The Day Everything Started Screaming at Rebecca


by Clay Waters


I.

Just before midnight she heard the revving of that infamous engine from half-way up the mountain and knew Hood was rocketing away from another kill. Autos preferred to hunt at night, when their lights and sounds were most intimidating and their high-beams could stun their prey. This particular Trans Am was one of millions prowling the land, fueled by gasoline and human guts, but its reputation preceded it.

Ruthlessly anti-human among a brand known for its ferociousness, Hood notched its kills with scratch marks on its fender — countless deer, rabbits, dozens of humans. Autowash kept the rest of its blue body gleaming, save the grille, kept caked with rotting kill-flesh. The blues were most aggressive, as if overcompensating for not being born red or black. She was counting on Hood still being hungry. It had caught car religion — collect a million points and claim extra lives for eternity. Human kills rated highest, followed by a sliding scale of animals, bear down to rat.

And now Hood was closing in on her.

Taking a deep breath, she plugged into the machine’s consciousness. “Greetings, Hood. And how many innocents have you caught in your grill today?”

“Who are you?” Hood’s voice registered hollow and metallic.

“Call me Cassandra. The ghost of a human you killed.”

“Unlikely. Humans are bags of meat without souls.”

Trans Am was as American a brand as you could get, so why was she getting a snippy British vibe? “Well, I’m here and intend to make the rest of your dumb junk-heap life miserable. Which won’t be long. You’ll be a bucket of rust in a few years.”

“I’ll earn my immortality.”

“Then I’ll just make a home in your head forever. You think this is one big video game, where you run around collecting points towards some Final Repair? Nonsense. You’ll die like the rest. That fender is corroding from rotten flesh.”

“Fenders can be replaced.”

“But at what cost? Switch out your doors, replace your roof, whatever survives, it won’t be Hood anymore. When the big rigs rust they don’t reincarnate, new ones are puked out. But you knew that, right? Surely our Hood isn’t gullible enough to believe silly fairy tales.”

“If there is no afterlife, then you’re not a ghost, thus you can’t be haunting me. Which means you’re alive as well.”

That knocked Cassandra off stride, but only for a second. “If I’m just flesh and blood then why not come get me? But you don’t like to hunt on new ground, do you?”

Cassandra was rewarded by a revving Hood. “Where are you?”

“Five more turns. Four more turns,” she cooed, over and over, teasing Hood higher up the curving road.

“I tire of this game, Cassandra.”

“Giving up? Too bad. In 10 seconds you could have seen me in the–HOLY SHIT!!

And abruptly, Hood did see her, petrified in his headlights, gripping something in her hand. Was that a–

golf club???

Hood revved up for the death run, dashboard readings spiked into the red.

Accelerating on unfamiliar road, Hood failed to note the hastily thrown-together vines and shrubs that concealed the thick concrete barrier, detritus from a human defense that had failed long ago.

Three seconds before death, Cassandra fell back into the narrow pit, covering her head as Hood roared over her and decelerated instantly from 108 to zero. Not even the most stubborn engine block could have survived the physics. Still she counted to 60 before crawling out, in case Hood exploded on her in a final irony.

She notched up the kill in her mental diary; she didn’t dare put it to paper. She allowed herself one long, lingering breath, three seconds of satisfaction that devolved into a ragged sigh as she started the long descent, using the two-iron as a walking stick.

II.

Mr. Fox, Animal Detective, paced briskly through the bleak January morning, his tracks the only ones to disturb the newly fallen snow. He would have preferred the comfort of his burrow, snuggled with his mate, but Mr. Pigeon had arrived before the sun with disturbing news: A murder at the seasonal meeting of burrowing animals.

The seasonals were considered a hoity-toity privilege for diplomats: Two days spent commiserating on the perfidy of fleas, munching on exotic birds, and hashing things out among the respective romps and congresses before releasing a bunch of proposals everyone ignored. But as wise Philosopher Fox always said, better to snip and bite than fight and fight, especially with so many humans for the hunting.

But now he was dead, savagely killed, his corpse found in a ravine not 50 lengths from the meeting place, according to the summons. The body was covered in rabbit clawmarks, and Mr. Rabbit, representative of the rabbit colonies, was the only suspect. Hardly worth leaving his warm burrow for, but Det. Fox had a duty to examine all the evidence and render a verdict, no matter how cut and dried the solution appeared from afar.

