Outside the house the darkness almost seemed complete, the only sound being the wind, coming in sudden gusts sweeping leafs around and the light rain hitting the windowpanes. The night had come, and with it a whispered threat of something unknown. The bars and cinemas were strangely empty, with those few working acting strangely restless, wishing to be home. Not even the streetwalkers seemed to be out this night. But Rachel and Andrew were. They had finally run away, and now they were lost.
It had happened so fast too. By the time they finally had decided to leave the unnatural darkness already had sunk its fangs over the little town. And as they walked they found their once so well known streets slowly change character, becoming more and more twisted with their surroundings more and more strange.
"Do you know where we are sis?" Asked Andrew quietly, in vain searching for any recognizable landmarks.
"I don't know." Answered Rachel, wishing she did.
She had taken what money she and Andrew had succeeded in hiding away from their dad as well as some changes of clothes, and their sleeping bags of course. Andrew carried the little tent their mother once had bought for them, the kind that you could set up inside a room, not a real one. Their father would never have allowed to them to get that far out of his reach. 'But it's better than nothing' she thought as they kept on walking, hand in hand, two small dark shapes growing smaller, slowly disappearing into the night.
After lying there caressing each other for a while Adam started to feel a strange restlessness building up inside him. It was as if someone or something was calling for him, and with it came this intolerable feeling of abandonment. Turning around, trying to fall asleep he at last gave up finding that he had to get up. Laila had fallen asleep, a lazy satisfied smile on her lips as she dreamt and as he silently dressed, this time in his new clothes, she turned around in her sleep mumbling.
He quietly went over to her, touching her cheek. "Sleep baby, I'll be back soon."
As she sighed contentedly he finished his dressing. Suddenly there was someone knocking on the window. Adam almost jumped out of his trousers as he heard it, collecting his courage he hesitantly went over to the window to open it. There was a big tree outside, one of its branches quite near the window. 'Okay, so no monsters then.' He decided as he looked out into the impenetrable darkness, noticing that the streetlights were out too? Never the less he knew that there was something happening, something that needed him.
They had been walking for hour's now, in the beginning there had been streetlights lightening their way, but as the light had waned so had the streetlights, becoming fewer and further apart.
"Maybe we should put up the tent?" suggested Andrew, trying to sound brave, but with his legs being so tired.
Rachel looked around. The street they were on now was lined with big houses all dark and silent, dark windows staring at her. As she looked she got the impression that the darkness was a little weaker ahead though. And she thought she could see a weak light too.
"Not here, Andrew, I don't like this place." She hugged his hand in hers.
"Can you see the light over there?" she asked, pointing ahead.
"I think that's a better place, can you walk a little bit more, sweetie?"
Andrew looked at his big sister, hearing her reassuring voice he resolutely nodded before remembering that she couldn't see it. "Yes Rachel, I can." Stumbling, but not giving up. Andrew was so tired now that he was crying, silently, without a sound as he tried his best to keep up with his sister's longer steps. He had stumbled several times but his sister refused to stop, she just kept hurrying them on. Because Rachel was scared now and the light she had seen didn't seem to come any closer either, no matter how much they walked, but in the end it had became something of her refuge.
"You can give me the tent Andrew." She told him as he bent down to give him a hug. "I think you're very brave."
Andrew looked up at her and tried to smile, not knowing that he was crying.
"You too Rachel." he said. "Is it far?"
"No sweetie, just a little longer. Will you manage if I carry the tent?"
As she asked she touched his cheek lightly, and feeling its wetness she gave him a hug.
"Yes, but I'm not tired. I can carry it." He offered.
"No, let me do it Andrew." She told him as she put his haversack over her shoulder.
She too was tired, and desolate too. But as her father had told her about his idea of her and her mother she finally had understood that she needed to get away. If he did, it would leave both her and her mother little more than animated husks, not that she thought in those terms. She just knew that to stay would kill her, and Andrew too. So they had left. Taking his hand again the started to walk. As she looked down on him stumbling at her side, refusing to give in to his tiredness she felt a strong pride in him.
He was the bravest, most unselfish boy she knew, always going out his way to make her and her mothers life easier, seldom thinking of himself. She thought about how her mother used to sing for them when they were small, and remembering she started to hum. Hearing her Andrew too started to sing, first in a low voice but as they walked, stronger and stronger.
