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For Bradley

Nothing could have been salvaged. Unless you were looking for charred bricks and broken tile. So there was nothing to stand guard over, nothing to protect, or prevent. A few took the opportunity to check out the ruins, even few still dared venture to close. They’d heard rumors of what had happened. 

One very nosy, very brave, and some say very stupid young man went wandering there. Bradley VanHoose, cell phone camera in hand, stumbled over the broken bricks and warped metal beams, filming his own personal horror movie. 

It was growing dark, the sun had already begun its decent behind the hill where the store had once sat, the air was already growing cooler. And yet still he wandered. 

Climbing over what once was a clothing wrack, nearly tripping, he panned over the fire blackened mess. 

“The world was not the same since the aliens came. They destroyed our homes, our schools, our stores where we got our necessities,” he said in a deep, narrator voice. He turned the phone’s camera on himself. “But they would not destroy our spirit!”

He continued filming and narrating the wreckage of what once was, stumbling and tripping over debris. What he didn’t see was the movement behind him. 

Somehow, despite the heat of the blaze, the force of the water hoses, the trampling of the fire department, inspectors and police, something survived. Out of the ashes it crawled, something that might have once been a familiar face. 

It was burned and broken and missing a limb or two. It was charred and blackened like its surroundings, but it was still moving. Somehow. It pulled itself out from under collapsed ceiling tile and a steal beam. 

Bradley didn’t hear the movement behind him, distracted as he was by his amateur movie making. Bradley didn’t hear that the thing that once was Betsy Collins was moving faster than imaginable. 

When he felt something tug at his pant leg, he instinctively kicked it away without looking. About to continue on, he felt it again. He slowly turned to look down and saw the blacked hand of betsything tugging at his jeans, trying to climb. 

Bradley screamed, jerking his leg away, but Betsything had a dangerously powerful grip and would not release him. Tripping and falling into what was once the bag carousel on the end of a register, the metal bars stabbing bluntly into his back, he then banged his head on the base as he landed. 

Nearly blacking out he shook his head and opened his eyes. The thing was crawling up his torso. He screamed once more as its fleshless fingers dug into his skin, pulling itself up. 

His last conscious thoughts were of the rancid rotten charred smell pouring from the betsything’s oozing gaping mouth.  

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