This serial story is presented in draft (unedited) form. New installments will be posted every Friday, and each installment is available for one week. Miss one? Joining late? Email me for the previous installments. Creepy reading…
The Dry Rain
Angie could still see the red tinge through her translucent curtain as bird after bird was hurled into her window so hard their little bodies just split apart. The birds had been one of the few species to thrive in this new, moth-infested world, probably because food was so abundant for them. Normally they would have avoided the storm – found shelter or flown away. Why they hadn’t this time scared Angie almost as much as the fact that the one thriving predator for the moths was apparently being decimated at a rather alarming rate.
There was no thunder, but the wind roared outside, and she could still here the thump, thump, thumpthump as more little bodies hit the window and the side of her house. Other houses too, probably. She went back to the bedroom and found Bailey still in her en suite bathroom, peering out with wide, glassy-looking eyes.
“Is it the moths?” The girl’s voice shook, and she stepped close when Angie knelt down beside her.
“No honey, it’s birds. The storm is pretty bad, so we need to stay back here where it’s safe, okay? Just for a little while. I’m going to get us some pillows and blankets, and we can pretend we’re camping out back here.”
Bailey looked at her like she was crazy. “In the bathroom?”
Angie grinned. “What, you’ve never slept in a bathtub before? You’re in for a treat!”
She pulled the pillows and blankets from the bed and made Bailey a nest in the bathtub. Settling on her own small pile of bedding on the floor, she noted that the thumps were becoming less frequent. Opening the book on the side of the tub, she was just about to start reading when a different type of thumping came from the front of the house. Harder, and more consistent.
Like someone was knocking.
“You stay here in the bathtub, okay? Don’t come out until I come get you.”
At the little girl’s nod, Angie got up and closed the bathroom door behind her, heart pounding in her chest as she went to the front door. She stayed to the side and peered through the side window at an angle, hoping to get a glimpse of whoever was out there before they figured out she was home.
Or broke her door down.
At first, she couldn’t see anything, just bloodstains on the house next door, and the bodies of poor fallen birds littering the ground between. Maybe whoever it was had gone away…or maybe they’d just gone to tell their friends no one was home, and they could break in.
A man moved into view and raised a hand to knock again. The official city police patch on the shoulder of his black jacket almost reassured her that he meant no harm, not that the police had been any help when her husband had needed them. She stepped to the door and pulled it open, leaving the screen door closed and locked.
“What can I do for you, Officer?”
He wasn’t young like the two she’d spoken with before, but sort of weathered instead, perhaps a little older than she was. When he looked in her eyes, she didn’t see any of the challenge or fear the younger sort seemed to carry, but rather a quiet confidence that was somehow comforting.
“Are you alone, ma’am?”
“No.” She shook her head without hesitation, and would have even if the answer were yes.
The bird storm seemed to have abated somewhat, but just then a tiny feathered body bounced off the officer’s shoulder. He seemed impervious, but Angie was torn. She wanted to invite him in, felt like she could trust him, but if she was wrong, it could mean forfeiting not just her life, but Bailey’s too. Would he ask to come in? She waited, expecting the question.
“The police department is requesting that residents stay in their homes until this storm has passed. It’s not safe out, and won’t be for a considerable amount of time after with all the…carnage out here. Is there anything you need immediately? Water or food? We have limited supplies, and can give you rations for a few days if that would help.”
Confused, she frowned. “No one’s offered this before, not with all the moths and the stores being looted and people fighting to get away. Why now?”
“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to discuss that, ma’am. Only to offer you rations for yourself, and whoever is staying with you, in exchange for your agreement to stay in the house until we’ve given the all-clear.”
She nodded. “Okay. It’s myself and two others. We’ll stay here.” She hoped he wouldn’t need confirmation, but if Micah somehow made it back, she wanted enough for him as well.
The officer nodded. “I’ll be right back.”
She waited for minutes that felt like hours before he returned, a box in his arms piled with thick, dark gray envelopes and bottles of water.
“This should be enough for three days,” he said. “Would you like me to put it in your kitchen?”
She shook her head and opened the screen door, holding her arms out. “Thank you. I’ll take it.”
He didn’t argue like she thought he might, just handed her the supplies, tipped his hat and walked away.