“Let’s take a break here. I could use a stretch.”
Paula nodded and made a right turn to park the car on the supermarkets parking lot. They had decided to find their way through the backroads, to make their way back to Exeter. Thus far things hadn’t gone as they had planned. The backroads had been busier than expected at some points and totally blocked at others, forcing them to backtrack and to find a way around the blockage through more backroads.
This had caused them to get utterly lost, since none of them had a road atlas, and they had forgotten to buy one before they set off on the road. And with the power outage and the loss of the cellular network as a consequence, meant they couldn’t download the map details in Google Maps when they had charged their mobiles in the car. Of course, they only found this out as they had gotten turned around several times. They had resorted to getting out of the car, and asking directions to somewhere where they could buy a road atlas. Somehow they had ended up in Wadebridge after six hours of driving, and their tank had gone down to a quarter full after all the detours they had made.
Paula turned off the ignition and the car grew silent. Paula looked ahead out of the car window, one hand still on the steering wheel, the other on the ignition key. Jacob unbuckled himself and turned to face Paula.
“Hey, everything okay?”
Jacob got a distinct feeling that she needed a moment, so he got out of the car. He opened the back door and got his winter coat from the rear seat he had dumped it on. He eyed the green and muddy spots on the coat and tried to brush off some of the stains without much success. With a resigned sigh, he put the dirty coat on and closed the back door of the car gently.
The parking lot they were on had a few cars scattered around but was largely empty. Getting a parking ticket would be an exercise in futility without power, so he didn’t make his way to the parking ticket machine. Instead, he made his way to the end of the parking lot, away from the main street. From the back edge of the parking lot, he had a beautiful view over the river that flowed through the city, dividing it into two parts. A bridge could be seen a little bit further downstream. He sat down on the cold stone wall that surrounded the parking lot and took the scenery in front of him in. A mix of modern and older houses faced him from the other bank of the river. The river itself was murky dark green and divided by an island that stretched under the stone arch bridge. In front of him was a gravel road that led to the bridge on one side, on the other side it disappeared from view as it followed the curve of the river. A few couples were using it to enjoy the scenery at a leisurely pace.
A car door slammed shut behind him and footsteps approached his back, but he didn’t turn around. A moment later Paula sat down beside him on the wall and stared at the river. They sat like that for a few minutes without saying a word or looking at each other. Paula was the first to speak.
“Well, that went disastrous.”
“That’s an understatement.”
“With how little remains in the tank we’ll never make it at this pace.”
Jacob nodded at that. He gestured to the city in front of him.
“We should find a place to stay here until they’ve cleared the roads properly.”
“I guess so.”
“I guess we should have stayed at Tintagel, but I just couldn’t stay there, the memories of that night were too strong.”
Jacob nodded again, tried to brush some dirt from his coat unsuccessfully and stood up.
“Shall we look for a place to stay, to take our minds off things?”
Paula let out a sad sigh again and nodded reluctantly. She sat for a moment longer, before she got up too. They followed the gravel path to the bridge at a leisurely pace. The sun showed its face every now and then between the dark clouds that filled the skies, lifting the somber mood of the day somewhat. They asked a passerby where to find lodgings, and received directions to a hotel, which was just across from the supermarket where they had parked. At the hotel, they managed to get a room in a similar matter as they had before, thanks to the tried and true technology of the credit card imprinter.
After they had dropped their gear in their new room, they headed back in town to get a feel of the layout of the place. The main entrance of the hotel was located at the begin of a pedestrian zone of a shopping street. They sauntered over the street between other people who were on their way to buy supplies. People who had bought supplies already held them close to themselves and stayed well out of the way of those who had empty hands.
Paula nodded her head in the direction of one of the distrustful persons scuttling away with arms full of bags with groceries.
“People are probably busy hoarding things now, with how long this power outage is going on.”
“Most likely, everybody is building up a larder I would wager. I wonder how long they will need before the power will return.”
“It can’t be long. It has to be the highest priority for them to restore power.”
“Well, if all the roads are blocked like we encountered this morning they will have serious difficulty getting to the places where power is interrupted.”
“Won't the military and police and fire departments help with that?”