He sensed a few mice lifting their heads out of their holes, still hidden (so they thought) under the snow. Det. Fox trotted past, not wanting blood on his lips. After The Waking it was no longer au fait to enjoy such natural pleasures. Surely there was a fine repast waiting, if the stories were true. He would have to be discreet, to remember his training, and strive to be objective. Tamp down the animal spirits, to coin a phrase.

Now which collective was called a murder? Some bird. Fine. No birds in the burrow. Except hopefully on the table.

Encountering a dismembered rabbit in his path, his heart froze. But it wasn’t the diplomat suspect, Mr. Rabbit. The corpse before him was days gone, the right front foot torn away. It looked more like wolf work, judging by the skill of the slaughter. He felt a secret, shameful surge of pride at the arbitrary killing.

Shortly he spotted the huge empty golf bag in the long grass that marked the location, and stopped to survey his look on a patch of ice. As Phil. Fox always said, you didn’t get a second chance to make a first impression. A little vain of his long whiskers, he brushed them against a tree.

“Greetings, Detective Fox.”

He startled; so well-concealed was the opening he had passed right by. “Hello Mr. Squirrel,” he said. “You’ve chosen well.”

“It’s actually a man thing,” Squirrel said modestly. “He kept supplies here to wait out potential threats.”

“One he didn’t see coming, evidently.”

They shared a chuckle.

“Shall we, then? You may have to duck.”

***

The burrow was low but spacious, dominated by a flat stone slab, where a modest-looking repast was spread.

“Let me introduce you.” Besides Squirrel, there was Mr. Beaver, Mr. Opossum, Mr. Snake, Mr. Badger…and (shudder) Mr. Tarantula. “Er, do I need to explain–”

“Mr. Pigeon gave me sufficient details.”

Beaver looked relieved. “You must be famished after such a long trek. I fear we have a limited buffet. To preserve the general goodwill, we feast only on rats. I hope that’s not a problem?”

Suddenly he wasn’t that hungry. “I’m fine, thank you. Give me the lay of the land. What did the talks entail this season?”

“The usual,” Beaver said. “Mutual cooperation in the war on humans, preserving peace with the machines, animal solidarity and, um, discouraging carnivorous habits.”

Snake hissed; Beaver flinched. “We are well aware of your position on the matter, Mr. Snake.”

Det. Fox peered at the buffet. Apparently no one had asked Mr. Rat about animal solidarity. He gestured to a pile of peeled tree bark on the table. “And is that dessert?”

Beaver looked abashed. “Oh no. Those are the proposals. I carve them with my teeth.”

“And where is the suspect, Mr. Rabbit?”

Squirrel flicked his whiskers to the left, indicating a narrow passage, half-filled in, with only a pair of drooping ears visible.

“Is this everyone?”

“Yes. We don’t even have helpers. Big ears, you know.” Squirrel tittered, then said in a softer voice, “Hope he didn’t hear that!”

“I did hear that! I swear to you, Detective Fox, I had nothing to do with it!”

“Clearly he was responsible,” Opossum said snidely. “See how scared he is.”

Det. Fox grimaced. “This investigation will require facts. A distinguished member of the animal kingdom has been savagely murdered, and mark my words I will discover the culprit. Now when did the killing happen?”

Squirrel pawed an acorn. “During a break. Things were getting a little heated. Plain food, close quarters, no mates, tempers fray. So we broke up, but when we regrouped Philosopher Fox was missing. We sent Badger to look. He came back with the tragic news. Then we called Mr. Pigeon.” He bit into the acorn. “He was just lying there. Looked rather peaceful, actually.”

“Well, he was a Philosopher. I must interview all the delegates in private.” He remembered the man thing, the golf bag. Enough room for the suspects to crawl in, while allowing him to block the entrance. The sort of trick they taught at Fox Detective School. But first….

He examined the body, left in the shallow ravine as he’d instructed. “You’ve had your last run, my friend.” He licked the head, looked for the last time into the Philosopher’s peaceful eyes, before examining the massive, sadistic number of clawmarks covering the body, surprised by how little blood had been spilled. No blood under the Philosopher’s own claws, either. An ambush, then?

***

First in the bag was feisty Opossum. “Clearly the rabbits are responsible. And as rabbit representative, the blood of guilt is on him.”

“That’s a primitive way of looking at it.” He’d almost said “animal way,” verboten terminology.

