One hour and fourteen minutes, and they come. I hadn't heard them until now because of the wind. I quickly put my ear coverings on, picked up the flashlight, and my gun, scanning the landscape with the thin beam.
I went from dark building to lightless road, back to the shadow filled buildings . All empty.
I was tempted to take off my ear coverings to hear where the sound was coming from, but I couldn't risk it.
Had I imagined it? Standing up, I spread my stance so I wouldn't slip on the metal. Begining to turn slowly, I was no longer cold. My body was buzzing with adrenaline. The darkness where my flashlight could not pierce seemed to be heavy. Like it was just full of waiting hoards. My hands were sweating in my gloves, tingling with expectation.
But then my light caught them. They were crawling, but not like a baby crawls, instead, like a dog the way an animal moves, on hands and feet, not on knees.
In another way, it was completely inanimal, because all four of the Whisperers were crawling in perfect unison, their heads all pointed at me, white, dead eyes glimmering in my flashlight.
I unloaded the rest of my magazine into them and brought two down. They were now advancing faster. They would be at the edge of the truck within seconds. I quickly took out the magazine and tried to reload the gun with another. I missed once, twice, and then the magazine slipped from my numb fingers. I had no time to think. They'd be on me in moments. I dropped the gun and grabbed my Moltove cocktail. I lit the top and threw it. As it hit the ground in front of them it exploded in a roaring fire. One had too much momentum and stumbled into the flames shrieking. The other skidded to a stop and fell backward, turning and beginning to speed crawl a wide berth around the fire. I dropped to my knees and, by the light of the fire, quickly got a magazine in the gun. I brought it up just as the Whisperer arrived at the edge of the truck. I fired into him fives time before he fell.
I stopped and took deep breaths, surveying the three bodies that were unburnt. None of them were moving, and the fire was still burning, so I could maybe drag them over to that. I stopped, three? Where had the women from earlier gone?
Before I was able to finish the thought, a hand closed around my throat, and pulled me off the truck backward. I slide down the side, tumbling with the woman Whisperer before I we hit the ground. My gun and flashlight bounced away, leaving me alone with my whits, the whisperer, and darkness. I rolled on the ground, wrestling with the Whisperer in a pure survival mode.
We rolled, snow flinging around us. I couldn't get much leverage on her. The ground was sliding around too much. My back met the truck, and I kicked quickly. She flew back, and I jumped into a crouch. Tearing the knife off my belt, I descended upon her. Her claws dug into me, but my knife found her faster.
It wasn't killing her. It couldn't kill her, just slow her down. I cut the strings of tendons that held her together, but my knife could never cut the strings that The Eye used to hold her up. I maneuvered her, slicing and pushing until I had gotten her to the other side of the truck, and then I gave one final shove into the fire. Her scream was loud and human enough to pierce my ear coverings and soul. She burned, and I collapsed back onto the truck, breathing heavily. I took off my ear coverings and listened, but only heard the last crackling of the fire. There were no more. I smiled, sighing in relief. But then, I tasted blood. I felt my upper lip. Blood was pouring from my left nostril—the first major symptom.
I hadn't won.
I was theirs within the hour.
But before my thoughts could turn to the horror for myself, they turned to Jimmy. If I didn't warn the rescue team, they'd come and get me, and then I could give it to the whole tribe and then to Jimmy. He couldn't have the same fate as dad. I ran around the truck, found my gun and felt around in the snow until my numb fingers found the flashlight.
I lifted it and clicked it. It didn't turn on. I looked at it. "No." I breathed. The bulb had cracked on the fall. "No, no, no, no." I said again. There was no way to warn them not to come. No way to tell them they wouldn't find me, but a fresh Whisperer, the most intelligent, dangerous, and powerful type.
Maybe the bloody nose had been from the fight, maybe it wasn't a symptom, if the others- more whisperers, I corrected myself - didn't come soon, I'd be fine.
"It's from the fight. I'll make it back. They won't take me. "I said outloud, as if that'd make it real. I can't die, Jimmy can't loose his older brother too.
