We are millions strong. Our task is complete. The house is whole. We have erected a perimeter to protect the work until John returns. No more warm collections will enter the house. They are destructive; the small ones gnaw through cables or defecate on surfaces. This causes damage, they will be utilized. The large warm collections are more damaging. They deliberately destroy. We will no longer wait; we are stronger; we will utilize them before they can undo our work. We will wait for John. We will wait for new orders.
Rob watched the footage with growing excitement. If this went as he thought, it could be the start of something big for him. The image was being streamed from a camera he’d left on the tree opposite 109, it showed a small black and white cat playing with something it had caught. The image wasn’t clear enough to show what but Rob figured it had to be a mouse, because surely a bird would at least attempt to fly away and he’d be able to see that. He’d put the camera up the evening Ralph had died, a way of keeping tabs on the house without arousing suspicion. He knew he should’ve gone to the police but what would he have said? ‘A mist rose out of the ground and ate my friend’? Who was going to believe that? No he had to get evidence, his video only showed the mist dissipating, even he thought it looked like a smoke machine or CGI. He had told what was left of his conscience the camera was to show the police what had happened but the rest of him knew it was for the story that would make his career – or at the very least make him rich.
The camera had yielded results almost as soon as it had begun streaming, it showed a bird landing on the garden, a white mist rose from the lawn and the bird vanished. Just like Ralph. But the picture wasn’t clear enough, Rob knew, the definition didn’t allow you to see what actually happened to the bird and he could hear the sceptics saying it had simply flown away, even before he’d considered showing it to anyone. He’d spent the next few days analysing the footage, cataloguing any occurrence of the mist and had built up a frustratingly clear picture of what was going on. Now he was sure the mist, whatever it was, was attacking and destroying anything that found its way into the garden. Frustratingly the footage only showed this happening to bugs, birds, and mice; nothing big enough for the definition on the camera to clearly pick up the details. That’s why the cat was so interesting. If its game with the prey caused it to stray into the garden then perhaps, just perhaps, the camera would pick up enough detail to make his first report believable; to turn him from internet nutter to viral video overnight. He’d already written the script – he just needed the footage.
He fixed his eyes on the cat, will her onward, praying that the mouse, or whatever, would run through the picket fence for safety. He barely registered the socks and sandals that momentarily obscured his view and it wasn’t until the man carrying the flyers opened the gate and turned up the path that Rob paid him any attention at all.
He knew he should do something, he knew what was about to happen but he sat transfixed as the mist rose from the path and the lawn either side of the man. The man shook his ankle, he looked like he was trying to dislodge a stone from his shoe, then he started swatting frantically at his legs with flyers in his hand as the mist rose higher and higher. As the man turned to flee back towards the gate he sunk to the floor, his arms waving wildly around his head and Rob could see his screams and the mist enveloped him entirely, then dissipated, leaving nothing where once they’d been a human being. The cat sauntered passed the gate and disappeared from view.
Rob was dumb struck. At once appalled and impressed. He’d witnessed his second murder, he should feel shock, outrage, terror even, he knew, but actually his overriding feeling was one of being impressed. He didn’t know who or what had killed Ralph and the flyer man but whoever they were they were efficient, ruthless and fast. A sudden flash of disappointment struck him – he couldn’t use the footage of a man being consumed – too much of the wrong kind of attention. His script hinted strongly at that possibility, but he could never show the footage of flyer man. He couldn’t admit to having known the danger and not done something about it. How would that go down?
No he had to gather proof he could show and then make sure they kept away, and now he knew just how to do it.
It had taken a few days to find the animal, he’d had to trawl through a number of groups, most of them wouldn’t allow you to sell animals on their page but some did.
The young couple had been desperate to give away the once cherished pet now their real baby had arrived, all he had to do was act the loving father, keen to give his son the dog he’d always wanted. It had been easy. They had been eager to believe him, keen to assuage their consciences and, ultimately, be rid of the animal so within half an hour of walking through their door he was able to leave with the dog bed, blankets, Ben’s favourite toy, three leads, a small supply of food and bowls and, of course, Ben himself.
Ben was an English springer spaniel, a medium sized dog with gentle curls of long white and chestnut hair and big trusting brown eyes, which were now looking up at Rob, excitedly expectant. Rob almost felt guilty.
The meat had been expensive, but he felt he owed Ben that, at least. They marched down the street, Rob looking like a thousand other owners taking their dog for the last comfort break of the evening. He led Ben to the side of 109, stopping to check they were directly opposite the tree where his camera was waiting and streaming it all live to the internet.
He took the bag with the meat out of his coat pocket and waved it in front of Ben’s nose, “What’s this?” he asked excitedly, “what is it boy?”
Ben clearly new exactly what it was, his tail wagged and he pulled at the lead, very keen indeed to get to the meat.
Rob tore a small hole in the bag, undid the dog’s lead then lobbed the meat over the fence – no point in sending it too far; he wanted the camera to pick up as much detail as it could.
The dog watched as the package sailed over the fence, he scrambled to turn and hurled himself at the fence, jumping up but not quite making it over.
“Go on boy, go and get it,” Rob exhorted him, “go fetch.”
Ben was turning round and round on the spot, tail wagging frantically, he was stopping at the fence on each turn and jumping up at it forlornly.
“Stupid dog,” Rob sighed as he stepped back and thought for a second. The dog was not going to make it over the fence unaided, that much was clear. Rob bent down and scooped the excited pet up in his arms, leaning over the fence to drop him onto the grass on the other side. The dog took off like a rocket, heading straight for the meat – he almost made it too, before the mist engulfed him.
Poor sod, Rob thought as he scratched absentmindedly at a gnat that had taken a fancy to his thigh. He watched as the dog bit at his attackers, gnawing at his fur, frantically shaking his head, his huge ears whipping round and round before disappearing all together.
Bloody gnats, Rob thought, as he looked down.
The camera looked impassively on as Rob realised, too late, he had been leaning against the white picket fence ever since he’d lifted Ben over. The mist swallowed him whole, not even giving him the time to turn round and, just like that Rob became an overnight hit, his video going viral, just like he’d wanted. And 109 Rankin Road became and overnight dark tourism hit.