Baseball bat and machete at the ready, Tom ran up the stairs to the second floor of Stacia’s house. Familiar as he was with her home, he already had an image in his head of how we was going to rescue her. The upstairs was built like a hub, with all four bedrooms going off a central area. The bathroom was accessible by two of the four bedrooms, or by passing through a short hallway/linen closet. Tom had to assume that if Stacia had been driven into the bathroom, it was likely that he was going to be facing ninjas somewhere along the way, either in one of the bedrooms or in the closet.
Tom had a plan. He reached the central room and looked around grimly. Black burned spots all over the carpet, but no sign of ninjas. Even the small coffee table, with its fake potted plant, seemed to have the black spots on it.
What it was that caused him to look up suddenly, Tom couldn’t say, but he did, and then he saw it – a dark shape huddled in the corner of the wall and ceiling, two green slits for eyes, and a black body whose skin seemed to literally drink in the light. Getting his first real look at the thing, he concluded that it was most certainly not a ninja. It had four limbs, with which it was holding itself in the corner, and those limbs each seemed to end in what he had to describe as fingers. But the limbs and fingers were unnatural, more like tentacles with tendrils, than actual arms or legs.
The thing shrank back for a moment, then lunged at Tom. He swung his machete, but just as he was about to connect the thing twisted, one of its tentacles shot out and grabbed a wall, and it yanked itself out of the way of his blade. It flitted around the small anteroom and faster than Tom could turn it ended up behind him. He ducked just in time as the creature dove at his head. It swooped down in front of him, and instinctively Tom swung his bat downward. Just before it could pull itself away, the end of the bat clipped the thing.
It let out a strange squealing noise, and faster than Tom could see it zipped to the stairs and disappeared. Breathlessly, Tom waited, holding bat and machete at the ready, looking down the stairs. Then he whipped his head around, looking at all the other corners, fully expecting another one – or the same one – to appear somewhere behind him.
Tom noted that the walls and ceiling also had the burned marks wherever the creature had touched them. He nodded. Information to keep on hand.
Tom went to the doors of the two bedrooms that did not connect with the bathroom and closed them. He wished he had some way of making sure they would stay closed, but he saw no good way of doing that. He took a deep breath. His plan had been somewhat contingent on feeling confident he could face these things down. But that one had been so fast, and able to use the walls and ceiling so effectively, he decided he would need to change tactics a little.
The door to the linen closet was closed. He had no way of knowing if there was a “ninja” in there. The doors to the bedrooms were open. Maybe there were some hiding in those rooms, or maybe there weren’t. He went to the one on the right and tried to peer through the doorway without exposing too much of himself.
He had to duck back suddenly as he saw a black shape huddled on the floor, facing the door to the bathroom. Okay, not going to get to the bathroom easily that way. Why hadn’t that one come out when he fought the one in the anteroom? Maybe they couldn’t hear very well? That didn’t make much sense.
He slid over to the room on the left and peeked in. He didn’t see anything, but it meant nothing. One could be hiding in a corner, under the bed, in the closet… He chewed his lip anxiously, glancing toward the door to the linen closet. Decisions.
His original plan had been to try and funnel them into one room by luring them to himself, get Stacia out of the bathroom, lure them into the bathroom, and hopefully escape the upstairs with her while the creatures were bottled-necked in the bathroom. He was getting the feeling that was not going to work.
Gripping his weapons, Tom stepped slowly into the room on the left. He quickly swung his body around, weapons always at his front, looking for an attack on any side. Nothing. Maybe this would be easier than he thought. If there was nothing in here, he could get Stacia out through this door, out into the anteroom, and-
Movement out of the corner of his eye. The door to the bedroom swung closed! One of the “ninjas” had been behind it! It slunk down the door came to rest on the floor, where it rose up to a height almost as tall a man. It had a slender form, two of its tentacles draping at its sides, so that it definitely looked vaguely human in shape. Its head was an orb that rose fluidly from its body, almost like a droplet of water going the wrong way. Two green slits appeared on the orb.
Tom backed away. He made a feint with the machete, but the creature didn’t flinch. Instead it maneuvered to direct Tom back toward the bathroom door.
It wanted to trap him with Stacia in the bathroom.
Tom knew what he had to do.
He backed up until he was right by the bathroom door.
“Stacia?” he called.
“I’m right outside the door. When I say three, open the door. It opens toward me, so just swing it open and I’ll do the rest.”
“Okay,” she said weakly.
“One… two… three!”
The door flew open. Right at that moment the creature lunged. Tom let go of his baseball bat, dropped to his knee, and swung his machete over his head. At the same moment with his other hand he reached back, grabbed Stacia’s arm, and pulled.
As the “ninja” swooped over him, evading his machete, Tom yanked Stacia into the bedroom. The creature ended up in the bathroom, and Tom spun and slammed the door on the thing.
Pulling Stacia to her feet, Tom led her to the bedroom door. Fumbling it open, he propelled her out into the anteroom, glancing back and noting that the bathroom door was still closed. He agonized for a moment about his bat, but decided it was too risky to go back for it.
“Thomas”? Stacia said in a quavering voice.
Tom turned back to the anteroom. It was full of black shapes, barring the way to the stairs.