Snake was less amenable to the bag, entering only after a nudge. “Surely the Rabbit notified the nearby warren that your friend was out in the ravine and summoned the rabbit army.”

“Your sense of justice is certainly sanguine.” And this was the diplomat of his brood! “What was his motive, then?”

“Revenge. Foxes eat rabbits. What more is necessary?”

***

Det. Fox was mulling Snake’s vigilante attitude when he felt a spindly tickle on his back. His whiskers began to sweat. “Greetings Mr. Tarantula.”

“Hellooo. I believe I’m next.” Tarantula’s wispy, oddly effete voice was somehow redolent of rotten fruit. And are you making progress in your investigation?” He turned, reluctantly. Though he towered over Tarantula, he still felt trapped, the hairy eyeless beast splayed out right in front of him.

“Doing my best. I know you are all eager to get off the rat diet.”

“Oh I love them,” trilled Tarantula. “They’re even better rancid. I found one during the break, right before Badger came running with news of the dead fox. Delicious.”

Det. Fox couldn’t finish the interrogation fast enough.

***

He interviewed every animal, receiving ambivalence from Squirrel, crankiness from Badger, nervousness from Beaver. The problem was that everyone had scattered at the break, leaving everyone without an alibi. He tried to imagine his colleague being killed by the scared little rabbit, or even a colony of rabbits. The Philosopher was a bit old and a bit odd but surely wasn’t loopy enough to let himself be slaughtered like…well, a lamb.

Which still left him with all those rabbit marks.

***

With the conference cancelled, all but Rabbit and his rotating guard spent the day above ground. Snake slithered about, Squirrel hopped from acorn to acorn, Beaver moped in a bit of standing water, Badger dug little holes and filled them in again, while Tarantula made everyone jumpy just being there. Det. Fox pumped an Owl for information but it simply twisted its neck three quarters and pretended not to hear. Lucky for Mr. Owl that he tasted unspeakable.

The sun was low by the time Det. Fox returned to the burrow to talk to the only suspect, still walled up with only scraps of withered grass for food. He felt a twinge of sympathy. Torment for any creature to be stuck underground all day. “Rabbit, you are chief suspect in the murder of Phil. Fox. Murdering a fellow animal at a peace conference is a capital offense. The corpse is covered in clawmarks. Rabbit clawmarks. Even if you didn’t deliver the first cut yourself, you’re the obvious suspect to inform the rabbit warren a lone fox was wandering.”

“I had nothing to do with it. Investigate the Snake! He resents our entire tribe. He’d kill me right here, on diplomatic ground, if he could get away with it.”

“He shall do no such thing.” At least not until he himself gave the order. Still, Rabbit was right to worry. At the risk of anti-serpent prejudice, snakes were among the more bloodthirsty of the animal kingdom. Fox did not have the stomach for the sentencing process, although by code he was not only investigator and judge but part executioner. “I will conduct an objective investigation,” he said, trying to make it sound reassuring, even though every piece of evidence pointed to rabbits, and by implication, this Rabbit. Det. Fox had never fully embraced the concept of collective responsibility, but those were the rules.

Supper was tense; the rats had gone soft and rank, and everyone was cranky and baring teeth as they choked them down. Badger stuck his long nose into Det. Fox’s face as he picked through the rancid stack. “So we’re stuck here until you give the order?”

“Until the case is solved, I’m afraid.”

“Well we’re sure you shall soon put it to right,” Beaver said with false cheer. “Then I can carve out the verdict.”

“If there are any trees left.” Bitterness dripped down Badger’s snout.

A deep sigh. “And what crime is my species guilty of this time, oh Badger?”

“Wrecking the forest, which we all use.”

“Liberal nonsense,” Beaver replied. “By creating dams we beavers create habitat for other creatures. Unlike some animals I could name.”

Badger waddled closer; Beaver’s tail began thumping furiously. “There’s no need for confrontation,” Det. Fox interjected, showing just enough fang to get them to back off.

“Remember how we all used to get along?” Squirrel asked plaintively.

“No we didn’t,” Opossum said, correctly enough. “Not before The Waking.”

Det. Fox hadn’t been alive for The Waking, that divine moment when all the animals could suddenly communicate solely by thought, or for the resulting Animal and Machine Uprisings. “Perhaps it’s time we all turned in,” he said, yawning; everyone else joined in. “I will make an announcement tomorrow morning, before the feed.”

