1898 words (7 minute read)

chapter Eighteen

Carl and Mandy arrived at the farmhouse to find no one there; her car slowly parking next to her father’s as her worry increased.

Where the hell are they?

They exited the car, slowly walking towards the house, but Mandy stalled after seeing lines of blood on the ground. Carl saw her freeze, knowing she could lose it at any time, so grabbed her to try to reassure her all was okay.

“It’s blood, but it doesn’t mean it’s their blood,” he said, not convinced by his words. Mandy cried into his shoulder, but Carl needed her to be brave. “I’m just going around the back,” he said. “You go to the front door.”

He let go of her as fear and adrenaline rushed through him. She watched him disappear, gulping hard as she stared at the house. Her breathing erratic as she found the courage to walk to the door.

“Mum! Dad!” she shouted, the door slightly ajar.

She opened it fully and walked inside, her legs like jelly as she moved past the hallway to enter the living room. She looked around but saw no one, just the flashing of the answering machine; a reminder of how many calls she’d made. She shuddered as she entered the kitchen, but again it was all too quiet. It looked like no one had been there for a while.

But, where are they? she thought, after spotting a box of eggs and a packet of bacon on the counter.

“Mum! Dad!” she shouted again.

Carl appeared at the back door, so Mandy opened it and let him in.

“Any luck?” he said. But from the unhappy stare he received knew the answer was ‘no’.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” Mandy said. “There’s blood outside. Bacon and eggs have been taken out the fridge, but not used, and my parents aren’t to be seen.”

She walked over to pick up the house keys hanging from a hook. She shook them in her hand while spotting the car keys in a bowl underneath, so knew her parents hadn’t gone off somewhere by choice. She started to sweat as she collapsed into a chair. Carl watched her. He was lost with what to do or say, but knew he had to steer her mind away from her parents being hurt.

“Do you think they’re working outside?” he asked.

“We would’ve spotted them, or they would’ve spotted my car. This doesn’t add up. They have to be hurt.”

I wasn’t expecting this for my first solo mission, Carl thought, trying to stay positive.

He moved close to Mandy and rubbed her shoulder. “I’m just gonna’ check outside again.”

He opened the kitchen door and, walking towards the vegetable patch, noticed the markings on the leaves. The tiny bitemarks making him shudder.

“Looks like your parents had a visitor,” he said, as Mandy appeared on the doorstep.

“The rats got them!” she screamed, her body now becoming like a block of ice.

All thoughts from earlier about rats being there resurfaced, convincing Mandy she was right. How many was another story, but just a single sighting would scare her enough to want to hide.

“I don’t know if it was a rat, but the thing that bit into the leaves was small,” Carl said.

Mandy was losing her nerve, becoming more anxious. It troubled Carl because he didn’t know how to break her free. There was nothing in his police training that involved something like this, something as traumatic. He was struggling to calm her down.

“I’m sure they’re fine,” he said, trying to soothe her worries. “I’m just going to take a look around.”

Mandy never answered, she just stared at him disappearing around the side of the house.

Carl followed the path again, but almost vomited in horror as he noticed something on the ground. On closer inspection, although refusing to believe what he was seeing, he gently picked up the bloody fingers and placed them inside an evidence bag. He heard a noise behind him as he pocketed them but saw nothing as he carried on walking. Mandy shouted out to him, her loudness forcing him to do a U-turn and head back to her. He smiled as he saw her in the garden, hoping she didn’t notice he was hiding something.

“Let’s get back to your car,” he said.

Mandy didn’t flinch, her eyes seemingly looking at him with suspicion as he pointed at her car. Carl placed a hand in his pocket, feeling the fingers again to remind him that all was not right, but Mandy wasn’t moving. He reached out to grab her, but the rats came out of hiding to surround them within seconds.

“Get back inside the house!” Carl shouted.

But Mandy was staring at the rats. Fear raced through her faster now and she couldn’t do what he asked. He tugged on her arm, but she still wouldn’t budge. His desperate shouting towards her as he tried dragging her back to the house was unnoticed. He pulled harder as the rats closed in, but Mandy kept pulling back.

