And now the air raid siren had started to wail again. She ran towards a shelter, through the darkening streets, holding the baby tightly. Her heart was beating so loudly she couldn't even hear the sirens anymore. The shadows on the streets condensed around her, moving at the same speed as she was running. She sobbed silently, scared out of her wits.
They were waiting for her under the notice with the underground sign and text that read "This way to the air raid shelter". People ran right by them, not paying any attention to the shadowy mist that was darkening and swirling by the gaping entrance to the Underground. It was as though they did not see the creatures at all.
The shadows were not alone. In the midst of them stood a tall, dark man. He was leaning against the wall, with his face half-hidden by the brim of his hat, and and the swirling mass of shade responded to his slight movements as he inhaled his cigarette and then exhaled the smoke, slowly.
On the other side of the street was another man, without a hat, whose skin seemed to glow strangely in the gloom. This man had piercing dark eyes and his stillness made her wonder for the moment if he was a mannequin. His whole attention was directed on her and her baby, and his eyes did not blink.
The tall dark man with the hat turned his head in her direction and she saw him clearly for the first time as he looked pleasantly back at her. It was the look of someone who was absolutely certain of his power. There was something about him that did not fit in - he did not seem British, somehow.
She knew what he was the second she saw the golden, piercing eyes measuring the baby in her arms. Her lost love had explained all about the yellow eyes to her. And he had warned her of this man especially, if he was whom she suspected him to be. He was just as he had been described to her.
"Give the baby to me," said the man, from the midst of the shadows. His voice was barely audible, but for some reason she heard him loudly and clearly. She did not recognise his accent.
"No." She was holding her daughter so closely to her that she heard the baby give a little squeak of protest.
The planes were right above them now, the last of the running people had vanished through the underground's entrance. The air raid sirens were still wailing and the shadowy mist seemed to swirl around the dark man to the rhythm of the sound. She thought she saw monstrous forms within the misty darkness, half animal, half human. The screeching of the bombs as they fell and the crump of the first explosions came from not too far away. The ground was shaking under her feet.
"Then we shall take her, if you will not give her up willingly," said the man in a bored manner and with a slight movement of his hand gestured to the shadows to move forward. They began to glide towards her.
"Why?" She squeezed her baby even tighter, feeling the rage rise again up her spine as the shadows formed a dark circle around her. The mist licked around her feet and she looked down to see human-like hands grabbing at her legs.
"She is of our kind. She belongs to us. She should have been born to the wife we chose for him, but he chose you. Still, the blood is pure in you, so the child might fulfill our expectations. She will grow and help our race in our journey back to glory."
She knew now for certain he was the one her lover had warned her about. Still, she had no idea what the glory might be that the man was referring to. He sounded like a religious zealot. One thing she knew for certain, however. She would not give her baby up without a fight. Not to him. Not to anyone.
The world blew apart just as the shadows reached out for the baby. The blast blew the darkness away like smoke in a storm. She flew– up, up, away from the demolished street. She landed on the debris of a building shattered by a previous raid and gasped for air. Blood ran into her eyes, but she felt no pain. She only knew she had managed to hold the baby safe, and was lying on her side like a broken bird, crouched around the tiny creature.
The air in front of her seemed to tear apart like paper. She knew she must be hallucinating, because she had hit her head so hard. What she was seeing could not be real - yet it seemed impossibly clear to her. A woman in strange clothes stepped out of the air towards her. She was wearing trousers like a man, made of some worn-out blue fabric, and a bright red, short leather jacket. She had some kind of sports shoes, with odd thick soles, on her feet. And her hair was very short, like a man's... maybe she had been ill and they had been forced to cut her hair...maybe it was some new uniform... maybe...
"Here, let me take your baby to safety."
She looked into the eyes of the woman with short hair. They were ordinary, kind, concerned human eyes. She trusted her.
The woman took the baby from her arms and tucked her safely in the crook of her left arm. Then she just stood there, looking at her with a curious expression on her face.
She fought through the mist in her mind for the word. Concern. That was the word. That was the look on the short-haired woman's face.
"Come, sweetheart. It is your time to go."
She rose with amazing lightness. She couldn't have hurt herself badly, after all, if moving was this easy. They went through the opening in the air, and the woman, holding the baby safely, turned and raised her hand. The woman made a slashing movement and the opening closed quickly. But not quickly enough. She had seen her own body, in an odd, twisted position, in the midst of the bricks and broken glass.
"Your time has come, sweetheart," the woman repeated, "You can go in peace – your baby will be safe with us, and will do our best to hide her from the shadows and their masters."
The young woman had one last look at her beautiful baby. She tried to touch her child's face, but she couldn't feel her fingers. The words came out in a whisper. "Goodbye, my darling." She smiled, and felt great love flow towards her in return.
"Thank you!" she said and her voice sounded oddly clear to her now, and somehow like a gentle wind blowing.
Then she turned and began her journey into a beautiful landscape, heading towards the light that had come to greet her, leaving her old life behind.
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