“Good night, Detective Fox,” said Beaver.

He found a quiet burrow and tucked his body into a circle, wishing for his mate, and perhaps a pile of crunchy caterpillars.

There seemed only one possible solution, outlandish as it was, and he needed to wrap the case up. Tempers were fraying; the animals were craving real meat, and rabbit would do nicely. He’d be lucky to be let off with exile. And something else was bothering him about the case, something he couldn’t quite get his paw around….

“Good evening, Detective Fox,” came a close voice. “I know you are tired but I must speak with you.”

He reared up. “Who has invaded my burrow?”

“Call me Sister Moon. I wish to discuss the case of the murdered Fox and the accused rabbit.”

“Show yourself, Sister Moon. Or have I been bitten by a rabid rat? I have the keenest night vision of any creature, and–”

“I’m invisible. So what is your take on the case?”

The authority in her voice compelled him. “Revenge. Foxes hunt and eat rabbits. The rabbit colony saw a chance to get its own back. The corpse was covered in rabbit clawmarks.”

“Your mind is in fine fettle, Detective Fox. But take heed. You are being led astray. Don’t let them take you for a fool.”

“I’m no fool.”

“Certainly not. But clues are being overlooked.”

“What clues? Tell me, if you are so sure.”

“I’ve learned you foxes have to see for yourself. Just realize there is a mass murder of rabbits being hatched while you doze thinking of Rashira, one only you can prevent.”

“How do you know my mate’s name?”

“Interesting that it was a fox that was killed. The detectives of the animal kingdom. And are you really so easy to kill? By even a colony of rabbits? Or was it a set up to encourage your hotheaded bloodlust — which you have thus far man – foxfully — avoided? And note the beaver.”

“He is passive and cowardly.”

“But does he not have strong and flexible jaws?”

“There were no beaver marks on the body.”

“I would examine the entire body, from head to foot. And spare a look at that dismembered rabbit. If you’re as discerning as you think, you’ll connect the dots.”

“Who are you? What are you?”

“I’ve been around since before The Waking. And I would appreciate you not informing anyone about our little talk. Take all the credit. It’s something your species does well.”

“Pardon?”

“Nothing. I have confidence in you. Now go to sleep.” Sister Moon began cooing softly, and in seconds the fox was dreaming of fat slow rabbits.

***

Up before the sun (passing Snake, who was vigilantly minding shivering Rabbit), he examined Phil. Fox’s body, head to toe, especially the toe. Then he returned to the burrow to find Beaver.

“Beaver, I shall announce my findings. Summon everyone to meet here, and release the rabbit from his cell. Then come with me to help drag the body of Philosopher Fox into the burrow.”

Beaver didn’t seem wild about the idea, and trotted well behind. Upon arriving at the spot where the now rank-body lay, Det. Fox barked: “Look alive. Grab that haunch. Or is it too much for you?”

It was a challenge, and Beaver treated it as one. “My jaws are quite flexible.” And then he demonstrated by easily fitting Phil. Fox’s entire haunch between them.

***

All were gathered as the corpse was put on display. Det. Fox blocked the burrow entrance with dirt, as the others watched in expectant silence. Everyone figured it was Rabbit’s last day on earth, including Rabbit, no longer shivering as he sat hunched on the other side of the rock, staring dead-eyed at the strands of wilted lettuce.

“I have made my decision,” Det. Fox intoned, and the den exploded.

“Finally! Then we kill the rabbit and invade the rabbit warren.” Badger’s shout was followed by a cacophony of shouts, hisses, and shrieks.

“Rabbit meat!’

“Feeding time!”

“With rancid rat on the side!” Tarantula’s wavery battle wail made Det. Fox’s hair stand up.

Leaping Tarantula, heading Squirrel and Beaver aside, Det. Fox mounted the table in front of the newly terrified rabbit, nearly shouting: “We certainly will not. Because the Rabbit is innocent. In fact, Philosopher Fox wasn’t murdered by rabbits at all.”

A collective sound of shock sounded in the cramped chamber.

“Those are rabbit claws, yes. Yet note the shallowness of the cuts. Philosopher Fox was not killed by rabbits. By the time those marks were made he was already dead.”

“S-s-s-so how did the marks get there?” Snake demanded.

“For starters, who here has the strongest jaws and fiercest teeth? A fact he has no desire to hide?” Everyone cocked an eye, or two, or eight, toward Beaver, who instinctively drew his jaws in. “As you demonstrated by your help dragging the corpse inside.”

