Bogleech.com's 2013 Horror Write-off:
"The Future is Littered With Prizes"
Submitted by Dandelion Steph
People shuffled and strolled in the bright streets beneath the towering cylinders of glass and concrete. Sometimes a car horn blared. Some sat at benches, gabbling, whether young and restless or old and restful. A portion of people fed pigeons, while others pestered them and their feeders, running, flapping, screaming as they pursued cloud after cloud of the plump birds.
One boy watched a pigeon peck at a scattered pile of seed. He was curious; it was cute. It waddled about before being bullied and chased away from the mound of food by a bigger bird. The boy frowned at the injustice of this, but dared not intervene---the action would only scare them.
There was a clamp at the boy’s shoulders. At first, the boy thought it was his mother, although it was unusual for her to be so overbearing and forceful. But as the clamping force squeezed, he felt the talons’ steely grip on his flesh. This was not his mother. His feet left the ground as he was lifted upward by the phantom claws.
Clokclok-clokclok-clokclok! The rap of the wood walking canes stabbed the dusted cobbles as the trio of old pigeon-feeders swiftly hobbled. One raised her cane high and whacked the talons with uncharacteristic mercilessness, the other reached out her varicose, tender hand to grasp the boy’s, and the third, making quite an effort to be of immediate assistance, jabbered a small distance away as she called for help.
The boy could see the glint of the golden ring on the old woman’s hand as she reached out for him. It looked like a ray of hope in this terrible, fantastic abduction. He extended his arm, trying to tilt himself out of the talons’ clutches, but---
Their fingers never met.
The boy’s wail curdled the blood. His struggling and wailing lasted for as far as they could see him as he was carried with a mechanical speed and rigor to the sky.
The boy was the first victim.
She doubted the claims, and dismissed them as only the newest urban legend. She quietly played in the dappled shadows as the old pigeon-feeders nearby wept.
She had left school; her mother was supposed to pick her up here. But it was not her mother who picked her up, up into the sky. Her precious bauble fell from her hands as she fought to free herself from the talons’ tenacious grip. She twisted and tilted, heedless of the increasing distance between her and the ground. As she wriggled and twisted, a worm on a rising hook, she discovered the nature of her abductor: jointed, metal, and shining.
Pervaded with terror, helplessness and ever-dwindling hope as she struggled, she could not restrain the burst of acrid fluid which rushed forth from her throat.
The pale clots of the amorphous, odorous mass coated a digit, and so completely that part of it seeped into the joints. The digit clenched her, but it was so loosened by its lubrication it overshot her limb.
The digit, sliding past her leg, tore past her pants’ fabric, carrying nothing but a scrap of cloth on its tip as it articulated improperly. It creaked with a lock of metal parts, and fluid dripped out, thrown by the wind, from the joint.
She finally managed to twist out and slip from the talons’ grip. Wind sliced at her bare face, and the whip of her fluttering clothes cracked over and over. The ground below gained a more saturated color, along with detail and focus.
Splat. Crr-ack. Tu-ook.
There was media after her, of course. It was not just three possibly-senile old ladies’ anecdote, as it was with the boy. She had a detailed account, and the evidence---her injuries---to prove it. Her voice bubbled with blood, soreness and great pain, (painkillers aside) but the public understood her well enough.
Some---the skeptics----still held doubts, but for such an event to happen twice, with the second seeming to have evidence, brought postulations of mass hysteria, a pandemic, or some serious public threat.
She didn’t live long after her bones cracked and splintered, after her organs—twisted, punctured, perforated, bloated---filled with blood and stabbing shards.
A family was in the car. They traveled peacefully---so far as one could tell from the outside---and bantered with sibling vexation from the inside. One of the children was immaturely taunting the other, and the mother, unresponsive and deaf to the plights of her children, read a magazine.
Bits of glass spattered onto the father’s lap. He did not notice this, nor did he notice the car’s sudden stop, or the whirr and the buzz of exposed, broken motors. The giant metal talon piercing the windshield was the immediate concern.
Children and parents screamed. The vehicle was hoisted up, engine-first, each talon hooked through a window.
The car was lifted into the air with only ponderous speed. The mother called for help, and the father, awkwardly slinking over the back seats, tried to wrest open the trunk. Umbrella tines snapped beneath his feet as he stood. All he could do was smash his fist against the window---the trunk could not be opened from the inside. Either they found an opening and jumped now, or they would be carried off to the sky.
Fists uncurled into grasping hands and pulled out the skylight’s cover. Light poured in, but their hope was snatched away, leaving in its place only bitter, cruel disappointment.
There was a glass screen.
All that was left of them in the world was a bed of fallen glass, and, resting upon it, a magazine dotted lightly with blood.
There were three cases, and twice as many people. A boy, a girl, a mother, a father, a son, a daughter. The tale of the talons spread on every channel.
The leaders of countries shed their reservations and made alliances. Now, metal glinted through the clouds, ever watching for anything from above.
Finally, the two sky-bound contraptions met. The jets launched missiles, but to no effect. The talons continued rising, its screaming prize in hand. The jets asked for backup. Plenty arrived, but it was all too late. The talons had risen too far into the air, crossing a cold, thin barrier where the planes could not follow it.
It was for the best that the pilots could not hear well through the roar of their machines. If they could, they would have noticed that the victims had stopped screaming.
The secrets were pulled out from their dusty niches. Steam billowed from the nuclear cauldrons. Metal shells were welded together, and packed with payloads.
The talons descended again. The news flew through the airwaves, then to the ears of those in command.
The buttons were all pressed.
Together, the immense missiles ejected flame, throwing themselves up into the atmosphere---but they did not aim for the grasping talons.
In another era, they might be spears, piercing the hide of an elephant. In this era, it was no elephant. Blood rained down regardless.