She stood up, reaching out to cover her daughter’s sleeping form on the couch with a blanket. One hand still clutched her phone, and as she lowered her eyes to the screen, her husband’s face stared up at her. It had been three days since he had last called, and Janet’s heart was now contracting with fear, scared he had sneaked out and something had happened to him. She couldn’t call him herself, due to insufficient balance in her phone.
She sighed deeply, the wrinkles around her eyes lined with worry and exhaustion, as she stood up to make herself some coffee. The candle flickered as she moved about in the kitchen, wincing as she dropped a spoon on the countertop with a light clatter. She held her breath and listened with all her might for a sound, but all was silent.
Exhaling with relief, she carried her mug to the living room. A crow cawed loudly not far from the window, and just moments later, there was a flap of large wings, a screech and a thump. Janet’s heart began thudding in her chest, and her hand hovered over her daughter’s mouth, in case she chose that moment to wake up and make noise. She listened anxiously as the creature outside munched on the crow’s bones loudly, then there was a whooshing sound of flapping wings, and then silence. Janet pressed a hand on her rapidly beating chest, her coffee lay forgotten.
She wondered what the creatures looked like, as nobody had seen them properly. But then, almost whoever left their house never returned alive these days. Janet hadn’t dared turn the television on ever since the Demo birds had first appeared in town three weeks ago, in case she increased the volume accidently and attracted them. She never opened the lights at day time, and she and her daughter used a candle light so as to produce as less light as possible.
As for her husband, despite strict lockdown, he had sneaked out in the night to visit his sister’s house two blocks away to deliver parcels of food, as she had called for help. Miraculously, he had made it there safely, but hadn’t returned because he had seen them outside the window.
He had described them in detail over the phone in a low voice, but all Janet had heard was that they were massive, with huge scaly wings and venomous claws. She was too busy wondering when they would next talk, since it was too dangerous to talk every day, as the Demo birds had a great sense of hearing. Janet had heard one on her roof the day before, as she was putting Celine to sleep on the couch. She had been too scared to let her out of her sight, so they both slept in the living room nowadays.
Jim had insisted he was fine, when Janet had worriedly asked him, but in her heart she was dreading the day his sister would run out of food again. She didn’t want to think what would happen next.
Janet could see the creatures, strutting around like peacocks. She held in a breath, as Jim tiptoed in the yard, a spade in his hand for his protection. Suddenly he stumbled, and came crashing down. Seconds later, they were on him. All Janet could see now was feathers, claws and blood. Janet screamed, her heart racing. She couldn’t breathe. It was like an iron fist was closing on her heart, making her suffocate.
Janet awoke with a gasp, her hands trembling. Her eyes widened when she saw her daughter’s tiny hands clasped on her mouth. Celine removed her hands slowly so Janet could sit up.
‘Mommy! Why are you shouting? Those things will hear you.’ Celine whispered urgently.
‘I’m sorry baby.’ Janet’s voice was unsteady as she kissed her daughter’s forehead. She stood up slowly. It was morning, and all the curtains were still drawn. She checked her phone as she did every morning, but the screen was as blank as ever.
Just as they were sitting for breakfast, there was a really loud banging on the front door. Janet froze, slowly putting down the fork on the table. She knew it wasn’t Jim, he knew better than to make such noise. Pressing a finger to her lips, she scooped Celine in her arms and tiptoed towards the door, Celine’s hands gripping the front of her shirt.
She peered from the keyhole. A young man stood outside, with messy and unkempt hair. He was dirty, and was wearing torn and ragged clothes. He had an upturned nose, bushy eyebrows and small beady eyes, which squinted in the direction of her door. As Janet studied him, a weird sensation crept down her body to her toes, and she wondered how he was still alive.
In her thoughts, she didn’t notice when he raised his hand to knock again, so she jumped when the door rattled on its hinges.
‘Please help me.’
The man spoke in a hoarse voice, his words slurred. Janet wondered if he was drunk, then shook her head. It was eight in the morning. Her mind worked furiously, and just as her hand grabbed the doorknob, a large shadow loomed in front of the door, knocking the man to the ground.
Janet stood still, her eyes glued to the keyhole, as Celine fidgeted in her arms. She could guess there was more than one Demo bird outside the door, as she could see numerous beaks. She held her breath, unable to move, as she watched in horror countless claws tear open the man’s throat, and feast on his soft flesh.
