by John Pilling
We were sitting at our usual table in the back of Benny’s coffee shop when Charlie looked around then leaning forward pulled a copy of our local free newspaper out of his breast pocket and passed it to me.
“Have a look at that mate “he said quietly.
“What am I looking at?” I said.
“Inside the front page…down at the bottom.” Inside the paper there were two articles, one a puff for our local garage and the other showing a happy looking family mother, father and two children standing by a pile of suitcases on some sort of dock with a huge ship behind them. The caption read “local family takes world cruise.”
“So, what am I looking at?” I said again. Charlie gave an exaggerated sigh then got to his feet pulling a fiver out of his pocket.
“Have a think about it” he said “I’ll get us some coffee…might help your brain work a bit.” I was still looking at the article when he came back but I couldn’t see anything different and I told him so.
“Don’t you recognise the bloke?…our local filthy rich boy, he owns that big manor just outside the village…he built up his own bio engineering firm, genetics and so on and he’s just sold it for zillions. That’s why he’s taking his family on a cruise.”
“So what’s that got to do with us?”
“The family that’s going around the world leaving the manor empty for a month.”
“Oh.” I said.
“The same manor that’s stuffed full of expensive stuff…and nobody there.”
“Oh.” I said again.
“Right…Oh.” Charlie sighed again. “You know Pete, sometimes I wonder what you’d do without me…I really do?”
* * * *
Two nights later, me and charlie were crouched down on the inside of the six foot wall that ran round the grounds of the manor. We’d brought an old stepladder in charlie’s van and used it to get on top of the wall and then down the inside…no problem. It was a dark cloudy night but the moon showed through every now and then…enough for us to see our way, we waited but there was no sound of any alarm. Charlie poked me in the ribs.
“What did I tell you?” he whispered “easy peasy, come on the house is this way.” Straightening up we started to move forward only to stop dead and spin round as a rasping metallic voice suddenly spoke from behind us.
“You are trespassing on private property” it said “leave now.” After a moment Charlie grinned and moved back towards the wall.
“Blimey, that made me jump.” he said, “look, there’s a speaker set in the wall…must be a motion sensor somewhere. “What do you make of that then?” He said no longer bothering to whisper. “Pretty cool set up uh?”
“ Maybe we should do as it says Charlie ” I answered “I’m not too happy about this.”
“It’s only a recording…come on.” Turning he started to walk through the thin screen of trees and after a moment I followed him. We’d just reached the edge of the lawn and were looking across at the dark bulk of the house when the voice came again.
“Turn back now….you are warned that this property is guarded…do not approach the house.”
“Charlie” I said catching his arm “let’s go…something must be watching us.”
“Bollocks, they’re just recordings…come on.” Shrugging off my hand he started off across the lawn and again I followed glancing nervously around me. About halfway across I stopped as the same voice said.
“This is your final warning…leave quickly…the house guardians will be released if you proceed.”
“Charlie,” I called “come back…let’s get out of here.”He glanced back and shook his head then, shockingly, he shouted as something burst out of the ground and wrapped itself round his ankles. As he bent down to free himself the ground around him seemed to heave as more creatures appeared and threw themselves on him. Within seconds he was covered with them …then he began to scream.
I turned and ran hearing Charlie’s screams growing fainter, then they stopped and in the sudden silence I could hear a chittering noise growing louder behind me. A backward glance showed three of the creatures only yards from me…no time to reach the wall… with a final gasping effort I threw myself at the nearest tree climbing frantically till I reached the top branch where I clung gasping with terror and exhaustion.
Looking down, I breathed easier as I saw that the creatures were making no effort to climb after me but had stopped a few feet away from the tree…they resembled giant crabs with huge claws which constantly opened and closed making the chittering noise I had heard. Gradually the three were joined by others, their claws I saw to my horror, were streaked in blood. They can’t climb up I thought thankfully I’m safe as long as I’m up here…when it gets light maybe I can signal to someone.
I was settling myself more comfortably when I heard a metallic click deep within the tree and the branch on which I was sitting started to move inwards towards the trunk. Slowly the tree started sinking into the ground its branches retracting as it did so. I started to scream as it sank towards the ground and the waiting creatures but I knew it was……the end.