Chapter 30 – Rachel Holbrook


These things were fast. Too fast. Rachel hadn’t even caught a glimpse of the creature once she had rounded the corner in the kitchen. She needed to get to Hadley now.


Why did Carter have to fire his gun? He’d seen what had happened the last time. But, she was just shifting the blame. She didn’t fight hard enough when the Empty had climbed in her window. If anything happened to her niece, Rachel would know it was her fault.


As she reached the top of the stairs, she heard the monster pounding on the door to the cellar. She gripped the bat in her hand and took the stairs two at a time. It didn’t matter if she couldn’t beat one on her own; she needed to stop it.


Before she made it halfway down, though, the sound of the door breaking open halted her descent. A split-second later, she’d processed the sound and what it meant: she was too late. She hurled herself downward.


At the second-to-last step, a shotgun blast erupted as bits of wood splintered off the bottom step. Rachel tried to stop, but her momentum carried her forward. Her ankle rolled, and she tumbled face-first on the landing. The adrenaline muted the pain.


She looked into the cellar and watched the Empty dash to the back wall. Behind it, Eliza was standing in front of Hadley, pumping the shotgun. She brought it up again, but before she could fire, the Empty swatted the gun away. It flew out of her hands and disappeared behind the shelves. The Empty grabbed Eliza’s shirt and flung her aside as easily as it had to Rachel. Hadley screamed.




Rachel pushed off the floor, picked up the bat, and stepped through the doorway. The Empty was pulling Hadley by the wrist. She was kicking and screaming, but it had no effect.


The static orbs locked on Rachel at the other end of the room. A lion’s growl rumbled in its chest. It was terrifying. Still, that was her niece, and she wasn’t giving up without a fight. She brought the bat up behind her head and walked forward. The Empty continued toward her, unafraid.


The distance closed to just a few feet. This was it. Rachel raised the bat slightly and prepared to swing.


Just as she planted her foot and twisted her body, a black mass slammed into the Empty, crashing it into the shelf. It released Hadley as it and the other fell with the shelf.


What the hell just happened? Rachel stared in amazement as the smaller mass on top blinked into an old woman with a gray ‘fro and absolute fire in her eyes.




The two continued to wrestle on the shelf, and Rachel stood in shock.


How could such an old woman be so ferocious? How could she disregard the disparity between the two and throw herself at the creature so recklessly?


“Aunt Rachel, please help her.”


Rachel looked down and saw Hadley tugging on her arm. Tears streamed down the little girl’s face, desperation etched into it.


“Please, Aunt Rachel,” she pleaded.


The Empty pulled on Eliza’s elbow and rolled her to get on top. Eliza pushed up on its arms to try to keep it from getting a grip on her. It wasn’t enough. The Empty slid its hands between hers and wrapped its talons around her throat.


Between her blinks, Eliza’s eye’s bulged and the whites turned red. A brief gurgle slipped from her lips. Her hands shook around the Empty’s wrists. She would be gone soon.


“Please,” Hadley whimpered.


“Go hide behind the shelves.” Rachel raised the bat over her head as Hadley ran around the opposite shelves.


Rachel stepped to the grisly scene in front of her and brought the bat down as hard as she could on the back of the Empty’s neck. The force lowered the creature’s head a full foot.


It turned its attention to Rachel and let go of Eliza. It stood and growled so deeply every muscle in Rachel’s body froze. There was no adrenaline now to move her, only pure terror holding her in place.


The Empty stepped toward her and brought its hand across its body, gearing up for a powerful backhand.


“Aunt Rachel,” Hadley screamed.


The Empty shifted its head in Hadley’s direction. It swung its readied hand at Rachel while still focusing on Hadley. It missed Rachel’s face and connected with her shoulder instead.


The blow was strong enough to send Rachel to the floor, and it hurt like hell. But, nothing had broken, and the adrenaline returned as she watched the monster move toward Hadley. She dashed from the floor and tackled it just as Eliza had done.


The two rolled over each other on the floor. Once the momentum stopped, the Empty came out on top and took to Rachel’s throat.


The strength was incredible. In an instant, every bit of airflow was blocked. The feeling of her head threatening to pop scared her just as much as the thought of suffocating.


This couldn’t be it. It couldn’t end like this. She couldn’t let the last thing she saw be that terrible static.


The light in the room dimmed as she felt her last bit of strength fade.


She needed help. If she could breathe, she’d beg for it. She wasn’t as strong as she had thought. She was going to die without anyone holding her hand.


Her vision narrowed to only the monster’s head above her.




Why did she push everyone away?


Then, a black bar connected to the Empty’s temple. A blast sounded, and it flew to the side.


Air. She had air.


Rachel struggled to catch her breath as she sat up, coughing and rubbing her throat. She looked at the Empty on the floor.


It didn’t move.


She turned her head and saw Eliza standing next to her, one hand holding the smoking shotgun and the other nursing her own throat. Her breathing mirrored Rachel’s. Hadley was behind her leg, gripping the old woman’s shirt.


Hadley let go of her and flung herself into Rachel’s chest, sobbing.


Rachel caught the lump in her throat. She ran a hand in her niece’s hair and looked at Eliza.


“Thank you.”


“Don’t thank me yet,” Eliza said, walking over to the dead Empty. “We have to get this thing out of here.”








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