One Breath and a Scream

Author: H.B. Varley

She held the baby close. One hand nuzzled his head, the other laid upon his mouth. They laid curled in the back of the car, below the seat and the windows. She didn’t let him see, and kept him close to her chest, so that her heartbeat might calm him. He was quiet… for now.

There was still bloody glass where the creature had struck through the front window, puncturing the driver’s chest, the stinger passing through bone and muscle and the leather seat as if they were all cotton. He had died instantly, and for that she was glad; his sputters and gasps for life would surely have panicked the child. After that, the great shadow had stalked away, and slowly, quietly, she brought the baby close and climbed into the back.

And there she waited with him, waiting for him to try to speak, to cry, anything that would give them away. It had not gone far, she knew this. They never did. They stayed close until they were certain there was nothing left to eat.

She heard a bristling crunch nearby, a claw upon concrete. Again, and again, drawing closer and closer to the stopped car in the middle of the road. She felt her heart race, and she wanted to scream, but to make a sound was to kill them both. She held the baby a little closer, begging whatever would listen that he stayed quiet, stayed asleep.

And there was a cry, a baby’s howling. It sent through the air and she could hear it clearly.

It was far away, above them. A young child cried, a baby no older than the little boy she kept so close.

And the bristling stride turned to a charge, a pounce off of the ground. She heard wings spread and buzz off, droning on loudly, sailing away, the baby’s cry instantly drowned out.

She heard the cry go silent, start up again, as if fighting restraint. But soon the beat of the wings stopped, and another scream joined the cry.

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