We may not be able to avoid the evil that attacks from without;
but we can always resist the evil
that wants to enter in
Thomas was coming down the stairs
that morning when he spied Toni sitting at an old desk in the far corner of the
living room. He went over and stood next to her. “Good morning. And what are
you working on this early—paying bills?”
“And a fine
morning to you. No, just writing down some things in my diary.”
“You keep a diary?”
“It isn’t a diary about how I feel.
There aren’t entries in it like ‘I was sad today.’ It’s more about events or
information that I want to keep track of. I don’t write something in it every
day, only when something important happens.”
Thomas put a hand on the top of her
chair. “Is this new? You used to have an old kitchen chair here. Now you have a
real office chair with wheels and everything.”
“The leper colony was having a
garage sale and Mom picked it up there along with some dinner plates and
Thomas yanked his hand off of the
chair and held them out away from his body.
“She got your bed sheets there
also. They were a great bargain.” She was trying hard to suppress a smile.
Thomas’s jaw locked. Then he looked
down at Toni. “Hey, wait a minute; you don’t have a leper colony here.”
Toni let her smile broaden as she
“OK, you got me on that one.”
Later on Thomas and Toni went up to
the small second-story balcony of her house and nestled into the two chairs
squeezed up there. It was a beautiful, clear day. They had just finished
another wonderful lunch and had a pitcher of fresh lemonade squeezed by Mrs. Donnelee at their sides. They both said nothing and were
enjoying the breeze. Toni had her head back and eyes closed.
Thomas was noticing how just beyond
the town to the west the plains were flat and straight all the way to the
horizon. In fact, if he closed one eye, the flat roof of the house in front of
him was exactly level with the dark line of the horizon.
Toni lifted up her head. “I have a
riddle for you. I’m not as clever as you are at making them up but here goes. I
go up faster than I go down. I grow but never get heavier. People love to watch
me but no one wants to touch me. A lot of me can keep you alive but even a
little of me can kill you. Who or what am I?”
Thomas closed one eye again and
lined up the house’s roof again. Why is there always a secret pleasure in
playing an unseen game while talking to someone? This time the horizon was
several inches higher than the roof. Thomas brushed it off as his having
shifted in his chair and thought no more of it.
He finally said, “Smoke goes up
quicker than it comes down.”
“But you can touch smoke,” she
Thomas was thinking a balloon but
you can touch a balloon also.
“Give me another hint,” he said.
“You’re giving up too easily.”
“I’m not giving up; I just need
another hint. There can be lots of things that fit the bill.”
Thomas could not think of anything
that “fit the bill” but he had to say something.
“I make noises but I have no mouth.
How’s that for a hint?”
Once again Thomas closed an eye.
This time the horizon was easily a lot higher than the roof of the house.
“That’s strange,” he thought. He shifted in his chair to try and situate
himself in his original position and then he closed one eye again. There was
not much of a difference. Then he slumped down. Yes, if he slumped enough then
he could bring the roof level with the horizon again but he knew that he was
not sitting that low in his chair before. He was practically horizontal with
the ground. He sat up again.
“What are you doing?” Toni asked with
an emphasized exasperation. “Are you stumped and trying to avoid admitting it? Has
my puzzle sucked all of the energy out of you so that you are unable to even
sit up properly? Have I actually stumped the great puzzle man?”
“Oh, I’m,” Thomas squirmed a bit.
Secret games suddenly become stupid when you are caught. “I was, ah, lining up
the horizon with the flat roof of that house in front of us. It’s kind of
stupid, I know, but kind of strange, too. Sort of a weird optical illusion, I
suppose. But anyway…” He looked at Toni staring at him like he had just begun
foaming at the mouth. Feeling increasingly peculiar he felt that he had to say
more as to explain why the illusion was so interesting and why he should not
necessarily be disqualified as being numbered among the sane.
“It’s just that it appears that the
horizon has been getting higher. You know, like the ground is getting taller,
heaving up like it is inhaling.” He was about to say “Forget it” and change the
subject to something more reasonable like the riddle or even waffles when he
noticed that Toni went pale. She let out a faint gasp and jumped to her feet
and leaned over the balcony rail as if to see better.
Her mouth was slightly open and she was very intently staring at the horizon.
Thomas looked out again but it was as though she could see ghosts whereas he
was a nonbeliever.
“What?” he asked. He looked at her
and then out over the roof again. “What is it?”