"We're of to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz"
As Adam stood there staring into the darkness, hearing the wind take hold of the branches he suddenly thought that he could hear someone singing, 'it sounds like kids'. He had this uneasy feeling as if there was something he needed to do growing, and those weak voices singing, passing in from the darkness, dipping in strength and almost disappearing at times, made his need even stronger. Suddenly making up his mind he went over to the old bureau standing in the corner, taking the flashlight lying upon it.
As Adam came down he found them all together in the kitchen, Katrine with her arms around Sarah, looking very nice in her new grey dress, discreetly embroidered with a flowery pattern. As they heard him they stopped talking to look at him, him with his makeup awry streaked by tears but with a very concentrated serious expression on his face, carrying Anna's flashlight.
"I'm going out." He said. "There's something I need to do."
As Anna saw him she knew that there was nothing they could do to stop him.
"I'm going with you." She said, while silently begging her mother with her eyes. Katrine looked out the kitchen window. The unremitting darkness outside gave her a funny feeling, nervous and ill at ease she was thinking of refusing them both, but seeing the way Adam looked she realized that she wouldn't be able to stop him.
"Why Adam, what's so important outside? I don't like it."
"There's someone out there, needing my help Katrine, I can't refuse it." He told her, not understanding himself but knowing that it was the truth. As Sarah listened, he too noticed Adams unflinching resolve and Katrine's nervousness. Looking at Adam again he made a sudden decision.
"No you won't Anna. I'll go with him." he said, surprising himself. "Do you have any more flashlights Katrine?"
As Katrine looked at him she wondered what it was that was so important that it couldn't wait until daybreak. But better that he and Leonard went than the girls if so. She didn't like this darkness that had came over the town, it was very strange. It could be the predecessor to a storm she guessed, and a bad one at that. She went up to look, finding another flashlight she gave it to Sarah and then they all followed them out. Standing at the front door she gave Adam and Sarah a hug.
"Be careful, there seems to be something wrong with the streetlights. And don't go too far, I don't want you to disappear from us again."
Adam and Sarah smiled, hearing her. As Anna and Therese got a hug from Adam he looked at them encouragingly. "Don't worry. I have to do this, why don't you go up and keep Therese company instead. She's going to be worried when she finds herself alone. We'll be back soon."
Leonard studied Adam thoughtfully wondering what was wrong with him. But heck, it would give them some time to talk at least, and he sure looked serious about it. As they left they could see the girls standing, the open door letting out its golden pool of light, penetrating the darkness and giving them both a strange feeling of belonging to those watching, like seeing a ship in night slowly shrinking with the distance.
"I wish I had memorized the streets better." muttered Adam as they walked the pavement. Turning to Leonard he said.
"Sarah, stay close to me please, don't you go wandering off by yourself. This night is not normal, it's dangerous."
Leonard stared at him again. 'spooky' he thought.
"If the streets change I may feel it, you won't." Adam answered, once more knowing himself right, but unable to explain. "And if we get lost, we may never find our way back."
"Okay Amanda." He answered, feeling a slight incongruity comparing the name to Adams appearance.
"Adam actually, and you?"
As they kept on walking the darkness and silence grew around them, leaving their house as the only light to be seen, but weaker by each step. 'Adam is right' thought Leonard, he couldn't understand it, but it seemed as they, by each single step, were traversing an immense distance, soon leaving the house to look like some weak star fading in the background. He didn't like it at all, and one small part of him wished that they just could turn around to normality again and walk back.
"Are you sure about this? Shouldn't we go back?" He asked as he turned the flashlight around lightening up the sides.
Adam was occupied with his own listening now.
"Listen, can you hear it?" he asked.
As they listened Leonard suddenly heard it too. It was very weak, haphazardly borne upon the wind gusts, but Adam was right, there was someone out there, or several, singing somewhere in the darkness. And as they listened the song slowly became stronger.
"We better hurry." Said Leonard, realizing that it was his children singing, lost somewhere in the empty darkness.
Rachel was starting to give up, the shadows impenetrable. She wished she had remembered to get them a flashlight, but there had been no time. Her father had closed himself in inside his study, after telling her to get ready for the night. And when she had gone to talk with her Mom she had found her sleeping as if drugged, not answering even when she shook her.
As she started to think that Andrew was right about them putting up the tent he suddenly stopped singing.
"Look, flashlights." He said pointing.
