Morda Pell knelt in the growing pool of blood, steeling her body to experience the next vision. The still warm corpses of the Hallman family were seated at the dining room table nearby, facedown in their turkey and peas, throats gouged. She curled her long fingers into trembling fists until her nails made fresh gashes in her scarred palms, whispering the Old Words, the long forgotten prayers to vast and terrifying Gods that moved through strange worlds beyond the veil of reality.
The life blood staining her thick velvet cloak began to sizzle.
It was time. After a tumultuous year of bitter mourning over her beloved child’s grave, and an emotional storm of helplessness and frustration, it was time for a reckoning. Her Devra, her beautiful fragile 16-year-old daughter, had gone out shopping with friends the day after Thanksgiving. The latest technological bauble, some kind of complicated phone, had been pre-released in limited numbers, which inspired a mad rush. When the crowd finally dissipated, Devra’s broken, dying body became a testament to their greed and mindlessness.
Kent Hallman, who now rested in a mingling of severed arteries and mashed potatoes, had been there that night. His booted feet had been a pair of many that had crushed the air from her child’s lungs.
Memories filled Morda with blinding rage. Her child’s death had been her own death as well. Compassion and joy burnt into ashes.
The blood of the guilty would act as a compass, leading her to each of her daughter’s killers. Morda closed her eyes and saw in her mind’s eye a young woman leaving a building after dark. The scene was ghostly, undefined. She focused harder as her kneeling form began to sink into the bloodsoaked floorboards. Gleaming crimson hands slid up out of the viscera and embraced her, pulling her down into a corridor between worlds.
When Morda opened her green eyes, she floated in a heavy, almost liquid atmosphere. Creatures filled with eldritch luminescence languidly navigated the void around her as painful memories of Devra gave her body forward momentum, sweeping her past millions of pinpricks of light bursting through the fabric of this alien dimension. One point of light grew larger as her emotions guided her towards her prey. Morda felt her ears pop as she burst back into her world.
She had emerged in a churning fountain at the center of a small wooded park. Her cloak and gown were soaked and heavy as she stared, disoriented and freezing. As Morda climbed from the bubbling stone pool, she saw across the street the row of buildings from her vision.
A front door opened and a petite blonde girl emerged.
Kelly Denby set the alarm and closed the front door of her grandfather’s furniture shop. The plumes of her visible breath clouded the glass as she locked the door and turned to check her phone.
Six texts from her persistent ex, Brian. Despite the fact that she told him it was over, he’d shown up at the shop and at her parent’s house, where she had moved in following the painful breakup.
She deleted the texts without reading them and started through the chilly November night towards her blue four-door SUV. Like many other retail businesses in the tiny town of Bitter Falls, Denby’s Treasures would lower prices on select items in observance of Black Friday. The next business day would be insanely hectic.
“Get some rest, Kelly.” said a familiar voice behind her.
It was Stuart Carlsen, who owned the dry cleaners down the block.
“I’ll do my best, Stu. We did pretty well last year on Black Friday, so here’s hoping for more of the same.”
“You’ll do fine. You have some beautiful pieces in the shop. Well, goodnight and drive safe.”
A sudden metallic clatter from the alley nestled between her grandfather’s store and the deli startled both of them.
Stuart peered into the alley as Kelly used her key fob to open the car’s doors, then hopped inside and locked herself in, shivering. She heard the cry of a cat and saw the emaciated feline bound past Stu, escaping from the alley’s shadowy maw. It vanished beneath a nearby parked car.
Kelly started the SUV and reversed out of her usual parking spot, turning to keep an eye out for the hiding kitty. Certain that the critter wasn’t going to be crushed beneath her tires, Kelly reached down to shift the car into drive as something massive crashed down, just six-feet from her bumper.
Headlights illuminated glistening, textured greenish limbs the width of oak trees. In its skeletal left hand, the size of a manhole cover, it clutched the unmoving form of Stuart Carlsen.
He was headless.
It leaned forward. Its wide flattened head caught the light, saucer eyes glowing with pure crimson hatred.
Kelly gasped in disbelief. It had to be easily fifteen feet tall and seven across at the spiky shoulders. It’s darkly mottled face grimaced at her, the wide mouth dropping open as it let out an anguished bellow. The windshield splintered at the sheer sonic force erupting like a speeding train from the dark hollow of the monster’s throat.
She screamed as it dropped Carlsen, grabbed the SUV by the front wheel wells and shook the vehicle up and down, tossing her like a rag doll head-first into the ceiling. Her forehead cracked the dome light and blood splattered the windshield. Her ears were filled with the deafening unearthly roar and another noise, nearly drowned out entirely.
The monster released her car immediately and stood up.
Kelly dimly heard the strident shouts of the arriving police officers. Shots were fired. The beast roared in pain. She groaned and carefully explored her scalp as warm blood trickled into her eyes.
She became slowly aware that someone was speaking.
“Ma’am, are you alright?”
Kelly nodded and the cop opened her door.
“An ambulance is on the way. And also, what the hell WAS that?”
“It ran off into the park. Holy Christ! I never seen anything like–”
His unfinished sentence hung in the air as he was suddenly snatched straight up and out of sight. Kelly screamed and grasped for the driver’s side door handle.
Before she could pull it shut, something pale flew into the car and pecked a gash in her neck. Screaming and batting at the attacker, Kelly glimpsed it briefly.
It resembled a featherless vulture with a long white beak and brightly glowing red eyes. It slashed at her hands and then battered her face with its wings. Kelly tried to get a hold of it but it slipped through her fingers and impaled her left eye with its beak. Kelly, nearly deaf from her own screams, felt the eye tear loose inside as the death bird shook its diseased head back and forth.