53 The Bai

    --Eden POV--

    **Diiing. Ding. Diiing.**

    I walk down the quiet, abandoned sidewalk, as the moonlight pours down upon the city streets. All the while, I bang a set of pot and pans together while a recording of Eira's voice plays from the phone in my pocket.

    "Free half-bird special! I taste heavenly! Free white meat samples upon request! Hehehe," the phone shouts, followed by Eira's giggle.

    This has been going for around an hour now, and according to Eira, this is my punishment. Basically, I get to be the bait to attract the Crawlers. I did my best to hold my usual composure when she told me, but I think Eira saw my expression crack a bit.

    When I asked why this was necessary, she told me this part of the city should be an area the Crawlers only recently infiltrated, so someone needs to attract their attention. When I asked what if she's wrong and there are a lot of them, she just said, "Then run, and I'll think of something else."

    I stop, and a set of complicated feelings take hold of me, 'I honestly didn't think Eira would just drop me in such a dangerous situation just for being worried about her...'

    Suddenly a large crash comes from an alley from behind me. I spin around quickly, and a cold sweat forms on the back of my neck. I shuffle my way toward the alley and slowly peer into the darkness. I subconsciously raise the pan above my head, preparing myself for any possible attack.

    'I really hate jump scares. Please, nothing jump out.' I think to myself.

    I don't notice anything immediately, and I breathe a sigh of relief.

    "Free half-bird special! I taste heavenly! Free white meat samples upon request! Hehehe," the phone again plays.

    It's then I notice a black shadow flying toward me abruptly. My eyes grow large, and I swing my pan with full force.


    Something flies toward the ground and crashes into the concrete. I step closer to get a better look. It's a big brown bird with a white head that looks to have been flying away with a dead cat.

    'Is that a bald eagle. Just flying through the city?'

    The cat looks like it has been dead for at least a few hours now. The eagle was probably just scavaging it. I glance around to make sure nothing else is around. I notice a window to my right, and I peek through to find what looks to be an empty basement. Not noticing anything, I bend down and get a closer look at the eagle only for it to start trying to fly, but its injuries are too severe.

    "I'm sorry I didn't mean to. I swung on reflex." I say apologetically.

    The eagle obviously doesn't respond and just continues to struggle on the ground, unable to pick up the weight of its own head.

    I frown, realizing what I need to do, "There isn't anywhere I can take you... So I'll have to put you out of your misery."

    I set down the pot and raise my pan. The sound of metal striking meat rings out across the alleyway. I suppress the tinge of guilt in my body and pluck one of the feathers.

    "They're really quite pretty." I murmur quietly

    I stand and stare at the feather.

    "Free half-bird special! I taste heavenly! Free white meat samples upon request! Hehehe," the phone once again plays.

    Staring at the feather, I notice something in my periphery. I slowly turn my head and almost scream uncharacteristically. In the window of the basement, a distorted face stares at me with a mouth stained in blood and gore. The face opens its mouth wide, and an ear-piercing shriek rings out through the night. I start running immediately only to hear more shrieks coming from other buildings. The sound of glass shattering and other noises fill my ears.

    I look back to see Crawlers breaking through the windows and bursting through doors behind me.

    'Eira! The crime does not fit the punishment!' I scream in my head.

    I rush down the streets, and the number of Crawlers keeps increasing. While I have to run around cars or jump over them, they seem to hardly suffer at all from the obstructions. I turn a corner and run toward a four-story tall bank building. Noticing something at the edge of my vision, I look to find a Crawler who seems to have jumped from the roof of a building.

    I move to avoid it only to realize I'm not going to be able to fully avoid the impact. Just as I'm preparing myself for the Crawler to slam into me, my shadow wiggles, and a small arm shoots from it, grasping the Crawler's neck stopping it. With its momentum, the Crawler does a flip and slams back first into a vehicle screeching loudly. I'm confused, but I don't have time to question what just happened, I just need to keep running. I continue to sprint and look back to find what I estimate to be at least eighty Crawlers hot on my tail.

    'Eira said I'd probably only pull a few dozen at most in this part of the city. I guess they've been spreading faster then she thought.'

    I run through the parking lot and toward the doors of the bank. The bank is a bit odd, with each floor smaller than the last. It almost looks like four progressively smaller boxes stacked on top of one another. I burst through the doors, and the overwhelming smell of gasoline instantly assaults my senses. I momentarily try to come to a stop due to the overpowering odor only to find myself sliding in a puddle of gasoline. I start to fall back but feel someone catch me.

    My eyes turn upward and see the familiar girl smiling at me, exposing her fangs.

    "Have fun?" the girl with long snow-white hair asks.

    My body shakes in relief, but I can't let her know that, so I start trying to piece my thoughts together.

    "Eira! You! Th-that...!"

    "Hold that thought I should probably start running," Eira says indifferently.

    Eira starts running obviously much faster than me, even with the disadvantage of being indoors. I look back to see the Crawlers exploding through the windows and doors. Eira returns the stairwell and continues to move quickly; meanwhile, I'm surprised at the amount of gasoline all over everything.

