The black top waved with heat as the sun stretched beyond its zenith. White hot flashes of light reflected off the dusty windshield. Dr. Seth Beard squinted behind tinted sunglasses as he pulled his jeep off the main road and onto a sand berm. Dust curled around the jeep, shrouding the view before them.
“Here we go again.” Kara eyed a fat black fly as it flicked its body against the glass of her window. She tried to hide her anxiety with a roll of her eyes as Seth opened his door.
It’s going to be the same thing. It has to be, but what does it mean?
Seth waived for her to hurry up. She hesitated scrutinizing the man as he turned away. Her companion was a broad chested man. With a thick beard that hid most of his face, the Veterinarian looked more like a lumberjack. His torn jeans and faded plaid button-up told quite a different story. She had wanted to discover more about him, but his crystal blue eyes cut right through her.
Seth turned back to the jeep, tilting his head to one side, “Come on Kara, we need to make sure it’s like the rest. We’re the only ones within a hundred miles qualified enough to do this.”
She let out a breath and flung the door open. Waves of dry heat blushing her skin and sucking what little moisture she had in eyes and mouth.
“Check this out.” Seth was standing on the other side of the berm, looking at something hidden in the shadows of the road.
She took a few steps, feeling the wind shift across her body. Then the stench hit. Kara gagged, she couldn’t help it.
Clamping a hand over her nose she walked across the berm.
Seth looked back as she approached and smiled. “It certainly smells the same.”
She nodded, shooting a glance around the area before focusing on the form at Seth’s feet. Before them a seething black miasma shifted on the shimmering sand. Instead of the regular wind-blown lines, the sand held deep grooves. Brown stains spattered up the side of the shoulder to the black asphalt. Black flies the size of her thumb moved as a single entity.
“It’s just like the others, Seth.” She said, her stomach twisting and not from the smell. Her long dark hair danced in the afternoon wind as she scrutinized the macabre scene. The ground shifted, moving against the wind.
“I think you’re right.” The vet said, stepping to a nearby bush. With a twist and crack he pulled out a dead branch. Hefting it in his hand he probed at the flickering black flies.
The stick disappeared into the thrumming bodies. Unaware of the intruding stick a few flies began to crawl back up towards Seth’s hand.
“Ugh.” Seth said and flicked the stick clean. “These guys are tenacious aren’t they.”
Kara continued to stare at the ground.
“Let’s take a closer look.” Seth said, and probed into the mass again. He stirred the stick around, the wood bouncing over something more solid than sand. The cloud parted and varying shades of red, brown and white peaked through.
“Oh geez.” Kara stumbled back. “I’m right, just like the others.”
Through parting clouds, the blunt snout of a pit bull grinned up at her. Ragged bits of flesh and hair clinging to a shattered jaw. Rough gouges racked through its cracked skull.
“The markings are the same and it’s fresh, only been out here a few days.” As he spoke, Seth moved the stick past the skull, parting the insects.
“Looks like more of these flies. Must be drawn by Its sent.” Kara gave a low moan as the spine and pelvis came into view. The creature was completely disemboweled, its spine crushed and twisted. The pelvis lacerated to splinters.
“It attacked this dog, fed and then ran. Just like the ones before.”
Kara’s voice came from between her knees, “How many does that make now?”
Seth grimaced, and turned his face down the boiling avenue, “Forty.”
Kara could only exhale as Seth continued. “Forty, and they’re all in a pattern, ringing all the way around the city’s outskirts.”
“Animal control’s been receiving calls for weeks now about pets missing around the county.”
Seth nodded, “True, but not this many at once around a single town. It’s doing something.”
Kara stood and walked into his line of sight, swinging a tired arm back at the gore slicked road “But why? What’s it doing?”
“Simple. Marking Its territory.”
The woman blinked and staring at him, “What for?”
He felt a small knowing smile touch his cheeks, “To keep the others away.”
Kara raised her eyebrows, her eyes flicking around them, “Others? You mean there’s more?”
Seth nodded, squinting again as the sun dipped towards the horizon. “Yep. It’s not alone out here.”