As she looked she saw them too. Two flashlights, quite far away, but steadily growing. She didn't know what to do, leaving the pavement for the wilderness surrounding them felt strangely repulsive to her, as if loosing all contact with reality. She stopped singing, looking inquiringly at Andrew.
"Do you think we should hide?" she asked.
He shook his head. "I don't like leaving the street Rachel." He said in a low voice. "There's something bad out there."
Rachel nodded in the darkness. She had this uneasy feeling too, of something unerringly merciless keeping pace with them. Something, just waiting for them to make that smallest of missteps. And she was pretty sure they had been going away from their home the whole time.
"We'll keep on then." She said, giving her brother an encouraging nudge.
"Hallo." Called Andrew. "Can you see us."
"They can't see you silly" answered Rachel.
Andrew looked at her imploringly. "Maybe if we both called?"
Rachel thought it over for a moment before nodding.
"Haloo, can you hear us?"
As Leonard and Adam heard them calling they hastened their steps, soon falling into an easy jog, Leonard thanking his lucky star that Anna had found him some decent flats instead of high heels.
"We're coming, don't worry." Called Adam. "Whatever you do, stay on the pavement."
As they ran they suddenly heard a scream.
"Andrew, stop" and then there was only silence.
As they at last came up to the two figures they found a young girl kneeling at a little unmoving child. She looked up at them dazed, still shocked.
"He wanted to run when we heard you, why did he run?" She looked at them, imploring them to help with her eyes,
"Something jumped at him, a dog or something. Please do something. I tried to hit it with my bag." Staring out in the darkness as if she wanted to cry, but had forgot how.
Adam looked at Leonard as he bent down to tenderly lift up the little kid. He almost seemed as if he was sleeping, if one didn't look to close that was. But if you did, the first thing you would notice was a white stillness of his face, and then the fresh wound at his side, filling up with a black wetness dripping to the ground. As Adam put the light on it he saw that it was blood, freshly red under his flashlight and bubbling with every breath.
"Sarah, I need your slip." He told her. "We need to close that wound now, and fast."
As Adam created a bandage of it, using the smaller flashlight to put pressure on the bandage, Leonard keeping his flashlight moving, trying to catch what it had been assaulting the boy.
"We need to get away from here." He said. "Now Adam."
As they left Adam made sure that they had Rachel between them, holding her hand as he carried the children's things.
"Don't worry, I'll take us home." He assured her, not sure if she could hear him as she stared out into that nowhere land, her mind empty of thoughts. Once more he concentrated on finding their way. "Your friend will be okay." Silently praying that he was telling the truth.
They were all jogging now, fearing for the young ones life, with Rachel running between them, her tired steps faltering at times but doing her very best to keep up. She knew she was running for her brother's life now, and she would run until her heart burst.
Leonard was immensely grateful it was him that had given after to his impulse to follow, instead of Anna or Katrine, and in some strange way he trusted Adam to bring them home, while he tried to carry the kid as carefully as he could.
And Adam? He didn't know how he did it. He was running, his eyes unseeing, almost as if in a trance.
"This way." He told them taking a turn into a new street.
"That's not the way we came." Called Leonard breathlessly, almost sure they were taking a wrong turn.
"I told you, the streets move tonight." Answered Adam slowly, as if in a dream sounding matter of fact, and then when looking at the white face resting in Leonard's arms. "But I hear her, she's calling for us. Come on, she says we must hurry."
In the kitchen the women was all looking at Anna. Suddenly she had stopped talking, seeming to fall asleep but still sitting upright staring. As Katrine shook her she got no response, just that unseeing gaze searching the black glass of the window.
Suddenly she rushed out, as if awakened from the dead, and they heard someone call. As they hurried after her they found Anna all but clambering over Adam, holding to him as if her life depended on it. Between them was this young thin waif of a girl, looking as if she had seen straight down hell, with her eyes two pools of hurt as she in mute horror stared at the small bundle Leonard carried in his arms.
As Vanja saw the child's bandage she instantly took commando.
"Get me clean water and antiseptic, bandages, everything you have Katrine, and boil some water too." She said, telling Leonard to carry the child to the kitchen table where he carefully laid it down upon a clean towel. As she loosened the bandage she saw the bubbles coming from the wound, realizing what it meant she turned to Anna.
"We need an ambulance." She said. "Go call them Anna."