    'Did we really get this much gasoline? Did Eira get more when I wasn't paying attention...'

    I punch Eira's arm and give her a disapproving look.

    "What was that for!?" Eira shouts between steps.

    "Where did all this gasoline come from!? We didn't have this much!"

    "There's a gas station near the auto parts store. I just went to refill a few times while you were walking around the supermarket next door."

    "A few times. Eira, this place is a giant molotov cocktail. It is overflowing with gas fumes. What if something set it off?!"

    "Relax, Eden, I've never seen you so worked up. I already made sure to check that the pilot lights and stuff were off. It shouldn't explode yet."

    "That's because I don't want to see you kill yourself in some idiotic accident."

    Before Eira can answer, a Crawler bursts through a window in the stairwell and reaches for Eira, but before its claws can get to her, a hand bursts from Eira's shadow and grabs the Crawler. Eira continues to run as if nothing ever happened.

    "Was that you earlier? That stoped the Crawler?" I ask.

    Eira looks at me like I'm stupid, "Of course, you think I would actually let you get eaten by Crawlers?"

    Knowing that Eira was actually watching me the entire time out of concern, a warm feeling fills my chest.

    Not wanting to let on that I'm delighted I decided to tease her, "You were following me, and I didn't notice? But, Eira, you're terrible at hiding I thought I'd notice you for sure."

    Eira purses her lips, "I-I can hide if I need to... I'm not that bad at it." she says in a low, quiet voice.

    I hear the Crawlers shrieking and running up the sides of the stairwell as Eira kicks open the door leading to the roof. With each of Eira's steps, I can hear the splashing on gasoline on the roof.

    I stare at Eira and watch her start licking her fangs in excitement. I've only ever noticed her doing this a couple of times before, and both times it was right before she did something ridiculous. To be honest, I'm not even sure she is consciously aware that she does it. I decided to not bring it up as it's a good way to know when she's about to do something.

    "Explosion. Essence." I hear Eira whisper to no one in particular.

    Eira runs to the edge of the roof and jumps. I almost yell, but Eira covers my mouth. We land one floor lower, and I suddenly remember the design of the building. Eira points to the inside of the building, where Crawlers can still be seen, some run around frantically while others are trying to stuff themselves through the stairwell's entrance.

    Eira gets close to my face and whispers in my ear, "No yelling."

    I feel my face turn hot and nod. Eira continues to jump one floor lower at a time. Making it to the bottom Eira sprints to the far side of the parking lot and hides behind a car. She sets me down and starts giggling with expectation. Eira seems to use her storage ring, and a backpack that she took from the soldiers aboard the 'Moonlight' appears. She digs through it quickly, pulling out a bright orange gun.

    'A flare gun...'

    Eira looks at me and flexes her eyebrows before raising the flare gun with a big smile. A blinding light fires from the flare gun and travels across the quiet night sky.

    "Hey...are we far enough away?" I ask.

    Eira shrugs, "Yeah, probably."

    The light slowly descends toward the roof, and I notice Crawlers have begun to leave the building, and many are starting to pour out from the door of the roof. They stare at the flare and hiss at its brightness, causing some to even retreat back into the building. Eira's staring with clenched fists like someone waiting to see if they bowled a strike or not.

    The flare touches the roof, and the gas fumes are instantly set ablaze. I hear Eira's giggle intensify as the flame goes from a small fire to a fireball. You can visibly watch it travel down the floors and stairwell. With so many fumes, it looks like the air itself is catching on fire. The Crawlers howl, and even from this distance, I can see their skin is bubbling.

    "Crawlers hate for fire is for good reasons." I hear Eira say.

    Unexpectedly I watch as a Crawler screams and then pops like a gore-filled balloon. Some of the Crawlers sensing the danger run out of the doors and windows quickly retreating into the darkness of the night, but many simply can't get out fast enough.

    Seeing that the building likely isn't going to explode, I take a breath of relief and look at Eira, expecting her to be disappointed without a proper explosion. Still, I only find her blood-red eyes full of anticipation.

    Noticing my gaze, she looks at me, "Remember that pilot light I mentioned? Well, I may have done something to the building's gas line while I was turning it off."

    I feel a cold sweat on the back of my neck as the flames reach the bottom floor.


    The windows shatter, and glass sails away from the building. The right side of the building burst open, and brick flies out onto the streets as a massive fireball rises into the air illuminating the night sky. Ruble starts to rain down upon our heads, and I move to cover my head, but not before Eira grabs me and pulls me into her chest. My face again feels like it's burning, but this time I don't know if it's because of the massive inferno or my current predicament.

    "Your health is a lot lower than mine. Can't have you getting killed by a brick to the head. " Eira says.

    "Health? Uhm, anyway, th-thanks." I barely manage to say.

    "Ya know. I never understood why they say cool guys don't look at explosions. In my opinion, they are really missing out." Eira says casually.




    "Free half-bird special! I taste heavenly! Free white meat samples upon request! Hehehe."

    "Hehehe," Eira once again giggles at her own recording.
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