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“What new kind of drone?” asked General Azazel.

“I don’t know, sir. The intelligence was about some kind of shadow drones,” the CIA deputy director told him.

“What the hell are shadow drones? Stealth? Everybody has stealth these days! Tell me something that’s actually intelligence or quit wasting my time,” said the General, annoyance creeping into his tone.

The deputy director looked embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, sir, the source was credible, and they threatened retaliation with them for any of our drone strikes, so I…”

“Credible? You thought some crap about a new type of shadow drone was credible? So they have stealth drones? So what? We’ve been able to detect stealth aircraft for years. Psssht…” said the General, incredulous.

The General made a dismissive gesture to the CIA man to wave him out of his office, then picked up the phone on his desk.

“Project Air Wolf is a go. Drone strike authorized.”

The General logged into his computer, selected the real-time drone camera, and watched as the military drone launched a missile at its target, killing the man and everyone who happened to be in the surrounding houses.

His phone rang, and he picked it up.

“Target eliminated, sir. Only six civilian casualties.”

He leaned back in his chair, smiling with satisfaction, pleased with a job well done.


The General was relaxing on the couch with his wife on one side and his ten-year-old daughter on the other as the show ended. He leaned forward and pressed the button on the remote to turn off the television.

“Okay, kiddo, it’s time to go to sleep!”

“Do I have to…?”

“Yes, you do. That’s an order!”

“Awww… okay...”

His wife, Ilene, smiled at the playful banter between her husband and daughter. Despite being a military man, George actually made a wonderful father. He was firm but always warm and caring.

They turned out the lights in the living room, and George thought he heard a rustle inside the room. He whirled, peering into the darkness, but there was nothing there. Uneasy, he followed his wife and child to his daughter’s room, where she was about to go to sleep.

He turned off the hallway light as he entered the bedroom, again hearing that faint rustling sound, though it was louder this time. He placed both hands on the door frame and stuck his head into the hallway once more. He turned in each direction, eyes scanning the hall, but he saw nothing but blackness.

He walked slowly over to his daughter’s bed, smiling at the scene before him. His wife was holding his daughter’s hand steady as she lit the candle on her nightstand. She had received it as a Christmas gift from her grandmother two weeks before.

The young girl loved it and wanted to watch it burn every night, so he and his wife had taken turns each night. One of them would sit by her bedside until her eyes grew heavy and she drifted off to sleep before blowing it out. Tonight was his turn. He turned his eyes to the candle. It was nearly burned to the quick from daily use.

Ilene rose from the side of the bed and kissed him. She walked out to the hallway then turned toward her family. She pressed her fingers to her lips and kissed them before turning them outward to blow the kiss to her daughter. George’s eyes looked to his daughter as she made a catching motion and grinned.

“Good ni--” Ilene started to say, when a pitch black shape suddenly grabbed her from the side. A huge head, blacker than the night and with huge, jagged teeth, enveloped her head and bit it off with one awful, sickening crunch.

A half dozen other shadows, some large, some small, pounced on the rest of her body, tearing chunks of flesh and bone apart in less than a second until there was nothing left of her.

The General’s knees gave out, and he plopped to the bed, wide-eyed, horrified. His daughter shot upright and screamed.

Immediately as his backside hit the bed, the General hustled back to his feet. He had a weapon in a gun safe in the master bedroom. He needed to try to get there! He needed to protect what was left of his family! He needed to defend his daughter.

The General gave his daughter a quick nod, then sprinted toward the hallway, lowering his shoulder to shove a shadow aside and make it to the hallway, then to his room. But it wasn’t the shadow that was knocked backward--it was him! He ricocheted off the shadow, back into his daughter’s room. The shadow lunged at his outstretched arm and bit his hand off.

The General screamed in pain as the thing’s ink black teeth shredded flesh and bone. His eyes grew wide in disbelief as he watched blood squirting out of the stump. His hand! It was gone!

The rest of the shadows lunged forward, and he closed his eyes, knowing he was about to die. But nothing happened. He opened one eyelid, then the other.

All six vaguely human-shaped shadows stood inches away from him, snapping and writhing, seeming eager to taste his flesh. Why weren’t they coming to get him?

He looked down. His feet stood just inside the ring of light provided by his daughter’s flickering candle. He shot another glance to his bloody arm. His outstretched arm had extended beyond the radius of the candle’s light. It was bitten off exactly at the end of the bubble of light from the candle. Was that it? They could only move in the darkness?

The candle flickered as a soft breeze shook it, and the circle shrank slightly for a moment, leaving the end of his foot in shadow, beyond the candlelight. One of the shadows dove for it, its teeth tearing into his foot, rending flesh as it ripped off the end of his boot, and his toes with it.

The General gave another cry and jumped backward toward the candle at his daughter’s bedside. Now he was safely inside the radius of illumination by a foot or two.

The shadows spread out, hovering at the edge of the candle’s circle of light, surrounding the man and his young daughter. The black forms paced, just waiting for an opportunity to strike.

The General glanced as his daughter. She was quivering in fear, her blankets drawn up to her eyes, which darted from one dark shape to another.

“You okay, kiddo?” the General said, ignoring the pain in his arm and foot to give her a comforting smile.

She shook her head.

"Daddy? Why do they want to eat us?"

George’s stomach plummeted as he realized that he knew the answer. He nearly retched as a sinking feeling of dread overcame him. He thought of the warning of shadow drones from the deputy director. He remembered the missile from his own drone hitting the target. He thought of the houses nearby that he had given no consideration earlier in the day. Houses that may have been filled with with wives, with daughters. Six of them.

Tears welled in his eyes.

The flame on the end of the candle danced and dimmed as the wick now sat in a pool of liquid wax.

The shadows moved closer.

The flame faded further. It was nearly out.

The General looked at his daughter.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, his voice raw with emotion.

A small puff of smoke belched from the wick of the candle as it sniffed out.

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