By Chris Morey
A fat ball stuffed full of black feathers was laughing outside his bedroom window. Two ebony beads glistened deviously as they scanned for Ed’s reaction. He glanced once at the gray remote and glanced back at the winged mocker. With a grunt and a strong right arm Ed hurled it towards the culprit before darkened wings spread in escape.
There wasn’t a beer left in the fridge or a box of anything left in the kitchen. The disc player was broke, the TV was shit, the girl was gone. There wasn’t a reason in the one bedroom one bathroom world for him to stay put. He grabbed his patched up brown jacket and rattled the shades as he kicked open the door.
The ground was covered white that day, an odd color for late spring. Ed kicked a mountain of powder into bitter air. A murder of charcoal wings was dancing among the glimmering soil, searching for upturned morsels. As Ed dragged heavy feet towards his car he heard a door creaking open. He attempted escape but the door opened too fast.
“Ohhh Ed! How are you?” the nasally voice whined from behind him. It was Ed’s least favorite neighbor, the one who wouldn’t let him take a step outside without barraging him with small talk and a probing investigation.
“I’m fine Jin.” Ed responded without turning his head as he opened his beater sedan.
“Ohhh back with lady friend? Kathy riiight?”
Ed grunted and sat in the sweaty brown leather covered in crumbs, slamming the door beside him. The hunk of shit started up first try. Maybe this is my lucky day he thought, mostly sarcastically. Jin stretched a maddening grin that seemed to grow two feet wide in the rearview mirror as Ed drove the puttering brown mass towards freedom in the city street.
Ed pulled into the street and pushed his head back in surprise at the countless black feathers flapping in his mirrors. He pushed onto the gas pedal as the talons attempted scratching grips, itching beige paint off his dented sedan’s trunk. The little bastards could fly so fast.
He couldn’t help but smirk at the bewildered city folk pointing fingers towards the murder at his tail. It must have been a strange sight. A high pitched sound seemed to originate in the glove compartment. Ed was too groggy and too hungry to care about any of it. Something terrible gurgled in the pit of Ed’s stomach; perfect timing for the burger place to appear around the corner.
As Ed pulled into the drive-thru the squawkers landed tacking claws on the back of his sedan. They laughed, cackled and cawed until the back windshield showed nothing but black. Ed cautiously rolled down his window to give the rusted speaker his order. It told him to pull to the window. The murder rode with him.
The acne covered kid behind the glass took Ed’s money then threw a handful of change into his palm, pennies tumbling over the edges. Ed shook his head and gave a sarcastic a-ok symbol with a callused thumb and sandpapered fingers, his black feathered friends laughed hysterically behind him. The kid—with his shaggy brown hair crawling from beneath his mandatory white cap—disappeared into the back. In a teen angst flash he reappeared gripping a greasy white bag and a tall blue cup with the celebrity of the week smeared across the damp wrinkled paper.
Ed had just gotten the artery clogging feast into his blue jean clad lap when the car started shaking. The coins were jumping in his cup holder when he realized it was an earthquake… and then realized it wasn’t. His surroundings were becoming submerged in a dark gray tint making the world look dull and haunting. The sky had gone from blue to a pillowing black. Pillars of red began bursting in snapshots into the busy Main Street. Then the black pillows in the sky cut open.
A giant fiery mass shot through the dark clouds and aimed towards the city streets. Ed heard metallic sounds on the back of his sedan. Glancing at his rearview mirror revealed the ravens were flapping their wings in violent harmony and laughing, laughing, laughing. The surrealism was taking over Ed as he looked back towards the world now painted gray through his old, musty windshield.
“This is a dream.” Ed said to himself, curling hints of a smile at the corners of his mouth. He grabbed a handful of hot fries from the bottom of the now gray bag.
The fiery mass became clarified to Ed as an asteroid, but the texture was strange. Despite his confidence that this was all a very lucid illusion, Ed clenched every muscle in his body when the asteroid was about to make impact. What he saw next startled him, and that startle felt real.
Before the supposed asteroid made impact with Main Street it unraveled into a monstrous spine. It slapped, smashed and connected into the street one disc at a time, sending clouds of concrete into gray colored air. Finally the massive thing unraveled completely stretching beyond view to the left and right on Main Street. It was breathing.
The damn thing was breathing.
Ed convinced himself that his windshield was just another screen, that none if this could possibly be happening. He sucked on his straw as he looked over his shoulder at the kid behind the drive-thru window. The kid was still there, staring blankly at a white tile wall underneath his mandatory white cap.
Plumes of thick, milky smoke ejected from the disc edges, clouding the air and blocking parts of the world from view. It only took a moment for the screams to start. The smoke was stretching and chasing after the onlookers. The plumes would spiral around the victims, slowly dissolving the flesh off their bones and sucking the fleshy particles back towards the spine. It was devouring them.
The smoke digested another onlooker as Ed shot his head over his shoulder again, this time in panic. The kid was still staring into the now gray tile wall, but his fingertips were counting, and counting, and counting. His lips were murmuring something fast.
The car’s engine had turned off without Ed’s command and wouldn’t turn back on. Ed’s chest was breathing heavy now as his head jerked straight to see the breathing spine eject endless, cloudy tentacles down side streets and sidewalks. He heard a familiar scream, but it was coming from his glove compartment. The scream repeated itself. Ed furrowed his brow in confusion, but the scream sounded again from the now gray compartment.
It was Kathy.
Ed cried and struggled through his seatbelt as it’s newly forming heat burned through his shirt. With a lunge he pulled the glove compartment open and the seatbelt seared into his chest. The Polaroid of Kathy sitting on her white mare bowed out of the opening and landed onto the passenger side floor. Ed tried to reach it. He wailed.
Ethereal black tentacles began seeping through the vents. Ed kept reaching for Kathy’s photo. He was frantically sobbing as her face was overcome with black.
Ed felt his reaching fingertips being devoured as his vision blurred completely and he tried to scream her name.