As with the previous part – eight years earlier than main story and spoilers.
Side Story One
Fear, her own and that of the kids, pounded at Sonia’s senses like the cold rain on her skin. Whatever it was that was hunting them, it was all around them here. They had to get out of this bubble!
She ignored the stabbing pain in her head with effort as she threw her mind around them, feeling for the barrier between them and the normal world. Before the Lavernes had injured her so badly, she had been able to create pockets like this. She should still be able to navigate them. Sure enough, she sensed a thin oily wall of glistening darkness some way down the hill and across the river.
“The carpark!” she yelled to Matt. “The nearest boundary is where the carpark should be.” Tears stung at her eyes as her head spasmed. She nearly fell to her knees from the wave of pain and nausea, but fear and adrenaline kept her going – although she did have to turn her head and spit out a mouthful of vomit. She was going to be so sick later – assuming they got out of this alive. She felt Matt’s terse agreement before he returned his attention to running.
She saw the first of the creatures as they came down into the valley. It was vaguely human shaped but short, barely taller than her knee, and translucent like a shadow. It reached out for Andrew with strangly elastic arms and grabbed on to his t-shirt with cruel looking claws, trying to tug him away from her. Andrew’s terrified shriek gave her another surge of adrenaline, dulling her headache enough to act. She kicked at it but her foot went straight through it even though it had enough physicality to hold on to Andrew. She snarled in confusion and yanked him free psychokinetically. There was a ripping sound as part of his t-shirt remained in the thing’s grasp.
Ahead of her she saw Matt jump over one of the things which had tried to trip him. Two others were reaching for Lydia and Daniel, but he tossed them aside with a tendril of his weirdly silver shadow. So far, so good, but…
She glanced around and saw that the woods were crawling with the things, all converging towards her family. There were far too many to count. She hissed to herself and tried to summon up a wall of wind to protect them, but that was a step too far. She shrieked in pain and stumbled, almost falling. Matt reacted instantly, stopping and turning as a wide ribbon of darkness flew from his hand, caught her and gently pushed her back to her feet. She checked her grasp on Karen and Andrew and stumbled over to him
“Will you still be able to break us out?” he asked.
She started to nod, then whimpered at the pain. “I will, but not if I have to do anything else.”
“I see.” He grimaced. “I guess it’s time for that last resort.” He gently pushed Daniel and Lydia at Sonia, and held out his hand to Karen. “Come here, Karen. I need your help to get rid of the monsters.”
“M-me?” Karen took his hand. “W-what can I do.”
“I’ll show you.” The dark ribbon that had caught Sonia whipped around and flung a few more of the strange creatures away. “Just close your eyes.”
Sonia watched her dark haired daughter do as Matt said, then crouched down and gathered the other three in a hug. “We should close our eyes too. It’s about to get very bright.” She scrunched her eyes closed to encourage them.
“Mummy, what’s happening?” Lydia clung to her. “How is daddy doing that with the shadow?”
“When you’re older, Lyd,” she whispered even as she winced at how much mental work Matt would have to do to stop them talking about this.
She continued crouching with three scared children weeping into clothes already soaked by the rain and waited. It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds, but one of the creatures landed on and clawed at her hands, trying to get her to release the kids.Â Just then, light exploded all around them, visible even through her closed eyelids. The creature screamed and she felt it dissolve. In the moment of its death a welter of impressions hit her, but she couldn’t make sense of them. All around her she heard other creatures screaming. After a moment, the glow diminished slightly and she risked opening her eyes.
Strange, noxious vapours were rising from where the nearest creatures had been. Karen’s light seemed to have completely dissolved them, but she could sense that many had managed to flee and were regrouping.
“We’d better move again if you can,” Matt said. “I don’t think that will work twice.”
“I can,” she reassured him. She grabbed Karen and Andrew again and rushed across the ford and up towards where the carpark should be. “Be ready to catch me if I collapse.” She reached out and found the barrier, then gritted her teeth and ripped through it. She staggered to her knees onÂ bone dry grass verge in the blazing sun. She looked up and found other tourists staring at their soaked state.
“I think,” Matt said softly, “that if anyone asks we all fell in the river.” There was a pause. “Let’s get back to the car. We’ll go somewhere else for ice cream.”