“Sure they will, but it's still a lot of work to do. I’d hate to be the one that needs to organize all that.”
Paula kicked a pebble in front of her foot, and it bounced ahead through the street, where people were standing, looking and pointing out at something in the distance.
Jacob and Paula moved closer to see what the people were looking at, and they were treated to the display of a small person with a basket on its back running away from a red-faced police officer that was chasing it.
Even though the small person had small legs and a large basket on its back, it moved faster than the police officer, and it was slowly gaining distance on the police officer.
The crowd made way as not to get run over by the couple speeding their way. Jacob moved out of the way and dragged Paula along with him, who wasn’t as quick to react. This caused her to stumble, and her handbag slipped off her shoulder onto the ground, spreading the contents on the street. Paula's mobile shone golden in the sunshine as it skittered over the street. Jacob bent over to help Paula get her stuff back, as the first of the running pair had reached them. The small person had come to a sudden stop in front of the telephone that lay on the street, displaying its golden luster in the sunshine.
He could now see that this was not a small person, but something totally different. It was small as a child, but had a huge under jaw, pitch black eyes and gruesome teeth. It wore a sleeveless open vest that showed a belly and bare chest. The hands were coarse and had huge nails.
It bent over to pick up the telephone, but Jacob pushed its hand away just in time and snatched the telephone up before the creature could pick it up. He got up quickly, and took a few steps away from the creature, holding the mobile in his hand.
“MRUUUMMM grr hrrrr!”
The creature took a step to Jacob, opening its hand in a claw shape, and started to stretch out to the mobile in Jacobs' hand, as it got tackled in the side by the police officer that had finally caught up with it. They rolled over each other by the force of the impact, before they ended up lying both on the street. The creature was immediately back on its feet, with the police officer trying to follow suit.
The creature clearly didn’t take lightly to being attacked, and its entire demeanor changed, and a dangerous glint appeared in its pitch black eyes, and its entire stance changed to one that radiated aggression. A low guttural growl, that seemed to vibrate the very stones around it, came from the creature. The police officer had gotten up and pulled his baton free from his belt.
“Fuck, that should have knocked you bastard out.”
The creature leaped forward with remarkable speed, and punched the police officer in his stomach, with a muffled wet sound that made Jacob wince. The muscular police officer doubled over at the impact and was unable to deflect the second hit the creature aimed at his head. As it connected, the entire body of the officer went limp and sagged to the ground. The creature pounded the police officer a few more times in the chest, with powerful blows that resounded with dull thuds.
Cries of shock and horror resounded through the people watching this happen, but no-one dared to intervene with this creature that had downed a police officer in one hit.
The police officer regained consciousness, and rolled away from the incoming blows, and got to one knee. He winced as he tried to upright his torso, and held one of his hands against his stomach as he tightened his grip on his baton. This time when the creature leaped forward, the police officer hit it against a kneecap, sending the creature off balance, making it miss the hit aimed at the police officer. The creature growled loudly at the pain as it tried to regain balance. The baton swung back from the recoil from the first hit, and hit the creature squarely in the jaw, making the neck snap sideways violently.
The creature growled loudly and stamped its foot in fury on the ground. It would have reminded someone of a toddler throwing a fit if the creature didn’t look absolutely menacing.
The eyes of the police officer squinted, and the creature leaped towards the police officer again, and it made a feint to hit from the right side, and the police officer blocked it with the baton, but he wasn’t able to block the blow between his eyes with the left hand.
The head of the police officer snapped back, and his entire body slumped over again, his hand releasing the baton, that rolled towards the creature over the paving stones. The creature was ready to land a new blow on the unconscious police officer as the baton hit its feet, causing it to pause.
It bent over and picked up the baton by the handle, swung it around a few times, making excited grunting noises. It eyed the police officer, whilst feeling the surface of the baton with its coarse finger as if it was contemplating to give it a test run on the body that lay motionless on the ground. After a tense moment, it shrugged with a grunt and put it in one of the larger pouches on its belt. The handle still stuck out of the pouch, but it didn’t seem to be in obstructing the creature's movements. It reached around in the basket on its back, moving it around as if searching something from it, and pulled a crumpled water bottle coated in dirt from it, and lay it down in front of the police officer.
