Prologue: Sin is never through. Like cabals of conspirators, fiends continue to persevere in hunting down young girls and women throughout Texas. These clever freaks, not of nature but of man have a new purpose. However decades ago they had a different one: inhumane experiments. Scientists exploited them to test products, deliberately infected with hazardous levels of cancer-causing chemicals. After the strange creatures escape the confines of the torturous laboratory, they breed and scatter throughout the Americas where human assaults stealthily crawl into the Texas region. Thousands socialize in hordes, seeking shelter in small towns to feed their young . . . the blood of man's young.
In the course of time, they burrow new domains where a new breed is engendered (by man), larger, stronger, and more intelligent than themselves which threatens to commandeer their society. The U.S. Military capitalize on the mis-born which are trained to kill and win wars in lieu of disabled humans impaired by chemicals in food and products. Meanwhile unassuming residents in South Texas discover horrors never known before and voice details of fiend sightings on radio and television yet are not taken seriously until disbelievers come face to face with them . . . them that citizens now call night invaders.
EXCERPT: During month long breakouts, Odes allow exhausted, shackled slaves only three hours of rest each night. The men's fit bodies, forced to rise with vigor, continue arduous physical work that no normal sized man on the outside could endure. No backhoes, no mechanical tools of any kind, only their two hands, shovels, pickaxes, hoes, and wheelbarrows. The slaves cart tons of excavated rock and dirt to different locations, deep inside the labyrinthine tunnels but not past the colossal iron gates wherein thrive blood thirsty fiends . . . night invaders.
In the witching hour, night invaders crowd and slash at one another when exiting their cells, one hundred feet below the Robard acres. They pack the pathway and pound the ground until every one of them is out. They hunt for children, children they terrify. Racing so quickly through pitch dark Texas fields, when their sight is clearer than in daylight, night invaders' muscular legs slap, climb, and catapult over everything in their path: bales of hay, tree limbs, boulders, patches of tall grass, sticks, mounds of rock, and thick piles of leaves fling right and left. Before realized, the hideous killers cross county lines into unfamiliar towns to lurk near meager homes, to peer through dark windows, to seek young girls who always sleep so soundly. When they enter their rooms and pull the children from their beds, they cart them out the windows then charge deep into the woods. But, while slung over the fiends’ shoulders, the heavy sleepers ultimately wake in a terror ― though far enough away from human ears. Only then crying children stolen from sweet dreams are tossed upon mattresses of leaves underneath sky-high cottonwood trees, the fiends’ midpoint. Efficiently gagged and roped, children never escape the clutches of evil that pant heavily while careening toward their isolated refuge.
Tender lips bound so tightly swell the entire time small bodies drag and thump in pain through the thicket . . . when the fiends tire of carrying them. The brutes’ dry-as-dust thirst can hardly refrain them from biting into the tender flesh. Still well restrained in early morn, the innocent continue to follow the will of ropes while rolling at labyrinth curves and scream for their mothers. Children’s eyes bulge in fear when finally tossed into a cage where the Anderson triplets embrace each other, watching.
And so throughout Frio County elusive night invaders continue their relentless quest, a necessary quest for their own young to survive. In the darkest dungeon-like corridor where smaller cells imprison the youngest children, incessant panic continues in cries until daybreak when Odes unlock cages that release motherly women who dash past cell after cell thereby reaching frantic little strangers, untie their little hands and feet, gently kiss their swollen lips, and lovingly take the pure into their arms . . . only to cry with them.
EXCERPT: From tarantulas to deer, large and small night wildlife that Odes trample, vault, and swerve, scramble out of the way to bolt for their lives, if they survive. Within allotted time Odes, with inherited super-human night vision, dash through dark fields, dodge scattered mesquite trees, fleet across highways and roads until they set their sights on the chosen human slave. In small towns the locals spend much time in bars, Ode havens. Strategically placed they boast blinking signs that flag down customers after working hours. The tired men seek relaxation before going home drunk to an angry wife and their still loud children.