“You have to get inside. Now!” Carl shouted, letting go to push past her to get to the house.

He stood in the doorway, leaving Mandy in the garden as he closed the door. He watched her through the window as she sobbed; the rats closing in to cover her body. He turned away as they bit into her face, neck, arms, and legs; her sobbing now making him feel guilty. He saw her fall to the ground, her body shaking as the rats ravaged her. He knew she was dead.

Carl kicked himself after realizing his police radio was still inside Mandy’s car, but after seeing the rats take more bites from her knew he wasn’t going back outside for a while. He raced around the living room, looking for the phone number of John’s store, but the sound of the rats tearing at the door sent a shiver down his spine.

“Fuck! fuckin’! fuck!” he screamed, removing things like he was trashing the place.

He stopped and sighed, as the noises coming from outside the door crushed his confidence. He couldn’t see any book with phone numbers in, or any on pieces of paper so searched the room for a mobile phone.

Everything is stored in those things, so the number will be there.

His hands were sweaty as he kept searching, but still, he found nothing to help him send a message to Steve. Come on, even old people must have a mobile?

The noises forced him to leave the room and head for the kitchen; the knife-block being the target. He pulled out a carving knife and held it in the air, his only thought now on survival. He released his baton and glared at the living room.

“Right, you little bastards. If you want to play, then I’ll play with ya’.”

He felt nervous to the point of fainting, his legs just about holding his weight. He was lost with what to do, now swearing under his breath for not remembering anyone’s phone number. A slow walk back towards the noise kept him focused. He knew he had to find a way to warn the others, but after each deep breath, a flashback of Mandy being slaughtered released tears. He closed in on the door as the scratching and biting irritated him; a hole appearing at the bottom to make him gulp.

“Come on you bastards!” Carl screamed, holding both weapons out in front. “Fuck! I haven’t signed up for this shit.”

He was losing it, just like Mandy did, his body tightening as the hole enlarged. He shook his head and moved closer to the door, his vision glued to the same spot. He raised his baton like he was hitting something invisible. “Come on then!” he shouted.

Carl was acting more like a football hooligan who was chanting at a rival football fan than a police officer ready to protect himself from a rodent attack. But right now, he was ready for them. Anger knocked away his fear as he saw the first rat appear inside the hole, but it never came all the way through. Carl shouted at it, but it remained half in and half out like it was waiting for something to happen. The rat twitched its whiskers at him like it was smiling.

“I’ll rip you to shreds!” Carl ranted, slamming the baton against a wall.

He went to charge it, but another rat sneaked up behind him, pouncing on his back to bite into his shoulder. “Fuck!” he bellowed.

He tried in vain to reach the rat, but couldn’t get to it, so ran backwards to slam his back against a wall. He was inches away from squashing the rat when another one tripped him over, forcing him crashing to the ground. He lashed out with his baton as he rolled back onto his knees, connecting against the rat to send it spiralling through the air. It smacked against a wall and didn’t get up again. Now the room echoed with rats squeaking. Carl thought it sounded like they were crying over a friend. He saw more of them glare at him like they wanted him to pay for what he did. He fought with them as they raced at him from the kitchen, but some bit into his legs. He screamed as he lashed out with the knife. It connected, and a rat’s guts fell to the ground. Carl tried to get up again, but two of them jumped on his head and bit into his scalp. The warm feel of blood slid down his face to block his vision as he crashed the baton to the floor. He shook his head to shake the blood away from his eyes, but his hand was bitten, the baton dropping from his grip as he cringed.

Carl squealed in agony as more rats jumped him. One bit his tongue, but he snapped his mouth shut on its face. It screeched as his teeth crunched into the skull before dropping to die on the floor. Carl shouted as he returned to his feet, but his words had no effect and the rats kept coming. He wiped his eyes again, seeing the dead rats before running for the stairs. But the rat that was still inside the door ran up his body and bit his throat. Carl stared at it through blurry eyes, his body falling over as blood sprayed the nearest wall. He crashed against the stairs as more rats aimed for him. And seconds later he was dead.