I’ve been working on the follow-up to the Caitlin Monroe piece I sent out last week. I can’t give away much of it, because it’s yet to be published. But I think I can get away with this:
Night fell on the dead city and with it the sounds of things not dead.
Caitlin Monroe leaned against the cold, stone battlements of the old fort and scanned the edges of the forest to the north with the night vision scope fixed to her rifle. The forest had grown wild over there, obscuring all but the roofline of the empty houses beyond.
Well, maybe they were empty, she thought. Maybe not.
Her earpiece crackled with reports from the other lookouts. All of them in French.
“Sector West, clear.”
“Sector South, clear.”
“Sector East… hold on.”
A single rifle shot cracked out. The report bounced off the stone walls of the fortress, but she did not turn towards it, staring instead into the darkness, to the north, waiting for any sign of movement. But all she saw was the forest, and the only movement was the trees swaying gently in the early evening breeze.
“Sector East, clear,” the voice said.
The channel went quiet again and Caitlin gently pivoted, sweeping the treeline one last time.
“Sector North report,” a new voice crackled inside her ear. In English this time, but heavily accented. Thierry.
“Sector North… clear,” Caitlin said at last. And then repeated herself in French.
“Secteur Nord… dégagé.”
Still, she did not stand down.
“You see anything, doc?” Caitlin asked, taking her eye from the scope at last.
Standing beside her, Dr Juliette le Marjason scoped out the same length of forest with a large pair of high-powered night vision binoculars.
“Nothing,” she said, warily, but like Caitlin, she kept looking. Finally, Juliette blew out the breath she had been holding. It steamed in the cold air.
“I think we’re good, Caitlin,” she said. Her English was accented, but not heavily. She had worked in America for three years before all of… this.
Caitlin nodded and took a moment to survey all of… this.
It might be the last time.
The two women stood at the apex of a massive, greystone bastion, an arrowhead-shaped tower at the northeastern corner of Le Fort de Noisy-le-Sec. Before them, the haunted suburbs of Paris stretched away into the absolute gloom of night. The landscape was a ruin under a clear black sky filling with stars and the gunmetal blue light of a waning moon. Caitlin looked down upon street lamps snuffed out and broken. Telephone poles had snapped and splintered like matchsticks, and weather-worn billboards faded to white slumped over rusted car bodies.
The houses on the far side of the forest stood two and three stories and there were nights when Caitlin thought she could hear the hushed whisper of monsters shuffling through the dry dust and mould of those crypts.
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