Well inebriated men are easier to handle, slow responses, less trouble for the Odes. Always the same scenario, while liquor-blinded large and tall sway in lightless parking lots and feel pockets for keys, they attempt to unlock their trucks. From there, they are ambushed, dragged away through rocky caliche where boot heels dig trails into deeper darkness. In the wake of enormous confusion, the men first believe it's some sort of joke, but as they undergo more rough treatment, they sweat profusely while attempting to escape by swinging violent punches. They soon realize, and endure for years, the inescapable grip of the Ode that can easily break necks, backs, arms, legs . . . and wills which sink into a joyless existence. Odes do not speak during the darkest hour until they know the frightened man is highly tormented, under control, finally motionless. When quick to react rock-like hands bear down on the man’s throat, a calm, boorish voice coldly declares, "If you say a word . . . I will choke life from you. There are plenty more where you come from. So, ― be silent and obey."
To abide by their mission, to expand their province, to replace slaves who die from exhaustion, these ogres must accomplish the underlying goal: capture slaves during darkest nights when no sober humans witness them. In wee hours of morn, few people travel roads in this isolated part of Texas. Only drivers awash with liquor weave their vehicles which are blind to bends on dark highways. At times within range of headlight beams, Odes inadvertently lurk along shoulders of roads while lugging their human catch which erratic drunk drivers witness with half-closed eyes. And when driving directly by, they slow down and turn their heads to inspect more closely yet never recall, never recall ten foot tall . . . night invaders.
EXCERPT: After a few miles of winding curves, the pathway narrows where the larger groups drop back to form smaller ones. Not for a long while do they halt at a fork . . . right or left? Ramirez checks his compass and reports they travel east. There, the indecisive groups resolve to drop their gear to the ground and lower their weapons to sit, eat, and become better acquainted . . . for hours. Ramirez thought to bring his cigars, leans back against the wall and lights one up. Nevertheless, like the rest of them, he’s unaware that not all progresses according to plan.
Silent fiends listen the entire time, eagerly await them, and worse ― mount in number. Tantalizing odor of blood-filled humans reaches super keen senses of blood thirsty brutes that near bust with anticipation, while simultaneously a craving to kill extends far beyond their control. The rescuers have entered the fiends' pathway, the pathway from which fiends exit for night excursions. Long, wet, forked tongues grow dry as they continually slither outside insect mouths. Clenched, pointed teeth that perfectly meet anticipate severing whatever they choose.
The two oldest fiends that occupy Hilltop today rehash, to each new fiend generation, their escape from man's brutal attacks eight years prior in Brownsville, Texas. Over time, however, man and his weapons have become boring, old news to the young. The older ones hesitate to advance. But some young ones judge, from the downtrodden human slaves, that these humans are easy game, sitting ducks, suckers. This sweet human blood up ahead lures them more than animals they hunt. Minutes later the propensity to kill overwhelms them all. Having mastered several forms of communication, the fiends' inaudible vibrations transmit to one another planned, gruesome executions while they slink up the incline, steadily up they creep. Foot-long quills that line down their backs are a mere force to be reckoned with compared to the easy forward and backward sway of elongated, muscular leather-like arms. Hands with ten built in weapons: eight inch agile claws spread wide that break caked clumps of aged built-up, dry blood ― all preparing for the feast. Ten more weapons, thicker, longer claws on their feet fully distend, digging tightly into dirt as they gingerly step. Finally, in deep reverie, red eyes shut and heads tilt back to help noses breathe the largest seizure of human blood than ever before. These forces of darkness edge nearer and nearer, almost in the rescuers' faces.
A slight noise attracts some rescuer's notice. Eyes follow the flood light that casts down the dark pathway. To their horror, with enlarged photos burned in their memories, they see them live, fiends with ravenous eyes!
