Welcome to the end of the world. Not your world, of course. Your world is probably humming along just fine, full of home and family and people who aren't trying to kill you. It's Sunday, so back in Texas Claire and I would probably be going to church - if our world hadn't ended, first.
How to explain...? All right. Last Tuesday, Claire and I got off work at the same time - except I had a bit of paperwork to finish up, so I left about twenty minutes behind her, and got home about twenty minutes after she did. When I got there, I found Mbata lying dead on the floor, wrapped in the furry, serpentine remains of Hector Who Apparently Wasn't Just A Cat.
I think I just stood and gaped for about a full minute.
Claire came out of the bedroom, and I asked: "What happened?"
"He knocked on the door about two minutes after I got here."
"You let him in?"
"He's your friend." She swallowed, looking at me, but I just shook my head slightly. She went on: "He said it was time for me to meet your Elders - 'our elders' was how he put it. I said I wanted to wait for you, and he said there wasn't time." She hesitated. "I argued, and he grabbed me. He started to gesture, or reach for me, or something with his other hand. And then Hector... did what he was made to do."
I said, "Umph," or something equally expressive, and went to look at Mbata's corpse. I was thinking that this could have been good or bad. The Elders might have wanted to put Claire to the question, but they might also have had something else in mind - there are pledges of loyalty we require of allies who aren't actually part of our number, for example. Now, of course, it was bad... but maybe it could be salvaged.
It's funny. I'd known Mbata for years, even liked him, though I wasn't sure I'd ever really understood him. Ours was a specialized sort of friendship, but it was still a friendship. I should have been grieving for him, but I wasn't. In fact, I was kind of angry with him for putting us all in this position.
I still am, but now I'm sad too.
Anyway... At that point I turned back to Claire. "Okay," I said. "Can you go back to your people? For a day or two, at least? I'll get in touch with the Elders, try to find out what's going on. Maybe we can work something out."
Claire looked dubious. "I killed your friend."
"I know," I said. "They will too, if they don't already. But mistakes happen, even to people like Mbata who are supposed to know what they're doing. So maybe..."
She nodded. "Okay."
And that was when I first heard the whispers, gathering on the other side of the walls. It wasn't an answer from the Elders - I'd spoken too plainly, and now the thrice-cursed Whisperers were reacting automatically. I'd said things I shouldn't to an outsider, and they were coming for us both.
I cursed: a word that would have been more than enough to get their attention, if we hadn't had it already. It blistered the air and shattered one of the pictures on the wall. Claire was looking around; I don't know if she heard the whispers, or just realized that something was wrong, but her eyes were wide. "New plan," I said. "We have to go. Now." I reached for that strange dream-place of drifting mists, found it. "Don't listen to them," I added, and then I took us away.
We've been on the move ever since. It takes the Whisperers about a day and half to find us... or maybe they find us immediately, but it takes a day and a half to reach us. I don't know. We learned that the hard way, so by the time we figured it out we were both tired enough to sleep for about twelve of our available hours.
Each of us had some emergency caches prepared, so we have money and clothes - enough for a while, at least. We have to keep moving, but there's enough time to stop and sleep. So the question really isn't whether we can avoid them, it's how long we can keep this up - and, I suppose, where this is going. I'd like to find a solution that doesn't end with more of us dead, but I don't know if that's possible... and if it is possible, I don't know how to do it. So our main goal at the moment is to get more information.
I don't dare go back to the apartment, but without the VPN on my computer I can't contact the Elders directly - or access the archives to learn more about the Whisperers. I sent Billy a message from Seattle - a very careful message, since I don't want to bring the Whisperers down on him, too. His response, if I interpreted it correctly, basically said that he'd do his best, but if the Elders gave him a direct order, he'd follow it.
So that's where we are, and that's how we got here. I have a few more ideas for things we could try, but I'd better not mention them here. You never know who (or what) might be reading this.
Reflections of a Deranged Cultist is a work of fiction. No otherworldly beings were summoned to Earth and given the form of cats in the course of this writing.