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It was the screaming that woke him.
Dupree Jackson leaned out his second story window and stared into the yard. He banged his head against the wooden frame and willed himself awake with his eyes squeezed shut, but when he opened them again the scene below him hadn't changed. The horror that froze him in place was not the white robed Klan with their burning crosses that he'd expected.
This was worse. So much worse. Monsters out of his nightmares. The creatures were massive, with short horns sprouting from their foreheads. They appeared sickly orange under the porch's floodlights and when he caught a glimpse at the eyes, he swore they glowed red. Were they the demons spawned from hell that Reverend Grant was always warning about? Had the end times that his logical, scientific mother always so scornfully dismissed come to Earth after all?
Momma wouldn't have anything to say about it later, either. She lay still on the ground and he tried not to notice the signs of her attack. Tried not to notice the blood running from her body. The great rends in her flesh and other mutilation. Both of his older brothers lay on the ground near her as if they'd tried to defend her. Neither moved.
His father was still on his feet, standing between Momma and the two creatures with a pitchfork. Dupree felt a sudden and deep sense of shame. He should be out there helping defend them. When his father jabbed forward suddenly, poking the demon in the side so it howled, Dupree's mind finally snapped free of the fear and disbelief holding it captive.
He ran to his parents' room, his bare feet slapping against cool pine floors, sounding as loud as gunshots in his mind. Inside he dropped to the floor and flung open his mother's cedar chest, shoved his grandmother's and great-grandmother's multi-colored quilts out of the way and dug out the hidden shotgun. He loaded two cartridges as he rose from his knees and shoved extras into his pockets. Then he ran outside to help and found his father swaying on his feet but holding firm.
Dupree was forced to move closer to the creatures to keep his father out of range of the shotgun, and he knew he had to be quick. His heart was a fast and furious drumbeat in his chest and his hands shook as he raised the shotgun. The first one noticed him as he squeezed the trigger. The blast hit it in the torso. It flew backward and landed against the ground with a satisfying thunk. Dupree didn't have time to rejoice in the defeat before the other one rushed him. The clawed hands reached for him as he pulled the trigger. A very lucky shot. The blast took off the top half of the demon's head.
His father fell to his knees, then slowly seemed to fold up on himself till he lay face down in the dirt. Dupree hurried to his side and rolled him over. There were deep gouges in his side and stomach. His stare was blank. Dupree had seen death before, but his mind refused to accept what he was seeing. He pressed his hands to the wounds anyway. He couldn't lose everyone, mother, father and brothers, in the same night. Not like this. Not in a nightmare vision of hell.
A roar broke the silence and Dupree turned his head to see the first demon lurch to its feet. Shock held him frozen. No one got up from a shotgun blast to the chest at such close range. Before he could lurch to his feet and even think about reloading the weapon, air whistled by his ear and a knife embedded itself in the demon's chest. Again, it fell to the ground but this time there were no twitches, no signs of life.