Strawn worked his fingers; they were still too new for him to be used to them, and we were already sick of the clicking. "Dammit, does it ever stop raining?" He brushed a sheet of water off his forehead, as the goggles are never as watertight as the designers figured they'd be.
Once upon a time, "ghost town" was a figure of speech. Now, well, if we don't live there, they do. And if they live there, well, that's what teams like this are for. When they first came, they were living nightmares, all shadows and hooks, feeding off our fear. Now, well, know we know that courage is poison, and automatic weapons work as well as they always have.
We have to cull them to prevent the raids, but these patrols through the ruins are terrible. The shadows are alive around here, it seems. Richards already tore apart a mangy old cat with a burst this morning, and everyone's jumpy, spotlighting dark corners and disturbed animals. Apparently 'darks don't bother the rats.
I found myself tracking the rest of the team by the sound of crunching footsteps as we check each building in turn. Long fingers of light made of dust and rain lead from the underslung flash of each member of my team, doing little to illuminate the ruined, soaked rubble of this town. Just pitiful circles on cracked concrete.
Wait. That's one footstep too few. A sudden scrabbling and the team moved like a living thing, all facing a shadow that moved utterly unlike a shadow should, gliding over the rocks and hurling itself at us, all black space and sharp claws matte and menacing.
A well-oiled machine, six soldiers trained to the breaking point, we hit it almost at once, the boo sound of hypersonic needles passing through it like it wasn't there. The dark shadow, what was left of it, passed over, or through, or past us like a bad memory, followed by a seething, hissing, roiling horde, like a cloud of shattered nightmares given form. And they were on us in an instant.
The first one to get me caught me above the knee, bringing a flash of the old pain, obsidian talons slicing through pseudoflesh and into what used to be my leg. I swiped the butt of my rifle at, or past, or through the spongy-dusty shadow, the battered metal leaving a trail of mundane night darkness. The shadow writhed, flailing uselessly at me with limbs made of burning ash, but I was already looking, searching for a target before it hit the ground.
The eerie whine-squeal it made as it crumpled, I suddenly realized, was mingling with horrifyingly human wails of fear and agony, same as blood too bright to be real mingled with the gritty dust of dissolving 'darks. I brought a bead on one, my aim fixed between those hollows of black on black that we arrogantly assume are eyes.
Time seemed to slow to a crawl, as the shockwave leading the sliver of metal shattered the shadow's head into wisps of smoke a picosecond before the shot made contact. But, like a night wind given anger and form, it shrugged off my feeble efforts to stop it, slamming into and enfolding and passing through the tops of my legs, bowling me over into that infinate second of freefall before I slammed into the ground.
Through a dazed fog, I saw it, seconds passing like eons. My hand flew to my waist, brushing the hilt of the silvered blade kep there. The dark shadow reared over me, hissing a hideous - dare I say hungry? - cry. I closed my hand around the cool matte metal in what felt like a month, as claws flat and black as the night sky fell, piercing cultured flesh and clashing against what served me for a leg, ever since they found me, sparks flying
I stabbed my knife into that fucking ghoul to the wrist.
The inside of a dark feels like solid smoke, hot and wispy and spongy and unpleasant in a way totally unlike the inside of anything else. Of course, I wasn't paying attention at the time. rather, I was flailing my arms, at once searching for my discarded rifle and getting my balance again, scooting myself to a sitting position.
No sooner did I wrap fingers around the reassuring plastic of my rifle's grip did Strawn collapse to sit behind me, back against mine. I could feel more than I could hear his panting, and I assumed he couldn't stand either. He managed to gasp out, in his perpetually whiny voice, "So..." He knew as well as I did that they were circling just out of our vision, preparing, feeding on our fear and tension and anticipation and doubt...
Grinning madly, I wheezed, snapping a flare in half with no more effort than I would to take a breath, ignoring the phantom pain that couldn't possibly be real, "Of course it stops raining, you know. And," I took a moment to reload, letting them see my manic, rictus smile, "if you're good enough, we might just see it."
Written for Everything Quests: Scary Stories