Chapter 1: Exposition
The raid commenced when the sun was calculated to be directly overhead. One-hundred and twenty-three horsemen descended upon a village that consisted of 129 dwellings and structures, all totaled. Many of the raiders wore the emblems of one of seven distant Lords with fiefdoms adjacent to this outlying, unbounded and largely lawless territory. With more than two dozen hounds racing under foot of their steeds the raiders fanned out and steered themselves towards a broad front of the nearest perimeter of the village. Inhabitants within the field adjacent to the village began screaming out the alarm of their approach as they fled towards the believed security of the village center.
A short time later dozens of screams from villagers, the shouts of the raiders and the barking of their hounds could be heard throughout the community. Five-hundred and seventeen hapless inhabitants were surprised by the sudden appearance of these raiders. Most of the villagers put up no resistance and in return were not immediately targeted. Those inhabitants that did take up arms were quickly killed and done so without pity. When the raiders ran into the homes of the villagers the inhabitants they found there were routinely herded out through the same doorway they came in through. The raiders would then, without exception, tear apart the interior of the dwelling as they searched for hidden spaces. Before leaving they set the building on fire.
Outside of these dwellings horrified villagers were being captured and examined, one after the other. Torches were held close to their faces for several seconds. The hounds that came with the raiders assessed their scent. Cuts were being slashed across their cheeks or foreheads. When the reaction they were looking for, from the villager or the hound, failed to occur the captive was released and a new one was sought out to undergo the same examination. Frightened villagers that passed these tests fled the village with the encouragement of the raiders.
A brief time into the raid a violent scuffle erupted in one of the homes of the villagers. A large, male raider tumbled out the front doorway of the dwelling. Seconds later another raider came flying out the open doorway and fell to the ground dead. Immediately behind this event, a young female villager raced out of the clay and straw dwelling screaming with rage. Her face was contorted into a fearsome scowl, the beginnings of fangs and elongated fingernails were noticeably bared, she turned away from the excitement within the village and took off at a sprint. The pace of her run was just beyond the limit of any normal human. A raider on horseback attempted to stop her, but she evaded him with a sudden zigzag maneuver. With the route to her escape unblocked by men on horses, she tried to continue her sprint but was promptly encumbered by a nearby hound. The animal slammed into the young female and gripped into her gown with its teeth. This did nothing more than break her stride. Even while she was grabbing the hound by the skin at the back of its neck and tossing it into the air with a flick of her arm and wrist a second and third hound was biting into her free arm and the back of her gown.
In the time it took this physically abnormal female villager to dislodge herself from the two hounds a raider on horseback raced up and threw a net over her. No sooner had she turned her attention to this new impediment did an arrow from a crossbow thump into her back. She showed no sign of being injured by the projectile. As she continued to struggle with the netting a second and third arrow punctured her side and shoulder. These too did nothing to impede her efforts. While she was giving note to these new assaults the three hounds reinitiated their attacks. The abnormal female growled with rage at the nuisance that the animals were being to her. She knew that the netting would be of little trouble if only the hounds would leave her be. Shortly into her struggle a mounted raider raced in, reached down and grabbed the net. He then urged his horse into a gallop. The young female villager was pulled off her feet and dragged along behind the mounted raider.
As the abnormal female was being dragged away a middle-aged man and woman were begging a nearby raider to spare their daughter’s life. They insisted that she had done no harm to anyone and that she was a kindhearted girl, but their pleas were given not the slightest consideration. The raider turned his horse about and followed the battle with the young woman. Several minutes later, exhausted by the struggle in the noon day sun, the abnormal young woman went limp. Moments later her head was severed from her body by a single stroke from a broad sword. Her remains were then tossed into a dwelling that had yet to be put to the torch.
Armed with swords, daggers, war hammers, maces, pikes, axes, nets and crossbows the raiders fought with four additional abnormal humans within the village. All four were subdued after an exhausting fight. Nine raiders were killed for the effort. While these battles were happening seven villagers were found in hidden compartments inside two dwellings and three sheds within the village. In disposition, they looked to be dead and were not awakened by the disturbance around them. The raiders did not stop to examine them. The sleepers were beheaded moments after they were found. Their remains were then put into the same structure where the remains of the first young female abnormal had been tossed. When the last of the searching and fighting within the village was over this last intact structure was set ablaze.
