Reed made a beeline for the apartment door as the knocking drowned out whatever noise was emanating from the television. He took a glance through the peephole before immediately unlocking and yanking the door open.

“What’s wrong?” He immediately questioned his brother.

“What? Nothing’s wrong.” Eddy stammered. “Well… it’s nothing to worry about.”

“Eddy?” Their mother walked into the foyer, closely followed by their father. “Why are you here at this hour?”

“It's…” He exhaled, “Can I come in first?”

Reed made way for his brother to enter the apartment. He was dressed in a uniform of militaristic design, colored in a blue so dark that its inspiration could only have been found in the ocean’s depths.

“There’s just a little problem at the Bridge. It’s nothing to worry about, all the nearby Manipulators are on it and those of us still in training came out here to the city… just in case.”

“I haven’t heard of anything like this happening before.” Their mother’s voice was tinged with worry.

“It’s alright mom. I’m telling you, you have no idea what some of the more experienced Manipulators are capable of. This is all just a matter of protocol.”

“What happened at the Bridge?” Reed said.

Eddy hesitated for a moment, glancing at their parents as he awkwardly contemplated what to say. “A lot of creatures from the other side of the Bridge were provoked for some reason. They all rushed for the Bridge and the team manning it, uh… they were killed. That was a few hours ago, around the time you were at the academy, and they’ve been holding ‘em off since then.”

Their mother’s expression donned a look of horror, “You’re supposed to be guarding the Bridge next week.”

“Yes, but this a freak occurrence-”

“Nope. No way. You won’t be doing it.”

“Mom, we’ve talked about this and I’d really prefer not to have this conversation right now-”

The piercing wail of a siren cut through the two’s rising voices. It was reminiscent of a high-pitched shriek, droning on for several seconds at a time before pausing, only to wail out again the next moment.

“Shit!” Eddy’s eyes widened as they took on an expression of panic, “You guys have to leave. Now.”

The moment his brother made such a proclamation, Reed took off back towards the guest room, moving as fast as he could whilst not displaying any evidence of his power. He dove into one of the duffle bags, retrieving the handgun and magazines stashed within as well as whatever cash remained from his disastrous attempt at buying a car. His family shouted for him from the other room as he untucked his shirt and stuffed the pistol into the back of his belt. He ran back towards the foyer whilst cramming the money and magazines into his front and rear pockets.

“What are you doing!?” His brother yelled overtop the sirens.

“I had to grab something!”

Eddy responded by frantically motioning for them to leave the apartment. Their parents hustled down the hall with Eddy and Reed in tow. Midway to the lobby, the blaring of the siren was replaced with the formal voice of a woman.

Attention! A citywide evacuation is currently underway. Please proceed West immediately.”

The warning repeated twice before the piercing shriek of the siren resumed. At this point, the family had made it to the building’s lobby, where two of Eddy’s team members stood engaged in frantic discussion. The boy was Gabriel, the girl’s name Reed had not been reminded of in his recent visit to the academy, and thus had no idea.

Behind the family, the chaos of a panicking crowd could be heard rushing through the building. Eddy’s team members motioned for the group to hurry toward them.

“Chelsea and Fletcher are still a couple of blocks to the West, we’ll likely run into them,” Gabriel said. “In the meantime, I’ll go North, Emily will cover the South, and you can take the middle.”

“Thank you,” Eddy said before turning to face Reed and the two’s parents. “I’m going to have to cover a wide area of people. I’ll still be nearby, but I can’t stay directly with you guys. Just keep heading West and don’t stop for anything.”

Before their parents could protest, he charged out of the building and shot into the air, disappearing from their view. By this point, people were beginning to rush past Reed and his parents in droves as the frenzied building dwellers scrambled to escape. He grabbed his parents' arms and spurred them forward through the main doors and out into the cold night air.

The scant illumination of the city’s lights cast deep shadows on the throngs of people rushing in a uniform direction. The streets were already filled to the brim with automobiles and traffic had come to an utter standstill. Despite its uselessness, Reed couldn’t help sparing a glance towards his car. Only, it wasn’t there.

His parents followed the momentum of the crowd West, and he stayed close to them in turn. The frantic mess of people doing whatever it took to get away further and faster made it difficult to move at any desirable pace, but his parents’ physical condition made it even more so. They could only move so fast, and care had to be taken in navigating the tumultuous crowd. He wanted nothing more than to sweep the masses aside and clear a path. It was agonizing.

As Reed trailed behind his parents, he saw a figure floating in the sky above the masses. It was his brother. His eyes were glued to the skyline behind the retreating civilians, terror evident on his face. The sound of an explosion echoed from behind and tremors shook the ground beneath the populace’s feet.

Reed along with many others turned in time to see one of the city’s skyscrapers collapse. A cloud of dust and debris exploded outwards onto the surrounding streets as something could be seen flying away from where the structure had once stood. It moved with such speed in the dim lighting that it was near impossible to make out. But Reed knew what the thing was. The trailing silhouette of tendrils was unmistakable.

The creature soared in another direction, likely having found another target. Then another explosion shook the city. Another skyscraper fell to a second flying creature. He saw the silhouette of yet another further away, soaring towards the city from the abyssal sky in the distance that stood out even at night. Then appeared another. And another. Dozens of them. Hundreds.

The horizon was swarmed with the rapidly approaching figures of the monsters along with other forms still too small to make out. A chaotic hell to which even the previous turmoil could not compare erupted. Screaming eclipsed the piercing noise of the siren as what had once been a hurried rush turned to a stampede of feral humanity.

Reed pulled his parents in and began steering them to the side, his arms spread wide whilst doing so to prevent anyone deranged with fear from running them over. Several people ran into him, forcing Reed to display some of his strength to knock them away. Hoping such use would be lost in the chaos, he swept his parents into a building adorning the side of the street.


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