THE THIRTEENTH KEY EXCERPT

 

I take the stairs two at a time. Damn you, I think to myself as I pause at her door to catch my breath. She probably fell again after a few too many vodka tonics while flirting with the bartender pretending she was twenty. I could picture her glossing her lips and running a hand through her hair, making small talk like he cared before stumbling home sloppy drunk and alone. Just last week I found her passed out in a pile of vomit, hair stuck together in half-matted clumps. It took half a bottle of carpet cleaner and an hour to get the smell out. This is the last time, I promise myself as I open the door. I’m not doing this shit anymore.

I freeze.

Glass is strewn everywhere, all over the floor: a thousand diamond shards spraying wild arrays of afternoon sunlight across the ceiling. Mom is crumpled in the corner, clutching her stomach, doing her best to stem the dark tide of red pouring through her fingers. Crouched above her is this…thing. I have no other word for it. A canvas of mottled flesh. Thick, sinewed arms. Fingers that curve down into wicked claws. Blood-orange eyes. Elliptical irises rotating back.

At me.

“Where’s Thirteen?” it hisses through yellowed fangs.

I choke down a scream and edge backward, trip.

It dashes for me on all fours, hooked claws clacking off the hardwood floor, lips stretched into a snarl. I brace and throw my hands up, but something black explodes through the shattered window. Two somethings. Men in dark suits with guns and…clerical collars?

What the hell?

 They clomp to the floor and the thing skids to a stop and torques around with lethal agility and explodes at them. I’ve never seen something move so fast.