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The last light had gone out. Those who had survived the latest assault huddled together in the old church. The sanctified stone that had proved no defence at least gave them some shelter on this, the longest of nights. When the pale winter sun had finally slipped beyond the horizon, they had all made their way there in answer to some invisible summons, drawn by a promise of safety that did not exist. They were on their own.
The sound of screaming and fists hammering on the door stilled their voices. Everybody froze, fearing a repeat of their earlier suffering.
“Please,” begged a voice, its desperation attacking the listeners within.
“I know that voice,” came a cry from the middle of the crowd.
“No,” said Jacob sharply. “Once the doors are shut, they stay shut. Anyone outside is a stranger. “We agreed.”
The screams seemed to go on forever and in all that time, nobody moved, nobody spoke. Then just as suddenly as they had started, they stopped.
Jacob moved slowly forward and pressed his ear to the wood. He heard her whisper, could almost feel her hand beneath the ancient oak timbers.
“Soon,” she had murmured.
“Soon,” he had replied.
Barely a minute passed before he turned and faced the crowd with a shrug of his shoulders.
“Whoever it was has gone,” he said flatly, seeing resigned acceptance in their faces.
They no longer had any red-robed priest to utter words of comfort or lead them in prayer; he had abandoned them whilst Jacob had not. Jacob, the broken young man rescued as their last act of charity before they barred their gates against the rest of the world, had so far proved to be their saviour.
Nothing was known of him and Jacob certainly couldn’t tell them but he eventually healed and his memory had returned; yet with this self-knowledge came impulses that had become harder and harder to control. Only Meggie had prevented him from getting caught, from showing his real face, for she was the same.
He stared up at the tortured expression of the man on the cross; unlike those skin-walkers of old, Jacob killed quickly – who then was truly evil?
The villagers slept on, not realising this was no longer their world. He would make sure that they did not suffer.
He slipped back the bolt on the vestry door allowing Meggie to enter.
“They are the last,” she said gazing at the slumbering forms.
“As are we,” said Jacob and took her hand.
The moon was now at its fullest and the usual ties that held the darkest of demons in check, loosened and fell away, allowing them to walk freely beneath the cold night sky, mingling with nightmares and terrors that had once existed only in the human mind. But there were no longer any humans and these corruptions would have to learn to survive on their own. Man no longer walked but he had made the monsters.
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