Jacob still stood there, with Paula’s golden colored mobile forgotten in his hand, shocked by the brutal display he had just witnessed. The creature turned around and stepped towards him. Jacob took a trembling step backward and almost buckled through his legs. The eyes of the creature were dull black as if it was sucking up all the light, and they were staring intently at the mobile in his hand, as it stretched its hand out again towards the mobile, coarse palm up.
“Mhhhhmmmm rrrr grrn hrrnnn”
Paula stood behind him and had put a hand on his shoulder steadying him, and whispered in his ear.
“I think it wants my mobile. If it jumps at you just drop it and run, but hold on to it now, it seems to just stand there.”
Jacob tore his eyes away from the creature, to look at the mobile in his hand. He tightened his grip on the mobile, his knuckles turning white. He suppressed a tremble and the panic that tried to well up inside him and eyed the creature again. It seemed to just stand there harmlessly, looking at the mobile, its hand outstretched palm upwards, nothing threatening about it as if the altercation of just now hadn’t happened. It didn’t even have a bruise on its jaw, from the hit it had taken from the baton.
Jacob startled as the creature suddenly looked at him directly, the entire face of the creature was pointed at his face. He got the distinct feeling that the creature was losing patience with him, by him not responding to the outstretched hand. A treatment like the police officer had received was not on his desirable outcomes list.
“Uhhh, you want this?”
He held the golden mobile phone up, and the creature eyed it greedily with a wide toothy grin. People had gathered around them in a large mass, to watch the spectacle in the shopping street. Some of them that also had working mobile phones, were recording the altercation with the creature. Jacob felt sweat building up on his forehead, he desperately did not want to end up like the police officer, but he didn’t want the man being beaten up by the creature further either, nor did he want one of these people that were crowding them to get hurt. He could hear some of the things they were saying among themselves.
“What do you think that is? Someone dressed up?”
“Must be, it’s good makeup though.”
“Did you see how he decked that copper?”
“With one hit it took him down. I don’t want to tangle with that.”
Paula had edged her way to the police officer, keeping out of reach of the creature, and had put her coat under the police officers head. His eyes were open but slightly crossed and unfocused. Paula was whispering to him but Jacob couldn’t hear what she was saying.
Jacob felt panic well up as he was unsure of what to do now. The police officer was down, nobody here seemed to be inclined to help him, and this creature stood before him with those pitch black creepy eyes. Jacob noticed that the creature didn’t possess any nipples, he couldn't see any seams either nor discolorations from makeup. After his experience in the cave, he didn’t feel comfortable with the assumption that he had overheard, that this was just a costume. He felt much more comfortable with the assumption that this was a real creature, whether alien or another origin, that could hurt you. Maybe it had come from the cave, or the darkness, or somewhere else. What was important right now was to not get beaten into a pulp by this curious creature that reminded him of a miniature fat crocodile Dundee.
He took a step back and the creature followed, looking at the mobile in his hand. He took a step sideways and the creature followed him again.
“Mrrrm! mrr grrr!”
“Why do you want this mobile?”
“Mrrr grrrr hrrr.”
Jacob took another step backward and the creature followed again. The people behind him made room for him and the creature, as they got closer. The police officer was sitting upright now, rubbing his forehead gently. Paula had run off somewhere, Jacob couldn’t see her anywhere at least. Maybe she had gone off to get help for the injured police officer.
“I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand what you are saying.”
“Mrrh hrrnn hrnnn MRRRRUMMM”
Jacob took another step back and was now outside of the circle of people, that had now spread out and formed a crescent behind the creature, it followed him again.
“Does MRUUMM mean you want this now?”
“Mrrr hrr hrrrr”
As Jacob spoke he kept moving backward slowly. From the corner of his eye, he saw Paula running back with something that seemed like cord slung over her shoulder and a large U-shaped bicycle lock. She waved to him to get his attention and he nodded at her, feeling relieved that he wasn’t alone anymore in dealing with this creature, the other people just seemed to watch without contributing. Paula was talking rapidly to some of the men in the back and pointed somewhere.