No time to yell and totally unprepared, they scatter like insects themselves as terror rises inside them. Lincoln and Chief Phillips, along with every man but Aldo, hurl M4s up to their shoulders and open fire with dreadful inaccuracy. They fire and miss, fire and hit, fire then miss. In the confusion the flood light topples over and refocuses the beam against the pathway wall, allowing limited view. As a result it appears that only few fiends continue to advance. However, they align in cliques as wide as the pathway! They fly, rising up to the labyrinth ceiling and alternately torpedo down. Sudden, bloodcurdling screams startle even the resolute. The men in the center huddle tighter together which blocks the remaining, diminishing light. Several shift their aim too late, eyes grow larger and larger, trying to see in blackness. Masses of blood swiftly splatter into blind eyes. Brain matter takes to the air in spurts.
Heavy, thickly bodies that scrutinize better in pitch darkness swoop down and blast rifles from arms. Down into boots the stouthearted know exactly where to reach and come up wildly wielding their knives. Berettas yanked from holsters fire into obscurity, murdering some of their own. Same as the multitude of M4s chambering cartridges, at the forefront Lincoln spews fire, blasting evil against the ceiling. He calls out, “Aim high! Force them back! Don’t let them regain momentum!" he takes a quick glance over his shoulder, “Get yourselves together! If they have their way, we’ll all be massacred!”
EXCERPT: Death at the Portal
Hours later while Garcia runs his fifth trip, he comes upon the last cell where three identical girls sit alone. Out of breath he kneels down and calmly says, "Hey there, little ones."
The girls shrink back, fearing him. Garcia promises, "I'm here to help you, to take you home to your mother and father."
Garcia sets down his flood light and scurries across the pathway to retrieve cutters another rescuer left behind, but the girls appear so thin, they could possibly fit through the bars, saving time. He tosses the cutters aside.
He sees they're still curled up together and again gets down on his knees. "Would you like to be with Mommy and Daddy?"
"I have a daughter who was little like you. I watched her grow until she was a big girl. Do you want your Daddy and Mommy to watch you grow up?"
The three nod and say "Yes" in unison.
"Then you must come with me. My name’s Garcia. What are yours?"
After a few seconds they rise with languid movement and respond in timid voice, "I'm Sofia." "My name is Sydney." "I'm Savanah."
Garcia smiles, opens his arms at his sides. "Sofia, Sydney, and Savanah, now we're friends! If you come to the bars, I'll help you get out then I'll carry you to your Mom and Dad ― they're waiting for you."
For the first time in weeks, the tikes smile. They hold hands, and amble toward him. He shoves the M4 as far back on his right shoulder as possible, turns rough palms up to take their delicate hands and guides each child between the cell bars, out into the labyrinth pathway.
Garcia instructs, "This is how we'll do it. Sofia and Sydney, sit on my left arm and hug my neck. Up you go. Now, Savanah, you sit on my right arm and wrap your arms around my upper arm, right here, see? That's right. Listen carefully . . . hold on real tight. I promise, you can't hurt me. Are we ready?"
"Yes!" they loudly declare.
Garcia gambles that the farmer’s flood light will guide him. He glances down at his ― to leave it. "We are outta here baby girls!"
The farmer’s unwavering determination continues ahead. He shines his flood light with one arm and braces a child on the other while Garcia hastens in the background on a rock-embedded incline ― he estimates only a mile to go. However, in the concluding minutes of this final liberation, the farmer gains ground while Garcia drops back.
No one knows that fiends can approach from behind: like bats out of hell, a horde trample one another at a narrow curve just before reaching their children's food, in cells. They lurch into the triples' cell where their insect heads tilt back and detect repugnant man who trespassed in prized chambers. All their children's food, human children, have been stolen which ratchets up the livid factor! The relentless killers that drop to all fours are hot on the rescuers' trail, the only trail with nowhere to veer, nowhere to hide. Garcia, the last rescuer, now runs in the dark. Besides his own steps, he hears theirs, first pattering then thumping that grows louder behind him. Garcia picks up the pace. The girls' bouncing heads tire and naturally draw closer in to his for support. All he can think of is "show me that beautiful gate!" When reaching the last bend in the path, the four bump the wall and nearly topple over. The girls scream, "Garcia, Garcia!" and cling and breathe his tired breath. Then a miracle happens: Garcia regains balance and sprints faster, for he sees light from the gate, the gate that grows massive as he approaches.
