20,002 / 50,000 words. 40% done!
Elizabeth was startled by a sudden noise, and bolted upright in her chair. Even Julie looked towards the window.
Elizabeth was horrified to see a gigantic dark shape on top of the mall. “Do you see that?” she whispered to Julie.
Julie groaned in response.
The shape seemed animalistic, four legs, either a curved spine or hunkered down, with a long swishing tail. Even though she couldn’t see clearly, it looked as if it was looking through the glass roof of the mall—and regarding what it saw with predatory interest.
“The dome is making monsters,” Elizabeth said. “I have to do something!”
She thought for a moment. She heard Amy asking what could she do when there were scientists trying to figure it out. She saw Mrs. Pervis’ note reminding her that she was just a twelve year old.
A steely resolve descended.
Elizabeth found a large sheet of paper and a marker and wrote carefully and clearly:
“MONSTER ON MALL ROOF. SEND HELP.”
That was nice and clear. She got up and ran to the check-out desk, and rummaged around on the desk area for several seconds before she found what she was looking for: a stapler and some paper clips.
She returned to Julie, and set about pinning the note to Julie’s t-shirt. She used several staples—from Julie’s moan, it was entirely possible she pierced flesh. Well, that was fine, it would mean the note was more secure. She just hoped that Julie wouldn’t do something stupid like bleed on her note.
Once she was satisfied the note was secured, she grasped Julie by the shoulders and made sure that Julie was making eye-contact with her and not the wall behind her.
“Julie, I need you to listen to me carefully, can you do that?”
Julie drooled a little.
There was an ear-splitting howl from outside, and both Julie and Elizabeth flinched.
“Julie, I want you to go to the barrier and let one of the adults read this note.” Elizabeth poked the note. When Julie gazed at her vacantly, Elizabeth took one of Julie’s hands, and worked Julie’s fingers until she could point at the note. “This note. Do you understand?”
“Note…” Julie responded.
“Yes! Note! Good girl!” This was excellent. She was fairly certain that Julie was still functional—not too bright, but at least as bright as Ellen Riteman, and even Ellen could walk down the street and wave at people. “You need to go to the barrier. Do you know what I mean when I say barrier?”
Julie moved her free hand and jabbed her first finger in the air. “Bzzz!” she said, then snatched her hand back as if shocked.
“Yes! Bzzz! Go to the barrier—the bzzz!—and show the note to people, ok?”
There was another howl from outside—whatever was making that noise must be huge.
“No…” Julie said, with another flinch.
“Yes, that’s right. Note. Bzz. Go on now!” Elizabeth said.
When Julie didn’t move, Elizabeth had to get behind her and start shoving her towards the door. Julie’s body was rigid. Elizabeth could only imagine that all the shocks had taken their toll on her muscles. “Now, just run down to the barrier and—”
“No…” Julie moaned.
“Yes, with the note, and you’ll save us all.” Elizabeth thrust her friend out of the door and quickly slammed it. No need in making it any harder for Julie to leave with an emotional goodbye, especially when Elizabeth was so busy.
Julie pounded on the door and Elizabeth regarded her through the reinforced glass. “Take the note to the barrier.” She made sure that she annunciated clearly. “No. Bzzz! No. Bzzz!”
In the distance, she heard the monster howl again. Julie looked in that direction in horror then turned back to Elizabeth.
“Hurry, Julie,” Elizabeth said, smiling encouragingly. “This is a very important job I’ve given you.”
Julie gave her one last emotion-laden look—Elizabeth supposed it was hard to walk away from Elizabeth Wakefield, the one person whose presence guaranteed safety—before taking off for the barrier.
Elizabeth was proud of her brave friend. She turned back to the papers spread out over the library table. Now, she had to get back to saving the world.
Amy had a tight hold on Ellen’s hand and nothing force on earth would make her let go before she got the two of them to safety. She was glad that not only had Ellen failed to talk her into wearing heels, but that she had actually talked Ellen out of them. Their sneakers squeaked against the marble-effect tiled floor as they hurried to the nearest store for safety.
She wasn’t exactly sure what they were running from, but if all of her instincts told her to run, and she wasn’t going to ignore them to get a good look at the thing her instincts already knew was terrifying.
