The Birds

I am roughly shaken awake. A Brother, face pale in my dark room. “It is time, we have to do it now! They are already at the door.”

I sprint down the stone steps, my coarse, heavy robes impeding my flight. I dash from the living quarters into the bustling courtyard. The sun is starting to come up, but it is still dim. Torches are lit, men in dark robes whisper urgently. The space is humming with activity, yet the only sounds are the whisper of flames and soft patter of feet.

We mustn’t wake them.

The monks are assembled, we quickly move to the livestock barn across the yard. This hour, between night and day, they are most vulnerable.

We must destroy them all.

The quietest, bravest monks have already freed what few animals are still alive, but a goat cries shrilly, and it has begun.

The air is suddenly alive with shouts and grunts, flames engulf one corner of the barn, then another. The hay doused in oil is quick to light, and the air burns, thick with acrid smoke.

Startled hisses and shrieks from the barn, high in the barn, the rafters. They wake.

The barn is not burning as fast as we had hoped, and they will take advantage.

We circle the barn, chewing garlic, holding our rosaries aloft. Prayers join the screams of rage and pain.

We mustn’t let them escape.

Soon they bolt from the building strong and swift, blurs of tattered rags, claws, fangs and terror.

We must hold the circle.

The smoke is so thick it is hard to see, I hear the cries of monks, in pain, in prayer. I hear my Brothers fighting, dying.

The circle is broken, the fire was not fast enough, and now chaos reigns. I see a Brother bleeding on the ground, eyes vacant. I see the charred remains of a beast, smoldering still.

Running, screaming, cries for help. Smoke is all I see.

Then I wake up.

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