The surviving inhabitants of the village, without exception, fled the carnage. The bulk of them hurried down the one road that lead away from the community. Carrying what little belongings they could gather, and leading what livestock they could prevail to follow them, the villagers trekked down the road in a long line. Not far beyond the outskirts of the village 27 raiders, and 5 hounds, waited on the procession to pass by them. Some villagers that did not have a cut across their face and had a suspicious look about them were pulled out of line by the raiders for closer examination by them and their hounds. All were found to be of no interest to them. On the other side of the village more than a dozen abnormal residents of both sexes were streaking away from the battle on foot. Their flight from the village was intermittently spaced out along a line that was moving in the opposite direction. There were no raiders in this area to examine them as they passed.
Shortly after the last dwelling was put to the torch more than a dozen hounds picked up the scent of abnormal inhabitants leading away from the village in the opposite direction of the road. With the encouragement of the raiders the hounds took up the chase. In staggered groups, and on horseback, the raiders followed the sound of the barking hounds. Their trek led them across an open field and into the forest beyond. After a pursuit lasting more than ten minutes two hounds came upon an exhausted abnormal male villager. They pounced upon him without an instant of hesitation. Temporarily energized by the terror the attacking hounds engendered in him, the villager bashed the animals against a nearby tree, one after another. The hounds yelped from the pain of the impact and by doing so they released their grips on the villager. Behind this the animals went down to the ground on their sides writhing and whimpering in pain. A second later three more hounds came into view racing towards the villager with snarls and growls. A short distance back from them four raiders were following at full gallop. The villager sprang up into a tree just in time to evade the angry hounds.
With the speed and agility of a cat the villager climbed midway up the tree in an effort to remain out of reach of the raiders and their weapons. Shortly the four raiders were beneath him. They quickly procured their crossbows and commenced to targeting the villager with arrow after arrow. The abnormal villager began leaping from branch to branch to evade their efforts. The work further exhausted him. Shortly into the contest he was pierced by an arrow. In descending intervals of time, he became impaled by a second and third arrow. None of these had the effect of being lethally injurious or physically debilitating, but each wound was an added detriment to his stamina. What was even more of a strain on his stamina was the heat of the sun.
It was at this time that three more raiders and two more hounds joined in on the contest. Shortly after their arrival a fourth arrow caught the villager at mid-leap from limb to limb. The abnormal villager reached out and grabbed a limb, but the strength in his wrist and hand failed him under the sudden strain of his full body weight. His fingers pried open and he began to fall. The hounds were upon him a second after his impact with the ground. Exhausted, he put up a weak fight. Despite this he managed to toss the animals aside. In the space of a few seconds behind this he was impaled with five more arrows. He stumbled back to the ground and the hounds were on him again. Exhausted beyond the ability to free himself from their attack, the villager did little more than writhe under their assault. Convinced that he had nothing more to give to the fight, two of the raiders dismounted from their horses. After calling off the hounds one of the raiders held the villager down with one foot on his chest and the second proceeded to sever his head from his torso with his broad sword. While this was occurring two more abnormal villagers were being run to ground. They too met the same end.
While this was occurring 37 mounted raiders and 4 hounds were giving chase to 19 abnormal villagers stretched out in a long line. Many of these abnormal villagers were too far back to see the abnormal in front of them. Despite this impediment all seemed to know where this run was going. The last abnormal village inhabitant was beyond the visual range of his pursuers, but the sound of the hounds could be heard in the distance. The abnormal village inhabitants raced on at a speed that was slightly slower than the horses and hounds that was closing in on them. The direction of their flight was gradually turning into an uphill run. The thickness of the forest trees nearly obscured from sight the range of large mountains that loomed up above the tops of the trees.
At night, it was little more than a 2-minute run to the place where the abnormal humans hoped to find safety from the raiders. Under the noon day sun, it was taking them more than 10-minutes. Exhaustion shortly turned their run into a stagger. By the time they arrived at their destination they could barely stand up to walk. In ones and twos, they crawled up a mound of boulders before descending into a large crack in the side of the mountain. When the last abnormal villager reached the opening the raiders were just close enough to launch arrows at him. Out of desperation the abnormal villager climbed over the mound before tumbling down the steep slope beyond the mouth of the cave. The descent continued for more than 30 yards before leveling off into a large cavern with a wide pool of water in a depression on the far-side and to the right. Three corridors went deeper into the mountain on the far-side and to the left. But none of this was visible to the normal eye. The cavern was darker than the black of night.