“Can you understand everything I’m saying?”
“MRR hruum hrrr hruuuummm!”
Paula had fixed one end of the cord to the bicycle stands, that were embedded in the ground in a side street, and motioned him to move into her direction. She looped the other end of the cord through the U rod of the bicycle lock and then hid it behind her back. Jacob took a step back into her direction.
“Okay, so you want this golden mobile badly right?”
The creature didn’t reply but it took an eager step towards Jacob, it’s hand under the mobile Jacob was holding. He made a quick step backward to build up a more comfortable distance to the creature. He was now near Paula, and she was edging sideways, hugging the building behind her to move behind the creature, which started to look irritated Jacob thought.
“Okay. But what will you do with it when I give it to you, will you give something back in return? Like a trade?”
The creature paused and cocked its head for a moment as it seemed to overthink Jacobs words.
“Mrruu hurr hummm mrum mrrrrr.”
“I guess that’s a yes?”
Paula was now behind the creature and busy pulling a bit of cord her way, coiling it at her feet. Jacob pretended to give the mobile to the creature, only to stop at the last moment as if something had come to his mind.
“You know this is a really valuable thing right? Most people have to work for two years to pay for such a thing. I want to make sure we get something as valuable back for this mobile.”
At the mention of the value of the thing it desired, it seemed as if the creatures breath tempo increased, and it jutted it’s coarse hand forward even more as it stepped closer, almost ready to grab the mobile from Jacobs' hand, who lifted it higher, out of reach of the creature, and then took a step back.
“Now now, no grabbing it out of my hand. I just want to know if it will be a fair trade.”
“MRRRRR hrr hrr RHRR!!”
The creature stomped on the ground with its feet in clear annoyance and had its fist balled at its sides. The greedy grin was clearly replaced by an infuriated snarl. Paula had edged behind it, and with its fury fully focussed on Jacob, it paid no heed to Paula's actions. Paula had the lock part of the bicycle lock in her right hand, and the U part with the cable attached, in her other hand. She looked Jacob shortly in the eyes over the creatures head, and let her breath out quietly.
As the creature bent down through its knees slightly, as if it was ready to jump on Jacob as it had with the police officer, Paula stepped forward and shoved the U part around its neck, and clicked it shut with the lock at the other side, and spurted away from the creature.
Jacob did the same in the other direction and ran away as fast as his legs could carry him.
The enraged growl resounded through the street as the creature set to chase after Jacob, dragging the cable behind it, one hand trying its best to pull the lock loose, the other hand stretched out like a claw, ready to grab onto Jacob as it would reach him.
The creature was fast, Jacob felt his legs grow heavier, and no matter how he breathed in as he ran, the air that filled his lungs didn’t seem to be enough. He felt his sides burning as he risked a glance over his shoulder, and saw that the creature was only a few steps away from him. He looked forward to where he was going and doubled down his focus on moving forward, forcing his legs to run, even though they felt like lead.
Jacob looked over his shoulder at the sound and saw that the creature had finally reached the end of the cord, and had been violently jerked back by it, sending the creature sprawling on its side. He stopped running, and rested with his hand on a building wall, trying to regain his composure and breath.
He looked up after a few moments and saw Paula standing at the other end of the side street that ended in the shopping street, with the other people gathered around her. They held large square, dark wooden tables in front of them. It looked as if they had been taken from a restaurant or a pub. The group of people that were carrying the tables formed a wall, that blocked off the entire street with the tables. They moved as a group forward, trying to keep the entire street blocked off, without giving an opening for the creature to jump through. Paula seemed to be leading the group forward, edging a group on that lagged behind, and reigning in a group that moved to fast for the others.
The creature got up and looked at Jacob. It then felt at its throat and the lock that was around it, trying to find a weakness in it, but it found none. It then tugged at the rope, but it wouldn’t give.
It shouted at the group that was approaching, and pulled the baton from the pouch it had been stored in, and looked at the group that was approaching it. It ran to the group, its baton raised for an attack, with inhuman speed. The basket on its back was swinging left and right, with each of the large leaps it made forward.
