Home > Strange Angels (Strange Angels #1)(11)

Strange Angels (Strange Angels #1)(11)
Author: Lili St. Crow, Lilith Saintcrow

What the hell is that? It wasn’t the screen door on the enclosed porch back there rattling; I already knew that sound.

The gooseflesh didn’t go away, little nuggets of ice under my skin.

Tap. Tap. Like little rubber-covered sticks drumming hard against a windowpane. My mouth had gone dry and my fingers were numb. Then I got the taste of oranges and salt in my mouth, and I knew something bad was about to happen. Gran called it an “arrah”; it was only later I found out she meant “aura.” Like before a migraine, or the envelope of light Gran always said you could see around people if you had enough of the touch.

With me it was always oranges, and salt. Not real oranges, either. I can’t explain it better—it’s like wax oranges, maybe.

Oh shit. Shit.

The strangest thing of all was how calm I was. The light was failing—even if snow bounced back streetlight shine, it was getting darker. I always expect creepiness around dusk, and I had the howlin’ heebie-jeebies anyway.

I got up, my legs turning to wood and shaking like an earthquake had hit. Then I scooped Dad’s spare bowie knife off the top of a half-unpacked box. The living room looked like a bomb had hit it; I realized I’d just been unpacking half a box and wandering on to the next. The taste of oranges got stronger, and the tapping came again, a creaking, scratching sound, like small nails against a window.

I held the knife the way Dad taught me, flat along the forearm with the hilt clasped in my hand. That way you can hit someone in the face with the pommel and you can get your triceps and lats—some of the stronger muscles in your body, especially if you do triceps dips or lat pulldowns—into the action. And if you slash up you have your biceps getting busy too, plus you can keep better control of the knife.

Go quiet, Dru. It was Dad’s voice in my head, now. A soft whisper, like he was teaching me how to concentrate on a target. Go quiet and take cover on that side of the hall. It’s coming from the kitchen. Do it like I taught you.

I edged down the hall, cursing the boxes set along the side I should have been taking cover against. The kitchen light was on, sending a rectangle of golden glow into the hall and covering the foot of the stairs. The heater clicked off, and the tapping sped up.

Taptaptaptap. Pause. Taptaptap. Taptap.

My heart lodged in my throat, a chunk of beating meat. The big muscles in my thighs trembled like I’d just finished running a hard mile and a half. I slid slow and easy down the hall, little bits of the kitchen coming into view.

The thing they don’t tell you about in situations like these—and by “they” I mean horror movies, which are generally better training for this sort of thing than you’d think—is how your field of vision constricts, everything getting narrower and narrower. You can’t see enough, and peripheral vision plays tricks on you. The eyes flick around frantically, trying to take everything in and failing miserably. I stepped in front of the stairs and saw the sink, the stove, a slice of the kitchen table.

The window over the sink was empty, full of snowlight. I let out a soft breath through my mouth, as quiet as possible. My heart pounded in my ears like a drum solo in a pair of headphones. The taste of wax oranges got stronger, turned thick and cloying. Rotting in my mouth.

Tap. Taptaptaptaptap. The tattoo of skritching sounds grew stronger, almost frantic.

I stepped into the kitchen.

The back door was set to one side of the counters, Dad’s chair at the table with its back to the wall holding the pantry. When he sat down he could see the back door and the entry to the hall, keeping his back to the safest quadrant. The door itself was a prosaic little number, a latticed glass window on top and a flimsy wooden panel with a deadbolt and a chain probably stronger than the door itself on bottom.

My gorge rose hot and thick, fighting with my heart for control of my throat. I choked and almost dropped the knife. I could see it clearly through the squares of double-paned glass, darkening because the enclosed porch was getting dim and dark, light bleeding out of the sky as the snow whirled down.

There was a zombie at my back door. Its eyes swung up, and they were blue, the whites already clouding with the egg rot of death. Its jaw was a mess of meat and frozen blood; something had eaten half its face. Its fingertips, already worn down to bony nubs, scraped against the window. Flesh hung in strips from its hand, and my stomach turned over hard. Black mist rose at the corners of my vision, and the funny rushing sound in my head sounded like a jet plane taking off.

I’d know that zombie anywhere. Even if he was dead and mangled, his eyes were the same. Blue as winter ice, fringed with pale lashes.

The zombie’s gaze locked with mine. It cocked its head like it had just heard a faraway noise.

I let out a dry barking sound and my back hit the wall next to the hallway, smacking my hip against a stack of boxes.

Dad bunched up his rotting fist, the meat chewed away from fingerbones by something I didn’t want to imagine or even think about, and punched his way through the window.

CHAPTER 5

I would have stood there forever, staring in dreamy terror at the thing that used to be my father as it battered itself against the back door—if it hadn’t been for the phone. It rang shrilly under the sound of snapping wood, and something about that garbled screech jolted me into action. I screamed, a high, girly cry of fear, and dropped the knife. The chime of it hitting linoleum was lost in the groaning noise of breakage as the zombie forced its way through the back door, staring at me. Zombies do that—if something catches their attention they turn blindly toward it and don’t stop until they’ve torn it to bits.

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