The raiders raced up to the opening of the cave and stopped. This they did despite the continued pursuit of the hounds. The 4 dogs raced headlong down into the cave. Their barking could be heard echoing back and through the cave opening. Shortly the barking changed into a chorus of growls and snarls. At that moment, it was clear to the raiders that the hounds were engaged with the abnormal villagers. Shortly the growls and snarls transitioned into high pitched yelps of pain, and very shortly after that there was silence.
The absence of light inside, the confined space and the need to dismount from their horses to go in made the raiders reluctant to follow the abnormal humans into the cave. When the whole of the raider force collected outside of the cave sometime later this reluctance was supported by their leaders. They concluded that the perpetual darkness inside the cave was too much of a benefit for the abnormal humans and too much of a detriment to them. Shortly after this they came to the thinking that their presence outside of the cave when night fell would also be a detriment to them should the abnormal humans choose to come out. Despite this concern, the leaders of the raiders did not want to leave this place with any abnormal human free to come out. A solution for this dilemma was soon found and shortly put into execution.
It took much of the remaining daylight for 18 men to scale halfway up the side of the mountain that was situated behind the cave. With every tool in their possession, they chiseled free a massive boulder there and sent it crashing down the versant. The resulting avalanche broke free rock and earth from the mountainside that was thousands of times greater in weight than the initial boulder, all totaled. When the mountain calmed and the dust and debris settled enough for eyes to peer through, it was clear to see that the slope at the base of the mountain extended out to five times its original area, and that the cave opening had been buried beneath it.
The year is 817 A.D. The location is a valley at the base of a mountain within the Carpathian Range. The dark-ages is in the midst of its existence. Wars and plagues are commonplace scourges across the landscape of Europe. This was no less true in the region that was known as Dacia when it was under the rule of the Roman Empire. In the year 1965 it is known as Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine, Moldova and Romania.
“Hey, in here,” Grigore called out in his native Romanian language.
Grigore Stefanescu was one of two civil engineers and three construction workers who were investigating the subsurface area along a proposed section of a highway route. A superficial examination of the area gave Grigore’s employer reason to believe that there might be a need for retaining structures for a highway in this vicinity. It was their job to discover exactly what was going on underneath this slope at the base of this mountain. It took them two days to arrive at the supposition that runoff from the mountain was flowing into a cavern beneath the slope that they were exploring and then draining out into a stream further down the mountainside. Their concern was for the size and structural stability of this cavern. It took them another three days to dig out the opening of the cave that the water was draining into. Three of them had been exploring the cave for little more than a quarter of an hour when Grigore shouted out a summons.
“What is it?” Petre Vasile questioned with a huff.
Petre was the other engineer on the team. He was also senior to Grigore. It took a slight jog for him to get to Grigore in short-order. He would have gotten to him even sooner if the cave had been lit with lamps.
“Look,” Grigore returned as he panned the light from his flashlight down a long section of the cavity in front of them.
Petre had no idea what he was looking for. His initial suspicion was that Grigore had seen a rodent. He thought this because Grigore kept his light pointed at the ground. He followed his illumination with his own flashlight, but he could see nothing moving beneath their cones of light. He was made all the more confused by Grigore’s slow pan forward and back along the length of the cavity they were in. He was still trying to make sense of what he was seeing when Serghei came up behind them.
“Did you find something?” Serghei questioned as he tossed his light around the room.
“Don’t you see it?” Grigore challenged as he brought his cone of light to a spot on the floor that was not ten feet away from them.
Petre and Serghei took several seconds to give the sight an intense study. Their first impression was that they were looking at the cave floor. They soon came to the opinion that the cave floor was excessively crumpled. This led them to notice that there were folds to be found in it everywhere.
“What is that?” Serghei questioned himself, mostly.
Petre stepped closer and began to stoop so that he could give it a closer examination. He soon noticed hair and then the emaciated head that it was attached to.
“Is that a body?” Petre asked with an inflection of surprise.
Shortly behind this question Petre used his flashlight to follow the row of bodies laid out in front of him. Serghei did likewise along the opposite side. It took only a few seconds for all to come to the same understanding. The side of the cavity was lined with the remains of more than a dozen bodies. Shortly behind this understanding the three of them began moving down the cave for a closer examination of each cadaver.
“Look at this,” Serghei called out a minute later.