It crashed full speed into the table, moving the table back a fair bit, sending the people holding the table awkwardly off balance. It jabbed and hit with the baton at the people holding the tables at the sides that were not exposed.
“Get that table up! Move back! close the gap!”
Paula yelled her orders, and the people tried their best to close the gap, but the creature that was clawing at people, and hitting them with the baton, made it hard to follow those orders immediately. The creature tried to push through an opening it had created with its flurry of attacks. An older grizzled man lifted his leg and kicked it squarely in the face as it had gotten its upper body through but had trouble with the basket.
“Get back you ugly bastard!”
The creatures head snapped back thanks to the impact from the force and was forced back behind the tables by a second kick from the same man. The group closed the gap as the creature got back to its fee.
“Pull the cord! Hold the tables so we can pin it!”
A group of people that had stayed back didn’t respond to Paula's command but just stood there looking interested.
“Don’t just stand there! Pick up that damned cord and pull!”
Some people startled at her aggressive words, and picked up the cord and started pulling it. The slack cord pulled taut quickly, as all the remaining cord was reigned in by the group. As the cord pulled tautly the creature braced itself, with coarse hands holding the U-rod of the lock trying to get away from the tables. It dropped the baton in its efforts to fight against the pull group. A few grunts could be heard from the group, as the creature was inching closer and closer to the tables, by their joined efforts. The group with the tables moved forward, pushing against the creature, pinning it against the tables. Two of the four tables broke free and circled the creature, boxing it in between the tables.
“Keep the cord tight! We have it but it might break free if it can move!”
Jacob moved over to where Paula was, now the creature was boxed in. He could see the tables tremble as the creature was pounding them, and the loud knocks on the wood echoed loudly throughout the streets.
“Now what? We can’t hold it forever like this.”
Paula looked at him irritatedly, and he backed off holding up his hands in defense
“Hey, sorry, that wasn’t meant to offend. I apologize!”
Paula moved a strain of hair out of her face, and glared at him, before shifting her look back at the tables and the group that was visibly having trouble keeping the creature contained.
“I honestly don’t know, I hadn’t thought further than this.”
Jacob looked around for options and his eyes fell on a van that was driving in the distance. He turned to the crowd behind and yelled at them.
“Hey, any of you have a delivery van or truck?”
“I have a delivery van. I use it to deliver my cakes.”
Jacob moved to the woman that had spoken up. She was a slightly heavy set and had black hair that was bound back.
“Can we use it to trap that creature? Does it have a sealed compartment?”
“Sure, for what he did to that officer, he should be punished, no good to let the little bastard get away. It has a separate compartment for the goods, and the doors can only be opened from the outside, it’s more a truck than a van really.”
“Can you get it here fast?”
“Sure thing. I’ll be right back.”
The woman moved broke off from the group to get her delivery van, and Jacob moved on to the police officer that was lying there on the ground, with its head resting on Paula’s coat. His eyes were open and looking around, but it was clear that he wasn’t in any capacity to help.
“Hey, how are you?”
“I feel as if I got hit over the head with a rolling pin.”
Jacob went down through his knees and put his hand on the shoulder of the downed police officer.
“We need to move you, we have the thing captured, and a van will come so we can detain it, and you’re lying in the middle of the street in the way.”
“You got the bastard eh? Help me up, I think I stand at least.”
Jacob pulled the heavy man up with some considerable effort, the man was much heavier than him, and it was clear the man wasn’t in a state to be able to help him. With a heavy grunt he finally got the man up and an arm wrapped over his shoulder. They stumbled to the side of the road, where Jacob let the man down in a sitting position. He ran back and brought Paula’s coat over, and covered the Police officers legs with it.
“We’ve got to keep you warm don’t we?”
“Yea, I might go in shock otherwise. Good thinking. You don’t happen to have aspirin on you, or do you?”
Jacob shook his head in denial. He wrapped the edges under the police officers legs to get them off the cold ground. The police officer extended his hand to Jacob which he took, and felt a what could be a firm grip around his hand.
“Officer John Perkins.”