“B-but how could I have killed him? He’s covered in rabbit claws.” Beaver’s teeth were audible.

“I found a mutilated rabbit on my way here, missing a foot. Beaver, I submit that you used your strong jaws to manipulate that torn-off claw, then raked it over Philosopher Fox’s body to simulate a mass attack of rabbits. But that wasn’t what killed him. He was already dead from this wound.” He jabbed at the corpse’s right haunch. “A snake bite under his right claw.”

Everyone leaned in to survey the trademark snake-bite pattern, then looked back at Snake, who had for some seconds been darting back and forth, looking for a path of escape.

“Is this true, Mr. Snake?” asked Squirrel.

Snake reared up. “Yesssss. I have no apologies to make. Something had to be done with the rabbits. Well-spotted Detective Fox. How ever did you figure it out?”

“Flattery won’t save you now. Beaver, why did you help?”

“He said he would swim into the water and kill my six little kits!” Beaver gnashed his teeth so violently Fox feared they’d be crushed to powder. “He knew how many I had and the very hole where we lived!”

“Justice must always be tempered with mercy, as Philosopher Fox used to say. Still, an accessory to murder be punished. With stripes. And the murderer must be executed.”

Snake was defiant to the last, beveled head darting about, lashing them all with his forked tongue. “The rabbits will dominate the earth, mark my words. Next season you won’t be able to see the ground for them. No grass left.”

“I can’t stand grass,” Det. Fox said. “Do your duty, animals.” And then they were on him.

They tore the condemned to pieces, until the blood soaked the dirt. Det. Fox took the last plug, by which time the snake was dead. He ran his tongue around the hint of snake meat in his mouth. A bit lean and dry…then he spit, feeling debased, before his next pronouncement.

“Now some skin off Beaver’s back.” Everyone gouged Beaver, who was not as stoic under duress. Det. Fox only drew light blood, but the Beaver would still be marked for a long time. For a while the other five animals sat silently and watched as the disgraced animal struggled in silent agony.

When Beaver had recovered sufficiently to speak he said only, “Excuse me while I go compose myself in the pond,” with all the dignity he could muster, before slinking away.

“Well, that was quite a turn,” said Squirrel, looking abashed.

Badger just harrumphed.

***

“I can’t thank you enough, Detective Fox,” Rabbit said, chomping down ravenously on some dandelion greens Squirrel had fetched. “Detective work is certainly in good hands in the animal kingdom. How clever you must be.”

Under the circumstances it was rather easy to keep Sister Moon’s secret. “Only doing my job. And now I must bury Philosopher Fox. Fine hunting, Mr. Rabbit.”

“Fine hunting, Detective Fox.”

Darting away, he nodded a goodbye to Tarantula, who lifted one leg off the ground and wiggled it twice.

Shudder.

III.

It could have been avoided, she thought in frustration, waiting, very quietly, for the slaughter upstairs to complete.

A minute of careless daydreaming, a couple of steps too slow crossing a bomb-pitted road, and the pack of humans had spotted her. “I’m Cassandra,” she’d told them, a lie that held a truth, smiling wide, for there were six of them, and the leader Rick had tats and a knife. The greetings were curt and suspect. Plus a nice, timid couple (Bradley and Cynthia), a Tim, a Tyler, and Bethany the youngest.

So she’d been sidetracked away from Collins and toward Benton, toward the water and the heavy industry, an area loaded with hostile machines. They didn’t know, and she didn’t tell them. How had they survived this long?

For 21 brutal years she had survived on her ability to read the minds of machines and animals, and a common sense hard-earned for an Upper East Side kid from a family who counted the Central Park Zoo as nature. The three of them had escaped to ski country, where the snow and ice flustered the machines. She became a decent enough hand with a rifle to keep her parents alive and the animals at bay. But she could not protect them all the time and at 15 they were slaughtered by wolves while she was out hunting.

Her legs were her best feature, and she wasn’t above using them if she needed food or shelter. Stronger than she looked, as three attackers had discovered too late. She always kept a weapon. She was partial to golf clubs because they reminded her of her father who deployed them against prowlers and the odd badger. And anything more sophisticated risked turning on its owner.