Grigore and Petre moved to Serghei’s side and directed their flashlights at the same section of the cave wall as him.
“What language is that?” Petre questioned with a frown.
“Latin,” Grigore answered in a word.
Petre was awed by this report. Serghei was confused by it.
“When did anyone speak Latin in Romania?” Serghei pondered out loud.
“During the reign of the Roman Empire,” Grigore explained at a volume that was just above a whisper.
It took Petre a handful of seconds to conclude that this find was beyond his pay grade to disturb without orders from someone higher up. He, Grigore and Serghei spent another twenty minutes examining the remains and searching for anything else there to be found. At the end of this time they concluded that they had seen it all and moved on to recording this find into transportable data. They spent all the next hour photographing everything within that section of the cave.
The location where this survey was being done was remote by twentieth century Romania standards. To avoid two hour commutes to and from this sight the team brought a camper to hasten the multi day dig. Because of the lateness of the time Petre thought it wiser to wait for the midday courier tomorrow rather than drive to the nearest telephone. He knew that no one would be in the office by the time he started dialing the call.
Petre and his team used the last of the daylight to string up lights in the cave. In the cavity where the bodies were located he positioned two flood lamps attached to adjustable tripod fixtures. By the time they were done, the last of the sun had disappeared below the horizon two hours earlier. After this Petre and his team settled inside their camper-trailer for the night.
The 19 abnormal villagers began to stir to consciousness more than five hours after the sun disappeared below the horizon. The sound of voices and footsteps was the first thing to disrupt the dreams that were occurring in their heads. This activity notwithstanding, their bodies displayed every indicator that they were dead. Their eyes did not move. Their muscles did not twitch. There were no involuntary movements. There was no indication of circulatory or respiratory function. Despite these seemingly nonexistent activities this had no effect on the quality of the processing that was occurring in their heads. What it did effect was the speed of this processing. Sounds that would have awakened a normal human instantly were still coalescing in the heads of the abnormal humans after several hours.
The sounds that were registering within the brains of the abnormal humans blurred together across a wide space of time and then stopped. The next sensation to register in their brains was heat, and this started after a short lapse of time behind the sounds. Physical sensations were just as slow to enter their brain’s awareness, and the intensity of a feeling was also inclined to grow at a slow pace. Because of this, sensations never generated concern or alarm ahead of an abnormal human’s awakening consciousness. It was this slow coalescence of sensations in the brains of the abnormal humans that gradually stirred its cognition. This progression, in turn, enhanced the sensory input they were feeling. Awakening was always a slow process, and all the abnormal humans came to the end of this particular awakening at roughly the same time.
The floor of the cave looked as though it was coming alive. Everywhere along the sides of the cave there was movement. Shortly a lone figure began to crawl away from the two flood lights at the entrance to the cavity and the light that they were flooding into it. This movement was soon repeated by a second figure, and then a third, and a fourth. After crawling a few feet these forms routinely climbed up onto their feet and began stumbling away from the light. It took a little more than ten minutes for all 19 of the emaciated forms to make their way to the wall of the cavity that was furthest from the lamps. Everyone seemed intent on shielding their eyes from the glaring light being emitted by the two lamps. Instinctively they huddled against the far wall with their backs to them.
The abnormal humans were several minutes into this configuration when one of their number began to move backward toward the lamps. The gaunt, almost skeletal, figure of the abnormal human made it difficult to visually discern that he was a man. Slowly and cautiously he continued to move toward the entrance to the cavity. While favoring the left side of the cave he did all that he could to keep his head and eyes shielded beneath his hunched over back and shoulders. He stooped down onto his knees when he came to within a few feet of the lamp to the left of the entrance. After taking a moment to refortify his resolve he began to inch back towards that lamp. With each peek that he took behind him he used his right hand to shield his eyes from light coming directly off the lamp. He stopped moving when he got close enough to reach out and touch the lamp. Then, after a few seconds of deliberation and second thoughts, he brought his left arm up to shield his eyes and swung back violently with his right. He struck the lamp halfway up its stem and then quickly ducked his head beneath his arms in a protective huddle. Almost in that same instant, the lamp crashed down onto the ground and the light went out. The abnormal male took a moment to make sure that some secondary event would not happen. His big fear was that the strange light might somehow set him on fire. He shortly became convinced that this would not happen. Encouraged by this he began moving backward across the entrance to the cavity and toward the second lamp. As soon as he was close enough, he struck the second lamp with the same ferocity and got the same result.
