Someone screamed. A glass smashed and something heavy hit the floor.
"Shut up! What's that?" shouted Todd. They all stood completely still and listened as a strange sound grew louder and louder. It was almost a chattering sound, as if millions of tiny insects were heading their way. Someone grabbed Charley's hand and she screamed. There was a low gurgling sound, the grip on her hand increased. Charley yelped and suddenly the chattering was gone and the lights came back on.
"Where's Steve?" cried Alana. Rose screamed and pointed at Charley. Oz bent over the edge of the coffee table and vomited onto the floor. Charley looked down and started to join in the screaming. Steve was gone but his hand was still gripping hers.
When Charley had finished screaming she went very pale and began to shake. Alana tried to get her to assume the Shock Position but since that involved laying on the floor, Charley told her to get stuffed. The lights began to dim again and Rose jumped up onto the table, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"I can't die like this. I won't! I fucking won't!" She stamped her foot and scrubbed at her face until the tears were gone, there was a manic gleam in her eye and her hands were shaking. Oz grabbed his bag and tipped out some boxes from inside.
"I bought these just in case. Ricky said the place had just been rewired but I know how unhandy he is so I got some candles." Oz handed out the boxes with a few matches and they rushed to light them. Alana set the candles up in a circle four deep and they all sat in the middle with the last few boxes between them. The lights went out again and the chattering sound rose to almost unbearable volumes. Rose clapped her hands over her ears and Todd wrapped his arm around her shoulders.
"Holy shit. What are those things?" cried Charley. They looked like ants but were about the size of cockroaches, the chattering sound was their feet on the floor. Other then that, they made no sound. As soon as they reached the edge of the lit circle, they stopped and looked at the crowd of students in silence. A small group moved off to one side and swarmed over Steve's hand that had been dropped to the floor. It was devoured down to the bone in mere seconds, the bugs returned to the circle.
"Shit a brick" whispered Oz.
"You think? Looks like some of Ricky's stories were true. I'm guessing this is the government experiment he was sacked for stealing" replied Rose. She was watching one of the candles; it was almost down to a stump and would have to be changed. A few of the others were going the same way.
"We need to change that candle" said Charley, following Rose's gaze.
"NO! Don't touch it, they'll get us!" screamed Alana.
"I'm not sitting here until they all go out. I'd rather see what's eating me" snapped Rose. She scooped up the candle and lit the fresh one that Charley had waiting. A few of the bugs moved forwards into the gap left by the candle, they didn't move any closer but it was still too much for Alana. She screamed and scrabbled backwards, knocking candles in all directions. The bugs swarmed and Alana's screams were cut short.
"The whole fucking house if gonna go up!" shouted Todd. He watched as one of the candles rolled under the window and set fire to the curtains. The bugs seemed to scream in the sudden blze of bright light as more candles caught the chairs.
"The window! We have to break it!" shrieked Charley. She scooped an ashtray off the coffee table and drew back her arm.
"It won't work! If Ricky set up the locks on a timer he couldn't have left normal glass in the windows!" cried Oz. Charley ignored him and threw the ashtray at the window, the glass shattered and Charley let out a crow of triumph.
"I always said he was a few clowns short of the full circus" said Rose. They dashed to the window and threw themselves out and onto the sand. There was another scream and then the chattering sound as the bugs headed for the open window. Oz and Todd ran for the mini bus with Charley and Rose hot on their heels. The sun would be up soon and –
"Oh my God" said Rose. She watched at the bugs hit the sand and then began to burrow into it, vanishing into the ground.
"We let them out. We let them out!" screamed Rose. Oz stamped on the accelerator and the bus shot off towards the horizon as the beach house burned behind them.