This whole time lasted a couple of
minutes. He looked down at her hands as they grasped the wooden rail. She held
it so tightly that he would not have been surprised to see permanent
indentations when she let go.
Then she screamed out over the town
with a fury in her lungs that was previously
Thomas and his chair fell sideways
onto the floor spilling the lemonade.
“NISS!” she screamed again. “The
Niss, they’re coming!” She was pointing at the horizon.
Thomas jumped to his feet and
looked out across the town. He still saw nothing strange expect that the
horizon did actually seem even higher than before. But the townspeople, every
single one of them were frozen in place as though a deep chill had swept
through the town. Some were looking up at their balcony whereas others were
staring to where she had pointed. Time had stopped. Then, as if on cue,
everyone ran. They went in all directions but had two things in common, they
were all terrified and they were all equally shouting, “The Niss! The Niss are
Thomas looked like a startled cat,
“What? What is going on?”
Just then he heard the church’s
bell ringing wildly as if Quasimodo had tanked up on caffeine. This seemed to
put everyone into an even higher gear.
“No time right now—we must get
going,” yelled Toni.
She grabbed Thomas’ hand and pulled
him down the steps. Several times he stumbled and almost went down headfirst.
He could hear shouts of “Niss!” spreading across the town. People who had
smaller children were picking them up to make greater haste.
When they turned the corner of the
house Mrs. Donnelee was at the front door quickly
ushering them in.
she was yelling and waving. “Where’s Carl? Where’s your brother? Wasn’t
he with you?”
There was a woman with three
children gathered around her like panicked chicks. She was listening to a man
whose mouth was moving like a piston on a steam engine. Thomas recognized her
as Janet from church. She said something and then the man pointed and jabbed at
the air several times and yelled loudly, “GO! Go to the church now! You don’t
have time to get home! Your husband will be safe at work! All of the proper
precautions have been made there! You must take your children and make haste!”
With that she scooped up the smallest child and they all ran like the Devil was
Toni yanked Thomas into the house.
“Where’s Carl?” again shouted Mrs. Donnelee. “Have you seen Carl?”
“I don’t know where he is,” Toni
was hanging out the door frantically looking both ways. Toni was running from
window to window slamming them shut and locking them. She had an incredible
sense of urgency.
“What are Niss?” Thomas asked as he
chased after Toni from room to room. He also had a great sense of urgency about
him but he did not know why.
“This Niss,” Toni said between
breaths, “are creatures that swarm in the billions. They’ll smother a town and
“What do they plunder?” The word
“plunder” gave Thomas an image of pirates each one with a stripped shirt and an
eye patch kicking in doors everywhere. For some reason that
dispelled some of the sting of this entire drama. “Besides,” he thought,
“there aren’t billions of anything. This whole thing
“Souls,” replied Toni.
Thomas snapped back to reality.
They plunder souls.”
Thomas questioned in almost a hush. “How does someone steal a soul?” If
everyone were not in such a panic he would have found the whole thing rather
comical or at least surreal; almost like something someone on a drug trip would
Toni continued talking. She was now
running up the stairs so Thomas was forced to follow. “The Niss are small,
about the size of your thumb. They are shaped like a cigar and are gray with
black splotches. They must be hollow or nearly hollow and the same density as
air so they kind of fly.” She was running to each bedroom closing windows.
“Their back half sucks in and out very quickly and that propels them along.
They move very fast. They swarm in the billions. That’s why it looked like the
entire horizon was rising up. That was them, stretched across the sky and
moving our way.”
“So what are you shutting all of
the windows? Are they that strong that they can rip through the screens?”
opposite.” Toni was speaking between heavy breaths now. “They are
extremely weak but they can get through an opening the size of a button hole.
That’s why I think that they’re hollow. They can squeeze themselves very
narrow. Everybody knows how to make their homes air tight—to keep them out. If
fact, before anyone can move into a home it must first be inspected for even
the slightest crack or opening. They’ll crawl all over everything trying to
find a way in. Nobody’s been able to kill one and if you get one into a jar
it’ll sit there forever and then once you open the jar it’ll fly out at you.
Your only hope is to wait it out.”
“So what is this part about the
soul?” Thomas was feeling rather overwhelmed not to mention his having to
sprint from room to room.
“Now that’s the really horrible
part. They will try to get inside of you through one of your nine orifices.”
Thomas knit his eyebrows together
and started to count but was quickly distracted.
“Actually they can’t get in through
your ears because of your eardrums but all of the rest will do. Once inside,
they will slowly feed on your soul.”