“Well Jacob, this has not been a good day for me today. I’m in shambles and require assistance, my colleagues are all busy coordinating relief efforts, and my radio is shot thanks to that bastard. Can you help me when the creature is contained to get it to the police station?”
Jacob now saw that the plastic of the transceiver was broken, and the antenna in a strange angle. He looked back at Paula and the group with the tables, that were doing their best to keep the creature contained, the loud bangs and angry grunts that resounded as the creature rained its fists on the tables, were a constant background sound now, it didn’t seem to tire easily. Jacob nodded to John.
“Sure. We got this far didn’t we.”
A loud honking resounded behind Jacob, and a delivery truck backed into the street, making the turn carefully to align its backside to where the group with the tables were. It nearly hit the corner of the shop on the corner. Eventually, it had made the turn completely, and the truck backed up to the group with the tables, the cable dragging a trail along its side, creating a loud scraping noise.
The black haired woman got out of the driver's side and moved to the back. She opened the large back doors of the truck with the latch and swung them open. Paula commanded the group with the tables to move closer to the truck. Jacob quickly got to the other side of the truck than where the woman was, so he could close the door from that side. He nodded to the woman, and she understood his intention and nodded back.
The group with the tables split up and formed half a crescent around the truck, boxing the creature in with the only way out, the open doors of the truck.
“Cut the cord some slack!”
The group that had held the cord under tension let go of it and it slid through their fingers as the creature moved around.
The creature was clearly surprised at the sudden movement freedom it had now. Paula pulled out of her pocket a golden colored lipstick and held it up.
“Hey ugly, want this? Come and get it!”
Paula threw the lipstick in the truck, it’s golden colored shell reflecting the sunlight brightly. The creature tracked it with its pitch black eyes, its face aligned with the trajectory of the golden projectile. As it hit the floor in the truck, it let out an eager grunt and jumped in the truck and ran to it. It grabbed the lipstick and hugged it to the chest.
The group with the tables quickly got out of the way as Jacob and the black-haired woman closed the doors of the truck and closed the clasps with loud clicks. A startled creature reacted to the sudden darkness.
A couple of loud bangs could be heard as the creature inside banged the walls. All the people there eyed the van doors warily, to see if the thing would burst out of it even though the doors were sturdy. When after a couple of really loud bangs the doors still didn’t give, the group relaxed and put the tables upright on the ground, and started to congratulate each other. The other group that had handled the cord approached the table group and came to look. Paula went to the other end of the cord to unhook it and returned with it, coiling it around her arm. She then attached it to a bar at the underside of the truck and fixed the coiled cord against a hook that was beside the fuel tank.
The black haired woman approached her as she was affixing the coiled cord that traced one end to the back of the container doors. The black haired woman hooked the cord behind several other things, to prevent it from getting caught whilst driving.
“Good work, now what do we do with that thing?”
Paula got up and faced the black haired woman. When she was about to reply, Jacob, who had just joined them, replied.
“The police officer wants it transported to the police station. Do you think you can give us and the police officer a lift there?”
The black haired woman nodded, then looked troubled over to where the police officer was sitting on the ground, wrapped in Paula’s coat.
“Sure thing. It might get a bit uncomfortable, it’s not that roomy in the cabin. Will John be alright?”
“I think so, he was able to limp over with my help, and he seems pretty clear in his responses.”
“Alright, no use dawdling, let's get this thing out of my truck as soon as possible, before it destroys the insides.”
Paula and Jacob went over to John to help him up in the truck, and the black-haired woman cleaned out the passenger side to make room for them. With some maneuvering and shared efforts, they got John into the passenger side. Jacob sat beside him and all seats in the cabin were taken, with no more room for Paula. She climbed up anyway and sat down on Jacobs lap. Jacob felt how her soft and cold flesh sat down on his lap, rubbing up against him as she got comfortable, and he had to do his best to not let his body react to this sudden intimacy. He felt his face turning warmer and did his best to hide it from the others in the truck. The truck started and coursed down the street, and Jacob could feel every hump and bump clearly, having the most uncomfortable time of his life, trying not to react to the rubbing sensation that every curve and bend Paula's behind made on him, especially as she seemed to warm up in the warm van.