Fredrick stepped down from the scooter. He took his helmet off and set it on the seat. Jillian did the same.
“Well, here we go.”
The two started walking the half block towards Temple Pizza. Fredrick paused. He glanced at Jillian, who looked at him questioningly. He scanned the buildings and alleys around him, trying to peer across busy, car-filled streets, through crisp halogen headlights, to see something, anything, that could explain the feeling that was coming over him, the feeling that had come over him so many times before. And then he saw them.
Not just one, this time, but many. One, two, three, four. They were big, larger than any of the cars around them. Larger even than the trash or delivery trucks that constantly rumbled through the city streets. They were different from the one that he saw in Opal’s apartment, or the ones he saw, or thought he saw, in the alley when he first met her.
They just seemed to wait. Motionless. Still. As if in a deep slumber. Their shapes were blurry at first. Like blotches of distortion that made other things look twisted, bent, stretched. Then they would fizzle, and their shapes grew more solid, their angles sharper, the textures of their surfaces twisting and turning like veins, broad legs turned up underneath their bodies, like predatory animals resting, stalking, awaiting their next prey. And then they would fizzle again, fade into the world, and flicker to nothingness.
Fredrick grabbed hold of Jillian’s arm. He felt his stomach twist and turn into knots. He felt like his body was sinking into thick, inky fluid. He gasped, choking for air, wheezing.
“What’s wrong, Fredrick?” she said.
Fredrick coughed. “Can you see them?” he gasped, his eyes shifting wildly from side to side.
“See what?” Jillian scanned the streets. “No, I don’t see anything unusual. What’s wrong, Fredrick?”
“I’ve never seen so many in one place, Jillian. Oh my god, what are they doing here!” Fredrick’s face twisted and contorted. His eyes grew wide. Jillian took hold of Fredrick’s arm and pushed him against the wall.
“What is it, Fredrick? Answer me!” she said, pressing his body against the wall. “Fredrick, please, look at me!”
Fredrick looked around wildly, his glassy eyes filled with fear. Jillian’s clear voice caught his attention for a moment. Dazed, he focused on her, his eyes wide.
“Fredrick, what are you seeing!” she said, trying to keep his eyes focused on her.
“I...I don’t know,” Fredrick stammered. “It’s never been this bad. There have never been this many....”
“Damn!” Jillian said under her breath. She looked around again. She took Fredrick by the hand and pulled him in the direction of Temple Pizza. She stopped at the half-open gate and looked up at Fredrick who leaned against the wall, arms and legs splayed. She reached up and grabbed him at the back of his neck, pulling him down until he was bent over, and then pushed him under the gate. Once he was inside, she followed....