Then there was the sound again—a low throbbing, like a heartbeat, and then again more far-off whispering. I needed to survive if I wanted to see if there I had other symptoms. As I realized this, the fire from the cocktail went out completely, and the night was dark. I grabbed my second of three of my waste and took the top of, pouring a semi-circle in the snow around the front of the truck. I lit it, and a small wall of fire sizzled around me. I knew that wouldn't last long, and as soon as it was gone, it would just be me, the darkness, and the whisperers.
I felt along the edge of the truck. I got to the driver's seat door and pulled—frozen close.
I heard their footsteps now, their march. They couldn't be more than 50 feet away. I yanked again, this time harder. The door didn't budge.
"AAAAAH" I said, pulling with my entire body. The door opened with a loud cracking sound. I dove in and closed the door behind me. I looked out the window at the fading light of the fire; I saw shapes moving on the edge of its light, human shapes, but with their inhuman movements from their inhuman strings.
Then the light faded. It was pitch-black. I waited in the silence a bit longer. They would find me even in the darkness. They were attracted by humanity. They could feel our minds. We could feel human minds.
I pulled a match off of my belt and lit it. It illuminated the inside of the truck. It was an old stick shift. There were some papers on the side passengers seat. I shifted over to grab them, but before I could my match went out and it was dark again. I lit another match and grabbed a wad of papers, lighting the top. I needed the fire, I needed to know if I was one of them, I needed to know if its light hurt me.
But more importantly, I couldn't die in the dark. Not like mom had.
I peered out into the night. The whispering was still there, but outside of the truck was just a sea of darkness.
A pale hand slammed down on the window, and I jumped back. How long could the window hold? Another slam. Another.
The other sound grew louder. My dad had driven a stick shift, I shouldn't forget that.
Slam. He'd known morse code. That's how I'd learned it. Slam. He'd learned it since he'd been in ham radio. Slam. He'd gotten into it when he was a truck driver when he was younger. Slam crack. The trucks had a network of radios. Slam, crack, throb. He and my mother used to talk on the radio from other sides of the house. I shouldn't forget that.
But I had forgotten something else. Audio illusions were one of the other symptoms. People report a distant throbbing. Slam Crack Throb.
I checked my stopwatch. 4 minutes.
Slam Crack Throb.
I took out my rifled and fired through the cracked windshield at the Whisperer there. My dad had been one of the first to be taken.
He'd said something before he left.
I shot another whisperer climbing up on the car
He'd said that he was entering a network.
Mom was a biologist. I shouldn't forget that.
She talked about how ants had hive minds, which made them effective, but if you killed the queen, that entire hive would go away.
What if dad had been right?
What if it was like ham radio?
The light was too bright, but I reveled in the pain. I wouldn't die in the dark. I would not submit. I would not go quietly.
The only symptom left was visual illusions
I shot another.
But what if becoming a Whisperer was like being put in the system.
In front of me, a giant eye burned, floating in the darkness, probably 100 meters away. The same place the throbbing was coming from. The Tower. I could feel my sanity slipping away to it. To Him. I was joining the fold. The Great Eye was enveloping me.
I shook my head, don't forget. Ham radio. Dad had said the best radio systems need a radio tower to stay all connected.
If these things were a system, they would need their towers.
I shot another whisperer. I put the car in neutral. It began to slide forward down the hill.
It would probably be some type of growth.
No, I knew it would be. I could feel it reaching out its slimy feelers into my mind.
If I could destroy it, they wouldn't all die, but they would be confused, dispersed, weak. And then before it regrew maybe Jimmy could make it out of this horrid city.
There it was up ahead, soon to completely claim me. Dad had run at his destiny, too with a kitchen knife. He plunged into the hoard to slow them. Me and Jimmy left out the back window. I was now running at mine, but instead of a knife, I had a truck.
I was rushing towards it. I steered the truck away from the edge of the road and through three whisperers. I barreled towards the tower. I lit a match and put it in between my teeth.
I could make it through that wall, and then into their tower, carrying a bomb with me. I shot once behind me, and then with my free hand-picked up my one remaining molotov cocktail, lighting it with the match between my teeth.
We crashed through a brick tower wall.
The Molotov cocktail exploded, and the fire rushed up to the truck behind me.
Fire surrounded me, and I followed mom and dad into the warm light.
Don't forget me, Jimmy,