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Dee scrambled backward, nearly tripping over the madly barking Treach as she threw herself behind the SUV. Something thick and wet splattered the stone where she'd been; strands of white goo solidified almost instantly. She and Treach had gotten clear, but the thing below was coming for them. She heard the hiss of flesh sliding against itself, and against the stone floor. The sound suddenly increased in volume, then stopped. Dee placed her hand on Treach's neck, silencing the pit bull's barks with a touch.
Dee peered around the side of the Explorer. The giant millipede's head sat fixed in the SUV's headlights. The trio of inhuman eyes stared into the vehicle's grill, examining it. The head drifted to one side... out of the headlight's beams, then back the other way, crossing the lights once more. It was cautious. It didn't know what the lights were, but they must have looked like large, glowing eyes to the creature.
Dee would have been fascinated if the thing wasn't trying to impale her with its tongue and suck her dry like a juice box.
When the headlights didn't rotate to follow it, the creature eased forward and nudged the Explorer, nearly forcing it back onto Dee.
Treach lost his mind.
The dog darted from their hiding place and ran to the edge of the platform, where he began barking furiously at the hovering monstrosity.
The creature reared back-
-and waited. It didn't attack the dog, but it watched, waiting for the dog's companion to appear. After a few seconds, it moved to the other side of the headlights to see if Dee was hiding there. When she didn't appear, it went back to the barking dog. Not attacking... just waiting.
It was smart. It was smart, and it didn't care about the Treach.... only her. Only humans.
Dee flattened herself to the stone slab and peered out beneath the vehicle. She watched the trio of eyes search for her. Again, Dee's eyes fell across the nasty vertical wound just below its head. The underside looked soft, and someone had taken advantage of it, carving a giant slit that clearly hadn't killed the thing. But it must have hurt, and it didn't look completely healed. In fact, it didn't look healed at all. Maybe that was why it was so cautious now. Finally, the creature moved back and jerked its head toward her hiding place. It was an odd, almost human gesture, as if casually signaling...
"Oh no!" she whispered. Dee turned.
There was more light now than there had been when she'd arrived, but the light hadn't yet reached the base of the platform where her vehicle had landed. The giant stone slab sloped downward and disappeared into inky darkness a few yards away. Pairs of small red lights began to appear in the shadows. One pair... and then another.... two more.
Behind her, the millipede-creature sank away. It lowered itself to the floor, long body curling across the stone as it returned to its previous meal, confident that the next course was on its way.
The red lights began to multiply.
The first of them emerged at a fast sprint, straight toward Dee.
She crouched frozen for a second... a second that might have made all the difference in the world if she'd used it. But she didn't. Terrified, she watched the single raggedy figure bear down on her as six more emerged behind it. And behind THEM, more eyes blinked open in the darkness, waiting to see if they were needed.
Dee finally scrambled to her feet and snatched up her backpack. That was all the time she had. She was tugging on the zipper when the first pair of arms-
-went down in a flurry of fur and teeth at her feet.
Dee had acquired Treach for protection, but she'd never seen the pit bull attack anything before now. He'd seen him chase small animals... never catching them... and heard him growl a serious warning at strangers. But she'd never seen what he would do if she were actually threatened.
Now she did.
It was horrifying.
The dog attacked so quickly that it was as if he had simply APPEARED at the man's throat. The impact bore the attacking figure to the ground as Treach's teeth sank into shriveled flesh. He didn't let go. When they hit the ground, Treach began to shake his head back and forth viciously while pulling at the man's flesh. There was a wet, ripping sound, and Treach now had a muzzle full of her attacker's flesh. The dog tossed it aside and darted back in even as the fatally wounded attacker sat up. Teeth met ruined flesh, and another chunk came away.
The shriveled man reached past Treach's exposed flank... reaching for Dee with hands that opened and closed like a needy child's, seemingly oblivious to the murder-hound that was literally tearing its neck off.
The thing couldn't be alive. Dee knew where the vital arteries were in the human body... and the ones in the human throat were no longer attached to this thing's head. There should have been a fountain of blood spurting all over Dee, the dog... everything. But there wasn't. The creature's blood oozed like sap, covering the wound and her dog's muzzle like syrup.
And still it reached for her.
Then the dog saw the man's eyes.
Treach loved shiny things.
Both orbs vanished in a hiss-POP beneath the dog's teeth.
The fiend's attempts to sit up ended with eerie suddenness. No twitching... no death throes. Treach had turned the thing off like a machine.
The dog turned toward the other figures, but the fight with the first of them had taken too long. Treach leapt onto the chest of a second man, bearing him to the ground just as he had done the first. But two more sidestepped the carnage and ran for Dee.
She darted away from the Explorer, intending to get back inside the vehicle. The shriveled fiends changed course to intercept, and they were so FAST!
Fast... too fast...
Dee's stomach sank before the realization of what she was about to do. There was no way she was going to make it to the door, but as she got close, she changed direction suddenly, literally spinning away as the two men charged.
The first sailed past her-
-right off the edge of the ledge. It didn't scream. It didn't make a sound. It simply fell out of view.
The second was a bit slower, and managed to skid to a halt-
Dee's soft sneaker caught him on the tip of his chin. It was a well-aimed but weak kick that only managed to force his head back and throw him off balance for an instant. Dee's second kick caught him in the stomach. It was like kicking a wall. He didn't have much flesh on his body, but what he had was solid. If he hadn't already been off balance-
-but he had been. And in the next instant he was gone, too.
-correction: Four. Treach had dispatched another of the raggedy men and was noisily ripping the throat out of a fifth as more eyes were emerging from the shadows.