“How can you possibly know that? I
mean, you can’t even see someone’s soul.” Thomas could hear Mrs. Donnelee screaming out, “Carl! Carl!”
Toni paused at the top of stairs to
catch her breath. “You can’t see your soul but you know that it is there. It’s
your personality, your conscience, your morals, your creativity. When someone
gets a Niss inside of them it’s like they begin to rot. They’ll become more
angry or bitter. They might complain more or snap at you for every little
thing. Then they might start stealing or getting into pornography or drinking
or drugs. Further down the road they are committing adultery. You can see the
progression and the more Niss they have in them the quicker it spirals down.”
As if she just realized that she just wasted a couple of precious seconds she
suddenly dashed down the stairs with Thomas seemingly sucked down behind her in
“The scary thing is that they are
hard, if not nearly impossible, to resist. Some people have gotten caught in
the open and try to fight them off but the Niss are relentless. They will probe
for any weakness and keep at you and keep at you until you momentarily let your
guard down. Then they’re in.
“And believe it or not, some people
even welcome them. Sometimes it seems that the Niss know exactly who to go
“Many people gather at the church.
It seems that the Niss rarely make it in there. Something more than good
sealant seems to keep them out.”
Toni hit the bottom of the stairs
and nearly catapulted into the living room with Thomas practically tethered
behind her. He was clearly sweating although the exact cause was indeterminable.
She ran over to the fireplace and pulled on a rope. Thomas could hear a loud
bang from up on the roof. “What was that?” he asked.
“Remember that lid that you asked
me about? That’s what it is for. It seals the chimney from them. Everybody has
one. It’s one of the safety precautions.”
Running over to her mother who was
still in the open doorway Toni grabbed her and pulled.
“Mama, you need to come in. Carl is
probably safe at someone’s house. We need to seal the door. Come on, Mama.”
Toni tugged several times and with great reluctance her mother came in. Toni
slammed the door shut.
At the Fullman’s
house similar preparations were taking place. The children were shutting
windows, closing off the chimney, and pushing rags into any cracks they found.
The two children and mother rushed breathlessly from room to room. Meanwhile,
Floyd sat motionless in his chair silently watching the door. He made no twitch
to the loud calls for him to come and help.
At the church many had gathered.
Janet was there with her children. Rarely had the Niss been able to traverse
these walls and even then it would only be a few and they would seem to lock
right in on their targets and enter them. Every pastor who was there would
always keep the front door open for refuges until the very last moment. Then he
would pull the doors shut with a decisive bang and turn and speak words of
comfort to those gathered while the light dimmed as the Niss covered the
Today there was a crowd in the
hundreds. Some were trembling and terrified, others with their heads down
dabbed at their eyes. But most stood around the pastor with
quiet confidence. On everyone’s mind was the horror of seeing several
Niss slip in, then wondering if any would come straight for them. The children
with their bravado pictured snatching them out of the air and then crushing
them with their hands thus saving the congregation. But even while these dramas
played out in their heads they clung tightly to their parents.
Several came over to the pastor and with great
sorrow and sometimes weeping they confessed sins: greed, lust, gossip, unforgiveness. Then their hearts
would be strangely peaceful and assured.
From the small box next to the
door, Toni pulled out a keyhole shaped plug. Every time Thomas had passed the
door he wondered what that box was for. Once or twice he opened it and peered
inside, but he was afraid to take the thing out. He thought that it might be an
alarm or something and he did not want to set it off. Now he was about to find
Toni tried to stick the plug into
the keyhole but she dropped it. She quickly picked it up but then dropped it
again. “I can’t find the plug,” she yelled as she frantically scanned all
around the floor. “We’ve got to find the plug!”
“I saw where it went.” Thomas reached
under a chair and produced the plug. Then he firmly pushed it into the keyhole.
Once the door was secured they lit
several kerosene lamps. “No guarantee of electricity,” Toni said.
Every street was empty and every
house was quarantined. There was a suffocating stillness like a giant wave was
able to strike.
Russell was out at his favorite
place. He had just finished filling the troughs with seed and was sitting on
his rock on the edge of the pond. The angels glided beneath the surface,
bobbing up occasionally to snatch the offering that he periodically dropped
from his bag. He closed his eyes and listened to the joy surrounding him.
At the Donnelee
house they gathered to the front window and could see that the Niss had reached
the far edge of town. It would only be minutes before they hit. Mrs. Donnelee closed her eyes tightly and thought of Carl.
