The small silver cross rested easily against his chest. It felt like it had always meant to be there, like it had finally found a home and he was finally complete. His mother had draped it over his neck, told him to take his sister and hide only a few minutes ago, but it felt like years.
His sister whimpered, thumb in her mouth as she stared at him with her wide, brown doe eyes. He moved closer to her, wrapping his arms around her and whispering in her ear to be quiet.
The cupboard was dark, not a single crack letting in any light from the hallway. But they could still hear. They listened as the door crashed open and his father screamed for the intruder to leave. He had taught the children their prayers, and sat with them every single night to make sure they said them. The prayers he taught were different from the ones they were told in school. Their father had spent hours making sure they could pronounce the Latin words perfectly, but he had never told the siblings how to say it in English.
Now their father cried out the same prayers, repeating them over and over, voice full of anger and fear in a way neither sibling had ever heard.
They could hear their mother chanting something, words unknown to their ears. Something swished through the air and some liquid splattered on the floor. The girl opened her mouth, and he quickly clamped his hand over it. Squeezing his eyes shut, he prayed to wake up.
Against his chest she was shaking, tremors running through her body.
Feet pounded against the hard wooden floor. Their mother screamed, the sound ripping a hole through him as he tried to work out what it meant. Something heavy thumped to the floor. She had told him the cross would protect him, protect them, and now he wrapped his fingers around it, wishing the four year old in his arms would understand why they could not make a sound.
Their mother swore. The words rose up from her mouth and he felt his eyes go wide. She said the prayers again and they could hear movement, though what exactly was moving was hard to tell. More footsteps, more swishing, and suddenly everything was quiet.
He kept his hand over her mouth, squeezing his eyes shut.
The door to the cupboard opened. Light spiralled in and his eyes shot open just as his sister was torn from his arms.
She was thrown back, over the creature’s shoulder and into the waiting arms of its friends. There were four of them, and his sister was caught between three. He screamed as they ripped her apart. Threw himself forward only to be knocked back by the one who had opened the cupboard.
They had no hair. Just papery grey skin stretching back, wrinkled, between two bat like ears. The one in front of him crouched down, face inching forward as it sniffed. It barred its teeth, revealing a pair of long fangs dripping with blood.
In seconds his short, eleven year life flashed in front of his eyes.
And as quick as his sister had died, the creature was thrown backwards. He watched as a man sliced a sword through the air, taking the thing’s head off. The others were still preoccupied with the little girl, but turned as the body of the thing fell to the floor. Blood went everywhere and he was covered in it, whimpering and crying, snot filling up his nostrils as the man turned and went for the others.
He moved fast. Faster than any other man he had seen before (and his father had been pretty damn fast). Before the child could move, the others were decapitated. Heads rolling across the floor.
The man turned to the boy.
The lower half of his face was covered by a thick, brown beard. His hair was streaked with grey, and in every inch of skin the boy could see the man had wounds. Scars, burns, cuts, bruises.
He lowered himself and reached a hand to the boy.
“I’m a friend of your father’s. You’re safe with me, boy.”
Something about the man made the boy trust him. He took the hand, let the man pull him out of the cupboard and up into his arms. Cradled against the big man’s chest, he was carried from the house and put into the back of a jeep. Two blankets were on the floor, and the man lifted one up and draped it over the boy.
“What’s your name, lad?”
He thought it odd that a man who claimed to be a friend of his family didn’t know his name. But, he supposed, he had never met the man. And he smelled of the things his father used to smell of when he came home late from work. Sweat and smoke and something else underneath it, something not pleasant but strangely comforting.
“Mason,” he whimpered, and the man nodded.
“Sleep, Mason. You’ve had a heck of a night.”
Mason tried to close his eyes as the man walked back to the house, now carrying a large can that sloshed when he had picked it up from the back of the car. When he came out, flickering flames danced in the windows of Mason’s home.
He watched the fire consume everything he had ever known as they drove away and somehow, knew that what the man had done had been the right thing.
Once they were out of sight, Mason slept.
Word Count: 935