As Anna hurried to the phone Leonard shook his head.
"Is there anything you can do?" He asked Vanja.
She studied the wound carefully, looking for dirt, particles and objects. Finding none that she could see she looked back at him.
"You did good, putting pressure on the wound." She told him. "His lung is penetrated. He'll need a hospital, its very hard, breathing with only one lung, and the internal bleeding needs to be stopped as fast as possible."
"It wasn't me, it was Adam." He told her as she reapplied a compress and nd the slip to the wound
Katrine came back sounding quite exasperated.
"Anna told me that the phone won't work, and neither does my cellphone." She complained.
"And when I tried the car it wouldn't start."
As she was telling them the light flickered, suddenly leaving them in darkness. Anna had to rush away again, finding candles to light them with, as Vanja reconsidered their options.
She had been a medic in the corps, and kept on studying medicine after her time was up, but when meeting her husband and them getting their baby she had stopped. Now she suddenly wished she hadn't met him, but that thought she regretted as fast as it came, at least she had Laila to remember him by.
Considering the options there was little she could do, the boy needed surgery and antibiotics. At least Anna still had that old wood oven feed oven she thought. When she bought the house and modernized it Anna had refused to get rid of it. She had a new electrical installed beside it but as she said. "For pies the old one is the best."
As Anna and Katrine started to boil water on the stove lightening up the kitchen she turned to Therese.
"Vanja, can you bring me my box from the trunk, the one with the red cross on it?"
"Sure Mom." As she rushed Vanja turned to Elena.
"Elena I need some help here. We might need to sew that lung. We need all the light we can get here, if you have any flashlights in your car get them." Looking down at the little boy lying unconscious on the kitchen table. She turned to the young girl standing beside her, drawing her to her side and holding her as she felt her trembling.
"Child, what's your name?" she asked.
"Rachel, what happened out there?"
"I don't know." Answered Rachel staring down at her brother lying still as death, his breaths coming fast and shallow.
"He started to run and suddenly something jumped him. It was so fast, I tried to hit it but it was gone before I could do anything. I thought it was a dog, but I don't know."
"It wasn't a dog. The wound is wrong for that." Muttered Vanja as she thought.
"It's more like something bullet-like penetrated the lung. Still, if I only had looked at the outer wound you could have been right. I've never seen anything like it before."
As Therese came in with the bulky box she opened it taking out scalpels, strange looking needles, putting it carefully on a piece of blue plastic she had with her. There were strange looking clamps, thread and tweezers of different kind, and other stuff Leonard didn't even have a name for.
She tried to keep her box up to date, changing the antibiotics and other drugs regularly. She had first started to get it together when working as a medic, and had since that filled it out with more stuff while studying medicine. Now she was very glad for it. She hadn't been expecting to need it all though.
"Katrine, can you blend some salt in the water, about six small spoons a pint should do it."
When the water had cooled down she inspected the wound again. It was shallow and wide and somehow the lung had been penetrated without breaking the ribs protecting it. She used the flashlight and tried to see the wound on the lung but it was very hard to see anything. After chasing out the kids, promising Rachel once more that her brother really would be okay, she turned to Sarah to say in a lowered voice.
"Sarah, I will need your help here. We will need to force his ribs apart for me to be able to sew that lung. I even may have to saw off one of the ribs, and then you will have to too press the ends aside, can you do that?" Looking at him very seriously
"If you don't think you could, you better tell me now. We could leave it but I don't dare too. If there is something still inside he will get a bad infection, and if the rip is too big the same will happen."
As Leonard tried to collect himself, he found himself promising to do his best. She smiled hearing his dazed promises, nodding pleasantly.
"I know you will Sarah, I know you will." As she prepared a syringe for Andrew pumping out some bubbles as she lightly tapped it.
"This will keep him calm for some hour's." she said trying to sound confident, more confident than she felt, and very happy that the kid still was unconscious.
"You all need to wash your hands and arms, let them air dry and don't touch anything after that, and Anna, we're going to need a lot of clean towels, or sheets, he will bleed badly when we start."
As the others left with only the mothers and Leonard staying they could hear Vanja's unhurried instructions from the kitchen as she operated. Rachel was sitting staring at the kitchen door, her eyes still screaming in silent despair, as the girls and Adam tried to comfort her.
