In one of the corners a baby was crying, above the din of the shrieks he could hear the creak and moan of the ceiling over head. The mother was trying to shush the baby unsuccessfully, James balled his hands into fists. The noise was piercing his skull, over and over again.
“She better shut that kid up fast, everyone’s on edge down here.”
James just nodded, he couldn’t speak without having to yell. There was another thud from above, the babies cries became louder, then suddenly stopped.
“Please, no, stop!”
There was a gasping, then a brief gurgling cry before the child fell silent. He could hear the mother now, shushing the baby, telling it everything was going to be ok. James didn’t want to look, a wave of shame washed over him. The baby couldn’t help it, it didn’t know what was going on. He didn’t want to see the baby, if he looked he’d know what might have happened. It had happened before, once or twice. Everyone just ignored it. Pretended that they didn’t know what happened, that the child was sickly. James stiffened as a few grains of soil landed in his hair, there was another deep rumble, the baby was still silent. The lights flickered and James held his breath, they reignited and continued to glow, he released the breath slowly. The last time the lights went out four people had died in the panic. He never understood it outside, all they had to do was sit and wait, that was all. But down in the darkness he understood the fear. Not everyone down here was an upstanding citizen. People could be robbed, attacked. Sure, something might happen to them over the next year, they might find themselves locked out of the shelters, but that was only if people knew what they did. James himself had been shoved against a wall once, hands groping at him as he struggled until they realised he wasn’t a woman, then the hands were gone, he never found out who had done it. James pushed the thoughts away, the lights were holding for now. He had heard they had made some improvements on them to prevent them going out again.
The rumbling was starting to die down again, it had gotten worse for a time, deep, heavy vibrations that had made his teeth buzz. The baby hadn’t started crying again. Everyone was mostly quiet now, just waiting until it was over and they could leave again, see the damage that had been caused this time. James hoped it wouldn’t be too much. They had stored most of their belongings in the basement in preparation. Sure the house could be destroyed but they might be able to salvage some things. They had to be careful, going up too soon could mean disaster, waiting too long could mean looters would be able to carry off things. They had been lucky in regards to looters, their village was small and a relatively long distance from anywhere else. It was too dangerous to be outside at the moment, so people wouldn’t risk travelling long distances in the chance they’d be able to get something good.
James waited until most of the people had left before he too began to get ready. Already the sour stench from outside was filling the room. It was quite strong this time, they’d been very close. He didn’t see the woman with the baby leaving, but he hadn’t looked for her either. His family were already gone, his sister was one of the first to leave.
Outside it was drizzling, the rain wasn’t as cold as he expected. The stink was heavy in the air, but it would dissipate in a few hours at most. It didn’t appear as though any of the houses were destroyed, it had been raining when they went down into the bunker, which probably helped hide scent of them. The last time they came through several houses had been demolished and another few had been partially destroyed. James heard a faint rumble and froze, everyone looked around eyes wide, it happened again, this time clearly thunder. He let out a breath he didn’t realise he was holding. He had never seen the creatures, but he had heard plenty of stories about them. Everyone had. They migrated constantly and every few months there was a drill like today. It had been about three years since people had last been killed by them. A young family who hadn’t made it to one of the shelters in time. James didn’t know them very well, no one had. They had moved to the village only a few months before. A memorial was still held and the few bits that were left were buried.
James was glad it was over, people had been on edge for the last week, they had been overdue by a few weeks. A few people had speculated that perhaps their numbers were finally beginning to die out, James disagreed. If anything they needed to go into the shelters more often in the last few years. Besides that, one of the great cities had fallen only a year before.
Once everyone was out of the shelters they were divided into their teams and started searching the area. They needed to keep and eye out for two things, the young and eggs. The eggs needed to be destroyed immediately. The eggs were not laid by the beasts themselves, but by another creature that seemed to follow them. The young needed to be destroyed as they would eat crops and people, and sometimes the mothers would come looking for them.
The search went smoothly, only a small cluster of eggs were found and they were quickly burned. James hadn’t been in the group that found them, and he was pleased. The eggs unnerved him, they were clear and you could see the small creatures twitching and moving inside. When they burned they made a high pitched whistle that sounded like screams. He always hated that sound. He returned to the house to find his family moving everything back upstairs. He started to help, relieved it was finally over for another few months.