingston. I am a professor at Cornell, or was, in any case. Thanks for saving me. You are the first living soul I have seen in days. How did you know you could shoot and kill it? You were safe staying quiet in here, which was taking a big risk.”

Jake put the hat back on his head and shook Mike’s hand, “’Cause it ain’t the first one I killed. That fucker was my third. The first two I got too late, but at least I got to bury my wife and my boy’s bodies.” He turned and faced the door, his rifle resting on the crook of his elbow, the stock trapped between his arm and side.

“I’m sorry, Jake” Mike said.

“Fuckers killed them just by touching them. I thought you were dead when that thing grabbed you, then you screamed. No way I was gonna let him take ya…Now way.” Jake turned again, to face Mike, “They just touched my wife and she became a shadow like ‘em. My son ran to her and they touched him too… there was two of’em. I was up here and saw it happen. I grabbed my gun and pumped both the fuckers full’o lead. They dropped just like that one did. My wife and son, Emily and Junior, fell too. Their bodies went from shadows to normal almost right away, but they was already dead. I buried ‘em in under the shade of the big hickory tree used to stand next to the barn. I was up here looking for some jute bags to cover them so the birds don’t get to ‘em when all hell broke loose. I was knocked over that edge over there onto the grain below. The shaking and rattling lasted for a long time. I had already wished I was dead before that. Then all I wanted to do was live. When I made it back up and out, everything was gone. I did a lot more burying the next coupl’a days. The Jenson’s next door, all five of ‘em, and old man Winkler and his wife Rita, I just buried pieces of ‘em.”

“Wait a second, Jake, those things got your wife and son before the shaking started?” Mike asked, his head beginning to spin.

“Ayup. I called the police and told them before burying Em and Junior, but they thought I’d been drinking, told me to sleep it off.” Jake said, his jaw setting with anger.

“You saw these things before the shaking started? You sure?” Mike was incredulous.

“Ayup. And the day they took my family’s lives wasn’t the first time. I’d seen them before, once, a week before, by the cattle. That day I didn’t have my gun with me to stop ‘em, and they took two of my best heads, but that day I had been drinkin’ a bit and no one believed me, not even Em and Junior. But Old man Winkler saw ‘em too, and he never drinks. We knew. I remember what he said that day: Ain’t nothing good coming from something so evil-looking.”

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, a week before? They were already here. The ship was not the first.” Mike said, more to himself.

 “You all right, friend? You look a little pale.”

“Yes, it’s just that this changes everything I thought.” Mike answered.

“Old man Winkler was right about something else.” Jake said, kneeling and holding on to the rifle as the sun began to set. “He said that he didn’t think cattle was all they wanted. He said evil wants souls and only man had souls. He slept with a gun under his pillow that whole week. I don’t know if they want our souls, I ain’t too religious-like, but I sure as hell know they want nothing good from us. Our souls or our lives, make no difference to me, I figure either way I’m dead.”


Chapter Eighteen