She hadn't wanted to leave but none of the grownups wanted her to see what they were going to do. They all tried their best to make her think of something else than her brother, Adam carefully explaining how lucky she and Andrew had been, not wandering of that road.
"If you had walked off it I don't think I would have found you, ever, Rachel. The streets are dangerous tonight, they move." gently stroking her cheek as he told her, he then turned to Anna to give her a hug.
"Thanks Anna. I don't know how you did it but I could hear you calling the whole time. You were my beacon of light tonight girl, without you calling for me I never would have found my way back."
She hugged him back her nose against his hair, inhaling him, as she wondered what she had done. She had no memory of anything, except sitting there staring at that black window in the kitchen, then suddenly knowing that he was back.
As they kept on calming Rachel they could hear Vanja and the others. Then it became silent for some time, and just as they started to worry that something really bad had happened Leonard came out. With blood on his dress and totally white in his face, he still smiled as he looked at Rachel.
"Anna, your mom said you should break out the bottle of whiskey she had stashed."
Then he went over to Rachel to sit down besides her taking her hands in his.
"It's okay Rachel, your brother is okay. They are fixing him up now, and he's getting antibiotics. Vanja was right though, she found some strange spores inside the wound. It seems that the already had caught in the tissue and had started to grow, so it took her quite some time getting them off. But he'll be okay now, I promise."
Rachel stood up on unsteady legs to walk to the kitchen, but Adam stopped her.
"Wait until Vanja comes out Rachel, let them finish first."
When Vanja came out she looked tired but satisfied. She went over to embrace Rachel.
"We've done all we can without a hospital child. And your brother is young and strong, I think he will recover without problems, I still don't understand what it was assaulting him though, and those spores were strange, I put them in a jar. You two will sleep down here with me, you don't want to leave your brother alone, do you?"
Rachel shook her head, still unable to speak.
"Thought so." Said Vanja, smiling warmly at her. "He's only sleeping now, and as soon as we got those spores out his breathing became easier. We need to make the room ready for your brother, can you help me?"
As Rachel followed Vanja into the guestroom the others looked at each other. Therese was the first to say it. "What's happening here? First the darkness, and then the phones, and the light going out and the cars too? And now you tell me that the streets were changing? I'm scared Adam."
The others nodded, unconsciously moving closer to each other, quietly agreeing. They were all scared. As Anna and Elena came out, carefully carrying Andrew, they all could see that he had gotten some color back in his face, he also seemed to breathe a little easier, just as Vanja had told them. As they carried him into the room they could hear Rachel whispering to her brother, promising him that all would be well, with Vanja soothingly comforting her.
After some time they came out leaving the door open. As the mom's started to talk with Rachel she first refused to tell what they were doing in the dark alone. But as Vanja took her in her arms she suddenly broke down telling them all. The kids stared at her and Vanja just held her, not knowing what to do. The man sounded just vile, vile and disgusting. At last Katrine said what they all were thinking.
"Child, Rachel. We will do all we can for you and your brother. You can stay here as long as you want, and I will personally make sure that this man never will touch you again."
"You can trust her Rachel, she's my Mom and she's a very good lawyer too." Said Anna as she came up to Rachel embracing her. "You're safe here."
As she said it they suddenly heard a weak voice.
"Sis, Rachel?" Then they heard coughing, almost sounding as if someone tried to retch.
Both Vanja and Rachel rushed in. As the others followed they found Rachel gently holding her brother. He was lying on his side with Anna holding a small pail under his mouth. As they looked they saw it filled with something black, something they suddenly realized to be blood. But Andrew smiled as he looked up at his sister holding him.
"We made it sis, I had such weird dreams, it hurts, what happened?" he said, half whispering, interrupted by another coughing attack.
As Rachel looked down at her brother she could only nod. Yes, they had made it. And in a way they were home, but she couldn't help worry for their mom, or what was left of the mom they once had. They had tried to talk her into leaving too but she hah just sat there looking at them, as if she wasn't really there at all. She knew all to well how her father would take his frustration out on her.
"Yes Andrew, we made it. You got attacked by some dog. You just need to get well again." She whispered, her tears falling on his upturned face as she held him herself unbeknownst.
The wall of darkness surrounding the little town had by now been building for two days, and the tension built up was enormous. That kind of energy wasn't anything to be played with, but those who had put those happenings into motion still believed they could control it, as so much else. The town itself was by now totally isolated, and when the morning came there would be changes.