Moving silently was made substantially easier for Miles with the downpour and frequent thunder masking any noises that he made; but he was painfully aware that the same muffling was working against him being aware of any potential threats that he would want to hear coming.
He needed to just find somewhere to duck away from the storm and his pursuers long enough to get his bearings and establish some sort of plan of action. He hoped that everyone else was having better luck than he currently was, finding some sort of safe haven. Hopefully they were all still together. Maybe Gale had gotten them all back to his house and they were securely holed up and waiting for him right now. He damn well needed to do the same thing for himself or he was going to wind up just as dead as Kateb.
The rain was colder than he would have liked and his clothing was sticking uncomfortably to his skin. He wanted nothing more at the moment than to get out of this fucking torrent; he wanted the fuck out of this god-awful town and to be as far away as possible from the crazy assholes that lived here, but first he wanted out of the rain.
He had seen a lot of terrible shit when he was overseas, a lot of things that made very little sense, but none of what he had seen even in Afghanistan or Northern Africa compared to the sheer, unreal insanity of what he had been seeing in this small Idaho town.
Hidden behind a sturdy privacy fence, he saw what might actually be the first lucky break of the night. The lights were out in the house and there was no apparent movement anywhere around him, but he was damned if the door to the backyard wasn’t wide open and swaying slightly with the breeze.
He made his way to the gate facing the alley and tested the latch, relieved to find that it opened without any difficulty. The door to the house is indeed open, he was hoping that it hadn’t been an illusion played by shadows as he made his way down the dark alley.
It takes every trace of willpower that Miles has to keep from going right for the door, but he can’t just ignore the situation that he was in. He makes his way from window to window, peering in through the lower corners, long enough to see that nothing is moving inside and that there is an unoccupied laundry room on the other side of the open door. There appeared to be another door at the far end of the room, which was a good thing, it gave him a buffer between himself and whoever might be lurking in the darkness of the structure.
He stood in the almost absolute darkness, listening for any sound, no matter how slight, that might not be caused by the storm going on outside. His ear pressed against the door leading to the interior of the house, he could hear nothing that indicated that anyone was home, so he built up the nerve to test the handle, as slowly as he could turn it.
An empty kitchen waits for him on the other side, only marginal light coming in through the blinds from the distant light down the alley. There appears to be a living room through the arch ahead of him and to the left. He doesn’t want to go any further into the house. He wants nothing more than to just stand there dripping onto the linoleum floor until there isn’t a trace of moisture left on his clothing, but he needs to check things out and make sure that he’s as safe here as he wants to believe he is.
Miles crosses the dark kitchen, his movements slow and deliberate. The house appeared empty as he crossed the backyard and peered through the first floor windows that faced the ally, but that was no guarantee that the occupants weren’t present. The door into the kitchen from the laundry room had been unlocked at least and kept him from having to force his way through, and he had let himself in with all of the stealth that he could manage.
He stood silently in the entryway between the kitchen and living space for close to five minutes, listening to the silence of the place, attuned to the slightest whisper of his breathing until the sound of his own pulse in his ears echoed like a drum. He didn’t make the slightest motion until he assured himself that nothing moved in the almost pitch black interior of the residence.
His foot descends softly and the faintest creak of the floorboard beneath causes him to immediately shift his full weight back to the other. His breath halts mid-exhale and his eyes widen as he scans his surroundings with sweeping movements of his eyes; his head stationary, like the rest of his body, as still as a living statue, each muscle tensed to react at the slightest impetus.
Even within the structure he is aware that the noise couldn’t have been a fraction of the volume that it was to him, but he was unwilling to risk the possibility of being discovered by anyone that might be there. There was no chance of the sound carrying beyond the walls, but still Miles worries that his misstep could draw the attention of either of the threats currently roaming the town.
In the den he discovers something that makes him want to cry tears of gratitude, above the mantle is an older pump action shotgun. He moved as quickly as stealth would allow and slid the gun from the hooks that held it in place like he was receiving communion.
(Gap in narrative, still unwritten)
In the darkness something latches onto him with hands like a hungry animal, clawing at him and struggling to pull him towards it, or it towards him. Either way it amounts to the same thing.
The shotgun in Miles’ hands erupts with an almost deafening explosion and the hands are no longer there holding onto him. Something wet and visceral hits the ground a few feet from where he stands. Almost immediately he begins walking backward slowly towards the open doorway that he knows is there, and he can hear the hungry thing in the darkness shifting itself around, breath gurgling in its throat.
It drags itself across the floor, the gender that it might have been before disguised by the severity of its wounds. Still it moves inexorably forward, desperate to reach its prey even as the final traces of life begin to dissipate within it. There is no question though, that it should be dead already, that its momentum should have ceased some time before; but somehow it just keeps dragging itself along, leaving a trail of blood punctuated by viscera at irregular intervals.
Miles had seen some terrible things in combat, been party himself to some of the most monstrous actions that one human being can perform against another, but in the minute or so that he had spent watching this creature crawl its way towards him in the half light, he felt bile surging against his esophagus.
Worse than the appearance; the hoarse, guttural groan that issues from its ravaged throat forces Miles’ teeth to clench.
Finally he raises the table leg that he wields like a sledgehammer and he brings it crashing down onto its skull, again and again until he can no longer distinguish between the sounds of splintering wood and bone. So much more silent than the shotgun that had initially shredded its body had been. He finally takes a moment to mutter a prayer to any gods that might be listening that the sound of gunfire hadn’t seemed to attract the attention of others like the thing he has just dispatched, perhaps within the same house.
“This simply cannot be happening,” Miles whispers to himself as he begins to analyze what he can remember of the town’s layout, working out the best route available to him back to Gale’s home and the SUV that he left parked there.
Everyone would be making their way there as well, if they weren’t already there, anyone still alive at least. But the rest of them didn’t know about the firearms and ammunition that Miles carried in a false compartment in the back, so he muses hopefully that Gale is armed, or he makes it back there quickly enough to make a difference. It seems that his obsessive preparations for terrible scenarios finally proves itself to be worthwhile.