When she opened them again she
could see someone nonchalantly turn the corner and cockily stride towards the
house. It was Carl. He had a defiant grin. It was obvious that he could see
everyone watching him through the window. He gave a wink. Mrs. Donnelee rushed to the door, pulled out the plug, and flung
the door open.
“Carl!” she screamed, “Carl, come
in here. You can make it. Hurry!”
He simply stood there grinning.
Just then Thomas and Toni knew. They felt the blood drain from their bodies as
their jaws sank down.
“Carl, come here now! You can still
make it!” screamed Mrs. Donnelee. She was about to
lunge out to grab him when Toni rushed over and restrained her by wrapping her
arms around her mother’s waist.
“Carl!” she was now shrieking,
“Carl!” She was fighting to pull away but Toni had her firmly by the waist.
Carl never moved; Thomas was frozen.
“Mama, no” yelled Toni as she was
being pitched about.
The Niss were now only a couple of
blocks away and coming fast.
“CARL!” she continued to shriek.
She was now starting to drag Toni
partially out the door. It would only be a matter of seconds now. Thomas ran
over and wrapping his arms around both Toni and her mother pulled them both in.
“No, no,” Mrs. Donnelee
was pleading just before she collapsed with Toni to the floor. She was sobbing
hysterically. “No, no.”
Thomas slammed the door and stuck
in the keyhole plug. He ran back over to the window.
Russell’s eyes sprung open. He
heard the frantic clanging of the church bell. It was a ways off but its
warning was like a punch in the head. He sprang off of the rock. He knew he had
no time to waste. He grabbed the empty wheelbarrow and with a more exaggerated
limp because of his rushing he pushed towards town.
When his pace was leisurely this
was never a problem. In fact, the frequent stops to watch a scampering lizard
or admire some toadstools were welcome. But at this quickened pace Russell’s
limp swayed the wheelbarrow violently so that it would bang into trees and tip
over far too often. Russell was pouring sweat trying to bully the wheelbarrow
and yet the bell sounded no closer.
At one point the wheelbarrow
aggressively tipped and pulled Russell onto the ground. He rolled over and
stopped face down in some dried leaves. His hand struck a rock hard, but He did
not have the time to see if he was hurt. He struggled to his feet and wiped his
hand against his pants leaving a dark streak.
He was forced to leave the wheelbarrow
on its side and half skip home. It was the fastest way that he could move. He
would never do this around others but no one was here and the situation was
As he reached the edge of the woods
he had to bend over and lean on a tree trunk. The wheezing of his labored
breathing drowned out the sound of heavy drops of sweat falling on brown
“Please, God, get me home safely.”
He looked up and saw that the town
was already deserted. Then he looked to the west. They were coming—a dark,
pulsating wave that looked ready to crest across the town.
He gathered himself and like a
wobbly pogo stick headed for his house. His mind went blank as his whole energy
and focus went into movement.
He was only two blocks from his
home. He did not hear the people banging on their windows urging him to come
He was getting closer. He could see
his house on the next block. The stitch in his side was excruciating. He
turned. The Niss were but a half a block away and coming like a train. He
looked back at his house. He would not be able to make it. He cried out, “Save
me!” and then did the only thing that he could do; he fell to the ground. He
curled up into a tight ball, squeezed his eyes, pinched his nose with one hand
and pressed a handkerchief that he had ripped out of his pocket tightly over
finished securing the house. They gathered in the living room with the children
clutching their mother with all of the strength that they had left. They gaped
at Floyd wondering if he had become paralyzed with fear or went insane. From
the look on his face they determined that it was neither. “Floyd, what are you
doing?” Mrs. Fullman yelled. “You’re just sitting
Floyd sat motionless as if no
question had been asked and no one was near him; his arms rested firmly on the
armrests, his fingers curled around the edges. He simply stared at the door
like a waxen parody of a life spent isolated unto himself.
The dictator was content to let others run the show. In a situation where he
would be in his glory barking commands—“You secure the kitchen,” “You take the
upstairs!”—rather he sat in rigid silence with the faintest smirk.
The children were confused and
frightened, their lips quivered. Tears ran down the cheeks of the girl. The
three of them then rushed to the corner of the living room and huddled in a
At the church, Dan was kneeling at
a pew but rather than praying feverishly like the others he was looking around.
