Short Story
                                                  Vultures
                                                                    By Rose Titus


    She had a normal life once…once, long ago, she was a real person. Or she felt like a real person.  
Now…  now she was nothing.  And she waited for the inevitable, along with all the other nothing people.

    She looked around and could not fathom the vast crowd that surrounded her.  All kinds of nothing
people:  the kinds of people that society just didn’t want.  Most were homeless, like herself, or probably just
poor or lower income.  Some just weren’t healthy or fit enough to work.  Many were children.  She could still
hear a child whimper off in a distance.

    She lost her own child, a little girl, taken away from her when she lost her home; and to where, she did
not know.  She had a home once, with her daughter, and a job, and a normal life.

    But that was before They came.

    No one knew where They came from.  Some say from outer space.  Some say from below the Earth’s
surface, maybe from Hell.  Or from another dimension.  Or They were created by evil scientists in a lab and
had escaped from somewhere.  People around her had all these theories of where the monsters came
from.

    They were dark grey with horrible wings, long necks and sharp claws.  They looked like vultures.  Giant
vultures.  Giant vultures from a nightmare, or from somewhere, not of this Earth…

    She had a normal life once, she remembered again, but that was before she lost her job that she had
for ten years.  She lost her home, and most of her possessions, except for her old but still functional Chevy
Impala.  It was one of the few things she owned that was paid for, and big enough to sleep in.  In the winter,
she wrapped herself up in the blankets that she kept from the normal home she once had.

    In the parking lot behind the shopping mall, she got to know other people like herself, living out of cars
and vans, or sleeping behind recycling bins.  They taught her to go into the mall to get warm, to find half
eaten donuts or sandwiches in trash bins, to clean up in the public restrooms, and not to ask any of the
shoppers for any help, or the police would come down hard on all of them.  She and the other people like
her lived side by side, unnoticed, next to the people with normal lives.

    This went on for about a year.

    Once while searching the bins for food she found a newspaper.  There was a picture of one of these
beings.  No one knew what it was, or where it was from, or how many there were.  She showed it to the
others, the people of the parking lot.  One of the men said that he had seen one fly overhead, but he didn’t
tell anyone, because people would think he was losing it.

    From then on, she looked at every thrown away newspaper she could find, and brought them back to
show.  No one that lived in the parking lot knew what to make of things.  One of them decided to clean
himself up so he could go into the store that sold expensive TV sets and see if he could get some news.

    He came back:  No one knew where They were from, but They had met with world leaders, and claimed
ownership of the whole planet Earth.  The news reporters would say nothing much after that.

    Then the round ups started…

    Sick people, people who had been out of work too long, people who were in jail or who had been in jail,
anyone who was different, any excuse … and most of all, the homeless.

    The people were put in trucks and brought to camps.

    And that’s where she was now.

    She sat on the cold ground, looking up at the normal blue sky, wishing for her normal life back again,
and wishing for at least her Chevy to keep warm in.  She slept in a barracks at night, with other women.  It
was always cold.

    Then she remembered her history classes from school when she was a kid.  These things had
happened before, to other people.  But now it was happening to her, in Indiana.  A camp, sealed off
behind a high concrete wall, topped with barbed wire, and men with guns and fierce dogs patrolling the
fence.

    A short distance away, she heard the voice of a preacher calling out.  She looked around and saw him
standing on a box.

    “They live off greed!  Greed, brothers and sisters!  They eat at the hearts of all goodness, They devour
innocence, and destroy all that is good!  It is the work of evil, brothers and sisters!  They have always been
here, below the surface, controlling the way of things, whispering into the darkened hearts of our leaders,
and finally now the gates of Hell have opened from one of the many foul sinkholes that have gutted our
cities from all the fracking and global warming, and now finally They come up from Hell to make
Themselves known!  They have been behind everything, brothers and sisters!  They have been behind all
wars, the cause of all famine, poverty, and inequality!  The filth that is on television.  The rotten food that we
eat!   Pollution!   They cause all of it!  They have stolen the hearts of humanity and poisoned our thoughts
with lust for riches, and make us steal resources from God’s precious Earth!  The future of our children -- !”

    One of the guards came with his rifle and put an end to it.

    She half wondered if what the preacher said was true.  Or if he simply had lost it.

    The guards.  She had been there only a short time but life in the streets had taught her to watch out, and
she quickly learned to watch the guards.  When there were groups of guards marching about with their
rifles, looking important, like they were on a mission, she needed to try to stay out of the way, to live,
maybe, for just one more day.

    She quickly learned what it was all about.

    People would be herded at random and marched into the big building that was at the edge of the
camp.  It didn’t take long for the inmates to figure out what resided in the building, either.  For before the
guards went on their routine march through the crowds, there would be heard a great shriek, like the shriek
of a bird of prey.

    Whatever was in the building was hungry, and wanted to be fed.  Now.  Luckily, again, she managed to
avoid the rounding up.  She watched from a distance:  men, women, children.  Many were old.  One was in
a wheelchair; another shuffled with a limp.  And another was disfigured.  They took those that were
imperfect, or weak somehow, or simply just not beautiful enough.

    She wondered how much longer she would last.

    Sitting on the ground, she looked up at the blue sky, tried to remember her normal life, and felt herself
drift off to sleep, probably because she had not slept since her arrival.  She fell asleep even on the cold
ground…

    She slowly awakened, warm in her own bed.  Soon the alarm clock would buzz, and she would have to
drag herself out of bed and drop her daughter off at daycare and then off to her boring job.  “Mommy?” she
heard a delicate voice whisper, “Mommy?  Are you coming soon?  I’m waiting for you.  Over here, on the
other side, Mommy.”

    “I’m coming,” she mumbled.  “God.  What a crazy bad dream that was.”  She struggled to sit up and
noticed how cold she felt.  She shivered.  And blinked.

    “W-what?”

    Suddenly she felt the end of a rifle shoved into her back.

    “You.  Get up.  Now.”

    She knew it was inevitable.

    She got up, and got in line…

    She had a normal life once… once, long ago, she was a real person.  A person whose life mattered, a
person with a home and a job and who ate three times a day and …

    “Hurry up!” the guard snarled, “Don’t make those hungry wretches wait.  You think I like putting up with
you people?  You people are a drag on this society, that’s why you’re all here instead of hard working
people like me!”  And he gave her a hard shove to move her along.

    She had a normal life once.  She closed her eyes and remembered, as she made her way slowly
toward the building, trying to tune out the sound of the screams that came from within.
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About Rose Titus

Rose Titus works two jobs
to support her writing
habit.  She exists
somewhere in cold, dreary
New England, with two
manipulative cats and a
very out of date Macintosh
with which she creates
horror and fantasy fiction.  
She also has a restored
classic car to ride around
while in search of
adventure.

For travel she has stayed
for the night in an
allegedly haunted castle,
has taken a boat ride on
Loch Ness, and has
visited the fabled Bermuda
Triangle without getting
lost.

Her work has previously
appeared in Lost Worlds,
Lynx Eye, Bog Gob,
Mausoleum, Midnight
Times, Blood Moon Rising
Magazine, The Bugle,
Weird Terrain, Descend,
Wicked Wheels, The Dead
River Review, and other
literary magazines.  Her
novella Night Home has
been published with
Bathory Gate Press and is
available with Amazon,
Barnes and Noble .com
and Smashwords.

When she’s not writing or
working or messing
around with her old Buick,
she waits by her mailbox
for the next issue of
Fortean Times to arrive.