Nancy glanced at the sink, gasping when she noticed the toppled-over rack. The shattered remains of her favorite coffee mug littered the bottom of the sink. All that remained of the logo was a shard with the heart cracked down the middle. It teetered on the edge of the drain. She wanted to cry. The broken shards were all that remained of the mug she'd spent so many mornings at the table with while reading a paperback and guzzling countless cups of coffee. Who knew when she'd make it back to California for a replacement? Maybe Elizabeth could send her another one. That would be a temporary fix, but wouldn't be the same. The memories of the trip had also made the cup that much more special.
Something thumped inside the cabinet above the stove, pulling her out of the broken cup blues. It landed with a metallic thud. A can? Somehow, the bastards--whatever they were--had gotten inside the cabinets.
Nancy moved away from the sink, glancing at the tracks in passing. Seeing them again caused her stomach to tighten. Something about them frightened her. They weren't normal, but unusually small and out of place.
Looks like a damn baby. Not just a baby--babies. More than one. Different shapes and widths left the kitchen peppered in the white dust. The only thing they had in common were their diminutive sizes.
She regretted not going back for the gun.
Nancy attempted calling for Hank, but her cries only tickled the back of her swollen throat. Yet even that in the silence of the kitchen sounded earsplitting. She could barely release a squeal, let alone a howl for her deep sleeping husband.
She was truly alone.
Before going to the cabinets, Nancy took a detour to the fridge. Walking slow and stilted, she snatched the broom out from behind it. Now she had some kind of a weapon, at least. Not much of one, she realized, but it felt good to at least have something.
Hunched over, she slunk back to the stove with the wooden tip of the broom pointed ahead of her, the dried straw silently scraping the floor behind her as she moved. With her left hand, she gripped a cabinet door by its bronze handle. The metal was cold and clammy in her sweaty hand. Taking a deep breath, she mustered up a hint of courage to peek inside. As she was ready to wrench it open, she caught the hushed sound of raspy whispers inside. The intruders spoke to one another animatedly, talking so fast she couldn't decipher the syllables. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end.
What little bit of bravery she'd managed to obtain had promptly retreated.
The cabinet door lashed from her hand.
She jumped back, shrieking so vigorously that something ripped. A scorching wetness coated the back of her throat.
Standing inside the cabinet were four things huddled together. They looked to have been arguing over a large canister of Chicken In A Can until detecting her presence. Simultaneously, their heads turned to her. She was met with a boundary of relishing stares, and watched as triangles of white stretched across the dimness.
Smiles! They're smiling!
Then she looked at the cabinet door. Hanging upside down from the spice rack by its feet was another one of the tiny creatures. She stood face to miniature face with the inverted munchkin. It appeared human-like, but as if it had been left in a drier for way too long. Its skin was pruned and withered like a rotten apple, and it wore what looked like some kind of burlap sack as a hooded suit. Suddenly, it erupted with squeals like shrieks from an injured cub.
Nancy tried hollering in retort, but only produced a wet burble.
Laughter, high-pitched as if on helium, reverberated around her, in front of her, and behind her as the cabinets throughout the kitchen sprang open, filling the tight room with an explosion of slamming doors. The central air vents on the floor flipped upward as the minuscule things climbed out from the ducts, revealing that more and more of them had been hiding under the floor. They poured from under the sink, above the counter, and even from behind the same damn fridge she'd just taken the broom from. She stopped counting crescent-shaped heads at thirteen, but there had to have been more, so many more.
They'd been watching her all this time.
And none of them looked to be above two feet tall.
Nancy tried to scream again and couldn't. Whatever had been damaged inside her throat flapped loosely like a piece of lettuce. It gagged her.
The creatures slowly pressed in on her, encasing Nancy in a horde of dwarfed persons. She was the beetle with an army of hungry ants all around her, stranded with nowhere to go and no point in trying.
Where the hell are you, Hank! Why aren't you helping me!
As if to answer her, his muffled screams resonated from the bedroom, but were quickly drowned out by more screeching laughter. Then she heard nothing more than the juicy rips and slashes of her husband being devoured where she'd left him sleeping in their bed.
Nancy started to cry.
What have we done? she wanted to scream at them. Why us? Why did you come after us! Of all the possibilities as to what may have been in the kitchen, she'd never once considered it to be them.
We've done our part, kept to ourselves, let you take whatever the hell you wanted from the barns and sheds. We did nothing wrong!
The snarling and drooling assembly inched in. She could feel their tiny hands petting her, fondling her. Hatchets, knives, and scythes--anything small enough to hold --were clutched firmly between their teensy digits. The weapons were nearly the same size as the intruders. Others were armed with artillery they'd made themselves: sticks with rocks filed to points that had been strapped down with leather twine, stone knives and miniature replicas of the weapons the others were struggling to hold.
Their clothes, concocted from potato sacks, were crudely stitched, home-bred garments that were either bleached white or dyed an assortment of colors like camouflaged fatigues. Their heads and faces were hidden under burlap hoods that hung low, obscuring the majority of their features. All that remained were their hideous smiles, dripping drool around crooked teeth.
Then they lunged.