The pastor’s words were a background hum to him. He might as well have been in
a wax museum as oblivious as he was to everyone else. He kept thinking about
his pornography magazines. He knew that the Niss would find them under his bed
and in his closet. He could just see them crawling all over them and in between
the pages. That did not really bother him. What was really squeezing his guts
like a fist was that he thought that everyone here somehow knew. And despite
their histrionics and overplayed distress he knew that somehow they wished that
some of the Niss would get him. “Look at Dan,” they were thinking, “He’s not
praying because he’s got pictures on his mind.”
He looked around the room, his
upper lip was moist. He caught Jackie staring at him. He was unnerved. “I knew
it! She knows and she’s going to blurt it out. Then this group will probably
throw me outside. They act pious, but all they care about are themselves. But
I’m not going to be anyone’s scapegoat. They’re not going to throw me outside
just to save themselves.” He clenched his fists. Then he looked back over at
Jackie, “who, of all people in this room is she to look at me? Her reputation
is certainly well known. She should be clutching the foot of that cross and
praying for all she’s worth—which isn’t much—rather than sitting there looking
at me.” He turned away with a sneer. “Just let her dare say anything about me.”
Carl gave his family one last grin
and turned to the west. The Niss were only a block away. Mrs. Donnelee’s face was buried in her hands. She was unable to
look. She was still sobbing uncontrollably, her body shaking; Toni had her arms
around her with her face buried into her mother’s neck. Thomas could not tear
himself from the window. It was like watching a car accident about to happen.
When he saw the Niss, Carl turned
towards them. Then he raised his arms like a cross, opened wide his mouth, and
leaned back his head.
Then they hit.
The leading edge reached Carl and
several dozen Niss flew down his throat. He fell backwards onto the ground and
several more poured in. His flesh went pale, his back arched, and he twitched
Thomas gasped and backed away from
the window and braced himself against a chair. The Niss hit the house and
swarmed all over its skin. They quickly covered the window and the room went
The Niss probed everywhere for an
opening. One might disappear under a cedar shake, find a dead-end, and come
back out. Not a single inch of any house could be seen anywhere in town. It was
like a gray undulating sheet had been laid over everything. Families huddled in
corners like lambs hearing the howling of wolves roaming outside. The Niss
groped in masonry cracks, under shingles, and tears in screens. They crawled
all over the chimney lids and pocked into keyholes. They made no sound, which
only made the invasion that much more horrifying. If they found an overlooked
crack in the foundation of a neglected house then thousands could be in the
room next to you and you would not even know it, yet.
The only place left uncovered was
the church. The sun still shone through the windows illuminating those huddled
inside. Many were on their knees praying loudly, some, it seemed, overly
dramatic as though God would be more entreated by their acting than by their
faith. Others just kept looking from window to window to window as though the
glass might shatter and the flood pour in. The pastor was calming others, “Do
not be afraid little flock, for the Father has chosen gladly to give you the
Kingdom. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
stood up and without any hesitation walked over to the front door and put his
hand on the knob. Mrs. Fullman’s scream of “No!”
echoed unrequited. He pulled open the door and they rushed in. Mr. Fullman went down quickly and convulsed hard on the floor.
His legs were kicking violently. Hosts were never treated cordially.
covered the children’s mouths and noses with her hands and screamed, “Close
your eyes!” They were swarmed upon in a second. The children’s muffled screams
deterred none of them. They crawled through their shirts, up their pants’ legs,
and into their ears. Mrs. Fullman shook her head
violently but did not let go of her children even though she could feel them
sliding on her stomach like garden slugs. Her hair was entwined with them and
some had worked their way between her shoe and the bottom of her feet.
The boy could resist no longer and
he opened his eyes but for a moment. Two of the Niss crawled under his eyelids
The girl pressed one hand tightly
against her mother’s hand which was pinching the girl’s nose. Her eyes were
scrunched tight. With her other hand she kept pushing them off of her face only
to have dozens more fill their place. Her cries were muffled by her firmly
Though she had fought hard to
resist, several of the Niss crawled in through Mrs. Donnelee’s
nose. As they entered it was an almost warm, pleasurable sensation. She was
tempted to relax and enjoy it nearly wishing that more would enter. But the
screams of her children quickly startled her back and she once again joined the
battle even though it was too late for her.
Russell was covered. He could feel
them probing into his ears. It was like being covered with slugs on
amphetamines. Through firmly pursed lips he kept making two quick squeals followed
by two longer ones. This pattern was repeated over and over again and again.
Try as they did, yet, they could not get under his skin.