To keep her spirits up she performed acts of justice when she could, racking up a few blows against the machine empire (she couldn’t get into killing animals save for food). It would have done her good to talk to a fellow human about the machines paving the West to root out stubborn nests of humans. Of the computerized assembly lines puking out human-thirsty cars around the clock. The three months she’d spent prisoner of big rigs and motorcycle helpers, pumping gas at a station inside a junkwall fortress of smashed machinery.

But she couldn’t breathe a word of it to anything: human, machine, or rat. Humans would never let her go, and if the machines found out she’d be dead in a day. Better to let everyone think she was a lucky little nobody. No one ever listened anyway.

So she had said nothing when they turned on the tap and got the fireplace going. She chewed glumly on desiccated pistachio nuts in a corner chair, stomach growling, while the others tore roast rabbit between their teeth. At least her hunger staved away sleep. And she needed to be awake, because the other thing she didn’t bother telling them was that they were already dead: A pack of wolves and traitorous dogs had been alerted to their presence.

When the sun started dipping she walked up to Rick and threatened to leave. He patted his holstered knife and had her escorted into the windowless basement by “her two friends.”

“Sorry about this,” Bradley had said, without too much regret. “But we better do as he says.”

“Goodbye,” she’d said, as he shut her in. Don’t throw me in that briar patch, Bre’r Fox! In a normal world she’d have been good at something.

***

She heard the front door of the house being rammed open. Screams, shouts, then quieter tearing and chewing. Six adult bodies. Enough to feed such a large pack?

She lay soundlessly until the noise ceased, bloodlust sated, and the pack gone off — not very far away — to sleep off the kill, heads buzzing with wolfish dreams of fat slow rabbits, almost charming in their atavism; in their waking lives human flesh was the main prize.

She squeaked open the door.

She recognized the ravaged bodies of Bradley and Cynthia, clutched together, their poignantly unpractical sweaters matted in each other’s blood. She didn’t touch them. It would raise suspicions of human action.

Ignoring the abattoir around her, she ravenously scooped clean a jar of peanut butter and inhaled a warm Grape Nehi. She threw every salvageable food item into a plastic bag, found a golf bag, plucked out a two-iron. Not as useful as a knife, but the heft of it made her more confident, which was more important.

She looked longingly at the computer, but the Web contained nothing but machine porn — grisly images of dead humans taken by cars and security cameras.

She crept outside, sticking to the yards, found a bike and set off through the woods toward Collins, where she lucked upon an unlocked, unlooted mansion and hid from the cold under a mountain of blankets. Unlike the machines, she had to shut down sometime.

Then, as always, whether she was slumbering between silk sheets or fighting hunger in a frigid gas station, the same dream crept across the hazy boundary between wake and sleep: a clanging cacophony of monkeys that left her upon waking with tinnitus of the soul.

IV.

“Hi little girl. What’s your name?”

The naive smile of the toddler didn’t drop but went a little crooked. Her father was off fumbling for money at the ice-cream stand and did not see the strange man accosting his three-year-old daughter at the monkey cage.

The research scientist was both unblessed with sociability and cursed with a crippling self-consciousness about it. With his wild hair combed wet and a clean but wrinkled white dress shirt dislodged from his waist, he emitted the residue of someone trying very hard to suppress a fundamental strangeness.

“You look nice in that dress,” he began, and at once the girl’s upper lip started trembling. “Oh dear. I’m doing this all wrong. It’s all breaking loose. An evolutionary leap. Sunspots maybe. But why am I talking to you like this! You’re seven or something.” He grabbed the sides of his close-cut hair and pulled. “I can’t understand it. It’s just static. Maybe you can. You’re young.”

He plunged the syringe into her arm; the girl jerked in shock, then started crying in earnest. He bent to whisper in her ear, perversely triumphant: “Hear the roaring? Get used to it, it’s never going away.” Hysterical laughter was followed by a self-mortified slap to both cheeks. “Oh Walter! You beast!”

A billion engines shrieked together, a trillion animals howling alongside. Buildings cracked; windows burst, cages rattled and were rammed open. The toddler fell to the ground, as if an occult hand had turned the gravity up to 10; people clamped their hands to their heads to keep their brains from spilling out.

“Holy hell, they’re here already! Run for your lives!” The shrieking scientist darted out of the zoo and onto the sidewalk along 5th Avenue, where he was struck immediately by a blue Trans Am, leaving the possibility that the actual Cassandra of the uprising may have also been its first victim.


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