The sudden darkness that enveloped the cavity caused the abnormal humans to visibly relax. Slowly the other 18 abnormal humans turned about to examine the cavity they were in. The soft glow of the light coming from the corridor outside produced a dim illumination within the cavity. It also had the effect of causing their eyes to glint. In appearance, it looked like 18 pairs of cat eyes reflecting the diffuse light that was glowing in from the cavity opening. Slowly and quietly these eyes began to move forward. After a brief time, the 18 abnormal humans joined up with number 19 who was standing at the entrance to the cavity. Together, slowly and cautiously, they moved out into corridor, each with a hand shielding their eyes from the light coming off the lamps that were strung about the ceiling of the main cavern.
Petre, Grigore and Serghei were in varied stages of sleep in their bunk beds at the front of the camper-trailer when a disturbance outside resounded. The sound of something falling to the ground was just loud enough to be heard over the constant hum of the portable generator in the distance. Grigore and Serghei took note of it with turns of their heads and attentions towards the window that the sound came through. Petre was too deep into his sleep to hear anything. The concern of Serghei, more so than Grigore, was that something had happened to some piece of equipment out there. The silence behind the disturbance brought them both to the thinking that it was likely a small animal moving about in their camp. Shortly they chose to give it no further thought and went back to the task of trying to fall asleep.
In the back half of the camper-trailer Andrei Dobrescu and Mihail Parasca were playing cards at the table there. Their own conversation and the soft play of music on the radio drowned out the sound of the first disturbance. This was not true of the second disturbance that occurred a few minutes later.
“What was that?” Mihail questioned with a curious look towards the door to the camper-trailer.
Andrei’s response came as he moved to the window on the opposite side from where he was sitting.
“I don’t know. It sounds like something fell.”
Andrei had just commenced his examination of the area that he could see outside the window when Serghei opened the bedroom cabin door and hurried into the galley area with his pants in his hand.
“What’s going on with the lights?” Serghei inquired while climbing into his pants.
Grigore and Petre were slow to follow Serghei into the galley. Their hands were empty, their expressions were looks of confusions and they were still in their underwear. Despite this appearance, they were just as curious about what was happening. The silence and the darkness in the bedroom cabin made for a good receptacle for the disturbance outside. The sound of something crashing was much closer this time, and the sudden loss of light from one of the flood lamps near the camper-trailer was unmistakable within the darkened room.
“Two of the lamps are down, and it looks like the lights in the cave are out.” Andrei reported as he continued to look out the window. “There’s someone out there,” he continued a moment later with a lack of surety in his voice.
“I bet it’s some kids,” Mihail responded just before pushing aside the curtains on the opposite side of the window that Andrei was peering through.
“What would kids be doing way up here,” Grigore pondered out loud.
“It doesn’t matter who it is,” Serghei angrily growled while fastening his pants. “I’m not letting anything happen to that equipment.”
Serghei turned about, pushed past Petre and Grigore and went back into the bedroom cabin. Shortly after he disappeared into the room there was third crash, and the light that had been blazing through the camper window from outside went out.
“Damn them, they busted the last lamp,” Mihail announced with frustration in his voice.
In total, they had five flood lamps attached to adjustable tripod fixtures. Two of these lamps were put in the cave along with a string of work lights. The loss of this last flood lamp limited all outside illumination to the light coming from the camper.
“Did you see who did it?” Petre questioned as he moved to look out the window.
“It’s too dark now,” Mihail returned as he continued straining to see out the window.
“I think there’s more than one person out there,” Andrei suggested as he cupped his hands up to the window and looked out between them.
“Come-on,” Serghei commanded as he pushed back into the galley attired with his shirt, shoes, and a two-foot long metal pipe in one hand and a flashlight in the other.
Mihail and Andrei were quick to react to this command. Mihail turned to a cabinet, removed a couple of flashlights from out of drawer and followed Serghei and Andrei out the camper door. Petre and Grigore’s reaction to this turn of events was to hurry back into the bedroom cabin and commence to dress. This action was interrupted by a prolonged scream of pain mixed with terror from outside. It was clear that it came from a man. Petre and Grigore raced to the open door of the camper, half dressed, and stopped to peer out into black of the night outside. Two flashlights could be seen bobbing about in the distance. The sound of screaming stopped shortly after they arrived at the doorway. An instant after this the voice of Mihail shouting out, “Serghei! Serghei!” rang out. His last call stopped in mid pronunciation. After a brief silence, there was another scream of pain and terror. This had a different pitch then the first. The light of a second flashlight disappeared into the dark of night. Again, there was silence for a brief time and then another scream mixed with a call for help cried out. Petre and Grigore continued to look out from the door of the camper.