Amy looked at the selection of stores available and made a judgment call—Lisettes was closer, but it had gigantic plate glass windows to show off the clothes. It was worth going the extra distance to Valley Books next door, which had smaller latticed bay windows showing off their wares. She was pretty sure that the monster could destroy either window, she would just rather that when it did, it would have more trouble getting through the smaller hole of Valley Books.
She shoved Ellen through the door and felt Ellen slow down, but Amy wasn’t going to stop until she found a safe place for them to watch everything unfold from. Amy slammed the door behind them, and kept pushing until she and Ellen had moved behind the counter.
While Amy checked the counter (without much hope) for something they could use as weapons, Ellen dashed to the back wall—Amy opened her mouth to object, but then she saw that Ellen was heading toward the light switches, and shut her mouth once more. There wasn’t much of use behind the counter, unless the beast’s weakness was a price sticker gun, and Amy rather thought it wasn’t.
She picked it up anyway. Maybe it would work as a projectile.
The door opened again, and through it flew Leslie Forsythe, Randy Mason and Kerry Glenn. They did what Amy hadn’t bothered to do—they barricaded the door, using the reading chairs scattered around the store.
Amy couldn’t help but be curious about what was going on outside. She moved closer to the window and pulled down a few of the later Amanda Howards from the biggest display so that she could peep through. Ellen moved into the space beside her and she felt Ellen’s hand reach for hers.
Above there was the shriek of rending metal beams accompanied by the sound of shattering glass, and this time many, many more screams.
There was a rush of displaced air and a vast black shape plummeted to the ground floor, raining down glass shards, displacing planters, and knocking over kids as it fell.
There was a colossal boom as it hit the ground and everyone staggered. Ellen yelped and squeezed Amy’s hand.
Without thinking, the two leaned closer to the window to see what on earth was hunting them. It was hard to see exactly what it was from their position. One giant muscled leg covered in black fur took up their whole view.
Further along the wall, Leslie and Randy peered through the glass door, their fearful and curious expressions mirroring Amy’s own.
“What is it?” Amy murmured.
The beast let out a hissing noise and seemed to tense its leg muscles. Through the window, Amy watched in horror as Betsy Gordon and Dana Larson found themselves right in the beast’s path. They both bolted for the door to Valley DIY but the beast took a giant leap—it seemed almost playful to Amy’s eyes—and then batted them with one hefty paw.
Both girls flew across the mall floor. Dana slid along the floor, coming to rest up against the door for Valley Burgers looking dazed. Betsy wasn’t so lucky as she took the brunt of the hit, she briefly left the ground and smacked head-first into a decorative half wall the discretely hid the entrance to the toilets. Her head snapped back, killing her instantly. Her body fell lifelessly to the ground.
The beast—they still couldn’t see what it was, beyond vast and covered in black fur—whirled around and Amy felt like cheering when it stood on some broken glass. The beast leapt backwards and bumped into the dangling glass elevator. It howled again and started swatting at anyone in its path.
Dylan McKay, who was lying concussed on the ground beside the elevator, was flattened by the beast’s gigantic paw. Amy noticed that the front paws were white, which contrasted starkly with the blood from the cuts on its pads.
They still couldn’t see the head, it was too tall. From the screams above, she wondered if the beast was eating people on the levels above.
A mere second after her mind formed that question, a spatter of blood and the sound of chomping came from above.
“Is it eating people?” Ellen moaned in disbelief.
A single leg fell past the window. It was not attached to a person.
Amy quickly put a hand over Ellen’s mouth, fearing the Unicorn would scream. Ellen did not though, she just sagged against Amy, breathing hard.
At the sound of a scraping noise, Amy noticed that Leslie, Randy and Kerry were reinforcing the barricade at the door. So far the beast hadn’t turned its attention to the people in the shops, preferring the easier prey of kids not lucky enough to get to safety. Still, she and Ellen quickly moved over to them to help.
Amy started stacking chairs with the others, but Ellen did not. She stood close to the door with her head slightly tilted to the side and a frown on her face. “Do you hear that?”