There were several audible gasps at
the church with fingers pointing towards the ceiling. Then people scampered in unison
like a herd of sheep towards the opposite corner. Those who were praying
twisted unnaturally to look up. Several—maybe eight—Niss had somehow squeezed
in. They entered in a tight clump but then split off like fighter jets. They
appeared very deliberate in their trajectories. One clump of three flew
straight to Dan. He hardly reacted other than blinking once. They shot into his
mouth. He responded as though someone had merely bounced a Ping-Pong ball off
of his nose.
bulleted at Jackie. She at least screamed and wavered
her arms in a wildly random fashion. They disappeared into her fully extended
mouth corking her screams. She staggered a few steps back and then fell on her
butt. She sat there dazed.
One each targeted Patrick Eggers,
Joey Riddledale, and Melinda Nemes.
None of them put up much resistance.
No other Niss entered the room.
Everyone else including Janet and
her children had taken refuge behind the pastor who was praying with a calm yet
urgent fervency. After several seconds of breathless silence Pastor Goldsmith
ran over to the infected five and hurriedly ushered them into a side room.
Several times he had to pick Jackie off of the floor as she kept collapsing.
After getting them in he slammed the door shut.
He was in there for several long
minutes. People were mixed in their expectations. Would he simply open the door
and return to the group smiling and reassuring them that all was OK or was he
going to be hurled through the splintered door by some demonic force. Those
with the former opinion were rewarded.
At the Fullman
house, satisfied like a sated vulture flying from a half-eaten carcass, the
Niss left exiting en mass through the front door.
lay on his back still slightly twitching. Mrs. Fullman
was gently sobbing. Her son was a like a pale mannequin with a frozen startled
look as if he had been unexpectedly paddled on his behind. The girl was
likewise crying and still brushing away phantoms from her face.
Then, perhaps sensing that no more
could be done, the Niss disappeared from everywhere. They gathered at thirty
feet above the town pausing like a massive sheet and then they left. At all of
the houses the sunlight appeared first in speckles and then within seconds
fully flowed throughout the house. All over town houses could be seen again,
grass, trees, and roads reappeared as if a winter snow had melted. People
At some houses, like the Fullman’s and at Terese’s, there was the prediction of
worse times ahead, for others there was relief and drawing closer together over
a shared victory.
Yet no doors opened. The signal had
not yet been given. Activities within the houses increased but from overhead
the town still appeared deserted. Someone in a plane at that moment would have
expected to see a column of army vehicles with everyone in white biohazard
suits driving down the streets.
Fifteen minutes passed. The only
indication that anyone was there were anxious faces peering out from behind
The first door to open was the
church. At first just a crack, then like the slow lifting of a lid on a casket
from within the door opened more. Pastor Goldsmith stepped outside and quickly
shut the door behind him. He checked every direction, every overhang. He went
into the street and examined a full circle. He stood for a while watching for
any slight motion. He seemed to have a greater sense of the Niss than most
people did. He knew when they might be close and when they might be lying in
wait for someone.
After many minutes he relaxed into
a smile and walked back to the church and flung the doors wide open.
“Everyone can come out now,” he
proclaimed. “They’re gone. It’s safe.”
As the crowd left the church the
pastor went over and rang the bell. The signal was given.
Russell was perhaps the last to
stir. Unlike everyone else he was unable to watch the departure. He could never
drop his defenses for even one second to take a peek since he could not know
what might be lurking and ready to worm into him. The Niss were crafty and were
not beyond setting traps. Only when he heard the bell ringing and the doors
opening and people calling out his name did he feel safe enough to squint a look.
Several rushed over—glancing up at
the sky the entire short trip—and helped him to his knees.
“Did you get any?” asked George.
“No, no, I don’t think so,”
“Well, if you did you’d know it.
You’d probably look a lot different than you do,” replied George.
They brushed Russell off and helped
him to his feet. He was still shaking.
“That’s a nasty cut you’ve got on
your hand,” someone said. He took out a clean handkerchief and wrapped it
around Russell’s hand.
Thomas looked out the window.
People were gathering and talking excitedly. Carl was no where to be seen. He
went over and helped Toni and her mother to the couch. They looked like the
losers of a ten-round amateur boxing match, unmarked but clearly beaten. Thomas
was too fearful to open the door. Maybe the others knew the behavior of the
Niss well enough to go outside, but he did not. He was not convinced that they
might not be lurking behind a hill or even suddenly fly
out of the sewer drains. Unconsciously he was rubbing his arms and chest as
though something were crawling inside his clothes. But there was nothing there.