“Get a flashlight,” Petre instructed Grigore after looking towards him with an air of urgency.
Grigore raced to the same cabinet where Mihail got his flashlights. He began a hurried search inside the first two drawers he opened. Shortly into this he was stopped by the sound of someone outside shouting help.
“This way, hurry,” Petre called out as he stepped out on the top step outside the camper door.
Petre was watching the last flashlight swing up and down as it came towards him. Twice more he called out to the person carrying it to hurry. Shortly after the second call the flashlight flew up into the air and then fell to the ground. During this same time a prolonged scream blared out and then quickly trailed away into the distance. A brief time later all was silent. Petre took a moment to be shocked by this, and then turned to Grigore with a shocked expression.
“Flashlight!” Petre shouted with a stunned look on his face.
Grigore turned about, pulled open a cabinet door at the base and briefly searched through it before finding a large heavy flashlight. After taking it into hand and turning it on, he raced back towards Petre.
“Here,” Grigore called out as he extended the flashlight towards Petre.
Petre turned about and reached for the flashlight, but before he could take it into hand he is snatched up off his feet and up onto the roof of the camper. Grigore is shocked by the speed of his disappearance. He jumped back and looked up to the ceiling in response to the sound of struggling and growling on the roof. An instant behind this a figure makes a sudden appearance at the door of the camper. Its form is gaunt and skeletal. Everywhere, its clothing and flesh is dirty. Its skin and muscles look to be paper thin and stretched across its face and arms. Its eyes are wide open, and are a mixture of shimmering silver pupils and blood shot whites. Instinctively Grigore directed the flashlight at it. Almost in that same instant the figure screeched, brought its arms up to shield its eyes and then cringed to the floor. Grigore’s mind suddenly became flooded with terror. He fell backward, and his hands and arms went to the floor to break his fall. The flashlight, still gripped in his hand, blazed its light across the floor. Freed from the direct glare of the flashlight the figure turned its head to look at Grigore again from beneath the shelter of its arms. The overhead lights continued to bother the ragged figure. Despite the light, it started to crawl toward Grigore with a determination to reach him. The figure extended a hand out towards Grigore. In a desperate effort to stay out of reach of the figure, Grigore pushed away from it with his legs and arms. A second later he directed the radiance of the flashlight into its face. It screeched in pain once again, turned away and brought its arms back to its head to shield its eyes. Grigore used the time this created to push himself further away from the figure. A second into this effort a second gaunt skeletal form appeared in the doorway. Grigore noted that the second figure was equally distressed by the light inside the camper and chose not to come inside for fear of it. With its hands and arms held up in front of its face the figure peered into the camper through the slits. The sight of a second gaunt, skeletal, ragged figure brought Grigore’s terror to a new high. He began scramble further back into the camper. Relieved from the glare of the flashlight the first figure renewed its pursuit of Grigore. His hand came within a few inches of catching his foot. While trying to keep the flashlight focused on the figure, Grigore pushed himself to the far end of the camper. In that same moment, he heard an angry growl from the second figure at the doorway. The sound was raspy and guttural, distorted. Despite this outburst, the figure continued its reluctance to dare the lights in the camper. While this was occurring the first figure was still trying to get its hands on him. Grigore quickly reached up, grabbed the lamp attached to the drafting table next to him and pulled it down. The instant it was in his lap he switched it on, extended the lamp out away from him and the glow of its light into the face of the figure scrambling toward him. An instant behind this it screamed with pain, pushed away from it and turned its head and eyes away from the light. A second later the first figure got up and bolted away from the lights inside the camper and out into the black of night. The second figure followed its lead and turned away into the night. For the next few seconds Grigore listened to the sound of movement on the roof, and then it stopped. For the next several seconds after that he listened to intermittent sounds of cries of pain in the distance, and then it stopped. For the next several hours he listened to silence. When the sun rose over the eastern horizon the next day Grigore was still on the floor of the camper. The dimming flashlight was in one hand; the desk lamp was in the other.