Rescuers on the opposite side yell and wildly wave their arms. It sounds garbled but Garcia knows they're telling him . . . telling him . . . to turn around and fire! He thinks, "First I hand over the girls, then turn."
But there is little time.
Behind Garcia, the fiends' terrifying shrieks that close-in and bellow off the labyrinth walls pain innocent ears. The sisters bury their heads deeper into his sweaty chest. He draws nearer to the gate where rescuers position M4s to their cheeks. The anxious shout orders at the top of their lungs while awaiting evil to reach the light. They adjust aim: left, right, and above Garcia's head. He slows, squats, and breathing heavy yells to the girls, "Jump off! Run through the bars! Don't stop, don't look back, run, run!"
Tension builds even higher during the nerve-racking plight. Ortiz jabs Ramirez’ arm with the barrel of his M4 and points to the top of the gate. Plenty man the bottom. The friends swing rifle straps over their heads and like an inferno chases up beneath them, they clamber up the forty feet. Once there, an uncanny number of rounds blast into the dark, behind their good friend, where accurate aim proves an accident, where a hopeful attempt to hit the enemy they cannot see is the most they can do to help him.
Garcia quickly shoves Savanah between thick bars while Sydney and Sofia gently hop to the ground. He abruptly reaches out and pushes Sofia and Sydney through. Many troubled eyes watch for the last small foot to pass over, where a Texas Ranger scoops up all three Anderson triplets. The group fires. Uneasy shoulders repeatedly recoil yet annihilate fiends within view. However, they underestimate the scheming, strategic creatures. Because of the intense pandemonium, no one but Garcia hears the triplets scream, "Garcia! Get out, get out! Through the bars, through the bars!"
Fearless and with steady hands, Garcia swiftly stands and turns toward a swarm of lightning fast fiends directly in front of him even though, from an aerial view, Ortiz and Ramirez obliterate tier after tier. Garcia whips the M4 up and back into his right arm but needs a split second more to place his finger on the trigger, just a split second . . . not granted. In any other situation, these fiends would retreat, but rage controls them, layering their way through from underneath, sacrificing themselves until the shielded, premeditated two can emerge unaffected by the continual barrage of bullets. Heavy bodies swoop onto Garcia. Planned while in vexed pursuit, the relentless sever his arms, his legs. When he drops, still upright, the two largest raise their longest claws and together in one stroke, behead Garcia.
Ortiz and Ramirez fist slam the bars and curse at the bloodcurdling finality of the battle, “No! No! You godforsaken bastards!”
In seconds the irate friends gain composure once again and blast an accurate hail of ammo from atop the massive gates, butchering every trailing fiend that retreats toward darkness.
Ten feet tall and eyes locked ahead, the cold, emotionless Odes whirl dust and fill the pathway. They march the winding miles toward the slave section, passing caged women who know the Odes well, for some are their sons, sons without feelings. The youngest seventeen-year old mother kneels transfixed, reaches through the bars, desperately trying to touch her son's arm. For a moment he considers shifting his eyes toward her, however, without empathy he chooses only to walk by with deliberation. She hangs her bald head and recalls that three years ago . . . he was an infant.
One of the naked women sits back against the cell wall with arms folded at her breasts. She yells at the young mother across the pathway. "You'd better snap out of it, kid! And forget about that monster you gave birth to!” Her voice softens. “We're only vessels here. If and when you get out, find yourself a man and have real children . . . the kind that love you back."