Something was soaking her feet, and she looked down to see warm and sticky blood seeping from under the door. Her head started to spin and she leaned against the door for support.
Suddenly there was a loud scream, and she snapped out of her daze and looked around wildly. Celine was staring at the floor, eyes wide as saucers.
‘Mummy! There’s blood!’ she gasped.
‘Shh! I know, honey.’ Janet said gently, covering her daughter’s mouth with her hand. She glanced out of the keyhole, and her heart seemed to stop. The Demo birds were standing still, all of their eyes trained on the door. There was a loud crunch as one of them munched on a bone, and Janet snapped out of her haze. She clutched Celine and rushed into the living room, stumbling over a pillow. She grabbed the corner of the coffee table for support, and her mug came crashing down, spilling coffee everywhere.
Dread filled her chest but she didn’t stop, as she heard a loud thump against her front door. The creatures were scratching the door, and soon they would knock the door down with their extraordinary strength. Horrified, she ran up the stairs, skipping two at a time. Behind her, she heard a loud crash, and the door burst open, revealing several large Demo birds. Celine whimpered at the sight of them, and Janet shushed her as she reached the first floor and dashed into her room, closing the door behind her.
Placing Celine on the bed, she tried to drag her dressing in front of the door, but it wouldn’t budge. Dizziness washed over her, she hadn’t eaten anything since the evening before. She retreated farther into the room, hoping against hope the creatures hadn’t seen them. To her dismay, she heard the rustle of wings outside her door.
She turned to the window desperately, but it was impossible to climb on the roof with Celine. She motioned her daughter to stay quiet, opened the bathroom door, and they both slid under her bed just as the creature crashed open the door and entered the bedroom.
Janet held her breath, and watched as it walked around, finally entering the bathroom. Janet dashed forward and shut the bathroom door, locking it from the outside. Grabbing Celine, she rushed outside, holding her breath. She could hear another one in the guest bedroom. Descending the stairs quietly, she entered the living room.
A crash resounded from the kitchen and she jumped. Just as she had put on her slippers hastily and grabbed a knife from the coffee table, her phone rang. The tone was low, nevertheless, the Demo bird heard it. It swooshed after her, just as Janet burst out the front door. She could hear the creature following her, but how she managed to run two blocks, she didn’t know.
Panting, she neared her sister in law, Susan’s, house. She glanced back and the world seemed to come to a stop. There were three of them, walking towards her. If Demo birds had been fast runners, she would have been dead by now. Suddenly, there was a screech from behind.
Janet froze. Slowly turning around, she lowered Celine on the ground. She faced the approaching creature with a thumping heart. Suddenly, Susan’s door opened with a slight creak. Janet sucked in a breath, as she saw Jim tiptoe out, a baseball bat in his hand. Janet was reminded of her dream, and panic rose within her.
Jim pressed a finger to his lips and Janet nodded. The Demo bird in front of her was oblivious to his presence, but the three behind her had seen him. They advanced forward, surrounding her. Celine tugged the front of her shirt, looking up at her with fear in her eyes. Jim mouthed something at Janet, shaking his head, but she didn’t understand.
Instead, she stepped forward and drove the knife in the creature’s neck. It screeched, thrashing about. With a startled yell, Jim started forward. Janet shoved Celine in his arms and pushed them forward.
‘Run! I’ll catch up.’
Jim hesitated, then lifted Celine and ran towards the door. Janet started forwards, leaving the knife stuck in the creature’s neck. The creature howled, ignoring her completely, but the other three ran towards her. One of them was faster than the other two, and it leaped on her. She dodged it, and it continued forward after her husband and daughter.
With a cry, Janet jumped and landed near its feet. She grabbed a scaly wing and scratched on it desperately, slowing it down. It snarled and turned on her, just as Jim and Celine entered the house.
‘Jim! Close the door! Now! Don’t say anything or they will come after you.’ Janet yelled, just as all three of them jumped on her. She screamed. She felt a searing pain, as one of the Demo birds clawed at her neck. She saw her husband’s blood drained face staring at her sorrowfully from the window, while her daughter cried on his shoulder.
As she felt more claws dig at her chest and thighs, the last thought she had was she had saved her daughter. Satisfied, she closed her eyes.